January 18 – World Day of the Snowman

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate snowmen, those winter sculptures that roll to a stop on front lawns, welcome customers to friendly business, and enjoy a day or two (or more if the weather cooperates) in parks and town greens wherever snow falls. Why today? Because the clever founder of the holiday looked at the 18 and decided it looked enough like the rounded body of a snowman and requisite handle of a broomstick to honor our winter friends. Speaking of friends, did you know that tomorrow is one of the three times during the year that we celebrate New Friends Day? The other two dates are October 19 and July 19! If you’re looking for a story to share for both World Day of the Snowman and New Friends Day, you’ll want to pick up today’s book!

Making a Friend

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Alison Friend

 

“Beaver was good at making lots of things.” He could build, he could knit, and he knew a bit about engineering. But he was not so good at making friends. He tried hard to do nice things, but something always seemed to go wrong. Then, one day, the snowflakes falling from the sky gave Beaver an idea. “Hmm! Maybe this is what I need to make a friend,” he thought.

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He began rolling a huge snowball. While he was working, Raccoon came by to watch. When Beaver told him that he was making a friend, Raccoon said that it “takes two to make a friend.” Beaver was a bit disappointed until Raccoon did some math and showed him that Raccoon plus Beaver made two.

Working together Beaver and Raccoon made a cute snow friend. They added eyes, a nose, a smile, and two stick arms. But something was still missing. Raccoon said that thing was “pizzazz.” So they added a hat, a boa, some socks, and even a swim mask until their friend looked just right. But their friend just stared back at them. “This friend was not much of a friend at all. In fact, he seemed rather cold.”

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Then Beaver and Raccoon looked at each other. They talked about what fun they’d had building the snow friend together. And they realized that they had become friends. Now they make lots of things to share, but they agree—“the best thing they made was a friend.”

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins

Tammi Sauer unlocks the secret to friendship in her clever story in which making a friend leads to making a true friend. While Beaver tries to extend the hand of friendship and do nice things for others in the forest, his efforts miss the mark. But when he meets Raccoon, their personalities, talents, and ideas of fun click and they build a real friendship. Young readers will understand Beaver’s feelings of disappointment and confusion when his overtures of friendship are not reciprocated and see that collaborating with someone—either in play or toward a common goal—often brings friends together naturally.

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Little readers will fall in love with Alison Friend’s adorable Beaver who’s so good at creating a playhouse complete with water slide but has trouble making friends. Cheerful and enthusiastic, Beaver is a sweetheart as he begins rolling the snow into a ball. When Raccoon comes by, Beaver quickly shares the fun. Kids will enjoy seeing and learn from the images of companionship and give-and-take as Beaver learns a little math and a new word from Raccoon and Raccoon discovers that he likes the raisons Beaver offers him on their way to creating their snowman.  Full of color, smiles, and endearing moments, Friend’s pages are sure to delight kids.

Making a Friend is a charming read aloud, a celebration of creativity, and a gentle lesson on friendship all rolled into one. To share with children learning to navigate new friendships and those who love doing everything with their best buddy, the book makes a sweet addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062278937

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

You can connect with Alison Friend on Instagram.

World Day of the Snowman Activity

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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

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You can find Making a Friend at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 11 – National Shop for Travel Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to look ahead and plan for their next vacation or quick get-away. Whether you’re thinking of visiting a warmer area for some beach time or colder climate for skiing and sledding, meeting up with friends or family for a fun weekend, or dreaming of an overseas adventure, you can start looking into transportation, accommodations, and the attractions you’d like to visit today. And while you wait for a better time to make the trip, you and your kids can do some armchair traveling through books – like today’s humorous story about new experiences and new friends made.

Thanks to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places

Written by Katie Frawley | Illustrated by Laurie Stansfield

 

Scrolling through his phone in his rain forest abode, Fritz comes upon an ad that seems to be the answer to his wanderlust and need to escape the constant attentions of his herd. The ad from Tabitha, a self-described “pampered suburban cat” on Lair-BNB.com promises “First-class comfort! Five-star service! Fancy, frilly fun!” Fritz thinks it sounds perfect for a well-deserved birthday getaway. He answers the ad, and Tabitha responds right away. She can’t wait to exchange her pad for a “rain forest adventure” and tells Fritz to keep in touch.

The two pack up and take flights to their vacation destinations. Fritz sends a message to Tabitha that he was well received by one little human in particular and enjoyed splashing in the big watering hole. He also includes a warning about Rocky the snake who “does not play well with others.” For her part, Tabitha is relishing her time in the forest with Fritz’s herd. She’s even met some big cat family members, has discovered a bee hive makes a swell scratching post, found a perfect swatting toy hanging from a tree, and loves the outdoor litter box with its holes and mounds already dug. She also knows just the human Fritz has met and warns him about Claudia’s penchant for playing beauty parlor.

