August 12 – World Elephant Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-cover

About the Holiday

World Elephant Day was launched on August 12, 2012 to raise awareness to the dangers the Asian and African elephant populations face. Poaching, habitat destruction, human-elephant conflict, and mistreatment in captivity all threaten these gentle, intelligent creatures. World Elephant Day encourages people to enjoy seeing elephants in safe, non-exploitive environments and to get involved in their protection and survival. To learn more about elephants and today’s holiday, visit the World Elephant Day website.

Mela and the Elephant

Written by Dow Phumiruk | Illustrated by Ziyue Chen

 

When Mela headed out to explore the banks of the Ping River, her little brother wanted to go too, but Mela would only take him if he had something to give her in return. When he said he had nothing, Mela told him, “‘Then you stay home.’” When she reached the river, she jumped into her uncle’s boat to try and catch the big fish that swam in the sparkly water. She tossed out her net and nabbed the fish in her net, but he swam on, carrying Mela downstream. Soon, Mela found herself deep in the jungle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-mela-leaving
Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When “the boat caught against a tangle of tree roots, Mela stepped out onto a large rock.” She looked around and realized she was a long way from home.  A crocodile happened by and Mela asked him if he could tow her boat back home. “‘What will you give me for my help?’” the crocodile asked. Mela told him he could have her fish, and the crocodile agreed. But as soon as Mela gave him the fish, he grabbed it and swam away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-crocodile

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mela had just begun to walk in the direction of home when “a leopard slinked into sight.” Mela asked her if she knew how to get to the village. She did, but would only show Mela if she gave her something. Mela thought, then took off her sweater and gave it to the leopard, saying, “‘It will keep your cubs warm on cool nights.’” The leopard “snatched it up and leaped away.”

Mela continued on and was soon walking down a narrow path, where three monkeys swung from vines in the trees. Again Mela asked for help finding her way home. “‘What will you give us if we help you?’ one chattered. Mela held out her backpack.” It would be helpful for carrying fruit, she told them. As soon as the largest monkey grabbed the backpack, the three disappeared into the forest.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-mela-fishing

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mela began to cry. She had no idea how to get home, and night was coming. Just then “she heard the rustling and snapping of branches.” She looked up to see an elephant approaching. The elephant asked Mela if she were lost. When Mela said, yes, the elephant offered to give her a ride. Mela told him that she had nothing to give him. But the elephant said, “‘It would make my heart happy to help you. I don’t need anything else in return.’”

Then he allowed Mela to climb up his trunk and onto his back and they started off. When they reached the village, Mela thanked the elephant and he gave her a last hug with his trunk. The next day when Mela’s brother asked to accompany her to the riverbank, she remembered what the elephant had taught her and agreed to take him. And “from then on, she offered many kindnesses to others, asking nothing in return.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-riding-elephant

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In her lovely story, Dow Phumiruk reminds children that the heartfelt rewards of kindness are more precious than material gain. Such inner happiness often radiates to others, creating strong bonds and long-lasting happiness. It’s interesting to note that Mela is actually inherently thoughtful, offering each potential rescuer an object that is useful to them. But this inner generosity is lost when she interacts with her brother and brushes off his friendship. Through her experiences in the jungle, however, she comes to empathize with her brother. Back at home, she embraces and includes him, and shares the lesson she’s learned with others as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-strong-current

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

As Mela wanders deeper and deeper into Ziyue Chen’s lush jungle of Thailand, readers will understand that while she may be lost, she is also finding her way on her path in life. The animals that approach her initially look friendly and helpful, but as soon as they have their payment, they turn their back on Mela and desert her. The elephant, on the other hand, has kindly eyes and a gentle manner. The final scene in which Mela takes her little brother by the hand as they begin an adventure together demonstrates her change of heart and growth along life’s road.

An Author’s Note includes information about the history, geography, and customs of Thailand, where there story is set, introducing readers to the diverse culture of the country.

Mela and the Elephant employs a mix of traditional storytelling with today’s focus on kindness, empathy, and generosity. The book would make an excellent addition to home and classroom libraries for story time and to prompt discussions about compassion and helpfulness.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1-58536-998-0

Discover more about Dow Phumiruk, her books, and her art on her website

To learn more about Ziyue Chen, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Come along on the adventure with this Mela and the Elephant book trailer!

