August 16 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of A Case of the Zaps

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Thanks to Abrams Books for Young Readers for sending me a copy of A Case of the Zaps for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

A Case of the Zaps

Written by Alex Boniella and April Lavalle | Illustrated by James Kwan

 

On Robot-Earth there lived a robot named 3.14159… (“or Pi, for short”). Pi liked doing things most young robots did, like “playing music, walking their dog, and hanging out with their Parental Units and friends. Pi also liked sports, science, camping, and exploring, and their favorite food was DW-40. One day at school, their teacher announced that in a month the class would be going on a field trip to Olde Silicon Valley.

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Image copyright James Kwan, 2022, text copyright Alex Boniello and April Lavalle, 2022. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

All of Pi’s classmates were excited about the trip, and “Pi felt their circuit board BUZZ with anticipation.” Pi couldn’t stop thinking about the trip. But along with all the fun things they would do, thoughts about what could go wrong crept into his consciousness. And then, unexpectedly, while walking home from school with their friends, Pi experienced a tingle in their arms and then their “defense mechanisms JOLTED on.” Pi’s friends asked if they were all right.

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Image copyright James Kwan, 2022, text copyright Alex Boniello and April Lavalle, 2022. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Pi wasn’t sure and took off for home, “feeling zaps all around. Feeling afraid for reasons they didn’t quite understand.” The intrusive thoughts kept Pi awake that night, and during the next few days, even though Pi tried to act calm, they felt anything but. Trying not to think about the field trip just made things worse. One night they couldn’t even eat their DW-40, and then… ZAP! 

Pi ran to their room and shut the door. Pi’s “Mother-Board and Father-Board followed their robo-kid upstairs. When they asked through the door what was wrong, Pi admitted that they didn’t want to go on the field trip anymore. They they explained that “something feels wrong” and how all their gears and sensors seemed to be in overdrive. Pi confessed “‘I’m scared I might be . . . broken.'”

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Image copyright James Kwan, 2022, text copyright Alex Boniello and April Lavalle, 2022. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Pi was surprised to find that just telling their parents made them feel better. Pi’s Father-Board told them that they had had the zaps when he started his new job and that “‘cousin Cosine Tangent has had them for years.'” Pi was surprised because Cosine Tangent had recently won a major science award. Mother-Board suggested that they visit the doctor the next day.

Doctor Bleep Bloop was very friendly and welcoming. The doctor explained to Pi that the Zaps can happen to anyone and at any time and acknowledged that they can be scary. When Pi asked if there was any cure for the Zaps, Doctor Bleep Bloop was honest and told them “‘There isn’t a simple cure.'” The doctor went on to say, though, that there were ways of managing the Zaps and that they could work together to find strategies to help Pi.

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Image copyright James Kwan, 2022, text copyright Alex Boniello and April Lavalle, 2022. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

By the time the field trip to Olde Silicone Valley came around, Pi was ready to go, and they had a lot of fun. Even after the trip, Pi sometimes felt the Zaps. “When that happened, Pi used the tools that Dr. Bleep Bloop had shared with them, and then the Zaps didn’t feel quite so scary.” 

Back matter includes an Authors Note explaining how both Alex and April have experienced anxiety in their lives as well as online resources where parents and caregivers can find more information and help from professionals in the areas of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-case-of-the-zaps-Dr.-Bleep-Bloop

Image copyright James Kwan, 2022, text copyright Alex Boniello and April Lavalle, 2022. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Experiencing anxiety can be scary and confusing, and without the language to describe what is happening to them, children can feel isolated and alone. Alex Boniello and April Lavalle’s A Case of the Zaps provides kids and adults with a straightforward way to comfortably talk about anxiety while offering reassurance and a road map to discovering coping strategies that can help. Descriptions of the physical and mental effects of anxiety on Pi give kids direct examples to point to when talking about their own emotions and experiences with their parents, caregivers, or doctors. Pi’s parents’ suggestion to visit the doctor gives adults a starting point on the journey to helping their children. 

