December 20 – Get Ready to Celebrate New Year’s Eve

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About the Holiday

As we get ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve and the beginning of a new year, adults and kids often look for opportunities to reflect and grow while sharing the traditions that keep our families and friendships strong. Today’s book embraces all three of these parts of New Year’s Eve and is a reassuring and uplifting read aloud for the holiday and throughout the year.

Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Año Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Get Ready for New Year’s Eve Activity

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New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

 

Celebrate the New Year with this printable coloring page! You might even want to add some glitter to make the fireworks even more spectacular!

New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

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You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 14 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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Review by Jakki Licare

Stand up, Yumi Chung!

By Jessica Kim | Cover Illustration by Jennifer Hom

 

Synopsis

This synopsis contains spoilers

Yumi Chung is enjoying her summer and the fact that she doesn’t have to go to her private school and deal with a bully everyday. So when her mom tells her they can no longer afford her private school because the family’s restaurant isn’t doing well, Yumi is thrilled. Unfortunately, Yumi’s mom still wants her to go to the private school because she believes it will help her get into a good university. To this end, Yumi’s mom signs her up for Hagwon – test-prep school – to help her study for the SSAT. If Yumi can pass the SSAT with a 98% or better then she can get an academic scholarship to her private school. 

On her way to the library to study, Yumi discovers a comedy club opening up. When she hears her favorite YouTube comedian, Jasmine Jasper, inside, she can’t resist peeking in. Jasmine sees Yumi and welcomes her to the summer comedy camp. Jasmine thinks Yumi is the no-show camper, Kay. Yumi’s so flustered, she doesn’t correct the mistake and finds herself joining in on an improv exercise. Yumi has a great time at the camp and can’t bring herself to tell Jasmine that she isn’t Kay.

Later, the Hagwon leader meets with Yumi and points out how Yumi often bubbles in the correct answer, but then second guesses herself. She encourages Yumi to be more confident in herself. Another day on her way to the library, Yumi bumps into a comedy camp friend and decides to pretend to be Kay again. After all, the Hagwon leader told her to be more confident, and Yumi has never felt more confident than when she’s pretending to be Kay. Yumi’s camp friends tell her about a new performing arts magnet school. Yumi wants to apply, but doesn’t think her parents will let her.

As Yumi continues going to the camp, she realizes that she should show her parents how important comedy is to her. She decides to trick them into going to the comedy showcase. If they can see how happy she is on stage then maybe they’ll let her apply for the Performing Arts school. But first, she has to prove to them that performing won’t interfere with her academics; so Yumi starts studying.

Yumi joins the campers at a nursing home where they’ll practice performing comedy to a real audience. Yumi’s excited, but her set is a big flop. Jasmine pulls her aside afterwards and tells her not to give up. Just because the jokes didn’t work doesn’t mean they’re failures.

Yumi’s dad builds a karaoke stage to drum up business for their restaurant. She becomes alarmed when she finds out her parents are behind on the rent and that if they don’t raise $6,000 in eight days the restaurant will have to close. Yumi talks to her big sister about the restaurant and after a little slip, her sister finds out that she’s been pretending to be Kay.  She scolds Yumi for lying and makes her promise to tell Jasmine the truth.

Yumi goes to tell Jasmine the truth in person, but she chickens out and decides to drop out of the comedy showcase instead. Yumi returns to camp to sneak an apology note into Jasmine’s bag, but before she can, the real Kay shows up. Yumi is caught in her lie and her parents discover that she’s been secretly going to the comedy camp instead of studying. They ground Yumi and take away her phone.

Her parents hold a grand reopening after renovating the restaurant, but they don’t raise enough money. Yumi’s father apologizes to her for not doing better and explains that this is why they want her to study so hard. He doesn’t want her to struggle like he has. She tells him about how important comedy is to her and surprisingly, her dad understands.  He loves the stage too. He wanted to be a gasu, a singer, when he was younger, but he couldn’t support his family with singing. He tells her he really wants what’s best for her and that going to a good school is the best thing for her. 

