January 17 – World Snow Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-cover

About the Holiday

World Snow Day was established by FIS (Fédération Internationale de Ski) to promote and raise awareness of recreational skiing and snowboarding. In recent years the numbers of people participating in snow related activities has dropped. World Snow Day is one of the key initiatives introduced by FIS to reverse this decline. While there are many reasons for people – especially children – to engage in winter sports, two stand out. In addition to the health benefits of participating in skiing and snowboarding, being out on the slopes gives kids an appreciation for nature that will inspire them to help preserve the environment in the future. To celebrate today, take your kids out for some winter fun… or… stay in for some cozy fun – both are perfect ways to spend a day as you’ll see in today’s book.

Thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun!

By Mike Wohnoutka

 

The snow is falling and Croc runs to Turtle’s house with a list of fun things to do. Turtle comes to the door with another list. They’re both a little surprised to find such opposite activities on each other’s lists, but Turtle thinks it will be fun to “do everything on both lists.” First, they head out to the pond to ice skate. But Turtle doesn’t know how. Croc says to just follow along, but in all of Croc’s zooming, whooshing, and twirling, Turtle is left dizzy and flat out on the ice. Croc thinks being outside is the best, but Turtle’s ready to go inside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-paper-skating

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle has all the craft supplies to make paper snowflakes. Croc says, “I’m not very good at paper snowflakes.” Turtle, snipping away energetically, says, “Just watch me.” Turtle unfolds the paper and displays an intricate four-snowflake arch, while Croc’s four angled blocks of paper, taped and glued together, lie in front of him.

Outside again, Croc’s happy to go sledding, but Turtle’s feet are freezing. Uncertainly, Turtle sits in front of Croc. The screaming starts as the sled bumps and jumps down the hill. Buried up to their necks in snow, Croc is exhilarated, but for Turtle “it’s time to go back inside.” In the house, Turtle begins spreading the 1,000 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on the floor in front of a roaring fire as Croc flops nearby in utter boredom.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-paper-snowflakes

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

He wants to go back out, but Turtle finds it “too cold and too dangerous.” In a huff, Croc stomps outside. Turtle fumes and stays inside. But Croc finds that throwing snowballs and skiing without Turtle is no fun, and Turtle misses Croc while coloring and playing cards. Then there’s a knock at the door. It’s Croc with an apology. Turtle apologizes too.  Croc ponders: how can they “be inside and outside and together?” Then Turtle whispers an idea into Croc’s ear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-sledding

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle gets out the recipe book, eggs, flour, and other ingredients. Outside, Croc pats and shapes snow into blocks. Soon, Turtle has a tray full of cookies and hot chocolate, and Croc is pulling a sled loaded with Turtle’s table, chairs, and slippers to… their warm, cozy igloo so they can be “outside…and inside…and together.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-igloo

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mike Wohnoutka’s best friends Croc and Turtle are back in a cold-weather adventure that will warm readers’ hearts. Their enthusiasm to play together sparkles in their bright smiles and cheery greetings, they even overcome the initial momentary shock that Croc prefers outside, while Turtle is a homebody. As the two try to enjoy each other’s activities, though, their different personalities cause a rift. Little ones needn’t worry about these two besties, however.  It only takes a few minutes for each to realize winter is no fun without the other.

In a tender lesson, Wohnoutka shows Croc and Turtle apologizing for their role in the tiff and then quickly moving on to working together to come up with a solution. The result of their creative problem solving will delight kids and is a clever activity that can be adapted for play at home. Wohnoutka’s inside and outside pursuits for Croc and Turtle are well chosen and will resonate with readers even as they giggle at the outcomes.

Just as in Wohnoutka’s first tale—Croc and Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!—these bright green friends with their expressive eyes will charm readers. Wohnoutka’s vivid imagery always puts the spotlight on Croc and Turtle, allowing the youngest readers to easily connect the text with the action, while older readers soak up all the humor and emotion in this enchanting story. Inside, Turtle’s home glows with warmth, while outside, you can almost feel the crisp, frosty air and the snowflakes drifting down. The final image brings both of these welcome winter delights together.

