November 5 – It’s National Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

Children benefit so much from close relationships to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family members. This month and next, as family gathers together for special holiday events, it’s fun for adults to share family history and their own funny stories of growing up with the younger generation. Letting kids know how much they’re loved by everyone in the family is important too. It helps them develop a sense of belonging, a good self-image, and confidence. Reading together is a perfect way to spend time together and get conversations started.

I received a copy of Love and the Rocking Chair from The Blue Sky Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with The Blue Sky Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Love and the Rocking Chair

By Leo and Diane Dillon

 

A couple, about to have a baby, “stood in a sea of chairs, searching for just the right one.” Across the store they spied a delicate bentwood rocking chair carved with hearts and knew it was perfect. Soon after the chair was delivered, the couple’s baby boy was born. When they brought him home from the hospital, “his mother sat in the rocking chair, singing softly to her baby.”

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

When the boy was a little older, his dad read to him in the rocking chair. As the boy grew, the rocking chair became a “wild horse racing across the plains.” The boy rocked and rocked until the chair moved across the floor. When the chair came to the wall, the boy started over again. A few years went by and soon school beckoned. Now, the boy had friends and homework while the chair sat laden with forgotten toys.

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

Years passed and the boy went off to college. “The chair was moved to the attic,” where it gathered dust. While the boy was growing older, so were his parents. His “father became ill” and “one sad day, he passed away.” His son came home “to say a last goodbye to his father and to comfort his mother.” When the boy came home again, he brought along his fiancé. His mother hugged her like a daughter.

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

The young couple married and moved in with the man’s mother. Soon, they were going to have their own child. As they decorated the nursery, the man thought of the rocking chair. He brought it down from the attic and “lovingly dusted it off,” placing “it back where it belonged.” After the couple’s little girl was born, her grandmother rocked her in the chair and sang to her. She wished her husband could see her.

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

When the little girl was older, she rocked across her room in the chair. She was a sea captain sailing her boat “across the clouds.” Soon, she knew, she would “go to school, and make new friends, and have adventures all her own.” She looked forward to someday rocking a baby of her own in the chair. She thought of her parents and her grandparents and knew that “the love of her family would always be there.”

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

This last collaboration between two-time Caldecott Medal and Coretta Scott King Award winners Leo and Diane Dillon is a beautiful tribute to family and the longevity of love passed from one generation to another. Based on the Dillon’s own experience, the story reveals the bonds that keep people close through changes, additions, good times, and loss through the beloved rocking chair that becomes a touchstone for the family. The Dillon’s lyrical text is straightforward and honest, showing transitions for each family member as well as for the rocking chair.

Endearing illustrations of the parents reading and singing to their babies will resonate with little readers and reinforce the story’s message. The images, rendered in earth tones and blocked and framed with a white border, mirror family photographs or snapshots of transformative and unforgettable moments in a family’s history.

A treasure to share with your child or a child in your family while talking about your own traditions, Love and the Rocking Chair is a tender story to add to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 5

The Blue Sky Press, and imprint of Scholastic, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338332650

Love and the Rocking Chair Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with The Blue Sky Press, Scholastic, Inc. in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Love and the Rocking Chair, by Leo and Diane Dillon

To be entered to win:

This giveaway is open from November 5 through November 11 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 12.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Scholastic, Inc.

Family Stories Month Activity

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Reading Blanket

 

A special blanket to read with feels cozy and warm! With this craft you and your child can make a blanket for yourselves, a stuffed animal or even a pet! Children from ages 5 or 6 and up will enjoy helping to tie the tabs. For younger children, using fabric glue to attach the two pieces of fleece or cutting just one piece of fleece allows them to join in the craft fun.

