December 25 – Christmas Day

CPB - I Got the Christmas Spirit Cover

About the Holiday

Christmas is anticipated all year round for the joy of giving, the fun of receiving, and the message of hope the holiday gives. There are as many ways to celebrate as there are families, but today’s book shows that the inspiration of the season can live in every person all year round.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books sent me a copy of I Got the Christmas Spirit to check out. All opinions are my own.

I Got the Christmas Spirit

Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison | Illustrated by Frank Morrison

 

A little girl wakes up with a smile on her face and “the spirit of the season” in her heart. As she and her mother head out into the snowy city, she hears “the spirit in the air” as carolers sing and a corner Santa rings a bell. She’s been saving her money to add to the familiar red pot and happily drops it in the slot. The choir is now singing “Deck the Halls,” and the little girl sings along with all her heart.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-spirit-in-air

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then it’s time for a yummy roasted treat to warm her up in the shivery air. On the ice-skating rink, the girl and her mom “swirled and twirled around the spirit” with other kids and adults enjoying some frozen fun. Afterward, a tour of the store windows decorated with lights and glitter makes her feel sparkly inside. But when they come upon a mother and her two children huddled against the wind with a “Help Please” sign, the girl says, “I felt the spirit deep down in my soul.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-skating

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

In a crowded store nearby, the little girl looks wide-eyed at all the toys then whispers to a tired Santa her wish “for the spirit everywhere.” As she, her mom, Santa, and a host of other people leave the store carrying wrapped packages, they feel the spirit spread by the girl’s smile. Outside, the little girl and the other shoppers give the presents to the needy family. The little boy grins from ear to ear as his mom stands by happily and the baby rests in Santa’s arms.

The Christmas spirit is not just a thing or a place or a person, the girl understands, “The spirit is you!” Then the girl gets her own surprise when she spies her dad coming home. She runs to him and he lifts her into a hug. Here is what she wants for Christmas—“Peace for all, good tidings, and cheer—let’s live the spirit every day of the year.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Got-The-Christmas-Spirit-coming-home

Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As the sights and sounds of Christmas begin to light up towns, stores, and homes, Connie Schofield-Morrison’s story fills young readers with the joy and deeper meaning of the holiday. Little ones wanting to share their bubbly excitement for Christmas as well as their innate empathy will fall in love with the little girl who eagerly joins in on all of the city’s festivities while also embracing those in need. Her big heart and buoyant spirit will inspire kids to find the spirit of the holiday in everything they do too. Kids are invited to join in reading with exuberant alliterative words like “Ding Dong Ding, that call out to the little girl

Readers can almost hear the bells and singers, feel the soft snow, and smell the roasting nuts as he takes readers on a tour of the city decked out for the holidays. In his gorgeous, realistic paintings, the emotions and actions of the little girl cheer young readers as they see her belting out a Christmas carol, gliding on ice rink, and walking side-by-side with Santa to deliver her surprise gifts to the needy family. Images of the girl dropping money that she has saved into the Salvation Army pot and frowning sadly as she comes upon the destitute woman and her family mirror the compassion many children feel for those less fortunate.

Like its predecessor I Got the Rhythm, I Got the Christmas Spirit is an uplifting and beautiful book to add to any child’s collection—not only at Christmas, but any time of the year. A top choice for public libraries too.

Ages 3 – 7

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681195285

To learn more about Frank Morrison and view a gallery of his art, visit his website.

Christmas Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-santa's-sack-maze-puzzle

Santa’s Sack Maze

 

Santa has one more present to put into his sack. Can you help him take the gift through the maze in this printable puzzle?

Santa’s Sack Full of Presents Puzzle | Santa’s Sack Full of Presents Solution

CPB - I Got the Christmas Spirit Cover

You can find I Got the Christmas Spirit at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 30 – It’s Roller Skating Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-one-shoe-two-shoes-cover

About the Holiday

Lace up a pair of skates and get rollin’! October is National Roller Skating Month! Sponsored by the Roller Skating Association, the holiday encourages kids and adults to enjoy one of America’s favorite pastimes. Whether you just like to get from here to there faster than walking or love mastering fancy moves, roller skating is a wonderful way to get outside for some fun exercise. Or head for the roller rink and spend time with friends. This year’s theme is #WhyISk8. To learn more about this annual event and how you can participate, visit the Roller Skating Association website.

