May 19 – It’s National Pet Month and Interview with Sarah Kurpiel

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About the Holiday

Pets give us unconditional love, provide companionship, and add entertainment and fun to our lives. This month is set aside to focus on our pets. To celebrate spend extra time with your furry friend, make sure they have everything they need to stay healthy, and give them a little extra treat now and then. This year, our pets may be feeling stressed from stay-at-home restrictions. To help, try to keep your pet’s routines as normal as possible. Dogs may benefit from extra walks––just like Maple in today’s story!

I received a copy of Lone Wolf from Greenwillow Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Lone Wolf

By Sarah Kurpiel

 

Maple, a Siberian husky, loved living with the Parkers. He loved playing tug-of-war with Jax, reading with Avery, extra treats from Mom, and especially long walks with everyone. “But on her walks, people would say… ‘Dude, that dog looks like a wolf.’” Some little kids clung to their mom’s leg when they saw her, some older people asked if maybe she wasn’t just a little bit wolf, and even babies shouted “‘WOLF! WOLF! WOLF!’”

The Parkers tried to explain the differences between Maple and a wolf, but eventually, “even Maple had her doubts.” After all, when she compared herself to other dogs, she saw that so many had floppy ears or lots of fluff or handsome spots. She wasn’t like them at all. Plus, she was good at digging, howling, and hunting just like a wolf.

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Copyright Sarah Kurpiel, 2020, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

She began to think that she belonged in the wild, and one day when the gate was left open, she bounded out into the woods. But here the ground was hard, not soft like the Parker’s garden; squirrels were faster and harder to catch than Avery’s shoes; and sticks were pretty boring without Jax. Being a wolf was not as much fun as it seemed. As nighttime came and the sky darkened, Maple decided to head home.

On the way, she saw a flashlight and behind it familiar faces. Someone was looking for her. It was the Parkers—her pack! Now when people call Maple a wolf, she doesn’t have doubts. She knows just who she is and exactly where she belongs.

Sarah Kurpiel’s multilayered story about a husky who is often mistaken for a wolf will delight dog and pet lovers as it gently introduces the ideas of identity, self-doubt, and self-discovery. Her charming storytelling provides an excellent opportunity for adults and kids to discuss these important topics of individual growth with the backdrop of a supportive family. Children, familiar with being peppered by questions about what they’re doing and who they want to be (as opposed to who they are) as well as by comparisons to others, will relate to Maple. Maple’s exploration of what she considers her wolf-like abilities is humorous and models a positive self-analysis that is honest and non-judgmental while also embracing one’s unique qualities.

Kurpiel’s lovely color palette and rounded shapes are fresh and welcoming while her use of directional lines allows readers to dash along with Maple from one enchanting detail to another. Her use of various perspectives puts kids in Maple’s point of view while providing depth to this enthusiastic pup’s experience. Maple is adorable, and his wondering nature is clearly visible in his expressive face. Kurpiel’s images of family love begin on the copyright page with sweet framed family pictures, many of which include Maple. Avery, who is shown using a power wheelchair, is a welcome portrayal of a child with a disability. The final snapshot of the Parker family and Maple snuggling together is heartwarming and reminds readers that individual attributes are what make each person so special.

Touching and uplifting, Lone Wolf will charm children and adults anew with every reading. The book would make a favorite addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0062943828

Discover more about Sarah Kurpiel and her art on her website.

You can download a Lone Wolf Activity Kit from HarperCollins here.

Meet Sarah Kurpiel

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Sarah Kurpiel is a librarian and artist inspired by nature and animals. She grew up in the Midwest with a Siberian husky named Mikayla. Consequently, most of her childhood was spent removing dog fur from her clothes. Lone Wolf is her first book. Sarah Kurpiel lives with her family (which includes her wonderfully goofy dog, Roxie) in Downers Grove, Illinois.

I was really excited to have a chance to talk with Sarah Kurpiel about her debut picture book, how it came to be, her illustration work, and more! Jack and Steve, who are also dog lovers, are back with lots of questions for Sarah too.

After reading––and loving––Lone Wolf, they wondered:

Do you have a dog?

