November 9 – It’s National Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

November has been designated as a time for reflecting on our lives and being grateful for our family, friends, opportunities, and the things we have. To celebrate Gratitude Month, take time to count your blessings and thank those who are important in your life.

I received a copy of Duck and Hippo Give Thanks from Two Lions to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Written by Jonathan London | Illustrated by Andrew Joyner

 

As Hippo raked leaves, he was “dreaming of a good, old-fashioned Thanksgiving,” but his reveries were interrupted by Duck, who landed with a plop right in the middle of Hippo’s leaf pile. When Hippo asked his friend what he was doing, Duck answered that she was having fun and invited Hippo to join her, but with a huff he said, “‘I’m trying to make the pile all nice and tidy!’” Just then, Hippo was bonked on the head by a falling apple. He handed it to Duck as a snack, who said, “‘Thanks, Hippo!’”

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That reminded Hippo that tomorrow was Thanksgiving and he asked Duck to celebrate with him. Duck suggested they invite all of their friends. They went to the grocery store to buy supplies. The shopping went quickly as Hippo whooshed down the aisles with Duck in the cart grabbing food as they went. When Hippo wanted a ride in the cart, though, he got stuck. Elephant rushed over and got him out. To thank him, Duck and Hippo invited him to their Thanksgiving feast.

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At the bakery, Turtle let them skip ahead of him in line, so he was invited too. For lunch, Duck and Hippo went to Pig’s Pizza. To thank her for the delicious slices, Duck invited her to their dinner the next day. “‘Yummy!’ cried Pig. ‘I can’t wait!’” Back home, they began preparations. They helped each other gather leaves, pumpkins, squash, and apples then decorated the table together. Duck even “did a dance on the tabletop and sang, ‘TA-DA!’” before going home with the promise of seeing Hippo tomorrow.

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

While Hippo was dreaming of his big old-fashioned Thanksgiving, Duck had called together Elephant, Pig, and Turtle. “‘Let’s make something special for Hippo!’” he told them. Thanksgiving morning Hippo was up early. He baked apple and pumpkin pie, acorn squash, and other goodies. Then he sat down to wait for his friends. He waited and waited. The sun went down and the moon rose. Still, Hippo’s friends hadn’t arrived. Finally, they burst through the door with a surprise for Hippo. Hippo eagerly wondered what it was.

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

One by one, they showed what they had brought. Turtle held a tray of Chinese egg rolls, Elephant had made sea-cucumber sushi, Pig had created one of her famous pizza napoletanas, and Duck offered a plate of peanut-butter-and-jelly tacos. “‘SURPRISE!’” they all cheered. Hippo frowned. This was not the Thanksgiving feast he had imagined.

But then he saw how happy all of his friends looked. “He spread his arms wide and said, ‘WELCOME!’ And thank you for being who you are!’” They all sat around the table, held hands, and gave thanks for “being together, and for sharing natures bounty.” Then they gobbled up the best Thanksgiving feast ever. And when they were done? They went outside and dove into the leaves!

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Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

In his warmhearted Thanksgiving story, Jonathan London presents gentle conflicts which are resolved with generosity, friendship, and understanding as Duck, Hippo, and their friends prepare what each considers the perfect Thanksgiving feast. The spirit of the story lies in Hippo’s quick realization that a “good old-fashioned Thanksgiving” doesn’t lie solely in one type of meal, but in including friends, new traditions, and togetherness. Other examples of acceptance, of thoughtfulness, and of shaking off trivial accidents and minor complaints between the characters show young readers that happiness can be achieved when one fully considers a situation from both sides.

Andrew Joyner’s bright, action-packed illustrations clearly show the fond friendship between Duck and Hippo as they plan Thanksgiving dinner together. Duck’s carefree personality contrasts and complement’s Hippo’s more fastidious nature. Through the wide smiles, playfulness, and generous acts of the supporting characters young readers will understand that instead of ruining Hippo’s feast, they are excited to participate and contribute to it. Clear facial expressions and highlighted text also spotlight the strong bonds among these friends.

