June 15 – It’s National Shark Week

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About the Holiday

It’s Shark Week – one of the most anticipated holiday’s of the year! Kids and adults are fascinated by these denizens of the deep, and especially the Great White, which sports fearsome teeth and intimidates with their imposing size. But there are many more sharks in the sea – about 500 species! – and they are an important part of the world’s ecosystem. If Shark Week is your favorite week of the summer, you’re no doubt enjoying a full schedule of shark-related shows on the Discovery Channel. To learn more information about sharks, including statistics from this year’s coastal shark survey, a chance to cast your vote for “freakiest shark,” a line-up of top videos, and more, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Shark Week page. To celebrate sharks and the wonders of the ocean every day, you’ll want to put today’s book at the top of your reading list.

Thanks to Joan Holub for sharing a copy of I Am the Shark with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Joan in a giveaway package that kids will love. See details below.

I Am the Shark

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Laurie Keller

 

Great White Shark is excited to introduce himself, especially since he is “the GREATEST SHARK in this book.” But a voice contradicts Great White. Who begs to differ? It’s Whale Shark, and she loses no time in demonstrating why she is “the greatest shark in this book” due to her enormous size, which can’t be matched anywhere in the undersea world. And if that weren’t enough, she adds this bite: “Compared to me, you are small.”

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Image copyright Laurie Keller, 2021, text copyright Joan Holub, 2021. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young Readers.

But Great White takes it in stride. If he isn’t the greatest shark, that’s okay because being the smallest has some pretty great perks too. So he’s in the middle of a “smallest shark” victory dance when a voice calls out, “No, you’re not.” It seems there’s a much smaller shark in the sea—Dwarf Lantern Shark, who, besides being the tiniest shark has a rather enlightening ability too. After the long take down from Whale Shark, this time Great White pivots quickly, thinking about how “smart and curious” he is. Could he be “the smartest shark in this book?”

Well, that would be a no. Hammerhead Shark has that one nailed down as well as a unique view of their colorful world. This time, Great White is a little intimidated. “Whoa!” he exclaims. “How can I top that?” But being smart (just not as smart as Hammerhead), Great White has another idea. This one, though, is quashed just like the others in a sneak attack. Turns out Great White isn’t the best hunter, the oldest, or even the “fishiest” shark in this book.

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Image copyright Laurie Keller, 2021, text copyright Joan Holub, 2021. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young Readers.

Undeterred, Great White decides to do a little research in other books to “figure out the greatest thing about [him]. He learns all about his different body parts and even shares a labeled diagram (on graph paper and everything) with you. And he doesn’t stop there. He’s discovered all sorts of awesome facts about their skeletons, senses, teeth, skin, and other cool tidbits that he lets you know about. Great White could probably go on and on, but suddenly there’s a “snack alert” and all the sharks take off at top speed after their prey. Great White’s fast! He’s in the lead! Great White’s the fast..est… “Crumbs.” Great White’s passed up by a faster shark. Who is that anyway?

By this time Great White is feeling pretty down in the dumps. “Maybe I should change my name to Just-Okay White Shark or Not-So-Great White Shark,” he bemoans. But then Dwarf Lantern Shark swims up to him and enlightens him with some perspective and sage advice: “Just be happy being you.” Great White takes it to heart. In fact, it helps him think of a new, can’t-miss quality that finally gives him a “GREATEST in this book” status.

Backmatter includes more details on the eight sharks introduced in the story as well as books and links about sharks for kids wanting to learn more.

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Image copyright Laurie Keller, 2021, text copyright Joan Holub, 2021. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young Readers.

Kids are always fascinated by the superlative—the fastest, the biggest, the smallest, the silliest, the best—and Joan Holub makes superlative use of this fact in her highly entertaining and educational romp. As Great White goes on a rollercoaster of emotions, one moment thinking he’s the best at something while the next moment having his hopes dashed, readers learn eye-opening details about eight sharks, described in engaging ways that will wow kids. Great White’s boundless optimism is infectious while setting up his disappointment for maximum comic effect. Kids will eagerly await the chance to chime in on the “No, you’re not.” asides that are sure to bring plenty of giggles. But this story isn’t all about sharks. Holub masterfully weaves in an important message for kids about self-acceptance, true happiness, and finding their unique qualities and talents.

Laurie Keller uses her prodigious talent for humor in her up-close images (and is there any other way kids would want to see them?) of these competitive sharks. Loaded with attitude, each shark swims onto the pages to demonstrate their “greatest” trait in ways that will stick with kids and have them excited to learn more. Expressive faces and silly antics add personality and laughs to each page spread. Keller’s vivid, textured, and collage-style illustrations are eye-catching, and funny details, such as Tiger Shark’s tattoos, chain bangle, band-aid, and gold tooth, will have kids lingering over the pages. While they’re there, they’ll want to keep a look out for the Dwarf Lantern Shark who finally lets Great White in on a great secret.

Full of facts, action-packed, and loaded with laughs, I Am the Shark is creative non-fiction at its GREATEST. Kids who love learning about sharks, nature, and the ocean or who just love a fantastic read will want to sink their teeth in this charmer. I Am the Shark is a can’t-miss must for homes, classrooms, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-0525645283

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Joan Holub has authored and/or illustrated over 150 children’s books, including the Goddess Girls series and the Heroes in Training series (with Suzanne Williams); the New York Times bestselling picture book Mighty Dads, illustrated by James Dean; Little Red Writing, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; and Zero the Hero, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Her board & novelty books include This Little Trailblazer and Fa la la Llama. Joan adores line dancing to the Jaws theme, reading Sharkspeare, and vacationing in Finland.

