January 3 – Festival of Sleep Day

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About the Holiday

Are you still revved up from the holidays? Having trouble getting back into your usual sleep routine? Feeling a bit discombobulated, grumpy, or just plain tired? Without enough sleep our wellbeing suffers. We’re more susceptible to illness, our work drags, we’re not as alert when driving, and our mood can be a little…well…see above. If you’re not getting enough sleep, today’s holiday encourages you to rethink your routines or get back to them. Make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable and that your bedroom is not too hot or too cold. Putting a priority on sleep will make you feel better all day!

Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter

Written by Eugenie Doyle | Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

 

As the winter days become shorter, a family readies their farm for bed. With most of the crops harvested—“strawberries, raspberries, vegetables, honey, and hay—now is the time to prepare for deep front, the coming wind and snow.” The berry plants are blanketed with straw that will keep them warm until June when “they’ll give fruit so red and juicy we’ll make jam and freeze berries to eat till summer comes again.”

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Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The last of the kale, chard, broccoli, carrots, beets, and potatoes are cut and dug and placed in storage in the barn to “await winter markets and our own winter meals!” With everything put away, the family calls, “Good night, fields, peaceful and still.” Then it’s time to cut and stack wood that will heat the farmhouse during the cold months and fire up the sugarhouse for making maple syrup in early spring.

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Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The hoophouse, home to the “baby greens…with mouth-filling names—spinach, mizuna, tatsoi, arugula—” that “will nap till stronger sun can wake them” is secured to the ground to keep it in place through winter’s howling winds. Out in the chicken coop, a timer is set to “give the hens the light they need to lay eggs all winter.” Fresh grain and hay and a water heater keeps the chickens well fed and comfortable. “Good night, chickens, snug in your coop.” A wall of hay bales creates a wind break for the bee hives and the entrances are narrowed to keep field mice out.

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Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The last of the harvest stocks the farm stand with “fresh eggs, greens and roots, onions and garlic braids, decorative corn, honey and maple syrup.” Finally, the farm vehicles are driven into the equipment shed. Back in the farmhouse, the wood stove glows, and colored lights rim the roof and windows. Beeswax candles on the sills “soften the longest night.” As white flakes softly fall, “the farm is ready for down quilts of snow, the shh-shh of the wind…. Good night, farmers, sleep tight. Sleep tight, farm.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-fields

Image copyright Becca Stadtlander, 2016, text copyright Eugenie Doyle, 2016. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Eugenie Doyle’s quiet memories of a busy year as a family buttons up their farm, remembering the crops of luscious fruit and hardy vegetables, hot days of summer, and fall’s sweet honey offer a dreamy beginning to winter. With lyrical phrasing, she shows young readers the work that goes into preparing a farm for winter so that the plants and animals are well taken care of as they wait for warmer weather. Doyle’s straightforward storytelling, sprinkled with evocative verbs and adjectives, will enchant children, who may see similarities between the snug farm and the changes in their own routines during a cold, but cozy winter.

Becca Stadtlander’s folk-art inspired paintings are rich in color as they take readers from the warm farmhouse kitchen out to the fields, where green rows of berry plants, still dotted with red fruit become golden as hay is strewn over them, the wood pile behind the house grows, a sheath of white cloth is gently unfurled, and the beehives are secured from weather and interlopers. Children accustomed to visiting farmers markets will recognize many of the fruits and vegetables depicted and will long for the reopening of their local store when spring arrives again.

A beautiful book to share during cold-weather story times, Sleep Tight Farm will be a favorite of young gardeners and foodies and of any child who loves farms, nature, and family togetherness.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452129013

To learn more about Becca Stadtlander, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Festival of Sleep Day Activity

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Flashlight Fun Maze

 

It may be time for bed, but there’s always time for a little flashlight fun! Can you follow the beam of the flashlight to find the kids sneaking one last story in this printable maze?

