September 28 – Celebrating the Happy Cat Month Book Birthday of Miss Meow

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About the Holiday

It’s safe to say that when kitty is happy, everyone’s happy. Cats have a particular way of tugging at your heart with their meows, yowls, and emotion-filled mews. Of course, we want to make sure they have everything they need to feel good. That’s what this month’s holiday is all about. To celebrate, spend some extra time with your furry friend, make sure they’re up-to-date on their vaccinations, and surprise them with a new toy or extra treat or two.

Thanks to West Margin Press for sharing a digital copy of Miss Meow with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Miss Meow

By Jane Smith

 

Miss Meow is a little girl who prefers being a cat. She has a soft head with two perky ears and a long tail. Things that make Miss Meow purr are getting scratched between the ears while reading with her mom and brother, Felix; chasing her toy mouse; napping in the sun; and lapping up water and snacks from her bowls. Things that make her hiss include taking a bath, having her snacks stolen, having her tail pulled, and having someone—like her little brother—intrude upon her territory.

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Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

One stormy night Miss Meow discovers her favorite mouse toy torn open in her room. The fluff inside was scattered across the floor. “Miss Meow’s fur stands straight up. Her ears flatten against her head. She knows who did this—who always does this!” She runs to her mom and complains about Felix. Then she “stalks toward her brother, pointing her claw.” Snack crackers crunch underfoot. Not only has Felix broken her toy, he’s upset her snack bowl.

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Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Miss Meow is caterwauling and stomping around when she slips in a puddle of water and falls to all fours—“Meee-ow!” But then Felix notices a “mysterious trail of wet paw prints” leading from the kitchen. Miss Meow, Felix, and Mom follow them to Miss Meow’s room, where they find . . . “a sopping wet intruder” asleep on Miss Meow’s pillow. Felix is thrilled to see the kitty, but Miss Meow is not. She chases the interloper through the house until she has him trapped in the kitchen.

But when Miss Meow sees that the stray is cold, shivering, and scared, her heart melts. “‘Here, kitty. It’s okay,’ she coos softly.” As the cat approaches, Miss Meow apologizes to her brother. The cat purrs as Miss Meow pets him between the ears then all three curl up on the pillow for a warm afternoon nap.

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Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Young feline fanatics will purr with delight at Jane Smith’s tale of a little girl with a big imagination and an all-in love for cats. The uncanny similarity in behavior between cats and kids gives Smith full range to shine a humorous spotlight on bath time, naptime, territorial disputes, and sibling rivalry. But, as part cat, part human, Miss Meow’s natural empathy for her fellow cat and for her brother takes over when she sees how miserable the stray is and realizes that she owes Felix an apology. Smith’s use of present tense puts kids in the middle of the action, while her vivid and evocative illustrations clearly depict the characters’ emotions. Readers will love spying the first glimpse of the hidden stray, and Miss Meow’s mad-dash chase through the house leads to a sweet resolution.

Both a captivating story and an engaging way to talk to kids about their emotions and family relationships, Miss Meow is a purr-fect read aloud for all kids.

Ages 4 – 6

West Margin Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1513289458

You can connect with Jane Smith on Twitter and linktree.

Happy Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-bead-cat-craft

A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This happy little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball, and when it’s painted it’s stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball. Paint the inner ear.
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-meow-cover

You can find Miss Meow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 7 – National Lighthouse Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-cover

About the Holiday

For centuries along rocky shores, lighthouses have stood as sturdy beacons warning ships at sea of dangerous waters. In 1789, the United States Congress approved an Act for “the establishment and support of lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers and the commission of the first Federal lighthouse, the Cape Henry Lighthouse at Cape May, Virginia Beach.” Two hundred years later, the anniversary of this historic event was celebrated with another Congressional resolution sponsored by Senator John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, which designated August 7 as National Lighthouse Day. On this day, where possible, the country’s lighthouses are open to the public for viewing and tours. To celebrate today, visit a lighthouse if you live close by or read up on lighthouses and the work of brave lighthouse keepers throughout history.

Hello Lighthouse

By Sophie Blackhall

 

“On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse.” It is sturdy and shines its greeting far out to sea, “guiding the ships on their way.” “Hello! …Hello! …Hello!” The lighthouse has just gotten a new keeper. He begins his job by polishing the lens, refilling the oil, trimming the wick, and giving the “round rooms a fresh coat of sea-green paint.” He works at night too, making sure that the clockwork is wound to keep the lamp moving and writing in the logbook.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-island

Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

To have his tea, the keeper must boil his water and for lunch or dinner he fishes for cod right from the lighthouse window. He wishes for someone to talk to—the special someone he writes letters to. He puts these letter in bottles and throws them into the sea. Outside, the wind whips up the waves and they crash against the lighthouse.

