August 14 – It’s Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

So, summer vacation is winding down, but there’s still lots of time to enjoy Family Fun Month. Whether you plan a quick trip to a new destination or organize a fun stay-cation, spending time with family is what’s important. Of course, no matter if you’re away or at home don’t forget the books!

Orchard Books sent me a copy of Jack B. Ninja to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Orchard Books in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Jack B. Ninja

Written by Tim McCanna | Illustrated by Stephen Savage

 

We’ve all heard of nimble Jack who can jump over a candlestick, but Jack B. Ninja? Well, he’s hopping over a bamboo stick? Why? Well… “Secret mission starts tonight. / Hide in shadow, out of sight.” He creeps along high up on the roof and waits until the guards are gone. Then he dives into the garden pond, where he spies a tunnel that leads him to a bandit cave.

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Image copyright Stephen Savage, 2018, text copyright Tim McCanna, 2018. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

He “tiptoes, searching through the dark. / Makes no sound and leaves no mark.” What does he find? A treasure chest! But in his hurry to get away he doesn’t see the trip wire that “springs a trap.” How will Jack evade “the bandit crew? / Grappling hook and rope will do.” He secures his hook on the wall then—one, two, three—on each bandits’ head Jack leaps to grab ahold and escape.

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Image copyright Stephen Savage, 2018, text copyright Tim McCanna, 2018. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

He shimmies up the rope with the treasure on his back and delivers it to the Ninja Master, who thinks he “could have been a little faster.” Still, the Master thinks his son did well, but when Jack looks around, he sees the bandits ready to fight. But that’s not what they have in mind. In fact, beneath their dark disguise, Jack finds his family with a surprise.

Out of the treasure chest comes a cake. It’s time to light the candles and blow them out. “Jack B. Ninja flips and kicks. / Cartwheels over the candlesticks.” In no time at all the cake is gone, and the Ninja birthday fun is done.

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Image copyright Stephen Savage, 2018, text copyright Tim McCanna, 2018. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Young Ninja fans will jump at this take on the traditional nursery rhyme. As Jack’s family creates a very special birthday treat for their Ninja lover, readers will enjoy the twists and turns leading up to cake time. Tim McCanna’s sprightly rhythm is a joy to read aloud and offers plenty of opportunity for dramatic reading. The idea of a special, personalized event as a present to celebrate a birthday is the kind of family fun that makes memories and closer bonds.

Stephen Savage’s deep, saturated purples, blues, reds, and greens set off the shadowy Ninja figures to perfect, kid-pleasing effect as Jack follows the clues to the treasure chest and delivers it to his Ninja Master. Little Jack’s eyes express cunning, surprise, and happiness as he goes through his paces and finally holds out his arms to receive birthday hugs.

A sweet gift for Ninja-loving and adventurous kids, Jack B. Ninja would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Orchard Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0545917285

Discover more about Tim McCanna and his books on his website.

To learn more about Stephen Savage, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Jack B. Ninja Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Orchard Books to offer a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Jack B. Ninja, written by Tim McCanna | illustrated by Stephen Savage

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, August 14 – 20. 

A winner will be chosen on August 21.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Orchard Books

Back to School Month Activity

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Stealthy Ninja Maze

One little Ninja has gotten separated from her group. Can you help her find her way back in this printable maze?

Stealthy Ninja Maze | Stealthy Ninja Maze Solution

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You can find Jack B. Ninja at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 11 – National Making Life Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

Today isn’t so much about physical beauty as it is about making life more fun, meaningful, joyful—more beautiful—for someone else. This can be done in so many ways, from spending more time talking with someone to using your talents to make something you know a friend, family member, or coworker would love, to just giving a smile to those you meet during the day. Making someone else feel good will make life more beautiful for you too!

I was sent a copy of The Secrets of Ninja School to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be hosting a giveaway of the book! See details below.

The Secrets of Ninja School

By Deb Pilutti

 

Ruby, a little red-haired girl, is excited to be attending Master Willow’s School for Ninjas. The school, located in a huge house on the outskirts of town, is open only one weekend each summer. Master Willow called his students “‘saplings,’” and each child attended his school eager to learn how to appear invisible, jump skillfully, show patience, and be brave. “But most of all, they came to Master Willow’s School for Ninjas to discover their very own secret skill.”

