August 15 – National Relaxation Day

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About the Holiday

In 1985, when Sean Moeller was in fourth grade, he looked around and saw everyone rushing here and there, cooking, cleaning, toiling away, and, maybe, doing piles of homework and thought, enough is enough—at least for one day. As the founder of National Relaxation Day, Moeller encouraged people to slow down and take it easy. Taking time to relax is an important component in feeling healthy and happy. Our bodies and brains need downtime to deal with the stresses of everyday life and be rejuvenated. How will you spend the day? Taking a break for tea and treats with friends is a great way to celebrate—as today’s book shows!

The Princess and the Café on the Moat

Written by Margie Markarian | Illustrated by Chloe Douglass

 

There once was a little princess who lived in a very busy castle. Every morning knights brought news of “enemies defeated, dragons seized, and citizens rescued.” Upstairs, ladies-in-waiting were given their duties for “silks to sew, invitations to ink, and chandeliers to shine.” The princess wanted a special job too, but her voice was never heard above the din, so she went in search of something to occupy her time.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When she met the court jester, he told her he was too busy learning a routine for the evening’s guests to teach her how to juggle. The wandering minstrel who was playing his mandolin told her, “‘Your fingers are too delicate to pluck these wiry strings.’” And the wise wizard banished her from the tower because his potions were too dangerous. Even the royal baker thought her kitchen was no place for a princess. “The princess’s kind heart and eager spirit were not easily discouraged.” As she wandered past the front gate, she wondered if there were people beyond it who could use her help. Just then the drawbridge descended, and when the guard turned away for a moment, the princess crept by him and ran outside.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Right outside the castle, she met a “sad old man holding a scrolled parchment.” She approached him and asked why he was so sad. He told her that he had a letter from his far-away son, but because of his weak eyesight, he couldn’t read it. “‘I have time to read your letter and sit awhile,’ said the princess, happy to have found a task so quickly.” Next, she met a worried widow with five children coming down the path. The princess asked why they looked so tired.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The woman told her that she had no one to watch her children as she traveled the long way to the village market. The princess happily offered to watch the woman’s children. Soon, “a brave squire limped by the palace where the princess, the old man, and the widow’s children were telling stories and playing games.” When the princess asked the squire what pained him, he told her “‘I gashed by knee in a skirmish many miles ago but have not stopped to tend to it.’” The princess quickly cleaned and bandaged the squire’s knee so he could continue on to the castle.

Back at the castle, though, everything was in an uproar as the king and queen and staff hunted everywhere for the princess. Through a window the king suddenly heard laughter and singing. When the king looked out, he saw that the sound was coming from the princess. Everyone in the castle paraded out through the drawbridge to join the princess and her friends.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The princess ran to her mother and father and told them about all the things she had done for the old man, the widow, and the squire. The king and queen “were proud to have such a kindhearted daughter.” The king suggested that they “all celebrate together with treats and refreshments.” From that day on in the afternoon, the drawbridge was dropped and tables and chairs set up. Then the “princess welcomed townspeople and travelers from far and wide to her café on the moat.”

Here, the court jester practiced his juggling, the minstrel shared his music, the wizard made drinks, and the baker created delicious treats. The old man and the widow with her children often came by to meet new friends and relax. And the brave squire enjoyed refreshments while he guarded the castle. The café on the moat welcomed everyone, and “indeed, they all lived happily and busily ever after.”

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

An Afterword about fairy tales and a kindness activity for children follow the story.

Margie Markarian’s sweet story is an enchanting fairy tale for today’s socially conscious and active kids. Instead of needing rescue, this princess looks for opportunities to help others. When she’s turned away inside the castle, she leaves the comfort of home and reaches out to her community, an idea that children will embrace. Through her cheerful storytelling, Markarian also shows readers that in their talents and kind hearts they already have what it takes to make a difference to others. As the princess opens her café on the moat, children will see that the adults also find ways to support her efforts. Markarian’s language is charmingly “medieval,” making the story fun to read aloud while inspiring listeners.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Chloe Douglass’s adorable princess is a terrific role model for young readers. Her eagerness to help and positive spirit are evident in her smiles and persistent requests for a job to do. When she ventures out of the castle, she displays obvious empathy for the people she meets, and children will recognize her joy at being able to brighten the townspeople’s day. Despite their busy days, the king and queen are happy and supportive of their daughter. Children will love the bright and detailed images of the castle and town, where the crest of love rules.

