October 25 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Herbert on the Slide

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Thanks to Hippo Park Books and Deborah Sloan for sending me a copy of Herbert on the Slide for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Herbert on the Slide (A Hippo Park Pals Book)

By Rilla Alexander

 

“Herbert loved everything about the slide.” Rilla Alexander’s first sentence speaks directly to the hearts of little ones who fully understand its simple, lovely truth. As Herbert climbs to the top, his teddy bear and truck in tow; settles in on his high perch; launches his “test run” with first Teddy and then truck—”clanky-clank-clank”—and finally counts down to his turn, kids will follow along, entranced by Herbert’s adventure and memories of their own.

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Copyright Rilla Alexander, 2022, courtesy of Hippo Park.

Of course, a slide is never just a slide, and Herbert goes “…again! And again! … sliding down, down, down…into his imagination!” One time, on his belly, “Herbert and Teddy are diving into a deep, purple sea!” Next time, “Herbert is a truck climbing up, up, up a mountain. Chug-chug-chug!” But Herbert isn’t the only one at the playground. His little sister is ready for her turn—and so is mouse and frog and turtle. There’s just one thing to do. “Line up and you can start all over again!”

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Copyright Rilla Alexander, 2022, courtesy of Hippo Park.

Rilla Alexandra’s endearing story for little ones, matched page-by-page by her adorable, “awww”-inspiring art is snuggle-up story time reading at its best. Perfectly reflective of a child’s playfulness and imagination, Herbert on the Slide is not only a story that will captivate them time and time again but a wonderful entry into the world of literature.

A subtle subplot involves Herbert’s younger sister, Fiona (soon to be the star of her own Hippo Park Pals book, Fiona in the Sandbox, coming February 7, 2023). She is at first unidentified and only seen in the distance, heading to the sandbox with her pail, a detail sure to pique kids’ interest. She’s later heard telling Herbert—who, mesmerized by an imagined chase and its successful conclusion, is resting on the bottom of the slide—that it’s her turn. Turning the page, kids see that she’s sitting atop the slide with a line of other wanna-be sliders waiting behind her. Alexander’s encouragement for Herbert to get in line and start again is a gentle and reassuring life lesson.

Sweet smiles and a sunny ambiance welcome readers on every clean, slide-focused page. Each scene is colored with the texture of crayons in bright shades and with the “messy” enthusiasm of children’s art.

A Special Note: The book’s small size (5 1/4-inches by 4 3/4-inches) makes it a perfect take-along, easily slipped into a backpack, diaper bag, or even a pocket for picnics, snack time, or just reading-time fun at the playground, park, beach, farmers market, or anywhere waiting may be required.

Cute as a button and perfectly reflecting the excitement and imagination of children’s free play, Herbert on the Slide is a must for any baby’s or preschooler’s home bookshelf as well as for school and public library collections. The book would be a favorite story time read aloud for daycare, preschool, and kindergarten classrooms as well as for public libraries’ preschool programs. It would also make a much-loved gift for baby showers, new siblings, birthdays, and the holidays. 

Ages 2 – 5

Hippo Park Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662640117

Discover more about Rilla Alexander, her books, and her art on her website.

Herbert on the Slide Book Birthday Activity

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Herbert on the Slide Coloring Pages

 

You can find three fun coloring pages from Herbert on the Slide to print on the Hippo Park homepage at Astra Publishing House or here.

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You can find Herbert on the Slide at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 21 – My Name Is Not Ed Tug Book Tour Stop

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I’d like to thank The Children’s Book Review and Amy Nielander for sharing a digital copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug with me and offering a small stipend to write a review. All opinions on the book are my own. As part of the tour I’m also excited to be participating in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

My Name Is Not Ed Tug

By Amy Nielander

 

From the Publisher

A sweet, whimsical story about the meaningfulness behind a person’s name and the power of accepting people just as they are.

Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug has a very special name that is all his own. But his teacher thinks it’s too long and hard to say. One day she shortens it to. . . Ed.

But he loves his name just the way it is. So he comes up with a plan—if he can teach everyone his name, maybe they’ll love it too!

Sweet and whimsical, My Name Is Not Ed Tug empowers readers to own their identities and proudly celebrate who they are.

