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

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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.

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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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kate-who-tamed-the-wind-planting-trees

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

 

 

April 14 – National Look up at the Sky Day & Interview with Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson

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Today, I’m honored to speak with retired astronaut Clayton Anderson about a pivotal childhood moment that inspired his life’s work, the challenges of being an astronaut, and his most vivid memories from space.  

What inspired you to make the journey to become an astronaut?

It was Christmas Eve, 1968.  I was nine years old when my parents put my brother and sister and me on the floor in front of a black-and-white TV around midnight. We sat on an old throw-rug gifted from our grandmother to watch humans circumvent the moon for the first time in human history. As I watched the control center team and listened to the flight director bark out commands, I was enthralled. “I need a Go/NoGo for the trans-lunar injection burn… FIDO? GO!  Retro…? GO!  Surgeon…? GO!  GPO…? GO! The entire team was GO! The craft disappeared behind the moon, leaving me to enjoy the rapid-fire chatter no more. It was simple static on our TV… for about 15 minutes. Then, after a couple of non-answered calls from the Houston CAPCOM to the Apollo 8 crew, I heard the quindar tone (famous “space-beep” you hear on TV), and the first words from the Apollo 8 commander, Frank Borman: “Houston, Apollo 8. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus!” That’s all I needed. The bit was set in my mind that one day, I would become a United States Astronaut.

How did your perspectives change while on the International Space Station?

I am a man of faith. Seeing our earth from orbit did allow me to have the “orbital perspective” so many astronauts speak of. However, while I totally agree that this perspective changed my outlook and my willingness to do better with trying to protect and preserve our “spaceship earth,” it strengthened my faith in God much more. The earth and those of us privileged to be on it, is not random. There is a reason why Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity and invented calculus. There is a reason why Albert Einstein was able to derive the Theory of Relativity. While I am unable to truly explain my rationale, I believe that there is a higher power. A power that created this universe and gave humans an adaptable brain. That incredible gift will continue to enable us to uncover the secrets of the universe, continuing to strengthen my faith.

What was a big challenge you faced during your career?

The dream of flying in space as an American astronaut was something I pursued for many years of my life. To have finally been selected and given that opportunity is incredible. Yet having the “best job in the universe” is not without difficulty. For me, it was family separation. I love my wife and kids more than anyone… on or off the planet.  To have to be separated from them for months at a time was extremely difficult, especially given their ages (6 and 2) when I began my training. It got easier as they grew older, but it didn’t assuage my guilt very much. While I lived my dream, they sacrificed greatly, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to repay them.

What is your best memory from being in space?

It must be my first spacewalk. Poised above the opened hatch, floating in my spacesuit while looking into the abyss of darkness created by the sun’s travel behind the Earth, I was calm. I watched ice crystals fly from behind my suit (they were created by my sublimator… or air conditioning unit) into the total black void of space. The slight pressure still available after the depressurization of the airlock was “pushing” the crystals into the vacuum of space. I was entranced just watching them sail by. When I finally came back to reality—buoyed by the Mission Control call to exit the airlock—I paused for just a moment to contemplate what was happening. The only thought going through my mind was that “…I was born to be here, right now, in this special place, doing this.”

Seeing my hometown from space…for the very first time, is a very, very close second. On that day, when I expected to excitedly capture photos of my Ashland, Nebraska, I had everything prepped and ready to go. Equipment was strategically placed around the U.S. Lab module’s earth-facing window, cameras were Velcroed securely to the wall, with timers set to remind me when to get into position. Finding my home on earth—without all the wonderfully placed lines, borders, squiggly river italics, and large stars designating capital cities—was tougher than I imagined. But when I finally found success, and saw Nebraska rolling into view by virtue of a big gray splotch known as Omaha (and a smaller gray splotch further southwest called Lincoln), the south bend of the Platte River was the last valid vision I had. When I saw my home, nestled there where the river bent, the place where I was raised and where many of my family and friends still reside, I took not a single photo. I simply broke down and cried. Overcome by the incredible emotions of floating weightlessly, as an American astronaut flying 225 miles above the exact spot where I was born and raised, having first dreamed of doing exactly that, was simply too much for me. So, I did what seemed to come to me naturally.  I wept.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories of your incredible career. I wish you all the best with A is for Astronaut and all of your future endeavors as you inspire children and adults to always reach for the stars.

