April 8 – It’s Read a Road Map Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-caution-road-signs-ahead-cover

About the Holiday

Are you a lover of cars, road maps, and vehicles? If so, you’ve reached your destination! The first week of April is Read a Road Map Week, a nationwide holiday with mysterious origins. While nobody quite knows who drove this holiday into existence, it is now celebrated annually by road trippers across the US throughout the week, and especially on National Read a Road Map Day on April 5th. The holiday draws attention to the importance of roadmaps and the handiness of learning to read a physical map. In this day and age, drivers often rely on electronic GPS systems to get around. However, roadmaps used to be the only way to find your way to new locations. Learning to read road maps and road signs are useful skills for all. Celebrate this week’s holiday by learning more about how to read maps and road signs and taking a road trip to your local library or bookstore to pick up a copy of Caution! Road Signs Ahead—a perfect holiday read for kids on the go and curious about transportation.

Thanks to Toni Buzzeo and Rise x Penguin Workshop for sharing a copy of Caution! Road Signs Ahead for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own.

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

Caution! Road Signs Ahead

Written by Toni Buzzeo | Illustrated by Chi Birmingham

 

Are we there yet?! Do your kids ever feel a bit lost or listless during a looong car ride? Never fear; a lot of us do, and this clever board book is here to help children pass the hours gleefully while answering all of their road-trip questions. Finally, boredom be gone! With colorful infographics, die-cut pages, and clear-cut explanations, Caution! Road Signs Ahead explains the purpose of thirty-five signs kids on the go might see on a car trip in an easy and fun manner.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-caution-road-signs-ahead-interiors

Image copyright Chi Birmingham, 2021, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2021. Courtesy of Rise x Penguin Workshop.

The book opens with a view out the backseat window of a car on the move. Colored signs pop on a blue background, with big, orange writing along the top. Key words such as “look out, wonder, code, and safe” are bolded in white for young readers to recognize and learn. The book begins with questions for curious backseat riders: “When you look out the windows of a car or bus, do you notice signs on the side of the road? Do you wonder what they all mean?”

The next spread explains, “They are a code to let drivers know how to stay safe, what is nearby or where to pay extra attention. You can learn the code, too!” Readers are then invited on a journey of colorful, realistic signs and easy-to-read explanations of what they tell drivers. Sections on everyday road signs, neighborhood, highway, caution, and nature signages divide the book into digestible portions.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-caution-road-signs-ahead-winding-road

Image copyright Chi Birmingham, 2021, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2021. Courtesy of Rise x Penguin Workshop.

Each section opens with a brief explanation of the context of the signs ahead. For example: for the Highway Signs segment, a bright orange panel detailed with a complicated intersection illustration explains, “Small roads called exits lead you off the highway. Most of these signs tell you what you will find when you take certain exits.” Each description is cheerfully condensed to a single sentence punctuated with an explanation point. The text is fun, easy to read, and clear to understand.

A final spread of brilliant bright color blocks shows all of the signs in one and then invites readers to use their newfound knowledge on their next car ride. A life skills book that is so fun, kids will flip through the pages over and over again, until the signs are naturally memorized. This durable book is carefully crafted and a perfect treasure for every back-seat passenger.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-caution-road-signs-ahead-viewing-area

Image copyright Chi Birmingham, 2021, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2021. Courtesy of Rise x Penguin Workshop.

Toni Buzzeo’s twenty-ninth picture book engages young readers in an exploration the world of signage around them. Simple explanations encourage and empower young children with knowledge of the roads they travel. A one-of-a-kind non-fiction picture book that is always relevant, Caution! Road Signs Ahead is a perfect take-along for car trips, train rides, and even strolls around the neighborhood! The book is also a great resource for preschools and lower elementary classrooms to prepare the next generation of drivers to be careful, conscientious, and informed while on the go. What could be better?

Chi Birmingham realistically re-creates the shapes and colors of 35 road signs into tactile, cut-out designs that young readers can physically feel and marvel over. In each spread, the sign is presented on the right with its meaning cleverly posted to the silver “metal” backing of the previous sign. Text and signs are consistent, and clearly labeled, matching the straightforward nature of road signage. The illustrations are mesmerizing and aesthetically pleasing in the unique ways they stack and complement each other. Each section features a new, bold color scheme and creative cut outs. The construction of the catchy explanations and flashy signs come together to produce a gem of a book; a joy to flip through, for children and adults alike. Road trips have just become 35 times better for all—time for a road trip to pick up a copy of this book!