One Shoe Two Shoes

Written by Caryl Hart | Illustrated by Edward Underwood

 

It’s time for the doggy to go for a walk, but his human is missing “one shoe.” Where is it? Doggy has it! With “two shoes” the man and the puppy go into town. They see lots of people wearing “two shoes.” There are colorful shoes, “old shoes, new shoes, on their way to school shoes.” In fact, there are so many kinds of shoes, even a pair—oh, no! Watch out!—with “long laces tied in knots.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-one-shoe-two-shoes-knotted-dog-roller-walking

Image copyright Edward Underwood, 2019, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Now, you know “two shoes make a pair,” but… do you see? “Who’s that hiding there?” A curly tail’s just a hint of the two tiny mice who’ve “made a house in someone’s shoe!” A shoe makes a perfect house for a mouse… or two… or three… or even four?! Wait a minute, there’s even more! A shoe box fits all ten mice. They scramble in; it is quite nice. But who is watching all the fun and sees the pink, curly tail sticking out?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-one-shoe-two-shoes-knotted-dog-spies

Image copyright Edward Underwood, 2019, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The doggy comes to investigate. He sniffs and licks. The mice all “SCATTER!” Doggy stretches with a job well done and thinks it’s time for a reward. Again he fetches his human’s shoe, and they’re off for another walk. What do the mice do while the doggy’s away? It’s “time to play. Hooray!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-one-shoe-two-shoes-knotted-dog-roller-skates

Image copyright Edward Underwood, 2019, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

It’s never been as fun to play hide and squeak and count to ten as in Caryl Hart’s One Shoe Two Shoes, where ten silly mice make homes in all sorts of shoes. Hart’s infectious rhymes will have little ones in stitches as they play along with an alert doggy who has his eye on the mice as they run from shoe to shoe to find just the right “fit.” The jaunty story gives adults and kids lots to talk about, from different kinds of shoes to colors to patterns and, of course, there’s plenty of opportunities to count. Mice lovers may sympathize when the tiny mice are rousted from their box, but they’ll cheer when the mice get to celebrate in perhaps the best shoes of all—roller skates. And dog lovers? They’ll be happy to see that the doggy gets not one, but two walks!

The shoe extravaganza begins on the endpapers, where 68 shoes of all types are waiting to be paired up. Moving inside, Edward Underwood’s bold, oversized pages introduce kids to a frisky doggy who wants to get outside. In keeping with the text, Underwood’s images focus on the walking feet of passersby. These vibrant illustrations allow readers to talk about clothing and, especially, socks and shoes. When the doggy gets back home, little ones will delight in helping him spy the first curly pink tail and will eagerly point out the rest of the mice scampering and hiding here and there. Touches of humor will have little ones giggling, and repeated colors and patterns give them opportunities to reinforce and show their knowledge of these concepts. 

A joyful book that’s fun to read aloud, One Shoe Two Shoes would be a charming addition to home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1547600946

Discover more about Caryl Hart and her books on her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-one-shoe-two-shoes-cover

You can find One Shoe Two Shoes at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 9 – It’s National Cookie Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-cover

About the Holiday

In a month that celebrates treats of all kinds, it’s not surprising to find that we also honor the cookie. This hand-held scrumptious goodie comes in as many flavors and flavor combinations as you can think of. Baking cookies together is a fun way to spend an afternoon and eating them together is even better—as you’ll see in today’s book! To celebrate this month-long holiday, get out the bowls, the mixer, and the baking trays plus all of those yummy ingredients and whip up some favorites as well as some new recipes. Then—eat!

I received a copy of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! from Bloomsbury for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! and Croc & Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever! See details below.

Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun!

By Mike Wohnoutka

 

The snow is falling and Croc runs to Turtle’s house with a list of fun things to do. Turtle comes to the door with another list. They’re both a little surprised to find such opposite activities on each other’s lists, but Turtle thinks it will be fun to “do everything on both lists.” First, they head out to the pond to ice skate. But Turtle doesn’t know how. Croc says to just follow along, but in all of Croc’s zooming, whooshing, and twirling, Turtle is left dizzy and flat out on the ice. Croc thinks being outside is the best, but Turtle’s ready to go inside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-paper-skating

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle has all the craft supplies to make paper snowflakes. Croc says, “I’m not very good at paper snowflakes.” Turtle, snipping away energetically, says, “Just watch me.” Turtle unfolds the paper and displays an intricate four-snowflake arch, while Croc’s four angled blocks of paper, taped and glued together, lie in front of him.

Outside again, Croc’s happy to go sledding, but Turtle’s feet are freezing. Uncertainly, Turtle sits in front of Croc. The screaming starts as the sled bumps and jumps down the hill. Buried up to their necks in snow, Croc is exhilarated, but for Turtle “it’s time to go back inside.” In the house, Turtle begins spreading the 1,000 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on the floor in front of a roaring fire as Croc flops nearby in utter boredom.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-paper-snowflakes

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

He wants to go back out, but Turtle finds it “too cold and too dangerous.” In a huff, Croc stomps outside. Turtle fumes and stays inside. But Croc finds that throwing snowballs and skiing without Turtle is no fun, and Turtle misses Croc while coloring and playing cards. Then there’s a knock at the door. It’s Croc with an apology. Turtle apologizes too.  Croc ponders: how can they “be inside and outside and together?” Then Turtle whispers an idea into Croc’s ear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-sledding

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Inside, Turtle gets out the recipe book, eggs, flour, and other ingredients. Outside, Croc pats and shapes snow into blocks. Soon, Turtle has a tray full of cookies and hot chocolate, and Croc is pulling a sled loaded with Turtle’s table, chairs, and slippers to… their warm, cozy igloo so they can be “outside…and inside…and together.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-igloo

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mike Wohnoutka’s best friends Croc and Turtle are back in a cold-weather adventure that will warm readers’ hearts. Their enthusiasm to play together sparkles in their bright smiles and cheery greetings, they even overcome the initial momentary shock that Croc prefers outside, while Turtle is a homebody. As the two try to enjoy each other’s activities, though, their different personalities cause a rift. Little ones needn’t worry about these two besties, however.