When Yumi gets her phone back, she FaceTimes with her camp friends and apologizes for deceiving them. Her new friends accept her apology. As they start  joking around, Yumi gets the idea to do an open mic night at the restaurant. Her friends are excited about the idea and encourage her to reach out to Jasmine so she can spread the word through the comedy club. 

Yumi goes to the comedy club and apologizes to Jasmine. They work things out and Jasmine agrees to spread the word. Yumi runs home and tells her parents about the open mic night idea. They’re skeptical, but agree to give it a chance. On the night of the show, a lot of people show up, but no one wants to be first up on stage. Yumi raises her hand.

Yumi struggles in the beginning of her set, but with the encouragement of her friends she regains her footing and continues on. She jokes about her ordinary summer of stealing another person’s identity, but at the end of her act she states that she’s learned to be happy with who she is. Everyone applauds and Yumi gets to experience her first comedian high. After they close, the family races to the computer to calculate the night’s revenue. They discover that they made over $7,000, and the restaurant is saved.

A week later, as Yumi is talking to her sister about how excited she is to start improv classes, an email pops up on her phone congratulating her on her academic scholarship. Yumi is okay with going back to her private school because she knows things won’t be the same. She’s confident about who she is now, and this time she won’t hold herself back.

Review

If you’re looking for a book that will make your middle-grade reader chuckle, Stand Up, Yumi Chung! is the perfect pick. Yumi’s funny asides about her daily struggles and her stand-up jokes make this book a laugh-out-loud read. When her mother makes snide comments about her hair and then makes her get a perm that she doesn’t want, Yumi writes out a whole comedy routine about it. Her punchline summarizes the experience perfectly: “Sometimes you just have to brush it off. The comments and the dandruff.”

Not only will Yumi’s funny jokes keep readers giggling throughout the book, but watching her attend improv classes, perform a set, and suffer as her jokes fall flat will show how hard Yumi has to work at being funny. When the punchline to Yumi’s joke about how her parents won’t pay her for every A she gets on her report card, the audience members murmur that her parents are abusive and tiger parents. Yumi is devastated that no one gets the joke, and she’s determined to throw the whole act out until Jasmine explains to her that most jokes start out as failures. When a joke fails it tells you something isn’t working and it’s a comedian’s job to try to fix it, Jasmine explains.

For readers curious to learn how improv comedy works, they can pull up a seat right next to Yumi and learn along with her. I thought it’s especially interesting to see how important teamwork is in improv. One skit that her friends do together flops because they each do their own thing and don’t build off of each other. When they try again, one camper makes a comment about how if he doesn’t get food soon he’ll turn “to the dark side.” One of Yumi’s other friends picks up on this comment and pretends to be Darth Vader. Then Yumi jumps in and lets out a Chewbacca roar. By working together their skit soon fills the auditorium with laughter.

But the main reason I’ll recommend this book to any middle grader is Yumi’s character transformation. In the beginning she can’t even tell her mom she doesn’t want a perm. Then, when the Hagwon leader tells her she needs to be more confident, Yumi finds her confidence not in herself but in pretending to be Kay. By the end of the book, however, she finds the strength to apologize to her friends and Jasmine for pretending to be Kay. She opens up to her father about her dreams, and she’s even able to do a comedy set in front of her parents, making jokes about her summer’s mistakes. Best of all, though, Yumi has the confidence to go back to her old school and is willing to put herself out there. 

If you’re looking for a book that will make your kids giggle while teaching them the importance of being comfortable with who they are, then Stand up, Yumi Chung! is a must read to add to your home, classroom, and school library.

Discover more about Jessica Kim and her writing on her website.

Ages 9 – 12

Kokila, Penguin Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525554974 (Hardcover); ISBN 978-0525554998 (Paperback)

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Stand Up, Yumi Chung! Activity Kit

 

You can find loads of puzzles, prompts, curriculum extensions, and even a recipe for Korean Bugogi on Jessica Kim’s website here.

