September 21 – National CleanUp Day

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About the Holiday

Did you know that people are more likely to pick up litter if they see someone else doing it? That’s the idea behind today’s holiday. Instituted by Clean Trails, a nonprofit begun by Steve Jewett and Bill Willoughby after they noticed that their favorite hiking trails were being marred with trash and wanted to make a difference. At first they made a game of picking up the litter they saw, which attracted more people to their cause. Now, National CleanUp Day is a global event, encouraging people all around the world to get out into their communities and make them better. To learn more about the day, find a clean up crew in your area, and discover more about Clean Trails, visit the Clean Trails website.

Clean Up, Up, Up!

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

It’s clean up time for Daddy and his toddler! As they put the books back on the shelf, Daddy says, “‘Let’s reach up high—your books go up on the top shelf.’” He then prompts, “‘What goes down below?’” With the blocks all stacked on the bottom shelf, the pair move on to putting away the train engine, which has its own special place next to the little station. “‘Choo-choo!’” says the child.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Playing with Daddy makes cleaning up even more fun, and the little one pretends to take a nap with the teddy bears when they’re put inside the cardboard playhouse. The tot giggles and jumps up with a “‘Wake up-up-up!’” just in time to find the train’s caboose hiding behind the chair.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

With everything “put away up, down, inside, and under,” it’s time to get ready for dinner. The little one knows just what to do—“‘Wash up-up-up!’” Hands clean, the toddler sits at the table eager to help some more. “‘Would you like to help set the table too?’” Mommy asks. The child happily agrees and is excited to show some new understanding. “‘Spoon DOWN…,’” the little one says, and then with a big scoop of dinner. “‘…and spoon UP!’”

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

A note for parents, grandparents, and caregivers from childhood education expert Susan C. Levine on how they can find opportunities to talk about spatial relations during everyday activities is included.  Gender neutral clothing and hairstyle as well as an absence of pronouns makes this a universal story.

Clean Up, Up, Up! is also available in a bilingual Spanish/English edition: ¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar!/Clean Up, Up, Up! translated byAudrey Martinez-Gudapakkam and Dr. Sabrina De Los Santos

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Translation by Audrey Martinez-Gudapakkam and Dr. Sabrina De Los Santos. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Ellen Mayer continues to add to her sweet and joyful series of books for little ones and the adults in their lives that model ways parents, grandparents, and caregivers can talk with children to help them develop language and math literacy at the youngest ages. In Clean Up Up Up!, the concept of spatial relations is organically introduced to toddlers through the motions and words used while putting items in their proper place, stepping up on a stool to use something out of the child’s reach, and even when eating. Research shows that talking with children at all ages about math concepts such as positions and locations improves their understanding and leads to better success in school and beyond.

The loving relationship between father and child in Mayer’s early language development book A Fish to Feed, is expanded on here as the same interracial family enjoys clean-up and dinner time. The engaging dialogue between Daddy, Mommy, and their toddler will captivate young readers and inspire adults to continue the story in their own daily lives.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s adorable toddler giggles and plays while soaking up the rich language of positions and locations that the father clearly points to while cleaning up. Little readers will be charmed by the enthusiastic child and the little puppy that follows along. Images of books, toys, washing up, and dinnertime all demonstrate the positions and locations referred to in the story, while other details provide an opportunity for adults and children to expand on the text (the fish from A Fish to Feed swims inside its bowl and balls sit inside a bin, for example). Hu’s vivid colors as well as the smiles and enthusiasm with which Daddy, Mommy, and their child interact make Clean Up, Up, Up! a feel-great educational read.

Clean Up, Up, Up! would make a wonderful gift and would be an excellent addition to home, daycare and preschool classrooms to spark playful learning experiences.

Ages 1 – 3

Star Bright Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1595728012

Discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ying-Hwa Hu, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National CleanUp Day Activity

CPB - Playhouse craft

Come Inside! Playhouse

 

What can you do with some of those clean things your and your kids have picked up at home, in your yard, or around your neighborhood? Use them to make and decorate this playhouse! Kids love pretending with their toys in playhouses. With this craft you and your child can make a playhouse with recycled items and lots of imagination. While making the house, talk with your child about the building process using spatial relation words and ask for their ideas on what it should look like.

Once finished, you and your child can make up stories using words that use spatial relations as characters come in the house, go out of the house, peek in or out of a window, sit on the roof, wait under the window, sit next to a friend while having tea, and so much more!