One day, the keeper spies the tender ship that is bringing him “oil and flour and pork and beans…and his wife.” The next day fog descends, thick and gray. Instead of a beam of light, a bell clangs to warn the ships away. But, still, a ship founders and breaks apart on the rocks. “Not a moment to lose, the keeper rows out. He pulls three sailors from the deep, black sea. He and his wife wrap them in warm blankets and serve them hot tea. The keeper makes note of all this in his log.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-stormy-waves

Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

In the winter, “the sea turns into a carpet of ice.” The keeper falls ill, and his wife tends to him as well as to the light. She runs up and down the spiral stairs to feed her husband broth and “chip ice off the lantern room windows.” At last his fever breaks. With warmer weather the ice melts, giving way to icebergs that float by going south. “Whales pass by on their journey north.”

Inside the lighthouse, the keeper’s wife is about to have a baby. She walks around and around, while “her husband boils water and helps her breath in—and out.” When the baby is born, the keeper notes the time and date in the logbook. “The sky erupts in swirls of green. Hello! …Hello! …Hello!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-new-baby

Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

The baby is a toddler when the tender brings an unexpected letter with the coast guard seal along with its regular supplies. After reading it, the keeper tends to the light “just as he’s always done,” but he “knows it’s not for long.” Through the telescope, the keeper and his wife watch the horizon for the arrival of the coast guard. When they come, they install a new light—one that runs by machine. There is “no lamp to fill, no wick to trim. The keeper’s work is done.”

He and his wife and little girl “pack their belongings into the boat and wave farewell to the gulls.” As they sail away on the ship, they look back and say “Good-bye, Lighthouse! Good-bye! …Good-bye! …Good-bye!” From its perch on the tiny island, the lighthouse sends out its constant beam through crashing waves and enveloping fog—”Hello! …Hello! …Hello?” From across the bay, a light from a little house “beams back. Hello! …Hello! …Hello! Hello, Lighthouse!”

An expensive and fascinating Author’s Note about lighthouses, the life of a lighthouse keeper, and how Hello Lighthouse came to be follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-little-house

Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

As I read Hello Lighthouse, I saw myself as a child—a displaced New Englander growing up in Florida who loved everything about the craggy northern coastline and its history. I would have absolutely adored Sophie Blackall’s detailed and atmospheric book, and today’s young readers will too. The story of the light’s last keeper reveals the work and contemplations of the men and families dedicated to keeping shipping lanes safe. The weather and seasons—and ever-present logbook—are characters in their own right, just as they were for the conscientious and brave lighthouse keepers. Happy surprises—the arrival of the keeper’s wife and baby—will delight children as they add to the depth of the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-cut-away-interior-image

Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Blackall’s stunning illustrations will swell readers’ hearts with the same intensity as the rolling seas.  A cutaway image of the lighthouse offers a realistic view of the five levels of living space accessed by a winding staircase that ultimately leads to the lens. Thrilling portrayals of choppy seas, wind-whipped crashing waves, pea-soup-thick fog, and sailors thrown from their wrecked ship will rivet children to the story. The cyclical nature of a keeper’s work mirrors the round rooms of the lighthouse and is represented throughout the story with circular, porthole-like snapshots of the keeper at work and round accents in the home, such as rugs, tables, and the quilt pattern on the couple’s bed. The final image of the family—the baby now a little girl—communicating with their old home anchors the story in history, togetherness, and a love of the sea.

Hello Lighthouse is a gorgeous, enlightening, and cozy read-aloud for home and classroom libraries that will enthrall young readers again and again.

Ages 4 – 9

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0316362382 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1408357392 (Paperback, Orchard Books, 2019)

To learn more about Sophie Blackall, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Lighthouse Day Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shining-lighhouse-maze

Shining Lighthouse Maze

 

Lighthouses protect ships from rocks, fog, and other dangers. Can you help the beam from the lighthouse reach the tugboat that is approaching in this printable Shining Lighthouse Maze? Here’s the Solution.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-national-archives-lighthouse-coloring-book-2018

National Archives Lighthouses from the Collection

 

If you’re fascinated by lighthouses, you’ll love exploring these drawings from the United States National Archives. Click below to download a pdf of lighthouses from around the country. 

The National Archives of the United States Coloring Book of Lighthouses

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-cover

You can find Hello Lighthouse at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 29 – Celebrating Rain Day with Shelley Johannes

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-Shelley-Johannes-headshot

Shelley Johannes is the author-illustrator of the Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker chapter-book series. A former architectural designer, she has a fondness for tracing paper, process, and accidental discoveries. She and her family live in Michigan with two feathered friends, Max and Alex, who make every day sunny and birdy. More Than Sunny is her debut picture book.