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You can find Stand Up, Yumi Chung! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 20 – It’s the Spooky Season

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About the Holiday

The month of October is a spooky season. There are monsters lurking in closets, witches stirring up brews, and evil screams in the night. But, not all spooky things turn out to be scary. Sometimes, it just takes a closer look to see that what once spooked you was actually a helper in disguise, perhaps even a friendly ghost. After all, ghosts like to have friends too.

Today, I’m happy to welcome writer and artist Amanda Leemis, who also loves sharing books and creating worksheets and crafts for young readers. Just in time for Halloween, Amanda’s stopped by with a review of a book that’s perfect for the holiday and all year around. You can read more about Amanda and find some of her fun activities for kids at the end of this post.

Review by Amanda Leemis

Gustavo The Shy Ghost

By Flavia Z. Drago

 

When it comes to making friends, it can be hard, especially if you’re a paranormal being who blends into the background. Gustavo is a very shy ghost who loves to play the violin more than anything in the world. He is so shy that he can never get the courage to talk to any of the monsters, so he tries to get close to them in other ways. Being a ghost has its perks, and Gustavo is able to morph his shape into any situation. He rounds up his sides into a balloon and hangs out for a celebration, but none of the monsters notice him. He tries everything from curling up into sports equipment to becoming a lampshade, he even becomes a blank canvas in the art classroom, but none of the monsters take any notice.

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Copyright Flavia Z. Drago, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Gustavo’s sadness turns to determination as he sends out invitations to his very own violin concert. This is his chance to really be seen, face his fears, and make some new friends. He pushes his nervous thoughts – “What if no one shows up? What if they don’t like my music?” – away and invites all the monsters in the land! As the big night arrives, Gustavo’s worst fears come to life, not a soul had come to his party. Sitting all alone and mending his crushed heart, he picks up his violin and his music fills the air. Soon, he is glowing brightly with the music that fills his spirit!

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Copyright Flavia Z. Drago, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

A voice calls “Gustavo!” from behind the bushes, and soon all kinds of monsters begin to emerge from the darkness. The monsters got lost on the way to the party, but found their way back by following the music in the air and spotting Gustavo’s luminous glow! After the brilliant violin performance, Gustavo’s life changes forever. Now, he has all kinds of monster friends in his neighborhood! His quiet nature is now filled with friendship, and he has lots of friends to spook and surprise. Instead of trying to blend into situations, he gets to stand out! Whether it’s becoming an umbrella to shield his friends from the rain or creating an amazing shadow show on the wall, Gustavo isn’t alone.

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Copyright Flavia Z. Drago, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Flavia Z. Drago’s message of perseverance and courage will remind your little ones that it’s ok if making friends is hard. Drago reassures kids that the best way to introduce yourself to new people is to simply be yourself, just like Gustavo. While the October season can be a spooky time, this book is great chance to bring more fun and less unease about what’s lurking in the night. Not all spooks are scary, and in fact, some just want a friend.

Drago’s illustrations will have you captivated from the first moment you see Gustavo floating a teapot across the page. The vibrant, warm colors throw you into a new world full of monsters and spooks, and gets you in the mood to hear a tale of the lesser-known paranormal beings. The illustrative details – like Gustavo’s family portrait, his handcrafted invitations, and his kitty cat peeking around the door – give the reader so much to explore within each and every page!

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2020, | ISBN 978-1536211146

Discover more about Flavia Z. Drago, her books, and her art on her website.

The Spooky Season Activities

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Gustavo the Ghost Puzzles and Craft

 

The fun with Gustavo doesn’t have to end! Be sure to print out an activity to accompany the story! Gustavo Shape Sorting” is great for little ones in preschool. Sort Gustavo’s shape into his same column. “‘Gustavo The Shy Ghost’ Word Search” is great for ages 5-7. Highlight all of the spooky words hidden in the mishmash of letters! And hey, while you’re at it, get creative with a fantastic make-your-own ghost water bottle craft!

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About Amanda Leemis

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Amanda Leemis is a model, artist, and creator of The Hollydog Blog! She is passionate about encouraging our littlest humans to read! With two books published in the “My Hollydog” series, she loves illustration and uses her skills to create printable worksheets for ages 2-5. Creating resources that build fine motor skills and boost creativity is her passion.