Supplies

  • Cardboard box
  • Craft paint
  • Markers
  • Glue

Plus Recycled items, such as:

  • Bottle caps for door knobs,
  • Small boxes for a chimney
  • Use the cardboard cut from the windows to make shutters
  • Scraps of cloth for curtains

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You can find Clean Up, Up, Up! at these booksellers

English Edition

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

Spanish/English Bilingual Edition: ¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar!

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

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

 

September 6 – National Read a Book Day and Interview with Blake Liliane Hellman & Steven Henry

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About the Holiday

Avid readers, rejoice! Today is your day! Just as its name implies, National Read a Book Day celebrates one of the best ways to spend our spare time: reading! If there’s a book you’ve been wanting to read, find some quiet time during lunch, after dinner, or before turning out the light to snuggle in with a cup of tea and that great book. Kids will enjoy some extra reading time as well. Make it a family event! Not only is reading together fun, it’s an important way to help children develop skills that will benefit them far into the future. 

Get to Know Blake Liliane Hellman and Steven Henry

Today, I’m celebrating National Read a Book Day by talking with Welcome to Morningtown author Blake Liliane Hellman and illustrator Steven Henry. This husband-and-wife team combine their talents for art and writing to create adorable picture books with characters and storylines kids love.  

First up, I’m chatting with Blake about how Welcome to Morningtown came to be and how her visual arts background influences her storytelling. 

Welcome to Morningtown is composed of only 119 words and yet readers get the feeling of a joyful day bursting with possibility and promise while the story also reflects the common routines of a morning for little ones. The story includes a wonderful feeling of camaraderie and inclusion, plus it ends on a humorous note. That’s a masterful use of words and rhythm! Can you describe how you approached the story, chose your words, and structured the cadence of the story? Did the story start out this short or was there a whittling process involved?

This book started out as a phrase Steve would use to wake up his little one in the morning. We knew we wanted to make it into a children’s book but we weren’t sure what it was going to be about. We had long discussions on the world of Morningtown—the setting, the season, the homes, and the creatures who lived there. We even designed maps for fun. There were many iterations. The text was much wordier at first, but I always knew it was going to be a prosaic style of book rather than a classical narrative. I’m a fan of Mary Lyn Ray (STARS, A LUCKY AUTHOR HAS A DOG) who uses words in a lyrical and economical way, without depending on rhyme. Similarly, I curated my word choices so Steve’s illustrations could shine.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Your background is in journalism, English, and filmmaking. You’re also an abstract painter. How did you become interested in writing picture books? How does your experience in all of these disciplines help you write your stories?

My background in filmmaking helped me learn how to tell stories visually. Years of crafting song lyrics taught me to express myself concisely and poetically. Journalism gave me a great foundation in writing, and painting abstractly taught me to get used to making mistakes—that mistakes are just the path to success. As a writer, you’re going to make a lot of bad stuff. If you accept that, you won’t give up. If you don’t give up, you get better.

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Diamond (acrylic on canvas) by Blake Liliane Hellman, 2015

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Iris (acrylic and mixed media on canvas) by Blake Liliane Hellman, 2015

As an artist, do you have a vision for your stories’ illustrations? In addition to working with Steven on Welcome to Morningtown  and the forthcoming GoodnightSleepyville (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020) and Something Smells! (Atheneum, 2018), you have a third picture book, Cuddle Monkey, coming out from Atheneum in 2020, illustrated by Chad Otis. Were you able to work closely with Chad on the adorable illustrations for this book?

As a filmmaker and visual designer, I absolutely have a vision for my stories when I’m writing them. It might be unusual for the writer to have a say in the illustrations, but I’ve been lucky in this. Both Steven Henry, my husband, and our good friend Chad Otis, (CUDDLE MONKEY, OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL) have design agency backgrounds and are used to collaborating, so designing picture books with them is a no brainer—and a delight. I don’t think I would have been able to sell my earlier manuscripts without the artwork because to my mind, in a picture book manuscript, half of the story just isn’t there! But as I establish myself as a writer, I’m learning that a professional picture book manuscript should be precise and uncluttered. It should speak for itself without relying on illustration notes.

What do you find to be the best part of being a children’s author?

I get to create fantastical, funny, heartfelt worlds and share them with kids and parents. When you see someone enjoying your work, it validates your imagination.

Steven, you also bring a varied background in design and illustration to your picture book career. Early on you worked as a window display artist for Tower Records and Macy’s Department Store. What are the challenges of this kind of work? What elements are important for capturing the attention of passersby and enticing them into the store? Is there a correlation to creating a book’s cover?

In both retail display and illustration, I’ve always tried to set up a visual hierarchy that leads the eye and gives the viewer the most important information first. To do this, first I figure out my visual storytelling goal (or goals). Once I understand what I’m trying to “say”, then I’ll ask myself what the reader should see first. Are any other elements distracting from this? Whenever possible I try to keep things simple in an engaging way. 