My Review

Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug knew where he came from and just where he fit into his family. After all, “he was named after his Grandpa Edimor,” who helped him learn how to spell his name with a tall tower of blocks; “his Great Uncle Whitimor,” who taught him how to play the accordion; his Aunt Mili,” who ran a butterfly farm; “and his Granny Gimmus,” who filled his tummy with warm, homemade soup.” Anyone hearing his name might think it was gibberish, but Edimorwhitimormiligimmus thought “it was perfect.”

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

School, of course, was a challenge since the other kids had a hard time spelling or even remembering his name. And his teacher, Ms. Mell, found that her mouth grew “quite tired” just trying to pronounce it. But one Monday, Ms. Mell announced that a new student, Ty, would be joining their class. Mrs. Mell had made name tags for each student to make it easier for Ty to remember their names, and she slapped one on Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s shirt. When he looked, Edimorwhitimormiligimmus saw that the tag simply read “Ed.” He gazed at the tag with sadness. “Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug was shocked. He was perplexed. He felt like his heart had been stung by a giant bee. Twice.”

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

After school, Edimorwhitimormiligimmus went straight to his room and stayed there, thinking. When he emerged, he had a plan (and a very perfectly sized name tag taped to his sweater). The next day, he approached Ty, who was playing with puzzle blocks. He stood proudly, displaying his sweater, and introduced himself—his whole self. He slowly said each part of his name and, miraculously, Ty repeated it. Edimorwhitimormiligimmus “was so happy his curls bounced.” Then as he and Ty constructed a tall bridge with the blocks, he explained how he and his Grandpa Edimor “love to build things together”—and had even invented those blocks.

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

At lunch he did the same thing with the kids at his table, and they also repeated his name. To explain how important his Uncle Whitimor was to him, Edimorwhitimormiligimmus, he played his uncle’s favorite song on the accordion. When the class went out for recess, he told more kids about his Aunt Mili and pointed out, and they too learned his name.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Mell was out sick, and Edimorwhitimormiligimmus saw an opportunity to be kind and explain about his name. He and Ty delivered a steaming pot of Granny Gimmus’s soup to her doorstep and told her all about cooking with his granny. “The delicious soup warmed her heart.” Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s plan worked. Now everyone, including Ms. Mell, knew—and used—Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s full name.

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

The experience prompted Edimorwhitimormiligimmus to come up with a new plan, a project to ensure all of his friends knew their names were just as perfect for them as Edimorwhitimormiligimmus was for him. And he and his classmates got started with the gift they made for Tyvantennyson to give him at his birthday party.

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Amy Nielander’s heartwarming and affirming story will captivate kids from the first recitation of “Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug”—a name that initially elicits giggles but soon rolls smoothly off the tongue. As they learn how each piece of Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s name reflects not only the family member he’s named for but also the special things they do together, readers will empathize with the pride he feels in his name and his disappointment when they can’t get it right.

While Nielander’s clever story revolves around one child’s name, there are many other important lessons for both kids and adults woven throughout. Children will understand that their names, personalities, heritage, talents, and dreams are perfect for them just the way they are. For adults, Ms. Mell’s dismissive mangling and shortening of Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s name to “make it easier for all of us” reminds us that every child deserves to be really seen and accepted for who and everything they are.

Nielander’s illustrations are full of warmth and love, charm and humor as she introduces the unique talents of each member of Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s inclusive and close-knit family. As Edimorwhitimormiligimmus puts his plan to teach each classmate and Ms. Mell his name into action, the children’s sweet faces and palpable excitement are infectious and will draw readers into this universal hug of a story. The surprise reveal of Ty’s full name and the collective gift the class makes him—with the promise of the same for each child—will delight readers and is sure to spur them to create name signs for themselves.

An engaging, multi-layered story about acceptance, self-esteem, family, and friendship, My Name is Not Ed Tug is a story kids will want to hear again and again. The book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

West Margin Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1513134871

Discover more about Amy Nielander, her books, and her art on her website.

Take a peek at the book trailer for My Name Is Not Ed Tug!

About Amy Nielander

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Amy Nielander is a designer and award-winning children’s book author and illustrator who loves to create playful stories for kids. Growing up, she had her name frequently misspelled by others. My Name Is Not Ed Tug is inspired by this experience and by her time volunteering in her children’s classrooms. Amy lives near Detroit, Michigan. You can connect with Amy on: her Website | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn | Pinterest

My Name Is Not Ed Tug Book Giveaway

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Click the image below (or click here and scroll down) for a chance to win a signed copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug, the Potato-Noodle-Feel-Better Soup recipe featured in the story, and a Name Journal! Three winners will be chosen:

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

  • A signed copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug
  • A Potato-Noodle-Feel-Better Soup recipe (soup is featured in the story). The digital download includes an “Ingredient Checklist coloring page” for kids.
  • A Name Journal: A 3.5″ x 5″ pocket-sized journal with 32 blank pages (100% recycled paper).