James Kwan’s vibrant illustrations, incorporating elements of comics and graphic novels, will enchant kids as they learn about Pi’s hobbies, family life, and excitement to visit Olde Silicone Valley. As Pi’s enthusiasm for the field trip turns to trepidation, kids can watch the robot’s expressive face change from happy to worried and fearful. They also see that anxiety causes physical effects, sleeplessness, depleted energy, and the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism to kick in. After the family’s visit with Dr. Bleep Bloop, Kwan’s depictions of calming activities Pi does with their mother-board and father-board, friends, and the doctor show readers that therapy can be found in many places from play to sports to yoga and more.

Honest, accessible, sprinkled with humor, and written in partnership with Child Mind Institute to ensure that the book can serve as a social-emotional tool, A Case of the Zaps is an outstanding book for talking about anxiety with any child. The book is highly recommended for home libraries and a must for classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419756726

You can connect with writer, actor, musician, singer, and Tony award-winning producer Alex Boniella on Twitter and Instagram.

Connect with writer, comedian, actor, and Tony award-winning producer April Lavalle on her website and Twitter.

You’ll find James Kwan on Instagram.

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You can find A Case of the Zaps at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

July 18 – Global Hug Your Kids Day

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About the Holiday

The purpose of today’s holiday is simple: show your child or children that you love them by giving them a hug. And why stop at just one? Such closeness builds strong family bonds and also helps with a child’s brain development and social and emotional learning. Give hugs throughout the day, and tell your kids how much and why you love them! 

Thanks to Tundra books for sending me a copy of Baby Squeaks for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Baby Squeaks

By Anne Hunter

 

In those early days when Mama Mouse held Baby Mouse, Baby was quiet. But then that long-awaited time came, and “Baby said Baby’s first word!” It was long before Baby said another. And then another and another and many, many, many more. In fact, Baby talked all the time. And to anything—even an acorn. Desiring a little peace and quiet, Mama put Baby right outside the door, where a mama bird was about to feed her little bird a nice, juicy dragonfly. 

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Copyright Anne Hunter, 2022, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Baby Mouse squeaked hello. Baby even climbed up to where Mama Bird and Baby Bird were sitting and “talked and talked … and talked.” When Mama Bird spied another dragonfly floating past, she and Baby Bird took off in pursuit. Lucky for Baby Mouse, a rabbit was now munching a small flower at the base of the tree. Baby Mouse squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak, squeaked. And squeaked some more until the rabbit hopped away.

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Copyright Anne Hunter, 2022, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Next, Baby Mouse found a porcupine family and then a fawn. Baby found a seat between the fawn’s ears and “talked and talked … and talked” until the fawn lay down to take a nap. Baby lay down on the fawn’s back and went on talking as the little deer fell asleep. Back at home, Mama Mouse was enjoying the silence until she realized it was “TOO quiet.” She went outside only to discover Baby missing. 

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Copyright Anne Hunter, 2022, courtesy of Tundra Books.

She climbed to the top of the tree to survey her surroundings and then “heard the sound of Baby Mouse talking.” Mama followed the squeak, squeak, squeaks and found her baby. She held Baby in a tight hug, and for a moment all was quiet. But on the way home, Baby “talked and talked … and talked.” But that’s okay, because Mama Mouse and Mama Bird found the perfect solution for when they both need a little quiet time.

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Copyright Anne Hunter, 2022, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Anne Hunter’s endearing story, infused with love and humor, is made for snuggly story times with plenty of giggles—and maybe some shared memories too. The repeated phrasing is sure to have kids chiming in, and children who are beginning to read independently will enjoy demonstrating their skills. Hunter’s lovely illustrations invite kids into the heartwarming relationship between Mama Mouse and Baby Mouse as lap time, feeding time, play time, and even bed time are carried out to the sound track of Baby’s endless chatter.

Baby’s enthusiasm to meet new friends and discover new things is infectious and may prompt kids and adults to imagine what Baby might be saying in each speech bubble. Adults will no doubt smile in appreciation of Mama Mouse’s and the rabbit’s wide-eyed expressions as Baby Mouse’s squeak bubbles float around them. Looking out for images of Mama and Baby Bird (as well as a beetle) across the pages will reward readers as the story comes to it’s charming conclusion.

