December 7 – It’s Computer Science Education Week

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About the Holiday

Computer Science Education Week was launched in 2009 to raise awareness of the importance of computer coding in all careers and to invite people to learn how to code. Students from kindergarten to grade 12 are especially encouraged to take an interest in computer science and learn coding skills and also to take part in Hour of Code programs at school and elsewhere. The holiday is celebrated in December to honor computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who was born December 9, 1906 and went on to become a United States Navy rear admiral. Her work with machine-independent programming languages led to the development of COBOL, and she was instrumental in many other early computer-related advancements. To celebrate this week, check out the Computer Science Education Week website and Hour of Code and try coding for yourself!

Doll-E 1.0

By Shanda McCloskey

 

“Charlotte’s head was always in the cloud.” She knew everything about computers and was plugged in to the (virtual) realities of each day. One day her mother bought her a present. Charlotte wondered at what kind of electronic marvel might lie underneath the wrapping. When the robotic arm she’d build untied the bow and tore off the paper, Charlotte gazed at the cloth doll in the little stroller uncertainly.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

She wasn’t sure how to play with it; where was the instruction manual? Charlotte took the doll to her lab and tried to engage it in her favorite video game and to get it to dance under the revolving disco ball, but the doll just sat on the floor and stared at her. Suddenly, the doll said “Ma-ma.” Charlotte didn’t think she was Mama material, but then she had a thought: “If the doll could talk, then it must have a power supply.”

Sure enough when she opened the back, she found two batteries. This was more like it! Since the doll’s only word seemed to be “Ma-ma,” Charlotte ran an update on it to increase its vocabulary. But before she could finish, her dog grabbed the doll by the leg and ran off with it. Before Charlotte could stop him, Blutooth had ripped the doll apart.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Charlotte collected the doll’s arms, legs, and head, gathered some more supplies, and went to work in her lab. “With a few spare parts and a bit of code, Charlotte changed the doll.” It looked at Charlotte with its bright eyes and smile and said, “H-e-l-l-o m-y n-a-m-e i-s D-o-l-l-E 1.0.” “And the doll changed Charlotte too.” Charlotte loved Doll-E. She read to it, and played with it, and took it outside, where its fast stroller and new remote-controlled robotic arms were perfect for walking Blutooth.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Shanda McCloskey wonderfully inventive doll story for a new generation will delight children and remind adults that while toys may change, the feelings associated with them never do. Sprinkled with puns and led off with a just-right first line, McCloskey’s smart story shines. Charlotte shows heart and intelligence as she embraces her new doll and makes it a reflection of her own life—just as children have always done with their toys. Charlotte, as a computer whiz, makes a captivating role model for kids, especially girls who code or would like to.

There’s so much to admire in McKloskey’s illustrations, from Charlotte’s dedicated work space/lab outfitted with hand tools, spare parts, and craft supplies to her sweet determination to understand her new, simple doll. Clever details, such as a light bulb hanging over Charlotte’s head when she gets a brilliant idea and a Frankenstein-esque scene as Charlotte repairs her doll add depth and fun to the story’s theme.

A spirited story, Doll-E 1.0 clicks all the buttons as a must for home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0316510318

Discover more about Shanda McCloskey, her books, and her art on her website.

Computer Science Education Week Activity

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Trendy Trending Word Search Puzzle

 

The Internet has added many new words to our language as well as redefining old ones. Search for twenty-two Internet-based words in this printable word search puzzle.

 Trendy Trending Word Search Puzzle | Trendy Trending Word Search Solution!

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You can find Doll-E 1.0 at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

December 6 – Mitten Tree Day

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About the Holiday

The feel of a cozy mitten on freezing fingers is one of the luxuries of wintertime. But where did mittens come from? You might be surprised to discover that the word “mitten” comes from the French word mitaine, which was an old nickname for a cat, because early mittens were typically made of animal fur. The earliest mittens, dating to around 1000 AD, were used as sheaths for gloves, adding extra protection for cold hands. Today, I’m pleased to review the book in which Mitten Tree Day is said to have its origins! Originally published in 1997, the story has endured and continues to spark programs in schools, libraries, and communities around the country.