Two (2) winners receive:

  • A signed copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug

To Enter just click the image below, scroll down, and follow the directions!

My Name Is Not Ed Tug, by Amy Nielander | Awareness Tour

And there’s so much more! Don’t miss any of the excitement  of the…

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-name-is-not-ed-tug-tour-image

Read an Interview with Amy Nielander at Crafty Moms Share

You can read other reviews of My Name is Not Ed Tug at these wonderful sites

Check out these upcoming posts too!

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You can find My Name Is Not Ed Tug at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & NobleBookshop 

 

 

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 4 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of How to Draw a Happy Cat

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Thank you to Hippo Park and Deborah Sloan for sharing a copy of How to Draw a Happy Cat with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

How to Draw a Happy Cat

Written by Ethan T. Berlin | Illustrated by Jimbo Matison

 

As the book opens, an unseen art teacher enthusiastically instructs kids in creating a cat. And not just any cat, but one that will be smiling at the end: “Learning how to draw a happy cat is fun and easy!” The narrator lays out clear instructions and gives an example of how the initial shape and each new addition should look. By the end of the first page spread, kids have a striped yellow cat with eyes, nose, and violet ears but no…mouth. On the page turn, the narrator prompts kids to add a smile. But wait! That smile doesn’t last long. On the next page she’s frowning. “What do you think she wants?” the instructor asks.

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Image copyright Jimbo Matison, 2022, text copyright Ethan T. Berlin, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

The narrator makes some suggestions: “…a cool T-shirt, …a stuffy,” and “Oh, I know—a skateboard!” These items too are sketched out as examples. And, yeah! The cat is “totally happy now!” This happy cat has some moves on the skateboard too. Her wide smile just shows how happy she is. Even the unicorn on her T-shirt is grinning. But the stuffy? He’s looking a little glum and it brings down the whole vibe. Happy Cat is no longer happy.

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Image copyright Jimbo Matison, 2022, text copyright Ethan T. Berlin, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

The instructor seems to know what’s needed and suggests readers “draw her some friends! And a ramp!” Now that’s more like it! A four-legged alien-type guy, a chicken, and a dog make very happy friends. So they’re soaring into the air off the ramp on their skateboards and… Oh no! You know—what goes up must come down. Suddenly, Cat is afraid. Down, down they begin to fall. What can readers do?

Quick as you can say “airplane,” readers can help a winged and propellered rescue appear. Phew! Now they’re all happy again. Turns out, though, that skateboarding on a plane whips up quite an appetite, and now Cat is hungry. How can readers help? Well, wouldn’t a slice of pizza taste delicious? Kids learn how to draw a pizzeria and a cheesy slice, but delivery? That could be a problem. 

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Image copyright Jimbo Matison, 2022, text copyright Ethan T. Berlin, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

Cat has an idea, and while it works… it kinda, also…doesn’t. Now Cat and her friends are falling once again. Luckily readers are right there to remedy the situation, and all turns out great. So great that Cat and her friends want to celebrate. They can’t do it without decorations, music, entertainment, and some really cool hats, though, so it’s up to readers to create the most awesome party ever to “draw a happy cat!”

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Image copyright Jimbo Matison, 2022, text copyright Ethan T. Berlin, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

Starting out with a straightforward drawing lesson, Ethan T. Berlin and Jimbo Matison soon raise the stakes for readers by putting them in charge of pleasing this mercurial cat. Berlin’s enthusiastic narrator makes helpful suggestions throughout the story that prompt kids to use their natural creativity to make Cat happy while Matison actually teaches them how an artist or cartoonist puts together shapes to draw a vast array of characters, objects, moods, and action.

On top of this, Berlin’s rollercoaster story will have kids giggling on every page, and well-placed questions get them thinking about how happiness can turn to sadness or dissatisfaction (for Cat as well as themselves) in the blink of an eye (or the turn of a page) and how those moments can be turned around or amended. The story’s last line gives readers an opportunity to start all over again—or, now that they’ve got the skills, even come up with their own story to write and illustrate.

