January 15 – National Hat Day

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About the Holiday

Hats are always stylish, and during this time of year they can be a necessity for keeping warm! No matter if you make your own hat or buy it in a shop, whether you like stocking hats, felt hats, hats with earflaps, or hats that just hide a bad hairdo, this is the perfect season to indulge your fashion fancies!

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love

Written by Michelle Edwards | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

One of the first gifts Sophia received when she was a baby was a knitted hat from her neighbor Mrs. Goldman. Now that Sophia is more grown up, she helps Mrs. Goldman make pom-poms for the hats she knits for other babies, friends, and neighbors. “‘Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,’ says Mrs. Goldman, kissing the top of Sophia’s head. ‘This is your keppie, and a mitzvah is a good deed.’”

One day in late autumn Sophia and Mrs. Goldman walk Mrs. Goldman’s dog Fifi. While Fifi is kept warm in a dinosaur sweater and Sophia is cozy in the fuzzy kitten hat and mittens that Mrs. Goldman made them, Mrs. Goldman’s head and ears are unprotected in the icy wind. When Sophia asks her friend why she doesn’t have a hat, Mrs. Goldman tells her “‘I gave it to Mrs. Chen.’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Sophia begins to worry about Mrs. Goldman. Who will knit a hat for her? “Not Mrs. Goldman. She’s too busy knitting for everyone else.’” Last year Mrs. Goldman had tried to teach Sophia to knit, but it was too hard and took too long, so she decided to stick with making pom-poms. But Sophia thinks maybe it’s time to try again. She goes to her knitting bag and pulls out the hat they had started together. “The stiches are straight and even. The soft wool smells like Mrs. Goldman’s chicken soup.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Holding the needles, Sophia thinks about what she was taught. Even though she drops stitches, she continues to knit. “She wants to make Mrs. Goldman the most special hat in the world.” The next day snow falls on Mrs. Goldman’s head as they walk Fifi. Sophia frets, and at home she begins knitting morning, noon, and night to finish her hat. Winter has set in and one day when the pair walk Fifi, “Mrs. Goldman wraps Mr. Goldman’s scarf around her head like she’s a mummy.” But the wind grabs it and rips it away. Sophia catches it, but shivers at the thought of how cold Mrs. Goldman must be.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

At home Sophia knits in a frenzy, adding row after row of stitches until the hat is finished. When Sophia looks at it, though, she finds holes where they shouldn’t be and lumpy and bumpy areas. She thinks what she has made looks more like a monster than a hat. Sophia takes out the box containing all the hats Mrs. Goldman has made for her, but they are much too small for Mrs. Goldman to wear. While Sophia’s mama and papa have hats made by Mrs. Goldman, she knows she can’t give those away.

Sophia imagines all the hats she makes with her neighbor and how Mrs. Goldman always tells her that her pom-poms add beauty, and that “‘that’s a mitzvah too.’” Sophia’s heart swells. She finds red yarn—Mrs. Goldman’s favorite color—and her pom-pom making supplies and goes to work. When she is finished and the pom-poms are attached, “Mrs. Goldman’s hat is the most special hat in the world.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Sophia runs next door and surprises Mrs. Goldman with her gift. Mrs. Goldman hugs Sophia and tears come to her eyes. “‘Don’t you like it?’” Sophia asks, but she needn’t worry. “‘I more than like it, I love it,’ declares Mrs. Goldman. ‘Gorgeous. Like Mr. Goldman’s rosebushes. And you know how I love his roses.’” With a kiss for Sophia, Mrs. Goldman begins counting the twenty pom-poms on her hat—“each one made with love.” Mrs. Goldman slips the hat on her head. Now when she and Sophia take Fifi for a walk, Fifi wears her dinosaur sweater, Sophia wears her kitty hat and mittens, and “Mrs. Goldman wears her Sophia hat. Her keppie is toasty warm. And that’s a mitzvah.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Michelle Edwards’ heartwarming story of a little girl who sees that her friend is in need and determines to help draws on children’s natural generosity and shows readers that their efforts are recognized and appreciated. Edward’s gentle and well-paced storytelling allows readers to understand the events and thoughts that bring Sophia to once again attempt knitting. Sophia’s solution to use the pom-poms she knows she makes well (and with love) to cover the holes demonstrates not only the ingenious creativity of kids, but also the idea that love can fill the voids in life.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016,  courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Brian Karas imbues the story of Sophia and Mrs. Goldman with a magical wonder that floats from page to page like the fluffy snowflakes that are the catalyst for Sophia’s mitzvah. A combination of full-page illustrations and snapshot images show days spent with Mrs. Goldman as well as the moments, hours, and days that adorable Sophia spends knitting her special hat. Sophia, tongue sticking out in determination, wields her knitting needs; she ponders her holey hat while imagining a frightened Fifi; and scraps of red yarn dot the floor and even sit atop Sophia’s head as she creates pom-pom after pom-pom. When Mrs. Goldman pulls the hat over her own head, kids will feel cheered, while adults may feel a small lump in their throat.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love is a gem. Its tender portrayal of kindness, love, and close personal relationships makes it an outstanding choice for any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497106

