November 18 – It’s Picture Book Month and Interview with Karen Rostoker-Gruber

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About the Holiday

There’s still time to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re in shopping mode, be sure to put plenty of picture books on your list for the kids in your life. And don’t forget the littlest readers in your life. Sharing board books, with their sturdy pages and just-right size, is the perfect way to get babies and preschoolers excited about books, reading, and the special times in their life – as you’ll see with today’s book.

Happy Birthday, Trees!

Written by Karen Rostoker-Gruber | Illustrated by Holly Sterling

 

Three children are excited to be celebrating Tu B’Shevat together. One boy shows the others the little sapling they can plant then the three dig in with their shovels to create the perfect hole to nurture it. When the hole is just the right size, they carefully place the tree in it and tell readers, “then, we’ll fill the hole with dirt. / (An extra shovel doesn’t hurt.) / We’ll fill the hole with lots of dirt!”

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Image copyright Holly Sterling, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing.

When the tree is all snug in its new home, it’s time to feed it (and have some giggly fun). “Then, we’ll spray the garden hose, / and wet the tree (and soak our clothes). / On Tu B’Shevat we’ll spray the hose! Throughout the year, the kids watch as their tree grows taller and sturdier. When the weather turns warm, they play around the tree, singing “for all the trees” with delight as they await the day when Tu B’Shevat comes around again and the tree’s blossoms “fill the air with sweet perfume.”

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Image copyright Holly Sterling, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing.

Karen Rostoker-Gruber’s celebration of Tu B’Shevat takes little ones step-by-step through the thrill of planting a tree and watching it grow. Her breezy, exuberant verses incorporate simple rhymes and repeated phrases that will allow even the youngest children to join in after a first reading. In her sweet board book Rostoker-Gruber captures the excitement kids feel for special holidays and the pride they feel when participating in their family’s or friends traditions. The cyclical nature of her story will also inspire children to want to plant and tend to their own tree for Tu B’Shevat (celebrated beginning at sundown on January 27, 2021 through nightfall on January 28) or when weather conditions permit.

Bright and filled with the high spirits of childhood, Holly Sterling’s illustrations of three adorable kids working together to plant a tree will captivate little readers. Decked out in their gardening clothes and each with a shovel, the three crouch and lie on the ground next to the hole to make sure the tree goes in straight and safely. Sterling has an eye for the kinds of realistic details that define children’s behavior: to make sure the hole is filled to the brim, one little boy pours on dirt from two shovels—one in each hand; and under the arched spray of the hose, the girl raises her arms to welcome the cool spray while a boy sticks out his tongue for a sip. Sterling’s lovely color palette and graceful lines create a cheerful, fresh story that adults will want to share with their children again and again.

A joyful and lively way to celebrate and/or introduce Tu B’Shevat to little ones as well as a charming story for young nature lovers any time of the year, Happy Birthday, Trees! would be an enchanting addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 1 – 4

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2020 | ISBN 978-1541545649

You can download a teacher’s guide to Happy Birthday, Trees! from the Kar-Ben Publishing website here.

Discover more about Karen Rostoker-Gruber and her books on her website.

To learn more about Holly Sterling, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Karen Rostoker-Gruber

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You have a very interesting and varied career! Before you wrote books for children, you published several humorous books for adults. Your children’s books also incorporate humor. Can you talk a little about your style of humor and how you’ve expressed it throughout your life?

I’ve been writing since I was 8 years old. I wanted to write for children, but the adult humor market was easier, at the time, to break into.  

I started writing humor when I began college. Things were so strange at Trenton State that I had to start writing things down. The first humor book I wrote was called The Unofficial College Survival Guide.  

I had worked in the kitchen as a waitress for the college serving alumni dinners—sometimes to 200 – 300 people. I needed the money and it was the only way to secure edible food. 

 
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One night, while piling my tray with plates of food for the next alumni dinner, I noticed a sign on a barrel that said, “grade D,” but edible. I opened the barrel and there were thousands of hot dogs. I had no idea what “grade D, but edible” meant, but I no longer wanted to find out. After that day, I started eating cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I also kept finding humor on campus—mostly in the cafeteria; it wasn’t hard. There was literally humor everywhere I looked.  

When I got married, my humor book, Remote Controls Are Better Than Woman Because. . . became a HUGE hit.  I was on the Ricki Lake Show back then and over 60 live radio shows.  Then came my book, Telephones Are Better Than Men Because. . . I wrote both of those books on sticky notes in my car because I had a stop-and-go, 45-minute drive to work every day. I’d write new quotes down on a sticky note and fling them around in my car.  

