December 21 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Whether you’re still looking for a gift to give, looking forward to the upcoming break from school, or wondering how to spend the long winter days with your kids in an exciting new way, the books in today’s lineup will get hearts and imaginations racing and families and friends creating and playing together. You won’t believe what you can make with simple supplies you’ll find in your own home or nearby until you check out the three books below. Working on these projects together with your kids will make lasting memories while setting them free to tinker on their own pays big rewards in self-confidence, pride, and imagination building. 

Thank you to Page Street Kids for sharing Cardboard Creations for Kids, The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations, and Play & Learn Activities for Babies with me for review consideration. All opinions on the books are my own.

Cardboard Creations for Kids: 50 Fun and Inventive Crafts Using Recycled Materials

By Kathryn Ho

 

You will never look at a cardboard box the same way again after exploring the pages of Kathryn Ho’s wildly inventive guide to turning boxes, tubes, egg cartons, lids, wooden skewers, and other bits and bobs you have around the house into nearly anything your child can imagine. Like what, you ask? Well, for the homebody, there’s the charming cottage, complete with shingled roof and flowers (or maybe lollipops) in the window boxes. For kids who prefer adventures far from home, the rocket, retro van, or the submarine – with portholes, of course! – will take them as far as their imagination can take them!

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Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Other big-box beauties include an ice-cream cart with a jaunty umbrella, a play oven with knobs that turn, a puppet theater, a castle with a working drawbridge, a tent for camping under the stars (or star ceiling stickers), and a room-dividing screen that’s great for playing and drawing on.

But what if you don’t have a big box? Kathryn Ho has you covered with dozens of ideas that will put a gleam in your child’s eye and have you shaking your head in admiration for her clever crafting. The next chapter is all about creating things that really move, from a train to a school bus to a mini monster truck, complete with a big “personality with headlight eyes and a monster grin.” Other vehicles include a jet plane, a race car to rival any wooden toy, and a sailboat.

Kids who love construction vehicles will really dig the bulldozer with working shovel and the crane that can actually pick up the blocks you’ll make or any small item from home. And if your kids have been asking for a puppy, the adorable hound will steal their heart.

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Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Next Kathryn moves on to creations that can enhance any playtime experience. “Adding just a few simple props to their pretend play can spark so many opportunities for discovery and delight,” she says at the beginning of the fourth chapter, which includes ideas that will delight kids whether they’re playing indoors or out. Got a young builder in the family? Make a tool belt, complete with a screw driver, hammer, wrench, T-square. Fairy or gnome lovers will want to make their wee friends toadstool homes or maybe a triple-decker treehouse. Machine lovers will want to pretend with the laptop, and playing grocery store will be even more fun with the clever cash register. There are plenty of other ideas to spark pretend play here too.

Of course often boxes are best-loved for what’s on the inside, and Kathryn offers up ten amazing designs for games like monster mini golf, tabletop soccer, an intricate labyrinth that make use of a box’s inside space. You can also make your little on their own camera, space helmet, and shadow puppet theater as well as a swing and a cradle for their doll or teddy bear. And did I mention the car wash – with rotating brushes? So clever!

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Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Designs for simple playthings, room decorations, stamps, and even a flower press make up the final chapter of the book and provide ideas for those rainy or snowy afternoons when a quick craft is just the thing to keep kids busy and happy.

Introductory chapters reveal everything you need to know about the different kinds of cardboard and what they’re best used for, the basic tools for creating with cardboard as well as cutting tips and how to prepare the cardboard. Kathryn Ho also discusses where to source boxes and cardboard if you don’t have what you need at home. Kathryn also makes it easy to create many of the designs by including templates for fourteen of the crafts in the back of the book.

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Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Cardboard Creations for Kids is a book I would have LOVED to have when my kids were young. This is a must addition to any home as a go-to resource for school projects, art classes, scout projects, pretend play, party ideas, and so much more. Not only will you want to make all of these creations, they’ll spark your and your child’s imagination and desire to try your hand at designing. The book is also a must-buy for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 10

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645674627

You can connect with Kathryn Ho on her Instagram, Cardboard Folk.

You can find Cardboard Creations for Kids at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

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The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have

By Sarah Dees

 

Are your kids LEGO fanatics eager for every new kit that comes out? Do little tiles occupy buckets and boxes and more buckets in your toy boxes and closets? Then this is the book for you! Open the cover and you’ll discover more than seventy-five creatures, vehicles, games, and dioramas perfect for imaginative play all described with illustrated, step-by-step instructions that make it easy for kids to put them together themselves (but adults will find it hard to resist digging into the stash and building some of these too!).

