September 24 – National Punctuation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-cover

About the Holiday

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Rubin, National Punctuation Day promotes the correct usage of all those little marks that make reading clearer and more meaningful. Do you ever wonder just how to use the ; and what’s the real difference between – and —? It can all get a little confusing. But misplaced or misused punctuation can result in some pretty funny mistakes—or some serious misinterpretations. Whether you love punctuation, would like to understand it better, or just use it to make emojis, today’s holiday will make you : – ). To find information on the day, resources for using punctuation correctly, and a fun contest to enter, visit Jeff Rubin’s National Punctuation Day website.

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar

Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by Mary Sullivan

 

Afraid you’ll never find a grammar guide that’s effective, hilarious, and that kids will want to read just for the fun of it? Your search is over! The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar is packed with rules on punctuation, contractions, possessives, capitalization, tricky homophones, and more all explained with laugh-out-loud example sentences and milk-snorting illustrations.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-periods

Written by Leslie Kimmelmon, 2021, text copyright Mary Sullivan, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Leslie Kimmelman introduces each type of grammar with sound and clear descriptions that will help children to understand what its purpose is and to recognize it when reading and writing on their own. She follows this up with sentences full of puns and macabre situations that will tickle kids’ funny bones. Mary Sullivan then does an outstanding job of reinforcing the lesson with her community of monsters, zombies, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and kids interacting in funny, spellbinding illustrations. Her typography calls out the particular punctuation mark or words of the lesson in red.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-exclamation-marks

Written by Leslie Kimmelmon, 2021, text copyright Mary Sullivan, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Here are two excerpts to show what I mean:

About Commas

“Commas are tricky. They have many jobs. Just like periods they can tell you when to pause, but they come in the middle of a sentence, not at the end. Commas can separate items in a list.”

Example sentences include these:

To demonstrate the series comma: A ghost standing in line at the school cafeteria complains about that day’s lunch offering: “Oh boo! Brains, guts, and blood again.”

To show the importance of correctly placed commas: “Vanessa Vampire loves cooking, her parents, and her baby sister. Uh-oh! Without commas, Vanessa’s family is in big trouble!” How big? Vanessa’s shown stirring up a boiling vat of family stew. The ingredients? “Vanessa Vampire loves cooking her parents and her baby sister.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-commas

Written by Leslie Kimmelmon, 2021, text copyright Mary Sullivan, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

About Contractions and Possessives

“Contractions are two words shortened and combined with an apostrophe to make one word. The apostrophe takes the place of a letter or two. / Possessives use apostrophes, too. But they have a different job to do. They show ownership. Where you put the apostrophe can make a big difference.”

Example sentences with accompanying illustrations include these:

A little green ghoul is sitting on his bed eating popcorn and surrounded by trash, bugs, and open bureau drawers: “Ghouls really gross bedroom. (The room belongs to just one ghoul.)” And the same room, now occupied by seven ghouls: “Ghouls really gross bedroom. (Many ghouls share this bedroom.)”

Featured contractions and possessives also show up in the discussions of tricky pairs and homophones, which include “It’s and Its,” “Who’s and Whose,” and “They’re, There, and Their” – a triple-threat that gets a two-page spread of a graveyard dance, where enthusiastic onlookers exclaim, “They’re doing the tombstone tango,” while two newcomers shout, “There they are!” and “Their tango is terrific!” The definitions of these three words read:  “They’re is a contraction meaning they are. / There means at that place. / Their is possessive, meaning it belongs to them.”

A short quiz at the end asks the reader to find the one sentence out of four that has no mistakes – a fun way for kids to show what they’ve learned.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-commas-2

Written by Leslie Kimmelmon, 2021, text copyright Mary Sullivan, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It’s hard to overstate how comprehensive, captivating, and educational The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar is for its target audience, whether the reader is an avid grammarian or struggles with the rules. Leslie Kimmelman knows how kids learn and what makes them laugh, and Mary Sullivan uses her cartoon-style art to create eye-popping spreads that will get kids lingering to catch all the ghastly details while they soak up the lesson. In addition the text and illustrations on each page can easily be used by teachers, homeschoolers, parents, and other educators as prompts for extended writing practice to reinforce the rules of grammar. The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534110953

You can find an Activity Guide for The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar on the Sleeping Bear Press Website here.

