October 8 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

National Book Month celebrates the joys of books for all ages. Starting at birth, children reap tremendous benefits from being read to every day. Even before they can talk, babies love listening to stories and looking at bright, colorful illustrations. Reading with babies improves their language development, literacy development, their understanding of math concepts, and their recognition of emotions. Board books, with their smaller, chunky size and thick pages are perfect for the youngest readers and their parents, grandparents, and other caregivers to share! Board books make excellent gifts for baby showers and new babies as well as for other gift-giving occasions.

This week I’m thrilled to share five new board books from Little Simon and to be partnering with them in an amazing giveaway of all five books. Simon & Schuster sent me the books to check out. All opinions are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below. Watch every day this week for another terrific title!

The Itsy Bitsy School Bus

Written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček

 

It was a big day for itsy bitsy school bus! With a full backpack and a ready smile, the itsy bitsy bus was “dropped off at school, it was time to learn and play.” In the bright classroom with pictures, numbers, and a colorful table where all the students sit the teacher said hello and then  itsy bitsy bus read and played, drew and painted with new friends – pink car, little police car, and tiny cement truck. And what happened after school? “The itsy bitsy school bus asked to go back again.”

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Image copyright Sanja Rešček, 2018, text copyright Jeffrey Burton. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

A fun, school-time twist on the nursery rhyme “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” Jeffrey Burton’s sweet story for the preschool set is sure to charm the littlest students as they go off to school on their first day or want to relive the fun of the day at story time. For little ones who have not yet started school, the jaunty lilt of the story and upbeat activities shown will get them excited for when their turn does come. The story can be read and/or sung and invites kids to join in on subsequent readings.

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Image copyright Sanja Rešček, 2018, text copyright Jeffrey Burton. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Sanja Rešček’s first double-spread page lets little ones into the Bus family’s sunny kitchen with its car-motif tablecloth, healthy breakfast, and garage-sized door. Itsy bitsy bus rolls on out with backpack attached and zips down the road, first in line. The school has an equally wide door through which other vehicle families can be seen entering. Waving their tires, the little bus and Daddy say goodbye. The teacher, an orange beetle car, greets her new students and, after reading time, she shows them to the arts and crafts area where they all love making pictures of…themselves! When the final bell rings, the students file out to be picked up, but their smiles show that they’re ready to come back tomorrow.

Ages 2 – 4

Little Simon, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534416956

The Gift of Story Time Giveaway

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Little Simon board books make the perfect gift for all of the young readers in your life! With cute and creative illustrations, accessible and engaging stories, and the perfect size and durability, these books are great for new parents and for reading aloud. These fun series teach important lessons and concepts through adorable characters, interesting stories, and hilarious creatures!

One (1) winner receives this collection of five sweet stories from Little Simon

  • The Itsy Bitsy School Bus, written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček
  • Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud, written by Ame Dyckman |illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
  • Día de los Muertos, written by Hannah Eliot | illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
  • This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Daniel Roode
  • Hello Knights!, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Chris Dickason

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, October 8 – 14. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 15.

 Giveaway open to US addresses only | Prizing and samples provided by Little Simon.

National Book Month Activity

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Sort the Straws

 

With a box of colorful plastic straws and a muffin tin, you can set up a sorting activity that will keep little ones happily busy. Talk with children about how they can sort the straws and why they choose that method.

To start: cut straws of different colors into various lengths. For younger children, use only two or three lengths. Older children may enjoy a more challenging activity with straws that are cut into lengths that are more difficult to distinguish.

To sort: children can sort straws by size, by color, or by any way that makes sense to them.

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You can find The Itsy Bitsy School Bus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 4 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

For readers every month is Book Month, but October is especially set aside to highlight books and the love of reading. Fall is a book bonanza as publishers release new books in all categories and the holiday gift-giving season beckons. Books, of course, make superb gifts for all ages! So whether you’re looking for a new or new-to-you book to read right now, or new titles to give to all the family and friends who will be on your list, this month is a perfect time to check out your local bookstore to see what wonderful books are on the shelves!

