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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sophie's-squash-go-to-school-cover

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sophie's-squash-go-to-school-classroom

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sophie's-squash-go-to-school-talk-with-mom-and-dad

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sophie's-squash-go-to-school-nighttime-thinking

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sophie's-squash-go-to-school-peeking-in-classroom-door

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chocolate-chocolate-chip-zucchini-bread

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sophie's-squash-go-to-school-cover

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

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 8 – National Teacher Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-because-I-had-a-teacher-cover

About the Holiday

As the school year winds down, we take this week and today in particular to honor and thank the teachers that make a difference in our lives. Teachers open the world to their students by instilling a love of learning through their enthusiasm, caring, and creativity.  Before you move on to a new class next year, don’t forget to tell your teacher or teachers how much they’ve meant to you.

Because I Had a Teacher

Written by Kobi Yamada | Illustrated by Natalie Russell

 

A little bear has lots to say about his or her teacher. It may come as no surprise that this teacher has instilled in the bear a love of learning. But it goes beyond that. The little one reveals that “because I had a teacher, I discovered that I could do much more than I thought I could.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-because-i-had-a-teacher-love-to-learn

Copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

He also realizes that if one thing is harder than the rest, that’s okay too. Because of having such a wonderful teacher, the child is ready for any challenges that come and understands that there are “lots of ways of being smart.” Mistakes are not a big deal either, since they happen when you’re trying to get things right. And those things that are the hardest? They bring the little bear the most satisfaction to achieve.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-because-i-had-a-teacher-explore

Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

“Because I had a teacher,” the little bear says, “I know how good it feels when someone is happy to see me.” Not only that, but the child knows a friend is always near and that there is always someone who can help out. The bear’s teacher has introduced vast new worlds to explore and has fostered the little learner’s imagination. In fact, the bear feels that nothing is impossible. Then the little bear gives the best compliment of all: “Because I had you, I learned to believe in me.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-because-i-had-a-teacher-imagine

Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

Kobi Yamada’s heartwarming love letter from student to teacher is a touching tribute to one of the most important relationships in life. One of the wonderful aspects of the story is its fluidity, which allows for multiple interpretations on the student and teacher dynamic. The lyrical prose is appropriate for a traditional teacher/student pair, but the bond could also easily be between a parent and child, a grandparent and grandchild, or any caregiver and their small charge. The book could also be read the other way around with the endearing sentiments coming from an adult to a child, as children often teach adults much about life as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-because-i-had-a-teacher-mistakes

Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

Natalie Russell’s softly hued illustrations masterfully do double duty as well. Quiet in their yellow background, line drawings, and adorable bears, Russell’s soy-ink drawings are also full of action and excitement. The teacher is just as engaged in the learning as the student—doing experiments, climbing trees, launching boats, and helping to paint masterpieces—making their relationship balanced and one of equal sharing. Gender neutrality is found throughout the book, making it appropriate for all children and adults.

Because I Had a Teacher would make a much-loved gift for any teacher, parent, or caregiver. It would also be a cozy read-together for bedtime or any story time.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Compendium, Inc., 2017 | ISBN  978-1943200085

To learn more about Kobi Yamada visit the Compendium, Inc. website.

View a portfolio of illustration work and sketches by Natalie Russell on her website.

World Teacher’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-teacher-coloring-certificate

Thank You, Teacher! Certificate

 

If you have a favorite teacher, here’s a printable Thank You, Teacher Certificate for you to color, fill out, and give to them today or any day.

Picture Book Review

April 21 – National Kindergarten Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-good-morning-cover

About the Holiday

As the school year winds down, all of those soon-to-be preschool graduates are looking forward to going to kindergarten in the fall. Becoming a “big kid” with new friends to make, new responsibilities, and lots of new things to learn is exciting. National Kindergarten Day celebrates that feeling and wishes all young learners the best start to their school career.