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

While the other saplings learned quickly, Ruby could not get the hang of sneaking invisibly, jumping with skill, being patient, or feeling brave. Most disappointing, Ruby could not discover her own secret skill. She went to see Master Willow, who told her that through practice she would improve and find her skill. Ruby did practice and did improve, but her special skill still eluded her.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

At bedtime, Ruby felt homesick. The other kids told her that saplings did not miss home, but, still, she told them how her father read stories to her when she couldn’t sleep, how her mother lit a nightlight and kissed her nose when she was afraid of the dark, and that her grandmother would bring out her craft box and “they would spend hours making the most magnificent creations” when she was worried.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Not a sound broke the silence. But then Ruby heard “a sniff and a gasp and a wail. Before she knew it all the other saplings were crying.” Ruby knew just what to do. She “sneaked down the hallway” invisibly, jumped over the cat with skill, and “snipped and stitched and stuffed” patiently. She even bravely explained why she was out of bed when Master Willow caught her.

Back in the dormitory, Ruby turned on a lamp, “gave each of the saplings a stuffed dragon and told them stories of bravery and daring.” Master Willow watched and listened with a smile on his face. When Ruby handed him a stuffed dragon too, he told her that her skills were no longer a secret. “‘You are a wonderful storyteller, a fine dragon maker, and a very good friend.’” Ruby was happy, but she “kept practicing, because being brave isn’t always easy. Even for a ninja.”

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Deb Pilutti’s uplifting story takes an honest look, through a fun Ninja lens, at the worries some children have when they compare their skills and talents to others and even against their own expectations. While Ruby struggles to pick up Ninja skills, readers will see that Ruby has other talents, such as perseverance, creativity, and the courage to ask for help. Ruby may feel—like all kids do at times—that she’s different from the others, but she discovers that emotions are universal, allowing her to appreciate and share her gifts for empathy, kindness, and friendship.

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Pilutti’s bright illustrations will endear Ruby to readers as she excitedly goes off the ninja school, keeps practicing despite some mishaps, and sees dragons in clouds and shadows. Images of the saplings jumping, throwing, and meditating will delight little home ninjas-in-training, and the fully stocked Ninja Craft Area where Ruby creates her stuffed dragons will cheer young crafters.

You can make Ruby’s Dragon Softie too!

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Clear instructions and patterns for an adorable dragon that kids can make at home are included at the end of the story.

Ages 4 – 8

Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2018 | ISBN 978-1627796491

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art and to find fun book-related activities, visit her website.

The Secrets of Ninja School Giveaway

I’m excited to be giving away:

  • One (1) copy of The Secrets of Ninja School and one (1) Green Dragon Softie

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, June 11 – 17. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

Winners will be chosen on June 18.

Giveaways open to US addresses only 

National Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

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Happiness Cards to Share

 

You can easily make someone’s day brighter by saying something nice! Share these printable Happiness Cards with friends, family, teachers, and others and watch them smile!

Happiness Cards to Share Page 1 | Happiness Cards to Share Page 2

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You can find The Secrets of Ninja School at these Booksellers

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Macmillan | Powell’s

May 10 – Mother Ocean Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2013 by the South Florida Kayak Fishing Club, Mother Ocean Day honors the beauty and wonder of the oceans and the fascinating creatures that live in them. It’s estimated that nearly one quarter of the earth’s species live in the world’s five oceans. To join in the celebration take a break and visit a beach near you to swim, snorkel, surf, or go boating.

Giant Squid

Written by Candace Fleming | Illustrated by Eric Rohmann

 

“Down, down in the depths of the sunless sea, deep, deep in the cold, cold dark, creatures, strange and fearsome, lurk.” These mysteries of the ocean silently glide undetected, even though some are as “large as buses” and weigh a ton. They are known only from the quickest of glances or by parts washed up on shore. Many questions remain unanswered, but little by little scientists are learning more about the Giant Squid.

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Image copyright Eric Rohmann, text copyright Candance Fleming. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

When a Giant Squid is hungry it reaches its two tentacles into the ocean waters “curling and twisting and thirty feet long, waiting for—a passing fish…another squid…anything swimming by.” When the Giant Squid grabs its prey, the tentacle’s “suckers ringed with saw-like teeth” immobilize it, and with the help of eight arms the meal is fed into the squid’s sharp beak.