Discover more about Leslie Kimmelman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Sullivan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Punctuation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Punctuation-Word-Search

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search

 

Have fun finding the twelve types of punctuation in this printable puzzle!

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search Puzzle | Pick Out the Punctuation! Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-cover

You can find The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

December 2 – It’s Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-B-on-your-thumb-cover

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!

The B on Your Thumb: 60 Poems to Boost Reading and Spelling

Written by Colette Hiller | Illustrated by Tor Freeman

 

One of the joys of books for little ones is sitting with a parent, teacher, or other caregiver and listening to the story play out with wonder, silliness, sadness, and a whole world of feelings. Hearing the words and sentences, it all makes sense. But when kids start reading, start really looking at the words, well…all of those vowel combinations, silent letters, words that sound the same but look completely different, words that look completely different but sound the same… it can get confusing!

And that’s where Colette Hiller and Tor Freeman’s book of poetry comes in handy. Sixty poems covering the topics of spelling and pronunciation are broken out into four categories—Sounds, Silent Letters and Secrets, Spellings, and Words that Sound the Same—that make understanding the written English language easier and more fun to learn. With this ditty, Hiller welcomes kids in to this delightful book: “Some letters sound as they are meant to. / Other letters change. / They sometimes make surprising noises. / English can be strange!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-B-on-your-thumb-cheetah

Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

One of the first sounds a baby hears may be a gentle “sh.” Encountering this consonant combination on the page, though, can seem daunting. Ssss and Huh? Hiller gives a hand in pronouncing it though, with a little intro to the two letters on their own and then… “S and H go sh, / that is what they do. / The sh that’s in your shoulder, the sh that’s in your shoe.” She then goes on to add a few more lines with familiar “sh” words that will make kids “shout!”

With clever versus that will bring on many giggles and even more “Ah-ha” moments, Hiller and Freeman introduces kids to the sounds that vowel combinations “o-u,” “o-i,” “a-i,” “o-a,” “e-e,” and “o-o” make with a sad U that’s just struck “out,” and a cheering crowd that invites them to join in chanting “oggy, oggy, oggy, oi, oi,oi!” There’s also a train filled with rain, a goat in love with a toad, a treed cheetah, and of course the man in the moon.

Hiller doesn’t forget about those perfectly matched consonant couples either. She relates the story of how Q and U fell in love in a queue; goes shopping with Mrs. Owl for a new gown and crown; and takes on that “bossy E” who always takes over when together with A. There are many more poems about letter combinations in this section as well, and each one is loaded with examples of words that incorporate those letters.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-B-on-your-thumb-queue

Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

In the chapter Silent Letters and Secrets, Hiller engages readers in the finer arts of the silent B in “doubt” and “thumb.” In the book’s title poem, she says, “Look, there’s a B / right there on your thumb, / but of course you shouldn’t mind… / For the B that you see / right there on your thumb / is not the stinging kind!” Silent K gets two poems of its own and silent W comes knocking in two more poems. She investigates that mysterious “h” in where, what, why, and when as well as the equally mysterious pair “g-h” in words like night and sight. Kids will also enjoy finding hidden words lurking in longer words.

Now, reading may be one thing, but spelling? At times that seems like something all together different. In the chapter Spellings, Hiller teaches kids some tricks of the trade. In her poem “Magical E,”  “Magical E / has magical might. / See how she turns / a kit to a kite…. / Abracadabra: / a cap is a cape! / She hops on a tub. / Now the tub is a tube. / Abracadabra… / A dud is a dude!” Readers discover rhymes that make it easier to remember unusual spellings in words such as “separate, important, and rhyme as well as that old favorite “I before E except after C” that includes a twist.

Colette Hiller finishes up with Words that Sound the Same. In “Two, Too, and To,” she explains the difference in those three little words that often trip us up and gives tips on remembering them. “Witch” and “which,” “here” and “here,” “whole” and “hole,” and “whether” and “weather” are also treated to poems of their own. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-B-on-your-thumb-chimpanzees

Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

In each poem, the subject letters are called out in a bright color that allows kids to make the connection between the combinations of letters and how they contribute to the structure of a word visually and in sound. Following the poems, Hiller includes detailed tips and fun exercises and activities that adults and kids can do together to enhance learning from poem to poem and when reading classroom assignments and books and other materials at home.