My Good Morning

Written by Kim Crockett Corson | Illustrated by Jelena Brezovec

 

A little girl wakes up before the sun to start her day. She’s ready and rarin’ to go so why aren’t Mommy and Daddy? Slippers on, she runs to wash her hands “without a hitch” even though—Oops!—the soap is so slippery! Next she brushes her teeth, which is a cinch once there’s more toothpaste in her mouth than in her hair and on the mirror. She’s even got the potty thing down.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-good-morning-washing-hands

Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

Then, says the girl it’s “Onto the bed, where I jump up and down. / Whee! There’s no time to waste as I flop around. / Mommy wrestles me into my clothes. / Daddy slide socks and shoes over my toes.” She ties her own shoes over mismatched socks, and her coat, though askew, is buttoned bottom to top. Before school she has just enough time to slurp down some milk. Her kitty laps up the splashes and drips.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-good-morning-getting-dressed

Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

Bundled up for the cold, the little girl strides out the door, but just at the edge she trips over the rug. Not to worry, she says. “I pick myself up, / then I wave and smile.” And so what if “getting me into the car seat / takes a while.” At school she climbs the stairs without any help. She puts her backpack on the shelf and her coat on the hook—well, almost.

In the classroom, the little girl says hi to her friends and then with “so many puzzles and toys, / I’m ready to play! / I hug Daddy good-bye, / I’m going to have a great day!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-good-morning-coat-on-hook

Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

In Kim Crockett Corson’s “can-do” book for young readers, a little girl is exuberant and positive as she gets ready for school. Kids will love the girl’s infectious personality that turns every experience into a self-confidence boosting success. The cheery rhymes echo the little girl’s attitude, making My Good Morning a perfect book to share with readers who are beginning to make their way in the world.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-good-morning-waking-up

Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

Jelena Brezovec’s colorful illustrations offer both humor and encouragement as she juxtaposes the little girl’s view of her accomplishments with the small mishaps that accompany them. The girl’s parents are in turn smiling, frazzled, watchful, and ultimately proud. Brezovec’s portrayal of an interracial couple is welcome, and the curly-haired little girl will become a fast friend to little readers.

Ages 4 – 6

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373423

Discover a gallery of illustration work by Jelena Brezovec on her website!

All or Nothing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-today-is-a-good-day-coloring-page

Today is a Good Day Coloring Page

 

You can make every day a good day just by remembering the good things (even one good thing) that happened. Color and hang this printable Today is a Good Day Coloring Page. It will make you smile!

Picture Book Review

April 13 – National Make Lunch Count Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sandwich-swap-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage American workers to get away from their desk and eat lunch out with friends and coworkers. Taking a break from the office and spending lunchtime having a little fun or over a stimulating conversation can rejuvenate you for the rest of the day. Many people have also embraced the holiday as a way to remind themselves and others to eat healthy and make what they make (or order) nutritious and beneficial. To celebrate, make lunch an adventure today. You might even decide to try something new—like the little girls in today’s book!

The Sandwich Swap

Written by Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio | Illustrated by Tricia Tusa 

 

Salma and Lily were best friends. At school they did everything together in the classroom and on the playground. They also ate lunch together every day. They loved all the same things—until it came to what was packed in their lunchboxes. Lily always had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and Salma always had a hummus and pita sandwich.

While Lily never said so, she thought Salma’s sandwich looked yucky, and Salma kept quiet about her opinion that Lily’s sandwich seemed gross. But one day, Lily did say what she’d been thinking. Salma couldn’t believe her ears. She frowned and “looked down at the thin, soft bread. She thought of her beautiful smiling mother as she carefully cut Salma’s sandwich into two neat halves that morning.” First she felt hurt; then she felt mad.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sandwich-swap-argument

Image copyright Tricia Tusa, 2010, text copyright Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Salma let Lily know just how gross and icky-smelling she thought Lily’s sandwich was. “Lily looked surprised. She sniffed the thick, squishy bread, and she thought of her dad in his silly apron whistling” as he cut her sandwich into triangles. After that the two girls did not play or draw together. And the next day, they ate at separate tables. The story of Salma and Lily’s argument had spread, and the other kids chose sides. In the cafeteria, they lobbed insults, calling each other “jelly heads” and “chick pea brains.”

Pretty soon there were shouts of “you’re weird” and “you dress dumb.” It wasn’t long before someone yelled “Food Fight!” and peanut butter, hummus, and all types of sandwiches flew through the air. “They stuck to the walls. They stuck to the ceiling. They stuck to the lunch lady.” Before anyone knew it, pudding cups and applesauce and carrot sticks were soaring through the air.

