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

July 16 – It’s National Blueberry Month

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About the Holiday

Farmers’ Markets are bursting with fresh produce during the summer months, and that is especially true for blueberries, those little round morsels of sweetness. The United States Department of Agriculture recognized July as National Blueberry Month in 2003, and it’s been delicious eating ever since! Blueberries are the perfect accompaniment to muffins, pancakes, bread, fruit salads, and of course they’re delectable just on their own! So visit a farmers’ market today and pick up a peck.

Blueberry Cake

By Sarah Dillard

 

A little bear comes into the kitchen and tugs at his mother’s apron strings. When she turns her head, her cub asks shyly, “Blueberry cake?” Mama looks thoughtfully at her little one and sends him outside with a bucket. The cub dashes through the back yard and into the forest. Playfully, he wears the bucket like a hat and then does cartwheels until he comes to the edge of the woods. Peeking through the trees, the cub exclaims, “Oh!”

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

What meets his eye is a wide-open field, a sea of blueberries. The little one sits down in the middle of a patch of delicious berries and begins filling the bucket with a concentrated, “Blueberries.” But it’s just so hard not to take a taste. Maybe just a handful. “Blueberries!” he exclaims. Then something else catches the little bear’s attention. It’s a butterfly – a monarch wanting to play chase. The cub runs after the butterfly, swinging the bucket and spilling the blueberries little by little along the way.

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

The game brings the cub to another field – this one dotted with black-eyed Susans and queen Anne’s lace. They’re so pretty that the cub can’t help but pick some. Into the bucket they go. At home, the little bear holds the bucket out for Mama and asks, “Blueberry cake?” Mama looks at the offering and asks, “Blueberries?” The cub offers the flowers, but Mama still wonders where the blueberries are. The little bear inspects the bucket and quietly says, “No blueberries.” Mama crosses her arms and delivers the bad news: “No blueberry cake.”

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

That night in bed, the cub dreams of what might have been and just as the sun begins rising over the horizon, he’s ready to try again. The cub dashes back to the blueberry field and fills the bucket until it’s brimming with delicious berries. The sun is still dawning when he gets home and puts the bucket on the kitchen counter and returns to his room. When Mama gets up, she’s surprised to find the blueberries. When the little bear comes downstairs again, he skips into the kitchen, his eyes alight, and he exclaims, “Blueberry cake!” The flowers, arranged in the bucket, decorate the middle of the table, and Mama lays out a placemat and plate for her little cub. He eagerly watches his mama cut a slice of cake and serve it. He gazes at the cake, and has just one thing to say: “Applesauce?”

A recipe for blueberry cake that’s easy enough for “little cubs and other small people” to make with some help “from a mama or papa bear” follows the story.

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

With just six words, a darling cub, and a loving mother, Sarah Dillard creates a story that will charm kids. Dillard’s sunny illustrations are infused with poignant moments of childhood that are fanciful, disappointing, surprising, humorous, and always full of love. An expressive reading of the simple dialogue brings out all the feeling of the gentle ups and downs of the story and can also serve as a lesson in recognizing emotions for young readers. Kids will also have a blast joining in and reading along.

Ages 3 – 8

Aladdin, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534451346

Discover more about Sarah Dillard, her books, and her art on her website.

National Blueberry Month Activity

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A Bounty of Blueberries Maze

 

Can you help pick blueberries to make some delicious treats in this printable puzzle?

A Bounty of Blueberries Maze | A Bounty of Blueberries Maze Solution

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You can find Blueberry Cake at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 29 – Get Ready for Mother’s Day

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About the Holiday

We all know our moms are one-of-a-kind. And we know how much they do for us every day. Next month we celebrate how much we love our moms on Mother’s Day, but with today’s book we’re paying tribute to all moms, everywhere, while having a little fun learning about the traits that make each mom a special super human. It’s a terrific book to share any day of the year, but especially for Mother’s Day.

