April 3 – National Walking Day and Interview with Author Jane Whittingham

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About the Holiday

The American Heart Association established National Walking Day in 2007 to remind people of the benefits of taking a walk. Even twenty to thirty minutes a day can improve your health and wellbeing. If you have a desk job or spend long hours sitting, getting up and out can make you feel better and even more connected to your community. While walking through your neighborhood, the park, or the woods take time to notice interesting details and the beauty around you. Walking with a friend, your family, or a group can also be fun and motivating. So grab your sneakers and use today to spark a new habit that will pay dividends now and in the future.

I received a copy of Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up from Pajama Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Pajama Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up

Written by Jane Whittingham | Illustrated by Emma Pedersen

 

Twice every day Mama Quail led her ten chicks through the meadow, and while nine hurried and scurried along after Mama, Queenie, the smallest, always lagged behind. Mama and the other chicks chirped and cheeped for Queenie to “hurry hurry hurry,” but it was just so hard when there was so much to see. Queenie loved stopping to look at the “pink blossoms and green grass, shiny stones and fuzzy caterpillars, buzzy bumblebees and wiggly worms.”

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Image copyright Emma Pedersen, 2019, text copyright Jane Whittingham, 2019. Courtesy of Pajama Press.

Her papa admonished her to learn to hurry—“It is what we quails do!” he told her. And Queenie promised to try. She really did try too, but she just couldn’t pass by all her favorite things without stopping to enjoy them. One day, in addition to the blossoms, grass, stones, caterpillars, bees, and worms, Queenie spied a feather. And when she stopped to admire it, she saw “an unusual flash of orange.”

As Queenie watched, the “the furry orange slid softly, smoothly, silently through the green grass.” Queenie followed at a careful distance. Suddenly, Queenie saw that she was following a cat—a cat that was stalking her mama and brothers and sisters. Queenie knew just what she had to do. She raced down the path “hurry, hurry, hurrying,” chirping, cheeping, and warning her family.

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Image copyright Emma Pedersen, 2019, text copyright Jane Whittingham, 2019. Courtesy of Pajama Press.

In the nick of time, Papa heard her and swooped down on the cat. Mama came running too. With a hiss, the cat jumped into the grass and fled. “‘You’ve saved us, Queenie Quail!’ Mama Quail chirped.” And Papa and her little siblings praised her too. Now, when the family heads out along the meadow trail and Queenie can’t keep up, they all ask, “‘What have you found, what have you found, what have you found?’” And they stop and hurry hurry hurry over to take a look too.

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Image copyright Emma Pedersen, 2019, text copyright Jane Whittingham, 2019. Courtesy of Pajama Press.

Jane Whittingham’s story of an adorable quail who stops to smell all the roses is a charming, charming, charming read-aloud that adults will love sharing and kids will enthusiastically chime in on during the fun repeated phrases. Whittingham’s agile storytelling shines with lyrical rhythms and alliteration that bounce along like the little stars of her book. The gentle suspense will keep young listeners riveted to the story, and afterward they’re sure to join Queenie and her brothers and sisters in slowing down to enjoy the world around them.

Readers will immediately fall in love with Queenie and her siblings as Emma Pedersen’s cute-as-can-be, tufted quail babies race and bob along the trail to keep up with Mama. With expressive eyes and tiny beaks that form a perpetual smile, they nestle next to Mama and pile on top of Papa. As they watch out for Queenie, one or two often peer out at readers, inviting them along on their excursions. As the heroine of the story, Queenie is a sweetie, fascinated by everything she sees. Pedersen’s lovely gauche paintings are as fresh as a spring meadow and will entice kids and adults to take a nice slow walk together.

A unique and tender story that will have children entranced from the first page, Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up will be a favorite on home, school, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Pajama Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1772780673

You’ll discover more about Jane Whittingham and her books as well as blog posts, interviews, and lots more on her website.

To learn more about Emma Pedersen, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Jane Whittingham

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Today, I’m excited to be talking with Jane Whittingham an author and librarian from British Columbia, Canada, about the inspiration for her adorable quails, what she loves about being a librarian, and how nature features in her life and books.

I believe Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up was inspired by your dad and a true story. Can you talk about that a little?

My parents moved to a small town on Vancouver Island when they retired, and their backyard is home to all sorts of wildlife, including families of quails that hurry and scurry here and there. My dad  always liked watching them, and he mentioned to me once that quails would make perfect picture book stars with their round little bodies and their amusing personalities and antics. Well, I was inspired! I’d never really thought much about quails, since we don’t have them where I live, so every time I visited my parents I would spend a bit of time watching the quails for inspiration.

