June 18 – International Picnic Day

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About the Holiday

Is it a perfect day to get outside? Then why not pack up lunch, a blanket, and the kids and have a picnic?! Spending time and having fun at a park, on the beach, or even in your own backyard is what summer’s all about! Memories are made, even if things don’t always work out as planned—as you’ll see in today’s book.

Max and Marla Are Having a Picnic

By Alexandra Boiger

 

Max and Marla are waiting for a perfect day to have a picnic. Today is going to be rainy, but tomorrow promises to be warm and sunny. Max and Marla jump for joy. It’s their tradition to “celebrate the beginning of spring with a picnic extraordinaire down by the lake.” They go to the kitchen to start preparing the homemade feast they will pack along, including “Grandma’s special cake: a gugelhupf.” Marla wants to be helpful, but…oh, dear! Still, everything is ready just in the nick of time.

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Copyright Alexander Boiger, 2018, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Max peddles down the road while Marla, wearing her best hat, rides in the bike’s basket. They stop in a beautiful spot where the river and mountain meet. When they get hungry, Max begins to unpack the picnic basket. There’s just one thing missing, so Max goes to fetch it. While Marla waits—and naps—squirrels come sniffing—and nibbling—around. They can’t believe how “this day is perfect!”

Finally, Max comes back with a big bouquet of wildflowers, but they scatter to the wind when Max sees that Marla has already started eating. It doesn’t take Max long to notice the squirrels ransacking the picnic basket. “‘LOOK! There are food thieves at work!’” Max shouts. Marla and Max look at each other—but just for a moment. “Marla and Max don’t feel like staying any longer. They don’t even want to look at each other. They pack everything up and ride away. This time Marla rides in back.

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Copyright Alexander Boiger, 2018, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

At home, Max and Marla go their separate ways. “This was not a good day.” Later, when getting ready for bed, Max thinks about how much Marla loves to be read to and have her beak brushed. Marla must be tired and hungry, Max thinks. Max has an idea and creeps downstairs and out into the yard to pick the blue flowers that grow along the walk. Max goes back inside and gives them to Marla along with a hug. Then, in the light of the refrigerator, the two best friends pack up the picnic basket again and head to the living room. There, they have “the best picnic ever! it’s cozy, it’s warm, and it is heavenly scrumptious.

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Copyright Alexander Boiger, 2018, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Alexandra Boiger’s cuter-than-cute best friends navigate the ups and downs of expectations and disappointment in this tender, friendship-affirming story. Boiger’s excellent storytelling sweeps young readers into the promise of a “perfect” day, allowing them also to feel Max and Marla’s sadness when things don’t work out as planned. Honest descriptions of these two friends’ emotions and actions when returning home make their reconciliation all the more heartening.

Many twists and turns, thoughtful characters, and a cleverly included line about a perfect day for the squirrels, give readers and adults much to talk about while enjoying this second adventure with Max and Marla. With no pronouns used and gender-neutral clothing, hair, and even name, the story is universal for all children. Boiger’s warm and humorous scenes at home and sun-drenched images of the perfect picnic spot will charm young readers as they’re invited along on this memorable day.

Ages 3 – 6

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0399175053

Discover more about Alexandra Boiger, her books, and her art on her website.

International Picnic Day Activity

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Picnic Basket Match-up Puzzle

 

Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Picnic Basket Match-up Puzzle?

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You can find Max and Marla Are Having a Picnic at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 1 – Reading is Funny Day

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About the Holiday

On April 1 there’s a lot of funny stuff going on, so why shouldn’t reading be funny too? With so many books that can make you laugh out loud and see the world in a new, positive, or even quirky way, there’s no time like the present to get reading! To celebrate today, buy a new funny book at your local bookstore or check some out from your library. Parents and grandparents may enjoy sharing the funny books that were their favorites too! 

