January 7 – Scooper and Dumper Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

For authors and illustrators, the launch of a new book is the culmination of what can be years of thinking, creating, and collaborating before finally enjoying the excitement of seeing their efforts on bookstore shelves. Celebrating this accomplishment is always a joy! Today, I’m excited to be a tour stop for Lindsay Ward’s latest picture book – a story about true friendship that kids will love to share this winter and all year around. 

Thanks to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Scooper and Dumper for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m also excited to be participating in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Scooper and Dumper

By Lindsay Ward

 

The town lies blanketed in snow and Scooper and Dumper are revving up. They are “the best of friends, / working together, / take care of their town / in any weather.” Scooper digs in with her teeth to pick up rock salt and pour it into Dumper’s deep bed even before the town awakes. Dumper heads out to clear and salt the roads, while Scooper—who’s too slow to be on the streets—stays in the salt yard ready for when Dumper needs a refill.

Then a call comes in from the big city: “We’re out of salt. / Cars and trucks / are at a halt,” Scooper alerts Dumper who answers “Dumper here— / let’s rock ‘n’ roll! / Big city’s callin’ for / some small-town soul.” As Scooper loads up Dumper they sing their song: “Clear the road. / Salt the street. / Work together, / can’t be beat!” Then Dumper is on his way to the city, where cars on their way to work and school follow in the path he makes. All finished, he calls back to Scooper that he’s on his way home, but because of the howling wind, she doesn’t hear the call.

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Image copyright Lindsay Ward, 2021, courtesy of Two Lions.

The snow has come down fast and thick, blocking the view and making the streets icy. Suddenly, Dumper comes upon a pileup and can’t stop in time. His wheels slip, he veers and tips over. He calls for Tow Truck, but he can’t get through either. Meanwhile Scooper is growing worried. But there’s no one else to help. It’s up to her to find her friend. Finally, she tells herself, “‘Come on, wheels! / I have to try / before this snow / piles up too high.’” She lowers her bucket and slowly steams ahead.

Stuck in a snowbank, Dumper shivers. Then he sees a glow and hears a familiar song “Clear the road. / Salt the street. / Work together, / can’t be beat!” Dumper perks up as Scooper digs Dumper out and rights him with her strong bucket. Back on his wheels, Dumper helps Scooper rescue the other cars and clear the road. “Cars and trucks now safe and sound. / Scooper ‘n’ Dumper / homeward bound.”

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Image copyright Lindsay Ward, 2021, courtesy of Two Lions.

For young truck and vehicle lovers or anyone with a caring best friend, there is much to love in Lindsay Ward’s Scooper and Dumper. Ward’s snowy-day setting establishes a perfect scenario for her story of cooperation, courage, and friendship. As both Scooper and Dumper display their individual strengths in bringing help to the town and city, readers see how their own talents when teamed with a friend or group can move mountains and pave a clear path for themselves and others to succeed. When Scooper realizes that it’s up to her to rescue Dumper, kids get a sweet and convincing lesson on overcoming self-doubt and fear to help a friend. Ward’s dynamic rhymes incorporate action, dialogue, and plenty of suspense to keep readers turning the pages, and the calls from vehicle to vehicle deepen the idea of teamwork so important to the story. Kids will also love to read along with Scooper and Dumper’s signature song.

Ward’s icy-blue-toned illustrations, frosted with fluffy snowflakes, will thrill kids who love nothing more than getting outside on a snowy day. Scooper and Dumper are endearing, with friendly and enthusiastic faces created from their headlights and grills. Her images of the multi-car pileup and Dumper’s accident are dramatic and will move kids to empathize with those in need of help while also showing the comfort friends bring in times of trouble.

Scooper and Dumper, an original story about friendship, bravery, and teamwork for exhilarating and thoughtful story times, is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542092685

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Lindsay Ward is the creator of the Dexter T. Rexter series, as well as Rosie: Stronger than Steel, This Book Is Gray, Brobarians, Rosco vs. the Baby, and The Importance of Being 3. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play. Lindsay lives with her family in Peninsula, Ohio, where vehicles such as Scooper and Dumper take care of the roads all year-round. You can connect with Lindsay on

Her website | Twitter | Instagram

Scooper and Dumper Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Two Lions and Blue Slip Press in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Scooper and Dumper by Lindsay Ward

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite winter activity for extra entry

This giveaway is open from January 7 to January 14 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on January 15. 