Colette Hiller nimbly navigates the dual desires to teach and entertain with her jaunty rhymes that are ingenious, witty, and clear examples of how words sound and are pronounced. When shared with children reading along, the poems reinforce how each word looks with their sometimes-confusing mix of letters. When education is this humorous and joyful, kids will beg to read “just one more” which, of course, means better literacy, success in school, and opportunities in the future.

Accompanying each poem are Tor Freeman’s whimsical and hilarious illustrations of adorable letters interacting with people taking showers, fleeing from a wily cheetah, waiting in a queue, and even flying a car in outer space. There are also chimpanzees eating cheese sandwiches, a cat doing calisthenics, and an ant learning a lesson in importance. And, of course, there are letters, letters, letters rowing a boat, deigning to give audience to a princess, dining in a haunted castle, and cavorting from page to page and poem to poem.

A rousing collection of poems that kids will love on their own and as inspirational learning tools in language arts lessons, The B on Your Thumb is highly recommended for homeschoolers and home bookshelves and a must for classroom and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711254602

You can download a Teacher’s Guide with pre- and post-reading discussion questions, a writing activity and a word play activity on the Quarto Knows website.

Discover more about Colette Hiller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tor Freeman, her books, and her art on her website.

National Read a New Book Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reading-bug-book-plate

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Collection

 

When you buy a new book, you need new book bling to go with it! Here’s a printable book plate and bookmark, plus a want-to-read list to help you choose your next new book to buy! 

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Read List | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-B-on-your-thumb-cover

You can find The B on Your Thumb at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 9 – National Book Lover’s Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-cover

About the Holiday

Simply stated this is a day when those who love to read can indulge their passion. With so many amazing books available—both new and old—no one could fault you if you call in sick and spend the day reading!

Ralph Tells a Story

By Abby Hanlon

 

“‘Stories are everywhere!’” Ralph’s teacher sang to her class, but Ralph wasn’t so sure. He didn’t see stories anywhere. It seemed the other kids could make up stories from everything that happened to them, and Ralph’s teacher loved these stories. But when it came time to write, Ralph just stared at his paper or at the ceiling; he could never think of anything. He tried distractions like going to the bathroom or the water fountain, but it didn’t work.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-thinking

Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of abbyhanlon.com.

One day Ralph asked his friend Daisy for help. She was surprised that Ralph couldn’t write a story because she had written a bunch about him. One was about the time she combed his hair and another was about when he painted his fingernails black with a marker. In fact she was just stapling all these stories together into a book. Ralph wanted to use the stapler too, but Daisy said he needed a story first.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-classroom

Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of Two Lions.

So Ralph “looked for stories out the window, in the aquarium, in [his] desk…and even on the floor.” Lying on the floor reminded Ralph of a time at the park when an inchworm crawled on his knee. Just then his teacher saw him and asked what his story was about. Ralph said the first thing he thought: “Um…um…I saw an inchworm.” His teacher thought that sounded marvelous. But really, Ralph thought, there was no story to tell.

And when Ralph sat down to write it, he immediately got stuck. He asked Daisy to help, but she was too busy writing her own story. Suddenly, the teacher called everyone up to the rug, and she picked Ralph to read his story first. Ralph got up and, clutching his paper to his chest, said, “‘I was at the park and an inchworm crawled on my knee.’” He looked out at the quiet faces gazing up at him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-on-floor

Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of abbyhanlon.com.

Ralph looked at Daisy. She said, “‘Wow! Really? Did it feel squishy, Ralphie? Did you take it home?’” Then everyone started asking questions, and Ralph remembered that something had happened with the inchworm. He began to tell about the day. He had picked up the inchworm and named him Nick. He had “built Nick a house but he just inched away.” Ralph followed Nick and never noticed the baby following him until the baby picked up Nick and put him in his diaper.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-incheworm-story

Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Ralph asked the baby to give Nick back, but he didn’t. Then Ralph saw Nick escaping from the diaper by crawling up the baby’s belly. He grabbed Nick and ran, and they spent the day playing together. At the end “everybody clapped and cheered” and they wanted to see Ralph’s picture.

