July 27 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! and ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!

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About the Holiday

It’s always a cause for celebration when a new book joins the Small Talk Books series family! The partnership of Ellen Mayer and Ying-Hwa Hu has created adorable books aimed at bringing joy and teachable moments to everyday chores and time spent with little ones. To see more books in the series, visit Star Bright Books.

Much thanks to Star Bright Books for sending me a copy of Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! 

¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu | Translated by Eida Del Risco

 

A little one “Oohs” while nestled in Mama’s arms, letting her know how uncomfortable they feel. With a sweet smile, Mama echoes her baby’s “Ooh-ooh!” and begins a reassuring conversation: “‘You want a clean diaper, don’t you?’” she says. She takes her baby to the changing table and turns the baby’s fretting into smiles and giggles as she lovingly talks, plays, and sings with her little one. As she gently cleans her baby’s bottom, Mom sings her own version of a favorite classic. “‘Twinkle, twinkle, diaper you–– / Clean your bottom, no more poo.’” Baby laughs and kicks her feet as Mama and the soothing wipes make everything better.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Engaging her baby with eye contact, smiles, and full-sentence descriptions of what she is doing, while mirroring baby’s facial expressions and sounds, Mama turns the frequent job of diapering into a fun bonding and learning experience for both. As she finishes up, she says, “‘Let’s close your diaper up—SNIP, SNUP. What a big smile, Baby. And I’m smiling too,’”

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

After Baby is all clean and freshly diapered, Mom takes a minute to share extra quality time with her precious little one – “‘Ready, Sweet Baby…? Here comes a tummy smooch!’” – and continue her song: “‘Twinkle, twinkle, diaper do– / Kiss on tummy, just for you.’” What does Baby have to say? A very satisfied, “‘OOOOOH!’” Then, as big sister peeks over the edge of the table, it’s time for cuddly pajamas and, finally, snuggling on the couch with family, a book, and a last twinkling verse.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

A Note for Parents, Grandparents, and Caregivers by Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on language and literacy development in young children, reveals the important connection between talking, singing, and playing with babies and their language learning. Bardige goes on to provide tips for interacting with your child and following their cues as well as for how to share this book with little ones.

Ellen Mayer’s newest addition to her Small Talk Books series is a charming story that little ones will eagerly respond to and which can help parents turn diaper time into a joyful experience full of opportunities for language and literacy development. Mayer’s clever take on the kid-favorite Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, is infectious and fun for adults to sing while reading with their baby and while diapering. Sweet endearments, playful words, and even a tummy kiss realistically reflect the loving relationship parents and caregivers share with their little ones.

Children love and respond positively to routine, and the frequency of diaper changing makes this one of babies’ first familiar experiences. Adding parental conversation, songs, smiles, and mirroring of the child’s sounds, expressions, and motions to the dedicated time diapering takes creates a rich educational environment for baby to listen to caregivers and begin the basic foundations of language learning.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2020, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2020. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

In ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! the story is charmingly translated into Spanish by Eida Del Risco. Spanish verses share two-page spreads with the English translation, providing a rich reading experience for native Spanish speakers, bilingual families, and those parents interested in teaching their children Spanish.

Mayer’s storytelling in Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! as in all of the books in her series depicts realistic conversation that even the youngest babies will recognize while modeling words and simple, but meaningful sentences for adults to share with little ones. As readers grow, they will be happy to join in on the story by repeating the baby’s coos and actions. Sharing the book with toddlers who are not yet potty trained can give them an opportunity to explain to parents the steps of diaper changing—an exercise that strengthens body awareness, memory, vocabulary, sequencing awareness, and language skills.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s bright illustrations, sprinkled with silver stars that glitter on the page, will delight little readers. Her clean lines and soothing color palette create a pleasing backdrop to familiar details that give adults plenty to point out and name while reading. The centerpiece of each page is the relationship between mother and child and reflects actions, such as making eye and physical contact, that enhance a child’s learning and self-confidence. Hu’s adorable baby giggles and belly laughs as Mama smiles and talks lovingly while changing and then cuddling her little one. The appearance of the baby’s big sister (perhaps still using diapers herself, or recently transitioned to underwear), makes this a book that will appeal to a wide range of ages. The final spread of the baby’s family reading and cuddling together is heartwarming.

A delightful book for parents and caregivers to share with babies and toddlers, Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! makes a sparkling baby shower or new baby gift as well as a perfect addition to home, daycare, preschool, and public library board book and parenting collections. The book will also appeal to older children who have babies in the family or enjoy playing with their dolls.