Amanda Leemis is the illustrator of My Hollydog and My Hollydog Rides in the Car. Her mother Charise Leemis is the author! The “My Hollydog” series is written specifically for ages 2-3. With one sentence per page, little ones will stay engaged and keep focused on the vibrant illustrations. Come along with Hollydog on an adventure! Whether it’s hanging her head out the window or jumping into a pile of leaves, Hollydog loves her humans more than anything in the world!

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You’ll find Gustavo the Shy Ghost at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 27 – Get Ready for Halloween

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About the Holiday

With its invitation to dress up, free candy, and spooky fun, Halloween is a favorite holiday of kids and adults—even pets get in on the act! With September winding down, Halloween will be here before you know it. Celebrating all the spookiness of ghosts, goblins, and especially witches, with their ability to conjure magic with just a flick of their wands, with picture books is a big part of the fun. Today’s book is perfect for read alouds this month and all through the year! 

Thanks go to Maverick Arts for sharing a copy of Which Nose for Witch? with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Which Nose for Witch?

Written by David Crosby | Illustrated by Carolina Coroa

 

When Grizelda was born, she was a pretty little baby with a button nose, “but now Grizelda’s growing up / A special day has come. / She’s off to choose her grown-up nose, / A super WITCHY one!” Her mom takes her to “‘The Conk Boutique,’” where she has shelves and shelves of noses to choose from. But how will Grizelda see how they look on her? Her mom tells her that with just a wave of her wand, she can cast a “‘nose-swap spell / To try it on your face!’”

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Image copyright Carolina Coroa, 2021, text copyright David Crosby, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

Griz picks out one that’s pointy with two warts on the tip and with a flick of her mother’s wand, she feels her nose growing. Her mom thinks Griz looks beautiful, but Griz imagines eating an ice-cream cone will not be easy. Next, she tries a hooked nose with bumps and bits of hair. Again her mom thinks Griz is gorgeous, she says, “‘You look COMPLETELY witchy!’” But “‘This nose feels really bad,’ says Griz. ‘It’s TINGLY and it’s ITCHY!’”

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Image copyright Carolina Coroa, 2021, text copyright David Crosby, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

She tried on nose after nose, drawing a crowd of onlookers, but none of them were right. Her mother marched her outside and laid down the law: she had “‘to choose a grown-up nose / To be a grown-up witch.’” Grizelda said, “‘Says who?’” and turned away. Then she saw something in the shop window and knew exactly which nose she wanted. It was perfect for eating ice cream and she knew it wouldn’t itch. Her mom was relieved and offered to “‘buy it right away.’” Griz called her mom over to the window to show her what she’d found.

Reflected in the glass was Griz’s own nose! “‘But NO witch keeps her baby nose,’” her mother said. “‘Oh Griz, this is the WORST.’” But Griz saw opportunities and nothing wrong with being first. So now while most witches still change their nose, “Griz feels grown-up and confident, / And LOVES her own reflection.”

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Image copyright Carolina Coroa, 2021, text copyright David Crosby, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

Just in time for Halloween, when kids’ thoughts turn to transforming themselves into all things witchy and scary, comes a humorous and bewitching story of confidence, self-love, and the courage to be yourself. David Crosby’s clever concept—that witches choose their own distinguishing facial feature as a rite of passage gives kids a lighthearted way to think about their own uniqueness in looks, personality, talents, thoughts, and other traits.

Along the way they can empathize with Grizelda as the noses she chooses just aren’t right for her. Grizelda’s pluck in resisting the pressure of the crowd and her mother’s scolding while realizing that she’s perfect just the way she is is a reassuring message for kids who might feel the undue burden of peer pressure or expectations.

Carolina Coroa’s charming illustrations of witches and warlocks sporting prominent noses include plenty of spooky details to keep kids enchanted. As a baby at home, Grizelda’s grandfather dangles a spider for her to play with while a crow sits on his shoulder and a Venus flytrap plant sits on a nearby table. Grown up and shopping for noses, Griz rides a broom, wears a spider in her hair, and completes her outfit with the requisite cape.

