November 21 – It’s National Family Literacy Month

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About the Holiday

Literacy really does begin at home during those cuddly moments when you and your child share a book. Reading with kids from birth helps them develop the skills to become proficient readers and instills a life-long love for books of all kinds. Even before babies can talk, they’re listening and learning, and as they grow children continue to love spending special times with parents and grandparents hearing stories and discovering the world through books. You don’t have to mark Family Literacy Month only in November – make it a year-round celebration!

Banana for Two

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

As a mother strolls her shopping cart through the grocery store, she engages her toddler, who’s brought along two stuffed bunnies, in choosing the items they need. Mama talks to her child about the one roll of paper towels she puts in the cart, then it’s off to the cereal aisle. Holding up a colorful box, Mama says, “‘Here’s your favorite cereal’” to which her toddler enthusiastically answers, “‘MORE!’” Playfully, Mama holds the box up to one eye and says, “‘we don’t need more—just one box. Peek-a-boo! Can you see just one eye?’”

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2017, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2017. Courtesy of Start Bright Books.

Her little one giggles as they head for the dairy aisle for yogurt. Here, the child’s wish for “‘MORE!’” is granted, and Mama lets her little one hold the containers. “‘One, two—one for each hand,’ says Mama.” The child laughs and kicks, excited to help. As they pass through the fruit section, the toddler grabs a banana from the display and holds it up triumphantly. Mama is happy to add the one banana to the cart to eat later. “‘Look—one banana for one hand!’” she points out.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2017, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2017. Courtesy of Start Bright Books.

At check-out, Mama names each item and the quantity they are buying as she puts the banana, yogurt, carrots, potatoes, milk, and other things on the conveyor belt. But her little one wants to help too! Suddenly, one of the stuffed bunnies is riding toward the smiling clerk on top of the roll of paper towels. Back home, it’s time for a snack. As Mama cuts the banana in half, her toddler proudly exclaims, “‘TWO!’” showing an understanding of the concept of two.

A note for parents, grandparents, and caregivers by early math expert Deborah Stipek is included. Gender neutral clothing and hair and the absence of personal pronouns in the text make this a universal book for all children.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2017, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2017. Courtesy of Start Bright Books.

Ellen Mayer’s joyful math board book for the youngest readers introduces parents and other caregivers to ways that they can add math talk to everyday activities. In Banana for Two, grocery shopping becomes a fun opportunity for an adult and child to talk together about quantity—an important early building block for math understanding and future math success. Connecting concepts a child already knows—such as two containers of yogurt for two hands—as the mother does in Banana for Two is another way to strengthen understanding. Mayer’s conversational style—indeed the whole story is a conversation between mother and child—is sweet and loving and full of the kinds of moments that may seem routine to adults but that children cherish sharing with parents, grandparents, or other caregivers. And the final image of the little one happily savoring slices of banana will have kids asking for “‘MORE!'”

Ying-Hwa Hu’s exuberant illustrations of mother and child will make little ones and adults smile. Cheerful eye contact between the two shows the love they share and their enjoyment in spending time together. Colorful boxes and containers line the grocery store shelves, giving the pages a fresh and sunny feel. The items Mama adds to the cart are clearly shown in quantities of one and two. Little readers will love the adorable stuffed bunnies and join in the toddler’s pride as they too recognize the ideas of one and two.

Banana for Two makes an excellent shower or new baby gift and will quickly become a favorite at home and in preschool classrooms or programs.

Ages Birth – 2

Star Bright Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1595727886 | Spanish/English Edition Banana para dosBanana for Two ISBN 978-1595727992

To discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books as well as  find lots of resources for adults and fun activities for kids, visit her website.

Learn more about Ying-Hwa Hu and her art, and her books, visit her website.

National Family Literacy Month Activity

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Math Fun Is in the Bag Grocery Shopping Game

 

Little ones love to pretend to go grocery shopping! With the printable game pieces and instructions here, you and your child can fill a bag with items in quantities of one and two and share some math fun!

Supplies

Directions

To Make a Bag

  1. Fold the 8 ½” by 11” piece of paper in half and tape on the side and at the bottom
  2. Your child may enjoy decorating your homemade bag or a paper sandwich bag with crayons
  3. After printing the Math Fun Is in the Bag template, talk with your little one about the quantity of items in each picture. Even if your child is not talking yet, they are listening and learning.
  4. Help your child cut the pictures apart
  5. Ask your child to find a picture of one banana and put it in the bag
  6. Continue with the other pictures, noting the quantity of the item
  7. For older children, print two (or more) copies of the Math Fun Is in the Bag template and have them add two bananas, two cartons of milk, four carrots, and four containers of yogurt to the bag.
  8. Older children may also enjoy paying for their groceries with pennies in quantities of one or two (or more). Set a price for each item and help children count out the coins needed to pay for them.