Yes! My family has a dog named Roxie. We adopted her from a local animal shelter. We think she’s part Border Collie and part Retriever. She loves herding us around and rolling in the grass.

We have a miniature poodle. What breed of dog is your favorite?

Miniature Poodles are adorable! My favorite breed of dog is giant by comparison: the Borzoi. Borzois look a bit like extra-large, extra-furry greyhounds.

 Have you ever seen or heard a wolf?

I’ve never seen or heard a wolf in the wild, but I have seen Mexican Gray Wolves in a zoo. The Mexican Gray Wolf is one of the most endangered wolf subspecies in the world. Thankfully, there are recovery programs working to change that.

We’ve been taking our dog on lots of walks (just like the Parker family!) during this quarantine. What have you’ve been doing to keep busy?

I’ve been hanging out with my family and our pets, reading, catching up on Star Trek, and drawing lots and lots of cats for my next picture book.

Hi Sarah! Jack and Steve had so many terrific questions! Maple, the star of Lone Wolf, really connects with readers on so many levels. Through your story you introduce a wonderful way for kids and adults to talk about identity and belonging. This issue is really important, especially as children are developing their self-confidence and self-esteem. What was the spark for this story? What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

The main character in Lone Wolf, Maple, is inspired by my childhood dog, Mikayla, a Siberian husky who had loads of personality. As anyone with a husky would probably attest, huskies often get compared to wolves. My dog was no exception. When translating this idea into a picture book, I asked myself, “What would a dog think about people comparing her to a wolf again and again?” I found I could relate to her feelings of self-doubt, as I think many people can. Lone Wolf is a cute, funny story, but like you mentioned, identity and belonging are at its heart. I hope readers will take away self-confidence to stay true to themselves despite assumptions others might make about them.

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Lone Wolf is your debut picture book. Can you take readers on the book’s journey from idea to being published? Have you always wanted to illustrate and write children’s books?

When I was a kid, I loved to draw, but I don’t remember dreaming about becoming an illustrator. I don’t think I even knew it was a job! Throughout my life, drawing has always been a relaxing hobby. Years ago, I made a few comic strips about my family’s husky just for fun. Then, in 2018, while brainstorming picture book ideas, I reflected back on those comic strips. The one about wolf comparisons had potential for layers, but it wasn’t a story. So, over the course of a few weeks, I built out the idea, created a dummy, and sent it off to the agents who were considering representing me (and who later became my co-agents).

They sent me a few rounds of feedback, which pushed me to develop the story further. The point-of-view moved from first-person to third-person and the story arc evolved. I revised on and off for about three months. Then the story went out on submission, and I (very happily!) accepted Greenwillow’s publication offer. In the weeks that followed, I revised the dummy based on the editor’s helpful feedback before getting the go-ahead to start the final art. I learned a lot during this process that I expect will help me navigate future projects.

Just as you do, the little girl in this story uses a wheelchair. Can you discuss what it means to disabled children to see themselves in the books they read? Can you discuss the impact that having disabled characters in books for all ages has on society as a whole?

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I’m glad you noticed this connection! When I was 11, I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, and by 18, I had transitioned to a power wheelchair. The character Avery in Lone Wolf also uses a power wheelchair. She isn’t the main character. She’s just a girl who’s part of a family that has an awesome dog. Her presence is only notable because we don’t usually see kids in power wheelchairs in picture books. In fact, I can’t think of a single fiction picture book that includes a kid who uses a power wheelchair. I’m not saying there aren’t any out there, but if there are, I haven’t come across them yet. Kids who use manual wheelchairs are represented more often, but they’re still few and far between. And despite good intentions, some representations of disability are problematic. I think it’s important for kids with mobility disabilities to see themselves in happy stories where they are neither problems to solve nor sources of inspiration. For society as a whole, it helps normalize disability.

I love your illustration style that often mixes lovely rounded shapes with equally lovely lines, as a self-taught illustrator how did you develop your style?

