October 14 – It’s Black Cat Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

If you look at an annual calendar of pet holidays, you’ll see that cats reign supreme. This month, though, we celebrate one particular kind of feline: the black cat. While black cats are just as cuddly and sweet as any other cat, the superstition that they bring bad luck make them the least adopted of all cats. If you’re considering adopting a cat or kitten, think about giving a black cat a forever home.

Bambino and Mr. Twain

Written by P. I. Maltbie | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

On a particular November day in 1904, a crowd gathered outside the brownstone where Samuel Clemens, known to readers as Mark Twain, had recently come to live. Reporters, readers, and neighbors had come to wish Sam a happy birthday. But they were shooed away by his housekeeper, Katy. Since his wife, Livy, had died five months earlier, Samuel had not felt happy; he didn’t want to see anyone or even leave the house.

“From an upstairs window an old man with wild white hair and a black cat watched the crowd walk away. ‘Everyone wants to meet witty Mark Twain,’ the man said. ‘But tell me, Bambino, would they want to meet sad, old Samuel Clemens?’” Soon his daughter Jean entered the room and persuaded her father to come downstairs for cake and ice cream with the promise that Bambino, their black cat, could have some too.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

In the middle of the cake stood a single candle—a tradition that Livy had started so that Samuel would “‘never grow old.’” With a dish of ice-cream to himself, Bambino took the place of Sam’s older daughter, Clara, who couldn’t be with them that night. Friends had invited Sam for dinner, but he did not want to go. As winter settle in, so did Samuel. He rarely left his bed, littering the covers with papers and books—so many “that the cat had difficulty finding a soft place to sleep.”

As Christmas approached, instead of attending the parties he was invited to, Samuel wandered around his big house, gazing at pictures of Livy and playing games—like billiards—with Bambino. When spring arrived, Katy rushed around opening windows to air out the house. In a sunlit upstairs room, “Bambino attacked the sunbeam dancing on the wardrobe door. Sam opened the door. The sunbeam shone on a white suit. Bambino swatted at it.” Sam lifted the suit from the closet and looked at it fondly. While Livy was alive he had worn that suit every summer. “‘Those were happy days,’” he recalled.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012, text copyright P. I. Maltbie, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Just then, outside the open window, Bambino saw a squirrel that had been chattering at him for days. With a leap Bambino was chasing the squirrel down the street. “‘Bamb-i-i-i-n-o-o-o!’ Sam’s voice echoed over the city noises.” Sam and Jean put up Lost Cat posters offering a $5.00 reward (a week’s wages) for Bambino’s return. Sam didn’t know how he would tell Clara that Bambino was gone, but Jean reassured him that someone would find their cat.

“Soon a steady stream of people appeared on Sam’s doorstep with cats and kittens of every size, color, and breed.” Seeing the crowd, Sam came out onto his stoop. One little girl offered to let Sam borrow their family’s cat until Bambino returned, and others brought him cats they thought would comfort him. But Sam thought Bambino would not “‘take kindly to finding a foreign cat in his kingdom.’” Reporters wanted to talk to this beloved author about Bambino too, “and this time Sam talked to them.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Four days later, Katy found Bambino on the doorstep as if nothing had happened. Sam was overjoyed. “‘To celebrate, we’ll feast on the fatted salmon,’” he said. Sam’s experience with his kindly friends, neighbors, and readers had given him a new perspective. He was ready to rejoin the world and enjoy what it had to offer. An announcement in the newspaper let people know that Bambino had returned, but they continued to drop by to wish Sam well. Now, Sam smiled and talked with them.

Sam had several white suits made, and they became his trademark. At his home in Connecticut, he held a musical gala and talked and joked the way he used to. Jean and Clara had not seen their father this happy in a long time. And Bambino? He just “blinked his eyes and purred.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

P. I. Maltbie’s focus on a particular year in Samuel Clemens’ life provides a deeper portrait of this author known for his wit, wisdom, and social commentary. Maltbie’s detailed and compassionate storytelling reveals the stages and effects of grief and the way a pet or a good friend can help in a way that is accessible and understandable for children. His tracing of the passage of time from fall to summer allows readers to see that recovery from sadness or other events is a personal journey, but one that is made easier with the enduring love and reassurance of family and friends. Readers who love the stories and novels of Mark Twain will appreciate this touching glimpse into Samuel Clemens’ life.