It only takes a few minutes for each to realize winter is no fun without the other. In a tender lesson, Wohnoutka shows Croc and Turtle apologizing for their role in the tiff and then quickly moving on to working together to come up with a solution. The result of their creative problem solving will delight kids and is a clever activity that can be adapted for play at home. Wohnoutka’s inside and outside pursuits for Croc and Turtle are well chosen and will resonate with readers even as they giggle at the outcomes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-uphill

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Just as in Wohnoutka’s first Croc & Turtle tale—Croc and Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!—these bright green friends with their expressive eyes will charm readers. Wohnoutka’s vivid imagery always puts the spotlight on Croc and Turtle, allowing the youngest readers to easily connect the text with the action, while older readers soak up all the humor and emotion in this enchanting story. Inside, Turtle’s home glows with warmth, while outside, you can almost feel the crisp, frosty air and the snowflakes drifting down. The final image brings both of these welcome winter delights together.

Whether you’re already fans of Croc and Turtle or meeting them for the first time, Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! is a sweet addition to home bookshelves. The book will also be a favorite in preschool and kindergarten classrooms and in public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681196374

Discover more about Mike Wohnoutka, his books, and his art, on his website.

Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! Two-Book Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Bloomsbury Children’s Books in a giveaway of these two books by Mike Wohnoutka:

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-cover

  • One (1) copy of Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun!  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-the-bestest-friends-ever-cover

  • One (1) copy of Croc & Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!

 

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

Bonus: Reply with favorite winter activity to receive an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from October 9 through October 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 14

Giveaways open to US and Canadian addresses only | Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

National Cookie Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cookie-maze

Catch the Cookie! Maze

 

Sometimes you just need a cookie! Help the little girl find her way to her favorite cookies with this printable Catch the Cookie! Maze and Solution.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-croc-and-turtle-snow-fun-cover

You can find Croc & Turtle: Snow Fun! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

September 16 – It’s Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-dutch-when-i-grow-up-cover

About the Holiday

Read a New Book Month is a fantastic time to scour your local bookstore and library for books that have recently been published or books that are new to you. Finding a book that you’ve never read before is exciting at any age, and discovering a new book about a favorite topic or in a favorite series is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Today’s book shows how books can spark an interest that can lead to a new hobby or even a future career.

Lola Dutch When I Grow Up

By Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright

 

Lola Dutch is a little girl whose mind swirls with all the possible things she could be when she grows up, and she wants to decide right now. Bear thinks it would be nice to talk about it over tea, but Lola’s in a hurry. “‘Quick, to the den!’” she says. Bear’s den is spectacular! It’s lined floor to ceiling with books on all topics, a comfy couch and an armchair beckon, and a fireplace keeps it nice and toasty. Today, Lola spies a book about opera and settles in.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-dutch-when-i-grow-up-inventor

Image copyright Kenneth and Sarah Wright, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

After reading, Lola is convinced the stage is for her. In fact, it’s time to rehearse right now—as in full dress rehearsal. So, “Gator built the set. Pig composed the orchestrations. Crane designed the costumes.” And Bear brought the bouquet of roses for Lola’s final bow. At the end of the performance, Bear thinks Lola slayed it. But looking around at all of the intricate, moving props, Lola has decided that maybe she’d like to be an inventor. “Lola’s imagination soared” as she thought of all the aspects of being an inventor.

But then Lola wonders if perhaps she is “supposed to be something else when [she] grew up.” Suddenly, the fragrant flowers and buzzing bees catches her attention, and she thinks that being a botanist would be awesome. Prepping the soil, planting seeds, and caring for seedlings to “‘make the earth laugh with flowers’” is just what Lola wants to do. As Lola trims a topiary, Bear remarks, “‘Lola Dutch, you’ve grown so much.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-dutch-when-i-grow-up-air-ship

Image copyright Kenneth and Sarah Wright, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

And yet, Lola’s not finished growing. She ponders whether she should be a judge, an Egyptologist, a pastry chef, a chemist, and a whole host of other professions. The choices are endless, and Lola just can’t make up her mind. Bear has some sage advice. He asks her what she wants to be right then. Lola confides that she’s happy being a kid and learning about the world, and Bear encourages her to be just that. This sounds wonderful to Lola because, as she says, “‘I have a few more things I’d like to be tomorrow.’”

