January 3 – It’s International Quality of Life Month

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About the Holiday

How one achieves their definition of a good quality of life may differ for every person, but in general it encompasses being happy and satisfied with one’s relationships, work, living conditions, and self. Whether you find happiness and quality of life in outdoor or indoor pursuits, with others or alone, at work or at home, this month’s holiday gives you time to get in touch with your inner quiet place and reflect on changes or improvements to bring you more peace and happiness in life.

I’d like to thank Berbay Publishing for sharing a copy of Nobody Owns the Moon with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Special Note: As I have been asked to take on extra shifts as a staff member at my local public library due to personnel shortages, I will be taking a break from posting daily reviews over the next coming months. In between new reviews, I invite you to explore all of the holidays, author and illustrator interviews, activities, and, of course, the wonderful books featured on Celebrate Picture Books.

Nobody Owns the Moon

By Tohby Riddle

 

Upon the opening pages readers are treated to an engaging treatise on the success (or not so) of certain animals trying to “make a life for itself in cities.” The fox, we learn, is especially adept because it is “quick-witted and able to eat a variety of foods.” We are then introduced to one such city-dweller, Clive Prendergast – a self-named fox because his real name “can only be pronounced by foxes.”

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Copyright Tohby Riddle, 2021, courtesy of Berbay Publishing.

Clive lives in a small apartment and works on a factory production line. At night he takes to the streets, visiting food stalls and watching the interesting goings-on. Clive has a few friends, but the one he sees the most is Humphrey, a donkey who is “one of those creatures that live in cities with less success than foxes” and “doesn’t always have a fixed address.” While Humphrey has had jobs, he has trouble keeping them. Right now he’s working as a piano removalist.

One day Clive saw Humphrey sitting on the stone steps of “a statue of a great conqueror.” Clive thought he looked tired and underfed. Then he noticed a blue envelop sticking out of Humphrey’s tote bag. It turned out that Humphrey had found it in the street and planned on eating it, but thinking Clive was also hungry he offered it to him without a second thought. When Clive opened the envelope, he found two tickets to that night’s performance at the theatre. They should go, he said.

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Copyright Tohby Riddle, 2021, courtesy of Berbay Publishing.

“That night Humphrey and Clive attended the premier of Nobody Owns the Moon – the latest play by the city’s most celebrated playwright. Before the show, ticket-holders were treated to hors d’ oeuvres and punch. Then they were shown to their front-row balcony seats. The play was wonderful, full of humor and poignancy. Tears filled Humphrey’s eyes at the show’s “bittersweet ending” and again as they enjoyed a beverage and “large slice of cake in the theatre’s elegant restaurant.”

Filled with the wonder of the evening, Clive and Humphrey headed out into the “glimmering melee of lights and sounds that was their city at night. “‘This is our town!'” they exclaimed to each other, and before they went “their separate ways, Humphrey gave Clive a big hug goodnight.”

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Copyright Tohby Riddle, 2021, courtesy of Berbay Publishing.

Immersive and openhearted, Tohby Riddle’s poignant friendship tale is as surprising and inclusive as the invitation Humphrey finds. Opening with lines that could come straight from a nature documentary, the story quickly becomes interwoven with an air of mystery and anticipation as Clive Prendergast and Humphrey are introduced. Riddle’s inclusion of smart details, such as Clive’s fox name being unpronounceable to humans and Humphrey’s job that takes advantage of a donkey’s strong back, adds a verisimilitude that will delight readers. The emotional core of the story comes with Clive’s and Humphrey’s friendship, which is equitable and caring and full of generosity. The discovery and use of the theater invitation ushers in sumptuous scenes of a glittering theater, delicious food, and a life-affirming performance while also touching on the importance of satisfying the body and the soul, however one defines this.

Equally captivating are Riddle’s collage-style illustrations, which incorporate sly humor and thought-provoking perspectives. The book opens with an illustration of Clive Prendergast lounging in a comfortable armchair between Vincent van Gogh’s painting “A Wheatfield, with Cypresses” and a window which frames a view of the city that cleverly mirrors the famous artwork. Clive’s position suggests his comfort in both environments. Humphrey’s difficulties fitting in, on the other hand, are depicted in an Italian restaurant where, distracted for a moment, the plates of spaghetti and meatballs he’s carrying tip precariously over a customer sitting under a photograph of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Other images that contribute to the depth and atmosphere of this book are theater posters advertising Vaudeville and magic acts, Russian nesting dolls and fresh foods for sale in Clive’s multicultural neighborhood, and the copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass next to a view-master in Humphrey’s tote bag.