Ages Birth – 3

Star Bright Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1595728937 (English edition) | ISBN 978-1595728944 (Spanish/English bilingual edition)

 About the Author

Ellen Mayer is a writer with a background in early childhood and parent education. She has worked as a researcher at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, studying family engagement in children’s learning. She has also worked as an early literacy home visitor with a diverse community of families, supporting young children in early language development through book sharing and play. Ellen held a writing fellowship for Math Picture Book Authors, from the Heising-Simons Foundation, and is a visiting author with the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative of the Somerville, MA Public Schools. Ellen writes her children’s books to entertain and educate both children and the adults who read to them. She holds an M.Phil. in Sociology from Columbia University. You can connect with Ellen Mayer  on her website.

About the Illustrator

Ying-Hwa Hu is an award-winning illustrator. Her work has been exhibited at the Bologna Book Fair and The Society of Illustrators Original Art Show. She lives in New York City with her husband and their two children. You can connect with Ying-Hwa Hu on her website.

Twinkle Twinkle, Diaper You! and ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! Giveaways

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I’m excited to partner with Star Bright Books in two giveaways. 

One entrant will win:

  • One (1) copy of, Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!, written by Ellen Mayer | illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu and a baby beanie knitted by Ellen Mayer

A second entrant will win:

  • One (1) copy of ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! written by Ellen Mayer | illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu | translated by Eida Del Risco and a baby beanie knitted by Ellen Mayer

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Follow Ellen Mayer
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your baby’s favorite song for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from July 27 – August 3 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on August 4. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Star Bright Books

Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! Book Birthday Activity

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Twinkle, Twinkle Star Mobile Craft

 

A mobile hanging over a baby’s crib or diaper-changing table engages little ones with its movement, colors, and shapes. With this craft, you can create a twinkly mobile for your baby!

Supplies

  • Printable Star Templates: 2- and 3-inch Stars | Variety of Star Sizes
  • Wooden flat floral frame with eight holes around the rim, available at craft stores. Alternatively, an embroidery hoop or wire floral frame can be used.
  • White 1/8-inch by 10-yard ribbon, or color of your choice
  • 2 or 3 Yellow adhesive foam glitter sheets. (You will need 3 stars to make each 3D star on the mobile.)
  • 2 or 3 Silver adhesive foam glitter sheets. (You will need 3 stars to make each 3D star on the mobile.)
  • Medium sized wooden or plastic beads
  • Small to medium size metal, wood, or sturdy plastic ring for the hanger (optional)
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print and cut out star templates
  2. Decide on a pattern for your stars and how many stars of each color you will need. (You will need 3 stars to make each 3D star on the mobile.)
  3. Trace stars onto yellow and silver foam
  4. Cut out stars
  5. Cut 8 varying lengths of ribbon, including 16 to 19 inches for gathering above the rim and tying at the top

To Make Hanger and Prepare Ribbons

  1. Feed ribbon through each hole in the frame, pulling through 16 to 19 inches (or amount desired)
  2. Gather ribbon together at top, loop, and tie a knot to make a hanger. If desired, tie and knot ribbon around a metal, wood, or sturdy plastic ring to make the hanger.
  3. To keep rim in place, feed a bead onto the ribbon up to the bottom of the frame. Tie a knot in the ribbon to secure the bead against the rim

To Make 3D Stars

  1. Pick three foam stars and fold them in half lengthwise to create a crease
  2. Remove the paper backing
  3. Choose two stars and while keeping the creases in place, match and stick together one arm, one leg, and half of the top point of two stars
  4. Carefully position the ribbon down the middle of the two stars, and while keeping the creases in place, add the third star. You will match and stick together the left arm and leg of this last star to the left-hand star and the right arm and leg to the right-hand star. Push together in the middle to maintain the creases all around the star.

To Make Flat Stars

  1. Take two foam stars and remove the paper backing
  2. Lay the ribbon down the middle of one star
  3. Attach the second star on top

Repeat with each star, staggering them along the ribbons by color and size

Hang your mobile!

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You can find Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-MillionBookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-diaper-you-cover-Spanish

You can find ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million | Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 9 – It’s Potty Training Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Toilet training is a major milestone for kids – and their parents and caregivers. The end of diapers means more independence and leaving babyhood behind. But getting to that big day can be difficult and stressful. Potty Training Awareness Month celebrates this accomplishment with kids while also offering support for the adults involved. With patience, love, and a humor, adults can make potty training a confidence booster – as you’ll see in today’s book. For some tips on making potty training easier, visit Baby+Co.

Sloth Went

Written by Adam Lehrhaupt | Illustrated by Benson Shum

 

Today was the day. Sloth “was excited. And nervous.” He was a little worried about if something happened but also if nothing happened. Sloth’s mom was encouraging, though. She said, “‘You’ll make it,” and promised him a surprise afterward. Sloth was interested in the surprise, so he agreed to go. He clung to the tree waiting to go while a caterpillar descended, crawled over his back, and continued on its way.