A surprise awaits readers on the the book jacket. On an extended flap at the back of the book are paper dolls of Lola Dutch and Pig as well as Lola’s voluminous opera gown. Turning the jacket to its reverse side, kids find an opulent, full-color stage, complete with airship, a topiary carousel, landmarks from Ancient Egypt, and Bear waiting to watch the performance. A glance at the copyright page reveals the creators in history who influence Lola’s imagination.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-dutch-when-i-grow-up-botonist

Image copyright Kenneth and Sarah Wright, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Welcome to childhood—that time when imagination and reality mesh, allowing kids to be and do anything they can think of. Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright tap into that energy and enthusiasm as Lola contemplates all the things she could be when she grows up. All she needs to do to find plenty of brilliant career choices is to look around her surroundings. Acting? Check. Inventing? Yep. Botony, cooking, or chemistry? Yes, yes, or yes. But does she have to rush into it? There’s so much more to explore. The Wright’s brisk compilation of professions and the subsets that make them so interesting will entice any child to follow Lola’s example and make their own discoveries. 

Sarah Jane’s vibrant pencil, gouache, and watercolor illustrations shimmer with charm, and exuberance, reflecting that buoyant feeling of confidence and possibility of children interacting with their world. Fans of the first Lola Dutch book will love meeting up with Bear, Pig, Gator, and Crane once more and looking forward to the now—and the future—with such good friends.

Lola Dutch When I Grow Up is an inspiring sequel to Lola Dutch and will be a favorite and often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681195544

To learn more about Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright, their books, and other ventures, visit their website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-briefcase-craft-2

Kids who know just what they’d like to do when they grow up or those who are still exploring the options will enjoy filling out this printable Dream Job Application. After making the easy briefcase, kids will be ready to take the world by storm!

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-dutch-when-i-grow-up-cover

You can find Lola Dutch When I Grow Up at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

September 12 – National Day of Encouragement

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby-finds-a-worry-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday got its start when a group of high school students attending a leadership conference were asked to devise a solution to what was perceived as a major problem facing young people: a lack of encouragement. Their solution led to the establishment in 2007 of a National Day of Encouragement on which people are prompted to perform deliberate acts of encouragement to cheer and inspire others. The theme for 2019 is “Share a Smile.” To celebrate, smile at those you meet, say a kind word, mail a card, make a call, or send a text to anyone who needs a little more encouragement to complete a goal, deal with a problem, or just to have a good day. You can also print and give out the Encouragement Cards below.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books provided me with a copy of Ruby Finds a Worry for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be teaming with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Ruby Finds a Worry

By Tom Percival

 

“Ruby loved being Ruby.” She was happy swinging on her swing set and exploring her backyard. But one day, she “discovered a Worry.” It wasn’t too big. At first it was just a little nudge, but then it started to grow…and grow. Then it began following her around—everywhere. It sat opposite her at the breakfast table and hung around while she brushed her teeth. Ruby was sure her teacher and the other kids in her class would see it, but they didn’t, “so Ruby pretended that she couldn’t see it either.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby-finds-a-worry-little-worry

Copyright Tom Percival, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Ruby kept hoping that it would go away. Then she began to worry that it would never go away. Ruby’s worrying just made the Worry grow even bigger. It was soon so enormous that Ruby felt squeezed for space at home and in the school bus. The Worry filled up all of her thoughts; she couldn’t do the things she loved anymore and “it seemed like she would never feel happy again.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby-finds-a-worry-dragon-box

Copyright Tom Percival, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then one day, Ruby saw a boy sitting glumly on a park bench. She recognized that look—and the Worry floating just behind him. For the first time, Ruby realized that other people had Worries too. She sat next to the boy, and they began to talk. As the boy told her what was troubling him, “his Worry began to shrink.” Then Ruby told the boy about her Worry, and it shrank away too. With both Worries gone, the world seemed brighter, and the boy and Ruby jumped for joy. Ruby “felt like her old self again.”  Ruby still found Worries sometimes, “but now that she knew how to get rid of them, they never hung around for long.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby-finds-a-worry-disappearing-worry

Copyright Tom Percival, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Tom Percival’s reassuring story is so welcome for children who tend to let their worries crowd out other thoughts and even their happiness. Percival’s straightforward and honest depictions of the stages of worrying—first twinges, growing fears, pretending everything’s okay, and overwhelming anxiety—are both educational and helpful for kids struggling with these feelings. Two stand-out sentences in which Percival directly reveals to readers the worst and best things they can do with a Worry provide excellent guides for dealing with this common emotion.

Working hand-in-hand with the text, Percival’s clear illustrations show Ruby’s progression from a happy, carefree little girl to a child paralyzed by her worries. Ruby’s initial curiosity and courage, shown through full-color spreads, gives way to uncertainty and reticence as her once-happy expression turns sad and the world around her is washed in somber grays. As the Worry keeps up its constant presence, Percival depicts three vignettes—Ruby’s birthday, Ruby riding her bike, and Ruby practicing the piano—that depict activities that can cause worry but also be spoiled by it. Ruby’s discovery that other people also have worries comes with another bit of insight. As Ruby talks to the boy, she reveals that she—perhaps instinctively—knows just what he needs to feel better. Helping kids implement this awareness to advocate for themselves as well is what this book is all about.