Ages 2 – 5

Rise x Penguin Workshop, 2021 | ISBN 978-0593224328

Discover more about Toni Buzzeo and her books on her website.

To learn more about Chi Birmingham, his books, and his art on his website.

Read a Road Map Week Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-road-trip-word-search

Road Trip Word Search

 

Find words related to driving and road-tripping in this free printable car shaped word search!

Road Trip Word Search PuzzleRoad Trip Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-Spy-travel-and-transport-game

I Spy Travel & Transport Game

 

While you’re in the car or on a walk, see how many of the sights on this free printable scavenger hunt  from Paper Trail Design you can find!

I Spy Travel & Transport Game

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-license-plate-game

License Plate Game

 

Check off as many license plates as you can spot on a road trip with this free printable colorful game from Paper Trail Design

License Plate Game Board

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-caution-road-signs-ahead-cover

You can find Caution! Road Signs Ahead at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 23 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of I Miss Your Sunny Smile and Interview with Deb Adamson

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-miss-your-sunny-smile-cover

About the Holiday

It’s National Reading Month, the perfect time to celebrate a book birthday! Today I’m excited to be featuring a sweet board book for the littlest readers that parents and caregivers will love sharing to make every day better. 

Thanks to Blue Manatee Press for sharing a digital copy of I Miss Your Sunny Smile for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Deb Adamson in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

I Miss Your Sunny Smile

Written by Deb Adamson | Illustrated by Anne Zimanski

 

On a rainy day a mom sits with her son watching out the window. The little boy is sad, and Mom is trying to cheer him up. She suggests going in search of his smile. They head to the living room and Mom makes a game of it—and even their dog joins in. “Did it roll under the sofa? / Is it with marbles in the dark? / Do you think your smile will make a show / if we wag our tails and bark?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-miss-your-sunny-smile-chair

Image copyright Anne Zimanski, 2021, text copyright Deb Adamson, 2021. Courtesy of Blue Manatee Press.

They look in the cookie jar and play dress up, but still the little boy wears a frown. Maybe dancing or playing peek-a-boo will help him find his smile. Even while he’s playing, though, something else is on his mind. He and his mom continue the search. At the boy’s bedroom door, they spy two fuzzy ears peeking out of the blanket. “Wait!” says Mom. “Is that your smile napping? / All cozy in your bed?”

They tiptoe in and lift the covers. There is Teddy—and the boy’s smile. The little boy hugs his teddy bear and grins from ear to ear. Outside the rain has stopped and the sun has come out. The boy, Teddy, and Mom take a walk to the park, ready to enjoy their day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-miss-your-sunny-smile-park

Image copyright Anne Zimanski, 2021, text copyright Deb Adamson, 2021. Courtesy of Blue Manatee Press.

All little ones have moments when things aren’t going right or they feel afraid or worried. Deb Adamson’s sweet story lets parents and caregivers show their little ones that feeling sad can be temporary and that adults are there to help them by talking about what’s bothering them or trying to find out in other ways. When children aren’t old enough or don’t know how to express their feelings yet, playing with them, having a snack, or just spending time together can lead to happiness. Kids will be charmed by Adamson’s tender rhyming storytelling that reveals a loving mother and son bond and will be reassured when the boy finds his teddy bear—and his smile.

Anne Zimanski’s lovely illustrations show a mother fully engaged with helping her son feel happy again. Children will love her detailed images of home that create a cozy atmosphere as well as the enthusiastic dog that joins in on the search, snack time, and playtime. The characters’ facial expressions clearly show the mother’s love and patience and the little boy’s sadness, discontent, and worry. When the teddy bear is found, the boy’s smile is infectious. This scene is made even more endearing as Teddy’s floppy arms wrap around the boy as he hugs his favorite friend.

An enchanting story for families to share during those times when a little encouragement and understanding are needed as well as for quiet story times full of love and reassurance.

Ages Baby – 4

Blue Manatee Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1936669875

Discover more about Deb Adamson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Anne Zimanski, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Deb Adamson

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Deb-Adamson-headshot

Deb Adamson’s children’s books can be silly, sweet and sometimes even a little bit quirky. Her goal is to always bring on a sunny smile! She lives in Connecticut with her husband, son, and orange cat extraordinaire, Lumpy.