Matison’s cartoon characters (sometimes charmingly colored outside the lines) are energetic and optimistic, reveling in new playthings, friends, and experiences. Kids will love watching for Chicken’s reactions, one funny placement of a pizza slice, and a few mishaps that foreshadow the book’s cyclical ending. Colorful type highlights strong emotions, especially when Cat is happy.

Sure to make kids laugh and get excited about writing and drawing as well as providing an organic way to talk about emotions and ways to create your own happiness, How to Draw a Happy Cat makes a terrific addition to home bookshelves as a favorite story time read and go-to book for impromptu drawing fun. The book is highly recommended for school and public library collections, where it will certainly enjoy frequent rotation and its multiple layers inspire participatory programs.

Ages 4 – 8 

Hippo Park, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662640049

Discover more about Ethan T. Berlin and his books, TV shows, and other funny stuff on his website.

To learn more about Jimbo Matison, his books, design work, and TV shows, visit his website.

Laugh—or commiserate—along with this How to Draw a Happy Cat book trailer! 

How to Draw a Happy Cat Book Birthday Activity

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Pizza Party Board Game and Drawing Kit

 

Can you make Cat and her friends happy by getting them to the pizza party? Just pick your character, draw numbers to move around the board—and have some fun on the way! Play the game with your friends and then learn how to draw a happy chicken by downloading the How to Draw a Happy Cat Activity Kit from Hippo Park!

How to Draw a Happy Cat Activity Kit

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You can find How to Draw a Happy Cat at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 6 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Friendship Month was established by the Oddfellows (shortened from The Grand United Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society (GUOOFS)), an international fraternity that dates back to 1730s England with the hope of encouraging people to make friends. Now dedicated to philanthropy and charity, the Oddfellows still promote Friendship Month each September to urge people to spend more time with their friends, get in touch with those they haven’t seen or talked to in a while, and, especially, to reach out to others who are alone or need a friend. As school gets underway, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to meet new people and form friendships – some of which may last a lifetime.

I’d like to thank Carolrhoda Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Big Bear and Little Fish

Written by Sandra Nickel | Illustrated by Il Sung Na

 

At the fair, Bear approached the basketball game booth, where the grand prize was a huge teddy bear. It was almost as big as Bear, herself. But Bear took away the consolation prize: a goldfish. “It was small. It was very small. It was so small it lived in a bowl.” Bear peered into the bowl, but when Fish woke up and said “‘Hello, Bear. Is this my new home?'”, Bear only nodded, afraid her big voice would scare little Fish.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

When lunchtime came, Bear made herself a sandwich with syrup that was as gold as she was. Bear didn’t know what to feed Fish, who was orange and probably liked “carrot muffins … or tangerines and pumpkins.” After lunch, Bear always measured herself. Today, she was over nine feet big! Bear didn’t know how she could measure Fish, so she left home for her regular afternoon walk, wishing – and not for the first time – that Fish was a teddy bear.”

While walking, Bear contemplated how inconvenient Fish might find the outdoors. Things could fall into her bowl and get caught in her tail. If she had a teddy bear Bear thought again, she wouldn’t have to worry about such things as tails. Bear began to regret ever bring Fish home from the fair. When Bear got home again, Fish greeted her with a “‘Hello” and a comment on how much she liked their porch.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In response, Bear gave Fish the bad news that she couldn’t stay. When Fish asked why, Bear laid out her reasons: Fish was orange and ate orange foods; Fish had a tail that made it impossible for her to go on walks with Bear; and finally that Fish was too small. Fish was undaunted. She pointed out that Bear was orange too, and when Bear inspected her belly, she agreed that it “was an orangey sort of gold” kind of “like a carrot muffin.” Fish then added that Bear had a tail, and when Bear looked over her shoulder, she saw a tiny tuft. As to the assertion that she is “small,” Fish was surprised. 

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

“Am I?” she asked then welcomed being measured. She stretched herself out, and Bear measured her: three inches long. Fish was happy with this result; she wasn’t so small after all. “‘I am not one inch. I am not two inches. I am three inches,'” she said proudly. Still, Bear couldn’t get over the idea that Fish was so tiny she had to live in a bowl. 