You can connect with Shelley on Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Hi Shelley! I love how you describe all sorts of weather days in your new picture book More than Sunny, so I just couldn’t pass up a chance to share Rain Day with you! Rainy days have their own special fun, and you certainly celebrate that in your book! Of course, when the sun comes out, rainy days also bring rainbows – those beautiful symbols of optimism, something we can all use every day and which shines on every page of More than Sunny. Can you talk about what inspired the story?

Thank you, Kathy! And thank you so much for having me here today. Optimism is always in season, but metaphorical sunshine definitely feels even more precious these days.

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Matthew Johannes

More Than Sunny was inspired by my son Matthew and a first-grade weather project. I’d viewed his daily weather chart—the kind with columns for sunny, cloudy, rainy, windy, snowy—as a mundane task to check off our list, but on the first day, he looked outside and enthusiastically declared, “It’s sunny and birdy today!” When he called the next day “windy and squirrelly”, I knew it had to become a book someday. He turned a routine assignment into something fresh and exciting, and made me pay attention to the beauty I’d forgotten to see. That’s always book-worthy.

In More than Sunny, you describe days with nuances that delight in everything a day can possess. Using your story structure, what would your favorite day have been as a child? How about now as an adult?

I love this question! As a kid, I loved rainy days, and any excuse to curl up with my dog and our special Rainy Day Art Book. So maybe I’d say . . . Dreary and Doggy were my favorite kind of days back then. Rain is so relaxing.

As an adult, it’s a tough call between Springy and Birdy (because May is the most cheerful month, and we are huge bird nerds around here) and Autumn and Squirrelly (because the crisp, colorfulness of fall makes me happy, and we’re huge squirrel nerds too!).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-May-and-titmouse

Before writing children’s books, you worked as an architect. Can you talk about that a little? Do you think being an architect influences your writing and art in any way? If so, how?

There was a time I felt bad about my winding path to making books. I felt bad that I didn’t have the guts to go after my dreams sooner. But these days, I’m so grateful for each part of my life and how it shaped me into the person I am today. My years in architecture helped me find my voice and gain the courage to use it. I also learned so much about my love for creative process and collaboration, and the type of people who inspire me. The desire to create, and to make something meaningful, is the motivational underpinning of both fields, so the transition to books felt very natural. The process of designing a building and building a story are surprisingly similar.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Shelley-Johannes-rainy-and-wormy-draft

A rainy and wormy day from More than Sunny by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

There’s also a direct connection in the way I work. I fell in love with tracing paper and felt-tip pens in my early days in architecture, and I’ve only fallen more in love as time passes. I’ve always loved how a loose sketch or a stray line can capture an idea on paper, and that wonder continues to bring me joy in new ways.

Your son Nolan narrates your wonderful book trailer and his pride and love for you and the More than Sunny really shine through. How great is it to share your writing journey with your kids?

Aw, thank you! We loved making that trailer together! And it was so special to capture his sweet voice just before it shifts into a grown-up one. It’s been so wonderful to share each step of the journey with my kids. I first realized I wanted to make picture books while reading to them as toddlers. They’ve been there for all the ups and downs and in-betweens of the creative process ever since, and enjoyed LOTS of celebratory pizza along the way! So much of each them—and they joy they bring into my life— is woven into everything I make. They inspire so many book moments, and are my most treasured critics and art buddies. I hope being part of this process empowers them to go after all the things they dream of doing, too!

What was your favorite place to read (or write or draw) as a child? What is your favorite place now and why?

As a kid, I loved to read and draw in the quiet privacy of my room, because it was personal and I was shy. These days, I like to mix things up. I write best in a crowded place, with headphones on and music blaring, because it’s easier for me to concentrate when I’m surrounded by stimuli and happy hustle-and-bustle. I also enjoy writing on the go as ideas randomly come to me, and use my Notes app like it’s another piece of my brain. I read anywhere and everywhere, and love listening to audiobooks while riding my bike around my neighborhood!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Shelley-Johannes-art-supplies

Though I doodle in sketchbooks all over my house, my studio is still my favorite place to make art. Having a place that’s dedicated to being creative, and filled with my favorite things, makes getting into the zone a bit easier.   

What is your favorite season and seasonal activity?

