June 1 – National Say Something Nice Day

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About the Holiday

Starting off the month of June with a compliment, encouragement, or praise for the people in your life can only make the summer brighter for everyone. In today’s world where too often bullying and negativity are evident, a single nice word or action can make a tremendous difference in how people feel about themselves and those around them. To celebrate today’s holiday, look for opportunities to say something nice to your family members, friends, and those you meet during the day. But don’t just make this a one-day thing, whenever you see that you can share a smile or a laugh, tell someone they’re doing a good job, or help out—do it!

Be Kind

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jen Hill

 

At school during snack time when Tanisha spilled grape juice on her new dress, the class burst out laughing. One student remembered that their mom always taught them to be kind and tried to make Tanisha feel better by saying, “Purple is my favorite color.” The student thought Tanisha would smile, but she just ran away. All during art class, Tanisha’s classmate thought about what they should have done instead, wondering, “What does it mean to be kind anyway?”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

They think, “Maybe it’s giving.” Like baking treats for someone who lives alone, or giving away old clothes to someone who can use them. Helping out might also show kindness. For instance, “putting dirty dishes in the sink” or taking care of a pet. Paying attention to others could be another way to show you care. Like noticing someone’s new shoes, offering to be the new girl’s partner in class, or even just listening to someone’s stories—even if you’ve heard them before. Sometimes being kind is easy, but there are other times when it can be challenging or even scary—“like sticking up for someone when other kids aren’t kind.”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The child decides that maybe all they can do for Tanisha is to sit near her and paint her a picture of purple and green—of pretty violets. They hope that small acts like these will join with other people’s and that they will expand, fanning out from school into the community, across the country, around the world, and back. “So we can be kind. Again. And again. And again.”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Miller’s tender prose is perfect for planting the seeds of kindness and opening discussions about what it means to be caring and compassionate. With more and more children speaking up and creating change, Miller’s gentle and affirming story shows readers that it’s often the little things that count the most. Some of the examples she gives are acts that many children may do already, confirming their innate sensitivity, while others may spark new ideas and expand readers’ definition of kindness.

Jen Hill’s soft-hued illustrations beautifully depict the emotional tug at the heart that Tanisha’s spilled grape juice sets in motion for the protagonist and young readers. As one caring child wonders what kindness really is, Hill clearly portrays diverse children helping out at home, at school, and in their community locally and—as the kindness spreads—around the world. Hill draws the caring student with gender neutral clothing and hair, allowing all children to relate to the story’s main character. 

Be Kind is a lovely perceptive and sensitive book that would be an asset to any home or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1626723214

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jen Hill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Say Something Nice Day Activity

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Say Something Nice! Cards

 

Do you want to give someone a nice surprise? Print out these cards and give one to a friend, to someone you’d like to know, or to anyone who looks like they need a pick-me-up! If you’d like to make your own cards, print out the blank template and write and/or draw your own message! You can also print these on adhesive paper and make your own stickers.

Say Something Nice! Cards | Say Something Nice! Cards Blank Template

Picture book review

March 13 – Good Samaritan Day

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About the Holiday

A Good Samaritan is someone who sees someone in need of help or kindness and generously offers assistance or a smile. Today, people are encouraged to spend a little extra time to look around and notice those moments when someone could use an extra hand and go to their aid. You never know when a small gesture can have far-reaching effects. Children are particularly good at noticing those who need help or cheering up. You can foster their natural kindness by supporting their ideas and actions for helping their community—just like the little girl’s in today’s book!

The Princess and the Café on the Moat

Written by Margie Markarian | Illustrated by Chloe Douglass

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363971

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

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

Meet Author Margie Markarian

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I was thrilled to talk with Margie Markarian about her new book, the allure of fairy tales, her amazing interactive storytimes, and so much more!

What inspired you to write The Princess and the Café on the Moat?

I wanted to spread a message about being kind, sharing talents, and building a sense of community.  I was inspired, in part, by the idea that kids need and welcome a sense of responsibility, purpose, and belonging just as much as adults. I was also inspired by the idea that children innately have ways of contributing and making a difference. The young princess in the Princess and the Café on the Moat knows this and finds a way to make a difference that ends up bringing the whole kingdom together.

Was there a certain reason you chose the classic fairy tale setting?

Well, I love fairy tales. Children love fairy tales. I felt the traditional fairy tale format would work but that I could modernize it with a café. Also, in a fairy tale, there’s usually a message being played out. I thought my message would play out more subtly and more sweetly as a fairy tale than as a story that takes place in the present day. When I introduce the book to an audience, I call it “a tale for our time from once upon a time.”

I love the can-do attitude and the kindness of the princess. Was there also a reason you chose this character?

