July 29 – Celebrating Rain Day with Shelley Johannes

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

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

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

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

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Matthew Johannes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite season and seasonal activity?

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

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

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

What’s up next for you?

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

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

National Rain Day Review

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About the Holiday

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

More than Sunny

By Shelley Johannes

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8 

Harry N. Abrams, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419741814

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

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

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

You can find More Than Sunny at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 12 – National Simplicity Day

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About the Holiday

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

More than Sunny

By Shelley Johannes

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8 

Harry N. Abrams, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419741814

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

Take a look at the More than Sunny book trailer!

National Simplicity Day Activity

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

Fluffy Clouds Craft

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

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

You can find More Than Sunny at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 26 – It’s Hurricane Season

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About the Holiday

If you live in a coastal area, your used to watching for hurricanes during the summer and fall. Meteorologists and wary residents follow these tropical cyclones as they swirl across the ocean, threatening any landmass in their way. To be categorized as a hurricane, the storm must possess sustained winds of or above 74 miles per hour. You can learn more about hurricanes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website. Kids can learn ten facts about hurricanes on the National Geographic Kids website.

Hear the Wind Blow

Written by Doe Boyle | Illustrated by Emily Paik

 

A girl wakes at dawn to a calm, quiet morning in her seaside town. Gazing out her open window she feels “a kiss of air— / a soft breath, a phantom wisp, / faint as shadows, cool and crisp.” As the breeze picks up, leaves rustle across the street as the girl and her mom leave the house to walk their dog. Meanwhile, along the shore the tall grasses begin “sharing whispered summer secrets / with the silent, stalking egrets,” and the flames of a family’s campfire dance with the growing breeze.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hear-the-wind-blow-hat

Image copyright Emily Paik, 2021, text copyright Doe Boyle, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Suddenly, the wind whips up, sending leaves flying and trees swaying. The girl and her mom rush home, their dog running ahead, as rain pelts down. The sky has turned as dark as night and “now the windstorm whips and wails— / sucks at sand and billows sails.” As the storm approaches the girl, her mom and dad, and their pup huddle together in cozy quilts and sing loudly, drowning out “the fearsome sound.”

“When the hurricane comes roiling, / popcorn’s popped, the kettle’s boiling.” Outside the waves crash and spray, the wind screeches, and boats rock, their sails snapping and “their rigging slapping. / Wires droop, and tree roots shudder— / the world’s atilt, without a rudder.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hear-the-wind-blow-trees

Image copyright Emily Paik, 2021, text copyright Doe Boyle, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

But hours later the wind is gone, the sun is out and “stillness echoes through the town.” Neighbors emerge to inspect their homes and yards. They help each other clean up and mop up, sharing stories of where and how they sheltered from the storm. On the beach, the girl and her dog watch sailboats skim the now-gentle waves as “all the windswept world spins on.”

Backmatter includes an Author’s Note revealing that each stanza of the lyrical text “represents, in order, one of the thirteen categories of the Beaufort wind force scale, from 0 – 12” as well as a discussion on wind. Doe Boyle also includes a detailed description of the Beaufort scale, along with the chart, which categorizes wind by number, speed, force, sea effects, and land effects. A glossary of words found in the book and a list of suggested reading rounds out this fascinating and useful resource.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hear-the-wind-blow-rain

Image copyright Emily Paik, 2021, text copyright Doe Boyle, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

With a stirring combination of poetry and science, Doe Boyle invites readers  to experience the coming and aftermath of a hurricane with a peer, her family, and her community. Beautiful, evocative vocabulary allow kids to hear the scurrying leaves, groaning trees, and pounding waves as the wind begins as a breezy whisper and grows to whipping, wailing force. As the storm intensifies, Boyle’s stanzas lengthen and her rhythms become quicker and more urgent, immersing readers in learning about the Beaufort Scale while also finding reassurance in the comfort of family.