How to Spot a Mom

Written by Donna Amey Bhatt | Illustrated by Aura Lewis

 

I think everyone will agree—“Moms are talented creatures.” But you may ask, “What is a mom?” Well, motherhood “can happen in lots of ways.” Besides being a biological mom, a mother can be an adopted mom, a foster mom, or a step mom to one or more children. And while moms can come in all types, they all have “the same job: to keep their children safe, and to guide them through their life.”

So before the various types of moms are introduced, let’s take a look at a few of the common features of a mom. A mom’s mind is “packed with ready-to-be-shared anecdotes and wisdom,” her heart is “bottomless and fierce,” she has a funny bone, and a gut “useful…for making decisions.” Of course, her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth get a regular workout too. Moms also have “super skills” like solving mysteries and problems, listening, refereeing, taking care of scrapes and illness, and multitasking.

With around two billion moms around the world, there are a lot of traditions that moms have and kids grow up with. You can learn some of these from the US, Brazil, the Netherlands, Niger, India, Finland, China, and Vietnam, as well as the native word for “mom.” And now, without further ado: The moms!

In an engaging and humorous paragraph paired with four common traits: Natural Habitat, Likes, Dislikes, and How to Spot, Donna Amey Bhatt describes sixteen types of moms. She begins with “the outdoorsy mom” who embraces adventures in all weather, “creepy crawlies,” and any opportunity to share the environment with her family. On the opposite spectrum is “the homebody,” whose “home is a cozy haven, perfect for snuggling on the couch with her family.”

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Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2021, text copyright Donna Amey Lewis. Courtesy of Wide Eyes Edition, Quarto Knows.

Then there are two moms who complement each other: “the coach” and “the cheerleader,” who may have different ways to promote their kids, but only want the best for them and their success. Next up is “the trendy mom” who is “always up to date with the coolest looks and brands.” She can make even the most complex hairstyle a breeze and is known for doing everything in style.” The “practical mom” lives by the mantra “‘Always be prepared.’” When choosing clothes, instead of looking for the ultra-fashionable, she always asks, “‘does it have pockets?’” Her bag carries anything you might need, and “nothing phases her.”

You’ll spot the “sporty mom” in her “Natural Habitat: The gym” or maybe in the park, running or cycling. Her week is filled with exercise, weight training, carido, and yoga. Her Likes? “Endorphins.” Dislikes? “standing still.” How do you spot the sporty mom? “Leggings, sneakers, and a smart watch make up her go-to outfit—she likes to have the option to lunge or sprint at any time!” And these days more moms may have become an “artsy mom.” She can see the potential in any object, she knits, sews, and “loves encouraging her kids to get creative….” Her Natural Habitat is “the local craft store.” She likes “up-cycling” and dislikes “buying gifts—why buy when you can make them by hand?” How do you spot the artsy mom? By her “paint-splashed clothes and…entire closet devoted to craft ‘essentials.’”

In these pages, readers will also find the chatty mom, the online mom, the boss mom, the zen mom, the last-minute mom, the organized mom, the rule-book mom, and the rebel mom. Of course, most moms combine many traits to shape their children and guide them to grow up to be the best they can be. And they deserve a huge thank you for “listening, bedtime stories, making toast, days out, days in, drying tears, sharing advice, hugs,” and so much more.

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Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2021, text copyright Donna Amey Lewis. Courtesy of Wide Eyes Edition, Quarto Knows.

Donna Amey Bhatt’s funny and sweet tribute to moms is a charming “encyclopedia” that kids and their moms will love to cuddle up with and comb through together as they pick out and giggle over the traits that make their relationship special. The book can inspire kids to add their own descriptions of their mom and spark discussions about the hows and whys of particular parenting styles. This fun book will spur kids to recognize and appreciate everything their moms do for them.