The Princess and the Café on the Moat is a charming flip on the traditional fairy tale—one that children will want to hear again and again. It would make a great spring gift and an enriching addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363971

To discover more about Margie Markarian and her picture book and to find fun activities, visit her website. 

Learn more about Chloe Douglass, her books, and her art on her website.

National Relaxation Day Activity

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The Princess and the Café on the Moat Activities

 

The Princess likes to help people relax and have fun together! You can help her too with these four activity pages!

The Princess and the Café Coloring Page |Castle Matching PageStory Sequencing Page Write a Fairy Tale Page

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You can find The Princess and the Café on the Moat at these booksellers

Amazon | An Unlikely Story | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

August 10 – National Eye Exam Month

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About the Holiday

Founded in 1989 by Sears Optical, National Eye Exam Month encourages people to think about their eye health. As kids get ready to go back to school, an eye exam is an important thing to add to the list of preparations. Seeing clearly is crucial to success in class and extracurricular activities. If you and your children have not had an eye exam this year, consider calling your ophthalmologist this month.

Douglas, You Need Glasses!

By Ged Adamson

 

Something may be amiss with Douglas. When Nancy and her playful pooch go out to chase squirrels, Douglas takes after a falling leaf while the squirrel escapes up a tree. It’s not the first time this has happened, either. You see, Douglas is a bit nearsighted. Sometimes he mistakes the stair post for Nancy, and his difficulty gets in the way of things (well, mostly Douglas gets in the way of things).

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Image and text copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

He also misses important signs—like the one that would have prevented him from tracking wet cement all over the skate park, where there are NO DOGS allowed—and he’s always causing something of a ruckus. Sometimes he even enters the wrong house! But when a game of fetch nearly creates a buuzzzz of disaster, Nancy decides something must be done.

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Image and text copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She takes Douglas to the eye doctor where he reads a most dog-friendly eye chart and discovers that he needs glasses. He peruses the shelves of Dog Glasses and puts some on. Each one makes him feel different. In one pair he’s a rock star; in another a scholar; and in yet another a hippy. He tries them all until he finds the perfect pair!

On the way home he sees the world in a whole new way. “‘Wow! Everything looks amazing!’” Douglas says. And it is!

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Image and text copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Ged Adamson’s funny look at a dog with an all-too-human malady will make kids laugh from the first page to the last. Earnest Douglas, going about his doggy days under a bit of a skewed perspective, is so endearing that readers will immediately take him to heart even as they giggle at his exploits.

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Image and text copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Adamson’s vibrant multi-hued trees, colorfully clothed kids, and vivid backgrounds with stylish, sketched-in details give the book a fresh, jaunty appeal for a lively, fun story time. Kids facing the prospect of wearing glasses will also find much to give them reassurance and confidence in this book. Douglas, You Need Glasses! is a great addition to any child’s bookshelf!

Ages 3 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, Random House Kids, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553522433

Visit Ged Adamson’s Website to learn more about him and his books!

National Eye Exam Month Activity

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Spool Puppy

 

No matter where you go and whether you have a real dog or not, you can take this little guy along with you. And just as you would pick out your favorite from an animal shelter, you can make this puppy look any way you’d like!