Now Ralph is a great writer. He’s written one hundred funny stories and has even drawn covers for some of his favorites. Do you need help writing? Take a few tips from Ralph! 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-story-rug

Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of abbyhanlon.com.

Abby Hanlon’s story of a would-be storyteller with writer’s block is as cute as they come. Ralph’s angst at not finding the stories that his classmates seem to pop out so easily will be recognized by anyone who is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to their endeavors. With gentle humor, Hanlon shows readers that putting oneself out there often turns out okay. Ralph’s inchworm story will keep kids riveted to and giggling over Nick’s fate. Through Daisy, Hanlon also reveals how a good friend can help encourage the kinds of self-confidence that lead to success. Ralph’s writing tips are lighthearted and helpful in getting kids to relax, appreciate their own real-life stories, and open their imaginations.

Hanlon’s soft-hued illustrations of a group of adorable, rakish kids draw readers in to Ralph’s creative classroom. Once there, children will want to linger over all the details included. Comics-style dialog bubbles hold humorous asides as well as Ralph’s developing inchworm story. The titles of Ralph’s many stories many inspire kids to make up tales to go with them.

Ralph Tells a Story would be a fantastic classroom book to share during a story-writing unit and a fun addition to home bookshelves for anyone who needs a little encouragement or who loves a funny story.

Ages 5 – 8

Two Lions, 2012 | ISBN 978-0761461807

National Book Lovers Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bookworm-bookmark

Bookworm Bookmark

 

If you love books then you will love this printable Bookworm Bookmark! Just print it out, give it some color, and cut a slit at the mouth. This little worm will happily save your page for you!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-cover

You can find Ralph Tells a Story at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 24 – National Punctuation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-punctuation-came-to-town-cover

About the Holiday

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Rubin, National Punctuation Day promotes the correct usage of all those little marks that make reading clearer and more meaningful. Do you ever wonder just how to use the ; and what’s the real difference between – and —? It can all get a little confusing. But misplaced or misused punctuation can result in some pretty funny mistakes—or some serious misinterpretations. Whether you love punctuation, would like to understand it better, or just use it to make emojis, today’s holiday will make you : – ). To find information on the day, resources for using punctuation correctly, and a fun contest to enter, visit Jeff Rubin’s National Punctuation Day website.

The Day Punctuation Came to Town

Written by Kimberlee Gard | Illustrated by Sandie Sonke

 

The Punctuations had just moved to Alphabet City and the kids—Exclamation Point, Question Mark, Period, and Comma—were excited about their first day of school. Exclamation Point was in a rush to get there. “‘We are going to have so much fun!’” he said. He “was always excited about something.” Question Mark was a little more subdued. She wondered if the other kids would be nice and even pondered whether they were walking in the right direction. “Comma kept pausing,” and Period said she would let her siblings know when to stop.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-punctuation-came-to-town-alphabet-city

Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

When they got to school and introduced themselves, the student letters were confused. They’d never seen anyone like the Punctuations before. As the letters practiced forming words, Exclamation Point joined W, O, and W; Question Mark helped out W, H, and O; and “Period brought each sentence to a tidy end.” For Comma, though, it wasn’t so easy. As he tried to squeeze in between letters, he began to feel as if he was just a bother. Undetected, he tiptoed away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-punctuation-came-to-town-classroom

Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Meanwhile in the classroom, Exclamation Point had all the letters scrambling to make more and more exciting words. There was a lot of cheering and booming, ducking, and running. Question Mark asked if maybe they shouldn’t all quiet down a bit, but no one was listening. Even Period couldn’t get them to stop. Pretty soon, there was a huge word pileup. In the next moment it came crashing down and all the letters “tumbled through the door, spilling into the hall.” There, they found Comma, who just stared in disbelief. His siblings wondered why he was in the hall instead of in the classroom. Comma told them how he felt. But, “‘Comma, without you, things become a disaster!’” Exclamation Point said. Period and Question Mark agreed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-punctuation-came-to-town-roles

Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Then his siblings gently reminded little Comma about how each member of their family has a certain purpose. They told him, “‘we all work together to help letters and the words they make.’” Once everyone had gone back into the classroom, the letters continued making words. But now Comma took his place between them. When the letters looked confused, he explained that it was his job to keep order and that words and punctuation needed each other to make good and clear sentences.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-punctuation-came-to-town-hallway

Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

For children just learning about sentence structure and how punctuation and words fit together to create meaning, Kimberlee Gard’s lively story helps them visualize and understand the different roles of each punctuation mark. Coming at the end of a sentence and accompanied by vocal clues, exclamation points, question marks, and periods are more familiar to kids. But what about that comma, which seems to float around here and there? Gard demonstrates that without the break commas provide, words run amok, becoming jumbled, unwieldy, and confusing. Readers will respond to the classroom setting, where the letters work and play together during lessons, and they will be eager to make friends with the Punctuation family themselves.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-punctuation-came-to-town-yes-please

If any readers think learning about punctuation is dry and dull, Sandie Sonke’s vibrant colors and cartoon characters will change their mind. The Punctuations (and their butterfly friend Apostrophy) are sweet and earnest, wanting to fit into the class and make a difference. As the letters form words, the purple Punctuations are easy for kids to pick out, allowing for discussion of their distinct roles. The tangled piles of letters invite kids to make words from the muddle. After Comma realizes his own importance and the letters embrace him, the story ends with a familiar and funny example of just how a well-placed comma can change the meaning of a sentence.

An entertaining and joyful accompaniment to grammar lessons to get kids excited about learning, The Day Punctuation Came to Town would be a rousing addition to classroom, homeschool, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701457

Discover more about Kimberlee Gard and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sandie Sonke, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Punctuation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Punctuation-Word-Search

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search

 

Have fun finding the twelve types of punctuation in this printable puzzle!

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search Puzzle | Pick Out the Punctuation! Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-punctuation-came-to-town-cover

You can find The Day Punctuation Came to Town at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 8 – It’s Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-are-the-words-cover

About the Holiday

This week was established to raise awareness and promote literacy and the joys and benefits of reading. During the week, children’s authors and illustrators attend special events at schools, bookstores, libraries, and other community centers to share their books and get kids excited about reading. To learn more about how you can instill a lifelong love of learning, visit ChildrensAuthorsNetwork!

Where Are the Words?

Written by Jodi McKay | Illustrated by Denise Holmes

 

A little purple period feels like writing a story. He goes to visit Pencil and Paper and tells them his plan. They want to help, but Pencil says, “We are at a loss for words.” So the three set off to find some. Question Mark sees Period searching here and there and asks what he’s doing. When he finds out about Period’s plan, Question Mark has, well… lots of questions and joins the hunt.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-are-the-words-story

Image copyright Denise Holmes, 2016, text copyright Jodi McKay. Courtesy of Albert Whitman and Company.

Exclamation Point is excited to learn about the story writing idea and is eager to help. “What do you know about words?” Question Mark wonders. “Lots!” Exclamation Point answers as he heads off the page. “Let me get them for you!” While Exclamation Point is gone, Question Mark and Period meet up with Quotation Marks, who have sage advice for these two. “‘Seek and ye shall find,’” they offer. Just then Exclamation Point comes back with an armload of words: Once, Upon, A, and Time. Just as he’s about to pass them over, though, he trips and the words scatter in a jumble of letters. Undeterred, Exclamation Point hurries off to get more words.

Then Parentheses meanders by. Question Mark thinks maybe they know where words hang out. “I might,” one says, raising everyone’s hopes. But then she adds, “(although I doubt it).” Period is disappointed and even a little miffed when he sees Exclamation Point rushing around waving a net. But Exclamation Point’s just trying to corral some rather active words who would rather “run, jump, skip, hop” freely. Colon offers aid as long as there are peanuts, but Period thinks the whole thing is getting out of hand.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-are-the-words-disappointed

Image copyright Denise Holmes, 2016, text copyright Jodi McKay. Courtesy of Albert Whitman and Company.

In fact, Period decides to quit. But not so fast! Exclamation Point has something to show everyone. “Look!” Exclamation Point says, and they all gaze upward to find all the words they’ve said hanging in the air. “They were here all along,” Period says. Now Period has everything to write a story—except an idea. Exclamation Point suggests they all write the story together.