The city’s human inhabitants are all depicted in flat grays and browns while the animals – pigeons, a crocodile, a dancing bear – are portrayed in textured full color. This dichotomy begins to fade at the theater, where a waiter in formal dress offers Humphrey hors d’ oeuvres, in the balcony row where Clive and Humphrey sit, and in the restaurant after the show, a change that offers opportunities for readers to talk about acceptance and how we look at others. The moving ending is eloquent in it’s simple embrace of individuality and acceptance.

A touching, multi-level story that will enchant and impact readers, Nobody Owns the Moon will become a favorite and is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Berbay Publishing, 2021 | ISBN 978-0994384195

Discover more about Tohby Riddle, his books, and his art on his website.

International Quality of Life Activity

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Share a Smile Cards

 

Life is better when you share smiles with those you know—and those you don’t! Try it! When you’re out today at school or other places, give someone a smile. You can be sure that you will have made their day and your day better! These cards are another way you can share a smile. Why not slip one into your dad’s pocket or your mom’s purse, put one in your friend’s backpack, or sneak one onto your teacher’s desk? You can even leave one somewhere for a stranger to find! Have fun sharing your smiles, and see how much better you and the others around you feel!

Click here to print your Share a Smile Cards.

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You can find Nobody Owns the Moon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 15 – It’s Young Readers Week

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About the Holiday

Established in 1989 by the Center for the Book and Pizza Hut as a way to celebrate reading and invite kids and adults to discover the fun and benefits of reading, Young Readers Week is a favorite on any book-lovers’ calendar. Bringing together businesses, schools, families, and libraries, the Book It! program offers encouragement and resources to get kids excited about reading. To learn more and find activities, printables, reading trackers, and other resources for schools and families, visit the Book It! program website.

Thank you to Disney-Hyperion and Big Honcho Media for sending me a copy of Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.) for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.)

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Norman was a porcupine whose best friend, Mildred, was a tree. During the day, Norman loved playing baseball with Mildred (even though she always struck out—and, if truth be told, never even swung at the ball), bird-watching, “playing ‘tree’ together, and even playing chess (even if Norman had to play both black and white). At night, Norman settled himself in Mildred’s branches and read to Mildred (who always asked for “one more chapter.” Sometimes Norman just liked being with Mildred, holding hands with a low-growing branch.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Then one day an interloper popped from the ground complete with some leafy appendages. “And WHO is THAT?!” Norman asked Mildred. Of course, “it was another tree”—a tree that did not belong with Norman and Mildred. At first Norman just stewed, but soon he began to worry about whether Mildred might prefer this other tree to him. And, in fact, as the other tree grew taller, it seemed that Mildred didn’t need Norman to play baseball, birdwatch or play “‘tree’” anymore. “Life wasn’t the same.”

On the day that Mildred and the other tree actually touched leaves, Norman decided that was “the last straw. Even though, in this case, there were no straws. Just branches.” He decided to take action and devised the perfect plan. One night, Norman dug up the other tree, plopped it into a wheelbarrow, “and took it far away. Very far away.” So “very, very far away” that he needed a rowboat to get there.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

And on a tiny island, Norman replanted the other tree and rowed back to shore. After that things were back to normal—sort of. But Mildred was suspicious; she had questions. Norman did his best to offer possibilities after first explaining that he hadn’t done anything with the other tree. “Maybe it went on vacation,” he said. “Maybe it moved. How should I know?” And then he reassured Mildred that she still had him.

But there a niggling disquiet came to Norman. He began to fear that someone had seen him and that maybe “digging up your friend’s friend…was NOT the right thing to do.” His guilt ate at him until, under Mildred’s accusing gaze, he tripped and fell into the other tree’s empty hole. “Norman had hit rock bottom. ‘I have hit rock bottom!’” he announced. He knew what he had to do.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

He took the wheelbarrow and the rowboat and hurried to the tiny island. Back home, he replanted the other tree right where it had been before. “Norman knew life was going to be different.” Maybe it would even be better, he contemplated from the comfort of his hammock. “Just the three of them”—until the other tree’s best friend appeared from its nest, saw Norman, and demanded to know “And WHO is THAT?!”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ryan T. Higgins’ superbly well-conceived story of personal relationships tested by newcomers paints the wide swath of emotions that friendships, sibling bonds, and other connections spark in the human heart with his well-known and ameliorating humor. Higgins’ honest look at the progression of contentment, jealousy, resentment, fear, and sadness leading up to a desperate act followed by short-lived satisfaction, denials, guilt, dread, introspection, and finally acceptance not only makes for a dramatic and suspenseful read, but offers kids and adults a compelling way to talk about the delicacy and resilience of strong relationships.

