July 10 – Don’t Step on a Bee Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bee-and-me-cover

About the Holiday

The bee population is in decline around the world due to habitat disruption and destruction, pesticide use, and colony collapse disorder. Bees (and other pollinators) are crucial to the world’s food supply. Today’s holiday is a reminder to protect bees and help preserve their habitats. By planting flowers and herbs that attract bees and providing safe nesting places for them, you can be part of the solution.

Bee & Me

By Alison Jay

 

As you open the cover of Alison Jay’s glorious, wordless Bee & Me, don’t be surprised if your heart skips a little faster when you find yourself in a city that’s familiar but also magical. From a high vantage point, you look down on a main thoroughfare where a café, a music store, a hat shop, an optometrist, a barber, and a shoe shop line the busy street; stylized cars, buses, and trucks pass by; and people—tiny from this distance—walk a dog, ride a unicycle, carry bags, and try to keep up with two running children. Elevated trains traverse their arched track and helicopters and planes dot the sky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bee-and-me-scattering-apartment

Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Turn the page and you’re looking into a four-story apartment house. On the first floor a woman does battle with a fly as her husband types at his green typewriter; on the third floor a boy tries to coax a pigeon to eat out of his hand; and in the fourth-floor apartment, a woman sits at her easel, painting. And what about the second floor? That’s where the story gets started.

A bee, attracted by flowered curtains, has just flown into a little girl’s window as she’s reading a book about flowers. The little buzzy guy flies right up to her face, causing her to toss the book aside and run away in fright. She procures her weapon and raises the fly swatter into position but reconsiders when she sees the bee’s scared face and little legs waving in his own defense. The girl decides to trap him under a drinking glass, but when the bee weakens and then faints, she reads up on bee culture and offers him a spoonful of sugar water, which he slurps up eagerly. The girl goes to the window and releases the bee under the interested gaze of the little boy upstairs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bee-and-me-scattering-rained-on

Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

That night a storm rages and the rain continues the next day. At her window, the girl finds the bee soaked through. She brings him in, feeds him another spoonful of sugar water, and then, while he sits on a playing die on her vanity, she dries him with her hairdryer and a toothbrush. Happy and fluffy, the bee decides to stay. He and the little girl become fast friends and begin doing everything together. They play checkers, dance, have tea parties, and go places with the bee riding in the girl’s doll carriage or bicycle basket. Nourished with cups of sugar water and popsicles, the bee begins to grow and grow, becoming as tall as the girl, and then taller. They play at the park on the slide and the swing, and the bee even learns how to ride the girl’s bike.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bee-and-me-scattering-seeds

Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But on a stroll downtown, the bee sees a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a florist’s window. He presses his face to the glass, and the little girl, noticing, buys him a flower. At home, the bee thinks of a meadow of flowers, and his sad face tells the little girl all she needs to know. She gets out a map and shows her friend where there’s open green space. The girl climbs on the bee’s back and they soar from the window, unseen by anyone except the little boy on the third floor.

They fly out of the city, over the river, and into farmland where they find a field of flowers. Carefully, they gather seeds in their bags and on the way back home scatter them across the city. The last seeds in the girl’s bag go into her new window box. Fall has come and the bee and the girl hug and then say goodbye as the bee flies away from her window.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bee-and-me-flying

Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

With winter, an invitation comes from the boy upstairs in the form of a yellow-and-brown striped scarf dangled out of his window, and the two build a snow bee outside their apartment building. In the spring, they walk together through the rain under a polka dot umbrella, and summer sees the seeds in the girl’s window box begin to sprout. In fact the whole city has begun to sprout, with colorful gardens blooming on rooftops, along the edges of sidewalks and streets, and in yards sprinkled here and there.

The purple, yellow, blue, pink, and white flowers attract butterflies and bees, and the people on the street stop now to enjoy the beauty around them. And the girl’s BeeFF? He, of course, comes back to visit and play.