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Daniel Miyares’ crisp, mixed-media and digital illustrations resonate with muted, yet saturated colors that reflect Samuel Clemens’ mourning. Perky Bambino is a constant presence, celebrating Sam’s birthday, playing billiards with Sam, and curled up on Sam’s bed. Bambino’s dramatic leap out the window will wow kids, and they will empathize with Sam as pages without the black cat reflect Sam’s feeling of loss. Young readers will be inspired by the little girl who offers her own family cat to comfort Sam and be cheered to see the positive effect Bambino’s return has on Sam as he again embraces the world dressed in the iconic white suit, which signals Sam’s lightening mood and regained good humor.

Bambino and Mr. Twain is an excellent biography to share with children at home and school to show that everyone undergoes good and bad times, but with faithful and loving family and friends, problems can be resolved and happiness restored.

Ages 5 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2012 | ISBN 978-1580892728 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1580892735 (Paperback)

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books, and his art on his website

Black Cat Awareness Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-match-the-kittens-puzzle

Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These kittens all have a twin, but they got mixed up while playing! Can you find the pairs again in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bambino-and-mr-twain-cover

You can find Bambino and Mr. Twain at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 11 – All American Pet Photo Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday probably needs no special promotion since the purpose of the day—sharing pictures of our singular pets with others—is something all of us pet owners do every day. Our pets are just so cute and funny and clever. Like just this morning, my cat… but I digress. To celebrate today, capture your pet doing something extraordinary—or ordinary, it doesn’t really matter—and share them for your family, friends, and the world to see!

Dogs and their People

By Anne Lambelet

 

When the day is fine, a girl likes “to take the long way home from school” and watch people and their dogs. Some people have both babies and puppies, while others share their advanced age with their loyal hound. “Some dogs and their people look alike, and others could not be more different, but however they look, each person “seems to have found their perfect match.”

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Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

Take Cordelia Vanderlay, the painter, and her dog Fluffernutter Vanderlay, who loves to make prints of her paws. Or Jennette and Lisette, who are twins, but very different. While Jennette likes to wear sleek black attire, her sister loves things that are frilly. And their dogs—a smooth dark greyhound and a fluffy, groomed standard poodle—are perfect mirrors of their owners. And of course there’s “Lord Banberry and his schnauzer, O’Grady,” who both sport the same impressive, well-trimmed, downturned mustachios.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dogs-and-their-people-park

Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

A young hot-dog lover, accompanied by his wiener-dog dachshund, buys an after-school treat from Freddie McDarrow and his smiling pup. Yes, “watching dogs and their people is fun,” the girl says, “because I can always tell they are best friends.” But she’s always happiest to come home to her best friend…can you guess who?

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Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

Anne Lambelet’s story charms as she introduces dog-and-owner pairs who look alike, act alike, or are polar opposites but still besties. As author and illustrator, Lambelet perfectly melds the joy of people- and pet-watching with a Victorian elegance that sets her story in an enchanting universe. Readers will get a kick out of Lambelet’s flowery names—both human and pet—that add to the ambience and seem as perfect as the friendships.

Lambelet’s unique mixed-media style of illustration, which highlights each owner and their dog—often with simple props surrounded by airy white space, but also in several two-page spreads that give kids a glimpse into the girl’s city—brings texture, interesting perspectives, and movement to the pages. Her lovely, muted color palette is as refreshing as the glow of autumn, and her fashionable city dwellers and their equally well-turned-out pooches could easily have just stepped out of a fashion magazine. Lambelet’s surprise ending will delight readers and gives the other side a sweet, heart-felt nod.

A jaunty trip through the joys of pet-and-people friendships, Dogs and their People will be a much-asked-for favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves and would be a fun spark for or take along on a people- and pet-watching walk.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146893

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

All American Pet Photo Day Activity

CPB - Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

 

Each of the puppies has a friend. Can you match them up based on one trait? There may be multiple right answers! Why do you think the dogs you chose go together in this printable puzzle?

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

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You can find Dogs and Their People at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 7 – It’s Pet Appreciation Week

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About the Holiday

Pets give us so much love and joy that we often want to do something special for our furry friends in return. The first full week of June gives us the opportunity to show our pets how much we appreciate them! Why not spend a little extra time walking or cuddling with your pet? Or maybe make them a favorite treat or get them a new toy. Another way to show how much our pets mean to us is to schedule a regular check-up to make sure they’re healthy and up-to-date on vaccinations. However you celebrate, you know your pet will appreciate it!

