February 2 – Hedgehog Day


About the Holiday

Sure, sure…I know it’s that other –hog day, but did you know that Hedgehog day was a Roman holiday that preceded Groundhog Day? For you Marmot lovers out there, this is also that little guy’s day. But getting back to our animal of honor, here are a few hedgehog-related trivia facts for you to enjoy:

  • Hedgehog’s spines are actually hollow hairs stiffened with keratin
  • Hedgehogs hunt at night and can smell food an inch below the ground
  • When hedgehogs smell or taste something icky they give themselves a cleansing saliva shower

And one more:

  • Hedgehogs are irresistibly cute!

The Friend Ship

Written by Kat Yeh | Illustrated by Chuck Groenink


Little Hedgehog was curled up in a ball of loneliness when she heard someone say that “friendship is out there” if only she would look for it. Hedgehog jumped up ready to search for the Friend Ship that she imagines is full of future buddies. Just as she pounded the last nail into the boat she built to sail the seas, a beaver approached and asked what she is doing. When he found out, he asked to come along because he, too, wants a friend.

Soon they spied a herd of migrating deer atop a cliff and inquired if they had seen the Friend Ship. The deer looked at one another and suddenly missed their pal Irving, so they climbed on board to look for him. Their boat sailed past a little rat fishing all alone. The rat had not seen the Friend Ship either, but asked, “‘pretty please with stinky cheese, can I come?’” “‘Oh, yes!’ said Hedgehog. ‘Double yes!’ said the beaver. ‘Yes!’ ‘Yes!’ ‘Yes!’ ‘Yes-yessity-yes!’ said the deer.”


Image copyright Chuck Groenink, text copyright Kat Yeh. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

They sailed into frigid northern seas, into turbulent southern seas, and “East straight into the sunrise,” but while the intrepid explorers never found the Friend Ship, they discovered plenty of extra travelers who wanted to come along. After a few days, Hedgehog despaired of ever finding what she was looking for. She once more felt like curling up into a prickly ball. “Everyone gathered around her. ‘Don’t give up!’ said the beaver.’” And the others agreed, telling Hedgehog that they would stick with her and that she could count on them.

Cheered by these good wishes, Hedgehog resolved to go on. Within view was a tiny island where a single elephant lived. Hedgehog swam closer and called out, “‘Excuse me. Have you seen the Friend Ship?’” The elephant looked a little confused. “‘The Friend Ship!’” she said. “‘Isn’t that it—right over there?’” Hedgehog turned excitedly to see, but “then sighed. ‘Oh, no. That’s just my…’” Suddenly, in the glow of the sunset she realized… “‘We haven’t tried sailing WEST yet!’” Everyone cheered, knowing that there was still hope. “West! West! West!” they chanted as elephant joined them, and they set sail once again on their journey that in the end brought each and every one of them new friends.

Kat Yeh’s sweet story will cheer kids who feel at sea when looking for new friends. Through Yeh’s multi-layered tale, readers will see that there are many kids “in the same boat,” and that inviting them along on adventures big and small will forge the friendships they are searching for. As Hedgehog’s ship begins to fill with passengers, kids will realize what Hedgehog and her travelers fail to notice and enjoy the suspense that leads up to the final giggle-inducing misunderstanding.

The adorable animals in Chuck Groenink’s beautiful illustrations give The Friend Ship an immediately joyful and upbeat tone that is carried out through the glowing colors, the celebratory welcome each new passenger receives, and the empathy and camaraderie the travelers show Hedgehog when she begins to lose hope. As The Friend Ship sails off into the sunset, readers will happily know that the characters have all found what they were searching for.

The message that children have the power to initiate changes in their life instead of relying on someone else makes The Friend Ship a great book for classroom libraries and home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 10

Disney-Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1484707265

Discover more books by Kat Yeh as well as videos and other extras on her website!

You’ll find a gallery of books and illustration work by Chuck Groenink on his website!

Hedgehog Day Activity


Hedgie and Buddy Coloring Page


These two pals have found a new friend! Grab your colored pencils or crayons and give their world some color! You can download the printable Hedgie and Buddy Coloring Page here!

Picture Book Review

August 7 – National Lighthouse Day


About the Holiday

Lighthouses have been in use since the earliest days of sea-going vessels. Built to warn sailors of dangerous and damaging rocks and reefs, these sentinels are a picturesque and fascinating part of history. From man—and woman—tended lights to today’s automated systems, lighthouses are a beacon of inspiration and imagination.

