May 3 – It’s Children’s Book Week

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy program in the United States. The history of the holiday goes back to 1913, when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, toured the country to promote a higher standard in children’s books and proposed a Children’s Book Week. He then enlisted the help of Frederic G. Melcher, editor of Publishers Weekly who believed that “a great nation is a reading nation,” and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library to help spread the word. This year Children’s Book Week will be held twice: May 3 – 9 and November 8 – 14. Each week with host different programs under the slogan “Reading is a Superpower.” You can find resources to help your child take part in the Superpower Challenge, a list of cross-curricular activities that allow kids to explore their passions in depth, here. To learn more about this special holiday for readers visit Every Child a Reader.

About the Bear and Friends Series

In the newest addition to the Highlights Puzzle Readers – books that use an innovative approach to engage emergent and new readers in strengthening their skills and fluency – Jody Jensen Shaffer and Clair Rossiter charm the youngest readers with a sweet group of friends: Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel. Released at the same time, Where Is Bear? and A House for Mouse get kids excited about learning to read on their own with a combination of a story and a search-and-find letter puzzle. A bonus matching and vocabulary puzzle follows the story and will entice children to turn to page 1 again and reread the story.

A note for parents and other caregivers tells more about this book series that has been developed in collaboration with reading experts, how the puzzle-and-story structure of the books improve learning, and the skills children learn, including shape and letter recognition, letter-sound relationships, logic, and flexible thinking, and more.

Bear and Friends: Where Is Bear? (Highlights Puzzle Mystery)

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Clair Rossiter

 

On a sunny day, Bear visits his friends, Mouse and Squirrel, in the woods. They are excited to see him. “Look! Look! It is Bear,” says Mouse. Squirrel lets readers in on two important facts about Bear: “Bear is big. Bear is fun.” They can’t wait to play together. Bear takes the lead, and whatever Bear can do, Squirrel and Mouse can do too. They swing and run and jump. 

But then Bear decides he’s going to play hide-and-seek. “Where is Bear?” Mouse asks the reader. “Is Bear here?” Squirrel and Mouse check behind trees, in a cave, and behind a big rock. They’re still looking for Bear as they cross over a stream on a fallen log. Mouse and Squirrel may not spot Bear or just miss him as he moves from place to place, but young readers will love finding him on each page and trying to guess why he’s picking flowers, acorns, and apples. Suddenly, Mouse points and exclaims. “Look! Look!” Then Squirrel says, “I see Bear.” But what is Bear doing? Kids will be as delighted as Mouse and Squirrel with Bear’s special surprise.

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Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Throughout Jody Jensen Shaffer’s sweet story, kids will also be on the lookout for the letter B, which is cleverly hidden in the texture of a tree trunk, made from blades of grass, constructed with rock, in the folds of mushrooms, incorporated into Bear’s picnic basket, and many other places. The puzzle presents an age-appropriate challenge that will encourage kids to search for the letters again and again. Many of these hiding places reoccur, prompting children to look for and recognize patterns in the illustrations, just as the story’s words and sentences have patterns.

The introduction of a ball and a bowl on the final page gives kids an opportunity to explore the B sound further and to return to the story to find more examples of words that begin with B (like Bear, branch, and boots as well as bandana, boulder, and bite for older readers) or include the letter b (as in the umbrella Mouse carries). Shaffer’s short, inviting sentences also introduce declarative, exclamatory, and interrogative sentences as well as their punctuation. Plenty of repeated words will build confidence and enthusiasm in even the most reluctant reader. 

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Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Clair Rossiter’s enchanting, upbeat illustrations masterfully combine learning and fun as she maintains a focus on what Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel are doing as well as their facial expressions to give new readers visual clues to the words and sentences they are learning. Rossiter’s vivid color palette allows kids to show their knowledge of colors, including red, blue, green, brown, white, pink, purple, and orange. The forest scenery provides even more high-interest images for kids to explore.