Higgins’ plump and rakish Norman garners immediate affection with his adorable expressions and enthusiastic friendship with the steadfast Mildred so that when “the other tree” comes into the picture, readers will feel a deep empathy with his predicament. Depictions of how Norman sees interactions between Mildred and the other tree as usurping his role are clever and meaningful conversation starters. The aftermath of Norman’s replanting of the other tree also provides insight into whose life Norman really uprooted. In his pitch-perfect ending, Higgins reminds kids that no one lives in isolation and that their own experience may be mirrored in someone else’s.

An outstanding story that charms as a favorite read-aloud for humorous story times as well as one that makes a poignant impact on social-emotional growth, Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.) is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney-Hyperion, 2021 | ISBN 978-1368026239

You can connect with Ryan T. Higgins on Twitter. 

To find more books by Ryan T. Higgins and an Activity Kit/Educator’s Guide for teachers and families, visit Ryan’s page on the Disney Books website.

Young Reader’s Week Activity

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We Love to Read! Maze

 

Help the kids pick up books and find their way through the library in this printable maze.

We Love to Read! Maze Puzzle | We Love to Read! Maze Solution

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You can find Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 10 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s picture books are amazing! Offering inspiration, characters that really speak to kids, moments to laugh out loud or reflect, glimpses into history, revelations in science, and much of the best art currently being produced, picture books defy their slim appearance with content that can change young lives. Reading a wide variety of books to children from birth on up is one of the most rewarding activities you can do. Make choosing the books to read a family affair! Kids love picking out their own books and sharing cozy and fun story times with you!

Thanks to Beaming Books for sharing a digital copy of The Girl with Big, Big Questions for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

The Girl with Big, Big Questions

Written by Britney Winn Lee | Illustrated by Jacob Souva

 

There once was a girl who was always asking questions about everything she saw and heard and thought. “Her days were filled with adventures galore,/ since her mind was so full of wonder. / ‘How long can a turtle stay in its shell? / Why does lightning come before thunder?’” From morning to bedtime she questioned her mom, her neighbors, her classmates, her teachers. “‘Could I fly if I got a good running start? / The nearest volcano is . . .where? / Are monsters real? What’s Spanish for blue? / Is it okay to cut my own hair?’”

At first everyone tried to answer all the girl’s questions, but as they piled up, people began to just roll their eyes and, finally, her friends at school told her “‘Please stop! Just quit it!’” The girl felt embarrassed. She “tried to quiet her thoughts” and not ask so many questions. But then one day she saw a bird making a nest in a broken fence close to the ground.

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Image copyright Jacob Souva, 2021, text copyright Britney Winn Lee, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

She wondered why the bird didn’t choose a tree for its nest, so she went to the library and did some research. Outside, she made observations and came up with an answer. Then she made a report to her class: “‘There are not enough trees in our town!’” Now her friends were asking questions about what they could do to help and devised a plan to plant “more trees in their parks.” And the girl understands that asking big questions is good and can lead to important actions and changes; “Asking questions is how we all grow!”

In her enchanting story about a girl who’s part super-observer, part philosopher, and completely engaged with her world, Britney Winn Lee invites readers to also look outward and inward and discover the questions that inform their particular world view and call to action. With humor and an intriguing list of questions to get kids thinking, Lee’s bouncy rhymes will pique their curiosity and instill a desire to learn not only about the big stuff, but about all the tiny Who? What? Why? When? and Hows? that make life interesting and always new.

Jacob Souva’s charming and lovely illustrations will delight kids as the adorable wide-eyed girl is surrounded by speech bubbles and clouds full of images representing her questions. Readers can almost hear the girl’s questions as the bubbles bump up against each other, overlap, and expand to fill two-page spreads, adding a vivacious energy to the story. Souva depicts the classmates’ admonition and the girl’s searching for her own answers with clever metaphorical imagery.

When the girl’s classmates tell her to quit asking so many questions, the day turns rainy and the previously vivid colors of her thoughts and questions become the muted panels of her enveloping umbrella. The vibrant colors return in the library’s shelves of books as the girl finds answers to the one question about the bird’s nest that occupies her mind. The girl’s influence on her classmates is clearly shown in the final spreads as each child is paired with a questioning bubble of their own.

