October 13 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Grace Lin’s Storytelling Math Books

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About the Holiday

Today I’m excited to introduce the new Storytelling Math initiative by Charlesbridge with four board books by Grace Lin. Storytelling Math offers books that celebrate children using math in their daily lives as they play, build, collaborate, compromise, and discover the world around them. Each story features characters of color who are empowered to solve problems, enjoy activities, and help out using their knowledge of and experimenting with math. Free downloadable hands-on activity kits are available for each book on the Charlesbridge website. Sharing these joyful stories with your littlest ones and older kids will make them eager to explore, use, and learn more about math every day. You can learn more about Storytelling Math on the Charlesbridge website. And watch this space for more reviews of Storytelling Math books from your favorite authors!

Storytelling Math: Math, Diversity, and the Power of Story was developed with Marlene Kliman at TERC—a nonprofit dedicated to STEM education—under a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Thank you to Charlesbridge who sent me copies of Grace Lin’s board books for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.

What Will Fit?

By Grace Lin

 

Olivia is at the farmers’ market ready to find a fruit or vegetable that will fill her basket just right. The small beet she tries just rolls around in all the empty space. An apple is bigger, but still too small, and a zucchini doesn’t fit any way Olivia tries. After trying another vegetable that isn’t quite right, Olivia spies a display she thinks might just work. “Hmm…how about a pumpkin?” she thinks. She looks them over, chooses one, and puts it in her basket. “Yay! Just the right size!” she exclaims.

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Following the story, adults and children can explore math with the included discussion on how kids develop spatial sense. Learning how shapes fit together in different ways is an important concept in science, math, and everyday life. Then Douglas Clements, Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning, executive director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Denver, introduces activities that adults can share with kids to build their spatial awareness. Doing puzzles together, matching pairs of socks, shoes, or other items, and fitting a toy to a box are just a few ideas to try. Using special words – such as above and below, inside and next to, and up, down, and between – while doing daily activities teaches kids about positions, orientation, and other special relationships.

Age Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541255

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The Last Marshmallow

By Grace Lin

 

The snow is deep and Olivia and Mei have just come in from building a snowman. They slip out of their boots and warm coats. It’s a perfect time for mugs of hot chocolate—with marshmallows! They make two cups of cocoa and get out “three big marshmallows.” Olivia dunks one marshmallow in her cup. Mei floats one marshmallow in her cup. “There’s one left! Who gets it?” The girls gaze at the marshmallow and think. “I know!” Olivia says. “Pull!” Now the third marshmallow is shared by both Mei and Olivia. “Hooray! Yummy cocoa for both of us!”

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

“Exploring the Math” back matter reveals that even the youngest children have a sense of what is fair, even before they can count. Sharing can help kids “begin to develop real-world understanding of division and fractions.” Early childhood expert Douglas Clements also provides several Try This! activities to engage children in sharing even and odd numbers of items with two and three people. He reminds adults to listen to a child’s reasoning on how they share and why to discover what they think is fair.

Age Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541262

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Up to My Knees!

By Grace Lin

 

It’s springtime and Mei is planting seeds. With “dirt, water, sun, and time, what will happen?” Soon a plant sprouts! The little stem with its two leaves is just poking out of the ground. Mei notices that “it’s as tall as my toe.” She gives her plant “more water, more sun, more days” to grow. It continues to climb past her knees to her waist. Later, Mei measures her plant again. She reaches out her arm and sees that “it reaches my shoulders!” What does summertime bring? A sunflower that is taller than Mei!”

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

“Exploring the Math” paragraphs discuss how “young children learn about measurement as they compare the sizes of things around them.” Comparing things to their own bodies helps children make sense of using rulers and yardsticks as they get older. Early childhood expert Douglas Clements presents ideas for encouraging children to measure and compare items in relation to their own knees, arms, hands, etc.; compare lengths; and explain how they can tell, for instance, that a “cracker is wider than their hand.” He also reveals examples of vocabulary words that allow kids to think more deeply than simply “big’ or “small” about items and their measurement or size.

Age Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541231

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Circle! Sphere!

By Grace Lin

 

Manny, Olivia, and Mei are going to blow bubbles! First they stir up soapy water and get three wands. Manny’s wand is a circle, Olivia’s wand is a triangle, and Mei’s wand is a heart. Manny swishes his wand in the soapy water and blows. “My bubble is a ball—a sphere!” he exclaims. Next, Olivia dips her wand into the soapy water and blows through her triangle wand. “What shape will her bubble be? Another ball!” Perhaps Mei will blow a different shape. Come and see! So many bubbles float in the air! Mei, Olivia, and Manny chase after them. Clap…clap…clap. They “Pop! Pop! Pop!”