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What drew you to focus on illustrating picture books?

I started drawing superheroes and dinosaurs in grade school. My first-grade teacher noticed my doodles in class and, rather than scolding me for not working on my lessons, asked me if I’d like to draw dinosaurs on the chalkboard for the class at the end of the day. I don’t remember how I got the nerve up to do it, but I got up in front of the room and drew a big Tyrannosaurus, explaining how tall he was and who he fought with. I became a minor classroom celebrity for a couple of days, but that, along with encouragement from my parents, was enough to keep me inspired to draw. 

My parents got rid of our TV in the 70’s, so we spent many hours at the library and brought stacks of books home. Seuss, Sendak, and Scarry were—and still are—big heroes. As a teenager I became more interested in drawing comic book art, but I eventually returned to my picture book roots in 2004 with Ella The Elegant Elephant.  

The characters in Welcome to Morningtown are cuter than cute, and the whole book is like a warm hug. How do you achieve this look and feeling? Why do you think such sweet illustrations are important for little readers? I’m also thinking in particular of the final spread of the busy town that glows with friendship and happiness. Can you talk a bit about some of the elements adults can point out as they share the book with their kids?

When I’m designing characters, I try to make combinations of pen marks on paper that remind me of the kinds of books I loved as a kid and continue to resonate with me emotionally. In order to get to a point where I can communicate certain feelings visually, the boring secret has been practice. I really do believe the adage that, if you spend 10,000 hours doing something, you’ll become an expert. 

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Ladybug concept for Welcome to Morningtown by Steven Henry.

I still use a simple mechanical pencil to do most of my line work. I also try to stay well within my skill set when I’m working on a book. I try to save things like experimentation and pushing boundaries for the concept work that precedes actual book production. Usually, but I’m not always successful—haha.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As I mentioned earlier, I pay close attention to the visual hierarchy of an illustration to make sure the most important things stand out. But I also like to include little details that the reader may not catch the first time around, or I include a visual storyline that’s not necessarily a part of the text. In Welcome to Morningtown, there’s no mention of a bear family, for instance; but the illustrated exploits of the little bear and his family provide a gently funny counterpoint to the text. Whenever I can, I like to tell a parallel or separate story with the pictures, so parents and young readers should definitely keep their eyes open—and maybe even check the pictures more than once!

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Multiple readings of Welcome to Morningtown are definitely a must! As a husband and wife team collaborating on picture books, could you both tell readers about your process for completing a book that inspires such enthusiasm? Does the story come first and then the illustrations or do you work on the whole project together?

We’re always thinking of new ideas for books, usually they start with a title or concept, a funny thing we see while on a walk or overhear on the street. There’s a lot of silly wordplay at our house.

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Steve working on the picture book dummy for Welcome to Morningtown.

I throw a lot of ideas at Steve and not all of them stick. He’s particular. And for good reason. It takes a lot of work and commitment to illustrate a book. When we decide, we roll up our sleeves and get to work. Part of our process is to make a ‘dummy,’ which is a roughly laid out version of the book that we create with a program called InDesign. It has the text laid out alongside rough sketches. This step helps clarify the pacing and can validate or invalidate the story structure. It provides opportunities for improvement. We do a lot of iterating before giving it to our agent.

Blake, you work as an interactive and user experience designer and, Steven, you used to work for Smashing Ideas, which also provides these kinds of serves to clients. Can you briefly describe this work for readers? Can you talk a bit about your work for kids in this area? How do these techniques influence your work with picture books?

I’m a UX Designer and Steve is a Design Manager and we use user experience design principles, including white boarding, prototyping, and wire framing to make picture books! It sounds funny, but it’s actually a great way to work. The only thing we don’t do is user testing because it’s hard to find people who are willing to be honest with you about your picture book. (Unless it’s my mom, she’s very honest.)

Conversely, we’ve found that the process of making picture books helps us in our office environments. Making a picture book forces one to be very organized. There’s a lot to cover in just thirty-two pages! If you can master this kind of efficiency, you can apply it most anywhere.

I’ve had several comments from adults wishing they could live in Morningtown. What can readers look forward to in your upcoming companion book Sleepyville (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, date)?

In the companion book to this one, Sleepyville is a cozy seaside village just a hop, skip and jump from Morningtown. It’s bustling with animals who are getting ready for bedtime. Keep your eye out for a library in a giant tree, a candy shop, and camping worms.

 What’s up next for both of you?

We have a few book ideas we’re developing—one of which Steve has written. I’m currently shopping a manuscript on my own about a rambunctious river.

