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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-notes-of-spring-boom

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.”

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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

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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

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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

August 24 – Celebrating Family Fun Month with Tara Knudson

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Tara Knudson is a former teacher who has been writing poetry and stories since she was a young girl growing up in Chicago. Her published work can be found in children’s magazines, greeting cards, calendars, and a poetry anthology for teens. Christmas Cookie Day, Easter Egg Day, and Valentine’s Day Treats are all part of Tara’s collected works celebrating a childlike approach to beloved holiday celebrations.

You can connect with Tara Knudson on her website | Instagram | Twitter

Thanks so much for stopping by to chat, Tara! I’m happy to be celebrating Family Fun Month with you since your books always invite kids and their families to enjoy the seasons together at home, with friends, and on special outings. You always include some kind of hands-on element to your books – either recipes, tips, or touch-and-feel pages – to get kids and adults spending extra time together. It makes me wonder if your previous job or jobs have influenced your writing and the kinds of books you write?

One of my favorite books when I was a child was Richard Scarry’s BEST WORD BOOK EVER. I remember sitting in a big chair and reading as many words as I could. I loved to learn and play school when I was younger, so it’s no surprise that later I became a teacher. I was a teacher for many years before becoming an author. I taught Spanish to K-12 students and math to elementary students in Chicago. I also taught English to middle school students in Barcelona, Spain where I lived as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar for a year.

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Given my experience in education, I think my books will always have some teachable moments in them. From making Christmas cookies, to dyeing Easter eggs, or creating a heart-shaped cake from a round cake and a square cake, I like to incorporate fun lessons in my books that early childhood teachers can incorporate into their classroom lessons. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-cover  celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-treats-cover

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In my board books for the youngest readers, little ones can experience the unique sights and sounds of a fall day or a lively parade and learn new words along the way!

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I am excited to be able to do in-person author events once again as schools safely welcome back students and teachers again. What a joy it is to teach with my own books! 

Your experiences in the classroom have certainly inspired wonderful books for little ones! Congratulations on your upcoming book Parade Day Fun, which is releasing from Zonderkidz in March 2022! I’m sure little ones will be lining up to bring the excitement of a parade home!

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Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Juliana Motzko

 

Tara Knudson’s playful rhymes will charm little ones as they join in on the fall fair excitement. Along the way, kids meet many different animals and engage with shapes and colors. Knudson’s lyrical verses perfectly reflect the fun and cozy atmosphere of fall. Sensory patches invite eager fingers to pet the horse and goat, touch grainy sugar, enjoy the woody texture of a fallen leaf, and feel the smoothness of a pumpkin shell.

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Juliana Motzko’s fall fair enchants with adorable animals and the bright colors of the autumn season. Delighted smiles abound as the young fair-goers visit the petting zoo, craft table, baked goods display, play area, and pumpkin patch. Motzko’s textured illustrations of golden hay, rich soil, whole grain bread and apple pie as well as crunchy leaves and a straw-filled scarecrow blend well with the touch-and-feel patches and enhance the opportunity for adults and kids to talk about sensory awareness.

Fun Fall Day, a nicely sized board book—not too small or too big for little hands—is a story that’s a joy to read aloud and one that kids will want to hear again and again. It would make a much-appreciated gift for babies and toddlers and a favorite on home, preschool, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310770213

Discover more about Tara Knudson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Juliana Motzko, her books, and her art, visit her website.

You can find Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book at these booksellers

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

Holiday Books

Kids enjoy getting ready for the holidays with these sweet books by Tara Knudson and Pauline Siewert.

You can find printable coloring pages for each book on Tara’s website.

To connect with Pauline Siewert, visit her on Instagram.

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Christmas Cookie Day!

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Mama bear and her little bear get ready for one of the most fun days of the year. “Cooke day, / Time to bake. / Aprons on, / Lots to make!” 