Aura Lewis’s family-focused illustrations in this “spotting guide” are cozy, comforting, inclusive, and uplifting. Two-page spreads that contrast certain moms depict humorous similarities that also demonstrate the different approaches of each mom. For example, the “outdoorsy mom” stands in front of a mauve tent while her kids roast marshmallows over a campfire. On the facing page the “homebody mom” and her kids sit under a homemade indoor tent while drinking mugs of hot chocolate. The “coach” and the “cheerleader” both stand on the same sideline as their kids play baseball, and the “trendy mom” (and her daughter) and the “practical mom” adjust their glasses, but for different reasons. Readers will enjoy seeing the accessories and décor each mom carries and inspires.

Warm and witty, How to Spot a Mom would make a delightful gift for new moms, Mother’s Day or anytime you’d like to celebrate a mom in your life.

Ages 4 – 8

Wide Eyed Editions | ISBN 978-0711261044

Discover more about Donna Amey Bhatt and her books on her website.

To learn more about Aura Lewis, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-spot-a-mom-cover

You can find How to Spot a Mom at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 21 – National Adoption Day

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About the Holiday

National Adoption Day is a national collective initiative to raise awareness of the more than 125,000 children in foster care who are waiting to find permanent families. Sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, The Alliance for Children’s Rights, and Children’s Action Network, National Adoption Day was instituted in 2000, and since then has made the wishes of nearly 75,000 children come true. To learn more, visit the National Adoption Day website.

Thanks to Two Lions for sending me a copy of A Crazy-Much Love for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

A Crazy-Much Love

Written by Joy Jordan-Lake | Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

 

A mom and her daughter walk along, gazing at each other. “You are the one, precious child—did you know?” she says, starting the story the little girl knows by heart but wants to hear as much as the mother wants to tell it. Long before the little one had joined their family, her mom and dad dreamed about her and prepared for her, waiting and waiting. “It was you,” her mom says, that they loved before they even saw or hugged or held her.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The future mom and dad “counted the hours and struck off the days” until they could bring their baby home and let her know she was “safe and warm and so crazy-much loved.” Finally, the day came and they traveled by plane and train, never stopping, until they held their child in their arms and told her that they’d love her “forever and ever and far beyond that.” And the baby responded with a look like she “felt it right down to [her] toes.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At home, the little girl’s new extended family was waiting to welcome her—even the dog, who licked her toes and made her laugh. That’s when they knew, her mom tells her, that “our crazy-much love for you would grow and grow more and spill out the windows and bust down the doors.” And there were all those “firsts” that filled their hearts: first bath, first steps, first word, and first sentence, in which she echoed back all the love she had received—”“I love you much!’”

As she grew, there were more firsts to come: riding her bike and going to school. These milestones brought her parents such joy for how “crazy-well [she] had grown.” And now, when they all snuggle together, the little girl asks the questions she already knows the answers to but loves to hear them always. “‘How much is the crazy-much love?’” and “‘How long does it last, the crazy-much love?’” They all shout the answers as one, while Mom and Dad hold their daughter tight so that she knows she is “the greatest of crazy-much gifts.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crazy-much-love-travel

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That heart-swelling love parents have for their child or children bursts from every page of Joy Jordan-Lake’s shimmering ode to adopted children. While there are mentions of waiting for a phone call and long travel, and the parents are shown looking at photographs (these are shown from the back and could also represent ultrasound images), the feelings of anticipation and joy this mom and dad express are familiar to all parents. Jordan-Lake’s long, lyrical sentences echo the excited rush of emotions that bubble up inside at unexpected moments.

The repeated phrase “It was you”—changing to “It is you” on the final page—will raise a lump in parents’ throats as it embodies that totality of history, the present, the future, and the endless awe that parents hold in their hearts for their one child or for each of their children individually. Hearing these words while cuddled on a lap or snuggled up in bed, children will absorb the tender outpouring of love and embrace their place in the family and the world.

