February 14 – Valentine’s Day

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About the Holiday

Hearts are full on Valentine’s Day as we share our love for family, friends, and special sweethearts. This centuries-old holiday continues to grow as people engage in traditional and new ways to express their feelings. But what about the other 364 days of the year? Well, of course, love – in all its wonderful forms – is in the air on those days too as today’s book so charmingly reveals.  

Love Is for Roaring

Written by Mike Kerr | Illustrated by Renata Liwska

 

One day at school, the teacher gave her class an impossible assignment – at least for Lion. With their tables full of paper, paint, markers, crayons, scissors, and tape, the students were supposed to “show your Love.” “‘For whom? For what? and WHY?’ roared Lion.” He threw a tiny tantrum. “‘I don’t like pink and I don’t like hearts. I won’t do it!'”

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2022, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books for Children.

Mouse wanted to help and told Lion there must be something that he loved. But Lion protested, saying that while love was fine for some, he did not “‘love love.'” He didn’t like hugs or kisses or sweets. Mouse thought and thought and then decided there might be another way to think about love.

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2022, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books for Children.

Mouse asked Lion if he didn’t love “‘running and playing.'” Mouse also seemed to remember that Lion loved dozing – especially during class movie times. “‘And growling, and roaring…You don’t love that?'” Mouse prodded. And how about playing together? Lion thought it over, and while hugs, kisses, and sugary sweets weren’t his thing, he knew that playing and chasing and catching were. And there was one more thing that Lion realized he loved – his friendship with Mouse. So he happily worked at the table to make a special card with a pink heart on the front just for Mouse. 

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2022, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books for Children.

Mike Kerr’s gentle story embraces children who may squirm at expressions of love that include hugs, kisses, or other showy displays of affection while reminding readers that love also can be revealed in favorite activities and moments shared with others. Mouse’s thoughtful response to Lion’s initial refusal to participate in craft time demonstrates empathetic friendship and alternate thinking that will resonate with kids. Honest dialogue between Lion and Mouse gives readers language to discuss their own feelings about love and other emotions as well as about how they like to express them. As Lion comes to see that he does love many things, he realizes that friendship is intrinsic to all of them and is a powerful kind of love in itself – a kind of love that he wants to share.

Kids will be captivated by Renata Liwska’s adorable and humorous illustrations. As Lion questions the assignment to show your love, his classmates look on with expressions of shock, sympathy, and confusion while a tiny inchworm makes a run for the door. Lion’s tantrum is more cute than cranky, and  Mouse, wanting to help, nearly becomes part of Lion’s stress snacking and moves a safe distance away to talk about the situation. Images of Lion participating in the rambunctious activities he likes best are joyful, and the final illustrations of Lion, now excited to share his love for Mouse, are heartwarming.

A sweet story of friendship as well as a meaningful way for adults and kids to talk about emotions and expressing their feelings, Love Is for Roaring will become a quick favorite on home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections. 

Ages 4 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1681191249

Discover more about Mike Kerr and Renata Liwska, their books and their art on their website.

Valentine’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-entangled-hearts-matching-puzzle

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

 

These friends are collecting valentines! Can you help them follow the paths to find more in this printable puzzle?

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-love-is-for-roaring-cover

You can find Love Is for Roaring at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 4 – Get Ready for Valentine’s Day

About the Holiday

Love is in the air! Love for family, friends, and our special valentines. Begun as a religious feast day, Valentine’s Day became a day of romance with the bloom of courtly love during the 14th century. In England during the 18th century, those in love began showing their affections by giving flowers and candy and making valentine’s cards. Now, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar and a favorite of adults and kids alike. 

