December 2 – It’s Buy a New Book Month

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Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

For children, picture books provide one of the best ways to interact with facts and feelings. Stories that speak to their experiences, both common and new, alongside illustrations that bring the story to life let them discover the world around them. Today’s stunning nonfiction books are loaded with illustrations or photographs that let kids see exciting details about science, history, biographies, nature, and so much more. This month, take a look for fiction and nonfiction picture books about your child’s passions to add to your home library. And be sure to check out today’s book that incorporates both!

Thanks to Star Bright Books for sharing a digital copy of Leaves to My Knees with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Leaves to My Knees

Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

 

Daddy has a surprise for Camille and her little brother Jayden. They get dressed in their coats—big for Camille and little jacket with a stegosaurus hood for Jayden—and head into the backyard. There, Camille discovers her dad has gotten her a rake of her own. It’s not as big as Dad’s, but it’s bigger than Jayden’s little rake. It’s the perfect size for Camille.

Camille marches right off to rake a pile of leaves. But not just any pile—she has a goal. “‘I’ll rake leave all the way up to my knees!’” she tells her dad. The three get working on the yard. Camille concentrates on gathering leaves, listening to the different sounds that the various sized rakes make: “The leaves go swush when Daddy rakes. They go swish when I rake. They go sweeeee when Jayden tries to rake.”

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Lurking under the leaves are twigs and acorns that clog up Camille’s rake. She worries that she’ll never be able to rake leaves to her knees. She calls for Daddy’s help, and together they clear Camille’s rake. “‘You’re good to go now, Camille,’” Daddy tells her. Back at it, Camille rakes and rakes. Then she steps into the pile she’s accumulated to measure it. Her pile only comes up to her ankles. Camille grabs her rake harder and with determination she collects more leaves. But wait! Jayden is stealing leaves from her pile to add to his! Camille guards her pile with her rake, and sends her little brother over to Daddy’s bigger pile. Camille checks her measurements again. Her pile has grown, but only up to the top of her boots.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Camille rakes ‘bunches of leaves,” and her pile gets taller, until “‘Oh no! A BIG BREEZE!!’” sends lots and lots of leaves swirling “Whoosh!” into the air and scattered to the ground. “I will never rake leaves to my knees!” Camille thinks. And when she measures again, her pile is back to her ankles. Daddy encourages her to keep going, and Camille is committed to achieving her goal. She throws off her coat, grabs her rake, and works on gathering up all the leaves she had, plus more. At last, too tired to rake anymore, Camille wonders. Has she done it? “‘Time for measuring!’ says Daddy.”

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Camille relinquishes her rake to her dad then, holding her breath, steps into her pile. “‘TA-DA!’” Camille raises her arms in victory. She steps out, positions herself a good ways away, and winds up for the run and jump. “‘GO!’ yells Daddy. ‘GO!’ Jayden yells too.” Camille flies through the air and lands, laughing, into her pile. Then Jayden jumps in. And Daddy? He gives Camille  “really big squeeze” for raking “leaves all the way up to [her] knees.”

A note for parents, teachers, and other caregivers written by Marlene Kliman, a mathematics learning expert and senior scientist at TERC, describes how the story incorporates the math of measurement and sizes and how adults can extend the lesson by pointing out elements in the book’s illustrations and while going about their day or doing common chores, such as cleaning up and sorting laundry.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Ellen Mayer’s Leaves to My Knees has everything that makes a story a young reader’s favorite—a spunky main character that kids will identify with, an achievable goal, successes and setbacks, suspense, humor, and a child-propelled victory. And it all revolves around an early math concept that comes naturally to children and which invites playful learning not only during the fall, but any time of the year. Shoveling snow and making snowballs in winter, yard cleanup and gardening in spring, and building sandcastles and raking grass clippings in summer as well as in-home fun with laundry piles, toys, and other objects are all ways to extend the story.

Told from Camille’s point of view, the story also engages children’s emotions as they join in to cheer Camille on as her leaf pile grows and commiserate with her when it shrinks. The close relationships among Camille and her dad and little brother ring true with dialogue-rich storytelling that is always encouraging. Strong themes of determination and persistence will also appeal to parents and teachers, who can point to how many times Camille has to start over before accomplishing her goal and her positive, resolute attitude.