An engaging way to encourage curiosity, a questioning mind, and a love of learning and doing, The Girl with Big, Big, Questions would make an inspiring addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

You’ll also want to check out Britney Winn Lee and Jacob Souva’s The Boy with Big, Big Feelings, a story for all children who are sensitive to their own emotions, empathize with the cares of other people and the world, and are looking to make friends and make a difference.

Ages 5 – 8

Beaming Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1506473789

Discover more about Britney Winn Lee and her books, visit her website.

To learn more about Jacob Souva, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Picture Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Kids-and-Books-Coloring-Page

Let’s Read! Coloring and Find the Differences Pages

 

Print out a few copies of this coloring page and find the differences page then invite your friends over for some fun and, of course, reading!

Let’s Read! Coloring Page | Find the Differences Page

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You can find The Girl with Big, Big Questions at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 5 – National Do Something Nice Day

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About the Holiday

Similar to Random Acts of Kindness Day, National Do Something Nice Day encourages people to think of others and do nice things for them. These don’t have to be big or expensive; in fact, small gestures or thoughtful actions can make all the difference in the way a friend, family member, or stranger feels. These acts of kindness will make you feel good too! To celebrate today, keep an eye out for ways you can lend a hand, times you can share a smile or a conversation, or ways you can make a new friend. Kids may enjoy sharing the encouraging cards found below with friends, siblings, and teachers or by leaving them at school, the library, shops or anywhere that someone may find them.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice

Written by Maggie C. Rudd | Illustrated by Kelly O’Neill

 

It seems like being nice should be easy, but there are so many emotions that often surround that one little word that sometimes doing the considerate thing is really hard. How hard? Like smiling and saying “that’s okay” when “your mom says you have to share” your favorite toy with a friend, sibling, or cousin and they break it. Like sitting through your brother or sister’s boring performance, game, or recital when you’d rather be somewhere else—anywhere else. Or like eating your least favorite food and thanking the cook for the meal because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In fact, “sometimes being nice takes practice” like when a little brother or sister destroys your stuff and you yell at them, but then later you realize they didn’t really understand what they were doing. Or like when visiting someone you love in a nursing home or new place is scary and you hang back, not wanting to see them but then decide you won’t be scared next time you visit. And then there are times like these on the playground “when you have been waiting in line for the big slide, and a kid jumps in front of you because he didn’t see you standing there. And your mom says that the polite thing to do is to let him go first. But it’s your turn so you go anyway. Somehow it isn’t as fun. Next time you’ll let him go first.”

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

So what does all that practice lead to? The good feeling you get when you are nice. Like when you let your baby brother sit with you as you play a video game, “and he claps for you the whole time.” There’s also the great feeling you get when you’ve cleaned up after playing and your parents really appreciate it, or “when you’re late for soccer practice and your mom can’t find her keys, so you help her look for them . . . and find them in the doorknob! And your mom says she doesn’t know what she would do without you!”

While these examples may be hard because you feel slighted or tired or rushed or scared, there are times when being nice takes all your courage—like when you befriend the new kid or the kid everyone picks on and find out you have lots in common. Or when the bullies come around and you stand up for your new friend even though it’s scary and you end up in the principal’s office. So why would you want to be nice? Because “it’s worth it.”

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Maggie C. Rudd’s excellent primer to the emotions and circumstances around being nice presents children with realistic scenarios involving family members and friends, favorite toys and activities, and common situations at school that often require extra effort to respond to in a positive way. Rudd’s conversational writing style directly engages the reader, and while every example may not be an exact match to the reader’s experience, many will be spot on and the others easily recognized and adaptable.

Rudd’s four-step progression acknowledges that showing kindness or even just good manners can be difficult, but that it can become easier—especially when a situation seems unfair or is disappointing—with practice and perspective. Rudd’s examples of when being nice feels good are sprinkled with humor and warm family feelings that will bring smiles that support her point. A thread involving a favorite Galactic Star Crusher action figure ties several of the vignettes together, adding a sense of relationship and connectedness among the characters.