Queenie, the little quail who is just too easily distracted to keep up with her siblings, is definitely inspired by me, and the fact that I’m always falling behind because I have to stop and look at everything! The book is a bit bittersweet to me because my father passed away before it was published, but I know he would’ve gotten a real kick out of it, and he would have probably introduced himself to everyone as my muse!  

Have you always liked to write? Can you talk a little about your process? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I’ve always been a writer, and even before I could physically write I was a storyteller. I was an only child and spent a lot of time using my toys to tell epic stories, which I would then recount breathlessly to my parents in an endless stream of words.

I don’t really have a process – like many people I fit writing around my full-time job (I’m a librarian) and into my busy life, so I snatch moments here and there whenever I can. I write on my phone, I write on scraps of paper, I write on my computer. I write on my commute, at coffee shops, and in grocery store lineups. You never know when inspiration will strike!

Besides Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up,  you have two more very well-received books out from Pajama Press—Wild One and A Good Day for Ducks. The outdoors features in all of your books in some way. Are you inspired by the outdoors? What is your favorite outside activity or a memorable experience you’ve had?

I am absolutely inspired by the outdoors – even though my childhood wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things, I do feel like I had a very different childhood than many kids experience today. I spent a lot of my free time outdoors, wandering or biking around the neighborhood with a band of kids, making (and falling out of) tree forts, playing kickball on the street, and turning local playgrounds into the settings for all sorts of imaginary worlds. My parents often had no idea where I was, but that was totally normal for the time—I never left the neighborhood, and they knew I would come home when it started to get dark.

Sometimes it feels like I grew up in a whole other era! Through my books I really want to encourage families to get outside, to explore, to learn through doing and through experiencing. Nature is such an incredible source of inspiration, of knowledge, of enjoyment, and even of healing, and we really miss out on so much by cooping ourselves up in front of our screens all day long!

In doing a little research for this interview, I raided your wonderful website and discovered that you made a few resolutions this year. One is to read outside your comfort zone, which includes murder mysteries, historical fiction, and narrative nonfiction. How is that going? Can you give me one mystery title in your comfort zone and one “departure” book you’ve dipped your toes (eyes?) into?

Oh dearie me, you’re holding me accountable! I recently finished a YA novel, which is very, very unusual for me—I never read young adult fiction even when I was a young adult, so this was a major departure for me! It’s called The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, and tells the story of a young Muslim lesbian whose family discovers her secret girlfriend and sends her off to Bangladesh to straighten her out, as it were. It’s definitely an eye-opening look into a culture and experience very different from my own, and I really enjoyed it.

As for my taste in mysteries, I tend to favour the classic British who-dunnit style, with authors like Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh being particular favorites. I also really enjoy mysteries with historical settings, which allow me to check off two favorite genres at once!

Queenie is an adorable little quail! What was your reaction to seeing Emma Pedersen’s illustrations for the first time? In your blog post “Queenie Quail and the Road to Publication,” you talk about needing to cut your original manuscript. Can you describe one place where the illustration reflects the text that is no longer there? Can you describe a place where Emma included something that surprised or particularly delighted you?

I was absolutely floored when I first saw Emma’s illustrations, they’re beyond wonderful, and even more adorable than I ever could have imagined! It’s a funny thing, being a picture book author, because you craft these characters and this environment, and then you hand the whole thing over to a stranger to make real—it can be a bit nerve-wracking, not knowing what your little characters will end up looking like! I was immensely relieved when I saw Queenie and her siblings, and I think Emma’s classic artistic style perfectly complements my old-fashioned writing style.

One of the aspects of the text that was really shortened related to all the things that distracted Queenie on her daily walks with her family. I described the worms and the bees and the flowers in great detail, which turned out to be entirely unnecessary, since everything appeared so beautifully in Emma’s illustrations!

And as for an illustration that particularly delighted me, there’s a spread where Mama and Papa quail nuzzle Queenie as they thank her for saving the day, and the loving expressions on everyone’s faces really just melted my heart, I loved them so much!

What drew you to becoming a librarian? What is a favorite part of your day?

I am a children’s librarian for an urban library system here in British Columbia, Canada, and I’m responsible for developing and facilitating programming for children and families in an older residential neighborhood. I get to do a lot of fun things in my job—I lead story times for caregivers and their babies, facilitate writing and book clubs for tweens, and get to host and visit local preschools, daycares and elementary schools. I think my favourite part of the entire year is Summer Reading Club, which runs from June – August every year. We spend the entire year planning all sorts of exciting programs to get kids reading all summer long, and it’s so much fun! Sometimes I can’t quite believe I get to do this as my job. I also manage the physical collections in the library, organizing and weeding the books to make sure the collection is in tip- top shape and helps meet the reading needs of my community.

