February 11 – National Make a Friend Day

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About the Holiday

Friends make our lives better! They’re there to share in life’s adventures with a laugh, a shoulder to cry on, and an understanding ear. Friends feature in our best memories and are always up to making new ones. Today, look around and see who you might add to your list of friends then introduce yourself, invite them for a coffee or a chat, and start a friendship that may last a lifetime!

Making a Friend

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Alison Friend

 

“Beaver was good at making lots of things.” He could build, he could knit, and he knew a bit about engineering. But he was not so good at making friends. He tried hard to do nice things, but something always seemed to go wrong. Then, one day, the snowflakes falling from the sky gave Beaver an idea. “Hmm! Maybe this is what I need to make a friend,” he thought.

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He began rolling a huge snowball. While he was working, Raccoon came by to watch. When Beaver told him that he was making a friend, Raccoon said that it “takes two to make a friend.” Beaver was a bit disappointed until Raccoon did some math and showed him that Raccoon plus Beaver made two.

Working together Beaver and Raccoon made a cute snow friend. They added eyes, a nose, a smile, and two stick arms. But something was still missing. Raccoon said that thing was “pizzazz.” So they added a hat, a boa, some socks, and even a swim mask until their friend looked just right. But their friend just stared back at them. “This friend was not much of a friend at all. In fact, he seemed rather cold.”

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Then Beaver and Racoon looked at each other. They talked about what fun they’d had building the snow friend together. And they realized that they had become friends. Now they make lots of things to share, but they agree—“the best thing they made was a friend.”

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins

Tammi Sauer unlocks the secret to friendship in her clever story in which making a friend leads to making a true friend. While Beaver tries to extend the hand of friendship and do nice things for others in the forest, his efforts miss the mark. But when he meets Raccoon, their personalities, talents, and ideas of fun click and they build a real friendship. Young readers will understand Beaver’s feelings of disappointment and confusion when his overtures of friendship are not reciprocated and see that collaborating with someone—either in play or toward a common goal—often brings friends together naturally.

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Little readers will fall in love with Alison Friend’s adorable Beaver who’s so good at creating a playhouse complete with water slide but has trouble making friends. Cheerful and enthusiastic, Beaver is a sweetheart as he begins rolling the snow into a ball. When Raccoon comes by, Beaver quickly shares the fun. Kids will enjoy seeing and learn from the images of companionship and give-and-take as Beaver learns a little math and a new word from Raccoon and Raccoon discovers that he likes the raisons Beaver offers him on their way to creating their snowman.  Full of color, smiles, and endearing moments, Friend’s pages are sure to delight kids.

Making a Friend is a charming read aloud, a celebration of creativity, and a gentle lesson on friendship all rolled into one. To share with children learning to navigate new friendships and those who love doing everything with their best buddy, the book makes a sweet addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062278937

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

Make a Friend Day Activity

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Snow Buddies

 

This is a great craft for kids to share with a friend. Grab a pair of socks and have fun making these snow buddies! 

Supplies

  • White dress ankle socks
  • Polyester Fiber Fill
  • Tiny buttons
  • Fleece or ribbon, enough for a little scarf
  • Toothpicks
  • Twigs
  • Orange craft paint
  • Cardboard
  • White rubber bands, one or two depending on the size of the snowman
  • Fabric or craft glue
  • Small hair band (optional)

Directions

To Make the Snowman

  1. Cut a circle from the cardboard about 2 inches in diameter for the base
  2. Place the cardboard circle in the bottom of the sock
  3. Fill the sock with fiber fill about ¾ full or to where the ribbed ankle cuff begins. Pack tightly while making a sausage shape. You can make your snowman different shapes with the amount of fill you use.
  4. Stretch out the cuff of the sock and tie it off near the top of the fill either with a loop knot or with the hairband.
  5. Fold the cuff down around the top of the filled sock to make the hat.
  6. Wrap a rubber band around the middle of the sock to make a two-snowball snowman. For a three-snowball snowman, use two rubber bands. Adjust the rubber bands to make the “snowballs” different sizes.

