July 29 – International Tiger Day

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About the Holiday

First observed in 2010 in response to the severely declining wild tiger population, International Tiger Day promotes awareness of these beautiful, distinctive animals. In the last century 97% of wild tigers have disappeared, with only 3,000 still in existence. Many factors have led to this devastating loss, including habitat destruction, climate change, and poaching. Environmental and other groups, such as the World Wildlife Federation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the Smithsonian Institution, have come together to protect and preserve wild tigers.

By Jakki Licare

A Tiger Like Me

Written by Michael Engler | Illustrated Joelle Tourloias | Translated by Laura Watkinson

 

A little boy dressed in a tiger costume wakes up for the day with a great big roar. “Because I am a tiger, a wide-awake tiger!” His mother tries to clean his beautiful fur, but tigers don’t like to be clean. He uses his tiger speed and reflexes to race out of the bathroom. With a grumbling stomach, the little boy sits at the table and gobbles up his breakfast. “I crunch and munch just like a tiger.” And now he is ready for the adventures of the day. 

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Image copyright Joëlle Tourlonias, 2020, text copyright Michael Engler, 2020, translation copyright Laura Watkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

He finds a sneaky hiding spot where he can surprise his mom, but then he gets stuck. Apparently, it isn’t a hideout, but a trap. Luckily, Mother Tiger hears her cub’s struggles and rescues him. The little boy heads outside to enjoy the snow on the ground. “Snow sprays out from under my quick tiger paws. Icicles rattle with my big tiger roars!” The little boy pounces around in the snow, enjoying every moment.

Hungry again the little boy returns to the kitchen where he is sure to find “…some tiger prey…” With his quick reflexes he pounces onto the chair and finds a delicious tiger cake. After painting his face like a tiger he sneaks up on his father. With a growl he leaps up on his father. His dad becomes a hunter who wants to capture him, but the little tiger is too quick. “Because I am tiger, a wild and wary tiger!”

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Image copyright Joëlle Tourlonias, 2020, text copyright Michael Engler, 2020, translation copyright Laura Watkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

The little boy is sent to his room. Using his furniture and sheets, he constructs a tiger den. It is the perfect place for a tiger to lay low. That night the family gather together to make tiger crafts with paint, crayons, watercolors, glue, and paper. Afterward, as the little boy is getting ready for bed, he absolutely refuses to brush his teeth. Even though the sun has set, the little boy is still not ready for bed. He waits until his parents come up and sneaks into their den. They snuggle together until the little boy falls asleep. He dreams about how he loves his life as a tiger.

End pages show a waking/sleeping boy in a tiger costume sleeping on his blankets with a blue-gray forest in the background. A small stanza compliments the artwork describing the waking/sleeping tiger-boy.

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Image copyright Joëlle Tourlonias, 2020, text copyright Michael Engler, 2020, translation copyright Laura Watkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

This sweet story will entrance young readers as they get to prowl through the day with this human-tiger protagonist. Michael Engler’s beautiful wording transforms the everyday tasks of brushing teeth to playing outside into exciting adventures. My son enjoyed pointing out how his own routine was similar to the protagonist’s. Engler does a great job of capturing the wide range of emotions that a child can experience in a single day. From hungry to scared to playful, the boy goes through the gamut of feelings. The repetition on every page makes it fun for young readers to chime in: “Because I am a tiger….” The sweet tone and calming end makes it a terrific book to read before nap time or bedtime. 

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Image copyright Joëlle Tourlonias, 2020, text copyright Michael Engler, 2020, translation copyright Laura Watkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Joelle Tourloias’s illustrations really capture the imagination and action of our tiger-boy protagonist. The speckles and blotches splattering the page when the boy pounces on his father really exemplifies the chaos of that moment while, the soft, almost hidden jungles in the background help blur the line between imagination and reality. My son especially loved finding the stuffed animals that are hidden on every page. The expressions of the family are perfectly rendered and really show the flux of emotions from moment to moment. Tourloias also does a fantastic job of capturing special family moments, such as the smiles of the parents and their son as they paint together on the floor and  their peaceful looks as they cuddle together at the end.

With its emotionally rich storytelling, repetitive phrasing, and hidden pictures, A Tiger Like Me is the perfect book to add to your home, classroom, or library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2019 | ISBN-13 978-1542044561

Discover more about Michael Engler and his books on his website.

To learn more about Joelle Tourlonias, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Tiger Day Activity

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Celebrate Tigers Maze

 

Even tigers like to celebrate! Can you help this tiger through the maze so he can enjoy a slice of cake (or maybe the whole thing!)?

Celebrate Tigers Maze

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You can find A Tiger Like Me at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local, independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

July 20 – Global Hug Your Kids Day

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About the Holiday

The purpose of today’s holiday is simple: show your child or children that you love them by giving them a hug. And why stop at just one? Such closeness builds strong family bonds and also helps with a child’s brain development and social and emotional learning. Give hugs throughout the day, and tell your kids how much and why you love them! 