You can connect with Deb Adamson on her website | Facebook | Twitter 

Hi Deb! It’s wonderful to be talking with you about your latest book! You’ve had such a varied career in all types of communications jobs—from being a broadcast news journalist and syndicated columnist to working as a public relations spokesperson for a major aquarium to becoming a published picture book author. Do you feel like your previous jobs have led you to writing for children? What do you like most about this genre?

I do feel that my previous careers have influenced my children’s books. As a writer, I feel like everything we do colors our work. And the varied career I’ve had definitely shows up in my  books. Writing can be such a magical pursuit. We draw from all aspects of experience. The subconscious is tapped and what we didn’t even know was a focus or deep impression makes an appearance on the page. I love the saying, “What a boring world it would be if we were all the same.” That goes for writing. I guess for me, once a journalist, always a journalist because  a few of my story ideas came from news stories that sparked an interest. And animals, whether marine or not, seem to more often than not, make a cameo in most of my books. I have to add though, that even through all those careers, I was reading children’s books and writing and querying children’s manuscripts. My first book was published while I was working at the Aquarium. Even before I had my son, there was something about writing for children that called to me. So, this has actually been my preferred career choice for many years now. I consider myself really lucky to finally call this my current vocation!

Have you always loved to write? Who were you influenced by while growing up?

I’ve always loved to read and to write. I was most influenced by my mother. She was a voracious reader. She wrote herself and believed in the power of story. Even though I was barely six years old, I still have vivid memories of the newest branch of our city library opening a half mile from my house. I recall frequently skipping along the sidewalk with her to that library and carrying home stacks of books. Such happy memories.

What inspired you to write I Miss Your Sunny Smile? Can you tell readers a little about your process in writing it?

I am big believer at cultivating emotional intelligence. (I have a shelf lined with self-improvement books!) As adults we come to learn that bad days come and go. So, we focus on what is good in our lives and hopefully are able to put most things in perspective. Little ones have yet to acquire those skills, therefore it is up to us to model a healthy approach. This little book is my attempt at helping parents guide young children ages one through four, through a bad day. The mom in the book is attempting to lighten the situation with distraction and humor, which is a great tool for redirecting feelings in young children. It is my hope that parents will remember the message of distraction and recall it whenever they need it. Even though it has been over 16 years, I certainly remember needing a book like this when my own son was a toddler!

Anne Zaminski’s warm illustrations show such a sweet relationship between the mother and her child. What were your first thoughts when you saw them? Do you have a favorite spread?

I cannot gush enough about Anne Zimanski’s art for this book! The illustrations are somewhat retro. The color is vivid. The emotion she captured is spot-on. We picture book authors are lucky to be paired with such talent. Anne really brought the characters to life, just as I had imagined. I could not be more pleased. If I had to pick a favorite spread it’s the one where the mom, child, and dog are looking under the sofa barking and wagging tails searching for a smile! I imagine that one generating giggles.

Your Twitter followers have been introduced to your cat whom you affectionately call Fatty Lumpkin, or Lumpy for short. Can you tell us a little about him?

Lumpy, like most author cats, is my constant companion.He is usually somewhere in the room, contentedly snoozing, just glad to have me nearby.  And yes! He has been my muse. I was not always a cat person. I grew up with dogs and just never knew a cat until as a young adult. I moved away and decided to adopt one. Then I learned about cats’ many charms. I actually wrote a manuscript inspired by that fact, that many people label themselves one or the other—cat or dog person, but usually not both. That’s often because they just don’t take the time to familiarize themselves with the great differences in cat and dog behavior. The manuscript is  super silly! My agent and I are hoping that one finds a home.

What’s the best part about being a children’s writer?

The best part of being a children’s book writer is losing myself in story and then ultimately sharing what I cultivated with children and families. I think most writers enjoy finding some universal truth that will ultimately reach out and touch the reader. And when that reader is a child it takes on that much more meaning and pleasure. But of course, not all children’s book writing has to have such depth. Like I said, books for kids should also just be written to encourage the pure pleasure of reading. I really enjoy knowing that my books generate laughs!

What’s up next for you?

I have three children’s books coming out in 2021 and one in 2022. I cannot even believe that, myself! I Miss Your Sunny Smile board book in March, Bing Bang Pling, Now We Swing, a picture book this summer, and A Christmas Eve Wish For Santa, a picture book in the fall. Needless to say, I will be especially busy with marketing. And then in 2022, Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag, a nonfiction picture book is next.