Discover more about Michelle Edwards and her books, plus activities, recipes, and information on knitting on her website!

Enter a gallery of books, sketches, blog essays, and more by G. Brian Karas on his website!

National Hat Day Activity

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Winter Hat Match Puzzle

 

These kids have all lost their hats! Can you follow the paths in this printable Winter Hat Match Puzzle to reunite each child with the right hat?celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-hat-for-mrs.-goldman-cover

You can find A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 14 – National Dessert Day

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About the Holiday

Fermented chocolate drinks date back to 1900 BCE and the Aztecs believed cacao seeds were a gift from Quetzalcoatl, their god of wisdom. Who can argue that chocolate is a pretty smart thing? Almost anything is better covered in chocolate, and today’s holiday proves it! Whether you like your chocolate straight up or on the…potato chips, enjoy the day with a little indulgence!

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake

Written by Michael B. Kaplan | Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch

 

Betty Bunny knows she’s a “handful” because her parents often tell her so. Betty Bunny also knew her parents love her, so she figures that “being a handful must be very, very good.” One day when her mom offered her a piece of chocolate cake after dinner, Betty Bunny declined. She didn’t like trying new things, and “announced: ‘I hate chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is yucky.” But then added “‘What’s chocolate cake?’”

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Image copyright Stéphane Jorisch, 2016, text copyright, 2016. Michael B. Kaplan. Courtesy of Penguin Books.

With her first bite, Betty Bunny was in love. She was so in love, in fact, that she decided that when she grew up she was “going to marry chocolate cake.” Her siblings were supportive—kind of—but her older brother Bill thought “‘you’re going to have really weird-looking kids.’” The next day at school, Betty Bunny had chocolate on the brain. When her teacher went over the A B C’s Betty said, “‘A is for chocolate cake, B is for chocolate cake, C is for chocolate cake.’”

On the playground when Betty Bunny mixed together dirt and water, it looked like chocolate cake, but sure didn’t taste like it. At dinner Betty Bunny was ready for her dessert before her healthy dinner, but her mom said no; and her dad agreed with her mom. Her siblings tried to help—kind of. Henry suggested she eat some peas. Kate told her to eat her carrots, and Bill taunted, “‘Why don’t you have some chocolate cake? That’s what you really want. Oh, no, wait. You can’t. Ha-Ha.’”

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Image copyright Stéphane Jorisch, 2016, text copyright, 2016. Michael B. Kaplan. Courtesy of Penguin Books.

Betty Bunny exploded. She threw peas at Henry, tossed carrots at Kate, and lobbed mashed potatoes at Bill. Betty Bunny’s mother was not pleased and sent her little daughter to bed without chocolate cake. “Betty Bunny screamed, ‘This family is yucky!’” and stomped up the stairs. Later, her mom came up to kiss her goodnight, and she had a plan. She would put a piece of cake in the fridge and the next day after a good dinner, Betty Bunny could have it. “‘Maybe if you know it’s there waiting for you, it will be easier to be patient,’” her mom said. Betty Bunny thought this was a great idea and “wanted to say something especially nice to her mother. ‘Mommy,’ she said, ‘you are a handful.’”  

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Image copyright Stéphane Jorisch, 2016, text copyright, 2016. Michael B. Kaplan. Courtesy of Penguin Books.

The next morning Betty Bunny couldn’t leave the house without first checking on her piece of cake. It looked so alone sitting on the plate all by itself, so Betty Bunny decided to put it in her pocket and take it to school with her. All day the secret knowledge of what was in her pocket made Betty Bunny happy. At dinner, after she had cleaned her plate, she reached into her pocket for her chocolate cake, but all she found was “a brown, goopy mess” that made her cry.