Flashlight Fun Maze | Flashlight Fun Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-tight-farm-chicken-cover

You can find Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 27 – Make Cut-Out Snowflakes Day

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About the Holiday

Making paper snowflakes is a fun wintertime activity that brings the outdoors in on snowy days or clear ones. This craft originates in the art of origami—a variation called kirigami. While both origami and kirigami involve folding paper, kirigami entails unfolding the paper and making cuts in desired places to create an effect. Cut-out snowflakes combine the two as the cuts are made while the paper is still folded. Today, get out some paper and scissors and make your own snowflakes to hang!

Snow

Written by Cynthia Rylant | Illustrated by Lauren Stringer

 

Just as every snowflake is unique, each snowfall is different, bringing with it a special feeling. There are the snows that come during the night “like a shy friend, who is afraid to knock, so she thinks she will just wait in the yard until you see her. This is the snow that brings you peace.” There are also snows made of big, wet flakes that pile one on top of each other in such a way that you know you will be leaving school or work early and navigating the slippery roads until you’re home and happy with the magical interruption.

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Image copyright Lauren Stringer, 2008, text copyright Cynthia Rylant, 2008. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Some snows are just a dusting, just enough to make you notice even the smallest tree branches and the tiny footprints of sparrows. But there are also snows “so heavy they bury cars up to their noses, and make evergreens bow,” and are perfect for curling up to take a nap.

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Image copyright Lauren Stringer, 2008, text copyright Cynthia Rylant, 2008. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Children love snow and don’t mind pulling on coats and boots and mittens because it means that they will be going outside to catch snowflakes on their tongue and sled down high hills. “The snow loves them back,” giving them snow angels and snow friends and a fresh way to see how beautiful the world can be. The impermanence of snow reminds us all “that nothing lasts forever except memories.”

Back home, a snow day is a perfect time for enjoying something hot to drink, playing games, or having thoughtful talks while “the flowers sleep and the sun sleeps and the soft green gardens are waiting.”

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Image copyright Lauren Stringer, 2008, text copyright Cynthia Rylant, 2008. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Cynthia Rylant mesmerizes with her lyrical passages that personify snow and reveal its power to transform not only the world but our hearts as well. Whispering, waiting, concealing, and enhancing, Rylant’s snow is a friend, a playmate, and a teacher showing us a quieter world of surprising and tender details and encouraging us to look inside even as we are watching it fall outside.

In her breathtaking illustrations, Lauren Stringer brings Rylant’s vision to life while juxtaposing images of exuberant children with lovely flakes, swirls, and blankets of snow that reinforce the uniqueness of both. As a classroom full of students gaze out of the window anticipating early release, their happy, diverse faces are framed by beautiful snowflakes, each one different. A little girl sleeps soundly in her bed as snow, piling in a skirt of drifts around a tree and forming a sleepy twin, waits for the morning’s discovery. After a day of playing outside, the girl and her grandmother walk home in a winter wonderland tinted pink by the setting sun. As they sit indoors, cozy and planning the spring garden, a bunny sniffs the cold, crisp air. Spring is coming, but for now, the snow is the star.

A wonder-filled story for cozy reading on snowy days or for when the snow is missed, Snow is a magical addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1328740557 (Paperback) 

Discover more about Cynthia Rylant and her books on her website.

To learn more about Lauren Stringer, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day Activity

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It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

 

Can you find the pairs of identical snowflakes in this printable puzzle?

It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

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You can find Snow at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 13 – National Hot Cocoa Day

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About the Holiday

There may be no hot drink that dispels the frostiness of winter like hot cocoa. Whether you make it from cocoa powder or from a pack, add extra flavors like peppermint or cinnamon or enjoy it straight, top it with whipped cream or marshmallows, hot chocolate is a favorite for cozy snuggling. And if you think that hot cocoa is too indulgent, you’ll be happy to know that it actually has health benefits. Used medicinally up until the 19th century, this warm drink contains antioxidants that protect against cancer, flavonoids that help with arterial health, and elements that aid in digestion. So sit down with a good book and enjoy a cup – or two!

