April 10 – National Hug Your Dog Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re a dog owner, every day may be Hug Your Dog Day! Today was established for dog lovers to show their pets extra attention, so why not give your pup a special treat or take them for a longer than usual walk? If you’re contemplating adding a pet to your family, today may be a good day to visit your local shelter and adopt a dog to hug!

Thunder Pug

Written by Kim Norman | Illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi

 

Percy the pug loves doing things with his best friend Petunia the pig. They carve trails out of the tall grasses, blow on dandelions, play “twilight hide-and-seek,” and lap “puddles, cheek to cheek.” Sometimes they do separate things—like the time Petunia went off to the Arlington County Fair to compete in the best pig competition.

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Image copyright Keika Yamaguchi, 2019, text copyright Kim Norman, 2019. Courtesy of Stirling Children’s Books.

Petunia returned to the farm wearing a blue ribbon. “Percy was proud of her,” but so were all the other animals. They picked her up and rushed around the yard, cheering. Every time Percy tried to offer his congratulations, she was whisked away. Percy’s high-five went amiss, the flowers he offered were “nearly trampled,” and “the kiss he blew floated away, lost on the wind.” While Petunia is enjoying all the attention, however, Percy feels dejected and ignored.

Then one day he found an old superhero comic book about Thunder Man who was brave and strong and had a cape that was “just as special as a first-prize ribbon.” Soon, Percy was sporting a cape and coming to the rescue—even if being Thunder Pug meant being put in danger, getting wet, or being tickled by ants. And while all of that was exciting, it just didn’t feel satisfying.

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Image copyright Keika Yamaguchi, 2019, text copyright Kim Norman, 2019. Courtesy of Stirling Children’s Books.

Percy went back to his comic book to see what he was doing wrong. That’s when he saw it—Thunder Man had a sidekick! And just then who did he see coming toward him, but Petunia dressed up as Pink Lightning. Not a moment too soon, either. They raced to save a baby raccoon who was stuck in a tree. Maybe the rescue didn’t quite go as planned, but the baby Boing! Boing! Wheeeed! right into its mother’s arms.

With one heroic deed under their capes, Thunder Man and Pink Lightning took off to help, protect, find lost hedgehogs, and turn over flipped turtles. Now Percy and Petunia do some things apart and lots of things together and just like before, their friendship is “perfectly thunderful!”

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Image copyright Keika Yamaguchi, 2019, text copyright Kim Norman, 2019. Courtesy of Stirling Children’s Books.

Percy and Petunia’s friendship forged in Kim Norman’s Puddle Pug has hit an unexpected snag as Petunia wins a blue ribbon and Percy begins to feel left out. Percy tries to play on his own, but it’s just not the same without Petunia. But has Petunia really forgotten Percy? A careful look at the illustrations shows that even while this first-rate pig is enjoying her taste of celebrity, she still has Percy in her sights. When the two come back together to create a super duo and also find new ways to spend their days, young readers will learn gentle lessons about the true nature of friendship, how new experiences can strengthen and enrich a relationship, and even the importance of giving a friend some space. Fans of Percy and Petunia will be delighted to learn that just as Percy and Petunia’s friendship grew as they pursued different activities, their own friendships will flourish as each person supports the other.

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Percy and Petunia are back and as adorable as ever in Keika Yamaguchi’s soft-hued pen-and-ink and digitally painted illustrations. Yamaguchi perfectly captures the love between the two with twinkly eyes and satisfied smiles. So when Petunia wins the blue ribbon and starts hanging out with other friends, the dichotomy between Petunia’s bright grin and Percy’s disappointment is pronounced. Readers will also notice that along with the smiles, Petunia expresses distress of her own as she’s pulled away from Percy, and Percy, while sad, discovers happiness in helping others. The changing emotions of friendships are part of navigating childhood; Percy and Petunia give kids and adults the opportunity to discuss them and find their way through the maze of growing up.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454923589

Discover more about Kim Norman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Keika Yamaguchi, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Hug Your Dog Day Activity

Find the Pet Maze

 

This detective is looking for a dog to hug. Can you help her find her way to a puppy to love in this printable puzzle? 

Find the Pet Maze | Find the Pet Solution

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You can find Thunder Pug at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

April 8 – National All is Ours Day

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About the Holiday

National All is Ours Day is about noticing nature and the world around you and taking pleasure in the beauty you see. The holiday also encourages people to appreciate our surroundings and embrace the gifts that we all have in common. Being grateful for and sharing what we have while not dwelling on what we don’t is a way to extend the meaning of the day and to live more simply and more happily.

Mine. Yours.

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Qin Leng

 

There are picture books that tell their story with no words and picture books that charm with hundreds of words, and then there is Marsha Diane Arnold’s Mine. Yours., which fills the pages with the abundance of emotions and opportunities life offers using only three words. As a little panda meanders through the forest, he comes upon a cave and wanders in. He wakes up the older panda sleeping there with his question: “Yours?” The older panda gets up and with a wave of his hands and one word, he makes it clear—the cave is “Mine” and the little one belongs outside.