I was raised in a family of voracious readers and I love working with people, so librarianship always seemed like a natural fit, but it took me quite a while to get here. I worked in various jobs for about six years following my initial graduation from university, before finally feeling confident enough to take the plunge and go back to school to do my masters in librarianship. It was a real leap of faith, quitting a well-paying, stable but unfulfilling job to take a chance on a career that everyone around me said was dying out, but it’s certainly paid out for me, so far at least! I can’t stress enough that simply loving books is not enough of a reason to become a librarian, especially not a public librarian – you really do need to love working with people more than anything, because it’s definitely not for the faint of heart sometimes!

On your website you have a gallery of pictures from libraries you’ve visited. How many libraries have you been to? Which library is the farthest from home? Which was your favorite and why?

I love visiting libraries at home and abroad, I find so much inspiration from looking at how other libraries organize their collections, decorate their spaces, and plan their events. I’m not even sure at this point how many libraries I’ve visited. I need to update my website to include the ones I visited on my most recent trip to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick!

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Jane visits one of her favorite libraries – the Nikko Library – in Japan

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A view of a bridge and beyond in Nikko, Japan

Some of the furthest libraries I’ve visited have been in New Zealand and Japan (which I’ve visited on three separate occasions so far), though I’ve visited libraries in different US states and Canadian provinces, too. I don’t know that I have a single favorite library, but I do particularly enjoy visiting rural libraries – they can be so creative with their often-limited resources, and really do serve as the hearts and souls of their communities. 

What’s the best part about being a children’s author? Can you share an anecdote from an author’s event you’ve held or been part of?

I love everything about writing for kids! I really am a big kid at heart, which is why I’m a children’s librarian, too! I’ve had wonderful experiences reading my books to kids at different author events, and it’s so much fun to get everyone involved.

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Jane and kids act out animals during an exciting author visit.

With Wild One I like to get kids to guess which animal they think the protagonist is pretending to be, and then we act out the animals together, which is heaps of fun, and with A Good Day for Ducks we act out all sorts of fun raining day actions, then talk together about all the things you can do, inside and outside, on a rainy day. I live in a very rainy place, so it’s important to find the joy in even the gloomiest of days! One of the most meaningful events I’ve done was a visit to a local children’s hospice, where I was able to connect with a small group of really amazing children who have been through so much in their short lives. To be able to share my stories with them, and listen to their stories, was an incredibly inspiring and moving experience.

What’s up next for you?

I’m not quite sure! I’ve got a couple of manuscripts that I’m still working on, and some that I’m waiting to hear back about from editors, so I don’t really know yet what’s coming down the pipeline. But I’ll always keep on telling stories, no matter what. 🙂

What is your favorite holiday and why?

My favourite holiday is definitely Christmas. I love Christmas. I love the music, the baking, the food, the decorating, the music, the family get-togethers, I love it all! I don’t actually do any of the decorating or baking or cooking myself, I mostly just listen to Christmas carols for a month straight and watch hours of Christmas movies on TV, but I love it all the same!

Thanks, so much, Jane! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about you and am sure readers have too! I wish you all the best with Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up and all of your books!

You can connect with Jane Whittingham on:

Her website | Instagram

Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Pajama Press in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up written by Jane Whittingham | illustrated by Emma Pedersen

This giveaway is open from April 3 through April 9 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

It’s easy to enter! Just:

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Pajama Press.

National Walking Day Activity

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Whose Shoes? Matching Puzzle

These kids are getting out and enjoying nature! Can you help them find the right shoes so they can start their adventures in this printable puzzle?

Whose Shoes? Matching Puzzle

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You can find Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 18 – International Ideas Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate something that you can’t see or hold but which is real all the same. What is it? An idea! Ideas are amazing things. They ideas fuel our arts, sciences, education, and home life. This month-long holiday invites all you would-be inventors and clever folk alike to think differently and pay attention to your brainstorms. So, write down those ideas you have while driving, while in the shower, when you’re daydreaming, or just as you turn off the light to go to sleep. You never know what they might become!

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel

 

All the field mice gathered at the vegetable garden to play and eat, eat, eat. But one day an owl arrived, so the mice went off to the grassy fields far away where they were safe but not nearly as well-fed. “Still they all agreed that having a hungry belly was better than filling the belly of a hungry owl.” After that the mice kept their distance from the farm—all except Scampers, who hid nearby and watched the owl. She thought there was something a little suspicious about it since the owl never moved.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

When Scampers’ friend Nibbles saw what she was doing, he was afraid for her safety. But Scampers was gung-ho on finding out what was going on. The next day they waved a rag-doll mouse above the cauliflower, but the owl stayed put. “‘Maybe owls can tell if a mouse is fake,’ Nibbles whispered.” That gave Scampers another idea. She jumped out and yelled “HELLO!” to the owl, but the owl didn’t blink. Nibbles thought maybe owls were hard of hearing, so Scampers put on her one-girl-band set. Nothing.