Love, Violet

Written by Charlotte Sullivan Wild | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

Out of all the kids in her class, Violet thought only one “raced like the wind. Only one had a leaping laugh. Only one made [her] heart skip. Mira.” Every day, Violet dreamed of “astounding Mira with heroic feats,” of “bringing her treasures” and of all the adventures and fun they could have playing pirates, astronauts, knight and princess, and more. But whenever Mira asked her to play or wondered what she was drawing, Violet became shy and ran away.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2022, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild, 2022. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

But on the day before Valentine’s Day, Violet had an idea. She made a glittery valentine for Mira and signed it “Love, Violet.” She dreamed that this might be the start of their adventures together. Before leaving for school, Violet tucked the valentine under her lucky white cowgirl hat. On the way, she heard other kids teasing each other about their valentines, and when Carlos asked Violet if she’d made someone a special card, Violet blushed and ran off, holding tightly to her hat.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2022, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild, 2022. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Suddenly, Mira raced up to her and complimented her on her hat. “Snow sparkled on Mira’s eyelashes. Mira was magnificent.” Violet thought her valentine was not nearly good enough. With her heart pounding “like a hundred galloping horses,” Violet dashed away. All during class she worried whether she could actually give Mira the valentine and if Mira would want it anyway. Mostly, she worried that they’d never have their adventures.

When it was finally time to exchange valentines, Violet gave out all of her cards – except one. Standing next to the coat rack, Violet slowly began to lift her hat. But all at once, Mira appeared, causing Violet to jump, crash into Mira, and fall to the ground amid a pile of coats and scarves. The other kids laughed. Instead of apologizing and handing Mira her card as she wanted to, Violet rushed away again.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2022, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild, 2022. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Alone at recess, Violet lay on the ground and made a snow angel. She’d never be able to face Mira now. Just then, however, she heard “a laugh like leaping horses,” and she jumped up. She realized that only one person had “praised her hat…hadn’t laughed when she fell…had ever asked her to play horses.” It struck her that maybe “Mira wanted to be her valentine.” Violet ran to find Mira, but on her way a gust of wind picked up her hat and her valentine. The glittery heart landed right in where kids were playing.

When Mira heard Violet’s anguished cry, she ran over to see what was wrong. Violet showed her the ruined valentine she had made for her. Mira thought it was still beautiful, and she “tucked a torn bit into her cap.” Then Mira took a locket out of her pocket and gave it to Violet. When she opened it, Violet found a small heart on one side and a purple violet on the other. “‘Want to go on an adventure?’ asked Violet. ‘Yes!’ cried Mira.” And hand-in-hand they ran off – together.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2022, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild, 2022. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Charlotte Sullivan Wild’s emotion-filled story of a girl-girl crush sweetly and realistically portrays the heart-pounding and nerve-wracking feelings of first love. As Violet tries to pluck up the courage to give Mira her valentine, kids will be rooting for her as events and her own fears threaten to derail her dreams of adventuring with Mira. Clues along the way hint at Mira’s reciprocating feelings, but the final exchange of valentines will melt readers’ hearts. Wild’s evocative vocabulary, beautiful phrasing, and natural dialogue make the story a rich read aloud, and her depiction of the adventures Violet dreams of as well as Mira’s concerned and hopeful attention to Violet create a warm and universal friendship story as well.

Charlene Chua reveals all of the hopes, dreams, and angst that go into Violet’s valentine for Mira in her lovely and poignant illustrations. Snapshots of the adventures Violet longs to have with Mira are drawn with the excitement and vivid imagination kids bring to the games they play. As Violet creates her valentine, readers can see how much work and thought she puts into it as paper, glitter, and other supplies lay strewn around her. This portrayal accentuates the disappointment Violet feels when her card meets its fate under the stampeding kids as well as Mira’s delighted reaction upon receiving it. Throughout the story, Chua invites kids to experience and empathize with Violet’s rollercoaster of emotions and mishaps on the way to discovering that Mira has been thinking about Violet too.

A joy-filled story of a crush between two queer girls and their courage to express their feelings to and for each other, Love, Violet is a moving, age-appropriate way to celebrate love on Valentine’s Day or any day you’d like to share your heart. Love, Violet is also a reassuring and affirming invitation for all children to discuss their own feelings with parents or other caregivers. The book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 (and up)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2022 | ISBN 978-0374313722

Discover more about Charlotte Sullivan Wild and her books on her website.