Sarah Dees begins with eight awesome vehicles, including a retro race car, hot rods, a tank and Humvee, an ATV for off roading, and a sports coupe and tiny car for impressing the inhabitants of any LEGO city. Chapter Two will get kids excited about building their own town that’s outfitted with a trampoline park where people can challenge themselves on the climbing wall, play basketball, pit themselves agains arcade games, have a picnic, and. of course, jump on the trampoline.

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Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Playtime may have to wait until after school, and kids will love building the classroom, complete with a blackboard, book shelf, teacher’s desk, student desks, and a class pet. Perhaps your child is more into playing music than playing at the park. If so, they can put together their own “rockin’ garage band to “take the stage at the city park” on Saturday night. A keyboard player, piano player, drummer, and a couple of guitar players will have everyone cheering.

Everyone needs to stay in shape, and they can do that at the gym, using the free weights, bench press, pull-up bars, floor mats, or treadmills. After this full day of activity, kids can go back to their cozy bedroom, where bunkbeds; a desk complete with bookshelves, lamp, and accessories, a toy table, and dresser await.

But what about the forest on the edge of town? That magical place is populated with fairytale characters from their favorite stories. Take a ride on a dragon (after you build it, of course!) to the “Three Little Pigs Bake Shop. Bake shop? You bet! As Sarah reveals, “after the unfortunate incident with the house of bricks and the Big Bad Wolf coming down the chimney, the Three Little Pigs decided to put their brick house up for sale and make a fresh start in a different part of Fairytale Forest.” After buying a “lovely gingerbread house…and watching some inspiring baking shows, they decided to open their very own bake shop!” And this little cottage does look good enough to eat…I mean eat in!

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Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Jack, of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, lives here too in a tidy home with a little garden (where you know what grew!) Jack can climb that stalk all the way to the Castle in the Clouds, where he finds the goose that lays golden eggs. No magical forest is complete without a few Terrible Trolls to outsmart, and kids will have a blast building the ones in this book and making up their own.

And what would any Fairytale Forest be without unicorns, a “scheming and conniving witch” who lives in a treehouse lair, complete with potions and a crackling fire in the fireplace and “might be stealing a baby dragon or helping herself to some of the treats at the Three Little Pigs Bakery.” Kids will love coming up with stories of brave knights rescuing the dragon from its cage, or perhaps the wise “Wizard of Marshy Bog” and his pet raven can cast a spell to vanquish that witch! Instructions for making a griffin and a host of small forest creatures finish up the chapter.

If the world of spies is more your child’s thing, building the TEK Agent Headquarters will be an assignment they can’t refuse. This secret, impenetrable room even has a working “secure sliding door that opens when you turn a knob.” And what does all this security protect? The “TEK Agent Headquarters is the place for agents to invent gadgets, fix equipment and monitor villain activity with powerful cameras and computers” that kids construct from scratch.

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Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Do the agents need to get a bird’s eye view of nefarious activity? The Drone Launch Station is the perfect addition to the agents’ equipment. Once the danger has been discovered, the agents can go to work with all the high-tech gear kids can make – a surveillance trailer, equipped with listening devices, recorders, computers, and more; speedy hover craft; jet packs; and a Hero Bot – to defeat the Villain Bot. Sarah Dees even gives kids ideas for disaster scenes that will spark plenty of storylines.

After all that action, a Vacation by the Sea is in order. Young builders can create a relaxing beach scene, a surf shop at the edge of the shore, where a super-clever idea allows kids to make waves worthy of any pro surfer. But what’s this on the horizon? A pirate ship! And under the sea? A colorful diorama of fish, sea plants, and sea creatures – including a shark, a turtle, a hermit crab, and an adorable otter – any scuba diver would love to explore.

Kids ready to make their own city or town? Sarah finishes up her book with Awesome Mini Builds that will help kids enhance any landscape with vehicles of all types, animals from around the world, candy machines, robots, cameras and lab equipment, tiny houses, and more. Play and Display shows kids how to build a city skyline, working miniature golf fields, a solitaire game, treasure boxes, and even mosaics and self portraits worthy of hanging on the wall.

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Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Sarah Dees, author of four other books in the LEGO project book series, continues to amaze with the diversity of kid-pleasing projects made from those little colorful blocks. The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have is a must for all LEGO lovers and is sure to turn newbies into diehard fans. The book also makes a perfect gift for any occasion and one to definitely add to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 6 – 12 and up

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645673507

To learn more about Sarah Dees and her books, visit her at Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls.

You can find The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-cover

Play & Learn Activities for Babies: 65 Simple Ways to Promote Growth & Development from Birth to Two Years Old

By Hannah Fathi

 

If you have a baby or young toddler at home or in your family, you know how active they are and that they’re learning all the time. “How can you develop their language and motor skills,, emotional intelligence, creativity and problem-solving abilities and occupy them all day?” Hannah Fathi has the answers to this question with her sixty-five easy-to-make and inexpensive ideas that will delight kids and adults alike.