Goodnight, Sleepyville

Written by Blake Liliane Hellman | Illustrated by Steven Henry

 

“In Sleepyville, the sun is setting, and everyone’s done for the day.” They head home from work or school or running errands. At the Acorn Cafe, the owner is just finish up the cleaning. At the library the last book is being checked out. And as Mr. Bear leaves downtown, he scans the newspaper. Where is everyone going? “To simple homes, dome homes, teensy-weensy homes, …and very fancy homes.”

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2020, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

At home it’s time to wash up and enjoy a family supper – with milk and cookies for dessert. Once pajamas are on it’s time to “snuggle, wiggle, cuddle.” The moon rises and “though some are tucked in, snug as a bug…others need a lullaby. And maybe a bedtime story.” Then each animal drifts off to sleep in their own way as in the sky stars twinkle and fireflies blink. “Goodnight, Sleepyville. All the lights go out… except one.”

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2020, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

If you’re looking for a cozy, welcoming place to lay your head at the end of the day, there’s no place like home – or Sleepyville. In Blake Liliane Hellman’s tranquil town, where close-set cottages and tree-trunk homes reflect the close-knit community, evening  comes with comforting routines and the welcome of family. Hellman’s charming alliteration and gentle rhymes turn each sentence into a lullaby just perfect for bedtime reading. Her final line is sweetly clever, and will lead little ones to try and guess which light remains glowing and why. The answer on the next page is sure to spark requests for another read.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2020, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Steven Henry’s adorable seaside community enchants with quaint details and a relaxed, happy atmosphere rendered in delicate lines and soft, warm colors. Babies and adults welcome home family members with cheery enthusiasm (you don’t want to miss the two ladybugs rushing to embrace at their toadstool home’s front door or the sprawling Victorian treehouse). Images of the fox family having supper around the table and then doing the dishes together are homey, and kids will giggle at two sleepyheads wearing mixed-up pajamas. After the sun has set, a momma or papa wolf howls a lullaby to three cubs while the bunny clan listens to a story before being tucked in. With the crescent moon shining and the town in slumber, one little light still glimmers. Where does it come from? Turn the page and see!

Goodnight, Sleepyville is dreamy reading for bedtime that families will turn to again and again and would be a welcome addition to home and public library collections. Pair with the first book in this little series, Welcome to Morningtown to begin and end the day with favorite friends.

Ages Birth – 5

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1681198767

To learn more about Steven Henry, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Global Hug Your Kids Day Activity

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Free Hug Coupons

 

Everyone needs a hug now and then! With these printable Free Hug Coupons you can extend Global Hug Your Kid day to every day of the year and make sure that all of your favorite people get a sweet hug when they need it most.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Free Hug Coupons
  2. Color the coupons (optional)
  3. Hand out the coupons to your friends and family members and tell them that each coupon is good for one free hug from you.
  4. When someone hands in a ticket to you, give them your best biggest hug!

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You can find Goodnight, Sleepyville at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 3 – Festival of Sleep Day

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About the Holiday

After all the celebrating, we’re finally ready for some down time – and when I say down time, I mean sleep! That feeling of sinking into a deep slumber and waking refreshed the next morning is so comforting. And the opportunity to sleep in – or sleep all day? That’s luxury! To take full advantage of today’s holiday, jump in bed, pull up the covers and…Zzzzzzzzzz…

Henry & Leo

By Pamela Zagarenski

 

Ever since Henry was two, he and his stuffed lion, Leo, have been inseparable. “Perhaps it was his glass button eyes, which made him look as if he knew secret things” that made him so special and unlike Henry’s other toys. One Saturday Henry’s parents suggested a hike in the Nearby Woods. Henry was excited because he knew Leo would love the outing. Henry’s sister thought this idea was foolish, after all Leo wasn’t real, she said, and couldn’t love anything.

Henry didn’t care what his sister thought, and as they walked through the forest, he “could tell that Leo loved hearing the birds and finding the woodland animals as much as he did.” When evening began to fall, the family headed home, Henry riding on his father’s shoulders. At home, Henry discovered that Leo was missing. They looked everywhere, but Leo could not be found.

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Image copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt

Papa promised that they would resume the hunt in the morning, but Henry worried. He knew Leo would want to be home with him tonight, and asked that a light be left on for him. Henry’s mother suggested that since Leo was only real in Henry’s imagination that he “‘imagine Leo tucked into a safe place.’” In the morning, she said, they would return to the Nearby Woods and find him.

In the darkness of his room, clutching a stuffed rabbit and fox, with a toy bear nearby, Henry thinks about Leo. He “knows that his family just didn’t understand what it truly meant to be real.” But Henry and Leo were best friends. They cared for each other. “That’s real.”