And so each one contributes a little bit to the story while Pencil writes it all down on Paper. Their own hunt for words and a little imagination inspires them to write a story that they all think is… “Wonderful?” offers Question Mark. “Incredible!” says Exclamation Point.  But Parentheses thinks something is missing. What is it? Pictures! But where will they find them? Everyone agrees when Period says, “Pencil could draw us the perfect pictures.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-are-the-words-write-together

Image copyright Denise Holmes, 2016, text copyright Jodi McKay. Courtesy of Albert Whitman and Company.

Jodi McKay’s adorable set of punctuation marks take kids on a whirlwind ride to find words that Period can use to write a story. As each punctuation mark joins the search, McKay gives them personalities and conversation to match their grammatical uses. Readers will giggle at the mishaps and setbacks that beset Period’s creative process but empathize with him as his dream of writing a story seems to slip away. When the friends discover that the words they’re searching for are right at hand, children will see that they too have the words they need to express themselves creatively and even in social situations.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-are-the-words-period

Punctuation has never been so cute! With their sweet smiles and expressive stick arms and legs, Denise Holmes’s colorful, ready-to-help punctuation marks, pencil, and paper are true friends as they take on Period’s wish and make it their own. Dialogue bubbles make it easy for kids to understand how the various punctuation marks are used in a sentence, and dynamic typography sprinkled throughout the pages show action and add to the humor. Readers will also have fun guessing why Colon is so fond of peanuts in a clever running joke.

A charming way for children to engage with writing and punctuation, Where Are the Words is a grammatical mystery that would make its mark on home, classroom, and library bookshelves for fun story times and composition lessons.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman and Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0807587331

Discover more about Jodi McKay and her books on her website.

To learn more about Denise Holmes, her books, and her art, visit her website

Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pick-out-the-punctuation-word-search

Pick Out the Punctuation Word Search

 

Can you find the twelve types of punctuation in this printable puzzle?

Pick Out the Punctuation Word Search | Pick Out the Punctuation Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-are-the-words-cover

You can find Where Are the Words? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 18 – National Thesaurus Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that most marvelous, stupendous, spectacular, cool, awe-inspiring, remarkableand—one from my early youth—groovy book, the thesaurus! Without its incredible cross-referenced lists of synonyms and antonyms, the world would be much more boring, dull, lackluster, monotonous place. Today, spice up your speech and writing with the perfect word to express all the nuances of life!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

While just a young child, Peter, along with his mother, his uncle, and his baby sister Annette, travel to their new home following the death of his father. It would not be his first move, and in the absence of long-time friends, Peter found companionship in books. When he was eight years old, he began writing his own book titled: Peter, Mark, Roget. His Book. But this was not a book of stories or even one story; it was a book of lists. The first list was divided in two. On one side were the Latin words he knew; on the other were their definitions.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-peter-starts-his-book

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Peter’s mother hovered and worried over her son, and he always told her he was “fine.” “Although, to be honest, Peter thought, fine wasn’t quite the right word.” As the years went by, Peter added lists to his book, prompting his mother to complain about his constant “scribbling.” But Peter looked at his lists differently. “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them in long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.”

As a teenager Peter was shy, preferring to wander the London gardens alone, “making lists of all the plants and insects,” as in one of his favorite science books by Linnaeus. His “mother didn’t approve, and Peter told her not to worry—but “perhaps worry wasn’t quite the right word. What was the right word? Peter began a new list: Worry, fret, grieve, despair, intrude, badger, annoy, plague, provoke, harass. Enough to drive one mad. How wonderful it felt to find just the right word.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-fine

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

An idea crept into Peter’s mind for a book where “all the ideas in the world could be found in one place,” and people could “find the best word, the one that really fit.” When Peter was 14 he entered medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon graduation at 19, his uncle told him that patients would be wary of a doctor so young. To gain a bit of experience and maturity, Peter became a tutor to two teenage boys.