Emily Paik’s vivid illustrations give readers visual clues to the onset of the hurricane, from calm blue skies and gently fluttering leaves to a wind strong enough to blow away a man’s hat and whip up rolling waves to a darkening sky, bending trees, and pattering rain. The girl and her mother’s facial expressions show their increasing concern and need to get home. When they reach their house, the girl’s dad has the door flung open, welcoming them back to their cozily lit home. An image of the family singing together above the wind is a heartening respite in the midst of the storm.

While Hear the Wind Blow focuses on a hurricane, the information about wind is applicable to any kind of windstorm. The book is an excellent choice for summer reading at home and would be a superb addition to lessons on weather for teachers and homeschoolers. Hear the Wind Blow book is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807545614

Discover more about Doe Boyle and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Emily Paik visit her website.

Hurricane Season Activity

CPB - Windsock

Catch the Wind! Windsock Craft

 

You can feel the wind in your hair and see it blowing through the trees, but can you actually catch it? You can with this easy-to-make windsock!

Supplies

  • 1 large yogurt container (32 oz) or 1-pound deli salad container
  • 1 long-sleeve T-shirt
  • Strong glue
  • Dowel, 5/8 diameter x 48-inches long or longer
  • String
  • Rubber band
  • sewing seam ripper or cuticle scissors
  • X-acto knife
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Remove the sleeve from a long-sleeve t-shirt with the seam ripper or cuticle scissors
  2. Cut the shoulder off the sleeve by cutting straight across from the underarm seam
  3. Cut 2 inches from the bottom of the yogurt container OR cut the bottom out of the deli container with the x-acto knife or scissors
  4. With the x-acto knife or scissors, make a hole a little smaller than the diameter of the dowel about 1 inch from the rim of the container
  5. Slide the container into the large opening of the sleeve
  6. Fold about a ¾ -inch edge over the rim of the container and attach all along the rim with strong glue
  7. Put the rubber band around the outside edge of the opening
  8. Tie the bottom of the sleeve’s cuff together with the string
  9. To attach the dowel: Option 1: leaving the t-shirt in place, push the dowel and material through the hole in the container. The t-shirt material will hold the dowel in place (I used this option).  Option 2: cut a small hole in the t-shirt at the location of the hole in the container. Push the dowel through this hole and the hole in the container. Secure with strong glue
  10. Stick your windsock in the ground in an open area where it can catch the wind. As the wind changes direction, you can turn your windsock so the opening faces the wind.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hear-the-wind-blow-cover

You can find Hear the Wind Blow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 20 – It’s the Spring Equinox

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate the first day of spring! What makes the equinox so special? On this date, day and night are equally long around the globe. With longer days and warmer weather, thoughts turn to nature and renewal. For many this means gardening for ourselves and for the returning bees and butterflies. Today’s book takes a look at one of nature’s most inspiring creatures – the monarch butterfly. 

When Spring Comes

Written by Kevin Henkes | Illustrated by Laura Dronzek

 

This beautiful tribute to spring is as surprising as new buds pushing through the earth or tiny hatching eggs. Using repeated phrasing, lyrically expressed facts, and poetic rhythms, When Spring Comes echoes the anticipation that sunnier days bring after a long winter. The book opens with a simple, evocative sentence: “Before Spring comes the trees look like black sticks against the sky.” Children will immediately agree—they see trees in this way out their windows and draw them like this in art class.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-robins

Image copyright Laura Dronzek, 2019, text copyright Kevin Henkes, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The following sentence is equally as true: “But if you wait Spring will bring leaves and blossoms.” The book’s contrasting lines that explore conditions “before Spring comes” and “If you wait” gradually reveal more and more of springtime’s wonder, like the melting snows that usher in rainy days: “Spring comes with sun and it comes with rain and more rain and more rain. Do you like mud? Do you like puddles? I hope you like umbrellas.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-spring

Image copyright Laura Dronzek, 2019, text copyright Kevin Henkes, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

As Spring wakes more fully, it takes on a personality of its own: “Spring will call out the pussy willows and new kittens too. Spring can come quickly or slowly. It changes its mind a lot. But when Spring is finally here to stay, you will know it…There will be buds and bees and boots and bubbles.”  And there is much more to discover about this season of rebirth as well as the future within these pages.