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

“Exploring the Math” back matter reveals how children learn about shapes as they explore everyday objects, such as boxes, tubes, and balls. “These kinds of experiences give children a hands-on foundation for later study of geometry.” Douglas Clements then gives parents and caregivers ideas for activities they can do with their children to enhance their math learning of shapes and how they are used. Clements also encourages adults to talk with their children about shapes and provides vocabulary that will give them the words to express their understanding and thinking about shapes.

Ages Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541248

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At their core, each of these board books by beloved author Grace Lin are sweet stories of three friends having fun throughout the year and exploring life through common experiences, which, just as in real life, hold organic connections to math concepts so important to understanding our world. Adults will love sharing these charming books that blend straightforward ideas with lyrical rhythms that will captivate little ones, make them giggle, and entice them to try filling a basket, blowing bubbles, planting seeds, and eating a marshmallow or two (adults will want to get in on that action too!) all while developing an awareness for relationships that will translate into a stronger understanding of math as they grow older, begin school, and proceed through the grades.

Lin’s brightly colored illustrations and adorable depictions of Olivia, Mei, and Manny playing, reacting, and spending time together will enchant little readers. As the three kids ponder dilemmas, readers can clearly see their intelligence and musings in their thoughtful faces. The images are also infused with the excitement of learning and discovery. The page spreads in each book incorporate other aspects of math as well, such as patterns, matching, and shapes plus opportunities for counting, talking about colors, and engaging with science.

Outstanding books to give as gifts for baby showers, new babies, or special events, What Will Fit?, The Last Marshmallow, Up to My Knees!, and Circle! Sphere! would make an often-read and -used set for home bookshelves and are musts to enhance any school and public library board book collection.

You can learn more about the Storytelling Math Books and find downloadable Activity Kits on the Charlesbridge website.

Discover more about Grace Lin and her books on her website.

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You can find The Last Marshmallow at these booksellers

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

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You can find Up to My Knees! at these booksellers

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

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You can find Circle! Sphere! at these booksellers

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

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You can find What Will Fit? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 19 – New Friends Day

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About the Holiday

Friendships and making new friends are so important to our happiness that this national holiday is actually celebrated three times a year—on January 19th, July 19th, and October 19th. Making friends is one of the first skills little ones learn as they begin, as babies and toddlers, to join playgroups, music groups, daycare, and other social activities. Sharing books with stories about friendship, that model good examples of talking and playing with others, and which depict an appreciation for people’s differences is a wonderful way to expand a child’s social and emotional development. Sharing life with good friends a joy to be cherished. Start your little one off on the journey with today’s book!

Will You Be Friends with Me?

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Jo de Ruiter

 

As the story opens, two vignettes show a little brown boy greeting the dawn while a blond, bespectacled girl shows up to the breakfast table after everyone has finished. “I wake early,” the boy says. “You sleep late.” At the playground later, this same girl enjoys the swings with another girl. She observes, “My hair’s curly. / Yours is straight.” On a trip to the pool, this second girl meets a Black girl, who, wearing two types of floaties and a swimming cap, just dips her toe in the water as her new acquaintance jumps in, noting, “I say, ‘Now!’ / You say, ‘Wait?’” Then as they both dry off, she asks, “Will you be friends with me?”

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Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

At school the early riser notices that his tablemate likes to use different art materials than he does. Is one better than the other, he wonders, but it doesn’t keep him from asking, “Will you be friends with me?” A picnic and snack time during soccer practice are two more places where pairs of kids meet each other and discover different ways of doing things that don’t deter—and probably prompt—the repeated refrain, “Will you be friends with me?”

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Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

All of these children meet on a grassy hill to play a game of leapfrog, encouraging each other to soar as high as they can. As the early bird reads on a sunny porch and the night owl reads by flashlight under her covers, the boy reveals, “I like morning. / You like night. / We’re just different. / That’s all right!” And indeed it is as these new friends show readers how to play instead of squabble, share instead of judge, and embrace each other’s differences because they know—and readers discover—that “life is much more fun that way.”

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Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

Kathleen Long Bostrom’s delightful ode to making friends combines simplicity and intricacy in equal measure. Her endearing verses blend declarative sentences about various personality traits with questions kids commonly ask each other about their favorite things—questions that readers will enjoy answering as well. These pages give adults and kids an opportunity to talk about differences and similarities within their own family, classroom, sports team, and friends. The repeated phrase, “Will you be friends with me?,” is a joy to read aloud, and children will love chiming in each time. This simple, welcoming invitation is also one that kids can remember and use, whether they’re outgoing or more hesitant, whenever they meet someone they’d like to be friends with. The final line: “I’m glad you’re friends with me!” is a heartfelt sentiment everyone wants to hear and is just as appropriate for new friends as for old or even between adult reader and child.