Miss Colfax’s Light

Written by Aimée Bissonette | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen


In 1861 when Harriet Colfax’s brother fell ill and decided to leave Indiana, Harriet had two options: she could leave with him—after all she had come to Indiana with him and worked with him at their newspaper—or she could stay on as the lighthouse keeper of the Michigan City Lighthouse, making $350 a year. Most women might have chosen to leave, but Harriet did not want to give up her independence or leave her best friend, Ann. She took the job as lighthouse keeper even though many in town thought she was too weak or too inexperienced to do the work.


Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Harriet knew the ships on the sometimes wild waters of Lake Michigan—one of the northern United States’ Great Lakes—relied on the lighthouse to keep them from danger. Twice every night she had to carry “whale oil in a bucket up narrow stairs to the top of the lantern tower” to refill the light and then polish the Fresnel lens. During the day, she “cleaned and painted…varnished the woodwork and shined the brass…and wrote notes in her log.”

It didn’t matter if Harriet was tired or sick or if winter storms rocked the shore, Harriet’s work went on. In 1871 a beacon light was installed at the end of the Michigan City east pier. Now in addition to the main lighthouse, Harriet had to keep this signal lit too. To do so required a long walk down a wooden catwalk that jutted far out into the lake. At times the freezing water roiled and splashed over the catwalk, making the walk tricky and dangerous. By this time lard had replaced whale oil as fuel. While it was cheaper and easier to get, it also had to be heated to pour. Sometimes on frigid winter nights “the lard oil hardened in the cold and Harriet had to fight back through the wind to reheat the oil” on her stove.


Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In 1874 the beacon light was moved to the west pier—farther away. Instead of being within walking distance, Harriet now had to “row a small boat across a creek, hike the far shore, and cross a longer catwalk to light the beacon light.” One night in 1886 storms raged as Harriet made her way down the west pier. “Driving sleet covered her coat with ice. Sand from the dunes along the lake pelted Harriet’s face, stinging her cheeks. Her boots slipped and slid on the catwalk.” Only moments after she finished filling the beacon light and stepped off the catwalk, “a deafening screech filled the air” as the beacon tower “ripped from its moorings and crashed into the lake.”

Harriet’s dedication to the Michigan City Lighthouse continued every day and every night for 43 years. People in town came to call the landmark “Miss Colfax’s Light,” and ship captains named it “Old Faithful.” Over the years her vantage point on the tip of the shore allowed Harriet to experience more than stormy seas. She also saw “brilliant sunsets, lunar eclipses, and silent, dancing northern lights. She saw tall-masted schooners with white sails give way to steamships of iron and steel.”


Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In 1904, when Harriet was 80 years old, the Michigan City Lighthouse underwent a renovation. It acquired a fog signal, and the oil-burning mechanism was replaced with a steam engine and boilers with huge coal-fired furnaces that required several keepers. Although Harriet was sad to leave her life as a lighthouse keeper behind, she understood. With the same bravery that had brought her to the lighthouse, she opened the door and stepped out to what came next.

The life of Harriet Colfax needs no embellishment to reveal the kind of determination and dedication it took to keep the Michigan City Lighthouse shining. Aimée Bissonette tells this brave woman’s story straightforwardly, focusing on particular moments when her duties were increased or her resolve challenged. Harriet’s personal motto that kept her going: “I can do this” is repeated throughout the book, echoing the revolving beacon that shines continuously on the shore of Lake Michigan. Actual entries from Harriet’s log punctuate the text, lending authenticity and Harriet’s voice to the story.Children will be fascinated by this snapshot of American (and world) history.


Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Eileen Ryan Ewen’s action-filled paintings of Harriet and her work beautifully demonstrate to readers Harriet’s incredible will and perseverance under the most difficult circumstances. The narrow stairs of the lighthouse pose daunting in the middle of the night; the seas of Lake Michigan surge and lap at Harriet and the winds buffet her as she navigates the catwalk; and an exhausted Harriet stands at the stove melting lard to light the lens. Children interested in ships and the sea will find much here to excite their imaginations.

An author’s note about Harriet Colfax follows the text along with a glossary of terms used in the book.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1585369553

Meet Aimée Bissonette and learn more about her books and work on her website!

To view Eileen Ryan Ewen‘s portfolio, sketchbook, and other books, visit her website!