Loaded with personality, charm, and the kinds of learning opportunities kids love, Bear and Friends: Where Is Bear? and A House for Mouse will be favorite go-to books for young readers that can grow with them as they increase their reading and other concept skills. The Bear and Friends series is highly recommended for home, classroom, homeschool, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Highlights Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1644723388 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1644723418 (Paperback)

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Clair Rossiter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

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You can find Bear and Friends: Where Is Bear? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

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Bear and Friends: A House for Mouse (Highlights Puzzle Mystery)

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Clair Rossiter

 

As the story opens, Mouse is looking through a house magazine. “Mouse wants a house,” Bear says. Squirrel tells readers, “Mouse wants a good house.” Bear finds a house for Mouse right away in a cave in a hill. It is so big that Bear can even fit inside. “You can live here,” Bear says. But Mouse says, “No, thank you. It is too big!” Squirrel thinks a leafy nest up in a tree would make the perfect house. But once up on the branch, Mouse says, “No, thank you. It is way up.”

The friends look up, down, under, and all around – even at some houses on the water – but none of them are quite right for Mouse. Hmmm…. Mouse and Squirrel lie on one end of a log that’s balanced on a rock to think, while Bear rests his foot on the other end. “Where is a house for Mouse?” Bear wonders as he steps down hard on the log, sending Mouse and Squirrel flying. They land right in front of the perfect house – and it’s for sale! “It is a good house,” Bear declares. Mouse packs up a wagon with boxes and in no time is moved into the cozy home at the base of a tree.

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Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Kids will enjoy helping Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel find a new house for Mouse while they also look for the letter M hidden in some pretty creative places. Trees, furniture, fencing, home decor, and other natural homes all sport the letter M for eagle-eyed readers to find. As the friends search up, down, under, and in, children also learn these spatial relationships. They’re also introduced to the idea of “far away” and “near,” as the tree Mouse eventually moves into is seen with a “For Sale” sign from afar early in the story and increasingly close as the story goes on.

The matching puzzle at the end of the story invites kids to match mug, map, and mouse to their pictures, while enticing them to find these objects throughout the pages as well as others, such as magazine, mat, mushroom, and scuba mask.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-house-for-mouse-cave

Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Just as in Where is Bear?, Jody Jensen Shaffer charms new readers with a question that will pique any child’s interest: Where will Mouse live? In this story Shaffer introduces slightly longer sentences while again incorporating a mix of statements, exclamations, and questions and repeated phrasing.

Children will look forward to spending more time with Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel in the familiar setting, enhanced with new sights that give kids and adults an opportunity to talk about the variety of animal homes found in nature. Clair Rossiter uses the same appealing color palette and decks out Bear, Squirrel, and Mouse in their favorite outfits that makes sharing another reading adventure as comforting as coming home.

Ages 4 – 7

Highlights Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1644723425 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1644723418 (Paperback)

Children’s Book Week Activity

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Bookmarks and Activities

 

One of the highlights of Children’s Book Week are the bookmarks created by illustrators and author/illustrators. This year’s bookmarks and attached activities were designed by Angela Dominguez, Paola Escobar, Ebony Glenn, Oliver Jeffers, and Aram Kim. To download one or all five bookmarks as well as their accompanying activity sheet, visit the Every Child a Reader website.

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You can find Bear and Friends: A House for Mouse at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 1 – National Author’s Day

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About the Holiday

There may be no better month to celebrate Author’s Day than in November. Not only is it Picture Book Month, but thousands of people set aside their usual routine to take part in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, when writers try to complete at least a first draft of a novel in one month. The holiday was instituted in 1928 by Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement, Illinois Women’s Club. An avid reader, she established Author’s Day to thank writer Irving Bacheller who sent her an autographed story in response to her fan letter. The day was officially recognized in 1949 by the United States Department of Commerce. McPherson’s granddaughter, Sue Cole, promoted the holiday after Nellie’s death in 1968. To celebrate, people are encouraged to write a note of appreciation to their favorite author.

Who is the Mystery Writer? (Unlimited Squirrels)

By Mo Willems

 

Mo Willems passel of fifteen squirrels—and one winged squirrel-wanna-be—is back in this beginning-reader series that offers lots of laughs along with enthusiastic encouragement for new readers. The table of contents (introduced by a punny joke) reveals that there are plenty of stories and jokes to come before the Tale End, where kids get to celebrate their detective skills.