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Image copyright Laurie Stansfield, 2021, text copyright Katie Frawley, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Fritz and Tabatha’s next messages gush about the local cuisine. Tabitha is gorging on mice salad, mice hors d’oeuvres, and mice pizza while Fritz’s herd looks on in horror, and Fritz is cooking up a storm with Claudia in Tabatha’s kitchen. But the next day brings confusion and disappointment when a trip to the museum with Claudia and a dust bath go awry for Fritz, and Tabitha has a run-in with a hippo and finally meets the dreaded Rocky. She does remember, however, to wish Fritz a happy birthday and hopes he enjoys the party Claudia is preparing.

Disappointment turned to disaster, Fritz tells Tabitha, when there was a mix-up in whose birthday they were celebrating. He fondly remembers the birthday surprise his herd gave him last year. He signs off “Singing the blues, Fritz.” Tabitha too is feeling out of her depth and wishes she was back home with Claudia.

Fritz gets the message loud and clear and is all-in on getting back to familiar and beloved  territory. They pack up, make travel plans, and with a hug from Claudia for Fritz and a squeeze from the littlest member of the herd for Tabitha they hit the airport. Contentedly back at home, Fritz and Tabitha keep in touch—happy to have made a friend. In fact, these two like-minded travelers have sent each other thank-you gifts, and Tabitha even floats the idea of taking a trip together!

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Image copyright Laurie Stansfield, 2021, text copyright Katie Frawley, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Katie Frawley’s clever travelogue—told entirely through phone messages exchanged by Fritz and Tabitha on Lair-bnb—will delight kids. As Fritz and Tabitha regale each other with their adventures, kids will find plenty to giggle about as the shine of the new and exciting gives way to a renewed appreciation of home. Mix-ups and misunderstandings lead to laughs as well as sympathy for these sweet, out-of-their-elements characters. Puns sprinkled throughout the text add to the lighthearted fun, and the story is neatly packed with themes of friendships made and nurtured.

Laurie Stansfield matches irresistibly cute and funny illustrations to Frawley’s text while adding enticing details that will keep kids lingering over the pages with each new reading. As Fritz and Tabitha write about their days, Stansfield’s vibrant images depict the humorous reality of their misinterpretations. Interspersed wordless two-page spreads juxtapose similar situations experienced by Tabitha and Fritz , such as eating, meeting a hippopotamus, and sleeping arrangements.

Although both travelers are happy to cut their trips short, the goodbye scenes demonstrate that despite some rocky moments, both Fritz and Tabitha have made good friends on the other side of the world. A late airport scene of a busy terminal in which both Fritz and Tabitha appear among the many animal travelers can be a fun jumping off point to talk about when and how this “almost meeting” occurred as well as about airports and travel in general.

Original, charming, and packed with lots of laughs and feeling, Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places will become a favorite summer (and anytime) read. The fast-paced, multi-layered story and clever illustrations make this a perfect story time read for home, classrooms, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542008549

Katie Frawley grew up on a diet of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Madeline. She went on to earn a bachelor’s in English from the University of Florida and a master’s in literature from Florida Atlantic University. These days, Katie lives in South Florida with her husband, four children, and a handsome mutt named Nantucket. When she’s not reading or writing, Katie can be found building pillow forts, testing recipes with her teensy sous-chefs, or shooing iguanas from her garden. You can connect with Katie on her website | Instagram | Twitter

Laurie Stansfield grew up in Oxford, England, but packed her bags and moved west to study illustration at the University of the West of England. She now works as a freelance illustrator. She is the illustrator of Poems Out Loud!, published by Penguin UK, and has more books forthcoming. Laurie lives with her husband in Bristol, United Kingdom. You can connect with Laurie on her website | Instagram | Twitter

One Question with Katie Frawley

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I’m excited to do a one-question interview with Katie Frawley about her debut picture book that’s sure to become a favorite whenever kids want to take a flight of fancy!

What is a favorite summer memory from your childhood?

Every summer from the age of about 8 to 18, I rode my bicycle across the state of Iowa with my family, some great friends, and about 10,000 other people. This event is called RAGBRAI, and it is an absolute hoot! The people are wonderful, the food is fantastic, and the memories definitely last a lifetime. I’m sure both Tabitha AND Fritz would enjoy the ride. Perhaps they should lace up their biking shoes and hit the road!

What an amazing experience! A biking tour sounds like a perfect trip for Fritz and Tabitha’s first adventure together! I wish you and Laurie Stansfield all the best with your book and definitely hope to see more about their friendship.

National Shop for Travel Day Activity

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Suitcase Tumble Matching Puzzle

 

These suitcases are well-traveled! Can you find the matching luggage in this printable puzzle?

Suitcase Tumble Matching Puzzle

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You can find Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 14 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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Review by Jakki Licare

Stand up, Yumi Chung!