Supplies

  • Printable Ears and Nose Template
  • 2-inch round wooden spool, available at craft stores
  • 1 skein of yarn in the color you choose. Yardage needed will depend on the thickness of the yarn.
  • Felt
  • Thin gauge wire
  • Craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Fabric or strong glue
  • Dowel or pencil to wrap wire around to make glasses

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Directions

  1. Paint the dowel the color you want your dog to be, let dry
  2. Trace the ears on the felt and cut out (or draw your own ears)
  3. Trace the nose on the felt and cut out
  4. When the spool is dry glue the ears to the body of the spool, allowing the ears to stick up from the top of the spool
  5. Wind the yarn around the spool back and forth until the dog’s body is the size you’d like
  6. Glue the yarn in place with fabric or strong glue

To make the face

  1. Glue the nose over the hole on one end of the spool
  2. Draw the mouth and tongue under the nose with a marker
  3. You will draw the eyes on after the glasses are in place

To make the glasses

  1. Wind the wire around a ½-inch dowel, thick pencil, or rounded handle to make two circles.
  2. Leave about two inches on either side of the circles for the ear pieces of the glasses.
  3. Adjust the size of the circles to fit the spool as glasses.
  4. Put the glasses on the face of the spool, tucking the ear pieces into the yarn on each side
  5. Draw eyes in the center of the glasses

To make the tail

  1. Cut a small square of felt and stuff the edges into the hole on the other end of the spool
  2. You can make the tail as long as you like

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You can find Douglas, You Need Glasses! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

July 31 – National Avocado Day

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About the Holiday

A fresh delight during the summer and quickly becoming a staple of diets and skin care, the avocado is something of a super fruit. Used by the Aztecs as facial masks to beautify their skin, the avocado was rediscovered in the early 1900s by the cosmetics industry, who began using its oils in creams, lotions, and facial cleansers and continue to do so today. The avocado provides essential Omega-3 fatty acids—which researchers are using in the fight against Alzheimer’s—as well as vitamins E, C, and K that prevent damage to cells and help restore those that are damaged. Of course, avocados are also delicious—by themselves, as guacamole, or in recipes for dishes from breakfast to dessert. To celebrate today, enjoy avocados your favorite way—or try a new recipe!

Avocado Baby

By John Burningham

 

“Mr. and Mrs. Hargraves and their two children were not very strong.” They were about to add another child to the family, and they all hoped the baby would be not be a weakling too. But when the baby was born, he didn’t like any of the food he was fed, and Mrs. Hargraves cried at how scrawny he looked. Her older children suggested she try giving him the avocado in the fruit bowl. Even though Mrs. Hargraves didn’t know how the avocado had gotten there—they never even bought avocados—she cut it open, mashed it up, and fed it to the baby. He ate it all up!

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Copyright John Burningham, 2000, courtesy of Red Fox.

“From that day on an amazing thing happened. The baby became very strong.” Every day, Mrs. Hargrave fed the baby avocado. Soon, the baby could get free from the highchair, pull a cart full of children, and rip off the side of the crib. One night when a burglar entered the house, the baby heard him and jumped out of his crib. The baby chased the burglar with a broom. “The burglar was so frightened at being chased by a baby that he dropped his bag and ran out of the house.”

 

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Copyright John Burningham, 2000, courtesy of Red Fox.

The next morning Mr. Hargraves put a “Beware of the Baby” sign on the front gate to keep other burglars away. The baby was helpful in other ways too. He carried full bags of groceries, helped move the piano and other furniture, and even pushed the car when it broke down. One day when two bullies began bothering his brother and sister at the park, the baby jumped out of his stroller, “picked up the bullies, and threw them into the pond.”

You will be glad to know that the baby is still getting stronger every day, and, of course, he’s still eating plenty of avocados.

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Copyright John Burningham, 2000, courtesy of Red Fox.

With his wry humor John Burningham is a master at making children laugh. Avocado Baby is a delightfully silly quick read with plenty of kid appeal in the story’s pint-sized superbaby. The gentle nudge to eat healthy makes the book a fun way to introduce new foods to picky eaters. Burningham’s well-known line drawings of the woe-begone Mrs. Hargrave and the baby pushing the car, chasing the burglar, and especially tossing two bullies into the pond at once will have young readers giggling and cheering.

Ages 3 – 7

Red Fox, 2000 | ISBN 978-0099200611

Discover more about John Burningham and his books on his website.