I learned to draw when I was younger by sketching everything around me and from books I checked out from my public library. In 2016, I started drawing digitally. It opened up so many new possibilities. I started drawing every day, following illustrators on Instagram, thinking consciously about what made me like one illustrator’s work more than another, and taking part in a few fun, informal art challenges on Instagram. In 2017, one such challenge (a Harry Potter 20th Anniversary challenge, to be precise!) led me to draw a hippogriff. I tried some digital brushes I hadn’t used before and very desaturated colors. In that moment, I had never liked something I drew as much as that simple, imperfect hippogriff. It felt right. So I continued in that direction, drawing animals using digital dry media brushes, desaturated colors, flowy shapes, weathered edges, and sketchy, wobbly lines until, after a while, it was my style—and still is, at least for now!

As I looked at the portfolio of your art, I was moved by how uplifting the scenes are. In so many of them, the animals are looking into the sky or tenderly interacting with another animal or a person. Can you talk a little about the themes of your art and the colors you choose? What about nature inspires you the most?

It’s true! I love drawing animals looking up at the sky. It’s my go-to subject these days! Like many people, I’m drawn to the vastness of nature: the night sky, the ocean, mountains, wide open fields. A few years ago, I visited the Grand Canyon and was not prepared for how awe-inspiring it was. The vastness of nature stirs up all kinds of emotions and memories, and also a sense of interconnectedness. I like placing people and animals in those environments. For those drawings, I tend to use quiet, desaturated colors, which I’m naturally drawn to. But there’s this other side to me that’s enamored with cute, funny, whimsical characters. Lately, I’ve been trying to use vibrant colors when I draw them. So I feel like there’s these two separate sides to my work. I like both, so do both.

When you’re not drawing or writing, you can also be found working as a librarian. What are your favorite parts of your job? How exciting will it be to see your own book on the shelf and share it with patrons?

I’m an academic librarian focused in digital services, so what I enjoy most is simplifying processes and improving access (which might sound pretty dull!). My first library job was a cataloger, so I was weirdly excited to see Lone Wolf’s Library of Congress MARC record and my Cutter number at the end of the call number for the first time. It’ll be gratifying to see my book on library shelves one day when the pandemic subsides. I’ll probably pull out my phone and snap a picture!

What are you most looking forward to in sharing your book with readers? Although you’re just getting started, what has been the best part of becoming a published children’s author?

I’d love to show kids how to draw the main character, Maple, themselves. When I was in 2nd grade, my teacher demonstrated on the chalkboard a simple way to draw a face. I still remember exactly how she did it. After that, I became obsessed with drawing stylized faces and that never really went away for me. I’d love to spark a little creativity like my teacher did for me.

So far, the best part of becoming a published author/illustrator is feeling empowered to talk more openly about my interests. Few people outside of my immediate family knew I draw. It’s also been wonderful to make connections with people I never would have met otherwise.

What’s up next for you?

My next picture book will be about another popular pet: cats! I’m busily working on the final art right now.

Thanks, Sarah, for sharing so much about your life and work! I wish you all the best with Lone Wolf and can’t wait to see your next book.

You can connect with Sarah Kurpiel on

Her website | Instagram | Twitter

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You can find Lone Wolf at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Anderson’s Bookshop (Sarah’s local indie) | Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

May 13 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

Let’s give a shout-out to our best friends! Who are they? Our pets, of course! Small (or large) and fury (or feathered or scaled or finned), our pets give us unconditional love and loads of happiness. Just watching them navigate their day is entertaining and educational. National Pet Month was established to celebrate these in-home pals and remind pet owners to ensure that their pets have everything they need to live a long and healthy life. This month take extra time to have fun with your pet!

Where’d My Jo Go?

Written by Jill Esbaum | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

Jo and Big Al traveled everywhere together in her big rig. One day, though, as Jo was checking out the equipment at the truck stop, Big Al went exploring. While Jo got in the cab to “adjust a mirror, set the map. / Pull the belt across my lap. / Let another trucker pass. / Shift the gears, give ‘er gas,” Big Al had time at the park to “dodge a herd of stompy feet. / Sneak a lick of someone’s treat. / Chase a wrapper. Dig in dirt. / Give a tree a little squirt.”