Since my blog is holiday themed, can’t let you get away without asking what your favorite holiday is and why?

My favorite is the Fourth of July. There’s a current of excitement that runs through the air on the Fourth of July. All the explosions, smoke, and fire—the bursts of colors in the night sky—break the routine of other days. But I’d be happy with just black snakes and sparklers. I especially love the smell of fireworks, which conjures hot summer pavement, watermelon picnics, and swimming pools.

I love the sensory details in this last sentence, Blake! I can almost feel my bare feet sizzling and taste that cool watermelon!

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BLAKE LILIANE HELLMAN is a picture book author and senior UX designer. She and her husband Steven Henry live in Seattle and collaborate on books such as Welcome to Morningtown, Goodnight, Sleepyville, and Something Smells!, which was nominated for the Washington State Book Award. Take a peek into their world by viewing her Instagram page and Facebook page.

STEVEN HENRY (né D’Amico) is the illustrator of many picture books, including the award-winning Ella the Elegant Elephant Series, It’s Raining Bats & Frogs, and Herbert’s First Halloween. He currently serves as an art director at Committee for Children, a nonprofit organization promoting social and emotional learning.

You can take a peek into Blake and Steven Henry’s world on

Instagram | Facebook

You can connect with Steve on

His Website | Twitter

National Read a Book Day Review

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Welcome to Morningtown

Written by Blake Liliane Hellman | Illustrated by Steven Henry

 

It’s the crack of dawn in Morningtown and “everyone is waking.” A little cub rubs his eyes and sees his dad standing at the foot of his bed, fishing pole in hand, tackle box at the ready. The little tyke yawns and stretches along with the birds in the tree outside his room. Down at the pond, the frogs are “hopping, flopping, splashing awake while the turtles and a beaver enjoying the first cup of the day look on. All over Morningtown the animals, the insects, and even the fish are leaving their beds, brushing their teeth, washing up, and getting dressed.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Next comes breakfast! “Some crunch, some nibble, some sip their morning feast.” Then in houses all around town the windows are opened and the shutters thrown wide. What will the day bring? Perhaps a banjo lesson, a new friend, and chance to help out. The cub dries the breakfast dishes while his mom washes. “Every day’s a surprise, and as the sun rises… busy bees buzz, fun bunnies bounce, and eager beavers slide into the day.” Yes, it’s a busy day in Morningtown. “Everyone is up…except one.” It’s a good thing Mom likes to go fishing too.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Blake Liliane Hellman’s lyrical look at morning and all the promise it holds is an enchanting, cheerful way to start the day for little ones—and their adults. As the bear family wakes up in their stone home, the rest of Morningtown’s residents are also rising and greeting the day with all of those little details that go into getting ready to meet the world. Hellman’s evocative verbs, jaunty rhythms, and humorous ending make Welcome to Morningtown a joy to read aloud.

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Accompanying Hellman’s story are Steven Henry’s beyond adorable forest creatures who populate this peaceful hamlet. The sky glows golden and then softens into a clear, light blue as the animals leave their beds. One snoozing butterfly catches a few more winks on her soft dandelion bed, a tiny turtle enjoys another minute on Mom’s back, and Mr. Mole climbs emerges from his “secret” bed underground while three chirping birds wake a little mountain goat on his snowy ledge. Smiles abound, and readers will find themselves smiling too as they follow the little cub as he gets ready to go fishing with Dad. Henry’s clever details and charming perspectives create a rich and, as the title invites, welcoming community that little ones will want to visit again and again.

To start a little one’s day with enthusiasm for what lies ahead, put them to bed looking forward to tomorrow, or share cuddly down time, the charming Welcome to Morningtown is as sweet as it gets and would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681198736

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You can find Welcome to Morningtown at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 1 – National Pie Day

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About the Holiday

There’s something about colder weather that makes pie sound so delicious! What kind of pie? Apple, cranberry, pecan, sweet potato, mincemeat…so many kinds! And of course pumpkin as in today’s book. To celebrate today have a piece of your favorite pie!

You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie

Written by Amy E. Sklansky | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

In a big cozy, chair next to a roaring fire, a mom snuggles with her little boy. In a pretty nursery dotted with stars, a dad watches his tiny daughter, who’s learning to crawl. He tells her, “You light up any room / with your grin so big and wide.”

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

In a bright and homey kitchen, a mother sprinkles the final touches on a pumpkin pie while her toddler helps. She says, “Your scent is just delightful— / like cinnamon and spice.” Outside, a mom and baby bundled up in the chilly weather share a hug, and the mom confesses, “Each time I kiss your yummy cheek, / I have to kiss it twice.”