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Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

Jo de Ruiter’s adorable illustrations sparkle with the actions, expressions, and emotions of children navigating their world while discovering themselves and those around them. Her fresh color palette and kid-favorite places make each page one that readers will want to explore. Kids will enjoy following the fluid pairings of friends and their varying interactions. Diversity within the group of friends in race and ability—the boy who’s the early riser wears leg braces and uses forearm crutches—reflects readers’ experiences at school and in their community.

Playful, charming, and enriching, Will You Be Friends with Me? is an inspiring book for home story times, classroom reading, and public library collections. The book can also spark discussions about making friends at the beginning of a school year or during any new experience. The bouncy rhythm makes this a book little ones will want to hear again and again.

Ages Birth to 5

WorthyKids, 2020 | ISBN 978-1546033806

Discover more about Kathleen Long Bostrom and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jo de Ruiter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

New Friends Day Activity

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Beaded Friendship Bracelet

 

Little ones love to make, wear, and share special bracelets. In this easy-to-make bracelet, each color of bead can represent friends and/or family. Fill it all at once or add beads with each new friend made.

Supplies

  • Wooden or plastic beads in various colors—one color for each friend or family member. You can use medium-size beads for the center and smaller beads for the rest of the bracelet, if desired
  • Elastic, embroidery thread, or string
  • Scissors
  • Plastic sewing needle with a large eye

Directions

  1. Determine the number of friends your child would like the bracelet to represent.
  2. Choose a different color of bead in both sizes for each friend.
  3. Determine the color pattern of the beads.
  4. Measure your child’s wrist and cut a length of elastic, embroidery thread, or string, leaving it long enough to tie onto the first and last beads (and make a loop clasp if using thread or string).
  5. Help your child thread the needle with the elastic, embroidery thread, or string.
  6. Thread the first bead onto the elastic, thread, or string, leaving about a half-inch at the end.
  7. Pull end of thread over bead and tie a knot with the end and the length of string.
  8. Approximate the center of your bracelet and thread several small beads in the chosen color pattern onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  9. Thread the medium beads onto the bracelet in the same color pattern.
  10. Follow with more small beads to finish the bracelet.
  11. Tie the last bead onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  12. To make a loop clasp on the end if using embroidery thread or string, loop the thread or string.

Children can make two or more bracelets to share with their friends.celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-will-you-be-friends-with-me-cover

You can find Will You Be Friends with Me? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 9 – It’s Potty Training Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Toilet training is a major milestone for kids – and their parents and caregivers. The end of diapers means more independence and leaving babyhood behind. But getting to that big day can be difficult and stressful. Potty Training Awareness Month celebrates this accomplishment with kids while also offering support for the adults involved. With patience, love, and a humor, adults can make potty training a confidence booster – as you’ll see in today’s book. For some tips on making potty training easier, visit Baby+Co.

Sloth Went

Written by Adam Lehrhaupt | Illustrated by Benson Shum

 

Today was the day. Sloth “was excited. And nervous.” He was a little worried about if something happened but also if nothing happened. Sloth’s mom was encouraging, though. She said, “‘You’ll make it,” and promised him a surprise afterward. Sloth was interested in the surprise, so he agreed to go. He clung to the tree waiting to go while a caterpillar descended, crawled over his back, and continued on its way.

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Image copyright Benson Shum, 2020, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sloth was feeling tired and a little dejected when Butterfly flitted by to see how things were going. “‘I don’t think I’m gonna make it,’” Sloth grumbled. Butterfly told him that was okay “‘as long as you keep trying.’” Sloth clung tighter to his tree and gave it all he had while a snail descended above him, crawled over his leg, and kept on going.

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Image copyright Benson Shum, 2020, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Frog dropped by to wish Sloth well, but Sloth gave a pessimistic report. Hearing this, Frog had some advice that spurred him to keep trying. Sloth looked around from his lofty perch and saw a perfect spot under a nearby tree. He clambered down and raced over. He waggled his stubby tail, then sat down “to take care of business.” He pondered, he pushed, he strained. Then he smiled. He’d done it! He covered it up with a happy dance and climbed back up his own tree. “He couldn’t wait to tell everyone,” and when he reached the top, they were all waiting to celebrate his good news with cheers and hugs and a special surprise treat.

Back matter explains the fascinating facts about sloth digestion, poop, and the dangerous path they take to “take care of business.”

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Image copyright Benson Shum, 2020, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Adam Lehrhaupt’s humorous and unique look at potty training based on the intriguing facts of sloth behavior reflects the feelings and fears that can accompany this major milestone for little ones. Lehrhaupt’s subtle language, emphasizing the words “go” and “make it,” create a story as much about meeting challenges and adventure head on as it is about potty training. Butterfly, Frog, and Mother Sloth’s encouragement to keep trying and to listen to yourself is good advice anywhere along life’s path and especially as little ones become more independent.