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2020, text copyright Jill Esbaum, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

After all that fun, Big Al knew it was time to get back to Jo and the truck, but when he reached the truck stop, his truck was nowhere to be found. He pondered: should he try to find his Jo? But decided it would be better to wait. Besides, he knew she’d be back for the “little doggie pal… / who shares her lunch, who guards the truck, / whose head she rub-rub-rubs for luck.” Big Al was sure Jo would return. “But…when?” He sat patiently at the truck stop guard rail overlooking the highway and watched the trucks come and go—but none of them were his.

Meanwhile, Jo had reached her destination. She called to Big Al to wake him up. But then she looked…and looked again. Where was Big Al?! At that moment, Al was running away from a “too-loud kid” who wanted to kiss him and take him home with her. As the day grew long and the sun began to set, the parking lot emptied, and Big Al wondered where his Jo could be. “Oh, Jo. Please, Jo, remember me. / No trucks. No people. Spooky. Late. / Chase a june bug. / Shiver. Wait.”

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2020, text copyright Jill Esbaum, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Just then a car pulled in and a boy, Zach, got out. He spotted Big Al and grabbed a stick. He threw it for Al, who “Can. Not. Resist.” Zach thinks Al is lost and begs his dad to let him keep him. Big Al thinks “I should not, cannot, will not go. / But ohhh, I like Zack. Hurry, Jo.” It looks as if Big Al and Zack will become a team when, just in the nick of time, a truck appears. Could it be? “Onk-onk!Onk onnnnnnnnk!” Big Al says, “Yip-yip! Bye, Zack! I have to go! / I knew she’d come! It’s her! My Jo!”

An Author’s Note reveals the real-life event that sparked Jill’s imagination and led to her story. She also invites readers to try a prompt and write their own story.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2020, text copyright Jill Esbaum, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Children will fall in love with Big Al as soon as they meet him. Full of curiosity and with a personality befitting his name, Big Al is a busy pup as he gets into mischief at a park near the truck stop. But when he returns to find his Jo is gone, he patiently waits, certain that she’ll be back. Jill Esbaum’s jaunty rhymes are as playful as Big Al, and readers will be charmed to follow the story from his point of view. Kids with pets will recognize all the small, special moments that people and pets share and be as eager for Jo’s return as Big Al. Esbaum adds humor and suspense as two kids interact with Big Al, making the just-in-the-nick-of-time reunion all the sweeter and more satisfying.

With his expressive eyes and funny antics, Scott Brundage’s adorable Big Al will charm children and have them rooting for his reunion with Jo throughout the story. Snapshots of Big Al and Jo sharing fun on their trips show their special bond and will melt readers’ hearts, and they’ll commiserate with Jo when she realizes that Big Al is missing. Vehicle-loving kids will be fascinated by the realistic images of big rigs in the truck stop and traversing the crisscrossing highways. Brundage makes the story into a visual roller-coaster (in the best way), and the final spread of Jo and Big Al together again will have kids shouting, let’s do it again!

For pet lovers, vehicle lovers, and anyone who has a best friend, Where’d My Jo Go? Is must reading. It would make a heartwarming addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110441

Discover more about Jill Esbaum and her books on her website.

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

National Pet Month Activity

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Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

 

These puppies want to find a friend. Can you match the ones that go together in this printable puzzle? There may be more that one right answer!

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

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You can find Where’d My Jo Go? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

March 23 – National Cuddly Kittens Day

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*Tap Tap Tap* (Is this how my humans do it?) Meow! My name is Angus, and I am the picture book cat. I like sleeping, open windows, talking with my bird and squirrel friends, and above all books! For some reason, my whole family has been home all week! Which is purrfect for me because there are more people around to read me my favorite stories. According to my mom’s “catander” (that’s what that thing with all the squares is called, right?), today is National Cuddly Kittens Day! While she’s using that sticky roller on all of my favorite furniture, I’m going to share three of my favorite books about the most supurrlative animal in the world

About the Holiday

Today could be my very favorite holiday. Unless… is there a National Salmon Treats Day? No? Then today is my favorite holiday. We kittens (and cats – why should the kids get all the snuggles?) are cute and lovable, and just so, well…cuddly! How can you celebrate today with your kitten (or a cat!)? Be sure to give them plenty of scratches behind the ears and chin rubs and lots and lots of what I call “fluffins.” And when you sit down to relax don’t forget to leave some room between you and your laptop or book or knitting for your kitten (or cat!) to take a nap. Aaannd… don’t forget the salmon treats!