You can connect with Joan Holub on Her website | Instagram | Twitter

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-laurie-keller-headshotLaurie Keller is the author and illustrator of many books, including The Scrambled States of America, Potato Pants!, Arnie the Doughnut, Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners, the Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut chapter book series, and We Are Growing!, part of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series and winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. When Laurie isn’t busy making books, she enjoys playing the banjo, traveling, cross-country skiing, and splashing in Lake Michigan, where as far as she knows, there is not a single shark.

You can connect with Laurie Keller on Her website | Instagram | Twitter

I Am the Shark Giveaway

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I’m happy to be teaming with Joan Holub in a giveaway! One lucky winner will receive:

  • One (1) copy of I Am the Shark with an illustrated bookplate signed by Joan Holub and Laurie Keller
  • A kid-sized shark-design art or cooking apron 

To enter:

This giveaway is open from July 15 to July 21 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on July 22. 

Prizing provided by Joan Holub

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

Shark Week Activity

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Fin-tastic Shark Fun

 

Your kids can make a splash during Shark Week and all year around with this easy-to-make craft! 

Supplies

  • 2 pieces of 8.5 x 11 gray card stock paper
  • Ribbon
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Pencil

fin outline white

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Directions

  1. Tape the top of the two pieces of paper together
  2. Fold them back together
  3. Measure an inch up from the bottom of the papers (the un-taped side) and trace a straight line across both papers
  4. Trace a shark fin outline onto your paper. The shark outline should stop an inch above the bottom
  5. Cut out the fin on both pieces of paper. If you should cut through the tape, re-tape the tops together
  6. Fold along the lines of both papers so the folds face towards each other.
  7. Tape the folds so the fin becomes a triangle
  8. Cut two slits parallel to the folded lines
  9. Thread ribbon through slits

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You can find I Am the Shark at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 21 – World Meditation Day

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About the Holiday

While we may not know exactly when World Meditation Day was established, their is evidence that the practice of meditation has been observed since 5000 BCE and talked and written about since 1500 BCE. In today’s hustle-bustle world (and has life ever really been leisurely?) taking some time each day to center yourself and get in touch with your feelings – and even yourself – can make for a more peaceful, less stressful, and more positively productive day. Meditation can also lead to more creativity, better health, and more happiness. There are many ways to learn how to meditate, from classes to YouTube videos to books. To celebrate today, take a few minutes to learn more about how mindfulness and meditation can help you and your child or children. 

Thank you to Henry Holt and Company and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with them in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story

Written by Julia Alvarez | Illustrated by Raúl Colón

 

Mari, a butterfly, lived in a field of wildflowers, spending “her days flitting from flower to flower to flower, touching down only for seconds before she was off again. She went so quickly that she took no notice of which flowers she visited. For Mari “everything was a blur in her hurry to gulp down nectar and pollinate the whole field.” If she did stop for a moment, it was only to do her wing exercises or think about what came next.

At night she was proud of everything she had accomplished that day, but she could never fall asleep as all the things she had to do tomorrow crowded in on her. Mari felt that there was “no time to enjoy just being a butterfly.” When Mari asked her parents, the Posas, how to be a happy butterfly, they had not had the time to teach their children, either. Instead, Papa Posa told her that her “instincts will guide you.”

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, 2020, text copyright Julia Alvarez, 2020. Courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan Publishing.

One day, as her feet sank into a flower’s pollen, the heady fragrance brought back memories of when she was still wrapped in her cozy chrysalis. She wished she could find that peaceful feeling again. Then she heard a voice that “sounded as if it were coming from deep inside her” and saw a bud just beginning to open. To Mari’s questions, the bud just hummed “‘Ommmmm.’” But Mari didn’t have time to figure out what the bud was trying to say.

She apologized and rattled off her long to-do list. Then she realized she might sound rude, so she asked the bud what its name was. It told her that for now she could call him Bud, “But that will soon change. What’s important is feeling happy just being who I am,” Bud explained. Again, Mari remembered the time in her chrysalis and wondered if that was the feeling of being herself.”

Bud seemed to read her thoughts and said, “‘of course, back then… you were just following your instincts.’” And “‘those instincts led you to become a beautiful winged creature who doesn’t yet feel like a butterfly.’” Mari knew Bud was right. She was always so busy that she didn’t feel like anything at all. But, Bud told her, “‘you already are a butterfly.’” Then he told her that she could capture that feeling of happiness and sense of self anytime she wanted. Mari didn’t believe it.

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, 2020, text copyright Julia Alvarez, 2020. Courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan Publishing.

Bud taught her how to breathe in and out while she imagined her happy time in her chrysalis. He showed her how to put aside all of the busy-ness of her life and just enjoy that moment. Mari tried it. She felt peaceful and calm, and something else. Suddenly, she was aware of all the different flowers, scents, and sounds there were. Bud gave her a chant to say while she breathed in and out.