To Make the Scarf

  1. Cut a strip of fleece or ribbon 8 to 10 inches long by ½ inch wide
  2. Tie the fleece or ribbon around the neck of the snowman
  3. To Make the Nose
  4. Dip one end of the toothpick into orange paint, let dry
  5. Cut the toothpick in half
  6. Stick the toothpick into the head or top portion of the snowman

To Make the Arms

  1. Insert small twigs into each side of the body of the snowman
  2. You can also use wire or cardboard to make the arms
  3. Attach two mini-buttons to the face for eyes with the fabric or craft glue
  4. Display your Snow Buddy

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You can find Making a Friend at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 20 – Penguin Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is simple, and one, I think we’d all consider pretty aww-some. Penguin Awareness Day was established so that we can learn about and appreciate these flightless birds that always look as if they’re ready for a party. To celebrate, why not visit a local aquarium or zoo, watch a favorite penguin-centric movie or show, or read a penguin-inspired book—like the one I’m reviewing today!

One Cool Friend

Written by Toni Buzzeo | Illustrated by David Small

 

Elliot preferred a tuxedo over his dad’s green-checked suit and quiet over chaos, but when his dad suggested they go to the aquarium for Family Fun Day, he politely accepted the invitation. Once there, though, Elliot’s dad settled in on a bench with his National Geographic magazine and let Elliot explore. He bypassed the shark tank, jellyfish exhibit, and hands-on tide pool, and found himself in the Penguin room. “In their tidy black feathered tuxedos with their proper posture, they reminded Elliot of himself.” Elliot even liked the audio display about the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who discovered the Magellanic Penguin in 1519.

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Image copyright David Small, 2012, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2012. Courtesy of Dial Books.

At lunchtime, Elliot found his dad and asked if he could have a penguin. “‘Sure,’” his father said, looking at a display of plush penguin toys. He gave his son twenty dollars. Elliot headed back to the penguin exhibit, waded over to the island, and chose the smallest penguin he could find. He snugged it into his backpack, collected his father, and went home. When his dad asked about his penguin, Elliot just told him it was in his backpack, and that was that.

“In his room, Elliot dialed the air conditioner down to its coldest setting. To create a skating pond for Magellan, he brought his wading pool upstairs and filled it with water. Soon Elliot and Magellan were skating round and round. Later, Elliot went to his father’s office and told him he had to go to the library to do research on Magellan. His dad told him, “‘When I was in third grade, I got Captain Cook.’”

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Image copyright David Small, 2012, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2012. Courtesy of Dial Books.

Elliot rode his bike to the library with Magellan in the basket. The librarian helped them find information on penguins, and then on the way home they stopped at the store for ice and a snack. When they got home, Elliot’s dad asked how the research went. “‘Great! Magellan was perfect,’ Elliot said. ‘Just like Captain Cook,’ his father said.”

For dinner, they had anchovy pizza. Later, when Elliot’s father wanted ice cream, he almost caught Magellan napping in the freezer, but the little penguin had “politely moved the carton to the front of the freezer shelf.” In the morning, Magellan wanted to swim, so Elliot filled the bathtub and let him dive and paddle. Elliot had just left him alone, when his father announced he was going to “have a bit of a soak.” He was just pushing the door open when Elliot tried to stop him. “‘Wait! I left my penguin in there,’” he said. His dad promised to put him out of harm’s way and try not to splash.

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Image copyright David Small, 2012, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2012. Courtesy of Dial Books.

Elliot ran to the bathroom, though, when he heard his father shout. Elliot found his dad neck deep in water with Magellan perched on his knee. “‘Young mad, where did this penguin come from?’” he wanted to know. “‘The southern tip of Argentina,’” Elliot answered. His father agreed and pointed to the big, green tortoise, waiting next to the tub. “‘As for Captain Cook,’ he added, ‘he came from the Galápagos Islands.’”

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Image copyright David Small, 2012, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2012. Courtesy of Dial Books.