A story that parents, grandparents, and other caregivers will love sharing with their kids, Baby Squeaks will become a quick favorite. The book is highly recommended as a gift or addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-0735269095

Discover more about Anne Hunter, her books, and her art on her website.

National Hug Your Kids Day Activity

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Free Hug Coupons
 

Everyone needs a hug now and then! With these printable Free Hug Coupons you can extend Global Hug Your Kid day to every day of the year! Why not fill a jar with these coupons and display it so that all your favorite people can get a sweet hug whenever they need it most.

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You can find Baby Squeaks at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 12 – Cow Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

The brainstorm of the Chik-Fil-A Company as a clever advertising ploy to herd customers toward eating chicken, Cow Appreciation Day, also gives us an opportunity to really think about the importance of cattle. They have sustained humankind throughout history and even played an integral part in the defeat of small pox. Cows, with their gentle demeanor and soft, brown eyes, also appear as beloved characters in picture books, poems, and songs, making them one of children’s favorites. Today’s book continues that tradition in witty fashion.

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sharing a copy of Where’s My Cow? with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Where’s My Cow?

Written by Susan Blackaby | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

In a seaside pasture, a flock of egrets and a herd of cows lived in perfect symbiosis. When the sun rose each morning, the birds would fly off toward the ocean. All but one little egret who preferred his perch atop his cow. “So much hubbub made him woozy. And the beach seemed so far.” As the cow went about her day, she and the little egret talked about all the places the cow had been and all that she had seen. She’d heard ukulele music and watched kites in the sky. She’d even tasted a toasted marshmallow. At night, the egret dreamed of the ocean while “snuggled into the cow’s neck.”

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2022, text copyright Susan Blackaby, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

One morning, the little egret announced that he “‘might try flying.'” His cow was encouraging, reminding his trepidatious friend that she would be right there when he got back (which, the egret promised would be very soon). The egret took off and was soaring along, exhilarated by the view when he caught sight of the cows moving down below. Suddenly anxious, he wondered, “‘Where’s my cow?'” The egret swooned, then “spluttered”, then fell with a thud in front of his cow.

The egret confessed he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to find his cow if he left, but the cow suggested he just look for her ears. With such assurance, the egret took off again, and this time he made it to the beach, where he picked up a shell. When he got back to the herd, though, all of the cows’ ears looked the same. Feeling panicky, he flew back and forth thinking “Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?” At last egret found her and explained the situation. Next time, the cow said, she’d flick her tail.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2022, text copyright Susan Blackaby, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The next morning, egret made the trip to the beach again and found a ribbon from the tail of a kite. Upon returning, though, all the cows were flicking their tail, and he was filled with the same dread: “Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?” By the time he found her, “the egret felt wobbly and weepy.” They agreed that the next day, the egret would shout and his cow would shout back. Then the egret showed his cow the ribbon he’d found. She thought it was lovely.

After the next day’s adventure, the egret found a gnarled stick, but when he shouted for his cow to look, all the cows answered back. Some trial and error later, the egret and the cow reunited and agreed that they needed a better system. The the egret had an idea. From the shell and the ribbon and the stick, he fashioned a flag that couldn’t be missed. Now, the little egret never has to worry “Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?” because she’s always right there, next to the flag and all the egret’s gifts.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2022, text copyright Susan Blackaby, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Highly original and filled with heart, Susan Blackaby’s funny and reassuring story gently reminds young readers that their parents, grandparents, caregivers, and whoever they rely on are always there to guide them home. Blackaby perfectly captures the emotions of both children and adults navigating separation or new experiences—from the little egret’s initial fear of flying out with the flock to his growing confidence to his ingenious solution to their problem. The cow’s enthusiastic encouragement and continued support of the egret’s ideas shows kids that leaving their comfort zone can be a positive and exciting adventure. Blackaby’s storytelling shines with lovely imagery and humorous, realistic dialogue, and her clever frame, revealing one of nature’s most complimentary relationships, will charm readers of all ages.

Sweet, supportive, and trusting, Scott Brundage’s egret and cow are enchanting hosts for Blackaby’s story. From the first spread, where little egret perches on cow’s neck as the rest of the flock flies towards the rising sun, readers see that these two have a special relationship. Turn the page, and egret has decided that he will try flying. His courage and fear are clearly evident, as is the cow’s steadfast encouragement and reassurance. As the young egret discovers the fun of flying and is excited to bring back souvenirs from his travels, his eager posture and happy expressions show kids the benefits of independence and self-confidence.