I thought a young princess in a very busy castle would create an element of wonder for readers. After all, why would a princess who lives in a castle full of such colorful characters want to dash across a drawbridge to the other side of the moat? Kids often ask me why I called her the “young princess” versus a specific name. It’s because I want all children to be able to see themselves in her, for her to be relatable.

None of the grown-up characters have specific names either. The king and queen represent supportive, loving parents, who are proud of their daughter, even though they are “busy” at the beginning of the story. That’s just how life is sometimes. And it’s the queen who takes the king’s idea of a one-time celebration to the next level of opening a café on the moat with daily hours. It’s a hat’s off to strong women and wise mothers.

What was one of your favorite books when you were a child?

The Tall Book of Nursery Tales. It was a book I took out time and time again from the library. It stood out on the shelf because it was taller than all the other books and it had vibrant illustrations. I had a huge fascination with that fairy tale book in particular, as well as myths, fables, and folk tales from around the world.

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Third-graders in classroom J24 at Jefferson Elementary School in Franklin, MA and teacher Evan Chelman enjoyed a Princess and the Café on the Moat Reader’s Theater visit with Margie Markarian.

What is the best part about being a children’s author or working in the children’s book field?

The best part is when I get to read to children. They so quickly relate to the story and offer examples or ideas on good deeds they can perform like the princess: “Oh I can read this to the kids I babysit!” or “I always read birthday cards to my grandfather.” In the classroom, I present the story Reader’s Theater style. I ask the teacher to pick seven kids to take on the parts of the characters the princess encounters. Each child has one or two lines at most. They really get into it. I distribute hats and props and they have fun getting into character—the jester juggling the balls, the minstrel plucking the mandolin, the wizard waving the magic wand, the royal baker shaking her head no. Seeing their faces light up, their enthusiasm, and their reactions is wonderful.

Kids in the audience participate, too. I tell them that fairy tales are famous for events that take place in a series of three and invite them to be on the lookout for the ones I included in the story. They’re very responsive to that. Some kids quickly connect my book to a fairy tale they already know. All of the activity and conversation makes them curious about reading, about characters, about the story. And that’s the magic and joy of being an author—sharing the book and getting kids excited and involved.

Could you talk a little about the writing workshops you held for children to produce the Boston Globe Fun Pages?  What a great opportunity that was, especially for kids who are interested in a writing career!

When my daughter was in 2nd grade, her teacher welcomed parental involvement in the classroom. At that time the Boston Globe newspaper published a weekly supplement called the Fun Pages. Children in classrooms at different schools wrote each edition. My daughter’s teacher tapped me to help a group of her students write an issue. There were about five articles in an issue, usually revolving around a theme. We picked our town’s annual 4th of July Festival as a theme and we worked on it for eight weeks.

I did another edition of the Fun Pages with my son’s 4th grade class. We had a chocolate factory in town then so our theme revolved around chocolate. We toured the factory, interviewed the owners, and researched stories about chocolate. I guided the writing and reporting, while also sharing tips on what it takes to be an editor and writer. Any time you can excite kids about the process of writing, it’s a great thing. There’s nothing better than hands-on experiential learning. When it came time to distribute one of the issues, I even dressed up as a news carrier and delivered the papers to the kids in their classroom.

Do you have an anecdote from any event at a bookstore or school that you’d like to share?

As I was signing books at a recent event, a little boy noticed me writing my name, and he asked, “How do you write so fast?” For a moment I thought he was talking about the writing of the book itself, but then I realized he was talking about when I signed my name. He was five and just learning to write. Learning to physically write your name is a big deal when you’re five! It was so sweet, and funny, and naturally inquisitive.

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If you were going to bake something for the Café on the Moat, what would it be?

Probably gingerbread boys and girls! I bake them at the holidays! Or, gingerbread people shaped like the characters in my book. They could live in the castle cake (with a moat of blue-sugar-sprinkles and jellybeans!) that my brother-in-law baked for the launch of The Princess and the Café on the Moat.

Do you have a favorite place where you like to write? Could you describe it a little?

Even though I have a home office, I enjoy working in cafés because there’s a buzz. I like being a part of the bustle as much as the princess does!  I find the sense of community invigorating. Cafés are where people come together now. A lot of The Princess and the Café on the Moat was written at the bagel café in my hometown. I’ll probably write my next book at the muffin café in the next town over. I spend a lot of time there now.

What is your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving. It’s special because it’s a holiday that brings people together. No presents required. I like that it’s simply a time to reconnect with family and friends over a meal and give thanks.

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

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

You can connect with Margie Markarian on:

Her Website | FaceBook | Twitter

Good Samaritan Day Activity

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The Princess and the Café on the Moat Activities

 

It’s fun spending the day with the princess in the castle and out in the community helping people! Here are four activity pages to take you there!

