November 10 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

November is all about picture books thanks to Picture Book Month founder author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and co-founders author/illustrators Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Wendy Matrin, and author Tara Lazar. This month-long international literacy initiative celebrates print picture books and all that they offer to young (and even older) readers. With gorgeous artwork and compelling stories, picture books open the world to children in surprising ways. They entertain, explain, excite, and help children learn empathy and understanding. If you want to learn more about the holiday and read engaging daily posts about why picture books are important by your favorite authors, illustrators, and others in the children’s publishing industry, visit picturebookmonth.com.

How to Make Friends with a Ghost

By Rebecca Green

 

Have you ever thought of ghosts and felt a shiver? Ever been glad you don’t know any ghosts? Well, the little girl narrating this ghostly guide says you should dispel those notions. Ghosts, she assures, “are sweet creatures who need friends too. And who better to befriend them than you?” She even goes on to show potential ghost pals everything they need to know.

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

First, you must learn to recognize a ghost when you see one. There are many false sightings, like kids in costumes, impressions made by a “dusty camera lens,” and “a towel on a doorknob.” But the leading expert on such matters, Dr. Phantoneous Spookel reveals that instead of searching for ghosts, it’s best to let them find you. To help you recognize them, the little girl provides an easy-to-follow classification guide that can help.

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

If you’ve been approached by a figure that has rosy cheeks, arms but no fingers, a glowing body, and a “wavy bottom for mobility,” you can be pretty sure you’ve seen a ghost. Here are some dos and don’ts for how to proceed. Your first instinct may be to flee, but “do not run! Ghosts are very sensitive creatures.” Just be friendly and “tell the ghost your name.” Invite the ghost into your home, but “never ever put you hand through a ghost. It can cause a serious tummy ache.”

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Ghosts require special care and enjoy snacks like “moldy toast, earwax truffles, pickled boogers, mud tarts, and cinnamon-dusted insects.” For a main course, “Floating Spaghetti and Mudballs hits the spot. Wonder how to keep your ghost friend happily occupied? A walk through the woods in search of “leaves, acorns, and worms” is always nice. Ghosts also love scary stories like the ones found in “Tales of the Living by Mort L. Bings.” And they like to laugh at funny jokes and dance to “creepy music.” Of course, a ghost friend fits right in on Halloween.

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of myblankpaper.com.

When a ghost gets tired, it’s a perfect time for a long soak in a warm caldron bath. Then off to the dankest corner of the attic for a little snooze and sweet nightmares on some soft moss. If your ghost has trouble falling to sleep, you can sing a lullaby of “eerie hums and wails.” Sometimes your ghost might like to hide when you have company, Good spots include the “tissue box…a sock drawer…or the refrigerator” next to the milk.

Even though ghosts are quick, their soft, white shapelessness can get them into trouble. “Do not let your ghost be used as a tissue!” Getting mixed up with the laundry can cause problems of the soggy or fluffy kind, and ghost should be especially careful in the kitchen, where they can be mistaken for “eggs, whipped cream, sour cream, and marshmallows.”

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Perhaps the best part about having a ghost as a friend is that they will be your buddy for life—and even beyond. As you grow up there are certain things you can do to maintain your friendship. When you leave home and find your own place, make sure it’s comfortable and isn’t haunted. “Ghosts do not like competition.” Make time every day to spend with your ghost, and if you start a family, you should know that “your ghost will love mini versions of you too.” When you grow old, your ghost will still be there to help out and make life better. Yes, “the best part about making friends with a ghost is that you’ll have the sweetest friend…forever.”

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of myblankpaper.com.

Rebecca Green’s spirited tribute to true friendship is sweet and funny and applicable to all pals—ghostly or not. Who wouldn’t like the kind of friendship that lasts forever? Through her ghostly guide, Green reveals that a new friend may be of an unexpected sort and might even be someone who has been invisible to you. Her tips show that embracing a new friend is as easy as saying hi and making them feel important with special treatment, understanding, and sharing favorite activities. Friendships can suffer when two people grow up and grow apart because of distance, work, or family, but Green suggests that with careful attention, a friendship can last forever.

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of myblankpaper.com.

Green’s adorable gouache and colored-pencil illustrations have a timeless feel rendered in soft beiges and grays punctuated with red accents. Green’s clever text is enhanced by images of the false ghost sightings, classification guide, ghost snacks, hiding places and hazards, and the expressive little ghost as it laughs, plays, sleeps, and smiles. As the girl grows older, the ghost takes the lead in activities the two enjoy, leaving readers with a satisfying and comforting feeling.

Readers will giggle and “aww” and fall in love with the little ghost and the idea of such a wonderful friendship. How to Make Friends with a Ghost is rich in charm and sage advice and would make a welcome presence on any child’s or classroom bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101919019

Learn more about Rebecca Green and find a gallery of her illustration work on her website.

Don’t be frightened! It’s just the adorable How to Make Friends with a Ghost book trailer!

Picture Book Month Activity

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Books to Love, Books to Read Book Bag

 

True book lovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. With this easy craft you can turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!