Sure to be a reassuring story and discussion-starter for kids experiencing separation anxiety or venturing into new experiences as well as an often-asked-for read-aloud for story time, Where’s My Cow? is highly recommended for all home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534111073

To learn more about Scott Brundage, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

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Moo Cow Mug

 

Milk, hot chocolate, or tea will taste so much better in a Moo Cow Mug you make yourself! 

Supplies

  • White ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Black permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Pink permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Brown permanent marker or paint for ceramics

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Directions

  1. With the pink marker or paint, draw an oval shape for the nose near the bottom of the mug. Let dry.
  2. With the brown marker or paint, draw two angled nostrils inside the pink oval and color them in. Let dry.
  3. Color in the nose with the pink marker or paint.
  4. With the black marker, color the top tip of the handle where it meets the mug to make the tail.
  5. With the black marker or paint, draw two wavy lines on either side of the face starting at the top, angling toward the middle and returning to the bottom of the mug. Leave white space between the lines.
  6. Draw circles for eyes within the black lines. Add black pupils at the bottom of the eyes.
  7. Color inside the black lines and around the eyes to make the face markings.
  8. With the black marker or paint, make two or three splotches on the back of the mug.
  9. Let the mug dry and follow the directions for the markers or paint to set the color. Pour yourself a mug of milk and enjoy!

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You can find Where’s My Cow? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 22 – It’s National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month

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About the Holiday

National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month ushers in a full summer of delicious and nutritious eating with bushels of scrumptious strawberries, blueberries, peppers, squash, lettuce, tomatoes, and so much more. Whether you enjoy the season’s delicacies in a smoothie, as dessert, or as the highlight of a main course, the flavor of locally grown produce can’t be beat. June is also a perfect time to get kids involved in gardening and learning about the growth cycle of plants, fruit, and vegetables from the tiniest seed to ready to pick. Today’s book cleverly combines children’s fascination with this wonder of nature with their own beginnings. 

How You Came to Be

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi

 

Little ones are always interested in where they came from and how they were born, and parents fondly remember all those months of anticipation and love that led up to the birth of their child. But how can a mom (or dad) relay those special feelings and extraordinary changes in a way that a toddler or preschooler can understand?

In How You Came to Be, a mother talks lovingly to her baby using sweet, conversational language that is straightforward and sure to make both adult and child smile. Carole Gerber begins with the moment of conception when “…a wiggly little cell from another / joined a round little cell from me. … Together these two tiny cells formed / one brand-new cell that would become YOU.” Then with each month, Gerber offers size comparisons to a fruit or a vegetable to help little ones visualize their growth and the developmental changes that came with it, from a pea in the first month to a melon in the ninth.

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Image copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2022, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2022. Courtesy of Rise x Penguin Workshop.

Along the way, kids discover that in the second month they were the “size of a kidney bean. / Your head was really big, / with lots of room inside / for your brain to grow.” They also learn about how their face was taking shape and the umbilical cord that nourished them. In the fifth month, little ones find out that while they were now the size of a banana, their bones were beginning to develop, their legs were getting longer, and they were able to kick. “Sometimes when I rubbed my belly, / I felt you thump back. / Was that your way of saying hello?” What a wonderful line for a mom to read to show a little one how strong their bond is and how long they’ve been communicating.

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Image copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2022, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2022. Courtesy of Rise x Penguin Workshop.

“In the ninth month,” the mother narrator says, “you were large enough and strong enough to come out into the world.” She recalls all of the preceding months and ends with this message that every child will want to hear: “I loved you from the beginning / and I always will.”

Back matter includes a glossary of five words that adults can use for extended discussions with their child, a list of stages as a fetus develops the ability to move and the five senses. Two paragraphs also describe a vaginal birth and a C-section birth in language that is age accessible.

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Image copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2022, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2022. Courtesy of Rise x Penguin Workshop.