Prizing provided by Two Lions and Blue Slip Media

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

Scooper and Dumper Book Tour Activity

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

It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

 

If a snow day is your favorite kind of day, you’ll enjoy finding the pairs of identical snowflakes in this printable puzzle.

It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

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You can find Scooper and Dumper at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 5 – National Cuddle Up Day

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About the Holiday

As the icy days of January settle in, National Cuddle Up Day reminds us that snuggling up with someone you love warms you, warms your heart, and builds strong relationships. Children especially love the comfort and security that hugs bring. And what would bedtime be without snuggling in with a good book – like today’s sweet sure-to-be favorite.

Little Owl’s Bedtime

Written by Debi Gliori | Written by Alison Brown

 

“It was late o’clock” when Little Owl was cuddled up next to Mommy for a bedtime story. Mommy read, “‘Then all the little bunnies closed their eyes and fell fast asleep. The end.’” As she closed the book, she told Little Owl that it was time for him to go to sleep too. But Little Owl wasn’t having it. “‘NO, NO, NO!’” he stated. He didn’t want to close his eyes, fall asleep, or have the day end. What he did want was another story.

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Image copyright Alison Brown, 2020, text copyright Debi Gliori, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mommy Owl made a bargain with Little Owl that involved one more book and then sleep. Little Owl agreed. The little mice were all tucked in and dreaming when Mommy read “‘The End,’” and Little Owl snuggled down into bed, where… what with the lumpy pillow and hot blanket, Little Owl just could not get comfortable enough to go to sleep. Plus, why was it sooo dark? Little Owl called for Mommy.

Mommy Owl explained about the “Bashful Frog Chorus” and how the shy frogs would only come out to sing when it was completely dark. But she gave Little Owl a tiny nightlight to make him feel better. Little Owl tried again, but he tossed and turned and suddenly realized that Hedge, his favorite toy, was missing. He could never sleep without Hedge. Mommy thought Hedge may have gone in search of a snack at the Acorn Bakery, but a few minutes later Little Owl found her under his pillow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-owl's-bedtime-second-story

Image copyright Alison Brown, 2020, text copyright Debi Gliori, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

All was quiet until Little Owl heard a strange “‘quiet, snorty kind of noise.’” Mommy knew right away that this was the gentle snoring of the butterflies slumbering “in their flower beds”—a lucky sound to hear. Once more, Mommy and Little Owl said goodnight. But the next minute brought more complaints. Mommy Owl came to her son’s bedside and said, “‘Look, you’ve woken up Hedge. Poor Hedge! Let’s tuck her back in.’”

As they were settling Hedge in, Little Owl had a confession. He couldn’t fall asleep because he was “too excited about seeing Grandma and Grandpa Owl” the next day. Now that Mommy knew what was really on Little Owl’s mind, she had a secret: “‘Tomorrow will come much faster when you fall asleep.’” Little Owl was surprised to hear this, and with a kiss from Mommy, he nestled into bed. He read Hedge a story, calmed her fears about the dark, and explained that the sound she heard was just Mommy singing in the bathtub. Then he snuggled deep into his covers and fell asleep, not even waking for the one last kiss Mommy gave him.

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Image copyright Alison Brown, 2020, text copyright Debi Gliori, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Adorable from beginning to end and full of sweet and creative on-the-fly explanations for the darkness, strange sounds, and lost toys that can disrupt a child’s sleep, Debi Gliori’s story will enchant both fans of the Little Owl series and new readers. Kids and adults will be charmed by the relationship between Little Owl and Mommy built on patience, trust, and love. Little Owl’s real reason for his wakefulness couldn’t be more endearing, and the way he repeats his and Mommy’s bedtime routine with Hedge shows the comfort of multigenerational bonds.

Alison Brown invites kids into Little Owl’s cozy tree-trunk home for cuddly bedtime routines that may remind them of their own “Goodnights.” Little Owl is sweetly expressive as he asks for just one more book and wrestles with sleeplessness, while Mommy answers his calls with cheerfulness and warmth. Brown’s lovely illustrations bring to life Mommy’s inventive stories of the Bashful Frog Chorus, Acorn Bakery, and snoozing butterflies with beautiful details that will delight kids and adults. Little Owl’s thoughts of visiting his grandparents come with hugs and happiness and a special cake made just for him and his little sister.