Lola Gets a Cat

Written by Anna McQuinn | illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

 

Lola loved cats, and while she had a room full of stuffed cats in all colors and sizes, she wanted a real kitten of her own. Her mother told her that “looking after a cat is a lot of work.” Lola wanted to learn more, so Mommy took her to the library to get a book about cats. Lola learned lots of interesting information about cats and how to take care of them.

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Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, 2017, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Lola decided to pretend that Dinah, one of her stuffed kitties, was real. She made a special bed for Dinah from a shoe box and blanket. She made a chart and checked off when she fed, bathed, and played with Dinah. Mommy saw what a good job Lola did with Dinah and agreed that Lola could have a cat. First, Lola and Mommy went to the computer to “find out how to adopt one.” Then they went to the animal shelter where Jeremy showed “them three perfect cats.”

Lola looked at the orange tabby, the black cat who was napping, and the playful gray ball of fluff. Even before Lola made her choice, the little gray one chose her! Jeremy gave Lola a list of all the things she’d need at home to make the little kitten feel comfortable and happy. The next day, Lola and Mommy went shopping at the pet store, and Lola and Daddy set up a special corner in the house with the cat’s toys and bed.

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Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, 2017, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Finally, everything was ready. Lola and Mommy went back to the shelter. The kitten was afraid to go into the carrier at first, but including her own blanket made her feel safe. At home, Lola watched her new kitten explore her corner and new things. Lola named her cat Makeda, “the name of an African queen.” Every day, Lola took “excellent care of Makeda.”

Lola’s friend Ty was excited to meet Makeda and even brought her a present. Makeda now feels at home—especially when she’s cuddling with Lola! At night Lola reads a story to Makeda before bedtime. She loves Makeda, and reading to her “is the best of all.”

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Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, 2017, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Anna McQuinn’s little Lola is loved by young readers for her curiosity, gentle nature, and can-do spirit. Lola’s sweet personality overflows in this story as she decides that she’d like a pet and then demonstrates to her mommy and daddy that she understands the responsibility. Through her charming storytelling, McQuinn invites little readers to be part of Lola and Makeda’s journey and share in their warm friendship. Lola’s supportive parents offer guidance but allow Lola to thoughtfully make her own decisions and show what she can accomplish.

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Throughout her colorful illustrations, Rosalind Beardshaw’s Lola shows intelligence, self-confidence, and pride as she practices tending for a cat, learns about cat behavior and care, listens to the animal shelter manager, and gets everything ready for her new cat. Detailed images realistically depict the items a cat requires, a bit of the procedure of adopting a shelter cat, how to give a new pet space to assimilate into their new environment, and a good example of a pet-care chart, giving those contemplating a new pet a good primer for children. The quiet joy that infuses each page, makes Lola and Makeda  perfect companions for little readers.

Whether new to the Lola series, adding to a collection, or looking for a character and story a little one will fall in love with, you’ll find that Lola Gets a Cat is perfectly at home on family and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 5

Charlesbridge, 2017 | ISBN 978-1580897365 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1580897365 (Paperback)

Discover more about Anna McQuinn and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rosalind Beardshaw, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Kids and Pets Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-match-the-kittens-puzzle

Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These kittens all have a twin, but they got mixed up while playing! Can you find the pairs again in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-gets-a-cat-cover

You can find Lola Gets a Cat at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

May 10 – National Hamster Day

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About the Holiday

Cute, furry, friendly, and small, the hamster may be one of the best pets around! These inquisitive little ones love to explore, and the way they wash their tiny noses is adorable. Easy to care for and a fun to play with, either maneuvering a maze, rolling around in a plastic ball, or running on a concave disk roll, a hamster makes a great addition to a family or classroom. This month we also celebrate National Pet Month. If you’re considering getting a pet, check out the hamsters at your local pet shop or animal shelter.