A Bee Aware! Author’s Note about the importance of bees, the kinds of flower and herb plants that attract bees, and how to create and help bees find places to nest follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bee-and-me-scattering-blooming

Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

While following the story, which is played out with perfect pacing, humor, and sensitivity, readers can glimpse surprising, delightful, and funny details on every page that tell them more about the people who live in the little girl’s apartment house and the buildings nearby. Alison Jay cleverly uses these snippets of life to show the passage of time and the subplot of what is happening for the little boy who lives upstairs. The girl’s kindness and attention to the needs of the bee, whom she once feared, reminds readers of the benefits of education and opening your heart.

A superb story that encompasses awareness of nature, urban sprawl, the power of friendship, and the change one person can make on another and the world at large all wrapped in stunning art that invites multiple readings, Bee & Me is perfect for cuddly story times with little ones and impactful read alouds with older kids. The book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 8

Old Barn Books, Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763690106

You can learn more about Alison Jay and her books, and view a portfolio of her art on Children’sIllustrators.com

Don’t Step on a Bee Day Activity

CPB---Busy-Buzzy-Bee-Maze

Busy Buzzy Bee Maze

 

Can you help the little bee find her way through this printable Busy Buzzy Bee Maze? Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bee-and-me-cover

You can find Bee & Me at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 13 – World Kindness Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-walk-with-vanessa-cover

About the Holiday

Instituted in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement, a coalition of nations, World Kindness Day is an international celebration that encourages people around the world to be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude. To celebrate, people are asked to perform acts of kindness—big or small. Events include, the Big Hug, handing out Kindness Cards, and flash mobs showing and promoting kindness. The day spotlights good deeds—both individual and community—and focuses on “the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.” It doesn’t take cost anything to celebrate today with a simple “hi,” a smile, or an offer of help or support to someone in need. Don’t limit your care and concern to just one day, either. Promoters of the holiday hope that kindness becomes infectious, inspiring good relationships every day of the year.

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness

By Kerascoët

 

With smiles on their faces a family carries boxes from the moving van into their new home. The next morning the teacher introduces brown-skinned Vanessa to her new class, and she takes a seat in one of the two empty desks—the one separated from a straight-haired girl in a yellow dress by the other empty desk. During the lesson, Vanessa keeps her head down shyly as other kids raise their hands and answer questions. At recess, Vanessa sits alone on the bleachers while her classmates dribble basketballs, shoot baskets, and talk and laugh together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-walk-with-vanessa-first-day

Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

When the bell rings the kids pour out of the building, forming pairs and groups to walk home or play. Vanessa starts her route home by herself. At the crosswalk, a blond boy wearing a scowl approaches Vanessa and stops to talk. But he doesn’t offer friendly chit-chat. He sneers and taunts and points at her accusingly. Then with a huff, he turns and goes back the way he came.

The girl in the yellow dress has stopped with her friends by a tree. Instead of watching the squirrel scampering up the trunk, though, she sees and overhears the altercation between the boy and Vanessa. She looks as Vanessa stands a bit shell-shocked and then hurries across the road with tears in her eyes. Vanessa’s classmate is shocked too by what she’s seen. She feels sad and even sadder as Vanessa runs away and into her new home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-walk-with-vanessa-basketball

Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The girl returns to her friends and tells them what happened. They all react with surprise and sadness. All the way home, as her mom and dad cook dinner and her siblings watch TV, at bedtime and late into the night, the girl thinks about Vanessa. Vanessa has a sleepless night too.

In the morning, the girl gets dressed for school and heads to the table for breakfast. It’s while she’s drinking her orange juice that it hits her—what she can do. She grabs her lunch box and races out the door. She approaches a house and knocks on the door. Vanessa opens the door a crack and looks out. The little girl in her yellow dress talks to Vanessa and takes her hand. They walk down the sidewalk as other kids emerge from their own houses. A boy hails them and takes Vanessa’s other hand. Another boy joins the group and then a girl in pigtails. As more kids gather on the way to school, they come running to join Vanessa’s group.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-walk-with-vanessa-after-school

Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The boy from the day before looks on with surprise. Soon the small group has become a wave as kids from all classes join in, streaming around the boy and passing him by. His face reddens and he sulks as the wave, led by Vanessa and her new friend enter the school building. In class, Vanessa takes her seat while the straight-haired girl moves to the desk next to her.