A loving hug in a book, Little Owl’s Bedtime is sure to bring cuddly comfort and sweet dreams and will be a favorite for children and adults to share at bedtime or any story time. The book would make a treasured gift and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections. Readers will also want to check out the other two books in the series, Little Owl’s First Day and Little Owl’s Egg.

Ages 2 – 5 

ISBN 978-1547604494

Discover more about Debi Gliori and her books on her website.

To learn more about Alison Brown, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Cuddle Up Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snuggle-buddy-craft

Snuggle Buddy Craft

 

Kids find going to sleep so much easier with a buddy to snuggle with! With this easy-to-make craft, your child can make a friend to dream with and personalize their pal anyway they want!

Supplies

  • 1 8-inch by 11-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the body (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project). A larger piece of fleece can be used to make a larger buddy
  • 1 5-inch by 8-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the hair (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project)
  • 1 small piece of fleece or other material for a pocket, clothes, or blanket
  • Small scraps of fleece or other material for the face
  • Fiber Fill
  • Thread and sewing needle OR fabric glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Fold the large piece of fleece in half lengthwise and sew along the open side and along the bottom. Alternatively, if using a larger size piece of fleece, fold upward and sew or glue the two sides closed.
  2. Turn the form inside out

To Make the Hair

  1. Cut a piece of fleece as wide as your buddy and about 7 – 8 inches long
  2. Fold the fleece lengthwise
  3. Insert both ends of the fleece into the opening at the top of the body
  4. Sew or glue the opening shut, securing the hair
  5. Cut strips about ¼-inch wide from the top of the hair to close to where the hair is sown into the body

To Make a Pocket or Clothes

  1. Cut a piece of fleece in the shape of a pocket, shirt, pants, diaper, or blanket
  2. Sew or glue the pocket or clothes to the buddy

To Make the Face

  1. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in whatever way you would like your buddy to look. 
  2. Sew or glue the face to the buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-owl's-bedtime-cover

You can find Little Owl’s Bedtime at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 5 – National Bird Day

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About the Holiday

Coming at the end of the annual Christmas Bird Count conducted in conjunction with the Audubon Society, National Bird Day turns the focus on the special behavioral and physical needs of birds and works to ensure that all birds—whether kept as pets or living on farms or in their natural environments—are treated compassionately. The day also raises awareness of the dangers that threaten many species of birds with extinction. Now that winter has set in making food scarce for wild birds, ensure that feeders are kept full. If you don’t already have a bird feeder, consider hanging one in your yard. The birds that come to visit will enchant you all winter long. 

Little Bird Visits the Big City

By Domenico Granata

 

When Little Bird gazed out at the little city in the distance, he couldn’t help but compare it to his little forest. The houses he saw in the city had roofs, and he said that one day he would like a house with a roof. His mother reminded him that the branches and leaves were his roof and that in the woods they could find everything they needed. “But Little Bird was still curious to see what was out there.”

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Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

One day Little Bird announced that he was going to fly to the city to see what he could find. His mother told him to be careful and suggested he take along some friends. “But Little Bird wanted to have an adventure of his own….” With a feeling of freedom, he soared over the trees to the edge of the city. He was proud of his accomplishment, but a bit weary. He searched for a tree to rest in, but there were few trees and all of the branches had been pruned back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-ball

Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

As Little Bird explored the city, he had no words for the many things he saw, and so many things—like cars and bicycles and dogs on leashes—made little sense to him. He was even confused by all of the children running around. After a near miss with a big red ball, Little Bird found that he was hungry. Fortunately, the park was full of seeds, but as he gobbled them down, he noticed that other birds “glared at him angrily when he came too close to their seeds.” Little Bird did encounter one friendly face when a boy was excited to discover him perched on a bench. After he’d left with his mother, Little Bird “wished he had a friend here with him now.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-boy

Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

As nighttime fell, Little Bird began to feel alone and he missed his cozy nest. Just then, he became aware of something moving behind him. He turned and saw a pile of leaves walking his way. “He was scared out of his wits,” but a voice assured him there was nothing to be frightened of. With a shake and a laugh, the leaves fell away to reveal Little Bird’s forest friends.