National Avocado Day Activity

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Avocado Bagel

 

A creamy avocado makes a delicious spread for bagels or toast to have with breakfast, lunch, or dinner! The mild flavor will please little ones while the essential vitamins and oils will please health-conscious parents.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper, or to taste

Directions

  1. Cut the avocado open, remove pit, and scoop out the meat
  2. In a bowl mash the avocado until it is smooth
  3. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper
  4. Mix well
  5. Spread on a toasted bagel or bread

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Check out this classic story at your local library or find it on Amazon

Picture Book Review

July 29 – Rain Day

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About the Holiday

Is it hot enough for you? Do you start to melt the minute you step outside? Are you wishing for a little rain to cool things off? Well, today may be your lucky day! Today, we celebrate that rain that feeds farmer’s crops, brings our lawns back (just a little), and gives us a good reason to stay at home curled up with a good book. Why is July 29th designated as Rain Day? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania it has rained on this date 114 years of the last 142. So watch the skies and get your umbrella ready. A trip to the library or bookstore is a great idea too!

A Book for Benny

Written by Judith Koppens | Illustrated by Marja Meijer

 

It’s a rainy day and Sam is cozy on the couch reading…well, she would be if her dog, Benny, wasn’t pulling at her arm, wanting to play. “‘I’m not going to play with you. I’m reading.’” Sam tells Benny. She tries to show him how much fun reading is, but Benny doesn’t seem interested in the book Sam has. Maybe, Sam thinks, Benny would like a different book. “‘Come, Benny. We’ll go to the library. We’ll pick out a nice book just for you,’” Sam says. She grabs her raincoat from the hook, and Benny finds his leash.

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Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

They reach the library and hurry in through the revolving door to get out of the rain. Just then they hear a voice coming from the front desk. “‘I’m sorry, young lady, but dogs are not allowed in here!’” When Sam explains, the woman thinks that a book just for Benny sounds fun, but she still can’t allow Benny to stay. Sam takes Benny outside and returns to the shelves to look for the perfect book.

She finds one about knights and takes it to the big wall of windows to get Benny’s approval. She shows Benny the pictures. “Benny looks up at Sam, but then he pees against the tree.” Perhaps a circus book would be more appealing; after all, “Benny loves to do tricks with the ball.’” But when Benny sees this book, he simply turns his back on Sam.

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Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

Sam searches through the bins of books. “‘Yes, this is the one!’ Sam suddenly cries.” She runs to the window and finds “the best picture to show Benny. Benny looks at the book and starts to wag his tail. He barks and licks the window…again and again” even though it’s dirty. Sam rushes to the desk to check out Benny’s book. When the woman picks it up, she “reads the title out loud. ‘I Love Sausages: 101 Recipes.’”

The librarian is surprised, but Sam tells her that this is the book Benny likes best. Back home, Sam settles in on the couch once more and begins reading again. “And Benny?” He stretches out, closes his eyes, and “has lovely dreams about his book.”

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Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

Judith Koppens’ endearing story about a little girl who wants to share her love of reading with her pet will enchant animal lovers and may inspire some child/furry friend reading time at home. Benny’s humorous displays of disapproval and approval will have kids giggling, and the book that Benny ultimately chooses will be appreciated with a laugh by dog owners. Benny’s choice also demonstrates that everyone finds different books appealing, and that sometimes it takes a little trial and error and alternate thinking to find just the right fit for reluctant readers.

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Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

Marja Meijer’s cartoon-style illustrations are just right for this lighthearted tribute to a love of reading. Sam’s home is warm and cozy with pictures and photos of the most valued family member on the wall, a comfy couch, and a fuzzy rug. The blue watercolor world outside plinks with raindrops and splashes with puddles, while inside the library, the colorful stacks of shelved books offers refuge that is recognizable to all book lovers. Benny’s slobbery assent to the book Sam chooses will have readers wondering about the title, and the cover reveal will make them laugh. As Sam and Benny settle in to read, the clearing skies show that happiness really is a good book.

Dialogue driven,  A Book for Benny makes a great read aloud for home or classroom storytimes.