Benson Shum’s adorable sloth makes a sweet companion on a child’s adventure to diaper-less living. His facial expressions clearly demonstrate his nervousness about his “big day as well as the boost that his friends’ support provides. Kids will giggle appreciatively as little Sloth grimaces and strains to do what will come naturally. When he finally succeeds in going, little ones will want to join him in his victory dance—a desire that should have them asking for and using the potty in no time. Shum’s vibrant colors and close-up images will captivate kids, who will ask for this book over and over again.

A funny and encouraging addition to potty-training books that gives little ones an endearing companion on their journey of independence, Sloth Went would make a top pick for home and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547602452

Discover more about Adam Lehrhaupt and his books on his website.

To learn more about Benson Shum, his books, and his art on his website.

Potty Training Awareness Month Activity

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Potty Buddy

 

Sometimes a little encouragement from a friend can help kids try something new. This easy-to-make, kind-of-silly Potty Buddy can be designed by the trainee to be just the friend they want along as they make that first step toward independence.

Supplies

  • Toilet paper tube
  • Toddler size sock or cloth
  • Several feet of yarn
  • Googly eyes (optional)
  • Scrap of foam, colored paper, or cloth
  • Glue

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Directions

  1. Pull a toddler-size sock over the paper towel tube and fold down the top to make a collar. Alternately, wrap cloth around the toilet paper tube and glue in place.
  2. Glue googly eyes on the tube
  3. Cut a small triangle or other shape for a nose from the foam or colored paper
  4. Loop the yarn about 20 times in a 5 – 6 inch length
  5. Tie the yarn in the middle
  6. Fold and glue into the top opening of the tube for hair.

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You can find Sloth Went at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 9 – National Lost Sock Memorial Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-red-socks-coverAbout the Holiday

Today we fondly remember all of those socks that for one reason or other go missing from the washing machine, the dryer, the drawer, or even somewhere in between. While matched socks may look neat and tidy and “go” with an outfit, mismatched socks offer an opportunity to jazz up an outfit, show your personality, and have a little fun. Searching for hidden socks can be a game little ones love to play with older siblings or adult.

Red Socks

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

It’s laundry day and the clothes are all dried and soft and ready to wear. “‘Here is your blue shirt, with the goldfish on it,’” Mama says, pulling the top out of the basket and bending down to eye level to show it to her baby. Next, Mama describes the “yellow and white striped pants” she puts on her child. “‘Let’s see what else is in the laundry basket,’” she says.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Mama pulls a tiny red sock from the basket, but—“UH-OH!—where is the other red sock?’” Now it’s the baby’s turn to help. With a look down, the toddler shows Mama where the sock is. “‘You found the other red sock. Yay!’” she says, giving words to the baby’s action. She continues explaining while pointing to the sock poking out of the baby’s pocket: “‘It was hiding in your pants pocket!” Once the laundry is folded, Mama tells her child exactly what they will do next while she playfully slips the other red sock on the baby’s wiggling feet. “‘Let’s put that other sock on your foot. Then we can go play outside.’” As the baby flies in the swing outside, the red socks are brilliant dots against the blue sky.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s simple and charming story of a particular moment in a mother and child’s day will immediately appeal to even the youngest reader. Familiar words coupled with clear, vivid illustrations will engage toddlers who are pre-talking and just learning language and concept development. The mother’s use of complete sentences as well as step-by-step descriptions of the activities the child sees and is involved in demonstrates how adults can converse with their babies and young children to encourage strong language and literacy skills.

The laundry-day setting also encourages adults to share a little early math with little ones as they go about this common chore. Matching socks, talking about and sorting clothes by size and/or color, and stacking folded clothes with kids are all ways to help little learners begin understanding math concepts. 

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations show a mother and child interacting on a typical day while they complete common chores and go outside to play. The mother and child portray a range of emotions and gestures, giving further depth to the understanding of the ideas and conversation presented. Kids will giggle at the adorable puppy who causes a bit of mischief on each page.

Red Socks makes a wonderful baby shower or new baby gift as well as a terrific addition to any young reader’s home library. Free from gender-specific pronouns and with gender-neutral clothing and hair style, Red Socks is a universal story.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727060

Red Socks is also available in: Chinese/English, ISBN 978-1-59572-811-1 | Hmong/English, ISBN 978-1-59572-812-8 | Spanish/English, ISBN 978-159572-757-2

To learn more about Ellen Mayer and her Small Talk Books® (including other titles: Cake Day, Rosa’s Very Big Job, and Banana for Two) as well as to find accompanying activities, visit her website!

Discover more about Ying-Hwa Hu and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

To find a Laundry Love Activity Sheet with more early math fun you can have with everyday activities, visit the Star Bright Books site.