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Sonia Sánchez fills her eye-catching pages with motion and light, mirroring the effervescent love between parents and child that is returned to them as well. Star lights twinkle above the baby’s crib, a brilliant sun sends the plane carrying the couple on its way around the world, and feelings, depicted with colorful floating circles and hearts, flow from mother, father, and child and fill the air. This family’s special bond is celebrated with smiles, laughter, hugs, and snuggles on every page, reinforcing their “crazy-much love.”

A Crazy-Much Love is a book all parents or caregivers will want to share with their child or children. It makes a fabulous gift for new parents and will be a favorite on home, school, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542043267

Joy Jordan-Lake is the author of multiple books for adults, including A Tangled Mercy, a Goodreads Hot Reads Selection and Kindle bestseller, and Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the Christy Award in 2009 for Best First Novel. A Crazy-Much Love is her debut picture book. She holds a PhD in English and has taught literature and writing at several universities. She is a mother to two biological children and one child adopted from China, and her experiences inspired this book. She lives outside Nashville with her family, including two fluffy dogs. You can learn more about Joy Jordan-Lake at www.joyjordanlake.com.

Sonia Sánchez is an award-winning Spanish illustrator. Her debut picture book, Here I Am, written by Patti Kim, received two starred reviews and was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Painter. Her artwork has been selected for the prestigious Society of Illustrators Original Art Show twice, and her books have been named a CBC NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her son, and a sleepyhead cat in a blue house near the Mediterranean Sea. 

National Adoption Day Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

Jar Full of Love

 

Do you wish there was a way to remind your child or children how much you love them and how your love grows even when you’re not with them? With this jar just a quick glimpse shows them what is in your heart.

Supplies

  • A clear, plastic jar with a lid
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Whenever you feel that tug of love for your child, add a heart to their jar. In no time it will start filling up, just as your heart is full of them. Here are some ideas for when to add a heart or two:

  • Add the same number of hearts as your child’s age
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your child (write those traits on the hearts)
  • Give a new heart whenever your child does something nice for someone
  • Add hearts for milestones and accomplishments
  • Encourage your child to pass the love along! Tell them they can give a heart from the jar to other family members or friends

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crazy-much-love-cover

You can find A Crazy-Much Love at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop| IndieBound

 

November 5 – It’s Polar Bear Week and Interview with Paul Schmid

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About the Holiday

November means colder weather, snow, and – most importantly – ice. Ice means the fall polar bear migration to Churchill, Manitoba. Here, polar bears gather to wait for the sea ice to form on Hudson Bay so they can return to hunting seals. Polar Bear Week, sponsored by Polar Bears International, focuses on sea ice, the effects of climate change, and what we can do to ensure the polar bears’ survival. This year, people are encouraged to get involved from home. To learn more about the week’s activities and how you can help, visit Polar Bears International.

Thank you to Phaidon Press for sending me a copy of Little Bear Dreams for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Little Bear Dreams

By Paul Schmid

 

A baby polar bear rides atop Mom’s back, catching snowflakes on a little pink tongue. As the snowflakes change to twinkling stars in the dark night sky, a question hangs in the air—“Of what do little bears dream?” Perhaps it’s the frothy sweetness of “hot chocolate” or the delicious spiciness of “cold pizza.”

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

As the day brightens once more, maybe the baby imagines all kinds of things that lie beyond those “straight horizons” or giggles at wearing tickly, “curly moustaches.” There are so many things to discover, both big and small, short and tall, and blue—lots of blue in the frozen north. But night has come around again and it’s time for sleep. So, curl up with “soft, snowy beds. Warm fur…and frosty nights” and drift off to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bear-dreams-moustaches

Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Paul Schmid’s snuggly story about an adorable polar bear pair rendered with soft curves, quiet blues, and sweet surprises is, simply, love in a book. The gentle text lulls little ones toward sleep while reminding them of the wonders of life. Images of opposites—hot and cold, straight and curly, big and small, and others—are full of charm and wit and give little readers lots to talk about or an invitation to fill in their own details.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bear-dreams-hide-and-seek

Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Schmid’s beautiful use of line, shape, and color expresses the loving relationship between baby and adult as the little one peeks from behind Mom, hides underneath her during a game of hide-and-seek, and nuzzles noses in a little bear kiss. Marshmallow-plump bunnies wait silently to play, and pudgy little polar bear twists to try and spy a stubby tail. Gorgeous perspectives show the magnitude of the night sky and the mother bear’s protective power. The moving image of the pair curled into a ball for sleep underneath a full moon and then risen to replace it as a little one’s shining light is the perfect ending to this story so rich in cuddles, caring, and comfort.