By Jessica Kim | Cover Illustration by Jennifer Hom

 

Synopsis

This synopsis contains spoilers

Yumi Chung is enjoying her summer and the fact that she doesn’t have to go to her private school and deal with a bully everyday. So when her mom tells her they can no longer afford her private school because the family’s restaurant isn’t doing well, Yumi is thrilled. Unfortunately, Yumi’s mom still wants her to go to the private school because she believes it will help her get into a good university. To this end, Yumi’s mom signs her up for Hagwon – test-prep school – to help her study for the SSAT. If Yumi can pass the SSAT with a 98% or better then she can get an academic scholarship to her private school. 

On her way to the library to study, Yumi discovers a comedy club opening up. When she hears her favorite YouTube comedian, Jasmine Jasper, inside, she can’t resist peeking in. Jasmine sees Yumi and welcomes her to the summer comedy camp. Jasmine thinks Yumi is the no-show camper, Kay. Yumi’s so flustered, she doesn’t correct the mistake and finds herself joining in on an improv exercise. Yumi has a great time at the camp and can’t bring herself to tell Jasmine that she isn’t Kay.

Later, the Hagwon leader meets with Yumi and points out how Yumi often bubbles in the correct answer, but then second guesses herself. She encourages Yumi to be more confident in herself. Another day on her way to the library, Yumi bumps into a comedy camp friend and decides to pretend to be Kay again. After all, the Hagwon leader told her to be more confident, and Yumi has never felt more confident than when she’s pretending to be Kay. Yumi’s camp friends tell her about a new performing arts magnet school. Yumi wants to apply, but doesn’t think her parents will let her.

As Yumi continues going to the camp, she realizes that she should show her parents how important comedy is to her. She decides to trick them into going to the comedy showcase. If they can see how happy she is on stage then maybe they’ll let her apply for the Performing Arts school. But first, she has to prove to them that performing won’t interfere with her academics; so Yumi starts studying.

Yumi joins the campers at a nursing home where they’ll practice performing comedy to a real audience. Yumi’s excited, but her set is a big flop. Jasmine pulls her aside afterwards and tells her not to give up. Just because the jokes didn’t work doesn’t mean they’re failures.

Yumi’s dad builds a karaoke stage to drum up business for their restaurant. She becomes alarmed when she finds out her parents are behind on the rent and that if they don’t raise $6,000 in eight days the restaurant will have to close. Yumi talks to her big sister about the restaurant and after a little slip, her sister finds out that she’s been pretending to be Kay.  She scolds Yumi for lying and makes her promise to tell Jasmine the truth.

Yumi goes to tell Jasmine the truth in person, but she chickens out and decides to drop out of the comedy showcase instead. Yumi returns to camp to sneak an apology note into Jasmine’s bag, but before she can, the real Kay shows up. Yumi is caught in her lie and her parents discover that she’s been secretly going to the comedy camp instead of studying. They ground Yumi and take away her phone.

Her parents hold a grand reopening after renovating the restaurant, but they don’t raise enough money. Yumi’s father apologizes to her for not doing better and explains that this is why they want her to study so hard. He doesn’t want her to struggle like he has. She tells him about how important comedy is to her and surprisingly, her dad understands.  He loves the stage too. He wanted to be a gasu, a singer, when he was younger, but he couldn’t support his family with singing. He tells her he really wants what’s best for her and that going to a good school is the best thing for her. 

When Yumi gets her phone back, she FaceTimes with her camp friends and apologizes for deceiving them. Her new friends accept her apology. As they start  joking around, Yumi gets the idea to do an open mic night at the restaurant. Her friends are excited about the idea and encourage her to reach out to Jasmine so she can spread the word through the comedy club. 

Yumi goes to the comedy club and apologizes to Jasmine. They work things out and Jasmine agrees to spread the word. Yumi runs home and tells her parents about the open mic night idea. They’re skeptical, but agree to give it a chance. On the night of the show, a lot of people show up, but no one wants to be first up on stage. Yumi raises her hand.

Yumi struggles in the beginning of her set, but with the encouragement of her friends she regains her footing and continues on. She jokes about her ordinary summer of stealing another person’s identity, but at the end of her act she states that she’s learned to be happy with who she is. Everyone applauds and Yumi gets to experience her first comedian high. After they close, the family races to the computer to calculate the night’s revenue. They discover that they made over $7,000, and the restaurant is saved.

A week later, as Yumi is talking to her sister about how excited she is to start improv classes, an email pops up on her phone congratulating her on her academic scholarship. Yumi is okay with going back to her private school because she knows things won’t be the same. She’s confident about who she is now, and this time she won’t hold herself back.