Whether you’re already fans of Croc and Turtle or meeting them for the first time, Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! is a sweet addition to home bookshelves. The book will also be a favorite in preschool and kindergarten classrooms and in public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681196374

Discover more about Mike Wohnoutka, his books, and his art, on his website.

World Snow Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-snowman-craft

Snow Buddies

 

This is a great craft for kids to share with a friend. Grab a pair of socks and have fun making these snow buddies! 

Supplies

  • White dress ankle socks
  • Polyester Fiber Fill
  • Tiny buttons
  • Fleece or ribbon, enough for a little scarf
  • Toothpicks
  • Twigs
  • Orange craft paint
  • Cardboard
  • White rubber bands, one or two depending on the size of the snowman
  • Fabric or craft glue
  • Small hair band (optional)

Directions

To Make the Snowman

  1. Cut a circle from the cardboard about 2 inches in diameter for the base
  2. Place the cardboard circle in the bottom of the sock
  3. Fill the sock with fiber fill about ¾ full or to where the ribbed ankle cuff begins. Pack tightly while making a sausage shape. You can make your snowman different shapes with the amount of fill you use.
  4. Stretch out the cuff of the sock and tie it off near the top of the fill either with a loop knot or with the hairband.
  5. Fold the cuff down around the top of the filled sock to make the hat.
  6. Wrap a rubber band around the middle of the sock to make a two-snowball snowman. For a three-snowball snowman, use two rubber bands. Adjust the rubber bands to make the “snowballs” different sizes.

To Make the Scarf

  1. Cut a strip of fleece or ribbon 8 to 10 inches long by ½ inch wide
  2. Tie the fleece or ribbon around the neck of the snowman
  3. To Make the Nose
  4. Dip one end of the toothpick into orange paint, let dry
  5. Cut the toothpick in half
  6. Stick the toothpick into the head or top portion of the snowman

To Make the Arms

  1. Insert small twigs into each side of the body of the snowman
  2. You can also use wire or cardboard to make the arms
  3. Attach two mini-buttons to the face for eyes with the fabric or craft glue
  4. Display your Snow Buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-cover

You can find Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review 

January 5 – National Bird Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-cover

About the Holiday

Coming at the end of the annual Christmas Bird Count conducted in conjunction with the Audubon Society, National Bird Day turns the focus on the special behavioral and physical needs of birds and works to ensure that all birds—whether kept as pets or living on farms or in their natural environments—are treated compassionately. The day also raises awareness of the dangers that threaten many species of birds with extinction. Now that winter has set in making food scarce for wild birds, ensure that feeders are kept full. If you don’t already have a bird feeder, consider hanging one in your yard. The birds that come to visit will enchant you all winter long. 

Little Bird Visits the Big City

By Domenico Granata

 

When Little Bird gazed out at the little city in the distance, he couldn’t help but compare it to his little forest. The houses he saw in the city had roofs, and he said that one day he would like a house with a roof. His mother reminded him that the branches and leaves were his roof and that in the woods they could find everything they needed. “But Little Bird was still curious to see what was out there.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-plan

Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

One day Little Bird announced that he was going to fly to the city to see what he could find. His mother told him to be careful and suggested he take along some friends. “But Little Bird wanted to have an adventure of his own….” With a feeling of freedom, he soared over the trees to the edge of the city. He was proud of his accomplishment, but a bit weary. He searched for a tree to rest in, but there were few trees and all of the branches had been pruned back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-ball

Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

As Little Bird explored the city, he had no words for the many things he saw, and so many things—like cars and bicycles and dogs on leashes—made little sense to him. He was even confused by all of the children running around. After a near miss with a big red ball, Little Bird found that he was hungry. Fortunately, the park was full of seeds, but as he gobbled them down, he noticed that other birds “glared at him angrily when he came too close to their seeds.” Little Bird did encounter one friendly face when a boy was excited to discover him perched on a bench. After he’d left with his mother, Little Bird “wished he had a friend here with him now.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-boy

Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

As nighttime fell, Little Bird began to feel alone and he missed his cozy nest. Just then, he became aware of something moving behind him. He turned and saw a pile of leaves walking his way. “He was scared out of his wits,” but a voice assured him there was nothing to be frightened of. With a shake and a laugh, the leaves fell away to reveal Little Bird’s forest friends.