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My book, If Men Had Babies, (lullabies would be burped… Prenatal vitamins would taste like honey-roasted beer nuts…, Golf carts would come equipped with car seats…”) was hysterical to me as a first-time mom. I wrote in between my daughter’s nap time, doing the laundry, the dishwasher, cleaning the house, and making breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  

image.pngAs far as incorporating humor into my children’s books, sometimes I use puns, which is why my characters are mostly animals. Animal puns are fun. I would sit on my driveway for hours, while my daughter drove her Barbie car, looking at the dictionary to find good cow, sheep, goat, chicken, and cat puns.

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I also use a bit of adult humor in my books. There should be humor for the adult reading the book, too. In my book, Farmer Kobi’s Hanukkah Match my favorite line is when the sheep say, “Her name was Polly Ester, she was a faaake,” baaed the sheep.

(Get it?  Polyester is fake vs. wool from the sheep!)  

Here’s also a favorite page from my book:

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You’ve had a long and steady career as a children’s author. What first inspired you to write for children? What’s one thing that has changed for writers since you began? What’s one thing that has stayed the same?

I’ve been writing for children since I was 8 years old. The only thing that really changed was that I actually started sending out my work in 1988-ish instead of just keeping manuscripts in my drawer. But from 1988 until 2000, I mostly received rejection letters—nice ones (that are now in my oxymoronic rejection letter binder), but rejection letters nevertheless.

My path to publication changed once I went to a conference and met with editors.  After attending the conference, each mentee was able to submit directly to their mentor and other editors that you met there. And, you were able to write “requested material” on the outside of the envelope. This was important back then because all “Requested Material” manuscripts passed the slush pile and went directly to the editor it was addressed to. (Back in 2000 you submitted via snail-mail and there really were slush piles.)  I saw them! For real!

The conference that I went to was the Rutgers One-on-One Conference. At that conference my mentor (Karen Riskin from Dial Books for Young Readers) took two of my manuscripts back with her to Penguin Putnam (it’s called Penguin Random House now). Both manuscripts wound up getting published: Food Fright was published by Price Stern Sloan in 2003 and Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo was published with Dial Books for Young Readers in 2004.  

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After the success of Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo, (selling 250,000 copies) I met another editor (Margery Cuyer) at an informal conference.  She went on to acquire five of my books for Marshall Cavendish: Bandit, Bandit’s Surprise, Ferret Fun, Ferret Fun in the Sun, and Tea Time.

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The difference from then to now is that these days you need to meet editors one-on-one or you need to have an agent. I can’t get into the big publishing houses that I used to submit to before because their policies have changed.  I had 14 traditionally-published books out there with great houses before I got an agent. I’m NOT an overnight success story—far from it. 

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The setting for Happy Birthday, Trees! is Tu B’Shevat or the Jewish Arbor Day. Can you talk a bit about this holiday, it’s meaning, and how it is traditionally celebrated?

Tu B’Shevat is basically Earth Day. I think the PJ Library says it best on my teacher’s guide:

“The Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, also known as the Birthday of the Trees, celebrates the critical role that trees play in life.” Jewish concepts: “Trees and the environment have particular importance in Jewish thought. From the very beginning of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) we are taught to respect all things that grow, as Adam is placed in the Garden of Eden to “keep it and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15). The value of bal tashchit, which translates from the Hebrew as “do not destroy,” has become the Jewish ecology mantra. Put into action, this concept means we are all partners in preserving the beauty and sustainability of our world.” “Traditionally, Jews eat the fruit of a tree only after it is three years old. The 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, called Tu B’Shevat, became the trees’ birthday to help people determine when to first harvest their fruit. This holiday is gaining significance today as the Jewish Earth Day.”   

I love the structure of Happy Birthday, Trees!, especially the rhythmic repetition that’s so enticing for little ones to join in on. There’s also a playful humor that kids will love. What was your writing journey for this book?

I love bits of rhyme, repeated refrains, humor, and animal puns, so I always try to incorporate a few of these things in my books. I also know that kids love predictability. The journey for the book, “Happy Birthday, Trees”:  

I was invited to a luncheon in NY for the PJ Library.  About 20 other authors were there. At that time I had three published Jewish-themed  books, Farmer Kobi’s Hanukkah Match, Maddie the Mitzvah Clown, and The Family and Frog Haggadah, which is a real haggadah that was featured in the NY Times!  

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They told us that they were actively looking for board books and chapter books at the time. I had a lot of board books in my drawer already, so I sent them the one that I liked the best. At that time it was called, “Happy Birthday to the Trees.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-birthday-trees-coverMonths later (I forgot all about sending that story into the PJ Library) I got a call from the PJ Library that I won the author incentive award—2,000 dollars. Then my agent (I now had an agent) Karen Grencik found a publisher for it.

