November 8 – Parents as Teachers Day

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About the Holiday

The idea for Parents as Teachers goes back to the 1970s when Missouri educators noticed that not all kindergarteners were beginning school with the same skill set. Research demonstrated the benefits of parental involvement in reading, writing, and math before children began school as well as early detection and intervention for children with delayed development and health issues. Support services and parental education aided an awareness of the importance of children’s earliest years. Parents as Teachers Day was officially instituted in 2001 by the Parents as Teachers National Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Community events and outreach to parents mark the day’s activities.

Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young

Written by Marianne Berkes | Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

 

You may not remember, but when you were little your parents, grandparents, and others carried you – a lot! But what do animals do with their babies? “There are no baby backpacks, / no wraps or straps or slings, / no seats to buckle kids in, / or many other things.” Let’s take a look at some very different animals and see how they take care of their young.

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Image copyright Cathy Morrison, 2017, text copyright Marianne Berkes, 2017. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

A sea otter pup rides on her mother’s belly as she floats along on her back. But what does the mother sea otter do when she needs to hunt for food? She “wraps her baby in long strands of kelp seaweed to keep her pup from floating away.” Hanging upside down high in a tree seems pretty dangerous for a baby, but a little sloth clings on tight to his mother’s fur and stays there “for almost a year.”

While mother animals do much of the rearing of their little ones, both moms and dads in common loon families are involved. They both give their chicks rides on their backs to keep them “safe from fish and turtle predators.” No person wants to get close to an alligator’s sharp teeth, but inside her wide jaws is just where baby alligators feel safest. When they want to leave their nest, the hatchlings call to their mother, who returns and “gently lifts them out, a few at a time, and carries them to the water for safety.”

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Image copyright Cathy Morrison, 2017, text copyright Marianne Berkes, 2017. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Do you see the baby anteater? She’s cleverly concealed! “Blending in with mama’s fur, you hardly see this pup. It rides upon her hairy back while she digs insects up.” What about kangaroos, opossums, manatees, chimpanzees, wolf spiders, emperor penguins, and lions? How do they carry their babies and protect them while they grow? You’ll find out all about what these animals do. Then it’s time for you to learn “how did someone carry you?”

Backmatter presents an illustrated matching game for kids as well as extensive resources, including more information about each animal, language arts, math, science, engineering, and movement lesson extentions, and suggestions for further reading for teachers and parents.

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Image copyright Cathy Morrison, 2017, text copyright Marianne Berkes, 2017. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Marianne Berkes engages young readers in learning about twelve familiar and more unusual animals in two ways. First, a sweet rhyming couplet—which can be used as a fun guessing game—introduces each animal. Berkes then expands on the information with a brief and fascinating fact or two about how the animal’s method of holding her or his young protects them, feeds them, or moves them from place to place.

Little environmentalist in the making will be awed by Cathy Morrison’s realistic illustrations of each adult animal and baby in their natural habitat. Morrison’s images are so lifelike that readers can count individual hairs on the mother sloth’s arms and marvel at the sharpness of her claws as they wrap around a tree branch and almost feel the softness of the baby otter’s curly fur as she and her mother float in a bed of kelp. The animal’s facial expressions are likewise realistic while showing concern on the part of the adult and complete trust on the part of the babies.

There will be plenty of ewwws and ahhhs for the wolf spider and alligator, and as they watch the lion cup nearly bound off the page, kids will want to start all over and see these majestic wonders again. Morrison’s detailed backgrounds are no less fascinating as they contain clear images of the landscapes each animal calls home, complete with plants, trees, insects, waterways, and more.

Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young provides nature and animal lovers much to learn and talk about. The extra resources also make this a valuable book to add to classroom, homeschool, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 6

Dawn Publications, 2017 | ISBN 978-1584695936

Discover more about Marianne Berkes and her books on her website. 

To learn more about Cathy Morrison, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Parents as Teachers Day Activity

cute animal coloring pages Best of rhino and her baby free animal coloring pages kleurplaat

Animal Family Coloring Pages

 

Here are three animal families for you to enjoy coloring. Grab your crayons or pencils and have fun!

Lion and Baby | Zebra and Baby | Hippo and Baby

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You can find Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 12 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

When children hear, see, and live what’s in the news, they want to know more about the whos, whys, and hows—and they want to know what they can do. Through picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels young readers and adults find ways to understand, interpret, and discuss issues in the world today. Many books from picture books on up inspire readers to stand up for others, be a friend, use their talents to help those in need, and make a difference in their own unique way. This month gives readers a great opportunity to discover books that can answer questions, empower children, and make the world a better place for them to grow up in.

