December 2 – It’s Buy a New Book Month

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Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

For children, picture books provide one of the best ways to interact with facts and feelings. Stories that speak to their experiences, both common and new, alongside illustrations that bring the story to life let them discover the world around them. Today’s stunning nonfiction books are loaded with illustrations or photographs that let kids see exciting details about science, history, biographies, nature, and so much more. This month, take a look for fiction and nonfiction picture books about your child’s passions to add to your home library. And be sure to check out today’s book that incorporates both!

Thanks to Star Bright Books for sharing a digital copy of Leaves to My Knees with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Leaves to My Knees

Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

 

Daddy has a surprise for Camille and her little brother Jayden. They get dressed in their coats—big for Camille and little jacket with a stegosaurus hood for Jayden—and head into the backyard. There, Camille discovers her dad has gotten her a rake of her own. It’s not as big as Dad’s, but it’s bigger than Jayden’s little rake. It’s the perfect size for Camille.

Camille marches right off to rake a pile of leaves. But not just any pile—she has a goal. “‘I’ll rake leave all the way up to my knees!’” she tells her dad. The three get working on the yard. Camille concentrates on gathering leaves, listening to the different sounds that the various sized rakes make: “The leaves go swush when Daddy rakes. They go swish when I rake. They go sweeeee when Jayden tries to rake.”

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Lurking under the leaves are twigs and acorns that clog up Camille’s rake. She worries that she’ll never be able to rake leaves to her knees. She calls for Daddy’s help, and together they clear Camille’s rake. “‘You’re good to go now, Camille,’” Daddy tells her. Back at it, Camille rakes and rakes. Then she steps into the pile she’s accumulated to measure it. Her pile only comes up to her ankles. Camille grabs her rake harder and with determination she collects more leaves. But wait! Jayden is stealing leaves from her pile to add to his! Camille guards her pile with her rake, and sends her little brother over to Daddy’s bigger pile. Camille checks her measurements again. Her pile has grown, but only up to the top of her boots.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Camille rakes ‘bunches of leaves,” and her pile gets taller, until “‘Oh no! A BIG BREEZE!!’” sends lots and lots of leaves swirling “Whoosh!” into the air and scattered to the ground. “I will never rake leaves to my knees!” Camille thinks. And when she measures again, her pile is back to her ankles. Daddy encourages her to keep going, and Camille is committed to achieving her goal. She throws off her coat, grabs her rake, and works on gathering up all the leaves she had, plus more. At last, too tired to rake anymore, Camille wonders. Has she done it? “‘Time for measuring!’ says Daddy.”

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Camille relinquishes her rake to her dad then, holding her breath, steps into her pile. “‘TA-DA!’” Camille raises her arms in victory. She steps out, positions herself a good ways away, and winds up for the run and jump. “‘GO!’ yells Daddy. ‘GO!’ Jayden yells too.” Camille flies through the air and lands, laughing, into her pile. Then Jayden jumps in. And Daddy? He gives Camille  “really big squeeze” for raking “leaves all the way up to [her] knees.”

A note for parents, teachers, and other caregivers written by Marlene Kliman, a mathematics learning expert and senior scientist at TERC, describes how the story incorporates the math of measurement and sizes and how adults can extend the lesson by pointing out elements in the book’s illustrations and while going about their day or doing common chores, such as cleaning up and sorting laundry.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Ellen Mayer’s Leaves to My Knees has everything that makes a story a young reader’s favorite—a spunky main character that kids will identify with, an achievable goal, successes and setbacks, suspense, humor, and a child-propelled victory. And it all revolves around an early math concept that comes naturally to children and which invites playful learning not only during the fall, but any time of the year. Shoveling snow and making snowballs in winter, yard cleanup and gardening in spring, and building sandcastles and raking grass clippings in summer as well as in-home fun with laundry piles, toys, and other objects are all ways to extend the story.

Told from Camille’s point of view, the story also engages children’s emotions as they join in to cheer Camille on as her leaf pile grows and commiserate with her when it shrinks. The close relationships among Camille and her dad and little brother ring true with dialogue-rich storytelling that is always encouraging. Strong themes of determination and persistence will also appeal to parents and teachers, who can point to how many times Camille has to start over before accomplishing her goal and her positive, resolute attitude.