Toni Buzzeo’s instant classic father/son bonding story makes full humorous use of sly misunderstandings—but are they between father and son or with the reader? Clever word play keeps readers on ice, waiting to find out when Elliot’s father will discover Magellan and what will happen then. But alert readers may pick up on clues sprinkled throughout the story in both the dialogue and illustrations that lead to the perfect and satisfying ending. Elliot and his father may seem as if they’re on different wavelengths, but they are actually a well-matched pair of research-loving adventurers, and it seems that Dad is happy to pass down his experience to his son.

From the very first page, David Small’s black and white illustrations with touches of green, blue, and red establish both the setting and clues to the mystery, immediately making readers happily willing accomplices to Elliot’s efforts to satisfy and hide Magellan. Readers may begin to wonder if Elliot’s dad has a secret of his own, though, as he wears a turtleneck under his green, checkerboard patterned suit, lounges with his feet up on a rounded green footstool, and has office that boasts a turtle clock, tortoise anatomy posters, and a snack of chocolate turtle candies on a side table. Kids will love finding other turtle-inspired details, and they are sure to be charmed by the family camaraderie of Elliot, Magellan, Dad, and Captain Cook.

Sure to be a hit and a favorite for repeat readings, One Cool Friend is a terrific choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Dial Books, 2012 | ISBN 978-0803734135

Discover more about Toni Buzzeo and her books on her website.

To learn more about David Small, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Penguin Awareness Day Activity

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Spice Bottle Penguins

 

Don’t throw away those empty spice bottles—instead make these cute penguins with their colorful hats who are just waiting to play!

Supplies

  • Empty glass or plastic spice bottle with cap
  • Black paint
  • White paint OR White fleece or felt
  • Black paper
  • Yellow foam or heavy paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Styrofoam ball (optional)
  • Glue
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Paint the inside of the glass or plastic bottle with the black paint, let dry
  2. From the white fleece, cut an oval for the penguin’s belly and glue it on. Alternatively, paint a white oval on the jar to make a belly. Fleece may be a better option for younger children, as the paint can scratch off glass and plastic surfaces.
  3. Glue googly eyes near the top of the jar, but below the cap
  4. Cut a triangle of yellow foam or paper for the beak and glue it on
  5. Cut two tear shapes for the wings from the black paper. Glue the top of the shape to the body of the penguin, overlapping the belly a little. Fold the tips up
  6. Give your penguins Styrofoam ball snowballs to play with!

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You can find One Cool Friend at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 14 – It’s Book Blitz Month

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About the Holiday

Is your motto “So many books, so little time?” Is every shelf, nook, and cupboard in your house filled with books? Is your library card the first one on your ring? If so, you’ll love Book Blitz Month! During this month book lovers are given the green light to read, read, read as many books as possible! For kids, Book Blitz Month can be particularly exciting. Sit down with your child or students and make a stack of books they’d like to read. Find time every day to read one, two, or a few of the books in the pile. Seeing the stack shrink gives kids a sense of accomplishment, and they’ll love building it up again! Mix reading with fun activities to encourage a new generation of avid readers!

I received a copy of Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine to check out. All opinions are my own.

Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine

Written by Jonathan London | Illustrated by Andrew Joyner

 

Duck was meandering down the lane when she heard birds happily twittering over their Valentine’s Day cards. Suddenly, Duck realized that she didn’t have a valentine, but in the next moment she came up with an idea. Later that day, while Hippo was dusting his house there was a knock at the door. He rushed over hoping that it was Duck, but when he opened the door he found only a card that said, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Come to the park today at 4 pm. And bring something for your Valentine!” The card wasn’t signed, and all Hippo saw was a “white feather floating down, landing softly on the ground.”

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Down at the pond, Turtle was napping when he heard a splash. He woke up to find a card floating on a nearby lily pad. The heart on the front “reminded him, just a little bit, of a pizza with a slice out of it!” The card had the same message as Hippo’s and it wasn’t signed either. Turtle was disappointed to find his valentine, Pig, wasn’t there.

Pig was at her pizza shop. As she was tossing dough in the air, the bell above her door jangled. Pig was startled and the dough fell on her head. When she got cleaned off, she saw a card with a heart on it under her door. The card told her to come to the park at four o’clock and bring something for her valentine. “Pig blushed and raced outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of her valentine. ‘Turtle! Are you there?’” she called.