Meanwhile, in the Nearby Woods, a bear, a rabbit, and a fox discover Leo sitting at the base of a tree. With a twig, Leo sketches a house in the dirt, washed white in the gleam of the full moon. The rabbit produces a compass as the fox consults the stars. The foursome takes off down the path, watched over by owls and other night creatures. As the trip grows longer, Leo rides on the bear’s back. At last they reach the edge of the forest, and in the distance Leo points to a house bathed white in the moonlight.

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Image copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt

With the dawning sun Henry and his family take up the search again. Suddenly, Henry spies Leo near the front door. “‘Leo!’” he shouts. His family sighs in relief, but his sister and father are both perplexed. They know they had “‘looked in that very spot last night.’” As Henry hugs Leo tightly, he whispers “‘You found home! I love you, Leo.’” And Leo whispers back, “‘I love you, too, Henry.’”

With her signature grace and lyricism. Pamela Zagarenski infuses her lost-toy story with the mystical imagination of childhood. As the title suggests, she presents the experience from both Henry’s and Leo’s perspectives, echoing the wonderful ability of young children to fully embrace and transfer their emotions, giving—and accepting—love from animate and inanimate objects equally. Zagarenski’s illustrations are glorious, with the richness of royalty—a motif that is carried through in the crowns that hover above and settle on the heads of Henry, his family, other toys, and the woodland animals. Children may enjoy discussing and interpreting the different crowns. The middle spreads of nighttime in the forest are wordless, allowing the animals to communicate in their own way and in a way children believe. Young readers will appreciate the gentle suspense and be satisfied with the correctness of Henry’s prediction as Leo finds his way home. Fans of Zagarenski’s work will notice familiar images, such as teapots, tea cups, and paper sailboats, scattered among the pages.

The beauty of Zagarenski’s art and her stardust magic of imagination make Henry & Leo an excellent choice for bedtime and quiet time reading, and would be an often-asked-for addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544648111

To learn more about Pamela Zagarenski, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Festival of Sleep Day Activity

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Snuggle Buddy Craft

 

It’s easy to make your own snuggle buddy with a few pieces of fleece, some fiber fill, and a needle and thread or fabric glue. The great thing about creating your own friend is you can personalize your pal anyway you want!

Supplies

  • 1 8-inch by 11-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the body (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project). A larger piece of fleece can be used to make a larger buddy
  • 1 5-inch by 8-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the hair (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project)
  • 1 small piece of fleece or other material for a pocket, clothes, or blanket
  • Small scraps of fleece or other material for the face
  • Fiber Fill
  • Thread and sewing needle OR fabric glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Fold the large piece of fleece in half lengthwise and sew along the open side and along the bottom. Alternatively, if using a larger size piece of fleece, fold upward and sew or glue the two sides closed.
  2. Turn the form inside out

To Make the Hair

  1. Cut a piece of fleece as wide as your buddy and about 7 – 8 inches long
  2. Fold the fleece lengthwise
  3. Insert both ends of the fleece into the opening at the top of the body
  4. Sew or glue the opening shut, securing the hair
  5. Cut strips about ¼-inch wide from the top of the hair to close to where the hair is sown into the body

To Make a Pocket or Clothes

  1. Cut a piece of fleece in the shape of a pocket, shirt, pants, diaper, or blanket
  2. Sew or glue the pocket or clothes to the buddy

To Make the Face

  1. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in whatever way you would like your buddy to look. 
  2. Sew or glue the face to the buddy

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You can find Henry & Leo at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

October 15 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

For readers every month is Book Month, but October is especially set aside to highlight books and the love of reading. Fall is a book bonanza as publishers release new books in all categories and the holiday gift-giving season beckons. Books, of course, make superb gifts for all ages! So whether you’re looking for a new or new-to-you book to read right now, or new titles to give to all the family and friends who will be on your list, this month is a perfect time to check out your local bookstore to see what wonderful books are on the shelves!

I received a copy of Good Night, Little Blue Truck for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with HMH Books for Young Readers in an amazing book and toy prize pack. See details below.

Good Night, Little Blue Truck

Written by Alice Schertle | Illustrated in the style of Jill McElmurry by John Joseph

 

Toad, driving Little Blue Truck, bumpity-bumped down the road. “Thunder crashing! / Lightening flashing! / Two good friends / were homeward dashing.” They drove into their warm garage and closed the door. Soon, Goat and Hen came knocking, wanting a dry place to hide. Then “‘Honk!’ said Goose. ‘Don’t care for lightning! / Stormy nights are a little bit frightening!’” Cow agreed and asked to come in too.