Hannah begins each of her chapters with a discussion about how the projects will promote development – such as strength, investigation, dexterity and coordination, sensory awareness, visual awareness, and imagination –  and how this development is important to the growth of your child long-term. The first chapter, Strengthening and Active Play, presents ideas for making tummy time – “an important time for baby to strengthen their neck, back, and shoulders and prevent flat spots on their head” – engaging with a cardboard stand complete with plastic pockets that can hold bold black-and-white images or photographs to entertain and “encourage them to lift their head and push up on their arms.” You can also help your baby become more aware of their body and movement with the clever Rattle Socks that will make a sound each time baby kicks or moves their feet. This is a toy that can grow with your child as they learn to walk too!

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Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Babies who are able to sit on their own or with support will be mesmerized by the Spider Web Toy Grab that uses a laundry basket, string, and small toys to create a framework that encourages problem-solving skills and investigation while developing small motor skills. Older babies and toddlers will enjoy the hands-on learning of Transforming Disks that teach nature science and the Box Car that promotes imaginative play.

Get your child crawling across the floor in chase of the Vibrant Straw Roller, a clear plastic bottle filled with colorful bits of straws and/or beads. Other creative ideas include a play mat to use with little cars, a magnetic fishing pole and fish, a Pound-a-Ball box that will encourage your child to stand and squat to push balls through the holes in the top, a color-matching game, and a felt board for teaching shapes.

 
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Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Hands-on investigation takes center stage in the next chapter with a lift-the-flap book of family photographs that promotes important social-emotional learning while teaching kids about their family and encouraging fine-motor skills. A cardboard box ball run will keep babies busy, and the Egg Carton Color Sort activity promotes multiple development skills. You don’t need to buy expensive stacking rings when you follow the directions for making this popular toy with plastic jar lids, and those lids to baby wipe containers can be used to make a Link Drop Box – another creative way to get your child thinking and problem solving. Hannah includes many more ideas for keeping your little one busy all day long.

Developing dexterity and coordination has never been as fun as when you make the easy crafts in the next chapter. Each activity is designed to encourage little ones to grab or pick up small objects; spin a wheel; and pull, push, pinch, or bat at objects depending on their age and abilities.

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Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

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Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

The projects in the chapter on Sensory Play “primarily focus on hearing, touch and sight to capture your child’s interest and create lasting neural connections.” Taste-Safe Sponge Painting lets babies and toddlers paint and make stamps with more ease than using paint brushes, and the flour-based paint is safe for little tasters. Babies in a crib or enjoying some floor time will enjoy the sights and sounds of cardboard tube shakers and a crinkle square made from felt and parchment paper, and a water mat created from a freezer bag filled with water and colorful buttons is ingenious! Kids will love feeling with their feet on the sensory path that includes everyone’s favorite – bubble wrap! Tin pan drums and Natural Sensory Lids that bring the outdoors inside.

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Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Projects for Visual Exploration will thrill little ones with surprises, opportunities for hands-on play, matching games, mobiles, and even and I-Spy bottle to excite them again and again. As kids become more independent, imaginative play “promotes problem-solving, empathy, curiosity, and creativity…while providing opportunities to develop language and social skills.” Squishy sock bunnies, a cardboard hutch, and clever carrots, a pretend mailbox and letters, finger puppets made from tiny socks, a milk-jug fish, and a parking garage for little cars made from cardboard tubes, along with other fun crafts will get kids making up stories in no time. Even toilet training will be easier – or more fun – with the Baby Doll Bathroom that can help toddlers understand and share the steps to using the potty with a favorite doll.

Rounding out her book, Hannah includes templates for many of the crafts as well as a chart that depicts the type of skill each project provides – a valuable resource as children grow.

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Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Hannah Fathi’s Play & Learn Activities for Babies is a superb collection of ideas that parents, daycare and preschool providers, and other caregivers will find themselves consulting and creating from again and again as their child grows and develops and is a must for home, school, and public library collections. The book also makes a wonderful and thoughtful gift for baby showers or new babies or anyone with a young child.

Ages Baby – 2 years

Page Street Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1645673989

You can learn more about Hannah Fathi and her book by visiting her at Baby Play Hacks

You can find Play & Learn Activities for Babies at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 2 – I AM TODAY Blog Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to be a stop on the blog tour for I Am Today by Matt Forrest Esenwine and Patricia Pessoa. This season of giving is the perfect time to share this gorgeous book that reflects the desire of children to give their thoughts, talents, and actions to causes that are meaningful to them. If you’d like to follow I Am Today’s blog tour, see the graphic below for further dates and blogs.