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

At a farm, as Dad and his little one pick the perfect pumpkin, Dad wraps his arms around his child and says, “Your hugs are irresistible / Because you’re such a treat.” A mom playing with her daughter smiles and tells her, “I love to make you giggle. / No sound is quite as sweet.” In another home, dinner has been served and it’s time for dessert, but who are the parents praising as the “star of any feast”—the pumpkin pie or their children? The happy kids know the answer! And a baby drifts off to sleep with the sweet assurance, “You’re my little pumpkin pie, / Each and every piece.”

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

Parents and other caregivers will love cuddling up with their little one and sharing the endearing rhymes in Amy E. Sklansky’s sweet tribute to the most special of relationships. The tender phrases on each page echo the spontaneous bursts of wonder, amazement, and of course love that fill an adult’s heart while thinking about or interacting with their child. The affection expressed with each verse will delight little ones.

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

Talitha Shipman’s colorful and cozy illustrations embrace the parent-child relationship with depictions of the gestures, smiles, and assurances adults share with children. Little ones, sitting on Mom or Dad’s lap will be charmed by the happy faces of the babies and toddlers on each page and feel that same warm comfort. Extended fun can be found in discovering the pumpkin or pumpkins as well as the accompanying orange theme on each spread.

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, courtesy of talithashipman.com.

You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie is a board book that little ones will want to hear again and again and that parents and other caregiver will love to share. It would make a wonderful gift and a sweet addition to any home bookshelf.

Ages 2 – 4

Little Brown Books for Young People. 2013 | ISBN 978-0316207140

Discover more about Amy E. Sklansky and her books on her website

To learn more about Talitha Shipman, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Pie Day Activity

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Put the Pie Together Puzzle

 

With this printable pie, little ones can have fun while learning a little bit too!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the pie on heavy paper 
  2. cut the slices apart 
  3. While kids put the pie together, talk with them about the ideas of half and whole and other fractions, as well as shapes: triangle, semi-circle, circle, and others

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You can find You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 21 – It’s National Family Literacy Month

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About the Holiday

Literacy really does begin at home during those cuddly moments when you and your child share a book. Reading with kids from birth helps them develop the skills to become proficient readers and instills a life-long love for books of all kinds. Even before babies can talk, they’re listening and learning, and as they grow children continue to love spending special times with parents and grandparents hearing stories and discovering the world through books. You don’t have to mark Family Literacy Month only in November – make it a year-round celebration!

Banana for Two

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

As a mother strolls her shopping cart through the grocery store, she engages her toddler, who’s brought along two stuffed bunnies, in choosing the items they need. Mama talks to her child about the one roll of paper towels she puts in the cart, then it’s off to the cereal aisle. Holding up a colorful box, Mama says, “‘Here’s your favorite cereal’” to which her toddler enthusiastically answers, “‘MORE!’” Playfully, Mama holds the box up to one eye and says, “‘we don’t need more—just one box. Peek-a-boo! Can you see just one eye?’”

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2017, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2017. Courtesy of Start Bright Books.

Her little one giggles as they head for the dairy aisle for yogurt. Here, the child’s wish for “‘MORE!’” is granted, and Mama lets her little one hold the containers. “‘One, two—one for each hand,’ says Mama.” The child laughs and kicks, excited to help. As they pass through the fruit section, the toddler grabs a banana from the display and holds it up triumphantly. Mama is happy to add the one banana to the cart to eat later. “‘Look—one banana for one hand!’” she points out.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2017, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2017. Courtesy of Start Bright Books.

At check-out, Mama names each item and the quantity they are buying as she puts the banana, yogurt, carrots, potatoes, milk, and other things on the conveyor belt. But her little one wants to help too! Suddenly, one of the stuffed bunnies is riding toward the smiling clerk on top of the roll of paper towels. Back home, it’s time for a snack. As Mama cuts the banana in half, her toddler proudly exclaims, “‘TWO!’” showing an understanding of the concept of two.

A note for parents, grandparents, and caregivers by early math expert Deborah Stipek is included. Gender neutral clothing and hair and the absence of personal pronouns in the text make this a universal book for all children.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2017, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2017. Courtesy of Start Bright Books.

Ellen Mayer’s joyful math board book for the youngest readers introduces parents and other caregivers to ways that they can add math talk to everyday activities. In Banana for Two, grocery shopping becomes a fun opportunity for an adult and child to talk together about quantity—an important early building block for math understanding and future math success. Connecting concepts a child already knows—such as two containers of yogurt for two hands—as the mother does in Banana for Two is another way to strengthen understanding. Mayer’s conversational style—indeed the whole story is a conversation between mother and child—is sweet and loving and full of the kinds of moments that may seem routine to adults but that children cherish sharing with parents, grandparents, or other caregivers. And the final image of the little one happily savoring slices of banana will have kids asking for “‘MORE!'”