 

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

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Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

November 1 – National Author’s Day & Interview with Author Linda Booth Sweeney

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About the Holiday

There may be no better month to celebrate Author’s Day than in November. Not only is it Picture Book Month, but thousands of people set aside their usual routine to take part in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, when writers try to complete at least a first draft of a novel in one month. To kick off all of this literary love today, we remember and honor American authors past and present. The holiday was instituted in 1928 by Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement, Illinois Women’s Club. An avid reader, she established Author’s Day to thank writer Irving Bacheller who sent her an autographed story in response to her fan letter. The day was officially recognized in 1949 by the United States Department of Commerce. McPherson’s granddaughter, Sue Cole, has promoted the holiday since her Nellie’s death in 1968 and encourages people to spend a bit of the day writing a note of appreciation to their favorite author.

When the Snow Falls

Written by Linda Booth Sweeney | Illustrated by Jana Christy

 

A little curly-haired girl and her younger brother wake up from a sleepover with Grandma to a magical sight. As they gaze out the big picture window in the little girl’s room, they’re dazzled to see “When the snow falls…Frost paints. / Skies gray. / Windows sparkle/ Snow? Yay!” There’s no school today, so Mommy and Daddy and Grandma bundle up and get the kids ready to head outdoors to take care of the farm animals.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

Soft flakes flutter down, piling into deep drifts and providing a little extra after-breakfast treat as “Boot sink. / Lashes flick. / Tongues tickle. / We lick.” In the barn the horses, puppies, and chickens are just as excited about the snowy day. Riding an old chair sled, Grandma and her grandchildren glide down the hill, following tracks left by lively rabbits and now-dozing foxes.

Deep in the forest the three take in the beauty: “Woods hush. / Fields glisten. / Wren sings. / We listen.” On the other side of the woods, people continue their daily routine but at a slower pace as “plows push” and “mountains grow.” Grandma and the kids slide into town, where people are hard at work keeping up with the storm: “Wheels crunch. / Shovels scoop. / Ice cracks! / Awnings droop.”

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

The trio has reached Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They all grab shovels and help clear the walk. Now it’s Grandpa’s turn to have some fun. He takes his granddaughter by the hand, seats her little brother on a sled, and walk to the park. There, kids are making snowmen, building snow forts, and zipping down hills on their snow saucers. At the bottom of the hill everyone plops into the fluff and make snow angels.

It’s been an exhilarating, adventurous day, but twilight is on the horizon and now “toes tingle. / Lips quiver. / Cheeks glow. / We shiver.” As grandma calls from her front porch, the little girl and Grandpa, carrying his grandson, race toward home amid the swirling snowflakes. Inside, the light, warmth, and cozy comforts of warm soup, popcorn, and a crackling fire await. Later, the two kids enjoy quiet time with Grandma and Grandpa when “Cocoa warms. / Mittens puddle. / Day dawdles. / We cuddle.”

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

With her brilliantly expressive staccato sentences—each only two words long—Linda Booth Sweeney evokes the sights, sounds, and joy of a care-free, snowy day. Each four-line, rhyming verse abounds with melodic verbs that spark readers’ imaginations and concrete nouns that in many places form delightful alliterative pairs that softly trip off the tongue. Readers will love the story line that takes them from a rustic farmhouse to Grandma and Grandpa’s cozy home through woods, over hills, past the highway, and into downtown all with the help of an old-style sled. Several verses full of snow day fun play out like a long afternoon spent with friends, leading naturally into the slower pace and loving comfort of the night spent with Grandma and Grandpa.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

In glorious two-page spreads, the wind-swept snow swirls, spatters, and blankets the world in downy white fluff. Jana Christy takes children into the family’s large farmhouse kitchen where a blackboard announces Grandma’s Sunday sleepover as well as Monday’s snow day in place of the crossed-out piano lesson. The family steps out into the sparkling countryside where purple mountains form a backdrop for the barn and sheep pen. As Grandma and the kids start their journey, the forest, a quiet enclave of teal and greens, welcomes them. By the time they reach town, cars are stuck in snowdrifts, snow shovels scrape against the sidewalk, and kids are heading to the park.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

The thrill of playing in the snow is palpable as saucers zoom down hills, hats fly off, and hair blows in the wind. The final spreads of Grandma and Grandpa’s tidy home glow with love and laughter as the kids pull off their snow gear, their dog shakes off the snow, and they settle on the couch for cocoa and cuddles. The busy townspeople, happy playmates, and close-knit mixed-race family make When the Snow Falls a cheerful celebration of diversity.

When the Snow Falls is a joyous book to add to winter collections and would be often asked for during home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399547201

Discover more about Linda Booth Sweeney, her books and her systems work, visit her website.

To learn more about Jana Christy, her art, and her books, visit her website.

National Author’s Day Activity

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Snow Buddies

Even when there’s no snow, you can make yourself a snow buddy with this fun and easy craft!

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

Interview with Linda Booth Sweeney

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As the weather turns cooler, I’m happy to talk with Linda Booth Sweeney about the event that inspired her first book for children, a favorite wintertime activity, and how we can learn to see and benefit from systems.

How did you get started writing for children?

It seems like I’ve always been writing though it has taken me a long time to call myself a writer. During our last move, I discovered an old cardboard box from my parents’ attic.  After moving it literally for years, I finally opened it this summer. Inside there must have been 15 diaries and journals. When I looked at the dates, I realized that I started writing in those when I was about twelve and I really haven’t stopped. 