But the little guy is undeterred and returns hoping for a bit of breakfast. While the big panda chows down on a full plate of bamboo, his visitor is handed a plate with two meager twigs of this favorite meal. Perhaps, though, the adult panda is softening. While he clasps his bamboo-gathering basket close, reminding the child that it is “Mine,” he spies a kite hanging from a shelf and hands it down: “Yours.”

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The tyke runs into the forest to find a place to fly the kite, but—as kites do—it has a mind of its own. It careens into a pangolin pounding a drum, a fox and raccoon playing a board game, a fishing cat with his pole in the water, an otter rafting down the river, and more unsuspecting animals trying to go about their day. They each proclaim their ownership over their possessions and remind him that the kite is his.

But the kite is more in control than the panda, and the string begins to snag everything it touches and fly away with it all—including the little panda. The alarmed animals give chase, grab onto the end of the string, and find themselves airborne. The big panda, returning from bamboo gathering, sees the commotion at the end of a kite and wonders, “Mine?” The little panda, hoping for rescue, shouts down, “Yours!”

With a tug, the big panda brings all the animals and all the stuff back to earth in a heap. They cheer, and with a new perspective, shout, “Ours!” This brings many changes of heart and an invitation from the big panda to a party in the cave—complete with plenty of food, fun, and games to share.

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Not only is Mine. Yours. a book about sharing, it is truly a book to be shared. The prompts of Marsha Diane Arnold’s thought-provoking “mine” and “yours,” combined with Qin Leng’s expressive illustrations provide many opportunities to discuss the various meanings and emotions behind these words and the actions they elicit. Readers will be enchanted by Qin Leng’s pen-and-ink and watercolor images that are full of humor and consternation as the little panda innocently interrupts the regular routine in the forest. As the suspenseful drama ensues the animals, who are for the most part engaging in individual pursuits, are brought together and discover that the friendship of “ours” is liberating—and more fun too.

Children will enjoy discussing the action and how each animal feels about what is happening, which is clearly readable in their facial expressions. While the animals react crossly to the initial disruptions, subtle changes in attitude are apparent—especially when they see that the little panda is in danger and hurry to help. Opportunities abound for talking about the ideas of kindness and compassion, accidents and intension, inclusiveness and community, and even the fact that learning continues throughout one’s life.

A list of the Asian animals featured in the story can be found at the beginning of the book.

An excellent book for opening discussions that allow children to express their ideas and relate their experiences concerning possessions, community, and sharing, Mine. Yours. would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Kids Can Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1771389198

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website.

To learn more about Qin Leng, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Meet Marsha Diane Arnold

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Called a “born storyteller” by the media, Marsha Diane Arnold’s award-winning picture books have sold over one million copies and been called “whimsical” and “inspiring.” She has two new picture books out this spring – Mine. Yours. and Badger’s Perfect GardenBorn and raised on the Kansas prairies, Marsha lived most of her life on a hill overlooking redwoods and oaks in Sonoma County, California, and now lives with her husband in Alva, Florida, surrounded on two sides by nature preserves. Family and nature are her two great loves.

I’m happy that Marsha dropped by again to talk a little about her inspiration for Mine. Yours. and how it all came together—fascinating!

When you conceived this story, did you have a specific situation or incident in mind? What was the inspiration for Mine. Yours.?

This story was meant to be a follow-up to Lost. Found. The minimal text of Lost. Found. was only 18 words, two words repeated. I wanted another title with just two words and I knew those two words had to allow a story to unfold. Of course, for Mine. Yours. a third word needed to be in the text – “Ours.”

The idea for Lost. Found. came to me in a dream. Though both stories were challenging, Mine. Yours. took more time to figure out and more rewrites, as there wasn’t the same dream inspiration that assisted me with Lost. Found.

Created with just two words, this picture book is a true collaboration between you and illustrator Qin Leng. Can you describe the process that went into bringing this book to life?

As with Lost. Found., I wrote very specific art notes to go with each word, to show what I envisioned for each particular page. Qin Leng and I never spoke after the manuscript was accepted and I had minimal contact with my editor. They faithfully “followed my lead.” Qin’s gorgeous details and whimsical facial expressions make the book come alive. Just look at grumpy Big Panda giving Little Panda a teeny-tiny bit of bamboo and Little Panda’s disappointed face! It’s amazing how much expression Qin is able to get with just a few lines.

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

I’ve had so many questions from writers about how I formatted the manuscript. Some have even thought I just sent the words to an editor with no art notes! Not at all!! Here’s a little of the submitted manuscript with the two spreads they go with:

[Wind picks up moderately. Kite rises, leading Little Bear toward river. Kite exits right

followed by Little Panda.] 

[Kite crashes into Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), fishing in river. His

fishing pole flips away. Fishing Cat runs into the stream to snatch it.]

“Mine!”

[Frowning, Fishing Cat points at kite as it moves higher.]

“Yours!”          

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

          

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Qin Leng infuses the story with so much suspense and humor. What was the most surprising detail of the illustrations for you? What is your favorite spread?

I know! I love the suspense and humor and was thrilled when I first saw Qin’s gorgeous illustrations. However, there were no surprises, as I had specified exactly what was to happen. The only spread that is different from my notes is the final spread, but when my editor and Qin wanted to go a different way with it, my editor shared about that prior to my seeing it.

