July 9 – It’s Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the culinary arts from salad to dessert and everything in between and the chefs, cooks, and bakers who create new dishes that keep us coming back for more. This month we also thank all the home chefs who prepare healthy meals for their families every day. To celebrate this year, help out your local restaurants or bakeries and order take out to enjoy with your family. While spending more time at home this summer, why not get the kids involved in making meals or special treats. Cooking together is a terrific way to make memories while making family favorites.

A Book for Escargot

Written by Dashka Slater | Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

 

“Bonjour!” Escargot—that most adorable snail (he’ll tell you so himself)—is back! He can see that you’re reading and doesn’t want to disturb you, even though he knows that “It can be distracting to have a very beautiful French snail staring at you while you read.” In fact, Escargot is on his way through the library to check out a French cookbook right now. Along the way, he’d like to talk about all things literary. First, Escargot would like to know your favorite book. “Is it Goldytentacles and the Three Snails? Harry Gastropodder and the Chamber of Salads?” Or maybe it’s another snail classic.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2020. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Escargot loves books, but there’s one thing that is so sad it makes him cry. Go ahead—you can wipe the tears from his eyes with your sleeve. What is so sad? None of the books have a snail hero. All the books about snails that he’s seen “make a joke about slow snail or shy snail. I am not laughing at this joke,” he says.

Escargot thinks that you—yes you, the reader—can write a story about an extraordinary snail that has daring adventures. He’ll even help you with the first sentence and how to illustrate such a magnifique character. Of course, every good story hero needs a problem. Perhaps you, as a writer, think: but Escargot, “‘you are so handsome, suave, and smart. What problem could you possibly have?’” And yet, Escargot does have a problem. He is bored with salads. And so, he is off to find a new recipe.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2020. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

But not so fast. Every story worth its salt also needs an obstacle. And can there be any greater obstacle than Escargot looking down (far down) upon the object of his quest: The Art of French Cooking? To show what an intrepid snail he really is, Escargot sets his antennae to horizontal and leaps. He flies! Sort of.

At last the “resolution of the story” is at hand (so to speak). Escargot opens the cookbook ready to discover a new delicious recipe. But what is this?! This is not a recipe Escargot wants a chef to see. And he certainly doesn’t want that chef to see him. Can you help hide Escargot? As this only slightly rattled snail hides out, you can finish your story. Escargot even gives you an ending sentence that you can finish with a little panache.

Now, where is that French cookbook? Perhaps Escargot was hungrier than he thought. The pages are looking kind of chewed, and Escargot’s cheeks appear a little puffed. But it is all good, and just as in any delectable story—Escargot’s and yours—ends “with a kiss! Mwah!

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2020. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Like meeting up with a best friend after a long absence, Escargot and his second adventure will swell your heart. All the charm and endearing airs of Dashka Slater’s little French snail that made readers fall in love with him in Escargot still inspire his first-person monologue aimed directly at readers. Along the journey to finding a French cookbook, Escargot invites kids not only to write a story that has never been told before—the tale of a snail who overcomes the odds—or at least the odd obstacle—and becomes a hero—but to interact at certain points to help him out.

Slater’s clever takes on her audience’s favorite books will have kids giggling and retitling their own bookshelves while subtle allusions to the original story are enchanting and build giddy suspense for this book’s resolution. As a writing tool for teachers and homeschoolers, Escargot’s prompts and encouragement go a long way in helping children understand the basic structure of a story, how to use evocative vocabulary, and how to incorporate necessary elements. As Escargot once again comes out victorious, all readers will exclaim Oh là là! with a big Mwah!