After her mom explained to her that putting the cake in her pocket was not the same as being patient, she prepared another piece for the next day. In the morning, Betty Bunny remembered her lesson in patience—and that’s why she put the cake…in her sock.

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Image copyright Stéphane Jorisch, 2016, text copyright Michael B. Kaplan, 2016. Courtesy of Penguin Books.

Michael B. Kaplan’s adorable Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake is a delight from its beginning to its smashing ending. He hits all the right notes in this humorous family drama, from the “helpful” siblings to the hair-trigger tantrums to the Ramona Quimby-esque misunderstanding of phrase. Along with the giggle-inducing fun kids learn a bit about patience, and adults discover insight into what goes on in their little bunny’s mind when obsession meets disappointment.

Stéphane Jorisch’s Bunny family is as cute as…well…a bunny.  His watercolor, pen and ink, and gouche paintings employ brilliant color and crisp lines to depict the loving relationship among the siblings and parents as well as the realistic home and school environments. The perfectly drawn body language—including folded arms, sly looks, emotional meltdowns, and understanding smiles—will resonate with kids and adults alike. And once the piece of chocolate cake appears, it’s easy to see how little Betty Bunny could become such a fan.

Ages 3 – 7

Puffin Books, 2016 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1101998632

Chocolate Covered Anything Day

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Delicious Dot-to-Dot

 

Everything is better with chocolate—even this printable Delicious Dot-to-Dot! Get your pencils, follow the dots, and then color this delectable page!

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You can find Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

September 8 – World Fencing Day

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About the Holiday

In its second year as a recognized holiday, World Fencing Day promotes this action-packed Olympic sport and encourages kids and adults to get involved. Fencing is enjoyed worldwide and is a popular sport offered in schools and at community venues. To celebrate the day, Olympic and world champion fencers hold demonstrations at malls, public squares, beaches, and other places, and fencing clubs offer free trials to would-be fencers. To celebrate, check out a demonstration held near you and try your hand at this fun and rewarding sport!

Two Lions sent me a copy of Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight to check out. All opinions are my own.

Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight

Written by Pam Calvert | Illustrated by Liana Hee

 

Princess Brianna Bright’s dreams of dancing ballet always seemed to go poof! whenever she actually tried to do the steps. “When practicing, she pranced and piquéd and pivoted…right into the palace pool. Ploink!” On the day when she tipped over her father’s throne with a grand jeté, the king suggested that maybe dancing wasn’t her talent.”

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

As Brianna sadly took off her ballet shoes, even her puppy Pixie was sympathetic. But Brianna was determined to find her true talent. During the week she tried ice-skating and baking, but those really weren’t for her either. Then on Saturday she saw two knights fencing, and “Brianna’s stomach fluttered.” Here was something that she could do, she thought, but the king and queen took one look at the pointy swords and worried.

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

So Brianna continued her search. Skateboarding in the castle resulted in a frosting fiasco, and while playing soccer she caused a team pileup. Brianna feared she’d never find her talent. “Then she heard the click. And the clack. And the clickety, clackity, clack” that sends “her tiny heart swelling with anticipation.” One of the knights had left a fencing blade on the ground, and Brianna picked it up. She liked the way it felt in her hand.

All day she watched the knights parry and feint and shout, “‘en garde!’” That night she crept into the forest to practice on her own. But fencing wasn’t as easy as it looked. Brianna “tumbled and stumbled and bumbled.” After a few weeks of bumps and bruises, Brianna told Pixie that she didn’t think she had a talent.

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

One night, Brianna and Pixie heard a suspicious sound outside the castle. She looked out her window just in time to see two thieves running off with some of the royal gems. Quickly, she grabbed her fencing blade and leaped in front of them. As “she parried and pirouetted…tiptoed and touchéd…dodged and dégagéd” she used the fencing blade for balance, executing each move just right. With a final feint and lunge, Brianna rescued the jewels. The king and queen and the knights were proud of their little princess, and Brianna was happiest of all because instead of having just one talent, she had discovered  she had two. She was no longer just the princess or even just Brianna. “She was Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight.”

A dictionary of ballet and fencing moves follows the story.

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Kids searching for their special talent will find much to admire in Pam Calvert’s Princess Brianna. Despite bumps and bruises, missteps and mishaps, Brianna shows patience and perseverance as she tries a variety of activities. While some of Brianna’s slapstick blunders may raise a giggle, readers will also empathize with her grit as well as her sadness when the activities don’t work out. Declarations from Brianna, such as “I’ll find a new talent!” and especially the repeated “I’ll do it!” give young readers mantras that they can embrace. Highlighted ballet and fencing terms within the story will spark an interest in these two graceful and athletic pursuits.

