April 9 – It’s National Humor Month

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About the Holiday

During April we celebrate one of the most fantastic things about life—humor! Whether you’re laughing at a funny joke, your favorite comedian, a comic strip, a silly mistake, or even yourself, a chuckle is good for you! Today, take time to relax and enjoy the small absurdities in life—and give a few hearty “Ha ha ha’s!” along the way. Today’s book is a perfect place for you and your kids to start.

Not Now, Cow

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Troy Cummings

 

Even before the story properly begins, an alert rooster notices some small green leaves on the old tree and announces, “Spring is almost here!” He hightail-feathers it off to tell his farmyard friends. Duck is ready with her garden, Sheep is flying a kite, and Goat is enjoying a rainy-day galoshes dance. And Cow? Cow is bundled up in her knitted hat, scarf, and gloves. Rooster gives an eyeroll and says, “Oh, Cow. Not now.”

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Image copyright Troy Cummings, 2021, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2021. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Summer comes and Chick, Goat, and Pig are at the beach. Chick dives in. “Feathers flail.” Goat needs a snack. He “chomps a pail.” With an ice cream cone piled high, “Pig is ready. Leaves a trail.” And Cow? She’s all decked out for… sledding. Rooster says, “Oh, Cow. Not now.”

In Fall, Horse knows raking is to be done. Chick munches on an apple. And Sheep is ready with a jack-o-lantern. And Cow? Snuggled into a purple puffy coat, she’s sporting earmuffs and skis, and holding a steaming mug of hot chocolate—with marshmallows. Rooster is flummoxed. “Oh, Cow. Just…wow.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-not-now-cow-rooster

Image copyright Troy Cummings, 2021, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2021. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Finally, it’s Winter! Pig has fashioned a snowy friend. On his sled, “Horse rounds the bend.” And Duck is gliding on the pond. It’s Cow’s big moment. Is she ready? Well…yes…. For Summer! And as Cow sits on her blanket with her swim fins, swim goggles, and swimming cap on, munching a sandwich from her picnic basket, the farm animals gather round. “We need to talk,” Rooster says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-not-now-cow-summer

Image copyright Troy Cummings, 2021, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2021. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Little ones will giggle with delight, eager to see what Cow is wearing next in Tammi Sauer’s joyously silly story about a cow who likes to celebrate the seasons her way—or is she just a bit mixed up? Either way, preschool– and kindergarten-age kids will love enthusiastically chiming in every time Rooster says, “Oh, Cow. Not Now.” Sauer’s simple structure, short sentences, and engaging triple rhymes make it easy for little ones to join in on subsequent readings.

Troy Cummings brings all the sweetness and fun of the farm animals’ seasonal activities to life in his lively illustrations. To open each sequence, the limbs from the tree where Rooster first notices spring blossoming are set against appropriately colored backgrounds and show signs of the transitions to summer, fall, and winter. Throughout Cummings’ candy-hued spring, sunny summer, fiery fall, and icy winter landscapes, Duck, Sheep, Goat, Horse, Chick, and Pig enjoy traditional fun. And then comes Cow, with her progressively bundled-up attire that bamboozles increasingly exasperated Rooster. The final, hilarious payoff comes when winter hits and Cow shows up in her bathing suit, floaties, and other swimming aids, with a picnic basket to boot. Kids may notice that no matter what the season or what she’s wearing, Cow looks perfectly happy.

Perfect zany fun that little ones will want to hear again and again, Not Now, Cow is a must addition to all young children’s bookshelves at home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5 

Abrams Appleseed, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419746291

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Troy Cummings, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Humor Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-share-a-laugh-wordsearch

Share a Laugh! Word Search Puzzle

 

Sharing a laugh with friends makes a day better. Can you find the fifteen words about laughter in this puzzle?

Share a Laugh! Word Search PuzzleShare a Laugh! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-not-now-cow-cover

You can find Not Now, Cow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 6 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

Expanded from National Garden Week in 2002, National Garden Month, encourages both avid gardeners and those new to this rewarding activity to turn over some dirt, plant seeds, and prepare to tend the little sprouts on their way through the season. A perfect activity for the whole family—even the youngest loves playing in the dirt and planting seeds!—gardening is a wonderful way to teach kids about the growth cycle, pollinators, nutrition, patience, and more! If it’s warm enough to start planting where you live, engage your kids in preparing and planting your garden. If it’s still a little chilly, gather the whole family and plan this year’s garden!