Shark Dog and the School Trip Rescue!

By Ged Adamson

 

When your dad’s an adventurer and you get to travel with him, your life is pretty exciting. In fact, you can discover lots of unique places, people, objects, and animals. And sometimes they even follow you home. Well, at least one did—Shark Dog, the most perfect pet imaginable! “He’s sort of a dog, but he’s also kind of a shark. Life with him is a great big adventure.”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Today is the class field trip, and since Dad is an explorer, Ms. Ablett invited him—and Shark Dog—along. Out in the woods, the class saw insects and frogs and toads enjoying a leisurely day basking on their lily pads—that is until Shark Dog wanted to join the fun and with a splash the frogs ended up on Ms. Ablett’s head. Deeper in the forest, we saw deer, a fox, a snake, rabbits, and so much more. During lunch it started to rain, but the class was nice and dry in a cave until…well, let’s just say ”Shark Dog loves mud!”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

After the rain, we paired up to go exploring. We all had cool experiences, “but there was one discovery that got everyone’s attention. Footprints. BIG footprints!” Shark Dog did what he does best and began sniffing. We all followed him until he found a bear cub in trouble. Her foot was caught under a fallen tree. Shark Dog “grabbed the tree trunk” in his sharp teeth, and “we all joined in.”

When the bear cub was happily on her way back home, we realized that now we were lost. But Shark Dog wasn’t! He knew just how to lead us back to the bus. The whole class agreed that with Shark Dog along, this was the best school trip ever!

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Ged Adamson’s sweet-natured shark-pup mix—first introduced in Shark Dog!—is as endearing as ever as he romps about during a school field trip showing more of his puppy side than his shark side. When his sharp teeth and super strength are needed, though, this lovable mutt is ready to perform a swimmingly successful rescue. Shark Dog’s enthusiasm is infectious and will have readers giggling at his unintended mishaps. The discovery of unusual footprints and the ensuing chase provides humor and gentle suspense, and the effort to free the baby bear is a sweet show of teamwork.

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Adamson’s bright, fresh artwork brings a smile as the diverse group of children show happy excitement while discovering creatures in the woods and working in pairs to find something of interest to share. The children’s expressions of concern and quick willingness to help the trapped bear will resonate with today’s philanthropic kids. Any child would love to go on a field trip like this one!

Shark Dog and the School Trip Rescue! is an adorable addition to story times at home and in the classroom – especially as a fun lead in to a school field trip.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062457189

To learn more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Book Month Activity

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Book-Loving Shark Maze

 

This shark loves to read! In fact, she wants to devour that whole stack of books. Can you help her cross the sea to get them in this printable puzzle?

Book-Loving Shark Maze | Book-Loving Shark Maze Solution

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You can find Shark Dog and the School Trip Rescue at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 19 – National Talk Like a Pirate Day

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About the Holiday

Ahoy mateys! Welcome to what may arrrguably be the most fun holiday of the year. You might think that this most treasured of days got its start shipboard on the bounding main, but it actually began in the walled confines of a racquetball court, where a group of guys were doing…well what a group of guys do to encourage each other—toss around pirate phrases. They decided the idea was too good to keep on the court, so they designated September 19th as Talk Like a Pirate Day. They then alerted humorist Dave Barry, who spread word of this day far and wide. Now it’s a favorite of young and old alike. So get out there and do some talkin’ ye scalliwags!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Kindergarrrten Bus to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Kindergarrrten Bus

Written by Mike Ornstein | Illustrated by Kevin M. Barry

 

As the little tykes climb the plank into the kindergarten school bus, they’re met by a most unusual driver. He has a hook hand, a peg leg, a curly beard, a broad-brimmed hat with a parrot perched on the edge, and he greets the first little boy like this: “Ahoy, boy! What? It be ye first day of kindergarrrten? Well, don’t worry, laddie—it be me first day as a bus driverrr!” The pirate shows the kids to their seats and lays down the rules. Any infractions…. Well, Polly will tell ya: “Raaaaa, mutiny!”