I’m torn between Fall and Spring. It’s hard to beat a cider mill on a crisp Autumn day, especially here in Michigan. Fresh donuts. Crisp apples. Bubbling steam running through the colorful trees. It’s pretty perfect. But then this Spring, we found a nature trail at a local park where wild birds fly down and eat out of your hands, and now we’re addicted to the wonder of that experience too.

Will you be doing any book events this summer that you’d like to tell readers about?

It’ll be a fairly quiet summer (see the answer to the next question!), but I’m doing a virtual event with wonderful Belmont Books on August 26th at 6:30pm ET, and I’d love for everyone to join us! We also had an amazing virtual launch event for More Than Sunny as part of Literati Bookstore’s At Home with Literati series. Jarrett Lerner and I talked about creative process, seeing the world with fresh eyes, and the making of the book. You can watch our conversation here anytime:

What’s up next for you?

This week I am starting the final artwork for my second picture book! I can’t wait to start experimenting with materials and see where it leads me!

Thanks for this wonderful chat and for sharing so many insights. I wish you all the best with More than Sunny and am really looking forward to your next book!

National Rain Day Review

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate rainy days—but not just any rainy days. Rain Day commemorates an odds-busting record that began in 1874 in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania when one resident remarked to William Allison, the pharmacist at JT Rogers & Co drug store, that it always rained on his birthday—July 29. After that, Allison began keeping an annual record, and all eyes have been on Waynesburg to see if the remarkable run—115 years out of 147—continues. Now weather reporters around the country keep track of this remarkable statistic and broadcast “yes” or “no” to their audiences. As for the people of Waynesburg, they celebrate their notoriety with a huge festival that includes live musical entertainment, arts and crafts and food booths, kids’ games, and, of course, an umbrella-decorating contest. To learn more visit the Rain Day Website. And don’t forget to watch the skies!

More than Sunny

By Shelley Johannes

 

A girl knocks on her brother’s door and, before he’s even fully awake, she bursts in and announces with exuberance that this spring day is “sunny.” Yawning and rubbing his eyes, her brother adds “and early.” But his big sis pulls him outside to show him all the birds at the feeder and birdhouse. It’s not only sunny, she tells him “it’s sunny and birdy!” They head down to the pond, where the siblings have different ideas of what the day’s like. Little brother finds the day “sunny…and mucky!” But his sister, with feathers in her “wings,” states, “I say it’s sunny and ducky!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-birdy

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

On another day, these two compatible siblings head outside to discover what summer brings besides heat. The sunny day takes them to a field, a tree, and a dock, where they explore, relax, and use their imaginations. But not all summer days are sunny, and that’s okay because being inside when it’s “stormy” these kids make it cozy. And when the storm tapers off a bit, they grab their raincoats and big umbrella and go outdoors, where the girl exclaims, “it’s rainy and wormy!” and her brother inspects the mud and greets a small worm, “Hello squirmy.” The rainy day brings lots of fun with Mom and their dog too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-mucky

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

But summer days turn into autumn days with wind and squirrels and piles of leaves to jump in. The kids read and make paper snowflakes, waiting for winter to come. And, finally, the flakes fall. They taste so good. “Can we? Can we?” the siblings ask, eager to be out in the snow. “But I’m warm and socksy,” says Mom. But her kids, tiptoeing and playing, lure her out with “Let’s be snowy and foxy!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-fall

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

They take a walk in the woods and, while sledding, see Daddy coming home. “Are you ready and sleddy?!” they ask, but there’s shoveling to be done. That’s all right; there are other ways to have fun in the snow. Tired out and chilly, the family goes inside for bedtime. Now there’s a knock at the sister’s door. Yawning and rubbing her eyes, she goes to see who it is. It’s her brother, and he has something magical to show her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-snowflakes

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Shelley Johannes’s exuberant call to play and explore is a perfect jumping off place for kids to look at and interact with their surroundings with new eyes, imagination, and creativity. Hopping from season to season, Johannes touches on moments of freedom and wonder and those happy discoveries so formative in childhood. Her playful rhymes and bouncy rhythm echo kids’ delighted banter, and her sprightly adjectives invite readers to come up with their own descriptions of their day.

Johannes’s bright, energetic, and cheery illustrations dazzle with lively depictions of the siblings playing outside in all weather. Her smile-inducing portrayals of the siblings mirror real kids and each page is loaded with details readers will love lingering over. Mom and Dad make warm cameos to create a book the whole family will enjoy.

More than Sunny is a generously sized picture book that kids and adults will find themselves joyfully sharing throughout the year. For teachers and homeschoolers, Johannes’s storytelling provides a spark for writing prompts, grammar lessons, and observational skills. Sure to become a quick favorite, More than Sunny is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Harry N. Abrams, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419741814

Discover more about Shelley Johannes and her books on her website.