I Am Today

Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Patricia Pessoa

 

A child stands on the edge of the beach, letting the sea foam run over her bare toes. Below, a turtle wrapped in a strand of wire floats nearby, while in the background a factory belches smog into the air, and a pipe snakes over the dunes to the water, where it spills its industrial waste. As the child picks up the turtle and removes the wire, she states, “Grown-ups say I am the Future.” Then while releasing the freed turtle, she finishes her thought: “But I’d rather be the Now.” The child then makes her case, explaining that she’s ready to contribute in positive ways, having learned decency, fairness, and generosity from her family and other role models.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

The memory of the turtle she saved stays with her—her one small act inspiring her to do more. She determines “if I see something isn’t right, / I need to take a stand! / Why wait to offer kindness? / Why wait to lend a hand?” While trying to go to sleep, the little turtle and a whole sea of fish and other creatures swim in her mind. Suddenly, she has an idea and gets out of bed. She writes note after note and folds each paper into origami turtles. She then goes to her window and releases them on the wind.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

The next morning, despite the rain, a crowd of children has gathered at the child’s door—all are holding her note. They and their parents and other adults, many carrying signs urging protection for the sea animals, march down the sidewalk and past the polluting factory to the beach. Living in that moment, they think: “The past is far behind us, / the future, well beyond. / There’s never been / a better time to listen… / …learn… / …respond!”

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

At the beach the group fans out across the sand to pick up debris, and a turn of the page reveals a clean beach and a newspaper containing a front-page article on the factory’s waste pipe that has been closed. “Someday I’ll be the Future” the child says, “But right now… / …I am Today.”

Illustrated instructions on how to make an origami turtle follow the story.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

Children, having lived on our planet for only a few years, are all progress, moving forward, not looking back yet as each day they learn something new, develop another skill, break old barriers, and form unique opinions. So it’s no surprise that kids are concerned about what is happening today and how it will affect the future—their future and the world’s. In I Am Today, Matt Forrest Esenwine harnesses that power of wonder, confidence, and ambition that children possess and gives it a lyrical voice. Flowing with a rhythm as stirring as ocean swells, Esenwine’s story will resonate deeply within any child’s heart.

While Patricia Pessoa’s lovely illustrations depict a child concerned with protecting the ocean and its creatures, Esenwine’s text is universal and equally inspiring for any child and any cause. While recognizing the desire and ability of children and young people to bring about change, Esenwine also provides concrete ways that they can do so, from small gestures to larger actions, allowing all readers to feel included and important. I Am Today also presents a meaningful way for kids and adults to talk about causes that are important to them and ways that they can get involved.

With a warm, vivid color palette and fresh perspectives that allow readers to make some of their own deductions, Patricia Pessoa presents a lush landscape of a child’s family life, imagination, and ideas brought to fruition. Her images of the family’s picture wall and dinner time are full of heart and humor, and kids will enjoy lingering over the pages to catch all the action. Pessoa portrays the importance of saving the turtles and other sea creatures with clever imagery as the turtle appears in the bathroom mirror as the child brushes her teeth, swimming in the bathtub, and decorating the cup of water on her nightstand. Pessoa’s illustrations of the fish and other ocean creatures that fill the child’s mind are especially beautiful, as is the spread in which she sends her origami messengers out into the world.

I Am Today is an inspiring, uplifting, and motivational book that children will want to frequently revisit and one that families, classrooms, schools, and public libraries will want to add to their collections. The book’s beauty and message makes it a wonderful gift for any child on your list.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

POW! Kids Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1576879948

Discover more about Matt Forrest Esenwine, his books, and his poetry on his website.

You can connect with Patricia Pessoa on Instagram.

Check out these upcoming dates and discover how other bloggers are celebrating I Am Today

I Am Today Blog Tour Schedule

This year many books have been delayed from their original publishing date to a later time due to shipping and supply issues. The best way to support authors and their wonderful new books is to preorder titles from your favorite bookseller. I Am Today will be available January 23, 2022.

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You can preorder I Am Today at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 20 – It’s World Beach Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate beaches and all of the beauty and recreation they offer. Whether you’re a beachcomber or a swimmer, a sandcastle builder or a sunbather, the beach provides endless ways to enjoy the environment. This month also raises awareness of the types of pollution that mar and endanger the beach as well as the ocean and all of its varied sea life. The world’s coastal areas are irreplaceable habitats and offer crucial resources. Learn what you can do to help our beaches and oceans remain healthy by visiting the Ocean Conservancy website. You can discover more ways to enjoy World Beach Month here.

Constellation of the Deep

By Benjamin Flouw

 

Fox and his cousin, Wolf, spend summer mornings walking along the coast. One day as Fox explores the unusual plants along the path, a seagull lands on a nearby boulder and asks if they have ever heard of the constellation of the deep. The Seagull goes on to tell them that “‘it’s an amazing plant: it grows on the bottom of the ocean, but no one knows exactly where.’” Then he adds that he’s “‘heard that it glows in the dark.’”