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The kids don’t seem too sure of this turn of events. They miss their family, their pets, their toys, and it’s all a little scary. But the pirate will have no “blubberin’ on me bus” because pirates are “rrrough” and tough. “And we ain’t got time for that fluffy stuff!” So the bus takes off, and the driver sings a little ditty as they go.

But the route turns as bumpy as a churning sea with potholes that rattle Polly so much that she flies out the window…I mean “winderrr.” The pirate calls after his parrot, “Waaaa arrrgh waaaa arrrgh!” Then the bus comes to a screeching halt amid a pirate melt-down. “I can’t drive me bus without me sweet snuggly Polly! I can’t do it, I tells ya! I can’t! I can’t I can’t!”

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Everyone piles out, and the kids try to reassure the poor driver—and they kind of remind him of all the things he told them. Turns out that ol’ pirate “was only hornswogglin’” and that he considers himself “nothin’ but a scared, blubberin’ boob of a buccaneer.” The kids are empathetic and reassuring, and pretty soon the pirate is feeling better about things.

Back on the bus, the little ditty now has more than a note of encouragement to it. As they pull up at the X where “the treasure of all treasures” awaits the kids, the pirate gives one more lesson before letting all those little “scoundrels walk the plank—errr, I mean, exit the bus.” But why? one little boy wants to know. Why is a pirate driving a school bus? Well, that be somethin’ ye just have to see for yourself!

An afterword from the author discussing tips for talking with kids about fears and worries follows the story.

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Could Mike Ornstein actually be a pirate? I’m thinking yes! His ease with Pirate-ese makes this dialogue-rich story a comical treasure that will have kids “Harrr, harrr, harrr-ing” at every twist and turn in the book—and lucky for them, there’s a whole loot of those. Scrumptious words like “blubberin’, hornswogglin’, landlubbers,” and “blue-footed booby bird” as well as a liberal sprinkling of rrrrs make this book a joyful read- aloud that kids will clamor to participate in. Nuggets of reassurance about “rrrespect,” admitting fears and worries, and enjoying school are pure gold.

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Kevin M. Barry’s wide-eyed, rakish kids and scallywag of a bus driver are the perfect companions on this hilarious journey to the first day of kindergarten. The school bus—a wooden jalopy with porthole windows, a ship’s wheel steering wheel, and a teddy bear jolly roger—comes to a tipping point when the pirate’s beloved Polly flies the coop. As the pirate dramatically looks to the skies and admits his false bravado, the kids—skeptical, astonished, and empathetic—look on. While one curly-haired little girl reassures the pirate, the other kids channel their own bravery and get ready to have a fun day at school. Readers will love the expressive faces, small details (a fish-skeleton belt buckle, a girl’s “I Got This” t-shirt), and, of course, ruffled Polly.

Kindergarrrten Bus is a rip-roarin’ yarn with a heart of gold that will get kids and grown-ups laughing and talking about feelings, fears, and the fact that everyone gets scared sometimes. A go-to book for fun story times and moments when a little more encouragement is needed, Kindergarrrten Bus would be a favorite on home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363988

To learn more about Kevin M. Barry, his books, and his art on his website.

Kindergarrrten Bus Giveaway

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

  • One (1) copy of Kindergarrrten Bus written by Mike Ornstein | illustrated by Kevin M. Barry

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, September 19 – 25. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on September 26.

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

Talk Like a Pirate Day Activity

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Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze

 

Join the crew of scallywags to pick up supplies on your way to finding a treasure chest full of gold in this printable maze.

Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze Puzzle | Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze Solution

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You can find Kindergarrrten Bus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 29 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

Well, Monday is Labor Day, and the official ending of summer. While the carefree (or were they even more hectic?) days of summer vacation are coming to a close, a new school year is just beginning. Make this one the best yet by talking with your kids about their day and your day. Taking time to read together—no matter how old your kids are—is another way to build bonds. Why not start with today’s funny and insightful book!