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Duck and Pig wanted in too but wondered if there was enough room for them. “‘Beep-beep-beep!’” Little Blue Truck invited them in. He said that inside they were “‘warm and dry’” while the “‘plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!’” The animals huddled on and around Blue and listened as it rained and thundered. Feeling safe and comfortable, “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’” Then Goat and Pig joined in to say that they weren’t afraid of a little thunder…well, “‘not very.’”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

When the storm had blown itself out and the moon shone in the sky, all the animals were ready to head home to get some sleep. “‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’” With Goat and Hen, Goose and Cow, and Pig and Chicken in the back and Duck on the hood, Toad drove them home. They stopped at Pig’s pen, Duck’s tranquil pond, and Hen’s cozy coop. Goat put on his pajamas in the barn, Goose took to her nest, and Cow stood under a tree in the grassy field.

Then Toad and Blue drove home again. Back in the garage, warm and snug, “Toad lay down on his own small bed. / ‘Croak! Good night, Little Blue,’ he said. / Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

A new Little Blue Truck book always gives readers and the adults who share these adventures with them a reason to cheer. With her enchanting rhymes that are a delight to read aloud, Alice Schertle once again creates a story of friendship and comfort that’s just right for bedtime. As lightning and thunder crackle in the sky, Blue and Toad make it into the warm garage just as the rain begins pelting down. The other animals aren’t so lucky and come in search of a dry place and friendship. Little Blue and Toad invite them in with reassurance that there’s room for all. As the animals bravely wait out the storm, little readers will also feel snug and part of the group. When the storm is over and Little Blue and Toad deliver Cow, Duck, Goose, Pig, Hen, and Goat to their comfy beds, kids will also feel their eyes closing as they drift off to sleep in their own cozy bed.

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Readers will love reuniting with Jill McElmurry’s familiar blue truck and his good friend Toad in this nighttime adventure. As the wind whips the trees and large raindrops and jagged lightning fill the dark sky, Little Blue’s eyes shine and his garage glows with welcome. Kids will be happy to see their favorite friends gathered together for this impromptu party. The muted colors brighten as the storm passes and a “smiling” moon lights up the starry sky once more. Readers will enjoy pointing out the family of rabbits that hop into the scene from page to page and seeing which of Little Blue’s cozy comforts Pig, Duck, and Hen take home with them.

A perfect way to snuggle into bed for fans of Little Blue and his friends as well as for those just getting to know him, Good Night, Little Blue Truck will be a beloved and often-asked-for addition to home bookshelves. The book is a must for school and public libraries to include with the rest of the series.

Ages 4 – 7 

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328852137

Visit HMHBooks.com to learn more about Good Night, Little Blue Truck.

Check out the rest of the Little Blue Truck series!

You can connect with HMH Kids on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Good Night, Little Blue Truck Giveaway

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Pack up your toys, it’s bedtime!

 

I’m thrilled to be teaming with HMH Books for Young Readers in this fabulous giveaway prize pack!

One (1) winner receives:

  • A copy of Good Night, Little Blue Truck,
  • Plus a racing tire toy chest! (toys not included)

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

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

A winner will be chosen on October 22.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing and samples provided by HMH Books for Young Readers.

National Book Month Activity

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Little Blue Truck Pajama Party!

 

Whether your child invites friends or just has fun with siblings or on their own, this Little Blue Truck Pajama Party Kit has everything you need to throw a blast of a party! 

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Inside the downloadable booklet you’ll find:

  • Decorating Ideas
  • Circle Time Activity Ideas
  • Two Coloring Pages
  • A Connect-the-Dots Coloring Page
  • A Full-color Little Blue Truck Mask

You’ll find the printable booklet here: Pajama Party Event Kit

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You can find Good Night, Little Blue Truck at these booksellers

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

 

 

April 16 – National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day

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About the Holiday

If you like dressing casually for work, then you’re going to love today’s holiday. Why is National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day celebrated today? It follows what may be one of the most stressful days in the US calendar—April 15, or Tax Day. While it may not actually be possible to wear your comfiest clothes to the office, you and your family could make that change as soon as you get home and wear your pajamas to work on dinner, homework, house projects, or whatever you have going.

Night Train: A Journey from Dusk to Dawn

Written by Annie Cronin Romano | Illustrated by Ileana Soon

 

As dusk descends, the night train wakens, “groggy, stretching.” Coal’s loaded in while excited passengers get on board. The night train creeps up the hills, winding its way through stands of pine trees, startling small creatures with its clattering wheels. After navigating the hills, the night train crosses a wide plains, where wheat fields sway their golden greeting.”

Over the river the train chugs across a bridge passing a deer who’s come to the edge to drink and a silently watching raccoon. As a dad and his son eat and chat in the dining car, the train travels by “whitewashed barns” and races wild stallions. The train rumbles into a tunnel where the track is cloaked in darkness by the “granite passage.” But its “headlamp brightens, pathway lightens— / never-fearing, calmly steering night train.”