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I actually remember the exact day I began writing for children! Jack, my oldest son (now 19), was three. I was pushing him around Cambridge in one of those $20 pop-up strollers. We were a good fifteen minutes from home when a gale force wind blew in. The little canopy on this stroller snapped off and I remember feeling like the stroller lifted up off the ground. This was before cell phones so there was no calling for a ride. I put my head down and ran for home. Well, Jack loved that, and the wind blowing! He was bouncing up and down, pointing to everything he saw: signs rattling, balls rolling, hats flying.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

During his nap that afternoon, I flopped down at my desk, grateful we made it home in one piece. Jack’s excitement was contagious and his words were swimming around my head so I wrote them down. That was the beginning of my first children’s book, When the Wind Blows.

Using short, two-word phrases, your picture books are so evocative of actions outdoors and indoors as well as internal emotions. Can you describe your writing process?

I was mimicking the voice of a three-year old so the two words. Balls roll. Object and action. Noun and verb. It just made sense. In my other books like the one I’m working on now about the sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial, I am writing for older readers (ages 7-12). My sentences are longer. The book is inspired by big themes like being true to oneself, equality, social justice, and love for country so I find myself writing punchy sentences in the scenes and more lyrically the bridges, or the transitions, between scenes.

Do you remember your favorite picture book when you were a child?

As a little kid, I always loved Dr. Seuss books. My imagination was going full tilt as a kid. Dr. Seuss made me feel like the other worlds I created were not just okay but to be celebrated! As a nine-year-old, I devoured Encyclopedia Brown and anything by James Herriot.

Your first book for children, When the Wind Blows, takes readers on a jaunt through town on a blustery day. When the Snow Falls is a joyful romp through a winter day. What is it about weather that inspires you and your writing?

It’s the immediacy that weather brings. When the rain is pouring down or the snow is falling, that grabs my attention. Of course my attention is also on how to keep my fingers warm or my feet dry. But I can’t think of much else. I love that. I have to be in the moment. My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, captures this idea well in her “Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

If you’re outside stomping in puddles or making snow angels, who needs to be on a phone? There’s a lot of research coming out that equates nature to a “vitamin” we all need. Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, says it well: “Just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.” 

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You mentioned in one of your blog posts that When the Snow Falls first took shape during “found time” during the winter of 2015 with its four nearly back-to-back snow storms. Do you have any advice for recognizing and taking advantage of found time not only for writers, but for anyone?

I think the biggest opportunity to enjoy found time comes when we’re willing to put down technology. Sure the photos we can take on our iPhone may be lovely but what if sometimes we are just there, fully present, open and even willing to be a little bored.  Maybe then we can be dazzled by the red Cardinal that lands on the white snowman or the hush that creeps in when no can one drive.

What is your favorite wintertime activity?

I love looking for snow art and especially love seeing it through the eyes of little ones. I’m always amazed by the “art” that forms during snow storms – polka-dotted fields, top hats on fence caps, intricate patterns on round porch tables, delicate animal tracks that look like instructions for some kind of dance move. 

And then of course there is cross country skiing with my family and my crazy friends.

Your other work involves Systems Thinking. Can you describe systems thinking and talk about your systems thinking work with children and schools?

Sure. Like a spider’s web, what happens on one part of the web affects every other part. The same is true of living systems. A pond, our family, our school, a city, the climate—these are all systems. They have two or more parts that interact over time. What’s really interesting is that these different kinds of systems share some similarities, and they can act in surprisingly similar ways. (You can learn more about my systems work here).

How does considering systems thinking and living systems benefit children and their education?

Systems thinking, or “Thinking about systems,” means paying attention to the interrelationships and patterns that surround us. My experience, and that of systems educators around the globe, shows that children are naturally attuned to this. They can read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff and then recognize that same closed loop of cause and effect in their everyday lives.  

A few years back I wrote When a Butterfly SneezesA Guide for Helping Kids Explore Connections in our World as a resource for anyone who wants to help children think about interconnections in our world. Each chapter focuses on a favorite children’s picture book—like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss—and shows how to use the story to engage children in systems thinking. I just finished updating that book and the new version should be up and ready by next week!

To answer your question about how systems thinking benefits children, learning about systems, and about living systems in particular, can help children to make better decisions and avoid unintended consequences. It can also help them to develop a more compassionate and sustainable sensibility about what is beautiful and what is essential.

I always come back to the Joseph Campbell quote—“People who don’t have a concept of the whole, can do very unfortunate things.…”—and flip it: People—and especially children—who have a concept of the whole can do very fortunate things. If we encourage young people to look for the “whole” and not just focus on the parts, they will be geared toward seeing connections and will not see things in isolation. So much in our culture forces us into compartments. But just as we teach kids not to be victims of advertising, we can teach them to see beyond the obvious, to see the systems all around us.  

What’s up next for you? 

My next children’s book is a richly illustrated biography about Daniel Chester French, the sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial.  I am thrilled to be working with Shawn Fields a representational artist on this book.  The working title of the book is Monument Man, and that subject is very much a part of our public conversation at this point in our history. 

Thanks, Linda! Your books inspire us to look closure and pay attention to the moment, and I wish you all the best with them!