After Little Bird recovered from his shock, the three friends flew “back home to their cozy little forest.” Perhaps when they were older, Little Bird thought, they could take another trip—one even farther than the little city—but one they would take together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-friends

Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

Domenico Granata’s sweet story of a little bird who wants to prove his independence by exploring a far-off city by himself only to feel homesick for his friends and familiar comforts reassures children that no matter where they go, home and friends are always close by. As little ones head off to daycare or preschool and older children begin navigating the world of extracurricular activities, sleepovers, and other activities, Granata’s story resonates with the kinds of experiences—surprising, disappointing, and confusing as well as friendly and empowering—that everyone encounters on their way to growth and knowledge. His heartening ending lets kids know that the journey to independence can be taken one step at a time and with friends.

Granata’s bright illustrations that make evocative use of simple shapes to convey his story will charm readers. Soft, rounded birds, leaves, and a winter-clad boy denote friendship while the unfamiliar city offers angular trees and buildings. Readers will giggle at images of Little Bird’s friends hiding as a pile of leaves and his shocked reaction to seeing them. Early hints to the presence of the little boy help kids realize that friends can be found in any new experience.

An original story for those who are ready to strike out on their own as well as for those who are still thinking about it, Little Bird Visits the Big City would make a thoughtful storytime read at home and in the classroom, and a terrific addition to public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-9888342037

National Bird Day Activity

cpb-bird-feeder-i

Pinecone Bird Feeder

 

Pinecone bird feeders are quick to make and great for your backyard fliers. The combination of peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening and a quality seed mixture provide birds with the fat and nutrition they need to stay warm and healthy during the winter.

Supplies

  • Pinecones
  • Peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard
  • Birdseed
  • String
  • Knife or wooden spreader
  • Spoon

Directions

  1. Tie a long length of string around the middle of the pinecone
  2. Spread the peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard on the pinecone
  3. Sprinkle a thick coating of birdseed on the pinecone, pressing it into the covering so it will stick
  4. Tie the pinecone feeder onto a tree branch or other structure
  5. Watch the birds enjoy their meal!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-cover

You can find Little Bird Visits the Big City at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 4 – It’s National Hot Tea Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-cover

About the Holiday

There’s nothing cozier during the month of January than enjoying a steaming cup of your favorite, flavorful tea as the temperature dips and the snow swirls. To celebrate this month’s holiday, why not try a new kind of tea or throw a tea party? Many teas have health benefits and can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. This drink has been around for thousands of years and is enjoyed the world over. So boil up some water, grab the honey or sugar, add a splash of milk if you like, and enjoy!

Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party

Written by Yumi Heo | Illustrated by Naoko Stoop

 

One day when the heat of the day had past, yet it wasn’t quite evening, “the moon and the sun had a tea party.” They got to talking, and Moon mentioned that moms and dads down below always got their kids ready for bed. Sun disagreed, telling Moon that they got “their children ready for school.” Moon countered that children needed to sleep. At this, Sun flared, saying they needed to go to school.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-birds

Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

They continued to argue over whether the streets of the world were busy or empty, whether birds flew in the sky or dozed in their nests, and even about their reflections in the river. The disagreements became so heated that Cloud heard them as he drifted along. Cloud asked what the matter was. When he heard, he told them they were both right said, “‘You must each stay up past your bedtime, and you will see.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-city

Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The next morning, Moon hid behind Cloud and peered out at a busy world. She discovered that Sun had been right. She saw “Moms and dads pouring cereal and putting on coats, dogs chasing their tails, and trees standing guard in green uniforms.” That evening instead of setting, Sun hid behind Cloud and discovered that Moon had been correct. Sun watched “Moms and dads tucking in blankets and reading stories, dogs sweetly dreaming, and trees standing guard in gray pajamas.” Sun was amazed. The next day, Sun and Moon reflected on what they had seen, “and in the world below, everything shone in their light.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-night

Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Yumi Heo, who passed away in 2016, created the perfect pairing of characters and theme in her clever story as nothing, many would have you believe, is so assured as the dichotomy of Day and Night. As Moon and Sun argue over what people and nature do on earth, Heo invites readers—who already know that both Sun and Moon are right—to actively participate in their perspective-changing discoveries. By presenting, first, the compelling evidence that informs Sun and Moon’s opinions of the world and, second, the revelations Cloud makes possible, Heo gives kids insight into how understanding, empathy, and an appreciation for others develops. Enlightenment, however, doesn’t come without an openness to accepting alternate viewpoints, and here is where Heo’s multi-layered story shines. After Sun and Moon allow Cloud to show them the other side, they do not reject the truth of what they see, but find common ground. Heo ends her story with hope and growth as during their respective shifts the next day, Sun and Moon continue to contemplate each other’s perspective.