To learn more about Charlene Chua, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Love, Violet Video and Author Story Time 

Author Charlotte Sullivan Wild, illustrator Charlene Chua, and a few other kidlit authors chipped in to make this video about Love, Violet, first crushes, and queer childhood that’s a perfect resource for educators and parents. Start out with listening to Charlotte Sullivan Wild read Love, Violet!

Get Ready for Valentine’s Day Activities

Valentine Activity Sheets

 

Have fun with these printable Valentine’s Day activities!

Share Your Heart! Valentine | Funny Valentine! | Love, Violet Coloring Page

You can find Love, Violet at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 24 – Celebrating Family Fun Month with Tara Knudson

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Tara Knudson is a former teacher who has been writing poetry and stories since she was a young girl growing up in Chicago. Her published work can be found in children’s magazines, greeting cards, calendars, and a poetry anthology for teens. Christmas Cookie Day, Easter Egg Day, and Valentine’s Day Treats are all part of Tara’s collected works celebrating a childlike approach to beloved holiday celebrations.

You can connect with Tara Knudson on her website | Instagram | Twitter

Thanks so much for stopping by to chat, Tara! I’m happy to be celebrating Family Fun Month with you since your books always invite kids and their families to enjoy the seasons together at home, with friends, and on special outings. You always include some kind of hands-on element to your books – either recipes, tips, or touch-and-feel pages – to get kids and adults spending extra time together. It makes me wonder if your previous job or jobs have influenced your writing and the kinds of books you write?

One of my favorite books when I was a child was Richard Scarry’s BEST WORD BOOK EVER. I remember sitting in a big chair and reading as many words as I could. I loved to learn and play school when I was younger, so it’s no surprise that later I became a teacher. I was a teacher for many years before becoming an author. I taught Spanish to K-12 students and math to elementary students in Chicago. I also taught English to middle school students in Barcelona, Spain where I lived as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar for a year.

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Given my experience in education, I think my books will always have some teachable moments in them. From making Christmas cookies, to dyeing Easter eggs, or creating a heart-shaped cake from a round cake and a square cake, I like to incorporate fun lessons in my books that early childhood teachers can incorporate into their classroom lessons. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-cover  celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-treats-cover

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In my board books for the youngest readers, little ones can experience the unique sights and sounds of a fall day or a lively parade and learn new words along the way!

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I am excited to be able to do in-person author events once again as schools safely welcome back students and teachers again. What a joy it is to teach with my own books! 

Your experiences in the classroom have certainly inspired wonderful books for little ones! Congratulations on your upcoming book Parade Day Fun, which is releasing from Zonderkidz in March 2022! I’m sure little ones will be lining up to bring the excitement of a parade home!

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Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Juliana Motzko

 

Tara Knudson’s playful rhymes will charm little ones as they join in on the fall fair excitement. Along the way, kids meet many different animals and engage with shapes and colors. Knudson’s lyrical verses perfectly reflect the fun and cozy atmosphere of fall. Sensory patches invite eager fingers to pet the horse and goat, touch grainy sugar, enjoy the woody texture of a fallen leaf, and feel the smoothness of a pumpkin shell.

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Juliana Motzko’s fall fair enchants with adorable animals and the bright colors of the autumn season. Delighted smiles abound as the young fair-goers visit the petting zoo, craft table, baked goods display, play area, and pumpkin patch. Motzko’s textured illustrations of golden hay, rich soil, whole grain bread and apple pie as well as crunchy leaves and a straw-filled scarecrow blend well with the touch-and-feel patches and enhance the opportunity for adults and kids to talk about sensory awareness.

Fun Fall Day, a nicely sized board book—not too small or too big for little hands—is a story that’s a joy to read aloud and one that kids will want to hear again and again. It would make a much-appreciated gift for babies and toddlers and a favorite on home, preschool, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310770213

Discover more about Tara Knudson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Juliana Motzko, her books, and her art, visit her website.