In the Garden

By Emma Giuliani

 

In her stunningly illustrated interactive guide through the seasons, Emma Giuliani introduces Plum and her little brother, Robin, and invites readers to join them as they tend to their garden and all the plants, animals, and birds that call it home. Plum and Robin begin at winter’s end. “This morning it’s cold. It’s not yet spring, but, in the garden, Plum and her brother Robin see the first catkins appearing on the branches of the willows and hazels. The blossoming mimosa makes the gardeners impatient for spring to come.” As Robin counts the long, drooping catkins, Plum rakes a layer of compost over the ground. On the facing page, readers get a close-up view of the fuzzy catkins, can peek inside a bud, burrow underground with earthworms just waking from hibernation, and view a few early bloomers. They also learn about what makes up the earth’s soil and get a recipe for compost.

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Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

With the arrival of spring, Plum is in her little greenhouse, planting vegetable seeds and spritzing the soil with water to keep it moist while Robin repots some plants who have spent the winter in the greenhouse. Outside, Plum aerates the garden bed with a pitchfork, careful of any tiny creatures below. Children can open the door to Plum’s well-stocked shed to see all the tools tidily stored there and lift the flaps to look inside a bulb and help a hyacinth, a daffodil, and a tulip grow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-shed

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

At last the warm weather of spring has arrived. The cherry trees are blossoming, and Plum and Robin are setting stakes and planting bean seeds. Next, they provide protection for the tender strawberry plants that are beginning to bloom. Young gardeners will enjoy opening a bean seed to learn what’s inside and then following its growing process. The bees are visiting the cherry blossoms, pollinating the flowers and making honey. What does a bee see as it hovers around the flower? Pull down the flap to see for yourself and learn all the parts of a flower. What other plants are flowering now? Open the flap to see!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-spring

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Summer begins and “what a joy to be in the garden in June! The gentle breeze, the smell of cut grass, and the tangy taste of strawberries and cherries make the gardeners smile.” While Plum waters the tomato plants, “Robin looks for ripe strawberries under the leaves.” Join him! Robin is also picking cherries before the birds eat them. How do those bright red, round fruits grow? Lift the flap to learn and see how they develop from flower to fruit. Plum is getting help with the aphids on the bean plants from industrious—and hungry—ladybugs. “Dragonfly larvae are transforming into graceful flying insects….Their presence is a sign of a healthy garden.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-spring

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

It’s high summer and the garden is glorious. Bean pods hang from the vines, and Plum contemplates whether they are ready to pick. She may leave some “husks dry out on the plant before picking them.” Dried completely indoors, they can be stored and eaten during the fall and winter. Take a look inside a pod to see the seven red beans there. Flowers greet you too: an orange marigold with petals like a pinwheel, a brilliant pink and purple fuchsia, and a perky mignon dahlia. Robin took cuttings of these plants and potted them to grow some more. Learn how you can do that with your plants too!

The summer heat is waning and the days are growing shorter. Fall is here. The catkins of early spring have become hazelnuts that are ready to be harvested. Even the squirrel approves! Plum and Robin teach you how to store them—and when to pick the winter squash and keep them for months as well. Can you count the number of seeds inside the winter squash? Plum’s beautiful trellised pear tree is bearing sweet fruit. Yum! But look out—a crafty rabbit is after the last leafy vegetables in the garden. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-fall

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The air is chilly again and winter is on the horizon. “Plum and Robin have donned their warmest clothes and gone out to collect the dead leaves. Some leaves will feed the compost, others will become mulch to protect plants over the winter. The hedgehogs can use the rest of the leaves in making their homes.” Do you see the pile of crunchy leaves? Lift them gently…shhh! A hedgehog is snoozing underneath. Robin and Plum have built an insect hotel to keep the bugs cozy during the winter and have filled the greenhouse again. For the colorful birds who stay awhile or all winter, Robin and Plum put out a bird feeder and fill it with locally produced seeds.