The shelves of noses, each in its own jar, will have readers stopping to choose their favorites—for themselves, their mom and dad, their siblings, and other family members and friends. Coroa’s image of Grizelda gazing into the shop window happy to have found the perfect nose is cunningly conceived to keep kids guessing until the surprise twist ending is revealed. The final illustration of a confident Grizelda taking her place in the sky with other grown-up witches will delight readers.

An enchanting and uplifting story to inspire kids to be true to themselves, Which Nose for Witch? is magical storytelling for the Halloween season and all year through for all kids on the path to growing up and self-discovery.

Ages 4 – 9 

Maverick Arts, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867789

You can connect with David Crosby on Twitter.

To learn more about Carolina Coroa, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Halloween Activity

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Halloween  Masks and Coloring Pages

 

Discover how you’d look with a witch’s nose (and chin, hat, and all the rest) with this printable witch mask to color. Or maybe you’d rather be a robot! Why not try them both and then have fun with the two printable coloring pages.

Witch Mask | Robot Mask | Witch Coloring Page 1 | Witch Coloring Page 2

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You can find Which Nose for Witch? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 16 – Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing better than spending the time snuggled up with a new book. Kids love cuddling and sharing laughs, poignant moments, fascinating facts, and the changes life brings through books. If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Read A New Book Month, check out today’s sweet and surprising book for the youngest readers.

Pablo

By Rascal | Translated by Antony Shugaar

Do you see Pablo? No? He’s in the egg, and he’s sleeping. “Ssshhhhh! (This is the last night he’ll be in his shell.)” In the morning Pablo gathers his strength with a “small croissant and a hot chocolate.” Pablo is a little nervous to meet the world, so at first he pecks out only a tiny eyehole. Then a second one! He looks all around him at what awaits.

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Copyright Rascal, 2021, translation copyright Antony Shugaar, 2021. Courtesy of Gecko Press.

He wants to learn more so he pecks two ear holes, first on one side and then on the other. He hears bees, birds, and the wind. These things make him think he’d like to smell the world too. He “pecks a fifth tiny hole for his beak. He discovers the smell of the soil and the perfume of the flowers.”

Pablo thinks “he’d like to wander around.” First one leg and then the other pop out. Pablo can’t wait to discover the world “on his own two feet.” But he doesn’t have to rely only on his feet. He pecks two more holes—his eighth and ninth—for his wings. Pablo is all set to conquer the world. Except, he’s still in his shell. He cracks it open and discards it. Well, the bottom half at least. The top, Pablo thinks, will make a perfect umbrella “for a rainy day.”

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Copyright Rascal, 2021, translation copyright Antony Shugaar, 2021. Courtesy of Gecko Press.

Charming from the first peck to the last, Rascal’s sweet story, translated in a voice that fully retains the surprise, wonder, and inclusive narration of the original, offers enchanting opportunities for little ones to interact with the book by guessing what comes next, counting the holes Pablo makes, and even adding their own ideas about what Pablo sees, hears, smells, and discovers with each new experience of the world around him. The thought of Pablo having breakfast in his shell before he makes his appearance instantly endears him to readers—who are also just making their entrance into the world of school or activities—and will spark giggles.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pablo-eyes

Copyright Rascal, 2021, translation copyright Antony Shugaar, 2021. Courtesy of Gecko Press.

The striking black-and-white illustrations of Pablo sitting in place as the sun, birds, and dotted clouds pass by will captivate both babies and young readers. A second look at those ingenious clouds reveals that the sky above Pablo is home to various shapes and creatures—just as it is for them. Kids will love turning the book sideways and upside down to use their imaginations and discover what’s there. When adorable Pablo finally emerges from his shell, the pop of yellow is sure to bring “Awww!”s and requests to read the book again.

A smart, clever, and immersive story for little ones that adults will enjoy reading over and over, Pablo is highly recommended for home, preschool, school, and public library collections. The book would make a much-loved gift for baby showers, new babies, and any gift-giving occasion.