At his market, Elephant was excited to discover a card in his mailbox. He twirled around so quickly, trying to catch a glimpse of Duck or Pig that he fell down and crumpled his trunk. “He sat up and rubbed it. Then he held the card against his heart and beamed.” Back at Hippo’s house, it was only one o’clock, but he was dressed in his finest suit and brushed his teeth. At two o’clock, Turtle grabbed his basket full of doughnuts and headed for the park.

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

At three o’clock, Pig was in the bathtub. She quickly scrubbed away the pizza dough, dried off, and put on her favorite dress. She hurried out, holding a pizza box aloft. Elephant left his house at three thirty with a bouquet of flowers held in his trunk, and with fifteen minutes to spare, Hippo hurried down the path “with a box of chocolate and flowers, hoping that Duck would be there.”

Exactly at four o’clock the four friends arrived at the part, “but…where, OH WHERE, was Duck?” Just then, Duck popped out of a bush and announced, “‘TA-DA! I’m the secret valentine!’” She presented Hippo with a rose, and said, “‘The best valentines are friends!’” Everyone danced and cheered, and then they sat down for a picnic and passed around their cards and goodies and enjoyed spending Valentine’s Day together.

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Jonathan London’s beloved Duck and Hippo and their friends are back in a sweet Valentine’s Day story that combines humor and mystery with a heartwarming message about friendship. Duck’s ingenious idea for each friend to bring something for their valentine will get kids thinking about the nice things they can do for their friends and others to show how much they appreciate them. Little readers will giggle at the mishaps that befall each character and empathize with the bit of nervousness each one experiences when presented with their card. The happy enthusiasm of this group of friends is as infectious as ever and may inspire your own Valentine’s Day picnic.

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Fans of Duck, Hippo, Turtle, Pig, and Elephant will be happy to be reunited with their favorite characters through Andrew Joyner’s bright and inviting illustrations. As readers drop in to watch each friend receive their card, they’ll love hunting for the hint at who the secret valentine is. Suspense grows as each character gets ready, and little ones can discover what time it is on a variety of clocks, which may spark an interest in finding similar clocks in their own homes and towns. The final pages showing the five friends and the birds celebrating the holiday together are joyful and full of love.

An adorable and feel-good story to share at Valentine’s Day or whenever love is in the air, Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine is fun addition to the series and to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503900356

To learn more about Andrew Joyner, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no mystery that you’ll love this Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine book trailer!

Book Blitz Month Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

I Love You! Jar

 

Do you ever feel like saying “I love you” to friends and siblings, but don’t know how? Here’s a gift you can make that will tell them what is in your heart.

Supplies

  • A clear jar with a lid—you can use a recyclable jar or buy a mason jar or other decorative jar at a craft store
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Add hearts to the jar—you can add as many as you like and even continue to fill the jar after you’ve given it away. Here are some ideas:

  • Add one heart for each year you have known your friend
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your friend, sibling or others (write those traits on the hearts)
  • Give a new heart whenever the recipient of your jar does something nice for you
  • Encourage the recipient of your jar to pass the love along! Tell them they can give a heart from the jar to someone that they have special feelings for.

4. Give your I Love You! jar to a friend, your parents, your siblings, or anyone who fills your heart with joy.

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You can find Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 10 -National Skating Month

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About the Holiday

National Skating Month was instituted by U.S. Figure Skating as a week-long celebration in March 2002 following the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The holiday gives ice-skating rinks, clubs, and programs an opportunity to invite new families to the ice by offering free lessons and skating demonstrations. This month’s theme is Skate to Superheroes and encourages rinks to plan events that show the fun and empowering aspects of ice skating. To celebrate this month head out to a rink with your family and enjoy the day. Not a skater? Now’s the perfect time to learn!

 Little Red Gliding Hood

Written by Tara Lazar | Illustrated by Troy Cummings

 

The depths of winter had settled in and “the river winding through the enchanted forest was frozen solid.” For one little girl, these conditions were just right. She tied on her ice skates then “swizzled and twizzled across the ice,” doing figure eights, loops, jumps, and spins. Who was this girl? “Everyone called her Little Red Gliding Hood.”