After putting all of their tools back in the shed, Plum and Robin head indoors to plan next year’s garden and “watch eagerly for the very first signs of spring.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-winter

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

If your family tends a garden or is thinking of starting one, Emma Guiliani’s superb book is a must. At 16 inches tall, In the Garden provides fascinating facts about plants, insects, and animals; helpful tips on when and how to plant a variety of fruit, vegetables, and flowers, information on natural ways to ward off pests; and how to recognize when fruit and vegetables are ready for picking and how to store them. Through copious flaps, children get inside views of flowers, seeds, buds, and vegetables to learn the names of each part and how they contribute to the growth of the plant. Along the way, young and adult gardeners discover how early gardening can begin, directions on how to create and use compost, when bushes can be planted, information on pollination; and how to winter over the garden for the coming spring.

Giuliani’s crisp, lush illustrations are marvels, combining intricate paper cuts that replicate the shapes of delicate bulbs and buds, flowers and seeds, smooth and serrated leaves, the long bean pod, and even Plum’s garden shed with a window in the door. Her extraordinarily beautiful color palette immerses readers in the garden experience; you can almost smell the rich earth, hear the bees buzzing at the blossoms, and feel the air changing season to season.

A brilliant resource and a joy to peruse, In the Garden is a book that adults and children—both gardeners or nature lovers—will share throughout the seasons and from year to year. The book is most highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 7 – 12

Princeton Architectural Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1616898939

You can connect with Emma Giuliani on Instagram.

National Garden Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flower-garden-game

Plant a Flower Garden Game

 

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

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden or garden rows with flowers. Depending on the ages of the players, the game can be adjusted to fill all of the rows, some or all rows, or just one.           

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one or more sets of Flower Playing Cards for each player, depending on how  (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Cut the flowers into their individual playing cards
  4. Print one Flower Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  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 flower rolled in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” flowers until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with flowers or one row has been filled with all six flowers.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their flowers wins!

To play a printable Vegetable Garden Board Game, click here.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-cover

You can find In the Garden at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Princeton Architectural Press

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound 

March 20 – It’s the Spring Equinox

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate the first day of spring! What makes the equinox so special? On this date, day and night are equally long around the globe. With longer days and warmer weather, thoughts turn to nature and renewal. For many this means gardening for ourselves and for the returning bees and butterflies. Today’s book takes a look at one of nature’s most inspiring creatures – the monarch butterfly. 

When Spring Comes

Written by Kevin Henkes | Illustrated by Laura Dronzek

 

This beautiful tribute to spring is as surprising as new buds pushing through the earth or tiny hatching eggs. Using repeated phrasing, lyrically expressed facts, and poetic rhythms, When Spring Comes echoes the anticipation that sunnier days bring after a long winter. The book opens with a simple, evocative sentence: “Before Spring comes the trees look like black sticks against the sky.” Children will immediately agree—they see trees in this way out their windows and draw them like this in art class.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-robins

Image copyright Laura Dronzek, 2019, text copyright Kevin Henkes, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The following sentence is equally as true: “But if you wait Spring will bring leaves and blossoms.” The book’s contrasting lines that explore conditions “before Spring comes” and “If you wait” gradually reveal more and more of springtime’s wonder, like the melting snows that usher in rainy days: “Spring comes with sun and it comes with rain and more rain and more rain. Do you like mud? Do you like puddles? I hope you like umbrellas.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-spring

Image copyright Laura Dronzek, 2019, text copyright Kevin Henkes, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

As Spring wakes more fully, it takes on a personality of its own: “Spring will call out the pussy willows and new kittens too. Spring can come quickly or slowly. It changes its mind a lot. But when Spring is finally here to stay, you will know it…There will be buds and bees and boots and bubbles.”  And there is much more to discover about this season of rebirth as well as the future within these pages.

When Spring visits it brings many wonderful smells, sounds, activities, and creatures, all of which are gorgeously depicted in Laura Dronzek’s radiant illustrations. The early gardens, blooming cherry trees, frolicking kittens, and profusions of flowers are as bright and welcome as the springtime sun. As the sweet-faced boy and girl in the book play, they are surrounded by birds, bunnies, dogs and kittens, and even ponder a little worm poking its head from the garden. Brilliant blues, pinks, greens meld with lush browns to create a joyful celebration of the newness of the season.