In her mixed-media illustrations, beautifully textured with a plywood base, Naoko Stoop brings to light Moon and Sun’s opposing views of the world and, in their facial expressions, demonstrates how quickly arguments and stalemates can occur. Stoop’s daytime scenes depict a diverse city community in spreads that readers will love to linger over to find kids and adults engaged in activities that reflect their own lives. As Sun and Moon describe their own mutually exclusive experiences, Stoop cleverly focuses on one busy corner where a bookshop and a bakery—two bastions of diversity—sit side-by-side. Stoop’s color palette is muted and lovely, with cheery views of daytime and cozy images of nighttime, making this a distinctive book to share at bedtime or for quiet, thoughtful daytime story times.

Thoughtful, contemplative, and comforting with a timely message of awareness, acceptance, and reconciliation, Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for classroom and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2020 | ISBN 978-0385390330

To learn more about Naoko Stoop, her books, and her art visit her website.

National Hot Tea Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-bag-buddy

Tea Bag Buddy

 

It’s fun to have a tea party with a friend, and this little tea bag buddy is ready to hang out with you!

Supplies

  • Tea bags
  • Poly-fill
  • Permanent markers
  • Needle

Directions

  1. Gently open a tea bag, unfold it, and discard the tea
  2. Remove the string with the tag and set aside
  3. Fill the tea bag with a bit of poly-fill
  4. Thread the string of the tag through the needle
  5. Fold the tea bag back up
  6. Fold the ends of the bag under and sew them closed with the tag string, leaving the tag dangling
  7. With the permanent markers, draw a face on the front of the tea bag

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-cover

You can find Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 1 – New Year’s Day Book Birthday of First Day of Unicorn School

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-day-of-unicorn-school-cover

About the Holiday

Starting a new year and discovering a new book make a perfect pair, so I’m happy to be celebrating the book birthday of First Day of Unicorn School by Jess Hernandez and Mariano Epelbaum. Sharing today’s book, which is full of the same kinds of dreams, new experiences, friendships, and even laughs that await kids over the next twelve months, with your kids is a terrific way to start 2021.

Thanks to Capstone Press for sending me a copy of First Day of Unicorn School for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

First Day of Unicorn School

Written by Jess Hernandez | Illustrated by Mariano Epelbaum

 

When the acceptance letter from Unicorn School finally arrived, Milly was thrilled. “Unicorn School taught only the best and the brightest unicorns.” Milly knew she was the “best” and the “brightest,” but Milly also knew that she wasn’t a unicorn—she was “a donkey in a party hat.” While the pictures of her wearing a cone-shaped hat had fooled the admissions counselors, Milly began to worry that the other students would notice something amiss. For a moment, Milly considered staying home. But then she remembered the school’s rainbows, “sparkling fountains…and dragon-taming class.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-day-of-unicorn-school-letter

Image copyright Mariano Epelbaum, 2021, text copyright Jess Hernandez, 2021. Courtesy of Capstone Editions.

With her hat firmly in place, Milly confidently entered the gates of Unicorn School on her first day. As Milly looked around at her fellow classmates, she was taken with their sparkly hooves and shiny horns. Just then she bumped into “a big unicorn with a tall horn.” Milly apologized, but with an odd look and a cry of “‘Mooo-ve it!’” the big unicorn stomped away. Milly was so distracted that she ran into a wooly unicorn, collided with a three-horned unicorn, and just got too close to a lumpy unicorn who actually spat at her. They all warned her to stay away with the same unusual expression.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-day-of-unicorn-school-hat

Image copyright Mariano Epelbaum, 2021, text copyright Jess Hernandez, 2021. Courtesy of Capstone Editions.