Nicole Tadgell’s exuberant illustrations shine with personality, and kids will immediately become invested in each character as Dad gets working on a big job that needs doing, Jayden runs, jumps, and copies his big sister, and Camille unwaveringly works on her pile of leaves. Camille’s setbacks are clearly depicted, along with her and her father’s facial expressions that give adults and kids an opportunity to talk about disappointment, frustration, perseverance, and feelings of accomplishment. Each image also demonstrates the math component of measurement and sizes in the story with various-sized rakes, the growing and diminishing leaf pile, big and little jackets, and other objects that invite comparison.

Tadgell’s soft-hued pages are infused with the feeling of fall and hum with activity as cardinals, blue jays, chickadees gather at the bird feeder, squirrels scamper up and along the fence, and leaves continue to float to the ground. Readers will love following little Jayden’s antics and be inspired by Camille’s wide smile as she enjoys the reward of all her hard work.

Leaves to My Knees is a multilayered read aloud infused with the enthusiasm and rhythms of childhood that kids will want to hear again and again. Its mathematics base and themes of determination and perseverance rewarded will appeal to parents, teachers, and other educators as a way to engage children in active, hands-on learning. The book is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Star Bright Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1595729590 (Leaves to My Knees) | ISBN 978-1595729613 (Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees

Picture Book Month Activities

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Coloring Pages and Teaching Guides

 

You can extend the fun and learning in Leaves to My Knees with these activities, which include three fun coloring pages from the story, a hands-on play-dough art and discovery activity, and a detailed educator’s guide for teachers, homeschoolers, parents, and other caregivers that offers multiple ways to use Leaves to My Knees to explore math, mathematical thinking, and reading comprehension through the story and beyond at home, school, and elsewhere.

Meet Ellen Mayer

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You can find Leaves to My Knees on Amazon

Leaves to My Knees: Hardcover | Paperback

Hojas hasta las rodillas / Leaves to My Knees: Paperback

You can also order from Star Bright Books

Leaves to My Knees: Hardcover | Paperback

Hojas hasta las rodillas / Leaves to My Knees: Paperback

Picture Book Review

August 12 – Cover Reveal of Leaves to My Knees plus Interview with Ellen Mayer and Nicole Tadgell

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Leaves to My Knees 

Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

 

Camille is determined to rake her own pile of leaves―all the way up to her knees! She swishes leaves to and fro, watching her pile grow bigger alongside the piles made by Daddy and her little brother, Jayden. WHOOSH! After raking leaves to the top of her boots, a giant breeze blows the pile back down to her ankles. But Camille won’t be stopped until she gets the job done––a knee-high pile, the perfect size for… jumping in!

Leaves to My Knees and Spanish/English bilingual Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees are playful introductions to the early math concepts of size comparison and measurement. A note by researcher and mathematics learning expert Marlene Kliman explains how parents and caregivers can use the book to help young children explore different sizes and measurement in everyday environments.

I’m thrilled to be talking with Ellen Mayer and Nicole Tadgell today about this gorgeous cover and their adorable—and educational—book that will be available this fall, just in time for leaf-raking season!

Meet Ellen Mayer

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To preorder from Amazon

Leaves to My Knees: Hardcover | Paperback

 Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees

To order from Star Bright Books and be notified when the books become available click here: 

Leaves to My Knees: Hardcover | Paperback

Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees 

Picture Book Review

August 27 – Banana Lovers Day

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About the Holiday

If you love bananas, you’re not alone! Bananas are the most popular fruit in the United States and one of the most popular worldwide. How popular are they? On average each person eats 100 of these delicious fruits every year. Bananas’ are versatile and nutritious, making them a perfect addition to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack time. Today, banana lovers can celebrate by enjoying this appealing fruit in their favorite way. But first, you’ll need to buy a bunch. Make the shopping fun for you and your little ones with today’s book!

Banana for Two

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

As a mother strolls her shopping cart through the grocery store, she engages her toddler, who’s brought along two stuffed bunnies, in choosing the items they need. Mama talks to her child about the one roll of paper towels she puts in the cart, then it’s off to the cereal aisle. Holding up a colorful box, Mama says, “‘Here’s your favorite cereal’” to which her toddler enthusiastically answers, “‘MORE!’” Playfully, Mama holds the box up to one eye and says, “‘we don’t need more—just one box. Peek-a-boo! Can you see just one eye?’”

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2017, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2017. Courtesy of Start Bright Books.