I Have a Balloon

Written by Ariel Bernstein | Illustrated by Scott Magoon

 

An owl warily hangs onto his balloon as a monkey swings into the picture pointing at the owl’s prized possession. “I have a balloon,” the owl states. “That is a big balloon,” says the monkey. The owl proudly concurs as he repeats the monkey’s praise. But the monkey is not finished with his compliments. “That is a shiny red balloon,” he says. Yes, the owl agrees.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Perhaps, though, the monkey’s compliments are not entirely gratuitous. He adds that the shiny, red balloon would look swell with his shiny, red bowtie and imagines walking into school with such a perfectly matched outfit. In fact, he says, “The only thing I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a shiny, big red balloon.” The monkey’s not without some sense of fairness, though, and offers to trade his teddy bear for the balloon. But the owl isn’t feeling it.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

If teddy bears aren’t the owl’s thing, what about a sunflower? The monkey has one of those too, and it’s enormous—even bigger than the balloon! Is the owl interested in trading? No. Would he like “a robot? No.” “A picture of ten balloons? No.” How about a bowling ball and pin? No and No. Finally, the monkey pulls out a sock. Hmmm…the owl seems a bit intrigued. He can see the merits of this sock: it “has a star on it” and “a perfectly shaped hole.” The monkey has to acknowledge these fine qualities.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Is the owl wavering? The balloon doesn’t do anything—but the sock? There are so many things to do with a sock like that. “You can wear a sock on your tail or your foot or your hand or your ear,” and it makes a perfect puppet. Feeling victory in his grasp, the monkey offers the sock in exchange for the balloon, and the owl agrees. The monkey is surprised. You mean the “sock with a star and a perfectly shaped hole?” That’s the one.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

But wait! The monkey now seems to have had a change of heart: “All I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a sock with a star and a perfectly shaped hole. It makes me SO HAPPY!” So, the owl and the monkey seem to be back to square one: “I have a sock. You have a balloon,” the monkey states. “I have a balloon,” the owl concurs. Phew! Well, that’s settled! Or is it…?

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ariel Bernstein’s quick-witted owl and monkey may not end up trading objects, but they sure trade banter—much to the benefit of little readers. In the dynamic dynamics between the capricious monkey and the astute owl, there is much for children to talk and think about. While the monkey lives in the moment, bouncing from one desire to another, the owl plays a longer game, considering each of his options.

When the monkey hits upon the sock after and the owl accepts, kids may well wonder if the owl is using a little reverse psychology to redirect the monkey away from his balloon or whether he really wants that sock. Children might also think about an object’s value when seen through another’s eyes. In the end, both the monkey and the owl seem happy with their objects, raising another talking point on being satisfied with what you have. Bernstein’s funny, mirrored dialog is a joy to read out loud and also allows for various interpretations in tone that could lead to multiple readings and meanings.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Scott Magoon sets the stage and the characters’ personalities on the first page as the adorable, coconut-shaped monkey swings in on a vine much to the wariness of the tolerant, blue owl. Humorous touches will keep kids giggling (the monkey attends Monkey C. Do elementary school) and provide an arc for this clever story. Children will notice that the branch that breaks in the first pages is bandaged together with the very useful sock later on. Magoon deftly handles the change in fortunes with wry looks, imagination bubbles, and plenty of action.  A little foot that appears on the second-to-last spread provides a bit of foreshadowing to the story’s final laugh.

I Have a Balloon is a terrific read aloud and would be a much-asked-for addition to classroom or public libraries and for any child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481472500

You’ll discover more about Ariel Bernstein and her books as well as a Teacher’s Guide on her website!

Check out the gallery of illustration work by Scott Magoon on his website

Reading is Funny Day Activity

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Reading Is Funny Bookmarks

 

As you mark your place—or your favorite part—in your books, you’ll get a laugh out of these punny bookmarks!

Reading Is Funny Bookmarks

 

Picture Book Review

June 17 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday encourages people to get outside and explore. There’s so much to see, from the delicate details of a flower to the wonders of the big open sky. If time permits, take a walk alone, with your kids, or with friends and really look at what you are passing. If you’re walking with children, stop to examine and talk about the marvels you see. Sometimes the most familiar sights turn out to be the most surprising!

Owl Sees Owl

Written by Laura Godwin | Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey

 

An adorable baby owl, wide awake in the full moonlight while its family sleeps, gazes out from its nest in a tree at the surrounding forest. The night is filled with “Home / Mama / Brother / Sister.” The little owl ventures out onto a sturdy limb. It knows “Tree / Nest / Hop / Look.” From its perch with a “Jump / Flutter / Flap / Fly,” the owlet soars through the deep blue sky, its white face shining like the stars. It floats over autumn leaves while in the “Moon / Beam / Eyes / Gleam.”