I do love the image above with Little Panda and the kite along the stream. It feels so serene, a calm before more storms. And the page with the word “Ours”, after all the animals have come together to save Little Panda, is a favorite.

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

There’s such a depth of emotion in the words “mine” and “yours” for kids and adults (from the positive pride one feels in accomplishments to the not-so-positive proprietary side of things), and sharing can be difficult for anyone regardless of age or what one has. What would you like for readers to take away from your story? 

Mine. Yours. is about kindness, compassion, and community and I’d love for my young readers to take those feelings away from the story. It’s a bit like my 2018 book May I Come In? in its theme of inclusiveness and opening your door to friends who knock. I actually haven’t thought about this before, but look at the final pages of each one. Community! Ours!

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Image copyright Jennie Poh, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Thank you for letting me be part of the Celebrate Picture Books community!

Thank you, Marsha! I always enjoy our chats about your books and your generous, thoughtful answers!

You can connect with Marsha Diane Arnold on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Mine. Yours. Giveaway

I’m excited to be teaming with Kids Can Press in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Mine. Yours. written by Marsha Diane Arnold | illustrated by Qin Leng

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from April 8 through April 14 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Prizing provided by Kid Can Press.

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

National All is Ours Day Activity

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Mine. Yours. Activity Pages

 

You’re welcome to make these activity pages yours—why not print two or more copies and create some “ours!” fun!

Mine. Yours. Activity Pages

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You can find Mine. Yours. at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

April 5 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

In 1987 National Garden Week sprouted on the calendar to celebrate the beginning of spring and the growing season. But a week just isn’t enough to enjoy all the fun and excitement (and delicious food and glorious flowers) of gardening. In 2002, the National Gardening Association extended the holiday to encompass the full month of April. A perfect activity for the whole family—even the youngest loves playing in the dirt and planting seeds!—gardening is a wonderful way to teach kids about the growth cycle, pollinators, nutrition, patience, and more! If it’s warm enough to start planting where you live, engage your kids in preparing and planting your garden. If it’s still a little chilly, gather the whole family and plan this year’s garden!

Little Yellow Truck

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Kevin Zimmer

 

At his lumberyard, Riley had four trucks: “a red dump truck, a green flatbed truck, a blue concrete mixer, and a little yellow pickup truck.” One day he announced that together he and his trucks were going to turn a plot of land he’d bought into a children’s park. Little Yellow was excited to be included. Riley and his helpers drove all the trucks to the area. First, they cleaned up all the trash and put the bags in Big Red. “Little Yellow watched.”

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2019, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When Big Red drove away, Big Blue rolled up, and as his bowl turned he “pumped out concrete” to make a sidewalk that meandered through the land and over the hills, a floor for a picnic shelter and a spot for a fountain: “Squish Squash Slurp Burp.” Next, Big Green drove up with his load of lumber, and Riley and his helpers built the picnic shelter and a fence: “Bang Clang Smack Whack!” Riley thought it was “‘Fabulous!’”

As Big Green sped away with Riley, Little Yellow wondered…and waited. “He flicked his lights on and off.” He didn’t want to be forgotten. He wanted to do an important job. Then Big Green and Riley were back. Throughout the day, Big Green transported the swings, slides, merry-go-round, tables, and benches. Little Yellow stayed silent. “The important job was finished and he had done nothing.” Riley proclaimed it “‘Fabulous!’” But the park wasn’t finished yet, he said.

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2019, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Riley walked over to Little Yellow and took the wheel. As they drove down the road, Little Yellow recognized they were going the way back to the lumberyard. Maybe he wasn’t going to be part of the job after all. But then they stopped at Ray’s Garden Shop and the workers began loading Little Yellow up with “plants and shrubs and flowers. There were bags of soil and grass seed and fertilizer.”

As they drove through town, people smiled and waved. One girl even said, “‘Look! It’s a garden in a truck!” Back at the park, Riley and his helpers scattered the grass seed and planted the bushes and flowers. Birds, butterflies, and bees flew over to check them out. There was even a little shower burst to water them. When at last everything was just right, Big Red, Big Green, Big Blue, and Little Yellow all hooted and honked their horns, and kids came running from all over. Little Yellow “even gave an extra-long Toot Toot Tootle Toot” because “the children’s park was open for business. And he was part of it!”

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2019, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

For every little one who feels like they stand on the sidelines while all the “important jobs” are done, Eve Bunting’s sweet story shows that they play a big role in what happens at home, at school, and elsewhere. As Little Yellow watches while all the bigger trucks get to help out, his doubts will be familiar to readers. The suspense grows as job after job is completed without Little Yellow’s input, and young readers will cheer when his patience is rewarded. Little truck lovers will enjoy seeing their favorites at work and chiming in on the alliterative and rhyming words that accompany each action.

Kevin Zimmer’s happy-to-help trucks will thrill kids who love vehicles of all kinds with their realistic details and anthropomorphic personalities. Zimmer’s vivid colors are as cheery as a day at the park, and little ones will love pointing out and talking about the different jobs and what they entail as well as their favorite playground equipment. A diverse group of children, including a boy in a wheelchair, run and play in the new park.