Next it was time to bring out the heavy machinery, but even when Scampers lobbed an egg at the owl from her homemade eggapult, the owl didn’t move. Nibbles thought that owls might not like eggs, but a soaring rock had the same result. Scampers decided it was time to try out all of her experiments on another owl—one they’d find in the woods.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

While Nibbles hid in the hollow of a tree, Scampers called out “HELLO!” “An owl’s head spun around.” The owl nabbed the rag-doll mouse in a snap, and he did not sit still for the eggapulted rock. “‘Maybe you’ve figured out why the garden owl doesn’t move,’” Nibbles said. Now it was time to explain it all to the other mice. With a glittery display, Scampers and Nibbles presented their findings.

As Scampers and Nibbles raced to raid the veggies, the other mice lagged behind, skeptical about what they’d heard. “‘Sometimes a new discovery is so amazing that others need a little time to accept it,’” Scampers told Nibbles. “‘So while they’re thinking it over, let’s eat.’”

Extensive back matter includes an illustrated description of how scientists think over a problem, more information about Great Horned Owls and field mice, suggestions for teachers on reading the book to students, ways teachers can discuss science and engineering practices, and four activities kids can do at home or in school that engage them in science, technology, engineering, and math learning.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

In his clever story, Mike Allegra infuses the scientific method with enthusiasm, humor, and a problem that will engage kids. When the field mice are run out of their vegetable garden by an owl who has taken up residence on a fence post, readers will love following Scampers as she uses her logical mind and a few experiments to restore their food source. Through Scampers’ keen sense of observation and engineering know-how, kids see how to go about proving a hypothesis correct. As Nibbles eats away at Scampers’ results with the kinds of alternate theories scientists must disprove, children get caught up in the suspense and thrill of discovery that fuels scientific advancement.

Elizabeth Zechel’s field mice know how to feast—and how to get things done. With bright eyes and jubilant expressions, the mice chow down on corn and tomatoes, and as Scampers performs her experiments her joy in the process is evident. More timid Nibbles bites his nails, wraps his tail tightly around himself, tries to stop the eggapult in its tracks, and cowers in the crook of a tree as danger looms. Zechel’s detailed drawings realistically depict the garden, forest, and wildlife. Her two Great Horned Owls beautifully demonstrate the difference between the false one and the real one, which has focused and piercing eyes, soft textured feathers, sharp talons, and quick reflexes.

Perfectly aimed at young scientists with charming characters, fun language, and a glittery final report that mirrors school projects, Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist is a terrific addition to home, classroom, and library STEM collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Dawn Publications, 2019 | ISBN 978-1584696438

Discover more about Mike Allegra, his books, and his other writing on his website

To learn more about Elizabeth Zechel, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Ideas Month Activity

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Green onions as they looked when put in the jar on Day 1

Green Onions Garden in a Jar

 

Kids will be wowed by this gardening experiment that shows results in as little as two days and just keeps getting more dramatic as the days go by.

Supplies

  • 1 or 2 batches of green onions (also called scallions and spring onions)
  • Jar
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Here’s how the onions looked two days later.

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Three days later, the green onions are really growing!

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In four days the stalks have gotten much longer and new shoots have appeared.

Directions

  1. Cut the stalks off of each onion so that the bulb and about two inches of stem remain. 
  2. Place all of the onions in a jar with the bulbs and roots in the water and the stalks above the rim of the jar
  3. Place the jar in a sunny spot and watch the onion tops grow taller day by day
  4. Harvest the stalks and enjoy them in a variety of recipes and as a substitute for chives

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You can find Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 23 – National Listening Day

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About the Holiday

 

Today we celebrate the art of listening! Whether you’re listening to a story or just passing along information—like in today’s book, listening carefully is important and helps you remember. The day after Thanksgiving was chosen by StoryCorps for family and friends to tell and record their unique and collective stories for themselves and future generations. The mission of StoryCorps is to “preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” StoryCorps even provides an online archive of individual and family stories that enrich our culture for anyone to listen to. Whether you share your stories with others or record them for your own family, remember that every story counts and should be heard. To learn more about StoryCorps, hear fascinating stories, or upload your own, visit StoryCorps.

Telephone

Written by Mac Barnett | Illustrated by Jen Corace

 

Above a little row of houses and two children playing, a group of very disparate birds sit along the telephone wire. Mama pigeon, holding a nice, steaming potpie, has a message for her little Peter. She turns to Cardinal and says, “Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner.” The cardinal, with a baseball bat tucked under his wing, turns to the goose sitting next to him and says Peter should “hit pop flies and homers.”