Mari joined in, “and for the first time ever, from the tip of her tiny feet to the tippy top of her curly antennae, Mari felt like a butterfly.” Mari slowly fanned her wings and rose into the air. When she looked down to thank Bud, she didn’t see him. Instead, “a beautiful flower was blooming.” Mari dipped her toe into the flower’s “pollen to carry with her everywhere.”

Following the story, Julia Alvarez has included an Author’s Note with photographs—Growing Your Own Wings—about her volunteer work with the Mariposa DR Foundation in the Dominican Republic and how it, as well as the experiences of her own granddaughters, inspired Already a Butterfly. She then talks directly to the reader, revealing how to sit for meditation, how to breathe, and then how, with self-care and kindness, to clear your mind to find peace and contentment.

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, 2020, text copyright Julia Alvarez, 2020. Courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan Publishing.

Julia Alvarez gifts children and adults with an uplifting story that will inspire them to find their true selves amid all the outer and inner noise of nonstop activities, chores, assignments, work, expectations, and all the other obstacles to peaceful, contemplative thought. The gentle mindfulness and meditative exercises that Bud teaches Mari are easy for children to remember and help them discover and stay focused on who they really are as well as who and what they want to become. At various times, Alvarez’s graceful taps along at the pace of Mari’s (and readers’) busy, busy lifestyle then slows to mirror the languid restfulness we all crave. In certain sentences, readers (especially adults) will recognize a gentle ribbing about our penchant for multi-tasking, as when Mari, seemingly taking a break, is actually doing wing exercises or mentally reviewing her schedule (or probably both). The overarching message to listen to your instincts is sage advice for finding happiness in all stages of life and is echoed in Alvarez’s final, poignant sentence.

Raúl Colón’s softly textured mixed media illustrations burst with the beauty of nature in vibrant, glowing colors that remind readers that we are all part of one Earth and should take the time to appreciate our place in it. His seamless melding of human and butterfly creates a stirring image for children to carry with them as they begin to fly free. As Bud talks with Mari and teaches her the art of meditation, Colón’s images help children to stop along the way to appreciate all they have already accomplished as well as the surroundings that nurture them. Bud’s transformation into a beautiful flower shows readers of all ages that we are all on a journey to becoming who we who are truly meant to be.

A stunning, inspirational, and concretely helpful story about believing in yourself, mindfulness, and finding contentment, Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story is a must for children of all ages and will become a go-to book on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves to sustain tranquil thought and self-affirming growth.

Ages 5 – 9 and up

Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-1627799324

Discover more about Julia Alvarez and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Raúl Colón, his books, and his art on his professional website.

Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Macmillan Publishing and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story written by Julia Alvarez | illustrated by Raúl Colón

To enter:

This giveaway is open from May 21 to May 27 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 28. 

Prizing provided by Macmillan Publishing and Blue Slip Media.

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

World Meditation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mind-jar

Mindfulness Jar

 

You can capture the beauty of a glittering snowfall in this easy craft—that also makes a special gift for a friend!

Supplies

  • Small to medium mason jar or other decorative jar with a tight lid
  • White glitter glue,
  • Light blue glitter glue,
  • Fine white and/or blue glitter
  • Large white and/or blue glitter
  • Warm water

Directions

1.For every 1/2 cup of warm water add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue glitter glue
  • 2 teaspoons fine glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon large glitter

2. Close lid tight

3. Shake

4. As glue dissolves, the liquid will become clearer and the glitter will remain suspended in it

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You can find Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 2 – International Children’s Book Day

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About the Holiday

Readers, writers and book lovers everywhere will love today’s holiday. International Children’s Book Day! What a time to visit Celebrate Picture Books! International Children’s Book Day was created in 1967 to celebrate young readers and children’s books across the globe. The holiday falls on April 2nd to commemorate the birthday of Hans Christian Anderson, the writer of many of the classic fairy tales. Each year a different country’s Board on Books for Young People is chosen to create a theme for a holiday. Currently there are 75 different countries involved. An author and illustrator are also elected to write an inspirational message for young readers and to design a poster to celebrate.

This year, the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) is sponsoring the holiday. The theme this year is “The Music of Words.” The poster was created by Hans Christian Andersen Award recipient, Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello, and contains a beautiful message on the music of words, written by Award-winning Cuban American author, Margarita Engle. How might you celebrate this fantastic holiday? You already are! Visiting Celebrate Picture Books blog is a wonderful way to honor the day. Additionally, spend some time reading some of your favorite picture books to young readers and discover new stories that highlight diversity and the music of words. Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is a perfect book to celebrate young readers globally.You can view and download this year’s International Children’s Book Day Poster here. Read “The Music of Words” here.

To find more spectacular books to share all through the month, check out USBBY’s 2021 Outstanding International Books List posted on the USBBY’s webpage.

Thank you to HarperCollins for providing a digital copy of Eyes That Kiss in the Corners for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners

Written by Joanna Ho | Illustrated by Dung Ho

 

On her way out of the house, a girl stops in front of the hall mirror to take a look. At school, the girl waves to two friends, their eyes wide and bright as they wave back. “Some people have eyes like sapphire lagoons with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns, sweeping their cheeks as they twirl. Big eyes, long lashes. Not me,” the girl says. She turns to face the reader head on; her black hair cascading past her shoulders. “I have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.”