After Little Bird recovered from his shock, the three friends flew “back home to their cozy little forest.” Perhaps when they were older, Little Bird thought, they could take another trip—one even farther than the little city—but one they would take together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-friends

Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

Domenico Granata’s sweet story of a little bird who wants to prove his independence by exploring a far-off city by himself only to feel homesick for his friends and familiar comforts reassures children that no matter where they go, home and friends are always close by. As little ones head off to daycare or preschool and older children begin navigating the world of extracurricular activities, sleepovers, and other activities, Granata’s story resonates with the kinds of experiences—surprising, disappointing, and confusing as well as friendly and empowering—that everyone encounters on their way to growth and knowledge. His heartening ending lets kids know that the journey to independence can be taken one step at a time and with friends.

Granata’s bright illustrations that make evocative use of simple shapes to convey his story will charm readers. Soft, rounded birds, leaves, and a winter-clad boy denote friendship while the unfamiliar city offers angular trees and buildings. Readers will giggle at images of Little Bird’s friends hiding as a pile of leaves and his shocked reaction to seeing them. Early hints to the presence of the little boy help kids realize that friends can be found in any new experience.

An original story for those who are ready to strike out on their own as well as for those who are still thinking about it, Little Bird Visits the Big City would make a thoughtful storytime read at home and in the classroom, and a terrific addition to public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-9888342037

National Bird Day Activity

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Pinecone Bird Feeder

 

Pinecone bird feeders are quick to make and great for your backyard fliers. The combination of peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening and a quality seed mixture provide birds with the fat and nutrition they need to stay warm and healthy during the winter.

Supplies

  • Pinecones
  • Peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard
  • Birdseed
  • String
  • Knife or wooden spreader
  • Spoon

Directions

  1. Tie a long length of string around the middle of the pinecone
  2. Spread the peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard on the pinecone
  3. Sprinkle a thick coating of birdseed on the pinecone, pressing it into the covering so it will stick
  4. Tie the pinecone feeder onto a tree branch or other structure
  5. Watch the birds enjoy their meal!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bird-visits-the-big-city-cover

You can find Little Bird Visits the Big City at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 4 – It’s National Hot Tea Month

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing cozier during the month of January than enjoying a steaming cup of your favorite, flavorful tea as the temperature dips and the snow swirls. To celebrate this month’s holiday, why not try a new kind of tea or throw a tea party? Many teas have health benefits and can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. This drink has been around for thousands of years and is enjoyed the world over. So boil up some water, grab the honey or sugar, add a splash of milk if you like, and enjoy!

Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party

Written by Yumi Heo | Illustrated by Naoko Stoop

 

One day when the heat of the day had past, yet it wasn’t quite evening, “the moon and the sun had a tea party.” They got to talking, and Moon mentioned that moms and dads down below always got their kids ready for bed. Sun disagreed, telling Moon that they got “their children ready for school.” Moon countered that children needed to sleep. At this, Sun flared, saying they needed to go to school.

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Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

They continued to argue over whether the streets of the world were busy or empty, whether birds flew in the sky or dozed in their nests, and even about their reflections in the river. The disagreements became so heated that Cloud heard them as he drifted along. Cloud asked what the matter was. When he heard, he told them they were both right said, “‘You must each stay up past your bedtime, and you will see.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-city

Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The next morning, Moon hid behind Cloud and peered out at a busy world. She discovered that Sun had been right. She saw “Moms and dads pouring cereal and putting on coats, dogs chasing their tails, and trees standing guard in green uniforms.” That evening instead of setting, Sun hid behind Cloud and discovered that Moon had been correct. Sun watched “Moms and dads tucking in blankets and reading stories, dogs sweetly dreaming, and trees standing guard in gray pajamas.” Sun was amazed. The next day, Sun and Moon reflected on what they had seen, “and in the world below, everything shone in their light.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-night

Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Yumi Heo, who passed away in 2016, created the perfect pairing of characters and theme in her clever story as nothing, many would have you believe, is so assured as the dichotomy of Day and Night. As Moon and Sun argue over what people and nature do on earth, Heo invites readers—who already know that both Sun and Moon are right—to actively participate in their perspective-changing discoveries. By presenting, first, the compelling evidence that informs Sun and Moon’s opinions of the world and, second, the revelations Cloud makes possible, Heo gives kids insight into how understanding, empathy, and an appreciation for others develops. Enlightenment, however, doesn’t come without an openness to accepting alternate viewpoints, and here is where Heo’s multi-layered story shines. After Sun and Moon allow Cloud to show them the other side, they do not reject the truth of what they see, but find common ground. Heo ends her story with hope and growth as during their respective shifts the next day, Sun and Moon continue to contemplate each other’s perspective.