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Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Hearing this, Fox immediately determines to find the constellation of the deep. Wolf has all the diving equipment he’ll need. Outfitted with a wet suit, snorkel, mask, scuba tank, camera, and all the other equipment, Fox and Wolf return to the ocean. While Fox gets ready and dives into the sea, Wolf discovers a crabs, barnacles, periwinkles, scallops, sea anemones, and even a sea star living among the rocks along the shore.

Fox swims above an underwater meadow of posidonia, which he knows “are flowering plants, but they don’t glow in the dark. He leaves the scorpion fish, conger eels, and damselfish behind and dives more deeply. Here, Fox discovers a forest of algae. He recognizes the tall, slender leaves of macrocystis, the fan-shaped leaves of eisenia, the feather-shaped alaria, and many more. While exploring, Fox meets Otter, who’s hunting for sea urchins. Fox tells Otter about his quest, and Otter tells him about “‘a place full of strange plants’” that he encountered just the other day.

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Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Exiting the forest, Fox finds “rocks covered with strange, multicolored sculptures. These aren’t plants, but corals.” Fox is so stunned by their beauty that he gets out his camera and takes some pictures. “He marvels at the different shapes of corals.” He sees “corals that look like brains, trees, tables . . . and curled paper.” Some of the corals are enormous and some are as small as mushrooms.

Still, Fox hasn’t found what he’s looking for. He begins to ask for help. No one has seen the constellation of the deep, but Grouper agrees to help in the search. They glide into the open ocean, where they come upon a mountain jutting up from the ocean floor. Grouper knows of a hole in the mountain. As they approach, Fox sees something glowing inside. He swims closer only to find “a tiny glowworm!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-scuba-gear

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Fox wants to take a photograph and reaches for his camera, “but oh no! His camera is gone!” Staring down into the depths of the ocean, Fox spots an unusual shape. He swims down to see what it is. It’s Whale, who has become tangled in a fishing net along with bottles, cans, trash, and even a boot. What else is snagged in the net but Fox’s camera! Whale gives Fox a ride back to the surface. Wolf waves at his friend riding on top of Whale’s back.

Even though Fox hasn’t found the glowing plant, “he has made some wonderful memories.” Back home, he hands his cousin his camera to show him his pictures. Wolf is particularly taken with one that is very beautiful. “‘Look at this one,’” he says to Fox. Fox can’t believe it. His camera had captured a picture of the constellation of the deep when it fell to the ocean floor. Happy, Fox relaxes with a glass of mushroom juice, knowing that the photo of the constellation of the deep will always remind him of “the fabulous beauty of the underwater world.”

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Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

In his follow up to The Golden Glow, in which plant-loving Fox and readers travel to the top of a mountain to discover a fascinating rare plant and a surprising decision, Benjamin Flouw plumbs the depths of the ocean to introduce kids to the wonders found there. Just as the sea itself, Flouw’s charming and straightforward storytelling is full of mystery and discovery. As Fox swims deeper and deeper through schools of fish, meadows and forests of sea plants, past coral reefs, and finally to an underwater mountain, readers learn about specific sea life found at each level. Interspersed with the story are several glossary-type pages with illustrations and names of scuba diving gear, tidal pool sea creatures, algae, and corals. Fox’s miraculous recovery of his camera and equally astonishing discovery among his photographs is the type of magical happenstance kids love best. Flouw’s understated environmental message is eloquent and effective.

Just as in The Golden Glow, Flouw’s stylized and textured illustrations, rendered in fresh and soothing tones, will get readers excited about discovering more about the environment. Here, the sea beckons with its colorful and varied creatures and plants. Two-page spreads of the algae forest and coral-encrusted rocks are stunning and the image of Whale wrapped in netting offer educators and kids a jumping off place to further research.

Mesmerizing, educational, and conveying a compelling message, Constellation of the Deep is sure to be a favorite. The book is highly recommended for all home, classroom, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-0735268968

You can find a Constellation of the Deep Activity Kit from Tundra Books here.

Discover more about Benjamin Flouw, his books, and his art on his website.

World Beach Month Activity

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Kinetic Sand

 

You don’t have to live near the beach to enjoy playing in the sand! With this easy recipe you can create your own kinetic sand to form or let run through your fingers. It makes a great anti-stress reliever too!

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack. Or just let it drip and ooze through your fingers.