When the Snow Falls

Written by Linda Booth Sweeney | Illustrated by Jana Christy

 

A little curly-haired girl and her younger brother wake up from a sleepover with Grandma to a magical sight. As they gaze out the big picture window in the little girl’s room, they’re dazzled to see “When the snow falls…Frost paints. / Skies gray. / Windows sparkle/ Snow? Yay!” There’s no school today, so Mommy and Daddy and Grandma bundle up and get the kids ready to head outdoors to take care of the farm animals.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

Soft flakes flutter down, piling into deep drifts and providing a little extra after-breakfast treat as “Boot sink. / Lashes flick. / Tongues tickle. / We lick.” In the barn the horses, puppies, and chickens are just as excited about the snowy day. Riding an old chair sled, Grandma and her grandchildren glide down the hill, following tracks left by lively rabbits and now-dozing foxes.

Deep in the forest the three take in the beauty: “Woods hush. / Fields glisten. / Wren sings. / We listen.” On the other side of the woods, people continue their daily routine but at a slower pace as “plows push” and “mountains grow.” Grandma and the kids slide into town, where people are hard at work keeping up with the storm: “Wheels crunch. / Shovels scoop. / Ice cracks! / Awnings droop.”

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

The trio has reached Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They all grab shovels and help clear the walk. Now it’s Grandpa’s turn to have some fun. He takes his granddaughter by the hand, seats her little brother on a sled, and walk to the park. There, kids are making snowmen, building snow forts, and zipping down hills on their snow saucers. At the bottom of the hill everyone plops into the fluff and make snow angels.

It’s been an exhilarating, adventurous day, but twilight is on the horizon and now “toes tingle. / Lips quiver. / Cheeks glow. / We shiver.” As grandma calls from her front porch, the little girl and Grandpa, carrying his grandson, race toward home amid the swirling snowflakes. Inside, the light, warmth, and cozy comforts of warm soup, popcorn, and a crackling fire await. Later, the two kids enjoy quiet time with Grandma and Grandpa when “Cocoa warms. / Mittens puddle. / Day dawdles. / We cuddle.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-fox

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

With her brilliantly expressive staccato sentences—each only two words long—Linda Booth Sweeney evokes the sights, sounds, and joy of a care-free, snowy day. Each four-line, rhyming verse abounds with melodic verbs that spark readers’ imaginations and concrete nouns that in many places form delightful alliterative pairs that softly trip off the tongue. Readers will love the story line that takes them from a rustic farmhouse to Grandma and Grandpa’s cozy home through woods, over hills, past the highway, and into downtown all with the help of an old-style sled. Several verses full of snow day fun play out like a long afternoon spent with friends, leading naturally into the slower pace and loving comfort of the night spent with Grandma and Grandpa.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-sledding-with-grandma

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

In glorious two-page spreads, the wind-swept snow swirls, spatters, and blankets the world in downy white fluff. Jana Christy takes children into the family’s large farmhouse kitchen where a blackboard announces Grandma’s Sunday sleepover as well as Monday’s snow day in place of the crossed-out piano lesson. The family steps out into the sparkling countryside where purple mountains form a backdrop for the barn and sheep pen. As Grandma and the kids start their journey, the forest, a quiet enclave of teal and greens, welcomes them. By the time they reach town, cars are stuck in snowdrifts, snow shovels scrape against the sidewalk, and kids are heading to the park.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

The thrill of playing in the snow is palpable as saucers zoom down hills, hats fly off, and hair blows in the wind. The final spreads of Grandma and Grandpa’s tidy home glow with love and laughter as the kids pull off their snow gear, their dog shakes off the snow, and they settle on the couch for cocoa and cuddles. The busy townspeople, happy playmates, and close-knit mixed-race family make When the Snow Falls a cheerful celebration of diversity.