A feel-good story with humor and a positive message about the true meaning of Thanksgiving, Duck and Hippo Give Thanks—the latest in the Duck and Hippo series, which includes Duck and Hippo in the Rain and Duck and Hippo Lost and Found—is a wonderful addition to the series for fans and a terrific holiday book for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503900806

To learn more about Andrew Joyner, his books, and his art, visit his website.

You’re invited to watch the Duck and Hippo Give Thanks book trailer!

National Gratitude Month Activity

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Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game

 

Things to be thankful for are all around you! What do you see? Find an entire alphabet of favorite things with this printable Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game Page!

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You can find Duck and Hippo Give Thanks at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 22 – National Nut Day

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Today we celebrate cashews, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and all the other nuts that flavor dishes and provide healthy snacks. Nuts are nutritious, providing a good source of vitamins, protein, fiber, and important minerals. Eating nuts on a regular basis can also help keep your heart healthy. So, crack open some nuts today and have a feast!

I received a copy of The Squirrels Who Squabbled from Scholastic, Inc. for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Scholastic, Inc. in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

The Squirrels Who Squabbled

Written by Rachel Bright | Illustrated by Jim Field

 

In the middle of autumn, “a flighty young squirrel, / Who everyone knew as / ‘Spontaneous Cyril’” discovered he hadn’t prepared for the winter. In fact, “he hadn’t a mouthful of food ANYWHERE.” Then he spied a closed pinecone in a tree across the way. But as Cyril planned how to nab this very last treat, “‘Plan-Ahead Bruce’ had his sights on the prize.”

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

Although Bruce had amassed a tower of nuts, seeds, berries, and mushrooms to get him through the winter, he decided he must have that last pinecone too. So while Cyril took off running up the tree trunk on one side, Bruce scrambled up around the other side. Their scrabbling shook the tree and dislodged the pinecone from its nook. “Both squirrels gave chase at a lightning pace. / This was the start of a wild, nutty race.” They called out: “it’s mine!”. . . “No, it’s not!” . . . “Yes, it is!” and other such talk as they rushed after the pinecone.

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

“It BOINGED over bushes. . . and flew through the air. / It BINGED on the nose of a slumbering bear! / It BOUNCED over boulders then came to a . . . / STOP.” There, high on a cliff, it balanced a moment then fell into the rushing river below. Bruce and Cyril dived in after it. Each were thiiiis close to grabbing it when a bird nab it instead and flew far away. Meanwhile, the logs they were rafting on drifted over a waterfall. As they plunged did they think: “They’d squandered their chances / to team up and share. / Would their nutty young homes / simply end in despair?”

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

As they passed by a tree, Cyril clung to a branch and reached out his hand to rescue Bruce. Soaked and exhausted they crawled to dry land. “Then Bruce looked at Cyril and… exploded in giggles!” He thought they’d been silly and that he was greedy to boot. He vowed that he’d change and that their skirmish would cease. He said, “‘We should celebrate—seeing / we’re both in one piece!’” And Bruce kept his word. From then on he shared his bounty with Cyril and all the animals of the forest because he’d learned that sharing with friends was the best thing of all.

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

Kids will eat up Rachel Bright’s funny friendship story that bounces along at the pace of a flick of a squirrel’s tail. Her set-up to the action of the story is nifty with humorous and telling nicknames for the two squirrels and spreads that deftly depict their opposing lifestyle philosophies. Cyril and Bruce’s race through the forest, plunge over the waterfall, and daring rescue provide plenty of material for dramatic readings of Bright’s spectacular rhymes and rhythm. Her delectable vocabulary serves up comical squabbles, gripping suspense, and a heartwarming ending. Readers will eagerly join in on the rousing onomatopoeic rhymes. Bright’s message of camaraderie and what’s most important in life is always welcome and is well delivered. The story offers many opportunities for creative extension ideas.