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Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

With this comparison, the young Asian girl embarks on a journey of observation, self-love, and family wisdom. She reflects on the beauty of her own, unique eyes and how they resemble those of her family members. Eyes are not just for seeing the tangible, our narrator explains: “When Mama tucks me in at night, her eyes tell me I’m a miracle. In those moments when she’s all mine, flecks of dancing gold tell me I’m hers too.” 

The girl considers how her eyes connect her to other generations of her family, specifically her grandmother, her amah. When her amah tells her stories of Chinese folklore, the girl can see “Guanyin with the Monkey King sitting on a lotus” and other traditional characters as well as lychee trees, mountains, and lotus blossoms—all within her grandmother’s eyes. “Her eyes are filled with so many stories; I can fall inside them and swim until time stops.”  

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Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The narrator then cheerfully describes her younger sister Mei-Mei who watches patiently for her to return home from school. “…when she looks at me in that Mei-Mei way, I feel like I can fly,” she says. Following her reflection on her sister, our protagonist is featured close up with beautiful swirls of clouds, swallows, fish, and dragon together; her hair elegantly turns into a river for koi fish to swim in while a Chinese phoenix and dragon fly above her. The creatures, mythological and real follow her hair in a harmonious flow, merging the past and hope for the future.

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Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

She is then pictured powerfully standing on top of a lush green mountain, fists balled, ready for her eyes to “find mountains that rise ahead and look up when others shut down.” The narrator is confident, strong, aware of her beauty, and kind towards others. “My eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea are a revolution. / They are Mama and Amah and Mei-Mei. They are me. And they are beautiful,” she states—a perfect role model for all young people.

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Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners teaches young readers to love themselves and all their uniqueness. Author Joanna Ho’s writing is lyrical and poetic, a joy to read for book lovers of all ages. The writing is simple but conveys infinitely deep messages; celebrating one’s culture and beauty, even when they are not always highlighted by mainstream society, fighting stigmas and finding strength in family connections are some of the many themes that can be found in this beautiful tale. Joanna Ho provides a much-needed story of radical love, joy, and connection. The gorgeous, poetic lines of this book may even bring tears to readers’ eyes.

Illustrator Dung Ho adds many beautiful details that liven up the story beyond the words. All of the spreads with the protagonist’s family feature meaningful eye contact and smiles so bright, one can’t help but smile along with the characters. Bursts of blossoms, lotus flowers, and butterflies adorn almost every page, symbols of natural beauty. Inside the family’s home, elements of childhood like stuffed animals, crafts, and playing dress-up, sit side-by-side with objects of their heritage, including Chinese porcelain vases and tea sets, guardian lion statues, and a koi kite. Sunbeams, dragons, and birds weave in and out of the pages in a harmonious stream with swirls of feathers, reds, yellows, and lush greens. The colors and intricate illustrative details fill the book with life, wonder, and affection.

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is a perfect book for children examining their own features and embracing their identities. Books that celebrate diversity are invaluably important, especially in times of political polarization and racism. The lesson of self-love is one that is important for all young children to read about and learn to embrace. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2021 | ISBN 978-0062915627

Discover more about Joanna Ho and her books on her website.

You can connect with Dung Ho on Instagram.

Watch the gorgeous Eyes that Kiss in the Corners book trailer!

International Children’s Book Day Activities

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Coloring Pages, Word Search, and More!

 

Hans Christian Andersen Coloring Pages

You can color pictures from many of your favorite Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales online at HelloKids

To download and print coloring pages from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, visit Animations A2Z.

“The Music of Words” Word Search

Find 21 words in this word search from Margarita Engle’s message “The Music of Words,” written to celebrate the International Children’s Book Day of 2021!

International Children’s Book Day Word Search

Read “The Music of Words” Message

You can view the 2021 International Children’s Book Message from Margarita Engle in five different languages here.

For adults

Check out these organizations that are actively working to fight anti-Asian racism and consider donating

Stop APPI Hate | CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities

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You can find Eyes that Kiss in the Corners at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 17 – It’s National Introverts Week

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About the Holiday

Introverts, this is your week to shy-ne. National Introvert’s Week was founded by author Matthew Pollard to celebrate the achievements of introverts and combat the stigma and stereotypes associated with being on the shy side. Oftentimes extroverted people are considered more powerful, popular, and successful in society. Introvert’s Week is meant to offer a counternarrative to this belief. In actuality, introverts and extroverts alike can be perfect friends, role models and achievers. Celebrate National Introvert Week by recognizing the introverts in your life, learning about role models who identify as introverted, and reading lots of books. Meesha Makes Friends provides a sweet story of how an introvert makes friends in her own, unique style.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing a copy of Meesha Makes Friends with us for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Meesha Makes Friends

By Tom Percival

 

Meesha loves to make her own pictures, music and imaginary creatures. There is just one thing that she can’t figure out how to make—friends! She is a shy kid, and often has trouble connecting with other kids her age. “For Meesha, making friends was so difficult that she wondered if she would ever be able to do it.”

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Copyright Tom Percival, 2021, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Luckily, Meesha has a solution. She gets out her creating materials and makes a whole crew of friends. Meesha happily totes her new pals around with her. She is pleased to find that they are easy to talk to and transport. However, her creations are not exactly perfect: “Admittedly, Meesha’s new friends weren’t very good at tennis…or soccer…or catch. / But Meesha felt comfortable with them, and that was what mattered.”