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Penelope Rex was nervous about her first day of school. She wondered whether her classmates would be nice and how many teeth they would have. Her mom had gotten her a backpack decorated with ponies, and her dad had made three-hundred tuna sandwiches for her lunch. Both of these made Penelope smile because both ponies and tuna were delicious.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

On the first day of school, Penelope walked into her classroom only to discover that “all of her classmates were CHILDREN! Penelope loved children! “Because children are delicious.” Right away Penelope ate them all up. Her teacher, Mrs. Noodleman, was not happy and told Penelope to “‘Please spit them out at once!’” Deposited back on the carpet, the saliva-covered kids were not too happy either.

Penelope tried to be good on the playground, during creative time, and at lunch, but she couldn’t help trying to eat the other kids. She couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t making any friends. When she got home, though, and told her dad, he had a pretty good idea why she’d been so lonely.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Her dad told her that eating children made it hard to make friends. Penelope thought and thought about this. The next day she tried to keep her teeth to herself, but the kids really were so delicious that Penelope just had to take a bite. The kids were terrified. The only one who didn’t run away from her was Walter, the class goldfish. Penelope tried to be friends, but when she poked her finger into his bowl—“CHOMP!”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Penelope screamed and then she cried. She didn’t like being Walter’s snack and suddenly realized why the kids didn’t like her. The whole experience ruined her appetite for children, but she discovered that once she stopped eating them, the kids wanted to be her friend. Sometimes, the children still look a little tantalizing, but when that happens Penelope just “peeks at Walter and remembers what it’s like when someone tries to eat you.” And Walter? He “stares right back and licks his lips. Because dinosaurs are delicious.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2018, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

With We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Higgins dips his pen into the Edward Gorey pool of gloriously grisly storytelling that so delights kids. If you want children to laugh out loud, respond with “Ewww!” and “Yuck!” and then laugh some more during story time, you’ll want to pick up this book. Kids will give Penelope plenty of “Awwws!” too as she tries so hard to understand why her classmates are afraid as well as to overcome her natural instincts and love for a tasty snack. In an unexpected and hilarious twist, goggle-eyed Walter inadvertently teaches Penelope a few valuable lessons.

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Higgins’ little yellow dino in pink overalls is adorable as she revels in her pony backpack, hopes for a child-sized treat, and plays with new friends. Her sad eyes and bewildered expression after a day at school will spark plenty of empathy too. Penelope’s classmates are a most welcome representation of diversity, and her classroom—with two cozy reading nooks—is as cool as it gets.

For back to school and all year through, We Don’t Eat Our Classmates will be a favorite on home bookshelves and in classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 | ISBN 978-1368003551

To learn more about Ryan T. Higgins, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Back-to-School Month Activity

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Books to Love, Books to Read Book Bag

 

Are the kids going back to school? Then they need a bag to carry their favorite books and stuff in! This easy-to-make book bag—recycled from the cloth bag sheet sets come in—makes a perfect kid-sized bag for taking to the library or after-school activities! 

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)

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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

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You can find We Don’t Eat Our Classmates at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 21 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

There’s no mistaking that it’s that time of year again! The stores are stocked with notebooks, backpacks, lunchboxes, pens, pencils, glue sticks…. Well…you know! Summer school vacation is winding down—for some kids it may already be a memory—and the promise of another year is on the horizon. There are a lot of ways to get kids ready to go back to school. Reading books that reflect all the feels is one of the best!

It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!

By Lindsay Ward

 

Jack and his favorite toy, Dexter T. Rexter are stomping and chomping and singing when Jack’s mom calls him for breakfast. While Jack is off enjoying his meal, Dexter is excited to tell you that he’s excited about tomorrow. What’s tomorrow? Show-and-Tell day! It seems that Dexter has been preparing for weeks so he’ll make a good impression. Why all the fuss? Dexter says that “Every toy dreams of being taken to Show and Tell. If things go well, I’ll get super-special-keep-forever status.”