An engaging story to reassure kids that they make a big difference even if they are small, Little Yellow Truck makes a fun read aloud for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364077

To learn more about Kevin Zimmer, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Garden Month Activity

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Colorful Garden Coloring Pages

 

Your plants and flowers may not have bloomed—or even sprouted—yet, but you can still enjoy a colorful garden with these printable pages!

Planting the Garden | Colorful Flowers

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You can find Little Yellow Truck at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 4 – World Rat Day & Guest Post by Mike Allegra

About the Holiday

In 2002 Robyn Archer and James Kitlock thought people should take another look at rats and recognize them for their endearing traits. They established World Rat Day to celebrate these rodents and promote the adoption of Fancy Rats as pets. Clean, smart, and devoted, Fancy Rats are beloved by many. How can you celebrate today? Why not hold a Rat Day party, read a book or watch a movie starring a rat, or if you’re looking for a new pet, check out your local shelter for these furry friends. To learn more about World Rat Day, visit the official website!

The Reliable Rodent

Guest Post by Mike Allegra

 

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am pro-rodent (or, as I prefer, “prodent”).

In elementary school, I took care of two four-legged gerbils and one three-legged gerbil. (The three-legged one was much faster than the four-leggers, by the way). In the years since, I have cuddled and cared for field mice, hamsters, one fancy rat, one sewer rat posing as a fancy rat, and the world’s most ornery guinea pig. My bucket list dream is to skritch a capybara’s belly. (A capybara, in case you don’t know, is the world’s largest rodent. Fully grown capys can be 100 pounds and nearly as big as a golden retriever.) 

My prodent views can be found in my fiction. One of my picture books stars a mouse with a commanding grasp of the principals of scientific inquiry. In another picture book, I feature a guinea pig the size of a mastodon.

The more I work rodents into my stories, the more I realize that a rodent is The Best Picture Book Protagonist Ever. This discovery isn’t a revelation by any means; wee rodents have been helming stories since the days of Aesop and will continue to do so as long as children’s books continue to be published.

But here’s my take:

Three Reasons why Rodents are Perfect for Picture Books

 

Rodents Are Teensy-Eensy Tiny

CPB - tiny mouse

Rodents are so very vulnerable. They’re surrounded by larger, stronger, more aggressive animals. And, jeepers, the world is just so dang big!  

If that doesn’t describe kid-dom, I don’t know what does.

I’m 48 years old, yet I still remember the toddlerhood ordeal of having to reach waaaay above my head to grab a doorknob. I remember having to stand of a stool to peek over the lip of the bathroom sink. I remember everything being either too bulky or heavy to lift. And I remember how Mom could thwart me by putting the object of my desire inside The Top Cabinet. God, how I hated, hated, hated The Top Cabinet.

It seemed so unfair to be so little in such a large world. Rodents—mice, rats, guinea pigs, and the rest (except capybaras)—have to live in that world for their entire lives. They can embody the same frustrations and physical limitations that children know all too well.

And yet…

Rodents Have Moxie!

Mouse Clip Art 6 Cliparting

I love the word “moxie” because it has so many great definitions. And every rodent adheres to every moxie definition:

Are rodents energetic? Lord, yes (except capybaras).

Intelligent? Yup.

Resourceful? My Houdini Rat escaped from her cage six times (six times!). So, yeah!

Curious? The fact that my Houdini Rat explored the entire house before choosing to cuddle in my son’s bed is a big yup.

The “moxie” definitions apply to children, too. Who but a kid would jump from the highest monkey bar? Or run a half-mile to chase down the ice cream truck? Or ask questions both innocent and profound. Or find a hundred different ways to play with an empty cardboard box? Kids tick off all the moxie boxes. Rodents are their spirit animals.

Which leads to my final reason…

Rodents are Cuuuute!

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All rodents are cute (especially capybaras). Sure a naked rat might take a little getting used to, but as soon as you see one washing his widdle face in a bathroom sink, the cuteness is oh, so apparent.

We go the extra mile for cute things, don’t we? Of course we do. That’s why we all tolerate (and often chuckle fondly) at all of our kids’ nonsense. And, really, who doesn’t wanna read about a cute something? I do! And you probably do, too!

Now, if you’ll forgive me, I gotta go. I’m calling dibs on a capybara picture book.

While Mike’s off doing that, you can check out this giveaway!

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Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist Giveaway

 

I’m giving away a signed copy of Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist, written by Mike Allegra and illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel from Dawn Publications. It’s a story of excitement and experimentation in which Scampers and her friend Nibbles (who, by the way, are teensy-eensy tiny, have moxie, and are cuuuute) reclaim their vegetable patch from a wide-eyed owl.

To enter all you have to do is:

Leave a comment here on this post about your favorite kind of rodent or favorite literary rodent

OR

Check out my Giveaway on Instagram. To enter just

  • Like a giveaway post
  • Follow me at celebratepicturebooks.
  • Bonus: Comment with your favorite kind of rodent or your favorite literary rodent for an extra entry (each comment gives you one more entry)

This giveaway runs from April 4 through April 10 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only

Read my reviews of 

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Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist 

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Everybody’s Favorite Book

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Mike Allegra is the author of Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist, Everybody’s Favorite Book, the Prince Not-So-Charming series, and Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday. 