Ages 4 – 6

Clavis Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373522

Discover more about Judith Koppens, her books, illustrations, and other creative endeavors on her website.

To learn more about Marja Meijer and her art, visit her website.

Rain Day Activity

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Rainy Day Match-Up Puzzle

 

On a rainy day you need just the right raincoat and umbrella to stay dry! These matching umbrellas and raincoats have gotten separated. Can you find the matching pairs? How do you match them up? 

Rainy Day Match-Up Puzzle

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You can find A Book for Benny at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 28 – National Day of the Cowboy

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About the Holiday

Observed annually on the fourth Saturday of July, the day commemorates the “contributions of the Cowboy and Cowgirl to America’s culture and heritage.” The heyday of the cowboy and cowgirl came after the Civil War when Texas experienced a booming wild cattle population. As the population of the United States grew, the demand for beef increased. Cowboys and cowgirls drove nearly 5 million head of cattle north to meet the demand, sparking tales, legends, and a rich history of the Great Plains in their boot and hoof steps. With no written laws on the books, cowboys even came up with their own code of conduct, which included living each day with honestly and courage, taking pride in your work, standing up for what’s right, and many more rules to live by. For more information visit The Day of the Cowboy website.

Real Cowboys

Written by Kate Hoefler | Illustrated by Jonathan Bean

 

Real cowboys wake with the dawn’s light and are careful not to make too much noise for the people still sleeping in the “little houses in the hollow, and up the mountains, and at the edge of fields in the distance.” It is natural for the cowboys to think of others. Their job is to care for the herd; to help a stranded calf and their dog who is trying to lure it to safety; to soothe the herd when thunder rumbles overhead.

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Real cowboys sing soft, slow songs to their cows to encourage them to continue moving when the path is narrow and dangerous and to sleep when coyotes howl in the night. Cowboys are good listeners—heeding the advice and warnings of the trail boss and other cowhands. “Sometimes they listen for trucks, and wolves, and rushing water. And sometimes they just listen to the big wide world and its grass song.” Along the way cowboys keep themselves safe with their wide-brimmed hats and leather chaps.

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, text copyright Kate Hoefler. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Because the cattle drive is long—lasting “for hours, or days, or weeks”—cowboys learn to be patient. “Even on a fast horse, they have to move with the slow rhythm of a herd….” When they need help, real cowboys don’t hesitate to ask, using hand and hat signals to alert other cowhands. “Real cowboys want peace. They don’t want stampedes, where all the cattle spook, and thunder over the earth, and scatter in dust storms.” Sometimes, however, this happens, and sometimes a few cattle and dogs are lost. Thinking of them when times are quiet, “real cowboys cry.”

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, text copyright Kate Hoefler. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

At night cowboys take turns eating and sleeping so there is always someone to watch over the herd. When they pack up camp and move on, real cowboys are mindful of the earth, and when they are far from home, inside themselves they can feel homesick, even if they look tough on the outside. “Real cowboys are as many different colors as the earth. Real cowboys are girls too.” In their hearts “real cowboys are artists,” creating stories that are bigger than the wide open prairie. “They wonder what’s past the horizon. And one day, when their work is done, real cowboys find out.”

Kate Hoefler’s moving tribute to cowboys and cowgirls demonstrates the qualities of kindness, thoughtfulness, and mindfulness that we want to share with our children. With lyrical language she follows cowboys on a cattle drive, where they experience the joys and sorrows that life entails for all. Hoefler’s pacing echoes the day-to-day movement of the herd as well as readers’ daily life. Delving into the responsibilities and characteristics of these men and women is a unique way to open the world to children and promote discussions about the traits of caring individuals.

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Jonathan Bean’s hand-stenciled illustrations printed in four Pantone colors are particularly effective in portraying the life of the cowboys and cowgirls entrusted with herds of cattle. Early morning dawns to rose skies that color even the horses and reflect in the drinking trough. Cattle, obscured by dust raised on the trail, form the backdrop to a cowboy worriedly watching his dog coax a calf from a cliff, and afternoon turns to night in a two-page spread where a cow nuzzles her calf as it sleeps. Depictions of the enormity of the herd traveling from one place to another amid sweltering days, rain storms, and blizzards are beautifully rendered, and the emotions of the cowboys are clearly discernable and touching.