Supplies

  • 2 pieces of fleece, solid, patterned, or a mix of both
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Fluff or pillow (optional for pet bed)
  • Fabric glue (optional)

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Directions

  1. Lay out one piece of fleece and measure a size that will make a comfortable blanket for the stuffed animal or is large enough for your pet to lie on
  2. Add 3 inches to that measurement on each side for the tie tabs
  3. Cut the fleece
  4. Lay out the second piece of fleece and cut it to the same size as the first piece
  5. With both pieces of fleece together cut three-inch long by ½ – ¾ – inch wide tabs all along each side. (If using fabric glue omit this step.)
  6. At the corners, four tabs will be cut off on each side

To Make a Blanket

  • Tie the top and bottom tabs together on all sides

To Make a Pet Bed

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  1. Tie the tabs together on three sides
  2. Add the fluff or pillow insert
  3. Tie the tabs on the final side

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You can find Love and the Rocking Chair at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 26 – National Pumpkin Day

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About the Holiday

What would Halloween be without jack-o-lanterns or autumn without pumpkin pie? Even the seeds of the orange gourds we celebrate today are delicious with a little roasting. Whether you like pumpkins that are perfectly round or a little misshapen, small or behemoth, why not visit a pumpkin patch and pick a perfect pumpkin.

You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie

Written by Amy E. Sklansky | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

In a big cozy, chair next to a roaring fire, a mom snuggles with her little boy. In a pretty nursery dotted with stars, a dad watches his tiny daughter, who’s learning to crawl. He tells her, “You light up any room / with your grin so big and wide.”

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

In a bright and homey kitchen, a mother sprinkles the final touches on a pumpkin pie while her toddler helps. She says, “Your scent is just delightful— / like cinnamon and spice.” Outside, a mom and baby bundled up in the chilly weather share a hug, and the mom confesses, “Each time I kiss your yummy cheek, / I have to kiss it twice.”

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

At a farm, as Dad and his little one pick the perfect pumpkin, Dad wraps his arms around his child and says, “Your hugs are irresistible / Because you’re such a treat.” A mom playing with her daughter smiles and tells her, “I love to make you giggle. / No sound is quite as sweet.” In another home, dinner has been served and it’s time for dessert, but who are the parents praising as the “star of any feast”—the pumpkin pie or their children? The happy kids know the answer! And a baby drifts off to sleep with the sweet assurance, “You’re my little pumpkin pie, / Each and every piece.”

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

Parents and other caregivers will love cuddling up with their little one and sharing the endearing rhymes in Amy E. Sklansky’s sweet tribute to the most special of relationships. The tender phrases on each page echo the spontaneous bursts of wonder, amazement, and of course love that fill an adult’s heart while thinking about or interacting with their child. The affection expressed with each verse will delight little ones.

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

Talitha Shipman’s colorful and cozy illustrations embrace the parent-child relationship with depictions of the gestures, smiles, and assurances adults share with children. Little ones, sitting on Mom or Dad’s lap will be charmed by the happy faces of the babies and toddlers on each page and feel that same warm comfort. Extended fun can be found in discovering the pumpkin or pumpkins as well as the accompanying orange theme on each spread.

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, courtesy of talithashipman.com.

You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie is a board book that little ones will want to hear again and again and that parents and other caregiver will love to share. It would make a wonderful gift and a sweet addition to any home bookshelf.

Ages 2 – 4

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-0316207140

Discover more about Amy E. Sklansky and her books on her website

To learn more about Talitha Shipman, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Pumpkin Day Activity

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Rock! Paint! Pumpkin! Craft

 

With carefully chosen rocks you can create one jack-o’-lantern or a whole pumpkin patch!

Supplies

  • Round, smooth rock ( or rocks in a variety of sizes)
  • Orange craft paint
  • Black permanent marker or black craft paint
  • short sturdy twig (one for each rock)
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue
  • Paintbrush

Directions

  1. Clean and dry the rock
  2. Paint the rock orange, let dry
  3. Draw or paint a jack-o’-lantern face on the rock, let dry
  4. glue the short twig to the top  of the rock pumpkin

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You can find You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 20 – A Crazy-Much Love Blog Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to be celebrating Read a New Book Month by participating in the blog tour for A Crazy-Much Love and hosting a giveaway of this heartwarming book. I received a copy of the book to check out, and all thoughts are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below.

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.”

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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 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.

A Crazy-Much Love Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of A Crazy-Much Love written by Joy Jordan-Lake | illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from September 20 through September 26 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 27.