This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Daniel Roode

 

Like the best school career day ever, ten of history’s and today’s greatest scientists line up in front of the chalkboard to talk about their work. First they reveal that secret to their success—the scientific method: “Asking why. Then making a guess. Asking how. Then proving with tests.” First up is Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered gravity. Little ones will learn that he also found the color spectrum and “figured out three rules for how objects move.”

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Next to take center stage is Maria Sibylla Merian, a painter who through her art explained wonders of the insect world, including “how caterpillars turn into butterflies through a change called metamorphosis.”

Even the youngest readers may recognize Albert Einstein with his disheveled white hair. They’ll be amazed to learn that he devised a formula to explain how “energy and mass are the same thing in different forms.” He also found that nothing is faster than the speed of light.

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Katherine Johnson can look back on a stellar career as a mathematician who “solved hard math problems on paper” before computers were used “so that space heroes like John Glenn could safely orbit the Earth.” Kids who love animals will want to meet Jane Goodall who “studied chimpanzees / and made friends with them / among Africa’s trees.” And starry-eyed kids who look to the skies will want to hear about Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium who “helps us understand / how our universe works / and how it began.”

Four more scientists step up to tell their stories. To close out the book, little readers will find a double-spread portrait gallery of seventeen more, complete with one-sentence descriptions for their contribution. Readers will find that the final frame has been left open for… them?

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Joan Holub distills the scientific method and the biographies of ten influential scientists into short, clear nuggets of information that even the youngest readers can appreciate. A four-line rhyming verse introduces the scientist on the lefthand side while one or two facts on the right-hand side expand on their work. The engaging tone and variety of sciences and scientists represented will entice discoverers-in-the-making to learn more.

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Daniel Roode cartoon-inspired but readily recognizable portraits of each scientist will charm readers as each is portrayed working with the subject of their experiments or set on a backdrop of their specialty. Clothing and hairstyles give kids a sense of each scientist’s place in history. Roode’s vibrant colors and dynamic illustrations in addition to the bright smile each scientist wears celebrates the sciences while applauding the discoveries made by women and men dedicated to advancing knowledge and creating the future.

For little ones who are curious about the world around them and how it works, This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, part of the This Little series, which includes This Little Explorer, This Little President, and This Little Trailblazer, is a smart, innovative choice for home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Little Simon, Simon & Schuster, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534401082

Discover more about Joan Holub and her books on her website

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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Experiment!

We all know that cooler weather means shock season will soon be here. But you don’t have to wait until the fuzzy socks and fleecy blankets come out to have some fun with static electricity. Using a blown-up balloon can be a dramatic way to show kids what’s going on with the electrons that are at the center of this phenomenon.

Babies and young children should be supervised by an adult while playing with balloons.

How does it work? Static electricity is generated when there is an excess of electrons on one object giving it an electric charge. These electrons are attracted to an object with fewer electrons and will jump to it when placed close by.

How do you produce static electricity? Just rub the blown-up balloon on your shirt, on your hair, on a blanket or other surface. Then try these experiments!

CRAZY HAIR

Generate static electricity on a blown-up balloon then hold it near your hair and watch it go a little crazy!

HANG A BALLOON

Generate static electricity on a blown-up balloon and gently place it on the wall and watch it hang all by itself.

BEND WATER

This bit of balloon magic will amaze you! Generate static electricity on a blown-up balloon. Turn on a faucet to a thin stream of water. Hold the balloon near the stream of water and watch it bend toward the balloon. 

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You can find This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 25 – It’s National Water Quality Month

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About the Holiday

The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, and the years from 2005 to 2015 were declared an International Decade for Action: Water is Life by the United Nations to focus on the necessity of clean water around the world. Today, the work continues. The importance of clean water cannot be understated. The quality of life and the survival of all ecosystems depends on the availability of good quality water. The fact that the water systems and the water cycle are intrinsically linked not only to bodies of water but to what occurs on land, makes it critical that we treat all parts of the environment with care. Runoff from businesses, industries, and homes can quickly pollute local and remote water system. National Water Quality Month encourages people to be mindful of the amount of water and the household products they use, and it advocates for responsible and environmentally protective policies on the part of industry and governments. To honor this month’s holiday, learn more about what you can do to protect the world’s water supply.

Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle

Written by Miranda Paul | Illustrated by Jason Chin

 

On a soaking rainy day a sister and brother run up to the house with a turtle they’ve caught in the pond out back. They drink glasses of water and offer a bowlful for the turtle too. “Drip. Sip. Pour me a cup.” Out on the porch Dad is ready with warm mugs of hot chocolate. The ghostly steam tickles their noses. “Whirl. Swirl. Watch it curl by. Steam is steam unless…it cools high.” As the kids return the turtle to the pond they watch a dragon and an eagle play across the sky. “Clouds are clouds unless…they form low.”