National Lighthouse Day Activity


Lighthouse Coloring Page


Lighthouses are a striking part of any seashore landscape. Here is a printable Lighthouse Coloring Page for you to decorate!

July 13 – National Culinary Arts Month


About the Holiday

July is a great month for celebrating culinary arts. With kids home from school it’s fun to spend time together in the kitchen learning new skills and making experimental or favorite recipes. On-the-go meals or vacations can also take you to new and enticing restaurants, where you may try regional cuisine and discover exciting flavors.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut

Written by Pat Miller | Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch


In 1844 at the tender age of 13, Hanson Gregory left the family farm and went to sea as a cabin boy on the schooner Isaac Achorn. He quickly became the cook’s assistant and also learned how to rig the sails and “steer a ship over trackless waves by sun and stars.” By the age of 19 Gregory had become the captain of the schooner Hardscrabble, and within a few more years was racing “his cargo from Maine to California as commander of a clipper, the fastest ship on any ocean.”


Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

Hanson Gregory may have been one of the best captains to sail the seas—once awarded a medal for heroism for rescuing seven shipwrecked Spanish sailors even though his own ship and crew were endangered. But his greatest achievement was not attained because of his seafaring skills—it was his ingenuity in the galley that people remember.

On June 22, 1847 as a 16-year-old cook’s assistant, Hanson was rustling up the crew’s breakfast—coffee and fried cakes, the same as every morning. While the pot of lard bubbled on the stove, Gregory formed balls of sweetened dough and dropped them in. They sizzled and crisped—at least around the edges. The centers were raw, heavy with grease, and they dropped like cannonballs in the stomach. “Sailors called them Sinkers.” But this morning Gregory had an idea. He removed the lid from the pepper can and cut out the center of the balls. “Then he tossed the rings into the bubbling lard.”


Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

The cook and the sailors took one look at this odd concoction and…ate them up! “The cakes were brown, and sweet, and fully cooked. Sighs of delight rose above the noisy sea. A new breakfast tradition was born.” Gregory told his mom about his invention, and she fried up large batches of these ‘holey cakes’ that were a sensation at a friend’s store and on the docks.

You might think this is a pretty interesting tale in itself, “but sailors like their stories bold” and so they “spun legends worthy of such a delicious treat.” One tale had Captain Gregory inventing the doughnut while he saved his ship from disaster. Another told how Gregory, distraught over the drowning of five sailors pulled to the ocean floor by of their “sinker” breakfast, punched holes in every cake to make them look like life rings and vowed, “‘Never again!’”

Captain Gregory had a sense of humor about his accomplishment. During an interview he once stated that “he had invented ‘the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes.’” Gregory lived to be 89 and is buried “overlooking the sea where stormy weather can be spotted as readily as it once was from the quarterdeck of the Hardscrabble.”

An author’s note expanding on the story of Captain Gregory, the doughnut, doughnut shops, a timeline, and a selected bibliography follow the text.


Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

Doughnuts have never been so evocative! In Pat Miller’s humorous, informative history of this favorite pastry treat, readers can smell the salt air, feel the ocean swell and roll under their feet, and even ache a little for those poor sailors forced to eat “sinkers.” Seamlessly interwoven into this foodography is a fascinating look at the early days of sail. Miller’s language is immediately stirring: the Ivanhoe bucks and plunges, the sea becomes a monster, and Captain Gregory spears a sinker on the wheel spoke. Kids will marvel at a 13-year-old going off to sea and becoming an inventor at 16.

Vincent X. Kirsch provides just the right touch to this captivating true story with his cartoon-inspired watercolor and cut paper artwork. Ingeniously incorporating Hanson Gregory’s innovation of removing the center of the fried cakes, Kirsch’s illustrations are “cored” to allow for text, while the extracted section appears on the facing page as a glimpse through a porthole. The maritime atmosphere—from ship to shore—of the mid-1800s is beautifully represented in the folk-style sketches, and the humor that is so intrinsic to this story is wonderfully embraced.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut will delight foodies and history buffs alike and would make a fun gift and a delectable addition to personal libraries for all ages.

Ages 5 – 12

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544319615

Vincent X. Kirsch’s website is full of illustrations from his books for children—take a look at his portfolio!

Spend some time with Pat Miller on her website that offers activities, tips, resources and many more books!

Culinary Arts Month Activity


CD (Compact Doughnuts) Decoration


Are some of  your CDs a little passé? Not if you can turn them into cute décor like this doughnut hanging.


