January 1 – Z Day

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About the Holiday

On this first day of the year it seems fitting to let the last letter of the alphabet shine. Today all of those with last names that start with Z get to move to the front row and the front of the line! You might get creative with your celebrations and eat only foods that start with Z—ziti and zucchini sound good, buy a zipper or something zany, read a zine about zombies, and of course go to the zoo to see the zebra!

AlphaOops! The Day Z Went First

Written by Alethea Kontis | Illustrated by Bob Kolar

 

The letter A stands on a little pedestal holding aloft an apple. “A is for app—,” she starts, but is suddenly interrupted by Z, who states, “Zebra and I are SICK of this last-in-line stuff! This time we want to go first!” Y is all for this change and wants to give it a try. Z jumps on the pedestal, and with pride and a prop reveals, “Z is for zebra.” Next up is Y and with her knitting on her lap says, “Y is for yarn.” Although X is a bit wrapped up in Y’s craft, he still manages to plonk out, “X is for xylophone.”

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, text copyright Alethea Kontis, 2012. Courtesy of candlewick.com

W spouts off that “W is for whale, and P, lounging in swimming ring, is happy to tell you that P is for penguins as two of the little fellows toddle nearby.” Wait a minute! P doesn’t come after W…or is it before W? Hmm…This is getting confusing. V wants her rightful place and confronts P, but P brings up the point that no matter how the alphabet runs, some letters “are still stuck in the middle.” N agrees, and M takes off running “closer to the end, just to mix it up a bit.”

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, courtesy of bobkolarbooks.com

A is perturbed by this whole state of affairs, but Z is excited. O takes over with “owl,” and N flies off in the “night.” H takes the spotlight with a tall stack of hats while G waits in the wings whispering, “H, dear, it’s not our turn yet!” A is now fuming. H, however, is happy with her usual lot in life, and R, leaning on her rainbow-colored umbrella, agrees. Z is jumping! “Go wherever you want! Just hurry up, or we’ll never get to the end.” S rushes off to be ready for the page turn where he wrangles a snake above his head. I is chased by insects, V plays the violin, and J runs away with a jack-o’-lantern.

E blasts off toward Earth, where “F is for flowers. And fairies.” Hold on there a minute! V is upset: “Hey, I didn’t get to pick two things. I think I should get another turn.” X, on the other hand seems ok with it because he doesn’t “have much to choose from.” All this fuss is making Z crazy. He just wants things to move along.

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, courtesy of bobkolarbooks.com

Ok, then…the next letters get in line. “T is for taxi and train. L is for lemons and lollipops. K is for kangaroo and kites. And C is for cat and canary in cages.” V is back, inserting and asserting herself with a vacuum in hand, a volcano in the background, a vulture lurking, and valentines scattered about. But Z yanks her away as G says, “Ooh, V is for violence.”

R gets his chance to pop open his umbrella, D fights a dragon, and G frolics with a great gorilla. B gets a bevy of words that make a big mess. M dashes away from a monster, and Q is queen for the day. And that’s that, right? Is it? It’s kind of hard to tell. Z shouts through a megaphone, “Has everyone had their turn?” No! It seems U has been in the bathroom since P.

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, text copyright Alethea Kontis, 2012. Courtesy of candlewick.com.

U is uncertain whether the other letters still want her, but they usher her to the podium. Finally, it is A’s turn, but where is she? “Yikes!” exclaims Y and it’s easy to see why. A has been rounding up the words! Twenty-two of them, in fact—23 if you count “and.” The other letters cheer, and Z says he’s sorry for being bossy, to which A says, “apology accepted.”

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, courtesy of bobkolarbooks.com

Alethea Kontis’s classic alphabet romp is a hilarious, personality filled celebration of the 26 letters that compose our language. As Z’s mixed up experiment goes awry, the letters’ sassy and squabbling comments make for laugh-out-loud reading. Sly wordplay adds to the fun, making this an alphabet book that older kids will enjoy as well. Subtle lessons on cooperation, teamwork, acceptance, and inclusion give readers of AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First lots to discuss while enjoying the show.