Tara Knudson’s jaunty rhyming story captures all the giddy anticipation and fun of a day baking Christmas cookies. Short, lively verses follow Mom and her cub step-by-step as they make and decorate special treats for their annual cookie party and invite little ones to join in on repeat readings. Knudson delights in the enjoyment Mom and her little one feel during their day of baking and goes on to celebrate the deeper meaning and joy of Christmas as the two wrap up their cookies and give them to family and friends.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With tender smiles for each other, Pauline Siewert’s Mama bear and her cub spend a snowy day baking cookies in their cozy kitchen accompanied by a helpful mouse. Siewert’s vibrant colors mirror the cheerful companionship mother and child share on this much-loved day, and her engaging details, like a dusting of flour on the cub’s nose, will charm children. A double-spread scattering of the cookies the two make give little ones a chance to show their knowledge of shapes and Christmastime figures. The heartwarming final scene of the cookie party might just inspire a party of your own. Little ones will also be enchanted by the sparkly cover that opens this adorable book.

Ages 2 – 6

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310762898

You can find Christmas Cookie Day! at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-treats-cover

Tara Knudson captures the enthusiasm little ones have for expressing their love in her warm rhymes that transport kids into the middle of exciting Valentine’s Day preparations. As the little raccoons cut and paste, color and paint, and add stickers and lots of glitter, kids will be eager to get out their own supplies to make homemade cards for those they love. And just one look at Knudson’s clever cake will have them running to the kitchen to make that too. Of course, Valentines are to share, and readers will be eager to see who gets the little raccoon’s special treats.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Pauline Siewert’s adorable raccoons craft and cook their way through Valentine’s Day to make special cards and snacks for their friends. Her vivid images are cheerful and lively and charmingly include the little spatters and splashes that are all part of the fun. Little ones will enjoy soaking up all the details in the craft room, the kitchen, and the friends’ house and pointing out the ones they know. When adults point out these details while reading, kids will find it easy to read along too, as Knudson uses them to make her bubbly rhymes and flowing rhythm. Kids will also like keeping their eye on the tiny house mouse who is also making itty-bitty Valentine’s Day treats. 

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310768395

You can find Valentine’s Day Treats at these booksellers

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

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Easter Egg Day

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Little ones love the magic of dyeing Easter eggs, and Tara Knudson’s bright, bouncy rhymes perfectly convey the giggly excitement kids feel during this once-a-year tradition. Readers will eagerly anticipate each step and page turn along the way as the bunnies turn their carton of white eggs into a basket full of creative, colorful treasures. Of course, Easter eggs are made for hiding and finding, and Knudson invites kids to join the bunnies and little moles and mice as they scamper through the yard on this most joyful of all hunts.

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Image copyright Pauline Stewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With sunny yellows, tender-grass greens, and vibrant oranges, purples, and reds, Pauline Siewert drops kids as gently as an egg into dye into spring and the enchantment of Easter egg fun. White eggs marked with creative crayon designs will give readers a few ideas for their own eggs while the sweet smiles and enthusiasm of the bunny siblings and their parents mirror their own feelings. As the bunnies and their friends dash off to find the eggs, little ones will be just as excited for their own Easter egg traditions.

Adorable and endearing, Easter Egg Day will be a favorite spring read for adults and kids to share before Easter and to remember family fun.

Ages 2 – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310767527

You can find Easter Egg Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 29 – Celebrating Rain Day with Shelley Johannes

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Shelley Johannes is the author-illustrator of the Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker chapter-book series. A former architectural designer, she has a fondness for tracing paper, process, and accidental discoveries. She and her family live in Michigan with two feathered friends, Max and Alex, who make every day sunny and birdy. More Than Sunny is her debut picture book.

You can connect with Shelley on Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Hi Shelley! I love how you describe all sorts of weather days in your new picture book More than Sunny, so I just couldn’t pass up a chance to share Rain Day with you! Rainy days have their own special fun, and you certainly celebrate that in your book! Of course, when the sun comes out, rainy days also bring rainbows – those beautiful symbols of optimism, something we can all use every day and which shines on every page of More than Sunny. Can you talk about what inspired the story?

Thank you, Kathy! And thank you so much for having me here today. Optimism is always in season, but metaphorical sunshine definitely feels even more precious these days.

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Matthew Johannes

More Than Sunny was inspired by my son Matthew and a first-grade weather project. I’d viewed his daily weather chart—the kind with columns for sunny, cloudy, rainy, windy, snowy—as a mundane task to check off our list, but on the first day, he looked outside and enthusiastically declared, “It’s sunny and birdy today!” When he called the next day “windy and squirrelly”, I knew it had to become a book someday. He turned a routine assignment into something fresh and exciting, and made me pay attention to the beauty I’d forgotten to see. That’s always book-worthy.