When Spring Comes is not only a book about a particular season or even for a particular age. The book is a wonderfully gentile and uplifting way to introduce or discuss the idea of waiting for good things to happen. Everyone, even the smallest child, has “winter days” when life doesn’t look so bright. But if you wait, spring comes with new life and surprises. 

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062331397 (Hardcover, 2016) | ISBN 978-0062741677 (Paperback, 2019) | ISBN 978-0062741660 (Board Book, 2018)

Discover more about Kevin Henkes and his books on his website.

Spring Equinox Activity

CPB - Paper Flowers

Paper Flowers

 

These paper flowers will brighten any room and come in a rainbow of colors. Make a bouquet for yourself or share them with a special friend.

Supplies

  • Tissue paper in many colors
  • Green paper
  • Green wire for stems
  • Scissors
  • Tape or glue
  • Pliers

CPB - Paper Flowers II

Directions

To make the stem

  1. Bend a 1 ½ -inch loop in the top of the wire
  2. Squeeze the wire together so it will fit tightly over the tissue paper

To make a flower

  1. Cut 6 or more 7-inch squares from tissue paper, mixing colors (you can make various sizes of flowers by making the squares larger or smaller and adding more squares)
  2. Gather all the squares together and fold them together accordion-style in 1-inch folds
  3. Slide the folded tissue paper under the wire loop, and tighten the wire
  4. Gently fan the tissue paper out on each side
  5. Beginning on one side, gently pull each sheet of tissue paper up toward the center
  6. Repeat step 5 on the other side

To make leaves

  1. Cut leaves from green paper, leaving a stem to wrap around the wire flower stem
  2. Fold the leaf stem around the wire and tape or glue

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-cover

You can find When Spring Comes at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

January 12 – Poetry at Work Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to consider their jobs, their office environment, their coworkers, and maybe even that snack in the desk drawer through the lens of poetry. This year, if you’re working from home, your sphere of inspiration is nearly limitless. Whether your thoughts on what you see and hear tend toward poignancy, inspiration, or humor, take a moment to jot them down. Then share your poem or poems with your family or friends!  

This Poem is a Nest

Written by Irene Latham | Illustrated by Johanna Wright

 

In the introduction to her astonishing poems, Irene Latham explains the concept of “nestling poems,” which provides the structure to her collection. Similar to “found” poems, that can use the words from any source text to create other poems, nestling poems use words discovered within another poem. In the case of This Poem is a Nest, Latham first penned four poems about a single nest surviving through a year of season and then found 161 other poems inside them. These other poems—some small, even tiny snippets—pack a powerful ability to wow, just like a single candy in a large assorted box.

First, readers are introduced to the nest in Spring, where “safe in its crook, it’s a cradle that sways across day and dark.” There are “fragile eggs,” but soon “the happy nest overflows with flap-flapping and endless feast.” In Summer after the robins have flown away, the “empty nest becomes nothing more than a morning house of light.” Below, the tree hosts other creatures who call it home or use it as a resting place.

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Image copyright Johanna Wright, 2020, text copyright Irene Latham, 2020. Courtesy of Wordsong.

In Autumn, readers are invited to climb the “branches like a ladder— / up and up—where the crispcool world turns both smaller and bigger.” From here one can see “distant woodsmoke” and quiet creatures going about their day. Winter brings a new resident to the nest, a tiny mouse who “makes needed repairs” and lays in stores of food for the snowy days ahead.

After reading these four three-stanza poems, readers enter Part II, where Latham’s nestling poems are divided into seven categories. The first explores the idea of time, and Latham begins by marking the passing of a day. With Dawn, “day rustles open / overflows / morning boat” while at Dusk “sky weaves / gold-dust / world / turns.” But Latham knows there are those other hours, the hours when a profound Middle-of-the-Night Question may come: “wing away, / or take / the stage?” Latham next reveals truths about the months of the year, the seasons, and—in clever “Before & After Poems”—the emotions that lead up to and follow an announcement, a storm, and a game (one that is won and one that is lost).

The next chapter titled “Color My World” gives physical shape to nature’s hues from Red (“autumn leaves / puddle / beneath roof / of sky”) to Black (“dark splash / whispers / ancient glimmersong”). In the following chapter—”Animals Among Us”—Latham describes a menagerie of animals, including the beauty of a Papa Emperor Penguin with Egg: “feet stitched / together, / both anchor / and dream.” She also shares lessons that wildlife can teach us about meeting life’s challenges, such as how to hang in there and how to combat boredom, how to find the power in imagination, and what to do if something is wrong or you’re feeling down.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-poem-is-a-nest-colors

Image copyright Johanna Wright, 2020, text copyright Irene Latham, 2020. Courtesy of Wordsong.