Bob Kolar’s bold, bright, and enthusiastic letters nearly pop off the page. Their expressive eyes and mouths display their excitement, distress, pride, and other emotions as the status quo is shaken up by Z. As each letter gets their turn, Kolar infuses the page with visual puns. For example, I is being chased by “insects,” that also happen to be bees (Bs?). His clever choices of nouns allow for discussion of other forms of the words too—as when S juggles a snake that…well…snakes above him. Kids will love lingering over the illustrations to find all of the jokes and letter-related images and to make sure that all of the letters get their due.

AlphaOops! The Day Z Went First is so much more than an alphabet book. Adding it to any child’s bookshelf will suit them to a T.

Ages 3 – 8

Candlewick, 2012 | ISBN 978-0763660840

To discover more about Alethea Kontis and her books for kids and older readers as well as book-related activities, visit her website!

Find a gallery of picture book art, personal art, and other projects by Bob Kolar on his website!

Z Day Activity

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Zing! Goes My Heart Word Search Puzzle

 

Find the 20 words that begin with the letter Z in this printable heart-shaped Zing! Goes My Heart Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Alpha Oops! The Day Z Went First at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 1 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday was established to get families excited about reading. As the weather turns cooler and activities turn indoors, reading together is a wonderful way to spend time having fun and making memories. Small children love being read to—and so do older kids! Sharing board books, picture books and chapter books that can be read at one sitting is always fun. Taking the journey of a novel together with tweens and teens can provide inspiring, emotional, funny, and bonding moments that last a lifetime. And to think, it all starts with putting a few letters together…

Can U Save the Day?

Written by Shannon Stocker | Illustrated by Tom Disbury

 

The letter A was chatting with a frog, a duck, and a dog when the letter B ambled by with a boastful claim: “‘There are 5 vowels in your group / but 21 in our grand troop. / I’m a more important letter. / Consonants are so…much…better!’” As B continued to brag, A countered with “‘…You’ll regret / when all the vowels are gone, I bet!’” Then just like that A vanished, and the dog? He could only “‘brk.’” The duck said “‘quck,’” and the frog could only “‘crok.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The horse was not very sympathetic since his neigh didn’t need an A. But then the E decided to go, and the horse said “‘nigh’” the “birds sang ‘twt,’ and the sheep could only “‘blt,’” “‘blt,’” “‘blt.’” The consonants thought this was lots of laughs. “Insulted, young I spun her dot / and soared off like an astronaut.” The pig was stuck as was the horse, but the cow and bunny joined the laughter until O rolled away. Then the cow, the pigeons, and the rooster struggled too.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The consonants were laughing still when B and U saw the tractor plowing toward them in its sleep. B tried to scream and shout but could only burble. He bounced into the tractor’s seat and “pushed the horn! The horn went…hnk.” He tried to make U understand, but without the vowels his words made no sense. But clever U had watched it all and she knew just what to do. “She bent her arms above her head / and turned into an O instead.”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In that moment the tractor’s horn went Honk! The runaway tractor woke up and stopped just in the nick of time. Then off U went to bring back A, E, I, and O. When they returned, the animals resumed their talk, the consonants and vowels hugged it out, and B, who had started it all, now realized that “‘the alphabet’s a family.’” Then Y—that sometimes this and sometimes that letter—decided this was a good time to speak up and help them all “‘say goodbye.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Shannon Stocker gives kids just learning the alphabet, discovering how to read, and picking up some of the finer points of grammar a reason to celebrate in her funny story about the day the vowels flew the coop. Her peppy rhythm and brainy rhymes will keep readers riveted and laughing as one by one the animals’ talk turns into garbled goosh. When the sleeping tractor barrels toward the letters unaware because of his measly “hnk,” kids will be on the edge of their seats. When wily U uses her ingenuity and semi-circular shape to save the day, they’ll cheer. The sweet ending teaches gentle lessons about reconciliation, apologies, inclusion, and teamwork, and Y’s admission offers one more grammar-related giggle.