The Mitten Tree

Written by Candace Christiansen | Illustrated by Elaine Greenstein

 

In a small house at the end of a lane Sarah lives all alone. Her own children have grown and moved away, but as she watches the kids gather at the blue spruce tree to wait for the school bus she remembers all the years that she walked her son and daughter to this same spot. As she makes her way down the lane to her mailbox, she wishes the children will wave and smile, but they never seem to notice her. Still, it makes Sarah smile to see them.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

One winter morning Sarah notices all the kids throwing snowballs and making snowmen—all except one little boy dressed all in blue who lacks the mittens needed to join his friends. All day Sarah worries about the boy with no mittens. As the sun goes down Sarah digs “through the basket of yarn scraps she had saved for many years.” She finds her needles and four shades of blue wool. Then Sarah begins to knit.

With the rising sun Sarah hurries to the bus stop and hangs the new blue mittens on the spruce tree. Then she hides behind a hedge to watch. The little boy in blue is the first to arrive at the bus stop. When he sees the mittens hanging there, he tries them on and finds that they fit perfectly. With a big smile he makes “a perfect snowball” and throws “it high into the winter sky.” Soon Sarah sees a little girl with mismatched mittens. That night she finds the perfect color of wool and knits a pair to match the girl’s red coat.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Every morning Sarah watches the children, looking for any who have no mittens. During the day her needles are busy making gifts for these children. The next morning before anyone else is up she rushes to the spruce tree and adorns it with the mittens she has knitted. The children have warmed to the “game,” and each day search “under every branch and bough for another pair of mittens.” Once or twice Sarah thinks the boy with her blue mittens sees her, but his eyes don’t linger.

On the day before the school’s winter break Sarah fills her knitting basket with the latest mittens she’s knit. She heads out the door and down the lane. When she reaches the blue spruce, she hangs “mittens on every branch.” When the children arrive, they stand “very still for a few minutes looking at the mysterious, beautiful mitten tree.” As they board the bus, each child is wearing a new pair of mittens. Sarah sees them appear one by one in the bus windows, but none see Sarah.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Sarah goes home feeling happy and with her heart as full as it was “when the sounds of her own children had filled her house.” But what awaits Sarah? As she climbs the stairs to her porch, she notices a “basket woven with thick brown vines and decorated with a large white bow.” She’s surprised to see that it is filled to the brim with balls of colorful yarn. Even today Sarah knits new mittens for all the children in town, and “every time her basket is empty, a new full one appears.” Sarah doesn’t know who brings the basket, just as the children don’t know who supplies the mittens. “But someone must….”

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Candace Christiansen’s heartwarming story of kindness given and reciprocated will inspire kids to see that anyone can make a difference in the lives of others by using their talents to fill a need. This gentle, quiet tale offers suspense that will pique readers’ curiosity from page to page, and the mystery surrounding the never-empty basket of wool provides a satisfying and moving ending that also reassures kids that deeds of thoughtfulness and compassion are noticed. The grandmotherly Sarah and familiar school bus stop setting and winter activities will resonate with readers.

Elaine Greenstein’s softly colored, folk-style illustrations give the story a cozy feeling—perfect for cold-weather reading, The variety of intricately knitted mittens, with their hearts, stripes, snowflakes and cables, are charming, and the enchanting image of the blue spruce decorated with mittens makes it easy to see how The Mitten Tree continues to inspire so many acts of kindness and charity.

Ages 3 – 7

Fulcrum Publishing, 2009 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1555917333

Mitten Tree Day Activity

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Mitten Match & Coloring Page

 

Mittens often get lost or mismatched in the fun of winter activities. Find the pairs in this printable Mitten Match & Coloring Page and then decorate them!

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You can find The Mitten Tree at these booksellers

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

Celebrate Picture Books

December 5 – International Ninja Day

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About the Holiday

International Ninja Day may have started out as an marketing idea by Ninja Burger in 2003, but the day has grown to embrace all manner of Ninja fun. If you love the stealthy cunning of these masters of martial arts warfare, then today’s for you! To celebrate, watch a favorite ninja movie or TV show, put a bit of charity into the day and perform an act of kindness while remaining “invisible,” or share a great book about ninjas with your kids. Here’s a terrific one to enjoy all year round!