In Chapter Four—”Only Human”—Latham looks at our emotions with observations that are weighty, thrilling, hopeful, and joyous. Of course, we are not alone in life, and Latham finds poems within her nest to describe relationships with friends, parents, and teachers and others. As a poet Latham knows a thing or two about a Love of Words, and in a short chapter she has fun creating poems that will surprise and delight.

From their nest, birds look out on a vast landscape. Likewise Latham presents readers with poetic “Views and Vistas.” Children can roam from the Desert to a Meadow; and explore a Cave, a Fox Den, and an Iceberg. Expanding out into the world, kids visit the African Serengeti, the Australian Outback, Tahiti, and the Amazon River, among other spots. Pan out even farther and readers contemplate space, the sun, the constellations, and all of the planets—including Pluto, despite its demotion.

At last, Latham includes a few final verses about poems and poets themselves and leaves readers with My Wish for You: blue adventure / in seaglass morning— / green buzz, / gold thrumming— / life / a poem” Backmatter consists of detailed tips on how poets or would-be-poets can write their own nestling poems.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-poem-is-a-nest-animals

Image copyright Johanna Wright, 2020, text copyright Irene Latham, 2020. Courtesy of Wordsong.

Lovely, deep, and awe-inspiring, Irene Latham’s poems allow readers to discover the world with microscopic precision and a broad view from as far away as outer space. As you read the poems, it’s intriguing to go back to the first four poems and find the individual words in their original context. As meaningful is to let the small verses float in your mind and take root in your heart. Many will make you look at and consider objects, places, time periods, and emotions in ways that bring new insight and understanding, hope, joy and peace.

Johanna Wright’s lovely black-and-white line drawings, shaded with a gray scale offer whimsical interpretations of Latham’s poems and introduce each chapter with thoughtful, creative, and happy children interacting with each other and their world. A few sweet, individual drawings include a mother and child snuggling under a warm quilt for December; a snail whose shell contains true contentment in All You Need, According to a Snail; two children painting the sky with stars in Painting; and a little girl sleeping in the crook of a crescent moon while her dreams become poems in While You Sleep.

For any poetry lover—whether adult or child—or anyone looking to experience the world afresh, This Poem is a Nest is a must. Original, creative, and beautiful, the book would enhance any home, classroom, or public library collection.

Ages 7 – 14 and up

Wordsong, 2020 | ISBN 978-1684373635

Discover more about Irene Latham, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about Johanna Wright, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Poetry at Work Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grow-a-poem-craft

Grow Your Own Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also a piece of art!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-poem-is-a-nest-cover

You can find This Poem is a Nest at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 19 – Celebrating the Fall Season

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fun-fair-day-coverAbout the Holiday

Fall is a time when the cooler weather and beautiful scenery entice people to get outside to enjoy farms, farmers markets, pumpkin picking and carving, scarecrow making, and lots of walks and biking. Inside, it’s time for pie and bread baking, cozy blankets, and snuggly story times. Today’s book is a perfect match for the season!

Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Juliana Motzko

The bright blue skies and warm sun of fall is here, and the little animals are at the fair having fun in this sweet touch-and-feel board book. Bear cub takes a pony ride while Raccoon and Bird visit the petting zoo. Kids can pet the baby goat, too, while he nibbles the oats Bird offers. At the craft table, Fox, Chicken, and Elephant are coloring, making banners, and decorating pumpkins.

Then it’s time for “harvest treats, lots to buy—donuts, bread, apple pie.” Feel those sugar sprinkled donuts! Yum! There’s nothing more fun than jumping in a pile of leaves, and the fair even has a play area where Duckling, Tiger, Lamb, and Bunny do just that! You can join them and “shuffle through, stomp the ground, crackle, crunch, hear the sound.” Scratch the leaf and feel how crisp it is! The afternoon is waning and the sky is streaked as orange and red as the autumn leaves. The air’s turned chilly, but there’s still time for a hayride through the pumpkin patch! Look at that big, deep orange pumpkin. Feel how smooth it is! It’s been a wonderful day at the fair!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fun-fair-day-pie

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

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.