About Small Talk Books®

Ellen Mayer’s Small Talk Books® feature young children and adults conversing (or adults speaking to children who are not talking yet) while they have fun, do chores, shop, and bake together. Their conversations demonstrate the kind of excitement and close relationships that encourage learning and language advancement. Each Small Talk Book® includes an accompanying note from Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development and the author of Talk to Me, Baby! How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development. The introduction discusses how children connect actions, words, and meaning as adults speak to them while doing particular jobs or actions.

Other titles in the Small Talk Books® series include Cake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job. Each book makes a wonderful gift for baby showers, new parents, or anyone with young children in the family. They would be a welcome addition to any young child’s bookshelf as well as libraries and preschool classrooms.

National Lost Sock Memorial Day Activity

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Sock Tumble Matching Game

 

These socks were separated in the laundry. Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Sock Tumble Matching Game.

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You can find Red Socks at these booksellers

IndieBound | Star Bright Books

 

Picture Book Review

May 8 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

The Get Caught Reading campaign was initiated in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers with the idea to promote literacy and language development through reading to children and encouraging them to read on their own. As part of the campaign, posters of celebrities, dignitaries, and even fictional characters enjoying a book are available for schools, libraries, and other organizations to hang where kids will see them. The excitement of reading also takes over social media all month long, which this year is more important than ever. To celebrate this holiday, make sure you stock up on new and favorite books or download ebooks or audiobooks from your library and get caught reading! Learn more by visiting the Get Caught Reading website and the Every Child a Reader website.

I received a copy of Two Tough Trucks from Orchard Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Two Tough Trucks

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez | Illustrated by Hilary Leung

 

One morning, two trucks are ready “for their first day of class.” But Rig’s “riding the brakes” while Mack’s “hitting the gas.” In their classroom, their teacher Miss Rhodes pairs these two up for a practice run on the track. First up is the circuit, with twists and a hairpin turn. Rig feels shaky, but Mack’s “a speedy red blur.” Mack picks up speed going into the turn and keeps on going, but Rig hits the brakes and skids off the course.

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Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Next comes learning to downshift while climbing a hill. Mack breezes up as Rig carefully inches along. First to the top, Mack gloats, “‘I knew I was fast.’” And although Rig tried his best he “finished dead last.” Mack thought Rig was just dragging him down. For Rig, Mack just seemed liked a braggart. As he vroomed, Mack fumed and left Rig “in the dust.”

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Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

The students moved on to practicing backing up. As they moved around traffic cones,  “they veered and corrected, / they turned and reversed. / Rig had good instincts, but Mack was… the worst.” Rig aced the course, but Mack? He was ready to quit until Rig steered him right. “Vroom! Zoom! / They backtracked and bumped. / A Mack making progress, / a Rig feeling pumped!”

Mack was surprised that Rig had helped him, but for Rig it was just the right thing to do. They headed back to the track and took it by storm. These two trucks were “now the fastest of friends.”

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Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Like life’s road itself, this original story of two trucks with distinct personalities and different strengths has many twists and turns and takes little ones on a multilayered journey of discovery. While Mack is rarin’ to go on his first day of truck school, Rig is more hesitant. When these two are teamed up for the day, Mack’s fast and daring approach to the track seems to be the right one as he nails the sharp curve and is the first to reach the peak of the hill, leaving Rig far behind. These early successes cause him to honk his own horn and complain about Rig.

But then in a clever literal and metaphorical reversal, Rig’s thoughtful restraint makes backing up his forte. In Mack’s reaction to being last, Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca Gomez gently ramp up life lessons about perseverance and losing gracefully. Rig then goes on to demonstrate another winning trait in his generosity to teach Mack the finer points of driving in reverse. Mack’s acceptance of Rig’s kindness shows that the experience has taught him to be humble. Kudos to Miss Rhodes for creating a track that leads to strong bonds and friendship.

A book by Schwartz and Gomez always charms with smart rhyming and jaunty rhythms and Two Tough Trucks is no exception. Ingenious puns, evocative and active vocabulary, and plenty of “vrooms” and “zooms” for kids to chime in on make this book a lively read aloud.

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Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Hilary Leung’s textured and boldly colored pages will thrill little readers as Mack and Rig take center stage on the dusty, western track. Mack’s confidence shows in his straight, crisp lines and grinning grill while Rig’s wariness takes the form of wobbly tires, bent frame, furrowed brow, and grimacing grill. Fittingly, the Truck School building is shaped like a parking garage, complete with a spiral ramp that takes students to the second and third story. Cacti, roadrunners, and craggy rock formations dot the sun-drenched desert track where Mack, Rig, and the rest of the students strut their stuff.

A joy to read out loud and a story kids will want to hear again and again, Two Tough Trucks is highly recommended for home bookshelves, preschool and kindergarten classrooms, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338236545

Discover more about Corey Rosen Schwartz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rebecca J. Gomez and her books, visit her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Hilary Leung and learn more about his work, visit her website.