The parrot-like beak is just the beginning, for within the giant squid’s mouth lies a muscle “covered with sharp, tiny blades that slice…grind…file the food into a pasty sludge easy for giant squid to digest.” How does the giant squid see prey swimming by? It has the largest eyes on the planet—“some as big as soccer balls.” With these eyes the squid can see the tiniest flashes of light as sea creatures navigate the black depths. The squid’s gigantic eyes protect it, too, from whales or other predators on the hunt.

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Image copyright Eric Rohmann, text copyright Candance Fleming. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

The giant squid is capable of changing colors, even patterns. Why? No one knows. Perhaps it enjoys changing its appearance “to impress a mate.” The birth cycle is also a mystery. Scientists have yet to discover where females lay their eggs or how long they take to hatch. But once they do, the baby squid are little—“just two inches long.” They have to scurry away from the barracuda wanting a snack, but in a flume of ink they vanish!

Before readers even turn to the first page, Candace Fleming sets a chilling, atmospheric tone that sinks them into the depths of the ocean on flat, black pages, where writhing arms and tentacles creep into view threatening the white, lyrical text. As the story opens and begins to describe the tentacles, beak, and other physical attributes of the giant squid, Eric Rohmann’s brilliant illustrations grow in size, giving readers close-up views of the brutal beauty of this eerie sea creature.

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Image copyright Eric Rohmann, text copyright Candance Fleming. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

Working in perfect concert, Fleming and Rohmann take kids on a deep, deep ocean dive to witness firsthand what very few humans have ever seen. Fleming’s gripping rhythm will have children riveted to her thrilling vocabulary that describes the drama of the giant squid’s existence in unforgettable terms. Rohmann’s color palette consists of murky blues and blacks and raw pinks and reds. The squid’s tentacles loop and slither across the page divulging their serrated suckers; the enormous eye stares out questioningly at the reader; and the fearsome beak will make more than a few readers shrink back in awe. A double foldout spread reveals the immensity of the giant squid for a brief glimpse before it disappears back into its mysterious realm.

Following the text, readers can study an illustration of a giant squid that is clearly labeled with detailed descriptions of the various parts of its body, read more about the sea creature, and find resources for further investigations.

For kids fascinated by the ocean and its denizens, budding marine or environmental scientists, or those who love an exhilarating story, Giant Squid is nonfiction at its best. The book deserves prominent placement in public and school libraries and would be a terrific gift or addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 6 – 10

Roaring Brook Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1596435995

Discover more about Candace Fleming and her books on her website!

Learn more about Eric Rohmann, his books, and his art on his website!

Mother Ocean Day Activity

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Beautiful Ocean Coloring Page

 

There are so many varied creatures in the earth’s oceans! Grab your pencils or crayons and make this printable Beautiful Ocean Coloring Page as vibrant as the sea!

Picture Book Review

December 5 – International Ninja Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s celebration remembers and honors the ninja warriors of China and Japan who with stealth and their signature black clothing could appear and vanish “like a hawk on stolen wings” to defeat their opponents. It was rumored that they were masters of Kuji-Kiri, an eastern magical practice that allowed them to combine their natural ability to move undetected with supernatural powers. The original ninja came from the Iga province of Japan and were made up of regular citizens. Their weapons were those of farmers, making it easier for them to be explained away and these warriors to escape exposure. The black clothing that we now associate with the ninja came from the theater, where the “invisibility” of the common-man warrior was represented by stage hands playing the parts of the ninja. To conceal themselves from the audience, stage hands wore black costumes that blended in with the black background curtains. When they became part of the play, theater-goers were taken by surprise. Today, ninja remain popular characters in movies and books, and especially with children.

Ninja! Attack of the Clan

By Arree Chung

 

Maxwell is dressed in his ninja best, pool cue at the ready. Now all he needs is a “worthy opponent.” He leaps into the kitchen where his mom’s making a salad. “HI-YA!” But when he asks if his mom wants to play, she tells him she’s too busy. He turns to his sister. “BOOYAH! Cassy, want to play with me?” he asks. “I working,” she answers from behind the tall building she’s constructing from blocks. Disappointed, Maxwell searches out his dad in his office.