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

 

Picture Book Review

February 20 – Love Your Pet Day

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About the Holiday

Whether you have a dog or cat, hamster or fish, parakeet, iguana, or llama, your pet is one of the most loved parts of your family. Animals’ funny antics, eager personalities, and unconditional love simply make life better. Today’s holiday encourages you to spend more time with your pet. A longer walk or playtime and a special treat will show your pet how much they mean to you. If you’ve been considering getting a pet, maybe today’s the day. Getting a pet can be life-changing—just as the man in today’s book discovers.

Seed Man

By Aiko Ikegami

 

“One day Seed Man came to town.” After he had dug a hole and chosen a seed from his bag, he planted it and then “called the fairies.” The fairies were very good gardeners. They tended the seed with special food and water and sang to it as it grew from a tiny sprout into a tall sapling and finally into a straight, strong tree.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Among its leafy branches, the tree bore fruit unlike any other. There was a toy bunny, bear, and duckling; a drum and a guitar; and a tricycle, train, and plane. There was even a puppy in a basket. When the fruit was ready, the fairies picked it and “delivered Seed Man’s gifts all over town” to the sleeping residents. “Even if someone didn’t know he needed a gift, Seed Man and the fairies knew.”

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

And that is how the man who lived alone with only a photograph of his wife and child to comfort him came to have the dog. When he awoke in his chair, holding the framed picture, he looked at the puppy sitting in her basket in front of him and said, “‘I don’t want a dog.’” As the puppy rolled over and wagged her tail and jumped to greet him, the man said, “‘Ay yi yi.’”  

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But then the man patted the dog and smiled at her. He poured milk into a bowl, and let the puppy sit on his lap. Everything was going well until a butterfly fluttered through the window and captured the dog’s attention. With a leap and a bound, the puppy chased after it, shaking the table and upsetting the coffee cup, the vase of flowers and the framed photograph.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

They all crashed to the floor, shattered.  “The man looked at the broken picture” and sent the dog away. Later, the sky darkened and rain pelted the window. The man wondered what the puppy would do. He picked up his umbrella and “went to look.” The sidewalks were crowded and he couldn’t see the dog anywhere. But the fairies knew right where to find her. They brought her back to the old man.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The man was so happy to see her, and she was happy to see her. He picked her up, and she licked his nose. The Seed Man watched the old man and the puppy together and “knew it was time.” The fairies carried the bag of seeds to the old man’s home and knocked on the door. Now a new Seed Man, his puppy, and the fairies are coming to town.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Aiko Ikegami’s enchanting story offers young readers much to consider about the nature of love and its power to broaden horizons and overcome loneliness, fear, and other emotions. For the old man, the companionship of the puppy opens his heart and reopens his eyes to the world around him. Previously focused on his own feelings and sadness, the man finds in the puppy someone else to care about, a compassion that soon extends to others. As Ikagami’s fairies know, each person has unique needs and responds to different inspirations.

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Ikegami’s whimsical illustrations fill in and expand on her story, the simplicity of which cleverly leaves it open to personal interpretations. Discussions may revolve around the gift of talent, how the seed of love grows when well planted and tended, and how the childlike fairies remind us that children are our greatest gift. And then there’s the Seed Man himself. Is he a mystical figure or can he be anyone paying kindness forward?

Ikegami clearly depicts the emotional transformation the old man experiences. At first stooped with sadness, his change of heart when he accepts the puppy comes with smiles and crinkled eyes, and when he is designated as the new Seed Man, his dramatic change in appearance and disposition shows children that love and purpose found lead to a happy life.

For opening discussions about many aspects of love and happiness, Seed Man is an original story that would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363797

Discover more about Aiko Ikegami, her books, and her art on her website.

Love Your Pet Day Activity

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A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

Picture Book Review

February 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day & Interview with Author Marsha Diane Arnold

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About the Holiday

Are you a RAKtivist? You know—a Random Acts of Kindness Activist! Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? It is! And all it takes to be a RAKtivist is to do nice things—kind things—for everyone and anyone. These things don’t have to be big, or hard, or expensive, either. In fact, the best kindness acts are free! If you see someone having a bad day, give them a smile. Is someone struggling with a box, a bag or keeping their stuff in their locker? Give them a hand. Does someone always eat lunch alone? Offer to sit with them and have a conversation. You’re also encouraged to give others a card to brighten their day. You’ll find some to print out at the end of this post!

There are as many ways to be a RAKtivist as there are people on the planet. Right now, there are 17,009 registered RAKtivists from ages 14 to 89 in 87 countries! You can join them and learn more about this uplifting holiday on the Random Acts of Kindness Website!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of May I Come In? to check out, and is partnering with me for a giveaway! Learn more below!

May I Come In?