Nicole Tadgell’s exuberant illustrations shine with personality, and kids will immediately become invested in each character as Dad gets working on a big job that needs doing, Jayden runs, jumps, and copies his big sister, and Camille unwaveringly works on her pile of leaves. Camille’s setbacks are clearly depicted, along with her and her father’s facial expressions that give adults and kids an opportunity to talk about disappointment, frustration, perseverance, and feelings of accomplishment. Each image also demonstrates the math component of measurement and sizes in the story with various-sized rakes, the growing and diminishing leaf pile, big and little jackets, and other objects that invite comparison.

Tadgell’s soft-hued pages are infused with the feeling of fall and hum with activity as cardinals, blue jays, chickadees gather at the bird feeder, squirrels scamper up and along the fence, and leaves continue to float to the ground. Readers will love following little Jayden’s antics and be inspired by Camille’s wide smile as she enjoys the reward of all her hard work.

Leaves to My Knees is a multilayered read aloud infused with the enthusiasm and rhythms of childhood that kids will want to hear again and again. Its mathematics base and themes of determination and perseverance rewarded will appeal to parents, teachers, and other educators as a way to engage children in active, hands-on learning. The book is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Star Bright Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1595729590 (Leaves to My Knees) | ISBN 978-1595729613 (Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees

Picture Book Month Activities

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Coloring Pages and Teaching Guides

 

You can extend the fun and learning in Leaves to My Knees with these activities, which include three fun coloring pages from the story, a hands-on play-dough art and discovery activity, and a detailed educator’s guide for teachers, homeschoolers, parents, and other caregivers that offers multiple ways to use Leaves to My Knees to explore math, mathematical thinking, and reading comprehension through the story and beyond at home, school, and elsewhere.

Meet Ellen Mayer

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You can find Leaves to My Knees on Amazon

Leaves to My Knees: Hardcover | Paperback

Hojas hasta las rodillas / Leaves to My Knees: Paperback

You can also order from Star Bright Books

Leaves to My Knees: Hardcover | Paperback

Hojas hasta las rodillas / Leaves to My Knees: Paperback

Picture Book Review

December 1 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Bright Winter Night

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Thank you to Two Lions and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Bright Winter Night for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Bright Winter Night

Written by Alli Brydon | Illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

Something magical is happening as “the song of snow” begins, and all of the woodland animals are gathering to complete a special task. Falcon flies in “silken strings” as “Wren flutters while she chirps and jigs, determined as she lays down twigs.” Beaver’s brought more sturdy boughs, and Stag’s back and antlers provide a sturdy base as the Rabbits use the wood and ribbons to build a sleigh. Attaching the reins Mouse brings and with the Wolves “all clear,” Bear climbs aboard to provide a comfy seat. 

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Image copyright Ashling Lindsay, 2022, text copyright Alli Brydon, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The Wolves take up the reins. “There’s just one goal. They must move fast— /  for soon the northern lights will pass!” The Wolves race over clearings and down hills, pulling the sleigh behind them. But the terrain is tough, and “the sleigh careens, the rabbits jump as all the rest go . . . BUMP, BUMP, BUMP!” But Stag is there to dig them out of the snowy drifts, and Beaver rights the sleigh and gets it back on track.

Suddenly through the bare and silent branches, “they spy a flash, and Squirrel says, ‘WHOA— / COME ON FRIENDS, LET’S GO, GO, GO!'” They hurry through the crystal night to a clearing, where, gazing upward, they’re enveloped in the grandeur of the northern lights. “The colors dazzle, glow, and blaze— / the flashes sizzle, shock, amaze!” In this moment, huddled together—”beak and muzzle, fur and feather”—this diverse group of animals are united in their awe of nature’s beauty, and a “peacefulness so warm and bright, / settles in their hearts tonight.”

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Image copyright Ashling Lindsay, 2022, text copyright Alli Brydon, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Alli Brydon’s brisk and lovely story is at once a lyrical call to appreciate and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and a poignant appeal to put aside perceived differences and embrace what connects us. As the animals work together to build a sleigh that will transport them to view the northern lights, they each bring to the project their own talents to make it sturdy and comfortable for all. When the sleigh flips, they again pull together to set things right. Brydon’s deft rhymes and rhythms build step-by-step as the animals construct the sleigh then flow as smoothly and quickly as the runners over the snowy trail. Even the sled’s momentary mishap is palpably felt with Brydon’s well-paced “BUMP, BUMP, BUMP!” And when the friends finally reach the clearing, Brydon captures not only the breathtaking view but the tranquil contentment it brings.