Read a New Book Month Activity

CPB - Chick single

Hatch a Chick! Craft

Chicks are so cute and fluffy—you just wish you could have one of your very own! Now you can! Hatch your own chick with this craft.

Supplies

  • Cotton balls, or use large pom-poms
  • Yellow chalk
  • Orange paper
  • Black paper
  • Egg shell
  • Paper grass
  • Cardboard or poster board
  • Cheese grater
  • Green paint, marker, or crayon
  • Glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To make the shell

  1. Crack an egg and save the two halves
  2. Soak the eggshells in soapy water or wash gently with soap
  3. Dry eggshell

To make the chick

  1. Use the cheese grater to grate the chalk into a bowl
  2. Roll the cotton balls in the chalk dust until they are covered
  3. Make the beak from the orange paper by folding the paper and cutting a small triangle
  4. Cut two small eyes from the black paper
  5. Glue the beak and eyes to one of the cotton balls
  6. Glue the head to the second cotton ball
  7. Set the chick into one of the eggshells, glue if desired

To make the stand

  1. Cut a 3-inch by 3-inch square from the cardboard or poster board
  2. If you wish, paint or color the square green
  3. Glue green paper grass to the square
  4. Glue the eggshell to the stand.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pablo-cover

You can find Pablo at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 14 – National Live Creative Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mister-fairy-cover

About the Holiday

National Live Creative Day was established to encourage people to embrace their innovative side. There are so many ways to be creative from the arts, to science and math, to what you make for dinner. Kids seem to know this inherently as they go about exploring and interacting with all the new things they see, hear, and do every day. Introducing kids to all kinds of hobbies, subjects, and professions expands their definition of creativity and their outlook on the future. Encouraging them to use their particular talent or talents, helps them build confidence and find thier place in the world. Reading today’s book with them is a great way to start! To celebrate today, take time to share your talents with others. You may be surprised at how creative you really are!

Thanks to Red Comet Press and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Mister Fairy with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Mister Fairy

Written by Morgane de Cadier | Illustrated by Florian Pigé

 

All sorts of fairies lived in the forest. There are “morning fairies, brave fairies, sleepy-time fairies, and even fairies that clean. There is also Mister Fairy. Mister Fairy doesn’t seem able to do anything right. He isn’t a morning fairy. His attempt to be a kissing fairy turns ticklish. And when he tries to heal a boo-boo, he only turns the leaves on the trees to pink fluff. “‘I’m the most useless fairy in the forest,’” he says. “‘I’m the fairy of nothing at all!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mister-fairy-pink-fluff

Image copyright Florian Pigé, 2021, text copyright Morgane de Codier, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Mister. Fairy decides to find a different home. He comes to a city shadowed in gloom, where everyone seems “sad and unhappy too.” Mister. Fairy wants to help. “Cautiously, he waves his wand. Suddenly light bursts over the drab city walls in beautiful shades of color!” He watched the people begin to smile. Next he enters the subway. On a train, Mister Fairy weaves in and out and around, tickling the riders and making them laugh.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mister-fairy-subway

Image copyright Florian Pigé, 2021, text copyright Morgane de Codier, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Excited to have made so many people happy, Mister Fairy flies off to see where else he can help. He passes by an outdoor café and turns all the table umbrellas into cotton candy. These balls of pink fluff remind him of home, and he begins to worry. He leaves the city and flies back to the forest. When he gets there, he discovers that all the color has faded to gloomy gray. He calls out to his friends and they respond. Since he left, they tell him, they “‘lost the gift of laughter.’” No matter what they tried, they couldn’t find their smiles.

“Without a word, Mister Fairy confidently waves his wand…” and instantly “color and laughter return to the forest.” Mister Fairy then realizes that far from being useless, he fills the forest with smiles, happiness, and joy “in his own special way.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mister-fairy-city

Image copyright Florian Pigé, 2021, text copyright Morgane de Codier, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

This enchanting book is the sixth collaboration between Morgane de Cadier and Florian Pigé and the first to be translated from French into English. Morgane de Cadier’s whimsical realism plumbs feelings of self-doubt, disappointment, and failure as well as confidence, fulfillment, and joy as Mister Fairy tries to be like others before discovering his true gift. Told in the present tense, the story immediately feels contemporary and fresh as it draws readers into this unique community of fairies. Mister Fairy’s discouragement is palpable and all the more moving since it is joy that he creates with a wave of his wand.