An excellent book for baby shower, birthday, and holiday gifts as well as an endearing addition to home libraries, Little Bear Dreams is a book you will find yourself reaching for again and again. It’s a sweet book for preschool classrooms and a must for public libraries.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877242

To learn more about Paul Schmid, his books, and his art, visit his website

Meet Paul Schmid

CPB - Paul Schmid Interview - head shot for Little Bear Dreams

I’m thrilled to be chatting with Paul Schmid today about his the inspirations of winter, following where ideas lead, and the role of that curly moustache in Little Bear Dreams.

Readers are always interested in the creative process that goes into a book. Can you talk us through how Little Bear Dreams came to be?

Little Bear Dreams started in a somewhat dreamlike way. I just began playing with the dramatic, graceful shapes of winter landscapes without knowing where I was going with it. I love winter, and since childhood have been fascinated by its stark simplicity and seeming contradiction of severity and softness.

celebrate-picture-books-Paul-Schmid Interview-sketch-for-Little-Bear-Dreams

This was the start of it all. Roughly sketched musings on a bear in her environment.

As dreams will do, the book evolved as it progressed. It took hundreds of sketches to bring this book to life. At one early point it was called “Black and White and Blue.” The more I sketched my characters, though, the more they began to assert their personality. We all eventually settled into a gentle, loving mother bear and her rather impish and imaginative little bear.

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Sketches, sketches, sketches!

Ideas for stories can come from anywhere, but what for you makes an idea stick so that you develop it further?

DH Lawrence wrote: “If you try to nail anything down in the novel, either it kills the novel, or the novel gets up and walks away with the nail.”

I follow ideas perpetually. “Follow” being the operational word here. Many times I’ve tried to force an idea, and it generally ends up looking so. 

I follow until an idea becomes something or peters into nothing. Some ideas I’ve been following for years and haven’t arrived anywhere wonderful—yet. Some ideas drag me after them at a speed which shocks me. I guess the key is to always be receptive. Ideas will rudely wake me at 2 a.m., obliging me to creep into my studio and sketch or write.

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There are so many ways to convey an idea! I jokingly call the first few months of developing a book “The Period of Ten Thousand Decisions.” Here are explorations on just one spread from Little Bear Dreams: “Blue water.”

Little Bear Dreams began as an indulgence to play with simplicity in color and shape, visual and verbal rhythms and contrasts, but evolved also into a story of love and connection. Of gentleness and playfulness.

The idea is the boss. Not me. I just obey.

Your illustration style is very distinctive, and your adorable characters immediately inspire readers to feel empathy for them. Can you talk a little about the role of different shapes, line, white space, and even the use of small features in your illustrations?

I have a compulsion to express as much as possible in the simplest manner possible. It is a great pleasure to me to strip an illustration or sentence of all that gets in the way of advancing the story or mood or character of the book.

CPB - Paul Schmid Interview - more sketches for Little Bear Dreams

Although my illustrations seem simple, I’ve found simplicity a very complicated feat to achieve. With no busyness, what is there must be perfect. For me that requires a lot of drawing and redrawing.

But it must connect with a reader! Children live real, dramatic, joyous, painful, confused, confident, knowing, learning lives. I feel my job as a storyteller for children is to reflect and connect with the vitality of life they dwell in.

So when I draw a character in a situation or emotion I feel that emotion myself as I draw. The great illustrator Howard Pyle was quoted as saying: “Project your mind into your subject until you actually live in it.” 