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Racing for Friendship Game

 

Here’s a racing game that kids will love! With poster board, paper, and chalk or other art supplies, kids can place their track in a city, the country, the desert, or even in outer space! Once the scene is ready, get out your own toy cars or trucks to play with or use the printable truck game pieces included below. Use a traditional playing die or the included printable 8-sided playing die. The first player to the finish line wins—or shake it up a bit and make the last person to the line the winner.

The track can be laid out on the floor and taped in place or created on poster board or paper with the supplies below:

Supplies

  • Poster board or tri-fold display board. I used a 12-inch by 4-foot section of a tri-fold board in my example. This allows you to fold up the board for easier storing.
  • White paper
  • Chalk, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Toy trucks or cars
  • Printable Truck Game Pieces (optional)
  • Printable 8-sided Playing Die

Directions

  1. Cut 30 4- or 5-inch by 1½-inch strips from the white paper
  2. Have kids lay out a track on the board using the white paper strips (each strip is one space) leaving room in between the rows for scenery
  3. Glue or tape the strips in place
  4. Draw scenery around the track OR cut trees, buildings, landmarks, or other scenery from paper and color. Glue or tape to board. 
  5. Print and assemble 8-sided playing die with tape (optional)
  6. Give each player a toy truck or car. Alternately, print and cut out included Truck Game Pieces. (To make them sturdier, print on heavy paper or glue them to cardboard)
  7. Choose a player to go first
  8. Players take turns rolling the die and moving the appropriate number of spaces
  9. The first (or last) player to the finish line is the winner

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You can find Two Tough Trucks at these booksellers

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

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Vroom and zoom with Mack and Rig in Two Tough Trucks Get Lost!, a new  adventure coming on September 1! You can preorder it here

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

 

March 13 – National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Reading with your child every day gives you time to relax, giggle, talk, and enjoy some precious moments together. In fact, that’s what National Reading Month is all about! So grab some old favorites and new finds – like today’s book – and make treasured family memories.

In My Heart

Written by Mackenzie Porter | Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

 

A little girl tiptoes into her mom’s room, giggling as she jumps on the bed and wakes her up. They have breakfast together and get ready for their day. Buckled into her car seat, the girl says, “‘Mama, I will miss you. What do you do all day?’” With loving words, her mom takes her through her day. She says, “First, before I go, my love, I give you a good-bye kiss. / Then as I am leaving, I remind myself of this: / Though we’re not together, / we’re never truly apart / because you’re always on my mind / and you’re always in my heart.”

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2020, text copyright Mackenzie Porter, 2020. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Her daughter learns that her mom starts thinking about her as soon as she drops her off to spend the day with other kids. Driving to work, Mama listens to her little one’s favorite song and thinks about how she sings along. While participating in meetings, she wonders if her little girl is learning new things too. And at lunchtime she feels especially close as she thinks of them eating the same meal. As she doodles, she’s reminded of the drawings taped up around their house.

But while the day brings joy and sweet memories, this mom reassures her wondering child that her favorite part of the day is picking her up so they can spend the evening and nighttime together. “Once I hear your voice again / the whole world melts away. / The moment you say ‘Mama’ is what I’ve waited for all day.”  

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2020, text copyright Mackenzie Porter, 2020. Courtesy of Little Simon.

For little ones missing Mom during the day, Mackenzie Porter’s lyrical story simply and beautifully connects a child’s experiences at daycare or school with their mother’s day at work. Examples familiar to all kids reassure them that throughout the day their mom is thinking about them and looking forward to being together again. Porter’s sweet repeated verse gives kids an easy-to-memorize reminder of their mother’s love to comfort them when they experience those pangs of separation. For working moms, In My Heart lets them share that they too feel those pangs but are always and forever bonded with their child.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2020, text copyright Mackenzie Porter, 2020. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Jenny Løvlie’s soothing colors and joyful scenes of mother-and-child togetherness create a tranquil reading experience that moms and their little ones will love to share. Hugs, hand-holding, gentle caresses, and mirrored smiles demonstrate the strong and caring relationship between the two. Facing pages portraying mom at the office and the little girl at daycare or school show that they are each independent yet connected by thoughts and their mutual love.

A delightful and poignant book that is sure to become a daily read, In My Heart would be a favorite addition to home bookshelves and school and library collections.

Ages Baby and Up

Little Simon, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534454330

To learn more about Jenny Løvlie, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Reading Month Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

Jar Full of Love

 

With this easy-to-make craft your child can see the love that’s in your heart. Whether you fill it up right away or add to it a day at a time, just looking at this jar will make your child happy. 