But Fish was philosophical. “‘Don’t you live in a bowl too?'” she asked. Bear had never thought of it that way before, and as she looked around at the big, blue sky, she suddenly felt small too. Fish reassured her and offered another perspective on physical size compared to how big one could feel inside. Bear considered this and then decided she’d like to take another walk – this time accompanied by Fish. And so they set off in search of a very big carrot muffin.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In her seemingly odd “fellows” friendship story, Sandra Nickel presents a multi-layered look at what it means to be a true friend. She cleverly offers readers a variety of lenses for them to engage in perspective, from the character’s viewpoints to their own. Bear, alone at home and on her walks, focuses only on herself. At the fair, she wants to win a teddy bear that is a twin to herself but for which she would not need to be responsible in any real sense.

Fish, however, immediately wants to interact with Bear. She talks to him and asks questions. At first, it may seem that Bear will simply ignore Fish, but the idea of her has begun to make Bear think and even worry (here, Nickel creates a complex mix of emotions that invites discussion). Equally thought-provoking are Fish’s counter arguments when Bear tells her she can’t stay. While promoting how similar they are, Fish prompts Bear to reevaluate her view of herself and the world she lives in. Once Bear realizes that she, too, can be considered small and that the full measure of a person (or Fish or Bear) is found inside oneself, she embraces Fish – responsibilities, friendship, muffins, and all.

Il Sung Na plays with perspective and color to subtly guide readers through the stages of this endearing friendship. As Bear walks home from the fair, dejectedly carrying Fish in her bowl, the hilly landscape is washed in shades of blue and the twiggy, leafy, mushroomy vegetation replicates an ocean bottom. This evocative effect continues throughout the book, prompting kids to find other similarities between Bear and Fish and their environments. Readers will also enjoy pointing out examples and comparisons of big and small.

An endearing and thought-provoking story that boosts self-confidence while promoting friendship, empathy, and new perspectives, Big Bear and Little Fish will become a quick favorite on home bookshelves, a go-to book for classrooms, and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Carolrhoda Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1728417172

Discover more about Sandra Nickel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Il Sung Na, her books, and her art on her website.

Dive in to this book trailer for Big Bear and Little Fish!

Friendship Month Activity

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Measuring Stick Craft

 

Bear and Fish loved getting measured. If you’re looking for a unique way to measure how big you are, here’s a craft for you! This nature-inspired measuring stick can keep track of your big and small growth spurts whenever you sprout up. You can even add leaves to record thoughts, favorite things, and other ideas as you age! 

Supplies

  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Dark and light green foam sheets or 45 – 50 small wooden leaves, available at craft stores
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch-long tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf

For Measuring Growth: Write the inch 1 through 45 or higher on each leaf with the black marker, alternating colors

For Recording Ideas: You can write favorite ideas, hobbies, or hopes on the leaves too and measure your growth that way!

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

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To get a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish personalized by Sandra Nickel

Visit Watermark Books to request a signed and personalized copy. When ordering, simply note your desired dedication in the Comments section. Sandra will sign on September 24, 2022, so be sure to order in plenty of time.

You can also find Big Bear and Little Fish at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 2 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Maya and the Beast

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Thanks to Harry N. Abrams for sharing a copy of Maya and the Beast with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Maya and the Beast

Written by Maya Gabeira | Illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki

 

“Once upon a time, in a fishing village called Nazaré, there lived a Beast” begins this compelling fictionalized version of world-record-breaking surfer Maya Gabeira’s life. The Beast is not an animal or a dragon, but a wave that roars upward as tall as a seven-story building and larger than a blue whale. When the Beast crashed upon the shore, it rattle windows and vibrated through the ground.

In Nazaré there lived a shy young girl with asthma that often kept her indoors and made her feel “fragile and scared.” Despite her asthma, Maya relished the strength she felt when doing sports—dancing, gymnastics, and especially swimming. She had grown up hearing stories about the Beast and warnings to stay away from it and the other big waves that rolled ashore.

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2022, text copyright Maya Gabeira, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

But one day, Maya decided to go see the waves for herself. Standing atop a cliff, she watched in awe. The Beast “was the most beautiful thing Maya had ever seen. The other thing she saw was boys   surfing—”gliding across the waves, tiny creatures against the blue.” Maya instantly fell in love with the speed and power of surfing.