World Elephant Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hand-print-elephants-craft

Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for siblings to do together and can make a nice decoration for a child’s room or a gift for mom, dad, or other family members.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” A couple of examples are: the elephants standing trunk to trunk or trunk to tail 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-cover

You can find Mela and the Elephant at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

July 21 – It’s Culinary Arts Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitchen-dance-cover

About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the culinary arts from entrees to desserts to everything in between. July is also a great time to honor the chefs, cooks, and bakers who continually develop new dishes, create exciting taste sensations, and make dining out an event to look forward to. Of course, during this month we also thank those home chefs who prepare healthy meals for their families every day. To celebrate the holiday, go out to your favorite restaurant or try a new place. At home, get the kids involved in making meals. Cooking together is a terrific way to spend time together. 

Kitchen Dance

By Maurie J. Manning

 

A little girl wakens to sounds coming from the kitchen—“Glasses clinking. Water swishing. Forks clattering.” Then more personal sounds—humming, laughing, and “hush!” The girl slips out of her blankets and climbs to the top bunk to wake her brother, Tito. Together they tiptoe downstairs and peek through the kitchen door. “A bright skirt flashes by! Four feet fly!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitchen-dance-the-girl-wakes-up

Copyright Maurie J. Manning, 2008, courtesy of Clarion Books.

With a wooden spoon microphone the kids’ father sings, “Cómo te quiero! Oh, how I love you. Umm, hmm.” Juggling stacked plates in one hand while using the other to dance hand-in-hand, the kids’ parents glide, slide, and twirl around the kitchen floor. Laughing, their mom closes cabinet doors with a bump of her hips as she spins into her husband’s arms “then out again, like a yo-yo on a string.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitchen-dance-interior-art-dancing

Copyright Maurie J. Manning, 2008, courtesy of Clarion Books.

Pots and pans find their storage space with a swirl and a dip while another is dried with the swish of a towel. Around the kitchen the couple dances, “feet tapping, water dripping, sponge wiping, towel snapping.” While singing, “they tango across the room with the leftover tamales.” As they turn toward the door, Mama glimpses her little ones. The kids squeal and start to run, but Papa swings open the door—“Hola!” He pulls Tito into his arms, while Mama catches her tiny daughter.

As the four whirl around the kitchen, Tito and his sister sing into wooden spoons, “Cómo te quiero! Oh, how I love you!” They “twirl around and around in a circle of family.” The dance slows to a gentle swaying as Tito and his sister grow sleepy. Mama and Papa carry their drowsing children upstairs and cover them once more under their cozy blankets. “Cómo te quiero,” Papa whispers. “Besitos, mi’ja,” Mama says “Sweet dreams.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitchen-dance-interior-art-kids-caught

Copyright Maurie J. Manning, 2008, courtesy of Clarion Books.

Maurie J. Manning’s sweet story of a private moment between parents that becomes a celebration of family love offers a fresh, fun, and lively glimpse of the small events that contribute to real connectedness. Telling the story from one of the children’s point of view adds a deeper level of understanding and recognition that of the strong bond between the parents. The repeated phrase, “Cómo te quiero! How I love you!” is reassuring and allows kids to read along with the book’s most important theme.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitchen-dance-sleeping

Copyright Maurie J. Manning, 2008, courtesy of Clarion Books.

Manning’s vivacious and vibrant illustrations bring to life the swirling energy of the text. Tito and his sister creep downstairs in a house bathed in shadow only to open the door to flashing yellow, green, purple, and orange brilliance. The scenes of Mama and Papa dancing together, using a wooden spoon as a microphone and pot lids as cymbals as well as twirling hand in hand while balancing stacks of dishes are filled with happiness, and the  picture of the two tangoing with tamales will make kids giggle. Tito and his sister are adorable as they spy on their parents with astonished looks on their faces and then join the dance.

Kitchen Dance is a joy for story time or bedtime, and in these always busy days would be a welcome reminder that carefree moments carry their own special meaning.  Kitchen Dance is a great addition to a child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 8

Clarion Books, 2008 | ISBN 978-0618991105

To learn more about Maurie J. Manning, her books, and her art, check out her website!