You can find Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book at these booksellers

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

Holiday Books

Kids enjoy getting ready for the holidays with these sweet books by Tara Knudson and Pauline Siewert.

You can find printable coloring pages for each book on Tara’s website.

To connect with Pauline Siewert, visit her on Instagram.

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Christmas Cookie Day!

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Mama bear and her little bear get ready for one of the most fun days of the year. “Cooke day, / Time to bake. / Aprons on, / Lots to make!” 

Tara Knudson’s jaunty rhyming story captures all the giddy anticipation and fun of a day baking Christmas cookies. Short, lively verses follow Mom and her cub step-by-step as they make and decorate special treats for their annual cookie party and invite little ones to join in on repeat readings. Knudson delights in the enjoyment Mom and her little one feel during their day of baking and goes on to celebrate the deeper meaning and joy of Christmas as the two wrap up their cookies and give them to family and friends.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With tender smiles for each other, Pauline Siewert’s Mama bear and her cub spend a snowy day baking cookies in their cozy kitchen accompanied by a helpful mouse. Siewert’s vibrant colors mirror the cheerful companionship mother and child share on this much-loved day, and her engaging details, like a dusting of flour on the cub’s nose, will charm children. A double-spread scattering of the cookies the two make give little ones a chance to show their knowledge of shapes and Christmastime figures. The heartwarming final scene of the cookie party might just inspire a party of your own. Little ones will also be enchanted by the sparkly cover that opens this adorable book.

Ages 2 – 6

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310762898

You can find Christmas Cookie Day! at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-treats-cover

Tara Knudson captures the enthusiasm little ones have for expressing their love in her warm rhymes that transport kids into the middle of exciting Valentine’s Day preparations. As the little raccoons cut and paste, color and paint, and add stickers and lots of glitter, kids will be eager to get out their own supplies to make homemade cards for those they love. And just one look at Knudson’s clever cake will have them running to the kitchen to make that too. Of course, Valentines are to share, and readers will be eager to see who gets the little raccoon’s special treats.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-treats-cake

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Pauline Siewert’s adorable raccoons craft and cook their way through Valentine’s Day to make special cards and snacks for their friends. Her vivid images are cheerful and lively and charmingly include the little spatters and splashes that are all part of the fun. Little ones will enjoy soaking up all the details in the craft room, the kitchen, and the friends’ house and pointing out the ones they know. When adults point out these details while reading, kids will find it easy to read along too, as Knudson uses them to make her bubbly rhymes and flowing rhythm. Kids will also like keeping their eye on the tiny house mouse who is also making itty-bitty Valentine’s Day treats. 

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310768395

You can find Valentine’s Day Treats at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-easter-egg-day-cover

Easter Egg Day

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Little ones love the magic of dyeing Easter eggs, and Tara Knudson’s bright, bouncy rhymes perfectly convey the giggly excitement kids feel during this once-a-year tradition. Readers will eagerly anticipate each step and page turn along the way as the bunnies turn their carton of white eggs into a basket full of creative, colorful treasures. Of course, Easter eggs are made for hiding and finding, and Knudson invites kids to join the bunnies and little moles and mice as they scamper through the yard on this most joyful of all hunts.

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Image copyright Pauline Stewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With sunny yellows, tender-grass greens, and vibrant oranges, purples, and reds, Pauline Siewert drops kids as gently as an egg into dye into spring and the enchantment of Easter egg fun. White eggs marked with creative crayon designs will give readers a few ideas for their own eggs while the sweet smiles and enthusiasm of the bunny siblings and their parents mirror their own feelings. As the bunnies and their friends dash off to find the eggs, little ones will be just as excited for their own Easter egg traditions.

Adorable and endearing, Easter Egg Day will be a favorite spring read for adults and kids to share before Easter and to remember family fun.