Backmatter includes advice for children on what they can do to help someone who is being bullied and helpful vocabulary to use when sharing the book with children.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-walk-with-vanessa-bully

Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Kerascoët’s perfectly constructed wordless picture book powerfully demonstrates the feeling of being overlooked and ignored, the emotional toll of being bullied, and how an act of bullying affects even those not directly involved. There is so much right about the details in this book from the empty desk between Vanessa and her soon-to-be friend on her first day of school to the suspense of  what the girl in the yellow dress says to her friends after witnessing the bullying and their reaction to the facial expressions on all of the characters faces.

Kerascoët’s use of color sets the tone as the background illustrations of the classroom and neighborhood is washed in a pale blue, putting the spotlight on the diverse classmates in their colorful clothes. A compelling double-spread center image gives vent to Vanessa and her classmate’s feelings through a stormy night with roiling black clouds and a torrent of rain. The two girls are connected by their lighted widows—the only bright spots in the darkened neighborhood. Turn the page and that glow is shining into the window from the sunny day. The homes are now lemon colored, with Vanessa’s house a standout pink.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-walk-with-vanessa-vanessa-goes-home

Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

As the little girl talks to Vanessa and holds her hand, you will feel tears spring to your eyes, and the gathering children with their smiles and waves will swell your heart. In the sense of motion caused by the children rushing to join Vanessa’s group, the bully is now the one overlooked, and as the small groups become a crowd all walking in the same direction, the bully—facing the other way and at the bottom of the page—is far outnumbered. As the wave of kids enter school, the bully appears in the bottom corner, red faced and frowning. The possibility the empty desk poses at the beginning of the story is fulfilled when the girl in the yellow dress moves there to sit next to Vanessa.

The wordless quality of this book allows for readers to volunteer what they think is happening and what is being said. It also allows for deep discussions of similar experiences and can lead into an expanded lesson on kindness, empathy, and how to handle bullying.

I Walk with Vanessa is a moving portrait of how a simple act of friendship multiplies and changes lives and is a must for home, classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2018 | ISBN 978-1524769550

To learn more about the husband and wife team Kerascoët and their work, visit their website.

National Kindness Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-random-acts-of-kindness-cards-feb-2018 -2

Kindness Cards to Share

 

On World Kindness Day people are encouraged to give out Kindness Cards to friends, family, and especially those who look as if they need cheering up. Here are some printable cards for you to use!

Kindness Cards to Share

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-walk-with-vanessa-cover

You can find I Walk with Vanessa at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 27 – Just Because Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animals-hide-and-sneak-cover

About the Holiday

With a full calendar of days dedicated to specific topics, causes, holidays, animals, food, places, and emotions, someone thought it would be a good idea to leave one day up to you, and today is it! So if you have a special occasion; a favorite animal; a unique knick-knack; a best-loved book, poem, song, or art piece; or if you just want an excuse to throw a party, celebrate it today!

Animals Hide and Sneak

By Bastien Contraire

 

Just because things are grouped together, it doesn’t mean they’re the same! In his clever discovery books, Bastien Contraire takes advantage of people’s visual flexibility to offer a book full of puzzles that charm and surprise. In his newest book—a board book for little ones—he uses his striking tri-colored imagery to invite readers to really think about what they are seeing.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animals-hide-and-sneak-cows

Image copyright Bastien Contraire, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Once readers spot the look-alike, they’re enticed to consider the connection between it and the others on the two-page spreads. Opening to the second spread, eight horses of different sizes, mane length, and coloring face off on either side of the split. So, which one is different? Ah! There’s a little rocking horse among them! Children will love talking about what makes it the visitor to the ranch.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animals-hide-and-sneak-snakes

Image copyright Bastien Contraire, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

The pretty butterflies, with their yellow, violet, and brown markings and frilled wings almost hide the hibiscus flower in their midst. With its fancy petals and thin, center style it seems to fit right in. But isn’t there more of a connection? Young readers will happily tell you!  Turn the page and—Yikes!—you’ll find eight wiggly snakes all in a row. Wait a minute, though…one of the snakes is kind of stiff, and is that a buckle for a head? Those dots aren’t markings—they’re holes! And it’s not a snake at all—it’s a belt! So what’s the similarity? Kids and adults can take turns on that one.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animals-hide-and-sneak-big-movers

Image copyright Bastien Contraire, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Here’s one that’s clever and a pun! A bird crane, a construction crane, a flamingo, and a bird crane. So which one is really the odd-one-out? This one will give readers lots to discuss! Next up is a puzzle you can really sink your teeth into—a group of big cats and one walrus! Also included in the pages are heavy movers, farmyard fowl, dogs, barnyard animals, sheep, tropical birds, and some silly monkeys.

