October 13 – National Motorcycle Ride Day

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About the Holiday

As the fine days to take the motorcycle out for a spin are waning, the second Saturday of October has been set aside for motorcyclists worldwide to get on their bikes for a day of united ride. The day also honors John B. Dunlop who in 1887 developed the first practical pneumatic tire, which makes the motorcycle smooth and responsive. To celebrate, motorcyclists are encouraged to take to the open road with friends and/or family and enjoy the day.

Motomice

By Paul Owen Lewis

 

When you imagine a biker do you think of someone who wears black, looks tough, and roars through town on a loud motorcycle? Well, let’s take a ride and see what a colorful crew bikers really are! Did you know that some “bikers wear orange. They look like pilots” as they roll through the suburbs. Sometimes “their motorcycles are old.”

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Copyright Paul Owen Lewis, 2018, courtesy of Beyond Words Publishing.

Some “bikers wear pink” like Roxie, who zooms around the track or heads out on a winding country lane on her sleek, fast motorcycle. There are even grandmas and grandpas who are bikers. They travel all over on big, sturdy motorcycles that can carry loads of stuff for camping with friends. Have you ever spied someone in silver and blue with a fancy helmet who looks a bit like an astronaut, it’s a good bet they’re a biker too! And—look!—there’s Sparky refueling her green motorcycle at the electric vehicle charging station. She “cares about the environment.” Her motorcycle is quiet. Then all gassed up and ready to go, the group is off again. But where to? It’s a Motomice Reunion Rally, where “everyone is welcome!”

So whatever road you’re on, take a good look. “Bikers are every color, every style, and every kind of person. If fact, “they are just like you and me.”

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Copyright Paul Owen Lewis, 2018, courtesy of Beyond Words Publishing.

In his heartwarming story, Paul Owen Lewis introduces kids to the welcoming community of bikers, replacing the stereotype of the tough, leather-clad biker with the reality that bikers come from all walks of life. By using different colors, comparing the appearance of bikers and their motorcycles to other professions, and adding that even grandpas and grandmas are bikers, Lewis gives readers concrete ways to relate to bikers even if they’ve only seen bikers passing by on the street. Many kids, of course, have family members and friends who ride motorcycles. Motomice is a joyful book for them to share with their biker buddies.

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Copyright Paul Owen Lewis, 2018, courtesy of Beyond Words Publishing.

Lewis’s stunningly realistic depictions of a variety of motorcycles will thrill detail-oriented and vehicle-loving kids. As the mice roll through beautiful vistas—adding new friends along the way—each double-page spread mirrors the sweeping feeling of the open road. A clever image occurs when the biker dressed like an astronaut hails his friends from a rocky, lunar-esque mountain side. The image of the reunion rally, where motorcycles line both sides of the street as far as the eye can see, is full of cheer and camaraderie. On the final page, the crew welcomes a baby, happy and secure with Mom in her sidecar, to the Motomice family. Young readers will feel the warm embrace as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Beyond Words Publishing, 2018 | ISBN 978-1582706603

Discover more about Paul Owen Lewis, his books, and his art on his website.

National Motorcycle Ride Day Activity

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Let’s Go! Maze

 

These four friends want to ride their scooters together. Can you help the girls find their way along the path to the boys?

Let’s Go! Maze | Let’s Go! Maze Solution

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You can find Motomice at these booksellers 

Amazon | Beyond Words Publishing

Picture Book Review

October 10 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

During National Book Month readers give special thought to the authors and illustrators who share their creativity and insight in books for all ages. Children especially benefit from learning about all the wonders of their world, from familiar people, places, and events to those from different cultures. Being introduced to world languages, festivals, traditions, and more through books gives children a sense of belonging and community. There are so many voices to be heard! This month visit your local bookstore or library and discover some of the amazing new books on the shelves! 

This week I’m happy to be sharing five new board books from Little Simon and to be partnering with them in an amazing giveaway of all five books. Simon & Schuster sent me the books to check out. All opinions are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below. Watch every day this week for another terrific title!

Día de los Muertos (Celebrate the World)

Written by Hannah Eliot | Illustrated. By Jorge Gutierrez

 

At the end of October, the holiday Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, takes place, the narrator tells readers. “Día de los Muertos is an ancient tradition celebrated in Mexico and other places around the world.” It’s a time to remember family and friends who have passed away and to celebrate their lives. Preparations for the holiday include baking delicious “sweet rolls called pan de muertos, or bread of the dead.” Atole, a hot sweet and spicy drink goes with it too.