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Image copyright Benson Shum, 2020, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sloth was feeling tired and a little dejected when Butterfly flitted by to see how things were going. “‘I don’t think I’m gonna make it,’” Sloth grumbled. Butterfly told him that was okay “‘as long as you keep trying.’” Sloth clung tighter to his tree and gave it all he had while a snail descended above him, crawled over his leg, and kept on going.

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Image copyright Benson Shum, 2020, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Frog dropped by to wish Sloth well, but Sloth gave a pessimistic report. Hearing this, Frog had some advice that spurred him to keep trying. Sloth looked around from his lofty perch and saw a perfect spot under a nearby tree. He clambered down and raced over. He waggled his stubby tail, then sat down “to take care of business.” He pondered, he pushed, he strained. Then he smiled. He’d done it! He covered it up with a happy dance and climbed back up his own tree. “He couldn’t wait to tell everyone,” and when he reached the top, they were all waiting to celebrate his good news with cheers and hugs and a special surprise treat.

Back matter explains the fascinating facts about sloth digestion, poop, and the dangerous path they take to “take care of business.”

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Image copyright Benson Shum, 2020, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Adam Lehrhaupt’s humorous and unique look at potty training based on the intriguing facts of sloth behavior reflects the feelings and fears that can accompany this major milestone for little ones. Lehrhaupt’s subtle language, emphasizing the words “go” and “make it,” create a story as much about meeting challenges and adventure head on as it is about potty training. Butterfly, Frog, and Mother Sloth’s encouragement to keep trying and to listen to yourself is good advice anywhere along life’s path and especially as little ones become more independent.

Benson Shum’s adorable sloth makes a sweet companion on a child’s adventure to diaper-less living. His facial expressions clearly demonstrate his nervousness about his “big day as well as the boost that his friends’ support provides. Kids will giggle appreciatively as little Sloth grimaces and strains to do what will come naturally. When he finally succeeds in going, little ones will want to join him in his victory dance—a desire that should have them asking for and using the potty in no time. Shum’s vibrant colors and close-up images will captivate kids, who will ask for this book over and over again.

A funny and encouraging addition to potty-training books that gives little ones an endearing companion on their journey of independence, Sloth Went would make a top pick for home and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547602452

Discover more about Adam Lehrhaupt and his books on his website.

To learn more about Benson Shum, his books, and his art on his website.

Potty Training Awareness Month Activity

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Potty Buddy

 

Sometimes a little encouragement from a friend can help kids try something new. This easy-to-make, kind-of-silly Potty Buddy can be designed by the trainee to be just the friend they want along as they make that first step toward independence.

Supplies

  • Toilet paper tube
  • Toddler size sock or cloth
  • Several feet of yarn
  • Googly eyes (optional)
  • Scrap of foam, colored paper, or cloth
  • Glue

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Directions

  1. Pull a toddler-size sock over the paper towel tube and fold down the top to make a collar. Alternately, wrap cloth around the toilet paper tube and glue in place.
  2. Glue googly eyes on the tube
  3. Cut a small triangle or other shape for a nose from the foam or colored paper
  4. Loop the yarn about 20 times in a 5 – 6 inch length
  5. Tie the yarn in the middle
  6. Fold and glue into the top opening of the tube for hair.

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You can find Sloth Went at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 9 – National Lost Sock Memorial Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-red-socks-coverAbout the Holiday

Today we fondly remember all of those socks that for one reason or other go missing from the washing machine, the dryer, the drawer, or even somewhere in between. While matched socks may look neat and tidy and “go” with an outfit, mismatched socks offer an opportunity to jazz up an outfit, show your personality, and have a little fun. Searching for hidden socks can be a game little ones love to play with older siblings or adult.

Red Socks

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

It’s laundry day and the clothes are all dried and soft and ready to wear. “‘Here is your blue shirt, with the goldfish on it,’” Mama says, pulling the top out of the basket and bending down to eye level to show it to her baby. Next, Mama describes the “yellow and white striped pants” she puts on her child. “‘Let’s see what else is in the laundry basket,’” she says.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Mama pulls a tiny red sock from the basket, but—“UH-OH!—where is the other red sock?’” Now it’s the baby’s turn to help. With a look down, the toddler shows Mama where the sock is. “‘You found the other red sock. Yay!’” she says, giving words to the baby’s action. She continues explaining while pointing to the sock poking out of the baby’s pocket: “‘It was hiding in your pants pocket!” Once the laundry is folded, Mama tells her child exactly what they will do next while she playfully slips the other red sock on the baby’s wiggling feet. “‘Let’s put that other sock on your foot. Then we can go play outside.’” As the baby flies in the swing outside, the red socks are brilliant dots against the blue sky.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s simple and charming story of a particular moment in a mother and child’s day will immediately appeal to even the youngest reader. Familiar words coupled with clear, vivid illustrations will engage toddlers who are pre-talking and just learning language and concept development. The mother’s use of complete sentences as well as step-by-step descriptions of the activities the child sees and is involved in demonstrates how adults can converse with their babies and young children to encourage strong language and literacy skills.