When the Snow Falls is a joyous book to add to winter collections and would be often asked for during home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399547201

Discover more about Linda Booth Sweeney, her books and her systems work, visit her website.

To learn more about Jana Christy, her art, and her books, visit her website.

Hot Cocoa Day Activity

CPB - Hot Chocolate trio (2)

Friendship Hot Chocolate Jar 

 

There’s nothing better than sipping hot chocolate with a friend or family member during the cold months ahead! Here’s an easy way to make a special gift for someone you love!

Supplies

  • Mason jar, canning jar, or any recycled jar from home
  • Canister of your favorite hot chocolate mix
  • Bag of mini marshmallows
  • Bag of chocolate chips
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon
  • Piece of cloth
  • Shoelace, string, elastic, or ribbon
  • Paper or card stock to make a Friendship Tag
  • Hole punch
  • Scissor

CPB - Hot Chocolate from above with whisk

Directions for Filling the Jar

  1. Wash and completely dry the jar
  2. Drop a handful of mini marshmallows into the bottom of the jar. With the spoon push some of the marshmallows tight against the glass so they will show up when you add the hot chocolate mix.
  3. Measure 1/3 cup of hot chocolate mix and sprinkle it on top of the marshmallows. With the spoon gently spread the mix over the marshmallows.
  4. If you wish, add a layer of chocolate chips.
  5. Continue layering marshmallows and hot chocolate mix until you get to the top of the jar.
  6. At the top add another layer of chocolate chips and marshmallows.
  7. Put the lid on the jar and secure it tightly.

Directions for Decorating the Lid and Adding the Tag

  1. Cut a 6-inch circle from the cloth. To make the edges decorative, use a pinking sheers or other specialty scissor.
  2. Cover the lid of the jar with the cloth and secure with an elastic or rubber band.
  3. Tie the string, shoelace, or other tie around the rim of the lid.
  4. If using a Mason jar, place the cloth between the disk and the screw top
  5. Create a Friendship Tag and add your name and the name of your friend.
  6. Use a hole punch to make a hole in the Friendship Tag, slide it onto the tie, and knot it.

Directions for Making the Hot Chocolate

  1. With a spoon measure 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate, marshmallow, chocolate chip mix into a mug
  2. Fill the mug with boiling water, hot milk, or a combination of both
  3. Enjoy!

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You can find When the Snow Falls with these booksellers:

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

November 27 – Day of Giving

CPB - I Got the Christmas Spirit Cover

About the Holiday

Following the shopping “holidays” of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has been designated as a day to celebrate generosity and giving to others. 92nd Street Y in New York City created the holiday for people to think about charitable giving to those less fortunate not only for one day or one month, but all year round. The spirit of today’s holiday will fill you with cheer every day—just like the little girl in today’s book!

Bloomsbury Children’s Books sent me a copy of I Got the Christmas Spirit to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be partnering with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

I Got the Christmas Spirit

Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison | Illustrated by Frank Morrison

 

A little girl wakes up with a smile on her face and “the spirit of the season” in her heart. As she and her mother head out into the snowy city, she hears “the spirit in the air” as carolers sing and a corner Santa rings a bell. She’s been saving her money to add to the familiar red pot and happily drops it in the slot. The choir is now singing “Deck the Halls,” and the little girl sings along with all her heart.

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Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then it’s time for a yummy roasted treat to warm her up in the shivery air. On the ice-skating rink, the girl and her mom “swirled and twirled around the spirit” with other kids and adults enjoying some frozen fun. Afterward, a tour of the store windows decorated with lights and glitter makes her feel sparkly inside. But when they come upon a mother and her two children huddled against the wind with a “Help Please” sign, the girl says, “I felt the spirit deep down in my soul.”

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Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

In a crowded store nearby, the little girl looks wide-eyed at all the toys then whispers to a tired Santa her wish “for the spirit everywhere.” As she, her mom, Santa, and a host of other people leave the store carrying wrapped packages, they feel the spirit spread by the girl’s smile. Outside, the little girl and the other shoppers give the presents to the needy family. The little boy grins from ear to ear as his mom stands by happily and the baby rests in Santa’s arms.