Tom Disbury’s cartoon characters will have kids in stitches as the animals gaze at each other with gritted teeth, furrowed brows, or tongues sticking out when their vowel-less utterances are less than robust. With their smiling eyes and winsome smiles, the colorful letters are oblivious to the mayhem that losing just four of their family members can cause. The shortened words sprinkled throughout the text as well as spreads of contented consonants will give readers plenty of opportunities to play word games and talk about letter combinations, letter sounds, and spelling.

A funny and entertaining way to talk about the alphabet and grammar, creative problem solving, and teamwork, as well as a fun story to share any time, Can U Save the Day? would be an entertaining addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364046

Discover more about Shannon Stocker and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tom Disbury, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Book Month Activity

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Reading is Super! Maze

 

This super reader wants to bring books to his friends so they can all read together. Can you help him get through this printable Reading is Super Maze to reach his friends?

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You can find Can U Save the Day? at these booksellers

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

August 20 – It’s National Sandwich Month

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About the Holiday

Did you know there are regulations to determine just what is and is not a sandwich? I didn’t either! It seems that the US Department of Agriculture has determined that for a… thing… to be considered a sandwich, it must contain at least 35% cooked meat and no more than 50% bread. So what about peanut butter? Or grilled cheese? Have we been playing fast and loose with the word “sandwich?” Oh well…. This month is dedicated to those delicious meals between bread that kids and adults take to school and the office, to picnics, and for quick noshes any time. To celebrate, there’s only one thing to do: build yourself the perfect sandwich—just like the little girl in today’s book!

Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich

Written by Linda Vander Heyden | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

“When Hannah was hungry and wanted to munch, / She’d stop at McDougal’s to order some lunch. / Now Hannah was tiny (in fact, quite petite), / But don’t let that fool you. Oh boy—could she eat!” When McDougal saw Hannah come through the door and order an “A to Z sandwich,” he wondered. And then, as Hannah recited the ingredients for her sandwich, he started to chop, mince, peel, and grate.

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Image copyright Kalya Harren, 2018, text copyright Linda Vander Heyden, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The first six ingredients were prepared and laid on the bread, then Hannah inspected it closely. “‘Green peppers,’ said Hannah. ‘Sliced thin, if you please. / And drizzle on lots of sweet honey from bees. / “‘Add ice cream and jelly—then ketchup (two plops), / A freshly squeezed lemon—just ten tiny drops.’” The sandwich grew taller and wider as Hannah looked around McDougal’s for more ingredients. She wanted a dollop of this, and “lots of nuts, too,” but she wasn’t too hungry, so she told him “one olive will do.”

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Image copyright Kalya Harren, 2018, text copyright Linda Vander Heyden, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

She directed more layers be added on top that included “‘a ride red tomato picked fresh off the vine. / And ugli fruit chopped up especially fine.’” Poor McDougal was working up such a sweat that he ended up with food in his hair. Was it done? the chef wondered, but Hannah wanted more. Just three little more additions for X, Y, and Z. Could McDougal do it? Could he finish that treat and give Hannah a sandwich she’d love to sit down and eat? You’ll see!

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Image copyright Kalya Harren, 2018, text copyright Linda Vander Heyden, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Linda Vander Heyden’s hilarious tribute to the sandwich—and the alphabet—will delight kids who love to experiment with food, kids who will eat anything, and even kids who are a little more discriminating in their diet choices. Heyden’s bouncy rhyme is a joy to read aloud, and kids will giggle and laugh out loud as each of the 26 ingredients are added to the towering sandwich. The combination of ingredients will produce plenty of fun “ewwws” as well as cheers as favorite foods are mentioned. A few foods that fill out the alphabetic order and are perhaps unfamiliar to readers will have kids doing a little research. The surprise ending will have kids and adults laughing, and you can bet that post-reading activities will include building a unique sandwich of their own.

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Kayla Harren’s red-haired, freckled Hannah is a mischievous cutie who knows exactly what she likes. As Hannah points out ingredients on the chef’s well-stocked shelves or “helps out” in the kitchen, McDougal’s skills are put to the test as he chops, minces, and grates with intensity surrounded by flying ingredients. As he adds just the perfect dollops of condiments to his masterpiece or gingerly places one olive on the slippery slope the sandwich has become, his eyes grow wide. Taking center stage, of course, is Hannah’s sandwich—an abstract work of art of various colors and textures. Watching this most unusual order come together is a full house of diverse customers, including a girl in a wheelchair. Various perspectives, the use of motion, and the exaggerated-but-spot-on facial expressions add to the exuberant fun.

Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich will be happily devoured by young readers. The book makes a terrific addition to home and classroom bookshelves and would be a rib-tickling back-to-school gift for kids or teachers.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363827

Discover more about Linda Vander Heyden and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kayla Harren, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Sandwich Month Activity

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Scrumptious Sandwiches Word Scramble 

 

Sandwiches are fun to build and delicious to eat! The only hard part is trying to figure out which kind to have. Maybe this list will help! Print this Scrumptious Sandwiches Puzzle and unscramble the names to pick your favorite. Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 24 – Small Business Saturday

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About the Holiday

Sure, you could buy all of your gifts online or join the throngs at some big box store, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, head out to the independently owned shops in your area and see what kinds of unique items you can pick up for the people on your list. Not only will you find gifts that will surprise and delight your friends and family, you’ll be helping your local economy. More and more people every year are enjoying the camaraderie and atmosphere of Small Business Saturday. With friendly shop owners and a relaxed shopping experience, it’s no mystery why.  Why don’t you join in this year? 

Betty’s Burgled Bakery: An Alliterative Adventure

By Travis Nichols

 

“Ahoy!” Antoine hails the caller to the control center when the red alert button lights up. He listens carefully as Betty the Panda describes the crime. “A bread bandit burgled by bakery before breakfast!” It seemed her “counters and cupboards were completely cleared of carrot cake, cornbread, and crackers. This is a considerable crummy crime,” she sums up with aptly punny indignation.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine is immediately on the case, calling in his detectives from their various pursuits to “dutifully deal with [the] distressing dilemma.” When they arrive at Betty’s Bakery, she shows them the empty shelves and is assured that they will “find the fully fed, fiendish foe.” The detectives fan out across the store and are surprised that anyone could have broken in without tripping the powerful security system.

Josie believes the “key to catching this kitchen crook” is in examining what they left behind—namely the “kale crumpets” and a cash register full of money. The gumshoes have been so hard at work trying to crack the case that Quentin has gone to the market next door and brought back snacks to sustain them. Everyone digs in, except Betty who’s “in need of nary a nibble.” When Morgan the chicken is finished with his snack, he inquires whether perhaps Betty didn’t hear something since she lives right above the bakery. But Betty, it seems, is a deep sleeper and heard nothing.  

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine looks around and has a quick question for Quentin about how long he thinks it would take to “acquire this quantity of baked goods.” Josie notices that the racks are so high that “no runt could ransack this room.” Meanwhile, Steve the monkey has discovered a clue. He thinks they could track the tooth marks in a tasty tart.

Steve is just about to match the distinctive notch in the half-eaten cookie to one sharp tooth in a snoozing Betty’s lower jaw when…swipe!…Betty grabs the cookie and gobbles it up. The detectives look on in astonishment. “Sleepwalking?” suggests Mike the bull. “Sleep eating,” corrects Josie. Just then Betty wakes up to see all the detectives staring at her, ready to solve the case.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“You yearn for sleep, yes?” asks Steve. Sharon, the duck reminds Betty that she last ate yesterday, yet she wanted no snack, and Quentin reveals, “you ate your yield of yummies yourself.” Betty’s surprised… astounded… asleep! But the Gumshoe Zoo has a bit of celebrating to do since they “zipped this zany, zigzagging zinger with zeal! The press celebrates them too with an article in the 1000% True News. But what’s this on Page 2? A valuable painting has been stolen! It seems there’s a new case for the Gumshoe Zoo to solve!

Notes about alliteration and some very hungry animals follow the text.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Travis Nichols’ witty alliterative alphabetic mystery will have little ones giggling at the zany language and big words that trip off the Gumshoe Zoo detectives’ tongues, while adults will laugh along and shake their head in appreciation of the clever construction of the story. Detective-story tropes, including the round-up of detectives caught in the middle of chores or play, a clueless member of the team, and the locked-room mystery, add to the fun. The panel illustrations set a quick pace for the investigation and clearly show the objects or ideas being alliteratively alluded to to boost younger readers’ understanding.