To learn more about Mike Allegra, his books, and his other work, visit his website.

 

 

 

You can find Mike’s books at these booksellers:

 

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist

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

Everybody’s Favorite Book

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

Prince Not-So-Charming: Once Upon a Prank (and the rest of the series)

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

Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

April 3 – National Walking Day and Interview with Author Jane Whittingham

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About the Holiday

The American Heart Association established National Walking Day in 2007 to remind people of the benefits of taking a walk. Even twenty to thirty minutes a day can improve your health and wellbeing. If you have a desk job or spend long hours sitting, getting up and out can make you feel better and even more connected to your community. While walking through your neighborhood, the park, or the woods take time to notice interesting details and the beauty around you. Walking with a friend, your family, or a group can also be fun and motivating. So grab your sneakers and use today to spark a new habit that will pay dividends now and in the future.

I received a copy of Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up from Pajama Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Pajama Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up

Written by Jane Whittingham | Illustrated by Emma Pedersen

 

Twice every day Mama Quail led her ten chicks through the meadow, and while nine hurried and scurried along after Mama, Queenie, the smallest, always lagged behind. Mama and the other chicks chirped and cheeped for Queenie to “hurry hurry hurry,” but it was just so hard when there was so much to see. Queenie loved stopping to look at the “pink blossoms and green grass, shiny stones and fuzzy caterpillars, buzzy bumblebees and wiggly worms.”

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Image copyright Emma Pedersen, 2019, text copyright Jane Whittingham, 2019. Courtesy of Pajama Press.

Her papa admonished her to learn to hurry—“It is what we quails do!” he told her. And Queenie promised to try. She really did try too, but she just couldn’t pass by all her favorite things without stopping to enjoy them. One day, in addition to the blossoms, grass, stones, caterpillars, bees, and worms, Queenie spied a feather. And when she stopped to admire it, she saw “an unusual flash of orange.”

As Queenie watched, the “the furry orange slid softly, smoothly, silently through the green grass.” Queenie followed at a careful distance. Suddenly, Queenie saw that she was following a cat—a cat that was stalking her mama and brothers and sisters. Queenie knew just what she had to do. She raced down the path “hurry, hurry, hurrying,” chirping, cheeping, and warning her family.

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Image copyright Emma Pedersen, 2019, text copyright Jane Whittingham, 2019. Courtesy of Pajama Press.

In the nick of time, Papa heard her and swooped down on the cat. Mama came running too. With a hiss, the cat jumped into the grass and fled. “‘You’ve saved us, Queenie Quail!’ Mama Quail chirped.” And Papa and her little siblings praised her too. Now, when the family heads out along the meadow trail and Queenie can’t keep up, they all ask, “‘What have you found, what have you found, what have you found?’” And they stop and hurry hurry hurry over to take a look too.

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Image copyright Emma Pedersen, 2019, text copyright Jane Whittingham, 2019. Courtesy of Pajama Press.

Jane Whittingham’s story of an adorable quail who stops to smell all the roses is a charming, charming, charming read-aloud that adults will love sharing and kids will enthusiastically chime in on during the fun repeated phrases. Whittingham’s agile storytelling shines with lyrical rhythms and alliteration that bounce along like the little stars of her book. The gentle suspense will keep young listeners riveted to the story, and afterward they’re sure to join Queenie and her brothers and sisters in slowing down to enjoy the world around them.

Readers will immediately fall in love with Queenie and her siblings as Emma Pedersen’s cute-as-can-be, tufted quail babies race and bob along the trail to keep up with Mama. With expressive eyes and tiny beaks that form a perpetual smile, they nestle next to Mama and pile on top of Papa. As they watch out for Queenie, one or two often peer out at readers, inviting them along on their excursions. As the heroine of the story, Queenie is a sweetie, fascinated by everything she sees. Pedersen’s lovely gauche paintings are as fresh as a spring meadow and will entice kids and adults to take a nice slow walk together.

A unique and tender story that will have children entranced from the first page, Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up will be a favorite on home, school, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Pajama Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1772780673

You’ll discover more about Jane Whittingham and her books as well as blog posts, interviews, and lots more on her website.

To learn more about Emma Pedersen, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Jane Whittingham

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Today, I’m excited to be talking with Jane Whittingham an author and librarian from British Columbia, Canada, about the inspiration for her adorable quails, what she loves about being a librarian, and how nature features in her life and books.

I believe Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up was inspired by your dad and a true story. Can you talk about that a little?

My parents moved to a small town on Vancouver Island when they retired, and their backyard is home to all sorts of wildlife, including families of quails that hurry and scurry here and there. My dad  always liked watching them, and he mentioned to me once that quails would make perfect picture book stars with their round little bodies and their amusing personalities and antics. Well, I was inspired! I’d never really thought much about quails, since we don’t have them where I live, so every time I visited my parents I would spend a bit of time watching the quails for inspiration.