Kelly O’Neill illustrates each example for readers with clearly depicted scenes involving kids like them playing video games, visiting with grandparents, playing on the playground, helping their parents, and standing up for another child. In every instance, the children’s emotions are easily understood, which opens up many opportunities for adults and kids to discuss the feelings and issues surrounding how one treats others from both a child’s and adult’s perspective and experience. O’Neill’s bright colors, familiar settings, and uncluttered, well-conceived pages put the focus on her engaging children and elegantly complement Rudd’s important message.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice is a superb read aloud for honestly addressing the complexities and rewards of showing kindness and being nice. It is a book that families, teachers, and caregivers will find themselves turning to again and again in helping children navigate and learn this important social skill. The book is a must addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company | ISBN 978-0807575734

Discover more about Maggie C. Rudd and her books as well as an Activity Kit for educators and parents on her website.

To learn more about Kelly O’Neill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Do Something Nice Day Activity

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Say Something Nice! Cards

 

Do you want to give someone a nice surprise? Print out these cards and give one to a friend, to someone you’d like to know, or to anyone who looks like they need a pick-me-up! If you’d like to make your own cards, print out the blank template and write and/or draw your own message! You can also print these on adhesive paper and make your own stickers.

Say Something Nice! Cards | Say Something Nice! Cards Blank Template

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You can find Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 10 – It’s Children’s Good Manners Month

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About the Holiday

As kids go back to school and will be interacting with other students, teachers, coaches, group leaders, and others, this month is dedicated to the kinds of manners that promote good relationships and cohesive gatherings. Thinking about how one’s actions will affect others is part of being a great friend, teammate, or participant in any activity. Family life with parents and siblings is also better when everyone treats each other with good manners and respect.

Sonny Says Mine!

Written by Caryl Hart | Illustrated by Zachariah OHora

 

Sonny and his friends are playing on the playground when he spies a stuffed pink bunny in the sandbox. “Ooh! SO soft. SO cute. SO cuddly. I’ll call you Bun-Bun!’ he says.” But Meemo runs up to Sonny, interested in the bunny too, but Sonny pulls Bun-Bun away with a determined, “Mine!” Sonny plays with Bun-Bun, feeding her, dancing with her, reading her a story, and finally putting her to bed under a sand blanket.

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But then Honey and Boo come over and Boo is crying because she’s lost her bunny doll Suki. While Boo sits sadly on the bench, Honey looks all over for Suki. Sonny says nothing and tells Meemo to stop barking. Then Honey directly asks Sonny if he’s seen Suki. “No!” he says, hiding the doll behind his back. Honey and Boo go back to their search. Sonny is so happy with Bun-Bun. “He LOVES Bun-Bun SO much.”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But Meemo scolds Sonny and tries to take Suki. Sonny hides Bun-Bun and goes to play with Boo and Honey. But Boo is too sad to play pirates or to eat chocolate cake. “Now Sonny feels sad too.” What will he do? He goes to his hiding place and retrieves Bun-Bun. He hides Bun-Bun behind his back as he walks near Honey and Boo. Then he gives Bun-Bun to Boo and apologizes. Now everyone is happy! “Woof!” says Meemo. “Hooray!” says Boo. And what does Sonny say? He wants you to “Come back soon!”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sharing something can be hard. Giving back something you’ve found and LOVE to its rightful owner can be even harder. Caryl Hart understands these strong tugs on the heart and in her tender and realistic tale shows little ones the other side of the story—the sadness a friend experiences over losing a beloved toy or other object. Each of the characters demonstrate different actions and emotions providing adults and kids opportunities to discuss feelings and various roles of friendship. With their natural empathy, kids will identify with both Sonny and Boo and learn how in this type of situation real happiness and peace of mind are found.

Zachariah OHora’s instantly recognizable illustrations bring a cute, comforting, and completely relatable vibe to the story. Sonny’s instant love for Bun-Bun is palpable and little ones will know exactly what’s at stake when he’s asked to give the bunny up. On the other side, Boo’s grief is also evident as tears stream from her eyes and the usual fun of playtime and snacks offer no cheer. Meemo and Honey have their own reactions too, which give kids more perspectives to consider. As Sonny contemplates what to do, children will empathize with both Sonny and Boo as they know one of them will be left unhappy. But Through OHora’s touching illustrations, they’ll see that Sonny makes the right choice—and how it really makes him feel.

The first in the new Sonny Says series, which introduces preschoolers and kindergarteners to universal experiences, Sonny Says Mine! is a multilayered story that is as adorable as it is encouraging and educational. The book will captivate young readers just beginning to venture out into the world and make friends and is highly recommended for home, classroom, and library shelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1547605804

Discover more about Caryl Hart and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zachariah OHora, his books, and his art, visit his website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sonny-says-mine-cover

You can find Sonny Says Mine! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review