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Flor de muertos, or the flower of the dead, is picked to add to decorations and to our altares. On the altars there are also pictures of loved ones, items that they liked, and candles. “The light of the candles and the smell of the flowers help guide the spirits back to us.” There are a lot of colorful skeletons too. Some are huge while others are tiny. They’re painted and even dressed up. Then they’re posed “doing silly things, like playing the guitar or dancing or even taking a bath!”

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Not only are the altars festive, but the whole town is decorated  with cut paper designs called papel picado and calaveras, or skulls, many of which are made of sugar and icing. “We do all this to celebrate the beauty of life and death rather than mourn it.” At the end of the holiday, people visit the cemetery to clean tombstones of family and friends, play music, and tell stories about their lives. At the end of the holiday all the decorations are put away, but our memories of loved ones “stay in our hearts forever.”

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Through Hannah Eliot’s engaging story, children learn the meaning and traditions of Día de los Muertos from a child narrator who is excited to share the holiday with readers. Eliot clearly explains the various parts of the celebrations, emphasizing the uplifting remembrance of loved ones who have passed away. Descriptions of the preparations, food, decorations, and skeletons will entice kids who don’t celebrate the holiday to learn more while also helping them to understand the significance of these holiday elements when they see them in their community, at stores, and elsewhere. For children looking forward to the holiday, Día de los Muertos is a magical and warm-hearted look at this spirit-filled tradition.

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Each of Jorge Gutierrez’s vibrant illustrations is a feast for little eyes as children eagerly collect decorations and make special dishes for the holiday. Calaveras and skeletons, sporting mustaches, hats, colorful painted designs, and wide, toothy smiles dot the pages. Portraits of loved ones who have passed away hang on walls while their spirits, smiling and rimmed in a blue glow, stand nearby. Similarly, spirits hover over children as they decorate skeletons, happy to check out the likenesses the kids are creating. The fun and poignancy of this holiday are especially demonstrated on double-page spreads of a candlelit altar and a festive town center, where the whole community has come to celebrate, as well as in images of families spending time in the cemetery and finally saying goodbye to the visiting spirits as they float upward and away for another year.

Día de los Muertos is a dazzling book for youngest and older readers. An informative and enchanting introduction to a popular holiday, the book would be an excellent addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 4 and up

Little Simon, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534415157

Discover more about Jorge Gutierrez, his art, and his animation on his website.

The Gift of Story Time Giveaway

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Little Simon board books make the perfect gift for all of the young readers in your life! With cute and creative illustrations, accessible and engaging stories, and the perfect size and durability, these books are great for new parents and for reading aloud. These fun series teach important lessons and concepts through adorable characters, interesting stories, and hilarious creatures!

One (1) winner receives this collection of five sweet stories from Little Simon

  • The Itsy Bitsy School Bus, written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček
  • Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud, written by Ame Dyckman |illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
  • Día de los Muertos, written by Hannah Eliot | illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
  • This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Daniel Roode
  • Hello Knights!, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Chris Dickason

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, October 8 – 14. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 15.

 Giveaway open to US addresses only | Prizing and samples provided by Little Simon.

National Book Month Activity

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Día de los Muertos Coloring Pages

 

Día de los Muertos is vibrant and fun! Celebrate the holiday with these two coloring pages thanks to Topeka Día de los Muertos!

Día de los Muertos Coloring Page 1 | Día de los Muertos Coloring Page 2

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You can find Día de los Muertos at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 28 – National Good Neighbor Day

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About the Holiday

National Good Neighbor Day was established in the early 1970s by Lakeside, Montana resident Becky Mattson and made an official holiday in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter. The purpose of today’s holiday is simple: to appreciate your neighbors and to make sure you’re a good neighbor too. To celebrate, say hi to your neighbors or take them a special treat!

Good Morning, Neighbor

Written by Davide Cali | Illustrated by Maria Dek

 

A mouse had a hankering for an omelet, but he didn’t have an egg. He went to his neighbor Blackbird and said, “‘Good morning, neighbor. Do you have an egg that I could use to make an omelet?’”  The blackbird had no eggs, but she did have flour and suggested making a cake if they could find an egg. That sounded good to the mouse, so they went to visit their neighbor, Dormouse on his leafy branch. “‘Good morning, neighbor,’” they said, and asked for an egg.

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Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The dormouse didn’t have an egg either, but he did have butter for the cake and a suggestion to ask Mole for an egg. Down in the mole’s dark hole, the mouse, the blackbird, and the dormouse asked if Mole had an egg. “‘I’m sorry, I don’t,’” she said, “‘but I do have sugar. You’ll definitely need sugar to make a cake!’” They all went off to visit Mole’s neighbor, the hedgehog, to see about the egg. Hedgehog thought they might use his apples to make the cake if his neighbor Raccoon had that elusive egg.