Liana Hee’s Brianna shows excitement, wistfulness, good humor, and triumph in her expressive doe eyes. Vivid full-page illustrations depict Brianna’s mishaps with a comedic flair and her ballet and fencing moves with the kind of precision that makes these disciplines both beautiful and “cool” to watch. Brianna’s tiny pink poodle Pixie is a cutie as she keeps her princess company through it all—even the suspenseful late-night duel with the jewel thieves. Brianna’s celebration when she discovers her two talents is infectious and will encourage readers to search for their own.

Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight is a reassuring read for children trying out various activities in that search for the one that excites and inspires them. Brianna’s persistence and self-confidence makes this a book to keep on hand at home and in the classroom for encouraging story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503951013

Discover more about Pam Calvert and her books on her website.

To learn more about Liana Hee and her art, visit her on tumblr.

World Fencing Day Activity

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Fencing is Fantastic Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

The sport of fencing uses its own unique vocabulary to describe the equipment and actions of the participants. Can you find all of the fencing terms in the puzzle?

Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search Puzzle (20 words) | Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search Solution (20 words)

Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search (15 words, no diagonals) | Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search (15 words, no diagonals) Solution

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You can find Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 11 – It’s National Egg Month

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About the Holiday

What an amazing thing the egg is! This month we celebrate its role in feeding families the world over. From ancient times people have relied on the protein and other nutrients in this compact package to stay healthy at an affordable price or from their own farm. There are so many recipes that feature the delicate flavor of eggs. This month why not crack a few eggs and try a new taste sensation, and, of course, enjoy those old favorites as well!

Egg

By Kevin Henkes

 

As this sophisticated paneled picture book opens, four eggs await their fate. One is pink, one is yellow, one is blue, and one is green. On the next page three of the eggs begin their journey with a crack, crack, crack; but the last one? The green one? It remains a smooth egg. With a “surprise!” a pink baby bird hatches from the pink egg. The yellow egg breaks open and a yellow bird chirps “surprise.” When the blue egg breaks a blue baby bird pops free with one more “surprise!” But the last egg? The green one? It remains an intact egg.

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The pink bird strides away from her former home with a quick “good-bye.” The yellow bird takes to the sky with a cheery “good-bye.” And the blue bird skips off  with a joyful cheep “good-bye.” But the last egg? The green one? It still remains a silent egg. All alone now, the green egg waits. It waits and waits and waits through a full sixteen-day calendar.

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Finished with her walk, the pink bird is back to check on the green egg. She hails the yellow chick, who is also returning, and calls out to the blue bird, who runs in to see what’s up. They discuss this anomalous egg and come up with a plan. They lay their ears against the shell and “listen.” Then they begin tapping away. “Peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck.” This egg has one tough exterior! They peck and peck until, finally, they hear a “crack.”

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The egg splits to reveal an eye-popping “surprise!” The last egg? The green one? It doesn’t hold a green chick, but a green crocodile! The birds fly away from the dangerous snout. Now the baby croc is “alone” and “sad.” The little birds see how “lonely” the crocodile is and slowly, one-by-one they return. They fly closer and closer until they are all sitting atop the crocodile’s back.

The crocodile takes his new friends on a ride down to the water’s edge. He wades in and follows where the pink bird directs. Then these new friends sit quietly and watch the sun set. The orange sun sinks lower and lower toward the horizon, changing shape and beginning the journey all over again.

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Kevin Henkes’ adorable read-aloud is as complex as the egg itself. On the surface it is a comforting and touching tale of friendship, but crack it open and the story takes on deeper meaning. Themes of patience, working together, diversity, acceptance, and even ideas of expectations and preconceived danger are waiting to be explored during repeat readings. The graphic-novel nature of the illustrations allow readers to form bonds with the four eggs as a ready-made group, increasing kids’  curiosity and interest in that fourth egg that just won’t hatch.

Pastel colors differentiate each bird as do simple gestures that little ones will recognize as personality traits. In the final pages, the lines separating the panels disappear as the four friends gather to watch the sun go down, and their life together begins.

Ages 3 – 8

Greenwillow Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062408723

You can meet Kevin Henkes, learn about his books, and discover resources, videos, and more on his website.