The Christmas spirit is not just a thing or a place or a person, the girl understands, “The spirit is you!” Then the girl gets her own surprise when she spies her dad coming home. She runs to him and he lifts her into a hug. Here is what she wants for Christmas—“Peace for all, good tidings, and cheer—let’s live the spirit every day of the year.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-coming-home

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As the sights and sounds of Christmas begin to light up towns, stores, and homes, Connie Schofield-Morrison’s story fills young readers with the joy and deeper meaning of the holiday. Little ones wanting to share their bubbly excitement for Christmas as well as their innate empathy will fall in love with the little girl who eagerly joins in on all of the city’s festivities while also embracing those in need. Her big heart and buoyant spirit will inspire kids to find the spirit of the holiday in everything they do too. Kids are invited to join in reading with exuberant alliterative words like “Ding Dong Ding, that call out to the little girl

Readers can almost hear the bells and singers, feel the soft snow, and smell the roasting nuts as he takes readers on a tour of the city decked out for the holidays. In his gorgeous, realistic paintings, the emotions and actions of the little girl cheer young readers as they see her belting out a Christmas carol, gliding on ice rink, and walking side-by-side with Santa to deliver her surprise gifts to the needy family. Images of the girl dropping money that she has saved into the Salvation Army pot and frowning sadly as she comes upon the destitute woman and her family mirror the compassion many children feel for those less fortunate.

Like its predecessor I Got the Rhythm, I Got the Christmas Spirit is an uplifting and beautiful book to add to any child’s collection—not only at Christmas, but any time of the year. A top choice for public libraries too.

Ages 3 – 7

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681195285

To learn more about Frank Morrison and view a gallery of his art, visit his website.

I Got the Christmas Spirit Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Bloomsbury Children’s Books in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of I Got the Christmas Spirit written by Connie Schofield-Morrison | illustrated by Frank Morrison

This giveaway is open from November 27 through December 2 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 3

It takes just these two steps to enter:

Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

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

Day of Giving Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-ornaments-craft

Polish-Dipped Ornaments

 

These plastic ornaments swirled with colorful nail polish make the perfect decorations for your tree. Make some to give to friends too!

Supplies

  • Plastic ornaments, available at craft stores
  • Nail polish in various colors
  • Plastic bowl or container, deep enough to dip the ornament into the water
  • Drying stand – I used a clear, plastic egg carton, or string for hanging ornaments to dry

Directions

Fill the plastic container with warm to hot water

  1. Using two or three colors, gently “paint” the water with the nail polish, using the brush or a toothpick in dots and swirls
  2. Slowly dip the plastic ornament into the water and turn it to pick up the nail polish floating on the top of the water
  3. To dry, place the ornament on a stand or hang with a paper plate, wax paper, or other paper to catch drips

CPB - I Got the Christmas Spirit Cover

You can find I Got the Christmas Spirit at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 19 – XXIII Olympic Games

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate all the athletes around the world participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. While competing against each other and for different countries, each athlete knows the same hard work, determination, courage, and spirit it takes to be a champion. Most of the athletes have dedicated their lives to practicing and perfecting their skills. As today’s book shows, learning a new sport starts with the first step.

Mice Skating

Written by Annie Silvestro | Illustrated by Teagan White

 

“During the cold winter months, most field mice take cover…tunneling deep underground, burrowing into farmhouse walls, nesting in hollow logs.” Lucy was different. She loved to scamper in the snow and feel the frost on her whiskers. Most of all Lucy loved her “fluffy wool hat with the pink pom-pom on top.” Wearing this hat, Lucy was brave and bold. “It made her bloom!” But while Lucy loved everything about winter, her friends only saw Lucy’s freezing fur, dripping nose, and “chedder-ing” teeth.