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Preview

“Are you in a tough spot? Has life got you down?” Perhaps you feel the need to be rescued by a superhero—you know the kind: strong, fast, and with an awesome costume. But maybe there’s an even better option for making your day brighter. What is it? It’s actually three things. Three soft, cuddly, BIG eyed “Emergency Kittens!” “Meet Mimi, Twee-Twee, and Adorbs! These three cuties make everything better!”

Angus’s Mewsings 

Of course they do! They are cats! This book is the cat’s pajamas! You can read my mom’s review here: Emergency Kittens

Ages 3 – 7

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1984830081

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Dave Mottram, his books, and his art, visit his website.

You can find Emergency Kittens! at these booksellers

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

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Preview

See Max crouching under the chair? He’s getting ready to do what he does best: attack! On the table sits a bowl of fish. “Max’s paws are made for pounces. / Max’s legs are built for trounces.” He springs…he leaps… “but hold on….” On the screen door crawls a lizard watched with curiosity by the dog. In a moment Max is there: “Max one. Dog none.”

Angus’s Mewsings

Hahahahaha! Chalk one up for cats! No dog can outwit a cat! This book is the cat’s meow! You can read my mom’s review here: Max…Attacks

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1481451468

Discover more about Kathi Appelt and her books on her website.

To learn more about Penelope Dullaghan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

You can find Max… Attacks at these booksellers

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

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Preview

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.

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.”

Angus’s Mewsings

This story is mew-sic to my ears! I came from a shelter too, and I love books as much as Makeda! This book is the cat’s whiskers! Read my mom’s review here: Lola Gets a Cat

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.

You can find Lola Gets a Cat at these booksellers

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

Cuddly Kittens Day Activities

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A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

Match the Kittens Puzzle

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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?

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my post! Now…to watch a few cute cat videos before my nap.

Picture Book Review

 

February 12 – Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was born February 12, 1809. He was elected president in 1861, shortly before the beginning of the Civil War, and went on to become one of the most beloved presidents in the nation’s history. In 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in rebel states and led to the abolition of slavery across the country. Lincoln’s birthday is celebrated in various ways throughout the United States. Organizations and institutions dedicated to teaching and preserving Lincoln’s legacy often hold large-scale events. A wreath-laying ceremony and reading of the Gettysburg Address is traditionally held at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Take some time today and on Presidents Day, which is observed on February 17 and commemorates the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, while remembering all those who have served as president.

I received a copy of Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln from Katherine Tegan Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with HarperCollins. 

Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln

Written by Shari Swanson | Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

 

Young Abe Lincoln was deep in the forest when he heard the whistle that told him the corn he’d brought to the mill was ready. He knew he’d be late, but it was worth it to have saved a frog from the jaws of a snake. When Abe got back to the mill, John Hodgen, the miller, wondered what it had been this time that had kept Abe so long. “‘I just can’t move along fast like some boys, Mr. John, because I see so many little foolish things that make me stop. I can’t help it to save my life,“‘ Abe answered.

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2020, text copyright Shari Swanson, 2020. Courtesy of Kathrerine Tegen Books.

On his way home, he heard rustling in the bushes. At the bottom of a cliff, Abe found a dog with a broken leg. Although he “was only seven years old, Abe had spent his whole life on a Kentucky farm and knew how to tend to animals.” He cut a small branch to make a splint and peeled bark from a pawpaw bush to use as a bandage. He tied it all together with rawhide from his belt. It was already dark when Abe and the dog reached home.

Even though his mother knew he was prone to lateness, she’d been worried, but Abe told her about the “‘honey of a dog’” he’d found and begged her to let him keep it. “‘He’ll do lots of good things for me,’ he told her. ‘You just watch and see.’” Abe’s mother relented and soon Honey was on the mend. Even though, once healed, Honey’s foot was curved, he was able to keep up with Abe on his adventures.

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2020, text copyright Shari Swanson, 2020. Courtesy of Kathrerine Tegen Books.