Supplies

  • A clear jar with a lid—you can use a recyclable plastic or glass jar or buy a mason jar or other decorative jar at a craft store
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Add hearts to the jar in a way that’s meaningful to you and your child. Here are some ideas:

  • Fill the jar all the way to the top to show your child how your heart overflows with love for them
  • Add one heart every day. As you and your child put it in the jar, talk about a time during the day that you thought about each other.
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your child, Write one trait on each heart
  • Add a heart each time you do something fun together

3. Display the jar in your child’s room or somewhere else they can see it

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You can find In My Heart at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 13 – It’s Happiness Happens Month and Interview with Illustrator Talitha Shipman

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About the Holiday

Happiness doesn’t have to be something we plan for, schedule into our calendars, or spend money on. In fact paying attention to those little moments during each day, going on spontaneous outings with friends or family, or taking time to do a favorite activity may be all you need to feel happier every day! And there are always those times of achievement, large and small, to celebrate—just like the one in today’s book!

On Your Way

Written by John Coy | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

On a glorious morning as the sun rises, a mom sits under an apple tree while her son climbs its branches and recounts a momentous day. It was a glorious day, just like today, and she and her little one sat together in the rocker on the front porch. But then he began to squirm, wanting to crawl. As he made his way down the long porch, he watched the action near the barn: “cats and kittens crept round a corner. Ducks and ducklings waddled to water.” Rabbits and their bunnies and dogs and their puppies also bounded in the yard.

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2019, text copyright John Coy, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

When the baby reached his own little chair, he pulled himself up and “steadied for balance.” Perhaps there was a certain look in her son’s eyes that told her that day was the day. She tells him, “I knelt down and held out my arms. You wobbled, tumbled, plopped.” For inspiration they watched the sheep and her lamb ramble and the goat and her kid trot near the brook. Out in the yard now, the little boy tried again and fell again.

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2019, text copyright John Coy, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Mom picked him up and they watched their horse and her filly galloping. A deer and her fawn even jumped over the fence of the coral. With resolve and his mom’s encouragement, the tyke stood on his own again and with a “serious look” took one step and then another. With a smile of pride, he reached his mom’s outstretched arms. Then, she remembers, “We walked in the grass, where you practiced over and over.”

As he grew, his mom tells him, he took off, hopping and bounding, jumping and galloping. “Now,” she says, “you’re big and move in so many ways.” And even as she recalls his first halting steps, she imagines how far he will go.”

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2019, text copyright John Coy, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

John Coy’s sweet reminiscence of a child’s first steps is a tender book for parents and children to share as they grow and achieve milestones both large and small. Coy’s encouraging storytelling juxtaposes the little boy’s progress with that of the baby animals on the family farm, a touching connection for children with nature and the wider world. The open ending is a heartening and emboldening look to the future for both children and adults.

Talitha Shipman pours heart and soul into her vibrant, cheerful illustrations that follow a child as he successfully accomplishes a major milestone. The soon-to-be toddler displays uncertainty, resolve, and pride in his expressive eyes, while his mom has that look of encouragement and love so familiar to parents and other caregivers. Each scene captures just the right gestures from Mom, who is caught rising from her chair as she realizes what her son is contemplating, kneeling down to meet him with welcoming arms, and holding his hands as he marches through the wispy grass. The toddler wobbles and high steps and in the blink of an eye—just as it seems in real life—is stomping through puddles and running with his dog. The shining dawn sun illuminates this new beginning and the child’s bright future ahead.

An adorable book to share with children just starting out on life’s road or to celebrate their accomplishments, On Your Way makes a delightful gift for new parents or other caregivers and a tender story time read at home, in the classroom, or for libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

Beaming Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1506452586

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

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

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Meet Talitha Shipman

Today, I’m happy to be talking with Talitha Shipman, an award-winning illustrator whose work appears in picture books, board books, magazines, and on greeting cards and other stationery products, about her inspirations, interacting with readers, and depicting emotion in illustrations.

What inspired you to become a children’s illustrator?

I have loved art all my life, and I was the “kid who could draw” all through elementary and high school. I went to college for Fine Art, but I realized after I graduated that what I loved most was telling stories through my art. That’s when I went back to school to get an MFA in illustration. The picture book illustration classes were my favorite. I knew I wanted to focus on that market.

Which artists were influential for you when you were growing up? Which picture books or illustrated books were your favorites? 

My absolute favorite artist growing up was James Gurney of Dinotopia fame. I spent a lot of time redrawing his dinosaur illustrations. I also loved Bill Peet a former Disney artist who illustrated many picture books, and Steven Kellogg, who wrote and illustrated the Pinkerton series.

What drew you to John Coy’s story when you first read the manuscript?

My daughter had just learned to walk about two years beforehand when I received John’s manuscript, so the process of babies taking those first few wobbly steps and all those crazy mixed emotions that come with them were fresh in my mind. There was that immediate emotional connection with the story that I hope other parents and caregivers of babies will make.