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Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

“‘Good morning, neighbor,’” the group said before asking about the egg. The raccoon was sorry to tell them that she didn’t have an egg, but then added that she did have “cinnamon to add flavor.” Who could they ask next? Raccoon thought her neighbor Lizard might have an egg, but he only had raisins to add to the recipe.

Next, they went to Lizard’s neighbor, the bat—who said, “‘Of course I have an egg!’” With all the ingredients in hand, the neighbors went to work: “The blackbird poured the flour. The bat broke the egg. The dormouse added the butter, and the mole stirred in the flour.” Then the other friends added their ingredients too.

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Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

All that was left to do was to bake the cake. Everyone climbed high into Owl’s tree to see if she had an oven. “‘Good morning, neighbor,’” they all said. “‘Could we use your oven to bake a cake?’” “‘Certainly,’ said the owl.” When the cake was ready, Owl asked how many slices she should cut. They counted out: Blackbird got a slice for her flour, Dormouse for his butter, Mole for the sugar, Hedgehog for the apples, Raccoon for the cinnamon, and Lizard and Bat each got a slice for their raisins and egg. And they did not forget “a slice for the owl for the use of her oven.” Eight slices in all.

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Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Sadly, the mouse asked, “‘What about me?’” The dormouse answered, “‘You didn’t put in anything. So you don’t get a slice.’” Besides, he added, it was hard to cut a cake into nine slices. As the mouse walked away, the other animals reconsidered. The blackbird realized that if the mouse hadn’t asked for an egg he “‘wouldn’t have thought about giving him flour to make the cake.’” Then Dormouse, Mole, Hedgehog, Raccoon, Lizard, Bat, and Owl all decided she was right about how mouse had spurred their participation too. So they cut the cake into nine slices—“which wasn’t that hard after all—and enjoyed eating it together.

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Image copyright Maria Dek, 2018, text copyright Davide Cali, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Davide Cali’s classic-style, sequential story builds gentle suspense and intrigue as the forest animals visit neighbor after neighbor looking for an egg to bake a cake. With the acquiring of each new ingredient, the group of friends grows, giving young readers plenty of chances to chime in on the repeated phrase list that precedes each “Good morning, neighbor.” As the animals each add their particular offering to the batter, observant children may notice the absence of Mouse. Dormouse’s clipped response to Mouse’s request for a piece of cake will surprise and even perhaps shock readers. Blackbird’s defense of Mouse and the other animals’ change of heart provide opportunities for thought-provoking discussions about the value of ideas, the role of different contributions, the nature of friendship, and what it means to be a good neighbor.

Maria Dek’s homey, warm-toned folk-art illustrations lend grace and charm to Cali’s story, while whimsical elements, such as Mole’s slippers and hat, and Lizard’s unique raisin delivery method, will endear the characters to readers. Tearful mouse brings a moment of sympathy and empathy that is happily resolved in a two-page spread of a twinkling light string-bedecked forest where the group of animals celebrate their friendship.

Ages 4 – 7

Princeton Architectural Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1616896997

National Good Neighbor Day Activity

“Hello, friends!” Word Search

 

Sure, your neighbors are the people who live in the houses on your street, but they’re also the people in other towns, in other states, and even in other countries. And they’re not just neighbors—they’re friends! Learn how to say “hello” to all your friends in twenty-five languages with this printable word search.

Hello, Friends! Word Search Puzzle | Hello, Friends! Word Search Solution

 

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You can find Good Morning, Neighbor at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 18 – World Bamboo Day COVER REVEAL: The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

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About the Holiday

World Bamboo Day was established in 2009 by the Thai Royal Forest Department during the 8th World Bamboo Congress held in Bangkok in order to raise awareness of bamboo around the world. The day is dedicated to educating people about this natural resource, to protect it and the environment, to ensure it sustainability, to promote new cultivation of bamboo for new industries in regions around the world, and to promote traditional uses for community economic development. This year’s theme is “Sustainability = Environment + Society + Economy. To learn more about World Bamboo Day and what you can do to help, visit the World Bamboo Organization’s website.

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng 

Written by Sophia Gholz | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

On Majuli Island in northeastern India, located in the Brahmaputra River, there is a mighty forest. The Molai Forest covers over 1,300 acres and contains thousands of different species of plants and trees. It is also home to many kinds of wildlife, including some endangered animals.