National Egg Month Activity

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Egg Carton Chickens and a Basket Full of Games

 

With twelve little chickens you can come up with lots of games to play! This fun craft and game activity is eggs-actly what you need to start hatching some real fun!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • White craft paint
  • Markers: red, yellow, black for the face; any colors you’d like for wings and eggs
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Construction or craft paper in white and a color of your choice

Directions

  1. Cut the notched flap off the egg carton and set aside
  2. Cut the top off the egg carton
  3. Cut apart all the egg cups and trim slightly so they sit flat
  4. Paint the egg cups with the white paint, let dry
  5. Add the face, comb and wings to the chicken with the markers. Make six chickens with one color wings and six chickens with another color wings.
  6. From the egg carton flap cut thirteen small egg-shaped playing pieces
  7. With the markers, decorate twelve of the eggs in pairs—each egg in the pair with the same design
  8. Color one egg yellow and add a beak, eyes, and wings to make it a chick

Games to Play

Tic-Tac-Toe (2 players)

  1. On a 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper draw a regular tic-tac-toe board or make it fancy – like the picket fence-inspired board in the picture
  2. To make the fence-inspired board on a colored background, cut 2 9-inch-long x 3/4-inch wide strips of white paper, cutting a pointed tip at one or both ends. Cut 2 white  8-inch x 3/4-inch strips of paper with a pointed tip at one or both ends. Glue the strips to the background.
  3. Each player chooses a set of chickens with the same colored wings
  4. Play the game as you usually do

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Find the Matching Eggs (2 or more players)

  1. Have one player hide one egg under each chicken
  2. Shuffle the eggs around and form them into three lines of 4 chickens each
  3. Another player lifts one chicken at a time to find matching eggs. If the eggs don’t match, put both chickens back and start again

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Where’s the Chick?

  1. Use as many chickens and eggs as you want (fewer for younger children, more for older)
  2. One player hides the chick under one of the chickens and eggs under the others.
  3. Another player has three chances to find the chick

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You can also design your own games for your adorable chickens to play! With more chickens you can even make a checkers set or replicate another of your favorite board games!

Picture Book Review

January 18 – It’s International Quality of Life Month

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About the Holiday

Enjoying a good quality of life means being happy where you live and in your relationships, your job, and your situation in general. Finding the right balance can be hard, but with perseverance and support from friends and family, you can discover and attain the best lifestyle for you.

Cowboy Car

Written by Jeanie Franz Ransom | Illustrated by Ovi Nedelcu

 

“Ever since he was knee-high to his daddy’s hubcaps, Little Car wanted to be a cowboy.” He watched cowboy movies on the TV in his city garage and loved everything about cowboy life. Little Car lived in the city, squeezed in between lanes and lanes of cars and unable to see the sky for the soaring skyscrapers. He dreamed of sleeping under the stars and roaming the wide open plains. But everyone told Little Car, “‘Cars Can’t Be Cowboys.’”

Little Car’s dad wanted him to be a city taxi, like him; his mom hoped he’d be “a family car and settle down in a garage close to home.” Neither of those futures, however, offered the excitement of “herding cattle by day” and the camaraderie of “circling up around the campfire at night,” so when Little Car grew up he headed out West. First, he needed to look the part, but where would he find a hat big enough? He pulled up at a cowboy supply depot, and there on the roof sat the perfect 50-gallon hat!

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Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

With the hat settled firmly on his roof, Little Car drove on to the Circle R. Ranch. There he met Dusty, who listened to Little Car’s dream of being a cowboy and gave him a bit of bad news: “‘Cars can’t be cowboys. They can’t ride horses!’” Little Car was disappointed, and so was Dusty—the ranch really needed extra help. Little Car wanted to prove his mettle, so Dusty agreed to let him try a few cowboy tests. The next morning, Little Car “zoomed around the barrels in no time. He was used to making quick turns around tight corners in the city.” He was also strong enough to carry heavy loads and move bales of hay. He could even round up li’l doggies in the dark in the beam of his headlights.

The next day Dusty promised to take Little Car to the rodeo. When they got there, though, Little Car was told he couldn’t participate because he didn’t ride a horse. Still, he was excited to watch Dusty ride Double Trouble, the biggest, meanest bull on the circuit. With Dusty hanging on tight, Double Trouble bucked and snorted and leaped. In a minute Dusty was thrown to the ground, and Double Trouble was headed straight toward him.