Thanks, Deb! It’s been great chatting with you! I wish you all the best with I Miss Your Sunny Smile and all of your upcoming books!

I Miss Your Sunny Smile Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Deb Adamson in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of I Miss Your Sunny Smile written by Deb Adamson | Illustrated by Anne Zimanski

Here’s how to enter:

This giveaway is open from March 23 through March 30 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 31

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Deb Adamson.

If you would like a signed copy of I Miss Your Sunny Smile, you can order from Bank Square Books.

I Miss Your Sunny Smile Activity

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-teddy-bear-coloring-page

Teddy Bear Coloring Page

 

Enjoy some teddy bear love with this printable coloring page!

Teddy Bear Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-miss-your-sunny-smile-cover

You can also find I Miss Your Sunny Smile at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 11 – Worship of Tools Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-whose-tools-cover

About the Holiday

What would we do without tools? Handheld and big machinery devices help us create buildings, artwork, crafts, and furniture; cook delectable meals; tend the garden; and keep our vehicles and homes in tip-top shape. Even animals use sticks, rocks, and their own paws as tools to get food and build homes. To celebrate today’s holiday make sure your tools are all in order and working, or if you’ve had your eye on a new tool, treat yourself!

Whose Tools?

Written by Toni Buzzeo | Illustrated by Jim Datz

 

There’s a lot of building going on! Where to start? Well, that depends…. “To build a house, start down low” and use these tools: the chalk line, the chisel, the jointer, and the float. “Whose tools are those? The mason’s!” What does he use them for? He’ll tell you himself: “I smooth the cement until it’s flat.” Where do windows go? Way up high! Here are the hammer, the level, the square, and the saw. Can you guess who uses those tools? They belong to the carpenter! He’s cutting the frame where the windows will go.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-whose-tools-foundation

Image copyright Jim Datz, 2015, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2015. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams Books for Young Readers.

It’s important that a house stays dry in rain and snow. What tools help with that? The utility knife, the snips, the nail gun, and the ladder. “Whose tools are those? Do you know?” They’re the roofer’s! What does she do with them? She climbs to the top of the house and nails “the shingles in straight rows.” A house can’t be dark, so the workers will “add some lights that softly glow.” They’ll use a screwdriver, a drill, a linesman pliers, and a wire stripper. Who are they? They’re the electricians! One electrician is busy stringing “the wire from switches to lights.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-whose-tools-mason

Image copyright Jim Datz, 2015, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2015. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams Books for Young Readers.

A house needs water too! What kinds of tools are used for that? An adjustable wrench, a pipe cutter, pipe tape, and a pipe wrench. And who uses these tools? The plumber! He turns “the pipe elbows until they’re tight” so there are no leaks! The house is almost finished, and now “on all four walls bright colors flow.” What tools are used to make such a pretty house? A brush, a roller, a roller tray, and masking tape. And who uses them? The painter! Right now she’s putting another coat of green paint on the wall. “The house is still not finished, though. Who’s come to build?” Surprise! “It’s you!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-whose-tools-roof

Image copyright Jim Datz, 2015, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2015. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Children are naturally curious about the tools, utensils, and machinery they see adults using. Toni Buzzeo’s delightful board book introduction to twenty-four tools for the youngest readers will capture their interest and imagination with fun prompts and a house-construction project in process. Buzzeo’s enthusiastic language and guess-who format invites multiple readings during which little ones are sure to memorize the names of all the tools and recognize them in the “real world” when they see them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-whose-tools-roof-fold-out

Image copyright Jim Datz, 2015, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2015. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Through Jim Datz’s cheery illustrations, kids watch as a cozy house comes together from foundation to finished as they learn the shape of each tool and see some being used. Questions are introduced on the left-hand page while the particular tools, drawn with sweet, smiling faces, are named on the right. This page opens to a double spread in which both men and women workers are busily and happily plying their trade. The final image will bring a giggle from kids as they discover that the house being built is actually a house of blocks being carefully constructed by a little girl and boy.

Whose Tools? would make a welcome baby gift and a fun addition to home and preschool libraries for little tool lovers.

Ages 2 – 4

Harry N. Abrams, 2015 | ISBN 978-1419714313

Discover more about Toni Buzzeo and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of artwork by Jim Datz, visit his website

Worship of Tools Day Activity

Tool-Box-Coloring-Page-[www.getcoloringpages.com]

Terrific Tools! Coloring Pages

 

Tools are terrific when you need to fix something old or build something new! Have fun coloring these tools and their toolbox!