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Image copyright Jen Corace, 2014, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Ostrich, outfitted in an old aviator’s hat and carrying a map, hears the message a bit differently. While gazing out at the small craft zipping through the sky, he whispers into Ostrich’s ear to tell Peter jus who it is that uses “prop planes.” Ostrich has the day’s cleaning on her mind and tells the titmouse what Peter should do with his “wet socks.” The titmouse, with a guitar slung over her shoulder and perhaps a bit of hope in her heart, hears, “Tell Peter, rock stars are admired.”

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Image copyright Jen Corace, 2014, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The Toucan has his binoculars trained on a passel of crocodiles down below and has some words of warning for Peter. Pelican, meanwhile, is playing hide and seek with Lobster and has some words of praise for these wily crustaceans. Duck is preoccupied with monster truck tires, and turkey is a little concerned about being so “high up on this wire.”

By now moms down below are cooking dinner and calling their kids home. The robin smells smoke and tells the chicken he’s afraid there’s a fire. The chicken, channeling her inner Henny Penny, puts it all together and with a touch of hysteria tells the owl to warn Peter of a smelly, crocodile-riding, fire-breathing monster of a lobster who’s coming to eat him. The owl opens one skeptical eye, then turns nonchalantly to the young birds hanging out and blowing bubble gum bubbles and says, “Hey, Peter, your mom says fly home for dinner.”

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Image copyright Jen Corace, 2014, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Mac Barnett’s perfectly goofy read aloud will have kids giggling and eagerly anticipating what interpretation could possibly come next in this story that’s just right for fun story times when you just want to laugh out loud. An enthusiastic reading ramps up the humor and the droll ending.

Jen Corace’s witty illustrations of each bird and their particular preoccupation give eagle-eyed readers clues to how Mama bird’s simple message may be mangled next. The ostrich uses a feather duster to tidy up the goose, the titmouse wears star-shaped sunglasses, and the chicken, with her wild topknot of feathers puts new meaning into the term “wired” with her over-the-top dire warning.

Surprising from one side of the telephone pole to the other, Telephone is a fantastic choice for dialing up fun at home or in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2014 | ISBN  978-1452110233

Discover more about Mac Barnett and his many books on his website.

To learn more about Jen Corace, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Have you heard? It’s the Telephone book trailer!

National Listening Day Activity

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Telephone Tie-Up Puzzle

 

These kids want to use a telephone. Can you follow the tangled wires to find a phone for each child in this Telephone Tie-Up Puzzle?

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You can find Telephone at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 19 – World Sauntering Day

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About the Holiday

In 1979 as the jogging craze was sweeping the world, W.T. “Bill” Rabe decided people needed to be reminded to slow down and really notice the things around them. At the time Rabe worked at the the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, which boasts the world’s longest porch at 660 feet (200 m). Since that time people are encouraged to celebrate Sauntering Day by taking a long walk and enjoying the relaxation of a slower pace.

Tiny, Perfect Things

Written by M.H. Clark | Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

 

A little girl and her grandfather head outside for a walk. “Today, we keep our eyes open for tiny, perfect things,” the girl says. The first thing they find is a yellow leaf that has fluttered down from a nearby tree. While the girl is examining the leaf, she notices an intricate “spider’s web that’s caught the light.” Then Grandpa lifts her up to see “a snail that had climbed the fence last night.” 

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

Crows overhead watch the pair and guard the treasures they’ve hidden in their nest. One drops a red bottle cap for Grandpa to find. The little girl and her grandfather also see a red flower pushing up through a crack in the sidewalk and a man wearing a hat with a long, red feather. Farther on, the girl realizes their “shadows are holding hands,” waking when they walk and standing when they stand.

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

They wave to a neighbor and her cat and admire a shiny apple “way up high. / Red against the blue, blue sky.” As twilight falls and bunnies, birds, and other creatures settle in, a pale moon rises. The cold night air prompts the little girl and her grandfather to start back home. Around the corner, they see their house. A welcoming light is on, and a pretty white cat waits for them at the door.

The girl runs to her mother and exclaims, “We found so many things today! / A leaf, a snail, a cat, some crows. / The world is full of wonders, / no matter where we go.” She sits on the rug and draws all the tiny, perfect things they saw, ready to go out again tomorrow.

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

M.H. Clark’s gorgeously written, lyrical story shines a light on seemingly simple aspects of nature and neighborhoods. As seen through a child’s eyes, leaves, snails, the surprise meeting of familiar people and pets, and even a change in light and temperature are gems to be remembered, recorded, and sought out again and again. The gentle pace and affection between the little girl and her grandfather makes each page a joy to read, and the love and warmth of the girl’s mixed race, multigenerational family will swell the reader’s heart. Clark’s final line invites children to find “perfect things” wherever they go. It’s a call both kids and adults will want to answer.