Lily and Salma gazed at each other across the mess and “felt ashamed by what they saw.” After they helped clean it all up and were sent to the principal’s office, they felt even worse. The next day, Lily and Salma once again sat across from each other during lunch. At last Lily said, “‘Would you like to try a bite of my peanut butter and jelly?” Salma said that she would and offered Lily a nibble of her hummus sandwich. Lily agreed.

On the count of three, Lily and Salma tried each other’s sandwiches. “Yummy! Mmmmm!” they both said, and then they traded sandwiches. After lunch they met with the principal again to tell her an idea they’d had. And on a sunny day, the school held a picnic where everyone shared their favorite lunch from their native country.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sandwich-swap-picnic

Image copyright Tricia Tusa, 2010, text copyright Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

The school lunchroom with its unique dynamics is a perfect setting for Queen Rania Al Abdullah and Kelly DiPuccio’s story that highlights the kinds of prejudice children can encounter whether for food choices or other differences. The inclusion of Salma’s and Lily’s thoughts about their parents is a poignant reminder of how profound and complex children’s emotions are. The humor and honesty in the girls’ relationship, thoughts, and argument as well as the food fight will resonate with readers. Salma’s and Lily’s decision to renew their friendship and try each other’s lunches and to share their revelation with their classmates leads to the kind of growth we all want for our kids.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sandwich-swap-hug

Tricia Tusa’s delicate and soft-hued mixed-media illustrations portray the joys of being best friends as Lily and Salma draw, swing, jump rope, and eat lunch together in beautiful two-page spreads. When their true feelings about each other’s sandwiches comes out, the girls are clearly reflective and then hurt and angry as they scowl nose to nose. The food fight is a double-spread free-for-all that will make kids laugh as the lunch lady seems to take the brunt of the flying food. The final gate-fold scene of the multicultural picnic is heartwarming.

The Sandwich Swap is a terrific read at home and in the classroom, especially near the beginning of the school year. The book is also a wonderful prelude to a classroom or school-wide multicultural day or food fair.

Ages 3 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2010 | ISBN 978-1423124849

Learn more about Queen Rania Al Abdulla of Jordan and her global advocacy on her website.

Discover more about Kelly DiPucchio and her books on her website.

Get to know Tricia Tusa and view a portfolio of her books and art on her website.

Make Lunch Count Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lunch-container

Personalized Lunch Container

 

Take your lunch to school or work in style with this quick and easy craft! All you need is a plastic sandwich or food container, some permanent markers, and your creativity!

Picture Book Review

January 23 – National Handwriting Day & Multicultural Children’s Book Day Review

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-cover

About the Holiday

Established in 1977, National Handwriting Day commemorates the act of putting thoughts to paper with a pen or pencil. In this age of computer writing programs, email, and texting, the art and joy of penmanship is waning. Handwriting, though, is unique to each individual and should be celebrated and encouraged! One of the best ways for kids to develop handwriting skills is by writing letters to friends and family. Finding a pen pal either close to home or from another country is another fantastic way to make new friends that can bring joy, broaden horizons, build empathy and respect for others, and promote a lifetime love of learning about our world—just as today’s book that celebrates the ideals of Multicultural Children’s Book Day shows!

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo

 

Teachers know that when their students get to know other kids from nearby or far away, they gain an understanding of different traditions and cultures and develop the kinds of caring, empathy, and kindness that make the world a better place for all. Add in some poetry and the fun of sending—and receiving—letters, and you’ve got…Dear Dragon: A Pen Pale Tale—a clever tribute to creative communication and friendship.

As the story opens, George and his classmates are learning about their new project. Elsewhere, Dragomir and his classmates are getting the details on their new project. And what is this new assignment? This year in each classroom the poetry and pen pal projects are being combined, so all correspondence must be written in rhyme.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-teacher

Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

On each student’s desk is an envelope with the name of the pen pal they’ve been given. George Slair opens his envelope to discover that he’s been matched with Blaise Dragomir, and Blaise pulls George’s name from his envelope. What George doesn’t know—but readers do—is that Blaise is a dragon; and what Blaise doesn’t know—but readers do—is that George is a boy.