The Secrets of Ninja School

By Deb Pilutti

 

Ruby, a little red-haired girl, is excited to be attending Master Willow’s School for Ninjas. The school, located in a huge house on the outskirts of town, is open only one weekend each summer. Master Willow called his students “‘saplings,’” and each child attended his school eager to learn how to appear invisible, jump skillfully, show patience, and be brave. “But most of all, they came to Master Willow’s School for Ninjas to discover their very own secret skill.”

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

While the other saplings learned quickly, Ruby could not get the hang of sneaking invisibly, jumping with skill, being patient, or feeling brave. Most disappointing, Ruby could not discover her own secret skill. She went to see Master Willow, who told her that through practice she would improve and find her skill. Ruby did practice and did improve, but her special skill still eluded her.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

At bedtime, Ruby felt homesick. The other kids told her that saplings did not miss home, but, still, she told them how her father read stories to her when she couldn’t sleep, how her mother lit a nightlight and kissed her nose when she was afraid of the dark, and that her grandmother would bring out her craft box and “they would spend hours making the most magnificent creations” when she was worried.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Not a sound broke the silence. But then Ruby heard “a sniff and a gasp and a wail. Before she knew it all the other saplings were crying.” Ruby knew just what to do. She “sneaked down the hallway” invisibly, jumped over the cat with skill, and “snipped and stitched and stuffed” patiently. She even bravely explained why she was out of bed when Master Willow caught her.

Back in the dormitory, Ruby turned on a lamp, “gave each of the saplings a stuffed dragon and told them stories of bravery and daring.” Master Willow watched and listened with a smile on his face. When Ruby handed him a stuffed dragon too, he told her that her skills were no longer a secret. “‘You are a wonderful storyteller, a fine dragon maker, and a very good friend.’” Ruby was happy, but she “kept practicing, because being brave isn’t always easy. Even for a ninja.”

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Deb Pilutti’s uplifting story takes an honest look, through a fun Ninja lens, at the worries some children have when they compare their skills and talents to others and even against their own expectations. While Ruby struggles to pick up Ninja skills, readers will see that Ruby has other talents, such as perseverance, creativity, and the courage to ask for help. Ruby may feel—like all kids do at times—that she’s different from the others, but she discovers that emotions are universal, allowing her to appreciate and share her gifts for empathy, kindness, and friendship.

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Pilutti’s bright illustrations will endear Ruby to readers as she excitedly goes off the ninja school, keeps practicing despite some mishaps, and sees dragons in clouds and shadows. Images of the saplings jumping, throwing, and meditating will delight little home ninjas-in-training, and the fully stocked Ninja Craft Area where Ruby creates her stuffed dragons will cheer young crafters.

You can make Ruby’s Dragon Softie too!

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Clear instructions and patterns for an adorable dragon that kids can make at home are included at the end of the story.

Ages 4 – 8

Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2018 | ISBN 978-1627796491

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art and to find fun book-related activities, visit her website.

International Ninja Day Activity

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Stealthy Ninja Maze

 

One little Ninja has gotten separated from her group. Can you help her find her way back in this printable maze?

Stealthy Ninja Maze | Stealthy Ninja Maze Solution

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You can find The Secrets of Ninja School at these Booksellers

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Macmillan | Powell’s

December 4 – National Cookie Day and Interview with Author Tara Knudson

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About the Holiday

Whether you call them cookies or biscuits, these yummy treats have been around for quite a long time. Originating in Persia in the 7th century, cookies conquered Europe by the 14th century and came to America with the earlies settlers. Of course, cookies are great any time of the year, but the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without the delicious snap or soft melt-in-your-mouth goodness of favorite cookies. Baking together is one of the joys of the season for adults and kids, and you can bet that with each batch, good memories are being created too.

Christmas Cookie Day!

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Mama bear and her little bear get ready for one of the most fun days of the year. “Cooke day, / Time to bake. / Aprons on, / Lots to make!” The little one cracks an egg into the bowl while the butter, flour, and sugar wait their turn. Mom pours warm melted butter and lets her little bear stir it into dough.