Light, airy, and punctuated with the cutest snail around, Sydney Hanson’s illustrations are a joy. How magnifique it is to once again open the cover to those full-moon eyes, looong antennae, petite smile and very French shirt and scarf. Kids will love following Escargot’s silvery trail over snail bestsellers, through a palette of paint, and on to a pile of hilariously titled animal stories, which, much to Escargot’s disappointment, do not extend the superhero theme to snails. For future illustrators, Hanson demonstrates an easy way for kids to replicate Escargot and his escapade for their own stories. Each of Hanson’s pages is darling from Escargot’s flying feat of daring to his agility with the long-sought French cookbook to his solution to the unfortunate recipe.

Lovely and lovable through and through, A Book for Escargot will be a favorite. The book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections. And on’t miss the original, Escargot. While each story stands alone, these two books go together like butter and…well…you know!

Ages 4 – 6

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2020 | ISBN 978-0374312862

Discover more about Dashka Slater and her books on her website.

You can connect with Sydney Hanson on Instagram.

Enjoy this A Book for Escargot book trailer!

Culinary Arts Month Activity

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Super Snail Coloring Page

 

What do you think this snail is thinking about? Being brave? Fast? Creative? Magical?Make Escargot happy and write and illustrate a story about this super snail using the printable journal template and coloring page.

Super Snail Coloring Page | Journal Template

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You can find A Book for Escargot at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 23 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

Established in 1998 to celebrate nature and encourage people to enjoy outside activities, Great Outdoors Month is a favorite summer event. With indoor activities curtailed this year, heading out to explore, hike, picnic, or have other adventures with your family is a great way to rediscover familiar places and to set your sights a little farther

Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall | Illustrated by Ilaria Urbinati

 

At home in London, young Beatrix Potter loved drawing and painting pictures of her pet rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer and other woodland creatures. Beatrix and her brother didn’t go to school but were taught at home under a strict daily timeline. “Then came summer and … freedom! During the summer, Beatrix’s whole household—pets included—moved to a country house where there were ducks, chickens, cows, and a garden.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

When Beatrix’s brother grew a little older, however, he went away to a boarding school while Beatrix had to stay home. “But Beatrix wanted to do something important, something that mattered. She often helped her father with his hobby, photography.” She visited artists’ studios and museums. She learned about art and how to make her drawings better.

She made more pictures of Benjamin Bouncer and sent them to publishers. One publisher put her drawings on the front of greeting cards, and Beatrix began making money from her work. But Beatrix was also interested in the science of nature. She even wrote a paper about mushrooms and hoped to have it printed in a scientific journal, but it was rejected. Beatrix was disappointed but went back to drawing.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Then one day, to cheer up a sick child, Beatrix wrote and illustrated a story about Peter Rabbit. Later, she submitted it to publishers. When they told her they weren’t interested, she had books printed herself. She sold every copy—the second batch too. Finally, a publisher agreed to print her books. Beatrix went on to write more and more stories. At last she had fulfilled her dreams of creating something important. She was also an excellent marketer and self-promoter, and “soon people all over the world knew about Peter Rabbit, and they knew about Beatrix Potter too.”

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

As Beatrix grew older, she couldn’t draw in the way she had, but that didn’t mean she left the countryside behind. She wanted to protect the farmland she loved. She helped farms and families, paying for needed veterinary care for animals when the farmers couldn’t afford it and for a nurse when the flu hit. Beatrix Potter’s life was made up of so many things that mattered. Not only did she give the world the beloved Peter Rabbit and his friends, but through donations of farms and acreage she “made sure the land would be cared for, protected, and cherished. Forever.”

An Author’s Note about how she came to write this book and more information on Beatrix Potter’s legacy follows the story.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Linda Elovitz Marshall’s delightful and surprising biography of Beatrix Potter delves into the depths of her desire to make a difference with her life. A woman far ahead of her time, Beatrix Potter remains an inspiration for each new generation of readers not only for her well-loved stories but for her community work and foresight. Marshall’s thorough and well-paced story will captivate today’s children, who have the same hopes as Beatrix to influence the world with their talents and opinions. Marshall’s descriptions of Beatrix’s later largesse swell the heart and readers’ admiration for this exceptional woman.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Linda Marshall’s words are set among Ilaria Urbinati’s exquisite illustrations that take children inside Beatrix Potter’s world at home in London and out to the countryside she adored. Her delicate and detailed renderings of young Beatrix drawing with her pet Benjamin Bunny by her side, the farm where she spent summers, her scientific explorations, and her later successes immerse readers in the late 1800s to mid-1900s, allowing them to experience the environments that created one of the world’s most beloved authors. Urbinati’s glorious panoramas of the lake district farms that Beatrix saved are breathtaking and inspiring in their beauty.