First up is The BIG Story: Who is the Mystery Reader? Zoom Squirrel, Zap Squirrel, Zip Squirrel, Flink Squirrel, and Wink Squirrel are walking along when they come to a STOP sign. Zoom Squirrel pulls up quick and stops the crew—not because of the sign, exactly, but because he can’t read it. Zap, Zip, and Flink are in a bit of a tizzy about how to discover what the sign says, while Wink Squirrel excuses himself and walks off the page.

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Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

In the wink of an eye, a masked squirrel appears to suggest the squirrels read the sign. The other squirrels are mesmerized by their hero, and as he passes out his card, all Zoom Squirrel can say is “Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.” After the squirrels reveal their predicament, the Mystery Reader springs into action. He begins by sounding out the letters, but Zoom Squirrel shouts “STOP!” He doesn’t see how this is helping.

After a bit of explanation, Zoom is ready to try sounding out the letters for himself—and… he’s got it! While congratulations are being passed around, the Mystery Reader excuses himself and walks off the page. When Wink Squirrel returns, his friends tell him what he’s missed. Thus, begins the search for who the Mystery Reader really is. Zoom has turned into quite a reader, but his interpretation of the Mystery Reader’s card leads to his mistaken impression that he is the Mystery Reader. He’s just beginning his thank-you speech, when the real Mystery Reader is back (with a wink).

Zoom feels a bit deflated until the Mystery Reader gives him his own “New Mystery Reader” mask and underpants. Zap, Zip, and Flink think it’s too bad that Zoom missed meeting this new mystery reader. The Mystery Reader ends the story with a wry “Well… We learned something today.” To which Zoom responds, “Squirrels do not know much about costumes! Up next is an “Acorn-y Joke” that is guaranteed to be “100% corny!”—much to the delight of readers!

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Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

In the following segment, Wonder Squirrel is doing some deep thinking about the origins of writing. Now, everyone wants to know. This is a job for… The Book of Wonders! Inside The Book of Wonders! readers learn about cuneiform, hieroglyphs (and how they influenced our alphabet), the Inca’s use of knotted ropes, and the invention of paper. Kids also learn that there are mysteries about writing still to be solved.

Another Acorn-y Joke will have kids giggling, and then it’s time for readers to learn how Mo Squirrel makes a book—from idea to agent and editor, to writing, rewriting and redrawing, to re-rewriting and re-redrawing, and finally to printing. The Tale End poses a conundrum of sorts. Zap, Zip, and Flink are shocked to discover that they never learned who the Mystery Readers are. Readers at home, will feel empowered to be in on the joke as Zoom Squirrel and Wink Squirrel wink at each other knowingly.

A page preceding the stories introduces emote-acorns—small acorn faces that display nine emotions, such as surprised, sad, confused, and proud. These small graphics are found throughout the stories in the bottom corner whenever “the squirrels have big feelings” allowing children to practice not only their print-reading skills but their skills in reading facial expressions as well.

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Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

Mo Willems’ zany squirrels will keep kids laughing and shouting out the answers to their questions in this rollicking beginning reader. The text of each story is presented solely in dialog bubbles that are clearly attributed to the speaker. The short phrasing and repeated words will give new readers confidence in their abilities and encourage them to try longer sentences. The non-fiction pages include photographs of the various types of writing discussed, and the facts presented are detailed and written so the target age can easily understand. Readers who would like to learn more are pointed toward the Unlimited Squirrels website.

Willems’ distinctive illustration style is always a delight, and his emotive squirrels are no exception. The graphic novel format gives readers clear, bold and vivid imagery to mirror the text and make reading a visual treat of putting words and actions together. Each squirrel has different colors and markings. Getting to know and recognize the five squirrels in The Big Story: Who is the Mystery Reader? before beginning to read will help kids follow the action and be one step ahead of the mystery for maximum enjoyment and inclusion in the jokes.

A funny and fun addition to the Unlimited Squirrels series, Who is the Mystery Reader? will get kids excited about becoming readers and would be an often-chosen book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Hyperion Books for Children, 2019 | ISBN 978-1368046862

To learn more about Mo Willems and his books, visit his website.

Have fun with more Unlimited Squirrels on their website.

National Author’s Day Activity

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Catch the Reading Bug Bookmark and Bookplate

 

If you love to read, show it with these printable Reading Bug book bling!

I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate | I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Buy

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You can find Who is the Mystery Reader? (Unlimited Squirrels) at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review