Using lush blues and shades of grey, Ashling Lindsay draws readers into the snowy woods, where blushes of pink, purple, and auburn highlight scampering rabbits, squirrels, and beaver as well as fluttering birds and majestic stag. Stylized trees, their feathery leaves touched with pink lend a mysterious air to the silent forest. As snowflakes fall, readers watch as the animals bind the twigs and branches just so to create their sleigh. And then they’re off. A two-page spread lets kids run with the wolves as they race into the oncoming snow. Lindsay’s image of the animals all snuggled together on the sleigh, protected by Bear, is heartwarming, while their topsy-turvy tumble into the snow will make some kids say “oh no!” and others giggle with memories of their own spills. Her interpretation of the northern lights sparkles and shimmers and will have kids adding their own “OOOOH! AHHHH!” to those of the animals gazing skyward.

An inspiring story for snuggly bedtime or daytime read alouds, Bright Winter Nights swells the heart with it’s focus on the power and beauty of nature to spark friendship and peace. The book is sure to be asked for again and again and is highly recommended for home and public library collections as well as for teachers, homeschoolers, and other educators, who will find it a stirring addition to lessons on space, geography, and natural phenomenon.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542022248

About the Author

Author Alli Brydon is inspired by natural wonders and what they can teach us, and she strives to bring that magic to the books she writes for children. Recent picture books include Lobstah Gahden, illustrated by EG Keller, and Love Around the World, illustrated by Wazza Pink. She also writes nonfiction about creatures, from insects to lemurs to humans. Alli holds an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in New York and lives in England with her family. Learn more at www.allibrydon.com. You can also connect with Alli on Instagram: allibrydon and Twitter: Alli Brydon

About the Illustrator

Ashling Lindsay is an artist and writer from Belfast, Ireland. Her picture books are published in more than ten languages and have received various awards and accolades, including a nomination for the Kate Greenaway Medal; being shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Klaus Flugge Prize, and the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year; and being longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards. In 2020 she was awarded the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Honour Award for Illustration with her book The Tide, written by Clare Helen Welsh. Learn more at www.ashlinglindsay.co.uk. You’ll also find her on Instagram: ashling.lindsay

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You can find Bright Winter Night at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 22 – It’s National Farm City Week

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About the Holiday

Celebrated during the week leading up to Thanksgiving, National Farm City Week recognizes the partnership between farms and towns and cities where produce, meat, wool, and other products are prepared, marketed, retailed, and consumed. Ensuring that farming remains an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way of life for future generations is also an important aspect of this week-long observance because only through the hard work of farmers and their enterprises—both large and small—that the country’s health and well-being are maintained.

Construction Site: Farming Strong All Year Long

Written by Sherri Duskey Rinker | Illustrated AG Ford

 

The warmer days of spring have arrived and “six tough trucks rise with the sun.” They’re headed for a farm in the distance, where there’s lots of work to do. Before they even get to the farm, they come upon a section of the road where dirt from a “springtime washout” blocks their way. With Bulldozer and Dump Truck’s help, the road is quickly cleared, and the trucks are on their way.

First, the fields must be plowed and Big Tractor knows just what to do. “She churns the soil, rips up weeds— / prepares the ground for planting seeds!” Then “Little Tractor plants the crop / She rolls along as big seeds drop.” But the animals need tending too, and Little Skid Steer is right there to clean up and get the pens ready for the cows and horses, the lambs, chickens, and pigs.

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Image copyright Sherri Duskey Rinker, 2022, text copyright AG Ford, 2022. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

As summer comes, each truck has its job to ensure the crops grow and the animals are well taken care of. But there’s an even bigger job to do, and Excavator, Bulldozer, Skid Steer, Crane Truck, Dump Truck, Cement Mixer, and Flatbed Truck all work together to build a new barn, just in time for the cooler weather of fall.