Take a look at the Kitchen Dance book trailer!

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-spoon-microphone-craft

Wooden Spoon Microphone

 

With this easy craft you can turn a wooden cooking spoon into a fun microphone for playtime or in case you ever have to sing for your supper!

Supplies

  • Long-handled wooden spoon
  • Black craft paint
  • Silver craft paint
  • Black permanent marker

Directions

  1. Paint the handle of the spoon black, let dry
  2. Paint the head of the spoon silver, let dry
  3. After the paint is dry, make rows of small dots on the head of the spoon

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitchen-dance-cover

You can find Kitchen Dance at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 11 – National Pet Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mommy-baby-and-me-cover

About the Holiday

Throughout this month we’re celebrating pets, and today is specially set aside for people to make sure that their pets are getting all the care they need to be healthy and happy. If you have a pet,  them and show them how much you love them with a little extra attention and a special treat or two. Another great way to celebrate the day is to donate supplies to your local animal shelter or even ask about volunteering. 

I’m excited to be partnering with Peter Pauper Press in a giveaway of Mommy, Baby, and Me! See details below.

Mommy, Baby, and Me

Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall | Illustrated by Ged Adamson

 

Once, an adorable corgi says, Mommy and I did everything together. We played, went on walks, snuggled, and I got to sit on Mommy’s lap. But “then Mommy met Daddy” and pretty soon he was coming along on our walks, Mommy and Daddy cuddled, and “I got my very own bed. Then things changed even more.” Mommy’s lap got smaller…and smaller…until there was no room at all.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mommy-baby-and-me-just-us

Image copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2017. Courtesy of Peter Pauper Press.

When the baby came along, Mommy and she cuddled and sang. “And Mommy groomed Baby a lot.” Mommy didn’t seem to want me near the baby. Everyone thought the baby was cute, but not me. “I thought the baby made way too much noise, was way too stinky, and was not at all housebroken!”

One day I realized that Mommy and the baby looked a lot alike, and I made a wish that “things could be the way they used to be.” Pretty soon Baby began walking on all fours, and when I played with her now, Mommy and Daddy smiled. We began doing more together. While the baby slept, I was a good “big dog” and guarded the door, and during meal times the baby fed me.

One day while Baby and I were playing fetch, Baby hugged me and I suddenly knew “why Mommy and Daddy got Baby. They got Baby…for me!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mommy-baby-and-me-new-baby

Image copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2017. Courtesy of Peter Pauper Press.

Adjusting to a new baby in the house can be daunting for new brothers and sisters, but Linda Elovitz Marshall’s funny and heartfelt story, told from a dog’s point of view, shows kids that they aren’t alone in their feelings and that while things may change, change really can be good. Marshall’s trajectory, from “the old days” to Mommy’s meeting and marrying Daddy to Baby’s growing ability to sit and play, helps children see that acclimating to new situations takes time, that love is ever-present, and that their role in the family can expand.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mommy-baby-and-me-mommy

Image copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2017. Courtesy of Peter Pauper Press.

Ged Adamson’s sweet corgi will steal readers’ hearts as he spends happy times with Mommy, comes to terms with the changes in his life, and finally accepts Baby as his own. In the early pages, the corgi is Mommy and Daddy’s constant companion, but as he feels squeezed out by Baby, he disappears from the pages. When he reappears it is with a new wariness and distance, but a wish and a bit of time restore him to his former place in this charming family that is growing in many ways.

A sweet, funny, and original take on introducing a baby into a family, Mommy, Baby, and Me is a reassuring story for all new siblings and works to assuage uncertain feelings in other situations as well. The book is a great choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 2 – 5

Peter Pauper Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1441322388

Discover more about Linda Elovitz Marshall and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Enter my Mommy, Baby, and Me Giveaway!

I’m excited to partner with Peter Pauper Books in this giveaway of

  • one copy of Mommy, Baby, and Me!