In her mixed-media illustrations, beautifully textured with a plywood base, Naoko Stoop brings to light Moon and Sun’s opposing views of the world and, in their facial expressions, demonstrates how quickly arguments and stalemates can occur. Stoop’s daytime scenes depict a diverse city community in spreads that readers will love to linger over to find kids and adults engaged in activities that reflect their own lives. As Sun and Moon describe their own mutually exclusive experiences, Stoop cleverly focuses on one busy corner where a bookshop and a bakery—two bastions of diversity—sit side-by-side. Stoop’s color palette is muted and lovely, with cheery views of daytime and cozy images of nighttime, making this a distinctive book to share at bedtime or for quiet, thoughtful daytime story times.

Thoughtful, contemplative, and comforting with a timely message of awareness, acceptance, and reconciliation, Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for classroom and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2020 | ISBN 978-0385390330

To learn more about Naoko Stoop, her books, and her art visit her website.

National Hot Tea Month Activity

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Tea Bag Buddy

 

It’s fun to have a tea party with a friend, and this little tea bag buddy is ready to hang out with you!

Supplies

  • Tea bags
  • Poly-fill
  • Permanent markers
  • Needle

Directions

  1. Gently open a tea bag, unfold it, and discard the tea
  2. Remove the string with the tag and set aside
  3. Fill the tea bag with a bit of poly-fill
  4. Thread the string of the tag through the needle
  5. Fold the tea bag back up
  6. Fold the ends of the bag under and sew them closed with the tag string, leaving the tag dangling
  7. With the permanent markers, draw a face on the front of the tea bag

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sun-and-moon-have-a-tea-party-cover

You can find Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 1 – New Year’s Day Book Birthday of First Day of Unicorn School

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About the Holiday

Starting a new year and discovering a new book make a perfect pair, so I’m happy to be celebrating the book birthday of First Day of Unicorn School by Jess Hernandez and Mariano Epelbaum. Sharing today’s book, which is full of the same kinds of dreams, new experiences, friendships, and even laughs that await kids over the next twelve months, with your kids is a terrific way to start 2021.

Thanks to Capstone Press for sending me a copy of First Day of Unicorn School for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

First Day of Unicorn School

Written by Jess Hernandez | Illustrated by Mariano Epelbaum

 

When the acceptance letter from Unicorn School finally arrived, Milly was thrilled. “Unicorn School taught only the best and the brightest unicorns.” Milly knew she was the “best” and the “brightest,” but Milly also knew that she wasn’t a unicorn—she was “a donkey in a party hat.” While the pictures of her wearing a cone-shaped hat had fooled the admissions counselors, Milly began to worry that the other students would notice something amiss. For a moment, Milly considered staying home. But then she remembered the school’s rainbows, “sparkling fountains…and dragon-taming class.”

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Image copyright Mariano Epelbaum, 2021, text copyright Jess Hernandez, 2021. Courtesy of Capstone Editions.

With her hat firmly in place, Milly confidently entered the gates of Unicorn School on her first day. As Milly looked around at her fellow classmates, she was taken with their sparkly hooves and shiny horns. Just then she bumped into “a big unicorn with a tall horn.” Milly apologized, but with an odd look and a cry of “‘Mooo-ve it!’” the big unicorn stomped away. Milly was so distracted that she ran into a wooly unicorn, collided with a three-horned unicorn, and just got too close to a lumpy unicorn who actually spat at her. They all warned her to stay away with the same unusual expression.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-day-of-unicorn-school-hat

Image copyright Mariano Epelbaum, 2021, text copyright Jess Hernandez, 2021. Courtesy of Capstone Editions.

Teary-eyed and with her hat slipping sideways, Milly decided to leave school. “She was a donkey. And that’s all she’d ever be.” Then Milly took one last glance back and was shocked to see that all of the unicorns’ “horns were crooked.” She had to know the answer to a very particular question and asked, “‘Are any of you real unicorns?’” The animals hemmed and hawed until one horse finally admitted that his horn was “‘an ice cream cone.’” Then the other animals revealed that they weren’t unicorns either and told how they’d each fashioned their glittery horns. They all had a good laugh together, and Milly realized she’d finally found where she belonged.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-day-of-unicorn-school-path

Image copyright Mariano Epelbaum, 2021, text copyright Jess Hernandez, 2021. Courtesy of Capstone Editions.