A supportive and encouraging book for kids who have a high sensitivity for worrying as well as for those who have periodic doubts, Ruby Finds a Worry should be part of every classroom and public library collection and would be a comforting book to own and share for home libraries too.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1547602377

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

Ruby Finds a Worry Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Bloomsbury Children’s Books in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

This giveaway is open from September 12 through September 19 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 20.

Giveaways open to US and Canadian addresses only | Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

National Day of Encouragement Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-random-acts-of-encouragement-cards

Random Acts of Encouragement Cards to Share

 

Today’s a day to spread a little encouragement to friends, neighbors, teachers, and anyone who looks as if they could use some cheering up.

Random Acts of Encouragement Cards 1Random Acts of Encouragement Cards 2

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ruby-finds-a-worry-cover

You can find Ruby Finds a Worry at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 6 – National Read a Book Day and Interview with Blake Liliane Hellman & Steven Henry

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Blake-and-Steve-in-Garden

About the Holiday

Avid readers, rejoice! Today is your day! Just as its name implies, National Read a Book Day celebrates one of the best ways to spend our spare time: reading! If there’s a book you’ve been wanting to read, find some quiet time during lunch, after dinner, or before turning out the light to snuggle in with a cup of tea and that great book. Kids will enjoy some extra reading time as well. Make it a family event! Not only is reading together fun, it’s an important way to help children develop skills that will benefit them far into the future. 

Get to Know Blake Liliane Hellman and Steven Henry

Today, I’m celebrating National Read a Book Day by talking with Welcome to Morningtown author Blake Liliane Hellman and illustrator Steven Henry. This husband-and-wife team combine their talents for art and writing to create adorable picture books with characters and storylines kids love.  

First up, I’m chatting with Blake about how Welcome to Morningtown came to be and how her visual arts background influences her storytelling. 

Welcome to Morningtown is composed of only 119 words and yet readers get the feeling of a joyful day bursting with possibility and promise while the story also reflects the common routines of a morning for little ones. The story includes a wonderful feeling of camaraderie and inclusion, plus it ends on a humorous note. That’s a masterful use of words and rhythm! Can you describe how you approached the story, chose your words, and structured the cadence of the story? Did the story start out this short or was there a whittling process involved?

This book started out as a phrase Steve would use to wake up his little one in the morning. We knew we wanted to make it into a children’s book but we weren’t sure what it was going to be about. We had long discussions on the world of Morningtown—the setting, the season, the homes, and the creatures who lived there. We even designed maps for fun. There were many iterations. The text was much wordier at first, but I always knew it was going to be a prosaic style of book rather than a classical narrative. I’m a fan of Mary Lyn Ray (STARS, A LUCKY AUTHOR HAS A DOG) who uses words in a lyrical and economical way, without depending on rhyme. Similarly, I curated my word choices so Steve’s illustrations could shine.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends-to-make

Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Your background is in journalism, English, and filmmaking. You’re also an abstract painter. How did you become interested in writing picture books? How does your experience in all of these disciplines help you write your stories?

My background in filmmaking helped me learn how to tell stories visually. Years of crafting song lyrics taught me to express myself concisely and poetically. Journalism gave me a great foundation in writing, and painting abstractly taught me to get used to making mistakes—that mistakes are just the path to success. As a writer, you’re going to make a lot of bad stuff. If you accept that, you won’t give up. If you don’t give up, you get better.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-BlakeLH-painting-1

Diamond (acrylic on canvas) by Blake Liliane Hellman, 2015

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-BlakeLH-painting-2

Iris (acrylic and mixed media on canvas) by Blake Liliane Hellman, 2015

As an artist, do you have a vision for your stories’ illustrations? In addition to working with Steven on Welcome to Morningtown  and the forthcoming GoodnightSleepyville (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020) and Something Smells! (Atheneum, 2018), you have a third picture book, Cuddle Monkey, coming out from Atheneum in 2020, illustrated by Chad Otis. Were you able to work closely with Chad on the adorable illustrations for this book?

As a filmmaker and visual designer, I absolutely have a vision for my stories when I’m writing them. It might be unusual for the writer to have a say in the illustrations, but I’ve been lucky in this. Both Steven Henry, my husband, and our good friend Chad Otis, (CUDDLE MONKEY, OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL) have design agency backgrounds and are used to collaborating, so designing picture books with them is a no brainer—and a delight. I don’t think I would have been able to sell my earlier manuscripts without the artwork because to my mind, in a picture book manuscript, half of the story just isn’t there! But as I establish myself as a writer, I’m learning that a professional picture book manuscript should be precise and uncluttered. It should speak for itself without relying on illustration notes.

What do you find to be the best part of being a children’s author?

I get to create fantastical, funny, heartfelt worlds and share them with kids and parents. When you see someone enjoying your work, it validates your imagination.