  • Unused CDs
  • Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
  • Ribbon, any color and length you want
  • Fine-tip markers in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (optional)
  • Paint brush


  1. Paint a wavy edge around the CD, let dry
  2. Paint the center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted
  3. When the icing paint is dry, draw sprinkles on the icing with the markers
  4. With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
  5. Hang your decoration


You can find The Hole Story of the Doughnut at these booksellers

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


May 22 – National Maritime Day


About the Holiday

National Maritime Day commemorates the day in 1819 that the steamship Savannah sailed from the United States to England. This event marked the first successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by steam propulsion. The US Congress proclaimed May 22 National Maritime Day in 1933. The day gives us an opportunity to honor the ships and seafarers who have served our country in peacetime and during war and to remember the benefits the maritime industry.

Toy Boat

Written by Randall de Sève | Illustrated by Loren Long


A little boy makes a toy boat from a can, a cork, a pencil and some white cloth. He loves his boat and carries it with him everywhere. Every day the boy takes his boat to the lake and sails it all afternoon. The boy always keeps his toy boat on a string so he won’t lose it. The boat feels secure, but sometimes it gazes out at the big sailboats gliding across the lake and wonders “what it would feel like to sail free.”

One afternoon a squall blows up on the lake, and the boy’s mother pulls him quickly from the edge of the thrashing water. Startled, the boy drops the string and his toy boat floats away. The boat is buffeted by the wind and rain and is carried into deep water where it rides the crests of the wind-whipped waves. As the storm subsides a tug chugs along, pushing the little boat further aside.

The tiny craft rights itself just in time to avoid being sunk by a ferry that blows its horn, warning, “Move Along!” But the tug and the ferry aren’t the only dangers on the water. A fierce speedboat roars past, its engine screaming, “Move Along!”, and its draft sending the little boat reeling. The toy boat feels small and scared as it drifts into the middle of a fleet of sailboats racing to port. For a moment the toy boat and a large sloop “cut through the choppy waves side by side. And the little toy boat felt big. Then the white boat tilted high on its side, spraying the little toy boat with water, warning, “Move along!”

Half drowned and its sail soaked, the little toy boat misses the boy. It bobs all night on the open water, “alone and scared.” As the sun rises an old fishing boat, dented and with peeling paint, put-puts by. It spies the little boat and, knowing how it feels to be pushed around, begins to circle the tiny craft. In the fishing boat’s wake, the toy boat turns and catches the wind in its sail. Soon it is sailing alongside the fishing boat.

“The little toy boat felt strong! ‘I am moving along,’ it shouted to the wind.” The little boat feels so good that it doesn’t realize it is now sailing alone or that it is nearing the shore, where the little boy is watching out for it. When the boy shouts, “Boat! Boat!” the now brave craft waves its sail excitedly and sees the boy wave back.

That night the little boat sails bathtub seas and sleeps on a soft mattress. The next day the boy takes the boat back to the lake, and while he still holds the boat by a string, every so often he lets go, and the little toy boat always comes back. “It knew just where it wanted to be.”

Randall de Sève’s tale of independence sought and found by both the little boat and the boy will resonate with both children and adults. The safety of the “string” set against the perceived freedom of older or bigger others is a universal and on-going rite of passage for every child and their parents and is treated by de Sève with gentleness and understanding. The various dangers and even personalities children meet with are introduced here allowing kids to see that while they may be buffeted by change or adversity, they will not sink.

Loren Long lends his well-known artwork to this story in beautiful two-page spreads that depict the security of first the small bathtub and then the calm lake as well as the storm-tossed waves that take the toy boat into unknown territory. The smallness of the toy boat compared with the size of the tug, ferry, speedboat, and racing sloops well reflects the experiences of children in the wider world. When the friendly face of the fishing trawler comes on the scene, kids will identify with the toy boat and realize help and support are out there and that they are always welcomed home with love.

Ages 3 and up

Philomel Books, Penguin Young Readers, 2014 (board book edition) | ISBN 978-0399167973

National Maritime Day Activity



Show Your Colors! Word Puzzle


While ships can’t talk to each other, they can communicate using a system of flags. These colorful flags carrying different designs are recognized internationally as representing letters and symbols. Individual flags have specific meanings related to safety, emergency, or warning issues or they can be combined to form a code that only certain ships can understand.

Use the provided maritime flags code to decipher a special message! Print the Show Your Colors! word puzzle and get decoding! Here’s the Solution!