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Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When Lucy invited her friends to go outside with her, they declined, preferring to stay “warm and toasty till spring.” Lucy enjoyed catching snowflakes and making snow angels and snowmice, but she wished she could share the fun with her friends. She tried bringing winter inside, but her snow cones and giant icicles melted, and the indoor snowball fight “was a soggy flop.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mice-skating-winter-indoors

Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day while playing outside, Lucy slipped on an icy puddle. She slid and then “she…soared!” Lucy was hooked. She made ice skates from pine needles and went back to the pond. “At first she wobbled. She fell more than once. But with practice, soon she was ice-skating.” Lucy couldn’t wait to tell her friends, and she had an idea. She gathered supplies,went back home, and got to work. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mice-skating-lucy

Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Every day Lucy went skating. When she returned, she went to her room and worked quietly with yarn, thread, and pine needles. Her friends couldn’t help but be curious. They peeked through her door and peppered her with questions. At last Lucy was ready. “She placed a new hat on each mouse’s head. ‘These will keep you warm,’ she said, ‘inside and out.’” Mona, Millie, and Marcello “marveled at their new hats.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mice-skating-friends-outside

Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Then, with a bag slung over her shoulder, Lucy led her friends outside and to the pond. In front of her dazzled friends, Lucy “spiraled and swirled, swizzled and twizzled, loop-de-looped.” “‘Marvelous!’ cried Mona. ‘Spectacular!’ called Millie. ‘Brie-vissimo!’ cheered Marcello. Suddenly,  they all wanted to try. Lucy opened her bag and handed each one their own pair of skates.

Gingerly, they slid onto the ice. They wobbled and fell. “But with practice, soon they were mice skating.” They squealed and squeaked with joy, and Marcello said, ‘”Who knew winter could be so goud-a?’” “‘I did,’ said Lucy, beaming. And together they bloomed like spring.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mice-skating-lucy-skating (2)

Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

For one reason or another, it’s sometimes hard to get friends, family, or others to try something new. Sometimes, it’s us that balk a bit at getting out and exploring different opportunities. Annie Silvestro’s cheery story is a sweet and gentle reminder that often fun, exhilaration, and wider horizons are just a few steps away. Silvestro offers some sage advice along with her delightful friendship story as Lucy makes hats and skates for her friends to show them what they’re missing. Readers will love her charming and sprightly adjectives that beautifully depict the cozy home comforts and refreshing outdoor atmosphere of winter, and will giggle at Marcello’s creative cheese—but not cheesy—puns.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mice-skating-lucy

Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Readers cannot be faulted for maybe wanting to spend winter underground, too, in the homey den Teagan White has fashioned for Lucy and her friends. The penchant of mice to gather bits and bobs here and there is reflected in the thread-spool table, the clothespin shelf for displaying cheese, and the half-pencil rung on a ladder. The mice also use button plates and acorn-top mugs. The fire in the fireplace crackles as acorns and herbs dry on a line above it. Outdoors is just as magical with sparking snowflakes, snowy fields, and red berry accents. White’s full-page illustrations interspersed with pages of circular insets are rendered in muted greens, browns, and pinks that enhance this snug wintertime story.

A sweet friendship story for any time of the year, Mice Skating would be a lovely addition to home and classroom libraries.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Book, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454916321

Discover more about Annie Silvestro and her books on her website.

Learn more about Teagan White and view a portfolio of her art on her website.

IIXXX Olympic Games Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ice-skating-coloring-page-bigger

We’re Skating! Coloring Page

 

Ice skating is one of winter’s most enjoyable activities! Here’s a printable We’re Skating! Coloring Page to enjoy too!

Picture Book Review

January 28 – International Have Fun at Work Day

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About the Holiday

Are you working today? Then have some fun! Listen to music, dress up or down or even a bit silly, enlist your coworkers for some games, share some jokes, or even throw a party—just don’t forget to include your boss!