On another day, after Abe had dropped off his grain at the mill, he grew tired of waiting and wandered into the woods, where they found the mouth of a cave. “Deep, twisting caverns traveled for hundreds of miles under Kentucky. A boy and his dog could get lost in caverns like these.” Abe and Honey made their way down into the rocky darkness. Abe was too busy looking around at the stalactites, bats, and other creatures who lurked in the shadows to notice the gap between two boulders. In a moment he was stuck tight. “Honey normally never left Abe, but this time he headed alone back into the darkening woods” to get help.

Meanwhile, everyone in town had gathered to look for Abe. Abe’s mother was at least relieved to know that Honey was with her son to protect him. As the search party began to look, Abe’s mother heard a noise in the bushes. Then she saw Honey dashing toward her. He barked and whined, but when he saw Mr. John, Honey “jumped up…and barked in his face.” Mr. John called for everyone to follow Honey.

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2020, text copyright Shari Swanson, 2020. Courtesy of Kathrerine Tegen Books.

Honey led them through the forest to the cave’s entrance. Mr. John blew on his whistle, and Abe answered. Mr. John crept in and found Abe. There was no room for him to swing a sledge hammer to break the rock, so he pulled him out “even though it meant leaving some of the boy’s hide behind.” Once outside, Abe’s mother rushed to hug him and Honey. Abe had been right about Honey doing great things. And for many more years, Honey and Abe enjoyed adventures together.

Back matter includes a timeline recounting Abraham Lincoln’s major life events as well as his adventures with animals throughout his life.

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2020, text copyright Shari Swanson, 2020. Courtesy of Kathrerine Tegen Books.

In her enchanting story, Shari Swanson introduces young readers to the boy who would grow up to be the 16th president of the United States. Children meet this beloved man as a peer, discovering that his kindness, self-deprecation, sense of humor, and big heart were always part of his personality and guided him throughout his life, during good times and times of turmoil. Abraham Lincoln’s voice drives Swanson’s storytelling, which is charming and uplifting and gives a feel for the community that raised a president. Children may be awed by the responsibility Abe took on as a mere seven-year-old but will also recognize and appreciate his knowledge, competence, and confidence. Abe’s relationship with Honey is heartwarming, demonstrating that love and loyalty are repaid in many ways.

Chuck Groenink’s digital illustrations shine with sun-dappled Kentucky forest scenes and raise the stakes with foreboding and atmospheric images of the darkened cavern. His double-page spreads give readers close-up views of the action in the story as well as places they may not be familiar with, such as the mill and the Lincoln family’s log cabin. Images of Abe setting Honey’s broken paw, sneaking table scraps to Honey, and rescuing a variety of animals will delight kids. Torchlit scenes of the nighttime search party and dramatic rescue will have readers on the edge of their seats but knowing that Honey is watching out for Abe, they will be as certain of the triumphant ending.

A charming and compelling story for teaching young children about Abraham Lincoln and the lessons his life exhibits, Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln would be a first-rate addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2020 | ISBN 978-0062699008

Discover more about Shari Swanson and her books on her website. You’ll also find an educators’ curriculum guide and a child’s activity kit to download on her website. or here:

Educators’ Curriculum Guide | Activity Kit for Kids

To learn more about Chuck Groenink, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Activity

CPB - Abe Lincoln's Top Hat chalkboard (2)

Abe Lincoln’s Top Hat Chalkboard

 

Abraham Lincoln was known for the black top hat he wore – and for his inspiring words In this activity you can learn how to make a top hat chalkboard to use for your own drawings or inspiring words!

Supplies

  • Cereal Box (I used a large sized cereal box), cardboard or poster board
  • Chalkboard Paint (black)
  • Paint brush
  • Hot Glue Gun or extra-strength glue
  • Removable mounting squares
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. If you are using cardboard or poster board: cut a rectangle at least 8 inches wide by 12 inches long for the hat and 12 inches long by 2 inches wide for the brim (but your top hat can be any size you’d like!)
  2. If you are using a Cereal Box: open the seams of the Cereal Box
  3. Cut the panels of the cereal box apart
  4. Take one face panel and one side panel
  5. With the chalkboard paint, paint both panels
  6. Let the panels dry
  7. Attach the side panel to the bottom of the face panel to create the shape of Lincoln’s top hat
  8. Hang Abe Lincoln’s Top Hat Chalkboard 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-honey-the-dog-who-saved-lincoln-cover

You can find Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 18 – It’s Cat Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

If you share a home with a cat, then you know how these furry friends can change your life. Whether you love them for their playful antics, for their companionship, or even for their independent spirit, your life just wouldn’t be the same without their daily presence. Cat Lovers Month is the perfect time to celebrate your cat or kitten with some extra attention and care. If you’re considering adopting a cat, visit your local animal shelter to give a cat a forever home.