Now it’s Combine’s turn to shine. “She rolls on hills and through the fields, / harvesting what each row yields.” But she can’t do it alone: “The Tractor pulls grain carts behind. / She rolls with Combine, all aligned.” As they drive side-by-side, Auger, collects and pours the grain into the carts. Then it’s on to the pumpkin patch to gather everyone’s favorite autumn treat.

There may be no crops to plant and pick as winter settles in, but the farm trucks are still busy clearing snow, making repairs, and making sure the animals have warm hay and plenty of food for the long, cold months. Before the “hardworking farming teams” take to their garage bays for a well-deserved sleep, they give thanks for the “friends they have and work they do” and another good year.

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Image copyright Sherri Duskey Rinker, 2022, text copyright AG Ford, 2022. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Sherri Duskey Rinker’s well-known rhymes and dynamic rhythm carry this story of ten vehicles working together throughout the year to keep a farm from planting season to buttoning up for the winter. Rinker’s inclusion of extra equipment and attachments in addition to the ten vehicles will wow kids while teaching them how one machine is able to handle many types of jobs and how different types of machinery complement each other to do complex tasks. As the story ends and the vehicles give thanks for a good year, children can also join in by adding what they’re thankful for and ways their day was good. The final spread welcomes bedtime with lulling rhythms of “good night” and “sweet dreams.”

AG Ford’s lovely and vibrant illustrations brim with the beauty and always changing weather, atmosphere, and duties of a farm. Ford’s use of varying perspectives gives kids an idea of just how big a farm can be, and his saturated colors show readers the richness of the soil, a sun-drenched summer, and the mellower temperatures of spring and fall. But front and center are his realistic settings that depict how each vehicle works and all the different jobs they do. The machinery’s eager expressions as well as images of the various farm animals will charm kids, and when bedtime comes, Ford’s deep somnolent dusk blue sky and drowsy vehicles will soothe and welcome kids to sleep.

Whether your child loves cars, trucks, and big machinery; anything to do with farming; or just a story well-told, they’ll enthusiastically embrace Construction Site: Farming Strong All Year Long. This is a book that will enjoy “favorite” status at home and in classrooms and be in constant rotation in school and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 4 

Chronicle Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1797213873

Discover more about Sherri Duskey Rinker and her books, book events, and how to order signed books on her website.

To learn more about AG Ford, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Farm City Week Activities

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Build a Tractor Jigsaw Puzzle

 

With this printable jigsaw puzzle, you can color and build a tractor of your own! Just print the Tractor Template, color, cut, and have fun putting it together!

Supplies

  • Printable Tractor Template
  • To print garden plot and vegetables, see links in game below.
  • Card stock paper, poster board, or cardboard (optional)
  • Colored pencils or crayons
  • Scissors
  • Glue (optional)
  • Tape (optional)

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Directions

  1. Print the Tractor Template. For a sturdier puzzle, print on card stock or glue the pieces to poster board or cardboard before cutting.
  2. Color and cut out the pieces
  3. Put the tractor together

Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

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With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

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You can find Construction Site: Farming Strong All Year Long at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 4 – Jazz Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

Jazz Appreciation Month (nicknamed JAM) got its start at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001. The aim was to celebrate and educate people on the history of and continuing love for jazz. The holiday encourages people of all ages to become familiar with jazz music and the musicians of the past who created this original sound and those today who keep innovating jazz for new audiences. This year’s theme is “Latin Jazz and the Spirit of Cachao López.” Celebrations will revolve around “exploring the cross-pollination of Afro-Caribbean music and jazz that led to the formation of Latin jazz as well as the work of one of the iconic figures in the Afro-Caribbean music tradition – bandleader, composer, and co-creator of mambo, Israel “Cachao” López. To learn more about the month’s events, featured artist, and ways to celebrate, visit the Smithsonian’s Jazz Appreciation website. To celebrate the spirit of jazz with your kids, listen to the rhythms of life inside your heart and in the natural world and make your own music. A great way to start is with today’s book!

First Notes of Spring

Written by Jessica Kulekjian | Illustrated by Jennifer Bower

 

It’s time for a change of seasons, and the First Notes of Spring musicians are gearing up to melt “winter away with their melodies.” Auditions are being held bright and early at 6:00 a.m. to put the orchestra together. Juniper the badger was eager to join. She brought her instrument – a toadstool drum and two strong sticks – and took her turn playing for Mr. Moose, the conductor. “BOOMEY BOOM BOOM!” she banged away while Mr. Moose covered his ears and said, “‘You’re doing it all wrong!'”