Ages 2 – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310767527

You can find Easter Egg Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 1 – Get Ready for Valentine’s Day

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About the Holiday

Love is in the air! Love for family, friends, and our special valentines. Begun as a religious feast day, Valentine’s Day became a day of romance with the bloom of courtly love during the 14th century. In England during the 18th century, those in love began showing their affections by giving flowers and candy and making valentine’s cards. Now, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar and a favorite of adults and kids alike.

Tiny T. Rex and the Perfect Valentine

Written by Jonathan Stutzman | Illustrated by Jay Fleck

 

Anyone who knows Tiny T. Rex knows that his best friend is Pointy. And if you know that Pointy is Tiny’s best friend, then you know how much Tiny likes to show his affection for him. So you can imagine that for Valentine’s Day, Tiny wants to make Pointy a perfect card. In his mind, Tiny pictures a big shiny heart with four heart balloons on top. On the front there will be a bow and two hearts that will pop out on springs. Fireworks will also shoot into the sky. “It is going to be perfect,” Tiny thinks. He wheels a big can of red paint over to where his huge white paper heart lies on the floor. But “Oh dear,” the wagon overturns spilling the paint on Tiny, but nowhere near the heart.

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Image copyright Jay Fleck, 2020, text copyright Jonathan Stutzman, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

At least, Tiny thinks, he can “make it extra fancy” with some glitter. He climbs to the top of a ladder and tips the jar to get some glitter. But “Oh my,” Tiny and the tall jar tumble, and Tiny gets covered in gold, red, and pink flakes. “It will take many tries to make this perfect,” says Tiny. Next, he tries to make the smaller hearts, but the scissors are so unwieldy, and the hearts turn out not quite perfect. Then when he writes Pointy’s name on the Valentine, it doesn’t look quite right.

Tiny tries again “and again and again,” but something always goes awry, and Tiny becomes festooned with hearts. Finally, all Tiny has “…for Pointy is a very big, very messy…mess.” When Pointy arrives, Tiny has to apologize for not having a Valentine for him. But Pointy says that’s okay because he already has the perfect Valentine. Can you guess who?

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Image copyright Jay Fleck, 2020, text copyright Jonathan Stutzman, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Jonathan Stutzman’s endearing dinos are back with a message about love and friendship in this adorable Valentine’s Day board book. As Tiny T. Rex suffers little mishaps while making Pointy’s Valentines, little ones will “Oh no” and “Oh my” along with him, but also find themselves giggling as Tiny becomes covered in paint, glitter, and hearts. Tiny’s declarative statements echo the way children think and speak, and with each unexpected tip or snip, kids will eagerly want to see what happens next. Stutzman’s sweet ending provides the snuggly reassurance that every Valentine wants on this special day.

Jay Fleck’s beloved itty-bitty green dinosaur and his red friend, Pointy are as cute as ever. Tiny’s chalk drawing is, like many children’s imagined projects, elaborate but full of love. Images of Tiny falling into the paint and glitter, cutting up the small hearts, and misspelling Pointy’s name will make readers’ heart’s swell. Tiny’s determination to try again and again is charming, and kids on the upper range of the target audience may like to predict what will happen in the end. Pointy’s heartfelt assurance that Tiny is the perfect Valentine turns his disappointment into a warm grin.

Heartwarming and adorable, Tiny T. Rex and the Perfect Valentine will make any little one’s holiday perfect. For fans of these dino best friends or newcomers to the three-book series, the book will make an often-asked-for addition to home bookshelves and libraries.

Ages 2 – 4

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452184890

Discover more about Jonathan Stutzman and his books on his website.

To learn more about Jay Fleck, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Get Ready for Valentine’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-entangled-hearts-matching-puzzle

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

 

These friends are collecting valentines! Can you help them follow the paths to find more in this printable puzzle?

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-t-rex-and-the-perfect-valentine-cover

You can find Tiny T. Rex and the Perfect Valentine at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 25 – It’s Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

As the cold and snowy weather keeps kids inside more and more, what are they to do? Why not create?! Whether your kids like writing, drawing, cooking, building, music, gardening, dancing, or other pursuits, January’s celebration of creativity makes it the perfect time to begin a new project. And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, why not stock up on supplies and make some sweet treats – like in today’s book!