More Math Fun!

You’ll find more Math Fun, including printable bunny puppets to make, pretend play suggestions, and tips for talking about two on Ellen Mayer’s Website

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You can find Banana for Two at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 28 – National Little Red Wagon Day

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About the Holiday

In 2016 Radio Flyer established today’s holiday in anticipation of its 100th anniversary in 2017. That’s one hundred years of children enjoying the imaginative outdoor play a little red wagon provides! Whether kids are transporting their siblings, giving their pets or toys a ride, helping out in the garden, or participating in a community parade, the red wagon has been at the center of the action and a plaything that gets passed down from parent to child as a family grows. If you have little ones in your family, celebrate today by taking a little red wagon for a spin.

Red Wagon

By Renata Liwska

 

When Lucy got a new red wagon, “she wanted to play with it immediately.” Her mother thought she could take her wagon to the market. That didn’t sound like much fun to Lucy, but she headed to the market with a list anyway.

When she came to the big hill, her friends Hedgehog and Squirrel jumped in. That made the wagon “pretty heavy.” Fortunately, Rabbit came along to help push. At the top of the hill, they stopped for a snack with Bird and Raccoon, but “it started to rain! Oh, brother.” Lucy pushed the wagon to the bottom of the hill, but by now the rain was a torrent. That was okay, though, as the wagon had transformed into a ship, and Raccoon, in his umbrella, had become a pirate captain.

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Copyright Renata Liwska, 2013, courtesy of Philomel Books.com.

When the rain stopped, the friends went on their way in their red Conestoga wagon. Bunny, in his ten gallon hat, pushed while Sheriff Lucy pulled. Hedgehog held the reins, and Raccoon road her horse alongside. “At last Lucy arrived at the market.” As Hedgehog rolled their circus wagon into the center, Bunny toddled tall on stilts, Lucy juggled rings, and Raccoon blew a horn.

Lucy gathered all the vegetables on her mother’s list and started toward home. The train engine chugged, pulling the vegetable car up the steep hill. They were almost home “when the wagon hit a rock” and rocketed into space amid vegetable planets. When they landed, Lucy “gathered the vegetables and put them back into her wagon.

Lucy’s mom was happy to see her when she got home and thanked her happily for helping. “Finally, Lucy was free to play with her wagon,” which now made a perfect spot for a nap.

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Copyright Renata Liwska, 2013, courtesy of Philomel Books.com.

Snuggling up with your little one and Renata Liwska’s Red Wagon is such a sweet way to spend story time. As young children so often do, adorable Lucy turns a chore into imaginative playtime as she and her friends rapidly use mishaps, bumps, and their changing surroundings as springboards for their supple creativity.  Liwska’s simple story is the perfect frame for her beautiful, soft-hued, and detailed art as this group of cute friends become cowboys and cowgirls, sailors, pioneers, circus performers, and mom’s helpers.

A rich story for the youngest readers, Red Wagon would be a perfect baby gift and a much-loved addition to any toddler’s bookshelf.

Ages 1 – 3

Philomel Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-0399162398

To view a portfolio of books by Renata Liwska, visit her website.

National Little Red Wagon Day Activity

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Take a Ride in the Little Red Wagon Maze

 

Everyone wants to ride in the wagon. Can you help these friends find their way in this printable maze?

Take a Ride in the Little Red Wagon Maze | Take a Ride in the Little Red Wagon Maze Solution

Picture Book Review

July 5 – It’s Independent Retailer Month

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About the Holiday

When you go shopping, do you head straight for a big-box store? Sure they can be convenient, but they’re also impersonal. Small retailers offer one-on-one service and specialty items that allow you to create a home, a wardrobe, and a life as unique as you are! To celebrate this month’s holiday, shop at independently owned stores and small shops in your area whenever you can!

Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes

Written by Tim Wynne-Jones | Illustrated by Brian Won

 

S.A.M. has important missions to complete. He is “digging for the Lost City of Raisins…tracking down the treacherous green spitting bug…balancing on high places…and stealing home”—all while K is hanging out the laundry. K looks at S.A.M sitting on the ground with his box of raisins and says, “‘You need new shoes.’” And it’s true. S.A.M.’s red shoes are tattered and scuffed, and his toes are even poking out of the sole.

