July 30 – Talk in an Elevator Day

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About the Holiday

There are many moments in life when the opportunity arises to make a connection with someone you don’t know – even if only fleetingly. Today’s holiday highlights one of these – a ride in an elevator. Instead of standing quietly until you reach your floor, the founders of Talk in an Elevator Day wanted to encourage people to strike up a conversation, maybe lighten the day with a joke, or just say hi! whether their traveling companions are a friend, neighbor, or stranger. The community in today’s book certainly celebrates the spirit of today’s holiday!

Going Up!

Written by Sherry J. Lee | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

Sophie and her dad, Leonard, have been invited to Olive’s birthday party on the tenth floor of their apartment building. She and her dad bake their favorite cookies to bring—”molasses with jam in the middle. It’s my grandma’s recipe,” Sophie says. Sophie and her dad live on the first floor, so just before 2:00, they head for the elevator, where Sophie pushes the button to go up.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The elevator stops at the second floor, and when the door opens, “the Santucci brothers, Andrew and Pippo”—two biker dudes—get on. “‘Hey, Little Bit!’” Pippo says to Sophie. On the third floor, a couple and their dog, Norman, get on, along with a “Happy Birthday” balloon. On the fourth floor, Mr. and Mrs. Habib and their grandkids, Yasmin and Jamal, are waiting with a “big bowl of gulab jamun” which they made especially for Sophie and her dad.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Things are getting pretty tight in the elevator by the time it reaches the fifth floor, so Leonard puts Sophie on his shoulders and Sophie holds the cookies on her head like a hat. The elevator door opens at the eighth floor to find Grace and Arnie standing there with a bass and a clarinet. Can they fit too? With a squeeze or two, they juuust make it. One more floor to go…. Will anyone else fit?

At last, the elevator reaches the tenth floor, and with a DING everyone runs, cartwheels, dances, and tumbles out—all to wish Olive a Happy Birthday. And who is Olive? Take the elevator up to see!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-going-up-first-floor

Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Sherry J. Lee’s warm and welcoming story of a group of diverse neighbors getting together to celebrate the birthday of one of their favorite tenants will delight kids. With the thrill of riding a real elevator, readers will eagerly await the door’s opening on every floor, where they’re introduced to a new family or individual. Told from Sophie’s point of view and rich in dialogue, the story shines with inclusiveness as the neighbors greet each other enthusiastically.

Humor and suspense builds as the elevator stops on each floor and more and more people bringing food, instruments, pets, and housewarming gifts squeeze into the tiny space. The elevator provides a natural setting for fun math and observational engagement, and kids will love flipping back through the pages to count, add, talk about spatial relationships, and notice hints about the favorite talents and activities of each neighbor.

With her colored pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, Charlene Chua creates a vibrant apartment building community that works in perfect synchronicity with Lee’s story. Images of the diverse neighbors—from Black Sophie and Leonard to two supposed tough guys (who sport cat tattoos and carry the tiniest of kittens) to a same-sex couple and a South Asian family to Oliver’s owner, who uses a wheelchair—reflect readers’ urban, suburban, and rural experiences.

On the journey from the first floor to the tenth, Chua includes a cornucopia of humorous, sweet, and “oh no!” clues that define personalities, add to the suspense, and hint at the identity of the birthday girl. The pull-out page as everyone tumbles out of the elevator is a showstopper that will have readers of all ages pointing, giggling, and appreciating all the residents of this special home. Opportunities to visualize and discuss math concepts occur with each push of the button or turn of the page. After taking this trip, kids will eagerly look for and welcome the diversity and individuality in their own neighborhoods.

Clever, sweet, and organically inclusive, Going Up! is a book kids will want to read again and again. As a charming story on its own and with so many applications for discussion and cross-curricular activities, the book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1525301131

Discover more about Sherry J. Lee and her books as well as a fun Going Up! Activity Kit on her website.

To learn more about Charlene Chua, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Talk in an Elevator Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bake-up-some-fun-word-search

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Any party is more fun with lots of treats! Can you find your favorite in this baking pan puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-going-up-cover

You can find Going Up! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | 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 sharing pictures of our singular pets with our friends, coworkers, and family is something all many of us pet owners do every day, whether it’s on social media or just scrolling through pics of our pet’s latest antics on our phone. Our pets are just so cute and funny and clever that it’s hard not to show everyone. 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!