In 2010 you were chosen as one of four illustrators to attend a fellowship with Maurice Sendak. What is the most memorable thing that he told you? What is your favorite memory from that experience?

Maurice was to me a shining example of emotional courage and depth and intelligence. I’ve never met anyone more brilliant and intuitive. He was unafraid of his feelings, of complexity, of embracing sadness and joy. 

For all he was a superstar, he was also amazingly generous and one of the most caring, attentive listeners I’ve ever known.

It is how he was as a person that has inspired me rather than any one thing he said.

My favorite memory of Maurice was a visit I paid to him about a year after the Fellowship. We took a walk and for hours discussed how elusive happiness is for an artist, the difficulty in waking our muses, the impossibility of not continuing to always create and express ourselves, the challenge and imperative of being truthful to kids, loss, death, life, beauty. The whole of our love for life and creating. 

As a speaker at  the 2015 Words, Writers, and West Seattle” series of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, you talked about several of your books, including Oliver and His Alligator, which involves a surprising turn of events, and mention that kids love being shocked. In Little Bear Dreams, the baby polar dreams of things she would naturally see in her environment juxtaposed with things like cold pizza and curly mustaches. Can you discuss the benefits for young children of unexpected moments that cause surprise or giggles?

Kids are still putting the puzzle pieces together on their perceptions of “What is this thing called life?” Incongruities help reinforce our understanding of reality. As a little girl my own daughter enjoyed pointing out when something was not right. It is a source of humor for children and adults.

As I write I imagine a parent reading the book with their child and discussing it together. “Do polar bears eat pizza?” “No, that’s silly!” I endeavor to create those moments for a parent and child. My books such as A Pet for Petunia and Oliver and his Alligator are full of such opportunities. Surprise, along with the comfort of seeing true familiar things is the balance I sought for Little Bear Dreams.

Putting the child in the position of knowing something the book affects not to know is great fun for a young reader too.

As I watched the Word, Writers, and West Seattle event, I was thrilled to see you present The Story of Ferdinand as one of your childhood favorites. That book was also one of my favorites—the first one I remember truly loving. For me, as a quiet child, it was the story that was so validating, and for you, you said that even as a child you appreciated the perfection of the illustrations. Could you talk a bit about that relationship between a child and a book that is a beloved “first” in some way. Is that an idea you are aware of when creating a book?

One of the most gratifying results of creating books for kids is getting a note from a parent telling me it is their child’s favorite book; that they have to sleep with it under their pillow, or they’ve memorized the whole book. I love knowing I made something that touched a child so deeply.

I believe this profound connection is because a child reads so much more intensely than an adult. They seek in books information and affirmation of what they are feeling or thinking. They find adventure and discover possibility. Reading for kids is not just a distraction, it is an important part of their world.

Oh, and because of this I have a small personal conviction that the only reviewers of kid’s books should be kids. Ha!

What’s up next for you?

I am always working on new manuscripts! I’m having a great time this week with a particularly fun story I am sketching up. Not a bad way to spend my days.

A new endeavor I am also enjoying is designing images for greeting cards. One company, Great Arrow Graphics, has picked up about a dozen or so of my designs which are available in select stores or on line here: https://www.greatarrow.com/cards/cardlist/did/494

I have also set up a shop at society6, where you can buy quality prints of images from my books and some other fun stuff I’ve illustrated.

The shop lives here: https://society6.com/paulschmid

New designs are always on the way.

What’s your favorite holiday? Do you have an anecdote from any holiday that you’d like to share?

I find Winter Solstice particularly appealing, since for me it represents the paradox of life. Solstice marks the end of the shortening days, the return of light and warmth, of renewal. At the same time it also means the beginning of Winter, of coldness, hardship and patience. This is not a conflict to me but a lovely insight. Up cannot exist without down, it is its opposite that makes a thing itself be. 