On his own in the city, not comparing himself to the other fairies, and with only his own aspirations and empathy to guide him, he bravely brandishes his wand and does what he can. That he gets instant and positive feedback is a gamechanger. As his particular talent alters the city and its residents, Mister Fairy grows in confidence and, although not explicitly stated, he seems to consider that he did add value to the forest. When he returns, Mister Fairy and children see that the forest is not the same without him—just as the reader’s family, friends, school, and the world are not the same without them. de Cadier’s final sentiment about the irreplaceable importance of Mister Fairy echoes priceless acknowledgement of every child’s worth.

Kids will fall in love with Florian Pigé’s tiny fairies and especially the endearing Mister Fairy. Mister Fairy, with his dejected trunk and disconsolate frown and eyes, but prim fairy dress or pajamas instantly reveals his talent, but smiling readers—who will be smiling—don’t know it yet. As Mister Fairy gives vent to his frustration, an empathetic fairy offers a paw of comfort while kids can see that the animals of the forest are enjoying the pink fluff he’s conjured up. Like a hummingbird against the open sky, Mister Fairy takes off for the city, where the people look as downtrodden as he feels.

With the first splash of paint, though, things begin looking up, and kids see what a difference one tiny fairy—or person—can make. When Mister Fairy leaves the city, the once-gray buildings are a rainbow of colors, and the people, sporting grins, are aware of each other and looking up from their phones. Mister Fairy returns to a now-gray forest a changed elephant, and the final two-page spread of the home he restores will cheer kids and adults alike.

Mister Fairy transcends the fairy story genre to offer a humorous and poignant look at self-discovery and finding one’s place in the world. It’s a book you and your kids will find yourselves returning to again and again and is enthusiastically recommended for all home, classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Red Comet Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1636550008

Discover more about Morgane de Cadier, her books, and her art on her website.

To learn more about Florian Pigé, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Live Creative Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Spool-Elephant-Craft

Spool Elephant and Baby

 

You can make your own elephant fairy or friend to keep you company with this easy craft ! 

Supplies

  • Printable Elephant Ears Template
  • 1¾-inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • ¾ -inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • Gray craft paint
  • Chunky gray yarn
  • Gray felt, 1 8 ½ x 11 piece
  • Paint brush
  • Black fine-tip marker
  • Hot glue gun or fabric glue

Directions

To Make the Ears

  1. Print the Elephant Ears Template
  2. Trace and cut out the large and small ears

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the spools with the gray paint, let dry
  2. Glue the tab on the ears to the body of the spool to secure, allowing the ears to stick out on either side of one flat end of the spools
  3. Wind the gray yarn back and forth around the spool, creating several layers of thickness
  4. When the body is as thick as you desire, cut the end and secure with glue

To Make the Trunk

  1. Cut a 2 x 4-inch piece of felt for the large elephant; 1/2 x 2-inch piece for small elephant
  2. Roll tightly and secure with glue
  3. Feed one end of the roll into the hole in the middle of the spool
  4. Cut to desired length

To Make the Tail

  1. Twist a small length of yarn and push it into the hole on the back of the spool
  2. With the marker draw eyes and a mouth on the face

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mister-fairy-cover

You can find Mister Fairy at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 13 – Bald Is Beautiful Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-silly-hair-day-with-no-hair-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday honors those who through choice, illness, medication, or heredity sport bald heads. Baldness for both men, women, and children can show courage, beauty, and an independent spirit. To commemorate today, give a shout out or support to your friends who are bald.

What’s Silly Hair Day With No Hair?