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You can find Constellation of the Deep at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 30 – National Oceans Month

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About the Holiday

During National Oceans Month, we celebrate the wondrous diversity of sea life. A majority of the earth’s surface is covered in water and yet we know only a fraction of what the oceans have to show us. With new technology scientists are diving deeper and deeper and discovering some of the most unique creatures in the world. The holiday also gives us an opportunity to pledge our help to preserving the fragile ecosystems that exist in and near the world’s oceans from climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction. To join in on this month’s holiday, visit a beach or aquarium, learn more about the animals and resources of the sea, and consider donating to or volunteering with an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. To learn more about the world’s oceans, including information on ocean health, life, science, and trivia; find education resources, podcasts, videos, and more, visit the National Ocean Service website.

The Big Beach Cleanup

Written by Charlotte Offsay | Illustrated by Katie Rewse

 

At the end of the summer, the Crystal Beach Sandcastle Competition would be held and Cora planned on being crowned the champion. She had all summer to practice and she had visions of castles she could build – from towering ones to funny ones to “ones that made you want to pack up your bags and move on in.” But when she got to the beach to begin practicing, she discovered a sign that said the sandcastle competition had been postponed because the beach was so filled with trash. In fact, everywhere Cora dug she unearthed more and more trash.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-beach-cleanup-fliers

Image copyright Katie Rewse, 2021, text copyright Charlotte Offsay, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Cora asked Mama if she could fix it. “‘I wish I could,'” Mama answered. “‘I don’t have enough hands.'” Cora wondered if their four hands together could do the job. Mama took gloves from her truck and she and Cora began filling bags with trash. Cora wondered where all the trash came from and Mama explained that some of it could come from trash dropped in cities or towns that makes its way to the ocean or the beach through a drain. Before Cora and Mama could pick up much more, it started raining. Four hands just weren’t enough, thought Cora.

The next day Cora asked her grandfather to join them in cleaning up the beach, but when they got there Cora felt discouraged. The sand looked just as bad as it had the day before. After they’d worked a while, Grandpa suggested taking a “sandcastle break.” Nearby, Cora was upset to see a seagull eating a food wrapper. Six hands weren’t nearly enough, either. Then she looked at the posters on the beach bulletin board and had an idea.

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Image copyright Katie Rewse, 2021, text copyright Charlotte Offsay, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Cora drew her own posters, reading “Chrystal Beach needs your HANDS” and “BIG BEACH CLEANUP.” She and her mother posted the signs around town. Outside the ice-cream shop, Cora tried to hand out her fliers but everyone just walked past without taking one. Everyone seemed to busy to come to get involved. But Mama told Cora that there are many other ways people could help, “‘like not littering, or saying no to things we use only once, like straws, so that less trash ends up in the ocean.'”

Cora understood, but she kept asking friends, neighbors, and others. Little-by-little, there were eight hands, then ten, and twelve. More people caught on and came out to the beach to pick up litter. Cora got so many hands that the sandcastle contest was reinstated “thanks to local activists.” On the day of the contest, families came out and built all kinds of creative castles. Cora wasn’t crowned champion, but “her heart swelled with pride” at what she had accomplished. And that was just the beginning….

An Author’s Note outlining steps everyone can take to reduce trash and prevent it from littering the oceans and beaches as well as a list of facts about ocean pollution follow the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-beach-cleanup-contest

Image copyright Katie Rewse, 2021, text copyright Charlotte Offsay, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Through her earnest and activist protagonist, Cora, Charlotte Offsay gives a voice to those children who want to make a difference in their communities. While Offsay touches on how trash makes its way to oceans and beaches, the real appeal of the story is in her realistic, hands-on ideas that can empower kids to find activities for cleaning up their neighborhood or local beach, park, woodland, or other public space. Her straightforward and accessible storytelling reflects the questions children have about today’s issues and their enthusiasm to help solve problems as well as the disappointments that sometimes come with trying to solicit the involvement of others. Offsay’s well-paced narrative show kids that change can be or seem to be slow, but that sticking with any effort pays benefits.

Katie Rewse’s vibrant illustrations will keep children riveted to the pages as they watch Cora dig up more and more trash from an already well-littered beach. Images of Cora making and hanging posters will inspire kids to try similar outreach in their own communities. Page spreads depicting clean-up efforts realistically portray the types of trash found on beaches and other recreation areas. For children who may be unsure if one pair of hands can really make a difference, Rewse’s illustrations of Cora and Mama working together at the beginning of the story show the positive impact of just one or two people, while later in the story, as more and more people join in, they will see the transformative power that a group effort can make. Kids will love being invited to the sandcastle competition to see all the entrants as well as the winning sculptures.

Inspiring, empowering, and offering realistic ideas and expectations for budding environmentalists, The Big Beach Cleanup is sure to spark awareness and action for children at home and at school. The book would make an impactful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807508015

Discover more about Charlotte Offsay and her books on her website.

To learn more about Katie Rewse, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Oceans Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kinetic-sand-craft

Kinetic Sand

 

Sand is so much fun to play with at the beach that you just wish you could bring it home. Now you can! With this easy recipe you can create your own kinetic sand to form or let run through your fingers. It makes a great anti-stress reliever too!