Betty’s Burgled Bakery will be a favorite of little linguists-in-the-making as well as for mystery lovers. It’s a book that will be asked for again and again. It makes a fun and unique addition to home bookshelves and a terrific English or writing lesson lead-in for classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452131832

Learn more about Travis Nichols, his books, and his art on his website

Small Business Saturday Activity

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Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Before this pan goes into the oven, can you find the eighteen baking-related words in this printable word search puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

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Betty’s Burgled Bakery can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 7 – It’s International Mirth Month

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About the Holiday

Invented by Allen Klein, aka Mr. Jollytologist, International Mirth Month encourages us to find humor during stressful situations. And while there are plenty of those, there are also lots of way to laugh and relieve the strain that’s often part of everyday life. Laughter makes us feel better and is even recognized as a healing tool. So celebrate this month by getting together with friends and family for some fun watching funny movies or TV shows, and reading funny books. After all, running away from your problems doesn’t help…or does it? Find out in today’s book!

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way)

By Patrick McDonnell

 

Little red cat opens one eye from his nap and is astonished to see the door hanging open. Quickly, he scurries out and down the walkway, very pleased with himself. Until he meets an Alligator—an alligator who has his enormous jaws open. Ahhh!. The cat runs past him, and the alligator gives chase. They don’t see the Bear—half way up a tree. But the bear sees them and joins the chase.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Soon, they find themselves hurtling past chicken’s coop, from which Chicken scrambles out clucking loudly. They all run on until…Yikes! Danger! Is that a Dragon napping there? Eeek! It is! The dragon is up—which is so alarming that there’s now an Egg! Wait! Fire! Run from the flames! Do you have your sun Glasses?

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The crew keeps running while cat thinks of Home, slip on the Icy pond, swing through the Jungle, and trespass on castle grounds where the King and princess see them from a turret window. The princess points and shows her dad Lost cat poster on the castle wall. But by now the cat, the alligator, the bear, the chicken, the dragon, and the egg are traversing Mountain peaks until the dragon shouts, Nnnnnnnn Oooooooo! as everyone else goes Over a cliff. Thankfully they all packed their Parachute.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Dropped into unknown territory this ragtag group has lots of Questions, and, of course, by now they need to use the Restroom. At last, the Sun is setting, and everyone is very Tired. But what is that shining in the darkness? It’s the king and princess to the rescue on a Unicorn! Unbelievable! And they have Valentines for each of them! This leads to lots of hugging to show what valued friends they’ve all become.

It’s time for everyone to head for home, so they Wave goodbye, and the king gives little red cat a scroll. When red cat unrolls the paper, he finds a map with a spot marked with an X. Now he knows just where to go to Yawn—and catch some Zzzzzzzzzzzs.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

A key in the back of the book provides the words for each letter.

Readers will laugh all the way through Patrick McDonnell’s wordless alphabet book as little red cat skedaddles when the door is open and has himself a letter-perfect adventure.  McDonnell offers a fully developed tale with clear clues to the words that define each letter while also leaving plenty of opportunities for kids to find other words that also apply. McDonnell’s cartoon animals are fierce only in their expressive cuteness and the adorable princess and her kindly dad provide just the magical ending this buoyant escapade deserves.

A marvelous way for children to interact with the alphabet and language, The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) will grow with kids as they increase their vocabulary and develop their sense of humor, making it a must for classroom and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0316502467

Discover more about Patrick McDonnell, his books, and his comic strip MUTTS on his website.

Run on over to watch this The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away book trailer!

International Mirth Month Activity

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Made You Laugh! Word Search Puzzle

 

No matter whether you chuckle, guffaw, or giggle, laughter really is the best medicine! Find all of the synonyms for laugh in this printable Made You Laugh! Word Search Puzzle!

Made You Laugh! Word Search PuzzleMade You Laugh! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review