Jim Field’s striking images of the forest in autumn—rendered in gold, red, orange and green with touches of rose—are fresh and peaceful. The sun-dappled vistas soon become an ironic counterbalance for the hilarious antics of Cyril and Bruce. The two rakish squirrels leap and bound through the forest, their speed portrayed with blurred backgrounds and their wrangling for the last pinecone pictured in tangled and grasping arms and legs. Cyril and Bruce’s  plummet over the waterfall is a vertical showstopper as is an illustration of the black bear among the birch trees. Get ready for repeat readings of the page where the pinecone ricochets from tree to rocks to the bear’s nose and lots of giggles when Bruce and Cyril make up. The final two-page spread of Bruce and Cyril’s feast shows friendship at its best.

Without a doubt, The Squirrels Who Squabbled is a book to add to home, classroom, and school libraries. It will be an often-asked-for favorite for story times all year ‘round.

Ages 3 – 7

Scholastic Inc., 2019 | ISBN 978-1338538038

Discover more about Rachel Bright and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jim Field, his books, and his art, visit his website.

The Squirrels Who Squabbled Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Scholastic, Inc. in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of The Squirrels Who Squabbled, written by Rachel Bright | illustrated by Jim Field

There are two ways to be entered to win!

  • Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.
  • Leave a comment on this post below 
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite forest animal for extra entry!

This giveaway is open from October 22 through October 26 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 27.

Giveaways open to US and Canadian addresses only | Prizing provided by Scholastic, Inc.

National Nut Day Activity

CPB - Bird Feeder I (2)

Pinecone Bird feeder

 

Making a pinecone bird feeder is a quick, fun way to nourish your backyard friends! Here are some simple directions for making your own!

Supplies

  • Large pinecone
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Birdseed
  • String
  • Knife or popsicle stick
  • Spoon
  • 2 Bowls

Directions

  1. Tie a length of string around one of the top layers of pinecone leaves and knot it to make a loop for hanging.
  2. Spoon about 1/3 cup of vegetable shorting into a bowl
  3. With the knife spread the shortening over the leaves of the pinecone, covering it completely.
  4. Pour birdseed into a bowl
  5. Roll the pinecone in the bowl of birdseed, patting seed into the crevices and around the sides.
  6. Hang your pinecone bird feeder on a branch or pole and watch the birds enjoy it!

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You can find The Squirrels Who Squabbled at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

October 9 – It’s National Cookie Month

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About the Holiday

In a month that celebrates treats of all kinds, it’s not surprising to find that we also honor the cookie. This hand-held scrumptious goodie comes in as many flavors and flavor combinations as you can think of. Baking cookies together is a fun way to spend an afternoon and eating them together is even better—as you’ll see in today’s book! To celebrate this month-long holiday, get out the bowls, the mixer, and the baking trays plus all of those yummy ingredients and whip up some favorites as well as some new recipes. Then—eat!

I received a copy of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! from Bloomsbury for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! and Croc & Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever! See details below.

Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun!

By Mike Wohnoutka

 

The snow is falling and Croc runs to Turtle’s house with a list of fun things to do. Turtle comes to the door with another list. They’re both a little surprised to find such opposite activities on each other’s lists, but Turtle thinks it will be fun to “do everything on both lists.” First, they head out to the pond to ice skate. But Turtle doesn’t know how. Croc says to just follow along, but in all of Croc’s zooming, whooshing, and twirling, Turtle is left dizzy and flat out on the ice. Croc thinks being outside is the best, but Turtle’s ready to go inside.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle has all the craft supplies to make paper snowflakes. Croc says, “I’m not very good at paper snowflakes.” Turtle, snipping away energetically, says, “Just watch me.” Turtle unfolds the paper and displays an intricate four-snowflake arch, while Croc’s four angled blocks of paper, taped and glued together, lie in front of him.