In his first letter, George begins with honesty and a bit about himself: “Dear Blaise Dragomir, / We haven’t met each other, and I don’t know what to say. / I really don’t like writing, but I’ll do it anyway. / Yesterday my dad and I designed a giant fort. / I like playing catch and soccer. What’s your favorite sport? / Sincerely, George Slair.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-castle

Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

 

As Blaise reads the letter he pictures George’s fort as a medieval stone fortress with an iron gate and whittled-to-a-point log fencing instead of the cardboard box, blanket, and umbrella that it actually was. Blaise writes back: “Dear George Slair, / I also don’t like writing, but I’ll try it, I suppose. / A fort is like a castle, right? I love attacking those. / My favorite sport is skydiving. I jump near Falcor Peak. / Tomorrow is my birthday, but my party is next week. / Sincerely, Blaise Dragomir.”

In his next letter, dated October 31, more earth-bound George tells Blaise that parachuting is awesome, that his dog destroyed his fort, and that he is trick-or-treating as a knight—a revelation to which Blaise has a visceral response. But what is scary to one pal is tame to the other. On November 14th Blaise relates: “Knights are super scary! I don’t like trick-or-treat. / Brushing teeth is such a pain, I rarely eat a sweet. / My pet’s a Bengal Kitten and tonight she needs a bath. / What’s your favorite class in school? I’m really into math!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-washing-kitten

Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Reading December’s letter, Blaise learns that George likes art and imagines the table-top volcano science project George writes about as a roaring, lava-spewing mountain. In January George is impressed to learn that Blaise’s father is a fire-breather. He conjures up images of a dad in a fancy, caped costume creating fire out of nothing, but the truth is a lot more explosive. February brings word that George’s mom and dad are teachers and that a pen-pal picnic is planned for June.

When Blaise writes back in March, he reveals that his dad’s into learning too: “…every night we read a book / or pick a game to play.” Then he tells George about a special outing he’s looking forward to with his dad: “Soon he’s gonna take me flying, once it’s really spring. / It’s such a rush to ride the air that flows from wing to wing.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-volcano

Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

On April 11th George expresses his wonder at Blaise’s parents: “Hi, Blaise! / Skydiving and flying? Wow, your parents rock! / I’m lucky if my father lets me bike around the block.” Then George asks a question that shows this project’s worth: “Once the school year’s over and this project is complete, / should we continue writing? ‘Cause it could be kind of neat….” Signing off, George abandons the formal “Sincerely, George” for “Your friend.” 

Blaise is all in for continuing this friendship. In his May letter, he writes, “Hey, George! / I’m psyched about the picnic and I can’t wait to attend. / Who’d have thought this pen pal thing would make me a new friend? / Writing more sounds awesome. I was gonna ask you, too! / I’ve never liked to write as much as when I write to you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-sky-diving

Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

With a growing sense of anticipation, readers know that with a turn of the page June will come, and that June brings the long-awaited picnic. How will George and Blaise react when they see each other? As the children approach the Pen Pal Picnic spot and see the friends they’ve been writing to all year, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. And as the dragons peek out from behind the trees to see the friends they’ve been writing to all year, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide.

“‘Blaise?’” a surprised George ventures, as a slice of tomato drops from his hamburger. “‘George?’” an astonished Blaise guesses, while nervously holding his tail. “‘My pen pal is a dragon?’” says George. “‘My pen pal is a human?’” echoes Blaise.

For a moment the celebration stops, but with the turn of the page, huge grins burst out on both George and Blaise as they exchange high fives (and fours). The other kid-and-dragon pals are having a blast too! And what do the teachers have to say? “‘Our plan was a success, my friend, or so it would appear!’ / ‘The Poetry and Pen Pal Project! Once again next year?’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-picnic

Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

In his inventive story that celebrates friendship, diversity, and the joy of discovering different viewpoints, Josh Funk shows the power of writing and communication to unite people of all backgrounds. Through the alternating letters from George and Blaise, Funk deftly demonstrates that many experiences are universal—like pets, school, hobbies, and parents—while others are just waiting to be shared.  Blaise Dagomir and George Slair’s names are inspired, and may introduce kids to the ancient legends of Saint George and the Dragon and the poem St George and the Dragon by Alfred Noyes. This shout out to this well-known poem of the past further highlights the importance of reading all types of literature for both children and adults in connecting us as global citizens.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-flying