Review

If you’re looking for a book that will make your middle-grade reader chuckle, Stand Up, Yumi Chung! is the perfect pick. Yumi’s funny asides about her daily struggles and her stand-up jokes make this book a laugh-out-loud read. When her mother makes snide comments about her hair and then makes her get a perm that she doesn’t want, Yumi writes out a whole comedy routine about it. Her punchline summarizes the experience perfectly: “Sometimes you just have to brush it off. The comments and the dandruff.”

Not only will Yumi’s funny jokes keep readers giggling throughout the book, but watching her attend improv classes, perform a set, and suffer as her jokes fall flat will show how hard Yumi has to work at being funny. When the punchline to Yumi’s joke about how her parents won’t pay her for every A she gets on her report card, the audience members murmur that her parents are abusive and tiger parents. Yumi is devastated that no one gets the joke, and she’s determined to throw the whole act out until Jasmine explains to her that most jokes start out as failures. When a joke fails it tells you something isn’t working and it’s a comedian’s job to try to fix it, Jasmine explains.

For readers curious to learn how improv comedy works, they can pull up a seat right next to Yumi and learn along with her. I thought it’s especially interesting to see how important teamwork is in improv. One skit that her friends do together flops because they each do their own thing and don’t build off of each other. When they try again, one camper makes a comment about how if he doesn’t get food soon he’ll turn “to the dark side.” One of Yumi’s other friends picks up on this comment and pretends to be Darth Vader. Then Yumi jumps in and lets out a Chewbacca roar. By working together their skit soon fills the auditorium with laughter.

But the main reason I’ll recommend this book to any middle grader is Yumi’s character transformation. In the beginning she can’t even tell her mom she doesn’t want a perm. Then, when the Hagwon leader tells her she needs to be more confident, Yumi finds her confidence not in herself but in pretending to be Kay. By the end of the book, however, she finds the strength to apologize to her friends and Jasmine for pretending to be Kay. She opens up to her father about her dreams, and she’s even able to do a comedy set in front of her parents, making jokes about her summer’s mistakes. Best of all, though, Yumi has the confidence to go back to her old school and is willing to put herself out there. 

If you’re looking for a book that will make your kids giggle while teaching them the importance of being comfortable with who they are, then Stand up, Yumi Chung! is a must read to add to your home, classroom, and school library.

Discover more about Jessica Kim and her writing on her website.

Ages 9 – 12

Kokila, Penguin Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525554974 (Hardcover); ISBN 978-0525554998 (Paperback)

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Stand Up, Yumi Chung! Activity Kit

 

You can find loads of puzzles, prompts, curriculum extensions, and even a recipe for Korean Bugogi on Jessica Kim’s website here.

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You can find Stand Up, Yumi Chung! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 2 – I AM TODAY Blog Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to be a stop on the blog tour for I Am Today by Matt Forrest Esenwine and Patricia Pessoa. This season of giving is the perfect time to share this gorgeous book that reflects the desire of children to give their thoughts, talents, and actions to causes that are meaningful to them. If you’d like to follow I Am Today’s blog tour, see the graphic below for further dates and blogs.

I Am Today

Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Patricia Pessoa

 

A child stands on the edge of the beach, letting the sea foam run over her bare toes. Below, a turtle wrapped in a strand of wire floats nearby, while in the background a factory belches smog into the air, and a pipe snakes over the dunes to the water, where it spills its industrial waste. As the child picks up the turtle and removes the wire, she states, “Grown-ups say I am the Future.” Then while releasing the freed turtle, she finishes her thought: “But I’d rather be the Now.” The child then makes her case, explaining that she’s ready to contribute in positive ways, having learned decency, fairness, and generosity from her family and other role models.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

The memory of the turtle she saved stays with her—her one small act inspiring her to do more. She determines “if I see something isn’t right, / I need to take a stand! / Why wait to offer kindness? / Why wait to lend a hand?” While trying to go to sleep, the little turtle and a whole sea of fish and other creatures swim in her mind. Suddenly, she has an idea and gets out of bed. She writes note after note and folds each paper into origami turtles. She then goes to her window and releases them on the wind.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

The next morning, despite the rain, a crowd of children has gathered at the child’s door—all are holding her note. They and their parents and other adults, many carrying signs urging protection for the sea animals, march down the sidewalk and past the polluting factory to the beach. Living in that moment, they think: “The past is far behind us, / the future, well beyond. / There’s never been / a better time to listen… / …learn… / …respond!”

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

At the beach the group fans out across the sand to pick up debris, and a turn of the page reveals a clean beach and a newspaper containing a front-page article on the factory’s waste pipe that has been closed. “Someday I’ll be the Future” the child says, “But right now… / …I am Today.”