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You can connect with Linda Booth Sweeney on:

Her Website | Twitter | Facebook | Linked in

You can find When the Snow Falls with these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Penguin Random House

Picture Book Review

October 30 – Checklist Day

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About the Holiday

The origins of Checklist Day may be found in early aviation history when pilots devised a system to ensure that all procedures and safety measures had been completed before takeoff. With so many dials, buttons, and measurements to attend to, a checklist made it easier to keep track of what had been done. The idea was applicable to almost every endeavor, and people quickly adopted it for all types of business and personal uses. As Halloween approaches, use today’s holiday to make sure you have everything you need to celebrate. Got a costume? Check! Got candy? Check! Got a Jack-O’-Lantern? Check! And make sure you have all the colors of Halloween represented with today’s book!

Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals | Illustrated by Jimmy Pickering

 

Have you ever thought, “What color is Halloween?” Sure, we all know it’s orange and black—but what about the rest of the color wheel? Tell me—what’s your favorite color? Purple? Let me look through Shivery Shades of Halloween…Yes! Halloween is purple—“Twilight, / Shadows, / Monsters lurking, / Secret potion— / Poof! It’s working! / Dusky-musky, bruisy-oozy, cruelish-ghoulish / Blotch of purple.”

Hey! This is fun! Give me another one! Gray, you say? Hang on…. Yes! Halloween is Gray! “Tombstone, gargoyle, / Dungeon wall, / Rats and rubble, / Haunted hall, / Dusty-fusty, dimly-grimly, shady-fraidy / Shroud of gray.”

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Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

Okay, now it’s my turn. I’m choosing…Red. Yep! Halloween is also Red: “Tip of fang, / Flash of cape, / Horns and tail, / A gash, a gape, / Bloody-ruddy, burning-churning, blushing-gushing / Stain of red.”

Wild! And that’s just the beginning! There are also spirited, spooky rhymes about brown, yellow, blue, white, green, and, of course, orange and black.

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Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

Mary McKenna Siddals brings joy and a love of words—their sounds and their effects—to her verses that transport kids to the throbbing heart of Halloween on the broomsticks of color. In Shivery Shades of Halloween, Siddals presents all the spine-tingling  places, characters, and objects that make this holiday—and any mystery—so much chilling, thrilling fun. With giggles, eewwws, and a few shivers, kids will delight in the original and imaginative phrasing in this clever concept book.

Jimmy Pickering’s vibrant, full-bleed illustrations ooze, flash, and swirl with the colors of Halloween. For Green, a “queasy-peasy” web-eared reptile slurps a “vile brew” from a test tube as an evil scientist looks on and the walls seep with a thick green sludge. Purple zaps and sparks as the reptile is transformed into a smiling goblin with bats’ wings and five legs. This goblin then leads readers from page to page where they meet a tricky ghost, a haunted graveyard, a spell-casting wizard and crystal-ball-reading witch, a floating candlestick in a haunted house, a howling werewolf, a dancing caldron, a clumsy demon, and a trio of trick-or-treaters. Each painting incorporates touches of the other colors introduced, creating eye-catching and suspense-building pages.

Shivery Shades of Halloween is a book that kids will want to hear and you will want to read over and over. For teachers, the book makes a wonderful resource for writing lessons and the power of evocative words not only around Halloween, but at any time of the year. Shivery Shades of Halloween is one concept book that transcends its holiday theme and would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well as classroom and other libraries.

Ages 2 – 7

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0385369992

Take a peek at Victoria scaring up some fun by reading Shivery Shades of Halloween!

To learn more about Mary McKenna Siddals and her other books, visit her website! You’ll also find lots of activities as well as activity sheets to extend your enjoyment of Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors as well as her other books.

Here’s a link to Shivery Shades of Halloween Activity Sheets.

You can also connect with Mary McKenna Siddals on her Shivery Shades of Halloween Facebook Page, where you’ll find more fun and a whole community of readers.

Discover more about Jimmy Pickering and view a gallery of his illustrations, paintings, sculpture and more on his website. You can also find him on Facebook!

Checklist Day Activitycelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-halloween-hanging-figures-black-background

Spooky Halloween Mobile

 

With glue, glitter, and your imagination you can make your love of Halloween and its ghosts, ghouls, pumpkins, and more colorfully transparent to all!

Supplies

  • Printable Halloween figure templates | Template 1 | Template 2
  • Poster board or other heavy stock paper or cardboard
  • White glue
  • Glitter in a variety of colors
  • Googly eyes (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Wax paper
  • Popsicle or craft sticks
  • Needle
  • White thread (or any color)
  • Fine-tip permanent marker
  • Hot glue gun or regular glue

 

Directions

  1. Print the Halloween Figures templates
  2. Cut out the figures
  3. Trace the figures onto the poster board
  4. Cut out the figures around the outside edge and also along the inside edge
  5. Lay out the figure templates on the wax paper
  6. Gently pour some white glue into the center of the figure template
  7. Smooth the glue completely to the edges of the figure template, adding glue if needed
  8. Sprinkle glitter on the glue, as much or as little as you’d like

To dry the glue

  1. Let the figures sit overnight OR:
  2. Place the figures on the wax paper in a warm oven. Turn the oven on to 200 – 250 degrees and let it come up to heat. Then turn the oven off and place the figures inside. Check after 15 minutes and check frequently until dry.