Ying-Hwa Hu’s exuberant illustrations of mother and child will make little ones and adults smile. Cheerful eye contact between the two shows the love they share and their enjoyment in spending time together. Colorful boxes and containers line the grocery store shelves, giving the pages a fresh and sunny feel. The items Mama adds to the cart are clearly shown in quantities of one and two. Little readers will love the adorable stuffed bunnies and join in the toddler’s pride as they too recognize the ideas of one and two.

Banana for Two makes an excellent shower or new baby gift and will quickly become a favorite at home and in preschool classrooms or programs.

Ages Birth – 2

Star Bright Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1595727886 | Spanish/English Edition Banana para dosBanana for Two ISBN 978-1595727992

To discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books as well as  find lots of resources for adults and fun activities for kids, visit her website.

Learn more about Ying-Hwa Hu and her art, and her books, visit her website.

National Family Literacy Month Activity

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Math Fun Is in the Bag Grocery Shopping Game

 

Little ones love to pretend to go grocery shopping! With the printable game pieces and instructions here, you and your child can fill a bag with items in quantities of one and two and share some math fun!

Supplies

Directions

To Make a Bag

  1. Fold the 8 ½” by 11” piece of paper in half and tape on the side and at the bottom
  2. Your child may enjoy decorating your homemade bag or a paper sandwich bag with crayons
  3. After printing the Math Fun Is in the Bag template, talk with your little one about the quantity of items in each picture. Even if your child is not talking yet, they are listening and learning.
  4. Help your child cut the pictures apart
  5. Ask your child to find a picture of one banana and put it in the bag
  6. Continue with the other pictures, noting the quantity of the item
  7. For older children, print two (or more) copies of the Math Fun Is in the Bag template and have them add two bananas, two cartons of milk, four carrots, and four containers of yogurt to the bag.
  8. Older children may also enjoy paying for their groceries with pennies in quantities of one or two (or more). Set a price for each item and help children count out the coins needed to pay for them.

More Math Fun!

You’ll find more Math Fun, including printable bunny puppets to make, pretend play suggestions, and tips for talking about two on Ellen Mayer’s Website

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-banana-for-two-cover

You can find Banana for Two at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 28 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

Can it be that National Book Month is almost over? No worries, though! We’re about to start Picture Book Month, so gather as many books as you can from your local bookstore and library and enjoy the best activity there is!

Mirror Play

By Monte Shin

 

There’s no denying that mirrors are beguiling. Looking into one shows you just what you look like—or does it? Well, left is right and right is left, but a mirror gives you a pretty good idea whether your hair looks good, your outfit matches, and if you’re ready to face the world. Little ones, especially, are mesmerized by mirrors that give them the first glimpse of themselves and their smiles, frowns, and giggles.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-play-panda-mouse

Copyright Monte Shin, 2018, courtesy of Minedition.

The magic of mirrors to reflect an image is used to remarkable effect in Monte Shin’s cool and clever Mirror Play. The book’s ingenious design includes twelve thick pages in the middle of which is set a colorful, and sometimes complex, shape that rotates a full circle. A shiny surface that creates a perfectly clear reflection is incorporated into a fold-out attached to the back cover. Together, these two elements can keep children (and adults) riveted to the many figures that can be made simply by setting the mirror at a 90-degree angle in the middle of the page and turning the shape this way and that.

One stop along the shape’s trajectory creates an image that is instantly recognized and which answers the question on the next page. For example, the first page contains a blue cone with a wing attached to its left side floating on a red background marked with chalk-outlined clouds. Set the mirror at the provided notches and turn the cone slightly, and an airplane appears! Turn the cone more and more and you find what might be a butterfly, a jet, a tent, a clothespin, a kite, a gavel, and an arrowhead.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-play-panda-figure

Copyright Monte Shin, 2018, courtesy of Minedition.

Turning the book to the right, to the left, and upside down also provides new perspectives on the shapes and images that appear. On a page splotched deep red, a curious shape might become a water beetle, an alien, a fish, a badge or an acorn, a heart, a rabbit, two birds beak to beak, a fly, and a mosquito. 

Backdrops of a lily pad, a block of cheddar-cheese yellow, polka dots, leaves, and a mountain peak, among others, give young explorers hints as to what the asked-for figure might be. Finding the answers to these questions is fun, but it’s only the beginning to discovering a world of geometric shapes, abstract designs, and imaginary creatures.