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, April 11 – April 17. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on April 18.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Peter Pauper Press

National Pet Day Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Treats

 

Pets love it when you do something special for them! Here’s a recipe for homemade dog biscuits that will taste even better than store-bought because they’re made with love! Making dog biscuits is a fun way to spend time together and benefit furry friends. These biscuits make tasty treats for your own pet, or consider making a batch to donate to your local animal shelter. This recipe is easy and proven to be a favorite.

Children should get help from an adult 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, 1 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.

April 10 – National Siblings Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate our brothers and sisters! Whether you’ve had a lifetime with your siblings or are just getting started with a new little person to grow up with, today is for remembering and making memories to be cherished. To honor the day, spend some time together with your siblings or get in touch and have a bit of fun!

Mela and the Elephant

Written by Dow Phumiruk | Illustrated by Ziyue Chen

 

When Mela headed out to explore the banks of the Ping River, her little brother wanted to go too, but Mela would only take him if he had something to give her in return. When he said he had nothing, Mela told him, “‘Then you stay home.’” When she reached the river, she jumped into her uncle’s boat to try and catch the big fish that swam in the sparkly water. She tossed out her net and nabbed the fish in her net, but he swam on, carrying Mela downstream. Soon, Mela found herself deep in the jungle.

When “the boat caught against a tangle of tree roots, Mela stepped out onto a large rock.” She looked around and realized she was a long way from home.  A crocodile happened by and Mela asked him if he could tow her boat back home. “‘What will you give me for my help?’” the crocodile asked. Mela told him he could have her fish, and the crocodile agreed. But as soon as Mela gave him the fish, he grabbed it and swam away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-mela-leaving

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mela had just begun to walk in the direction of home when “a leopard slinked into sight.” Mela asked her if she knew how to get to the village. She did, but would only show Mela if she gave her something. Mela thought, then took off her sweater and gave it to the leopard, saying, “‘It will keep your cubs warm on cool nights.’” The leopard “snatched it up and leaped away.”

Mela continued on and was soon walking down a narrow path, where three monkeys swung from vines in the trees. Again Mela asked for help finding her way home. “‘What will you give us if we help you?’ one chattered. Mela held out her backpack.” It would be helpful for carrying fruit, she told them. As soon as the largest monkey grabbed the backpack, the three disappeared into the forest.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-mela-fishing

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mela began to cry. She had no idea how to get home, and night was coming. Just then “she heard the rustling and snapping of branches.” She looked up to see an elephant approaching. The elephant asked Mela if she were lost. When Mela said, yes, the elephant offered to give her a ride. Mela told him that she had nothing to give him. But the elephant said, “‘It would make my heart happy to help you. I don’t need anything else in return.’”

Then he allowed Mela to climb up his trunk and onto his back and they started off. When they reached the village, Mela thanked the elephant and he gave her a last hug with his trunk. The next day when Mela’s brother asked to accompany her to the riverbank, she remembered what the elephant had taught her and agreed to take him. And “from then on, she offered many kindnesses to others, asking nothing in return.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-riding-elephant

Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In her lovely story, Dow Phumiruk reminds children that the heartfelt rewards of kindness are more precious than material gain. Such inner happiness often radiates to others, creating strong bonds and long-lasting happiness. It’s interesting to note that Mela is actually inherently thoughtful, offering each potential rescuer an object that is useful to them. But this inner generosity is lost when she interacts with her brother and brushes off his friendship. Through her experiences in the jungle, however, she comes to empathize with her brother. Back at home, she embraces and includes him, and shares the lesson she’s learned with others as well.

As Mela wanders deeper and deeper into Ziyue Chen’s lush jungle of Thailand, readers will understand that while she may be lost, she is also finding her way on her path in life. The animals that approach her initially look friendly and helpful, but as soon as they have their payment, they turn their back on Mela and desert her. The elephant, on the other hand, has kindly eyes and a gentle manner. The final scene in which Mela takes her little brother by the hand as they begin an adventure together demonstrates her change of heart and growth along life’s road.

An Author’s Note includes information about the history, geography, and customs of Thailand, where there story is set, introducing readers to the diverse culture of the country.

Mela and the Elephant employs a mix of traditional storytelling with today’s focus on kindness, empathy, and generosity. The book would make an excellent addition to home and classroom libraries for story time and to prompt discussions about compassion and helpfulness.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1-58536-998-0

Discover more about Dow Phumiruk, her books, and her art on her website

To learn more about Ziyue Chen, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Come along on the adventure with this Mela and the Elephant book trailer!