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Image copyright Jennifer Bower, 2022, text copyright Jessica Kulekjian, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then he told Juniper to listen to the gentle “WHOO” of the flutes, the soft “HUM HUM” of the strings, and the delicated “Ringy Ring Ring” of the shaken keys. Juniper was sure she could play along, but as the other animals played their instruments, her “BOOMEY BOOMEY! BOOM BOOM! BOOMEY BOOM BOOM!” interrupted the dulcet flow.

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Image copyright Jennifer Bower, 2022, text copyright Jessica Kulekjian, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mr. Moose was beside himself. It was all ‘”Too WILD!'” for him and he added that “‘Spring will not bloom to such a ruckus!'” Then he cancelled the auditions. As Juniper dejectedly headed home through, she heard a random “tap-a-tap” and walked closer. She found Holly the woodpecker “drumming on a tree” looking for insects. Juniper wanted to join in with her “fun sound” and added her “BOOMEY BOOM BOOM!” to Holly’s “tap-a-tap.”

In a bit they heard “clap-a-clap and found… Darby slapping the ice” with his tail. He was fixing his fort, the beaver told them. Juniper and Holly thought Darby’s clapping was just the addition they needed to play louder. The little band made their way through the forest and discovered Dash, a rabbit, thumping the ground. With Dash’s “thumpity thumping,” the band could play louder and wilder, and as they paraded through the forest, sleeping animals awoke, snow fell from the trees, and Spring sprang up all around them.

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Image copyright Jennifer Bower, 2022, text copyright Jessica Kulekjian, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mr. Moose was surprised – and then sorry that he’d never known “‘Spring could wake up with such a bang!'” Still, the delicate flowers were still dozing. Juniper suggested that some “whoos, hums, and rings” could help rouse them. So while Juniper led Holly, Darby, and Dash in the beats, Mr. Moose led the squirrel, raccoon, deer, fox, and crow in the notes, and all of the forest blossomed into Spring.

Back matter includes an engaging discussion of the sounds heard during different seasons that will have kids and adults getting outside to listen to the loud and delicate music that orchestrate each magical time of the year.

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Image copyright Jennifer Bower, 2022, text copyright Jessica Kulekjian, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Jessica Kulekjian’s imaginative take on the waking of spring employs alliteration and onomatopoeia that will entice kids to whistle, hum, clap, stomp, drum – and read! – along as winter transitions into spring. But the new season isn’t the only one who awakens, Mr. Moose also makes an eye-opening discovery as Juniper’s belief in herself and her music makes his traditional concert inclusive for everyone.

As Jennifer Bower’s delicate icy blues and pale greens of winter give way to the lush vibrancy of spring, kids will enjoy pointing out all of the small animals, insects, and blossoms that begin to populate the pages as they are awakened by Juniper’s novel alarm clock. Two split-page cutaways give readers a glimpse into Juniper’s underground den and a rabbit warren, where a mom, wearing curlers in her ears and bunny slippers on her feet, is just preparing breakfast for her still-sleeping brood. The final two-page spread of The First Notes (and Beats) of Spring musicians is a true celebration of the beauty and rhythms of spring.

Fast-paced and sure to inspire enthusiastic participation, First Notes of Spring is an enchanting read aloud and would be a perfect addition to music class time for students of varying ages, from preschool to the lower grades. The book would also be an exciting introduction for an outdoor activity to listen and look for signs of spring.

Ages 3 – 6 

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1547604739

Discover more about Jessica Kulekjian and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jennifer Bower, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Jazz Appreciation Month Activity

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Cool Jazz! Word Search Puzzle

 

Jazz has a sound and vocabulary all it’s own! Can you find the twenty jazz-related words in this printable puzzle? Then have fun coloring it!

Cool Jazz! Word Search Puzzle | Cool Jazz! Word Search Solution

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You can find First Notes of Spring at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 9 – Get Ready for Easter

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About the Holiday

On this day we celebrate Easter and the renewal it brings. On this day, Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in fulfillment of God’s promise. Spring is also just around the corner and new life is beginning. As the sun rises on warmer days, be inspired to discover new happiness.