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Tails from the Animal Shelter for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Tails from the Animal Shelter

Written by Stephanie Shaw | Illustrated by Liza Woodruff

 

Welcome to the Humane Society Animal Shelter! The animals are waiting to meet you, and the staff are happy to introduce you to the wonderful animals who are available for adoption. While most animals who arrive at shelters across the country are dogs or cats, there are lots of other pets looking for a new home. Why do some animals come to live in a shelter? The book reveals many reasons. Among them are that “some of the animals are strays; some are rescued from natural disasters” and “some have been given up for adoption because their owners can no longer care for them.”

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Image copyright Liza Woodruff, 2020, text copyright Stephanie Shaw, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Are you ready to find a new friend? If it’s a puppy you’re looking for, you’ll love Tinkle, who’s so excited to see you that he “cannot help but piddle.” But it’s okay. “Happy puppies always dribble….As time passes and pups grow, / This little guy won’t pee ‘hello.’” If you don’t know what type of dog is best for your family, the staff at the shelter can help match you to the perfect one.

Cats also make wonderful pets for many reasons. Whether you like long-haired or short-haired, large or small cats, you’ll find just the right fit for your family at the shelter. Not ready for a long-term commitment? You can look into fostering a newborn kitten to get them ready for adoption. What kinds of kittens will you find? All sorts, like Ariel, who says: “I’m an acrobat cat! / I can climb anywhere! / I’ll roll in a ball and then / leap to a chair!”

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Image copyright Liza Woodruff, 2020, text copyright Stephanie Shaw, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

These dogs and puppies, cats and kittens are only a few of the animals that turn up needing a new home. Take Pooter, for example. Pooter is black and white and, despite the recognizable stripe down its back, does not stink. Skunks that make their way to shelters “have never lived in the wild” and have had surgery so they cannot make their “smelly spray.”

Veterinary advances have improved the lives of injured animals or animals with health problems. Animals with special needs can now be fitted with “rear-support leashes or wheelchairs” and “can live happily for many years.” If you can adopt “an animal with special needs [you] will bring a grateful and loyal pet into your family.” A popular pet that has some surprising talents, a rabbit can also be a top choice for people who live in a smaller home. Trained to use a litter box, rabbits “can live indoors just like cats do.” 

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Image copyright Liza Woodruff, 2020, text copyright Stephanie Shaw, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

If you live on a farm or have a lot of land in an area that allows for farm animals, you may be interested in Hamlet, who tells readers, “I am a sweet potbellied pig. / I started small but I grew BIG….I know some tricks. I’m neat and clean. / I’m many things. I’m just not… / lean.” Around the nation there are many “pigs, goats, sheep, and chickens [that] need new homes. There are over two hundred thousand horses alone rescued or surrendered to shelter care every year.” 

Along with detailed descriptions of the birds, reptiles, and senior animals that also make loving pets, the book is packed with information about how and why certain animals come to shelters and programs that sponsor a variety of animals and help get them ready for adoption. Back matter reveals how animal shelters were established, gives extensive tips on and issues to consider when adopting a shelter animal, lists ways people can help shelter animals even if they can’t adopt, and provides online resources for learning more and finding shelters in your area.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-rabbits

Image copyright Liza Woodruff, 2020, text copyright Stephanie Shaw, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In her fascinating and accessible text, Stephanie Shaw combines poetry with facts and interesting tidbits about each type of animal to discuss why they make excellent pets for the right person or living condition. Her humorous, whimsical verses that accompany each category and introduce a particular animal will charm kids with a snapshot of the animal’s personality. Kids will also enjoy talking about how each name fits the animal.

Liza Woodruff’s cheery illustrations will enchant animal lovers with adorable images of funny, loving, and endearing animals happy to find a forever home. The joy that pets bring to a family is evident as kids hug, play with, and react to their pets.

An excellent introduction to shelter animals and pet ownership, Tails from the Animal Shelter is highly recommended for any family thinking about adopting a pet as well as for young animal lovers and kids interested in veterinary medicine or volunteering to help animals. The book would also make a favorite addition to school and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110489

Discover more about Stephanie Shaw and her books on her website.

To learn more about Liza Woodruff, her books, and her art, visit her website.

