February 1 – Get Ready for Valentine’s Day

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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.

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

November 26 – Thanksgiving Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is one of the first celebrated in America and dates back to 1621, when the pilgrims commemorated a year of survival in their new homeland. Typically a day when families gather with loved ones from around the country, this year’s holiday may be smaller for many, but no less meaningful. Today’s book can help readers find things to be thankful for today and ever day.

The Thank You Book

Written by Mary Lyn Ray | Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

 

Saying “thank you” is good manners, of course, but “it’s also for when something wakes a little hum—a happy little hum—inside you and you want to answer back.” Each day begins with a thank you for the sunrise and for breakfast too. Outside, there’s a whole world of wonders to be thankful for, places to play, and crafts to make.

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2018, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

“Thank you is for laps and books…. It’s also for when hurt or sad or not-so-good gets better.” Thank you is for the things that keep us warm and for holidays full of surprises. We give thanks for home and family as well as “for this earth we ride on, and for the stars beyond.” We’re thankful for the simple joys of bedtime—PJs, stories, and goodnight kisses.

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2018, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Thank you is for all the things we know and for those we don’t. It’s for what makes each one of us “glad that we are us.” And for everything both big and small, “we wrap a hug around each day—to say another thank you.”

Mary Lyn Ray’s tribute to the moments, things, and interactions that bring happiness to life is a thoughtful and joyful reminder of all the gifts we share with others. Her lyrical text takes a child’s view of the things both big and small that they can count on to fill a year with wonder.

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2018, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Stephanie Graegin populates this world with adorable animals and enthusiastic kids going about their days together at home and with their friends, enjoying celebrations and quiet times, waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night. Each charming image holds the comfort and delight of sharing our lives with others.

The Thank You Book is a gem that highlights companionship, friendship, and the wide range of relationships and things we have to give thanks for every day. It is an enchanting book to add to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0544791367 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0358362685 (Board Book, 2020)

Discover more about Mary Lyn Ray and her books on her website.

To learn about Stephanie Graegin, her books, and her art on her website.

Thanksgiving Day Activity

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What Are You Thankful For? Poster

 

Write all of the amazing things in your life that make you happy on this colorful, printable What Are You Thankful For? Template! Then display it in your room to make you smile or remind you to thank everyone who is important to you! 

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You can find The Thank You Book at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

November 18 – It’s Picture Book Month and Interview with Karen Rostoker-Gruber

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About the Holiday

There’s still time to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re in shopping mode, be sure to put plenty of picture books on your list for the kids in your life. And don’t forget the littlest readers in your life. Sharing board books, with their sturdy pages and just-right size, is the perfect way to get babies and preschoolers excited about books, reading, and the special times in their life – as you’ll see with today’s book.

Happy Birthday, Trees!

Written by Karen Rostoker-Gruber | Illustrated by Holly Sterling

 

Three children are excited to be celebrating Tu B’Shevat together. One boy shows the others the little sapling they can plant then the three dig in with their shovels to create the perfect hole to nurture it. When the hole is just the right size, they carefully place the tree in it and tell readers, “then, we’ll fill the hole with dirt. / (An extra shovel doesn’t hurt.) / We’ll fill the hole with lots of dirt!”

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Image copyright Holly Sterling, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing.

When the tree is all snug in its new home, it’s time to feed it (and have some giggly fun). “Then, we’ll spray the garden hose, / and wet the tree (and soak our clothes). / On Tu B’Shevat we’ll spray the hose! Throughout the year, the kids watch as their tree grows taller and sturdier. When the weather turns warm, they play around the tree, singing “for all the trees” with delight as they await the day when Tu B’Shevat comes around again and the tree’s blossoms “fill the air with sweet perfume.”

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Image copyright Holly Sterling, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Kar-Ben Publishing.