Queenie, the little quail who is just too easily distracted to keep up with her siblings, is definitely inspired by me, and the fact that I’m always falling behind because I have to stop and look at everything! The book is a bit bittersweet to me because my father passed away before it was published, but I know he would’ve gotten a real kick out of it, and he would have probably introduced himself to everyone as my muse!  

Have you always liked to write? Can you talk a little about your process? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I’ve always been a writer, and even before I could physically write I was a storyteller. I was an only child and spent a lot of time using my toys to tell epic stories, which I would then recount breathlessly to my parents in an endless stream of words.

I don’t really have a process – like many people I fit writing around my full-time job (I’m a librarian) and into my busy life, so I snatch moments here and there whenever I can. I write on my phone, I write on scraps of paper, I write on my computer. I write on my commute, at coffee shops, and in grocery store lineups. You never know when inspiration will strike!

Besides Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up,  you have two more very well-received books out from Pajama Press—Wild One and A Good Day for Ducks. The outdoors features in all of your books in some way. Are you inspired by the outdoors? What is your favorite outside activity or a memorable experience you’ve had?

I am absolutely inspired by the outdoors – even though my childhood wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things, I do feel like I had a very different childhood than many kids experience today. I spent a lot of my free time outdoors, wandering or biking around the neighborhood with a band of kids, making (and falling out of) tree forts, playing kickball on the street, and turning local playgrounds into the settings for all sorts of imaginary worlds. My parents often had no idea where I was, but that was totally normal for the time—I never left the neighborhood, and they knew I would come home when it started to get dark.

Sometimes it feels like I grew up in a whole other era! Through my books I really want to encourage families to get outside, to explore, to learn through doing and through experiencing. Nature is such an incredible source of inspiration, of knowledge, of enjoyment, and even of healing, and we really miss out on so much by cooping ourselves up in front of our screens all day long!

In doing a little research for this interview, I raided your wonderful website and discovered that you made a few resolutions this year. One is to read outside your comfort zone, which includes murder mysteries, historical fiction, and narrative nonfiction. How is that going? Can you give me one mystery title in your comfort zone and one “departure” book you’ve dipped your toes (eyes?) into?

Oh dearie me, you’re holding me accountable! I recently finished a YA novel, which is very, very unusual for me—I never read young adult fiction even when I was a young adult, so this was a major departure for me! It’s called The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, and tells the story of a young Muslim lesbian whose family discovers her secret girlfriend and sends her off to Bangladesh to straighten her out, as it were. It’s definitely an eye-opening look into a culture and experience very different from my own, and I really enjoyed it.

As for my taste in mysteries, I tend to favour the classic British who-dunnit style, with authors like Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh being particular favorites. I also really enjoy mysteries with historical settings, which allow me to check off two favorite genres at once!

Queenie is an adorable little quail! What was your reaction to seeing Emma Pedersen’s illustrations for the first time? In your blog post “Queenie Quail and the Road to Publication,” you talk about needing to cut your original manuscript. Can you describe one place where the illustration reflects the text that is no longer there? Can you describe a place where Emma included something that surprised or particularly delighted you?

I was absolutely floored when I first saw Emma’s illustrations, they’re beyond wonderful, and even more adorable than I ever could have imagined! It’s a funny thing, being a picture book author, because you craft these characters and this environment, and then you hand the whole thing over to a stranger to make real—it can be a bit nerve-wracking, not knowing what your little characters will end up looking like! I was immensely relieved when I saw Queenie and her siblings, and I think Emma’s classic artistic style perfectly complements my old-fashioned writing style.

One of the aspects of the text that was really shortened related to all the things that distracted Queenie on her daily walks with her family. I described the worms and the bees and the flowers in great detail, which turned out to be entirely unnecessary, since everything appeared so beautifully in Emma’s illustrations!

And as for an illustration that particularly delighted me, there’s a spread where Mama and Papa quail nuzzle Queenie as they thank her for saving the day, and the loving expressions on everyone’s faces really just melted my heart, I loved them so much!

What drew you to becoming a librarian? What is a favorite part of your day?

I am a children’s librarian for an urban library system here in British Columbia, Canada, and I’m responsible for developing and facilitating programming for children and families in an older residential neighborhood. I get to do a lot of fun things in my job—I lead story times for caregivers and their babies, facilitate writing and book clubs for tweens, and get to host and visit local preschools, daycares and elementary schools. I think my favourite part of the entire year is Summer Reading Club, which runs from June – August every year. We spend the entire year planning all sorts of exciting programs to get kids reading all summer long, and it’s so much fun! Sometimes I can’t quite believe I get to do this as my job. I also manage the physical collections in the library, organizing and weeding the books to make sure the collection is in tip- top shape and helps meet the reading needs of my community.

I was raised in a family of voracious readers and I love working with people, so librarianship always seemed like a natural fit, but it took me quite a while to get here. I worked in various jobs for about six years following my initial graduation from university, before finally feeling confident enough to take the plunge and go back to school to do my masters in librarianship. It was a real leap of faith, quitting a well-paying, stable but unfulfilling job to take a chance on a career that everyone around me said was dying out, but it’s certainly paid out for me, so far at least! I can’t stress enough that simply loving books is not enough of a reason to become a librarian, especially not a public librarian – you really do need to love working with people more than anything, because it’s definitely not for the faint of heart sometimes!