Snowmen at Work

Written by Caraline Buehner | Written by Mark Buehner

 

One day, a little boy says, he woke up to find that “more snow had fallen soft and deep” overnight, but there was something odd: the sidewalk and the walkway were already shoveled. The snowman that he’d made the night before was standing in its spot, yet the boy wondered, “Was he the one who shoveled with a snowman shoveling crew? / Could it be that I don’t see that snowmen have jobs too?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snowmen-at-night-sidewalk

Image copyright Mark Buehner, 2012, text copyright Caralyn Buehner, 2012. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The boy imagines other jobs that snowmen might do.  Maybe there are snowmen dentists who drill “bits of coal to fix a snowman’s smile” before sending him “home in style.” If your sled has “crooked runners” perhaps snowmen mechanics can make them straight again. And the grocer at the snowmen’s favorite store would stock shelves “with food snowmen love to eat: / Frozen peas and Frosty Flakes / And ice cream for a treat.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snowmen-at-night-shovel

Image copyright Mark Buehner, 2012, text copyright Caralyn Buehner, 2012. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

How about snow kids? Just like real kids, they’d like having pets too! They’d love to go to the snow pet store to see the snow pups and the swimmers in the cold fish tank. The snow baker would be an artist creating frozen treats and frosted cake—“enough for everyone.” Of course snow children would go to snow school where they’d be taught “To count snowflakes one by one. / And how to spell Antarctica, / Refrigerate, and fun.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snowmen-at-work-dentist

Image copyright Mark Buehner, 2012, text copyright Caralyn Buehner, 2012. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Snow magicians could do cool tricks, and when a snow cat got stuck in the branches of a tree, snow firefighters would get them down easy as can be. There could be snow librarians to read to little ones, and snow deliverymen to bring “frozen pizza to your door.” At the factory, snow workers would make toys for snow boys and girls, and snow truck drivers could haul “frozen goods to town.”

Yes, the little boy thinks as he goes back inside his home, “My snowman really might have / Shoveled, and I never knew / That all around us snowmen / Have a lot of work to do!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snowmen-at-night-night-plowing

Image copyright Mark Buehner, 2012, text copyright Caralyn Buehner, 2012. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Caraline and Mark Buehner’s snowmen are favorites of little ones with their sunny smiles and busy secret lives. In Snowmen at Work, young readers will love getting a sneak peek at how their favorite winter creations might fill jobs around town that they’re familiar with. The idea of snow puppies and kittens, snow school, and a snowman to do their chores will delight kids. Frosted cakes, frozen pizza, and frosty flakes are clever twists on children’s best-loved treats and may have kids thinking up other cold meals and tidbits they might enjoy.

Mark Buehner’s riotously colorful illustrations offer maximum joyfulness as the snowmen go about their jobs with ever-present grins. Children will want to linger over the pages to catch all the details and jokes tucked here and there: A framed quote on the dentist’s wall reads “Be true to your teeth or they’ll be false to you,” and the snow magician’s lion has a mane made up of mittens, just to name two. And is that snowman outside the little boy’s home reaching for his shovel again just as he closes the door?

The perfect antidote to gray winter days and a cheerful addition to those brilliant blue ones, Snowmen at Work would be welcome on any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Dial Books, 2012 | ISBN 978-0803735798

Learn more about Caralyn and Mark Buehner and their books on their website.

International Have Fun at Work Day Activity

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Fun at Work! Word Search

 

When you love your job, work is fun! Find the names of thirty professions in this printable Fun at Work! Word Search Puzzle.

Fun at Work! Word Search Puzzle | Fun at Work! Word Search Puzzle Solution

Picture Book Review

December 30 – Baking Soda Day

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About the Holiday

Baking soda is one of those little chemical compounds that is indispensable in so many ways. First produced in 1791 by French chemist Nicolas Leblanc, it’s used for everything from cleaning solutions to health remedies to black snake fireworks to science fair volcanoes. In 1846 two New York bakers, John Dwight and Austin Church, established the first factory in the United States to produce baking soda from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide. Of course, baking soda is also used to make treats of all kinds – even the ones featured in today’s book!