Holly Sterling’s illustrations are adorable and really capture the delight of the children. What was your first impression when you saw Holly’s pages?

I was super-excited about Holly’s illustration sample that Joni Sussman from KarBen showed me, so I couldn’t wait to see what she would do with this very simple board book. I LOVE the illustrations. The children look like they are having a blast on the front cover.

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale definitely combines humor with a heartfelt message. The story is a retelling of a traditional Yiddish tale. What about this tale really resonated with you for today’s kids? How did you make it your own?

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I was reworking a folktale for one editor, but by the time I found a folktale that I liked and reworked that editor had already taken on a story too similar to it. I remembered this story as a child, but I wanted to make it a folktale for everyone, so I took out the Rabbi and added a wise woman instead.  Every story that I read had a wise man—times have changed.  

I also added a bit of rhyme and a repeated refrain.  The story is basically about being grateful for what you have, which is perfect for COVID times as everyone is feeling like Farmer Earl with family members working and learning in the house; it’s too crowded.

If you had to live with three groups of animals like the family in your book—small, medium, and large—what would they be?

I love hamsters (They’re sooo cute and fuzzy).

Goats crack me up; they always look like they’re up to something. 

As far as large animals go, there are too many that I’d like to have: elephants (I could teach them to paint), dolphins and gorillas (I could teach them to speak—I’m fascinated by Koko the gorilla), and pandas—just because they look so cuddly.

Oh, and unicorns (because they’re magical).

I love Kritina Swarner’s whimsical-yet-realistic illustrations, especially as the house becomes more and more crowded and chaotic. Do you have a favorite spread?

I love her work. There’s so much detail: in the wise woman’s dress, the fabric on her chair. Also, if you look closely, the plants are growing in her window from scene to scene, there’s a mouse under a bed, and my favorite spread is the toilet paper scene. However, I also like the expressions on the cat’s faces throughout the book. They are NOT amused at the amount of animals in the house.

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You’re also an accomplished ventriloquist and have an adorable puppet named Maria who accompanies you on visits to schools and libraries. How did you get involved in ventriloquism and can you describe your program briefly? How do the kids respond to Maria?

I am a self-taught ventriloquist. I used to talk for my sister’s blanket, her food, and her dolls. She was 5 years younger than I was so she was the perfect audience.  

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I take Maria to every school visit–even my virtual ones (I just did one with 600 children). In my program I talk to children about every step I take from sticky notes at 3 am, to revisions, to submitting a polished manuscript to an agent or an editor.  

Maria is my side-kick, because you had better be funny if you are in front of 350 – 600 children. Plus, kids LOVE Maria! Some don’t know how she talks; it’s magical to them and I don’t want to ruin that magic.  

If Maria and I are doing “high tea” at a tea house or a public show at a library, I have to bring Maria’s car seat, eye mask, and blanket. Children follow me out to my car to watch me buckle her in with a seat belt. 

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One time, after a show, a boy came up to me and wanted to know how his parents could “buy” him a puppet like Maria. I told him that I got the last talking puppet on the internet. Enough said. 

Here’s Maria as Alice in Wonderland for another show that we did.  She likes to dress up. (It took me three hours to sew felt Mary Janes onto her white socks. Ugh!)

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One day I had to take Maria shopping to Walmart to get her PJs because we had a bedtime, bears, and books show. I didn’t know her size. I held Maria up in the seat of the cart with my right hand while pushing the cart with my left hand. We had quite the following that day up and down the aisles.  Kids just wanted to follow her around. 

What do you like best about being an author for children?

My favorite part is when I get to see the illustrations; to see if the illustrator took my words to a new level. And, I LOVE seeing children enjoying my books and laughing at the puns.  

What’s up next for you?

I’m always working on something, but it’s always a waiting game.  Anything can happen on any day. An editor can email me from a year ago to tell me that something that I sent them is now a go.  I’m not going to lie— 

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every day is full of surprises and disappointments.  Being an author is very emotional. You have to have thick skin.

Thanks so much, Karen, for this awesome discussion about your books and sharing so much about your life as an author! I wish you all the best with Happy Birthday, Trees!, A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale, and all of your books!

Picture Book Month Activity

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Plant a Tree! Activity Pages

 

Whether you need to wait awhile before you can plant a tree or are in a warm-weather locale that allows for planting now, you can enjoy these two tree activity pages!