You can download More than Sunny activities from the Abrams website!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-cover

You can find More Than Sunny at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 12 – National Simplicity Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday honors transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, who was born on this date in 1817 and who, along with his many other talents and interests, advocated for a simplified life. As summer heats up with a full calendar of activities, vacations, work, day trips, and more, take today “off” and just enjoy the simple pleasures around you. This is great advice throughout the year, too. Dedicating some time to fully appreciate the small things can be rejuvenating! 

More than Sunny

By Shelley Johannes

 

A girl knocks on her brother’s door and, before he’s even fully awake, she bursts in and announces with exuberance that this spring day is “sunny.” Yawning and rubbing his eyes, her brother adds “and early.” But his big sis pulls him outside to show him all the birds at the feeder and birdhouse. It’s not only sunny, she tells him “it’s sunny and birdy!” They head down to the pond, where the siblings have different ideas of what the day’s like. Little brother finds the day “sunny…and mucky!” But his sister, with feathers in her “wings,” states, “I say it’s sunny and ducky!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-birdy

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

On another day, these two compatible siblings head outside to discover what summer brings besides heat. The sunny day takes them to a field, a tree, and a dock, where they explore, relax, and use their imaginations. But not all summer days are sunny, and that’s okay because being inside when it’s “stormy” these kids make it cozy. And when the storm tapers off a bit, they grab their raincoats and big umbrella and go outdoors, where the girl exclaims, “it’s rainy and wormy!” and her brother inspects the mud and greets a small worm, “Hello squirmy.” The rainy day brings lots of fun with Mom and their dog too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-mucky

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

But summer days turn into autumn days with wind and squirrels and piles of leaves to jump in. The kids read and make paper snowflakes, waiting for winter to come. And, finally, the flakes fall. They taste so good. “Can we? Can we?” the siblings ask, eager to be out in the snow. “But I’m warm and socksy,” says Mom. But her kids, tiptoeing and playing, lure her out with “Let’s be snowy and foxy!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-fall

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

They take a walk in the woods and, while sledding, see Daddy coming home. “Are you ready and sleddy?!” they ask, but there’s shoveling to be done. That’s all right; there are other ways to have fun in the snow. Tired out and chilly, the family goes inside for bedtime. Now there’s a knock at the sister’s door. Yawning and rubbing her eyes, she goes to see who it is. It’s her brother, and he has something magical to show her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-snowflakes

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Shelley Johannes’s exuberant call to play and explore is a perfect jumping off place for kids to look at and interact with their surroundings with new eyes, imagination, and creativity. Hopping from season to season, Johannes touches on moments of freedom and wonder and those happy discoveries so formative in childhood. Her playful rhymes and bouncy rhythm echo kids’ delighted banter, and her sprightly adjectives invite readers to come up with their own descriptions of their day.

Johannes’s bright, energetic, and cheery illustrations dazzle with lively depictions of the siblings playing outside in all weather. Her smile-inducing portrayals of the siblings mirror real kids and each page is loaded with details readers will love lingering over. Mom and Dad make warm cameos to create a book the whole family will enjoy.

More than Sunny is a generously sized picture book that kids and adults will find themselves joyfully sharing throughout the year. For teachers and homeschoolers, Johannes’s storytelling provides a spark for writing prompts, grammar lessons, and observational skills. Sure to become a quick favorite, More than Sunny is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Harry N. Abrams, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419741814

Discover more about Shelley Johannes and her books on her website.

Take a look at the More than Sunny book trailer!

National Simplicity Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fluffy-cloud-craft

Fluffy Clouds Craft

 

One of the best simple pleasures is looking up at the clouds and imagining what shapes you see. Bring those fluffy, white clouds into your room with this craft!

Supplies

  • White girls’ dress bobby socks in various sizes
  • Fiber fill, 20-ounce bag
  • Fishing line, different lengths
  • Needle
  • Clear adhesive mountable hooks or clips

Directions

  1. Stuff the socks with fiber fill, pushing it far into the sock and adding more here and there to make various lumps and give it a rounded, cloud-like shape
  2. When the sock is full, tuck the end of the sock in to close it
  3. Cut lengths of fishing line. The lengths will depend on how and where you will hang the clouds
  4. With the needle or by hand, feed one end of the fishing line into the top of the sock and out to attach the line for hanging.
  5. Knot the fishing line
  6. Attach the mountable hooks or clips to the ceiling
  7. Hang your clouds!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-cover

You can find More Than Sunny at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 10 – It’s Garden for Wildlife Month

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About the Holiday

As May’s warm weather and rain creates a perfect environment for growing a garden, today’s month-long holiday, established by the National Wildlife Federation, encourages people to plant a garden that will benefit birds, butterflies, bees, and other insect pollinators. This is easier than it may sound and can be accomplished in a variety of ways and sizes from a single pot or container to a dedicated “meadow” plot. Planting native flowering species makes a positive impact on your local area. To watch a video with five tips to help you garden for wildlife, find plants native to your region, and learn how to have your space recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat, visit the National Wildlife Federation website and Garden for Wildlife. Sharing today’s reviewed book is another wonderful way to learn how to make their yards, front gardens, and even whole neighborhoods inviting to wildlife.