The train approaches its destination just as the sun begins to lighten the sky. The city is coming awake; children rising, workmen rushing. The night train’s breaks squeal as it thunders into the station, slows and stops. The “worn conductor yawns and stretches,” and the train, with its journey finished, gets to sleep.

Annie Cronin Romano’s lovely, lyrical ode to the mystery and allure of a nighttime journey by train is the perfect antidote to a busy day for sleepy children or those who just need some down time. With rhythmic phrasing, the sounds of the train as it progresses on its steady route play out, enveloping readers in a blanket of security and custom that mirrors the constant love and care of the adults in the young reader’s life.

Ileana Soon takes children on a gorgeous journey from golden sunset to velvet blue night to pastel dawn. As evening settles in, the train makes its way up dusky brown hills while small animals scurry away from the clattering wheels. Seen from above, the train puffs along tracks that are as straight as an arrow cutting through a vast wheat field. Silhouetted horses race the train, but like the little bats in the sky, they are soon left behind. When dawn breaks, the town welcomes the train and its passengers with lighted windows and a busy station.

Night Train: A Journey from Dusk to Dawn is a beautiful bedtime or quiet time story and would be a favorite on home, school, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146572

Discover more about Annie Cronin Romano and her books on her website

To learn more about Ileana Soon and her art, visit her website.

National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day Activity

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Riding the Rails Dot to Dot

 

Taking a trip by train long distance can be fun—especially if you travel overnight in a sleeper car! Instead of counting sheep, count and follow the numbers in this printable Riding the Rails Dot to Dot.

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You can find Night Train: A Journey from Dusk to Dawn at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 20 – It’s Picture Book Month and Interview with Author/Illustrator Paul Schmid

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About the Holiday

Fall is giving way to winter and kids’ thoughts turn to snow days, sledding, snowmen, and all sorts of frosty things. There’s a book for that…and that…and all those things too! Kids love following the seasons through the books they read. There’s nothing better during the cold-weather months than snuggling indoors with a stack of books and a steamy mug of hot chocolate. During Picture Book Month and all through the year, introduce your children to the joys of reading!

Phaidon Press sent me a copy of Little Bear Dreams to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m delighted to be partnering with Phaidon in a giveaway of the book! See details below.

Little Bear Dreams

By Paul Schmid

 

A baby polar bear rides atop Mom’s back, catching snowflakes on a little pink tongue. As the snowflakes change to twinkling stars in the dark night sky, a question hangs in the air—“Of what do little bears dream?” Perhaps it’s the frothy sweetness of “hot chocolate” or the delicious spiciness of “cold pizza.”

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

As the day brightens once more, maybe the baby imagines all kinds of things that lie beyond those “straight horizons” or giggles at wearing tickly, “curly moustaches.” There are so many things to discover, both big and small, short and tall, and blue—lots of blue in the frozen north. But night has come around again and it’s time for sleep. So, curl up with “soft, snowy beds. Warm fur…and frosty nights” and drift off to sleep.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Paul Schmid’s snuggly story about an adorable polar bear pair rendered with soft curves, quiet blues, and sweet surprises is, simply, love in a book. The gentle text lulls little ones toward sleep while reminding them of the wonders of life. Images of opposites—hot and cold, straight and curly, big and small, and others—are full of charm and wit and give little readers lots to talk about or an invitation to fill in their own details.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Schmid’s beautiful use of line, shape, and color expresses the loving relationship between baby and adult as the little one peeks from behind Mom, hides underneath her during a game of hide-and-seek, and nuzzles noses in a little bear kiss. Marshmallow-plump bunnies wait silently to play, and pudgy little polar bear twists to try and spy a stubby tail. Gorgeous perspectives show the magnitude of the night sky and the mother bear’s protective power. The moving image of the pair curled into a ball for sleep underneath a full moon and then risen to replace it as a little one’s shining light is the perfect ending to this story so rich in cuddles, caring, and comfort.

An excellent book for baby shower, birthday, and holiday gifts as well as an endearing addition to home libraries, Little Bear Dreams is a book you will find yourself reaching for again and again. It’s a sweet book for preschool classrooms and a must for public libraries.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877242

To learn more about Paul Schmid, his books, and his art, visit his website

Meet Paul Schmid

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I’m thrilled to be chatting with Paul Schmid today about his the inspirations of winter, following where ideas lead, and the role of that curly moustache in Little Bear Dreams.

Readers are always interested in the creative process that goes into a book. Can you talk us through how Little Bear Dreams came to be?

Little Bear Dreams started in a somewhat dreamlike way. I just began playing with the dramatic, graceful shapes of winter landscapes without knowing where I was going with it. I love winter, and since childhood have been fascinated by its stark simplicity and seeming contradiction of severity and softness.