Teary-eyed and with her hat slipping sideways, Milly decided to leave school. “She was a donkey. And that’s all she’d ever be.” Then Milly took one last glance back and was shocked to see that all of the unicorns’ “horns were crooked.” She had to know the answer to a very particular question and asked, “‘Are any of you real unicorns?’” The animals hemmed and hawed until one horse finally admitted that his horn was “‘an ice cream cone.’” Then the other animals revealed that they weren’t unicorns either and told how they’d each fashioned their glittery horns. They all had a good laugh together, and Milly realized she’d finally found where she belonged.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-day-of-unicorn-school-path

Image copyright Mariano Epelbaum, 2021, text copyright Jess Hernandez, 2021. Courtesy of Capstone Editions.

In her silly and insightful story, Jess Hernandez reveals that readers don’t need to pretend to be something they aren’t in order to be their “best” and “brightest.” She also touches on the prevalent and distorting notion that  beauty is found only within a narrow spectrum or even a single ideal. As Milly comes close to exposing the other animals’ disguises and sets off their harsh rebukes, Hernandez demonstrates that transformations can extend past the physical to affect one’s personalities and the way they treat others. When the animals can be their true selves again, however, they’re able to become friends and create a happy community where all are welcome. For children facing a new experience or worried about fitting in, Hernandez’s story shows them that everyone has the same types of feelings at one time or another.

Mariano Epelbaum’s candy-colored illustrations are a unicorn-lover’s paradise. Milly luxuriates in a room as pink as cotton candy and filled with the fluff and glitz of glamour. Likewise, Unicorn School—with its rainbows, shining stars, manicured grounds, and dragon to be vanquished—has all the trappings of a child’s sweetest daydream. As Milly and the other students trot up the pathway to the school building, kids will love finding and guessing at the false horns on each animal’s head. Epelbaum’s clever variety of headgear will bring plenty of giggles and is sure to inspire kids to create their own horn from household items. The final page reminds readers that they fit in just the way they are, unadorned with pretense.

A light-hearted look at a subject many kids grapple with, First Day of Unicorn School gives children and adults a charming way to talk about being yourself and finding where you fit in, whether it’s at school, sports, or other activities. The book would be a delightful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Capstone Editions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1684462797

Discover more about Jess Hernandez and her writing on her website.

To learn more about Mariano Epelbaum, his books, and his art, visit his website.

First Day of Unicorn School Book Birthday Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-day-of-unicorn-school-unicorn-mask    celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-unicorn-coloring-page 

Unicorn Mask and Coloring Page

 

How do you think it would feel to be a unicorn? Color and cut out this printable unicorn mask, cut out the eyes, and add a string or elastic to pretend to be a unicorn. You can also enjoy coloring this printable unicorn picture. And don’t forget to use plenty of glitter!

Unicorn Mask | Unicorn Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-day-of-unicorn-school-cover

You can find First Day of Unicorn School at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 30 – It’s National Cat Lover’s Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-cover

About the Holiday

If you share your home with a cat, then you know how these furry friends can change your life. Whether you love them for their playful antics, for their companionship, or even for their independent spirit, your life just wouldn’t be the same without their daily presence. Cat Lovers Month is the perfect time to celebrate your cat or kitten with some extra attention and care. If you’re considering adopting a cat, now would be a great time to contact your local animal shelter or rescue group to give a cat a forever home.

The Catawampus Cat

Written by Jason Carter Eaton | Illustrated by Gus Gordon

 

On a regular Tuesday morning, the catawampus cat came into town “slightly askew.” Everyone was busy, so no one saw him until Mr. Grouse, the grocer, noticed his unusual walk and “tried to straighten him out.” His wife Lydia, who for twenty years had been chilly to her husband, asked what was wrong with the cat, and they both tilted their heads to study him. There, under the vegetable stand, they saw Lydia’s wedding ring lost twenty years before, and suddenly Mr. Grouse noticed that Lydia looked just as she did when they first met. “They kissed and on walked the catawampus cat, still askew…”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-house

Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

The bored barber, “Bob Long, who was giving a woman a long bob,” saw the catawampus cat from his window and was so startled he snipped, and clipped the woman’s bangs at an angle. She loved it, and the catawampus cat continued on. He passed Tom who was painting the Mayor’s house in the usual way until he tilted his head to get a better look and scribbled a diagonal stripe down the front of the house. “‘Brilliant!’ Exclaimed Mayor Meyer. ‘A work of art!’”