Plant a Tree Coloring Page | Stately Tree Dot-to-Dot

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You can find Happy Birthday, Trees! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

November 3 – It’s Family Literacy Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s observance was established in 1994 to promote family and community involvement in teaching and supporting children to read more. 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. Interactive board books like the three I’m reviewing today are a great place to start!

Sharing

By Yusuke Yonezu

 

Pairs of adorable animals engage little readers in helping them with a big problem. They only have one piece of food but they’re both so hungry! How can the two kittens eat one fish? Turn the page and a cleverly placed die cut allows the one fish to be shared between the kittens. “Now we each get some,” they say with wide smiles. Two bunnies… one carrot? What to do? Kids will love turning the page so that each bunny can take half.

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Copyright Yusuke Yonezu, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Instead of squabbling over one banana or one apple, the monkeys and the piglets are happy to discover that they can “split it instead.” After all, “half is better than none.” But what if two siblings both “want Mommy?” No worries! Just flip that page! “Now we can all share a hug!”

Yusuke Yonezu’s sweet interactive board book presents a gentle message about sharing that little ones will have fun participating in. Ingeniously designed two-page spreads create a rich learning experience. Yonezu’s storytelling provides a different vocabulary to express the idea of sharing on each page spread. Being introduced to these words here invites kids to listen and understand when adults use them.

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Copyright Yusuke Yonezu, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Visually, Sharing is fun and exciting for young readers. On the left, the text appears on a vivid solid background which matches the color of the food item on the facing page. When children turn the page, each animal now has their own page and half of the food item, thanks to a specifically shaped die cut. Yonezu’s animals are adorable, and their simply drawn faces clearly express the emotions of sadness, puzzlement, and happiness, which allows adults to talk about these feelings with children. The final example addresses another common family conundrum and shows that there is always enough love to go around.

A delightful way to introduce the joy of sharing with family and friends, Sharing would make a go-to book for teaching this important skill to preschoolers in home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 4

minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-1662650000

You can find Sharing at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

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A Very HUNGRY Wolf

By Agnese Baruzzi

 

Looking for a way to get your little one (and maybe even older kids) to eat their fruit and vegetables? Open up Agnese Baruzzi’s story wide and watch the laughs tumble out of readers as they also begin to think that maybe those carrots, peas, bananas, plums, and—yes—even broccoli aren’t so bad. How does Baruzzi accomplish this feat? With a long-snouted, insatiably hungry wolf that eats every animal that comes near with a “CHOMP, CHOMP, down it went!”

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Copyright Agnese Baruzzi, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

When that innocent red bird hops the wolf’s way, with the lift of a flap the wolf opens his jaws, bares his sharp, white teeth and… “CHOMP, CHOMP, down it went!” Squirrel? Yep! Swallowed right down. A couple more unsuspecting meals come by, “but it wasn’t enough. The wolf still felt hungry.” Then the wolf meets a morsel that turns out not to be so tasty. The wolf turns queasy, but kids know what he should do. “Oh wolf, spit them out!” With nothing now in his belly, the wolf needs something… anything… to satisfy him. “What do you think he should eat?” Those fruits and vegetables are looking mighty delicious….

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Copyright Agnese Baruzzi, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Agnese Baruzzi will make kids laugh all the way to the healthy food with her witty repetition that will have them reading along with verve and plenty of dramatic Chomp, Chomping. Vibrant colors, smiling animals, and a determined, beady-eyed wolf add up to full engagement. And when the wolf realizes he’s made a mistake, kids will giggle at his distressed expression and answer the call for help coming from the wolf’s tummy.

Definitely a book to add to your shelf at home, school, or public library, A Very HUNGRY Wolf will be an often-asked for favorite.

Ages 2 – 4

Minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-9888342051

You can find A Very Hungry Wolf at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

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Masquerade Party

By Giuliano Ferri

 

The fun starts on the front cover when little readers are met by Little Red Ridinghood… or is it? When they lift the flap, They discover “Oh no, it’s the wicked wolf!” Well… this wolf looks too cute to be bad. Let’s see who else is inside. Yo ho ho! There’s a pirate brandishing a sword.  “Who is this plucky pirate? / It’s a playful pig.” Watch out for the “cuddly cowboy” who’s about to lasso you with this rope. Wait! It’s just “a brilliant bunny playing dress up.

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Copyright Giuliano Ferri, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Have a wish? You need a “sly sorcerer.” Check under the turban to see who will grant your wish. Little ones will also discover who is dressed up as a handsome hero, wondrous wizard, and noble knight. Which brings us round again to a wily wolf…with a basket and red collar? Who is that really?

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Copyright Giuliano Ferri, 2020, courtesy of minedition.