Bunny Finds Easter

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Ela Jarzabek

Bunny wakes up on a sunny Easter day ready to celebrate. But she wonders – “‘What is Easter?'” She begins to see the signs of Easter when she goes into the kitchen for breakfast and her mom brings a plate piled with hot cross buns to the table. Then “Ma sets out eggs to decorate. / Soon festive colors fill the plate.”

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Image copyright Ela Jarzabek, 2022, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2022. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Bunny gets dressed to go into town and puts on her “…brand-new bonnet! Bunny LOVES the ribbons on it.” She picks a bouquet of lilies and goes on her way, seeing springtime babies all around. As her family approaches the church, she joins an Easter egg hunt on the lawn and shares the treats she finds with those who aren’t having much luck.

Now it’s time to go to church. They sing “the Easter news,” and then the preacher asks, “‘Who died to take our sins away? And rose again on Easter Day?'” Bunny smiles and her eyes grow bright. “Deep inside her spirit glows.” Then “‘Jesus!’ Bunny sings it out.” / “‘He’s what Easter’s all about.'”

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Image copyright Ela Jarzabek, 2022, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2022. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Laura Sassi’s joyful story about the traditions and meanings of Easter is an uplifting and meaningful way to get little ones excited for the holiday and all of the changes spring brings. Her focus on the true meaning of Easter will enchant kids and gives Christian parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, and other caregivers a poignant starting point for more detailed discussions about their faith.

Ela Jarzabek’s bright and sunny illustrations are as fresh as springtime and will charm little ones, for whom the renewal of spring is a wonder. Her little Bunny is adorable with a smiling, expectant face that depicts the excitement kids feel for the fun Easter holiday traditions like dying eggs, Easter egg hunts, and special new outfits. Jarzabek’s images inside the church are especially joyous as Bunny and her family, along with the rest of the congregation – which includes other children – listen to the preacher and sing favorite Easter hymns. She perfectly captures the awe heart-filling faith of little ones in Bunny’s expressions, and a final group picture invites readers to celebrate Easter with them.

Bunny Finds Easter is a must addition to Christian home libraries for the youngest readers as well as for church libraries and board book collections at public libraries.

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2022 | ISBN 978-0310734192

Discover more about Laura Sassi and her books on her website.

You can connect with Ela Jarzabek on Instagram.

Spend some time on Easter morning as Bunny finds Easter in this book trailer!

Get Ready for Easter Activity

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Adorable Bunny Jar

A little bit of candy makes Easter or any spring day sweeter! With this Sweet Bunny Candy Jar, you can give a child, a friend, or even yourself a special treat that will make you hoppy!

Supplies

  • Printable Hat Rim and Bunny Ears Template
  • Baby food jar (I used a Beech-Nut Naturals jar)
  • White fleece, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches
  • 1 piece of purple foam (Or any color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Small piece of pink foam or felt for nose
  • Googly eyes (I used oval)
  • Medium pom-pom
  • Multi-surface paint, purple (or whatever color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Fabric glue (I used Fabric-Tac)
  • Black ultra-fine or fine tip permanent marker
  • Large nail or ice pick
  • Hammer
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Remove label from baby food jar
  2. Clean and dry jar and lid
  3. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam
  4. Cut out the rim of the hat and remove the center
  5. Trace the ears template onto the white fleece and cut out

To Make the Body and Face

  1. Cut a 2-inch wide by 7-inch long strip of white fleece
  2. Glue the strip of fleece to the jar under the lip and leaving about ½ inch of glass showing at the bottom
  3. Glue on the googly eyes
  4. Cut a little nose from the pink foam and glue to the face
  5. Make the mouth with the permanent marker on a little piece of fleece, cut out and glue under the nose

To Make the Hat

  1. Paint the lid with the purple paint. Let dry.
  2. With the nail or ice pick and hammer, make a hole on either side of the lid to insert the ears. You can make the hole a little bigger with a phillips head screwdriver
  3. Flip the lid over and hammer the edges of the hole flat
  4. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam

To Insert the Ears

  1. Pinch the end of one ear together and push it through one hole in the lid.
  2. Pull it through the hole a bit to form the ear
  3. Repeat with the other ear

Finish the Bunny

  1. Add the foam rim to the lid
  2. Glue the pom-pom to the back of the jar for the tail
  3. Add M&Ms, jelly beans, or other small candy
  4. After Easter, you can use your Bunny Jar to store other small items

Goodreads Giveaway

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Bunny Finds Easter, head over to this Giveaway on Goodreads!