Your illustrations really shine with details that show a loving connection between characters. What, for you, are the keys to depicting the joy of being together or empathy between characters?

I think life is so much better when we focus on those little joyful moments that happen throughout the day. In my art, I try to really feel the emotions and moments I’m trying to portray. There’s that feeling when my daughter comes running at me full tilt and throws her arms around me. I can tuck that away and pull it out later to make an illustration more authentic. I think when we draw on life experiences, good and bad, and are vulnerable enough to express them somehow in art, we are able to pass that feeling along to an audience.

You count many greeting card companies among your clients. Can you talk a little about the process of designing cards and other products like notepaper?

Greeting cards are fun to create, but there are usually two avenues for artwork to get picked. Many illustrators will create designs that are finished, and card companies will buy them at trade shows or through the artist’s agent. They add text later on. Sometimes they will commission art, and they usually have a pretty good idea of what they want to be depicted, right down to the color palette. They’ll send reference images as well.

Meeting your readers at a book event must be a joy! Can you talk about one of your favorite events or visits? Why is this one memorable?

Hands down, doing an interactive art workshop with kids is the best. I want to inspire kids to pursue their own creative passions. Last year I did a winter-themed workshop with @KidLitCrafts in my hometown of Fort Wayne, and we created a wall of snowflakes and snowmen on black paper using white and blue paint. It was so amazing to watch the paper fill up with all the kids’ beautiful art.

One thing you love is helping kids find their style of creativity. How do you encourage children to develop their special talent? Do you have any anecdote from these interactions with kids that you’d like to share?

I’m going to tell a story about an adult. I recently met a woman at a state park nature preserve. She watched me sketch some turtles in a terrarium and then approached me and told me that when she was little, she loved drawing. One day her art teacher gave the class an assignment of drawing a turtle. She didn’t consider herself artistic, but she tried her best and was so proud of that turtle. All of the kids’ work was going to be on display for a special art night. She was so excited to share her turtle drawing with her parents. When they got there, she couldn’t find her drawing. So she asked her teacher where it went. The teacher told her that she accidentally spilled some coffee on it and threw it away. This deviated her so much that she didn’t do anything artistic until recently. This is tragic. One careless teacher changed this girl’s life and not for the better. Teachers, parents, tell your children that they are creative, and prove you mean it by valuing their work. If kids are bummed that they can’t draw as well as one of their classmates, help them practice and improve, or try some other way to express themselves artistically. Don’t ever tell them that art may not be their thing. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be a working artist, but everyone can incorporate art into their lives and reap the benefits. Don’t be the person who shuts that down in a child.

Which classic story would you like to illustrate? How would you portray a pivotal scene?

This isn’t a classic fairy tale, but we sing Silent Night to my daughter every night before bed. I’d love to illustrate a picture book version as a poem with visuals reminiscent of Austria, where the carol was written. I think there’d have to be a scene with snow softly falling and Christmas tree lights shining in village windows.

What’s up next for you?

I am working on my first Author/Illustrator book. It’s called Finding Beauty and it’s about a mother hoping to open her daughter’s eyes to the beauty in the world around her.

What is your favorite holiday?

Christmas all the way. I love the lights, the snow (if we’re lucky), Christmas carols, (as mentioned before) Christmas movies (Polar Express), and candlelight Christmas Eve services. The Christmas season encompasses so many happy memories and traditions in my family.

A holiday-themed event you recently participated in was Paddles Aweigh in Fort Wayne, Indiana that coincided with National Rivers Day. The paddle you painted is lovely with its depiction of river animals.

Can you tell readers about this project?

This was such a fun project and a bit out of my wheelhouse. I haven’t painted traditionally for a long time. Most of my work is digital art, so it was a bit scary to break out the paintbrushes again. There’s no delete button! I wanted to create a paddle that featured Indiana wildlife that you might see on or near rivers. I painted a beaver, a bullfrog, some minnows, a painted turtle, a northern water snake, and some Indiana wildflowers. 

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Fort Wayne sits at the confluence of three rivers, the Maumee, the Saint Joseph, and the Saint Mary’s. I was just one of over a hundred artists who painted a paddle. They’re all going to be on display at our new riverfront Promenade Park from the end of September through October. The project is also going to help fund field trips for kids on Fort Wayne’s restored canal boat the Sweet Breeze.

You can see more about this project on Talitha’s Instagram!

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Thanks so much, Talitha, for this fun chat! I wish you all the best with On Your Way and your upcoming Finding Beauty, also with Beaming Books!

You can connect with Talitha on

Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Pinterest | Twitter

Happiness Happens Month Activity

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Happiness Cards

 

Happiness can happen anywhere, and you can help make someone’s day extra happy with these printable Happiness Cards. Just give them to a friend, someone in your family, or someone who looks as if they need a pick-me-up. It’ll make you feel happy too!

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You can find On Your Way at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review