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

Madeline Kloepper’s lush illustrations combine sophistication with the sensibility of a child’s drawing to beautifully reflect the child’s-eye view of Clark’s story. With deep earth tones, Kloepper depicts a neighborhood teeming with life while also showing that the little girl and her grandfather are one with the natural world. Through various perspectives, Kloepper points out that astonishing things can be found at ground level, up high, and in surprising nooks and crannies if one just takes time to look. Each page depicts the object described in the text and then offers many more “tiny, perfect things” for alert readers to discover. A final double gate fold will have kids and adults sitting on the floor or spreading out at the table together to search for all of the wondrous things hidden in plain sight.

A book that opens readers eyes while warming their heart, Tiny, Perfect Things would be a much-loved addition to any child’s home bookshelf and is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Compendium, 2018 | ISBN 978-1946873064

To learn more about Madeline Kloepper, her art, and her books, visit her website.

World Sauntering Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nature-journal-cover

My Nature Journal 

 

You can remember the things you see on a walk in this Nature Journal. Just print the cover, add pages, and staple it together. Then draw the flowers, trees, birds, snails, and things you see. You can tape leaves and other small objects inside too!

My Nature Journal Cover 

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You can find Tiny, Perfect Things at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 16 – Nothing Day

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About the Holiday

Newspaper columnist Harold Coffin established Nothing Day in 1973 to satirize the proliferation of daily holidays. His purpose was to give people a day to do absolutely nothing. Sounds good to me! Still, does celebrating this holiday constitute doing something? This may be the most baffling holiday on the calendar! Why not find something—or nothing—to do with today’s book?

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna

 

A little girl and her mom are “back again” at the cottage—even trudging up the walk in “the same rain”—while Dad is working back at home in the city. While Mom works at her computer, the girl destroys Martians, but she says, “Actually, I was just pressing the same button over and over.” She wishes that her dad were there.

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Mom turns away from her writing and watches her daughter playing her video game. “Is this going to be another day of doing nothing?” she growls. Mom takes the device and hides it—“as usual”—and the little girl finds it—“as usual.” But this time she takes it outside. As the rain pelts down from gloomy skies it looked as if everything in the “garden was hiding from the sun.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-playing-video-games

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

In the pond at the bottom of the hill she finds a line of flat stones. She hops from one to another, crushing them like the Martians in her game. While jumping, though, her game falls out of her pocket and into the pond. The water is so icy cold that she can’t grab it before it sinks out of sight. Oh no! she thinks, “Without my game, I have nothing to do.” The rain strikes her “like rocks,” and she feels “like a small tree trapped outside in a hurricane.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day--jumping-on-rocks

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Just then she spies four giant snails slithering by. She asks them if there is anything to do around there, and they tell her yes. She gently feels one of the snail’s antennae. It is “as soft as jello” and makes her smile. She follows the snails and discovers a field filled with mushrooms. Their damp musky smell reminds her of her grandparents’ basement—her “cave of treasures.” She walks on and finds a spot in the earth where she digs her hand into the ground. She feels “thousands of seeds and pellets and kernals, grains and roots and berries touch “her fingers and hand.” When she looks up the sun is shining “through a giant strainer” and blinds her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-snails

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of beatricealemanga.com.

Her heart starts beating fast with energy. She takes off running and runs so quickly that she tumbles down the hill. She lands on her back with a flop, and when she opens her eyes, the world is topsy-turvy new. Energized, she climbs a tree and gazes out at the horizon, breaths deeply in the fresh air, drinks raindrops as they fall from a leaf, and notices bugs she’s never seen before. She talks to a bird, splashes in a puddle, and watches the world through stones as clear as glass.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-tumbling

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of beatricealemanga.com.

She hurries home and takes off her raincoat. When she glances in the mirror, for a moment she thinks she “sees her dad smiling at [her].” Her mom is still writing, but now she looks different to the little girl—“like one of the creatures outside.” Her mom notices how soaked she is and takes her to the kitchen to dry her off in a big, soft towel. The little girl feels like giving her mom a big hug. For a moment she wants to tell her about all the things she saw and did, but she doesn’t.

Instead, they enjoy their hot chocolate quietly together. “That’s it,” she says. “That’s all we did. On this magical do-nothing day.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-hot-chocolate

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

While the protagonist of A Magical Do-Nothing Day may never have looked at the world outside closely, Beatrice Alemagna certainly has. Alemagna’s exquisite illustrations portray the beauty of our environment—both indoors and out—and our connections to it with novel descriptions and stunning color and perspectives. As the girl ventures outside, video game clutched tightly, her face registers sadness and wariness. The Martians from the game crawl over and surround her, even when the game is off, seeming to fill any space that might be open to exploration, and, indeed, her first forays into the wild are taken game-style, hopping from platform to platform, rock to rock.