All American Pet Photo Day Activity

CPB - Pig Day pigs

Roly Poly Spool Potbellied Pig and Piglets

 

Get ready to have fun making this cute and easy craft! Ham it up with your own pig and piglets who can keep you company on your desk, near your bed or anywhere it’s fun to play!

Supplies

  • Printable Pigs Ears Template
  • 2 ½-inch wooden spoon, available from craft stores
  • 1-inch wooden spool, available from craft stores
  • Pink yarn, I used a wide-strand yarn
  • Pink fleece or felt
  • Pink craft paint
  • Pink 5/8-inch or 1-inch flat button with two holes
  • Pink 3/8-inch flat button with two holes
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Black marker

CPB - Pig Day with spools (2)

Directions

  1. Print Pigs Ears Template
  2. Trace the ears onto the fleece or felt and cut them out.
  3. Paint the spool with the pink paint
  4. Let spool dry
  5. When the spool is dry, glue the ears to the spool, letting the ears stick up over the rim of the spool.
  6. Wrap yarn in straight layers around spool until the body of the pig is a little bigger than the end of the spool, which will be the face
  7. Cut yarn off skein and glue the end to the body
  8. To make the nose, glue the button over the hole in the middle of the spool
  9. Mark the eyes and mouth with a marker
  10. To make the tail for the large pig, cut a 4-inch long piece of yarn. Tie a triple knot in the yarn (or a knot big enough to fill the hole in the spool). Then tie a single knot near the other end of the yarn. Insert the large knot into the spool’s hole at the back of the pig. Trim the yarn in front of the second knot as needed.
  11. To make the tail for the piglets, tie a single knot in the yarn and another single knot below the first. Insert one of the single knots into the hole. Trim yarn as needed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tails-from-the-animal-shelter-cover

You can find Tails from the Animal Shelter at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 21 – National Dog Party Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s fun holiday reminds dog moms and dads that people aren’t the only ones who like to party – dogs do too! Throwing a party for your pooch and their best buds with toys, games, treats, and all the trimmings is a perfect way to spend a summer day. For more information and tips on how to plan a successful party, visit dogtime.com.

WOOF! The Truth About Dogs

By Annette Whipple

 

If you love dogs, you can probably recognize different breeds just by their tail…or snout… or, maybe even by their bark. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that “dogs are the most popular pet in the world,” but why is that? Readers are about to find out with Annette Whipple’s WOOF!, which includes adorable photographs and answers to lots of questions you might have about dogs. Where does she begin? With puppies, of course! If you’ve ever seen a newborn puppy, you probably noticed three things right away: they are tiny, they have a unique, unforgettable sweet puppy smell, and they keep their eyes closed—for a long time. Why? Incredibly, “a puppy and its siblings grow for just two months in their mother’s womb. That’s fast—too fast to fully develop.” Whipple explains all the things newborn puppies can’t do and how their mom’s help them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woof!-the-truth-about-dogs-puppies

Copyright Annette Whipple, 2021, courtesy of Reycraft Books.

You know that when a dog wags his tail, it means it’s happy. But do dogs experience other feelings? Whipple says, Yes! With text and photographs, she describes a dog’s various emotions and shows readers how they exhibit and communicate them to their humans. Dogs help their humans learn about them, but how do dogs learn about their humans and other parts of their world? Dogs are master sniffers! “Dogs smell thousands—possible millions—of times better than humans.” How is this possible? Whipple shows what goes on inside a dog’s snout and tells readers why they—and unfamiliar dogs—always undergo a sniff test.

Having a dog as a pet is lots of fun, and they bring comfort and companionship too. But dogs can also help people in a myriad of ways from herding sheep and cows on a ranch to assisting police officers and soldiers to living with someone as a service dog to provide daily needs and keep them safe and healthy. Whipple reveals fascinating details about these special dogs and includes photographs of dogs at work. Think some dogs look like wolves? Whipple states that “scientists know dogs descend from wolves,” but goes on to relate all the ways—some of which are astounding—that dogs and wolves differ.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woof!-the-truth-about-dogs-feelings

Copyright Annette Whipple, 2021, courtesy of Reycraft Books.