Illustrated instructions on how to make an origami turtle follow the story.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

Children, having lived on our planet for only a few years, are all progress, moving forward, not looking back yet as each day they learn something new, develop another skill, break old barriers, and form unique opinions. So it’s no surprise that kids are concerned about what is happening today and how it will affect the future—their future and the world’s. In I Am Today, Matt Forrest Esenwine harnesses that power of wonder, confidence, and ambition that children possess and gives it a lyrical voice. Flowing with a rhythm as stirring as ocean swells, Esenwine’s story will resonate deeply within any child’s heart.

While Patricia Pessoa’s lovely illustrations depict a child concerned with protecting the ocean and its creatures, Esenwine’s text is universal and equally inspiring for any child and any cause. While recognizing the desire and ability of children and young people to bring about change, Esenwine also provides concrete ways that they can do so, from small gestures to larger actions, allowing all readers to feel included and important. I Am Today also presents a meaningful way for kids and adults to talk about causes that are important to them and ways that they can get involved.

With a warm, vivid color palette and fresh perspectives that allow readers to make some of their own deductions, Patricia Pessoa presents a lush landscape of a child’s family life, imagination, and ideas brought to fruition. Her images of the family’s picture wall and dinner time are full of heart and humor, and kids will enjoy lingering over the pages to catch all the action. Pessoa portrays the importance of saving the turtles and other sea creatures with clever imagery as the turtle appears in the bathroom mirror as the child brushes her teeth, swimming in the bathtub, and decorating the cup of water on her nightstand. Pessoa’s illustrations of the fish and other ocean creatures that fill the child’s mind are especially beautiful, as is the spread in which she sends her origami messengers out into the world.

I Am Today is an inspiring, uplifting, and motivational book that children will want to frequently revisit and one that families, classrooms, schools, and public libraries will want to add to their collections. The book’s beauty and message makes it a wonderful gift for any child on your list.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

POW! Kids Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1576879948

Discover more about Matt Forrest Esenwine, his books, and his poetry on his website.

You can connect with Patricia Pessoa on Instagram.

Check out these upcoming dates and discover how other bloggers are celebrating I Am Today

I Am Today Blog Tour Schedule

This year many books have been delayed from their original publishing date to a later time due to shipping and supply issues. The best way to support authors and their wonderful new books is to preorder titles from your favorite bookseller. I Am Today will be available January 23, 2022.

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You can preorder I Am Today 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 Picture Book Month

About the Holiday

November is all about picture books thanks to Picture Book Month founder author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and co-founders author/illustrators Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Wendy Martin, and author Tara Lazar. This month-long international literacy initiative celebrates print picture books and all that they offer to young (and even older) readers. With gorgeous artwork and compelling stories, picture books open the world to children in surprising ways. They entertain, explain, excite, and help children learn empathy and understanding. If you want to learn more about the holiday and read engaging daily posts about why picture books are important by your favorite authors, illustrators, and others in the children’s publishing industry, visit picturebookmonth.com

Don’t Get Your Tutu in a Twist

Written by Jenny Moore | Illustrated by Barbara Bakos

 

Miss Gorilla is hanging the final practice session reminders for her class’s dance recital that night when she comes upon Mrs. Sloth, snoozing in her hammock hung right on the Dance Show billboard. But Ms. Gorilla doesn’t try to rouse her. Instead, she encourages her to dream and rest, wanting her to be at her “dancing best.”

At four o’clock, when the dancers assemble at the theater, Miss Gorilla gives each of them some pointers to make their routines shine. First up is Mr. Elephant who’s having a bit of trouble with the costume and the steps. Miss Gorilla calmly tells him “Don’t get your tutu in a twist, Mr. Elephant, / don’t get your tutu in a knot. / Arms out wide, then turn and glide, / with a graceful jump and a tippy-toe trot.” Next, Mrs. Pelican is all aflutter what with trying to tap and smile, keep her wings up and get her dance right.

Image copyright Barbara Bakos, 2021, text copyright Jenny Moore, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

Mr. Polar Bear can’t seem to keep his top hat in place and whirl and twirl at the same time. Miss Gorilla reminds him to “just listen to the beat as you move your feet…” during his soft shoe routine. Miss Gorilla’s glad to see that Mrs. Sloth made it to rehearsal, but now she’s sleeping again! Miss Gorilla gets her tap shoes on her, but that only lasts a moment. Mrs. Sloth keeps sleeping here and sleeping there. She’s even brought the curtain down—but not in a good way; she’s crashed into the stage lights, which lie broken on the floor. Miss Gorilla picks her up and carries her off to find Mr. Crocodile and give him his pep talk. But the minute she’s turned her back, Mr. Crocodile is chewing the curtains and Mrs. Sloth is sleeping in the seats.