A Garden to Save the Birds

Written by Wendy McClure | Illustrated by Beatriz Mayumi

 

One day while Callum and his sister Emmy were eating breakfast, a bird hit their window. They and their mom rushed outside to check on bird. It was okay and flew away, but that’s when Callum noticed that the window glass reflected the sky, and the birds couldn’t tell the difference. Later, Callum, Emmy, and their mom read about birds and learned lots of things they didn’t know – like how there are fewer birds now and how lights at night affect their migration. 

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Image copyright Beatriz Mayumi, 2021, text copyright Wendy McClure. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

They decide to do things around their house to help the birds. They put out feeders and add decals to the windows. “But some of the things we do to help the birds,” Callum says, “are the things we don’t do.” In the fall, they’re mindful of where birds can find food. Even the Halloween Jack-o-lantern plays a part. And they plant bulbs to prepare for spring. It doesn’t take long before they attract a lot of different kinds of birds.

At night they take to turning off the porch lights and lowering the blinds so as not to confuse the birds. Callum looks up at the sky to see dark silhouettes flying by. “I never knew so many birds migrated at night,” he says. “I know now the moon helps them find their way.” He likes that now they and “the moon are working together.”

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Image copyright Beatriz Mayumi, 2021, text copyright Wendy McClure. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

During the winter, Callum and Emmy make sure the birds have shelter and fresh water. They also talk to their neighbors about the birds and some of the changes they could make to help them. At first Callum thinks their next door neighbor isn’t interested in helping, but then they notice that he’s turned off his porch light too. It turns out that everyone on the block is making positive changes.

When spring and summer roll around again and all the flowers and grasses are blooming, Callum discovers that they’re not only helping the birds, but that bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are attracted to the neighborhood too. In fact, the neighborhood has made such an impact that it is recognized with a sign as a certified wildlife habitat. Callum is glad that they have all worked together to make their block a welcoming home for birds and other wildlife.

Backmatter includes a discussion on the decreasing bird population, how kids and their families can create welcoming environments around their homes, and online resources for more information.

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Image copyright Beatriz Mayumi, 2021, text copyright Wendy McClure. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In her charming and educational story, Wendy McClure strikes just the right tone to engage kids in learning about birds and how they can make changes around their homes to attract and help nurture birds and pollinators. Her storytelling is friendly and kid-centric, and readers will be drawn to Callum’s perspective and concern for wildlife and want to get involved in local environmental activism themselves. Adults will also find helpful and interesting tips on simple ways to make a yard or even a small area bird– and pollinator-friendly. 

Beatriz Mayumi’s lovely and detailed illustrations depict the variety of backyard birds that visit inviting landscapes as well as the beauty of garden plantings. She also clearly and realistically portrays the kinds of feeders, water bowls, nesting boxes, and natural vegetation that attract birds year round. In her images, Mayumi also reminds readers about light pollution and where it comes from in a neighborhood setting. Her beautiful illustrations of the gardens created with such care as well as her depictions of Callum and his family and the whole neighborhood working together will inspire readers to get involved in helping to save the birds.

A charming and inspirational story as well as an excellent guide to turning any area into a sanctuary for birds and pollinators, A Garden to Save the Birds is a book that families and classrooms will turn to again and again. It is highly recommended for all kids and for public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807527535

Discover more about Wendy McClure and her books on her website.

To learn more about Beatriz Mayumi, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Garden for Wildlife Activity

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Garden for Wildlife Board Game

 

Plant flowers, install a bird feeder and birdbath, build some birdhouses, and leave a layer of leaves then invite the birds, butterflies, and bees to your garden plot to win the game!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print one set of playing cards and garden plot (if using) for each player
  2. Print playing die
  3. Color garden plot, paper, or paper plate (optional)
  4. Choose someone to go first.
  5. Each player gets one roll of the die per turn.
  6. Roll the die and place the face-up object in your garden plot. If the player rolls the bird, butterfly, and bee before they’ve added all the other elements, play passes to the next player 
  7. Players continue rolling the die and adding objects to their garden plots. After a player collects them all, they must roll the bird, butterfly, and bee to win.  