Kitten and the Night Watchman

Written by John Sullivan | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

On his way out the door, the night watchman “hugs his wife and children…and drives to work” as the sun is setting. As the sky darkens, he patrols the construction site once an hour. There’s a lot to do. He makes sure every door is locked, that the workshop is clear, and that no one is disturbing the vehicles or equipment.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

He rests for a moment with a hot cup of coffee under the twinkling stars and “thinks of his boy and girl, safe and asleep at home.” But the night watchman is not alone. A little gray kitten peeks out from behind a truck’s tire. The kitten approaches the night watchman and follows him as he continues his rounds through the yard, where “an excavator bows like a strange giraffe.”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The kitten knows the night watchman will share his dinner before they are off on their rounds again. They see insects hovering in the light of the lamppost and hear birds call to each other. But when the night watchman goes back to his office and waits for the kitten to follow him through the door, “the kitten isn’t there. She is nowhere to be seen.” The night watchman hears a dog bark, cars roar, and the rattle of the train passing and worries.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A moth flits around the desk lamp, and the night watchman gently carries it outside. When he opens the door, the little kitten is waiting for him. He picks her up and gives her a cuddle. Then it’s time again for their rounds. While the sun breaks on the horizon, the night watchman packs up his things to go home. As he drives through the wakening city, “this time he is not alone.” He talks to the kitten and tells her, “‘I know a boy and girl who will want to give you a name.’”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Through his beautiful and emotionally resonant story, debut author John Sullivan lets kids follow along as a night watchman quietly makes his rounds during those midnight hours that are so mysterious and intriguing to young children. Sullivan’s lyrical phrasing, attention to nighttime creatures, and whimsical transformations of trucks, cranes, and backhoes create poetry and art from the concrete world of a construction site. The endearing relationship between the night watchman and the kitten makes the moment of suspense a tug at the heart, and its quick and loving resolution will charm young readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitten-and-the-night-watchman-driving-to-work

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Taeeun Yoo’s soft, textured illustrations envelop readers in fiery sunrises and sunsets, the lovely purple’s and blues of early evening, and the shadowy indigo of midnight. The darkness is broken here and there by the night watchman’s flashlight that throws a grainy and fading beam across the construction site, the full moon and blinking stars, lamplight, and the cozy lit windows of the watchman’s office. Standing silently silhouetted against this backdrop are the buildings and machinery of the construction site.

When the little kitten peeks from behind a truck tire, her little presence is surprising and endearing. An unseen—but heard—dog, speeding car, and rumbling train interrupt the calm night and disquiets the night watchman. Again, the kitten makes a surprising and endearing entrance. The little gray ball of fluff is another bright spot in the night—a friend to keep loneliness at bay—and as the sun rises, the promise of a sunny morning for the watchman’s children will delight readers.

Kitten and the Night Watchman is a quiet, poignant story that would be an often-read choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon and Schuster, A Paula Wiseman Book, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481461917

Discover more about Taeeun Yoo, her books, and her art on her website.

Cat Lovers Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-bead-cat-craft

A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This happy little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitten-and-the-night-watchman-cover

You can find Kitten and the Night Watchman at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 11 – Get Ready for Hanukkah

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About the Holiday

Hanukkah is the eight-day Jewish “festival of lights” that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE. The lighting of the menorah is at the heart of the celebration. On the first night, the first of the eight candles is lit using the shamash, or attendant, candle. Each subsequent night another candle is lit until at the end of the eight days all the candles are lit. The menorah is displayed in the window of homes and synagogues. Special blessings, traditional songs, prayers, oil-based foods, fun games, and gifts are part of this much-anticipated holiday.