It’s easy to imagine a parent and child reading How You Came to Be while snuggling, giggling, and being amazed together. Carole Gerber’s scientifically sound and charming storytelling will make this book a family favorite, and offers a fun way to revitalize grocery shopping as well!

Sawsan Chalabi’s gorgeous illustrations, which juxtapose lush depictions of fruit and vegetables entwined with vines or growing on trees or in gardens with images of mothers thinking about and preparing for their baby’s arrival and are placed on velvety black backgrounds, draw readers of all ages into the marvels of birth. Her two-page spread of a mother cradling her newborn surrounded by wildflowers is as simply beautiful as the expression of love the page’s verse contains.

A tender and evocative way for parents and children to share their exquisite bond and unending love, How You Came to Be will make a much-appreciated baby shower or new baby gift and a favorite addition to family bookshelves as well as public library collections.

Ages 2 – 4

Rise x Penguin Workshop, 2022 | ISBN 978-0593225738

Discover more about Carole Gerber and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sawsan Chalabi, her books, and her artwork, visit her website.

National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month Activity

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Play with Your Food Games

 

Young children will have fun testing their memory and matching these fruits and vegetables from today’s book.

To Play a Memory Game

  1. Print two copies of this Play with Your Food Memory Game Template
  2. Cut the cards apart
  3. Place the cards randomly face down on a table 
  4. Turn over one card and try to find it’s match. If the images on the card match, put them aside. If the cards don’t match put them back on the table and try again until a match is made. Continue playing until all the cards are matched.

To Play a Matching Game

  1. Print two copies of this Play with Your Food Matching Game Board Template
  2. Cut one template into individual fruit and vegetable cards
  3. Let toddlers or preschoolers match the individual cards to the fruit and vegetables on the game board

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-you-came-to-be-cover

You can find How You Came to Be at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 1 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Dancing with Daddy

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Dancing with Daddy

Written by Anitra Rowe Schulte | Illustrated by Ziyue Chen

 

Elsie was shopping for the perfect dress to wear to her first father-daughter dance. Should she choose the pink one that will make her look like a princess or the red one that’s the same color as her daddy’s soccer jersey? As her mom held them up, Elsie reached from her wheelchair and “grabbed the red dress and pulled it close. This one,” she thinks. “It’s perfect for dancing with Daddy.” She gets a matching bow headband and heads home as snowflakes flurried around them. Elsie was worried the dance would be cancelled.

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2021, text copyright Anitra Rowe Schulte, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At home, Elsie’s sisters, Daphne and Rosalie, raced to meet Elsie at the door while Daddy asked her if she picked out a good one. Elsie replied by touching the “special” picture square in her PODD communication book. After dinner – noodle bowls for Daphne and Rosalie and a push of food through a feeding tube for Elsie – the sisters went to Elsie’s room to see her dress and talk about the dance. Soon it was time for bed, and “Daddy read Elsie’s favorite bedtime book,” the Nutcracker. “As the dancer in the story twirled, Elsie’s heart did pirouettes. I can’t wait to see my dress spin,” Elsie thought.

That night Elsie dreamed about the dance, but the snow kept falling. In the morning, Elsie stared out the window with disappointment. She saw snow edging her window panes and heard the sound of snow shovels. She just knew the dance would be cancelled. Then her mom came in and told her “‘the dance is a go!'” All day the sisters practiced dancing and twirling and dipping Elsie’s wheelchair “until she found her groove.”

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2021, text copyright Anitra Rowe Schulte, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At last the time came to get ready and leave for the dance. Daddy complimented all of his daughters on their dresses as they made their way to the dance hall. That’s when Elsie realized she didn’t have her bow. While crossing the parking lot, Elsie’s wheels got stuck in a snowbank, but Daddy pushed it through. Once inside, the other girls all reminded her of the dancer in her favorite book. She wished she had her bow and put her hand up to touch her hair. Reminded, her dad pulled the headband from his pocket and set it in place. Then he spun her around; “her ruffles took flight.”