After the glue is dry

  1. Add faces to the ghosts with a permanent marker
  2. Add googly eyes with the hot glue or regular glue
  3. If desired, color the edge of the template to match the color of the glitter

To hang figures

  1. Thread a needle with the desired length of thread and gently push the needle through the glue near the top of the figure.
  2. Tie the thread around a chandelier, curtain rod, or any other place you would like to decorate

Picture Book Review

August 20 – World Mosquito Day

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About the Holiday

World Mosquito Day dates back to 1897 when Sir Ronald Ross discovered the connection between these biting insects and malaria. The purpose for the holiday is to raise awareness about the causes of malaria and prevention methods. It is also marked by fundraisers to provide more resources for both research and preventative measures for people and communities that need them.

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale

Retold by Verna Aardema | Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

 

One day a mosquito has a secret for Iguana. The iguana bit at this enticing invitation, but when Mosquito told him that he had seen a farmer harvesting mosquito-sized yams, Iguana said, “‘What’s a mosquito compared to a yam?’” Iguana was so angry at this tall tale that he put sticks in his ears and went on his way. A little later, Iguana happened to pass Python, who greeted him with a cheery “Good Morning.” Because of the sticks in his ears, however, Iguana didn’t hear it and just continued walking.

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

This snub caused Python to think something nefarious was up. He looked for the first place to hide—which was a rabbit hole. Seeing the large python invading her space, the rabbit high tailed it out the back way and hurried across the field. Crow spied “the rabbit running for her life. He flew into the forest crying kaa, kaa, kaa! It was his duty to spread the alarm in case of danger.” Monkey began screeching and leaping through the tree tops, also on a mission to alert others.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why-mosquitoes-buzz-in-people's-ears-monkey

Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

In his rush, Monkey happened to step on a dead limb, which fell onto a baby owlet in a nest below, killing it. When Mother Owl returned from her hunting and found her little owlet, she was so sad that she could not hoot to wake up the sun. “The night grew longer and longer.” The animals thought the sun might never rise again. Finally, King Lion called a meeting. Owl explained that Monkey had killed one of her babies and that she could not “bear to wake the sun.”

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The lion called for the monkey to explain himself. He said that it was the crow’s fault. Because of the crow’s warning, he was also trying to help. He told about the branch and how it fell on the baby owl. King Lion next summoned the crow. He said that it was the rabbit’s fault. If he had not seen her running pell-mell through the field, none of this would have happened. “The king nodded his head and said to the council: ‘So, it was the rabbit / who startled the crow, / who alarmed the monkey, / who killed the owlet— / and now Mother Owl won’t wake the sun / so that the day can come.’”

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The rabbit was called to speak next. The lion asked her why she had broken a rule of nature by running during daytime. The rabbit related how Python had invaded her home. Next, Python was asked to tell his side of the story. He slithered to the front of the group and cried, “‘it was the iguana’s fault! He wouldn’t speak to me. And I thought he was plotting some mischief against me.’”

Of course, Iguana hadn’t heard about the meeting, so “the antelope was sent to fetch him.” The other animals laughed when they saw the sticks in Iguana’s ears. King Lion pulled them out and demanded to know what he had planned for Python. Iguana didn’t know anything about it. “Python is my friend!” he said. “‘Then why wouldn’t you say good morning to me?’” Python asked. Iguana said he hadn’t heard him. He explained about the “big lie” mosquito had told him and the sticks in his ears.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why-mosquitoes-buzz-in-people's-ears-iguana's-story

Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

All the animals cried that Mosquito should be punished. This idea satisfied Mother Owl, and she hooted toward the sun, waking it. The mosquito was tricky, though. She had listened to the council meeting from nearby. When she heard she was to be punished, she hid and was never found. From that day on, however, Mosquito has had a guilty conscience. “To this day she goes about whining in people’s ears: ‘Zeee! Is everyone still angry at me?’” And when people hear this question, you know swat the answer is!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why-mosquitoes-buzz-in-people's-ears-sun-comes-up

Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Verna Aardema’s classic retelling of this West African tale is suspenseful, engaging, and inviting. Aardema’s animals mek, krik, wasawusu, kaa, and pem with evocative onomatopoetic actions as they react to mosquitoe’s influence. Their pass-the-buck testimony leads into lyrical and fun-to-say repetitive phrases that build on each other and allow children to read along and become one of the forest group. The ending is both humorous and appropriate while also providing an opportunity to delve into deeper ideas of responsibility,quick judgments, and guilt.

Leo and Diane Dillon won the Caldecott Medal in 1976 for this stunning book that encompasses airbrushed watercolors, pastels rubbed on by hand, india ink, and die-cut shapes made of velum. This combination of styles creates pages of modern folkart that seem to be in motion as the animals slither, scurry, run, and bound away from some perceived but indistinct danger. The colors are magnificent, and as each animal takes its turn in front of the council, the black nighttime gives way to a bit of daylight. The animals may be in the dark, but enlightenment is on its way. The final pages in which the mosquito tickles the ear of an innocent bystander may make children cringe a little even as they look forward to what they know, from experience, is coming.