For fans of Peter Rabbit and any lover of children’s literature, Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit is a must. Stirring on so many levels, the book will inspire multiple readings as well as the discovery or rediscovery of Beatrix Potter’s tales. Perfect for home, school, and public library collections for story times and to enhance language arts lessons and even nature science studies.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1499809602

Discover more about Linda Elovitz Marshall and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ilaria Urbinati, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

As all readers know, Peter Rabbit loved vegetable gardens. With this fun game you and your family can grow your own gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

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You can find Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 27 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

Pets give us unconditional love, provide companionship, and add entertainment and fun to our lives. This month is set aside to focus on our pets. To celebrate spend extra time with your furry friend, make sure they have everything they need to stay healthy, and give them a little extra treat. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting a dog, cat, bird, or small animal from your local animal shelter. You’ll both benefit!

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read

Written by Curtis Manley | Illustrated by Kate Berube

 

One summer Nick, Verne, and Stevenson did everything together. Nick is a little boy and Verne and Stevenson are two very different cats. Nick and Verne loved to spend time near the water—Stevenson tolerated it. Nick and Verne slept happily in a tent under the stars—Stevenson barely shut his eyes. While Nick rode his bike Verne eagerly sat in the front basket—Stevenson hunkered down in a box on the back. But when Nick sat down to read, both cats had similar ideas of fun—like lying on top of the book—and Nick could hardly read a sentence.

“So Nick decided to teach them how to read. He made flash cards and started with easy words” like “ball,” but Verne and Stevenson just wanted to play with the ball. While the three had a picnic on the lawn, Nick brought out his flashcards and “pointed to the word food. The cats ignored him.” When the cats snoozed Nick woke them with a sign. “‘This is no time for an N-A-P!’” he said. Neither cat responded well, so Nick tried a new tactic. He made word-shaped flash cards. Verne took a nibble of “F-I-S-H,” but Stevenson hid under the bed.

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Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Nick began to see that Verne liked stories about cats and fish. “Verne loved fish. He followed along as Nick read, learning the sounds of the letters.” He even read by himself, discovering new stories, especially 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But Stevenson? When Nick spelled words for him, he merely ran under the porch, hissing. By this time Verne was reading so many books that he got his own library card and Nick needed help carrying all of his books home. Nick and Verne had fun acting out their favorite stories, but they missed Stevenson.

One day “Verne discovered a treasure under the bed—a great stack of Stevenson’s pirate drawings. “‘Wow!’” Nick whispered. “‘Stevenson drew a story.’” Nick and Verne put the pages together and began to write words to go with them. When the story was finished, Nick, Verne, and Stevenson “squeezed under the porch, gave Stevenson an eye patch, and read The Tale of One-Eyed Stevenson and the Pirate Gold. Stevenson listened and followed along. He didn’t run away. Or hiss. Not even once.”

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Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Suddenly, Stevenson couldn’t get enough of books.  Even before Nick woke up, Stevenson could be found with his nose in Treasure Island or another adventure book, and whenever Nick and Verne played pirates, Stevenson joined in. He helped bring down “scurvy mutineers” and found buried treasure. Now the three readers do everything together. They “hunt for dinosaurs in the lost world behind the garden…race around the yard in eighty seconds…and journey to the center of the basement.” And while they all like to read on their own, they also like it when someone reads to them. “Hmmm…,” Nick thinks, maybe next he could teach his cats to talk. “‘Meow,’ says Stevenson.”