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

With the dough rolled smooth, it’s time to use the cookie cutters to make…”Christmas tree, / Reindeer, bell. / Snowman, star, / Cookie smell.” The pair add angels, candy canes, and drummer boys before sliding the tray into the oven and watching them bake. At last the timer rings but they still must wait. Finally “ready, set… / Decorate!”

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

It’s so much fun spreading the frosting and shaking out sprinkles to create green trees, yellow stars, and red-and-white striped candy canes. Even the bakers can’t resist nibbling a few. But not too many, because these are special “cookie gifts. / Made with care. / Pack them up, / Cooke share!” It’s time to invite friends and family for a yearly treat—“Christmastime, / Spirits bright. / Family hugs, / Cookie night.”

A delectable Christmas Cookie Day Recipe follows the story for all little bakers to try.

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

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

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

The absence of personal pronouns and a red apron for the little cub make Christmas Cookie Day! gender neutral.

A sweet story to spark a fun family tradition and share the joy of giving, Christmas Cookie Day! makes an endearing addition to a child’s home library.

Ages 2 – 6

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310762898

Discover more about Tara Knudson, her books, and her other writing for children on her website.

To learn more about Pauline Siewert, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Tara Knudson

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I’m excited to be talking today with Tara Knudson about her sweet book, her favorite cookie, and how being a teacher inspires her work.

Christmas Cookie Day has such a joyous feeling. Do you have any special memories of baking with your family when you were a child?  What is your favorite kind of cookie?

I’m so glad that you think CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY has such a joyous feeling! The story evokes happy memories of baking Christmas cookies with my mom and sisters when I was a child. I remember gathering the cookie cutters from the cabinet, excited to get started! We all stood around the kitchen table and decorated our cookies with sprinkles, frosting, and candy pieces. It was so fun!

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While I do enjoy eating Christmas sugar cookies, my favorite kind of cookie is chocolate chip, especially ones with dark chocolate chips and a little salt. Yum!

As a regular contributor to children’s magazines like Highlights Hello, Highlights High Five, Baby Bug, and Ladybug, you write stories and poetry for the youngest readers, what do you like about writing for this age? What are a few of the most important ingredients in stories for little ones?

I love writing for little ones because they are so curious about everything in the world around them—sights, smells, sounds, tastes, new experiences, and people. They take it all in as they learn, develop, and grow. I like to be a part of that.

My poems and stories for this age group often include short and simple sentences with some fun words added that young readers may not be familiar with.

You’ve said that you loved to write even as a child. Can you describe your journey to becoming a published writer?

My journey as a writer has been a long one. I still have my creative writing stories from second grade. Reading them now makes me laugh! Growing up, the stories were always special to me, but I did not know yet that I wanted to be a writer.

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I started writing poetry when I was in high school. As I dealt with the problems and frustrations that adolescence can bring, I often wrote poems to express my feelings. After college, I became a Spanish teacher and I often used children’s picture books in the          classroom. I would spend hours at bookstores searching for favorite ones. It was during that time that I fell in love with picture books and decided that I wanted to write them.

In pursuit of my goal, I won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that allowed me to take a break from my teaching job and live in Barcelona, Spain for a year and experiment with writing for children. I wrote many poems and rhyming stories for children. I continued to write after my return to the U.S. As years passed, I sold articles and poems to children’s magazines and continued to work on my picture book manuscripts as I worked as a teacher and later took care of my two sons. Finally, I signed with an agent who helped me sell my first book.

Can you talk a little about your work as a teacher? How do your experiences influence your work?

My teaching background is unique because I have taught different subjects to students of many ages. I started my teaching career as a high school Spanish teacher. Then, while in Barcelona, I taught English to middle school students. Upon my return to the U.S., I taught Spanish to grades K-2 and then math to grades 1-4. 

Whichever subject I teach, and to whichever grade level, there is always something for me to gain as a writer when I work with students. Whether it be from something that happens in the classroom or something that a student says that sparks a writing idea, being around children gets my creative juices flowing! I hope to get back in the classroom soon.