Outside again, Croc’s happy to go sledding, but Turtle’s feet are freezing. Uncertainly, Turtle sits in front of Croc. The screaming starts as the sled bumps and jumps down the hill. Buried up to their necks in snow, Croc is exhilarated, but for Turtle “it’s time to go back inside.” In the house, Turtle begins spreading the 1,000 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on the floor in front of a roaring fire as Croc flops nearby in utter boredom.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

He wants to go back out, but Turtle finds it “too cold and too dangerous.” In a huff, Croc stomps outside. Turtle fumes and stays inside. But Croc finds that throwing snowballs and skiing without Turtle is no fun, and Turtle misses Croc while coloring and playing cards. Then there’s a knock at the door. It’s Croc with an apology. Turtle apologizes too.  Croc ponders: how can they “be inside and outside and together?” Then Turtle whispers an idea into Croc’s ear.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle gets out the recipe book, eggs, flour, and other ingredients. Outside, Croc pats and shapes snow into blocks. Soon, Turtle has a tray full of cookies and hot chocolate, and Croc is pulling a sled loaded with Turtle’s table, chairs, and slippers to… their warm, cozy igloo so they can be “outside…and inside…and together.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-igloo

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mike Wohnoutka’s best friends Croc and Turtle are back in a cold-weather adventure that will warm readers’ hearts. Their enthusiasm to play together sparkles in their bright smiles and cheery greetings, they even overcome the initial momentary shock that Croc prefers outside, while Turtle is a homebody. As the two try to enjoy each other’s activities, though, their different personalities cause a rift. Little ones needn’t worry about these two besties, however.

It only takes a few minutes for each to realize winter is no fun without the other. In a tender lesson, Wohnoutka shows Croc and Turtle apologizing for their role in the tiff and then quickly moving on to working together to come up with a solution. The result of their creative problem solving will delight kids and is a clever activity that can be adapted for play at home. Wohnoutka’s inside and outside pursuits for Croc and Turtle are well chosen and will resonate with readers even as they giggle at the outcomes.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Just as in Wohnoutka’s first Croc & Turtle tale—Croc and Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!—these bright green friends with their expressive eyes will charm readers. Wohnoutka’s vivid imagery always puts the spotlight on Croc and Turtle, allowing the youngest readers to easily connect the text with the action, while older readers soak up all the humor and emotion in this enchanting story. Inside, Turtle’s home glows with warmth, while outside, you can almost feel the crisp, frosty air and the snowflakes drifting down. The final image brings both of these welcome winter delights together.

Whether you’re already fans of Croc and Turtle or meeting them for the first time, Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! is a sweet addition to home bookshelves. The book will also be a favorite in preschool and kindergarten classrooms and in public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681196374

Discover more about Mike Wohnoutka, his books, and his art, on his website.

Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! Two-Book Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Bloomsbury Children’s Books in a giveaway of these two books by Mike Wohnoutka:

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  • One (1) copy of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun!  

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  • One (1) copy of Croc & Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!

 

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

Bonus: Reply with favorite winter activity to receive an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from October 9 through October 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 14

Giveaways open to US and Canadian addresses only | Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

National Cookie Day Activity

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Catch the Cookie! Maze

 

Sometimes you just need a cookie! Help the little girl find her way to her favorite cookies with this printable Catch the Cookie! Maze and Solution.

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You can find Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

August 16 – National Tell a Joke Day

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About the Holiday

Is there anything better than a big belly laugh? Hearing or seeing something that tickles your funny bone can be one of the best parts of a day. Did you know that the first recorded joke dates back to 1900 BC? It seems those early Sumerians were a pretty rowdy bunch. And not only them, humor has been a part of every culture from their earliest days. And why not? Laughter makes us feel better psychologically and even has the power to heal. Celebrate today by sharing your favorite jokes!

Knock Knock

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Guy Francis

 

Bear’s eyes are droopy, and he’s all tucked in under his puffy quilt. With his teddy bear clasped in his hand, he’s just about to turn out the light when: “KNOCK KNOCK.” Dutifully, Bear rouses himself and goes to answer it. “Who’s there?” he says. The answer comes back: “Justin.” “Justin who?” Bear opens the door and Fox rushes in with an armload of firewood. “Justin the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by!”

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Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Fox is just piling the logs in the fireplace when there’s another “KNOCK KNOCK” at the door. Startled, Bear asks the requisite question and learns that Ken has also come calling. But as soon as the door is opened a crack, three wisecracking blue jays fly in carrying streamers. While Fox seems happy to see them, Bear is not so keen.