National Siblings Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hand-print-elephants-craft

Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for siblings to do together and can make a nice decoration for a child’s room or a gift for mom, dad, or other family members.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” A couple of examples are: the elephants standing trunk to trunk or trunk to tail 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

March 15 – It’s National Craft Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sister-day-cover

About the Holiday

Does just walking through the door of Michael’s or A.C. Moore make your heart beat faster? Do your cabinets overflow with bottles of paint, glitter, ribbon, lace, and empty bottles and boxes? If so, then March is the month for you! This month we celebrate the creative energy and unique perspectives that result in beautiful, one-of-a-kind decor or clothing, fun group projects for kids and adults, and successful home-based businesses. Homemade love is also one of the best ways to show friends or family members how you feel—as you’ll see in today’s book. There are so  many reasons and ways to indulge your love of all things crafty this month—so what are you waiting for?!  

Sister Day!

Written by Lisa Mantchev | Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

 

As Lizzie and her big sister, Jane, sit on a quilt watching the clouds, Lizzie tells how she loves that Jane has “the best imagination” and “can make up all kinds of things in her very own head.” Lizzie wants to play dress up, but Jane says, “not now.” How about telling a story? Jane can’t do that either because she’s going to her friend Emma’s house soon. “‘Maybe when you get home?’” Lizzie asks. “‘Maybe,’” says Jane.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sister-day-picnic

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Jane is gone all day. Night falls and still Jane isn’t home. Lizzie waits in the window seat and watches and watches. Finally, Jane is home! Lizzie shows her the fort she made using all the blankets. It will be perfect for telling stories under, but now Jane has to do her homework. “‘You’re always busy.’” Lizzie says. The next day the sisters look at the calendar. It’s almost full except for one Saturday. Suddenly, Lizzie has an idea for a wonderful surprise. She takes the pink crayon and “circles, circles, circles that Saturday.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sister-day-waiting

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

On Monday while Jane has soccer practice, Lizzie works on a dragon referee. On Tuesday instead of copying Jane’s jumps and twirls at ballet, Lizzie puts “tutus on sugarplum fairies.” On Wednesday during Jane’s piano lesson, Lizzie tunes up her imaginary orchestra. Thursday is karate day, and while Jane does her moves, Lizzie “sneaks, sneaks, sneaks to a quiet corner to finish up [her] surprise.” On Friday Jane goes to Emma’s again after school, and Lizzie gets help from Mom baking Jane’s favorite treat.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sister-day-soccer

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Early Saturday morning, Lizzie grabs her sketchbook, her scissors, and some tape. It takes an hour and the whole roll of tape to make the surprise. Then Lizzie goes to Jane’s room. She knocks on the door. When there’s no answer, Lizzie opens the door. Jane’s room is empty. Lizzie runs “downstairs, yelling, ‘Mom, have you seen Jane?’” When Lizzie enters the kitchen, she finds Jane “wearing a T-shirt covered in glittery glue.” She made them at Emma’s house, Jane says as she hands one to Lizzie. 

Lizzie puts it on and pulls Jane into the living room. Pictures and decorations cover the walls, and delicious cupcakes and drinks are on the table. “‘Surprise! I wrote you a story!’” Lizzie says. “‘Happy Sister Day!’” As Jane looks around, she tells Lizzie, “‘You didn’t just draw a story, Lizzie. You made a whole lot of magic.’” Lizzie hugs her big sister. “‘It runs in the family,’” she says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sister-day-surprise

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Lisa Mantchev captures the happiness and disappointments of sibling relationships in her sweet story. In today’s busy family life, sisters—and brothers—don’t always get to spend as much time together as they might like. Mantchev reveals, however, that close bonds remain in the heart. Young readers will be enchanted by this loving sister duo and the surprise ending that shows a shared understanding and devotion between them. Sister Day! may inspire families to hold special sister and or brother days to let siblings connect and develop their unique relationship.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sister-day-calendar

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

In her beautiful, light illustrations, Sonia Sánchez replicates the positive, happy relationship between Lizzie and Jane. As each day brings a new activity for Jane, readers will recognize the reality of a younger sibling waiting for the older one to finish. As Lizzie uses this time to draw her story, children will see that even though Lizzie and Jane aren’t together, they are thinking of each other. Lizzie’s imagination is creatively shown through transparent fantasy creatures who keep Lizzie company during Jane’s absence. Sánchez’s lovely color palette and delicate, detailed drawings invite children to spend time with these best-friend sisters.