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2021, text copyright Anitra Rowe Schulte, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Inside the gym, the music boomed, and everyone was dancing. When a “tender tune began to play, Daphne and Rosalie took a break. Elsie’s daddy picked her up. “Elsie pressed her forehead against Daddy’s, and together they danced. He swung her high and held her tight. It was just like her dream, “except better.” Afterward, Elsie tasted the frosting from her piece of cake, then she touched the “dance” picture in her book. Elsie and Daddy returned to the dance floor and “joined Daphne and Rosalie under the lights and dance and danced into the night.”

An Author’s Note at the front of the book introduces readers to Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, its prevalence, affects, and the tools people with WHS use to eat, communicate, and get around.

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2021, text copyright Anitra Rowe Schulte, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Inspired by her own daughters, one of whom has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome like Elise, Anitra Rowe Schulte’s story glows with family love, support, and encouragement. As Elise gets ready for a father-daughter dance, readers will get caught up in her excitement and universal concerns, such as choosing the “perfect” dress and whether a much-anticipated event will be cancelled because of adverse weather. Schulte’s evocative storytelling beautifully incorporates both emotion and factual information through the use of realistic, uplifting dialogue and intermittent lyrical lines that echo the movement and music of dance. Children also see that while Elsie may be nonverbal, her thoughts are like their own, just expressed differently.

Ziyue Chen’s lovely illustrations shine with sisterly camaraderie and family devotion. As the story opens and Elise chooses the red dress over the pink one by pulling it close, kids can read in her face and body language how important the dress, the dance, and surprising her dad are to her. Likewise, readers will share Elise’s excitement and her worries and celebrate the fun she has at the dance. Particularly moving are two mirrored illustrations: the first, a gorgeous image, lit by golden orbs and tiny stars, of Elise dreaming of the dance to come, and the second a tender two-page spread later on when her dream comes true. 

In her illustrations of Elise, Chen realistically depicts the facial features of children with WHS as well as the wheelchair, orthotics, feeding mechanism, and PODD books used by many. Children who use tools similar to Elise will be excited to see themselves represented in these pages, and others will be interested to learn about them and to meet Elise.

A joyous and heartfelt story of a loving and supportive family and which celebrates the common hopes and dreams of all children, Dancing with Daddy is highly recommended for home libraries and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542007191

About Anitra Rowe Schulte

Anitra Rowe Schulte has worked as a journalist for The Kansas City Star and the Sun-Times News Group, as a staff writer for Chicago Public Schools, and as a publicist. She is the mother of three beautiful girls, one of whom has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome and is the inspiration for Elsie in this book. She lives in the Chicago area, and this is her first picture book. Learn more about her at www.anitraroweschulte.com and follow her at @anitraschulte on Twitter.

About Ziyue Chen

Ziyue Chen is the Deaf illustrator of a number of children’s books, including Mela and the Elephant by Dow Phumiruk, How Women Won the Vote by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and Rocket-Bye Baby: A Spaceflight Lullaby by Danna Smith. She lives with her loved ones in Singapore. Find out more at www.ziyuechen.com or follow her @ziyuechen on Instagram.

To see Ziyue Chen bring her illustrations to life on the page, watch these videos.

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You can find Dancing with Daddy at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 30 – Hug a Sheep Day

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About the Holiday

Hug a Sheep Day was founded by a woman who rescued a sheep named Punkin from the Bluegrass Stockyards in 1992. When Punkin passed away 12 years later, the woman, known as “the Crazy Sheep Lady,” wanted to honor him and encourage people to appreciate the warmth and comfort these animals provide and show how much they love them. She chose Punkin’s birthday as the date of her new holiday, and over the years Hug a Sheep Day has grown to be celebrated around the world with many farms inviting visitors to open farm days and fun events where they can indeed hug a sheep. If you want to take full advantage of today’s celebration, look for a participating farm or petting zoo near you. 

Thanks go to Beaming Books for sharing a copy of Little Ewe with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Beaming Books in a giveaway of the book. You’ll find the details below.

Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Tommy Doyle

 

The flock gathers at the fence, where “one shepherd opens up the gate. / ‘It’s time to eat.’ / The sheep can’t wait!” The sheep file out of the pen and up the hill in pairs, but Little Ewe is more interested in exploring than nibbling. She chases three lizards and watches four spiders, and when Shepherd calls for her to come back, she promises to do so “but not until…/ She bounces on five floating logs / and splashes with six croaking frogs.”