Steven, you also bring a varied background in design and illustration to your picture book career. Early on you worked as a window display artist for Tower Records and Macy’s Department Store. What are the challenges of this kind of work? What elements are important for capturing the attention of passersby and enticing them into the store? Is there a correlation to creating a book’s cover?

In both retail display and illustration, I’ve always tried to set up a visual hierarchy that leads the eye and gives the viewer the most important information first. To do this, first I figure out my visual storytelling goal (or goals). Once I understand what I’m trying to “say”, then I’ll ask myself what the reader should see first. Are any other elements distracting from this? Whenever possible I try to keep things simple in an engaging way. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-cover

What drew you to focus on illustrating picture books?

I started drawing superheroes and dinosaurs in grade school. My first-grade teacher noticed my doodles in class and, rather than scolding me for not working on my lessons, asked me if I’d like to draw dinosaurs on the chalkboard for the class at the end of the day. I don’t remember how I got the nerve up to do it, but I got up in front of the room and drew a big Tyrannosaurus, explaining how tall he was and who he fought with. I became a minor classroom celebrity for a couple of days, but that, along with encouragement from my parents, was enough to keep me inspired to draw. 

My parents got rid of our TV in the 70’s, so we spent many hours at the library and brought stacks of books home. Seuss, Sendak, and Scarry were—and still are—big heroes. As a teenager I became more interested in drawing comic book art, but I eventually returned to my picture book roots in 2004 with Ella The Elegant Elephant.  

The characters in Welcome to Morningtown are cuter than cute, and the whole book is like a warm hug. How do you achieve this look and feeling? Why do you think such sweet illustrations are important for little readers? I’m also thinking in particular of the final spread of the busy town that glows with friendship and happiness. Can you talk a bit about some of the elements adults can point out as they share the book with their kids?

When I’m designing characters, I try to make combinations of pen marks on paper that remind me of the kinds of books I loved as a kid and continue to resonate with me emotionally. In order to get to a point where I can communicate certain feelings visually, the boring secret has been practice. I really do believe the adage that, if you spend 10,000 hours doing something, you’ll become an expert. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Ladybug-Concept-WTMT

Ladybug concept for Welcome to Morningtown by Steven Henry.

I still use a simple mechanical pencil to do most of my line work. I also try to stay well within my skill set when I’m working on a book. I try to save things like experimentation and pushing boundaries for the concept work that precedes actual book production. Usually, but I’m not always successful—haha.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dad-sleeping

Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As I mentioned earlier, I pay close attention to the visual hierarchy of an illustration to make sure the most important things stand out. But I also like to include little details that the reader may not catch the first time around, or I include a visual storyline that’s not necessarily a part of the text. In Welcome to Morningtown, there’s no mention of a bear family, for instance; but the illustrated exploits of the little bear and his family provide a gently funny counterpoint to the text. Whenever I can, I like to tell a parallel or separate story with the pictures, so parents and young readers should definitely keep their eyes open—and maybe even check the pictures more than once!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bunnies

Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Multiple readings of Welcome to Morningtown are definitely a must! As a husband and wife team collaborating on picture books, could you both tell readers about your process for completing a book that inspires such enthusiasm? Does the story come first and then the illustrations or do you work on the whole project together?

We’re always thinking of new ideas for books, usually they start with a title or concept, a funny thing we see while on a walk or overhear on the street. There’s a lot of silly wordplay at our house.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Steve-Dining-Room-Table

Steve working on the picture book dummy for Welcome to Morningtown.

I throw a lot of ideas at Steve and not all of them stick. He’s particular. And for good reason. It takes a lot of work and commitment to illustrate a book. When we decide, we roll up our sleeves and get to work. Part of our process is to make a ‘dummy,’ which is a roughly laid out version of the book that we create with a program called InDesign. It has the text laid out alongside rough sketches. This step helps clarify the pacing and can validate or invalidate the story structure. It provides opportunities for improvement. We do a lot of iterating before giving it to our agent.

Blake, you work as an interactive and user experience designer and, Steven, you used to work for Smashing Ideas, which also provides these kinds of serves to clients. Can you briefly describe this work for readers? Can you talk a bit about your work for kids in this area? How do these techniques influence your work with picture books?

I’m a UX Designer and Steve is a Design Manager and we use user experience design principles, including white boarding, prototyping, and wire framing to make picture books! It sounds funny, but it’s actually a great way to work. The only thing we don’t do is user testing because it’s hard to find people who are willing to be honest with you about your picture book. (Unless it’s my mom, she’s very honest.)

Conversely, we’ve found that the process of making picture books helps us in our office environments. Making a picture book forces one to be very organized. There’s a lot to cover in just thirty-two pages! If you can master this kind of efficiency, you can apply it most anywhere.

I’ve had several comments from adults wishing they could live in Morningtown. What can readers look forward to in your upcoming companion book Sleepyville (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, date)?

In the companion book to this one, Sleepyville is a cozy seaside village just a hop, skip and jump from Morningtown. It’s bustling with animals who are getting ready for bedtime. Keep your eye out for a library in a giant tree, a candy shop, and camping worms.