At last Peter set up his medical practice in Manchester, England, where he took care of the factory workers, who “were poor and often sick.” At night Peter worked on his book of lists, and in 1805 he declared it finished. “It had about one hundred pages, one thousand ideas, and listed more than fifteen thousand words!” Eventually, Peter moved back to London where he joined science societies and attended lectures. “Before long, he was asked to give lectures too,” and once-shy Peter astonished his audiences with his knowledge of math, magnetism, and other scientific subjects. He even invented a portable chess set.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-mother-worries

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

When Peter was 45 years old, he married Mary Hobson, and they had two children, Kate and John. As he grew older, he visited fewer patients, but he continued to take walks and work on his lists. While some other writers had published their own word lists to help people “to speak and to write more politely,” Kate and John “thought their father’s book was much better. Peter agreed.” For three years he rewrote his book. “He made it larger, more organized, and easier to use. Long ago Peter had discovered the power of words. Now he believed that everyone should have this power—everyone should be able to find the right word whenever they needed it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-lecturing

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

“In 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus, a word that means ‘treasure house’ in Greek.” It was an instant best seller, and Peter became a popular author. But he never stopped making lists.

Following the text, a timeline of principal events in Peter’s life as well as world events allow readers to better understand the historical period in which Peter worked. Extensive Author’s and Illustrator’ Notes also expand on Roget’s biography, and resources for further reading and research are included.

Jen Bryant’s biography of a brilliant boy who grew up to give the world its most fascinating and comprehensive collection of word lists, is a spritely telling of Roget’s life and revelation into his personality, which was perfectly suited to his scientific and written accomplishments. Children will appreciate Roget’s reactions to his mother’s worries as well as the message in his well-rounded pursuit of science and writing. Through Bryant’s captivating and lyrical storytelling, children will be inspired by Roget’s journey from shy child to much-accomplished adult.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-at-home

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet beguiles readers with her mixed media, collage, and watercolor illustrations that are as jam-packed with ideas, images, portraits, and typography as Roget’s thesaurus is full of words. In the early pages describing Peter’s childhood, the pages contain simple framed pictures of Roget and his family. As he grows, however, his lists of words are transformed into vibrant artwork that jostles for position from corner to corner of the pages. In the midst of these, delicate watercolors portray Peter as he strolls through a garden, takes his young charges to Paris, treats his patients, lectures, marries, and finally publishes his thesaurus. A special mention must be made of the typography, which at times in the text runs down the center of the page in one- or two-word lines, mirroring Roget’s love of lists, and in the illustrations presents the myriad synonyms in a mixture of colorful block letters, fine print, and calligraphy.

For bibliophiles, wordsmiths, scientists, and history buffs, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is just the right book for home libraries.

Ages 6 – 18

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0802853851

Discover more about Jen Bryant and her books as well as news, contests, and events, visit her website!

Learn more about Melissa Sweet and her books and have fun with the downloadable activities you’ll find on her website!

Watch this The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus book trailer!

Thesaurus Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-synonyms-word-search

Word Words Word Search Puzzle

 

When you’re looking for just the right word, where do you go? To the thesaurus of course! Can you find the 25 synonyms for “Word” in this printable Word Words Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-cover

You can find The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 16 – Dictionary Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lexie-the-word-wrangler-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the birthday of Noah Webster who published his first dictionary—A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language—in 1806 and went on to create the first truly comprehensive American dictionary in 1828. Along the way in completing his life’s work, he learned twenty-six languages, reformed the spelling of many words from the British form to an American spelling, and introduced new American words never before published. To commemorate the holiday, take a little trip through the dictionary or play a word-based game like Scrabble, Boggle, or Balderdash. If you’re interested in lexicography—the making of a dictionary—or just love words, you’ll find Webster’s 1828 Dictionary fascinating reading!

Lexie the Word Wrangler

Written by Rebecca Van Slyke | Illustrated by Jessie Hartland

 

With just one look at Lexie in her cowboy hat, boots, and bandana, or a peek at her talent for riding a horse, twirling a lariat, and rounding up cattle, you could tell she was a wrangler. But Lexie was no ordinary wrangler; she was a “word wrangler.” With her lariat she could rope together separate words and make entirely new stuff. She could tie up “an ear of corn and a loaf of bread and make some tasty cornbread.” A “stick of butter and a pesky fly” became a “butterfly.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lexie-the-word-wrangler-lariat

Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

In the spring, Lexie tended little letters until they grew into big words. She could also be found in the chuck wagon each morning stirring up big pots of new words from old ingredients. In the blink of an eye, she could transform “an annoying P-E-S-T…into some fine P-E-T-S. And that “S-P-O-T?” With a swirl of the spoon, it became a handy “P-O-S-T.”