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Image copyright Jason Chin, text copyright Miranda Paul. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Through the misty fog the school bus rumbles up the hill as a little garter snake wriggles in the fallen leaves at the end of the children’s driveway. By the time the bus drops the kids off at school the fog has turned to rain. It plinks on the sidewalks and pounds the earth, creating puddles just in time for recess. “Slosh in galoshes. Splash to your knees! Puddles are puddles unless…puddles freeze.”

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Image copyright Jason Chin, text copyright Miranda Paul. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

The turtle is hiding now that winter’s come, and a group of friends slip and speed across the pond, some playing hockey, some figure skating, and a couple just learning the ropes. Then suddenly it’s snowing! A brilliant red cardinal watches from the birdfeeder as three sneaky kids with snowballs spy on their friends who are building a snowman. With a “smack!” the snowball fight begins. Soon, however, spring is back with rushing streams and “Creep. Seep. Squish in your boots” mud. And that “mud is mud unless…there are roots.”

The apple trees in the backyard soak up the spring rains that feed the red, plump apples that are apples “unless…they get pressed. Drip. Sip. Pour me a cup. Cider is cider…until we drink it up!”

More information about water, including illustrated definitions of water-related terms, percentages of water in a variety of plants and creatures, and its importance to the world as well as suggestions for further reading, follow the text.

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Image copyright Jason Chin, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Miranda Paul’s lyrical journey through a year of our interactions with water is a beautiful reminder of all the forms water takes. From life-filled ponds to pouring rains to glasses of refreshment, water sustains every creature and plant on earth. Paul’s transitional “unless…” elegantly introduces each transformation in the natural water cycle in a way that children recognize and appreciate. Her rich rhyming and rhythmical language is a joy to read and makes Water an active character in the story.

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Image copyright Jason Chin, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Jason Chin’s superb artwork is as lush and dynamic as the world around us. Each two-page spread is a masterpiece of atmosphere and details that bring not only water’s cycle to life but also that of the children, growing and playing in and around water throughout the year. As the children shelter from the rain at the beginning of the book, a bushel of apples sits snug against the cider press in the corner of the porch foreshadowing the final pages where fresh cider fuels summer fun. Chin’s children are real kids—joyful and playful, enthusiastically and humorously interacting with nature and each other with the kind of abandon that makes hearts sing. Young readers and adults will love lingering over each page.

Water is Water: A Story of the Water Cycle is the kind of book that can get kids excited about one of the quieter aspects of science—but one that is so important to our daily lives. It would make a wonderful accompaniment to elementary school lesson plans and a gorgeous addition to library and home bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 10

Roaring Brook Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1596439849

Discover more about Miranda Paul and her books plus resources for teachers and writers on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Jason Chin and learn more about him and his books on his website!

National Water Quality Month Activity

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A Sprinkling of Water Words Word Search

 

This tree grew tall and strong by soaking up water through its roots. Can you find the 20 water-related words that are hidden inside this printable tree-shaped A Sprinkling of Water Word Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution.

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You can find Water is Water: A Book about the Water Cycle at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 20 – It’s Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

August is one of those transitional months—hot and humid, but with a touch of fall in the evening and early morning air. It’s also the month when most kids go back to school or are preparing for another year of learning. August is also a wonderful month to spend extra time with family. There are lots of things you can do with kids from planning special events at home to taking a family trip to a local or nearby park, zoo, or aquarium. This time spent together makes memories for a lifetime!

Zonderkidz sent me a copy of Fiona the Hippo to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Zonderkidz in a Fabulous Fiona! Giveaway that’s perfect for Family Fun Month! See details below.

Fiona the Hippo

By Richard Cowdrey

 

When a baby hippopotamus was born on a winter night at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, all the other animals were excited. They were surprised that she was part of their family so soon and were eager to see her. In fact, the whole world was excited to see her as word got out on news outlets and the Internet about Fiona—the baby hippo who had “arrived earlier than expected.” As she slept in a room just for her and was cared for by the zookeepers, the other animals peeked in. They thought she was cute and tiny, and Ostrich added, “kind of slimy!”

The zookeepers fed Fiona from a bottle and pretty soon she was big enough to learn how to walk. “And when she was ready, she let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said, ‘I’ve got this!’ And wobble-wobble-plop! She tried over and over, until she did.” Little Fiona grew quickly, and soon it was time for swimming lessons. With a little practice and a little help, Fiona became confident, until one day, she said “‘I’ve got this!’” and splashed right into the pool.