“With tires squealing, horn honking, and the radio blasting, Little Car got everyone’s attention—including the bulls.” He zipped right and left, “swerved, stopped, backed up, and drove around and around until the bull’s snorts turned into snores.” Afterward, a news reporter wanted to know if he was a cowboy at the Circle R. Ranch. “‘He sure is,’ Dusty said. ‘In fact, he’s my pardner!’”

Watching the report on the garage TV, Little Car’s mom and dad proudly exclaimed, “‘That’s our cowboy!’” And “Little Car drove off into the sunset, home on the range at last.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-car-cowboy-hay-bales

Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Li’l pardners enamored of the cowboy life will be charmed by Little Car and his dreams to leave the big city for the freedom of cowboy life. With clever turns of phrase and a sprinkling of puns, Jeanie Franz Ransom takes readers on an endearing ride through the ups and downs, disappointments and successes of navigating life on one’s own. When Little Car uses his city experience, smarts, and courage to save Dusty and earn a spot at the ranch, despite not being able to ride a horse, kids will see that they too can overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals.

Children will love adorable Little Car as he snuggles next to his mom and taxicab dad in the garage. With wide headlight eyes and a grill with an ever-present grin, Little Car makes his way out West, where kids will giggle at the 50-gallon hat atop an old general store, whoop as Little Car completes his cowboy tests, and cheer when he outwits Double Trouble to save the day. As Little Car drives off into the sunset, readers will know that he—and they—have a bright future ahead.

Car and cowboy or cowgirl enthusiasts, as well as kids new to school and other activities will find a friend in Little Car and ask to hear his story again and again. Cowboy Car would make a sweet addition to story time and bedtime reading.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1503950979

Discover more about Jeanie Franz Ransom and her books on her website!

You’ll find a portfolio of books and illustration work by Ovi Nedelcu on his website!

International Quality of Life Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-follow-the-open-road-mazeFollow the Open Road Maze

 

 

These four kids are ready to head out and enjoy the day! Match each child to the right car in this printable Follow the Open Road Maze to get them on their way!

Picture Book Review

January 8 – National Argyle Day

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About the Holiday

The argyle pattern that is so familiar today comes from the tartan of Clan Campbell, which originated in Argyll in western Scotland. The pattern was used by Clan Campbell for kilts and plaids, but has distinguished socks of various clans in Scotland since the 17th century. The argyle pattern became popular in Britain and the United States following World War I when the Duke of Windsor adopted it for his golf clothing. Today, argyle can be found on clothing, furniture, fabrics, and decorated items of all kinds.

Argyle Fox

By Marie Letourneau  

 

Argyle Fox lived in a tree in the middle of the forest. Badger, Beaver, and Groundhog lived nearby. One spring day when the wind whipped “down the mountainside and through the trees,” little Argyle told his mother that he was going out to play cards. His mother was skeptical, telling him his cards might blow away. Argyle found a spot on an old tree stump and, when the wind died down, he built a tall house of cards. Just as it had grown to be the “tallest tower in the whole world,” however, the wind came and sent it flying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-closet

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

“No fair!,” cried Argyle, and he went home to search his closet for something else to do. Way back behind the soccer ball, boat, and hats, Argyle found his old spider costume. He tried it on and discovered it still fit. He returned to the forest and between two trees wove the elaborate web of “the world’s scariest spider.” The squirrels warned Argyle that playing spider in the wind could be dangerous, but Argyle laughed and continued to play. “‘Beware!’ Argyle replied with a hiss. ‘Beware, or I will capture you in my web!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-spider-web

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

But the wind whooshed through the trees, and Argyle ended up tangled and upside down in his own web. Playing pirate by the creek sounded like a better idea anyway. Argyle planted his jolly roger on a stump spanning the river and “set sail,” but the beavers said, “‘You can’t play pirate in the wind, Argyle Fox.’” Argyle looked at the beavers. “‘Arrg,’” he said. “‘I’ll make you walk the plank.’” Just then the wind picked up his newspaper pirate hat and sailed away with it. “‘Argyle stomped off toward the meadow’” with his soccer ball.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-pirate

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

There he met Badger. “‘I’m the star of the soccer team,’” Argyle told him. “‘I will now kick the winning goal.’” Badger didn’t think this was a good idea in the wind, but Argyle replied, “‘You’d better watch out or I will tackle you!’” Argyle kicked the ball as hard as he could. The wind caught it and threw it into the branches of a tall tree.