The town daredevil made a world record after spotting the cat. The town librarian had a life-changing revelation after seeing the cat. And little Bushy Brows Billiam, suddenly understood his lesson better by looking at things a bit differently.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-library-full

Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

All through town, people began tilting their head and even walking at a slant. Architects began building homes, apartments, and stores that leaned, and car makers designed “off-kilter” vehicles. The effect on the town and the people was amazing. They found favorite possessions they thought lost forever, “and rediscovered old friends they thought they’d never know again.” The first Tuesday of the year was designated “Catawampus Cat Day.” Confetti was flung at an angle, a band played off-key, and the crowd was entirely catawampus.

“‘Well? What do you think of it?’” Mayer Meyer excitedly asked the catawampus cat. “‘We’re all different now, just like you.’” The catawampus cat gazed at him thoughtfully, then stretched, “straightened himself out…and walked out of town, once again uniquely catawampus.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-school

Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

In his delightfully inventive story, Jason Carter Eaton rejoices in all those people (and cats) who walk their own way through life. He encourages young readers to embrace their uniqueness, telling them it’s a good thing to view the world with a different perspective. Even as the catawampus cat inspires the townspeople, Eaton strikes a humorous cautionary note about the nature of fads. He also happily reminds readers that the truly innovative will always find a way to be different.

Gus Gordon’s adorably confident cat sets off his chain reaction of “uniqueness” in detailed mixed-media illustrations that provide lots of opportunities for kids to discover new (and old—sometimes even antique) perspectives as they watch the catawampus cat walk through this diverse town in his own particular way. Surprising and funny details drawn in along the way will also have readers lingering and giggling over each page. Cat lovers will recognize some endearing cat-titudes in the catawampus cat that make feline friends so loveable. The endpapers provide a map of the catawampus cat’s route through this very lucky town.

Smile- and laugh-inducing from cover to cover, The Catawampus Cat would be a favorite and often-asked-for choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0553509717

To learn more about Gus Gordon, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Cat Lover’s Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-bead-cat-craft

A Little Ball of Kitten Love

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-cover

You can find The Catawampus Cat at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 28 – Get Ready for New Year’s Eve

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-cover

About the Holiday

It’s safe to say we’re all happy to be saying goodbye to 2020 and looking forward to 2021 with hope and resolve. A new year offers opportunities for reflection and growth as well as sharing the traditions that keep our families and friendships strong no matter what challenges we face. Today’s book celebrates all three of these parts of life at the New Year or any time.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-abuelita

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-kitchen

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-mamá

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Año Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-new-years-eve

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Get Ready for New Year’s Eve Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-new-years-coloring-page

New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

 

Celebrate the New Year with this printable coloring page! You might even want to add some glitter to make the fireworks even more spectacular!

New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-cover

You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 23 – Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jacobs-fantastic-flight-cover

About the Holiday

For generations the cliff swallows of San Juan Capistrano, California have been famous for their annual autumn migration that takes place near the Day of San Juan, celebrated on October 23. This swirling, soaring cloud of birds inspires those lucky enough to witness it with its power and beauty. The swallows are headed for their winter home 6,000 miles south in Goya, Corrientes, Argentina. Their return around St. Joseph’s Day on March 19th is typically celebrated with a parade and festivities.

Jacob’s Fantastic Flight

By Philip Waechter

 

You may find this hard to believe, but Jacob could fly. The first time Jacob flew, he soared right out of this stroller. Jacob skipped the whole crawling stage and the first step thing. “He just few off instead.” Although at first his parents were concerned, “they soon got used to him flying and figured, ‘So be it—he’s our son, and he’s perfect just the way he is!’” One winter his parents decided to take a vacation to the Mediterranean. His mom and dad booked airplane tickets, but Jacob was going to fly there himself.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jacobs-fantastic-flight-baby

Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Jacob filled his backpack, waved goodbye to his parents and took off. Along the way, Jacob counted animals down below. He even shared his sandwiches with a group of squirrels. It was then that he saw “eighty-three birds on their way to Africa.” Jacob decided to go with them. Their route took them over mountains and valleys, past lakes and fields of wheat and wildflowers.