Little Red was worried. Her skates were so old that she was afraid they would no longer carry her to Grandma’s house every Sunday. Then she saw a banner announcing a skating pairs competition. The prize was a new pair of skates! But who would be her partner, Little Red wondered. The Dish and the Spoon were already a team, and so were Hansel and Gretel. Little Boy Blue was too cold to skate, the Seven Dwarves were more into hockey, and Old MacDonald couldn’t stay upright on the ice.

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Image copyright Troy Cummings, 2015, text copyright Tara Lazar, 2015. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Little Red decided to go talk it over with Grandma and skated quickly along the river to foil the Big Bad Wolf. Over cups of hot chocolate, Little Red and Grandma discussed the options: the Gingerbread Man? Too fast to catch. Baby Bear? Already matched with Goldilocks. How about one of the Three Little Pigs who had moved next door, Grandma suggested. So Little Red approached the brick house and said, “‘Little pigs, little pigs, let me in!’” Just then the Big Bad Wolf interrupted to tell Little Red she was using his line.

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Image copyright Troy Cummings, 2015, text copyright Tara Lazar, 2015. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Turning around, Little Red found herself staring into the eyes of the wolf. She shrieked and rushed away, but her old laces became untied and “her boots were lopsided and loose.” The wolf was right behind her, but just then one of Little Red’s skates flew off. As Little Red tumbled into the air, the wolf caught her. Little Red trembled.

The Big Bad Wolf howled. “‘You’re wonnnnnderful!’ The wolf gently put Little Red down.” She couldn’t believe it. Then the wolf told her that he had been chasing her just to tell her that her laces were untied. He understood because his own skates were “‘older than Rip Van Winkle.’” Then Little Red had an idea.

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Image copyright Troy Cummings, 2015, text copyright Tara Lazar, 2015. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

On the day of the competition, Little Red took to the frozen pond in her old skates. As all the skaters warmed up, the wolf approached from the other side of the pond. When the skaters saw him, they were terrified, and chaos ensued. “The wolf frightened Miss Muffet away. She bumped Little Jack Horner into the corner. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. And Jack and Jill came tumbling after.” In the midst of it all, Little Red was slipping and sliding. Finally, she cried for help. The Big Bad Wolf hurried over and lifted Little Red high above the mayhem. Seeing Little Red in danger, the woodcutter ran to her rescue, his axe shining.

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Image copyright Troy Cummings, 2015, text copyright Tara Lazar, 2015. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

“‘Oh, slippery slush!’ said Little Red. ‘He’s my partner!’” Everyone was shocked. But then the music played and the competition began. Each pair performed their routine. At last it was Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf’s turn. They “swizzled and twizzled across the ice” and did figure eights, loops, jumps, and spins, surprising the crowd. After the judges conferred with each other, the scores for Little Red and the wolf went up. They received a perfect ten from each judge—and new skates! As they left the pond hand in paw, Little Red exclaimed, “‘Oh my, what big skates you have!’” And the wolf answered, “‘All the better to glide with you, my dear.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-red-gliding-hood-slippery-slush

Image copyright Troy Cummings, 2015, text copyright Tara Lazar, 2015. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Tara Lazar cleverly brings together an enchanted forest-full of fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters in her perfect 10 of a story. Little Red’s determination to win the skating competition and a new pair of skates to replace her old ones, gives Lazar plenty of opportunities to slide in sly puns and references to well-known fairy tales. Things heat up when the Big Bad Wolf follows Little Red to Grandma’s house, but it only serves to melt readers’ hearts when the wolf turns out to be a sweetie. Lazar’s seamless storytelling glides along like a gold medal-winning performance, each scene building on the previous move and culminating in a surprise pairing and, of course, a happy ending.

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To start things off, Troy Cummings offers up an enchanted forest as enticing as any ice-cream shop. As Little Red glides on the river that winds its way through violet mountains, around familiar homes, and past several castles, readers will love pointing out the characters from their favorite stories and nursery rhymes. Little Red, with her sweet face and big eyes set off by her signature hooded cape, is as plucky a heroine as ever as she hurries through the dark woods to Grandma’s cozy cottage. The Big Bad Wolf, with his long snout and steely glare seems as menacing as we all remember…until he begins to howl Little Red’s praises.