 What’s up next for both of you?

We have a few book ideas we’re developing—one of which Steve has written. I’m currently shopping a manuscript on my own about a rambunctious river.

Since my blog is holiday themed, can’t let you get away without asking what your favorite holiday is and why?

My favorite is the Fourth of July. There’s a current of excitement that runs through the air on the Fourth of July. All the explosions, smoke, and fire—the bursts of colors in the night sky—break the routine of other days. But I’d be happy with just black snakes and sparklers. I especially love the smell of fireworks, which conjures hot summer pavement, watermelon picnics, and swimming pools.

I love the sensory details in this last sentence, Blake! I can almost feel my bare feet sizzling and taste that cool watermelon!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Blake-and-Steve_BW

BLAKE LILIANE HELLMAN is a picture book author and senior UX designer. She and her husband Steven Henry live in Seattle and collaborate on books such as Welcome to Morningtown, Goodnight, Sleepyville, and Something Smells!, which was nominated for the Washington State Book Award. Take a peek into their world by viewing her Instagram page and Facebook page.

STEVEN HENRY (né D’Amico) is the illustrator of many picture books, including the award-winning Ella the Elegant Elephant Series, It’s Raining Bats & Frogs, and Herbert’s First Halloween. He currently serves as an art director at Committee for Children, a nonprofit organization promoting social and emotional learning.

You can take a peek into Blake and Steven Henry’s world on

Instagram | Facebook

You can connect with Steve on

His Website | Twitter

National Read a Book Day Review

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-cover

Welcome to Morningtown

Written by Blake Liliane Hellman | Illustrated by Steven Henry

 

It’s the crack of dawn in Morningtown and “everyone is waking.” A little cub rubs his eyes and sees his dad standing at the foot of his bed, fishing pole in hand, tackle box at the ready. The little tyke yawns and stretches along with the birds in the tree outside his room. Down at the pond, the frogs are “hopping, flopping, splashing awake while the turtles and a beaver enjoying the first cup of the day look on. All over Morningtown the animals, the insects, and even the fish are leaving their beds, brushing their teeth, washing up, and getting dressed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-waking-up

Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Next comes breakfast! “Some crunch, some nibble, some sip their morning feast.” Then in houses all around town the windows are opened and the shutters thrown wide. What will the day bring? Perhaps a banjo lesson, a new friend, and chance to help out. The cub dries the breakfast dishes while his mom washes. “Every day’s a surprise, and as the sun rises… busy bees buzz, fun bunnies bounce, and eager beavers slide into the day.” Yes, it’s a busy day in Morningtown. “Everyone is up…except one.” It’s a good thing Mom likes to go fishing too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-stretching

Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Blake Liliane Hellman’s lyrical look at morning and all the promise it holds is an enchanting, cheerful way to start the day for little ones—and their adults. As the bear family wakes up in their stone home, the rest of Morningtown’s residents are also rising and greeting the day with all of those little details that go into getting ready to meet the world. Hellman’s evocative verbs, jaunty rhythms, and humorous ending make Welcome to Morningtown a joy to read aloud.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-dawn

Accompanying Hellman’s story are Steven Henry’s beyond adorable forest creatures who populate this peaceful hamlet. The sky glows golden and then softens into a clear, light blue as the animals leave their beds. One snoozing butterfly catches a few more winks on her soft dandelion bed, a tiny turtle enjoys another minute on Mom’s back, and Mr. Mole climbs emerges from his “secret” bed underground while three chirping birds wake a little mountain goat on his snowy ledge. Smiles abound, and readers will find themselves smiling too as they follow the little cub as he gets ready to go fishing with Dad. Henry’s clever details and charming perspectives create a rich and, as the title invites, welcoming community that little ones will want to visit again and again.

To start a little one’s day with enthusiasm for what lies ahead, put them to bed looking forward to tomorrow, or share cuddly down time, the charming Welcome to Morningtown is as sweet as it gets and would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681198736

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-cover

You can find Welcome to Morningtown at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 4 – National Wildlife Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-migration-incredible-animal-journeys-cover

About the Holiday

National Wildlife Day was established in 2005 by author and pet lifestyle expert Colleen Paige in memory of conservationist Steve Irwin. The day promotes awareness of the importance of conservation of animals, habitats, and the environment worldwide and offers education on the number of endangered and threatened species across the globe. To honor today’s holiday, visit a local zoo, aquarium, or other nature preserve and take some time to learn about what you can do to help protect the environment.

I received a copy of Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys from Bloomsbury Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys

Written by Mike Unwin | Illustrated by Jenni Desmond

 

In their stunning book, Mike Unwin and Jenni Desmond take readers along as twenty diverse animals complete their annual travels to safer, warmer, or more fertile feeding grounds guided by inborn instincts. With compelling and conversational storytelling, Unwin introduces each creature, divulging fascinating and endearing facts about the adults and babies that undertake these epic trips—the shortest, 60 miles; the longest, a breathtaking 60,000 miles!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-migration-incredible-animal-journeys-whales

Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

Readers will meet a humpback whale and her baby who stick together for more than 15,000 miles—“the longest swim of any animal on Earth”—as they head from the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia to the Antarctic and back in search of krill. As the baby eats, it “will start building up the thick layer of blubber that it needs to keep out the cold.” When it is ten years old, this baby will be fully grown and can look forward to many migrations to come.