Following the alternating sequence of the letters, Rodolfo Montalvo depicts each pen pal’s perception of the message—along with the reality—in his illustrations that are, as George exclaims, “as awesome as it gets.” There is a special delight in seeing how sweet, earnest, and happily supportive of each other’s lifestyle Blaise and George are as they react to every letter. The full-bleed pages and vibrant colors dazzle with excitement, humor, and ingenious details. The final spreads build suspense as to how George and Blaise will react to each other, and the resolution is cheerfully satisfying.

One striking aspect of both the text and the illustrations is the similarity between the two pen pals. While their activities and experiences may be on different scales, they are comparable and understandable to each child. Likewise, in each painting Montalvo uses complementary colors to unite George and Blaise. This cohesiveness in both words and pictures beautifully represents the theme of inclusiveness.

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale is a fantastic read-aloud with multiple applications for fun and discussion at home and during classroom and library story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0451472304

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find plenty of fun activities to enjoy on his website.

Learn more about Rodolfo Montalvo and his artwork on his website

National Handwriting Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-mcbd-word-search

 

Hello, Friends! Word Search Puzzle

 

Friends say and write “hello” to each other all over the world. You can learn how to say “hello” in twenty-five languages as you look for them in this printable Hello, Friends Word Search Puzzle!

Hello, Friends! Word Search Puzzle | Hello, Friends! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-multicultural-children's-book-day-logo-2018

About Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. View our 2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors here: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/2106-sponsors/mcbd2018-medallion-level-sponsors/

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/about/co-hosts/

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12 5-book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Social Media

Don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Be sure and look for and use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Picture Book Review

 

December 15 – It’s Universal Human Rights Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-days-around-the-world-cover

About the Holiday

December is Human Rights Month, an observance established by the United Nations in order to raise awareness of, promote, and protect the equality of the world’s citizens. Following World War II the United Nations General Assembly put forth thirty articles covering rights of education, freedom, health, and more. These articles serve to protect people in times of war and peace to help ensure that all people around the world are allowed to live in freedom and safety. It takes vigilance, compassion, dedication, and determination, but achieving the goal of equal human rights is a responsibility we all share.

School Days Around the World

Written by Margriet Ruurs | Illustrated by Alice Feagan

 

Every day millions of children around the world go to school, but schools can vary from place to place. Some classes are held in large buildings with libraries, science labs, and computer rooms while others gather in small buildings or even outside. “Schools around the world may be very different, but children everywhere like to have friends and learn new things.” In School Days Around the World, readers meet children from thirteen countries to learn what their educational day is like.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-days-around-the-world-violin.jpg

Image copyright Alice Feagan, 2015, text copyright Margriet Ruurs, 2015. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

First, children meet Tamatoa, who attends school on Rarotonga, one of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. Tamatoa arrives to school on a scooter just as the “thang-Thong-thang! of the wooden slit drum calls students inside. Tamatoa’s teacher is wearing flowers in her hair as she does every day. She teaches the children their Ura language, and in the afternoon they dance the hupa, the island’s traditional dance. In Singapore Raphael goes to an international school where the students speak many languages. Raphael knows Dutch, English, and Spanish. His best friend Aamon speaks Hindi, Chinese, and English. Raphael likes to read and write stories on the computer. Sometimes they “have a craft fair to raise money to help children in other parts of the world.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-days-around-the-world-international-school

Image copyright Alice Feagan, 2015, text copyright Margriet Ruurs, 2015. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Marta walks to her school in Azezo, Ethiopi, even though she is blind. Her friend Ayana holds her hand tightly to help “her around potholes and cow patties.” There are so many students that there are two different sessions. Marta goes in the morning with 500 other children. There are 70 students in her class. They learn Amharic and about Ethiopia. At noon Ayana and Marta “hurry home to help feed the ox and cow and to fetch water from the village well.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-days-around-the-world-china

Image copyright Alice Feagan, 2015, text copyright Margriet Ruurs, 2015. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Camilla is from Germany. Her older brother Johannes lives at a boarding school during the school year. He shares his room in an old stone house with three boys. Everyone eats together and cleans up afterward—just like in a family. In class he learns “about nature and science. They also learn how to sail.” Camilla can’t wait until it’s her turn to go to school.