She ran home and told her dad, “‘I’ve discovered my dream—it’s surfing!'” The next morning Maya found a surfboard waiting for her. She took it down to the town beach, where the waves were smaller but boys were still surfing. She asked one boy if he would teach her to surf, but he only told her that ‘”surfing is too dangerous for girls.'”

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2022, text copyright Maya Gabeira, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The next day, once again watching the Beast from the clifftop, Maya found a conch shell. When she put it to her ear, she heard words of encouragement that spurred her on. She returned to the town beach with her surfboard the next day and every day afterward. She practiced swimming underwater, where she discovered that, because of her asthma she already familiar with the feeling of breathlessness she experienced under a wave.

She began practicing popups and balance on her board in the sand. “Each time she fell, she got up again.” When she felt ready, she took her board into the ocean and practiced on the small waves, ignoring the laughter of the boys. As she became more confident, she grew to love the sport even more. “She felt resilient. She felt powerful. She felt happy.” The boys could only look on in disbelief.

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2022, text copyright Maya Gabeira, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

One day she returned to the cliff and found the conch shell. This time when she put it to her ear, she heard words of pride in her accomplishments and an affirmation of her bravery. As she listened to the waves, she knew she would become a champion surfer and “prove that a girl could ride the biggest wave in the world. And one day… she did.”

In her extensive Author’s Note, Maya Gabeira relates how she came to love surfing and her rise in the sport. She includes her successes and also her setbacks and shows readers that engaging in any endeavor takes persistence, self-confidence, and the freedom to find one’s true self. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maya-and-the-beast-big-wave

Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2022, text copyright Maya Gabeira, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Inspired by her own life experiences, legendary surfer Maya Gabeira, encourages children—girls in particular—to find their passion and embrace the dedication and hard work required to achieve their goals. Her story highlights independence, self-reliance, and self-confidence. The words relayed by the conch shell can be seen as that small interior voice of truth we all have and that, when listened to, can spur us to pursue our real aspirations.

Through Ramona Kaulitzki’s stunning illustrations, readers can almost hear the roar of the Beast and feel the salt spray on their skin. Beautiful blue and green waves trimmed in foamy white curl on the page form offshore, framing and dwarfing Maya and the boy surfers. Two-page spreads give readers an idea of the enormity of these waves and the strength and bravery required to ride them. Kaulitzki depicts Maya’s enthusiasm with her chosen sport, showing readers her determination to conquer it despite sometimes falling and having to practice amid the naysaying boys. As Maya’s confidence grows, her smiles and strength are evident, culminating in the awe-inspiring final spread of Maya riding the Beast.

A unique story about a contemporary role model, Maya and the Beast will inspire all children to listen to their own inner voice as they find their passion and reach for their goals. The book also encourages adults to support their children’s choices and provides an opportunity for discussions about what those are. Maya and the Beast would be an excellent addition to home bookshelves and is highly recommended for school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Harry N. Abrams, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419760006

You can learn more about Maya Gabeira, view pictures and heart-pounding videos of her surfing skills, and more on her website.

Discover more about Ramona Kaulitzki, her books, and her art on her website.

Maya and the Beast Book Birthday Activities

 

The Beast Video

 

Watch Maya Gabeira in her Guinness World Record winning ride.

Surfboard Coloring Page

 

Get out to the beach with this coloring page that lets you design your own surfboard too!

Surfboard Coloring Page

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You can find Maya and the Beast at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 15 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

There’s a true art in putting together a delicious meal from seemingly disparate parts, and this month’s holiday honors those with a talent for combining tastes, flavors, and textures. With fresh ingredients available from farm stores, farmers markets, grocery stores, and maybe even your own garden, July is a great month for celebrating the culinary arts. This month, spend time with your kids in the kitchen. It’s a terrific way for them to learn cooking skills and even practice practical math while creating experimental or favorite recipes. And, of course, be sure to remember to make a few treats! Today’s book should get you off to a delicious start!

Thanks to Oni Press for sharing a digital copy of This Is a Birthday Cake with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

This is a Birthday Cake

Written by Andrew Cangelose | Illustrated by Josh Shipley

 

Andrew Cangelose’s two-layered story about making a cake and the history of cake is by turns hilarious and informative. First, kids meet Shelly, a turtle and the forest’s official baker, and Bucky, a rabbit and baker-in-training. Shelly explains that she is “teaching Bucky how to make a birthday cake.” Bucky is rarin’ to go because as soon as the cake is baked, “the party will start.”