Baking Day at Grandma’s

Written by Anika Denise | Illustrated by Christopher Denise

 

Three little cubs bundle up in their winter coats, hats, scarves, and mittens and head out over the snowy hills to Grandma’s for baking day. Soon they see “past the pond so smooth and clear / little cottage drawing near.” A knock on Grandma’s door brings her closer, and when she opens the door the trio give her a kiss before entering the snug home.

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

After warming their toes by the fire, the young bears grab the cookbook, a mixing bowl, a spoon, and a whisk because “It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / at Grandma’s!” As her little bakers stand on chairs to reach the table, Grandma passes out aprons and reads the recipe. Happily crowded around the bowl, the cubs with “wooden spoon and measuring cup, / mix the batter; stir it up. / Fold it gently in the pan, / lick the spoon because we can.”

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

While they wait for their treats to bake, Grandma pours tummy-warming mugs of hot chocolate and one little bear draws a smiley face on the frosty window for a little chickadee to see. Grandma puts a record on her old Victrola, and as she sings the “soft and sweet skippy notes,” the cubs tap their feet. At last the kitchen timer rings, and the little bears dance arm in arm because “It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / at Grandma’s!”

The chocolate goodies pop from the pan, and with icing and sprinkles are ready to be wrapped and tied with a red ribbon. Other treats get pretty bags, “each one marked with little tags.” The cubs are also bundled nice and warm, and with final hugs for Grandma, they are soon “Walking home under the moon. / Back to visit Grandma soon.”

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

Anika Denise’s sweet, rhyming story is as heartwarming as a cozy kitchen on a cold day. The buoyant rhythm is a joy to read, and Denise’s infectious repeated verse, “It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / at Grandma’s!” invites little ones to join in the story. The bond between the three cubs and their grandma is full of love and hugs, and just like the young bears, readers will want to return again and again to Grandma’s house.

Christopher Denise infuses his winter landscapes and Grandma’s house with rich, warm colors that welcome readers into this special family baking day. The three cubs, wrapped in green coats and red knit caps, march with their sled over brilliant white snowy hills between their house and Grandma’s tidy log cabin. Inside, the rooms glow with golden sunshine, and it’s easy to see why the cubs love their attentive grandma so as she gently guides them in baking.

Newly available as a board book, Baking Day at Grandma’s is a book that young children will love to hear over and over at story time, naptime, or bedtime. It would also make an appreciated gift to or from a grandmother.

Ages 2 – 5

Philomel Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-0399171574 (board book) / 978-0399242441 (hardcover)

Learn more about Anika Denise and her books and find Reader Engagement and Activity Kits on her website!

Discover the illustrated world of Christopher Denise on his website!

Spend time baking with Grandma with this sweet book trailer!

Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcakes

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

This delicious vanilla cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction would definitely please Grandma—and they’ll become your favorite confection too!

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (60g) vanilla Greek yogurt (or plain; or regular yogurt; or even sour cream)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) vanilla almond milk (or cow’s milk; or soy milk; or plain almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1

Vanilla Bean Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4-5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in sugar – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Split 1 vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise. Scrape seeds from half of the vanilla bean into batter. Reserve other half.
  3. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
  4. Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners (or 24 mini) and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bake for 8-9 minutes if making mini cupcakes. Allow to cool.
  5. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (1/4 teaspoon). Frost cooled cupcakes (I used Wilton 1M piping tip). There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.
  6. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 7.

Additional Notes

  1. If you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, add an extra ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead.
  2. Strongly urged to use heavy cream. You may use milk or half-and-half, but heavy cream will give the frosting a thicker texture. I recommend it!

For ways to adapt this recipe and more scrumptious recipes, visit Sally’s Baking Addiction. I guarantee you’ll go back again and again!

Picture Book Review