When Spring visits it brings many wonderful smells, sounds, activities, and creatures, all of which are gorgeously depicted in Laura Dronzek’s radiant illustrations. The early gardens, blooming cherry trees, frolicking kittens, and profusions of flowers are as bright and welcome as the springtime sun. As the sweet-faced boy and girl in the book play, they are surrounded by birds, bunnies, dogs and kittens, and even ponder a little worm poking its head from the garden. Brilliant blues, pinks, greens meld with lush browns to create a joyful celebration of the newness of the season.

When Spring Comes is not only a book about a particular season or even for a particular age. The book is a wonderfully gentile and uplifting way to introduce or discuss the idea of waiting for good things to happen. Everyone, even the smallest child, has “winter days” when life doesn’t look so bright. But if you wait, spring comes with new life and surprises. 

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062331397 (Hardcover, 2016) | ISBN 978-0062741677 (Paperback, 2019) | ISBN 978-0062741660 (Board Book, 2018)

Discover more about Kevin Henkes and his books on his website.

Spring Equinox Activity

CPB - Paper Flowers

Paper Flowers

 

These paper flowers will brighten any room and come in a rainbow of colors. Make a bouquet for yourself or share them with a special friend.

Supplies

  • Tissue paper in many colors
  • Green paper
  • Green wire for stems
  • Scissors
  • Tape or glue
  • Pliers

CPB - Paper Flowers II

Directions

To make the stem

  1. Bend a 1 ½ -inch loop in the top of the wire
  2. Squeeze the wire together so it will fit tightly over the tissue paper

To make a flower

  1. Cut 6 or more 7-inch squares from tissue paper, mixing colors (you can make various sizes of flowers by making the squares larger or smaller and adding more squares)
  2. Gather all the squares together and fold them together accordion-style in 1-inch folds
  3. Slide the folded tissue paper under the wire loop, and tighten the wire
  4. Gently fan the tissue paper out on each side
  5. Beginning on one side, gently pull each sheet of tissue paper up toward the center
  6. Repeat step 5 on the other side

To make leaves

  1. Cut leaves from green paper, leaving a stem to wrap around the wire flower stem
  2. Fold the leaf stem around the wire and tape or glue

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-cover

You can find When Spring Comes at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 21 – It’s the Winter Solstice

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snow-dancer-cover

About the Holiday

At exactly 5:02 a.m. today winter arrives in the Northern Hemisphere. This also means that today offers those living there the least amount of sunshine—only 9 hours, 15 minutes, and 6 seconds. While the earth’s tilt in relation to the sun at this time of year brings cold and snowy weather to the World’s northern half, the Southern Hemisphere is basking in longer days and warm temperatures. This year also brings a spectacular celestial event – the “great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn. Not since March 4, 1226 will Jupiter and Saturn have appeared so close in the nighttime sky. Tonight, the two planets will appear to be separated by only the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length, creating a bright show for stargazers. For those of us just beginning to enjoy another winter’s chill, the onset of snow brings special beauty, outdoor adventure, and the fun explored in today’s book!

Thanks go to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of The Snow Dancer for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with them in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

The Snow Dancer

Written by Addie Boswell | Illustrated by Mercè López

 

All night long while Sophia slept the snow drifted down, “frosting the rooftops, fluffing the sidewalks, laying fuzzy hats on the fire hydrants.” Sophia woke to that most wonderful of things—a snow day. She put on her coat, boots, and gloves and opened the door. The world was silent.

Sophia stepped out her door and slipped down the “hidden steps” with some graceful moves. “She hopscotched down the invisible sidewalk” and “skated across the frozen street” all the way to the park and the gleaming white, untouched soccer field. Sophia leaped in. “She twirled, made tracks and patterns and created a snow ballet across the silent white stage.

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Image copyright Mercè López, 2020, text copyright Addie Boswell, 2020 Courtesy of Two Lions.