Image copyright Barbara Bakos, 2021, text copyright Jenny Moore, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

At last it’s time for the big show and the theater is packed. Miss Gorilla encourages her dancers once more—“It’s time to shine –you’ll all be fine, / lights up, drum roll… let’s go!” But the dancers? They don’t look too confident. When Mrs. Pelican goes first her knees knock together and stage fright has her stuck. Next, Mr. Polar Bear takes the stage, but he’s forgotten to listen to the beat, he trips over Mrs. Sloth, who’s dozing on the floor, and knocks Mr. Elephant into the orchestra pit. Mortified, Miss Gorilla, shouts, “Don’t squash the orchestra! No, Mr. Elephant, tippy-toe trot, not splat!” And then what horror does she see? “Don’t eat the audience! No, Mr. Crocodile, / didn’t I mention that?”

Image copyright Barbara Bakos, 2021, text copyright Jenny Moore, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

Poor Miss Gorilla admonishes herself. She should have listened to those who told her teaching these students was hopeless. But suddenly she hears… could it be… the sound of applause? She peeks around the curtain to find Mrs. Sloth—her eyes still shut—gracefully gliding with new moves and a “three-toed tip tap groove.” The audience roars for more, and “Mrs. SUPER Sloth” obliges with leaps and twirls, handstands and whirls. But where has she learned all of these steps, Miss Gorilla wonders. Then she realizes and exclaims, Mrs. Sloth “a natural star, it seems… you’ve been dancing in your dreams!”

Image copyright Barbara Bakos, 2021, text copyright Jenny Moore, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

Jenny Moore doesn’t tiptoe around the backstage nerves and missteps of a dance recital in her comical story. As Mrs. Gorilla tries to calm the dancer’s jitters and refine their steps, kids will be eager to see how the performance plays out—and, especially, will Mrs. Sloth wake up in time? Moore’s energetic rhymes and rhythms that pulsate with the motivational, slightly frantic beats of teachers or parents trying to get their young charges shipshape for a performance invite dramatic readings that will get kids laughing. Readers will enjoy spotting Mrs. Sloth deeply asleep in various spots at the theater. Encouragement and inspiration to do your best and follow your dreams underlies Moore’s funny story.

Barbara Bakos’s vibrant illustrations of Mr. Elephant, Mrs. Pelican, Mr. Crocodile, Mr. Polar Bear, and Mrs. Sloth are packed with humor as the animals try to rein in their nervousness and put on a good show. Bakos accentuates the mishaps with shocked and worried faces, less-than-graceful steps, and costumes that just don’t stay put. But when it seems that things can’t get any worse, kids will be surprised to see Mrs. Sloth—the most unlikely of prima ballerinas—save the show with her dreamy moves.

A lighthearted and funny book that will reassure dancers and any child taking part in a recital, performance, or presentation as well as entertain kids who just love to laugh, Don’t Get Your Tutu in a Twist is a terrific choice for animated story times at home, school, or public libraries.

Ages 4 – 9

Maverick Arts, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867802

Discover more about Jenny Moore and her books on her website.

To learn more about Barbara Bakos, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-books-to-read-bag-empty

Books to Love, Books to Read Book Bag

 

True book lovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. With this easy craft you can turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-books-to-love-bag-empty

Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

You can find Don’t Get Your Tutu in a Twist at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 29 – National Frankenstein Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-that-monster-on-the-block-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who in 1818 at the age of 18, penned one of the most influential books of all time. Considered the first modern science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus incorporates elements of horror, psychology, love, abandonment, and acceptance. These themes and Shelley’s enthralling storytelling created a book that is always current. In fact, the monster she envisioned continues to inspire writers to create stories of all types from humorous to the truly frightening – or a combination of the two, as you’ll see in today’s book!

That Monster on the Block

Written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt | Illustrated by Luke Flowers

 

Someone was finally moving into Vampire’s old house. Monster, who lived next door wondered who it might be. He hoped it might be an ogre who would invite him “to swim in his mucky, murky swamp.” Or maybe it would be a “greedy goblin with piles of gold to jump into.” Perhaps it would be a dastardly dragon who would throw greasy barbecues. As Monster practiced how he would say hello to his new neighbor, he watched the movers carrying a trampoline, a unicycle, and lots of trunks.

At last his new neighbor emerged. He was wearing “big floppy shoes” and had “wild orange hair” and “a round, red nose. It was…a clown?” Monster couldn’t believe it. He immediately called the neighbors. “‘Unnnnnhhh, unnnnnhhh, unnnnnhhh,’” said Zombie when he heard the news. Mummy shrieked, and Yeti roared. They all agreed that the neighborhood would never be the same again. None of the neighbors welcomed Clown to their block, so he went around to each house to introduce himself. But no one answered the door. Clown left notes and surprises at each house and went back home. When monster found his gift gummy worms, he threw them in the trash. Clown, meanwhile, sat on his porch “and waited. And waited and sat. No one came around.”