Bunny Finds Easter Goodreads Giveaway

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bunny-finds-easter-cover

You can find Bunny Finds Easter at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 22 – It’s the Autumn Equinox

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-we-sleep-cover

About the Holiday

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, fall has arrived! If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, welcome to spring! Today, daytime and nighttime will be equal, ushering in a changing of the seasons. For some that means cooler weather, shorter days, and a slowing down in nature which leads to our being able to see the brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges in the leaves of certain trees. The phenomenon featured in today’s book. For others nature is just awakening, with all the beauty warm weather and new growth bring. Wherever you live, enjoy the activities and events the change in season brings!

Before We Sleep

Written by Giorgio Volpe | Illustrated by Paolo Proietti

 

“As the season turned, the forest was dressed in new colors of rich amber, burned orange, and chestnut brown.” Little Red, the fox couldn’t wait to play hide-and-seek with his friend Hazel the dormouse because he would be so much harder to find. Little Red and Hazel also enjoyed jumping in the crisp, rustling leaves. “‘The leaves are laughing with us,’ said Hazel joyfully.” But there was one thing about autumn that Little Red did not like. He knew that soon winter would come and he would be lonely.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-we-sleep-berries

Image copyright Paolo Proietti, 2021, text copyright Giorgio Volpe, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Hazel was already getting ready to hibernate in her warm burrow. Little Red thought maybe this year Hazel would take a shorter sleep, but Hazel reminded her friend that, although she would like to keep him company, she couldn’t. Little Red thought of ways the earth could stay warm and nurturing, but his ideas, he knew, were just wishes. In fact, Hazel was already growing tired. She promised Little Red that come spring she would be back to play with him again.

Little Red wanted just a few more minutes with his friend and asked if he could tell her a story. Little Red curled up next to her cozy burrow, and Hazel nestled into his soft tail to listen. “But before a word of the story was spoken . . . the two friends had fallen fast asleep, together.”

Note: Only first-person pronouns are used in this story, making the characters gender-neutral.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-we-sleep-asleep

Image copyright Paolo Proietti, 2021, text copyright Giorgio Volpe, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Tranquil and soothing, Giorgio Volpe’s autumn friendship story floats on beautiful, evocative language that stirs memories of the fun fall offers while also reassuring readers that no matter what changes take place, love between friends always remains. Volpe’s story also touches on how friendships are built despite—or because of—individual differences. The sweet and comforting ending makes Before We Sleep not only a perfect fall read but a cozy bedtime story as well.

Paolo Proietti’s lush illustrations of a woodland dressed for autumn fuse realistic images of nature with delightful whimsy that mirrors the wistful tone of Volpe’s story and will charm readers. Proietti’s rich illustrations of fiery Little Red, adorable Hazel, and the plants, berries, nuts, and wildlife of the forest are set against lovely muted gray, blue, and sage backgrounds and invite readers to visit again and again.

A quiet and enchanting story for cozy fall days and dozy nights, Before We Sleep is highly recommended as a gift for family or friends and as an addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Red Comet Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1636550046

To download a Before We Sleep Activity Kit and find video resources, visit Red Comet Press.

You can connect with Giorgio Volpe on Facebook.

You can connect with Paolo Proietti on Instagram.

Autumn Equinox Activity

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-fall-leaves-matching-puzzle

Falling for Fall Matching Puzzle

 

These kids are having fun in the leaves. Can you find the matching leaves in this printable puzzle?

Falling for Fall Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-we-sleep-cover

You can find Before We Sleep at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 7 – Buy a New Book Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2012 to promote an appreciation for the influence books have made on culture and civilization as a whole. While watching shows and movies is fun, there’s nothing like ensconcing yourself with a good book and letting your imagination soar or learning new facts with the words in your hand.  To celebrate today and Read a New Book Month all through September, visit your local bookstore to see what’s on the shelves, call up and request a title or two, or order online to buy great reads for everyone in the family. And don’t forget to add today’s reviewed book to the list!