Saw | Wrench | Toolbox

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-whose-tools-cover

You can find Whose Tools? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 1 – Get Ready for Valentine’s Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-t-rex-and-the-perfect-valentine-cover

About the Holiday

Love is in the air! Love for family, friends, and our special valentines. Begun as a religious feast day, Valentine’s Day became a day of romance with the bloom of courtly love during the 14th century. In England during the 18th century, those in love began showing their affections by giving flowers and candy and making valentine’s cards. Now, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar and a favorite of adults and kids alike.

Tiny T. Rex and the Perfect Valentine

Written by Jonathan Stutzman | Illustrated by Jay Fleck

 

Anyone who knows Tiny T. Rex knows that his best friend is Pointy. And if you know that Pointy is Tiny’s best friend, then you know how much Tiny likes to show his affection for him. So you can imagine that for Valentine’s Day, Tiny wants to make Pointy a perfect card. In his mind, Tiny pictures a big shiny heart with four heart balloons on top. On the front there will be a bow and two hearts that will pop out on springs. Fireworks will also shoot into the sky. “It is going to be perfect,” Tiny thinks. He wheels a big can of red paint over to where his huge white paper heart lies on the floor. But “Oh dear,” the wagon overturns spilling the paint on Tiny, but nowhere near the heart.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-t-rex-and-the-perfect-valentine-snipped

Image copyright Jay Fleck, 2020, text copyright Jonathan Stutzman, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

At least, Tiny thinks, he can “make it extra fancy” with some glitter. He climbs to the top of a ladder and tips the jar to get some glitter. But “Oh my,” Tiny and the tall jar tumble, and Tiny gets covered in gold, red, and pink flakes. “It will take many tries to make this perfect,” says Tiny. Next, he tries to make the smaller hearts, but the scissors are so unwieldy, and the hearts turn out not quite perfect. Then when he writes Pointy’s name on the Valentine, it doesn’t look quite right.

Tiny tries again “and again and again,” but something always goes awry, and Tiny becomes festooned with hearts. Finally, all Tiny has “…for Pointy is a very big, very messy…mess.” When Pointy arrives, Tiny has to apologize for not having a Valentine for him. But Pointy says that’s okay because he already has the perfect Valentine. Can you guess who?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-t-rex-and-the-perfect-valentine-pointy

Image copyright Jay Fleck, 2020, text copyright Jonathan Stutzman, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Jonathan Stutzman’s endearing dinos are back with a message about love and friendship in this adorable Valentine’s Day board book. As Tiny T. Rex suffers little mishaps while making Pointy’s Valentines, little ones will “Oh no” and “Oh my” along with him, but also find themselves giggling as Tiny becomes covered in paint, glitter, and hearts. Tiny’s declarative statements echo the way children think and speak, and with each unexpected tip or snip, kids will eagerly want to see what happens next. Stutzman’s sweet ending provides the snuggly reassurance that every Valentine wants on this special day.

Jay Fleck’s beloved itty-bitty green dinosaur and his red friend, Pointy are as cute as ever. Tiny’s chalk drawing is, like many children’s imagined projects, elaborate but full of love. Images of Tiny falling into the paint and glitter, cutting up the small hearts, and misspelling Pointy’s name will make readers’ heart’s swell. Tiny’s determination to try again and again is charming, and kids on the upper range of the target audience may like to predict what will happen in the end. Pointy’s heartfelt assurance that Tiny is the perfect Valentine turns his disappointment into a warm grin.

Heartwarming and adorable, Tiny T. Rex and the Perfect Valentine will make any little one’s holiday perfect. For fans of these dino best friends or newcomers to the three-book series, the book will make an often-asked-for addition to home bookshelves and libraries.

Ages 2 – 4

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452184890

Discover more about Jonathan Stutzman and his books on his website.

To learn more about Jay Fleck, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Get Ready for Valentine’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-entangled-hearts-matching-puzzle

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

 

These friends are collecting valentines! Can you help them follow the paths to find more in this printable puzzle?

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-t-rex-and-the-perfect-valentine-cover

You can find Tiny T. Rex and the Perfect Valentine at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 25 – It’s Creativity Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-treats-cover

About the Holiday

As the cold and snowy weather keeps kids inside more and more, what are they to do? Why not create?! Whether your kids like writing, drawing, cooking, building, music, gardening, dancing, or other pursuits, January’s celebration of creativity makes it the perfect time to begin a new project. And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, why not stock up on supplies and make some sweet treats – like in today’s book!