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack. Or just let it drip and ooze through your fingers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-beach-cleanup-cover

You can find The Big Beach Cleanup at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 27 – National Just Because Day

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About the Holiday

Doesn’t that sound refreshing? A whole day devoted to doing things “just because.” As the school year starts up again and the less structured days of summer fade, it’s fun to contemplate what you can do just because you feel like it, it makes you happy, or it’s something nice you want to do for someone else. With no expectations, no directions, and no nagging deadlines, today’s holiday lets you be the captain of your actions and fate! So get out there and do that thing! You might surprise yourself and others—just like the little girl in today’s book!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash

Written by Nicholas Day | Illustrated by Tom Disbury

 

Sylvia Samantha Wright was awesome at finding stuff. In fact, “on Monday, she found some leaky tires. And some tangled ropes that were underneath the leaky tires. And some old wood that was underneath the tangled ropes that were underneath the leaky tires.” She brought it all home in her wagon and stored it in the garage. When her father wanted to know “‘Why?,’” she told him that she had a plan.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Tuesday, Sylvia found a half-used pack of gum and added it to her stash. Her brother thought it was time for “‘another sister.’” On Wednesday, when Sylvia showed the Mayor the busted pipes, old motors, and empty paint cans she had collected, the Mayor was a bit skeptical about Sylvia’s project. Her next acquisition was a whole wagonload of “polka-dotted party hats from a store that was getting out of the polka-dotted party hat business.” On her way home, Sylvia ran into old Ezekiel Mather, who rarely spoke or smiled. Ezekiel appreciated the hats in Sylvia’s wagon, though, and wanted to know what she was working on.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-junk-a-spectacular-tale-of-trash-gum

Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Sylvia had to admit that she didn’t quite know. That’s when Ezekiel smiled and said, “‘That’s the best part. The part before you know.’” On Friday, Sylvia and Ezekiel found a dumpster full of half-rotten bananas. Sylvia didn’t know what she’d do with them, but they excited her nonetheless.

On Saturday everything changed. “The water tower sprung a few leaks,” and while the Mayor was setting up buckets to catch the water, she was washed downstream sitting on the playground’s tire swing. Then the main power line crashed, cutting out the security system at the zoo’s “Larger-Sized Animal House.” Out walked an Asian elephant, three hippopotamuses, a group of orangutans, and some capybaras.” On their way through town the elephant pulled up the flag pole—with the Mayor attached.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Sunday, Sylvia went to the Mayor with her wagons loaded with junk and offered her help. “‘I’ve got this,’” she said. And she did! She fixed the water tower, redesigned the power system, and built a new and improved playground. And what about the zoo animals? It seemed a dumpsterful of half-rotten bananas was just the thing to entice them back home. There was just one thing left in Sylvia Samantha Wright’s wagon: polka-dotted party hats. What were those for? “‘For the party, of course.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-junk-a-spectacular-tale-of-trash-watering-can

Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Nicholas Day’s witty, sequential story is a spirited tribute to those who can see the potential in even discarded things. Sylvia’s confident answers to people’s questions of “why?” will cheer both those children and adult readers who have a secret (or not-so-secret) stash of objects waiting for just the right project. As Sylvia amasses a seemingly disparate array of junk, readers’ suspense will grow as they wonder just how she’s going to use it all. As the out-of-her-depth mayor relinquishes control to Sylvia, kids will cheer as Sylvia Samantha Wright knows all the right solutions.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-junk-a-spectacular-tale-of-trash-finding

Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tom Disbury’s charming cartoon-style line drawings instantly make Sylvia a heroine for her astute junk plucking and her plucky can-do attitude. Images of her growing piles of junk will intrigue children, and illustrations of the Mayor riding the rapids on a tire, flailing on a floating log, and clinging to the flag pole add classic slap-stick humor to the story. Those with an artistic and/or a scientific bent will be fascinated with depictions of Sylvia’s ingenious inventions and innovations.

Sure to spark an interest in creativity, experimentation, building, and inventing, Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash would be a lively addition to STEM lessons in the classroom as well as a humorous and inspiring read at home.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585364008

Discover more about Nicholas Day and his writing on his website.