But then the neighborhood children descended in a wild running, tumbling, shouting mass. One little girl with delicate wings attached to her coat thought Sophia was a snow fairy. Amid all of the kids, the little girl found Sophia and asked if she was indeed a snow fairy. “‘I’m not a fairy,’” Sophia told her. “‘I’m just a dancer.’” The little girl was intrigued and Sophia showed her what a Snow Dancer could do.

Sophia took her by the hand and they swirled and slid and leaped over, around, and in between the other kids until… Sophia was hit by a snowball. Everything stopped. Sophia and her new friend shared a “secret Snow Dancer smile” then it was on—a huge, crazy snowball fight. At last, exhausted, the children flopped into the snow and listened as the snow plows got working, traffic resumed, and their parents came looking for them to come home. After saying goodbye to her friend, Sophia headed home, retracing her ballet. At home, Sophia sipped a steaming mug of cocoa. It was a perfect snow day.

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Image copyright Mercè López, 2020, text copyright Addie Boswell, 2020 Courtesy of Two Lions.

Lyrical and infused with evocative verbs and fun-to-read-aloud slish slussss, crinch crunch, sploosh whoomph onomatopoeia, Addie Boswell’s story of a surprise snow day will delight children with its joyful spontaneity—both Sophia’s impromptu ballet enacted from her doorstep to the park and across the pristine soccer field and the other children’s freewheeling play that leads to a spirited snowball fight. Add in the littlest girl’s fanciful belief in fairies, and the story becomes an imaginative ode to unexpected friendships, sharing, and companionship as well.

Mercè López’s gorgeous illustrations capture the grace and freedom of Sophia’s ballet steps set against the pure white snow with the hazy, blue-shrouded city as her backdrop. Sleekly elegant as she stretches tall or twirls on tiptoe with her arms and hands reaching outward or towards the sky, Sophia makes a bright and willowy contrast to the other kids who stampede down the hill, bundled into puffy coats (one of which makes its wearer look like a cactus). When their wide grins and sly looks turn wary after Sophia is hit by the snowball, López’s page offers a momentary suspenseful break in the action before the snowball fight—in all it’s glorious mayhem—breaks out. In her final image of Sophia tucked into an oversized chair with a large mug of cocoa, López creates that homey, cozy feeling we all look forward to after a day in the snow.

Exhilarating, original storytelling and spectacular imagery make The Snow Dancer a book kids and adults will love sharing on snow days and whenever the wish for a snow day strikes. The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542093170

Discover more about Addie Boswell and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mercè López, her books, and her art, visit her website.

The Snow Dancer Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Two Lions and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of The Snow Dancer written by Addie Boswell | illustrated by Mercè López

To enter:

This giveaway is open from December 21 to December 27 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 28. 

Prizing provided by Two Lions and Blue Slip Media

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Winter Solstice Activity

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Here’s to Warm Ears! Maze

 

You can’t play in the snow without wearing something to keep your ears warm! While you’re dreaming of a snow day, enjoy this this printable earmuffs-shaped maze!

 Here’s to Warm Ears! Maze | Here’s to Warm Ears! Solution 

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You can find The Snow Dancer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 29 – Curmudgeons Day

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About the Holiday

You know how gray days (literal and metaphorical) make you feel—grumpy, irritable, standoffish. Today is a day when it’s ok to indulge—and maybe even celebrate—those feelings. Being grouchy may even spur you to make a much-needed change, so explore those feelings, take control, and do what you can to alleviate the situation that’s giving you the grumps. Whether you choose to stay home today and do nothing or to get out there and make the best of it, have a Happy Curmudgeon’s Day!

Bruce’s Big Storm

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

“Bruce was a bear who did not like neighbors.” They were always hanging around making noise, bringing him homemade brownies, wanting to borrow things, and wondering if he’d like to come out and play games like “Frying Pan Ball.” Unfortunately, “neighbors lived all over Bruce’s neighborhood.” Bruce had gotten used to these impromptu visits and was happy that they usually didn’t last too long. But one day a big storm brought neighbors and more neighbors knocking at his door and wanting to ride out the storm at his house.