I received a copy of Tip and Tucker: Road Trip for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Tip and Tucker: Road Trip

Written by Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by André Ceolin

 

When Mr. Lopez walks into the pet store, Tucker scampers up his ramp and stands on tiptoe among the wood shavings to get a better look. As Mr. Lopez said hi to Rosa, the store owner, Tucker runs down again to find his friend. “‘Tip!’ says Tucker. ‘Come and see!’” Tip shyly comes out of his igloo and peers through the glass. “He sees a big nose. / Big brown eyes. / Big black glasses. / Blink. Blink.”

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Startled, Tip races back to the safely of the igloo. But Tucker and Tip have already charmed Mr. Lopez, and he tells Rosa he will take them home. He buys a cage and food and learns their names. Their new home will be noisy, he says, but fun. Tip worries. “Tip does not like noisy things.” At the pet shop there are “Noisy parrots. Bawk. Bawk. / Noisy puppies. Bark! Bark!” Tucker, on the other hand, “likes new things.”

“‘¡Vamos!’ Mr. Lopez says. ‘Let’s go!’” The cage bumps and jumps as he carries it to his car. Inside, Tucker and Tip sniff new smells—coffee and fries. They like the smells, but Tip is scared and hides in the igloo. “Just the tip of his tail shows.” The car zips and zags, and the cage jumps along. Finally, the car stops and Mr. Lopez carries the cage to a building. He goes inside and “click. Click. Click. / Mr. Lopez walks down a hall. / Creak. He opens a new door. / Clunk! The cage bumps.”

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tucker climbs to the top of the cage and looks all around. He sniffs the air. He sees blocks, jump ropes, balls, and books. Tucker likes his new home and calls for Tip to come out. Before he leaves, Mr. Lopez picks up Tip and Tucker and smiles. “‘Hasta mañana,’ says Mr. Lopez. ‘See you tomorrow. Your first day of school!’”

Mr. Lopez turns out the lights, but Tip and Tucker aren’t ready to go to sleep yet. Inside the igloo, Tip wonders what school is. Tucker doesn’t know, but he’s excited for them to find out—together.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2019, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Gallion, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion’s vivacious language and sweet furry friends draw kids into this early reader that gives them confidence in their abilities while introducing them to two hamsters with different personalities. Ingalls and Gallion’s engaging story of a teacher looking for a classroom pet allows them to present words, vowel sounds, and familiar (or soon-to-be familiar) sight words in clever ways that while repeated never seem repetitious. Short sentences are filled with verve and a mix of dialogue and description. Onomatopoeic words sprinkled throughout add action and are fun to read out loud. In two places, the teacher, Mr. Lopez, speaks in Spanish, which is immediately followed by the translation. The two hamsters—Tip, a more hesitant hamster who does not like noise, and Tucker, who likes new things—reflect personalities that will resonate with readers. As Tip and Tucker set out on their new adventure together, children will be happy to join them in their own discovery of reading.

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André Ceolin’s cute-as-a-button Tip and Tucker will have kids smiling and exclaiming “Awww!” as they meet the little pair at Rosa’s pet shop and read on to discover where Mr. Lopez is taking them. Ceolin’s colorful illustrations organically help young readers decipher the text. For instance, as Mr. Lopez is described, he is shown from Tip’s perspective as he gazes into the hamsters’ tank, his big eyes and big black glasses clearly portrayed. Kids will appreciate familiar sights, such as the paper coffee cup and bag of French fries in Mr. Lopez’s car and empathize with little Tip as he hides in his igloo with only the tip of his tail showing.

Just the kinds of friends kids would want on a journey—both a road trip and a reading adventure—Tip and Tucker: Road Trip is an excellent choice for getting children excited about reading on their own.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110069

Discover more about Ann Ingalls and her books on her website.

Learn more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by André Ceolin and learn about his books, visit his website.

Tip and Tucker: Road Trip Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Tip and Tucker: Road Trip, written by Ann Ingalls and Sue Gallion | illustrated by André Ceolin

This giveaway is open from May 10 through May 16 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Here’s how to enter:

  • Like the Giveaway Post
  • Follow Sleeping Bear Press 
  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Bonus: comment with your child’s classroom pet or your favorite animal for an extra entry (each tag gives you one more entry)

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Hamster Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-road-trip-activity-sheet

Tip and Tucker Activity Sheet

 

Tip and Tucker are eager to get to their new home! Can you help them find their way in this printable activity sheet?