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Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Curtis Manley’s adorable tribute to reading and learning to read, using cats with very different personalities, is inspired. Just as some people respond more to the words while others are attracted by the pictures, Verne and Stevenson have their own relationships with books. The names of the cats and their preferred reading material are also reminders that books are personal, and disinterest in one type of story does not reflect disinterest in all stories. Manley’s text makes for a joyful read-aloud as his language and phrasing is evocative, lyrical, and imaginative.

In perfect accompaniment, Kate Berube brings this creative story to life, illustrating the tender relationship between Nick and his pets as well as emphasizing the humor and distinct personalities inherent in orange-striped Verne and smoky-gray Stevenson that influence their journeys to literacy. Depictions of the various books Verne and Stevenson are drawn to highlight the literary references in the trio’s further play. Readers will want to stop and peruse the page of library shelves, where such books as “Harry Picaroon and the Swashbuckler’s Stone”, “Harold and the Purple Canon”, “Millions of Rats”, and “Where the Wild Pirates Are” wait to be checked out in the Pirates section.

Kids will eagerly want to adopt The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, and it will snuggle in nicely on children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481435697

Discover “the facts, fictions, poems, and numbers” of Curtis Manley on his website!

View a gallery of Kate Berube‘s art on her website!

National Pet Month Activity

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

You can find The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

May 20 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

When you love to read, you want to share the excitement that books hold. Get Caught Reading Month encourages people to pass along their love of all things written by asking folks to take pictures of themselves reading their favorite book and uploading those images to social media. Movie and TV celebrities, sports figures, authors, illustrators, teachers, mom, dads, grandmas and grandpas, and kids of all ages take part in this favorite annual event. Why don’t you?!

I received a copy of What About Worms!? from Hyperion Books for Children for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

What About Worms!? (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!)

By Ryan T. Higgins and Mo Willems

 

Piggie comes to Gerald with a new book that he’s having trouble reading. In fact, he “cannot make heads or tails of it.” “Why not?” Gerald asks. “Because,” Piggie says with great mirth, “it is about WORMS!” And so, Piggie and Gerald and readers are off…! The story revolves around a little tiger, who believes he is big and brave and “NOT afraid of anything…except worms.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins and Mo Willems, 2020, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

Tiger’s wary of how they feel and how they squirm; plus, it’s hard to know which end is their head and which is their tail. Tiger forgets his fears when he spies a lovely pot of flowers. He picks it up and takes a deep breath of the sweet aroma. But then he remembers…. There’s dirt and where there’s dirt, there’s bound to be WORMS. The pot flies from his hands and smashes into pieces on the ground. In the spilled dirt, Tiger sees…no worms.

To take his mind off breaking the pot, Tiger picks a shiny, red apple from a tree and takes a big bite. Oh, how delicious apples are! But… “GULP!” Tiger tosses his apple away and it lands “SPLAT!” at his feet. In the bits of apple, he sees…no worms. He looks sadly at his lost pot and apple. Those worms, he shouts, they “ruin everything.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins and Mo Willems, 2020, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

And now there’s another wriggly, striped worm right near him. But when Tiger takes another look, he realizes that it’s only the cover of a book. Reading is just what he needs right now. But what if… “it is a book about WOOOOOOOORMS!!!” Tiger throws the book and runs away as fast as he can. All of this commotion attracts none other than a group of worms who, seeing the retreating figure, discuss how they are afraid of tigers.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins and Mo Willems, 2020, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

Just then they find the gifts that Tiger has left behind. They frolic in the dirt, munch the apple, and are excited about the book—especially since they can see from the cover that it’s a book about worms. But when they open it up, they discover it’s not about worms at all—but about tigers. With trepidation they begin reading, and by the end of the book these worms have learned so much about tigers that they’ve had a change of heart. So much so that when they catch a glimpse of Tiger, they each want to give him a big “worm hug!”