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Jennie Poh

 

Outside, the rain poured down, and “Raccoon shivered. When “thunder roared, Raccoon quivered.” And the flashes of lightening were just too scary to watch. Raccoon did not like being alone on such a stormy night, so he “grabbed his umbrella and hurried out the door.” Raccoon made his way through muddy Thistle Hollow to his old friend Possum’s tree-trunk den.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There he found Possum nice and dry under his canopy. Raccoon asked, “‘Possum old friend, may I come in?’ / ‘What bad luck,’ Possum replied. ‘My den’s too small for one your size.’” Raccoon climbed down and with a “swish, plish” walked “all the way to Quail’s brambles.” As the wind whipped Raccoon’s scarf, he asked Quail if he could come in. But Quail said her brambles were formed too tight, and Raccoon was too wide to fit inside.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Next, Raccoon swish, plished to Woodchuck’s hole. Dug into a hill near an old broken tree and lit by a small candle lamp, Woodchuck’s hole looked cozy. But when Raccoon asked his old friend if he could come in, Woodchuck said, “‘What bad luck. I’ve only room for one to hide.’” Raccoon went away sadly and “stood shaking in the rain. His umbrella blew inside out, His fur felt wet and spongy.” He really did not want to spend the night alone.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There was one more house to try. Raccoon saw a light glowing in the distance. He hurried nearer and nearer and nearer. He knocked at the door and when Rabbit answered, Raccoon could see all of her little rabbits behind her as they “hopped and bopped to the raindrops.” Raccoon hesitantly asked his question then almost immediately took it back. After all, her house was so full. But Rabbit swung the door open wider. “‘What good luck,’ said Rabbit. ‘Come right in. There’s always room for a good friend.’” Rabbit gave Raccoon a comfortable chair to sit in and brought him a cup of tea.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

As the storm raged on, Raccoon hummed and smiled happily, smelling the aroma of carrot stew that filled Rabbit’s home. Soon, there was another knock on Rabbit’s door and three voices rang out: “‘being alone on a night like tonight is scary.’” When Rabbit opened the door this time, there stood Possum, Quail, and Woodchuck. The ten little rabbits just kept hopping and bobbing.

Rabbit and Raccoon gazed at each other knowingly. “‘What good luck,’ they said. ‘Come right in. There’s always room for all our friends.’”

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

From the very first page, young readers will be engrossed in Marsha Diane Arnold’s sweet story of a raccoon who’s looking for company and comfort on a stormy night. As Raccoon swish, plishes through his neighborhood, knocking on door after door only to be met by excuses for why he can’t come in, children will empathize with him and be cheered when Rabbit joyfully invites him in. Readers will understand that they are sometimes like Raccoon, needing a bit of help or support. They will also see that they can always be like Rabbit, offering kindness and inclusion. Arnold’s lyrical language and repeated phrases invite children to read along, offering another sense of camaraderie during story time.

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Jennie Poh’s Thistle Hollow is as cute as its name with cozy dens, brambles, and homes carved into hills and trees and adorable woodland neighbors. The lovely smoky blue-grays and dusky greens enhance the beautiful scenery as raindrops plink, plonk and the wind whips Raccoon’s scarf and umbrella. Alert readers may notice that a single owl watches Raccoon as he makes his way from Possum’s den to Quail’s brambles, but as he approaches Rabbit’s inviting home, a pair of birds snuggle against the wind in a hollow tree. Rabbit’s home is warm, snug, and relaxed as the ten bunnies hop and bop, enjoying some fun with their siblings and guests.

May I Come In? would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and school libraries to open discussions of kindness, inclusion, and helpfulness for children. The story could easily be adaptable to acting out for a classroom or children’s program to highlight the lesson of inclusion and make it more personal.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363940

You’re invited to download the May I Come In? Activity Pages here or from Sleeping Bear Press.

May I Come In? Coloring Page May I Come In?  | Matching PageMay I Come In? Rhyming Page

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jennie Poh, her books, and her art work, visit her blog.

Random Acts of Kindness Day Activity

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Random Acts of Kindness Cards

 

Here are some cheery cards that are sure to make the recipient’s day happier! Give them to a friend, a family member, your teacher, or your bus driver to show them that you care and that they mean a lot to you!

Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 1Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 2

Meet Marsha Diane Arnold

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Today, I’m excited to talk with Marsha Diane Arnold about why the theme of kindness is important in the books children read, her real-life May I Come In? moment, and what makes life magical.

Thank you, Celebrate Picture Books for inviting me to your blog. Random Acts of Kindness Day seems a perfect time to chat about my new book May I Come In? which demonstrates kindness in such a sweet way.

What inspired you to write May I Come In??