In More than Sunny, you describe days with nuances that delight in everything a day can possess. Using your story structure, what would your favorite day have been as a child? How about now as an adult?

I love this question! As a kid, I loved rainy days, and any excuse to curl up with my dog and our special Rainy Day Art Book. So maybe I’d say . . . Dreary and Doggy were my favorite kind of days back then. Rain is so relaxing.

As an adult, it’s a tough call between Springy and Birdy (because May is the most cheerful month, and we are huge bird nerds around here) and Autumn and Squirrelly (because the crisp, colorfulness of fall makes me happy, and we’re huge squirrel nerds too!).

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Before writing children’s books, you worked as an architect. Can you talk about that a little? Do you think being an architect influences your writing and art in any way? If so, how?

There was a time I felt bad about my winding path to making books. I felt bad that I didn’t have the guts to go after my dreams sooner. But these days, I’m so grateful for each part of my life and how it shaped me into the person I am today. My years in architecture helped me find my voice and gain the courage to use it. I also learned so much about my love for creative process and collaboration, and the type of people who inspire me. The desire to create, and to make something meaningful, is the motivational underpinning of both fields, so the transition to books felt very natural. The process of designing a building and building a story are surprisingly similar.

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A rainy and wormy day from More than Sunny by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

There’s also a direct connection in the way I work. I fell in love with tracing paper and felt-tip pens in my early days in architecture, and I’ve only fallen more in love as time passes. I’ve always loved how a loose sketch or a stray line can capture an idea on paper, and that wonder continues to bring me joy in new ways.

Your son Nolan narrates your wonderful book trailer and his pride and love for you and the More than Sunny really shine through. How great is it to share your writing journey with your kids?

Aw, thank you! We loved making that trailer together! And it was so special to capture his sweet voice just before it shifts into a grown-up one. It’s been so wonderful to share each step of the journey with my kids. I first realized I wanted to make picture books while reading to them as toddlers. They’ve been there for all the ups and downs and in-betweens of the creative process ever since, and enjoyed LOTS of celebratory pizza along the way! So much of each them—and they joy they bring into my life— is woven into everything I make. They inspire so many book moments, and are my most treasured critics and art buddies. I hope being part of this process empowers them to go after all the things they dream of doing, too!

What was your favorite place to read (or write or draw) as a child? What is your favorite place now and why?

As a kid, I loved to read and draw in the quiet privacy of my room, because it was personal and I was shy. These days, I like to mix things up. I write best in a crowded place, with headphones on and music blaring, because it’s easier for me to concentrate when I’m surrounded by stimuli and happy hustle-and-bustle. I also enjoy writing on the go as ideas randomly come to me, and use my Notes app like it’s another piece of my brain. I read anywhere and everywhere, and love listening to audiobooks while riding my bike around my neighborhood!

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Though I doodle in sketchbooks all over my house, my studio is still my favorite place to make art. Having a place that’s dedicated to being creative, and filled with my favorite things, makes getting into the zone a bit easier.   

What is your favorite season and seasonal activity?

I’m torn between Fall and Spring. It’s hard to beat a cider mill on a crisp Autumn day, especially here in Michigan. Fresh donuts. Crisp apples. Bubbling steam running through the colorful trees. It’s pretty perfect. But then this Spring, we found a nature trail at a local park where wild birds fly down and eat out of your hands, and now we’re addicted to the wonder of that experience too.

Will you be doing any book events this summer that you’d like to tell readers about?

It’ll be a fairly quiet summer (see the answer to the next question!), but I’m doing a virtual event with wonderful Belmont Books on August 26th at 6:30pm ET, and I’d love for everyone to join us! We also had an amazing virtual launch event for More Than Sunny as part of Literati Bookstore’s At Home with Literati series. Jarrett Lerner and I talked about creative process, seeing the world with fresh eyes, and the making of the book. You can watch our conversation here anytime:

What’s up next for you?

This week I am starting the final artwork for my second picture book! I can’t wait to start experimenting with materials and see where it leads me!

Thanks for this wonderful chat and for sharing so many insights. I wish you all the best with More than Sunny and am really looking forward to your next book!