When Meesha attends a birthday party, she is nervous to join in with the other children. Overwhelmed, she finds a quiet spot to do what she likes best—creating creatures, her ownfriends. A boy named Josh comes to watch and asks if Meesha will teach him how to make them. At first this makes Meesha a little worried. She wonders if Josh will not be gentle enough with her friends. But she takes a deep breath and decides to give it a try.

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Copyright Tom Percival, 2021, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

And, as a matter of fact, “Josh didn’t get it all wrong, and he didn’t ruin anything either.” Josh and Meesha soon build a whole town for all of their creatures to live in together. When Josh suggests that they show their new creations to the rest of the kids at the party, Meesha is once again hesitant. But, with some bravery and encouragement, Meesha and Josh share their creations with the rest of the group. And, to Meesha’s excitement, everyone loves them! “For the first time ever Meesha knew exactly what to say and what to do.” And with that, Meesha makes new friends.

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Copyright Tom Percival, 2021, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

“Making friends is one of those things that looks really easy but can sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world!” Tom Percival says it best in his kind note to readers at the end Meesha Makes Friends. Author and illustrator of the Big Bright Feelings picture book series, Percival produces yet another beautiful read for children to explore and engage in conversations about feelings. Meesha Makes Friends teaches young readers how to communicate, make friends and interact in their own unique ways. At the end of the story, Percival provides helpful tips on how to make friends for readers who may identify with Meesha’s struggles.

Tom Percival described himself in an interview as a quiet, creative and thoughtful child. Through his Big Bright Feelings series, he hopes to help kids explore different emotions and why we feel the way we do. Intricately drawn details and expressions allow readers to easily understand and empathize with the emotional states of the characters. Percival thoughtfully plays with the color pallet of his illustrations to perhaps allude to sensory sensitivities and provide a vibrant view of Meesha’s perception of the world. A diverse cast of characters of different races and abilities makes this book an accessible read for all. Truly a book driven by thoughtfulness, kindness, creativity, and compassion.  

For parents, teachers, and other caregivers who are looking for a sensitive, relatable, and truly helpful way to talk to kids about shyness, making friends, and socializing, Meesha Makes Friends is a must addition to home, school, and public library collections. Be sure to look for the other books in the Big Bright Feelings series: Perfectly Norman, Ruby Finds a Worry, and Ravi’s Roar.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1547605194

To learn more about Tom Percival, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Introverts Week Activity

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Image courtesy of Free Kids Crafts

Mixed-up Creatures

 

You can make creations like Meesha’s with this Flower/Animal Mix-Up Activity! 

Materials

Instructions

Print these pages, cut up the parts, and glue or tape together pieces on a blank piece of paper to make the quirkiest creatures you can!
 
You’ll find many more craft and activity ideas at Free Kids Crafts and Making Friends!

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You can find Meesha Makes Friends at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 14 – National Learn about Butterflies Day

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About the Holiday

Spring has sprung – or is right around the corner – so today’s holiday reminds us to watch out for the butterflies in your area. With more than 20,000 species of butterflies around the world, these delicate beauties are one of the most recognized and beloved natural wonders on earth. Butterflies are important to our ecosystem, too, but habitat destruction and climate change are decreasing their numbers by alarming amounts. You can help! By planting milkweed and other plants as well as nectar-producing flowers in your yard or community, you can create an area where butterflies can find shelter, food, and a place to lay their eggs. To learn more about saving monarch butterflies, visit Save Our Monarchs.

Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies

Written by Deborah Hopkinson | Illustrated by Meilo So

 

Last spring, the narrator of the story reveals, she was a “little like a caterpillar…quiet and almost invisible.” She had recently moved to the United States and couldn’t read English. The school librarian gave her books with a lot of pictures and her favorite was one about butterflies. Since then she has learned a lot about Monarch butterflies and how they “make a long, long journey” just like her family did. The frame of her story leads into a detailed discussion of the spring monarch migration and the life cycle of caterpillars.

When summer came, the girl thought for sure she would see monarch butterflies. She “wanted to see them flit from flower to flower sipping nectar.” But no matter where she looked—the park, grassy fields, an even the community garden—she couldn’t find any. She began to wonder “if monarch butterflies belonged here.” Sometimes she wondered if her family did either. Turning the page, kids learn how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly and how, once it emerges from its chrysalis, it “pumps fluid into its wings, which expand and take their final shape” and creates the “straw” it drinks nectar with.

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Image copyright Meilo So, 2020, text copyright Deborah Hopkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

In the fall when school began, the girl rushed to find her favorite book. Now she could read it, and she discovered that butterflies need milkweed to multiply and thrive. She also learned that milkweed is sparse now, due to habitat destruction due to building, chemical use, and climate change. She also learned some shocking facts, such as “in 20 years, the number of monarchs has fallen by 90 percent.”

One day the librarian calls the girl over and tells her that she has ordered new butterfly books and offers them to her first. The librarian also explains that over the summer she created a monarch way station. The girl knows about these special butterfly gardens. She points out the library window at a place within the school yard that would make a perfect monarch way station. “‘It takes just one person to get things started,’” the librarian says. “‘I’m not that kind of person,’” the girl whispers. But the librarian is encouraging. She reminds the girl about the amazing trip monarchs take and says, “‘It’s surprising what such a tiny creature can do.’” Readers next learn about the generations of butterflies that are born during the summer and how the final generation is different from the rest.