Real Cowboys is stunning in both language and illustrations. For quiet story times, bedtime, or times for reflection and inspiration, this book would make an excellent addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544148925

To view a gallery of illustration by Jonathan Bean, visit his website!

National Day of the Cowboy Activity

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Rootin’-Tootin’ Round-Up Maze

 

These cowgirls and cowboys have a surprise waiting for them. Can you help them round it up in this printable Rootin’-Tootin’ Round-Up Maze?

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You can find Real Cowboys at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

July 27 – National Get Gnarly Day

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About the Holiday

Hey, dude! You don’t need to be a surfer to enjoy Get Gnarly Day! Today’s holiday is less about pitting yourself against the wild seas and more about challenging yourself to toss away old ideas and try new ones. So, whether you’re hanging ten or not, don’t be afraid to get rid of those habits, thoughts, or actions that are cluttering up your life—just like Bear in today’s book!

Big Brown Bear’s Cave

By Yuval Zommer

 

One day Big Brown Bear came upon a cave that was just perfect for him, and he moved right in. Even though it was dusty and dark in just the right ways, when he stretched this way and that, “the cave just didn’t fit quite right.” So Big Brown Bear went for another walk to find another cave. What he found instead astonished him. “Humans had their own caves!” These were dark and dusty just like his, but “they were full of STUFF!”

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Copyright Yuval Zommer, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Bear decided that stuff would make his cave just right too. He collected all kinds of stuff, like stuff with wheels, stuff with handles, and stuff in boxes. He wanted to fill up his cave top to bottom with stuff. When his friends came by to see Bear and his new home, there was no room for them amidst all the stuff. In fact, there was hardly any room for Bear “to even stretch or scratch or do any of the other things that bears generally like to do.” And when he was invited to go fishing, he couldn’t go because he got stuck in the middle of all his stuff. It took lots of pulling and tugging by his friends to free Bear from his stuff trap.

Bear decided he’s had enough of stuff, so he and his friends took it all “back to the humans’ caves. Bear’s cave was empty again, but now his friends could curl up inside too, and “Bear found the perfect spot for sleeping right away” in his just-right home.

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Copyright Yuval Zommer, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Yuval Zommer’s quick romp that takes readers from the excitement of collecting all sorts of cool stuff to the realization that there really is such a thing as too much will make kids laugh as Bear enthusiastically carries home bikes and watering cans and boxes, boxes, boxes, gets stuck in the muddle, and finally pops free with a tumble. But how can Bear’s cave be so full and yet so empty at the same time? Young readers will see that it’s not the amount of stuff they have that makes a home—or a heart—feel just right, but the friends that share their space.

Zommer’s beautifully detailed and textured digital art brings the forest alive with scruffy squirrels, deep, dark caves, falling leaves, and one furry Bear. His revelation of “human caves” sets up a clever “Ah-ha” moment for both kids and adults and will no doubt have children asking if they can play in the cave after reading. Zommer’s pages invite lingering to view all of the items piled on the floor, shelves, and in Bear’s cave. Readers can make a fun game of seeing how much of Bear’s stuff they have as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Templar Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763696467

National Get Gnarly Day Activity

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Flip-Flop Flower Pot Holder

 

Do you have some old flip-flops taking up space in your closet? With this super easy craft you can make them into pretty gnarly plant or small item holders.

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You can find Big Brown Bear’s Cave at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 23 – Gorgeous Grandma Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate grandmothers and give them the praise they deserve! Besides loving and always being there for their grandkids, grandmas are out there working, having fun, exploring new adventures, and sharing it all with family and friends. They’re also the source to go to for family memories and stories of generations past. In short, grandmas are gorgeous inside and out! Children benefit in many ways from having a close relationship with their grandparents. To celebrate today’s holiday, plan an outing or a visit between children and their grandmother. If that isn’t possible, call or write, and it’s always fun to read a book about grandmas—like today’s sweet book!