Whipple reveals ways that kids can help their canine friends at home or by volunteering at or fundraising for a local animal shelter. She also shows readers how to meet a dog as well as important actions to not take when greeting a dog. Interested in knowing which dog is the largest, tallest, smallest, fastest, hairiest, and not so hairy? That’s all hear too. And any dog lover likes nothing more than playing with their pet. Whipple includes instructions for making a tug toy out of recycled material that will make kids happy and keep their dogs wagging their tail.

Sidebars illustrated by Juanbjuan Oliver reveal more intriguing facts about dogs throughout the book. Backmatter includes a glossary of words found in the text as well as Internet resources from further learning.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woof!-the-truth-about-dogs-communicate

Copyright Annette Whipple, 2021, courtesy of Reycraft Books.

Annette Whipple’s engaging and informative text educates readers—whether they are already dog owners, considering getting a pet, or just want to know how to interact with dogs they meet—on the health and behaviors of these beloved animals. Her straightforward delivery backed up by excellent photographs of a wide range of breeds will appeal to kids. Children who may love dogs but for some reason can’t have one at home, will want to check out Whipple’s discussion of various ways kids can volunteer to help dogs.

Visually striking and filled with information that’s sure to surprise, impress, and educate kids about dogs, WOOF! The Truth About Dogs would make an excellent choice for new or prospective dog owners at home and as an addition to school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 11

Reycraft Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1478873808

Discover more about Annette Whipple and her books on her website.

National Dog Party Day Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Biscuits

 

These homemade dog biscuits are fun to make and a special treat for your dog at home, a neighbor’s pet, or dogs waiting for forever homes at your local shelter. 

*Children should have adult supervision when using the oven.

Supplies

  • 1 large bowl
  • Large spoon or whisk
  • Cookie cutters – shaped like traditional dog bones or any favorite shape

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Add buckwheat flour to bowl
  3. Add powdered milk to bowl
  4. Add salt to bowl
  5. Stir to mix dry ingredients
  6. Add water
  7. Add melted margarine or butter
  8. Add egg
  9. Stir until liquid is absorbed
  10. Knead for a few minutes to form a dough
  11. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, one Tablespoon at a time
  12. Place the dough on a board
  13. Roll dough to ½ inch thickness
  14. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  15. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  16. Biscuits will be hard when cool.

Makes about 40 biscuits.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woof!-the-truth-about-dogs-cover

You can find WOOF! The Truth About Dogs at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 18 – Clean Your Aquarium Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is pretty straightforward as was instituted to remind those who keep aquariums to give them a good, thorough cleaning at least once a year. A clean tank is a healthy tank for your fish and aquarium plants. If you don’t have an aquarium but love their beauty and calming influence, today can be a spark to learn more about responsible aquarium ownership and maybe even head out to your local pet store for a tank or a bowl. 

Too Crowded

By Lena Podesta

 

Seeing a new pair of eyes looking in on him, Gil does what any well-mannered goldfish would do: gives the onlooker a tour of his home. He shows off the plant he fits neatly within. Next to the plant is his castle, and under his castle are his pebbles. “I clean them every day,” he explains. “All 138 of them. All by myself.” The viewer may notice that Gil looks a little less enthusiastic than he did just the page before. He quickly comes to the end of his tour with a “BONK!” into the glass. He sums up his house as “small, round, cramped [and] TOO CROWDED!”

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Copyright Lena Podesta, 2021. courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Gil – as any reader can see from the next page – is a go-getter, and having climbed out of his bowl, he’s going to get a new “house that is not too crowded.” He’s well equipped for the search with his suitcase, his shoes, and his injured nose covered with a band aid. First, Gil strolls up to Bird’s nest. He finds it roomy – plenty big enough for him and the three eggs already there. One by one, though, the eggs hatch and the nest is filled with song all day long. Gil considers this house “TOO LOUD!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-too-crowded-bonk

Copyright Lena Podesta, 2021. courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Next, Gil comes upon a quiet high rise. It’s got three stories. It’s fuzzy. Cat lives there. Gil thinks maybe Cat’s house is too quiet… and “TOO DANGEROUS!” Soon, Gil runs into Turtle, who’s house seems just…. But, wait! Turtle has an urgent question for Gil. “‘Hey, aren’t you a fish?'” he inquires. Gil answers in the affirmative, but doesn’t see what that’s got to do with anything. Until… Turtle gives him the bad news. Then, with a “GAG,” a “GASP!,” and a “GLUB” Gil flops to the ground.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-too-crowded-escape