There really was nothing specific that inspired the story. If anything did influence it, it was the wildlife that lived around my home in California. During the time I wrote May I Come In? I was working on a number of stories with woodland animal characters. With these stories, my characters led the way for me. One of the stories was Waiting for Snow with Badger and Hedgehog as characters. Another is Badger’s Seeds, which is coming out from Sleeping Bear Press in 2019. And then there’s May I Come In? with sweet Raccoon searching for a friend to spend a scary night with.

CPB - Marsha Diane Arnold Quail pic

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-deer-for Marsha-Diane-Arnold-blog-tour-post-interview

Here are two of the animals that shared my McGregor hill home in California. The first may have inspired my May I Come In? Quail character.

When Hurricane Irma hit Florida this fall, you experienced May I Come In? in a personal way. Can you talk about that a little?

At the last minute, Hurricane Irma decided to come almost directly over our little town of Alva! In the photo below, it looks as if I’m inviting everyone into my house, just the way Rabbit did, but this was actually taken after the hurricane, as I was celebrating our house still standing. You may notice on the left that not all our trees did as well.

Although our storm was indeed frightening, it was heart-warming to see all the people who opened their doors to friends, family, and strangers who had to be evacuated from their homes. My husband and I had fourteen people—family, acquaintances, strangers—and two dogs under our roof. We learned, like the characters in May I Come In?, that it was comforting to be with others during a frightening time and that including everyone added to the camaraderie.

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-house-for Marsha-Diane-Arnold-blog-tour-post-interview

As a child you were surrounded by animals on your farm, you went on to help care for sick animals, and many of your books are written with animal characters. Do animals and their behavior inspire your writing? What animal qualities do you think resonate most with children?

Animals have always inspired and fascinated me. I could spend hours watching them, just being with them. They calm me. They make me laugh. They make me cry. Animals must inspire my writing because I write about them so often in my books, from my first book Heart of a Tiger to my newest, May I Come In?

Many animals have family groups and care for each other in similar ways to humans. Children understand and relate to this. In my two board books Baby Animals Take a Nap and Baby Animals Take a Bath my goal was to show very young children the similarities between animals and humans. We all nap. We all take baths.

When I write using animal characters, I’m really writing about children with human qualities. It’s a type of metaphor. Using animals as characters often allows children to identify more easily with certain perspectives.

What is something you love to do on a rainy day?

When I was growing up in Kansas, I actually enjoyed the lightning and the thunder!

Reading is always a lovely way to spend a rainy day. If there’s a warm fire to sit by, as in May I Come In? it’s even better.

The theme of May I Come In? revolves around the idea of inclusion and kindness. Can you speak a little bit on why it’s important for children’s books to portray these ideals? What changes have you seen over the years in children’s receptivity to these qualities?

Being inclusive is such an important quality, a foundation to living a kind and caring life. Because we humans are molded by our experiences when we are young, reading books that show inclusion and empathy are extremely important.

Even with the changes in our culture and technology, I think children are as receptive to these qualities as ever. But it’s vital we model them to children from their birth, through the first seven “magical” years, and onward. Good books with good messages are one way to do this.

One of the many things I love about May I Come In? is how each of Jennie Poh’s illustrations are so inviting, seeming to welcome the reader in.

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Your readers love meeting you at their school, in libraries, in bookstores, and even through Skype. Do you have an anecdote from an event that you’d like to share?

I’ve had such fun over the years visiting schools. There are so many precious memories.

I’m quite an introvert, so I’m grateful when schools invite me to visit their students. It gets me out of my shell; meeting my readers inspires me to keep writing for them.

A wonderful memory is my being flown into a small town on the Kansas plains by the principal in his airplane! It was a long way from an airport. When I arrived at the school in the morning I was greeted by a huge tornado they’d constructed on top of their school, in honor of my book The Bravest of Us All. Inside the gymnasium was a smaller tornado, three students dressed as cows to celebrate Prancing, Dancing Lily, and so much more. A grand time.

A recent memory involves Walter Jackson Elementary School in Alabama. They’ve been celebrating The Pumpkin Runner for about five years now with their Pumpkin Run Day, which is filled with pumpkin-related activities and a one-mile run for the entire school community, in honor of my book and the surprising ultra-marathoner Cliff Young. Two years ago, I was honored to be invited to join in the festivities by their amazing librarian, Todd McDonald. I spent one day doing presentations and another day playing games and running three miles! Yes, three, as they divided the students into three class groupings. Great educators! Great school! Great fun!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pumpkin-run-for Marsha-Diane-Arnold-blog-tour-post-interview

You offer students writing workshops that you call “Funshops,” in which you present images, activities, and brainstorming to spark their imaginations and stories. Could you give an example of an image or activity that you use to fire up kids’ creativity? How do the kids react?