With Love, Grandma

Written by Helen Foster James | Illustrated by Petra Brown

 

Little Hedgehog waves goodbye to Grandma, who’s off on an adventure. Along the way Grandma writes letters to her grandchild about all the fun she is having and how her experiences remind her of her dearest love. Grandma’s first letter is dated May 15th and addressed Dear Sweat Pea…. She is writing from a meadow of wildflowers and says “Grandma misses you, but your love grows in my heart. She also sends along a packet of wildflowers for her grandchild to plant.

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Image copyright Petra Brown, 2018, text copyright Helen Foster James, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

May 18th finds Grandma describing a mountain hike she took with friends, and she includes a picture of a deer and fawn she saw. She suggests that she and her “Sunshine” “go for a hike the next time you visit CAMP GRANDMA. She closes saying, “I love you ‘over the river and through the woods’ and to the tippy-tip-top of the highest mountain.”

It’s June 3rd and Grandma’s writes “Ahoy, Matey!” to tell her little one about her “full-of-fun day” kayaking. She even made a pirate hat complete with feathers to send along with her letter and promises to make one together at CAMP GRANDMA. She signs off, “I’ll always love you to the stars and back. With Love, Grandma XOXO. PS Explore more!”

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Image copyright Petra Brown, 2018, text copyright Helen Foster James, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

“Dear Snickerdoodle,” Grandma writes on June 10, “I was at the beach today.” Making s’mores with her friends reminded her of the time she made them with little Hedgehog. She’s ready to do that again at CAMP GRANDMA and sends a “funny saying, but it’s true. ‘Every day, I LOVE you s’more!’” On June 15th Grandma’s travels are over and she’s back home ready to have her “Dear Cupcake” come to visit. She’s whipping up a batch of cupcakes they can share at CAMP GRANDMA because she and her grandchild “go together like fronting on a cupcake.”  She ends her letter “With Love, Grandma XOXO. PS Grandma loves you!”

As quick as a wink, Little Hedgehog is packed and running up the walkway to CAMP GRANDMA with arms stretched wide to receive Grandma’s loving hug.

Free of personal pronouns and illustrated with gender-neutral clothing, With Love, Grandma XOXO will be embraced by all children. Beautiful, easy-to-follow illustrated directions for making s’mores and a paper pirate hat follow the text.

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Image copyright Petra Brown, 2018, text copyright Helen Foster James, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Helen Foster James’ story in letters is so adorably charming that young readers will snuggle in to learn about Grandma’s next adventure and her endearing reminders to her grandchild. James’ grandma is energetic, creative, and accomplished, and her independence and zest for life mirrors today’s grandparents. Each page is filled with tons of love and the knowledge that little ones are always in a grandparent’s heart even if or when distance separates them. While sharing encouragement, teachable moments, gentle advice, inside jokes, and favorite activities, Grandma reveals her pride in and devotion to her grandchild. Little listeners will be reminded of their own grandmas and the special bond they have.

Petra Brown’s stunning two-page spreads gorgeously depict Grandma’s adventures—from a wildflower meadow, mountain pass, plein air painting class, and Memorial Day parade to a rambling river, bookstore, and rainy day. Playful snapshots of Grandma and Little Hedgehog laughing and enjoying each other’s company at home are also interspersed among the lovely illustrations. Images of the flower seed packet, photo, postcard, and pirate hat Grandma sends with some letters adds depth and interest to the story.

This tender, warm-hearted book is like a big hug from Grandma on the bookshelf that can be shared again and again. With Love, Grandma makes a joyful gift to or from Grandma—one that will be cherished.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585369423

Discover more about Helen Foster James and her books on her website.

To learn more about Petra Brown, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Gorgeous Grandma Day Activity

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World’s Best Grandmother Certificate

Do you have the world’s best grandmother? Of course you do! Show her how much you love her by giving her this printable certificate!

World’s Best Grandmother Certificate

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You can find With Love, Grandma at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review