Sister Day! would make a wonderful gift and a charming addition to sisters’ home libraries

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481437950

Discover more about Lisa Mantchev and her books for children, young adults, and adults on her website!

National Craft Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-heart-jar

I Love You Jar

 

Show your friends or family members how much they mean to you with this jar full of love!

Supplies

  • Small to medium size decorative jar or a recycled jar
  • Red felt or heavy paper
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Cut enough small hearts from the red felt or paper to fill the jar one-half to three-fourths full
  2. Fill the jar with the hearts
  3. Give it to your friend, sister, brother, mom, dad—anyone you love—and watch them smile!

Picture Book Review

March 12 – It’s Spiritual Wellness Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-berenstain-bears-and-the-easter-story-cover

About the Holiday

The definition of spiritual wellness is unique to each person. When you think deep down about what gives your life purpose, meaning, and happiness, what do you find? This month encourages people to discover if their beliefs, activities, work, family relationships and friendships are all in harmony. It’s also important to take care of you, by taking time to reflect each day and to plan fun and relaxing activities. Springtime and Easter are opportunities for renewal, making March a great time to consider your spiritual wellness.

Zonderkidz sent me a copy of today’s book to check out. All opinions are my own. 

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story

Written by Jan and Mike Berenstain

 

On the way to Sunday school one spring morning, the warm sun was shining, daffodils were blooming, and birds were feeding their babies, but all Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear could think about was Easter candy. As they entered their classroom, Brother said his favorite Easter candy was chocolate bunnies, Sister said hers was marshmallow chicks, and Honey Bear cried “‘Jelly beans!’” Then Missus Ursula revealed that her favorite was black jelly beans, but also that Easter is about more than candy.

Brother and Sister said they knew that. Easter was about “‘stuff in the Bible,’” Brother told Missus Ursula. “‘Yeah,’ agreed Sister. ‘Bible stuff.’” And Honey Bear added, “‘Stuff!’” Missus Ursula thought the cubs’ understanding could use a little more rounding out, so she took them into the next classroom, where the older bear cubs were putting on a play.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-berenstain-bears-and-the-easter-story-candy

Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2012, courtesy of Zondervan.

The stage was set with props of palm trees, rocks, and buildings from the Holy Land, and cubs were dressed in costumes. One of the performers began telling the Easter story. “‘Long ago, in the Holy Land, there was a man named Jesus. He traveled the countryside teaching about God and what God wanted for his people.’” The narrator went on to tell about Jesus’s miracles and how “‘he could do these wonderful things because he was the Son of God.’”

Because many people listened to Jesus and followed him, government officials and others were angry. They didn’t believe he was the Son of God and were afraid that Jesus wanted to become the king. One day Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey and crowds greeted him with shouts of “‘Hosanna!’” The leaders of Jerusalem believed Jesus was becoming too powerful.

One night while Jesus was praying in a garden, “‘soldiers were sent to arrest him. They took him away to prison.’” Later, he was questioned by a “‘wicked judge…who wanted to show everyone that Jesus was not a king.’” Then “‘he ordered for Jesus to be put to death by hanging on a wooden cross.’” On the day Jesus died, the skies became black and the wind howled. Everyone was afraid.

After Jesus died, he was taken by his friends and put in a tomb. A huge stone was rolled in front of the entrance. For two days Jesus lay in the tomb. “‘On the morning of the third day after Jesus died, some women who knew Jesus came to weep at his tomb.’” When they got there, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. Jesus was no longer in the tomb. “‘An angel told the women not to be afraid. He told them that Jesus was alive once more.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-berenstain-bears-and-the-easter-story-missus-ursula

Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2012, courtesy of Zondervan.