If you visited Annika at school in Copenhagan, Denmark, you would probably spend most of the day outside. Some days the students take a bus to their forest school. There the “run and climb on an old boat.” They “play on swings and with a ball.” Outside they also listen to birds and learn about plants and insects and other parts of nature.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-days-around-the-world-craft-fair

Image copyright Alice Feagan, 2015, text copyright Margriet Ruurs, 2015. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

While Annika enjoys spending cold days outside, Ana’s days are usually warm. She lives in San Luis, Honduras and walks an hour from her home in the hills to her new school. Inside, two teachers show the children how to read and write. Sometimes, Ana says, “a nurse visits our school. She teaches us how to brush our teeth and stay healthy.” One day a van delivers backpacks full of school supplies, books, and even running shoes.

In Alberta Canada, Shanika goes to a First Nations school where she learns her traditional Cree language along with math and language arts. After lunch, they hear stories, and elders teach them “powwow dances, drumming and how to raise a teepee. They also hold feasts where there are prayers, and the whole community shares tea, soup, bannock loaded with beans and cheese, and berries.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-days-around-the-world-turkey

You can also spend school days with Lu in China, Alina in Kazakhstan, Mathii in Kenya, Bilge in Turkey, Luciano in Venezuela, and Amy and Gwen in Alaska, USA.

 In her short, engaging stories based on the lives of real families, Margriet Ruurs takes readers globe-trotting with new friends to show readers a typical school day in cities big and small. The details of each child’s experience—both familiar and unique—help readers learn more about their peers, promoting greater empathy and understanding now and for a better future.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-days-around-the-world-dancing

Image copyright Alice Feagan, 2015, text copyright Margriet Ruurs, 2015. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Alice Feagan’s cut paper collages are full of joy and personality as kids dance, play, read, and study together. While the students’ clothing, lunches, and school buildings may differ from country to country, readers will see that the enthusiasm to learn is universal. A world map at the beginning of the book points out where each featured child lives.

A discussion following the text gives teachers, homeschoolers, and individuals tips on using the book to expand on the stories told. A glossary provides definitions and a pronunciation key for the native words found throughout the book. School Days Around the World offers a wonderful opportunity to jumpstart lessons on world customs and geography.

Ages  3 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1771380478

Discover more about Margriet Ruurs and her books as well as activities for teachers and readers on her website!

You’ll find more about Alice Feagan and a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

Universal Human Rights Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-human-rights-month-coloring-page

Friends Around the World Coloring Page

 

Having friends from all over the world is fun! Grab your colored pencils or crayons and enjoy this printable Friends Around the World Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

October 28 – Make a Difference Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bonaparte-falls-apart-cover

About the Holiday

Make a Difference Day was instituted in 1992 on February 29 – leap day – to encourage individuals and groups to find a way to help others. The idea took off and has become one of the largest single-day celebration of service nationwide. Thousands of people across the country use this day for projects big and small that change the world for the better. To celebrate today consider how you might make a positive change. As today’s book shows, just being a caring friend can go a long way in making someone’s life better.

Bonaparte Falls Apart

Written by Margery Cuyler | Illustrated by Will Terry

 

Something was happening to Bonaparte. Whenever “he rode his bike or played catch or visited the doctor’s office”—basically all the time—his bones broke apart. “Sometimes his bones rolled away, and it took him forever to find them.” He wondered what would happen when school started. He was worried that everyone would make fun of him.

Bonaparte’s friend Franky Stein thought that by gluing and screwing his bones into place, Bonaparte would stick together. But when they tried it, Bonaparte found that he couldn’t move at all. Blacky Widow, Bonaparte’s spider buddy, figured she could tie his bones together with her web, but after she had spun and spun her threads around him, Bonaparte was just left hanging and tangled up.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bonaparte-falls-apart-crow

Image copyright Will Terry, 2017, courtesy of Crown Books for Young Readers.