A moment later another “KNOCK KNOCK” brings one more visitor, who’s lugging a huge pot of stew in his two oven-mitted paws. Bear can hardly keep his eyes open, but when he hears a raucous “KNOCK KNOCK,” he can’t help but ask yet again, “Who’s there?” It’s “Olive.” “Olive who?” The door bursts open to a chorus of “Olive us!” Waiting to enter is a whole gang of friends who are carrying balloons, hot chocolate, cupcakes, and even some knitting. But there’s still room for more, and another “KNOCK KNOCK” brings a “Good grief” from Bear and a familiar face at the window with a playful take on an old wolfish ultimatum.

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Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

The party’s going full swing, but all Bear can do is “yawwwwnnn” from the comfort of his armchair and remind his guests that he really needs some…. “KNOCK KNOCK, KNOCK KNOCK, KNOCK KNOCK.” “WHO’S THERE?” Bear roars. He swings the door wide and finds Al, who has a very special message for this very special party given just for Bear. Then the animals tuck Bear in tight, whisper sweet goodnights, and leave him to his winter slumber. And when he wakes up? Harry is ready to play! KNOCK KNOCK!

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Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Tammi Sauer’s clever story told through knock-knock jokes will have young readers rolling with laughter as poor bear grows wearier and wearier but continues to answer the KNOCK KNOCK summons. Each knock-knock joke ingeniously moves the story along while introducing a crew of Bear’s friends, who, it turns out, has planned a special send-off for their pal’s hibernation. Kids will love chiming in on the famous line the big bad wolf used on the three little pigs and noticing that the little chipmunk is reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears to tuck his friend in. Over- tired Bear’s tirade quickly melts into a warm embrace for all his friends when he realizes why they’ve come. The revelation of Bear’s name when springtime rolls around offers one more laugh at the end of the story and allows Bear to get in on the fun.

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With each knock on the door, Guy Francis ramps up the hilarity as Bear reacts with startled, wide-eyed surprise to each guest, who enters with a twinkle of sly acknowledgment of his or her joke. The animals seem right at home as they build a fire in the fireplace, cook on the stove, decorate the living room—and even Bear himself. Kids will laugh out loud at Bear’s flustered expressions and his cavernous yawn as the party preparations continue around him. When Bear is finally ready to put his big paw down, only to realize that all the commotion is really for him, his toothy grin says it all. The sweet looks and big hugs all around as well as a brand-new, comfy quilt float Bear off to dreamland for the winter. When spring comes, a refreshed Harry, looking not quite so grizzled comes knocking on the woodland animals’ Hobbit-style homes to repay the visit.

Knock Knock will knock kids’ socks off, and you can bet the book will go into much-loved rotation and begin a love of this funny joke form. The book would make a terrific gift and addition to home bookshelves as well as a lighthearted choice for funny classroom story times.

Ages 3 – 6

Scholastic Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1338116946

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

To learn more about Guy Francis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Tell a Joke Day Activity

Fox_in_Suit

Animated Animals Coloring Pages

 

These animals have heard some funny jokes, but they need a bit of color! Grab your crayons, markers, or pencils and have fun!

Happy Hedgehog | Laughing Fox | Smiling Sheep

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You can find Knock Knock at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 19 – It’s National Vacation Rental Month

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About the Holiday

A great vacation starts with a great place to stay! Whether you like a cabin by the lake, a cottage by the shore, a tent or camper in the woods, an airbnb, or that good-ol’ staple the hotel, getting away from home can be an adventure in itself. July hosts National Vacation Rental Month because, coming in the middle of summer, it is when most vacations take place. If you haven’t planned a get-away yet, there’s still time to find just the right accommodation for maximum enjoyment!

The Great Indoors

Written by Julie Falatko | Illustrated by Ruth Chan

As the family headed off in their van packed with fishing gear and sleeping bags, the animals knew it was time to start their annual vacation. The bears were the first to arrive. As they gazed appreciatively around their summer home away from home, they sighed happily. “‘Ah, the great indoors!’ said the father bear. ‘The most relaxing week of the year,’ said the mother bear.” Meanwhile their teenage bear was hurrying off to the bathroom to install her makeup and hair supplies. Soon, the beavers showed up, taking over the kitchen with bags of food and ca cooler stuffed with ice cream.