Ages 5 and up

Puffin Books/Dial Books for Young Readers, 2004 (Paperback edition) | ISBN 978-0140549058

World Mosquito Day Activity

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Mosquito Facts Page

 

Mosquitoes are an unavoidable part of summer. You can learn a few interesting things about them from this printable Mosquito Facts Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

August 15 – Relaxation Day

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About the Holiday

Don’tcha wish every day could be relaxation day? Of course, if it were, though, we wouldn’t be celebrating this special occasion. Everyone has their own version of what’s relaxing, so if you’re a beach person, a reader, a binge watcher, a laze around the house person, or even if you find work relaxing, take the opportunity to indulge yourself today! Sometimes, as today’s book reveals, a relaxing day may not turn out as quiet as you might like. But a good laugh can set it right again.

BE QUIET!

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Rupert, a scholarly little mouse is so excited to be writing a book in which he will be the starring character. It’s going to be great—a wordless book that is “very artistic.” But just as he gets started his friend Nibbs, pops over and wonders what Rupert is doing. Rupert tells him, “Shhh. Be QUIET. This book does not have words.” When Nibbs hears this, he wants to help, but there’s supposed to be no talking and he’s talking. In fact, he’s “talking about talking.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Rupert wants to throw his friend out of the book, but Nibbs begs and pleads to be included. He’ll even be “extra wordless” if he can just stay. Rupert is beside himself. “I said BE QUIET. This book is wordless!” Just then their friend Thistle drops by wondering what all the shouting is about. Nibbs tells him in some detail what’s going on and why he can’t talk about it.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Thistle thinks a wordless book sounds perfect and also wants to be included. Nibbs says sure, but says they won’t tell Rupert because they’re not supposed to be talking. Rupert, though, is keeping count of all these words, and there are too many of them. Thistle rubs his hands in glee: it’s going to be such fun. But Rupert takes him to task. His book is going “to be more than FUN. It will be visually stimulating.” Nibbs isn’t sure what that means, so Thistle explains that it means they’re going to “poke our readers in the eyeballs with pictures.”

After a bit of strong-man silliness, Nibbs and Thistle buckle down to find “strong-but-silent types.” Nibbs suggests a very familiar bear, but Thistle thinks he looks too grumpy. Rupert thinks a cute kitten would be a good addition, but those claws? And those teeth? On second thought perhaps a cucumber would be better. With just a squiggly smile and some googly eyes, the cucumber makes a great vegetarian character. Thistle tries to explain about vegetarians, and Rupert is in a fury over all this nonsense clogging up his “brilliant piece of wordless literature.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-visually-stimulating

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Oh! Well, if “serious” is what Rupert wants, how about a portrait of Vincent van Mouse? Too esoteric? Then maybe the three mice should be converted into three potatoes. Rupert yells that he doesn’t even like potatoes. Action is what’s needed, says Thistle. A silent superhero, like “Captain Quiet the Vocabulary Vigilante. Bam! Pow! Kaboom!” No, no, no! Rupert is hopping mad. “No superheroes and no onomatopoeia either.” Say what? “I’m-a-gonna-pee-a?” asks Nibbs “What’s that mean?” Thistle thinks Rupert “should have gone to the bathroom before the book started.”

Really, Thistle and Nibbs just want to help. What about mimes? Nibbs comes up with a great routine, flapping arms and all. Thistle tries to guess what he is, and Rupert can’t understand how they don’t know what “quiet” means. Oh!, say Nibbs and Thistle. Like that saying about the tree in the forest. Is that what quiet is? With a chain saw and a nearby tree, they try it. But Rupert is screaming so much they can’t hear if it makes a sound or not.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-cutting-down-tree

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Poor Rupert! All he wants is for them to “be quiet for just one page!” He can’t hold his frustration in any longer. He goes on a tirade of words. Nibbs quietly interrupts him. “WHAT?!” yells Rupert. “Shhh. Be Quiet. This book does not have words,” Nibbs reminds him just as the book ends. Now that the book is finished, Thistle and Nibbs think it came out pretty good and hope they can do another one.

Ryan T. Higgins’ laugh-out-loud book about best intentions gone awry is a definite day brightener. Kids and adults will recognize the zany truth of control lost to the unexpected or the oblivious. While we may often feel Rupert’s frustration in real-life situations, Higgins reminds us that it’s good to step back and see the humor in it all. Higgins’ action-packed illustrations and rakish mice ramp up the fun. Kids will enjoy seeing a glimpse of their favorite grumpy bear, Bruce, and discovering what the three mice have been up to since they transformed Bruce’s home into a hotel.

Clever wordplay, realistic dialogue, and sweet characters make BE QUIET! a perfect read-aloud book that kids will want to hear again and again. It would be a funny and fun addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 6

Disney-Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1484731628

Discover more about Ryan T. Higgins and his books on his website!

Relaxation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bathtub-clings-Conor-separate-with-fish

Homemade Bath Clings

 

Taking a nice long soak—or playing in the bathtub—can be a nice change of pace. With these homemade bath clings, kids can make up their own stories—wordless or not—right on the bathtub wall!