Thanks to Tara Knudson for sending me a copy of Valentine’s Day Treats for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Tara in a giveaway of a signed copy of her book. See details below.

Valentine’s Day Treats

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Mother Raccoon is gathering all the supplies her littles need to make Valentines. She helps them cut out red and pink hearts, then they add glue and paint and sparkly glitter, bows and butterflies, and lots more hearts. While the cards dry, Mama and her little ones head for the kitchen, where they get out bowls and pans to make a special cake.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

They measure out “Sugar, flour, / Oil in cup, / Milk and eggs, / Mix them up.” They pour the batter into two pans—one square and one round—put the pans in the oven and wait. “Brrrring, they’re done— / Perfect cakes!” When the cakes have cooled, Mama Raccoon slides the two cakes onto plates and cuts the circle in half.

The little raccoons put the shapes together just right to make a heart. They spread on frosting to make it whole and then comes the fun: “Sprinkles on, / Decorate. / Can’t eat yet! / Have to wait.” Finally, it’s time to walk down the street to their friends’ house for a Valentine’s Day feast, complete with heart-shaped cakes to share. Afterwards, the kids hand out their cards. They all laugh and smile as they read them. “Each a gift, / Fun designs, / Made with love— / Valentines.”

A recipe for the raccoon family’s special Valentine’s Day cake follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-treats-cake

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

When my son was very little, he LOVED Valentine’s Day. He couldn’t make enough Valentine’s cards and crafts, it seemed, to express all of his sweet feelings. Tara Knudson captures that joy and enthusiasm for the holiday in her warm rhymes that transport kids into the middle of exciting Valentine’s Day preparations. As the little raccoons cut and paste, color and paint, and add stickers and lots of glitter, kids will be eager to get out their own supplies to make homemade cards for those they love. And just one look at Knudson’s clever cake will have them running to the kitchen to make that too. But Valentines are to share and just as the young racoons in the story, readers will have to wait… a page turn… to who gets the special treats.

Pauline Siewert’s adorable raccoons craft and cook their way through Valentine’s Day to make special cards and snacks for their friends. Her vivid images are cheerful and lively and charmingly include the little spatters and splashes that are all part of the fun. Little ones will enjoy soaking up all the details in the craft room, the kitchen, and the friends’ house and pointing out the ones they know. When adults point out these details while reading, kids will find it easy to read along too, as Knudson uses them to make her bubbly rhymes and flowing rhythm. Kids will also like keeping their eye on the tiny house mouse who is also making itty-bitty Valentine’s Day treats. 

A sparkly and cuddly board book little ones will want to hear again and again for Valentine’s Day and throughout the year, Valentine’s Day Treats would make a sweet gift for grandchildren or other littles on your list as well as favorite addition to home, preschool, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310768395

Discover more about Tara Knudson and her books as well as Valentine’s Day Treats coloring pages and on her website.

You can connect with Pauline Siewert on Instagram.

Creativity Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-card-closed

Peek-a-Boo Valentine

 

Kids can make a sweet, personalized valentine card that reveals how they feel about Mom, Dad, siblings, grandparents, friends, or anyone they love

Supplies

  • Red construction or scrapbooking paper 
  • Pink construction or scrapbooking paper
  • Glitter
  • Paper brad
  • Markers
  • Glue
  • Scissors

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Directions

To Make the Heart

  1. On the red paper, trace your child’s hand with their fingers closed, rounding around the back of the palm
  2. Draw in the lines between fingers
  3. Overlap the hands, matching the middle fingers to create the point of the heart
  4. Slide the tops of the hands apart a little to create the top of the heart
  5. Connect the two hearts with the brad

To Make the Card

  1. From the pink paper cut a square about 1 to 1/2 inches larger than the heart on all sides
  2. Using the same brad, attach the heart in the center of the square
  3. Slide the hands apart and let child write “Peek-a-Boo, I Love You” or their own message, close hands 
  4. Apply glue around the heart
  5. Apply glitter, let dry

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-treats-cover

You can find Valentine’s Day Treats at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 30 – It’s Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate all things creative! There are so many ways to be creative, from the arts to how you organize and manage your life at home and at work. Sometimes, special events, unusual problems, or particular people inspire—or necessitate—creative thinking. Today’s sweet story is one example! 