The collection of competitors warming up at the pond will delight kids with more match-ups for them to name. Comic gold ensues when the wolf shows up and sends the skaters into a spin then rescues Little Red—holding her aloft like an Olympic champion. The duo’s performance is charming, the winning skates appropriately shiny, and smiles abound as Little Red and the (not so) Big Bad Wolf skate off into the sunset.

A smart fractured fairy tale with lots of suspense, laughs, and heart, Little Red Gliding Hood would be a well-loved prize on any home, classroom, or library bookshelf.

Ages 2 – 10

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0385370066

You can discover more about Tara Lazar and her books and find a wealth of resources on her website.

To learn more about Troy Cummings, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Skating Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ice-skating-craft

Magnetic Skating Rink Craft

 

Kids can bring the ice skating indoors with this craft that’s easy to make and gives little characters their own turn to show off their moves.

Supplies

  • Cookie Tin top, or other metal surface
  • Small plastic figures or erasers
  • Paper clip
  • Paper
  • Magnet, ½-inch to 1-inch (the stronger the magnet, the better the skater will work
  • Large craft sticks
  • Tape
  • Small spools, blocks, or other items to raise up the skating surface
  • Poly-fill (optional)
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ice-skating-craft-supplies

Directions

  1. Glue the round magnet to one end of the craft stick
  2. Set the top of the cookie tin on the spools or blocks to raise the surface and provide room to maneuver the magnetic stick, glue in place if desired

To Make a Skater

  1. Cut a strip of paper twice as long as your paperclip
  2. Fold the strip of paper in half and tape the paperclip inside. Tape the ends of the paper closed.
  3. Glue the figure to the paper

To Play with the Skater

  1. Place the skater on the cookie tin lid
  2. Slide the magnetic stick under the cookie tin lid and match up with the skater
  3. As you move the magnetic stick, the skater will glide and turn

Make more and have a skating party with your friends!

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You can find Little Red Gliding Hood at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 2 – National Science Fiction Day

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About the Holiday

If Sci-Fi is your thing, today’s the day to celebrate! Today’s holiday is enjoyed by science fiction fans around the world, who take in movies, read favorite books, and attend special events and parties all with a sci-fi theme. Today’s date was chosen for the holiday to commemorate the birthday of master science-fiction writer, Isaac Asimov, who was born January 2, 1920. Channel your inner galactic traveler, today, and discover some entertainment that’s out of this world—like today’s book!

Star Wars: Are You Scared, Darth Vader?

By Adam Rex

 

Darth Vader, as we all know, is a pretty scary guy. But does anything scare him? “I do not get scared. No one has the power to frighten Lord Vader,” he says. But what about a…wolfman? The wolfman, with bulging yellow eyes, sharp teeth, and unkempt nails (and wearing torn pants and a ripped up plaid shirt) attacks! Darth Vader gives him a withering look and explains that he is “not afraid of a wolf” and “not afraid of a man” so he is “not afraid of a wolfman.” And if the wolfman should bite? Lord Vader’s armor will take care of that.

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2018, courtesy of Disney Lucasfilm Press.

Perhaps a vampire is more frightening. But another biting creature? Nah…not scary. Next up to alarm Darth Vador is a little ghost: “BoooooWoo!” Fearlessly, Vader pokes it, wondering if it is the ghost of Yoda. The witch that appears next is proclaimed, “just an old woman” by the intrepid Vader, and when he is told that she could curse him, he retreats into a dark place to reveal, “I am already cursed.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-you-scared-darth-vader-vampire

Copyright Adam Rex, 2018, courtesy of Disney Lucasfilm Press.

The narrator offers up a list of other possible triggers, but Darth Vader defects them all. Well, then, the narrator tells the kids, they can take off their spooky masks. Lord Vader is shocked. As the kids run to him, hang from his cape, and wield his light saber, Darth Vader tries to shake them off—but he’s still not scared. Then more kids join the fray. Darth Vader shakes his fist and rails, “I am most displeased.” “I am most displeased!” a little girl repeats.