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Copyright Richard Cowdrey, 2018, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

While Fiona was growing and learning, she made the other animals proud. They couldn’t wait until she could “come out to play.” But Fiona was still busy growing and discovering new things. People who watched Fiona’s progress online sent fan mail. Soon, she had piles of letters and gifts congratulating her. They said “‘You are amazing! We love you, little baby hippo!’”

One day, Fiona looked out the window from her special enclosure and saw her mama and daddy swimming nearby. She wanted to be with them. The zookeepers agreed that Fiona was big enough and strong enough to be in the pool with her parents. As “she swam with her mama for the first time,” she “let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said, ‘I’ve got this!’”

She loved swimming with her mama and daddy, but she also wished for some friends to play with. The other zoo animals were thrilled to hear this. At last they would get their chance to have fun with Fiona too. Ostrich and turtle, elephant and otter, penguin and bear, and all the rest dove right in for “the biggest pool party the zoo had ever seen!” That night, Fiona snuggled with her mama and daddy and dreamed of all the adventures to come, telling herself, “‘I’ve got this!’”

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Copyright Richard Cowdrey, 2018, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With enthusiasm and humor, Richard Cowdrey tells the story of Fiona, a hippo born prematurely who overcame the odds of survival to become a favorite of people everywhere. By following Fiona’s progress and telling the story from her point of view, Cowdrey reaches out and embraces young readers, reassuring them that, like Fiona, they’ve “got this!”—no matter what new skill, adventure, or activity they face. Readers will eagerly read along with Fiona’s signature expression. The attentiveness of the other zoo animals also reminds kids that they aren’t alone, but have family and friends who love them.

Children will be charmed by Cowdrey’s realistic illustrations of the adorable Fiona. Images of her swaddled in a blanket by the zookeepers, wiggling her ears and smiling confidently as she learns skill after skill, and reuniting with her parents and other zoo animals are enchanting. Humorous pictures of Fiona snugged into a life vest, swimming tube, and pool noodles will make kids giggle with recognition. Animal lovers will want to linger over each page to enjoy the beautiful depictions of a wide range of their favorites.

A photograph of the real Fiona on the back cover will make readers smile, and an Author’s Note on the back of the book jacket relates the facts of Fiona’s birth, growth, and well-deserved fame.

An inspiring tale of perseverance, self-confidence, and friendship, Fiona the Hippo is an aww-inspiring delight that will capture young readers’ hearts at home and would spark excitement for science and social learning in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310766391 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0310766360 (Board Book)

Discover more about Richard Cowdrey, his books, and his art on his website.

Fabulous Fiona! Giveaway

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Fiona-the-Hippo_Fabulous-Fiona-Prize

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Zonderkidz in this fabulous giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Fiona the Hippo, by Richard Cowdrey
  • Plus a $50 Visa gift card to take your family out on the town.

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, August 20-26. 

A winner will be chosen on August 27.

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

About Fiona the Hippo

Fiona the Hippo, by New York Times bestselling artist Richard Cowdrey of Bad Dog, Marley fame, tells the story of Fiona, the adorable internet sensation from the Cincinnati Zoo who captured hearts around the world with her inspiring story and plucky personality.

Born prematurely, at only 29 pounds, Fiona was not expected to live. But her spunk and determination helped her thrive and become a happy, healthy hippopotamus. With every challenge she faced, Fiona let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said “I’ve got this.” And she did! Through this whimsical and inspiring tale of perseverance and friendship, inspired by the real adventure of this heroic hippo, kids join Fiona and her lovable animal friends at the zoo as she is introduced to the world.

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-author-richard-cowdrey-headshot

About the Author

Richard Cowdrey’s favorite things to draw and paint are the common things seen everywhere in nature. He especially enjoys capturing the expressions, eyes, and gestures of both humans and animals. Drawing and painting Fiona was challenging as the hippopotamus is a very unique yet beautiful creature! Richard’s bestselling children’s books include Legend of the Candy CaneBad DogMarley, and A Very Marley Christmas.

Family Fun Month Activity

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Playful Zoo Friends! Maze

 

These baby animals want to play together! Can you help the hippo round up his friends in this printable Zoo Friends Maze?

Playful Zoo Friends! Maze Puzzle | Playful Zoo Friends! Maze Solution

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You can find Fiona the Hippo at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 11 – Play in the Sand Day

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About the Holiday

Is there any better way to spend a summer day than playing on a sandy beach? That wet, compact surface is perfect for running on, digging in, and of course building sandcastles with. And the soft, dry areas? Their great for setting up chairs or blankets and wiggling toes in. Whether you head out to the ocean, a lake, or even a secluded river bank, don’t forget to pack a pail and shovel for some family fun!