Piggie closes the book and wonders if Gerald liked it. He did! Especially its surprising ending. And Piggie? He says, “I love a book that worms its way into your heart.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins and Mo Willems, 2020, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

Ryan T. Higgins is a master of laugh-out-loud storylines that lead up to a gem of a plot twist, and in What About Worms!? slapstick meets worry with smashing results. Kids will crack up at Tiger’s over-the-top reactions as they devour this well-paced story that’s also loaded with vocabulary they’ll be excited to recognize or learn. Repeated words and phrases flow naturally in this dialogue-driven story, increasing the enjoyment of the reading and learning process. Not only does Higgins address fears, friendship, regret, and a love of books, he also reminds kids of the truth of that important adage: You can’t tell a book by its cover.

As always, Higgins’ bold illustrations carry the story with actions and emotions that are humorous, identifiable, and relatable. Children familiar with Higgins’ Mother Bruce books will recognize beloved facial expressions on Tiger, and a cameo appearance from Mo Willems’ Pigeon will delight them. Speech bubbles contain one sentence only, making them easy to follow for beginning readers.

Sure to be a favorite and reached for often, What About Worms!? is a must whether you’re adding to your collection of Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! books or just starting out with the series.

Ages 4 – 8

Hyperion Books for Children, 2020 | ISBN 978-1368045735

To learn more about Ryan T. Higgins, his books, and his art, visit his website. Ryan’s site is under construction, but he and all your favorite characters will be back!

Discover more Elephant & Piggie Books as well as all of Mo Willems’ books on Pigeon Presents.

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Cup of Dirt (and Worms!)

 

This classic favorite is frightfully good––especially while reading!

Ingredients

  • 1 4-ounce package of instant chocolate pudding
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 8-ounce container of whipped topping
  • 16-oz package of chocolate sandwich cookies
  • Gummy worms

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Directions

  1. Beat milk and pudding mix together in a bowl until well blended and slightly thickened; let stand to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir whipped topping and 1/2 of the crushed cookies into pudding.
  3. Spoon 1 tablespoon crushed cookies into each serving cup.
  4. Fill each cup 3/4-full with pudding mixture and top with remaining crushed cookies.
  5. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  6. Top with gummy worms before serving

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-about-worms-cover

You can find What About Worms!? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 1 – National Author’s Day

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About the Holiday

There may be no better month to celebrate Author’s Day than in November. Not only is it Picture Book Month, but thousands of people set aside their usual routine to take part in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, when writers try to complete at least a first draft of a novel in one month. The holiday was instituted in 1928 by Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement, Illinois Women’s Club. An avid reader, she established Author’s Day to thank writer Irving Bacheller who sent her an autographed story in response to her fan letter. The day was officially recognized in 1949 by the United States Department of Commerce. McPherson’s granddaughter, Sue Cole, promoted the holiday after Nellie’s death in 1968. To celebrate, people are encouraged to write a note of appreciation to their favorite author.

Who is the Mystery Writer? (Unlimited Squirrels)

By Mo Willems

 

Mo Willems passel of fifteen squirrels—and one winged squirrel-wanna-be—is back in this beginning-reader series that offers lots of laughs along with enthusiastic encouragement for new readers. The table of contents (introduced by a punny joke) reveals that there are plenty of stories and jokes to come before the Tale End, where kids get to celebrate their detective skills.

First up is The BIG Story: Who is the Mystery Reader? Zoom Squirrel, Zap Squirrel, Zip Squirrel, Flink Squirrel, and Wink Squirrel are walking along when they come to a STOP sign. Zoom Squirrel pulls up quick and stops the crew—not because of the sign, exactly, but because he can’t read it. Zap, Zip, and Flink are in a bit of a tizzy about how to discover what the sign says, while Wink Squirrel excuses himself and walks off the page.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-is-the-mystery-squirrel-stop-sign

Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

In the wink of an eye, a masked squirrel appears to suggest the squirrels read the sign. The other squirrels are mesmerized by their hero, and as he passes out his card, all Zoom Squirrel can say is “Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.” After the squirrels reveal their predicament, the Mystery Reader springs into action. He begins by sounding out the letters, but Zoom Squirrel shouts “STOP!” He doesn’t see how this is helping.