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2018, courtesy of Disney Lucasfilm Press.

At last, Lord Vader has had enough and begs for the children to be taken away. Mumbling that he’s no fun, the kids tromp off. But then Darth Vader is alerted to one more kid—the reader—“who’s about to close the book.” Shaken, Lord Vader pleads with the child not to turn the page and bargains with them, offering to share the power of the dark side. The pages are waning, and at last Darth Vader knows fear. One page left… “Nooooooo….”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-you-scared-darth-vader-yoda

Copyright Adam Rex, 2018, courtesy of Disney Lucasfilm Press.

Adam Rex’s laugh-out-loud send-up of Darth Vader and his steely persona takes full advantage of the Star Wars world and lore—from the movies to spin-off toys to kids’ pretend Star Wars play—to immerse readers in the humor and power of his story. Cloaked in darkness, the pages, created from mixed-media illustrations punctuated with white and yellow text, are masterfully funny. While Darth Vader stands stoically, his mask never changing, Rex wrings out an array of emotions through the humor of the narrator’s questions and Vader’s monotone answers.

The monsters who attempt to frighten Vader are straight from Halloween sidewalks, adding to the comic effect. When they’re unmasked, their love for this villain is unmistakable. Vader may strike threatening poses and shake his fist at the injustice of it all, but deep down could he be enjoying himself?

For Star Wars lovers (and who isn’t?) and those who love to laugh, Are You Scared Darth Vader? is a celebration of sci-fi fun for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Disney Lucasfilm Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1484704974

Discover more about Adam Rex, his books, and his art on his website.

National Science Fiction Day Activity

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Out-of-this-World Tic-Tac-Toe Game

 

You can launch your own Tic-Tac-Toe Game with this set you make yourself! With just a couple of egg cartons, some crayons, and a printable game board, you’ll be off to the moon for some fun! Opposing players can be designated by rockets and capsules. Each player will need 5 playing pieces. 

SUPPLIES

  • Printable Moon Tic-Tac-Toe Game Board
  • 2 cardboard egg cartons
  • Heavy stock paper or regular printer paper
  • Crayons
  • Black or gray fine-tip marker

DIRECTIONS

To Make the Rockets

  1. Cut the tall center cones from the egg carton
  2. Trim the bottoms of each form so they stand steadily, leaving the arched corners intact
  3. Pencil in a circular window on one side near the top of the cone
  4. Color the rocket body any colors you like, going around the window and stopping where the arched corners begin
  5. With the marker color the arched corners of the form to make legs
  6. On the cardboard between the legs, color flames for blast off

To Make the Capsule

  1. Cut the egg cups from an egg carton
  2. Color the sides silver, leaving the curved section uncolored. (If your egg cup has no pre-pressed curve on the sides of the cup, draw one on each side.)
  3. Color the curved section yellow to make windows
  4. With the marker, dot “rivets” across the capsule

Print the Moon Game Board and play!

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You can find Star Wars: Are You Scared, Darth Vader? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 30 – It’s Cat Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

As 2018 gives way to 2019, we give one last bow to those friends that keep us smiling, whether at home or in cute pics and videos online. Who are they? Cats! With their “who me?” looks, disregard for privacy, and utter confidence that they rule the house, cats and kittens make life better in so many ways. If you’re thinking about adding a furry family member to your home this coming year, check out the sweet cats at your local animal shelter.

Quackers

By Liz Wong

 

Quackers, a little orange tabby, wants to say hello! “Meow.” Quackers is a duck. “He knows he’s a duck because he lives at the duck pond with all the other ducks.” Not only that, but all of his friends are ducks. Sometimes, though, when he looks around at all the white feathers and orange beaks, he feels a bit out of place, and communicating is sometimes difficult. There’s also the issue of food—some of the things he’s given to eat are pretty slimy or tiny or hard to chew, and duckweed seems to be on the menu all the time. The worst, though? Getting wet.