Copyright Lena Podesta, 2021. courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Turtle calls for help and a little girl comes running. She scoops him up and runs toward home, where Gil’s bowl awaits. With a splash, Gil revives. He swims around his same old cramped house… but what’s this? Turtle is coming to stay! Now Gil is excited to show off his – I mean their – plant, castle, pebbles… perfect home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-too-crowded-nest

Copyright Lena Podesta, 2021. courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Witty, quirky, and completely charming, Lena Podesta introduces kids to a small-scale hero that will steal their hearts. Podesta’s short, snappy dialogue imbues Gil with an endearing personality that makes his impossible journey outside the bowl completely plausible until Turtle breaks the spell in a moment of hilarious horror that kids are going to want to relive again and again. Gil’s rescue offers pitch-perfect satisfaction as readers are treated to a two-page spread  Gil’s b inside the little girl’s house and the juxtaposition of Bird’s nest, Cat’s climber, and Turtle’s garden. As Gil is restored to his house, Podesta ingeniously adds more layers to her story with a small illustration of Turtle watching at the window and an invigorating change of pronoun from “my” to “our.” Suddenly, this tale of a rebellious goldfish is transformed into a story of friendship and the contentment that sharing brings. 

With a whole lot of humor and a tiny fin full of pathos to make the laughs all the sweeter, Podesta has created an intrepid cutie who’s unabashedly self-assured as he steps out into the world, his tail fins stuffed into sturdy shoes. She depicts Gil’s delayed “last gasp” with slapstick precision and captures the little girl’s mad dash back inside with perfectly cupped hands and steely resolve. Kids will also enjoy following the fate of the souvenirs Gil collects along the way. The playful antics of Gil and Turtle together in the bowl are a sweet ending to this unique story. 

Too Crowded would make a splash with any child and is highly recommended for summer reading and for all home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2021 | ISBN 978-1728222387

To learn more about Lena Podesta, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Clean Your Aquarium Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fish-bowl-empty

 

Fish Bowl Coloring Pages

 

Here’s one fish bowl to fill with your favorite fish – real or imaginary – and one to color!

Fish Bowl with Fish | Fish Bowl to Fill

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-too-crowded-cover

You can find Two Crowded at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 23 – World Turtle Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memoirs-of-a-tortoise-cover

About the Holiday

Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, who founded American Tortoise Rescue in 1990, established World Turtle Day to raise awareness and respect for turtles and tortoises and to promote conservation to help them survive. Celebrations take many forms, from fun activities where participants dress as turtles to educational programs that teach about this fascinating creature and how people can help turtles in danger. To learn more about World Turtle Day and American Tortoise Rescue – and to meet some of their adorable residents – visit worldturtleday.org.

Memoirs of a Tortoise

Written by Devin Scillian | Illustrated by Tim Bowers

 

It’s April and Oliver the tortoise is in his garden with his pet, Ike. Ike has brought him “a plate of lettuce and dandelions and a bright, crunchy apple.” Oliver loves Ike and he can tell that Ike loves him too by the way he runs his hand over his shell. “This, this is life and it’s beautiful,” Oliver thinks. In May, Ike throws a stick that Oliver will never fetch, and they laugh over this old, favorite joke. Oliver thinks, “Eighty times I’ve watched spring arrive in the garden, and it’s always perfect.” He spies a bit of red on the other side of the garden and ambles off to investigate.

It’s June by the time he reaches the hibiscus grove. Oliver enjoys taking things slow—just like Ike does. July and August pass with special moments of companionship and fun. As September comes, life begins slowing down. “The days are getting shorter” and Ike is “taking lots of naps in the garden.” Oliver enjoys having Ike nearby and decides that “the next time he throws the stick, I’m going to fetch it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memoirs-of-a-tortoise-april

Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2020, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

October arrives, but the regular routine of the garden has been broken. Oliver hasn’t seen Ike or been fed in several days. Oliver makes due with pumpkin from the garden, but he misses Ike. By November, Oliver is “afraid Ike is gone.” The idea makes him sad. After all, he thinks, Ike was still so young. He was 80 years old.” Oliver had thought they would grow old together and wonders where Ike is. In December, Oliver decides to go talk to someone who has more experience than he does—his mother, who is 137 years old.