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This was the start of it all. Roughly sketched musings on a bear in her environment.

As dreams will do, the book evolved as it progressed. It took hundreds of sketches to bring this book to life. At one early point it was called “Black and White and Blue.” The more I sketched my characters, though, the more they began to assert their personality. We all eventually settled into a gentle, loving mother bear and her rather impish and imaginative little bear.

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Sketches, sketches, sketches!

Ideas for stories can come from anywhere, but what for you makes an idea stick so that you develop it further?

DH Lawrence wrote: “If you try to nail anything down in the novel, either it kills the novel, or the novel gets up and walks away with the nail.”

I follow ideas perpetually. “Follow” being the operational word here. Many times I’ve tried to force an idea, and it generally ends up looking so. 

I follow until an idea becomes something or peters into nothing. Some ideas I’ve been following for years and haven’t arrived anywhere wonderful—yet. Some ideas drag me after them at a speed which shocks me. I guess the key is to always be receptive. Ideas will rudely wake me at 2 a.m., obliging me to creep into my studio and sketch or write.

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There are so many ways to convey an idea! I jokingly call the first few months of developing a book “The Period of Ten Thousand Decisions.” Here are explorations on just one spread from Little Bear Dreams: “Blue water.”

Little Bear Dreams began as an indulgence to play with simplicity in color and shape, visual and verbal rhythms and contrasts, but evolved also into a story of love and connection. Of gentleness and playfulness.

The idea is the boss. Not me. I just obey.

Your illustration style is very distinctive, and your adorable characters immediately inspire readers to feel empathy for them. Can you talk a little about the role of different shapes, line, white space, and even the use of small features in your illustrations?

I have a compulsion to express as much as possible in the simplest manner possible. It is a great pleasure to me to strip an illustration or sentence of all that gets in the way of advancing the story or mood or character of the book.

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Although my illustrations seem simple, I’ve found simplicity a very complicated feat to achieve. With no busyness, what is there must be perfect. For me that requires a lot of drawing and redrawing.

But it must connect with a reader! Children live real, dramatic, joyous, painful, confused, confident, knowing, learning lives. I feel my job as a storyteller for children is to reflect and connect with the vitality of life they dwell in.

So when I draw a character in a situation or emotion I feel that emotion myself as I draw. The great illustrator Howard Pyle was quoted as saying: “Project your mind into your subject until you actually live in it.” 

In 2010 you were chosen as one of four illustrators to attend a fellowship with Maurice Sendak. What is the most memorable thing that he told you? What is your favorite memory from that experience?

Maurice was to me a shining example of emotional courage and depth and intelligence. I’ve never met anyone more brilliant and intuitive. He was unafraid of his feelings, of complexity, of embracing sadness and joy. 

For all he was a superstar, he was also amazingly generous and one of the most caring, attentive listeners I’ve ever known.

It is how he was as a person that has inspired me rather than any one thing he said.

My favorite memory of Maurice was a visit I paid to him about a year after the Fellowship. We took a walk and for hours discussed how elusive happiness is for an artist, the difficulty in waking our muses, the impossibility of not continuing to always create and express ourselves, the challenge and imperative of being truthful to kids, loss, death, life, beauty. The whole of our love for life and creating. 

As a speaker at  the 2015 Words, Writers, and West Seattle” series of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, you talked about several of your books, including Oliver and His Alligator, which involves a surprising turn of events, and mention that kids love being shocked. In Little Bear Dreams, the baby polar dreams of things she would naturally see in her environment juxtaposed with things like cold pizza and curly mustaches. Can you discuss the benefits for young children of unexpected moments that cause surprise or giggles?

Kids are still putting the puzzle pieces together on their perceptions of “What is this thing called life?” Incongruities help reinforce our understanding of reality. As a little girl my own daughter enjoyed pointing out when something was not right. It is a source of humor for children and adults.

As I write I imagine a parent reading the book with their child and discussing it together. “Do polar bears eat pizza?” “No, that’s silly!” I endeavor to create those moments for a parent and child. My books such as A Pet for Petunia and Oliver and his Alligator are full of such opportunities. Surprise, along with the comfort of seeing true familiar things is the balance I sought for Little Bear Dreams.

Putting the child in the position of knowing something the book affects not to know is great fun for a young reader too.

As I watched the Word, Writers, and West Seattle event, I was thrilled to see you present The Story of Ferdinand as one of your childhood favorites. That book was also one of my favorites—the first one I remember truly loving. For me, as a quiet child, it was the story that was so validating, and for you, you said that even as a child you appreciated the perfection of the illustrations. Could you talk a bit about that relationship between a child and a book that is a beloved “first” in some way. Is that an idea you are aware of when creating a book?