What’s up next for you?

My next book, EASTER EGG DAY, will be released in February, 2020. Also, I’m happy to announce that a third book in my holiday board book series will follow. I will share details about that book soon. I have plenty of non-holiday projects as well that I hope will make their way into the world in the near future.

What’s your favorite holiday?

My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love the excitement that leads up to it, the beautiful decorations, the spirit of giving, and the true meaning of the season. It’s such a magical and joyous time for people of all ages filled with traditions and love. I’m so happy that CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY can be a part of it all!

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Thanks so much for chatting with me, Tara! I wish you a wonderful holiday and much success with all of your writing!

You can connect with Tara Knudson on

Her website | Instagram | Twitter  

Christmas Cookie Day! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Tara Knudson in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Christmas Cookie Day! written by Tara Knudson | illustrated by Pauline Siewert

This giveaway is open from December 5 through December 9 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 10

It takes just these two steps to enter:

  • Like the Giveaway Post
  • Follow Tara Knudson @taraknudson and @celebratepicturebooks on Instagram
  • Bonus: Comment with your favorite kind of cookie! (Each comment gives you one more entry)

Prizing provided by Tara Knudson

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

National Cookie Day Activity

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Gingerbread Kids Ornaments

You can make gingerbread ornaments to decorate your tree or windows with this easy-to-make craft!

Supplies

  • Printable Gingerbread Girl and Boy Template
  • 2 Brown foam sheets
  • White paint (or any color you like)
  • Glitter in two colors
  • Paint brush
  • 2 Small heart buttons (optional)
  • Mounting squares (for mounting)
  • Thread  and needle (for optional hanging)

Directions

  1. Cut out gingerbread girl and boy
  2. Trace gingerbread girl and boy on brown foam sheets
  3. Cut out gingerbread girl and boy
  4. Paint around the edge of the gingerbread boy and girl with the white paint
  5. Add trim to the edge of the gingerbread girl’s dress
  6. Add socks to the gingerbread boy
  7. Add buttons
  8. Add faces
  9. Paint the hands of each figure with the paint
  10. Sprinkle glitter on the hands to make mittens
  11. To use as decoration attach mountable squares or with a threaded needle make a hole in the top of the figures and tie the thread to create a hanger.

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You can find Christmas Cookie Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 3 – Make a Gift Day

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About the Holiday

Nothing says “I love you” quite like a homemade gift. But what if you’re not crafty and baking’s not really your thing either? A gift doesn’t have to be something you unwrap. There are plenty of ways to share your talents with those you love to show them they’re important to you. Are you handy around the house? Find a project that needs doing and go to work! Are you a dancer? Why not teach a young family member some steps or a short routine? If you sing or play and instrument, invite friends and family to your holiday concert or perform for them during a holiday get together. Whatever your talent is, others will be excited and happy to receive your “homemade” gift!

A Tuba Christmas

Written by Helen L. Wilbur | Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles

 

Ava came from a musical family, and the time had come for her to choose an instrument to learn. If she started practicing now, she’d be ready for the family’s holiday concert. Her father suggested the piano like her mother played. Her mom suggested the flute or maybe the violin like her dad played. But Ava wasn’t interested in these—or in following in her bothers’ steps with the cello or clarinet.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ava knew what instrument she wanted to play and proudly announced, “‘I want to play the tuba.’” Her family was surprised but signed her up for lessons. Her teacher, Rodney, played the tuba in the high school marching band. Since a full-sized tuba was much too big for Ava, “Rodney found a tuba that fit nicely in her lap and made her only a little lopsided when she carried it.” Ava loved everything about her tuba, but there was one problem. While Ava could make noise on her tuba, she couldn’t make music.

Ava practiced every day. At dinner, her parents always asked how her tuba playing was going while her brothers laughed and told her she would ruin their concert. Even the kids at school made fun of her choice of instruments, but Rodney told her, “‘Forget about them. The tuba is a noble instrument.’” But when she tripped over her tuba and fell in the cafeteria in front of all the laughing kids, she told Rodney she was quitting.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Rodney told her that was too bad because she’d miss being in the holiday concert—a first of its kind in the area. Ava perked up on hearing about the concert and vowed to keep practicing. As the days went on, “The notes came a little easier and sounded just a bit better every night.” Her tuba even seemed lighter to carry. When the posters went up announcing a surprise concert, everyone wanted to know what it was about, but Ava just told them they’d have to wait and see.