Mummicula thought he had the perfect solution and wrapped Bonaparte round and round until he was completely wrapped up—completely. Bonaparte couldn’t see anything, so “Mummicula had to undo all his hard work.” While the summer passed, Bonaparte grew more and more worried. One day he thought about it so much “that his head fell off.”

As Franky Stein picked it up and returned it to its rightful spot, he and the others all vowed to find a way to solve the problem before school started. They tried lots of remedies: Mummicula thought a staple gun might work; Blacky Widow liked the idea of using clay, and Franky Stein got out his hammer and nails. But nothing did the trick “until…a dog ran by with a bone in his mouth.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bonaparte-falls-apart-mandible

Image copyright Will Terry, 2017, courtesy of Crown Books for Young Readers.

Mummicula suggested that someone who loved bones so much would be a perfect companion for Bonaparte. They brought the dog to Bonaparte, and Bonaparte was immediately smitten. “‘What a fetching dog!’” he exclaimed. Then Franky told him the plan: “‘You can teach him to retrieve your bones.’” Bonaparte loved this idea—and his crew. “‘You are my bone-a-fide friends!’” he said.

Bonaparte spent the last two weeks before school started teaching Mandible to fetch the bones he lost. As he waited at the bus stop that first day, Bonaparte was still a little nervous, but as his arm and the ball flew out into home-run territory, the kids cheered. At lunch, losing his teeth just made him a “jaw-dropping sensation, and in science class he made for a “rib-tickling wonder” of a skeletal exhibit. At last, Bonaparte realized that he “could hang loose without anyone making fun of him, and this made him very happy.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bonaparte-falls-apart-jungle-gym

Image copyright Will Terry, 2017, courtesy of Crown Books for Young Readers.

Margery Cuyler’s monstrously cute story of a little skeleton who just can’t keep it together will have kids giggling along with every “clack clack” of Bonaparte’s errant bones. But Cuyler presents more profound issues as well. Readers will understand and sympathize with Bonaparte’s worrying over being different and made fun of because of his unusual plight. Through Bonaparte’s caring, tight-knit group, children will see that by supporting a friend through tough times, they can help find solutions and make a positive difference. Cuyler’s charming story is true to children’s natures and ideas and offers a “bone-anza” of puns that will delight kids.

Will Terry knows a thing or two about monsters—adorable monsters, that is. As Bonaparte’s hands drop off, legs and arms go flying, and head rolls under the bed, his expressive eyes seem to take it all in stride. He also accepts his friends’ attempts to keep him together with patience and an endearing smile. Franky Stein, Mummicula and Blacky Widow are also sweetly earnest in their attempts to help. Kids will love the hilarious illustrations of Bonaparte and Mandible at school and linger over the last two-page spread where young zombies, pirates, vampires, witches, and other students play on the jungle gym.

Bonaparte Falls Apart is a unique book about friendship and school for any time of the year, and would be a favorite of little monster lovers for home and the classroom.

Ages 3 – 7

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN  978-1101937686

Discover more about Margery Cuyler and her many books for children on her website.

You’ll find a gallery of books and artwork by Will Terry on his website.

Make a Difference Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hot-chocolate-jar

Friendship Hot Chocolate Jar

 

Being a good friend is one of the best ways to make a difference, and with this gift you can show your friends how much they mean to you!

Supplies

  • Mason jar or other wide-mouth jar
  • Large canister of hot chocolate mix
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Chocolate chips, milk chocolate or semi-sweet
  • A scrap of material large enough to cover the lid of the jar
  • Paper
  • String or ribbon
  • Marker
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Measure 1 cup hot chocolate mix and pour it into the jar
  2. Sprinkle in a layer of marshmallows
  3. Pour in another 1 cup of hot chocolate mix
  4. Add another layer of marshmallows
  5. Continue layering until you reach the top of the jar. The hot chocolate mix and marshmallows may become mixed together.
  6. Top with a layer of chocolate chips
  7. Put on the lid and tighten
  8. Cut a circle from the material 1-inch diameter larger around than the size of the jar lid
  9. Secure the material around the lid with ribbon or string or, if using a mason jar, place it between the sections of the lid.
  10. Make a tag for your gift with the paper
  11. Give your gift and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate with your friend!

Picture Book Review