In her silly and insightful story, Jess Hernandez reveals that readers don’t need to pretend to be something they aren’t in order to be their “best” and “brightest.” She also touches on the prevalent and distorting notion that  beauty is found only within a narrow spectrum or even a single ideal. As Milly comes close to exposing the other animals’ disguises and sets off their harsh rebukes, Hernandez demonstrates that transformations can extend past the physical to affect one’s personalities and the way they treat others. When the animals can be their true selves again, however, they’re able to become friends and create a happy community where all are welcome. For children facing a new experience or worried about fitting in, Hernandez’s story shows them that everyone has the same types of feelings at one time or another.

Mariano Epelbaum’s candy-colored illustrations are a unicorn-lover’s paradise. Milly luxuriates in a room as pink as cotton candy and filled with the fluff and glitz of glamour. Likewise, Unicorn School—with its rainbows, shining stars, manicured grounds, and dragon to be vanquished—has all the trappings of a child’s sweetest daydream. As Milly and the other students trot up the pathway to the school building, kids will love finding and guessing at the false horns on each animal’s head. Epelbaum’s clever variety of headgear will bring plenty of giggles and is sure to inspire kids to create their own horn from household items. The final page reminds readers that they fit in just the way they are, unadorned with pretense.

A light-hearted look at a subject many kids grapple with, First Day of Unicorn School gives children and adults a charming way to talk about being yourself and finding where you fit in, whether it’s at school, sports, or other activities. The book would be a delightful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Capstone Editions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1684462797

Discover more about Jess Hernandez and her writing on her website.

To learn more about Mariano Epelbaum, his books, and his art, visit his website.

First Day of Unicorn School Book Birthday Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-day-of-unicorn-school-unicorn-mask    celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-unicorn-coloring-page 

Unicorn Mask and Coloring Page

 

How do you think it would feel to be a unicorn? Color and cut out this printable unicorn mask, cut out the eyes, and add a string or elastic to pretend to be a unicorn. You can also enjoy coloring this printable unicorn picture. And don’t forget to use plenty of glitter!

Unicorn Mask | Unicorn Coloring Page

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You can find First Day of Unicorn School at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 31 – Universal Hour of Peace Day

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About the Holiday

Created by Dr. Barbara Condron at the School of Metaphysics, the Universal Hour of Peace encourages people worldwide to live conflict free for one hour – from 11:30 p.m. December 31 to 12:30 January 1 – and enter the new year in a spirit of love and hope. The holiday was first celebrated on October 24, 1995 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and the autumnal equinox. In 1996 the holiday was moved to January 1st and took place at noon GMT. It now spans the transition from the outgoing year to the new year. Where can you find peace? You’ll find many ideas in today’s book.

Peace is an Offering

Written by Annette LeBox | Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Peace comes in many forms, as simple as “an offering” of “a muffin or a peach. / A birthday invitation. / A trip to the beach.” Peace is being thankful for the wonders of nature, a parent’s love, the coolness of rain or morning dew, even a steaming “bowl of hot stew.” Peace is those times when we are together, in a hug, with sweet words, or cuddling to hear a story. Peace comes in reassurance to the questions that might worry: “Will you wait when I’m slow? / Will you calm by fears? / Will you sing to the sun / to dry my tears?”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Where is peace found? In so many places! In a picture or a “belly laugh.” And even when tragedy strikes or “in your darkest hour,” peace can be found, for “peace is a joining, not a pulling apart. It’s the courage to bear a wounded heart.” Peace is finding safety and a “freedom from fear.” It’s found when you “offer a cookie…comfort a friend…sing a quiet song.” When you’re open to catching “a falling star” then peace will “walk beside you / wherever you are.”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Annette LeBox builds beautiful phrase upon beautiful phrase until midway through her inspiring story when she takes readers gently by the heart and shows them the way forward through any event that disrupts inner peace. LeBox reveals that capturing or recapturing those simple joys that make up a fulfilling life—and more importantly offering that kindness, help, and inclusion to others—brings hope, healing, and happiness not only to others but to yourself as well.

Stephanie Graegin excels in pairing text with quietly powerful images of togetherness and the tranquility such closeness brings. As diverse groups of friends, siblings, and families go about their day at school, eat out, navigate puddles and long walks, and enjoy time playing and laughing with each other, readers will be moved by Graegin’s tender details and will enjoy following and pointing out the characters who return from page to page. Images of loss (a mother hugs her two children close as they sit on a park bench overlooking a cityscape and little boy gazes at a picture of his dog) offer poignant opportunities for adult and kids to discuss life changes and events in the news that affect us all. Illustrations of uplifting ideas and gestures that children can use to express their vision of kindness and peace will inspire young readers.