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

Celebrating Fall 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-fun-fair-day-cover

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 14 – National Lazy Day

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About the Holiday

Lazy Day may be the easiest day of the year! Today you have carte blanche to do absolutely nothing. Don’t feel like changing out of your pajamas? Don’t! Feel like lounging in front of the TV all day – or taking a nice long nap? Do it! We all need down time, maybe this year more than most. So grab some snacks (ready-made, of course), find your comfort spot, and relax!

The Little Blue Cottage

Written by Kelly Jordan | Illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

 

All year long the little blue cottage waited at the edge of the bay for the little girl to come visit again, and every summer she did. Then the house “whistled and hummed and filled with light.” Up in her room, sitting on the window seat and gazing out at the of the large, porthole-shaped window, the girl “whispered, ‘you are my favorite place.'”

From the end of the dock, the little girl watched sailboats skim over the waves and dolphins leap above them. In the sky seagulls and pelicans circled, looking for food. When evening came, the girl and her mother and father sat in the creaky rocking chairs and watched the moon rise and the stars twinkle. Waves were the little girl’s lullabies.

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Image copyright Jessica Courtney-Tickle, 2020, text copyright Kelly Jordan, 2020. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Fall came too soon, and as the family drove away, the little girl waved goodbye to the blue cottage. All winter long, “the little cottage shivered through snow, ice, and rain.” But with the warm sun, the girl and her family returned. Then “the little cottage smelled like bacon, pancakes, and popcorn. The little girl smelled like syrup, sunscreen, and sea.”

As summers came and went, the girl grew. She took to the outdoors and the sea, swimming with the fish and waterskiing on top of the waves. On hot nights she caught fireflies. When summer storms battered the little cottage, it “stood strong” as the girl stayed snug and safe inside. And so it was that the girl and the little blue cottage “grew up together.”

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Image copyright Jessica Courtney-Tickle, 2020, text copyright Kelly Jordan, 2020. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

One year, the girl didn’t return with the summer. That year turned into many more, and the blue cottage became weather-beaten and gray, but it never gave up hope that the girl would come back. Then it happened. The cottage heard a beep-beep and the crunch of gravel. The girl – now, though, a mother herself – had returned with her own family. In her old room, she sat at the round window and whispered, “‘I missed you while I was away.'”

Once again the cottage became filled with light and the sounds and smells of summers long ago. The girl painted the cottage blue and “it was just like always.” And at night they fell asleep to the waves’ lullaby.

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Image copyright Jessica Courtney-Tickle, 2020, text copyright Kelly Jordan, 2020. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Infused with the deep-seated impressions of childhood, Kelly Jordan’s lyrical The Little Blue Cottage speaks of tradition, growing up, and the steadfast continuity of life. While the story beautifully depicts a seaside setting, readers will be reminded of their own special place or tradition – the one that will grow with them, coloring their hopes and dreams just as the blue cottage does for the little girl. Throughout the story, children follow two storylines: that of the family and that of the cottage. This dual storyline reinforces Jordan’s reminder of the cyclical nature of life and assures them that memories are never lost but always in reach to sustain them.

Jessica Courtney-Tickle’s airy and enchanting illustrations shine with sun-dappled loveliness and delicate renderings of the vegetation and sea creatures that make the seaside unique. Courtney-Tickle’s rich colors give each scene depth and movement. The storm scene is especially compelling From panel to panel and page to page, children can see changes taking place, and pointing these out while reading will give kids and adults an opportunity to talk about the transformations in the book as well as in their own lives. As the girl – now a mother – sits on the end of the dock with her smiling face tipped toward the sun, children will happily bask in the story as well as their own dreams for the future.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2020 | ISBN 978-1624149238

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

To learn more about Jessica Courtney-Tickle, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Lazy Day Activity

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Carefree Sloth Coloring Page

If there’s any animal that represents carefree relaxation, it’s the sloth. On this laziest of days, grab some crayons or colored pencils (or maybe just one or even none at all!) and enjoy this printable coloring page.