Mr. Goat’s Valentine

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Kevin Zimmer

 

When Mr. Goat read in the newspaper that it was Valentine’s Day, he jumped up, grabbed his phone and favorite hat, and headed out, determined to show his first love how much she meant to him. On the way he stopped off at Miss Nanny Goat’s weed stall and bought a “mixed bouquet” of “crabgrass, pigweeds, and ragweed” beautifully arranged in a “nice, rusty can.” Mr. Goat knew his first love liked ragweed salad, and Miss Nanny Goat assured him that she would like the can too. Mr. Goat agreed. There was nothing like a rusty can with a pinch of salt.

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The aroma from Mr. Pygmy-Little Goat’s stand enticed Mr. Goat to stop and look over his treats. The sample rotten egg looked so yummy—black and oozing on the plate—that Mr. Goat bought four. They have been “rotted for two years” and are “guaranteed foul and disgusting,” Mr. Pygmy-Little Goat boasted as he placed the four eggs carefully into a red, heart-shaped box and tied it up with a red ribbon. Not only would the eggs make the perfect dinner, the red bow would be a delicious dessert.

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mr. Goat walked on, passing up the fruit and vegetable stand with its fresh oranges, apples, and pears, but made time to talk to Miss Skunk when she approached him with her Eau de Skunk perfume cart. As she spritzed Mr. Goat with a sample of her special perfume, she reminded him that a Valentine’s card would be just right for his first love.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-goats-valentine-bouquet

Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mr. Goat continued on with just the faintest alluring reek and thought about what Miss Skunk had said. He didn’t have a card, but, he decided he could “‘compose a song and serenade her.’” It didn’t take long for Mr. Goat to write his ditty. He hurried on to his first love’s house. Standing at the door, he “burst into song. When I was a little kid / It didn’t matter what I did. / If I climbed too high and fell / You’d kiss the hurt and make it well. / You have loved me from the start / I love you with all my heart!”

Suddenly, the door opened, and Mr. Goat’s first love smiled at him. Mr. Goat handed her the bouquet and red box and exclaimed, “‘Happy Valentine’s Day, Mother!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-goats-valentine-eggs

Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Eve Bunting’s exceptional flair for engaging children is on full display in her funny, ewww-ful tribute to Valentine’s Day. The hearts of little ones swell with love around this holiday, and Bunting taps into their enthusiasm to get just the right gift for Mom. Readers will laugh at what might seem unusual gifts while also appreciating Mr. Goat’s thoughtfulness. Young children may wonder who Mr. Goat’s “first love” is as he shops from stall to stall, but as he makes up his song, most will figure it out and be happy to be in on the twist ending.

Kevin Zimmer’s cheery digital art showcases the sweet emotions that Mr. Goat has for his first love. His eyes grow wide at the delectable weed bouquet and rotten eggs, he contemplates the perfect words for his song, and smiles adorably when his mom opens the door. The less-than-fresh take on the idea of a Farmers Market will delight kids familiar with these types of stands. The other goats out shopping on this Valentine’s Day are equally as cute as Mr. Goat and provide camaraderie among this community that likes things a little bit rotten. As the door opens in the final spread, revealing Mr. Goat’s first love, children will be happy to know that the love between parent and child continues even when a “kid” is no longer a kid.

Mr. Goat’s Valentine is a sweet, original story for Valentine’s Day and throughout the year that is perfect for humorous home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585369447

Learn more about Kevin Zimmer and his art on his website.