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Paul hiking with Mount Rainier in the distance.

So at the moment of Winter Solstice we are able to feel simultaneously both joy and sadness, hope and fear. That is a concept I find strangely satisfying.

Thanks, Paul, for such an insightful talk! I wish you all the best with Little Bear Dreams and all of your books!

National Polar Bear Week Activity

CPB - Polar Bear scarf

CPB - Polar Bear Banner

Polar Bear Scarf or Banner

 

Polar bears aren’t cold in the winter—and neither should you be! Here are directions and printable templates for making a cute scarf to keep you warm, or—if you’d rather—a banner to warm up your room.

Supplies

  • Printable Polar Bear and Igloo Template
  • 1 Strip of blue fleece 4 ½ feet long x 7 inches wide for the scarf
  • 1 Piece of blue scrapbooking paper for a banner
  • Pieces of white, black, blue, and purple fleece or scrapbooking paper to make the polar bear, igloo, snowflakes, and ice floes.
  • String or twine for banner
  • Scissors
  • Fabric or paper glue

Directions for Scarf

To make the fringe at each end of the scarf:

  1. Make 7 cuts about 4 inches long
  2. Tie a knot at the top of each fringe section

To make the pieces for the scarf or banner:

  1. Trace the polar bear and igloo sections from the Printable Template onto white fleece and cut out
  2. Trace the two ice floes onto blue fleece and cut out
  3. Trace the door of the igloo onto blue fleece and cut out
  4. Trace the polar bear’s scarf onto purple (or any color) fleece and cut out
  5. Cut out round snowflakes
  6. Cut out a small circle from black fleece for the Polar Bear’s nose

On one end of the scarf:

  1. Glue the smaller ice floe on one end of the scarf
  2. Tie the bear’s scarf around its neck before gluing the bear to the scarf
  3. Glue the polar bear onto the scarf with its feet on the ice floe
  4. Glue on the polar bear’s nose
  5. Make a small dot for the polar bear’s eye with a marker
  6. Glue snowflakes above polar bear

On the other end of the scarf:

  1. Glue the bigger ice floe to the scarf
  2. Glue the three pieces of the large igloo to the scarf, leaving a little space between sections
  3. Glue the small white door of the igloo on top of the last two igloo sections
  4. Glue the small blue door onto the white door
  5. Glue snowflakes above the igloo

Directions for Banner

  1. Cut a point at the bottom of your banner
  2. Follow the directions above to trace the pieces of the polar bear and igloo from the printable template onto scrapbooking paper
  3. Follow the directions above to glue the pieces of the polar bear and igloo to your banner
  4. Attach string or twine to back of banner to make a hanger

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bear-dreams-cover

You can find Little Bear Dreams at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 23 – Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day

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About the Holiday

For generations the cliff swallows of San Juan Capistrano, California have been famous for their annual autumn migration that takes place near the Day of San Juan, celebrated on October 23. This swirling, soaring cloud of birds inspires those lucky enough to witness it with its power and beauty. The swallows are headed for their winter home 6,000 miles south in Goya, Corrientes, Argentina. Their return around St. Joseph’s Day on March 19th is typically celebrated with a parade and festivities.

Jacob’s Fantastic Flight

By Philip Waechter

 

You may find this hard to believe, but Jacob could fly. The first time Jacob flew, he soared right out of this stroller. Jacob skipped the whole crawling stage and the first step thing. “He just few off instead.” Although at first his parents were concerned, “they soon got used to him flying and figured, ‘So be it—he’s our son, and he’s perfect just the way he is!’” One winter his parents decided to take a vacation to the Mediterranean. His mom and dad booked airplane tickets, but Jacob was going to fly there himself.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Jacob filled his backpack, waved goodbye to his parents and took off. Along the way, Jacob counted animals down below. He even shared his sandwiches with a group of squirrels. It was then that he saw “eighty-three birds on their way to Africa.” Jacob decided to go with them. Their route took them over mountains and valleys, past lakes and fields of wheat and wildflowers.