Hmmm. Should I share my favorite? Since it’s Random Acts of Kindness Day, I will!

The Alliteration Game is always a big hit with the students. In the Alliteration game, we take someone’s name and use lots of words that start with the same sound to make a fun sentence.  First, we describe the person in a silly way.  Then we think of an action word, a verb – like hopped or jumped.  After that, depending on the age of students, we might use adverbs to describe how the person does the action – “joyfully jumped” or “happily hopped” – and choose a setting. What’s really fun is that students can then use these sentences as starting places for a funny fiction story. Here’s an example, using my name.

Marsha, the magnificent moose, munched marshmallows in a museum in Manchuria.

Your work has been called “magical” by reviewers, and you also use the word to describe your work, your home in California, and other experiences. What does “magical” mean to you? Where is magic found and what can it do?

I like this definition of “magic” from the Oxford dictionary: “Beautiful or delightful in a way that seems removed from everyday life.”

To me something “magical” is uplifting, something that takes us somewhere else for a moment. But magic can be found almost everywhere, if we open our eyes and ears.  It can sneak up on us and take us by surprise or it can sit beside us and spread its arms around us. I found lots of magic at my home in California where I lived for 35 years – forests, good neighbors, barn owls. Now I’m finding magic in Florida – sandhill cranes, sunsets, ponies down the road.

A journalist once called me “a magician of literary innovations.” I loved that. To me, the best stories have always been magical, taking us away from the house cleaning or the 9-5 job, for a bit of beauty and delight.  So, I took the phrase and ran with it. I used it as the name of my blog Storymagician (inactive at the moment), and I created a Storymagician chant that I share with students when I visit schools. I think all of us can create and use stories to bring a little magic into our lives.

What’s up next for you?

At the moment, I’m doing final editing on my fall 2018 book, Gálapagos Girl with Lee & Low. This is a story inspired by Valentina Cruz who grew up in the Gálapagos Islands.

Also in the fall Mine. Yours. will be out from Kids Can Press, a Canadian company. I’m so honored to be working with them as they usually only publish Canadian authors. Qin Leng is illustrating. I’ve seen some of the early sketches and am so looking forward to the final artwork. Her style is perfect for my story.

Both of these books will be 40 pages long, my first ever 40-page long picture books. As many of you know, most picture books are 32 pages long. It’s interesting to me because Gálapagos Girl is a 500-plus-word story with an author note and back matter and Mine. Yours. is only 25 words! Yet, both editors felt the stories deserved 40 pages.

Another first for me is that Gálapagos Girl is going to be a bilingual book. So much to look forward too!

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I can’t let you get away without asking a few questions about holidays, so…

What holiday do you enjoy most?

I can’t choose just one!

I love decorating the house for Christmas – all the lights!

I really enjoy Halloween and Easter too. We rarely had candy in our house when my children were young, so trick-or-treating was a big deal. They always made their own costumes, with whatever they could find around the house. There were some pretty interesting ones!

Easter was wondrous. When my children were small we would cut a small branch from one of the manzanita trees in our little forest and bring it into the house to decorate with Easter eggs and treasured objects. We always looked for the Easter bunny in the field behind our house, where many rabbits lived. We spotted him several times over the years.

Then there’s Valentine’s Day, the day we just celebrated. I love the red and pink! When my children were young, we always designed and made our own Valentine’s cards. It’s fitting I’m sharing about May I Come In? during Valentine’s week as both are about holding others close, including them in our hearts and our lives.

Has a holiday ever influenced your writing?

I’ve never really written a story about a holiday, but there’s a Halloween story I started over ten years ago that I never finished. Yet, it keeps tapping me on the shoulder. I plan to take another look at it next month. Writers often return to work that’s been collecting dust for years in the hope that this time new ideas will come to them and the story will be completed and ready for the world.

Where can readers find out more about you, your books, and your school visits?

My website is being updated, but you can find out about all those things at www.marshadianearnold.com. And if you want to learn how to follow your characters through a story, as I mentioned in the first question, you may check out my Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books at http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/writing-character-driven-stories.html.

Now, let’s all go out and do a random act of kindness!

Thanks, Marsha, for chatting with me today! I wish you all the best with May I Come In? and all of your books!

You can find May I Come In? at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | MacIntosh Books of Sanibel Island, FL

Marsha Diane Arnold will be reading and signing books at MacIntosh Books in March. If you live or will be near Sanibel Island, check out their event calendar for March to attend an event with Marsha Diane Arnold!

You can connect with Marsha Diane Arnold on:

Her Author Facebook | Personal Facebook (I welcome all) |Twitter | Her Website

Picture Book Review

January 21 – National Hugging Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is as simple as it sounds. Established to encourage people to show more emotion in public. National Hugging Day lets you show the people you love just how much you love them—with a nice, big hug!