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Image copyright Meilo So, 2020, text copyright Deborah Hopkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

During the winter, the girl remembers the monarchs who lived “high in the fir forests of Mexico, waiting out the cold to make their long journey north.” She thinks about what the librarian said, and wonders if she could “ever be brave enough to speak up, take charge, and be noticed.” But when she presents a research project on butterflies for her class, the kids loved it. At the end she tells the class how important butterflies are and that they need to help them.

She is surprised by how excited the class is to help and that they want to make a butterfly garden as the class project. The teacher turns to her and asks if she has any ideas on what they could do. The girl is prepared. She turns her poster around and shows them her “plan for a monarch way station, the beginning of a timeline, a list of supplies, and how much it might cost.” And so, they started on their garden. Over the next few weeks, the girl says “‘I could feel myself growing and changing, little by little.’”

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Image copyright Meilo So, 2020, text copyright Deborah Hopkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The class talked to the principal, made a presentation to parents, and invited gardeners and scientists to speak to the class. They also wrote letters to students in other places who were doing similar projects. Then they held an all-school assembly and asked for volunteers. Kids from all classes—even kindergarten—signed up. They even went to a town council meeting and explained how important milkweed was. They asked that it not be sprayed with poison but instead “be planted in every city park.” The mayor even shook the girl’s hand and told her the city needed citizens like her.

Finally, with a fence and garden plots built, it was planting day. When spring class picture time rolls around again, the girl can be found in the front row, right in the center and holding the class sign. The kids met students from another school who have been helping the butterflies for two years and now serve as monarch trackers, placing tags on their legs and following their migration routes. The class’s monarch way station is thriving, and while they don’t have monarchs yet, the girl is already thinking about how the class can become monarch trackers next year. Just like a caterpillar, the girl thinks again, she has grown and emerged “as something new, unexpected, surprising.”

Backmatter includes an Author’s Note about the story, a guide for making a school or home monarch way station, facts about monarchs, and books and internet resources for learning more about monarchs and how you can help.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-belong-here-migration

Image copyright Meilo So, 2020, text copyright Deborah Hopkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Deborah Hopkinson’s moving and educational story combines a fictional account of growing up with scientific information on butterflies. The structure is exceptionally effective in showing kids and adults that some children find their voice, discover a talent, or overcome hesitation or shyness when they become involved in a cause or activity they believe in. The school librarian and the teacher both model actions and words that can encourage children to express and extend themselves. The girl’s thoughts allow children to see that fears of speaking up or taking charge are not uncommon while also reassuring them that by taking even small actions one step at a time, their confidence will grow. The cyclical structure of the story enhances the idea that change is gradual—in nature and in people. Hopkinson’s text revolving around butterflies and making a butterfly garden way station will excite kids to do the same at their school, at home, or in their community.

Meilo So’s gorgeous and tender illustrations portray vibrant scenes of flower bedecked balconies, blooming community gardens, and a busy, colorful town. So cleverly depicts the library’s stacks of books in similar floral hues, connecting the nurturing of children and butterflies. The faces of all the children and the adults are thoughtful and enthusiastic. Readers can clearly see the protagonist’s physical growth throughout the seasons as well as her developing self-confidence and will want to watch for ways in which she mirrors a butterfly. The children in the classroom and the school are a diverse mix and demonstrate the enthusiasm and determination of kids who want to make a difference.

So is a master at illustrating butterflies, caterpillars, and other insects, and her realistic images will fascinate readers. Children get to see a caterpillar form a chrysalis, transform into a butterfly inside, and emerge. They also see the seeds inside a milkweed pod as well as the plants themselves, throngs of monarchs during migration, and maps of migration routes. 

Exhilarating, poignant, and inspirational on many levels, Butterflies Belong Here is highly recommended for home libraries and a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452176802

Discover more about Deborah Hopkinson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Meilo So and view portfolios of her art, visit her website and heflinreps.

National Learn about Butterflies Day Activity

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Beautiful Butterflies Maze

 

Can you find the sixteen words associated with butterflies in this printable puzzle?

Beautiful Butterflies Maze Puzzle | Beautiful Butterflies Maze Solution

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You can find Butterflies Belong Here at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 9 – Unique Names Day

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About the Holiday

Unique Names Day was established in 1997 by Jerry Hill, a hobbyist in onomatology – the study of the etymology, history, and use of proper names – as part of Celebrate Your Name Week. The holiday celebrates uncommon or uncommonly spelled names and encourages those with unique names to always take pride in their name. One way to enjoy the day is to find out more about your name and how or why your parents chose it. You can have fun with names every day this week. Upcoming are Discover What Your Name Means Day, Nametag Day, Middle Name Pride Day, and Descendent’s Day. You can learn more about each daily holiday at Names Universe.

My Name is Wakawakaloch!

Written by Chana Stiefel | Pictures by Mary Sullivan

 

Wakawakaloch had a problem. Well, it wasn’t really her problem; none of the kids at school could pronounce or even remember her name. After another day in which her name was mangled (Oog called her “‘Walawala,’” Boog shouted “‘Look out, Wammabammaslamma!’” and Goog cheered her on during Club Club with “‘Swing, Lokamokatok!’”), Wakawakaloch was as angry as an erupting volcano.