Argyle scampered off to the hill where he built a cardboard-box castle. Brandishing his sword, Argyle cried out to Groundhog, “‘I am a brave knight, ready to fight the terrible, ferocious, fire-breathing dragon!’” Groundhog cautioned Argyle about the wind, but Argyle only challenged Groundhog to a duel. Before the duel could begin, though, the wind picked up Argyle’s castle and carried it far away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-castle

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

Argyle picked up all of his things and went home. He told his mother that he would never play in the wind again. Perhaps, said Mama Fox, you will think of something you can do in the wind. Argyle doubted it, but he thought and thought. He looked at all of his toys and suddenly had an idea. “He cut, tied, knitted, painted, and taped. Finally, it was finished!” Argyle went out to the meadow and waited. “His heart pounded with excitement Would it work? Would he FINALLY be able to play in the wind?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-cutting-cards

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

At last the wind came by and Argyle let go of his creation. “Huzzah!‘ cried Argyle. ‘A kite is the most prefect thing to play in the wind.’” Argyle’s mother was proud of him for thinking up a kite all on his own. Argyle was so happy with his kite, that he made one for each of his friends, and they all flew their kites in the meadow together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-wind

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

Marie Letourneau’s story of a little fox who just wants to play and is thwarted at every turn is a multi-layered tale of life’s ups and downs where big ideas sometimes get carried away on ill winds. Such times can bring disappointment or, as Argyle finds, an opportunity for discovery and accomplishment. As little Argyle tries game after game in the disruptive wind, disregarding the warnings and advice of his older neighbors, he learns through his own experience. His frustrations are vented in language appropriate to each character he plays and will make kids giggle. When Argyle goes home, listens to the gentle encouragement of his mother, and comes up with his own solution, he experiences the excitement and satisfaction of self-reliance and ingenuity.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-little-fox

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

Letourneau’s delicately beautiful illustrations in soft blue, green, and orange hues will charm readers as adorable Argyle tries building a house of cards, building a web, playing pirate, kicking the soccer ball, and playing knight in lovely, detailed scenes that kids will like to explore. When Argyle goes back home, children will be intrigued to see how pieces of each of his toys become a part of his kite and may very well want to read the story again to find all the ingredients to that perfect windy-day plaything.

In addition to being a cute adventure to share with young readers at home or in the classroom, Argyle Fox is a terrific lead-in to discussions about self-reliance, self-confidence, creativity, and trial-and-error as well as the possible consequences of this important method of learning.

Ages 3 – 7

Tanglewood, 2017 | ISBN 978-1939100092

Learn more about Tanglewood Books on their website.

Discover more about Marie Letourneau, her books, and her art, and find fun activities to download on her website.

National Argyle Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-pattern-template

Argyle Pattern Template

 

Argyle patterns come in all colors and make whatever they decorate look festive! Design your own argyle pattern with this printable Argyle Pattern Template.

Picture Book Review

October 19 – Evaluate Your Life Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-Cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to take stock of their lives and decide if they are on their chosen path. With so much going on, days, weeks, months—even years—can fly by, and before you know it, you’re somewhere you don’t want to be. Stopping along the way once in a while to reevaluate all the parts of your life—education, job, home, finances, and social connections—can help you see where improvements can be made so you can accomplish your goals. Sometimes, though, making changes reveals that you were on the right track all along—as today’s book shows.

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of Bruce’s Big Move to check out, and is partnering with me for a giveaway! All opinions are my own.

Bruce’s Big Move

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Oh no! Is that a For Sale sign outside Bruce’s home? You know, the hillside abode with the yard littered with toys, games, and an old hat? What’s going on? Well, let’s turn the page and find out!

If you don’t know already, “Bruce was a bear who lived with four geese because he was their mother (just go with it and check out Mother Bruce). He also shared space with three mice “because they would not leave” (maybe, but weren’t they kind of invited? For the answer to that you’ll want to check into Hotel Bruce). Mice, it seems make themselves very much at home—in every square inch of every room. You wouldn’t believe the mess! (Or what a generous Mom Bruce is!). 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-messy-house
Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

As you might imagine “Bruce’s house was crowded, chaotic, and loud,” and it all made Bruce very grumpy. Bruce thought and pondered over how he could get rid of those mice. He tried plan after plan, but none of them were successful. Those crafty mice just turned everything on it’s head. For instance, when Bruce told them to get “Out,” they appreciated his concern that they “get some fresh air.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-tea-cup