But wait! A narrator breaks in on the very next page to reveal that “cake was first used to celebrate birthdays in the Roman Empire two thousand years ago,” but “only became widely popular about two hundred years ago during the Industrial Revolution.” Bucky isn’t too keen on the delay this history lesson has caused, and even less patient with Ms. Shelly’s directive to “visualize out beautiful cake in our minds.”

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Image copyright Josh Shipley, 2022, text copyright Andrew Cangelose, 2022. Courtesy of Oni Press.

But wait! The narrator has another interesting point to make, during which Bucky takes to sticking birthday candles up his nose and in his ears. Finally, Shelly says it’s time to get the recipe and all of the ingredients. Bucky, it seems, is already those steps ahead of Ms. Shelly and hot-foots it out the door, giving her a podcast-worthy “Byeeeee!”

As Bucky speeds into the forest, the recipe tightly gripped in his hand, he imagines his success and the accolades that will follow. At home, Shelly is slowly and methodically making the batter. Bucky takes a moment to reflect on the results of his soon-to-be triumph: “another party just to celebrate [his] accomplishment” and the sad fact that he will most likely be asked to be the new official forest baker.

But what about the ingredients, Bucky? The narrator begins to outline the necessary elements to a good cake. Hmmm… seems Bucky has forgotten to bring these along. No worries, though. Garbage, the ground hog tells Bucky that dirt is delicious: “a little sweet. A little sour. A lot of worms.” Bucky adds it to his pot. Still, he needs a sweetener and a liquid as the narrator describes.

Now, with her cake in the oven, Shelly is relaxing with a hot cup of tea with honey, while Bucky is hightailing it away from a swarm of angry bees. A champion-spitting frog is happy to help out with the liquid. At last, it’s time for the mixing. Ignoring the narrator’s warning about overmixing, Bucky goes at it like a tornado. With no oven to bake his cake in, Bucky comes up with an… ingenious?… solution.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-is-a-birthday-cake-roman-empire

Image copyright Josh Shipley, 2022, text copyright Andrew Cangelose, 2022. Courtesy of Oni Press.

What’s a birthday cake without decoration, though? To get things moving along quicker, Bucky elicits the help of his forest friends, and in no time, it’s finished. What about Shelly? She’s still carefully drizzling colorful icing on the layers. It’s a good thing Bucky’s cake is ready. The forest animals line up for big pieces, excited to party.

But while Bucky’s congratulating himself and extolling his speed, the animals are coming to a grim realization. It doesn’t take long for Bucky to understand that maybe his cake is a disaster. Fortunately, Shelly is on her way with another cake. The animals watch her coming closer, and closer, and closer… until ta da! “The birthday cake has arrived!”

With two cakes on offer, Shelly wonders about the voracious response to hers, and Bucky reveals his unique recipe. He even admits that he went to fast and that he needs to slow down when he’s excited. Shelly is understanding and promises they can try again tomorrow—if only they can get home before morning.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-is-a-birthday-cake-bucky

Image copyright Josh Shipley, 2022, text copyright Andrew Cangelose, 2022. Courtesy of Oni Press.

Wonderfully paced and with funny, realistic dialogue, Andrew Cangelose’s fourth book in his This is a Taco series will have kids and adults laughing out loud as they read it together. Suspense builds as Bucky runs out to bake his own cake with only the recipe to follow. Wanting to discover what substitutions he makes for each ingredient will have readers whipping through the pages as fast as Bucky stirs the batter. And his self-confidence throughout adds another layer of amusing storytelling. Cangelose’s intermittent inclusions of information on the history of cake and a typical recipe is a genius device that not only informs but amplifies Shelly’s slow, careful process that drives Bucky crazy. Bucky’s admission that he worked too fast and Shelly’s patient and understanding response to his failed cake serve up just the right message, sweetened with love.

Josh Shipley’s hilarious illustrations perfectly convey Bucky’s impatience as well as his confidence in his baking prowess. As Bucky’s forest friends help him create his cake, their roles are all the more comical for Shipley’s understated depictions. Clever juxtapositions and well-loved cartoon tropes add to the fun. As the animals—all except one—reject (and eject) the cake, kids will laugh but also empathize with Bucky’s now-sheepish and disappointed expression.

A masterful collaboration between story and art, This Is a Birthday Cake is a humorous and heartfelt must for fans of the series and newbies alike. The book will become a quick favorite on home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Oni Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1637150450

You can connect with Andrew Cangelose  and Josh Shipley on Twitter.