Since there were so many words roaming around her ranch, Lexie herded them into sentences, long letters home to Ma, and even fascinating stories. But one day Lexie noticed that something was wrong. When she went to put on her bandana, the d was missing, and tying the banana was impossible. The problem didn’t just involve missing letters, either. Words were disappearing too, creating some pretty strange results. Once after a storm, a big red bow appeared in the sky instead of a rainbow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lexie-the-word-wrangler-cornbread

Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

Lexie’s work around the ranch became harder too. Once day, instead of rounding up a neighbor’s calves, she discovered that someone had “released a whole passel of baby g’s into the calf pen” and now “all the little dogies” were “doggies.” Later, when Lexie rolled out her sleeping bag, she discovered that the usually S-T-A-R – speckled sky was full of  “R-A-T-S.”

Lexie realized there was a word rustler on the loose and set out to find him. She headed into the desert, but discovered that the sandy ground had turned into a messy, gooey dessert. After cleaning out her horse’s hooves, she was more determined than ever to find the culprit. She climbed a tall tree and kept a lookout for the word rustler. Soon enough she spied him sneaking toward her front gate and the sign that announced Lexie’s Longhorn Ranch. He was just about to lasso the word “long” when Lexie lassoed him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lexie-the-word-wrangler-herd-cattle

Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

The word rustler protested that he was just having a bit of fun, but Lexie didn’t like the idea of being left with a corral full of horns. All he wanted, Russell admitted, was to work with words like Lexie did. Lexie could see that Russell had talent, so she made him promise to use his skills in a positive way. Then she released him and told him from now on he would be known as “Russell the Word Wrestler.”

Now Russell works alongside Lexie doing jobs like keeping the place free of rattlesnakes by wrestling them into “a baby’s rattle and a harmless snake.” Lexie and Russell are happy to raise baby letters, help words grow, and even teach young cowpokes how to rope and tie words together, so they can join the word-wrangling circuit in the future themselves.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lexie-the-word-wrangler-herd-sagebrush

Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

If Lexie got her lariat around Rebecca Van Slyke’s name and separated the S-L-Y from the K-E, she’d have the perfect description for this nifty story. Deconstructing words can be a fascinating way to get kids interacting with and researching words and spelling as they really think about what they are reading. Van Slyke’s ranch setting serves up an ingenious metaphor for the word wrangling that students are doing at this stage of their education. Her quick wit and smart word choices provide plenty of “ah-ha!” moments, laughs, and opportunities for visual humor. The introduction of Russell allows Van Slyke to increase her stable of puns, which will delight readers.

Jessie Hartland’s vibrant, folk-style illustrations are a rip-roaring accompaniment to the story, providing visual clues and humor as words change due to missing or jumbled letters. Kids will laugh when one of Lexie’s bandanas turns into bananas and may shudder to think how easy it might be for rats to fill the night sky instead of stars. Hartland’s cleverly designed typography lets readers easily see how small words grow into bigger new ones with the addition of one, two, three, or more letters. Likewise, as “wild” words are tamed into a sentence, young writers can begin to understand the mechanics of grammar.

A Dictionary of Wrangler Words follows the text.

Lexie the Word Wrangler is an entertaining and educational choice for kids who love words, puns, and the West. It would be a welcome gift and imaginative addition to home libraries. The book would also be an inspiring starter for writing, spelling, and other language arts units.

Ages 5 – 8

Nancy Paulson Books, 2017 |ISBN 978-0399169571

To learn more about Rebecca Van Slyke, visit her website.

View a gallery of illustration work by Jessie Harland on her website.

Dictionary Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-word-pair-word-search

What a Difference a Letter Makes Word Search Puzzle

 

Each of the word pairs in this puzzle are close in spelling but not in meaning. Take a look and find the twenty words in this printable What a Difference a Letter Makes Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review