Ava’s brothers couldn’t believe she could be in a concert. They told her she’d “hit the wrong notes.” Rodney reassured her though that playing in an ensemble was a “great chance to learn.” He told her “if someone misses a note, other players will hit the right one and no one will know.” Ava felt better and on the day of the concert she ignored the butterflies in her stomach as she joined all of the other tuba players in decorating her tuba and donning an elf hat.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the audience saw that the orchestra consisted only of tubas, they looked around skeptically. Rodney explained that the tubas would play each song twice: once alone and then for everyone to join in singing. Everyone smiled when they recognized the first song, Jingle Bells. On the second go-round, the whole audience was soon singing. The tubas played lots of familiar songs. “the concert was loud and it was fun. At the end everyone cheered and cheered.” Even Ava’s brothers were proud to point her out and claim her as their sister. And just as her parents had promised, her father presented Ava with her very own tuba and a welcome to “the new musician in our family.”

An Author’s Note following the story reveals the origins of Tuba Christmas concerts, which take place all around the world. A description of the tuba, how it works, and other instruments in the tuba family is also included.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Helen L. Weber’s original holiday story will delight any child who sees life a little differently from their friends and family. Ava’s perseverance in playing the tuba despite the teasing and from her brothers and friends and a bit of skepticism on the part of her parents, will embolden readers who are met with similar reactions to their desired pursuits. Ava’s teacher, Rodney, gives sage and reassuring advice that provides positive perspective and will encourage kids to continue working on their skills despite setbacks or nervousness. Through her characters’ honest, realistic dialogue and emotions, Wilbur reveals the ups and downs of beginning any new activity, hobby, or vocation and offers children support and inspiration on their journey.

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Mary Reaves Uhles captures all of the heart of this one-of-a-kind story in her vivid and action-filled illustrations that reveal Ava’s enthusiasm for her shiny, coiled instrument. Images of Ava practicing while the cat covers its ears and the neighbor’s dog howls as the notes go awry add humor, but also reinforce Ava’s determination to learn the tuba. Ava’s interactions with Rodney are uplifting and will boost young readers’ confidence in their own abilities. The cheerful double-page spread of the tuba orchestra decked out for the holiday concert will have kids wanting to attend a Tuba Christmas concert—or take up the tuba themselves!

A heartening story for any child who marches to a different…tuba, A Tuba Christmas is a book that cheer and reassure kids at any time of the year.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363841

Discover more about Helen L. Wilbur and her books on her website.

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

Make a Gift 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!

CPB - Hot Chocolate from above with whisk

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

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 A Tuba Christmas at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 2 – Hanukkah Begins

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About the Holiday

Hanukkah is the eight-day Jewish “festival of lights” that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE. The lighting of the menorah is at the heart of the celebration. On the first night, the first of the eight candles is lit using the shamash, or attendant, candle. Each subsequent night another candle is lit until at the end of the eight days all the candles are lit. The menorah is displayed in the window of homes and synagogues. Special blessings, traditional songs, prayers, oil-based foods, fun games, and gifts are part of this much-anticipated holiday. 

Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Andy Rowland

 

While enjoying a breakfast of Gorilla Flakes and bananas, Esther viewed her calendar. Time had crept up on her, and she realized with a shock that Hanukkah was only one day away and she hadn’t bought her friends any presents. She hurried out to the Jungle Store and hit the clothing department. There she found a pair of striped and a pair of argyle socks for her friend Sarah. “Then she spotted a bright red turtleneck. ‘I’ll surprise my friend Zack with this,’ she decided.”