How to Code a Sandcastle

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

It’s the last day of Pearl’s summer vacation, and she’s hit the beach with her parents. Her goal is to build a sandcastle. It’s not like she hasn’t tried on other beach days, but there was always something that destroyed it. There was the frisbee that landed on top of it, then a surfer glided right into it, and another girl’s dog, Ada Puglace, thought it needed a moat. But today, Pearl brought her robot, Pascal, to build her sandcastle.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

As Pearl explains, “He’ll do whatever I tell him—as long as I tell him in code. It’s not a secret code—it’s special instructions that computers understand.” Pearl points out the perfect spot on the beach for her sandcastle and tells Pascal to build it. But Pascal doesn’t move. Pearl realizes that she must break down the one big request into smaller problems for Pascal to solve. Easy-Peasy, Pearl thinks.

The first problem Pearl gives Pascal is: “find a place to build.” First Pascal travels out to sea, but Pearl tells him they must build on land. So Pascal rolls out into the parking lot. Hmmm…that’s not right either. Pearl decides she must be “very specific with my instructions.” When she tells Pascal to “find a flat spot on sand that isn’t too close to the water,” he marks an X on a perfect sandy spot. Great!

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

The second problem Pearl gives Pascal is to “gather up sand.” She’s learned to be very particular in her instructions, so she gives her robot a three-step process: “Fill the pail with sand, dump the sand on our spot, pat the sand down.” This works just right, so Pearl continues telling Pascal the directions, until she grows tired of speaking.

There must be a better way, Pearl thinks. How about a loop? Pearl directs Pascal to “loop through this sequence,” and just like that Pascal is off and rolling and Pearl gets to relax. A while later, Pearl discovers that Pascal had built a pyramid-high pile of sand, so Pearl tells him to stop. Next, they will “shape and decorate the castle.” Pearl comes back with pretty seashells to add to the castle, while Pascal brings back the lifeguard—in his chair. Pearl orders Pascal to bring back something smaller. When he comes back with a crab, she tells him it must be something that doesn’t move, and when he shows up with a baby’s pacifier, Pearl knows she must do a better job of explaining.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

She decides to give him “if—then—else” instructions. With these detailed directions, Pascal returns with a shell and some seaweed. Finally, it’s time to shape the castle. They use their buckets and hands to build a beautiful castle that even has a turret. The shells, rocks, and seaweed are the perfect finishing touches. With the castle finally finished, Pearl runs off to get her toys.

But when she gets back, Pearl discovers that the rising tide has washed their sandcastle out to sea. And to make matters worse, Ada Puglace is back to add another moat. Hmmm… a moat? Pearl thinks. That’s what she needed the first time. Pearl really wants to rebuild, but it took her half a day to make the first one. Then she realizes that the code is already written. All she has to do is use it again. In no time a new sandcastle stands gleaming on the beach.

There’s just one more problem to solve. Quickly, Pearl gives Pascal a new looped sequence to dig the moat. Now it’s time to play—or “code an entire kingdom!”

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

A Foreward written by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, introduces readers to this organization that is “working to close the gender gap in technology” and get girls of all ages excited about coding and future opportunities in science and technology. 

Pearl and Pascal’s Guide to Coding with brief discussions of Code, Sequence, Loops, and If-Then-Else follows the text.

With his infectious enthusiasm and talent to reach kids in new and innovative ways, Josh Funk, a computer programmer by day and super writer by night, is a perfect guide to the joys of coding for young learners. Taking kids out to the beach for a bit of sandcastle building—an endeavor that is often fraught with dangers—is a terrific way to show the procedures and power of coding. Pearl’s initial missteps in programming Pascal provide laugh-out-loud moments while also demonstrating that computer programs work with precise instructions. Her inexperience but quick learning will give readers confidence in their own abilities to code and where to look for problems if their program does not run as smoothly as they’d like. When high tide washes Pearl and Pascal’s sandcastle out to sea, readers may groan in empathy, but the opportunity to do it all again—only bigger and better—will make them cheer.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Sara Palacios’s golden beach is a wide-open and inviting platform to introduce the world of computer programming to young readers. Sunny and enthusiastic, Pearl, in her heart-shaped sunglasses, is persistent and smart in figuring out just how to make Pascal do what she wants. Pascal is a round, rolling cutie, perpetually happy to perform its duties. Series of panels and speech bubbles depict each instruction Pearl gives Pascal, clearly showing readers how coding and a computer’s response to its instructions work. Sequence loops are cleverly portrayed with typeface that creates a circle around Pearl’s floating ring and later around the trench that will surround the castle and become the moat. The final image of Pearl and Pascal celebrating their successful day together is powerful encouragement that a new day of girls and women in technology and science is on the horizon.