The answers to the puzzles are given in the back of the book.

Bastien Contraire’s stylish stencil prints are eye-catching and cheery. The range of images allows young readers to engage with the book in many different ways from categorizing to shape recognition to counting to logical thought and to just plain fun.

Animals Hide and Sneak is an amusing and entertaining book to enjoy at home “just whenever” and to pack along for playground visits, picnics, waiting times, or other outside adventures. 

Ages 1 – 4

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714874227

Learn more about Bastien Contraire and his work on his website!

Just Because Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frog-matching-puzzle

Hop Along Matching Game 

 

Just because they wanted to, these crazy frogs have gotten mixed up! Can you find the matching pairs in this Hop Along Matching Game?

Picture Book Review

October 1 – International Coffee Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-undercover-one-of-these-things-is-almost-like-the-others-cover

About the Holiday

Is there anything better than sitting down with a steaming cup of coffee for a little break during the day? Today’s holiday lets people all over the world do just that. Whether you like your coffee strong and hot, with lots of milk, or flavored with tastes of the season, there are versions of this delicious drink just for you. With an ancient and storied history, coffee is one food that unites us all. To celebrate why not grab a cup of joe for yourself, stir up a foamy hot chocolate for your kids, and sit down with a good book – like today’s brain teaser!

Undercover: One of These Things Is Almost Like the Others

By Bastien Contraire

 

Undercover agents complete successful missions by blending in with their surroundings and the people they encounter, but’s impossible for them to actually become the people they are investigating. In the same vein Undercover: One of These Things Is Almost Like the Others cleverly inserts a closely shaped item onto a two page spread that contains a family of objects (for instance a soccer ball among fruit).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-undercover-one-of-these-things-is-almost-like-the-others-beetles

Image copyright Bastien Contraire, courtesy of phaidon.com

The pink, green, and brown stenciled illustrations boldly placed on a white background offer stimulating visuals while also making the task of discovering the interloper surprisingly tricky as out perceptions and even preconceived notions are tested. Many of the match-ups provide not only a challenge but sly humor as well, riffing on the shapes, purpose, relationship, and even history of the items on the page. 

Picking out the imposter is only the beginning of the fun readers can have with Undercover. Each page can start a discussion of how the odd item is different and how it is similar to the others; the similar objects can be categorized into smaller sets; industrious kids may like to design their own pages giving the “almost” image some companions; and wordsmiths may want to invent stories involving the groupings and how they came to be.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-undercover-one-of-these-things-is-almost-like-the-others-ice-cream

Image copyright Bastien Contraire, courtesy of phaidon.com

Fans of “I Spy” types of books and games will love testing their knowledge and observational skills against the pod of whales, city modes of transportation, insects and fish, sea-worthy craft, various types of food, office equipment, and a host of birds and animals in this 64-page wordless picture book. Perfect for classrooms and home bookshelves, Undercover: One of These Things is Almost Like the Others is sure to be asked for again and again on any day when fun, quiet entertainment is just what’s called for.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-undercover-one-of-these-things-is-almost-like-the-others-dogs

Image copyright Bastien Contraire, courtesy of phaidon.com

Bastien Contraire’s stylized stencil-print illustrations of long-antennae beetles; flat and spiny fish; friendly dinos; ice cream treats; farm, forest and antlered animals; musical instruments; and more will delight kids and spur them to discover the names of each. The rounded edges, sleek lines, and delineated details of the images may even inspire budding artists to try their own hand at stenciling.

Ages 4 and up

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872506

International Coffee Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ceramic-mug-craft

Mug Masterpiece

 

Somehow drinks taste better in a mug you’ve decorated yourself! With this easy craft you can design a mug for your hot chocolate, tea, juice, or any favorite drink!