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Copyright Liz Wong, 2016, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

One day, Quackers meets another duck who looks like him and sounds like him. In his joy, Quackers blurts out, “‘I’ve never met a duck who understands me!’” The gray kitten, Mittens, is confused at first and then understands and then laughs. At last, she invites Quackers to follow her. They end up at a farm where Mittens lives with “a whole flock of strange ducks. Ducks just like Quackers.”

Mittens shows Quackers how they “chase mice,” which Quackers prefers to swimming; “drink milk,” which is more delicious than duckweed; and clean themselves, which Quackers is a bit iffy on. Soon, Quackers is napping with his new friends. As much as he enjoys being a cat, Quackers starts to miss the duck pond. He even finds that he has a craving for duckweed. He scampers back and discovers that “most of all, he missed his friends.”

Now Quackers splits his time at the pond and the farm. Sometimes he’s a duck, and sometimes he’s a cat. But all the time “he’s just Quackers, and that makes him completely happy.”

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Copyright Liz Wong, 2016, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

As mom to a cat who thinks he’s part person and possibly part dog, I fell in love with Liz Wong’s little Quackers and little readers will too. Kids will giggle as Quackers sits contentedly on a lily pad, accepts slugs and snails as snacks with a meow-nimum of fuss, and explains to Mittens that he’s a duck.  Readers, who are beginning to develop their own identity, will be cheered when Quackers embraces both his duck and cat sides. They’ll understand that it’s what’s inside a person that matters and that being yourself is the best thing you can be. Wong’s adorable kittens and ducks will charm kids, and her simple hand-lettered text and speech bubbles create a cozy reading experience that’s like a sweet hug in a book.

Full of humor, self-acceptance, and inclusion, Quackers should find a home on any child’s and classroom’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553511543

Discover more about Liz Wong, her books, and her art on her website.

Cat Lovers Month Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These adorable kittens all have a twin, but they’ve gotten mixed up while playing. Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

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You can find Quackers at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 28 – Christmas Bird Count

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About the Holiday

For 118 years the Audubon Society has held a bird count in North America, Central America, and South America from December 14 through January 5. The count is conducted by professionals and volunteers who sign up to monitor various areas designated in 15-mile-wide diameter circles. The information and statistics gathered help to keep track of bird populations and aid in protecting our beautiful feathered friends. During the snowy, cold winter months, remember to set out seed and suet for birds to eat. For more information or to get involved, visit the Audubon Society website.

Some Birds

By Matt Spink

 

The variety of birds in the world is astounding! With their unique coloring, songs, and behaviors, our feathered friends provide entertainment and beauty wherever we are. Most times, we only need peer out the window or gaze into the sky to find a fascinating array of life. In his illustrated poem Matt Spink takes readers on a flight of fancy to show the charm, power, and even quirkiness of birds. “Some birds are big / some birds are small / and some birds are just incredibly tall,” the book starts.

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Copyright Matt Spink, 2016, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

How do these birds get around? Sure, they fly but “some birds swoop,” others “soar high,” and still others walk or waddle or hop. And when they get hungry? “Some birds eat worms until they go pop!” Some birds get the itch to swim, tweet, squawk, or twitch, and while some cling to trees making rat-a-tat-tats, others build nests to escape “from sly cats.” Though some birds live in cages, “most birds are free. / A much better life, I’m sure you’ll agree.”

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Copyright Matt Spink, 2016, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Matt Spink’s sleek birds, each as shining as a stained glass window and as detailed as an Amish quilt or Native American carving, embody the distinct personalities that make these creatures so endearing. With expressions that will make kids giggle and brilliant color combinations that will inspire their creativity, Some Birds is a page-turner.

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Copyright Matt Spink, 2016, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Matt Spink’s Some Birds is a mosaic of wonder for young and older readers, and would make a vibrant addition to home bookshelves. After all, who among us does not yearn to “fly free?”

Ages 2 – 5

Harry Abrams, 2016 | ISBN 978-1419720703

Christmas Bird Count Activity

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Feathered Friends Coloring Page

 

Watching birds flit and fly through the sky is a pleasure of being outdoors or just gazing through your window. Enjoy this printable Feathered Friends Coloring Page of a parent bird and their little one!

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You can find Some Birds at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review