While Bruce bristled at the thought, his mice thought storms were less scary when shared with others, and they invited the whole neighborhood in for a pajama party. Soon, Bruce’s living room was stuffed to the rafters. It seemed the whole neighborhood was there, but then Rupert spied a bunny outside struggling against the wind. Nibbs grabbed the red umbrella and headed out to save him.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2019, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

But the wind grabbed the open umbrella and Nibbs with it, and in a moment Nibbs was soaring away above the house. He tumbled and swirled and finally came to pointy landing in front of the bunny. As the bunny was helping Nibbs down from the handle of the umbrella, another gust of wind swept the umbrella, Nibbs, and the bunny away. Just as they were climbing higher into the air, though, a big, furry paw reached up to save them. But even Bruce was no match for the wind. Into the torrent came the neighbors, who made a chain “and together, they pulled the bunny, the mouse, and the grumpy old bear back to safety—along with the umbrella.”

Back inside, everyone dried off with Bruce’s clean towels and settled in to play games even though “Bruce did not like games.” Then just as the bunny shouted “‘Duck, duck, Bruce!” a tree fell on Bruce’s house and crashed through the roof. Everyone was okay, “but the roof was not.” Even so, all the neighbors stayed and snuggled up in a dry corner for the night.

In the morning Bruce went outside to inspect the damage. His house needed a lot of repairs. As his neighbors headed home, they left “Bruce behind to grumble in the rubble.” But soon, they were back with tools, plans, and lots of supplies “to lend a hand, hoof, paw, or wing to help Bruce rebuild.” In time, Bruce’s house was even better than it had been before. Now it had a “Rumpus Room…for rumpusing,” as Nibbs and Rupert explained. Bruce’s Rumpus Room became a favorite hangout in Soggy Hollow for fun and games. And while Bruce still did not like fun or the neighbors, “they sure liked him.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2019, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Readers will sure like Ryan T. Higgins’ latest installment in his beloved Bruce series. Beginning with the map of Soggy Hollow on the cover beneath the book jacket and the following two-page spread of the Soggy Hollow Community Board—complete with hilarious ads and notices for such neighborhood events as a 5K Turtle Run, Leech Pond swim lessons, and Edible Rocks—Higgins immerses kids in the life and lore of this woodland town. Bruce, his unibrow familiarly and perpetually furrowed, is the same curmudgeon readers have heartily embraced since he adopted a gaggle of hapless geese in Mother Bruce, and his neighbors will raise giggles as they interrupt his peaceful life with their kid-inspired requests.

Higgins delights in poking fun at weather reports and sets up funny sight gags as the neighborhood animals find shelter at Bruce’s house. Of course, readers know there’s no better way to wait out a storm than by spending the day wearing pajamas and playing games, and the party at Bruce’s is as cozy as it gets. Kids will sympathize with Bruce as the morning after reveals the tree’s devastation, but they’ll be cheered to see that his favorite chair was spared. As in all of Higgins’ Bruce books, it doesn’t take long for this grumpy bear to show his true deep-down feelings or the for-bear-ance that  attracts so many friends.

A definite must whether you’re a long-time Bruce fan or just getting to know him. Bruce’s Big Storm will be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2019 | ISBN 978-1368026222

To learn more about Ryan T. Higgins, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Curmudgeon’s Day Activity

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Stay-in Starter Kit

 

Curmudgeon’s Day is a time to surround yourself with favorite comforts. Here are some ideas for a Stay-in Kit that would make spending the day inside so much better:

  • Cozy blanket
  • Soft pillow
  • Comfy jammies
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Fluffy friend
  • Favorite book
  • Coloring book
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Playing cards
  • Good movie or TV show
  • Fun craft project
  • Hot chocolate
  • Tea
  • Popcorn

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You can find Bruce’s Big Storm at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 10 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

You’ve heard the saying “Too Many Books, Too Little Time,” right? Well, this truism has spawned not only one, but two Read a New Book Month celebrations! Both December and September have been designated as times to make special plans to search out and read new books. These can be books that are newly published or books that are new to you. And if you find yourself putting a few old favorites in the pile, that’s okay too! It’s also a great time to think about adding books to those gift lists!