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Copyright 2016 Arree Chung, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

“Papa!” Maxwell exclaims. “Yes, Maxwell…,” Papa says, flipping through the file cabinet. Want to play hide-and-seek with me?” Maxwell asks. “Yes, Maxwell,” Papa says, studying the income tax form in his hand. “OKAY!!! I’ll hide, you seek.” Maxwell shouts as he runs out of the room. “Yes, Maxwell,” Papa says, opening the tax program on the computer.

Maxwell tries out various hiding places, but none seem ninja-worthy. Then he spies the bed. Concealing himself underneath, he waits for Papa to find him…and waits. Finally, he hears a thump, thump, thump, and giggles with anticipation. But it’s only Brutus sniffing him out. Time goes by and still no Papa. Maxwell shouts out an anti-clue, but still nothing happens. At last Maxwell leaves his hiding place and goes back to his dad’s office, where Papa is still sitting in front of the computer. “Hey, you never came looking for me,” Maxwell says. But his dad is too distracted to hear him. Maxwell heads out with a dejected, “Forget it.”

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Copyright Arree Chung, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

To recover from disappointment, Maxwell knows “a ninja must practice the art of meditation and find inner peace.” But even here his bad day continues. When he’s called for dinner he skips out to the dining room, but no one is at the table except Brutus, who is gulping down Maxwell’s soup. Suddenly, Brutus barks a warning. From behind comes a “surprise attack!” “Defend yourself,” orders Papa. With a flick of his finger, Maxwell secures his mask and goes to work, poking Papa in the belly. His dad comes back with an awesome bear hug, but Maxwell deftly somersaults out of his arms. With lightning speed he whips his jump rope across the room and ties up Papa.

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Copyright 2016 Arree Chung, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Next comes his mom, wielding her yellow bag. Maxwell leaps over the flying purse and retrieves its lost lipstick, which he slathers on in preparation for the “kiss of death!” Covered in red lip marks, Maxwell’s mom joins his father in defeat. Cassy, however, is harder to pin down. She sneaks behind him and in one swift move covers his eyes with his own headband and applies a dastardly “SLURP!” Stunned, Maxwell admits, “I’ve been licked.” Still—as the battle continues to wage—Maxwill declares, “I love my ninja clan!”

In Ninja! Attack of the Clan, Arree Chung’s cute sequel to Ninja!, Maxwell just wants to play with his family but is disappointed as each is too busy to take notice. Maxwell’s dilemma is handled with honesty and humor that will resonate with kids. The end of the story in which Maxwell’s family executes the perfect remedy for his bad day is touching and will have kids cheering for this enthusiastic ninja. Chung’s bold, vibrant cartoon-inspired panels perfectly carry the high-action parts of the story, while full-page illustrations slow things down a bit to embrace family time.

Ages 4 – 7

Henry Holt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0805099164

For little ninjas there’s so much to see and do on Arree Chung’s website, including fun activities, a video, more about the characters, a gallery of ninja art by kids, and even a place where they can “ninjafy” pictures of themselves!

International Ninja Day Activity

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Stealthy Ninja Maze

 

Two ninja have been separated from their group! Can you help them find their way back in this printable Stealthy Ninja Maze?

Picture Book Review

September 20 – Get Ready Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2006 by the American Public Health Association to encourage individuals, families, schools, businesses, and others to be prepared for any type of emergency. Having the right supplies on hand and proper training help to avert a larger crisis and can be a source of comfort and confidence. Take some time today to check your stock piles and preparedness plans and, if needed, enroll in a class like the heroes of today’s story!

The Three Ninja Pigs

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz | Illustrated by Dan Santat

 

The Big Bad Wolf has never encountered Three Little Pigs like these! When he comes into town huffing and puffing and blowing homes down, the sibling trio (two brothers and a sister) in this fractured fairy take matters into their own trotters and vow: “‘We’ve got to get rid of that bully!’” / “‘We’re tired of letting him rule.’” / “‘We must put an end / To this terrible trend.’” / “‘Let’s train at that new Ninja school.’” At the dojo, Pig One begins to learn aikido, but with a “straw-house” attitude, he drops out after only two weeks.