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Image copyright Andrew Rowland, courtesy of Andrew Rowland

In the sports department Esther spied a jogging suit. It was even on sale—“marked down from $13.00 to only $12.99.” Esther quickly put it in her cart for her friend Josephine. She also discovered a make-your-own jungle gym that would be perfect for Hal, and it wouldn’t even take that long to build. “Just 10 minutes…or 10 days at the most!” the directions on the box said. “In the book department, Esther picked up a paperback called 100 Jokes About Elephants.” The jokes were so funny that she bought it for her pal Oscar. Back home, Esther wrapped her gifts.

The next night “Esther placed two candles in her menorah. She lit the shamash candle and said the special blessing. Then she lit the candle for the first night of Hanukkah and said the other two blessings. She remembered the story of the Maccabees and the little jug of oil that lasted eight days.” Soon it was time for her to deliver her presents.

She was happy to stop first at Sarah’s house. Esther was sure she would love the socks she had gotten her. But when the little monkey opened her gift she burst out laughing and said, “‘These socks are big enough for an elephant!’” but added that the gifts were not the most important part of Hanukkah. Sarah’s gift for Esther was Gorilla-Vanilla perfume, which was the perfect thing to make Esther smell nice.

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Image copyright Andrew Rowland, courtesy of Andrew Rowland

Next, Esther headed over to Zack’s house. When the zebra unwrapped the red sweater Esther had chosen for him, he frowned. “‘I never, ever wear red clothing,’” he said, citing “‘that terrible riddle.’” When Zack related the riddle, ending with “an embarrassed zebra,” Esther laughed and agreed that red was probably not the best clothing choice. Zebra’s gift to Esther was membership in the Coconut of the Month Club—a perfect, yummy gift. Esther was beginning to feel bad about the gifts she was giving

At Josephine’s house Esther learned that the jogging suit she had picked for her turtle friend missed the mark, while the princess costume Josephine gave her fulfilled her dream of dressing up like a human. A little later when Oscar the Elephant opened the joke book, he gently told Esther that he thought “the book was in very poor taste” and that “there should be a law against elephant jokes.” Poor “Esther wasn’t laughing anymore. In fact she felt more like crying. ‘I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,’ she said.” She felt even worse when she opened Oscar’s thoughtful cookbook 1001 Ways to Serve Bananas.

With one gift left to deliver, Esther was sure there would be something wrong with it too, and when she reached Hal’s house she discovered what that was. “‘Hyenas can’t climb jungle gyms like monkeys can,’” he told her as he handed her two tickets to The Gorilla Theater. As Esther trudged away, she felt miserable, but at home with a cup of tea she had an idea. She sat down and wrote out invitations for all of her friends to join her on the Eighth Night of Hanukkah. “‘Make sure to bring the gift I gave you!’” she added.

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Image copyright Andrew Rowland, courtesy of Andrew Rowland

When her friends arrived, they lit the shamash candle, said the blessings, and sat down to a delicious dinner. Afterward, Esther admitted, “‘I know that my gifts to you were a total disaster, but now you can trade!’” She looked at Sarah. “‘The two pairs of socks I bought you would fit an elephant,’ she said. Sarah smiled and handed the socks to Oscar. Hal’s jungle gym turned out to be just right for Sarah. Zack Zebra was thrilled to get Josephine’s jogging suit, and Hal laughed like the hyena he was at 100 Jokes About Elephants. And that red turtleneck was the exact thing for their turtle friend, Josephine.

After her friends left, Esther thought that her gifts had not been so bad. After all, they brought everyone together for a perfect Hanukkah celebration.

Jane Sutton brings humor and meaning to her Hanukkah story that reveals the true nature of the holiday and friendship. With clever gift choices and a sweet plot twist, Sutton’s Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster will have kids giggling and empathizing as Esther’s plans go awry. Her easy-going delivery invites kids along on Esther’s shopping trip and sets up the jokes and final swap in a natural and engaging way. Sutton’s inclusion of Esther’s and her friend’s honest reactions to the gifts encourages discussion of how to choose gifts, how to make up for mistakes, how to graciously accept gifts, and more topics surrounding gift-giving.