If you were stuck waiting at a caribou crossing, you’d want a good, long book on hand. More than 100,000 adults and their young swim across icy rivers and trek over grasslands of the frosty Arctic “inland toward the forests [where] the trees will help protect them when winter comes” and delicious moss and lichen await under snowy blankets.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-migration-incredible-animal-journeys-caribou

Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

Meanwhile in a warmer part of the world, a passenger cries, “Stop the car quick! There’s a red river flowing right across the road…. But look closer. It’s not water: it’s crabs. Big red ones. There are thousands of them. They pour across the road in an army of pincers, then scuttle down the bank on the other side, heading for the sea.” Where does this awesome sight take place? On Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean northwest of Australia as millions of red crabs move from the forests to the sea, en masse.

One of the most mysterious and intricately sequenced migrations is that of the monarch butterfly. Each year it takes four generations and four stops to lay eggs and breed along the way for these stained-glass-gorgeous insects “that can weigh less than a paperclip” to complete their journey from the northern United States and Canada to Mexico.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-migration-incredible-animal-journeys-butterflies

Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

And which creature has the stamina for that 60,000-mile voyage? That honor goes to the appropriately named wandering albatross, who “five to ten years ago…left the small rocky island where it was born. Ever since then it has been wandering, covering more than 60,000 miles a year—over a quarter of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Never once has it touched land, though the birds often roost on the surface of the water.” In one or two years, this solitary traveler will return to land to breed and become a stay-at-home parent until its only child is ready to depart.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-migration-incredible-animal-journeys-wildebeasts

Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

Other creatures presented include the emperor penguin, arctic tern, whooping crane, barn swallow, globe skimmer dragonfly, southern African pilchard, ruby-throated hummingbird, bar-headed goose, great white shark, African elephant, pacific salmon, osprey, blue wildebeest, straw-colored fruit bat, and green turtle.

A map of the world—with each animal’s migratory journey outlined—orients children to the geographic locations and distances involved as well as a few more facts on migration and how pollution and habitat destruction affect migratory patterns follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-migration-incredible-animal-journeys-penguins

Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

Mike Unwin’s accessible, descriptive, and sensory snapshots turn this science-based book into an enthralling page-turner. As one astounding true story leads to another, readers will be eager to see which animal comes next and continue learning about this wildlife phenomenon. Well-known for his nature books for children and adults, Unwin captures the spirit of each animal as they take on the formidable challenges of their annual migration and in the process teaches a love and respect for nature.

Accompanying Unwin’s text are Jenni Desmond’s gorgeous mixed-media illustrations, made all the more impressive by the book’s large format. The textured pages dazzle with the movement and grandeur of nature, transporting readers to far-flung parts of the world and showing them the beauty of each animal up close. Icy blues and greens lend images of the Arctic a frosty feel, while vibrant greens set off the brilliant oranges of the monarch butterflies and jeweled feathers of the ruby-throated hummingbird. Wildebeest are menaced by storm clouds and elephants parade along a brown, dusty road. The book concludes with first a dusky and then a moonlit night that welcome bats and turtles to begin their travels.

An excellent choice for home, classroom, homeschool, and public library collections, Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys will be a favorite of both kids and adults for lessons and more casual reading.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1408889916

To learn more about Jenni Desmond, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Wildlife Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wonderful-wildlife-board-game

Wonderful Wildlife Board Game

 

Fascinating animals are found in every part of the world. Play this fun printable Wonderful Wildlife Board Game to match each animal to the area where it lives.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print a World Map for each player
  2. Print one set of 16 Wildlife Tokens for each player
  3. Print two copies of the 8-sided die, fold, and tape together
  4. If you would like, color the map and tokens
  5. Choose a player to go first
  6. Each player rolls both dice and places an animal on their map according to these corresponding sums of the dice below
  7. The first player to fill their map is the winner!
  • 1 = Flamingo – South America
  • 2 = Emperor Penguin – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
  • 3 = Giraffe – Africa
  • 4 = Bald Eagle – North America
  • 5 = Ibex – Europe
  • 6 = Kangaroo – Australia
  • 7 = Panda – Asia
  • 8 = Orca – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
  • 9 = Toucan – South America
  • 10 = Buffalo – North America
  • 11 = Koala – Australia
  • 12 = Lion – Africa
  • 13 = Etruscan Shrew – Europe
  • 14 = Manta Ray – Pacific Ocean
  • 15 = Sea Turtle – Atlantic Ocean
  • 16 = Tiger – Asia

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-migration-incredible-animal-journeys-cover

You can find Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review