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

All this pressure, is making Dexter a little nervous, though. His eyes are twitching, he has “fidgety claws” and a “cowardly tail position” and he feels it right in the pit of his stomach. He’s worried that no one will like him. Maybe a costume is just the thing. He tries on a bunny costume, an astronaut suit, and an Elvis getup. But none are really Dexter, even though the Elvis cape sparkles.

How about a spicy dance routine or reciting “the state capitals backwards” or a funny impression? No? No? and NO? Dexter is beside himself. “This is NOT good. I don’t have any skills! I can’t dance. I can’t recite. I can’t SHOW or Tell!” And then the worst fear hits Dexter: “What if Jack doesn’t think I’m cool enough for Show and Tell anymore?” Dexter thinks of all the other—possibly cooler—toys in Jack’s toy box.

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Suddenly, Dexter doesn’t feel too well. It’s a “Total Freakout!” As Dexter is calming himself down, he hears a small voice—yours—reassuring him. He considers your suggestion. “Go as myself? That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.” Still…. There is one thing he’s good at…. The next day Jack and Dexter T. Rexter stomp and chomp and sing their way through the best Show and Tell ever.

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Lindsay Ward’s endearing Dexter T. Rexter, is back with another conundrum that sends his emotions into overdrive, causing him needless worry. Through her humorous interactive story, Ward lets young readers reassure Dexter that he’s smart enough, talented enough, and that people like him just the way he is as they also internalize this important lesson. Kids will giggle and laugh out loud as Dexter tries on silly costumes, shimmies and shakes to a hot musical beat, and tries an impression that falls flat, but as Dexter’s self-defeating doubts result in a stomachache and full on freakout, they’ll understand that empathy and kindness are what Dexter needs most.

Ward’s bold, mixed-media illustrations highlight Dexter’s emotions, his attempts to “improve” himself, and the joy he feels when playing with his best friend, Jack. Jack’s classroom is a welcome depiction of diversity, including one student in a wheelchair. Dynamic typography guides the kind of dramatic reading that would elicit all the humor and feeling from this multilayered story.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503901377

Discover more about Lindsay Ward, her books, and her art on her website.

Check out this It’s Show and Tell, Dexter! book trailer!

It’s Show and Tell, Dexter! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions Publishing in this giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of It’s Show and Tell, Dexter! by Lindsay Ward

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, August 21 – 27. Already a follower? Thanks! Just  Retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on August 28.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Two Lions Publishing.

Back to School Activity

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Back to School Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

There are twenty school-related words in this happy word search puzzle. Can you find them all?

Back to School Fun! Word Search PuzzleBack to School Fun! Word Search Solution

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You can find It’s Show and Tell, Dexter! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 13 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

For many children across the country August is the month for going back to school—or just starting on that journey. Some children eagerly look forward to spending the day in a classroom with other kids and learning new things from their teacher or teachers. For others the transition from home to school is a little more daunting. Finding ways to reassure hesitant students can go a long way toward happiness and success in school. Books can help! Through the experiences and feeling of all types of children and characters in picture books, chapter books, and middle grade and young adult novels, kids can share their feelings, whether they are excited or more uncertain about the school year ahead.

I received a copy of It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus! from Beach Lane Books to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Jody Jensen Shaffer on a giveaway of the book. See details below.

It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Claire Messer

 

It’s morning on the first day of the school year, and Ben the bus driver greets his fleet of buses. He welcomes Busy Bus to the crew that includes Bossy Bus, Zippy Bus, Bouncy Bus, and Big Bus. Already, “Busy Bus is wide awake. He can’t wait to meet the children! He hopes they will like him.” Ben has a checklist to make sure Busy Bus is ready for his route.

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2018, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books; Simon & Schuster.