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

Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash Giveaway written by Nicholas Day | illustrated by Tom Disbury

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, August 27 – September 2. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on September 3.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Just Because Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-motivation-and-inspiration-day-craft

Recycled Crafts & Inventions

 

Look around your house or classroom. Are there boxes, cups, bottles, and other doodads that could be repurposed or reimagined? You bet! Collect as many of these items as you want and put your imagination to work. You’ll be amazed at what you can create—just because!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-junk-a-spectacular-tale-of-trash-cover

You can find Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 3 – International Plastic Bag Free Day

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About the Holiday

Plastic bags are everywhere! Used by supermarkets, department stores, discount stores, and just about anywhere goods are sold, plastic bags are a take-home-then-throw-away item that never quite goes away. These bags may seem lightweight, but they do heavy damage to the environment, taking hundreds of years to fully decompose. Many shops encourage patrons to bring their own bags and offer cloth and paper bags as well. These are great alternatives that benefit the earth. Today’s holiday was established to promote awareness around the world to the dangers of plastic bags and spur people to use reusable containers.

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

Written by Miranda Paul | Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

 

In Njau, Gambia Isatou walks home carrying a basket of fruit on her head. As raindrops begin to fall, the basket shields her, but suddenly the basket tips and falls. The fruit inside tumble to the ground. The basket is in shreds; how will Isatou carry her load? “Something silky dances past her eyes, softening her anger. It moves like a flag, flapping in the wind, and settles under a tamarind tree.” Isatou picks it up and finds that it can hold things. She gathers her fruit and puts them in the bag. She leaves her basket behind, “knowing it will crumble and mix back in with the dirt.”

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zunon , text copyright Miranda Paul. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

At home Grandmother Mbombeh has a dinner of spicy rice and fish ready. When Isatou tells her about the broken basket and shows her the bag, Grandmother frowns. She has seen more in the city. Now, Isatou notices plastic bags everywhere. They are as colorful as a rainbow. As Isatou swings her bag full of papers, the handle breaks, sending the papers inside flying. She finds another plastic bag lying nearby and transfers her papers. She leaves the torn bag in the dirt as everyone else does.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zunon, text copyright Miranda Paul. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

As she passes the spot day after day, she spies her old black bag. It has been joined by others, and the pile grows bigger and bigger. Isatou chooses another path to take and forgets about the bags. “Years pass and Isatou grows into a woman. She barely notices the ugliness growing around her…until the ugliness finds its way to her. One day when coming to Grandmother’s house, she hears one of her goats crying. It’s tied up and there is no sign of her Grandmother’s other goats.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zunon, text copyright Miranda Paul. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Inside, the butcher is talking to Grandmother Mbombeh. He says that the goats have eaten the plastic bags they find lying around. The bags get twisted around their insides, killing the goats. Three of Grandmother’s goats and many more in the village have died. Something must be done. Isatou goes to the road piled with bags. Insects, rotting food, and dirty water mingle with the bags. Goats “forage through the trash for food.”

Isatou retrieves bag after bag from the pile. She and other women wash the bags. While they dry Isatou asks her sister to teach her how to crochet. Isatou has an idea. From a broomstick she carves crochet needles. Then she and her friends cut the bags into strips of thread. The women teach themselves how to crochet with the plastic thread. The work is slow, and some villagers laugh at them. Long into the nights the women continue crocheting by candlelight.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-one-plastic-bag-purses

Image copyright Elizabeth Zunon , text copyright Miranda Paul. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

At last a day comes when the women can show what they have been working on. “Fingers sore and blistered, Isatou hauls the recycled purses to the city.” People laugh at her until “one woman lays dalasi coins on the table. She chooses a purse and shows it to one friend. The two. Then ten. Soon everyone wants one!” Later that day Isatou puts the money she has made into her own zippered purse. She can’t wait to show Grandmother that she has earned enough to buy a goat. The trash pile is smaller now. Isatou is determined that one day it will be gone. “And one day…it was.”

An Author’s Note provides more details about this true story as well as a Wolof language glossary and pronunciation guide.

Miranda Paul tells this true story of ingenuity and hope with honesty and evocative language. Young readers will learn how one woman’s concern for her community and courage in the face of opposition changed the lives of the people in her village. Paul’s descriptive text interspersed with native Wolof words allows children to discover details about the customs and daily lives of the citizens of Gambia. Paul’s use of the present tense, makes this a universal story that shows the continuing need for answers to ongoing environmental problems. Isatou’s creative solution to a world-wide problem may spur young readers to develop helpful ideas of their own.

Through her collage illustrations, Elizabeth Zunon brings the vibrant colors and patterns of Africa to readers. The textured papers she uses add depth and details to the women’s clothing, homes, foliage, and the plastic bags that Isotau and her friends transform. Children sit in on the candlelit nighttime crocheting sessions and view the beautiful, finished purses—each one unique.

Ages 6 – 9

Millbrook Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1467716086

Discover more about Miranda Paul and her books and find resources, videos, photos, and more on her website!

Learn more about Elizabeth Zunon and her books and view a portfolio of her artwork on her website!

International Plastic Bag Free Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-book-bag-craft

Books to Love, Books to Read Reusable Book Bag

 

True booklovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. With this easy craft you can turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-books-bag-craft

Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

Picture Book Review