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Image copyright Ruth Chan, 2019, text copyright Julie Falatko, 2019. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

The deer brought the karaoke machine and disco ball. “‘Good-bye peace and quiet!’ said a big deer. ‘Hello, dance party!’ said a bigger deer.” The skunks loved the simplicity of electricity. The bears, the deer, and the skunks all plunked down on the couch in front of the TV while the beavers prepared frosty drinks and lasagna. Yes, “the great indoors was the perfect vacation spot.” The bears took advantage of the opportunity to use their power tools, while the deer perfected their singing, and the skunks got online, made calls, and took lots of showers. Meanwhile, the beavers were cooking, cooking, cooking.

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Image copyright Ruth Chan, 2019, text copyright Julie Falatko, 2019. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

But as the week dragged on, “things got less than perfect.” The animals’ muscles ached from all the dancing and video game playing, the teenage bear hogged the bathroom, and the kitchen was left a disaster. “And still it got even worse.” Father bear broke the bed, a deer created a toaster fire, a skunk blew out the speaker, the garbage piled up, and the dishes had to be washed outside in the puddle left from the hose.

By the end of the week, “everyone was ready to go home.” The sounds grated, the work was overwhelming, and little skunk missed “peeing behind a tree.” Still, they all agreed they’d had a great time and were looking forward to next year. And just as they headed back to the woods, the family came back from their camping trip and opened the door to find…well….

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Image copyright Ruth Chan, 2019, text copyright Julie Falatko, 2019. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Julie Falatko hilariously turns the table on people’s penchant to get away from it all in the great outdoors with her sly story of woodland besties spending a week together in a house vacated for a family vacation. As the animals settle in, Falatko riffs on everything from vacation clichés to the challenges of traveling with kids and teens to enjoying typically summer-only treats. There are even a few droll nods to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Kids will laugh out loud to see their favorite activities adopted in a new wild way.

Echoing people’s happiness to return home no matter how fun the vacation, Falatko humorously reminds readers that there’s no place like home, while holding out eager anticipation for the next adventure. The unsuspecting family’s return—an ingenious and comically perfect combination of text and illustration—wraps up this vacation spree with just the right note of surprise (and perhaps a nudge to remember to leave the great outdoors without a trace).

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Image copyright Ruth Chan, 2019, text copyright Julie Falatko, 2019. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ruth Chan’s funny depictions of the animals gathering at their vacation “rental” will have kids and adults giggling from the first page. She nails the giddy excitement of being away from home with all the excess supplies and grand schemes that go along with it. Stepping through the door of the hotel, cabin, or even tent, what adults don’t gaze around with appreciation as the kids run off to claim a bed or the bathroom or get ready for a swim? Treats that might be off-limits the rest of the year are suddenly on the menu to great delight, and the lure of all the time in the world to do just what you want is irresistible.

Chan’s vivid illustrations are loaded with comical details just waiting to be unpacked. For example, ice-cream flavors include saltlick ice, vanilla with “real oak” clusters, honey cream, and log ice. Kids will love following the week-long antics of the hair-obsessed teenage bear, who creates a “Fur De-Frizzer 2000” and then can be seen sporting its successful results. A clever aerial view of all the rooms in the house lets kids see the chaos of a vacation out of control, and as the great indoors begins to lose its luster, readers are in for more humorous portrayals of how life diverges for people and animals.

For vacationers or staycationers, The Great Indoors is just the ticket that will have kids rarin’ to go—or stay—but definitely laughing and asking for more. The book would be a funny and favorite addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Disney- Hyperion, 2019 | ISBN 978-1368000833

Discover more about Julie Falatko and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ruth Chan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Vacation Rental Month Activity

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Family Vacation Fun! Maze

 

This family is really looking forward to their vacation in the woods. Can you help them find their way to their cabin in this printable maze?