Tip and Tucker Activity Sheet

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tip-and-tucker-road-trip-cover

You can find Tip and Tucker: Road Trip at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

April 11 – National Pet Day

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About the Holiday

Pets are often our best friends—they love us unconditionally, are always there for us, and make us laugh. Today we celebrate pets—whether they’re as small as a goldfish or as large as a horse. National Pet Day also raises awareness of the number of animals available for adoption and encourages people to donate to animal shelters or consider taking a dog, cat, bird, or other pet into their family. If you already have a pet, observe the day by giving them an extra pat, offering a special treat, or spending more time with them.

I received a copy of My Funny Bunny from Abrams Books for Young Readers for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Abrams in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

My Funny Bunny

By Christine Roussey

 

A boy has been dreaming of having a dwarf rabbit as a pet “since forever.” Finally, on his sixth birthday, his uncle hands him a box with holes in it, and the boy just knows it’s the pet of his dreams—a “mini dwarf rabbit as big as a kiwi…. A rabbit that I would love with all my heart.” But when he opens the box, it is not a tiny rabbit that he sees but “a big potato with patchy, yucky fur and whiskers that looked like wires.”

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Copyright Chrisine Roussey, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

The boy is beyond disappointed and runs to his room to yell and cry it out. He throws a temper tantrum and tells the rabbit he ruined his birthday and that he’ll never love him. But then something unexpected happens. While the boy is crying, the bunny jumps out of the box and comes to cuddle up next to him. His soft fur and tickly whiskers make the boy feel better.

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Copyright Chrisine Roussey, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

The boy gives him a carrot and they share some smiles. Then the two fix the castle that was broken during the tantrum, and the boy began to have a different perspective on his rabbit: “Funny Bunny might look a lot like a potato, but he made me laugh. I was starting to like him.” The child confides in his bunny that his anger sometimes comes on like a storm. The funny bunny says nothing but having him there makes the boy happy.

The boy even wants to be friends. He apologizes “for being so mean” and thanks “him for forgiving [him].” And that’s how the little boy and the “funny bunny…became friends for life” on his sixth birthday.  

A photo of Hector, Christine Roussey’s own “funny bunny” graces the inside back cover and will delight readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-funny-bunny-castle

Copyright Chrisine Roussey, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Christine Roussey’s honest look at disappointments and the resulting reactions some children display offers a fresh and humor-tinted way for adults and children to discuss these strong emotions. The funny-looking bunny presents not only an example of how something unexpected can turn out to be just what is needed but also the role pets—with their quiet acceptance and unconditional love—can play in soothing an upset child. Roussey’s child is self-aware, giving adults and children the words for describing the emotions that can sometimes be overwhelming and frightening.

Roussey’s stylish illustrations replicate a child’s drawings and begin with depictions of the dwarf bunny the child has been dreaming of. A turn of the page brings readers face to face with reality—one that will send into giggles. The boy’s tantrum takes the form of gray and colored squiggles that frame the page and usher from his mouth, blowing the bunny’s ears. As the tantrum plays itself out, the boy’s confession is portrayed with child-like stormy clouds, lightning, rain, and a wave that carries them away. Their bond of friendship is built as they play in the boy’s treehouse, give hugs, and spend time together.

An excellent book to share when discussing emotions and how to deal with them, My Funny Bunny would be a valuable addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419736186

To learn more about Christine Roussey, her books, and her art, visit her website.

My Funny Bunny Giveaway

I’m excited to be teaming with Abrams Books for Young Readers in a Twitter giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of My Funny Bunny by Christine Roussey

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

This giveaway is open from April 11 through April 17 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Prizing provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

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

National Pet Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bunny-puppet

Story Buddy Puppet

 

Hop to it! Children and adults can tell stories or talk about your hopes, dreams, and even fears with this Story Buddy Puppet!

Supplies

  • Printable Bunny Template
  • Paper sandwich bag
  • Colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Print out the Bunny Template
  2. Color the Bunny Template
  3. Cut out the bunny’s features
  4. Glue the bunny’s features to the sandwich bag

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-funny-bunny-cover

You can find My Funny Bunny at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 20 – National Love Your Pet Day

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About the Holiday

Whether you have a dog or cat, hamster or fish, parakeet, iguana, or horse, your pet is one of the most loved parts of your family. Sharing your life with a furry friend and their funny antics, eager personalities, and unconditional love simply makes things better. Today’s holiday encourages people to spend more time with their pet or pets by taking a longer walk, extending playtime, and giving special treats that show your them how much they mean to you. If you don’t have a pet, but have been considering getting one, maybe today’s the day!