Prizing provided by Two Lions

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

Read a New Book Month Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

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

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You can find A Crazy-Much Love at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 17 – National Tattoo Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrating its third anniversary, National Tattoo Day gives us an opportunity to learn about and appreciate this very personal art form. It is believed that tattoos—dating back as far as Ancient Egypt—may have been designed for therapeutic reasons similar to acupuncture. Body art has long been associated with soldiers and sailors and saw a surge in popularity during the American Civil War and during World War II. Today people of all ages and cultures embrace body art as a way of self-expression. As today’s book shows, each tattoo tells its own story.

Tell Me a Tattoo Story

Written by Alison McGhee | Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

 

A little boy tugs on his dad’s T-shirt, wanting to see his tattoos—again. His dad sits down with his son and patiently goes through them, like the pages of a favorite book. In fact, the tattoo on his shoulder—a dragon flying above mountain peaks—is from the book his mom read to him in childhood. “Did she read it to him over and over and over? She sure did,” he says.

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Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, 2016, text copyright Alison McGhee, 2016. Courtesy of abramsandchronicle.co.uk.

The elaborate design on the dad’s wrist reads “Be Kind,” advice his father used to give him. An intricate depiction of a carnival, complete with a Ferris wheel, fireworks, and flowers reminds him “of the day I met a pretty girl.” His son asks what made the girl so pretty, and his dad responds, “That’s a good question, little man. I’d have to say it was her smile.” In answer to his son’s wondering if he has ever met this girl, Dad looks at his wife and says, “You sure have.”

The tattoo picturing a globe and monument that covers the dad’s right side is from “the longest trip I ever took.” He reminisces—“Did I miss home while I was there?”—and confesses, “I sure did.”  The last tattoo the little boy asks about is a small heart festooned with a banner that reads “7● 22 Two Thousand Twelve.” Father and son engage in banter that is most likely familiar to them both, with the boy asking the questions he already knows the answers to but loves to hear again and again: “Those numbers inside it? Just somebody’s birthday, I guess. Whose birthday? / Oh some little man I know, is all. / What do you mean, this one’s your favorite? This dinky little heart?” Then leaning in to learn a secret, the boy rediscovers that that particular tattoo is his dad’s favorite too.

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Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, 2016, text copyright Alison McGhee, 2016. Courtesy of abramsandchronicle.co.uk.

Alison McGhee’s Tell Me a Tattoo Story is such a sweet, original homage to the love between father and son. The use of body art to reveal not only seminal events in the dad’s life but the trajectory of his child’s birth is inspired. The minimal text highlights the deep emotion, giving the boy in the story as well as young readers the information they are really looking for. The soft-spoken dad is such an appealing character—emotionally available, honest, and offering just the right tone of humorous repartee—for today’s family dynamic.

Beautifully rendering McGhee’s text into art, Eliza Wheeler creates a homey atmosphere that emphasizes the theme of the book while creating tattoos that are immediately accessible to children. The dragon tattoo could come from The Hobbit or Harry Potter, kids will recognize the fun and excitement represented by the Ferris wheel, and the little heart is simplicity at its finest. While the pages depicting the dad’s tattoos are minimally hued, the father’s reminiscences burst with color and details—providing an overall feeling of warmth and affection. The image of the dad in his military uniform over the hot, golden sands on “the longest trip he ever took” will bring a tear to your eye.

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Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, 2016, text copyright Aliso McGhee, 2016. Courtesy of abramsandchronicle.co.uk.

The originality of the story and gorgeous illustrations make Tell Me a Tattoo Story a must for children’s bookshelves and will become an often-asked-for read during quiet story times or for bedtime.

Ages Birth – 6

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452119373

To discover more books for children and adults by Alison McGhee, visit her website.

To learn more about Eliza Wheeler, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Tattoo Day Activity

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Design Your Own Tattoo

 

Tattoos can be simple or elaborate, but they are always personal. They tell a story, commemorate an event, or reveal an emotion. What would your tattoo look like? Design your own body art on this printable Design Your Own Tattoo Template!

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You can find Tell Me a Tattoo Story at these booksellers

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