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

On the way downtown, S.A.M tells K that he can’t decide between rocket shoes and vanishing shoes as he reads a document titled Plans for World Domination. At the store they are met by a clerk carrying a tall stack of boxes. He assures the pair that he’ll help them in a minute, but with his eagle eyes S.A.M. thinks the “Shoe Store Man looks shifty and aims to find out more. The Shoe Store Man turns out to be okay, and S.A.M. tries on lots of shoes. He finally settles on a pair with tiger stripes, and K gets the same for herself.

Time for lunch? “‘ROAR,’” answers S.A.M. All the shoe buying and secret agent prowling has made S.A.M. hungry. “He orders the double buffalo burger with a side of snakes and an electron float. “‘We are matching tigers,’” he says to K. K pokes her fork into a snake fry. “‘ROAR,’” she says.

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

The bus ride home is fraught with danger as S.A.M. foils an attempt by a spy in a stroller to steal the Plans for World Domination. “‘Phew! That was close,’” K says. The stairs to the front door seem unusually steep and tiring, and S.A.M is feeling “whoozy.” There’s only one explanation, he decides: his electron float must have been spiked. S.A.M drifts off into a short nap where he dreams of “beautiful poisonous butterflies and dangerous inflatable frogs.”

Later he has a secret meeting with Agent Coyote, Agent Ted, and Agent Pig. Their mission is to decode the Plans for World Domination by three o’clock. S.A.M. then goes looking for K. He can’t find her anywhere—not in the Chamber of Silence (the closet), not in the Holding Cell of Dispair (the bathroom), not in the Torture Chamber (the piano room), and not in the Rocket Silo (the utility closet). She’s not even in the Darkest Valley of Doom (the basement). Just then S.A.M. hears thunder.

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

S.A.M. grabs his new orange and black striped shoes, ties up the laces, and races to the rescue with the speed of a tiger. K is outside “bringing in the clouds.” Some are being torn away by the wind, and S.A.M. makes a flying leap to save them. As the storm rages outside, S.A.M. and K relax inside with “steaming mugs of lava topped with dollops of candied gardenia and pearls” while discussing S.A.M.’s latest mission. It’s lucky, he says, that his “Team of Expert Spies warned him about the storm.”

K recognizes the group; “‘T.O.E.S.,’” she says. S.A.M. concurs. “‘We’re ready for anything.’” And indeed they are—in fact S.A.M. has even learned to ties his own tiger shoes. “‘ROAR!’”

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Tim Wynne-Jones channels every kid’s dream of being a spy in this funny send up of an ordinary day of shopping and doing laundry. Using clever acronyms and a full dose of imagination, Wynne-Jones turns raisins into gemstones, French fries into snakes, fluffy laundry into clouds, and a boy into a secret agent man with tiger shoes and secret abilities. K is a supportive sidekick, encouraging S.A.M’s ingenuity and quick thinking and playing along with his day-brightening shenanigans. S.A.M.’s names for the various rooms in the house will make kids laugh, and they will also love his sweet, little boy alter-ego.

Brian Won deftly and humorously shifts between S.A.M.’s secret missions and his reality, depicting S.A.M.’s imaginary world in blue, black, and white and his real world in vivid color. Crafty juxtapositions include an image of the Shoe Store Man, his arms loaded with boxes and his face peeping between them on the left-hand page while on the right-hand page, S.A.M. in his spy gear shuffles along a wall of shoe-display shelves where two illuminated eyes search the darkness. Another occurs when S.A.M and K are having lunch. Here, the top of the two-page spread is cloaked in darkness and hides snaky French fries, an exploding drink, and cool costumes while the bottom shows the pair’s regular clothes and new matching tiger sneakers. The tiger unleashed by the new shoes is a vibrant flash across the page in this book that moves as smoothly between life and fancy as a wild cat on the chase.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763671198

Check out Tim Wynne-Jones’ website for a vast array of books and other fun stuff!

A gallery of work by Brian Won is awaiting you on his website!

Independent Retailer’s Month Activity

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Independently Cool Shoe Laces

 

It’s fun and easy to design your own shoe laces for favorite sneakers or boots. They can even be used for tying up hair styles, decorating your room, or…you name it!

Supplies

  • White or colorful shoe laces, wide
  • Fabric paint or markers

Directions

  1. Draw or paint special designs or figures on the shoe laces
  2. Let dry
  3. Wear with pride!

Picture Book Review