Creativity Month Activity

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Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

 

These friends are collecting valentines! Can you help them follow the paths to find more in this printable puzzle?

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

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You can find Mr. Goat’s Valentine at these booksellers

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

EnPicture Book Review

January 23 – National Reading Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrated in schools across the country, National Reading Day was established to encourage students in PreK through 3rd grade to develop a love of reading, which is the basis for becoming a lifelong learner. Schools, libraries, organizations, bookstores, and parents provide activities to connect young readers with books they’ll love.

Sterling Children’s Books sent me a copy of Mirabel’s Missing Valentines to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines

Written by Janet Lawler | Illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller

Mirabel had always been very shy, and as Valentine’s Day approached she was nervous about giving cards away at school. Still, “despite her nerves, the night before, she crafted works of art.” When she was finished, she signed them and drew a heart. In the morning, though, she was reluctant to go to school. Finally, though she left the house and ran to school. In her hurry, she didn’t notice that her bag was getting lighter and lighter.

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Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Mirabel rushed past a lonely lady who was checking her mailbox—and then checking it again just in case. But as Mirabel hurried down the road, the lady turned and saw a valentine lying next to her. “She smiled and thought, How nice!” As she turned a corner, “construction workers sweating / as they dug around a pole / laughed to find a sweet surprise / half-buried in the hole.”

A baby found a valentine that had floated into their stroller, and for a jogger who’d just stepped in gun, the sparkly card on the ground made her day better. Others, too, found valentines that made them smile. Suddenly, though, the neighbors all heard a cry: “‘I’ve lost my valentines!’” Mirabel had discovered a hole in her bag and that all of her cards were gone. Everyone realized what had happened. They rushed to find Mirabel and return the valentines. “‘Your cards have made us smile! / Thanks for sharing them with us, / if only for a while,’” they told her.

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Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Seeing all of their happy faces cheered Mirabel and made her feel braver. She waved goodbye to her new friends and followed the other students into school. Later, she joined in her class party and was excited to share the valentines she’d made. On the way home from school, Mirabel didn’t notice the jogger, dad, construction workers, and others slip valentines into her bag as she passed by. But when she got home, she discovered that her bag was overflowing with love.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirabele's-missing-valentines-lost

Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Janet Lawler’s endearing story of a little mouse who is nervous about Valentine’s Day will resonate with little ones and adult readers as well. Sharing one’s feelings and talents—as Mirabel does with her homemade cards—can be daunting, but Lawler shows that friendship shared is often returned in kind. Little ones will find much to admire in Mirabel’s bravery to go to school even though she is apprehensive about what the day will bring. The reminder that children occupy a special place in the heart of many people, including family, friends, teachers, librarians, and others that they interact with, will cheer them and inspire them to reach out and accept the love offered on Valentine’s Day and every other day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirabele's-missing-valentines-lonely-lady

Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Olivia Chin Mueller’s Mirabel is an adorable friend for little readers. As she cowers under a blanket, contemplating going to school, kids will send her encouraging thoughts and be happy to see her change her mind and hurry along to join her classmates. As the valentines begin to fly out of Mirabel’s bag, readers will wonder who will find each card and will look forward to each page turn. The smiles on the faces of those treated to the surprise gift are heartening as readers see what a positive impact little Mirabel has on those around her. As Mirabel hands out her valentines to her classmates, hearts abound, demonstrating along with the students’ smiles and surprised expressions the warm feelings of friendship that are contained not only in each unique card but in Mirabel’s kind spirit. The final image of Mirabel clasping her bag full of valentines is endearing.

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454927396

Discover more about Janet Lawler and her books on her website.

To learn more about Olivia Chin Mueller, her books, and her art on her website.

National Reading Day Activity

cpb - monster love maze

Monster Love! Maze

Help the love monster gobble up all the Valentine’s Day candy snacks in this printable maze!

Monster Love! Maze | Monster Love Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirabelle's-missing-valentines-cover

You can find Mirabele’s Missing Valentines at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review