First, he checks Busy Bus’s tires and makes sure his gas tank is full. Then he “swivels Busy Bus’s mirrors. ‘Now we can see everything,’ he says.” Inside, Ben checks that Busy Bus’s stop sign and all his lights work. He ensures that all emergency equipment is stocked and functioning. As Ben continues to fill out his checklist, Busy Bus wonders, “Will the children have fun riding with me?”

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2018, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books; Simon & Schuster.

Now it’s time for Ben to check Busy Bus’s engine. He turns the key, and “Busy Bus purrrrs like a kitten.” He inspects all the gauges and tries all the knobs. The brakes work, the steering wheel turns, and Busy Bus’s windshield wipers swish, swish smoothly across the glass. “HONK!” Busy Bus says cheerfully.

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2018, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books; Simon & Schuster.

With a quick shining of the windshield, Ben announces that Busy Bus is all ready to meet the children. Suddenly, Busy Bus feels a little nervous. He worries about being homesick and making friends. Then Ben attaches Busy Bus’s very own name tag and drives to the first stop on their route, where a crowd of smiling children are waiting to climb aboard. As Busy Bus gives them a ride to school, he feels loved and knows that he’s “going to have a great year!”

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2018, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books; Simon & Schuster.

Young readers anticipating the beginning of a new school year will find a cheerful and empathetic friend in Busy Bus, who also happens to have first-day jitters. Children experiencing their first school-bus ride will find reassurance and familiarity in the details that Jody Jensen Shaffer provides as Ben the bus driver completes his inspection of Busy Bus. Busy Bus’s thoughts and feelings mirror those of students nervous about being away from home, the bus ride, making friends, and fitting in. Shaffer’s straightforward and honest storytelling encourages kids to discuss their own feelings and questions about school.

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2018, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books; Simon & Schuster.

Claire Messer’s Busy Bus—smaller than the other buses in the barn—is endearing as he wakes up to the first day of school under a smiling sun with an excited HONK! Bold, colorful images of the bus barn with its gas pump, extra tires, and other equipment as well as Busy Bus’s dashboard, interior, and emergency gear will fascinate detail-oriented kids. As Busy Bus experiences last-minute apprehensions, his expression changes, giving children an opportunity to recognize and talk about feelings of sadness, worry, fear, and confidence.

It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus! is a book to be shared by teachers, parents, and caregivers to make those first days of school smooth, happy, and exciting for all students.

Ages 3 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481494670

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Claire Messer, her books, and her art, visit her website.

It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus! Giveaway

I’m excited to be partnering with Jody Jensen Shaffer to offer a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus! written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | illustrated by Claire Messer

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, August 13 – 19. 

A winner will be chosen on August 20.

Giveaways open to US addresses only

Back to School Month Activities

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Tea Box School Bus

 

With a small tea box, some paint, and the printable template, kids can have fun making a model school bus to play with or display. Make your bus as detailed or simple as you’d like!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print 2 copies of the School Bus Template
  2. Carefully take the tea box apart at the seams, invert it, and glue or tape it back together

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To Make the Passenger Side of the Bus

  1. Cut the Door from the template
  2. Glue the door to the box near the front
  3. Cut out and trim the row of windows from the template
  4. Glue the windows near the top of the box
  5. Cut out and trim two of the solid black lines from the template
  6. Glue the stripes onto the side of the box below the windows
  7. Cut out two tires from the template and glue them to the box

To Make the Front of the Bus

  1. Cut out two of the red and orange paired lights
  2. Glue one on each side of the box near the top with the red light on the outside
  3. Add a School Bus sign between the lights
  4. Cut out the windshield in the lower corner of the template and glue it in place
  5. Cut and trim grill and glue it beneath the windshield
  6. Cut and glue white circles for headlights on either side of the grill
  7. Cut, trim, and glue the wide black strip to the bottom as the bumper.