The laundry-day setting also encourages adults to share a little early math with little ones as they go about this common chore. Matching socks, talking about and sorting clothes by size and/or color, and stacking folded clothes with kids are all ways to help little learners begin understanding math concepts. 

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations show a mother and child interacting on a typical day while they complete common chores and go outside to play. The mother and child portray a range of emotions and gestures, giving further depth to the understanding of the ideas and conversation presented. Kids will giggle at the adorable puppy who causes a bit of mischief on each page.

Red Socks makes a wonderful baby shower or new baby gift as well as a terrific addition to any young reader’s home library. Free from gender-specific pronouns and with gender-neutral clothing and hair style, Red Socks is a universal story.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727060

Red Socks is also available in: Chinese/English, ISBN 978-1-59572-811-1 | Hmong/English, ISBN 978-1-59572-812-8 | Spanish/English, ISBN 978-159572-757-2

To learn more about Ellen Mayer and her Small Talk Books® (including other titles: Cake Day, Rosa’s Very Big Job, and Banana for Two) as well as to find accompanying activities, visit her website!

Discover more about Ying-Hwa Hu and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

To find a Laundry Love Activity Sheet with more early math fun you can have with everyday activities, visit the Star Bright Books site.

About Small Talk Books®

Ellen Mayer’s Small Talk Books® feature young children and adults conversing (or adults speaking to children who are not talking yet) while they have fun, do chores, shop, and bake together. Their conversations demonstrate the kind of excitement and close relationships that encourage learning and language advancement. Each Small Talk Book® includes an accompanying note from Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development and the author of Talk to Me, Baby! How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development. The introduction discusses how children connect actions, words, and meaning as adults speak to them while doing particular jobs or actions.

Other titles in the Small Talk Books® series include Cake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job. Each book makes a wonderful gift for baby showers, new parents, or anyone with young children in the family. They would be a welcome addition to any young child’s bookshelf as well as libraries and preschool classrooms.

National Lost Sock Memorial Day Activity

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Sock Tumble Matching Game

 

These socks were separated in the laundry. Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Sock Tumble Matching Game.

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You can find Red Socks at these booksellers

IndieBound | Star Bright Books

 

Picture Book Review

March 9 – National Reading Month World So Wide Book Tour

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About the Holiday

Starting off with Read across America Day on March 2nd, the month celebrates reading, its joys, and benefits. When you read with your child or children every day you’re helping them develop the language and literacy skills that will promote future success in school and beyond. Even if your child isn’t talking yet, they’re listening and learning about their language as you read to them. Older kids also love being read to, and setting aside time to read together builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is officially marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities that bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids. 

I received a copy of World So Wide from Two Lions for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Two Lions in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

World So Wide

Written by Alison McGhee | Illustrated by Kate Alizadeh

 

As a new mom and dad welcome their baby into the world, they marvel that somewhere in the world a child is the “youngest person alive” just “opening their eyes” to…what? To something outside or to “the love in someone’s eye?” Will the first thing they hear be tender words, the first touch a warm embrace?

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Image copyright Kate Alizadeh, 2020, text copyright Alison McGhee, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Then with wonder these new parents address their own new baby—the youngest person in the world whose first sight was their smile. As their baby grows, they tell them there was “so much you wanted to say, / so much we wanted to hear, / so many firsts along the way.” And looking forward into their son’s bright future, they hope that one day the “newest person in the world / will open their eyes to see / a grown-up you smiling back at them.”

This mom and dad, their hearts bursting with love, tell their little one that when he has a baby of his own, he too will “hold that baby tight” and reveal to them a “life that’s bright and true” just as they will do for him—who is their new world.

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Image copyright Kate Alizadeh, 2020, text copyright Alison McGhee, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Alison McGhee puts into words that heart-swelling awe new parents feel for their babies as they contemplate this new life in the world, all the firsts to come, and the journey they will share with their child into the future. Her lyrical story offers adults gentle assurances of unending love to share with their little ones. As the babies grow into toddlerhood and begin navigating the worlds of school and activities, the open-ended text invites adults and kids to engage in explorations of what they see, hear, feel, and think, creating a new experience with each reading.

Wispy, dreamy, and full of movement, Kate Alizadeh’s vibrant illustrations are moving snapshots of those moments that mean so much—gazing into a newborn’s eyes, cradling that tiny body in your arms, and watching as they become their own person. Lovely spreads of rolling fields dotted with wildflowers mirror the wider world while projections of the baby’s future see a young man with a child of his own living in the city and exploring the seaside.

A warm and gentle hug in a book, World So Wide would make a touching baby shower or new baby gift as well as a sweet addition to home libraries for parents, grandparents, and other caregivers to share their deep love for their child.