A Pet for Petunia

By Paul Schmid

 

You might say that “Petunia likes skunks,” but that wouldn’t be quite right because “Petunia LOVES skunks!” She loves everything about them from their nose to their tail, and the best thing of all is that they have stripes. Petunia loves stripes. Petunia likes sharing her love of skunks with everyone. Of course, Petunia doesn’t just love skunks, she wants one of her very own. Sure, her plush skunk is great, but “Petunia wants, wants, wants! a REAL pet skunk.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-pet-for-petunia-loves-skunks

Copyright Paul Schmid, 2011, courtesy of HarperCollins.

She hops up and down and uses please and begs her parents for a pet skunk. Her parents try to explain, but Petunia has jumped in with her list of all the things she’ll do for her skunk. She’ll feed it everyday, and walk it, and play with it, and even empty the litter box. “‘Every week. Day! Hour! Whatever! Promise! Please, please, please may I have a pet skunk? Please!’”

Petunia is shocked when her parents say no. She can’t understand why not. “‘They stink,’ say her parents.” Petunia is incensed. She explodes in a tirade of how unfair it all is, she defends the aroma of skunks up and down, she compares her parents to Katie’s parents (who “would get her a skunk), and lets them know that she has to run away from home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-pet-for-petunia-loves-cute

Copyright Paul Schmid, 2011, courtesy of HarperCollins.

She flees out the front door and towards the woods where she half hopes a bear eats her, knowing that then her lunkhead parents would get her a skunk. And, lo and behold, there on the path is a real-life skunk complete with “cute little nose. Big black eyes. Stripes.” They stare at each other, and “Petunia gives a joyful gasp.” But the gasp comes with a horrible smell. “Smell” isn’t even strong enough. “It is a STINK!” With tears in her eyes, Petunia turns and races back home.

After a little while in bed to contemplate, Petunia decides that “Skunks…are…so…AWESOME!” But looking at her cute little toy skunk, she also “decides she already has a perfectly awesome pet.” Until…well, you’ll just have to see….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-pet-for-petunia-please

Copyright Paul Schmid, 2011, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Paul Schmid’s pitch-perfect story of a little girl who just has to have a skunk for a pet will delight kids and adults with its adorably earnest Petunia and her realistic dialog. Petunia’s long list of promises leads into the perfectly shocked expression when she discovers that her parents are saying “no” to a pet skunk. A page full of bold, italics, fancy, and shrinking typefaces that lay out Petunia’s argument follows, mirroring the barrage of words that flow from this disappointed little girl. To her credit, when she is presented with (confronted by?) her heart’s desire and treated to its particular talent, Petunia makes a smart choice—until…. Kids will no doubt appreciate Petunia’s sincerity while adults will understand it on a more experienced level. And both will laugh at Petunia’s exasperation and stinky predicament.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-pet-for-petunia-skunk-toy

Copyright Paul Schmid, 2011, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Schmid is well-known for his expressive illustrations, and Petunia is a shining example. Schmid’s simple line drawings combine just-right body poses, skipping, jumping, somersaulting, and eventually running with sweet smiles, wide grins, and surprise to create a lovable and loving child that readers of all ages will embrace. Her pet skunk is adorable too—and, like all favorite toys, possesses a true personality of its own. Tinted with purple and a hint of orange, the clean, black-and-white images put the spotlight on endearing Petunia.

For pet lovers, toy lovers, and book lovers, A Pet for Petunia is a charming and captivating story to add to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2011 | ISBN 978-0061963315

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

National Love Your Pet Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-sweet-match-puzzle

A Sweet Match! Puzzle

 

These sweet skunk twins got separated! Can you help them find their match again in this printable puzzle?

A Sweet Match Puzzle

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You can find A Pet for Petunia at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 4 – It’s National Bake for Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

Mid-winter is a perfect time to gather with family and friends and spend those cold, indoor day baking your favorite recipes! Baking together is a great way to teach valuable cooking skills and a little math. Talking with kids while baking cane fun too! Tell old family stories, favorite recipes, and funny or memorable culinary experiences at school, home, or while eating out. Of course, the best part of baking together is eating the delicious meals or treats afterward!