After a bit of explanation, Zoom is ready to try sounding out the letters for himself—and… he’s got it! While congratulations are being passed around, the Mystery Reader excuses himself and walks off the page. When Wink Squirrel returns, his friends tell him what he’s missed. Thus, begins the search for who the Mystery Reader really is. Zoom has turned into quite a reader, but his interpretation of the Mystery Reader’s card leads to his mistaken impression that he is the Mystery Reader. He’s just beginning his thank-you speech, when the real Mystery Reader is back (with a wink).

Zoom feels a bit deflated until the Mystery Reader gives him his own “New Mystery Reader” mask and underpants. Zap, Zip, and Flink think it’s too bad that Zoom missed meeting this new mystery reader. The Mystery Reader ends the story with a wry “Well… We learned something today.” To which Zoom responds, “Squirrels do not know much about costumes! Up next is an “Acorn-y Joke” that is guaranteed to be “100% corny!”—much to the delight of readers!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-is-the-mystery-squirrel-acorny-joke

Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

In the following segment, Wonder Squirrel is doing some deep thinking about the origins of writing. Now, everyone wants to know. This is a job for… The Book of Wonders! Inside The Book of Wonders! readers learn about cuneiform, hieroglyphs (and how they influenced our alphabet), the Inca’s use of knotted ropes, and the invention of paper. Kids also learn that there are mysteries about writing still to be solved.

Another Acorn-y Joke will have kids giggling, and then it’s time for readers to learn how Mo Squirrel makes a book—from idea to agent and editor, to writing, rewriting and redrawing, to re-rewriting and re-redrawing, and finally to printing. The Tale End poses a conundrum of sorts. Zap, Zip, and Flink are shocked to discover that they never learned who the Mystery Readers are. Readers at home, will feel empowered to be in on the joke as Zoom Squirrel and Wink Squirrel wink at each other knowingly.

A page preceding the stories introduces emote-acorns—small acorn faces that display nine emotions, such as surprised, sad, confused, and proud. These small graphics are found throughout the stories in the bottom corner whenever “the squirrels have big feelings” allowing children to practice not only their print-reading skills but their skills in reading facial expressions as well.

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Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

Mo Willems’ zany squirrels will keep kids laughing and shouting out the answers to their questions in this rollicking beginning reader. The text of each story is presented solely in dialog bubbles that are clearly attributed to the speaker. The short phrasing and repeated words will give new readers confidence in their abilities and encourage them to try longer sentences. The non-fiction pages include photographs of the various types of writing discussed, and the facts presented are detailed and written so the target age can easily understand. Readers who would like to learn more are pointed toward the Unlimited Squirrels website.

Willems’ distinctive illustration style is always a delight, and his emotive squirrels are no exception. The graphic novel format gives readers clear, bold and vivid imagery to mirror the text and make reading a visual treat of putting words and actions together. Each squirrel has different colors and markings. Getting to know and recognize the five squirrels in The Big Story: Who is the Mystery Reader? before beginning to read will help kids follow the action and be one step ahead of the mystery for maximum enjoyment and inclusion in the jokes.

A funny and fun addition to the Unlimited Squirrels series, Who is the Mystery Reader? will get kids excited about becoming readers and would be an often-chosen book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Hyperion Books for Children, 2019 | ISBN 978-1368046862

To learn more about Mo Willems and his books, visit his website.

Have fun with more Unlimited Squirrels on their website.

National Author’s Day Activity

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Catch the Reading Bug Bookmark and Bookplate

 

If you love to read, show it with these printable Reading Bug book bling!