About Clayton C. Anderson

Retired Astronaut Clayton Anderson spent 167 days in outer space, having lived and worked on the International Space Station (ISS) for 152 days and participated in nearly 40 hours of space walks. With a strong belief in perseverance and the importance of STEAM as part of every child’s education, Astronaut Anderson brings his “out of this world” insight to issues faced by children, parents, and educators. 

You can connect with Clayton Anderson on:

His website: astroclay.com | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter. For speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

You can find A is for Astronaut at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

National Look up at the Sky Day Review

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday hopes to inspire people to slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures—like gazing up at the sky and really seeing the beauty that’s there. Throughout the day and night, the sky presents an ever-changing world of color and motion, depth and light. It’s a work of art like no other.  Ever since the earliest times, people have been fascinated with the sky, directed by the stars, and questioning of what lies beyond. Today, we also celebrate those poets, mathematicians, scientists, and especially the astronauts who have explored the sky and brought all of its wonders a little closer.

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of A is for Astronaut to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of a signed copy of A is for Astronaut and a tote bag. View details below.

A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet

Written by Astronaut Clayton Anderson | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

There are some books that just make you say “Wow!” when you open the cover. A is for Astronaut is one of these. Leafing through the pages is like stepping out into a clear, starry night, visiting a space museum, and letting your own dreams soar all rolled into one. When you settle in to read, you discover that each letter of the alphabet introduces both poetry and facts to enthrall space lovers.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To get things started, “A is for Astronaut, / the bravest of souls. / They fly into space / and assume many roles. / They pilot, they spacewalk, / and they even cut hair. / But seeing Earth from our orbit— / that will cause them to stare!” A sidebar reveals more about astronauts—even astronaut nicknames!

“B is for Blastoff, a powerful thing! / When those engines are fired, it’ll make your ears ring.” And did you know that two and a half minutes after blastoff, the engines are cut off and everything begins to float? Pretty amazing! Blasting through the alphabet we come to G, where readers learn about our Galaxy that is “shaped like a spiral filled with billions of stars.”

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

How are astronauts able to walk and work in space? “Space Helmets are crucial and H is their letter.” At K kids meet John F. Kennedy, who helped develop the space program, and L is for the Landing that brings astronauts back to Earth. M is for Meteors with their very long tails, and N, of course, is for NASA, which was formed in 1958 with a “goal to better understand our planet and solar system.”

How do astronauts do that? “Working outside in space is sure to impress. / We call it a Space Walk, and its letter is S. / Floating weightless, with tools and a bulky white suit, / we can fix and install things—it’s really a hoot!” And there’s also V for  “Voyager, two NASA space probes. / They are still sending data, / having long left our globe.”

At Z, time is up—that’s Zulu time and “our reference to England, when London’s clocks chime. / As we fly ‘round the Earth, folks must know our day’s plan, / so we all set our watches to match that time span.” 

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Both children and adults who have an affinity for space travel and all things related to astronomy will want to dip into A is for Astronaut again and again. With his wealth of knowledge and engaging voice, astronaut Clayton Anderson presents a book that will have readers starry-eyed and full of the kinds of facts and tidbits that answer questions and spur further discovery. A is for Astronaut can be read through from A to Z for its vivid poetry or explored in small chunks to absorb the fascinating facts included with each letter—or both. Expertly written for kids of all ages, Anderson’s A is for Astronaut is a stellar achievement.

Scott Brundage’s incredibly beautiful and detailed illustrations will thrill space buffs and serious scientists and engineers alike. Readers will love meeting astronauts tethered to their ship while working in space, experiencing the vibrant, mottled colors of a darkened sky or distant planet, and viewing the technological marvel that is the NASA control room. With the precision of a photograph and the illumination of true artistry, Brundage’s images put readers in the center of the action, where they can learn and understand more about this favorite science.

A is for Astronaut is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries and would be a favorite on home bookshelves for children (and adults) who love space, technology, math, science, and learning about our universe.

Ages 5 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363964

Discover more about retired astronaut Clayton Anderson and access resources on his website, or follow him on Facebook | Twitter | or Insta. For speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

To learn more about Scott Brundage and view a portfolio of his publishing and editorial work, visit his website.

Visit Sleeping Bear Press to learn more about A is for Astronaut

National Look up at the Sky Day Activity

 

Show your excitement about all things space-related with these fun activity sheets from Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson and Sleeping Bear Press! 