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You can find A Garden to Save the Birds at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 21 – Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum Blog Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

Today I’m excited to be a part of Natasha Yim and Violet Kim’s blog tour to share Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum, another engaging book in the Storytelling Math series from Charlesbridge that shows children how math occurs naturally in all aspects of their life and invites them to explore and experiment. 

Thanks to Charlesbridge for sending me a digital copy of Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own.

Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum (Storytelling Math)

Written by Natasha Yim | Illustrated by Violet Kim

 

For Luna’s birthday, Ma Ma and Ba Ba take Luna and her brothers to a dim sum restaurant. They join the sound of happy voices and chopsticks that go “click, clickety, clack.” Servers wheel trolleys piled with plates and “baskets of dim sum. Warm smells of dumplings, buns, and sweet desserts tickle Luna’s nose.” Ba Ba asks the kids what they would like and Luna exclaims that she wants pork buns. Her older brother calls for two baskets, and her little brother Benji agrees. When the server brings two baskets of char siu bao to the table, the kids open the tops to find three buns in each.

Two buns for each of them, Benji proclaims. They each take a bun from the first basket, but just as Luna lifts hers up, it slips from her hand and falls to the floor— “Splat!” “‘Oh no!’” She takes a bun from the second basket. “‘That’s all you get,’ says Kai, and Benji seconds that. But Luna protests that it’s her birthday and she should get another bun. Benji and Kai gaze into the basket sadly, wondering what to do. Then Kai reminds his siblings that their mom always says they should respect their elders. But Benji remembers her saying “‘older kids should take care of younger kids,’” so he should get one too. And Luna? She exclaims that she’s the “‘birthday girl!’”

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Image copyright Violet Kim, 2020, text copyright Natasha Yim, 2020. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

The three kids stare each other down. Finally, Luna suggests cutting the two buns in half, and they do. But who will get the extra half, Benji wonders. Kai and Benji both have reasons they should get it. And Luna? She exclaims that she’s the “‘birthday girl!’” Kai thinks they should divide the half in half, but Luna tells him they’d just be back to the beginning. Kai and Benji like the idea of using their animals from the lunar calendar to choose who gets the pieces, but each has a valid claim to a half. Luna has one more suggestion that makes the division fair but the pieces tiny. Then Luna looks around and sees a hungry little boy at the next table and knows just what to do with the extra half.

Backmatter includes a description of Dim Sum and the Chinese Zodiac as well as a paragraph that explores the math found in the story and four activities to get kids working with math.

Natasha Yim’s charming tale will captivate readers with her funny and realistic competition between the siblings for the remaining two pork buns after Luna drops one. Her pitch-perfect dialogue invites kids to try and figure out how to divide the buns along with Luna, Kai, and Benji. Yim’s storytelling organically incorporates important concepts of one and two while also introducing the idea of one half in a way that they can—and will want to—replicate at home. Through Kai, Luna, and Benji’s  challenges to each other, kids also learn about superlatives and comparatives “oldest and older” and “tallest and shortest” as well as “bigger” and “bravest.” Luna’s solution to their dilemma is sweet and will entice kids to enjoy dim sum themselves.

Violet Kim’s vibrant illustrations take kids into a bustling dim sum restaurant, where they can see—and almost hear—happy diners and busy servers with their carts. By changing the perspective of her images, Kim allows kids to clearly see the buns in the baskets and take part in deciding how they can be divided. Children can also count chopsticks, tea cups, and other items on the table as well as the contents of baskets stacked on carts. Kim envisions the siblings’ competitions in humorous images that also demonstrate superlatives and comparatives that provide both math and language lessons. Readers will also empathize with Luna, Kai, and Benji as they debate, their facial expressions depicting their thought processes, doubts, and frustrations.

An enchanting read that combines math with familiar family dynamics, Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum is a story that will spark mathematical experimentation and understanding both at home and in the classroom, making the book an excellent choice for family, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 6

Charlesbridge, 2021 | ISBN 978-1623541996

Discover more about Natasha Yim and her books on her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Luna's-Yum-Yum-Dim-Sum-Tour-Graphic-Covers

To learn more about Violet Kim, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Storytelling Math Chat

You’re invited to listen to authors Natasha Yim, Sara Levine, and Ana Crespo as well as Charlesbridge editor Alyssa Mito Pusey and math expert Marlene Kliman talk about the math, diversity, and importance of storytelling in Storytelling Math..