Written by Norene Paulson | Illustrated by Camila Carrossine

 

“Bea wore hats everywhere.” But unlike her friend Shaleah, who sometimes wore hats too, she didn’t have to worry about “hat hair.” Why? Well, while Bea had been born with hair, she began losing it and “before Bea turned four, she was bald.” Bea didn’t remember having hair, and her family and friends loved her, so she just took it in stride—usually.There were times when she wished she could style her hair like Shaleah and felt sad when “a classmate called her a mean name.” And then there was Silly Spirit Week at school. Friday was Silly Hair Day. Bea wondered how she could participate. Shaleah reassured her that they’d think of something.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-silly-hair-day-with-no-hair-hats

Image copyright Camila Carrossine, 2021, text copyright Norene Paulson, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Shaleah’s first thought was a wig, so on Saturday Bea’s mom took them to a costume shop and Bea tried on lots of different wigs—but none seemed right. The next day they tried crafting hair with yarn and pompoms. It was silly, but still not right. Bea was getting discouraged. Maybe, she said, she should just stay home on Friday. But Shaleah reminded her that if she did she’d miss the Spirit Week picnic. And Shaleah vowed that if Bea stayed home, she’d stay home. Bea didn’t want Shaleah to miss the picnic, so they started thinking again.

For Monday’s Silly Costume Day and Tuesday’s Silly Backwards Day, Bea had great ideas. “On Wednesday Bea won the Wackiest Hat Award,” but she still didn’t have an idea for Silly Hair Day. Then during Silly Feet Day, she saw a temporary tattoo on the principal’s leg that gave her an idea. But first, she needed to get Shaleah and the principal’s approval. When they both said Yes, Bea was excited.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-silly-hair-day-with-no-hair-baby

Image copyright Camila Carrossine, 2021, text copyright Norene Paulson, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

After school and late into the night, Bea and Shaleah worked on the idea. The next day they got to school early and put up a new sign. It read “FRIDAY: Silly Hair or Head Day.” The kids wondered what that was all about. Then Bea and Shaleah approached in hoodies and lowered the hoods to reveal colorful tattooed and bejeweled designs on Bea’s head and a skullcap for Shaleah. “‘Because now everyone can participate!’ Bea and Shaleah said together. Even the principal joined in with her own decorated cap. And all the kids—including Bea—enjoyed the Silly Spirit Week picnic.

An Author’s Note discussing hair loss due to Alopecia—as Bea has—and some cancer treatments, including online resources that can provide more information follows the text. Bea also offers readers some fun tips on applying temporary tattoos.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-silly-hair-day-with-no-hair-party

Image copyright Camila Carrossine, 2021, text copyright Norene Paulson, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Norene Paulson addresses childhood alopecia and hair loss due to cancer treatments or other causes in her sensitive and uplifting story. While briefly mentioning bullying, Paulson focuses on a common school spirit week event that leaves Bea out. By empowering Bea and her best friend Shaleah to devise a solution, Paulson invites young readers to both empathize with Bea and see how true friends support each other. Two foundations of Bea’s strong self-confidence and positive self-esteem are revealed in two short, important, and instructive sentences: “Her family loved her.” And “Her friends didn’t care.” Underlying the mystery of how Bea will solve her problem, Paulson provides an excellent way for parents, teachers, school administrators, and other caregivers to discuss inclusivity, acceptance, and friendship.

Camilla Carrossine’s engaging illustrations mirror Paulson’s story, allowing readers to understand and empathize with Bea’s experience and join in on Bea and Shaleah’s close friendship. Children will love the silly wigs Bea tries on, the playful updo of yarn Bea and Shaleah create, and the vibrant tattoos that Bea, Shaleah, and the principal all sport.

A unique and welcome book that allows children with alopecia and/or undergoing cancer treatment to be seen with new understanding from their peers, What’s Silly Hair Day with No Hair? is highly recommended for home bookshelves and for all school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807506080

Discover more about Norene Paulson and her books on her website. You’ll also find reading questions, a curriculum guide, and other resources for the book on her site here.

To learn more about Camilla Carrossine, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-silly-hair-day-with-no-hair-cover

You can find What’s Silly Hair Day With No Hair? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review