National Rain Day Review

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate rainy days—but not just any rainy days. Rain Day commemorates an odds-busting record that began in 1874 in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania when one resident remarked to William Allison, the pharmacist at JT Rogers & Co drug store, that it always rained on his birthday—July 29. After that, Allison began keeping an annual record, and all eyes have been on Waynesburg to see if the remarkable run—115 years out of 147—continues. Now weather reporters around the country keep track of this remarkable statistic and broadcast “yes” or “no” to their audiences. As for the people of Waynesburg, they celebrate their notoriety with a huge festival that includes live musical entertainment, arts and crafts and food booths, kids’ games, and, of course, an umbrella-decorating contest. To learn more visit the Rain Day Website. And don’t forget to watch the skies!

More than Sunny

By Shelley Johannes

 

A girl knocks on her brother’s door and, before he’s even fully awake, she bursts in and announces with exuberance that this spring day is “sunny.” Yawning and rubbing his eyes, her brother adds “and early.” But his big sis pulls him outside to show him all the birds at the feeder and birdhouse. It’s not only sunny, she tells him “it’s sunny and birdy!” They head down to the pond, where the siblings have different ideas of what the day’s like. Little brother finds the day “sunny…and mucky!” But his sister, with feathers in her “wings,” states, “I say it’s sunny and ducky!”

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Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

On another day, these two compatible siblings head outside to discover what summer brings besides heat. The sunny day takes them to a field, a tree, and a dock, where they explore, relax, and use their imaginations. But not all summer days are sunny, and that’s okay because being inside when it’s “stormy” these kids make it cozy. And when the storm tapers off a bit, they grab their raincoats and big umbrella and go outdoors, where the girl exclaims, “it’s rainy and wormy!” and her brother inspects the mud and greets a small worm, “Hello squirmy.” The rainy day brings lots of fun with Mom and their dog too.

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Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

But summer days turn into autumn days with wind and squirrels and piles of leaves to jump in. The kids read and make paper snowflakes, waiting for winter to come. And, finally, the flakes fall. They taste so good. “Can we? Can we?” the siblings ask, eager to be out in the snow. “But I’m warm and socksy,” says Mom. But her kids, tiptoeing and playing, lure her out with “Let’s be snowy and foxy!”

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Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

They take a walk in the woods and, while sledding, see Daddy coming home. “Are you ready and sleddy?!” they ask, but there’s shoveling to be done. That’s all right; there are other ways to have fun in the snow. Tired out and chilly, the family goes inside for bedtime. Now there’s a knock at the sister’s door. Yawning and rubbing her eyes, she goes to see who it is. It’s her brother, and he has something magical to show her.

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Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Shelley Johannes’s exuberant call to play and explore is a perfect jumping off place for kids to look at and interact with their surroundings with new eyes, imagination, and creativity. Hopping from season to season, Johannes touches on moments of freedom and wonder and those happy discoveries so formative in childhood. Her playful rhymes and bouncy rhythm echo kids’ delighted banter, and her sprightly adjectives invite readers to come up with their own descriptions of their day.

Johannes’s bright, energetic, and cheery illustrations dazzle with lively depictions of the siblings playing outside in all weather. Her smile-inducing portrayals of the siblings mirror real kids and each page is loaded with details readers will love lingering over. Mom and Dad make warm cameos to create a book the whole family will enjoy.

More than Sunny is a generously sized picture book that kids and adults will find themselves joyfully sharing throughout the year. For teachers and homeschoolers, Johannes’s storytelling provides a spark for writing prompts, grammar lessons, and observational skills. Sure to become a quick favorite, More than Sunny is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Harry N. Abrams, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419741814

Discover more about Shelley Johannes and her books on her website.

You can download More than Sunny activities from the Abrams website!

Rain Day Activity

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Fluffy Clouds Craft

 

One of the best simple pleasures is looking up at the clouds and imagining what shapes you see. Bring those fluffy, white clouds into your room with this craft!

Supplies

  • White girls’ dress bobby socks in various sizes
  • Fiber fill, 20-ounce bag
  • Fishing line, different lengths
  • Needle
  • Clear adhesive mountable hooks or clips

Directions

  1. Stuff the socks with fiber fill, pushing it far into the sock and adding more here and there to make various lumps and give it a rounded, cloud-like shape
  2. When the sock is full, tuck the end of the sock in to close it
  3. Cut lengths of fishing line. The lengths will depend on how and where you will hang the clouds
  4. With the needle or by hand, feed one end of the fishing line into the top of the sock and out to attach the line for hanging.
  5. Knot the fishing line
  6. Attach the mountable hooks or clips to the ceiling
  7. Hang your clouds!