But the Molai Forest was not always there.

In 1979 young Jadav Payeng witnessed the devastating effects on Majuli Island from rising floodwaters, eroding land and killing wildlife. With an idea for saving his beloved island, Jadav began planting bamboo seedlings, which over time literally built a forest and an ecosystem from the ground up. In this true story, young readers will see that the mightiest of results really do begin with a small seed of an idea. 

When a book is this inspiring, you just can’t wait to see it! But before we get to the book’s stunning cover, let’s meet the author and illustrator who are bringing this incredible story to kids. 

Meet Sophia Gholz

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Sophia Gholz is a children’s author, tree-hugger, music lover, magic seeker, and avid reader. Sophia grew up in the swamps of Florida, went to art school in Southern California, met her husband in Manhattan, and now enjoys life by the beach with her family. As a child, Sophia spent most of her time at the farm riding horses, causing mischief with her brothers, or exploring the globe with her parents. The latter often included tents and large forests. For more, find Sophia online at: www.sophiagholz.com

Hi, Kathy! Thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be here and am so excited to reveal the cover of The Boy Who Grew a Forest!

What inspired you to write The Boy Who Grew a Forest?

I first learned about Jadav Payeng when I watched a short documentary film about him a few years ago. The instant the film began, I was completely fascinated with Jadav’s journey. Here is one single person who managed to plant an entire forest all by himself—what a feat! But more than that, Jadav’s mission wasn’t for fame or fortune—he had a vision and a passion to help the environment around him, and he worked tirelessly to do so.

To put it simply: I was in awe. I immediately began searching for interviews and updates on Jadav and the more I read, the more I knew I had to share this amazing story with others.

How did growing up in Florida influence your interest in environmental issues?

My youth in Florida was filled with forests. My father was a prominent forest ecologist and conservationist who, at the beginning of his career, worked with the University of Florida’s Forestry Department. My mother has two degrees: one in horticulture and one in science education and worked as both a science writer and freelance journalist. Our house was always filled with scientists from around the world, and we were constantly exposed to tales of the environment and faraway places. So, I was raised from day one with a deep love and appreciation for the environment (especially trees) and an interest in searching for wonderful stories to share.

I think what really struck me most about Jadav’s story was that his mission was one that everyone I knew while growing up fought for as well.

Can you tell me about your journey to publication with this book?

I wrote the initial manuscript a few years ago, and then set it aside for a while. This was one of those stories that was incredibly close to my heart and I feared I wouldn’t be able to capture it the right way. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About a year later, the Florida Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) put out a call for submissions to their annual Rising Kite Contest and, on a whim, I decided to submit The Boy Who Grew a Forest. You can imagine my surprise when my manuscript was awarded a Rising Kite in the nonfiction category! Winning that award was a turning point for me. I realized then that I couldn’t give up. My only hope was that this story would inspire others, like it did me.  

When I read Sarah Rockett’s response to my manuscript, I knew she and the team at Sleeping Bear Press shared my passion for this story. And I was thrilled when they brought Kayla on board—her artistic style is beautiful and fitting. Working with them both has been a dream!

I’ve also had the chance to talk with the director of Jadav’s short film and am happy to know he’s excited for this book as well.

How exciting was it for you to see the final cover for The Boy Who Grew a Forest?

This is my debut picture book, and the first time I’ve witnessed one of my stories brought to life. From viewing initial sketches to full-color layouts, the entire experience has been beyond anything that I could have imagined.

On top of that, this book is particularly personal for me, so it’s been quite emotional. I definitely cried the first time I saw the cover. Not only is my name on a book—a real book!—but also Kayla’s illustrations are breathtaking. I think she’s done a phenomenal job of portraying Jadav and capturing the spirit of this story. 

What can environmentally conscious children do to help protect nature?

There are so many ways we can all make positive changes on a daily basis. Simple things, like recycling and not using straws or plastic bags in order to lessen the amount of plastic in the world are great places to start. On a grander scale, reforestation efforts are vital to our future and the preservation of our planet. And, like Jadav has shown us, reforestation begins with planting. Children can start with seeds or seedlings for yard plants, house plants, gardens, or just spreading native seeds in the wild. Every little bit helps. We actually have a seed planting activity included in the book and will also share downloadable activities that kids can do in the classroom or at home.

What do you hope children will take away from The Boy Who Grew a Forest?

At its heart, this book is about a person who had a dream and refused to give up. I hope that after reading this, children are inspired to care for our planet. But most of all, I want children to know how important they are. Nothing is impossible, and it only takes one person to make a difference.