You can read my review of This Is a Flying Rat here.

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-whisk-bookmark

Don’t Whisk Losing Your Page Bookmark

 

The author’s of your favorite books have cooked up such fantastic stories that you don’t want to risk missing a word! To make sure that doesn’t happen, use this culinary-themed bookmark!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print your bookmark
  2. Glue it to the poster board
  3. Cut out the bookmark
  4. Slip it into the book you’re reading now!

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You can find This Is a Birthday Cake at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 7 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

In February we show our love with valentines, candy, and flowers. How can we continue to prove our love through the month of March? With books! National Reading Month is the perfect time to say “I love you,” by buying your family members and/or friends a special book they’ll cherish. Reading with your kids also gives you time to relax, giggle, talk, and enjoy some precious moments together. Why not start with today’s book, which is all about family love! 

I’d like to thank Tammi Sauer for sharing a copy of Lovebird Lou with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Lovebird Lou

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

 

“Lou came from a long line of lovebirds.” His relatives all loved sharing the love, and Lou loved being a lovebird “until his flock visited the other side of the island.” There he saw pelicans who could fly in figure eights, flamingos who could stand on one leg, and nightingales who sang beautiful songs. Lou looked at his ordinary family and decided he wanted to be a pelican.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lovebird-lou-family

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2022, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Not wanting to quash his dreams, his mom said, “‘Okay, cupcake.'” Lou took off from the branch and flew through the air, doing intricate patterns just like the pelicans. His family members were all supportive. “‘We love you, Lou!'” they shouted, and when Lou bonked into a tree, his mom and dad caught him before he fell.

Lou thought maybe he’d make a better flamingo, so he joined the big pink birds in the shallow water and adopted the pose while his family cheered him on. “‘We love you, Lou!'” they all squawked. He was doing great until he lost his footing and splashed down. His parents were right there to dry him off and encourage his next dream to become a nightingale.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lovebird-lou-pelicans

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2022, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

When Lou joined the ethereal chorus, he opened his beak and… well… his family members were his only fans. Back with his parents, Lou was disappointed that he couldn’t be a pelican, flamingo, or nightingale. “‘Maybe I’ll just be a rock.'” Lou said. His parents were all in and they even found a perfect place for him to sit and made him a “#1 Rock” sign to accompany him.

All day, Lou excelled at sitting in his spot until darkness and then rain fell. Lou was downhearted, wet, and scared. Lou knew the pelicans, flamingos, and nightingales couldn’t help him. He hurried his tail feathers back to his lovebird family, who welcomed him with lots of reassurances and “‘We love you, Lou!'” “‘I love you too!’ said Lou.”

The pelicans, flamingos, and nightingales thought that was so sweet. In fact, the next day they all shared their love in their own way too. As for Lou, he now understood that “lovebirds were good at the most important thing of all.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lovebird-lou-flamingos

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2022, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Tammi Sauer’s sweet story shows kids that every family has their own traditions and talents that are just right for them. When Lou is dazzled by the pelicans, flamingos, and nightingales – who all seem more exciting than his one-note family – and wants to emulate them, his parents’ hilarious support of his endeavors are spot on and will make both kids and adults laugh with recognition. Sauer’s quick pace, silly endearments, and frequent choruses of “‘We love you, Lou!'” will have kids wanting to hear the story over and over to chime in on each expression of love.

Stephanie Laberis’s vibrant lovebirds – first introduced in pairs of cuddly closeness and with Lou sandwiched between mom and dad – are charming and, in one funny image, look comically clueless as they watch the other birds demonstrate their special abilities. Little Lou is adorable as he tries his best to keep up with the other birds, tumbling with the pelicans, balancing with the much bigger flamingos, and scaring the nightingales with his raucous squawk. Despite his setbacks, Lou is always ready to try again, which makes both his dejected and his hopeful expressions touching. And hearts will be full when Lou – and the other birds – learn that all-important lesson about love.

A humorous and moving book about family togetherness, Lovebird Lou will be a well-loved addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Union Square Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1454941880

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

To learn more about Stephanie Laberis, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Reading Month Activity

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

Lovebirds Coloring Page

 

Get cozy with your loved ones and color these adorable lovebirds!

Lovebirds Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lovebird-lou-cover

You can find Lovebird Lou at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review