Thanks to Tara Knudson for sending me a copy of Valentine’s Day Treats for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Tara in a giveaway of a signed copy of her book. See details below.

Valentine’s Day Treats

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Mother Raccoon is gathering all the supplies her littles need to make Valentines. She helps them cut out red and pink hearts, then they add glue and paint and sparkly glitter, bows and butterflies, and lots more hearts. While the cards dry, Mama and her little ones head for the kitchen, where they get out bowls and pans to make a special cake.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-treats-valentines

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

They measure out “Sugar, flour, / Oil in cup, / Milk and eggs, / Mix them up.” They pour the batter into two pans—one square and one round—put the pans in the oven and wait. “Brrrring, they’re done— / Perfect cakes!” When the cakes have cooled, Mama Raccoon slides the two cakes onto plates and cuts the circle in half.

The little raccoons put the shapes together just right to make a heart. They spread on frosting to make it whole and then comes the fun: “Sprinkles on, / Decorate. / Can’t eat yet! / Have to wait.” Finally, it’s time to walk down the street to their friends’ house for a Valentine’s Day feast, complete with heart-shaped cakes to share. Afterwards, the kids hand out their cards. They all laugh and smile as they read them. “Each a gift, / Fun designs, / Made with love— / Valentines.”

A recipe for the raccoon family’s special Valentine’s Day cake follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-treats-cake

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

When my son was very little, he LOVED Valentine’s Day. He couldn’t make enough Valentine’s cards and crafts, it seemed, to express all of his sweet feelings. Tara Knudson captures that joy and enthusiasm for the holiday in her warm rhymes that transport kids into the middle of exciting Valentine’s Day preparations. As the little raccoons cut and paste, color and paint, and add stickers and lots of glitter, kids will be eager to get out their own supplies to make homemade cards for those they love. And just one look at Knudson’s clever cake will have them running to the kitchen to make that too. But Valentines are to share and just as the young racoons in the story, readers will have to wait… a page turn… to who gets the special treats.

Pauline Siewert’s adorable raccoons craft and cook their way through Valentine’s Day to make special cards and snacks for their friends. Her vivid images are cheerful and lively and charmingly include the little spatters and splashes that are all part of the fun. Little ones will enjoy soaking up all the details in the craft room, the kitchen, and the friends’ house and pointing out the ones they know. When adults point out these details while reading, kids will find it easy to read along too, as Knudson uses them to make her bubbly rhymes and flowing rhythm. Kids will also like keeping their eye on the tiny house mouse who is also making itty-bitty Valentine’s Day treats. 

A sparkly and cuddly board book little ones will want to hear again and again for Valentine’s Day and throughout the year, Valentine’s Day Treats would make a sweet gift for grandchildren or other littles on your list as well as favorite addition to home, preschool, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310768395

Discover more about Tara Knudson and her books as well as Valentine’s Day Treats coloring pages and on her website.

Valentine’s Day Treats Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Tara Knudson in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) signed copy of Valentine’s Day Treats written by Tara Knudson | illustrated by Pauline Siewert

This giveaway is open from January 25 through January 31 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on February 1.

To Enter:

  • Follow @CelebratePicBks
  • Retweet
  • Bonus: Comment with your favorite Valentine’s Day tradition for an extra entry! Each comment gives you one more entry.

Prizing provided by Tara Knudson

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

Creativity Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-card-closed

Peek-a-Boo Valentine

 

Kids can make a sweet, personalized valentine card that reveals how they feel about Mom, Dad, siblings, grandparents, friends, or anyone they love

Supplies

  • Red construction or scrapbooking paper 
  • Pink construction or scrapbooking paper
  • Glitter
  • Paper brad
  • Markers
  • Glue
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-card-opened

Directions

To Make the Heart

  1. On the red paper, trace your child’s hand with their fingers closed, rounding around the back of the palm
  2. Draw in the lines between fingers
  3. Overlap the hands, matching the middle fingers to create the point of the heart
  4. Slide the tops of the hands apart a little to create the top of the heart
  5. Connect the two hearts with the brad

To Make the Card

  1. From the pink paper cut a square about 1 to 1/2 inches larger than the heart on all sides
  2. Using the same brad, attach the heart in the center of the square
  3. Slide the hands apart and let child write “Peek-a-Boo, I Love You” or their own message, close hands 
  4. Apply glue around the heart
  5. Apply glitter, let dry

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-treats-cover

You can find Valentine’s Day Treats at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 12 – Get Ready for Christmas

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-cover

About the Holiday

It just isn’t Christmas without reading favorite traditional stories. Familiar characters, heartfelt themes, and feelings of warmth and excitement are tucked inside the pages just waiting to be released again after a long year. Today’s book allows you to share one of the oldest and most beloved Christmas classics with the youngest members of your family.