Ages Baby – 6

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542006330

About the Author

Alison McGhee is the author of many highly acclaimed works. Her children’s books include the #1 New York Times bestseller Someday, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds; the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award–winning Bink & Gollie, cowritten with Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Tony Fucile; and the Christopher Award–winning Firefly Hollow, illustrated by Christopher Denise. Her novels for adults include Pulitzer Prize nominee Shadow Baby and Never Coming Back. She lives in Minnesota, Vermont, and California. Learn more at www.alisonmcghee.com. You can connect with Alison on Instagram | Twitter

About the Illustrator

Kate Alizadeh is the author-illustrator of Quiet and the illustrator of That Is Actually MY Blanket, Baby! by Angie Morgan. Her distinctive hand lettering appears on the covers of Unboxed and Second Best Friend by Non Pratt, and her black-and-white illustrations are featured in Proud: Stories, Poetry and Art on the Theme of Pride, compiled by Juno Dawson. A graduate of Falmouth University, she is currently based in Northern Ireland. Learn more at www.katealizadeh.net. You can connect with Kate on Instagram | Twitter

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You can find World So Wide at these booksellers

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

October 31 – National Magic Day

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About the Holiday

Little ones know all about magic. Not only the rabbit-out-of-a-hat kind, but the wonder-of-the-world kind. Where do they get that wide-eyed awe at the amazing things the world has to offer? Some of it’s inborn, while the rest comes from you and books that make them laugh, think, and become part of a community. Reading books—like today’s—right from the start opens kids’ eyes to the magic around them—even what comes after “Abracadabra!” National Magic Day got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31—the date of his death in 1926—as National Magic Day.

My Magical Dragon

Illustrated by Yujin Shin

A prince and princess in a magical kingdom are lucky to have “a dragon who was kind and strong” watch over them. One day the dragon soars through the air with the princess and prince on her back. They fly over mountains and ponds, homes and mushrooms and are delighted to see all the wondrous creatures—like flying horses, baby dragons, little monsters, fairies, and even a unicorn—who lived in their land.

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

They glided through the sky until they spied a very special place. “At Grandma’s castle they stopped for tea, which Dragon helped make magically.” As Grandma brought out scrumptious ice cream, sparkly cupcakes, and a colorful salad, the dragon used her fire-breathing talents to heat the logs and make the teapot boil and sing.

After they’d feasted and had fun with their friends, the princess and prince took a nighttime flight on their protective dragon. While the kingdom grew quiet and all the creatures slept in their cozy homes or under the stars, the prince and princess snuggled into their beds and the dragon “took a long snooze underground.”

The short and sweet rhyming story of a prince and princess’s trip to Grandma’s is the frame for Yujin Shin’s adorable, show-stopping illustrations and interactive elements that will have little readers enthralled with each page of this joyful board book. The fun begins on the cover with a wheel to turn that adds a rainbow of glittery highlights to the dragon’s wings, body, and fire through shaped cutouts. 

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Opening the book, readers enter the kingdom at the front gate of the violet castle. On the lawn a winged pony meets a butterfly, a pink and a purple unicorn splash in a fountain, and cute-as-a-bug bugs peek out of colorful flowers. A mermaid in the moat even swims by to say hello. The highlight of the spread is the silver gate, which lifts up with a gentle push to reveal the prince and princess in the tower, a knight, a fairy, and a smiling monster. Down below, behind the gate, an orange and spotted dragon rouses from a nap.

Turn the page, and the trio are on their way to Grandmas. Little ones will want to linger over this two-page spread as happy and welcoming magical creatures appear from their fantastical homes, in clouds, and from behind mountains. Another easy-to-maneuver interactive element lets kids set the dragon’s wings flapping up and down. The prince and princess look as excited and amazed as readers will be.

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

At Grandma’s, little ones will spy a few friends who have made the journey with the princess and prince. Tiny fingers can easily move the wheel to help the dragon blow her fiery breath to heat up the teapot. In a clever use of the wheel, it takes a bit of turning for the pot to steam—timing that mirrors a real teapot on the stove.

The tranquil nighttime scene will put little ones in mind of sleep as they see now-familiar friends happily snoozing as the princess, prince, and dragon arrive back at the castle. A cut-away view of the hill under the castle shows the dragon’s lair, and how the baby’s play while Mom’s away. With the pull of a tab—the mother dragon settles in for a long slumber. The tab also reveals another room in the dragon’s vast den and the silhouette of a dragon flying across the full, golden moon.

On the back cover, a cute mushroom challenges readers to find her in the book. Locating this character on each page will charm little ones.

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

An enchanting, interactive story adults will enjoy sharing with their kids over and over, My Magical Dragon makes a wonderful gift for little ones, babies, and baby showers. The book will also be a favorite on your own home bookshelf and is a great choice for preschool and public library collections.