Karen Rostoker-Gruber’s celebration of Tu B’Shevat takes little ones step-by-step through the thrill of planting a tree and watching it grow. Her breezy, exuberant verses incorporate simple rhymes and repeated phrases that will allow even the youngest children to join in after a first reading. In her sweet board book Rostoker-Gruber captures the excitement kids feel for special holidays and the pride they feel when participating in their family’s or friends traditions. The cyclical nature of her story will also inspire children to want to plant and tend to their own tree for Tu B’Shevat (celebrated beginning at sundown on January 27, 2021 through nightfall on January 28) or when weather conditions permit.

Bright and filled with the high spirits of childhood, Holly Sterling’s illustrations of three adorable kids working together to plant a tree will captivate little readers. Decked out in their gardening clothes and each with a shovel, the three crouch and lie on the ground next to the hole to make sure the tree goes in straight and safely. Sterling has an eye for the kinds of realistic details that define children’s behavior: to make sure the hole is filled to the brim, one little boy pours on dirt from two shovels—one in each hand; and under the arched spray of the hose, the girl raises her arms to welcome the cool spray while a boy sticks out his tongue for a sip. Sterling’s lovely color palette and graceful lines create a cheerful, fresh story that adults will want to share with their children again and again.

A joyful and lively way to celebrate and/or introduce Tu B’Shevat to little ones as well as a charming story for young nature lovers any time of the year, Happy Birthday, Trees! would be an enchanting addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 1 – 4

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2020 | ISBN 978-1541545649

You can download a teacher’s guide to Happy Birthday, Trees! from the Kar-Ben Publishing website here.

Discover more about Karen Rostoker-Gruber and her books on her website.

To learn more about Holly Sterling, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Karen Rostoker-Gruber

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You have a very interesting and varied career! Before you wrote books for children, you published several humorous books for adults. Your children’s books also incorporate humor. Can you talk a little about your style of humor and how you’ve expressed it throughout your life?

I’ve been writing since I was 8 years old. I wanted to write for children, but the adult humor market was easier, at the time, to break into.  

I started writing humor when I began college. Things were so strange at Trenton State that I had to start writing things down. The first humor book I wrote was called The Unofficial College Survival Guide.  

I had worked in the kitchen as a waitress for the college serving alumni dinners—sometimes to 200 – 300 people. I needed the money and it was the only way to secure edible food. 

 
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One night, while piling my tray with plates of food for the next alumni dinner, I noticed a sign on a barrel that said, “grade D,” but edible. I opened the barrel and there were thousands of hot dogs. I had no idea what “grade D, but edible” meant, but I no longer wanted to find out. After that day, I started eating cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I also kept finding humor on campus—mostly in the cafeteria; it wasn’t hard. There was literally humor everywhere I looked.  

When I got married, my humor book, Remote Controls Are Better Than Woman Because. . . became a HUGE hit.  I was on the Ricki Lake Show back then and over 60 live radio shows.  Then came my book, Telephones Are Better Than Men Because. . . I wrote both of those books on sticky notes in my car because I had a stop-and-go, 45-minute drive to work every day. I’d write new quotes down on a sticky note and fling them around in my car.  

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My book, If Men Had Babies, (lullabies would be burped… Prenatal vitamins would taste like honey-roasted beer nuts…, Golf carts would come equipped with car seats…”) was hysterical to me as a first-time mom. I wrote in between my daughter’s nap time, doing the laundry, the dishwasher, cleaning the house, and making breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  

image.pngAs far as incorporating humor into my children’s books, sometimes I use puns, which is why my characters are mostly animals. Animal puns are fun. I would sit on my driveway for hours, while my daughter drove her Barbie car, looking at the dictionary to find good cow, sheep, goat, chicken, and cat puns.

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I also use a bit of adult humor in my books. There should be humor for the adult reading the book, too. In my book, Farmer Kobi’s Hanukkah Match my favorite line is when the sheep say, “Her name was Polly Ester, she was a faaake,” baaed the sheep.

(Get it?  Polyester is fake vs. wool from the sheep!)  

Here’s also a favorite page from my book:

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You’ve had a long and steady career as a children’s author. What first inspired you to write for children? What’s one thing that has changed for writers since you began? What’s one thing that has stayed the same?