In the days and weeks after Jesus rose, he visited his friends. “‘They were amazed and fell down and worshiped him. Jesus told them they should spread the good news about what had happened.’” After visiting with his friends, “‘Jesus rose up to heaven to be with God, his Father.’” Following the play, the cubs understood that Easter is about more than candy. But “‘does this mean we shouldn’t eat any Easter candy?’” Brother asked.

“‘Certainly not!’ laughed Missus Ursula’” and confessed that she’d miss her jelly beans too. But she reminded the cubs that after they got their Easter baskets, they go to church to celebrate the real meaning of Easter. “‘Hooray!’ the cubs said. ‘And Hosanna!’ added Missus Ursula. ‘He is risen!’”

A page of colorful stickers depicting images from the story are included, and discussion questions and fun activities related to the book follow the text and may inspire kids to put on a play of their own.

Since the early 1960s, the Berenstain Bears have been delighting readers with their shenanigans, wit, and always-close family relationships. In The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story, part of the Living Lights series, these beloved characters talk about and reveal to children the deeper meaning of Easter, with a focus on Jesus’s resurrection. The straightforward telling of the Easter story through a Sunday school play is welcome for parents, caregivers, and other adults who are looking for a book to share and a way to talk about both the religious and the fun aspects of this holiday with children. The dialogue-rich structure also lends a personal touch to any reading, letting the adult sound as if they are telling the story themselves.

The illustrations of Bear Country are bathed in the warm glow of spring as the sun rises over the Bear’s tidy treehouse home. Brother’s, Sister’s, and Honey Bear’s dreams of candy will enchant little ones as will the familiar scene of walking into church on Easter morning. Depictions of the play are vibrant and detailed but with a homey and childlike feeling to the props and acting.

For adults looking for a traditional, Bible-centered telling of the Easter story with engaging  characters that children will respond to, The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story is a superb choice for home and church libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Zonderkidz, 2012 | ISBN 978-0310720874

To learn more about Bear Country and all of The Berenstain Bears books as well as to find fun activities visit the Berenstain Bears’ website.

You can follow the Berenstain Bears on:

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Spiritual Wellness Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sweet-bunny-candy-jar

Sweet Bunny Candy Jar

 

A little bit of candy makes Easter or any spring day sweeter! With this Sweet Bunny Candy Jar, you can give a child, a friend, or even yourself a special treat that will make you hoppy!

Supplies

  • Printable Hat Rim and Bunny Ears Template
  • Baby food jar (I used a Beech-Nut Naturals jar)
  • White fleece, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches
  • 1 piece of purple foam (Or any color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Small piece of pink foam or felt for nose
  • Googly eyes (I used oval)
  • Medium pom-pom
  • Multi-surface paint, purple (or whatever color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Fabric glue (I used Fabric-Tac)
  • Black ultra-fine or fine tip permanent marker
  • Large nail or ice pick
  • Hammer
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Remove label from baby food jar
  2. Clean and dry jar and lid
  3. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam
  4. Cut out the rim of the hat and remove the center
  5. Trace the ears template onto the white fleece and cut out

To Make the Body and Face

  1. Cut a 2-inch wide by 7-inch long strip of white fleece
  2. Glue the strip of fleece to the jar under the lip and leaving about ½ inch of glass showing at the bottom
  3. Glue on the googly eyes
  4. Cut a little nose from the pink foam and glue to the face
  5. Make the mouth with the permanent marker on a little piece of fleece, cut out and glue under the nose

To Make the Hat

  1. Paint the lid with the purple paint. Let dry.
  2. With the nail or ice pick and hammer, make a hole on either side of the lid to insert the ears. You can make the hole a little bigger with a phillips head screwdriver
  3. Flip the lid over and hammer the edges of the hole flat
  4. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam

To Insert the Ears

  1. Pinch the end of one ear together and push it through one hole in the lid.
  2. Pull it through the hole a bit to form the ear
  3. Repeat with the other ear

Finish the Bunny

  1. Add the foam rim to the lid
  2. Glue the pom-pom to the back of the jar for the tail
  3. Add M&Ms, jelly beans, or other small candy

Picture Book Review

 

December 30 – Baking Soda Day

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About the Holiday

Baking soda is one of those little chemical compounds that is indispensable in so many ways. First produced in 1791 by French chemist Nicolas Leblanc, it’s used for everything from cleaning solutions to health remedies to black snake fireworks to science fair volcanoes. In 1846 two New York bakers, John Dwight and Austin Church, established the first factory in the United States to produce baking soda from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide. Of course, baking soda is also used to make treats of all kinds – even the ones featured in today’s book!