Her little one giggles as they head for the dairy aisle for yogurt. Here, the child’s wish for “‘MORE!’” is granted, and Mama lets her little one hold the containers. “‘One, two—one for each hand,’ says Mama.” The child laughs and kicks, excited to help. As they pass through the fruit section, the toddler grabs a banana from the display and holds it up triumphantly. Mama is happy to add the one banana to the cart to eat later. “‘Look—one banana for one hand!’” she points out.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2017, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2017. Courtesy of Start Bright Books.

At check-out, Mama names each item and the quantity they are buying as she puts the banana, yogurt, carrots, potatoes, milk, and other things on the conveyor belt. But her little one wants to help too! Suddenly, one of the stuffed bunnies is riding toward the smiling clerk on top of the roll of paper towels. Back home, it’s time for a snack. As Mama cuts the banana in half, her toddler proudly exclaims, “‘TWO!’” showing an understanding of the concept of two.

A note for parents, grandparents, and caregivers by early math expert Deborah Stipek is included. Gender neutral clothing and hair and the absence of personal pronouns in the text make this a universal book for all children.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2017, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2017. Courtesy of Start Bright Books.

Ellen Mayer’s joyful math board book for the youngest readers introduces parents and other caregivers to ways that they can add math talk to everyday activities. In Banana for Two, grocery shopping becomes a fun opportunity for an adult and child to talk together about quantity—an important early building block for math understanding and future math success. Connecting concepts a child already knows—such as two containers of yogurt for two hands—as the mother does in Banana for Two is another way to strengthen understanding.

Mayer’s conversational style—indeed the whole story is a conversation between mother and child—is sweet and loving and full of the kinds of moments that may seem routine to adults but that children cherish sharing with parents, grandparents, or other caregivers. And the final image of the little one happily savoring slices of banana will have kids asking for “‘MORE!'”

Ying-Hwa Hu’s exuberant illustrations of mother and child will make little ones and adults smile. Cheerful eye contact between the two shows the love they share and their enjoyment in spending time together. Colorful boxes and containers line the grocery store shelves, giving the pages a fresh and sunny feel. The items Mama adds to the cart are clearly shown in quantities of one and two. Little readers will love the adorable stuffed bunnies and join in the toddler’s pride as they too recognize the ideas of one and two.

Banana for Two will charm little ones and would made a perfect book to share before shopping, at meal or snack time, or during playtime to reinforce the lesson and the fun of learning. The book also makes an excellent shower or new baby gift and is highly recommended for home, preschool classroom, and public library board book collections.

Ages Birth – 2

Star Bright Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1595727886 (English edition) | ISBN 978-1595727992 (Bilingual Spanish/English Edition)

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Banana for Two is also available in bilingual editions in these languages. See the Star Bright Books website for more information and how to order. To find all of languages Star Bright Books titles are published in, click here.

Chinese/English | Hindi/English | Hmong/English | Punjabi/English | Somali/English | Spanish/English

To discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books as well as  find lots of resources for adults and fun activities for kids, visit her website.

Learn more about Ying-Hwa Hu and her art, and her books, visit her website.

Banana Lovers Day Activity

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Math Fun Is in the Bag Grocery Shopping Game

 

Little ones love to pretend to go grocery shopping! With the printable game pieces and instructions here, you and your child can fill a bag with items in quantities of one and two and share some math fun!

Supplies

Directions

To Make a Bag

  1. Fold the 8 ½” by 11” piece of paper in half and tape on the side and at the bottom
  2. Your child may enjoy decorating your homemade bag or a paper sandwich bag with crayons

To Play the Game

  1. After printing the Math Fun Is in the Bag template, talk with your little one about the quantity of items in each picture. Even if your child is not talking yet, they are listening and learning.
  2. Help your child cut the pictures apart
  3. Ask your child to find a picture of one banana and put it in the bag
  4. Continue with the other pictures, noting the quantity of the item
  5. For older children, print two (or more) copies of the Math Fun Is in the Bag template and have them add two bananas, two cartons of milk, four carrots, and four containers of yogurt to the bag.
  6. Older children may also enjoy paying for their groceries with pennies in quantities of one or two (or more). Set a price for each item and help children count out the coins needed to pay for them.

More Math Fun!

You’ll find more Math Fun, including printable bunny puppets to make, pretend play suggestions, and tips for talking about two on Ellen Mayer’s Website

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You can find Banana for Two at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review