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Image copyright Dan Santat, courtesy of coreyrosenschwartz.com

Pig Two has a little more “stick”-to-itiveness with his Jujitsu training, and “The teacher said, ‘Excellent progress. / But Pig-san, you must study more.’ / Pig Two said, ‘No way. / Sayonara, Sensei! / I’m ready to settle a score.’” Thankfully, Pig Three has the steadfastness of a brick in her karate lessons and masters each move. “She balanced and blocked like an expert, / and practiced her lessons nonstop. / By the time she was through, / she could break boards in two / by performing a perfect pork chop!’” When she earns her black belt, she’s ready to rumble.

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Image copyright Dan Santat, courtesy of coreyrosenschwartz.com

When the wolf comes huffing and puffing to the straw house of Pig One, this little piggie can talk big but with a swing and a miss, he suddenly wishes he were more prepared. For Pig Two, things go…well…you know…. and the wolf chases the two brothers to their sister’s house. Here Pig Three stands waiting “…outside in her gi. / ‘I’m a certified weapon, / so watch where you’re steppin’. / You don’t want to start up with me!’” While she demonstrates her kicks and flips, the wolf stands strong, but when he witnesses her mighty ability to split bricks with one chop he scrams.

How do these intrepid pigs top that success? The brothers learn their lesson and—after going back to school—their ninja moves. After graduating these “Three pigs full of mojo / then ran their own dojo, / and life was forever wolf-free.’”  

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Image copyright Dan Santat, courtesy of coreyrosenschwartz.com

Corey Rosen Schwartz has created a rowdy, rambunctious triple-pig threat in this uproarious rendering of the three little pigs tale. With perfect rhythmic limericks that are a joy to read aloud, Schwartz cleverly uses puns, funny dialogue, and one feisty piglet to chop the wolf down to size.

Dan Santat’s illustrations are full of angst, action, and attitude. Legs kick, hands chop, boards and bamboo fly as the three pigs and their nemesis wolf nearly leap from the page in their battles.

Ages 4 – 8

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2012 | ISBN978-0399255144

Discover more about Corey Rosen Schwartz and her books plus fun activities and detailed teachers’ guides on her website!

Check out Dan Santat‘s site to learn about his books, view his artwork, and more!

While I take a few personal days over the next couple of weeks, I am republishing earlier posts updated with links, internal art, and book trailers.

Watch this kickin’ The Three Ninja Pigs book trailer!

Get Ready Day Activity

CPB - Pig Day pigs

Roly-Poly Pig and Piglets

 

Get ready to have fun making this cute and easy craft! Ham it up with your own pig and piglets who can keep you company on your desk, near your bed or anywhere it’s fun to play!

Supplies

  • 2 ½-inch wooden spoon, available from craft stores
  • 1-inch wooden spool, available from craft stores
  • Pink yarn, I used a wide-strand yarn
  • Pink fleece or felt
  • Pink craft paint
  • Pink 5/8-inch or 1-inch flat button with two holes
  • Pink 3/8-inch flat button with two holes
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Black marker

CPB - Pig Day with spools (2)

Directions

  1. Cut triangular ears for the pigs – cut larger triangles for the big pig and smaller triangles for the babies. Leave a tab on the bottom of the ears to secure them with the yarn.
  2. Paint the spool with the pink paint
  3. Let spool dry
  4. When the spool is dry, glue the ears to the spool, letting the ears stick up over the rim of the spool.
  5. Wrap yarn in straight layers around spool until the body of the pig is a little bigger than the end of the spool, which will be the face
  6. Cut yarn off skein and glue the end to the body
  7. To make the nose, glue the button over the hole in the middle of the spool
  8. Mark the eyes and mouth with a marker
  9. To make the tail for the large pig, cut a 4-inch long piece of yarn. Tie a triple knot in the yarn (or a knot big enough to fill the hole in the spool). Then tie a single knot below the first knot. Insert the large knot into the spool’s hole at the back of the pig. Trim the yarn in front of the second knot as needed.
  10. To make the tail for the piglets, tie a single knot in the yarn and another single know below the first. Insert one of the single knots into the hole. Trim yarn as needed.

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You can find The Three Ninja Pigs at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review