There Are No Bears in This Bakery

By Julia Sarcone-Roach

 

Muffin, the “whiskers” of the neighborhood assures readers that “there are no bears in Little Bear Bakery.” After all, he works the nightshift and knows everything that goes on. He knows the scratchy sounds of the mice, the clanging that means the raccoons are raiding the trash, and the flip flap of the bats. But he has to admit that last night there was a new sound: “grrrrrrrrrrr.” He went to investigate.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-baked-window-sill

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

“The air was cool and wet like a dog’s nose.” None of the regular creatures were in the alley, but “the bakery’s back window was open like a crooked smile.” And, again, Muffin heard, “grrrrrr.” He entered the bakery thinking that maybe the intruder was a mouse looking for sprinkles. Then he saw it. Was it a huge mouse? No. It was a tiny bear. The bear was surprised; Muffin was surprised; and Muffin’s tale? It “was the most surprised” of all. The “grrrrrrrr” was coming from the bear’s stomach.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-alley

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Muffin knew just what to do. He gave the cub a slice of cake, let her choose a doughnut from the bakery case, and toppled over a canister of cookies so she could nibble a few. The bear’s belly stopped grumbling, but then the bakery seemed quiet – too quiet. Muffin looked around and saw something in the darkness. It turned out to be a huge bear, and suddenly Muffin was in the dark as he was enveloped in a big hug. “It was warm, like a bath mat in the sunshine. It smelled like that bath mat needed a bath.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-bear-in-bakery

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The mama bear was a bit hungry too and scarfed down some sprinkles. As the sun came up, the bears crept out the window and down the alley toward the forest. With the nightshift over, Muffin headed home to wake up his sleeping human and tell his heroic tale. “It was a messy job,” he said, “but I handled it.” And as Muffin curled up on his pillow, he just happened to mention, “By the way, we’re out of donuts.” Among other things….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-baked-goods

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Julia Sarcone-Roach’s storytelling is as frisky as a kitten and full of hilarious and oh-so-apropos similes from a cat’s point of view. Sarcone-Roach imbues her little feline security guard with the supreme confidence and guilt-free consciousness that cat lovers will recognize. Kids and adults will enjoy the noir-tone of this wry narrator, and like the best parodies, the suspenseful buildups give way to laughs. Sweet moments abound during the off-hours snackfest, and as readers gaze into Muffin’s wide, “who-me?” eyes, they’ll know that after the clean-up there will still be cuddles for this adorable cat.

Sarcone-Roach’s nighttime illustrations are rich with humor and shadowy atmosphere as Muffin relates her suspenseful tale of how she rid the bakery of bears. Clever perspectives immerse readers in Muffin’s experience while also allowing them to laugh at the feline expressions that make these pets so beloved. The little bear cub is as cute as a mini-cupcake and as endearing as any child. Those readers with a cat “alarm clock” will appreciate the morning scene, and the final spread of the bakery will elicit an “Oh!” or two.

If you love any of these: cats, bears, bakeries, mysteries, or a story wonderfully told that kids will want to hear again and again, you’ll want to add There Are No Bears in This Bakery to your home, classroom, or public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0399556654

Discover more about Julia Sarcone-Roach, her books, and her art on her website

National Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcakes

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

This delicious vanilla cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction would definitely please Grandma—and they’ll become your favorite confection too!

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (60g) vanilla Greek yogurt (or plain; or regular yogurt; or even sour cream)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) vanilla almond milk (or cow’s milk; or soy milk; or plain almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1

Vanilla Bean Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4-5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in sugar – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Split 1 vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise. Scrape seeds from half of the vanilla bean into batter. Reserve other half.
  3. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
  4. Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners (or 24 mini) and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bake for 8-9 minutes if making mini cupcakes. Allow to cool.
  5. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (1/4 teaspoon). Frost cooled cupcakes (I used Wilton 1M piping tip). There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.
  6. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 7.

Additional Notes

  1. If you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, add an extra ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead.
  2. Strongly urged to use heavy cream. You may use milk or half-and-half, but heavy cream will give the frosting a thicker texture. I recommend it!

For ways to adapt this recipe and more scrumptious recipes, visit Sally’s Baking Addiction. I guarantee you’ll go back again and again!

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You can find There Are No Bears in This Bakery at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review