Thanks to Familius for sending me a copy of A Christmas Carol: Lit for Little Hands for review consideration. all opinions of the book are my own. This post contains an affiliate link.

A Christmas Carol: Lit for Little Hands

Adapted by Brooke Jorden | Illustrated by David Miles

 

One of the world’s most recognizable novels, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has thrilled readers ever since it was published on December 19, 1843. The novel’s combination of spooky ghosts, a loving family, and a lost soul in need of redemption keeps readers and listeners enthralled no matter how many times they’ve read it. But why should adults and older kids have all the fun? Now, with this Lit for Little Hands board book, even the youngest readers can enjoy all the intrigue of A Christmas Carol.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-counting-house

Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Brooke Jorden, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Brooke Jorden’s nimble adaptation loses none of the snap of the original. Turn to the first page and there is Bob Cratchit toiling away under the gaze of a stern Ebenezer Scrooge who “was the meanest miser the world had ever known.” The counting house is as cold as Scrooge’s hatred of Christmas. On a pull-out tab kids even see him send away a little boy who’s come caroling. That night at home “a terrible clanking noise” interrupts Scrooge’s meager meal. What we know—but little ones might not—is what lurks on the other side of Scrooge’s door. With the pull of a tab, kids slide open the door to reveal the ghostly figure of Jacob Marley “surrounded by a heavy iron chain: punishment for all the cruel things Marley had done while he was alive.” He tells Scrooge he’s in for the same unless he changes his ways and tells him to expect three more ghosts.

Another turn of the page brings the Ghost of Christmas past. When kids pull the tab, the ghost and Scrooge fly from the window into the night sky and to the boarding school where Scrooge spent lonely Christmas’s alone. It makes Scrooge think of the boy who’d come caroling and sorry that he hadn’t given him a bit of money. As you may remember, the Ghost of Christmas Past also takes Scrooge to a party given by his former boss Mr. Fezziwig. Kids can spin a wheel and set old Scrooge dancing round and round with his younger self and his former colleagues and friends. “Scrooge remembered the joy he used to feel around Christmas, surrounded by friends and a kind employer.” He realizes that when money became the most important thing to him, he became sad and friendless.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-christmas-past

Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Brooke Jorden, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

When the clock strikes two, the Ghost of Christmas Present appears in the midst of an enormous feast, Nearby a fire quivers and crackles as kids spin the wheel. The ghost transports Scrooge to the window of Bob Cratchit’s house, where he sees the large family having dinner. With a toggle, readers can set Tiny Tim’s famous cheery toast in motion as Scrooge “marveled that the Cratchit family has so little and yet were so happy.”

Scrooge didn’t have long to wait until the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come visited. In a cemetery, Scrooge saw Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit crying at Tiny Tim’s gravestone. The sight broke his heart, but then the ghost pointed Scrooge to another stone. Who’s is it? Children pull a tab that reveals the engraved name: Ebenezzer Scrooge. When he woke up the next morning, “Scrooge knew he must change.” He went out into town spreading Christmas cheer and “became as good a man as the world had ever known.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-christmas-present

Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Brooke Jorden, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Quotations from Dickens’ original novel are sprinkled throughout the text, giving it the Old-World atmosphere that contributes so much to the effect of the story. With each visit of a ghost, Brooke Jorden includes a lesson that Scrooge learns or a memory he has of a recent time when he could have been generous or happy and chose not to, allowing young readers to understand how the ghosts affect Scrooge and how he changes in that night. Jorden chooses evocative language that kids will enjoy hearing and learning. Jorden’s board book version of A Christmas Carol demonstrates anew the genius of Charles Dickens in this story that touches all ages and is ever timely.