Family Vacation Fun! Maze | Family Vacation Fun! Maze Solution

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You can find The Great Indoors at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 18 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

April is the month when the earth comes alive again after a long winter! Flowers bloom in brilliant colors, trees bud and blossom with pale, green leaves, and the birds and animals prepare for new life to come. Today, enjoy the warmer weather, plan a garden or flower bed, or visit a nursery or park and take in the sights and smells of spring!

Growing Season

By Maryann Cocca-Leffler

 

El and Jo weren’t only best friends, they were the smallest kids in their class. They did everything together, even helping “each other reach the unreachable.” On picture day, Jo and El always got to be in front, and during reading time they could both fit into the comfy reading chair. “But in springtime, something BIG happened.” Jo began to grow. Their teacher, Mr. Diaz, said she was “growing like a weed.”

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

She no longer needed El’s help to water the plants on the windowsill, and she had graduated to needing a bigger desk. On the last day of school, when Mr. Diaz told everyone they could take a plant home for the summer, El was overlooked and reached over as the other kids took all the colorful flowers. By the time El got to the windowsill, the only plant left was an aster, with no blooms at all.

Mr. Diaz told her that “aster means ‘star.’” El didn’t think her plant was a star, but Mr. Diaz encouraged her to wait and see. “Jo looked over at El’s sad plant, and then at her own” and offered to let El have her zinnia since she was going to be away all summer anyway. El said she’d plant them side by side, and Jo said they could be best friends.

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

At home, El planted her aster and Jo’s zinnia. She cared for them and waited. They grew bigger, but while the zinnia had many colorful flowers, El’s aster still had none. All summer long, El and Jo wrote letters to each other. El sent a photograph of her zinnia to Jo and told her that waiting for aster was hard. Finally, Jo came home. It was the last day of summer, and the two girls ran to the garden. There, they saw that “something BIG had happened. Aster had finally bloomed…and so had El!”

An Author’s Note on plant life cycles describes the differences between annual, perennial, biennial, and tender perennial flowers and includes fun facts about peonies, dahlias, marigolds, and foxgloves.

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Copyright Maryann Cocca-Leffler, 2019, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With her signature warmth and attention to children’s feelings, Maryann Cocca-Leffler offers a sweet story about growth and how each child’s experience is as varied as garden flowers. El and Jo, as the smallest kids in the class, are natural best friends—a relationship which, in a welcome demonstration of steadfastness, remains strong even when Jo begins to grow. As summer comes, El’s focus is not on herself but on caring for the aster and zinnia and staying in touch with Jo.

When Jo returns, readers will see that something more has happened over the summer too. As the two girls hug, excited to see each other again, children will notice that they are now the same height—a surprise that El and Jo also seem to share with smiles and sidelong glances at each other. The purple asters that greet the reunited pair, remind kids that growth in many forms follows the natural path for each individual.

Cocca-Leffler’s fresh and cheerful gouache, colored pencil, and collage illustrations present a diverse classroom and school details that will be familiar to readers, making this a highly relatable story. Mr. Diaz shows kindness and understanding as he crouches down to talk with El about the aster and offer encouragement.

A gentle, reassuring story, Growing Season would make an excellent story to pair with plant or garden lessons as well as to remind children that everyone grows and develops at their own pace for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454927044

Discover more about Maryann Cocca-Leffler, her books, and her art on her website.

National Garden Month Activity

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Flip-Flop Plant Holder

 

Starting to dig out the flip-flops for warmer weather and finding they’re a little too small? Don’t get rid of them! Make them into this sandal-ightful way to hang succulents and other light plants on walls or even windows!