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A is for Astronaut Fill in the Blanks

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A is for Astronaut Vocabulary Sheet

 

Picture Book Review

April 3 – National Find a Rainbow Day

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About the Holiday

April brings plenty of showers and downright downpours that give rainbow lovers lots of opportunities to see this colorful phenomenon. Legend has it that at the end of every rainbow waits a pot of gold—but if you aim to find it, watch out! It’s guarded by a tricky Leprechaun. Rainbows result when light from the sun reflects and refracts through water droplets in the sky, creating a spectrum of colors. Whether people ooh and ahh over the luck, the science, or the beauty of rainbows, there’s no denying that they always attract attention and create smiles.

I’m happy to be partnering with HarperCollins in a giveaway of a copy of Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed)! You’ll find the details below.

Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed)

By Ged Adamson

 

After the rain was over and the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds, Ava was excited because she knew she’d get to see a rainbow. When she reached the perfect rainbow-viewing spot, she was amazed. Up in the sky was “the most beautiful rainbow Ava had ever seen.” She wished it could stay forever. That wish even carried over into her dreams that night, and when she woke up Ava thought she might actually still be asleep. Why? Because when she looked out the window, “the rainbow was still there!”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

It was even still glowing over the town that night. It didn’t take long for people to start coming from all over to see the famous “rainbow who had decided to stay.” The townspeople loved all the attention—and the customers. Shopkeepers held rainbow-inspired sales, rainbow souvenirs like T-shirts, snow globes, and toys flew off the shelves, rainbow science became one of the most popular lectures by university professors, and a rainbow even became the new town mascot. For weeks there were special events and festivities all centered around the rainbow.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Ava loved to talk to the rainbow. “She introduced him to her friends…sang to him…and showed him all her favorite books and toys.” The rainbow even stayed throughout the winter, shivering in the cold. When spring rolled around, people seemed to have forgotten all about the rainbow. They didn’t look at him like they used to. In fact, they didn’t look at him at all.

As Ava walked around town, she saw rainbow souvenirs in the trash and graffiti covering signs advertising the rainbow. When she saw the rainbow, Ava was shocked to see him plastered with ads and sporting antennae of all kinds. The rainbow was sad. “‘How could they do this to something so special?’ Ava said in despair.” She cheered up when she saw a crowd of people with cameras rushing toward her and the rainbow, but they were only interested in a little bird in a nearby tree.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

It seemed that the bird was a Russian water sparrow and would only be there for a few hours before continuing its flight. “We’re so lucky!’” someone said. “‘Such a rare and precious sight!’” The rainbow overheard this exclamation and thought about it. The next morning when Ava went to visit the rainbow again, he was gone. Ava hoped that someday he’d return, and every time it rained she looked for him. One day he did come back, and was “a rare and precious sight indeed.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ava-and-the-rainbow-who-stayed-sweet-rainbow

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Like a rainbow itself, Ged Adamson’s story is multi-layered and reveals a spectrum of ideas about the often-fleeting moments in life—from wishes and dreams to the unusual or funny even to fads and fame. Learning how to truly appreciate these ephemeral experiences as they happen, to let go of what can’t or shouldn’t be controlled, and to stay true to your own nature goes a long way towards living a happy life. Children will be captivated by Adamson’s charming tale and his lush, whimsical art, which is always expressive of a child’s joy and empathy and which sweetly depicts the better understanding they gain as they grow through life’s experiences.

An enchanting story in itself and a wonderful way to engage children in discussions of true value and happiness, Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed) would make a terrific addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062670809

Discover more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his art on his website.

National Find a Rainbow Day Activity

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Mini Rainbow Magnet

 

If you’re stuck on rainbows, you can make this mini rainbow to stick on your fridge or locker!

Supplies

  • 7 mini popsicle sticks
  • Paint in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, Indigo, violet (ROYGBIV)
  • Adhesive magnet
  • A little bit of polyfill
  • Paint brush
  • Glue or hot glue gun

Directions

  1. Paint one popsicle stick in each color, let dry
  2. Glue the popsicle sticks together side by side in the ROYGBIV order, let dry
  3. Roll a bit of polyfill into a cloud shape and glue to the top of the row of popsicle sticks
  4. Attach the magnet to the back of the rainbow

It’s an Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed) Giveaway!

I’m happy to partner with HarperCollins in this giveaway of

  • one copy of Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed)!

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, April 4 – April 10. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on April 11.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by HarperCollins

Picture Book Review