Giuliano Ferri infuses his lift-the-flap board book with playfulness and strong literacy-building vocabulary and alliteration that will enchant young readers and make them proud to know fun-to-say words like “plucky,” “sly,” and “wondrous.” Ferri’s soft, smudgy illustrations are cuddliness at its best. While each animal’s face is partially hidden by a fancy, well-embellished hat and mask, clues to their real identity are found in their paws or feet, noses, and face shape, and little ones will love guessing who’s playing firefighter, cowboy, and all the rest. The circular storytelling that brings kids back to Little Red Riding Hood will delight kids.

A fun book to share with kids, especially babies, Masquerade Party would make a great take-along book for outings or anywhere waiting is expected.

Ages 2 – 4

Minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-9888342068

You can find Masquerade Party at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

September 23 – International Day of Sign Languages

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About the Holiday

Coming mid-way through International Week of the Deaf, which was instituted by the World Federation of the Deaf in 1958, today’s holiday is observed by the United Nations every year on September 23 to “celebrate the linguistic identity and diversity of deaf people and sign language uses across the world.” With more than 300 different sign languages around the globe, the UN recognizes sign languages equal status to spoken languages. The theme for 2020 is “Sign Languages are for everyone,” with the goal of enabling national associations of deaf people to work in conjunction with political leaders to promote sign language. For more information, visit the World Federation of the Deaf website and the United Nations website.

Nita’s Day: More Signs for Babies and Parents

Written by Kathy MacMillan | Illustrated by Sara Brezzi

 

Following the popular Nita’s First Signs, the first Little Hands Signing book, Nita’s Day: More Signs for Babies and Parents brings parents and caregivers ten more ASL signs to share with their babies and toddlers to give them the power and joy of non-verbal communication. Through a sweet story that takes Nita and little readers through a fun day with Mom and Dad, kids learn the signs for wake up, change, eat, potty, clothes, go, play, bath, book, and bed.

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Image copyright Sara Brezzi, 2020, text copyright Kathy MacMillan, 2020. Courtesy of Familius Publishing.

Nita’s day starts with her mom and dad lovingly gazing into her crib. “Good morning, Nita! Time to wake up!” they say. “WAKE UP, signs Nita.” Nita recognizes that she needs a diaper change and lets her parents know with the sign for “change” that she’s learned. Next, it’s time for breakfast then getting dressed and going to the park with Dad to fly a kite. When she wants to play, Nita “extends the thumb and pinky of each hand and twists [her] wrists back and forth.”

After her busy afternoon, a bath feels nice and warm. Then it’s time for one of Nita’s favorite parts of the day. “It’s time for a story book!” Dad tells her. She puts her outstretched palms together then opens them like the cover of a book “BOOK, signs Nita.” Now Nita is getting sleepy. “BED, Nita signs.” Her mom snuggles her into her crib and says “Good Night.”

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Image copyright Sara Brezzi, 2020, text copyright Kathy MacMillan, 2020. Courtesy of Familius Publishing.

A Note for Grown-ups on the back cover explains how using signs with children helps them to make sense of their activities during the day and can provide comforting grounding if used when they are away from their regular routines. Adults are also referred to a website where they can find a video demonstration of all of the signs in the book.

The structure of these Little Hands Signing books is a highlight of these chunky board books. Slightly larger than typical board books, the format allows for tabs that clearly depict the page on which each sign can be found. Opening to these spreads, readers can then pull on the tab to open the page and find Nita demonstrating how to make each ASL sign. A written description of the actions accompanies the images.

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Image copyright Sara Brezzi, 2020, text copyright Kathy MacMillan, 2020. Courtesy of Familius Publishing.

Kathy MacMillan’s enthusiastic story is perfect for all children and helps them to communicate with parents and caregivers whether they are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or not verbal or fully verbal yet. The repeat phrasing will charm little readers and acclimates them to the uses of each sign as well as giving adults a way to prompt signs during everyday activities.

Sara Brezzi’s vibrant and whimsical illustrations are infused with love and Nita’s pride in her accomplishments. In each two-sign spreads, Nita is a happy helper, holding her bottle at breakfast, alerting her mom that she’s ready for toilet paper, grasping the kite string at the park, and playing with her duck during bath time. Scattered toys and items on shelves, racks, and counters give little ones and adults things to name, match, and talk about.

Whether you’re adding to the series or new to signing with your baby or toddler, Nita’s Day: More Signs for Babies and Parents is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries to inspire early bonding and communication between babies and adults.

Ages 1 – 3

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641701488

Discover more about Kathy MacMillan and her books on her website.

You can connect with Sara Brezzi on Instagram.

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You can find at these Nita’s Day: More Signs for Babies and Parents booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

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