Supplies

  • Craft foam in various colors
  • Scissors
  • Cookie cutters for creating shapes (optional)

Directions

  1. Trace cookie cutters on the craft foam (optional)
  2. Cut out cookie cutter shapes or hand-drawn shapes from the craft foam
  3. With a little bit of  water, the clings will hang on the wall

Picture Book Review

July 4 – Independence Day

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About the Holiday

On July 2, 1776 the Continental Congress voted for Independence from Great Britain. Two days later delegates from the 13 American colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a document penned by Thomas Jefferson asserting the equal rights of all and establishing a democratic government. It went on to name the America’s grievances against Great Britain and to create from the colonies the United States of America. Independence Day was made a federal holiday in 1941. The day is celebrated with official ceremonies, parades, picnics, and fireworks displays.

The Night Before the Fourth of July

Written by Natasha Wing | Illustrated by Amy Wummer

 

The Fourth of July is tomorrow, and one family is getting ready! While Dad hangs the American Flag on the front porch, Mom is decorating the fence with red, white, and blue bunting. While they sleep, the brother and sister dream about fireworks. The next day every one dresses up in patriotic stripes and stars to attend the town parade, complete with “marching bands and 4-H club goats.” Even the Mayor joined in the fun, tossing candy to the crowds from a convertible car, while “an Uncle Sam walking on stilts brought up the rear.”

After the parade friends and family came to the house for a barbeque, but as Dad flipped burgers and the table was laid with summer treats, gray clouds threatened overhead. Just as everyone “sat down it started to pour. ‘Grab the food!’ shouted Mom and [they] raced through the door. In hot dogs! In salads! In blueberry pie! In melon and corn! Keep those potato chips dry!”

Everyone piled into the kitchen and continued to munch. But what about the fireworks? They watched out the window at the rain pouring down. A Fourth of July without rockets and sparkle and light just wouldn’t be the same. But there was no need to worry. After the storm burst, the clouds went away and the sky turned blue.

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Image copyright Amy Wummer, text copyright Natasha Wing. Courtesy of Grosset & Dunlap

As dusk approached they all drove to the park. Dad lit the sparklers and set the glow sticks alight. Soon, “the first firework was launched high into the night. It bloomed like a flower exploding with light.” People oohed and ahhhed, but for some little ears the booms were too loud. Then the band played the national anthem and Dad sang along, even if he was “way out of key.”

As the last notes faded into the air, it was time for the finale – a spectacular display of color and wonder. “When the last firework fizzled like fairy dust in the sky, [they] all cheered and shouted, “Happy Fourth of July!”

Part of Natasha Wing’s “The Night Before” series, this summer holiday book offers young readers all the excitement and fun of the Fourth of July from community events to family picnics to, of course, the fireworks that wrap up this patriotic celebration with flair. While maintaining some of the cadence of its Christmas cousin, The Night Before the Fourth of July is jauntily unique. Young readers will be captivated by the story’s joyous preparations and “Uh-oh! What now?” moment and will enthusiastically look forward to their own family traditions.

Amy Wummer’s engaging illustrations invite kids into a big family Fourth of July celebration with all the red, white, and blue decorations and glitzy fireworks. All young readers’ favorite parts of the holiday are here and warmly depicted as the family raises their flag, enjoys the flavor of summer delights, and joins the rest of the town at the annual fireworks show.

The Night Before the Fourth of July is a great book to keep on the shelf for the holiday itself (it makes a great take along to that wait for the sky to turn dark) and for other family story times.

Ages 3 – 5

Grosset & Dunlop, 2015 | ISBN 978-0448487120

Independence Day Activity

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Glittery Fireworks Coloring Page

 

The fireworks display is one of the best parts of the Fourth of July. You can make this printable Glittery Fireworks Coloring Page as sparkly as the real thing by outlining the bursts with a sprinkling of red, white, and blue glitter! Just grab your colored pencils, crayons, or markers plus some glue and glitter and have fun!

Picture Book Review

May 27 – It’s Family Reunion Month

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About the Holiday

With summer approaching and the kids out of school, it’s the perfect time to plan a family reunion. For adults in the family it’s a great way to catch up with aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandparents, parents… (did I leave anyone out?). For little ones, a reunion can be a wonderful opportunity to be introduced to the rest of the family. They’ll have a blast, as Sarah and Ian discover in today’s book which revolves around a wedding—another popular event for family reunions! To honor this month’s holiday, why not pick up the phone and start the ball rolling?

Sarah at the Wedding

By Pauline Oud

 

Today is a very special day for Sarah and Ian. They’re going to a party. Not just any party, though—a wedding! Aunt Olivia is marrying William. Sarah is going to be the flower girl and has a new fancy, pink dress. Ian is the ring bearer and is wearing a handsome suit.