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Image copyright Rob Dunlavey, 2016. Courtesy of robd.com

Down below other nocturnal animals have come out to play. On the farm the barn is quiet and dark, but someone is stirring in the house. The baby owl passes them by with a “Soar / Glide / Swoop / Swoosh.” Something glistens in the midst of the forest, and the owl descends to investigate. “Owl… / Sees / Owl” in the rippled rings of the small pond.

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Image copyright Rob Dunlavey, 2016. Courtesy of robd.com

After a moment the owlet takes off with a quick “Swoosh / Swoop / Glide / Soar,” reversing its nighttime flight. Once more the curious baby passes over the star- and moonlit field, feeling bolder: “Scamper / Mice / Twinkle / Stars.” Deer perk up their ears and stare alert to the nearly silent woosh of the owl’s wings above. “Yellow / Red / Leaves / Fall as the owl zooms with a “Fly / Flap / Flutter / Jump toward “Sister / Brother / Mama / Home,” where Mama waits wide awake for her little one’s return.

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Image copyright Rob Dunlavey, 2016. Courtesy of robd.com

Inspired by reverso poetry, Laura Godwin’s lovely Owl Sees Owl is a language- and emotionally rich story to share with young children. With only four words per two-page spread, Godwin tells the detailed adventure of an inquisitive baby owl who leaves home for a nighttime caper through woods and over farmland to a pond where it sees itself reflected in the mirror-like surface. In a minute the owl is back in the air for the trip home, reversing its path and also the order of the words. Godwin’s dynamic, lyrical words are joyful to read and allow for readers to linger over each page and talk about what they see, what the little owl is doing, and even whether a sentence such as “Fall / Leaves / Red / Yellow” is active or descriptive. The reverse nature of the story brings the baby owl’s adventure to a sweet, satisfying conclusion that children will love.

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Image copyright Rob Dunlavey, 2016. Courtesy of robd.com

Rob Dunlavey’s illustrations transfer the most beautiful clear, moonlit night to the page, creating a perfect quiet time or bedtime book for young children. The lush, dark woods rendered in deep olives, rusts, browns, grays, and blacks as well as the indigo sky highlight the gleaming moon, twinkling stars, and white feathers of the owl. In one spread deer appear in silhouette in the background as mice scamper over pumpkins in the foreground; in another fiery red, yellow, and orange autumn leaves make a spectacular backdrop to the owl’s outstretched wings. The central spread in which the owl sees its own reflection offers readers much to talk about. Is the owl startled? Wondering? Happy? Is the owlet going home for comfort or to tell of its amazing discovery? Kids will love lingering over each page to think and talk about all that is there.

Owl Sees Owl makes a wonderful gift for young children or children who love poetry and art. The book would be a welcome and often read addition to home libraries.

Ages 2 – 7

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497823

To see a gallery of illustration work for picture books, nature sketches, and other artwork by Rob Dunlavey, visit his website!

Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Creative Cattails

 

Cattails are one of nature’s wonders! They’re sleek and sophisticated, soft and fuzzy! Here’s a simple craft for making cattails that can help you bring the look of the great outdoors inside!

Supplies

  • 6-inch by 5/8-inch craft stick
  • 3/16–inch by 12-inch dowel
  • Chunky brown yarn,  
  • Green origami paper, 8-inch square
  • Green craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Glue gun

Directions

To make the cattail:

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. With the glue gun, attach the craft stick to the dowel, overlapping 1 inch, let dry
  3. Glue an end of the brown yarn to the bottom of craft stick where it overlaps the dowel
  4. Wind the yarn upward around the entire craft stick to the top. You will leave the 1/2 –inch curved part of the craft stick open.  Then reverse.
  5. Wind the yarn downward, going past the end of the craft stick about ½ inch to make the tapered end of the cattail
  6. Wind the yarn upward once more to the top
  7. When you reach the top, put glue on either side of the curved top of the craft stick and pull a little of the existing yarn onto the glued area, pinching it closed.
  8. Cut the end of the yarn from the skein and tuck the end into the glued top.

To add the leaf:

  1. Cut a thin triangle from one side of the origami paper, starting with a 1-inch base and angling to the top of the paper
  2. Glue the base of the triangle to the dowel about 1 ½ inches from the bottom
  3. Wind the paper upward around the dowel, leaving 5 inches unwound
  4. Glue the paper to the dowel, letting the 5-inch section stick up

Picture Book Review

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