A stirring and heartfelt look at the ways children and adults can share peace, comfort, and encouragement, Peace is an Offering is superb book to add to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0803740914

Discover more about Annette LeBox and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stephanie Graegin, her books, and her art on her website.

Universal Hour of Power Day Activity

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Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

A peaceful feeling inside can make your spirits soar like balloons in the air. Decorate the balloons in this printable page in your favorite colors (maybe even add a bit of glitter!) and hang it where seeing it will make you happy.

Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

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You can find Peace is an Offering at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 30 – It’s National Cat Lover’s Month

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About the Holiday

If you share your home with a cat, then you know how these furry friends can change your life. Whether you love them for their playful antics, for their companionship, or even for their independent spirit, your life just wouldn’t be the same without their daily presence. Cat Lovers Month is the perfect time to celebrate your cat or kitten with some extra attention and care. If you’re considering adopting a cat, now would be a great time to contact your local animal shelter or rescue group to give a cat a forever home.

The Catawampus Cat

Written by Jason Carter Eaton | Illustrated by Gus Gordon

 

On a regular Tuesday morning, the catawampus cat came into town “slightly askew.” Everyone was busy, so no one saw him until Mr. Grouse, the grocer, noticed his unusual walk and “tried to straighten him out.” His wife Lydia, who for twenty years had been chilly to her husband, asked what was wrong with the cat, and they both tilted their heads to study him. There, under the vegetable stand, they saw Lydia’s wedding ring lost twenty years before, and suddenly Mr. Grouse noticed that Lydia looked just as she did when they first met. “They kissed and on walked the catawampus cat, still askew…”

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Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

The bored barber, “Bob Long, who was giving a woman a long bob,” saw the catawampus cat from his window and was so startled he snipped, and clipped the woman’s bangs at an angle. She loved it, and the catawampus cat continued on. He passed Tom who was painting the Mayor’s house in the usual way until he tilted his head to get a better look and scribbled a diagonal stripe down the front of the house. “‘Brilliant!’ Exclaimed Mayor Meyer. ‘A work of art!’”

The town daredevil made a world record after spotting the cat. The town librarian had a life-changing revelation after seeing the cat. And little Bushy Brows Billiam, suddenly understood his lesson better by looking at things a bit differently.

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Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

All through town, people began tilting their head and even walking at a slant. Architects began building homes, apartments, and stores that leaned, and car makers designed “off-kilter” vehicles. The effect on the town and the people was amazing. They found favorite possessions they thought lost forever, “and rediscovered old friends they thought they’d never know again.” The first Tuesday of the year was designated “Catawampus Cat Day.” Confetti was flung at an angle, a band played off-key, and the crowd was entirely catawampus.

“‘Well? What do you think of it?’” Mayer Meyer excitedly asked the catawampus cat. “‘We’re all different now, just like you.’” The catawampus cat gazed at him thoughtfully, then stretched, “straightened himself out…and walked out of town, once again uniquely catawampus.”

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Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

In his delightfully inventive story, Jason Carter Eaton rejoices in all those people (and cats) who walk their own way through life. He encourages young readers to embrace their uniqueness, telling them it’s a good thing to view the world with a different perspective. Even as the catawampus cat inspires the townspeople, Eaton strikes a humorous cautionary note about the nature of fads. He also happily reminds readers that the truly innovative will always find a way to be different.

Gus Gordon’s adorably confident cat sets off his chain reaction of “uniqueness” in detailed mixed-media illustrations that provide lots of opportunities for kids to discover new (and old—sometimes even antique) perspectives as they watch the catawampus cat walk through this diverse town in his own particular way. Surprising and funny details drawn in along the way will also have readers lingering and giggling over each page. Cat lovers will recognize some endearing cat-titudes in the catawampus cat that make feline friends so loveable. The endpapers provide a map of the catawampus cat’s route through this very lucky town.

Smile- and laugh-inducing from cover to cover, The Catawampus Cat would be a favorite and often-asked-for choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0553509717

To learn more about Gus Gordon, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Cat Lover’s Month Activity

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A Little Ball of Kitten Love

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-cover

You can find The Catawampus Cat at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review