Meet Kayla Harren

Kayla Harren Headshot

Kayla Harren studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is the author and illustrator of  Mary Had a Little Lizard, as well as the illustrator of Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich and many other books and projects. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

To learn more about Kayla, visit http://www.kaylaharren.com/

 

What intrigued you the most about this project?

Jadav and his amazing love of nature.  His dedication to helping wildlife is truly inspiring.  I get overwhelmed thinking about all the problems I can’t solve on my own, but then here is a person who takes action and saves an entire island by himself.  It is an amazing story and a good reminder that making a difference really can start with just one person.

What kind of research did you do for creating the illustrations for The Boy Who Grew a Forest?

I watched the documentary Forest Man and knew instantly that I wanted to illustrate Jadav’s story.  I watched many more interview videos of Jadav, read articles about his accomplishments, and read through Sophia’s bibliography for the book.  I looked through images of Majuli, read about the flooding of the Brahmaputra River, and researched the various wildlife species in Jadav’s forest.

Can you describe the process in creating and choosing this gorgeous cover image?

I have Sleeping Bear Press designer Jennifer Bacheller to thank for the cover design.  She played a big role in deciding the layout and I just filled in the spaces with plants and animals.  I am a sucker for sunsets and warm light. Jadav’s story felt magical to me, so I wanted to hint at his extraordinary spirit with an orange glow around him and his forest.

The illustrations in your books, such as your recent Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich, are so beautifully and richly detailed. What methods did you use to create the lush natural landscape in this book?

Aw thanks! I love adding details.  One of my teachers in art school said that you can focus on any square inch of a great painting and it will be interesting. I try to keep that in mind when I am illustrating, I don’t want any part of the image to be wasted.

For this book I spent a lot of time in the sketch stage. I started studying a bunch of images of the forest, of Jadav, of each animal, of color palettes and lighting. I looked at reference photos to create rough sketches, but once I finished sketching I stopped looking at the references so I wouldn’t get too attached or copy the photos. 

I drew on my computer so I could move elements around to get just the right composition. Once I was happy with a layout, I drew the lines with a pencil brush on my tablet.  Then I began coloring layer by layer in Photoshop. I started with flat color, then added textures, then a layer of shadows, and finally details.

What inspired you to become an illustrator for children’s books and publications?

I don’t remember a defining moment when I decided to pursue picture book illustration. I think I always knew that if I was going to try making art my career, it had to be in children’s books. I have always loved books and fondly remember being read to as a child.  I would fervently study the illustrations of each book as my mom read aloud. I learned to read pictures before I could read the words. Picture books are where my obsession with books began. My goal is to create illustrations that draw a child in and get them excited about learning to read the story the pictures are telling.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a children’s illustrator?

Definitely knowing that I play a role in helping children read and learn. I love when children notice small details I include in my illustrations that the parents pass right over. It is exciting to see children be observant and curious and inquisitive.

Thanks so much Sophia and Kayla! You’ve both put so much of yourselves and heart into The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng. I can’t wait to read the book when it comes out in March, and I’m sure readers are excited for it too!

To learn more about The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng, visit Sleeping Bear Press.

And now I’m thrilled to reveal…

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The Boy Who Grew a Forest, will be released in March, 2019 from Sleeping Bear Press. The book is available for preorder at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 16 – It’s Happy Cat Month

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About the Holiday

It’s safe to say that when kitty is happy, everyone’s happy. Cats have a particular way of tugging at your heart with their meows, yowls, and emotion-filled mews. Of course, we want to make sure they have everything they need to feel good. That’s what this month’s holiday is all about. To celebrate, spend some extra time with your furry friend, make sure they’re up-to-date on their vaccinations, and surprise them with a new toy or extra treat or two.  

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way)

By Patrick McDonnell

 

Little red cat opens one eye from his nap and is astonished to see the door hanging open. Quickly, he scurries out and down the walkway, very pleased with himself. Until he meets an Alligator—an alligator who has his enormous jaws open. Ahhh!. The cat runs past him, and the alligator gives chase. They don’t see the Bear—half way up a tree. But the bear sees them and joins the chase.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Soon, they find themselves hurtling past chicken’s coop, from which Chicken scrambles out clucking loudly. They all run on until…Yikes! Danger! Is that a Dragon napping there? Eeek! It is! The dragon is up—which is so alarming that there’s now an Egg! Wait! Fire! Run from the flames! Do you have your sun Glasses?