Jacob loved dipping, swooping, and soaring through urban obstacle courses, taking breaks in the birds’ favorite rest stops, and having “lots of pleasant conversations.” It was a wonderful trip. But then one of their flock was captured in Mr. Mortar’s net. Mr. Mortar was a birdcatcher, and his home was filled with the birds he’d caught just so he could hear their chirping.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

When Jacob and the birds stopped for lunch, they immediately noticed that Hubert was missing. It didn’t take long for them to find out where he was. Jacob knew just what to do. With some feathers from his friends and a beak made from paper in his backpack, Jacob fashioned a costume and then flew in front of Mr. Mortar’s window where he was sure to see him.

Jacob was just the “rare specimen” Mr. Mortar had been looking for. He rushed out with his net, leaving the front door wide open. The flock swarmed in and removed not just Hubert but all of the caged birds. They met up in the woods at a cool pond. Birds from all over soon heard of how “the birdcatcher had finally be bamboozled” and flew in to celebrate. It was time for Jacob to meet up with his parents, so he waved goodbye.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Except for little Hubert who wanted to take a vacation too. Jacob found his parents on a golden beach. They hugged and kissed and then spent the time “the way a vacation is supposed to be.” When it was time to leave, Jacob went home with his parents on the plane—and Hubert got the window seat.

Quirky in the very best way, Jacob’s Fantastic Flight soars with themes of individuality and independence, friendship and family. Philip Waechter’s buoyant storytelling shines with acceptance born from love and understanding by both Jacob’s parents and the birds, and Jacob’s parents’ trust in their son’s abilities and judgement is a highlight. As a natural flyer, Jacob is part of two worlds, and children will recognize his joy in joining and learning from the flock of birds, just as they experience when discovering their own world.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Perfectly paced, Waechter’s story benefits from the bird’s and Jacob’s quickly devised plan to rescue Hubert. Today’s kids are incredibly smart, and they’ll happily see themselves in this turn of events too. Jacob’s reunion with his parents is sweet and uplifting; every vacation should be like theirs. As Jacob accompanies his parents on the plane, kids will feel that reassurance that no matter where they roam, they will always find open hearts and arms at home.

Waechter’s delicate line drawings enhance the sense of freedom and lightheartedness inherent in his story. Jacob is first introduced as a regular kid, surrounded by toys, snacks, and posters that any child might have. It is only on the second page that readers notice his singular talent. Images of Jacob flying from his stroller in front of his astonished parents and then helping out by picking apples from the top of a tree show how quickly his parents accepted his ability.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jacobs-fantastic-flight-flying

Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Spreads of Jacob flying with the flock over a field and a city are lovely, and what child wouldn’t love to sit on a park statue with the happy birds? Mr. Mortar (an inspired name), hiding in the bushes with his net while dressed in green and sporting a leafy hat, reminds kids that there are always obstacles to watch out for. The two-page spread of the celebratory bird party will awe readers, and with the verve of all kids on vacation or in the car, readers will love counting the birds and squirrels Jacob meets on his way.

Supportive and uplifting, Jacob’s Fantastic Flight will inspire children to take wing and is a must-have for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Blue Dot Kids Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1733121262

If you and your kids love birds, you can download this  Crazy About Birds Citizen Science Resource Guide from Blue Dot Press to learn how you can get involved in helping birds!

You can also find a detailed Teacher’s Guide on the Blue Dot Press website that will get students at school and at home excited to learn about close reading and interact with the story to discuss themes, cause-and-effect relationships, character, illustration, and do some writing of their own.

Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jacobs-fantastic-flight-coloring-page

Jacob’s Fantastic Flight Coloring Page

 

Celebrate birds with this beautiful printable coloring page perfect for kids and adults!

Jacob’s Fantastic Flight Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jacobs-fantastic-flight-cover

You can find Jacob’s Fantastic Flight at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review