It takes Oliver until February to cross the ten gardens between Ike’s house and where his mother lives. When Oliver’s mother sees her son, “she smiles wide and her eyes sparkle.” Oliver tells his mother that Ike is gone. She understands his sadness and tells him how much Ike loved him. But Oliver wonders why Ike couldn’t stay with him.

Oliver’s mother explains “we only get to have pets in our lives for a little while.” Then she offers words of comfort: “And when they’re gone, we count all those beautiful days we were lucky enough to have them with us. We’re so lucky.”

Oliver has enjoyed his visit with his mother, but in March he’s on his way back home. When he arrives in his own garden, the door of the house opens. Oliver turns instinctively expecting to see Ike, but it’s Ted, Ike’s son. He brings Oliver “a tray of lettuce and dandelions and a bright, crunchy apple.” He rubs Oliver’s shell just like Ike used to do and tells Oliver he’s glad he came home. Ted tosses a stick and the two laugh. “This, for me and Ted, this is life,” Oliver thinks. And he knows his mother was right when she said they were so lucky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memoirs-of-a-tortoise-july

Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2020, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Devin Scillian’s Memoirs of a Tortoise has it all—humor, poignancy, and a life lesson about the precious moments we share with loved ones. Using the longevity of tortoises, Scillian flips the script on the pet and human relationship with tender and emotional effect. When Ike passes away and Oliver is confused and sad, he confidently sets out to find answers and comfort from someone he can trust—his mother. The ten gardens between their homes may not seem far to us, but to Ike and his mom it’s the equivalent of towns, states, or even countries for us.

This seamless blending of the tortoises’ experience and that of readers’ is both the charm and genius of Scillian’s story. Oliver’s straightforward comments and questions about loss echo those of children and will resonate with them. As Oliver’s mother reminds him to enjoy every day and be thankful for the time he spends with his pets and as Ted enters his life, readers will understand that her advice to embrace all the parts of life applies to them as well.

Tim Bowers’ endearing Oliver is a sweet companion on this journey through a formative experience. As Oliver spends time and enjoys inside jokes with kindly Ike, readers will recognize not only the pet and owner bond but the relationship between children and grandparents. Bowers’ lush depictions of Ike’s garden where he and Oliver play or sit quietly side by side portray the beauty of life that Oliver’s mother so wisely recognizes. Ike’s slowing down and passing away are drawn with sensitivity and through images that allow adults and children to discuss facts and feelings about death, mourning, acceptance, and the cycles of life.

Uplifting and full of wisdom, Memoirs of a Tortoise, is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110199

Discover more about Devin Scillian, his books, journalism, music, and more on his website.

To learn more about Tim Bowers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

We Love Memoirs Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-shell-game

Follow the Turtles! Game

 

You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-game

Directions

  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe! 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memoirs-of-a-tortoise-cover

You can find Memoirs of a Tortoise at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 23 – International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-cover

About the Holiday

People have holidays celebrating their favorite treats—like Popcorn Day, Cherry Pie Day, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Day—so dogs should have a food holiday of their own, right? Well, today is it! Today we remember that our best furry friends like to be rewarded with a special treat or just shown a little extra love with a tasty morsel. Before anyone thought about what dogs ate, dog “treats” included some pretty awful stuff—moldy bread and rotten leftovers included—but an American manufacturer named James Spratt was struck by an idea when he saw stray, hungry dogs gobbling up ship’s biscuits on one of his travels in Liverpool, England in the 1800s. While in London, he created the first dog biscuit, which was soft and made of fresh ingredients like meat and vegetables. The first commercial dog biscuit was developed in 1908 by the F. H. Bennett Biscuit Co. It was hard and made with meat products, milk, and important minerals.

Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog

By Lisa Papp

 

Madeline gives her dog, Star, a hug at his first birthday party. While they have cake, Madeline’s mom asks if Star is ready for his test the next day. Madeline assures her he is because they have been practicing meeting people, like the postman, “sitting still when a bike goes by,” and even “meeting other dogs.” Madeline tells Star that he’s “going to make the best therapy dog ever.” The next day Madeline takes Star to the Walker Oaks Retirement Village, where he’ll meet three people. Mrs. Dimple greets them with her therapy dog, Bonnie, who helped Madeline when she was learning to read.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-practicing

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Inside, Mr. Finch tells Madeline that he’ll be grading Star on his visits. First, Mr. Finch watches Star walk around the room, stop, and begin walking again on command. Even when Star sees other therapy dogs, he doesn’t stop to play. “Next, Mr. Finch pets Star, especially touching his ears and tail. Star doesn’t mind.” Star also sits still when a wheelchair rolls by. Finally, Star is supposed to stay where he is when Madeline and her mom walk away, but instead he walks across the room to a woman in a wheelchair and lays his paw on her knee. Mr. Finch writes something down, but he is smiling.

For Star’s next test, he’s taken into a room with a group of people. While Madeline is nervous, Star “walks right up and smiles.” One woman calls Star sweet, a man kisses Star right on his nose because he reminds the man of a dog he had when he was young, and another woman tells Star about her garden and reads him a letter. “Everyone seems happy,” but there’s one man sitting alone near the window.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-first-test

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing

A nurse introduces him as Mr. Humphrey, and Madeline asks him if he’d like to pet Star. Mr. Humphrey says nothing. Mr. Finch writes something down. Then Madeline, her mom, and Star leave. Madeline’s mom says that Star did well on his second test, but Madeline wonders about Mr. Humphrey. “‘Some people need time,’ Mom says” and reminds Madeline of how patient Bonnie was with her. At home, Madeline thinks about things that Mr. Humphrey might like. That night, Madeline practiced reading with Star before bedtime.

The next time they visit Walker Oaks, they have to ride the elevator. At first Star doesn’t want to get in, but Bonnie nudges him and they walk in. When they get out, they see that someone has dropped a plate of cookies, but Star doesn’t react. Mr. Finch takes notes. When they see Mr. Humphrey, Madeline approaches him and introduces Star and asks if he’d like to pet him, but he stays silent. A little later Madeline asks if he’d like to look at her magic cards, but he still says nothing. Then Mrs. Dimple called her over and talked to her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-mr-finch

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing

 Afterward, Madeline thought that maybe Mr. Humphrey wasn’t ready to smile. She asked Mr. Finch if she and Star could see Mr. Humphrey again. This time, Madeline sat in a chair next to Mr. Humphrey with Star close by. In a little while, she took a book from her bag and whispers to Mr. Humphrey that she didn’t always like to read. Seeing Madeline with a book, Bonnie loped over and sat next to Star. Madeline began to softly read her book out loud.

Near the end of the story, Madeline saw Star move close to Mr. Humphrey and rest his chin on his knee. Mr. Humphrey put his hand on Star’s nose. Finally, Mr. Humphrey looked at Madeline. “‘My wife loved books,’” he said. “‘How about another story?’” While Madeline was choosing another book, Mr. Finch came over and handed her “a tag for Star. I AM A THERAPY DOG, it says.” Madeline “fastened his new tag onto his collar, right above his heart.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-mr-humphrey

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing

Lisa Papp’s immersive storytelling will delight children as they follow Madeline through her practice sessions with Star and see her grow in confidence as she visits the retirement home and devises her own solution to engaging Mr. Humphrey. Kids will empathize with Madeline’s kindness as well as her nervousness over Star’s performance and will cheer each time he does well. Young readers will be fascinated to learn about all of the practice and testing a dog undergoes to become a recognized therapy dog.

Papp’s beautiful pencil, watercolor, and digital illustrations, rendered in soft hues invite kids to Star’s first birthday party and into the Walker Oaks Retirement Village, where the surroundings, the residents, and the staff are depicted in sensitive and realistic scenes. Madeline’s thoughtfulness and consideration for Star and the residents—and especially her concern for Mr. Humphrey—are clearly visible and mirror the natural empathy of children. 

Infused with love, empathy, and heart, Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog will charm readers as a stand-alone story or to spark additional research into therapy dogs and other animals. The book will quickly become a favorite read aloud and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Peachtree Publishing, 2020 | ISBN 978-1682631492

Discover more about Lisa Papp, her books, and her art on her website.

You can find an extensive Activity Kit to download on the Peachtree Publishing website.

International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Biscuits

 

These homemade dog biscuits are fun to make and a special treat for your dog at home, a neighbor’s pet, or dogs waiting for forever homes at your local shelter. 

*Children should have adult supervision when using the oven.