Ages Baby – 3

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419737312

National Magic Day Activity

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Cute Dragon Coloring Page

 

This cute dragon is no ordinary dragon, she’s a magical dragon! Print and grab the crayons—and don’t forget the glue stick and glitter!

Cute Dragon Coloring Page

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You can find My Magical Dragon at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 21 – National CleanUp Day

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About the Holiday

Did you know that people are more likely to pick up litter if they see someone else doing it? That’s the idea behind today’s holiday. Instituted by Clean Trails, a nonprofit begun by Steve Jewett and Bill Willoughby after they noticed that their favorite hiking trails were being marred with trash and wanted to make a difference. At first they made a game of picking up the litter they saw, which attracted more people to their cause. Now, National CleanUp Day is a global event, encouraging people all around the world to get out into their communities and make them better. To learn more about the day, find a clean up crew in your area, and discover more about Clean Trails, visit the Clean Trails website.

Clean Up, Up, Up!

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

It’s clean up time for Daddy and his toddler! As they put the books back on the shelf, Daddy says, “‘Let’s reach up high—your books go up on the top shelf.’” He then prompts, “‘What goes down below?’” With the blocks all stacked on the bottom shelf, the pair move on to putting away the train engine, which has its own special place next to the little station. “‘Choo-choo!’” says the child.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Playing with Daddy makes cleaning up even more fun, and the little one pretends to take a nap with the teddy bears when they’re put inside the cardboard playhouse. The tot giggles and jumps up with a “‘Wake up-up-up!’” just in time to find the train’s caboose hiding behind the chair.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

With everything “put away up, down, inside, and under,” it’s time to get ready for dinner. The little one knows just what to do—“‘Wash up-up-up!’” Hands clean, the toddler sits at the table eager to help some more. “‘Would you like to help set the table too?’” Mommy asks. The child happily agrees and is excited to show some new understanding. “‘Spoon DOWN…,’” the little one says, and then with a big scoop of dinner. “‘…and spoon UP!’”

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

A note for parents, grandparents, and caregivers from childhood education expert Susan C. Levine on how they can find opportunities to talk about spatial relations during everyday activities is included.  Gender neutral clothing and hairstyle as well as an absence of pronouns makes this a universal story.

Clean Up, Up, Up! is also available in a bilingual Spanish/English edition: ¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar!/Clean Up, Up, Up! translated byAudrey Martinez-Gudapakkam and Dr. Sabrina De Los Santos

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Translation by Audrey Martinez-Gudapakkam and Dr. Sabrina De Los Santos. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Ellen Mayer continues to add to her sweet and joyful series of books for little ones and the adults in their lives that model ways parents, grandparents, and caregivers can talk with children to help them develop language and math literacy at the youngest ages. In Clean Up Up Up!, the concept of spatial relations is organically introduced to toddlers through the motions and words used while putting items in their proper place, stepping up on a stool to use something out of the child’s reach, and even when eating. Research shows that talking with children at all ages about math concepts such as positions and locations improves their understanding and leads to better success in school and beyond.

The loving relationship between father and child in Mayer’s early language development book A Fish to Feed, is expanded on here as the same interracial family enjoys clean-up and dinner time. The engaging dialogue between Daddy, Mommy, and their toddler will captivate young readers and inspire adults to continue the story in their own daily lives.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s adorable toddler giggles and plays while soaking up the rich language of positions and locations that the father clearly points to while cleaning up. Little readers will be charmed by the enthusiastic child and the little puppy that follows along. Images of books, toys, washing up, and dinnertime all demonstrate the positions and locations referred to in the story, while other details provide an opportunity for adults and children to expand on the text (the fish from A Fish to Feed swims inside its bowl and balls sit inside a bin, for example). Hu’s vivid colors as well as the smiles and enthusiasm with which Daddy, Mommy, and their child interact make Clean Up, Up, Up! a feel-great educational read.

Clean Up, Up, Up! would make a wonderful gift and would be an excellent addition to home, daycare and preschool classrooms to spark playful learning experiences.

Ages 1 – 3

Star Bright Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1595728012

Discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books on her website.

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

National CleanUp Day Activity

CPB - Playhouse craft

Come Inside! Playhouse

 

What can you do with some of those clean things your and your kids have picked up at home, in your yard, or around your neighborhood? Use them to make and decorate this playhouse! Kids love pretending with their toys in playhouses. With this craft you and your child can make a playhouse with recycled items and lots of imagination. While making the house, talk with your child about the building process using spatial relation words and ask for their ideas on what it should look like.

Once finished, you and your child can make up stories using words that use spatial relations as characters come in the house, go out of the house, peek in or out of a window, sit on the roof, wait under the window, sit next to a friend while having tea, and so much more!