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Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

When the gaming device sinks into frigid water (as cold and impersonal as the gaming experience itself?), the child quickly comes out of her shell with the help of snails that lead her to greater discovery. The story gives readers much to ponder in the relationships between the child and parents and the child’s newfound appreciation for the natural world.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day is a fantastic book to add to home and classroom libraries to spur children’s exploration—both in the natural world and within. While I used the feminine pronoun in my review, the story is told from the first person point of view and the child is drawn with gender neutral clothing and hairstyle, making this a book with universal appeal.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062657602

Discover more about Beatrice Alemanga, her books, and her art on her website.

Nothing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainy-day-with-mushroom-and-cricket-coloring-pageNothing To Do Coloring Pages

 

Rainy days are perfect “do-nothing” days. The next time you have an indoor day, grab your crayons or colored pencils and enjoy these printable coloring pages

Splashing in the Rain Coloring Page | Cricket Hiding from the Rain Coloring Page

Picture Book Review

December 26 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Do you have new books to read? Yeah, me too! Today, why not avoid the crush of shoppers at the mall and settle in with a good book. Sometimes all you want to hear is the crinkle of pages turning and the sound featured in today’s book!

The Sound of Silence

Written by Katrina Goldsaito | Illustrated by Julia Kuo

 

Early on a rainy morning, little Yoshio opened his door and ventured out. “The sounds of the city swirled all around him—Tokyo was like a symphony hall!” As he made his way through the crowded streets, he listened to his footsteps in the puddles and the rain on his umbrella. Suddenly, above all the other noises, Yoshio heard a Koto player carefully tuning her instrument. The sound was “high then low, squeaky and vibrating—amazing!” When the Koto player began a song, “the notes were twangy and twinkling; they tickled Yoshio’s ears!” Yoshio told the old woman that he had never heard a sound like that. The koto player’s laugh was like the tinkling chimes in his mother’s garden.

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Image copyright Julia Kuo, 2016, text copyright Katrina Goldsaito, 2016. Courtesy of juliakuo.com.

Yoshio asked the old woman if she had a favorite sound. Her answer surprised him. “‘The most beautiful sound, is the sound of ma, of silence.” Yoshio ran off to school, wondering where he could hear silence. All day, Yoshio listened for silence, but his classroom was too noisy and even in the bamboo grove near the playground, the wind through the stalks made “takeh-takeh-takeh” and “swish-swish-swish” sounds.

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Copyright Julia Kuo, 2016, courtesy of juliakuo.com.

On the way home from school, Yoshio was alert to discover the sound of silence, but cars and buses honked, the trains whooshed by, and the traffic lights beeped. At home, the dinner table was alive with the sounds “of chopsticks and slurping and chewing and swallowing,” and the bathtub rang with the patter of water droplets and swirling eddies.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sound-of-silence-dinner

Image copyright Julia Kuo, 2016, text copyright Katrina Goldsaito, 2016. Courtesy of juliakuo.com.

Maybe nighttime would bring silence, Yoshio thought. He tried to stay awake until everyone else was asleep, “but his eyes got heavy and then heavier, and soon the sound of a distant radio became part of his dreams.” Yoshio woke to the barking of a dog and listened to his sisters calling his name. “Where was silence?” Yoshio hurried to school. He was the first one there, and the gate creaked as he opened it. His shoes shuffled in the hall on the way to his classroom.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sound-of-silence-school

Image copyright Julia Kuo, 2016, text copyright Katrina Goldsaito, 2016. Courtesy of juliakuo.com.

When he got there, he sat at his desk and took his favorite book out of his bag. “He loved this story, and as he read, he forgot where he was. Suddenly, in the middle of a page, he heard it.” He listened. “Everything felt still inside him. Peaceful, like the garden after it snowed. Like feather-stuffed futons drying in the sun. Silence had been there all along…. It was between and underneath every sound. And it had been there all along.”

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Image copyright Julia Kuo, 2016, courtesy of juliakuo.com.

Katrina Goldsaito’s beautiful text hums with descriptions of sound that are both lyrical and tangible, allowing readers to hear the world through Yoshio’s ears. As children join Yoshio in his hunt for silence, they may find themselves becoming more aware of the sounds—and the ma—in their own lives.