Jacob loved dipping, swooping, and soaring through urban obstacle courses, taking breaks in the birds’ favorite rest stops, and having “lots of pleasant conversations.” It was a wonderful trip. But then one of their flock was captured in Mr. Mortar’s net. Mr. Mortar was a birdcatcher, and his home was filled with the birds he’d caught just so he could hear their chirping.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jacobs-fantastic-flight-counting

Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

When Jacob and the birds stopped for lunch, they immediately noticed that Hubert was missing. It didn’t take long for them to find out where he was. Jacob knew just what to do. With some feathers from his friends and a beak made from paper in his backpack, Jacob fashioned a costume and then flew in front of Mr. Mortar’s window where he was sure to see him.

Jacob was just the “rare specimen” Mr. Mortar had been looking for. He rushed out with his net, leaving the front door wide open. The flock swarmed in and removed not just Hubert but all of the caged birds. They met up in the woods at a cool pond. Birds from all over soon heard of how “the birdcatcher had finally be bamboozled” and flew in to celebrate. It was time for Jacob to meet up with his parents, so he waved goodbye.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jacobs-fantastic-flight-party

Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Except for little Hubert who wanted to take a vacation too. Jacob found his parents on a golden beach. They hugged and kissed and then spent the time “the way a vacation is supposed to be.” When it was time to leave, Jacob went home with his parents on the plane—and Hubert got the window seat.

Quirky in the very best way, Jacob’s Fantastic Flight soars with themes of individuality and independence, friendship and family. Philip Waechter’s buoyant storytelling shines with acceptance born from love and understanding by both Jacob’s parents and the birds, and Jacob’s parents’ trust in their son’s abilities and judgement is a highlight. As a natural flyer, Jacob is part of two worlds, and children will recognize his joy in joining and learning from the flock of birds, just as they experience when discovering their own world.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jacobs-fantastic-flight-going-home

Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Perfectly paced, Waechter’s story benefits from the bird’s and Jacob’s quickly devised plan to rescue Hubert. Today’s kids are incredibly smart, and they’ll happily see themselves in this turn of events too. Jacob’s reunion with his parents is sweet and uplifting; every vacation should be like theirs. As Jacob accompanies his parents on the plane, kids will feel that reassurance that no matter where they roam, they will always find open hearts and arms at home.

Waechter’s delicate line drawings enhance the sense of freedom and lightheartedness inherent in his story. Jacob is first introduced as a regular kid, surrounded by toys, snacks, and posters that any child might have. It is only on the second page that readers notice his singular talent. Images of Jacob flying from his stroller in front of his astonished parents and then helping out by picking apples from the top of a tree show how quickly his parents accepted his ability.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jacobs-fantastic-flight-flying

Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Spreads of Jacob flying with the flock over a field and a city are lovely, and what child wouldn’t love to sit on a park statue with the happy birds? Mr. Mortar (an inspired name), hiding in the bushes with his net while dressed in green and sporting a leafy hat, reminds kids that there are always obstacles to watch out for. The two-page spread of the celebratory bird party will awe readers, and with the verve of all kids on vacation or in the car, readers will love counting the birds and squirrels Jacob meets on his way.

Supportive and uplifting, Jacob’s Fantastic Flight will inspire children to take wing and is a must-have for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Blue Dot Kids Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1733121262

If you and your kids love birds, you can download this  Crazy About Birds Citizen Science Resource Guide from Blue Dot Press to learn how you can get involved in helping birds!

You can also find a detailed Teacher’s Guide on the Blue Dot Press website that will get students at school and at home excited to learn about close reading and interact with the story to discuss themes, cause-and-effect relationships, character, illustration, and do some writing of their own.

Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jacobs-fantastic-flight-coloring-page

Jacob’s Fantastic Flight Coloring Page

 

Celebrate birds with this beautiful printable coloring page perfect for kids and adults!

Jacob’s Fantastic Flight Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jacobs-fantastic-flight-cover

You can find Jacob’s Fantastic Flight at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review