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Image copyright Tommy Doyle, 2021, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Shepherd whistles for Little Ewe to return to the flock, and she starts on her way but then she spies sparrows dining on figs and decides to join this different flock for a tasty treat. Suddenly, though, as the sun sets, nine badgers discover the figs and take them away from Little Ewe. In the dark, Little Ewe lopes down the path and is frightened by the “ten spooky eyes” of the owls in the trees.

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Image copyright Tommy Doyle, 2021, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

All alone, lost, and hungry, Little Ewe “wishes she’d listened when / Shepherd called her in the glen.” Screeching bats fly overhead, making her cry. At the same time, Shepherd is counting “his flock with love” and realizes one is missing. He jumps up and heads down the mountain path right to where Little Ewe waits, shivering and bleating. He lifts her into his arms and gives her a hug. He takes her home where the sheep “all gather round. / The shepherd’s lamb, / once lost . . . is found!”

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Image copyright Tommy Doyle, 2021, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Laura Sassi’s gentle and poignant story combines counting from one to twelve with the reassurance of constant love. Like the little ones reading the story, Little Ewe is curious and adventurous, but as she strays farther away and darkness falls, she longs to be home. Of course, the shepherd won’t leave his lamb behind and, knowing just where to look, he comes to find her. Sassi’s perfect rhymes and jaunty rhythm invite young children to join in counting and reading. The nighttime scenes are not too scary while they offer assurance that when little ones feel frightened, uncertain, or alone, they are still under a watchful eye. Little Ewe can be read as a retelling of the Biblical parable of the Good Shepherd and God’s ever-present love or as a story of the enduring love of a parent or caregiver.

Tommy Doyle’s warm and adorable images will delight little ones as they count from one to twelve with Little Ewe as she explores the meadow, stream, and hillside. Kids will love pointing out these easily discovered images again and again. Doyle’s Shepherd is kind and caring, and the look of love on his face as he cradles rescued Little Ewe will be familiar comfort to young readers. The joy depicted when Little Ewe reunites with her flock shows the happiness of any family when all its members are together.

A sweet and comforting story that young readers will want to hear again and again, Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep would make a tender addition to any child’s bookshelf as well as for school, church, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 5

Beaming Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1506464701

Discover more about Laura Sassi and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tommy Doyle, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be teaming with Beaming Books in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep, written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Tommy Doyle

To enter:

This giveaway is open from October 30 to November 4 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 5. 

Prizing provided by Beaming Books

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only | No Giveaway Accounts 

Hug a Sheep Day Activity

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Courtesy of Laura Sassi (laurasassitales.wordpress.com)

Make a Little Lamb Resting Box and Play a Game! 

by Laura Sassi

Read Little Ewe, then grab a little lamb toy (or make your own from felt or fleece, by painting a rock, or by knitting one using this Little Ewe Pattern). Then play a game of hide and seek with your little lamb. When you are finished playing, give your little lamb a hug (since it is Hug A Sheep Day!), then let him/her rest in this cozy resting box. 

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To make a cozy resting box, you will need

  • a precut piece heavy paper or light card board measuring approximately 5 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches with four 1-inch deep notches cut from each corner, as shown.
  • crayons or markers 
  • clear tape

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Directions

  1. Fold the sides of the box so your child can see what the finished shape will be.
  2. Have your child decorate the inside and outside of the box any way they want. (Ex.: I made my outside look like grass and my inside like a cozy quilt.)
  3. Finish the box by taping the four corners up using clear tape.

To Play

Take turns hiding the little lamb. Play as many rounds of hide-and-seek as desired. After playing, let the lamb take a rest in the cozy resting box you have made. Then read your lamb a sheep-themed story like … Little Ewe!  

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You can find Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 12 – World Elephant Day

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About the Holiday

This year World Elephant Day celebrates its 10th anniversary. The holiday was launched to raise awareness of the dangers the Asian and African elephant populations face. Poaching, habitat destruction, human-elephant conflict, and mistreatment in captivity all threaten these gentle, intelligent creatures. World Elephant Day encourages people to enjoy seeing elephants in safe, non-exploitive environments and to get involved in their protection and survival. To learn more about elephants, discover how you can be elephant ethical, and commemorate today’s holiday with virtual events led by elephant specialists, artists, zoos, and other organizations, visit the World Elephant Day website.