Supplies

  • Child’s flip-flops with elastic heel straps
  • Buttons or charms
  • Small plastic solid-bottom pot
  • Hot glue gun
  • Heavy duty mounting strips
  • Small plant
  • Dirt
  • Small shovel or spoon

Directions

  1. Place the flip-flop toe down on your work surface. With the hot glue gun, attach the buttons to the plastic toe straps of the flip-flops.
  2. Add dirt to the pot
  3. Add plant to the pot
  4. Slip the pot into the elastic strap and gently push down so it is also supported by the plastic toe straps
  5. To hang, use appropriate-weight mountable strips.
  6. To make an interesting and attractive arrangement, use various sizes of flip-flops

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You can find Growing Season at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 5 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Starting off with Read across America Day on March 2nd, the month celebrates reading, its joys, and benefits. When you read with your child or children every day you’re helping them develop the language and literacy skills that will promote future success in school and beyond. Even if your child isn’t talking yet, they’re listening and learning about their language as you read to them. Older kids also love being read to, and setting aside time to read together builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is officially marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities that bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids. 

I received a copy of Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! from Abrams Appleseed to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Abrams in an Instagram giveaway of the book. See details below.

Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day!

Written by Anne Marie Pace | Illustrated by Christopher Lee

 

It’s nine o’clock in the morning and a family’s packed up a picnic lunch, clambered into their minivan, and headed out on the open road. “But halfway there…THUMP-BUMPTY…SPLAT! / What’s going on? Our tire’s flat!” No worries, they think—there’s always the spare. But when they look, they discover that tire’s flat too. They check a list of roadside helpers and pick Sunny’s Towing. They make the call and begin to wait.

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Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

At nine thirty the little boy hears a truck approaching. Is it Sunny? No—it’s a hauler carrying lumber. At ten o’clock the little girl spots another vehicle while her brother munches his sandwich. “Is that her truck? / Just a pickup. Out of luck.” By ten thirty the road is getting busy with construction workers making repairs and other cars traveling here and there. Over the hills black smoke from a fire billows into the sky while Dad enjoys a bite of his lunch.

Mom calls Sunny, who says that she’s so busy it might be noon before she gets to them. In a moment firetrucks and police cars with their sirens blaring speed by. As time passes, they see more trucks—“Tractor trailers, rough and rumbly. / Concrete mixers, tough and tumbly. / Dump trucks filled with piles of muck. But no tow truck. We are stuck.” It’s a good time to have a snack the girl thinks.

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Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

It’s getting close to noon and the family counts down the minutes. Suddenly, they see Sunny approaching. She tows them to her garage, where the tire is changed lickity-split. Finally, the family is ready to enjoy their picnic, but when they look in the cooler all the food has disappeared! Sunny has an idea. She shows the family where the best ice cream is sold, and, with cones in hand, they enjoy a perfect picnic in the park.

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Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

With perky rhymes, Anne Marie Pace takes readers on a picnic that doesn’t quite come off as planned. As the family waits by the side of the road for the tow truck to arrive, the little girl and boy enthusiastically point out other vehicles passing by and take in the excitement of the construction work going on beside them. Pace’s verses shine with cleverly paired words, realistic dialog, names of various kinds of cars and trucks, and dynamic verbs that will captivate kids. Readers will love the humor sprinkled throughout that leads to the “Oh, no!” moment when the family discovers they’ve already eaten their picnic. Sunny—with an appropriately sunny personality—saves the day with her delightful desert idea.

Christopher Lee lends a charming retro feel to his vivid illustrations with funky home decor, old-fashioned ads, and stylized cars and trucks. The family’s emotions are clearly evident—from their smiles as they pack their picnic to the shock of having a flat tire and finding the spare flat as well to their cheerful patience. Images of the various trucks, emergency vehicles, and other cars will thrill vehicle enthusiasts, and the two-page spread of Sunny’s garage, loaded with action and tools, will spark discussion. Humor and details abound on each page, prompting kids to linger, laugh, and learn.

A sweet story that incorporates a love for vehicles, a family outing, and a fresh lesson on patience, Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! will be a favorite story time read and a fun addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419731914

Discover more about Anne Marie Pace and her books on her website.

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

Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Abrams Appleseed in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! written by Anne Marie Pace | illustrated by Christoper Lee

This giveaway is open from March 5 through March 11 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 12.

It takes just these two steps to enter:

Prizing provided by Abrams

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Reading Month Activity

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Tow Truck to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle

Four cars need help! Can you show the tow truck drivers the way to the right cars in this printable puzzle?

Tow Truck to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle

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You can find Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review