Coding a Sandcastle is a motivating combination of lighthearted fun and accessible education that will encourage girls—and boys—to get involved with computer coding just for their own enjoyment or as a future profession. It’s a must for school media and computer class libraries, and with this book on home bookshelves, kids won’t want to just play on the computer—they’ll be asking to program too.

Ages 4 – 8

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0425291986

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find lots of fun activities to do too on his website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Play in the Sand Day Activity

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Personalized Painted Pail

 

A trip to the beach or park isn’t complete without a pail to collect shells, seaweed, sea glass, pebbles, sticks, nuts, or other things in. But why should all the cool stuff be on the inside? With this craft you can decorate your pail to show your unique personality!

Supplies

  • Plastic or metal pail
  • Craft paint in various colors
  • Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating, for multi-surface use
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint designs on the pail
  2. When paint is dry spray with acrylic coating to set paint
  3. Let dry

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You can find How to Code a Sandcastle at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 3 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month and Interview with Author Jody Jensen Shaffer

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About the Holiday

Launched in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers and managed by Every Child a Reader, Get Caught Reading Month hopes to instill a love of reading in every child and encourages people of all ages to read more. Celebrities, authors, illustrators, and others participate by sharing pictures of themselves reading an old favorite or new book on social media. Special materials are available for and programs held in schools, libraries, bookstores, and community venues all month long. Why not join in by finding a new book to lovelike today’s book?! For more information and to find resources, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

Penguin Random House sent me a copy of A Chip Off the Old Block to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m partnering with Penguin Random House in a giving away a copy of A Chip Off the Old Block. See details below.

A Chip Off the Old Block

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

Rocky had an impressive family. There was Aunt Etna, Uncle Gibraltar, and his Great-Grandma Half Dome. His cousins were pretty well-known too. In fact, “tons of his relatives were rock stars.” Rocky loved hearing his parents’ stories about his family. Rocky wanted to be important too, but his parents thought he was too little. He may have been “just a chip off the old block” like his dad said, “but inside, Rocky was a boulder!”

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Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Rocky made a plan, and in the morning he hopped on a pickup truck headed for Arizona to join his cousin The Wave. As soon as he got there, though, a gust of wind blew him away. He landed hard and “noticed that a piece of him had broken off.” Undeterred, he caught a flight with an eagle out to Wyoming and another cousin, The Tower. Rocky was almost settled in when a rainstorm washed him over the side.

At the bottom of the long slide down, Rocky hitched a ride on a car bound for Texas. There, he thought he could watch over the sauropod tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park. But it didn’t take long for an armadillo to dig him out and send him back on the road again. this time he was determined to go to South Dakota. When he arrived, tinier than when he’d begun his trip, he decided that he’d make a terrific souvenir of his cousin Rushmore.

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Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Just then he heard the news. The park was closing because a crack had been discovered in Abraham Lincoln’s nose. “Rocky was crushed.” His dreams of being important would never come true now. But looking up at his cousin, he realized that maybe he could help. A passing lizard gave him a ride to the top, and Rocky jumped. He tumbled down, down and right into the crack in Lincoln’s nose. “He was a perfect fit! I did it! I did something important! I saved Abraham Lincoln!” Rocky exaulted, excited and proud.

Down below, visitors and park employees cheered. Reporters relayed the news, and photographers took pictures. The park was saved, and it was “all thanks to Rocky, the little pebble that wouldn’t be taken for granite.”

A guide to igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks, illustrated descriptions of some of the world’s most majestic rock formations, and an Author’s Note about Mount Rushmore follow the story.

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Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

There’s so much to love about Jody Jensen Shaffer’s A Chip Off the Old Block! Part adventure, part educational travelogue, and completely inspirational—with lots of funny wordplay to boot—Shaffer’s story will charm kids. Little Rocky is a sweetie of a go-getter who has big dreams and sets out to achieve them. He overcomes obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments and adjusts to changes with optimism while never losing heart and building up his self-confidence. Kids will cheer when Rocky finally finds the place where he can make the most monumental difference.

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Daniel Miyares’ gorgeous illustrations depict the splendor of Rocky’s magnificent cousins and the landscape they dominate while cleverly tracing his journey from state to state, carried along by a truck and a car, in a backpack, and with the help of some animal friends. Rocky is full of personality and childlike expressions that will endear him to readers. Miyares’ full-color, full-bleed pages will get kids excited to learn more about geology and each rock formation, and will no doubt inspire some vacation wish lists.