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The crew keeps running while cat thinks of Home, slip on the Icy pond, swing through the Jungle, and trespass on castle grounds where the King and princess see them from a turret window. The princess points and shows her dad Lost cat poster on the castle wall. But by now the cat, the alligator, the bear, the chicken, the dragon, and the egg are traversing Mountain peaks until the dragon shouts, Nnnnnnnn Oooooooo! as everyone else goes Over a cliff. Thankfully they all packed their Parachute.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Dropped into unknown territory this ragtag group has lots of Questions, and, of course, by now they need to use the Restroom. At last, the Sun is setting, and everyone is very Tired. But what is that shining in the darkness? It’s the king and princess to the rescue on a Unicorn! Unbelievable! And they have Valentines for each of them! This leads to lots of hugging to show what valued friends they’ve all become.

It’s time for everyone to head for home, so they Wave goodbye, and the king gives little red cat a scroll. When red cat unrolls the paper, he finds a map with a spot marked with an X. Now he knows just where to go to Yawn—and catch some Zzzzzzzzzzzs.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

A key in the back of the book provides the words for each letter.

Readers will laugh all the way through Patrick McDonnell’s wordless alphabet book as little red cat skedaddles when the door is open and has himself a letter-perfect adventure.  McDonnell offers a fully developed tale with clear clues to the words that define each letter while also leaving plenty of opportunities for kids to find other words that also apply. McDonnell’s cartoon animals are fierce only in their expressive cuteness and the adorable princess and her kindly dad provide just the magical ending this buoyant escapade deserves.

A marvelous way for children to interact with the alphabet and language, The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) will grow with kids as they increase their vocabulary and develop their sense of humor, making it a must for classroom and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0316502467

Discover more about Patrick McDonnell, his books, and his comic strip MUTTS on his website.

Run on over to watch this The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away book trailer!

Happy Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cat-toy

Fishing for Playtime Cat Toy

 

Cats are happy when they’re chase after bouncing, sliding objects, and they love fish. While this toy may not taste as good as fish, it sure smells better and doesn’t require worms or hooks to get!

Supplies

  • Old or new child’s sock
  • Fiber Fill
  • Yarn or string
  • Fabric paint or markers
  • Small bell (optional)
  • Catnip (optional)

Directions

  1. Paint or draw fins and eyes on the sock
  2. Fill the sock with fiber fill
  3. Add a teaspoon of catnip (optional)
  4. Add a small bell (optional)
  5. Use the yarn or string to close the opening with a strong knot
  6. Leave a long section of yarn or string to pull or dangle the toy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-cat-who-ran-away-and-learned-his-abc's-the-hard-way-cover

You can find The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABCs (the Hard Way) at these booksellers

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

 

 

Picture Book Review

September 6 – National Read a Book Day

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About the Holiday

It doesn’t get much better—or easier—than today’s holiday! Just like it says, National Read a Book Day celebrates the best way to spend our spare time—reading! If there’s a book you’ve been hankering to read, find a quiet spot during lunch or break time, turn off the TV this evening, and turn in early to snuggle in with a cup of tea and that great book. Kids will enjoy some extra reading time as well. Make it a family event! Reading together is one of the best ways to have fun and make memories!

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of Santa Bruce to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Disney Book Group in a fabulous Santa Bruce giveaway. See details below.

Santa Bruce

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

If you know Bruce, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that he “did not like the holidays.” In fact, before he had kids (and mice), he used to sleep right through them. But this year his family wanted that picture-perfect Christmas together. This meant “no migrating! No hibernating!” Whether Bruce liked it or not, “the holiday season was going to be filled with fun and cheer.”

So the geese decorated, and the mice made eggnog. And Bruce? He was not happy. He was awake and he was cold. And because he was awake and cold, he was shoveling the walk in his red long underwear. And that’s when a raccoon made an erroneous conclusion, and Bruce was the victim of “a case of mistaken identity.” Again.

It didn’t matter that Bruce tried to set the record straight. The little raccoon scampered off to tell his friends. Soon, Bruce’s house was full of animals wanting to talk to Santa. Every young forest critter took their turn sitting on Santa’s…I mean Bruce’s…lap to tell him what they wanted for Christmas, and no sooner had they all gone home then their parents showed up to “thank Bruce for his Christmas spirit. Then, before Bruce could even say “bah humbug,” Thistle announced that Santa Bruce would “deliver presents to all of your kids tonight.”

What was Bruce’s reaction? He headed for bed. When the mice protested, Bruce reminded them that he didn’t have a sleigh. The mice easily fixed that with a wagon and a sled. How about reindeer?, Bruce countered. Well, what else are geese for? Okay, Bruce conceded, but what about the presents? The mice had that covered too.