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You can find More Than Sunny at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 23 – Hot Enough for Ya? Day

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About the Holiday

So here we are in the dog days of summer with their sweltering heat and soggy humidity. It’s so hot that even the simplest activities leave you drenched and drained. It’s the same every year, so what can you say? Well, today’s holiday gives a wry wink at that summer conversation starter, “Hot enough for ya?” Somehow this folksy phrase always brings a smile and shared commiseration. During these sweltering days enjoy some cooling treats with your kids – how about an ice-cream, a dip in the pool, lake, or ocean, or even that old favorite: running through the sprinkler? No matter where you find refreshment today, don’t forget to ask: “Hot enough for ya?”

And Then Comes Summer

Written by Tom Brenner | Illustrated by Jaime Kim

 

Summer days are like no other days during the year. Full of light and the kind of weather that entices you to stay outdoors, the months of June, July, and August hold promises of beauty and fun. Every day and every place welcome summer in their own way and invite new adventures. “When the days stretch out like a slow yawn, and leaves and grasses sparkle with dew, and the cheerful faces of Johnny-jump-ups jump up…THEN throw on flip-flops and breathe the sweet air.”

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Copyright Jaime Kim, 2017, courtesy of jaimekim.com

In those flip-flops you’ll run past buzzing bumblebees, flying warblers, and Dad mowing the lawn to your bike. Pump up the tires, raise the seat, put on your helmet, and take off! When the sun stays up past bedtime “and crickets crick-crick in the evening air, and bugs as big as thumbs bang against windows…” then it’s time to play games until night falls.

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Copyright Jaime Kim, 2017, courtesy of jaimekim.com

When every day is a play day and you’re out running and jumping or at the beach, and you hear that “familiar jingle,” you know the ice-cream truck is on its way. Then race your friends “to be the first in line” to choose your favorite icy-cold treat. “When the dog days of summer roll around, and it’s so hot you’re practically panting, and not even the sprinklers provide relief…THEN it’s time to head to the lake.” On the way, watch the world go by through your open window. Feel the breeze and enjoy the smells, sounds, and sights of the trip.

As you approach the familiar vacation spot where “the silver lake winks through the trees, and old friends run to greet you…” then it’s time for swimming and tents and roasted marshmallows while you tell stories and “plan tomorrow’s adventures.”

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Image copyright Jaime Kim, 2017, text copyright Tom Brenner, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Tom Brenner’s tribute to the wonders of summer reflects that free and easy feeling that vacation months bring to kids. The little moments that become favorite memories are all here, recorded in Brenner’s lyrical and evocative pages. The rhythm and repetition play out like the best summer days—some, nuggets of individual joy and others, building to the excitement of eagerly anticipated vacations.

Jaime Kim transports kids to backyards, main streets, lemonade stands, and finally a shimmering lake in her sun-drenched illustrations of kids enjoying the freedom of summer. Readers can almost hear the shouts, sprinkler spray, running feet, fireworks, and crackling campfire as they turn the pages to join Kim’s enthusiastic kids in their summertime romps.

And Then Comes Summer is a joyous book to share with kids during summer or any time of the year.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763660710 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1536217377 (Paperback)

Discover a portfolio of illustration work by Jaime Kim on her website!

Hot Enough for Ya Day? Activity

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Flip-Flop Flower Pots

 

Have you outgrown your flip-flops from last year? You can turn them into fun plant holders with just a few buttons and mounting squares! Paint the pots with your own designs to make your hangings even more unique!

Supplies 

  • Small flip-flops with elastic heel backings
  • Decorative buttons
  • Glue or needle and thread
  • Small plastic flower pots
  • Paint for decorating the pot (optional)
  • Flower or plant
  • Dirt
  • Mounting Squares

Directions

  1. Plant the flower or plant in the flower pot 
  2. Decorate the straps of the flip-flops with the buttons. You can glue them on or sew them on with a needle and thread
  3. Place the flower pot into the flip-flop, letting it rest on the toe separator and securing it with the elastic backing
  4. Attach mounting squares to the back of the flip-flop to hang.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-and-then-comes-summer-cover

You can find And Then Comes Summer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review