Carefree Sloth Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-blue-cottage-cover

You can find The Little Blue Cottage at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 5 – Build a Scarecrow Day

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About the Holiday

With so many crops – from corn to berries to peppers to squash – ripening in fields across the country, it’s time for farmers on small and large farms to put up a scarecrow to watch over all that bounty. To celebrate, gather some old clothes, a bale of straw or other filling, and a pole and put your imagination to work. This is a fun activity for the whole family – even if you don’t have a farm! 

The Scarecrow

Written by Beth Ferry | Illustrated by The Fan Brothers

 

Golden autumn has quieted the fields. The hay is rolled and the scarecrow waits for spring. The animals and the crows stand at a distance, afraid of this figure that does his job so well. “He never rests. / He never bends. / He’s never had a single friend, / for all the woodland creatures know / not to mess with old Scarecrow.”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Winter comes with gentle snow, and Scarecrow dreams of “spring…of buds and blooms and things that sing.” When spring dawns with warm sun and green grass, a tiny crow—with a “broken wing?”—“drops from midair” and attracts Scarecrow’s attention. Then Scarecrow does a most surprising thing: “He snaps his pole, / bends down low, / saves the tiny baby crow.” He tucks the baby in the straw near his heart, and as he sleeps and settles in, Scarecrow “sings the sweetest lullaby.”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The baby heals and the two become the best of friends. As the little crow grows, he and Scarecrow “will laugh and wish on stars, forgetting who they really are…” Spring turns to summer, and Scarecrow proudly watches as Crow learns to fly, but with the return of autumn, he knows that Crow must leave. Through late autumn and the frigid winter, Scarecrow slumps on his pole, alone—“Broken heart. Broken pole. Nothing fills the empty hole.” Then with the spring rains, the crow returns with wings wide open and Scarecrow welcomes him with a hug. The crow mends Scarecrow’s broken pole and refreshes his hay and then he says, “‘I’m here to say.’”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Crow and his mate build a nest in the spot where he grew up. Soon, “five small eggs are tucked unseen,” and Scarecrow watches over them for he knows that soon they will hatch baby crows. “And they will love him from the start, and they will grow up in his heart.” Throughout the year, these friends and more keep Scarecrow company and love him so.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow-little-crows

Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

In her story of a scarecrow and a baby crow who form a family, Beth Ferry’s gorgeous, lyrical language sweeps readers into Scarecrow’s world and lets them stand with him through the changing seasons and the progression of his transformation from a lonely existence as bleak as winter to a life as bountiful as summer. Ferry’s alternating short, staccato lines and longer, flowing rhythms create an emotional bond between the reader and Scarecrow. With a single sentence, in which Scarecrow and Crow forget “who they really are,” and through her periodic use of future tense, Ferry sparks hope and welcome reassurance for the future—not only for these two characters, but for us all. Crow’s return to raise his own family where he learned love and security and to help the aging Scarecrow is a moving portrayal of home, and the reciprocal devotion between Scarecrow and the crows will bring a tear to readers’ eyes.

Through their softly hued and textured mixed-media illustrations, The Fan Brothers create a tapestry of rural life, with its sometimes generous, sometimes harsh conditions.  As autumn turns to winter, Scarecrow is seen from a distance as animals look on, showing the divide in this natural landscape and the fear that rules it. But when a baby crow drops into the scarecrow’s life, he changes the dynamic, as children often do. With this life-changing event, The Fan Brother’s images become brighter, and the gauziness of the first spreads—so effective in depicting the barrier between Scarecrow and the rest of the world—clears. In turns Scarecrow is tender and proud, wistful and overjoyed—images that will tug at adults’ hearts. As Scarecrow once again stands tall and is surrounded by his crow family and the other animals on a sunny fall day, The Fan Brothers bring readers full circle in this story where the seasons of bounty and hardship mirror so well the cycles of life.

A thoughtful and beautifully conceived masterpiece, The Scarecrow is a must for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062475763

Discover more about Beth Ferry and her books on her website.

To learn more about The Fan Brothers, their books, and their art, visit their website.

Build a Scarecrow Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-scareccrow-coloring-page

Silly Scarecrow Coloring Page

 

Building a scarecrow with old clothes, some twine, and just the right amount of stuffing is creative fun! If you’d like a simpler way to make a scarecrow, enjoy this printable Silly Scarecrow Coloring Page!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scarecrow-cover

You can find The Scarecrow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review