On your website you have a gallery of pictures from libraries you’ve visited. How many libraries have you been to? Which library is the farthest from home? Which was your favorite and why?

I love visiting libraries at home and abroad, I find so much inspiration from looking at how other libraries organize their collections, decorate their spaces, and plan their events. I’m not even sure at this point how many libraries I’ve visited. I need to update my website to include the ones I visited on my most recent trip to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick!

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Jane visits one of her favorite libraries – the Nikko Library – in Japan

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A view of a bridge and beyond in Nikko, Japan

Some of the furthest libraries I’ve visited have been in New Zealand and Japan (which I’ve visited on three separate occasions so far), though I’ve visited libraries in different US states and Canadian provinces, too. I don’t know that I have a single favorite library, but I do particularly enjoy visiting rural libraries – they can be so creative with their often-limited resources, and really do serve as the hearts and souls of their communities. 

What’s the best part about being a children’s author? Can you share an anecdote from an author’s event you’ve held or been part of?

I love everything about writing for kids! I really am a big kid at heart, which is why I’m a children’s librarian, too! I’ve had wonderful experiences reading my books to kids at different author events, and it’s so much fun to get everyone involved.

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Jane and kids act out animals during an exciting author visit.

With Wild One I like to get kids to guess which animal they think the protagonist is pretending to be, and then we act out the animals together, which is heaps of fun, and with A Good Day for Ducks we act out all sorts of fun raining day actions, then talk together about all the things you can do, inside and outside, on a rainy day. I live in a very rainy place, so it’s important to find the joy in even the gloomiest of days! One of the most meaningful events I’ve done was a visit to a local children’s hospice, where I was able to connect with a small group of really amazing children who have been through so much in their short lives. To be able to share my stories with them, and listen to their stories, was an incredibly inspiring and moving experience.

What’s up next for you?

I’m not quite sure! I’ve got a couple of manuscripts that I’m still working on, and some that I’m waiting to hear back about from editors, so I don’t really know yet what’s coming down the pipeline. But I’ll always keep on telling stories, no matter what. 🙂

What is your favorite holiday and why?

My favourite holiday is definitely Christmas. I love Christmas. I love the music, the baking, the food, the decorating, the music, the family get-togethers, I love it all! I don’t actually do any of the decorating or baking or cooking myself, I mostly just listen to Christmas carols for a month straight and watch hours of Christmas movies on TV, but I love it all the same!

Thanks, so much, Jane! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about you and am sure readers have too! I wish you all the best with Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up and all of your books!

You can connect with Jane Whittingham on:

Her website | Instagram

Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Pajama Press in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up written by Jane Whittingham | illustrated by Emma Pedersen

This giveaway is open from April 3 through April 9 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

It’s easy to enter! Just:

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Pajama Press.

National Walking Day Activity

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Whose Shoes? Matching Puzzle

These kids are getting out and enjoying nature! Can you help them find the right shoes so they can start their adventures in this printable puzzle?

Whose Shoes? Matching Puzzle

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You can find Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 2 – International Children’s Book Day

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About the Holiday

Since 1962, International Children’s Book Day (ICBD) has been held on April 2 to commemorate the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen. Part of the International Board on Books for Young People, which promotes understanding through children’s books, works to ensure that children everywhere have access to books, and helps to protect the rights of children worldwide in accordance to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ICBD is sponsored each year by a different member country. This year Lithuania is the sponsor and encourages readers to slow down and enjoy a good book. You can learn more on the IBBY website.

Remarkably You

Written by Pat Zeitlow Miller | Illustrated by Patrice Barton

 

In her stirring Remarkably You, Pat Zeitlow Miller celebrates each child’s individuality and gifts. She talks directly to the reader assuring them that they are exceptional, whether they’re bold, timid, small or “practically grown.” She then fills them with confidence, telling them that they are smart, have power, and can change the world.

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Image copyright Patrice Barton, 2019, text copyright Pat Zeitlow Miller, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

With encouragement Miller beckons each child to find their place in the world and do what they can; and when that is done to “choose a new problem and do it again.” How do kids know where they fit in? “Just look for the moments that let you be you.” Miller goes on to validate each child, saying, “You have your own spirit, unparalleled flair. / So rock what you’ve got—every day everywhere.”

She then channels how every parent or caregiver feels about their child—“You are a blessing, / a promise, a prize. / You’re capable, caring, courageous, and wise.”—and emboldens kids to embrace who they are and get out there and enjoy life—their own, remarkable life.

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Image copyright Patrice Barton, 2019, text copyright Pat Zeitlow Miller, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

You will absolutely love reading this book to your child, grandchild, students, or any child who captures your heart. In her lovely and imaginative rhymes, Pat Zeitlow Miller celebrates each child as a special individual with unique traits that are valuable and an asset to the world. She reveals that the secret to happiness is staying true to yourself and using those traits to forge your own path. A glorious story, Remarkably You is an instant boost for any child—and no one could blame an adult for peeking inside for a little lift from time to time too.