Snow Globe Wishes

Written by Erin Dealey | Illustrated by Claire Shorrock

 

A fierce winter blizzard brings snow and ice and knocks out electricity all over town. Without lights or computers, people leave work and school and head home on frozen white ribbons of roadways. At home, in front of a roaring fire and with candlelight, a family eats take-out from one of the few restaurants that was still open.

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Image Claire Shorrock, 2019, text copyright Erin Dealey 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The brother and sister create a fort with blankets and chairs, and everyone (including the cat and dog) skootches in to hear Dad read a story by lantern light. While her mom, dad, and brother sleep under the blanket tent, the little girl gazes into her snow globe that holds a tiny town dotted with evergreens and makes a wish as “snowplows rumble lullabies.”

The family wakes up to a winter wonderland and “a whisper from the snow. / Do you hear its soft Hello?” They bundle up and race outside where other families are sledding, making snow angels, and patting the white fluff into snowballs, snowmen, and even snowcats.

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Image Claire Shorrock, 2019, text copyright Erin Dealey 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In the air there is also an invitation for all: “Who’ll be the first to grab a hand / that grabs a hand / and then another— / neighbors, strangers, sisters, brothers?” Then one-by-one the townspeople come together around the decorated evergreen. Young and old form a circle, holding hands and smiling. In that moment there is “peace on earth. / Right now. / Right here. / Peace for all / throughout the year!”

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Image Claire Shorrock, 2019, text copyright Erin Dealey 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Erin Dealey’s lovely ode to wishes for community and peace took me back to the winter of 2012 when a  nor’easter knocked out electricity in parts of my town for a week and families and businesses that did have power offered those who did not the comforts of home and other help. Every year, across the country and the world, communities deal with similar experiences, making Dealey’s story one that will resonate with readers. Her gentle verses capture the excitement kids feel during snow days and other surprise events and invite readers into a family’s cozy home for an evening of fun and togetherness. Children can easily imagine this peace extending to homes throughout the story’s town, to their own city, and to the world beyond. Dealey’s use of a snow globe to represent the world is inspired, and the beautiful metaphor continues as neighbors join hands and create a circle around the town’s decorated tree. Her call for all people to cease their busy lives for a moment and answer the snow’s beckoning is sure to inspire children and adults to take a snow globe day of their own.

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Image Claire Shorrock, 2019, text copyright Erin Dealey 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Working perfectly in tandem with Dealey’s vision, Claire Shorrock depicts the snow-covered town and the family’s home in calming hues of yellows, grays, and blues punctuated with earthy oranges. The family’s heartwarming love for each other glows in the candlelight, fire, and lantern that light the family’s picnic dinner and story time. As the little girl happily gazes into her snow globe while her family sleeps, the globe is surrounded by a magical glow of stars that mirror the starlight in the sky visible in the window. Shorrock depicts the circular motif throughout her illustrations from the paving stones on the town square and the fat, fluffy snowflakes swirling in the air to the cat curled up on the chair and the family’s home décor to the snowballs, snowmen, and even a snow globe the townspeople make on the morning after the storm. The image of the neighbors holding hands around the tree is uplifting and hopeful. On the final page this spontaneous camaraderie appears inside the snow globe, leading readers to wish that such togetherness can be preserved for all.

An enchanting read aloud for winter story times (or any time of the year), Snow Globe Wishes would be a favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves to inspire individual acts of kindness and promote universal peace.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110311

Discover more about Erin Dealey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Claire Shorrock, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

Snow Globe Wishes Activity Sheet from Sleeping Bear Press

Snow Globe Wishes Activity Page

Draw your own wishes for yourself, your town, or the world inside this beautiful snow globe provided by Sleeping Bear Press. You can find the sheet to download on the Sleeping Bear Website here:

Snow Glove Wishes Activity Page

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You can find Snow Globe Wishes at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

Picture Book Review