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Copyright Pauline Oud, courtesy of Clavis Books

As Aunt Olivia, in her white lacy dress, and William, wearing a gray top hat, walk down the aisle, Sarah and Ian hold the veil and remember everything they have practiced. They remind each other of the things they’ve been told. “‘Don’t pull on the veil,’ Sarah says softly. ‘No, and don’t stick out your tongue or wave at the people,’ Ian whispers.” After Olivia and William promise to love each other and affirm that they want to be married, it’s time for the rings!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sarah-at-the-wedding-down-the-aisle

Copyright Pauline Oud, courtesy of Clavis Books

“The rings are in the pocket of Dad’s jacket. Or are they?” Frantically, Dad searches through all of his pockets. Where can they be? At last, Dad finds them in his pants pocket. Sarah and Ian smile. Dad lays them on the little red pillow Ian and Sarah are carrying, and they walk carefully to Olivia and William. When William and Olivia put the rings on each other’s fingers, they are pronounced husband and wife. Sarah and Ian giggle when they kiss. Mom and Dad and Grandpa call out ‘Hooray!’ Grandma has tears in her eyes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sarah-at-the-wedding-ring

Copyright Pauline Oud, courtesy of Clavis Books

Olivia and William walk outside on a long red carpet. Everyone cheers and applauds as they pass by while Ian and Sarah toss little flowers into the air. Now it’s time for photos. Sarah and Ian stand next to William and Olivia. They have to smile for a long time. Finally, the photographer is finished and “they go to the big party tent in the garden.”

There, Sarah spies the most beautiful cake she has ever seen. On top stand two dolls that “look exactly like William and Aunt Olivia!” Together. Aunt Olivia and William hold the knife as they cut the cake. “‘You don’t like cake, do you?’” William teases Ian and Sarah. “‘Yes, I do!’” they answer together. After cake and lemonade, Sarah and Ian are full.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sarah-at-the-wedding-ceremony

Copyright Pauline Oud, courtesy of Clavis Books

Then Grandpa gives them bottles of bubbles! “While the other people talk and laugh in the garden, Ian and Sarah blow the biggest bubbles. Soon lots of beautiful bubbles are flying through the sky.” There’s even “an arts and crafts table in the party tent.” Sarah makes a veil just like Olivia’s while Ian makes a top hat like William’s to wear.

After they are done, Sarah and Ian pretend to get married with two paper rings. The party goes on into the night. Ian and Sarah eat French fries and ice cream. “When it gets dark, the little lamps in the party tent go on. Pretty!” People are dancing to music, and Ian and Sarah join in. “This wedding is so much fun!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sarah-at-the-wedding-dancing

Copyright Pauline Oud, courtesy of Clavis Books

Instructions on how to make a veil with paper and lace or cloth as well as how to make a top hat follow the text. The story leads off with six questions, which can be used as a scavenger hunt of sorts while reading or as a fun memory game afterward.

Pauline Oud’s sweet and perfectly paced wedding story will engage little one’s imaginations whether they are chosen to participate in a wedding or are just curious about this milestone event. Adorably aware of and diligent in performing their responsibilities, Sarah and Ian are integral participants in their aunt’s important day. Readers will giggle at the bit of suspense, sprinkled with humor, when Dad can’t find the wedding rings. The portrayal of an interracial couple as well as Oud’s fabulous ideas for entertaining children at a wedding, make Sarah at the Wedding, a warm, inclusive book that will make young—and older—hearts sing.

Sarah at the Wedding would be an endearing addition to home bookshelves for children who love to play dress-up and pretend as well as for those participating in a wedding or other family event.

Ages 3 and up

Clavis Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373317

Discover more about Pauline Oud, her books, and her work for the Dutch version of Sesame Street on her website!

Family Reunion Month Activity

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Hangin’ with Family! Magnets and Picture Hanger

 

What’s a family reunion—or any event—without photos to share afterward? Here’s an easy craft that you can make for yourself or to give to your family or friends whether they live close by or far away. These magnets can used by themselves or to hold a picture-hanging wire. Use maps, inside jokes, favorite characters, or shared experiences to make these crafts personal!

For Magnets and Picture Hanger

Supplies

  • Use a mapping program to find a map of your town and your friend’s town
  • Poster board
  • Large, 1 ½-inch clear glass stones (decorative fillers), available in craft stores
  • Markers or colored pencils if drawing your own designs
  • Twine
  • Super Glue
  • Toothpicks
  • Scissors
  • Heavy duty mounting squares

Directions for Picture Hanger

  1. Find maps of your and your friend’s towns
  2. Alternately, draw your own design on the poster board, and follow the directions from number 7 below
  3. Zoom in so the name of your and your friend’s towns are displayed well. You will be using about a 1-inch area around the towns’ names.
  4. Take a screen shot of the maps
  5. Print the maps
  6. Place the glass stone on the map and trace around it
  7. Place the glass stone on the poster board and trace around it
  8. Cut out the circles on the map and poster board
  9. With the toothpick, glue the map to the poster board, let dry
  10. With the toothpick, apply glue around the very edge of the map side of the circle
  11. Attach the circle to the flat side of the glass stone, let dry
  12. Trim the cardboard circle if needed
  13. Repeat with the other map
  14. Attach a length of twine to the back of each glass stone
  15. Attach heavy duty mounting squares to the back of each glass stone
  16. Attach stones to the wall and hang pictures on the twine

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-friends-magnets

Directions for Magnets

  1. Place the glass stone on the poster board and trace around it
  2. Place the glass stone on the map with the town in the center and trace around it
  3. Alternately, draw your own design on the poster board, and follow the directions from number 6 below
  4. Cut out the circles on the poster board and maps
  5. Glue the map to the poster board
  6. With the toothpick, apply glue around the very edge of the map side of the circle
  7. Attach the circle to the flat side of the stone, let dry
  8. Trim the cardboard circle if needed
  9. Attach the magnet to the back of the cardboard with glue

Picture Book Review