Supplies

  • 1 large bowl
  • Large spoon or whisk
  • Cookie cutters – shaped like traditional dog bones or any favorite shape

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Add buckwheat flour to bowl
  3. Add powdered milk to bowl
  4. Add salt to bowl
  5. Stir to mix dry ingredients
  6. Add water
  7. Add melted margarine or butter
  8. Add egg
  9. Stir until liquid is absorbed
  10. Knead for a few minutes to form a dough
  11. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, one Tablespoon at a time
  12. Place the dough on a board
  13. Roll dough to ½ inch thickness
  14. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  15. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  16. Biscuits will be hard when cool.

Makes about 40 biscuits.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-cover

You can find Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 17 – It’s Cat Lover’s 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 for their independent spirit, your life just wouldn’t be the same without them. Cat Lovers Month is the perfect time to lavish your cat. or kitten with some extra love and attention. If you’re considering adopting a cat, now may be the time to contact your local animal shelter or rescue group to see if you can give a cat a forever home.

Thanks go to Atheneum Books for Young Readers for sending me a copy of Max… Attacks for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. 

Max… Attacks

Written by Kathi Appelt | Illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan

 

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-max-attacks-fish-bowl

Image Penelope Dullaghan, 2019, text copyright Kathi Appelt, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books.

Back to the fishbowl Max creeps. He gets up close and licks his lips, but then he smells “his favorite catnip bird.” He takes time out to play, but the paw-flung toy gets lost. Perhaps it’s in “the basket filled with dirty socks?” Yes! “Oh happy day, this basket rocks.” With the socks all snagged and bitten through, Max dreams again of “fishy stew.”

But, wait! What’s that swaying underneath the table? It’s none other than a shoelace begging to be attacked. A few swats and swings later, “our sneaky boy is on the creep. / He peers into the ocean deep. / Back and forth those fishes go… / swishy swashy, to and fro.” Max climbs up on the table and “perches on that bowl of water. / Lower… lower… teeter-…totter.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-max-attacks-running

Image Penelope Dullaghan, 2019, text copyright Kathi Appelt, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books.

Splash! The fish don’t mind the waves he makes, and Max? He needed a bath anyway. Besides, he sees his dinner bowl he can attack. Satisfied and tired Max curls up on his rug. “He’s done, kaput, stopped in his tracks. / A mighty nap attacks our Max.” And those fishies are so proud to show: “Max none. Fish, six plus one.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-max-attacks-fishy-stew

Image Penelope Dullaghan, 2019, text copyright Kathi Appelt, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books.

Kathi Appelt’s infectious rhythm is as bouncy and jaunty as a fun-loving, curious cat and perfectly captures the mercurial nature of felines. Appelt’s verses are rich in sprightly vocabulary that moves the story along at the pace of a playful kitten while introducing charming, unexpected rhymes. Cat lovers will appreciate the humorous nod toward some of a cat’s favorite things, including shoe laces, any creepy-crawly, smelly socks, and a catnip toy. Lots of action, onomatopoeia, and internal thoughts put kids in Max’s point of view: a most wonderful place to be. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-max-attacks-under-bed

Image Penelope Dullaghan, 2019, text copyright Kathi Appelt, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books.

Penelope Dullaghan’s mixed media illustrations snap with personality and motion as Max leaps from one fascination to another. Her fresh, vivid images are set on plenty of white space, giving Max full range for his playful antics, and her dynamic and colorful typography contribute to the frolicking fun. With the dog shrouded in curtains and the potted plant tipped on its side, Dulligan’s Max hightails it off the page and away from his mess with a sly backward glance and just the hint of a smile. A laundry basket full of socks is no match for Max’s gamboling and sharp teeth and claws, and that dangling shoelace (shown from Max’s eye view) is just too tempting to resist. Kids will revel in the suspense when Max teeters on the fishbowl, and thrill to his ninja-style attack on his food bowl. Max’s innocent nap time face will elicit lots of “awwws,” and that one eye open on the last page is sure to entice a repeat reading.

A joy to read aloud and sure to be a much-asked-for favorite, Max… Attacks is a book you’ll want to pick up for yourself and as a gift. The book would be a purr-fect addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

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.

Cat World Domination Day Activity

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-max-attacks-cover

You can find Max… Attacks at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review