One of the most gratifying results of creating books for kids is getting a note from a parent telling me it is their child’s favorite book; that they have to sleep with it under their pillow, or they’ve memorized the whole book. I love knowing I made something that touched a child so deeply.

I believe this profound connection is because a child reads so much more intensely than an adult. They seek in books information and affirmation of what they are feeling or thinking. They find adventure and discover possibility. Reading for kids is not just a distraction, it is an important part of their world.

Oh, and because of this I have a small personal conviction that the only reviewers of kid’s books should be kids. Ha!

What’s up next for you?

I am always working on new manuscripts! I’m having a great time this week with a particularly fun story I am sketching up. Not a bad way to spend my days.

A new endeavor I am also enjoying is designing images for greeting cards. One company, Great Arrow Graphics, has picked up about a dozen or so of my designs which are available in select stores or on line here: https://www.greatarrow.com/cards/cardlist/did/494

I have also set up a shop at society6, where you can buy quality prints of images from my books and some other fun stuff I’ve illustrated.

The shop lives here: https://society6.com/paulschmid

New designs are always on the way.

What’s your favorite holiday? Do you have an anecdote from any holiday that you’d like to share?

I find Winter Solstice particularly appealing, since for me it represents the paradox of life. Solstice marks the end of the shortening days, the return of light and warmth, of renewal. At the same time it also means the beginning of Winter, of coldness, hardship and patience. This is not a conflict to me but a lovely insight. Up cannot exist without down, it is its opposite that makes a thing itself be. 

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Paul hiking with Mount Rainier in the distance.

So at the moment of Winter Solstice we are able to feel simultaneously both joy and sadness, hope and fear. That is a concept I find strangely satisfying.

Wow! Thanks, Paul, for such an insightful talk! I wish you all the best with Little Bear Dreams and all of your books!

Little Bear Dreams Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Phaidon Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Little Bear Dreams by Paul Schmid

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, November 20 – November 26. Already a follower? Thanks! Just Retweet for a chance to win. 

A winner will be chosen on November 27.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Phaidon Press.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Opposites Sensory Tin

Little ones love touching and feeling different objects and trying to guess just what they are or how they’re the same or different than other things. Putting together a sensory tin is a quick and easy way to keep kids occupied with a fun activity while they also learn!

With a six-cup tin for youngest readers and a twelve-cup tin to try and stump older kids, you have plenty of space to add items that are soft and hard, cold and warm, crunchy and crumbly, spiky and smooth, and so many more!

To make the tin into a game, have kids close their eyes or blindfold them and let them feel the different items and guess what they are.

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You can find Little Bear Dreams at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 19 – It’s National Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

When we think about our lives, we can be thankful for many things. At the top of the list for parents and other caregivers are the children in their lives. Gratitude and expressions of thanks are two of the earliest emotions passed down to children through gentle “what do you say?” prompts for any gift or compliment given to teaching kids to write thank-you notes to friends and family. During the holidays—and this week in particular—we are mindful of all of our blessings and of those less fortunate than we are.

Zonderkidz sent me copies of Nighty Night and Good Night and Let’s Get Ready for Bed to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Zonderkidz in a cozy giveaway! See details below.

Nighty Night and Good Night

Written by Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki | Illustrated by Tod Carter | Painted by Chuck Vollmer

 

Ben’s bedtime routine always included a simple prayer. “‘Dear God, Thank you for this day. Please help all of our family and friends sleep well tonight! Amen.’” Then he turned out the light and went to sleep. But sometimes—like tonight—Ben couldn’t fall asleep easily. He turned on his nightlight and that’s when his fluffy friends, Bear, Lamby, and Sleepy Puppy came to life to help.

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Lamby, of course, thought counting sheep would put Ben to sleep, but when Ben got to ten he had to stop. He didn’t know what came next, and he wasn’t sleepy yet. Bear suggested Ben fluff his pillow, so he tossed his pillow in the air until it was nice and soft, but he still wasn’t sleepy. Sleepy Puppy was sure that yawning would make Ben tired, so they all marched around the room yawning widely, but that didn’t do the trick either.

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

At last, Bear pulled his guitar from behind his pillow, Lamby took to Ben’s little piano, and Sleepy Puppy began thrumming on the bass. It was time for a lullaby! Ben’s three friends began to sing: “‘Lay down, sweet child, and go to sleep. / The Lord be with you and give you His peace. / Lay down, sweet child, and go to sleep. / The Lord be with you tonight.’” Soon, Ben’s eyes began to close. Even Sleepy Puppy was feeling tired too. Lamby prayed one last prayer for Ben to sleep well and the three “drifted off to sleep.”