Supplies

  • Ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Paint included with mug decorating kit
  • OR
  • Bakeable ceramic markers
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Design and decorate your mug
  2. Follow the directions on the mug kit to bake on the paint OR
  3. Follow the directions of the ceramic markers to finish your mug

 

 

June 7 – It’s National Fishing and Boating Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fish-liam-francis-walsh

About the Holiday

National Fishing and Boating Week promotes the fun of getting out on the water and enjoying time in the sun. Whether you glide in a sailboat, zip around in a motorboat, or leisurely row a kayak, dingy, or other craft, the freedom of the open ocean or river is enticing. Fishing is also a wonderful way to spend time together outdoors. To celebrate this week go boating or learn a new skill, grab your fishing pole and cast your line, or do both together!

Fish

By Liam Francis Walsh

 

A boy with fishing poles and tackle box in hand and faithful dog at his heals pass a runner as they sprint toward a rowboat. The boy takes the oars and is soon off shore. The pair cast their lines overboard, and soon the little boy brings up an F. Another try snags an I. The boy happily aims his line in another direction, but his dog sees danger on the horizon—a rising C. He tries to warn the boy, but when they turn around again, the waters are calm.

This is one successful fishing trip as the boy’s line again grows taut. He pulls up his catch. A Q—not a keeper. He unhooks it and throws it back as his dog pokes at him in alarm. Again, when the boy looks, the water is peaceful. The two fish in contented silence until the boy catches a big one. The beast runs with the boy’s line, even pulling him out of the boat.

The boy holds his breath as he’s pulled into the depths amid swirling schools of H, B, M, O, and V. Not deterred from his quest, the boy swims toward an H, but it slips from his grasp. The boy tumbles and sinks, but eventually grabs the H and zooms to the surface. He cheers! They’ve caught an F, I, S, and H!

His dog points—something’s coming for them! Suddenly, they’re surrounded by a swarm of Bs and the sharp fins of As. The C swells, swamps the small dingy, and the F, I, S, H are lost in it’s wake. The boy stares dejectedly into the water, but his dog taps him on the back. He has a surprise to share. When the boy turns around, his dog reveals that he’s been a successful fisherman too!

With their quarry safely stowed, the boy rows back toward shore. He leaps out and darts through a group of disoriented road racers toward a sign that reads N I. No one it seems knows what to do. The boy offers his string of letters, and with the FINISH marker complete, the racers cross the line in victory!

With a well-barbed hook, Liam Francis Walsh reels in readers with his fabulous, funny fish story. Wordlessly, but with plenty of visual wordplay, Walsh tells the tale of a boy with a great idea and his eagle-eyed companion with emotion, action, and lots of heart. The bold blue, black, white, and red illustrations have an engaging quality—at once loaded with old-fashioned charm and modern sophistication. Fish is a wonderful addition to anyone’s bookshelf or coffee table. This is one catch you don’t want to let get away.

Ages 5 – 9

Roaring Brook Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1626723337

National Fishing and Boating Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tackle-the-tackle-box-game-cards

Tackle the Tackle Box Game

 

A good fisherman always needs a well-stocked tackle box. Play the Tackle the Tackle Box Game to earn lures, bobbers, hooks and more to fill your box. The first player to complete their set is the winner! for more fun you can color the tackle box items any way you like. There are even three extra cards per set for you to draw your own tackle box items!

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tackle-the-tackle-box-game

Directions

  1. Print one Tackle the Tackle Box Game Board for every player
  2. Print one set of Tackle the Tackle Box Game Cards for every player
  3. Each player can color a set of playing cards
  4. Cut the cards apart
  5. Gather all the cards and set in separate piles
  6. Roll the die to determine who goes first, highest roll goes first
  7. The first player rolls the die, and adds the item that corresponds to the number on the die. The list is below.
  8. Play continues with each player rolling the die and collecting cards
  9. If the player rolls a number for a card that he or she already has, the die passes to the next player
  10. The first player to fix their tackle box is the winner!

Each number of dots on the die corresponds to these cards:

1: Fish Lures

2: Hooks

3: Worms

4: Fishing Line

5: Flies

6: Bobbers

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review