Supplies

  • Cardboard box
  • Craft paint
  • Markers
  • Glue

Plus Recycled items, such as:

  • Bottle caps for door knobs,
  • Small boxes for a chimney
  • Use the cardboard cut from the windows to make shutters
  • Scraps of cloth for curtains

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You can find Clean Up, Up, Up! at these booksellers

English Edition

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

Spanish/English Bilingual Edition: ¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar!

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

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

 

August 13 – It’s Happiness Happens Month and Interview with Illustrator Talitha Shipman

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About the Holiday

Happiness doesn’t have to be something we plan for, schedule into our calendars, or spend money on. In fact paying attention to those little moments during each day, going on spontaneous outings with friends or family, or taking time to do a favorite activity may be all you need to feel happier every day! And there are always those times of achievement, large and small, to celebrate—just like the one in today’s book!

On Your Way

Written by John Coy | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

On a glorious morning as the sun rises, a mom sits under an apple tree while her son climbs its branches and recounts a momentous day. It was a glorious day, just like today, and she and her little one sat together in the rocker on the front porch. But then he began to squirm, wanting to crawl. As he made his way down the long porch, he watched the action near the barn: “cats and kittens crept round a corner. Ducks and ducklings waddled to water.” Rabbits and their bunnies and dogs and their puppies also bounded in the yard.

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2019, text copyright John Coy, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

When the baby reached his own little chair, he pulled himself up and “steadied for balance.” Perhaps there was a certain look in her son’s eyes that told her that day was the day. She tells him, “I knelt down and held out my arms. You wobbled, tumbled, plopped.” For inspiration they watched the sheep and her lamb ramble and the goat and her kid trot near the brook. Out in the yard now, the little boy tried again and fell again.

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2019, text copyright John Coy, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Mom picked him up and they watched their horse and her filly galloping. A deer and her fawn even jumped over the fence of the coral. With resolve and his mom’s encouragement, the tyke stood on his own again and with a “serious look” took one step and then another. With a smile of pride, he reached his mom’s outstretched arms. Then, she remembers, “We walked in the grass, where you practiced over and over.”

As he grew, his mom tells him, he took off, hopping and bounding, jumping and galloping. “Now,” she says, “you’re big and move in so many ways.” And even as she recalls his first halting steps, she imagines how far he will go.”

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2019, text copyright John Coy, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

John Coy’s sweet reminiscence of a child’s first steps is a tender book for parents and children to share as they grow and achieve milestones both large and small. Coy’s encouraging storytelling juxtaposes the little boy’s progress with that of the baby animals on the family farm, a touching connection for children with nature and the wider world. The open ending is a heartening and emboldening look to the future for both children and adults.

Talitha Shipman pours heart and soul into her vibrant, cheerful illustrations that follow a child as he successfully accomplishes a major milestone. The soon-to-be toddler displays uncertainty, resolve, and pride in his expressive eyes, while his mom has that look of encouragement and love so familiar to parents and other caregivers. Each scene captures just the right gestures from Mom, who is caught rising from her chair as she realizes what her son is contemplating, kneeling down to meet him with welcoming arms, and holding his hands as he marches through the wispy grass. The toddler wobbles and high steps and in the blink of an eye—just as it seems in real life—is stomping through puddles and running with his dog. The shining dawn sun illuminates this new beginning and the child’s bright future ahead.

An adorable book to share with children just starting out on life’s road or to celebrate their accomplishments, On Your Way makes a delightful gift for new parents or other caregivers and a tender story time read at home, in the classroom, or for libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

Beaming Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1506452586

Discover more about John Coy and his books on his website.

To learn more about Talitha Shipman, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Talitha-Shipman-headshot

Meet Talitha Shipman

Today, I’m happy to be talking with Talitha Shipman, an award-winning illustrator whose work appears in picture books, board books, magazines, and on greeting cards and other stationery products, about her inspirations, interacting with readers, and depicting emotion in illustrations.

What inspired you to become a children’s illustrator?

I have loved art all my life, and I was the “kid who could draw” all through elementary and high school. I went to college for Fine Art, but I realized after I graduated that what I loved most was telling stories through my art. That’s when I went back to school to get an MFA in illustration. The picture book illustration classes were my favorite. I knew I wanted to focus on that market.

Which artists were influential for you when you were growing up? Which picture books or illustrated books were your favorites? 

My absolute favorite artist growing up was James Gurney of Dinotopia fame. I spent a lot of time redrawing his dinosaur illustrations. I also loved Bill Peet a former Disney artist who illustrated many picture books, and Steven Kellogg, who wrote and illustrated the Pinkerton series.

What drew you to John Coy’s story when you first read the manuscript?

My daughter had just learned to walk about two years beforehand when I received John’s manuscript, so the process of babies taking those first few wobbly steps and all those crazy mixed emotions that come with them were fresh in my mind. There was that immediate emotional connection with the story that I hope other parents and caregivers of babies will make.