But Clown was naturally happy, so he perked up his dreary house, played a happy tune,  and erected a tent. “Monster called a neighborhood meeting. ‘This is out of control!’” he shouted. But Zombie was busy delighting some neighbors with the brain cake Clown had left him, and Mummy was having fun scaring up laughs with the mummy in the box she’d gotten. Yeti was enjoying tricking others into smelling her trick flowers and then spritzing them with water.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-that-monster-on-the-block-Interior

Image copyright Luke Flowers, 2020, text copyright Sue Ganz-Schmitt, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

No one was listening to Monster, so he decided to do something about the interloper himself. At midnight, he rattled chains and banged on a garbage can lid. But Clown didn’t hear it. He was out doing good deeds to help his new neighbors. In the morning Monster was awakened by circus music. He immediately picked up the phone, but no one answered his calls. “‘It’s time for me to have a word with that bozo!’” he said. He stomped over, but on the way he couldn’t help but find the music catchy, the smell of popcorn enticing, and Clown’s invitation to cartwheeling class at his circus school at least a little intriguing.

Inside the tent, he discovered all of his friends having doing circus tricks. When he learned that Clown was “zero percent creepy” and lots of fun, he decided to him a chance. He enjoyed the day so much that Monster even invited him to tea on Sunday. As Monster poured out the tea and passed around sludgeberry swirl scones, a moving van rolled up the block. Out popped a…well, you’ll have to welcome them yourself, just like all the other neighbors!

Sue Ganz-Schmitt turns somersaults with the usual tropes involving diversity in her story as it honestly portrays truisms about prejudice and how both injustice on one hand and understanding on the other spreads through a community. While Monster’s reaction to immediately alert the neighbors and hold a meeting seems to get a big response, readers will see that by the time the meeting takes place, most of the neighbors welcome the newcomer and the positive changes he’s brought. Ganz-Schmitt’s well-paced and superb storytelling is loaded with personality, puns, and the perfect light touch that will have readers taking her story and lesson into their hearts.

Luke Flowers does wonders with larger-than-life characters, and his depictions of Monster, Clown, and all the neighbors are pitch-perfect. Flowers sets up his visual delights early with the image of Vampire’s old house, which is gray and foreboding with detailing that subtly turns the stone structure into a bat. Later Clown converts these same details into clown faces that will charm kids. Just as in the circus, Clown makes a surprise entrance, one that little readers will guess at with glee. Snapshots of Monster calling up his neighbors appear to show that Mummy, Zombie, and Yeti are on board with his dismay, but Ganz-Schmitt’s monster-sound reactions are cleverly noncommittal. Add in the neighbors’ obvious delight with the gifts Clown leaves (a full-page jack-in-the-box image will bring shrieks of laughter), and readers will happily be in on the vibe at the meeting-turned-party.

Contrasting illustrations of Monster trying to bully Clown into leaving and Clown helping out around the neighborhood give kids and adults opportunities to talk about important issues that arise at school and in the news. While images of Monster having fun at circus school show his changing attitude toward Clown, when his displeasure seems to rise again with the entry of another unexpected neighbor, readers will see that this time he has a different and more welcoming reaction. (Added note: Make sure to inspect each page carefully for added visual humor.)

A clever story that delivers important messages about preconceptions, discrimination and acceptance with humor and respect for the intelligence and awareness of children, That Monster on the Block is a must for home, school, and public library story times all through the year.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542005333

Discover more about Sue Ganz-Schmitt and her books and find That Monster on the Block coloring pages on her website.

To learn more about Luke Flowers, his books, and his art on his website.

Scare up some fun with this book trailer!

 

Frankenstein Friday Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rock-pumpkin-craft

Rock Jack-O-Lantern

 

Rocks make perfect jack-o’-lanterns or pumpkins to decorate your home at Halloween or all through the fall! 

Supplies

  • Round, smooth rock ( or rocks in a variety of sizes)
  • Orange craft paint, and other colors for a multi-hued pumpkin patch
  • Black permanent marker or black craft paint
  • Short sturdy twig (one for each rock)
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue
  • Paintbrush

Directions

  1. Clean and dry the rock
  2. Paint the rock, let dry
  3. Draw or paint a jack-o’-lantern face on the rock, let dry
  4. Glue the short twig to the top  of the rock pumpkin

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-that-monster-on-the-block-cover

You can find That Monster on the Block at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 20 – It’s World Beach Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-cover

About the Holiday

This month we celebrate beaches and all of the beauty and recreation they offer. Whether you’re a beachcomber or a swimmer, a sandcastle builder or a sunbather, the beach provides endless ways to enjoy the environment. This month also raises awareness of the types of pollution that mar and endanger the beach as well as the ocean and all of its varied sea life. The world’s coastal areas are irreplaceable habitats and offer crucial resources. Learn what you can do to help our beaches and oceans remain healthy by visiting the Ocean Conservancy website. You can discover more ways to enjoy World Beach Month here.