A Chip Off the Old Block is a smart and witty book that will excite a child’s imagination. It would be a terrific addition to home bookshelves and should be included in classroom libraries to accompany STEM, STEAM, and English Language Arts lessons and well as fun story times.

Ages 5 – 8

Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2018 | ISBN 978-0399173882

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and find teachers’ resources and activities on her website.

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books and his art, visit his website.

Meet Jody Jensen Shaffer

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I’m excited to talk with Jody Jensen Shaffer today about what she loves about writing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, her favorite childhood memories, and her rescue dog, Sophie.

What was the spark for A Chip off the Old Block?

Hi Kathy! Thanks for having me on your blog. The spark for A Chip off the Old Block was the phrase, “Rocky loved his rock star relatives.” It came to me as I was brainstorming picture book ideas, and it felt like the first line of a story. I loved the word play of the line, so I created a story around it. I just had to discover who Rocky was and what his story would be.

A Chip off the Old Block combines terrific storytelling with science and history. What would you like for readers to take away from the book? How have children reacted to Chip?

Thanks! It was lots of fun to write. I hope readers take away from the book the idea that you’re never too small to matter and to never give up on your dreams. Bonus points if they learn a little about rocks, US landmarks, maps, and natural formations! I’ve been really happy with how Chip has been received by children and adults! One class even did a Google maps tour of the places Rocky visits in his travels.

You write across the spectrum of children’s literature from poetry to nonfiction to fiction. Can you briefly describe what you like about each?

I love writing poetry because of the challenge of the form. It’s like putting a puzzle together, and the pieces are brevity, beauty, meaning, and joy.

I love writing fiction because I can choose any characters I want, put them in any situations I want, and have fun with the language, voice, and story.

I love writing nonfiction because I love learning new things! And my interest in science comes to me naturally because of my dad’s influence. He was a college professor of biological sciences (and a great wordsmith).

You’ve said that you loved being a kid. What’s one of your favorite memories? How does being able to tap into that feeling of childhood influence your work?

I have so many great memories of my childhood: fishing with my family at local ponds, riding bikes to the swimming pool, visiting my dad’s lab at the college, even working our huge garden with my siblings (before we were allowed to ride our bikes to the swimming pool). I feel so blessed to have had the parents I had and the childhood they gave me. It’s easy to recall feelings of being loved and valued. I hope to send that same message to my readers through my writing.

You say you can remember the exact moment you learned to read. Can you talk about that a little?

It’s a very brief memory. I was reading an early chapter book and laboriously sounding out each syllable, index finger on page, when it occurred to me that if I just read “lighter,” the words might come to me more easily. I relaxed, I guess, and the words came. It was like a light switch turned on. From then on, I read fluently.

What’s the best part about being a children’s author? Do you have an anecdote from an author event that you’d like to share?

There are so many great things about writing for children, and I feel really blessed to be able to do it, but if I have to choose the best thing, I’d say it’s being able to play with words for a living. In terms of an anecdote, I was Skyping with a class for World Read Aloud Day recently, and a little guy stepped up to the screen and told me how much he liked one of my less well-known books. I felt his sincerity, and I appreciated him telling me.

In 2017, your book Prudence the Part-Time Cow was chosen to represent Missouri in the National Book Festival in Washington DC that is hosted by the Library of Congress. Can you talk about this honor a little? How was Prudence chosen and what did it mean for you as an author and for the book?

I was super excited to learn that the Missouri Center for the Book chose Prudence for that honor! At the National Book Festival, each state chooses a book to represent it. All the states’ books are displayed together in one room for festival-goers. I didn’t attend the event, but several people who did told me Prudence sold out several times!

You’re a dog lover and have a rescue dog named Sophie. I’d love to hear more about her!

How much time do you have? Just kidding. She’s part long-haired dachshund, part chihuahua, we think. Very friendly, a good walking companion, pretty, and a real cuddler. She sleeps under the sheets with us.

What’s up next for you?

In July 2018, just in time for back-to-school, Beach Lane will publish It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus! about a school bus’s first day of school. In 2019, Grosset & Dunlap will release my bobble-head biography, Who Is Jackie Chan? I’ve got more projects coming that have yet to be announced, so I better stop there. I’ll continue to publish poetry in great children’s magazines, too.

What’s your favorite holiday? Do you have an anecdote from any holiday you’d like to share?

I really like Earth Day and Arbor Day. I love helping take care of the earth.

Thanks, Jody! It’s been so great chatting with you! I wish you all the best with A Chip Off the Old Block and all of your books and projects!