Andy Rowland’s purple gorilla Esther is sweetly expressive even as she is a bit oblivious to the needs of her friends and clearly disgruntled when her gifts don’t work out. Kids will love the brightly colored illustrations loaded with details appropriate to Esther’s world, especially the bowls, drawers, and hangers of bananas, banana cookbooks, banana-decorated table cloth and even a banana-shaped teapot in her kitchen. The Jungle Store is a riff on big-box stores with multiple departments where shoppers finding everything from fish for a pelican to a book of Antelope Recipes for a lion to Ele-Wellie boots for an elephant.

Esther’s nighttime neighborhood is likewise beautifully drawn with lush foliage; hanging lanterns; wood, bamboo, and stone homes; and even a waterfall. The window of each friend’s home frames a menorah.

With its humorous take on a common mishap and loveable characters, Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster is a book kids will enjoy no matter what the gift-giving occasion is!

Ages 4 – 7

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2013 | ISBN 978-0761390435

Discover more about Jane Sutton and her books as well as book-related activities on her website!

Become wrapped up in this swinging Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster book trailer!

Hanukkah Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-hanukkah-word-search

Festival of Lights Word Search

 

Find 20 words related to Hanukkah celebrations in this printable Festival of Lights Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

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You can find Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 1 – National Pie Day

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About the Holiday

There’s something about colder weather that makes pie sound so delicious! What kind of pie? Apple, cranberry, pecan, sweet potato, mincemeat…so many kinds! And of course pumpkin as in today’s book. To celebrate today have a piece of your favorite pie!

You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie

Written by Amy E. Sklansky | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

In a big cozy, chair next to a roaring fire, a mom snuggles with her little boy. In a pretty nursery dotted with stars, a dad watches his tiny daughter, who’s learning to crawl. He tells her, “You light up any room / with your grin so big and wide.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-my-little-pumpkin-pie-fireplace

Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

In a bright and homey kitchen, a mother sprinkles the final touches on a pumpkin pie while her toddler helps. She says, “Your scent is just delightful— / like cinnamon and spice.” Outside, a mom and baby bundled up in the chilly weather share a hug, and the mom confesses, “Each time I kiss your yummy cheek, / I have to kiss it twice.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-my-little-pumpkin-pie-father

Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

At a farm, as Dad and his little one pick the perfect pumpkin, Dad wraps his arms around his child and says, “Your hugs are irresistible / Because you’re such a treat.” A mom playing with her daughter smiles and tells her, “I love to make you giggle. / No sound is quite as sweet.” In another home, dinner has been served and it’s time for dessert, but who are the parents praising as the “star of any feast”—the pumpkin pie or their children? The happy kids know the answer! And a baby drifts off to sleep with the sweet assurance, “You’re my little pumpkin pie, / Each and every piece.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-my-little-pumpkin-pie-kitchen

Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

Parents and other caregivers will love cuddling up with their little one and sharing the endearing rhymes in Amy E. Sklansky’s sweet tribute to the most special of relationships. The tender phrases on each page echo the spontaneous bursts of wonder, amazement, and of course love that fill an adult’s heart while thinking about or interacting with their child. The affection expressed with each verse will delight little ones.

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

Talitha Shipman’s colorful and cozy illustrations embrace the parent-child relationship with depictions of the gestures, smiles, and assurances adults share with children. Little ones, sitting on Mom or Dad’s lap will be charmed by the happy faces of the babies and toddlers on each page and feel that same warm comfort. Extended fun can be found in discovering the pumpkin or pumpkins as well as the accompanying orange theme on each spread.

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, courtesy of talithashipman.com.

You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie is a board book that little ones will want to hear again and again and that parents and other caregiver will love to share. It would make a wonderful gift and a sweet addition to any home bookshelf.

Ages 2 – 4

Little Brown Books for Young People. 2013 | ISBN 978-0316207140

Discover more about Amy E. Sklansky and her books on her website

To learn more about Talitha Shipman, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Pie Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Pie-Puzzle

Put the Pie Together Puzzle

 

With this printable pie, little ones can have fun while learning a little bit too!

Supplies

  • Printable Pie Puzzle Template

Directions

  1. Print the pie on heavy paper 
  2. cut the slices apart 
  3. While kids put the pie together, talk with them about the ideas of half and whole and other fractions, as well as shapes: triangle, semi-circle, circle, and others

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You can find You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review