To Make the Driver’s Side of the Bus

  1. Cut and trim the row of windows from the template
  2. Glue the windows near the top of the box
  3. Cut out and trim two of the solid black lines from the template
  4. Glue the stripes onto the side of the box below the windows
  5. Cut out two tires from the template and glue them to the box
  6. Cut out and glue the Stop sign over the two stripes near the front of the bus

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To Make the Back of the Bus

  1. Cut out two of the red and orange paired lights
  2. Glue one on each side of the box near the top with the red light on the outside
  3. Add a School Bus sign between the lights
  4. Cut out the two small rounded corner windows
  5. Glue them underneath the lights close to the edge of the box
  6. Cut out and glue the bigger rounded corner window between the smaller windows
  7. Cut out and glue the yellow, red, and white lights underneath the small windows with the yellow light on the outside
  8. Cut out and glue the black rounded corner window centered beneath the lights
  9. Cut and trim the wide black stripe and glue it near the bottom of the box for the bumper

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School Bus Coloring Page

Kids will also have fun coloring in one of these printable School Bus Coloring Sheets!

School Bus Coloring Page for Older KidsEasy School Bus Coloring Page

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You can find It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 8 – National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

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About the Holiday

So, it’s that time of year! If you’re a gardener, you know what I’m talking about. A couple of weeks ago, you might have been filled with that giddy happiness as your squash plant produced its first zucchini. Maybe it went into a salad or pasta dish. Then came the second one—maybe two—a few days later, and you found a great recipe for those too. But now? You’re harvesting them by the bushel, and…well…you’re just not sure what to do with them all! That’s where today’s holiday comes in! Hasn’t it been a while since you did something really nice for your neighbors? A surprise bag of zucchini or yellow squash left on their porch might be just the thing! What’s that? They all garden too? Hmmm…. Then try the delicious chocolate chocolate-chip zucchini bread recipe below!

Sophie’s Squash Go to School

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

 

Backed up by her parents and clutching her best friends, two squash named Bonnie and Baxter, Sophie peeks into her classroom on the first day of school. She sees kids running everywhere, talking and laughing. Her parents assure Sophie that she’ll make a lot of friends and have tons of fun, but Sophie is adamant: “‘I won’t,’” she says. And Sophie’s right. “The chairs were uncomfortable. The milk tasted funny. And no one appreciated her two best friends, Bonnie and Baxter.”

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The other kids surround her with questions about Bonnie and Baxter. “‘Are they toys? Do they bounce? Can we EAT them?’” Sophie has had enough. “‘No, no, no! I grew them in my garden. They’re my FRIENDS.’” And then there’s Steven Green. He sits near Sophie at circle time, plays near her on the playground, and stands over her breathing down her neck during art time. Ms. Park, the teacher, tells Sophie Steven is just being nice, but Sophie isn’t interested.

Steven does not give up so easily. He returns to show Sophie his best friend—Marvin, a stuffed frog that he got when the toy was just a tadpole. “‘Then you don’t need me,’” Sophie says and decides “that’s that.” But that isn’t that. The next day Steven is back, building a block tower near Sophie, reading her book over her shoulder, and even offering facts about fruit and vegetables during Sophie’s show and tell.

When her parents hear about Steven, they encourage Sophie to make a friend, but Sophie just clings tighter to Bonnie and Baxter. “Still, Sophie knew that Bonnie and Baxter wouldn’t last forever,” so when the other kids dance, spill their milk, or tell jokes, Sophie considers joining in. On the playground Sophie plays hopscotch while the other kids play tag, jump rope, and play other games together. When Steven asks if he can join Sophie, Bonnie, and Baxter, she refuses, leaving Steve and Marvin to sit alone.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

When the weekend comes Bonnie and Baxter look “too tired to hop. Or build towers. ‘It’s time,’” says Sophie’s mother. Sophie digs a hole to make “a garden bed and tucked her squash in for their winter nap. ‘Sleep tight,’” she says. “‘See you soon.’ But spring seemed very far away.” On Monday Ms. Park asks the class to tell her what makes a good friend. The kids answer that friends play with you, help you, and think you’re funny. Steven answers “‘They like what you like.’” Ms. Park sends the kids off to draw pictures of their friends.