Baking Day at Grandma’s

Written by Anika Denise | Illustrated by Christopher Denise

 

Three little cubs bundle up in their winter coats, hats, scarves, and mittens and head out over the snowy hills to Grandma’s for baking day. Soon they see “past the pond so smooth and clear / little cottage drawing near.” A knock on Grandma’s door brings her closer, and when she opens the door the trio give her a kiss before entering the snug home.

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

After warming their toes by the fire, the young bears grab the cookbook, a mixing bowl, a spoon, and a whisk because “It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / at Grandma’s!” As her little bakers stand on chairs to reach the table, Grandma passes out aprons and reads the recipe. Happily crowded around the bowl, the cubs with “wooden spoon and measuring cup, / mix the batter; stir it up. / Fold it gently in the pan, / lick the spoon because we can.”

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

While they wait for their treats to bake, Grandma pours tummy-warming mugs of hot chocolate and one little bear draws a smiley face on the frosty window for a little chickadee to see. Grandma puts a record on her old Victrola, and as she sings the “soft and sweet skippy notes,” the cubs tap their feet. At last the kitchen timer rings, and the little bears dance arm in arm because “It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / at Grandma’s!”

The chocolate goodies pop from the pan, and with icing and sprinkles are ready to be wrapped and tied with a red ribbon. Other treats get pretty bags, “each one marked with little tags.” The cubs are also bundled nice and warm, and with final hugs for Grandma, they are soon “Walking home under the moon. / Back to visit Grandma soon.”

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

Anika Denise’s sweet, rhyming story is as heartwarming as a cozy kitchen on a cold day. The buoyant rhythm is a joy to read, and Denise’s infectious repeated verse, “It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / at Grandma’s!” invites little ones to join in the story. The bond between the three cubs and their grandma is full of love and hugs, and just like the young bears, readers will want to return again and again to Grandma’s house.

Christopher Denise infuses his winter landscapes and Grandma’s house with rich, warm colors that welcome readers into this special family baking day. The three cubs, wrapped in green coats and red knit caps, march with their sled over brilliant white snowy hills between their house and Grandma’s tidy log cabin. Inside, the rooms glow with golden sunshine, and it’s easy to see why the cubs love their attentive grandma so as she gently guides them in baking.

Newly available as a board book, Baking Day at Grandma’s is a book that young children will love to hear over and over at story time, naptime, or bedtime. It would also make an appreciated gift to or from a grandmother.

Ages 2 – 5

Philomel Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-0399171574 (board book) / 978-0399242441 (hardcover)

Learn more about Anika Denise and her books and find Reader Engagement and Activity Kits on her website!

Discover the illustrated world of Christopher Denise on his website!

Spend time baking with Grandma with this sweet book trailer!

Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcakes

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

This delicious vanilla cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction would definitely please Grandma—and they’ll become your favorite confection too!

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (60g) vanilla Greek yogurt (or plain; or regular yogurt; or even sour cream)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) vanilla almond milk (or cow’s milk; or soy milk; or plain almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1

Vanilla Bean Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4-5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in sugar – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Split 1 vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise. Scrape seeds from half of the vanilla bean into batter. Reserve other half.
  3. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
  4. Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners (or 24 mini) and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bake for 8-9 minutes if making mini cupcakes. Allow to cool.
  5. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (1/4 teaspoon). Frost cooled cupcakes (I used Wilton 1M piping tip). There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.
  6. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 7.

Additional Notes

  1. If you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, add an extra ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead.
  2. Strongly urged to use heavy cream. You may use milk or half-and-half, but heavy cream will give the frosting a thicker texture. I recommend it!

For ways to adapt this recipe and more scrumptious recipes, visit Sally’s Baking Addiction. I guarantee you’ll go back again and again!

Picture Book Review