Using fresh tones of red and green, David Miles brings 1800’s England to life for kids. Bob Cratchit scratches away in his ledger with a quill pen and only a candle for light as thick snow falls outside the window. At home, Scrooge sits in a darkened room where the eerie, translucent ghost of Jacob Marley, wrapped in a chain, is sure to impress. Miles’ image of the feast surrounding the Ghost of Christmas Present contrasts sharply with the small turkey and plum pudding on the Cratchit’s table, a detail that will resonate with today’s children just as it did when the novel was first published. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is appropriately spooky, but not too frightening for young children. When Scrooge wakes up a changed man, the dark shades of Miles’ pages give way to bright pinks and cheery aqua, and the icy blizzard has ended.

Terrific fun and a fabulous way to share this classic with kids (adults will get a kick out of it too), Lit for Little Hands: A Christmas Carol would be a quick favorite on home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701518

You can find more books from Familius that joyfully reflect the habits of happy families, including reading, talking, laughing, eating, working, loving, healing, learning, and playing together as well as the Familius blog The Habit Hub here.

Get Ready for Christmas Activity

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

It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

 

If you’re wishing for a white Christmas, you’ll enjoy finding the pairs of identical snowflakes in this printable puzzle.

It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-cover

You can purchase Lit for Little Hands: A Christmas Carol at Familius

Picture Book Review

 

November 25 – National Play Day with Dad

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-make-me-a-robot-cover

About the Holiday

Share our Style Foundation established National Play Day with Dad in 2019 to encourage fathers to spend time with their kids having fun, bonding, and building memories. Doing things with dad helps children develop a strong foundation, good self-esteem, and even a sense of daring. Fathers learn from their kids too – about school, their friends, and what they want for the world. Of course, the most important thing on today’s holiday is to have fun!

Make Me a Robot

By Mark Rogalski

 

Everyone loves robots, but dads LOVE robots, And dads and kids? They LOOOVE playing with robots together. That’s what makes today’s holiday and today’s book such an amazing matchup! In Make Me a Robot kids and adults can read rhyming verses about the robot and it’s features while unfolding flaps that, by the end of the book, have created a robot that’s fully equipped and ready for anything.

Four pages in, the robot asks readers to “make me a robot / with wings that soar high. / Do you know what I think? / I was born to fly!” Unfolding the flaps underneath the sweet face reveals two wide wings, images of two joy sticks, radar readouts, and a compass. But this robot wants to do more than just fly—it has dreams of stellar exploration. It’s up to you to provide it with rocket boosters on the next page and full fuel tanks on the next!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-make-me-a-robot-flaps-open

Copyright Mark Rogalski, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

And what’s a day with Dad if you don’t have gadgets? Bor-ring! Robot feels the same way. That’s why it has plenty. With a few more flaps, children have an entire robot who’s excited to play with them. To thank readers, it has a little gift. It says, “You have made me a robot! / There’s so much I can do. / And for helping me out, / here’s a smile for you!” And, indeed, with one more flap the robot grins through its face shield, ready to have a blast.

Mark Rogalski’s cleverly designed board book allows little ones to transform their mild-mannered book into an awesome robot to call their own. Each sturdy page contains two flaps that fold out on either side of the book to create arms, feet, wings, and reveal all the gadgets a good robot needs. When completely open, the robot measures 18 inches wide and nearly 12 inches high. The detailed images of knobs, dials, levers and navigation tools will captivate kids, and they and adults will have fun pointing out its features and talking about all the things this robot could do. If after story time little ones aren’t ready to put their new friend away, that’s okay—this adorable, smiling robot can sit up on its own and keep them company.

An interactive book that makes kids’ eyes light up, Make Me a Robot will become a favorite for hands-on storytimes. The book will also spark their imagination for drawings and creations of their own. The book would make a wonderful gift and addition to home, school, and library collections. Kids will also love Mark Rogalski’s Make Me a Monster.

Ages 3 – 5

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1797205250

Discover more about Mark Rogalski and view a portfolio of his work on his website.

Play with Dad Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-building-blocks-craft

I Love Dad Building Blocks

 

This craft will stack up to be a favorite with kids! With wooden blocks and a little chalkboard paint, it’s easy for kids to make these unique building blocks that show dad just how they feel about him. They’re also great for gifts, decorating, party favors, or when you just have a little time to play!

Supplies

  • Wooden blocks in various sizes, available from craft stores
  • Chalkboard paint in various colors
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk in various colors

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden blocks with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. Write words or draw pictures on the blocks
  3. Have fun!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-make-me-a-robot-cover

You can find Make Me a Robot at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review