And so it was that on that magical night that Santa Bruce made the rounds to all the good little forest critters (and even to the “grown up Bunny who still lives with his parents”). As morning dawned and Santa Bruce trudged back home, happy tykes were waking up to a beautifully wrapped present. What was it? You’ll have to join the holiday feast and see!

A new Bruce book is always a cause for celebration, so combining a celebration with a new Bruce book makes the holiday doubly exciting. Ryan T. Higgins’ woebegone Bruce is just trying to make his kids (and those mice) happy when another case of mistaken identity turns his winter topsy-turvey. Bruce’s tetchy responses as he loses control of his fate and becomes Santa Bruce as well as the silly asides and persuasive pleas from the mice will have kids in stitches. Sly references to holiday songs, Christmas clichés, and even a spring holiday add to the zany hubbub, and the little ones’ Christmas wishes will make adult readers chuckle.

Higgins’ unibrowed bear wears his signature scowl with aplomb—not even cracking the wee-est smile as a houseful of tiny, adorable hopefuls cheer and shout for “SANTA!” As usual, the mice are jubilantly unconcerned with Bruce’s feelings, giving him, in turn, thumbs up and innocent eyes as they cajole Bruce into creating their vision of the perfect holiday. The guileless geese are just happy to be along for the ride, and the forest children are sweetly excited to get their special present.

Destined to become a holiday classic, Santa Bruce has laughter, generosity, and togetherness all wrapped into one—and isn’t that what the holidays are all about? A must buy for home holiday and anytime reading.

Ages 2 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 | ISBN 978-1484782903

About the Author

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

Santa Bruce Giveaway

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I’m excited to be partnering with Disney Book Group in this incredible Santa Bruce prize package:

One (1) winner receives:

  • Full set of all four Bruce books;
  • Branded ornament and Santa hat,
  • Plus a Santa Bruce box of holiday candies!

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, September 6 – 12. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on September 13.

Giveaway open to US addresses only \ Prizing and samples provided by Disney Book Group.

National Read a Book Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-craft-cover

Mini Accordion Book

 

With this craft you can make a little book for your own writing, pictures, or stickers. With a holiday-themed cover, you can use it as an advent calendar or holiday wish list. This little book would also make a fun gift to make for your friends.

Supplies

  • 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper – single or double sided
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or a page of the child’s own writing or drawing
  • Cardboard
  • Stickers, pictures
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-pages

Directions

  1. Draw a 3-inch border around the edge of the 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper. This will make a 6-inch square in the center of the paper
  2. Draw a line from the top of the paper to meet the left edge of the 6-inch square. The line will be 3 inches from the left side of the paper.
  3. Draw a 3-inch line from the top center of the 6-inch square to the center of the square

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To Cut the Paper

  1. Beginning with the line at the top of the piece of paper, cut down the left edge of the 6-inch square.
  2. Cut across the bottom of the square.
  3. Cut up the right side of the square
  4. Cut across the top of the square to the line in the center.
  5. Cut down the 3-inch center line to the middle of the square

To Fold the Pages

  1. Draw light or dotted lines every 3 inches along the strip of paper
  2. Starting at the top of the strip, fold the paper on the lines accordion style.
  3. Make the first fold by folding the first 3-inch section down towards you.
  4. Fold the second 3-inch section back away from you
  5. Continue folding the 3-inch sections down and back until the strip is entirely folded

To Make the Cover

  1. Cut two 3 ½ -inch squares from the cardboard
  2. Cut two 4 ½-inch squares of from the decorative paper, wrapping paper, or child’s writing or drawing
  3. Cover the cardboard with the paper, folding the excess paper over the edges and securing with glue

To Assemble the Book

  1. With the strip of paper completely folded, glue one cover to the top 3-inch square
  2. Glue the second cover to the end 3-inch square

Fill the book with writing, drawings, stickers, whatever!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa-bruce-cover

You can find Santa Bruce at these Booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 31 – National Trail Mix Day

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About the Holiday

Going out for a hike or just a day of doing errand? Then you’ll want to take along a snack to keep you going. Trail mix is just the thing! With its combination of nutritional value—quick energy from dried fruit or granola and more long-lasting energy from nuts—and its ability to be carried easily, trail mix is a perfect take along! Little ones can also enjoy their own versions of trail mix made with their favorite cereal and nutritious finger foods. Why not plan an outing with your kids, some trail mix, and a great book—like today’s!