Your illustrations really shine with details that show a loving connection between characters. What, for you, are the keys to depicting the joy of being together or empathy between characters?

I think life is so much better when we focus on those little joyful moments that happen throughout the day. In my art, I try to really feel the emotions and moments I’m trying to portray. There’s that feeling when my daughter comes running at me full tilt and throws her arms around me. I can tuck that away and pull it out later to make an illustration more authentic. I think when we draw on life experiences, good and bad, and are vulnerable enough to express them somehow in art, we are able to pass that feeling along to an audience.

You count many greeting card companies among your clients. Can you talk a little about the process of designing cards and other products like notepaper?

Greeting cards are fun to create, but there are usually two avenues for artwork to get picked. Many illustrators will create designs that are finished, and card companies will buy them at trade shows or through the artist’s agent. They add text later on. Sometimes they will commission art, and they usually have a pretty good idea of what they want to be depicted, right down to the color palette. They’ll send reference images as well.

Meeting your readers at a book event must be a joy! Can you talk about one of your favorite events or visits? Why is this one memorable?

Hands down, doing an interactive art workshop with kids is the best. I want to inspire kids to pursue their own creative passions. Last year I did a winter-themed workshop with @KidLitCrafts in my hometown of Fort Wayne, and we created a wall of snowflakes and snowmen on black paper using white and blue paint. It was so amazing to watch the paper fill up with all the kids’ beautiful art.

One thing you love is helping kids find their style of creativity. How do you encourage children to develop their special talent? Do you have any anecdote from these interactions with kids that you’d like to share?

I’m going to tell a story about an adult. I recently met a woman at a state park nature preserve. She watched me sketch some turtles in a terrarium and then approached me and told me that when she was little, she loved drawing. One day her art teacher gave the class an assignment of drawing a turtle. She didn’t consider herself artistic, but she tried her best and was so proud of that turtle. All of the kids’ work was going to be on display for a special art night. She was so excited to share her turtle drawing with her parents. When they got there, she couldn’t find her drawing. So she asked her teacher where it went. The teacher told her that she accidentally spilled some coffee on it and threw it away. This deviated her so much that she didn’t do anything artistic until recently. This is tragic. One careless teacher changed this girl’s life and not for the better. Teachers, parents, tell your children that they are creative, and prove you mean it by valuing their work. If kids are bummed that they can’t draw as well as one of their classmates, help them practice and improve, or try some other way to express themselves artistically. Don’t ever tell them that art may not be their thing. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be a working artist, but everyone can incorporate art into their lives and reap the benefits. Don’t be the person who shuts that down in a child.

Which classic story would you like to illustrate? How would you portray a pivotal scene?

This isn’t a classic fairy tale, but we sing Silent Night to my daughter every night before bed. I’d love to illustrate a picture book version as a poem with visuals reminiscent of Austria, where the carol was written. I think there’d have to be a scene with snow softly falling and Christmas tree lights shining in village windows.

What’s up next for you?

I am working on my first Author/Illustrator book. It’s called Finding Beauty and it’s about a mother hoping to open her daughter’s eyes to the beauty in the world around her.

What is your favorite holiday?

Christmas all the way. I love the lights, the snow (if we’re lucky), Christmas carols, (as mentioned before) Christmas movies (Polar Express), and candlelight Christmas Eve services. The Christmas season encompasses so many happy memories and traditions in my family.

A holiday-themed event you recently participated in was Paddles Aweigh in Fort Wayne, Indiana that coincided with National Rivers Day. The paddle you painted is lovely with its depiction of river animals.

Can you tell readers about this project?

This was such a fun project and a bit out of my wheelhouse. I haven’t painted traditionally for a long time. Most of my work is digital art, so it was a bit scary to break out the paintbrushes again. There’s no delete button! I wanted to create a paddle that featured Indiana wildlife that you might see on or near rivers. I painted a beaver, a bullfrog, some minnows, a painted turtle, a northern water snake, and some Indiana wildflowers. 

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Fort Wayne sits at the confluence of three rivers, the Maumee, the Saint Joseph, and the Saint Mary’s. I was just one of over a hundred artists who painted a paddle. They’re all going to be on display at our new riverfront Promenade Park from the end of September through October. The project is also going to help fund field trips for kids on Fort Wayne’s restored canal boat the Sweet Breeze.

You can see more about this project on Talitha’s Instagram!

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Thanks so much, Talitha, for this fun chat! I wish you all the best with On Your Way and your upcoming Finding Beauty, also with Beaming Books!

You can connect with Talitha on

Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Pinterest | Twitter

Happiness Happens Month Activity

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Happiness Cards

 

Happiness can happen anywhere, and you can help make someone’s day extra happy with these printable Happiness Cards. Just give them to a friend, someone in your family, or someone who looks as if they need a pick-me-up. It’ll make you feel happy too!

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You can find On Your Way at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review