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Patrice Barton’s rakish, enthusiastic, thoughtful, and freewheeling kids will melt your heart as they dip a toe into the sprinkler, wobble on skates, create a funny face with post-it notes, and gather to help each other and their neighborhood. Her softly hued pencil and mixed-media illustrations rejoice in diversity of all kinds, and each page shines with the acceptance and freedom all kids should feel while growing up and discovering themselves.

Remarkably You is a book you’ll love giving to new parents, caregivers, and the children in your life (even if they’re not so young any more). It would be a favorite go-to book to add to home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062427588

Discover more about Pat Zeitlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Patrice Barton, her books, and her art, visit her website

Children’s Book Day Activity

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You’re Amazing Magnets

 

You can remind your kids about how special they are with these complimentary sayings. Print them out and attach adhesive magnet strips to create decorations for a child’s room, their locker, the fridge or anywhere they’ll see them and take the message to heart. You can also use heavy paper or poster board, markers, and stickers to create your own encouraging magnets.

You’re Amazing Magnet Templates

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You can find Remarkably You at these booksellers

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

 

 

 

April 1 – Reading is Funny Day

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Nothing’s better than hearing the giggles and guffaws of a child reading a funny book! And thanks to today’s holiday, that sound can echo through homes, classrooms, libraries, and other places all day long. It’s easy to celebrate too. Just head out to your library or local bookstore and find some funny books to share. You can even raid your own bookshelves for some old favorites. Or do a bit of both and enjoy the newest in a much-loved series—like today’s book.

Narwhal’s Otter Friend (A Narwhal and Jelly Book)

By Ben Clanton

 

Narwhal and Jelly are back with new adventures in this fourth book of Ben Clanton’s beloved series. As the action begins, Narwhal and Jelly are swimming along when they meet Otty, an otter who’s excited to recognize Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea. Otty is no ordinary otter. It turns out she has “partied with penguins…and surfed with seals.” Otty “even met a mermaid once.” And one day she played with all three together.

Well, Narwhal thinks these escapes sound “Fantastic!” “Tubular!” and “Mer-aculous!” Jelly, though, is more skeptical, so when Narwhal suggests having an adventure with Otty, he’s shocked. Especially when the list of gear they’re going to bring along includes waffles.

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Copyright Ben Clanton, 2019, courtesy of Tundra Books.

The action takes a break for some “Otterly Aww-some Facts” about this favorite sea and river cutie, and Jelly sneaks in some pretty cool facts about jellyfish as well. During the break, Jelly’s feelings have turned into a black cloud of jealousy. He determines that he will also find a new friend and invites Turtle to eat waffles with him. Turtle is already committed to her friend Shelly’s “Birthday Shellebration,” though, so Jelly keeps looking. Shark and Octopus have plans to play ball, and Mr. Blowfish is too busy talking on his “shell phone” to speak to Jelly.

Jelly’s beginning to despair of ever finding a new friend when he spots Crab grumping on the bottom of the ocean. Jelly floats down there and tries to cheer Crab up with a joke, but his response is: “Scram, Smelly.” Jelly tells him that even the rock lying nearby would make a better friend, and that’s when he has an idea. Jelly decides that Rocky is going to be “one rock-solid friend.”

What’s a Narwhal and Jelly book without the adventures of Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick? Fortunately, you don’t have to find out as Jelly and Rocky come up with a new episode: Strawberry Sidekick vs. The dEVILed EGG. Just as they’re finishing this egg-citing story, Narwhal and Otter swim up. Seems they’ve been looking all over for Jelly. When they hear about all the fun Jelly and Rocky have been having, they greet Rocky enthusiastically, and Otty thinks he’s “one rocking rock!” Jelly asks them what they’ve been doing.

Narwhal and Otty reveal their plans to take an adventure into space and have a party on the moon. Afterward, they’re going to “surf down a rainbow,” and then probably do something with waffles. Jelly would love to do all of those things. But Narwhal tells him there’s something important missing before they can begin. Can you guess what that is?

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Copyright Ben Clanton, 2019, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Narwhal’s Otter Friend is the book that fans of this ocean duo knew they needed. Full of emotion, suspense, adorableness, puns, and—of course—waffles, the fourth Narwhal and Jelly book introduces readers to the sweetest otter in the ocean. Kids will love her spunk and imagination while also understanding Jelly’s bout of jealousy. And although they may wonder if maaaybee Narwhal has found a better friend, they know deep in their heart that these two stick together through everything and that the ocean is big enough for three…four…and even more friends.

Ages 6 – 9

Tundra Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-0735262485

To learn more about Ben Clanton, his books, and his art and to find awesome printable activities visit his website.

Reading Is Funny Day Activity

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Comical Card Games

 

Not only is it Reading is Funny Day but it’s April Fools Day too! Here are some funny printable reading and joke-based card games for you to enjoy with your friends or family! They’re courtesy of the American Library Association, and you can find more fun activities to download on their website!

Cut the cards apart, shuffle them, and lay them in rows face side down to play a memory game. Just start with one and try to find its funny mate. If the cards don’t match put them back and try again until you’ve paired up all the questions with their answers.

Talking Turnip Playing Cards | Loony Library Playing Cards

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You can find Narwhal’s Otter Friend at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review