Constellation of the Deep

By Benjamin Flouw

 

Fox and his cousin, Wolf, spend summer mornings walking along the coast. One day as Fox explores the unusual plants along the path, a seagull lands on a nearby boulder and asks if they have ever heard of the constellation of the deep. The Seagull goes on to tell them that “‘it’s an amazing plant: it grows on the bottom of the ocean, but no one knows exactly where.’” Then he adds that he’s “‘heard that it glows in the dark.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-seagull

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Hearing this, Fox immediately determines to find the constellation of the deep. Wolf has all the diving equipment he’ll need. Outfitted with a wet suit, snorkel, mask, scuba tank, camera, and all the other equipment, Fox and Wolf return to the ocean. While Fox gets ready and dives into the sea, Wolf discovers a crabs, barnacles, periwinkles, scallops, sea anemones, and even a sea star living among the rocks along the shore.

Fox swims above an underwater meadow of posidonia, which he knows “are flowering plants, but they don’t glow in the dark. He leaves the scorpion fish, conger eels, and damselfish behind and dives more deeply. Here, Fox discovers a forest of algae. He recognizes the tall, slender leaves of macrocystis, the fan-shaped leaves of eisenia, the feather-shaped alaria, and many more. While exploring, Fox meets Otter, who’s hunting for sea urchins. Fox tells Otter about his quest, and Otter tells him about “‘a place full of strange plants’” that he encountered just the other day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-scuba-gear

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Exiting the forest, Fox finds “rocks covered with strange, multicolored sculptures. These aren’t plants, but corals.” Fox is so stunned by their beauty that he gets out his camera and takes some pictures. “He marvels at the different shapes of corals.” He sees “corals that look like brains, trees, tables . . . and curled paper.” Some of the corals are enormous and some are as small as mushrooms.

Still, Fox hasn’t found what he’s looking for. He begins to ask for help. No one has seen the constellation of the deep, but Grouper agrees to help in the search. They glide into the open ocean, where they come upon a mountain jutting up from the ocean floor. Grouper knows of a hole in the mountain. As they approach, Fox sees something glowing inside. He swims closer only to find “a tiny glowworm!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-scuba-gear

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Fox wants to take a photograph and reaches for his camera, “but oh no! His camera is gone!” Staring down into the depths of the ocean, Fox spots an unusual shape. He swims down to see what it is. It’s Whale, who has become tangled in a fishing net along with bottles, cans, trash, and even a boot. What else is snagged in the net but Fox’s camera! Whale gives Fox a ride back to the surface. Wolf waves at his friend riding on top of Whale’s back.

Even though Fox hasn’t found the glowing plant, “he has made some wonderful memories.” Back home, he hands his cousin his camera to show him his pictures. Wolf is particularly taken with one that is very beautiful. “‘Look at this one,’” he says to Fox. Fox can’t believe it. His camera had captured a picture of the constellation of the deep when it fell to the ocean floor. Happy, Fox relaxes with a glass of mushroom juice, knowing that the photo of the constellation of the deep will always remind him of “the fabulous beauty of the underwater world.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-rocks

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

In his follow up to The Golden Glow, in which plant-loving Fox and readers travel to the top of a mountain to discover a fascinating rare plant and a surprising decision, Benjamin Flouw plumbs the depths of the ocean to introduce kids to the wonders found there. Just as the sea itself, Flouw’s charming and straightforward storytelling is full of mystery and discovery. As Fox swims deeper and deeper through schools of fish, meadows and forests of sea plants, past coral reefs, and finally to an underwater mountain, readers learn about specific sea life found at each level. Interspersed with the story are several glossary-type pages with illustrations and names of scuba diving gear, tidal pool sea creatures, algae, and corals. Fox’s miraculous recovery of his camera and equally astonishing discovery among his photographs is the type of magical happenstance kids love best. Flouw’s understated environmental message is eloquent and effective.

Just as in The Golden Glow, Flouw’s stylized and textured illustrations, rendered in fresh and soothing tones, will get readers excited about discovering more about the environment. Here, the sea beckons with its colorful and varied creatures and plants. Two-page spreads of the algae forest and coral-encrusted rocks are stunning and the image of Whale wrapped in netting offer educators and kids a jumping off place to further research.

Mesmerizing, educational, and conveying a compelling message, Constellation of the Deep is sure to be a favorite. The book is highly recommended for all home, classroom, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-0735268968

You can find a Constellation of the Deep Activity Kit from Tundra Books here.

Discover more about Benjamin Flouw, his books, and his art on his website.

World Beach Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kinetic-sand-craft

Kinetic Sand

 

You don’t have to live near the beach to enjoy playing in the sand! With this easy recipe you can create your own kinetic sand to form or let run through your fingers. It makes a great anti-stress reliever too!

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack. Or just let it drip and ooze through your fingers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-cover

You can find Constellation of the Deep at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review