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-play-panda

Copyright Monte Shin, 2018, courtesy of Minedition.

Mirror Play is an excellent choice as a gift for toddlers and preschool children. It would be a go-to book for interactive story times as well as for taking along on outings or whenever waiting will be part of the day. Older kids may also enjoy the challenge of discovering the various shapes and designs they can make with this “magic” mirror.

Ages 3 – 5

Minedition, 2018 | ISBN 978-9888341535

National Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shape-sticks-game

Shape Sticks Game

 

With some popsicle sticks and markers, you can make a colorful matching game for little ones!

Supplies

  • Popsicle sticks – long or short
  • Markers

Directions

  1. Choose a marker and on the ends of three popsicle stick draw a different shape, for example: popsicle stick 1: square and circle; popsicle stick 2: square and triangle; popsicle stick 3: triangle and circle
  2. Repeat with other colors of markers
  3. On a table or the floor, children can lay the sticks down to match the same shape or color until all the sticks have been used. Sticks can be laid down end-to-end or end-to-side.

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In Addition

You can also make a set of popsicle sticks drawn with all the same shape in different colors to have a larger color-matching game

Older children may enjoy making their own sets of Shape Sticks and experimenting with a larger number of sticks and different patterns and colors.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-play-cover

You can find Mirror Play at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 26 – National Pumpkin Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-five-little-pumpkins-cover

About the Holiday

There may be no vegetable/holiday match quite like pumpkins and Halloween. While pumpkins make delicious pie for Thanksgiving, bread and muffins for a fall breakfast or snack, and even flavor lattes and smoothies, it’s their use as jack-o-lanterns that really make pumpkins seasonal stars. There’s something a bit magical about a fluttering candle lighting up a scary or funny orange face on a front porch or door step, and if you’re a fan of painted pumpkins, they have a style all their own too! To celebrate today, head out to your local farm market or pumpkin patch to pick out the perfect pumpkins for making jack-o-lanterns and your favorite treats!

Five Little Pumpkins

Illustrated by Ben Mantle

 

As the sun set, painting the sky purple and indigo, there were “five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.” When the full moon smiled down, “The first one said, ‘My, it’s getting late!’” They watched the witches take to their brooms, the spiders come out to play, and the ghosts rise and float through the forest. The five little pumpkins wanted to run and play too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-five-little-pumpkins-gate

Image copyright Ben Mantle, 2010, courtesy of Tiger Tales Books.

They bound down the hill as the wind howled and the ghosts danced with the swirling leaves. The ghosts spin around and around the laughing pumpkins until… “out went the light…,” And in the total darkness, “the five little pumpkins…rolled out of sight!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-five-little-pumpkins-ghosts

Image copyright Ben Mantle, 2010, courtesy of Tiger Tales Books.

Ben Mantle’s adorable take on the Halloween classic nursery rhyme for babies and toddlers offers cozy shivers, sweet smiles, and cute wide-eyed wonder for little ones dazzled by this spooky fun holiday. Saturated blues, purples, and greens set off the brilliant orange of the playful pumpkins as they abandon their post on the gate to have a midnight romp. The wide grins on all of the holiday haunters—witches, whose brooms paint starlight across the sky, tiny pink monster bats, hopping toads, a bounding cat, hairy-legged spiders, and gauzy ghosts—will make young readers giggle with delight as they roll into bed while the five little pumpkins return home.

Five Little Pumpkins, with its soft padded cover and sturdy pages, is an enchanting book to add to home bookshelves for the fall season, Halloween, and beyond.

Ages 2 – 4

Tiger Tales, 2010 | ISBN 978-1589258563

To learn more about Ben Mantle, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Pumpkin Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-acorn-pumpkins-craft

Acorn Pumpkins and Jack-O-Lanterns

 

With acorns falling tap, tap, tap in bushels on the ground and other delicious nuts readily available in grocery stores and farmers markets, autumn is the perfect time for this craft that turns nuts into pumpkins!