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

There was only one thing to do. Bruce packed up his belongings, settled his four kids in the sidecar, and moved away. “Finding a new house for a mother bear and his four geese can be difficult.” The tree-top nest was too shaky, the submerged shipwreck was too wet, and the new construction by turtle builders was too behind schedule. Eventually, Bruce found the perfect home on the edge of a lake and surrounded by meadows. It even came with plenty of friendly neighbors (well, no house is perfect-perfect).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-moving-away

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

The greatest thing about this house, though? No mice! Bruce felt so happy, he smiled. Yeah, really…didn’t you see it? The geese, though, were not so happy. They stood around with sad eyes and dejected postures. “Bruce tried cheering them up . . . .” He flew a kite, took them to the beach, and took them to art class. Even Bruce’s biggest smile . . . um . . . grimace?. . . no, smile—definitely a smile . . . could distract his kids from missing the mice.

But then “the moving van arrived” with some very familiar-looking movers. In fact, these little guys were ready to move in! So, the geese were happy, and the mice were happy. But Bruce? Not so much. The housewarming party was a fantastic success. All the woodland animals came, and “Bruce’s house was once again crowded, chaotic, and loud.” And even though “Bruce didn’t like it one bit,” he had to admit “it felt like home.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-moving-in

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ryan T. Higgins’ is the perfect dad/mom/writer/drawer for the curmudgeonly charming Bruce, nudging his creation into a new and hilarious situation in this third installment of his beloved Bruce books. As Bruce tries to gain one moment of peace, kids will giggle and laugh out loud at the antics of the pesky mice who cannonball into Bruce’s bubble bath, soak in his cup of tea, and turn his house into a shambles of stuff. When Bruce finally packs up and moves out, readers can’t really begrudge Bruce his quiet time, but they’ll cheer to see those wily mice back on the scene.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-new-house

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

With his flair for gleeful chaos and flawlessly expressive faces. Higgin’s creates a family atmosphere any reader can relate to. Bruce may look grumpy, but as he gazes into the sweet, innocent eyes of his geese and takes full measure of those high-spirited mice, astute readers know that behind that frown lies a soft heart. Kids will love watching Bruce and the geese ride his old-fashioned motorcycle, meeting a new cast of characters, and basking in Bruce’s pearly-white smile. When the story and art come full circle in the tender ending, readers will be happy to have Bruce in their neighborhood.

Bruce’s Big Move is an enchanting and funny story on its own and a very worthy addition to the series. Whether you’re already a Bruce fan or just becoming one, the book is a fantastic addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney-Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1368003544

Get movin’ and watch this Bruce’s Big Move book trailer!

Connect with Disney-Hyperion:

Visit Books.Disney.com

Follow Disney-Hyperion on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

#BrucesBigMove #FollowBruce

About the Author

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Ryan-T-Higgins

Ryan T. Higgins (ryanthiggins.com) is an author and illustrator who likes the outdoors and cheese sandwiches. He is NOT a grumpy old black bear, but he DOES like making books about one—starting with the best-selling Mother Bruce, which received the E. B. White Read-Aloud Award and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor. He lives in Maine with his wife and kids… and too many pets.

Evaluate Your Life Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-suitcase-craft

Put Your Life Together Pack

 

Sometimes life feels a little like a jigsaw puzzle—there are so many pieces that have to fit together! With this handy travel bag, you can keep track of all the things you’d like to do and see how they work together to help you achieve your goals.

Supplies

  • 12-inch x 18-inch foam sheet in brown or your favorite color (or use a manila folder)
  • Stiff decorative scrapbook or single-color paper
  • Stickers (optional)
  • Cardboard jigsaw puzzle, available at craft stores
  • Foam or craft glue
  • Markers or pen

Directions

To Make the Travel Bag

  1. Fold the foam sheet in half
  2. Glue along each edge, leave the top open

To Make the Handles

  1. Cut two 1-inch x 10-inch strips from the scrapbook or other paper
  2. Three inches from the right end of the each strip, make a triangular fold
  3. Three inches from the left end of each strip, make a triangular fold
  4. Glue one handle on each side at the top of the bag
  5. Decorate the bag with the stickers (optional)

To Make the Puzzle

  1. On each puzzle piece write
  • Things that are important to you
  • Things you’d like to do better
  • Things you’d like to try for the first time
  • Things that may be hard to do
  • Things you need to do every day
  • Your hopes and dreams

     2. Take the puzzle apart

     3. As you accomplish the goal on the pieces fit them together

     4. Soon you’ll see your life coming together just the way you want it to

Keep your puzzle pieces in your travel bag

 

Picture Book Review