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You can find Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review 

January 14 – World Logic Day

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About the Holiday

World Logic Day, sponsored by UNESCO in association with the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences aims to raise awareness and appreciation of the intellectual history, significance, and practical uses of logic to the broad community of scientists as well as the public. Celebrations of the holiday center on promoting international cooperation, supporting the development and activities of logic within universities, research facilities, and schools, and enhancing the understanding of logic and its implications for science, technology, and innovation.

Lia & Luís: Who Has More? (Storytelling Math)

Written by Ana Crespo | Illustrated by Giovana Medeiros

 

When Luís and his sister Lia were playing together, Luís worked quickly and bragged about the rickety tower he’d built. Lia didn’t really mind because she liked to take her time. Lia’s tower may have been shorter, but it stayed up longer. After playing, they ran “downstairs to their family’s store [to] pick their favorite Brazilian snacks.” Luís told his father, “I want biscoito de polvilho, Papai!” while Lia said, “Coxinhas de galinha, please!”

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Image copyright Giovana Medeiros, 2020, text copyright Ana Crespo, 2020. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Papai handed Luís a bag of little nuggets and put two pear-shaped treats in a bag for Lia. Again, Luís began bragging, showing his sister that he had more than she did. This time Lia didn’t like it. But was Luís right? His bag was bigger than Lia’s. It was four blocks high and Lia’s bag was only two blocks high. Luís’s bag was also wider and deeper than Lia’s.

But Lia noticed something else. “Can’t you count?” she says then points out that she has two croquettes while her brother has only one bag. Could she be right about having more? Luís can’t leave this challenge unanswered, so he opens his bag and spills out the contents on the table. Lia looks at all of the tiny nuggets but is still unconvinced. She picks up a biscuit and a croquette. They are definitely different sizes and weights.

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Image copyright Giovana Medeiros, 2020, text copyright Ana Crespo, 2020. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Luís begins to put a biscuit in his mouth, but Lia wants him to wait. “Para!” she tells him. Lia takes some time thinking about the problem. Finally, she has an idea. She gets the scale from the family store and puts her croquettes on one side and Luís’s biscuits on the other. The scale dips toward Lia; “she wins.” Lia doesn’t like seeing her brother so sad. She thinks again and has another idea. She breaks off a bit of a croquette and adds it to Luís’s biscuits. The scale balances! They eat up all their snacks. Will Papai give them mais?

Following the text readers will find a Glossary of Portuguese words used in the story and an Exploring the Math page, which describes the math concepts contained in the story as well as activities kids and adults can do to reinforce the math learning.

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Image copyright Giovana Medeiros, 2020, text copyright Ana Crespo, 2020. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

In her charming Storytelling Math book, Ana Crespo effectively uses siblings’ natural competitive spirit to explore concepts of comparing and measurement. These include size (and the comparatives taller, wider, deeper), quantity, and weight. As the story opens, Luís has built a taller tower than his sister, the image of which is later used to compare Lia’s snack to Luís’s. Crespo combines an engaged narrator plus dialogue sprinkled with Portuguese words that are organically defined to create a lesson in math that will keep readers turning the pages to see who actually does have more. As Lia and Luís try various methods to find an answer, kids can take time too to think about how they would solve the problem and discuss the idea of “more” and how they would define it. Lia and Luís may be competitive, but they’re also cooperative, making this a sweet sibling story as well.

Giovana Medeiros’s bright, crisp illustrations of these enthusiastic twins clearly depicts the math concepts discussed while also portraying the distinct personalities of Lia and Luís, inviting readers to root for one or the other or to just wait and see who wins. Medeiros includes lots of other opportunities to interact with math through counting the twins’ blocks, items on the shelves and in the display case of the family’s store, and the biscuits poured out on the table. Images of the balance scale allows kids to see how Lia’s croquettes weigh more and how adding a bit of one gives Luís the same amount by weight that Lia has. Speech bubbles and the characters’ actions help readers translate the Portuguese words themselves.

Sure to inspire kids to explore the cabinet, fridge, or classroom and engage with the math of comparing and measuring for themselves, Lia & Luís: Who Has More? would be a fun book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections to spark observations and experimentation that lead to deeper STEM learning.

Ages 3 – 6

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541279 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1623541859 (Paperback)

Discover more about Ana Crespo and her books on her website.

To learn more about Giovana Medeiros, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Logic Day Activity

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Lia & Luís: Who Has More? Activity Kit

 

You can have fun experimenting with math using your toys, snacks, and other household items with the downloadable Activity Kit available on the Charlesbridge website!

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You can find Lia & Luís: Who Has More? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review