When Steven wants to see Sophie’s drawing of Bonnie and Baxter, the two get into a scuffle over the paper and it tears in half. “‘You are NOT my friend,’” Sophie says as she walks away. On the way home from school, Sophie tells her mom what happened. “‘Sweet potato,’” her mom says. “‘That adorable boy didn’t mean to tear your picture.’” But Sophie’s not so sure.

The next morning Sophie finds Marvin and a note in her cubby. She ignores it, and by lunchtime, Marvin is gone. Later that night, though, Sophie and her dad discover Marvin and the note inside her backpack. The note contains a drawing of Bonnie and Baxter as well as a packet of seeds.  “‘Do friends really like the same things you like?’” Sophie asks her dad. When he answers “Sometimes,” Sophie begins to think. She takes Marvin outside and sits near Bonnie and Baxter to think some more.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The next day Sophie runs up to Steven to tell him the great idea that Marvin had. They then tell Ms. Park. The next day, Ms. Park hands each child “a cup, some dirt and one small seed.” “‘Can we EAT them?’” a classmate asks. “‘No!’” says Sophie, and Steven adds, “‘You never eat a friend.’” The kids plant the seeds and put the pots on the windowsill. Soon tiny shoots appear in the cups and Sophie and Steven invite the kids to do a new-plant dance.

“‘See?’” Sophie tells Steven. “‘Sometimes growing a friend just takes time.’”

Pat Zietlow Miller’s sequel to her award-winning Sophie’s Squash is a heartfelt story for kids for whom the definition of friendship runs deep. Sophie’s hesitancy to join in the freewheeling play of other kids echoes the feelings of many children entering new classrooms, joining unfamiliar groups, or meeting any new challenge. The excellent pacing of the story as well as Sophie’s honest emotions allow for development of the theme that sometimes friendship takes time. Steven’s persistence sets a positive example for not passing judgement too quickly. Sophie’s transition from squash friends to human is treated sensitively and with cleverness. In the end Sophie learns how to make a friend while still staying true to herself.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Anne Wilsdorf’s cartoon-inspired illustrations perfectly depict the world that Sophie reluctantly inhabits. Her classroom is boldly colorful, full of books, toys, separate spaces, and of course all sorts of kids. Sophie’s reactions to the comments and actions of her classmates are clearly registered on her face and will make kids giggle even while they recognize her feelings. Steadfast Steven is, as Sophie’s mom says, adorable, and readers will empathize with his plight in just wanting to make a friend. The nighttime scene beautifully sums up Sophie’s dilemma and provides her and readers a moment to reflect on the story’s ideas.

On so many levels, Sophie’s Squash Go to School makes a wonderful addition to children’s and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553509441

Discover much more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website!

National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day Activity

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Two Peas and Their Pod Chocolate Zucchini Bread 

 

Got some zucchini that you’ve grown yourself or that was snuck onto your porch? This scrumptious bread is doubly chocolate and as melt-in-your-mouth delicious as chocolate cake. I’m sharing this Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe from the cooking, baking, and entertaining blog Two Peas and Their Pod. Check out more of their delectable recipes at twopeadsandtheirpod.com.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/4 cup canola, vegetable oil, or melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups packed shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divide

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, add the eggs, melted butter, oil, vanilla extract, and brown sugar. Stir until smooth. You might have a few small brown sugar clumps and that is fine.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, don’t overmix. Stir in the shredded zucchini until just combined. Stir in 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips over the top of the bread. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out mostly clean, you might have some melted chocolate chips on the toothpick and that is fine. You just don’t want a lot of gooey batter.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and set on a wire cooling rack. Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the bread and carefully remove from the pan. Let the bread cool on the wire cooling rack until slightly warm. Cut into slices and serve.

If making muffins, bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Note-if you use coconut oil, make sure it is melted and slightly cooled. The bread will keep on the counter, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 4 days. This bread also freezes well. To freeze, cool the bread completely and wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost before slicing.

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You can find Sophie’s Squash Go to School at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review