The Leaf Thief

Written by Alice Hemming | Illustrated by Nicola Slater

 

Squirrel loved autumn, when he could lounge on a branch under his colorful leafy canopy and count the patterns: “Red, gold, orange… red, gold, orange… red, gold…” Suddenly, Squirrel realized one of his leaves was missing. He began a frantic search. He looked under Ant’s rock and in Bird’s house. Then he spied Mouse floating in a puddle in a boat that looked just like his leaf.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-thief-bird

Image copyright Nicola Slater, 2021, text copyright Alice Hemming, 2021. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Bird tried to explain that it was “‘perfectly normal to lose a leaf or two at this time of year.’” Squirrel seemed to understand. But the next morning, Squirrel was shocked to discover that more of his leaves had been stolen—probably by Woodpecker, who was making a big blanket from them right outside his knothole. But Woodpecker protested that they were his and he’d “spent AGES collecting them.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-thief-mouse

Image copyright Nicola Slater, 2021, text copyright Alice Hemming, 2021. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Bird tried to remind Squirrel that the same thing had happened last year, and Squirrel agreed to try and relax. But the next morning, Squirrel woke up to a “DISASTER!” and when he saw Bird’s house festooned with leafy decorations, he accused her of being the thief. Bird patiently told Squirrel she was not the thief but offered to show him who was. Squirrel was rarin’ to meet them “‘because,” as he said, “I’ve got a few things I’d like to say to them!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-thief-woodpecker

Image copyright Nicola Slater, 2021, text copyright Alice Hemming, 2021. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Bird took Squirrel to the little porch around her house where the wind whipped the little ladder, swirled leaves, and even blew away Mouse’s sailor’s hat. Then Bird calmly, but sternly, related the facts about fall and reassured Squirrel that the leaves would be back in the spring. Squirrel was relieved. “Of course! No Leaf Thief at all. Silly me,’” he said. “I’m going to sleep well tonight!’” But the next morning the grass was gone! Who had stolen it?!

Backmatter includes an engaging discussion about the changes that take place for trees and other parts of nature during autumn.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-thief-discover

Image copyright Nicola Slater, 2021, text copyright Alice Hemming, 2021. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Alice Hemming’s clever autumn story about a proprietary squirrel and his beloved leaves is packed with personality, humor, and heart. As long-term memory challenged Squirrel tries to grapple with the changing season, Bird serves as a patient and reassuring friend, undaunted by Squirrel’s mistaken accusations. When Bird’s unflappability is finally pushed to the edge, her curt repeated recitation of the facts brings a laugh. The pitch-perfect ending plays beautifully off the rest of the story and will have kids wanting to read it all again.

Nicola Slater’s witty illustrations capture Squirrel’s bluster, Bird’s forbearance, Woodpecker’s jauntiness, and Mouse’s creativity with emotion and fresh perspectives. Her vibrant colors and nods to today’s decorating whims as well as her character’s lively expressions create an atmosphere that is at once warm, inventive, and inviting. Leaves—and feathers—may get ruffled, but this little community of friends will stick together through all the seasons.

Beguiling, funny, and with a pinch of breezy education, The Leaf Thief is a story kids will want to jump into again and again. As today’s holiday suggests, the book is one to buy for home, classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2021 | ISBN 978-1728235202

Discover more about Alice Hemming and her books on her website.

You can connect with Nicola Slater on Twitter.

Buy a Book Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaf-mobile-craft

Autumn Leaf Mobile

 

You can bring the beauty of autumn leaves into your home with this fun-to-make mobile. Use tissue paper, construction paper, or even real leaves to make this mobile, that makes a great pattern and counting activity to do with young children too. 

Supplies

  • Paper Plate
  • Scissors
  • Tissue Paper/Crepe Paper
  • Tape
  • String/ Yarn

Directions

  1. Cut out the center circle of the paper plate and use the outside ring as the top of your mobile
  2. Have children pick out colors. We did a fall theme, but you can really let the kids be creative here. 
  3. Cut out tissue paper or crepe paper into leaf shapes. Adults will have to cut out the bulk of leaves. My six year old was able to cut the leaf shapes out, but was tired after 5. I used about 60-70 leaves.
  4. Have children organize leaves into patterns.
  5. Tape leaves together so they overlap. 
  6. Tape chain to paper plate ring
  7. Tie String or yarn to the top of the mobile

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-thief-cover

You can find The Leaf Thief at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review