Hanukkah Hamster

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by André Ceolin

 

The city was decorated with twinkling lights for the holidays, and busy shoppers bustled in and out of stores, delivered there by Edgar and his cab. After one shift, Edgar was so tired he took a nap in the back seat. He was awakened when “Ohhhf! Something scrambled onto his chest. Ayyee! Something hairy brushed his face.” Edgar opened one eye to see… a hamster! He picked it up and gazed at its tiny eyes and ears and feet.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Edgar wondered which of his many customers may have lost the little hamster as he called in to the cab company’s lost and found department. Edgar took the little hamster home and shredded some paper to make him a bed. Then he went to his menorah, said the Hanukkah blessing, and lit two candles. All the next day as he drove people in his cab, Edgar wondered if someone had claimed the hamster, but no one did.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanukkah-hamster-sleeping

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

That night after lighting three candles, Edgar made a chopped salad dinner for himself and a tiny one for the hamster. As he watched the little animal nibble on a chickpea, Edgar asked, “‘Okay if I call you Chickpea?’” No one had claimed Chickpea the next day either, so Edgar went to the pet store and bought hamster food. At home, he lit four candles and gave Chickpea some food. As Chickpea ate, “Edgar took pictures on his phone and shared them with his family in Israel.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanukkah-hamster-cab

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On the fifth night of Hanukkah, Edgar made Chickpea “a slide out of a cardboard tube. Chickpea whooshed down. Wheeee! His nose twitched.” As the week of Hanukkah went on, Edgar was fearful that someone might call about their missing hamster. He spent the evenings telling Chickpea about Tel Aviv until the little one fell asleep.

The next day, Edgar took a customer to a neighborhood on the edge of town. There he saw a woman who looked familiar. With her was her son. “Edgar felt a punch in his heart.” But he rolled down the window and asked the boy if he’d lost a hamster. The woman answered that she had bought the hamster for her classroom and thought he had escaped at home. “Edgar showed them pictures on his phone” of Chickpea eating salad, sliding through the tube and drifting off to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanukkah-hamster-chickpea

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the woman saw Edgar’s menorah in one of the pictures, Edgar told them how he and Chickpea were celebrating Hanukkah together since the rest of his family lived in Israel. When Edgar began to tell them that he could return the hamster tomorrow morning, “the boy touched his mother’s arm, and the two of them exchanged glances.” The woman told Edgar that she thought Chickpea belonged with him. Then she wished him a wonderful holiday. That night, “Edgar said the blessing and lit all the candles on the menorah.” Then, while he enjoyed a doughnut, Chickpea ran and ran on his new wheel.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Immersed in the special yearning for family and togetherness the holidays bring, Michelle Markel’s touching story glows with kindness and empathy. The growing friendship between Edgar and Chickpea will tug at readers’ hearts just as it does for Edgar, who so hopes to keep the little hamster but also knows there may be someone in the city missing him. As the days pass, and Edgar, alone for Hanukkah, shares his traditions with the hamster, readers also become participants in the holiday. Children will be riveted to the increasing suspense, and the pitch-perfect solution is joyful and satisfying. Realistic dialogue and honestly portrayed emotions provides depth to this moving story.

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From the tiny white lights lining main street to the first glimpse of the little hamster to Edgar’s cozy apartment with his menorah in the window, André Ceolin’s richly colored illustrations invite readers into Edgar’s life with his new friend, Chickpea. Chickpea is adorable as it nibbles on salad, poses for pictures, and curls up in its shredded paper bed. Images of Edgar lighting the menorah are luminous, and the Edgar and Chickpea’s smiles will spark happiness in readers’ hearts.

The portrayals of friendship, generosity, empathy, and family make Hanukkah Hamster a poignant story for all children to share not only at the holidays but all year around. The book would make a wonderful gift and much loved addition to home and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363995

Discover more about Michelle Markel and her books on her website.

To learn more about André Ceolin, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Get Ready for Hanukkah Activity

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Festival of Lights Word Search

 

Find 20 words related to Hanukkah celebrations in this printable Festival of Lights Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

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You can find Hanukkah Hamster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

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