Thanks to Familius for sending me a copy of She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch

Written by June Smalls | Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara

 

The elephant matriarch is the queen of the family group. “She is usually the oldest, but not always. It is her job to guide and teach her subjects to give them the best opportunities for survival.” Her family group consists of blood relatives—daughters and granddaughters—living together. When groups get too big, some elephants break off and form their own group. The matriarch leads the other elephants to food and water, and when water is scarce “she guides them on journeys to watering holes remembered from long ago.”

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Like a loving grandmother, the matriarch teaches younger elephants how to take care of their little ones. Everyone in the family group helps rear the young. “The clumsy babies are sometimes caught in mud or water and the older elephants will work together to push, pull, or dig to rescue them.”

Sometimes, groups of elephants that once lived together will meet. They remember each other and spend time “foraging for food together. These meetings are like a family reunion.” When danger from another animal lurks, the elephants watch and learn how the matriarch defends them. They also huddle together and surround the smaller elephants for protection. “If nature, or predators, or poachers take her friends, she will comfort and care for the orphans.”

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Little ones grow and play under the watchful eye of the matriarch and, just like human children, “elephants are not born with all the skills they need.” The matriarch helps teach her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren how to use their trunks for heavy work like moving logs and for delicate finessing, such as having the “ability to gently pluck a leaf from a tree.”

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

The matriarch also thinks about the future when she won’t be able to lead the group anymore. She passes on her knowledge and skills to the elephants in her lineage, “so that when she is gone another matriarch will lead her family.” When the matriarch does die, the elephants mourn their loss in ways similar to humans. “Elephants have been observed burying their dead with grasses and branches,” and they will return to the spot months later to “touch the bones of their lost family member.” A new matriarch emerges to lead the family group. This is “usually the oldest daughter of the matriarch,” and her call “to her daughters and their daughters” can be heard for miles and miles – sometimes up to 110 square miles – as this new queen begins her reign.

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

June Smalls’ tribute to the matriarchal society of elephants and, through her lyrical storytelling, to strong women in every family and community is both poignant and powerful. The main story reveals the role of the matriarch in leading and teaching her daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters over a lifetime, which can span seventy years. Smalls’ stirring text illuminates the similarities between elephants and humans in everyday needs, behavior, memory, familial care, and even in death. In addition to the story, each page spread includes fascinating, and often touching, facts about how a family group forages for enormous amounts of food, finds crucial water supplies, protects each other, rears their young, and sustains each other in the passing of the matriarch. Smalls’ book ends with an inspirational entreaty to young girls to awaken to their future role as leaders.

Yumi Shimokawara’s stunning realistic illustrations of an elephant matriarch leading and teaching her family group in the wild will thrill readers. On each page spread, young readers follow their elephant peer as she (or he, as male elephants stay with the family group until about age thirteen) plucks leaves from a sun-drenched tree, splashes in a watering hole, walks in the shade of two adults on a long, hot journey, is protected from predators, and plays games with sticks and other babies in the group. Shimokawara’s delicate color palette and beautifully composed images depict the intelligence and gentle manner of these animals in lively and tender moments that children will want to view again and again.

An exquisite combination of inspiration and education, She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch will captivate children as a spark for further learning about these majestic animals, the environment, and nature conservation as well as encouragement to bravely take their place in the world with grace, love, and strength. The book is a must for all home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641702324

Discover more about June Smalls and her books on her website.

You can find more books from Familius that joyfully reflect the habits of happy families, including reading, talking, laughing, eating, working, loving, healing, learning, and playing together as well as the Familius blog The Habit Hub here.

World Elephant Day Activity

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Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for families to do together. Using siblings’ hands or the hands of a child and an adult to make the elephants can make a meaningful and comforting picture to hang in a child’s room or gift for mom, dad, or other family members.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers make the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s or adult’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye.
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint or crayon.
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features if desired.

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You can buy She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch on the Familius website.

 

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure statement here.

Picture Book Review