Hug Machine

By Scott Campbell

 

A little boy comes over the hill, robot-long arms raised and hands ready to do some serious hugging. “Whoa! Here I Come! I am the Hug Machine!” he announces. He hugs his mom around the knees while she’s cooking. His dad is reading the newspaper when his knees are squeezed. And his sister keeps talking on the phone while she gets her hug from “the hug machine.”

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Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Then the little boy goes out into his neighborhood where he hugs a policeman, a woman watering her plants, a businessman waiting for the bus, two unsuspecting women, and a little girl. He even hugs (very gently) the girl’s helium balloon. In fact, the boy hugs everything in his path—trees, fire hydrants, park benches, and mailboxes. “No one escapes the Hug Machine.”

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Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The boy’s hugs make everyone feel just right. It doesn’t matter if the things are big or small, soft or hard, square or long, the Hug Machine embraces them all. When he spies a crying baby, the Hug Machine goes to work. In a moment the “hug’s accomplished,” and the baby is smiling. But “what about me?” the porcupine asks. “No one ever hugs me.” Outfitted in a baseball catcher’s mask, with a pillow tied around his middle, and sporting oven mitts, the boy gives the porcupine a great big cuddle. “They are missing out!” the boy exclaims.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-machine-porcupine

Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A whale thinks it is too big to be hugged, but the boy finds a ladder, climbs to the top and gives a sliding hug all the way to the whale’s tail. How does the Hug Machine stay in prime hugging shape with lots of energy? Pizza, of course! And after a couple of slices, the Hug Machine is ready to get back out there! He runs through his neighborhood hugging everyone and everything in sight. There’s even a huge hug for you!

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Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

After that spurt of hugging, the Hug Machine is tuckered out. “Hug Machine can hug no more,” the boy says as he lies on the floor. But a pair of hands reaches out. “Why, yes,” the boy says, as his mom scoops him up into a hug of his own. “The Hug Machine is always open for business.”

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Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Scott Campbell’s Hug Machine is as adorably irresistible as little ones’ enthusiastic and spontaneous demonstrations of love. Readers will giggle when they see all the people and things this Hug Machine embraces without question and sometimes with creativity. Kids will also love the double spread, wide-armed hug just for them. The repeated phrases make this a perfect read aloud and read along for even the youngest readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-machine-fire-hydrants

Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Campbell’s illustrations are always endearing. The surprised recipients of the little boy’s hugs are left with a smile on their face, and even the inanimate objects seem to gain a stronger sense of purpose after being hugged. The little boy’s wide eyes and always-ready arms and hands mirror the eagerness of children to find and react to any recognized needs. And pizza, of course, is the perfect kid fuel.

With plenty of opportunities for laughs and lots of hugs, as well as offering a fantastic way to talk about emotions, empathy, and kindness, Hug Machine is a terrific book to add to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014 | Hardcover ISBN: 978-1442459359 | Paperback, 2017 ISBN: 978-1338255423 | Board book, 2017 ISBN: 978-1338255423

Discover more about Scott Campbell and a portfolio  of his work on his website.

National Hugging Day Activity

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Free Hug Coupons

 

Everyone needs a hug now and then! With these printable Free Hug Coupons you can be sure that all of your favorite people get a sweet hug when they need it most.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Free Hug Coupons
  2. Color the coupons (optional)
  3. Hand out the coupons to your friends and family members and tell them that each coupon is good for one free hug from you.
  4. When someone hands in a ticket to you, give them your best biggest hug!

Picture Book Review

June 15 – Smile Power Day

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About the Holiday

Where do you find enough smiles to fill twenty-four hours? Come on, you know! Friends, loved ones, books, movies, videos, jokes, and more funny stuff can instantly elicit that bright, shiny facial expression! Today is a day to share smiles with people you know and those you don’t. So get out there and be happy!

Happy

By Emma Dodd

 

Nestled in a hole in a pine tree, an owl—who could be a mom, a dad, or any caregiver—cradles an adorable tiny owlet under its wing. “I know that / you are happy / when you wake me / with a song,” the owl says. As they venture out onto a limb, the owl adds, “I know that / you are happy / when you hop / and skip along.” With the repeated “I know that you are happy” the owl describes other ways the owlet shows her joy: giggling, rambling conversation, playing loudly, acting proud, and trying “something new…and / if you don’t succeed at first, I’ll help until you do,” the owl reassures the child.

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But every day cannot be happy, the owl concedes, and when “things are looking gray, / I’ll do my best to chase / the gloomy clouds away.” As the sun sets on the secluded home and the owl and owlet drift into sleep, the owl reveals: “I love it when you cuddle close / and whisper, ‘I love you.’ / And I am happiest / of all… / when you are happy too.”