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

When her parents asked what was wrong, Wakawakaloch said she wanted to change her name to Gloop. Pa thought Gloop was a good name, but reminded his daughter that her name had been “‘in family many, many moons.’” But Wakawakaloch was inconsolable. Not only could no one say her name right, but she never found it on any T-shirts. Ma and Pa thought there was only one thing to do—take her to see Elder Mooch.

Despite his leathery skin and aroma of “rotting mammoth poop,” Elder Mooch was an insightful Neanderthal. He started off with an ill-considered joke that set Wakawakaloch reaching for tissues from the nearby dispenser rock. But she poured out her heart and the fact that she wanted an easy name, one found on T-shirts. She could just imagine all of the heroic and adventurous things she could do with a name and T-shirt like that.

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Elder Mooch looked at her and then bestowed his wisdom. He told her she was a “‘forward thinker’” but “‘must be a backward seer too.’” This bit of knowledge cost her two pigeons and left her smoldering. What did he mean by that? Later that night as she tossed and turned in bed, she caught a glimpse of the paintings on her wall. They showed her great-great-great-great-great grandmother Wakawakaloch “performing brave and heroic acts…. Little Wakawakaloch placed her hand on the ancient handprint of her mighty namesake. It was a perfect match.”

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

In the morning, Wakawakaloch was smiling. She no longer wanted to be called Gloop, and she told her parents that she was ready to help others. When the Roll-the-Boulder tournament came round, Wakawakaloch had her personalized T-shirt stand all set. Oog, Boog, and Goog thought her shirts for Chana, Sioban, Xavier, Eoghan were “‘Ooga booga’ (way cool).” Wakawakaloch had even made one for herself. Elder Mooch wanted to buy three, and when little Hoopaloopie came by, Wakawakaloch got to work on another shirt.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-name-is-wakawakaloch-tee-shirts

Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

For all those kids who never find their names on shirts, mugs, necklaces, keychains, or other personalized items and who frequently hear the question, “How do you pronounce that?,” Chana Stiefel’s book is for you! This fresh tale will also resonate with any child who feels different for any reason. Wakawakaloch, with her strong personality, thoughtful introspection, and creative solution, is a character that readers will love and want to emulate. Stiefel deftly navigates this sensitive landscape with a combination of honest feelings and hilarious mispronunciations, prehistorical details, and descriptions. Readers will laugh all the way through but will also be absorbing the lesson that everyone should embrace their own “mighty” personality and be celebrated and recognized for their unique qualities.

In her vibrant illustrations, Mary Sullivan creates a comically anachronistic ancient world, where safety cones made of stone mark the playground, a stone telescope is aimed out the window, mail is delivered (this part may be accurate, I’d have to check), and cupcakes are eaten with forks. Kids will want to linger over each page to point out all of the funny elements that add depth and glee to this story. Wakawakaloch shows the feelings bubbling up inside her with furrowed brows, livid gestures, and ready tears, while the other kids cluelessly continue to distort her name even after being told the right pronunciation multiple times. Wakawakaloch’s visit to Elder Mooch is a funny take on therapy sessions, but his advice leads to a welcome image of contemplation and realization that makes Wakawakaloch appreciate her family history and also want to contribute to its—and society’s—advancement. Wakawakaloch’s T-shirt booth is sure to inspire kids to make their own shirt too.

A delightfully inventive story with many applications and prompts for further discussion as well as activities celebrating individuality, My Name is Wakawakaloch! will be a much-asked-for favorite on home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328732095

Discover more about Chana Stiefel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Sullivan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Check out the My Name is Wakawakaloch! “ooga booga” book trailer!

Unique Names Day Activity

CPB - Name Jars standing

Love Your Name Organizer Jar

 

Everyone needs a place to store their special stuff! Here’s a way to recycle a plastic jar and make a cool organizer jar with your name on it. This organizer jar also makes a great gift for your friends!

Supplies

  • A large plastic jar, such as a peanut butter jar or mayonnaise jar, cleaned out and with the label removed
  • Acrylic multi-surface paint or markers
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk

CPB - Name Jars on sides

Directions

  1. Paint a rectangle on the front of the jar with chalkboard paint
  2. Decorate the rest of the jar with paint, markers, or paper just the way you want! My green jar sports a friendly dinosaur!

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You can find My Name is Wakawakaloch! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 23 – International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

People have holidays celebrating their favorite treats—like Popcorn Day, Cherry Pie Day, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Day—so dogs should have a food holiday of their own, right? Well, today is it! Today we remember that our best furry friends like to be rewarded with a special treat or just shown a little extra love with a tasty morsel. Before anyone thought about what dogs ate, dog “treats” included some pretty awful stuff—moldy bread and rotten leftovers included—but an American manufacturer named James Spratt was struck by an idea when he saw stray, hungry dogs gobbling up ship’s biscuits on one of his travels in Liverpool, England in the 1800s. While in London, he created the first dog biscuit, which was soft and made of fresh ingredients like meat and vegetables. The first commercial dog biscuit was developed in 1908 by the F. H. Bennett Biscuit Co. It was hard and made with meat products, milk, and important minerals.

Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog

By Lisa Papp

 

Madeline gives her dog, Star, a hug at his first birthday party. While they have cake, Madeline’s mom asks if Star is ready for his test the next day. Madeline assures her he is because they have been practicing meeting people, like the postman, “sitting still when a bike goes by,” and even “meeting other dogs.” Madeline tells Star that he’s “going to make the best therapy dog ever.” The next day Madeline takes Star to the Walker Oaks Retirement Village, where he’ll meet three people. Mrs. Dimple greets them with her therapy dog, Bonnie, who helped Madeline when she was learning to read.

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Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Inside, Mr. Finch tells Madeline that he’ll be grading Star on his visits. First, Mr. Finch watches Star walk around the room, stop, and begin walking again on command. Even when Star sees other therapy dogs, he doesn’t stop to play. “Next, Mr. Finch pets Star, especially touching his ears and tail. Star doesn’t mind.” Star also sits still when a wheelchair rolls by. Finally, Star is supposed to stay where he is when Madeline and her mom walk away, but instead he walks across the room to a woman in a wheelchair and lays his paw on her knee. Mr. Finch writes something down, but he is smiling.

For Star’s next test, he’s taken into a room with a group of people. While Madeline is nervous, Star “walks right up and smiles.” One woman calls Star sweet, a man kisses Star right on his nose because he reminds the man of a dog he had when he was young, and another woman tells Star about her garden and reads him a letter. “Everyone seems happy,” but there’s one man sitting alone near the window.

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Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing

A nurse introduces him as Mr. Humphrey, and Madeline asks him if he’d like to pet Star. Mr. Humphrey says nothing. Mr. Finch writes something down. Then Madeline, her mom, and Star leave. Madeline’s mom says that Star did well on his second test, but Madeline wonders about Mr. Humphrey. “‘Some people need time,’ Mom says” and reminds Madeline of how patient Bonnie was with her. At home, Madeline thinks about things that Mr. Humphrey might like. That night, Madeline practiced reading with Star before bedtime.

The next time they visit Walker Oaks, they have to ride the elevator. At first Star doesn’t want to get in, but Bonnie nudges him and they walk in. When they get out, they see that someone has dropped a plate of cookies, but Star doesn’t react. Mr. Finch takes notes. When they see Mr. Humphrey, Madeline approaches him and introduces Star and asks if he’d like to pet him, but he stays silent. A little later Madeline asks if he’d like to look at her magic cards, but he still says nothing. Then Mrs. Dimple called her over and talked to her.

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Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing

 Afterward, Madeline thought that maybe Mr. Humphrey wasn’t ready to smile. She asked Mr. Finch if she and Star could see Mr. Humphrey again. This time, Madeline sat in a chair next to Mr. Humphrey with Star close by. In a little while, she took a book from her bag and whispers to Mr. Humphrey that she didn’t always like to read. Seeing Madeline with a book, Bonnie loped over and sat next to Star. Madeline began to softly read her book out loud.

Near the end of the story, Madeline saw Star move close to Mr. Humphrey and rest his chin on his knee. Mr. Humphrey put his hand on Star’s nose. Finally, Mr. Humphrey looked at Madeline. “‘My wife loved books,’” he said. “‘How about another story?’” While Madeline was choosing another book, Mr. Finch came over and handed her “a tag for Star. I AM A THERAPY DOG, it says.” Madeline “fastened his new tag onto his collar, right above his heart.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-mr-humphrey

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing

Lisa Papp’s immersive storytelling will delight children as they follow Madeline through her practice sessions with Star and see her grow in confidence as she visits the retirement home and devises her own solution to engaging Mr. Humphrey. Kids will empathize with Madeline’s kindness as well as her nervousness over Star’s performance and will cheer each time he does well. Young readers will be fascinated to learn about all of the practice and testing a dog undergoes to become a recognized therapy dog.

Papp’s beautiful pencil, watercolor, and digital illustrations, rendered in soft hues invite kids to Star’s first birthday party and into the Walker Oaks Retirement Village, where the surroundings, the residents, and the staff are depicted in sensitive and realistic scenes. Madeline’s thoughtfulness and consideration for Star and the residents—and especially her concern for Mr. Humphrey—are clearly visible and mirror the natural empathy of children. 

Infused with love, empathy, and heart, Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog will charm readers as a stand-alone story or to spark additional research into therapy dogs and other animals. The book will quickly become a favorite read aloud and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Peachtree Publishing, 2020 | ISBN 978-1682631492

Discover more about Lisa Papp, her books, and her art on her website.

You can find an extensive Activity Kit to download on the Peachtree Publishing website.

International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Biscuits

 

These homemade dog biscuits are fun to make and a special treat for your dog at home, a neighbor’s pet, or dogs waiting for forever homes at your local shelter. 

*Children should have adult supervision when using the oven.

Supplies

  • 1 large bowl
  • Large spoon or whisk
  • Cookie cutters – shaped like traditional dog bones or any favorite shape

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Add buckwheat flour to bowl
  3. Add powdered milk to bowl
  4. Add salt to bowl
  5. Stir to mix dry ingredients
  6. Add water
  7. Add melted margarine or butter
  8. Add egg
  9. Stir until liquid is absorbed
  10. Knead for a few minutes to form a dough
  11. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, one Tablespoon at a time
  12. Place the dough on a board
  13. Roll dough to ½ inch thickness
  14. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  15. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  16. Biscuits will be hard when cool.

Makes about 40 biscuits.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-cover

You can find Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review