Ages 2 – 5

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310767015

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Let’s Get Ready for Bed

Written by Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki | Illustrated by Tod Carter | Painted by Chuck Vollmer

 

Eddy the bear was looking for his friend Sleepy Puppy. Lamby had just seen him going to get ready for bed. The two thought it would be fun to sneak a peek at Puppy’s nighttime routine. They snuck upstairs where they saw soap bubbles foaming under the bathroom door. Inside, Sleepy Puppy soaked in the clawfoot tub. “A warm bubble bath is what this pup needs / after a big day of mess-making deeds.”

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

All clean and dry, Puppy tugged on his favorite pajamas. “Fuzzy and soft, these pj’s are cozy. / They keep his toes warm and turn his cheeks rosy.” Then it’s time to brush his teeth and finally hit the hay. Puppy knew he had something special to do before he climbed under the covers. He knelt by his bed and prayed, “‘Thanks, God, for my family, for my mom and dad, / and for all the fun with my friends that I had.’” Then he asked God to keep them all safe and help them to sleep well.

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Looking at a book before closing his eyes was the next step in his routine. The stories were so funny that he laughed and laughed. He shut the book and snuggled in for a long night’s sleep. But he still felt wide awake. He wondered, “‘Did I leave something out? Or do something wrong? I know!’ he remembered. “‘I’m missing a song!’”

Lamby and Eddy were there on the spot. Eddy strummed the guitar and Lamby  played the piano, and their song went like this: “‘Rock-a-bye, Puppy, in the tree top, / When the wind blows the cradle will rock. / Forward and back, the cradle it swings / ‘till deep into sleep, Puppy it brings.’” They sang another verse and Puppy was soon snoozing. “Then Lamby and Bear both whispered good night. They tucked Puppy in and turned off the light.”

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Nighty Night and Good Night and Let’s Get Ready for Bed are the first two titles in a new series, Nurturing Steps™ launched by Grammy® Award winning artist Michael W. Smith for babies and toddlers. The series combines books and music to give parents, grandparents, and other caregivers a way to “enliven a young child’s journey with hope and faith through song and storytelling.” The stories are sweet and comforting for little ones as they echo the bedtime routine of many children. Bedtime prayers feature prominently in both stories. In Nighty Night and Good Night, Ben prays with his mother, while in Let’s Get Ready for Bed, Puppy performs all of his bedtime routines on his own.

The familiar dilemma of not being able to fall asleep is addressed in each book with fun suggestions that ultimately lead into the soothing heart of the story—a lullaby. The reassuring words and calming tunes of both songs will quiet children and help them drift off to sleep. As an added bonus, each book includes a link that allows readers to listen to Michael W. Smith sing the same lullaby.

Youngest readers will be charmed by Ben and his three stuffed animals who know just how to be good friends when you need them most. An accompanying album of sleepy songs is also available.

Ages 2 – 5

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310767480

You can learn more about Nurturing Steps by visiting the website.

Let’s Get Ready for Bed! Giveaway

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I’m partnering with Zonderkidz in this amazing bedtime giveaway in which one (1) winner receives:

  • Copies of both Nurturing Steps books,
  • Michael W. Smith’s accompanying Lullabyalbum,
  • plus sleepy slippers for your little reader!

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing and samples provided by Zonderkidz.

Gather around for the Let’s Get Ready for Bed book trailer!

Meet the Nurturing Steps Creators

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Michael W. Smith is a successful recording artist who has recorded more than 25 albums and had numerous hit radio songs in the Christian and General markets. He’s won numerous Grammy and Dove Awards and is the founder of Rocketown, an outreach to teenagers in a 38,000 square-foot facility in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. He is involved in mission work around the world. He has also written several best-selling books, including Old Enough to Know and Friends Are Friends Forever. He and his wife, Debbie, have five children and live in Nashville.

You can follow Michael W. Smith on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

 

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Mike Nawrocki, co-creator of VeggieTales and the voice of the beloved Larry The Cucumber, has been part of the pulse of the Veggie brand since its inception in 1993. Mike has created, written, and directed most of the popular “Silly Songs with Larry” segments, including fan favorites “His Cheeseburger” and “The Hairbrush Song.” He has also lent his screenwriting and directing talents to dozens of VeggieTales episodes such as “Madame Blueberry and The League of Incredible Vegetables,” as well as both of the properties’ theatrical release films, Jonah and The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. In addition, Mike has authored a number of VeggieTales books and CD projects as well as developing and writing for another of Big Idea’s hit animated properties, 3-2-1 Penguins.  Mike is currently focused on developing new children’s properties centered around fun characters, engaging storytelling, and wholesome values. Mike makes his home in Franklin, TN with his wife and two children.

Visit NurturingSteps.com | Follow Zonderkidz on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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You can find Nighty Night and Good Night and Let’s Get Ready for Bed at these booksellers

Amazon: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed | Barnes & Noble: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed | Books-a-Million: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed | IndieBound: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed

Picture Book Review