Adventures with Barefoot Critters: An ABC Book

By Teagan White

 

The barefoot critters—two foxes, a squirrel, a deer, and a triceratops—love to go on adventures! Adventures that will take them through the alphabet. First, little deer and Squirrel must build a bridge over the frozen stream to get to the Foxes’ house. Oh dear! It seems one little fox has a cold. Happily, he has a mouse friend to bring him hot chocolate with marshmallows.

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Copyright Teagan White, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

It’s fun to “play dress-up at home…or on Halloween!” And the stream is the perfect place to “float boats” in the fall. In spring lying on the grass is nice. Of course, the barefoot critters can always find places to jump, no matter what season it is. Making music to dance to with friends is a happy way to spend an afternoon and finding “treasure by the ocean” is always exciting.

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Copyright Teagan White, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

The barefoot critters love camping—whether it’s indoors, where they “create a quilt fort” or outside, where they can “roast marshmallows!” In the old tree, Fox and Triceratops have built a treehouse! Perhaps the friend who has “come for a visit” will play in it too. Rainy days are wonderful for feeding the ducklings and fishing—as long as Fox and Triceratops don’t forget their umbrella. But what is mouse to do when even though one little fox is wearing his yellow rain jacket, he and his sister track mud all over the newly washed floor?

After all of these wonderful adventures, what will the barefoot creatures do next? “Catch some z’s! Zzzzzz”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-adventures-with-barefoot-critters-a-float-boats

Copyright Teagan White, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

As snug as fuzzy socks on a cold day and as sweet as just-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, Teagan White’s Adventures with Barefoot Critters is a heartwarming snuggle up book to share with little ones. The Fox brother and sister, Deer, Squirrel, and endearingly anachronistic Triceratops are adorable companions on the journey through the alphabet. Cozy colors and richly detailed illustrations are tiny treasures that young readers and adults alike will have fun exploring together. Careful observers will enjoy the amusing arc involving Triceratops and his own adventure to find the Middle Jurassic. A little mouse, a playful snowflake-eating frog, and other woodland creatures will delight little ones as the friends spend the seasons together.

Not only for learning letters and new words, but for sharing lots of smiles, Adventures with Barefoot Critters: An ABC Book would make a much-loved baby gift or addition to home and classroom libraries.

Ages Preschool and up

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1101919132 (Board Book)

A Hardcover edition for ages 4 to 8 with rhyming verses is also available | ISBN 978-1770496248

Discover more about Teagan White, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Trail Mix Day Activity

young girl eating trailmix

Kids’ Trail Mix Recipe

 

Kids will love putting together and eating this healthy and easy-to-make trail mix from Fit WebMD Jr. that they can take along to school, after-school activities, and play dates. To learn more about this recipe visit Fit WebMD Jr.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups low-sugar, whole-grain cereal
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup dried fruit, like cranberries, apricots, apples, or papaya
  • 1 cup nuts, like walnuts, almonds, or pistachios
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • Big bowl
  • Small zip-top bags

How to Make Trail Mix

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Put all of the food in the bowl
  3. Mix it up with your hands
  4. Put 2 handfuls of your trail mix in a zip-top bag
  5. Keep putting trail mix in bags until the bowl is empty Trail Mix Is Healthy for You

Why Trail Mix is Healthy for You

  • Whole grains in the cereal give you energy to run and play.
  • Fruits have vitamins that help your eyes and skin.
  • Nuts have protein that helps make your muscles strong.
  • Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds give you fiber that helps you poop.
  • Dark chocolate may be good for your heart.

For Parents

Trail mix is a fun snack that offers satisfying crunch and sweetness with more nutrients than snacks like cookies or chips. You may even be able to introduce your child to a new food by mixing it in with others that she likes. This recipe is best for kids ages 4 and older, because some ingredients may be a choking hazard for younger children.

Although you could store your trail mix in a large air-tight container, making snack bags is fun and they are more convenient for kids (or parents on the go) to grab. Pre-packaged snack bags also make it harder for kids to eat too much. Remember to let your child’s handfuls determine the portion size. You should be able to make at least 2 dozen snack bags from this recipe.

Little kids can pour ingredients you have measured from cups or bowls into the big bowl. Older kids can measure the ingredients by themselves.

Cereals that are O-shaped or squares or clusters will stand up to handling better than flakes, which can easily turn into crumbs. For better nutrition, look for a cereal whose label says less than 8 grams of sugar and at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. While you’re checking labels, avoid dried fruits with a sugar coating, which adds empty calories and will cause an energy spike and crash.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-adventures-with-barefoot-critters

You can find Adventures with Barefoot Critters at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review