Perfect for all parents and caregivers, Emma Dodd’s celebration of how a child’s joy resonates in others’ hearts makes shared reading time special. The lyrical rhythm of the repeated lines accompanied by the sentiments of encouragement and the transposition of point of view give this book impact and poignancy.

Dodd’s gorgeous illustrations of the endearing owl and owlet pair perfectly express the type of discovery that leads to joy on both a child’s and an adult’s part. With its little raised foot, extended tiny wings, and jubilant, smiling beak, the young owlet is both lovable and loved. Dodd’s beautiful muted, blue, green, brown and orange settings shimmer with gilded accents: delicate gold pine needles frame the owls’ home, the baby owl splashes in a glistening puddle under a gleaming moon, sparkling stars light the midnight blue sky, and rain showers fall in glinting streaks as the owls look on.

Simply put Happy will put a smile on your face and bring a tear to your eye. This lovely lullaby will quickly become a favorite for bedtime or cuddle time and is a must for young children’s bookshelves. Happy also makes a perfect gift for new parents or other caregivers. 

Take a peek:

Ages Birth – 5

Nosy Crow, Candlewick Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763680084

Smile Power Day Activity

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Make Someone Smile Cards

 

Sharing a smile can make someone’s day! With these printable Make Someone Smile Cards you can spread joy to people you know—and even to those you don’t! Give one to a family member, coworker, or friend. You can surprise your favorite barista, hair stylist, librarian, or shop owner by handing them a card or leaving it where they’ll find it. It’s even fun to tuck a card among the items on a shelf or in a book for someone to find later. Remember, the power of a smile is awesome!

February 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

Random Acts of Kindness Day originated in New Zealand, where the holiday is celebrated nation wide every September 1st. In the U.S. the popularity of this day continues to grow, as people discover the pleasure of doing nice things for friends and strangers alike. Connecting with others and paying forward kind deeds can be infectious, making the world a better place for all!

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed

Written by Emily Pearson | Illustrated by Fumi Kosaka

 

One day an ordinary girl named Mary begins her ordinary day. On her way home she spies ordinary blueberries in a field and picks them. She knows Mrs. Bishop would like them, so Mary leaves them in an ordinary bowl on her porch. Mrs. Bishop is so happy with the berries that she uses them to make blueberry muffins. But who gave her the blueberries? Mrs. Bishop can think of five people who might have, and she divides the muffins between them.

One of the five is Mrs. Bishop’s paperboy. He is so delighted with the muffins that he kindly hand delivers the newspapers to the next five people on his route. One of these is Mr. Stevens, who is so happy he spends the next 10 hours smiling on an airplane and helps five people lift heavy bags.

One of these is Maria, who later does nice things for five other people. One of these cheers up the next five people she sees, who in turn brightens the day of five people. By now these random acts of kindness have spread through town and farther. People everywhere are watching out for others, being generous, smiling, becoming friends, and more! And in a surprising happenchance, ordinary Mary’s original act of kindness comes back to her!

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Image copyright Fumi Kosaka, courtesy of Gibbs Smith Publishing

What Mary doesn’t know, though, is that her extraordinary deed actually changes the whole world for the better—because each person touched by kindness shares it with five others, who share it with five more until the one act of leaving blueberries on Mrs. Bishop’s porch multiplies to 6 billion other people!

Emily Pearson’s story is a delightful tale of how one person can make a positive difference in the lives of others. The thread of simple deeds shared from one character to the next demonstrates to young and old alike how just a smile, a compliment, or an unexpected act can transform another person’s day and even the way they view themselves and the world. This is a perfect book for spurring random acts of kindness, and its straightforward treatment of the way random acts build on each other makes it a great reminder for all ages.

Fumi Kosaka has populated Mary’s world and beyond with people whose wide smiles and twinkling eyes make you want to share the excitement of giving right along with them. Her simple, colorful drawings focus on the people affected and highlight the simple acts that bring them so much pleasure.

Ages 4 and up

Gibbs Smith Publishers, Layton, Utah | ISBN 978-0879059781

Random Acts of Kindness Day Activity

CPB - Random Acts of Kindness cards

Random Acts of Kindness Cards to Share

 

It’s fun to surprise someone with an unexpected gift or compliment! It makes the other person and you feel happier! Here are some printable Random Acts of Kindness Cards that you can give to anyone you meet today—or any day. If you’d like to write your own, here is a set of Blank Cards. You can give one to your teacher, librarian, favorite store clerk, your postal worker, your neighbors and friends, the person next to you on the bus or train. Or why not brighten someone’s day by leaving a note where they might find it—in a book at the library or bookstore, in a friend’s lunchbox, in your mailbox, on a store shelf, or anywhere you go!

Picture Book Review