I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate | I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Buy

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You can find Who is the Mystery Reader? (Unlimited Squirrels) at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

October 7 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving Our Nation. From the military, to business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the commemoration was expanded to a month in 1988. You can learn more about today’s holiday, find classroom and other resources, and discover fun facts on the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Written by Anika Aldamuy Denise | Illustrated by Paola Escobar

 

In 1921 Pura Theresa Belpré left her home in San Juan to visit Nueva York and celebrate her sister’s wedding. “Words travel with her: stories her abuela taught her. Cuentos folklóricos Pura retold in the shade of a tamarind tree, in Puerto Rico.” Pura’s visit lengthened, becoming a new start in a new land. At first, she got a job in a garment factory, but then Pura saw that the library needed a bilingual assistant. Pura spoke Spanish, English, and French. She thought she was perfect for the job, and the library did too.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

But while she shelved books, she noticed that there were no books of folktales from Puerto Rico in the collection. “How lucky for the library that Pura has story seeds ready to plant and grow.” In the children’s room she sits with the kids around her and tells the story of a beautiful cockroach and a galant rat who loves her: “la cucarachita Martina and el ratoncito Pérez.

After sharing the story with the children at the library, Pura hopes to “plant her story seeds throughout the land.” Pura makes puppets and performs her folktales for families who come to listen “en inglés y español.” But Pura wants children to be able to readPérez y Martina and other cuentos de Puerto Rico.” She types up her story and sends it to the publisher Frederick Warne. He agrees to publish her book.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Now Pura travels from library to library and to schools, “churches and community centers…planting her story seeds in the hearts and mind of children new to this island who wish to remember la lengua y los colores of home.” She spends her time writing, traveling, and speaking until she meets and marries Clarence Cameron White. Pura decides to take a year off from working at the library to be a wife. But one year becomes many as she and Clarence travel, playing music and telling stories. They spend many happy years together. When Clarence dies, “Pura’s story must begin again.”

“It is 1961,” and Pura returns to the library. Now other storytellers share Pura’s stories with the children and “the seeds she has planted…have become a lush landscape into which she steps as though she has never left.”

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

An Author’s note reveals more about the life and work of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City and the author of the first mainstream Latinx storybooks published in America. Back matter also includes selected bibliographies, archival resources, titles of articles and films, a list of books for further reading, and more information on the four folktales mentioned in the book.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Anika Aldamuy Denise’s lovely and lyrical tribute to the trailblazing and prolific Pura Belpré is a fast-paced introduction to the influence this librarian, storyteller, and writer had on children and the community as the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York and the first published Latinx children’s author in America. By blending Spanish words and phrases and English into her evocative sentences, Denise reflects the immigrant experience while also embracing Belpré’s and her Latinx reader’s love for and pride in their culture. As children learn how Belpré brought Spanish-language programs and books to children and families in New York and beyond, they will be inspired to look for ways that they, too, can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

Mirroring the lush landscape of language that Pura Belpré tended, Paola Escobar infuses her illustrations with rich hues and enveloping details. Belpré’s love for San Juan and her heritage is shown through the sprinkling of flowers, rendered in the bright pastels of her native country, that float around her whenever she tells her stories. The whimsical images of Martina and Pérez, characters from her first published folktale, also follow her from page to page throughout the story. Spectacular images of the city and inside the New York Public Library will have readers lingering over the pages.

A gorgeous read-aloud about a woman all children should know, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré is a must for all school and public libraries and would make an inspiring choice for home collections as well.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062748683 | Spanish-language edition ISBN 978-1400212644

Discover more about Anika Aldamuy Denise and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Paola Escobar, visit her on tumblr.

Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

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We Are All Family English/Spanish Word Search

 

Find the names of family members in both English and Spanish in this printable heart- shaped We Are All Family Word Search! Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré at these booksellers

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

Sembrando historias: Pura Belpré: bibliotecaria y narradora de cuentos

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

Picture Book Review

Pk Review

 

October 1 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday was established to get families excited about reading. As the weather turns cooler and activities turn indoors, reading together is a wonderful way to spend time having fun and making memories. Small children love being read to—and so do older kids! Sharing board books, picture books and chapter books that can be read at one sitting is always fun. Taking the journey of a novel together with tweens and teens can provide inspiring, emotional, funny, and bonding moments that last a lifetime. And to think, it all starts with putting a few letters together…

Can U Save the Day?

Written by Shannon Stocker | Illustrated by Tom Disbury

 

The letter A was chatting with a frog, a duck, and a dog when the letter B ambled by with a boastful claim: “‘There are 5 vowels in your group / but 21 in our grand troop. / I’m a more important letter. / Consonants are so…much…better!’” As B continued to brag, A countered with “‘…You’ll regret / when all the vowels are gone, I bet!’” Then just like that A vanished, and the dog? He could only “‘brk.’” The duck said “‘quck,’” and the frog could only “‘crok.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The horse was not very sympathetic since his neigh didn’t need an A. But then the E decided to go, and the horse said “‘nigh’” the “birds sang ‘twt,’ and the sheep could only “‘blt,’” “‘blt,’” “‘blt.’” The consonants thought this was lots of laughs. “Insulted, young I spun her dot / and soared off like an astronaut.” The pig was stuck as was the horse, but the cow and bunny joined the laughter until O rolled away. Then the cow, the pigeons, and the rooster struggled too.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The consonants were laughing still when B and U saw the tractor plowing toward them in its sleep. B tried to scream and shout but could only burble. He bounced into the tractor’s seat and “pushed the horn! The horn went…hnk.” He tried to make U understand, but without the vowels his words made no sense. But clever U had watched it all and she knew just what to do. “She bent her arms above her head / and turned into an O instead.”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In that moment the tractor’s horn went Honk! The runaway tractor woke up and stopped just in the nick of time. Then off U went to bring back A, E, I, and O. When they returned, the animals resumed their talk, the consonants and vowels hugged it out, and B, who had started it all, now realized that “‘the alphabet’s a family.’” Then Y—that sometimes this and sometimes that letter—decided this was a good time to speak up and help them all “‘say goodbye.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Shannon Stocker gives kids just learning the alphabet, discovering how to read, and picking up some of the finer points of grammar a reason to celebrate in her funny story about the day the vowels flew the coop. Her peppy rhythm and brainy rhymes will keep readers riveted and laughing as one by one the animals’ talk turns into garbled goosh. When the sleeping tractor barrels toward the letters unaware because of his measly “hnk,” kids will be on the edge of their seats. When wily U uses her ingenuity and semi-circular shape to save the day, they’ll cheer. The sweet ending teaches gentle lessons about reconciliation, apologies, inclusion, and teamwork, and Y’s admission offers one more grammar-related giggle.

Tom Disbury’s cartoon characters will have kids in stitches as the animals gaze at each other with gritted teeth, furrowed brows, or tongues sticking out when their vowel-less utterances are less than robust. With their smiling eyes and winsome smiles, the colorful letters are oblivious to the mayhem that losing just four of their family members can cause. The shortened words sprinkled throughout the text as well as spreads of contented consonants will give readers plenty of opportunities to play word games and talk about letter combinations, letter sounds, and spelling.

A funny and entertaining way to talk about the alphabet and grammar, creative problem solving, and teamwork, as well as a fun story to share any time, Can U Save the Day? would be an entertaining addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364046

Discover more about Shannon Stocker and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tom Disbury, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Book Month Activity

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Reading is Super! Maze

 

This super reader wants to bring books to his friends so they can all read together. Can you help him get through this printable Reading is Super Maze to reach his friends?

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You can find Can U Save the Day? at these booksellers

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