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You can find A Chip Off the Old Block at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Penguin Random House

(Leaving a review is one of the best ways to support authors and illustrators!)

You can connect with Jody Jensen Shaffer on

Her website | Twitter

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Catch the Reading Bug Bookmark and Bookplate

 

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

I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

Picture Book Review

April 22 – Earth Day

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About the Holiday

Earth Day, the largest global civic-focused day of action, is celebrated in 192 countries and aims to raise awareness of issues concerning the sustainability and protection of our earth. This year’s theme is End Plastic Pollution with the goal of eliminating single-use plastics while promoting global regulation for the disposal of plastics. Plastics are a danger on land, in our oceans, and in our food. 2018 begins a multi-year effort to bring about alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, one hundred percent recycling of plastics, “corporate and government accountability,” and our own attitudes concerning plastics. Around the world people also celebrate Earth Day by picking up trash along roadways and waterways, recycling, making family and business plans for using less water and electricity, and by planting trees bushes, and flowers that benefit both humans and animals.  For more information on how to get involved, visit the Earth Day Network.

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind

Written by Liz Garton Scanlon | Illustrated by Lee White

 

There once was a man who lived in a house on top of very tall, dusty hill. Being so high up, the man’s house captured breezes that set his curtains fluttering and his wind chimes tinkling. Sometimes the wind blew, rattling the shutters, sending the laundry flying from the line, and tearing boards from the house. Inside, the wind whipped, the “table tipped, and the tea spilled.” The man’s hat flew off and out the window, joining the birds who were leaving too.

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Image copyright Lee White, 2018. text copyright Liz Garton Scanlon, 2018. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The man cried, “What to do?” Down on the sidewalk below, a little girl named Kate caught the man’s hat and the man’s cry too. Kate wanted to help. She “couldn’t stop the wind,” but she knew of something that could slow it down. When she returned the man’s hat, she also brought a wagon full of saplings. Kate and the man planted the trees, and they tended them as they grew—even while the wind blew.

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Image copyright Lee White, 2018. text copyright Liz Garton Scanlon, 2018. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

“The trees grew, the wind blew, and the time flew. The time flew as the trees grew…and grew…and Kate did too.” As the trees got bigger, taller, and stronger, the “leaves fluttered,” but the shutters quieted and the board stayed still. Inside, the tea brewed, the dust settled down, and the man’s hat stayed put. Even the birds came back. With the house ringed in trees, Kate and the man enjoyed a picnic in the yard, cooled just enough by the gentle breeze.

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Image copyright Lee White, 2018. text copyright Liz Garton Scanlon, 2018. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Readers will love getting carried away by Liz Garton Scanlon’s breezy lines that through alliteration and rhyme replicate a windy day as things bang, flap, whip, and go flying. As the trees that Kate and the man plant grow and begin to shelter the house from the wind, the rhythm of Scanlon’s text becomes more staccato and rooted. Little Kate is a terrific role model for young readers for her environmental know-how and her stick-to-itiveness as the trees grow from saplings to maturity. The long friendship between the man and Kate is also endearing.

Lee White’s softly hued pages swirl with swipes and swishes that whip curtains, steal laundry, and upend the table and tea. The man’s bewilderment serves as a foil to Kate’s determination and problem-solving, and the difference she makes in the man’s quality of life is evident as the trees grow, their friendship develops, and the wind is finally tamed. Kids will identify with this kind and intelligent child who grows up to be a caring adult.

Beautifully conceived and with lovely details, Kate, Who Tamed the Wind is an environmentally conscious story that will inspire young readers at home and in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2018 | ISBN 978-1101934791

Discover more about Liz Garton Scanlon and her books on her website

To learn more about Lee White, her books, and his art, visit his website.

Earth Day Activity

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Paper Plate Tree

 

On Earth Day children love planting trees in their yard or as part of a community project. With this easy craft, they can also plant a tree on their wall or bulletin board.

Supplies

  • Two paper plates 
  • Paper towel tube
  • Brown craft paint
  • Green craft paint (using a variety of green paints adds interest)
  • Paintbrush, cork, or cut carrot can be used to apply paint
  • Glue or hot glue gun or stapler

Directions

  1. Paint the paper towel tube brown, let dry
  2. Paint the bottoms of the two paper plates with the green (or other color) paints, let dry
  3. Flatten about 4 inches of the paper towel tube 
  4. Glue or tape the flat part of the paper towel tube to the unpainted side of one paper plate
  5. Glue the edges of the two paper plates together, let dry.
  6. Straighten the tree so that it can stand up, or hang your tree on a wall, bulletin board, in a window

Picture Book Review