The streets of Tokyo come to life in Julia Kuo’s illustrations that combine classic style and modern elements tied together with a fresh color palette. Readers will love lingering over the pages to catch sight of favorite characters from Japanese video games, toys, and books, and those who are familiar with the city will enjoy a bit of armchair traveling as they recognize buildings, businesses, and other landmarks. Yoshio is sweetly earnest as he searches for silence, and children will happily follow his yellow umbrella and red hat from page to page. The first two-page spread of Yoshio throwing open the door from his home rendered in white to the color-drenched city outside is stirring and an apt and surprising imagining of the story’s theme.

The Sound of Silence is an enchanting book that can inspire children to experience life in a new and deeper way and would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8 

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0316203371

Discover more about Katrina Goldsaito and her work on her website

To learn more about Julia Kuo, her books, and her art visit her website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

CPB - Bookworm Book (2)

I’m a Bookworm Bookmark

 

Feeling like wriggling into a new book? Use this I’m a Bookworm Bookmark to keep your place when you finish reading!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the I”m a Bookworm Bookmark on regular or heavy paper
  2. Cut along the mouth line to make a slit that can fit over the top of a page to mark it

Picture Book Review

 

November 15 – I Love to Write Day

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About the Holiday

Of course, today is one of my favorite holidays! How could it not be when the whole idea is to spend the day writing?! Delaware-based non-fiction and how-to writer John Riddle instituted today’s holiday in 2002 to encourage kids and adults to set their thoughts down in whatever way they like best. The idea took off and now organizations from schools to shopping centers hold special events to promote and support the writing of stories, poems, articles, journal entries, and even novels. If you have words that are just waiting to be written, take some time today to put pen to paper or fingers to keys and let them flow!

Someone Like Me

Written by Patricia MacLachlan | Illustrated by Chris Sheban

 

A little girl strolls with her grandmother along a path lined with tall, golden grasses, rides in a pickup truck with her grandfather as the sun sets behind them, and visits her uncle in the barn as day breaks listening “to stories over and over and over.” There’s one about the time a horse named Jack and a dozen cows got loose and walked into town, and one about “Aunt Emma’s dog with three names—Tommy, Rascal, and Come Along,” and so many more.

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Image copyright Chris Sheban, 2017, text copyright Patricia MacLachlan, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

This same little girl reads books every night and all day, never looking up even when “her mother led her across streets.” She likes to hide under tables and listen to “the grown-ups who told secrets,” and when she plays with her dog and reads to her chicken, she tries to teach them to talk. She is easily captivated by the fantastic, climbing the tall cottonwood tree to be closer to the clouds, and once running away with “a little boy who told her he’d find her a white horse, and didn’t.” She finds herself following people near enough to “hear their talk and their songs and how they laughed.”

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Image copyright Chris Sheban, 2017, text copyright Patricia MacLachlan, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The little girl carries a plastic bag full of deep, rich earth that reminds her of her great-grandmother, who loved the prairie and flushing the geese from the slough just to watch them fly. If you were someone like this little girl, you might grow up to be “someone who writes about how the sky looks through the branches of a tree” or “geese against the clouds.” You might write about talking dogs, writerly chickens, and a mystical white horse. If you were someone like the teller of this tale, you might grow up to be just like her—a writer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-someone-like-me-cottonwood-tree

Image copyright Chris Sheban, 2017, text copyright Patricia MacLachlan, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In her lyrical answer to the question “where do you get your ideas?” Patricia MacLachlan gives readers a peek into the process of becoming a writer. As the little girl stores up a lifetime of carefully observed and remembered influences and impressions, children discover that it is often the simple moments and the things someone finds particularly beautiful, magical, or funny that makes their voice unique. MacLachlan’s story encourages not only would-be writers but all readers to pay attention and be in the moment to capture all of life’s wonders.

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Image copyright Chris Sheban, 2017, text copyright Patricia MacLachlan, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Chris Sheban’s soft watercolor, colored pencil, and graphite illustrations have the timelessness of favorite memories as they give substance to transformative stories only heard by the little girl. The cars and pickups, downtown streetscapes, rocking chair on a front porch, and even the girl’s explorations lend a lovely nostalgic feeling to accompany the thoughtful text. In each scene as the young will-be writer gathers fodder for her imagination, she is illuminated by the sun, a porch light, lamp light, or the moon, creating a nice visual metaphor for her growing enlightenment. As the final page gives a glance into the author’s study, light flows from the open door through the darkened woods and toward the reader.

Someone Like Me is an inspirational story for children who love to write or create other types of art. The book would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves for reflective and quiet story times or to accompany classroom writing units.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626723344

Discover more about Chris Sheban, his art, and his picture books on his website.

I Love to Write Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-writing-template

My Story Template

 

Everyone has a story inside them! Take some time today to write yours on one of these printable My Story Templates

Lined Temp;ate | Unlined Template

Picture Book Review