Supplies

  • Acorns or walnuts
  • Orange multi-surface acrylic craft paint or spray paint  
  • Paint brush
  • Black, fine tip marker

Directions

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-acorn-pumpkins-craft (3)

For Acorns

  1. Remove the caps
  2. If using acorns for crafts that will be kept long-term, follow these Directions for Drying Acorns
  3. Hold the acorn with the flat side down. The little tip will serve as the pumpkin’s stem.
  4. Paint the acorn, leaving the just the tip brown, let dry
  5. With the flat side down, draw a face on your “pumpkin.” Let dry
  6. Use your little pumpkin in decorations around your house or make a tiny pumpkin patch in a box or jar lid with paper, sticks, leaves or other material

For Walnuts

  1. If you live in an area where there are no oak trees, you can use walnuts or other nuts available in grocery stores. These do not need to be baked before using.
  2. Paint and decorate according to the directions: For Acorns

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-five-little-pumpkins-cover

You can find Five Little Pumpkins at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 25 – International Artists Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-art-book-of-love-cover

About the Holiday

Established in 2004 by Canadian Romantic Realism artist Chris MacClure, today’s holiday celebrates artists working in all mediums from painting to sculpture, photography to music, writing to dance, and many more. Creative expression is a universal language, and society benefits when art and artists of all types are embraced and celebrated. The goal of International Artists Day is to celebrate the contributions of artists and to raise their stature and visibility around the world. A love of the arts can start at the youngest ages by exposing children—and even babies—to a variety of creative mediums and allowing them to explore their talents. For more information about International Artists Day, visit the IAD  website.

My Art Book of Love

Written by Shana Gozansky

 

Don’t be surprised if you feel a flutter of the heart upon opening the cover of My Art Book of Love. Page after page of gloriously reproduced paintings from thirty-four artists from the past and working today demonstrate love in all of its actions, forms, colors, and meanings. Divided into six sections, the paintings touch on what love is, how love feels, what love looks like, and other qualities of this tender emotion.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-art-book-of-love-soft-snuggles

Courtesy of Phaidon Publishing, copyright 2018.

Accompanying each painting is a lyrical phrase that describes its feeling or subject and combines with the others in the section to create a moving verse that will warm the hearts of  little ones—and even older children. To begin, “Love is… soft snuggles…” represented by a detail from Gustav Klimt’s The Three Ages of Woman, in which a mother and child sleep cuddled together with the mother resting her head on her child’s soft curls. Love is also “tender nuzzles,” and any animal lover or child with a pet will recognize the shared affection as a little girl strokes her pet in Pierre Bonnard’s Little Girl with Cat.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-art-book-of-love-slow-dances

Courtesy of Phaidon Publishing, copyright 2018.

The comfort an older sister provides for her younger sibling tugs at the heart in Paul Gauguin’s Piti Teina (Two Sisters), and Alan Katz demonstrates that growing up with a bunch of sisters can be an adventure in The Ryan Sisters, in which four girls walk down the road barefoot with their arms around each other. As an African-American boy wears his dad’s fedora while getting a big hug in Emory Douglas’s Father and Son, “Love feels… Safe.” A father’s encouragement can make a little one feel “brave” as in Vincent Van Gogh’s First Steps, after Millet, where a father spreads his arms to welcome a baby toddling his way.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-art-book-of-love-tender-nuzzles

Courtesy of Phaidon Publishing, copyright 2018.

In all the ways it is expressed, “Love is Beautiful.” Salvador Dali captured the joy a father feels for his child in Fiesta at the Hermitage, a fragment of which spotlights a father playfully lifting his infant above his head. Henry Moore’s sculpture Family Group lets children visually experience the solidarity of the family unit as a mother, father, and two children are connected through touch. Two vibrant and familiar artworks close out this poignant tribute and remind readers that “Love is for everyone!” as the linked figures dancing around a red heart in Keith Haring’s untitled painting and the bold and boxed letters L-O-V-E in Robert Indiana’s Philadelphia Love beautifully demonstrate.

Back matter presents thumbnail images of each art piece along with information on the artist, the work, and which museum it can be found in.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-art-book-of-love-love-is-love

Courtesy of Phaidon Publishing, copyright 2018.

Exquisitely curated to offer a range of artistic styles, cultural touchstones, and emotional responses, My Art Book of Love is a sophisticated board book that is part museum, part love letter and a completely original and moving way to share and talk about love with babies, toddlers and older kids during quiet, cuddly story times. The book can also be used in classrooms to accompany reading, writing, and art lessons. The book makes an inspired choice as a gift or to add to any home, classroom, and public library.

Ages 2 – 4 and up

Phaidon, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877181

International Artists Day Activity

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-blocks-craft

I Love Blocks

 

Bare wooden blocks can provide lots of artistic fun for both young and older kids. Painted with craft paint or chalk board paint, they can be written on or drawn on with chalk. They can be stacked to make sentences or towers or sculptures.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-blocks-craft-2Connected with glue or adhesive Velcro tape, blocks can become a robot or a giraffe, laid end-to-end they can be a train or a snake. Supply some cloth, play jewels, googly eyes, foam shapes, glitter, or other items and let kids play with their imagination and creativity!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-art-book-of-love-cover

You can find My Art Book of Love at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review