I’ve been writing for children since I was 8 years old. The only thing that really changed was that I actually started sending out my work in 1988-ish instead of just keeping manuscripts in my drawer. But from 1988 until 2000, I mostly received rejection letters—nice ones (that are now in my oxymoronic rejection letter binder), but rejection letters nevertheless.

My path to publication changed once I went to a conference and met with editors.  After attending the conference, each mentee was able to submit directly to their mentor and other editors that you met there. And, you were able to write “requested material” on the outside of the envelope. This was important back then because all “Requested Material” manuscripts passed the slush pile and went directly to the editor it was addressed to. (Back in 2000 you submitted via snail-mail and there really were slush piles.)  I saw them! For real!

The conference that I went to was the Rutgers One-on-One Conference. At that conference my mentor (Karen Riskin from Dial Books for Young Readers) took two of my manuscripts back with her to Penguin Putnam (it’s called Penguin Random House now). Both manuscripts wound up getting published: Food Fright was published by Price Stern Sloan in 2003 and Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo was published with Dial Books for Young Readers in 2004.  

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After the success of Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo, (selling 250,000 copies) I met another editor (Margery Cuyer) at an informal conference.  She went on to acquire five of my books for Marshall Cavendish: Bandit, Bandit’s Surprise, Ferret Fun, Ferret Fun in the Sun, and Tea Time.

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The difference from then to now is that these days you need to meet editors one-on-one or you need to have an agent. I can’t get into the big publishing houses that I used to submit to before because their policies have changed.  I had 14 traditionally-published books out there with great houses before I got an agent. I’m NOT an overnight success story—far from it. 

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The setting for Happy Birthday, Trees! is Tu B’Shevat or the Jewish Arbor Day. Can you talk a bit about this holiday, it’s meaning, and how it is traditionally celebrated?

Tu B’Shevat is basically Earth Day. I think the PJ Library says it best on my teacher’s guide:

“The Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, also known as the Birthday of the Trees, celebrates the critical role that trees play in life.” Jewish concepts: “Trees and the environment have particular importance in Jewish thought. From the very beginning of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) we are taught to respect all things that grow, as Adam is placed in the Garden of Eden to “keep it and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15). The value of bal tashchit, which translates from the Hebrew as “do not destroy,” has become the Jewish ecology mantra. Put into action, this concept means we are all partners in preserving the beauty and sustainability of our world.” “Traditionally, Jews eat the fruit of a tree only after it is three years old. The 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, called Tu B’Shevat, became the trees’ birthday to help people determine when to first harvest their fruit. This holiday is gaining significance today as the Jewish Earth Day.”   

I love the structure of Happy Birthday, Trees!, especially the rhythmic repetition that’s so enticing for little ones to join in on. There’s also a playful humor that kids will love. What was your writing journey for this book?

I love bits of rhyme, repeated refrains, humor, and animal puns, so I always try to incorporate a few of these things in my books. I also know that kids love predictability. The journey for the book, “Happy Birthday, Trees”:  

I was invited to a luncheon in NY for the PJ Library.  About 20 other authors were there. At that time I had three published Jewish-themed  books, Farmer Kobi’s Hanukkah Match, Maddie the Mitzvah Clown, and The Family and Frog Haggadah, which is a real haggadah that was featured in the NY Times!  

CPB - maddie the mitzva clown
 
CPB - the family and frog haggadah
 
 

They told us that they were actively looking for board books and chapter books at the time. I had a lot of board books in my drawer already, so I sent them the one that I liked the best. At that time it was called, “Happy Birthday to the Trees.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-birthday-trees-coverMonths later (I forgot all about sending that story into the PJ Library) I got a call from the PJ Library that I won the author incentive award—2,000 dollars. Then my agent (I now had an agent) Karen Grencik found a publisher for it.

Holly Sterling’s illustrations are adorable and really capture the delight of the children. What was your first impression when you saw Holly’s pages?

I was super-excited about Holly’s illustration sample that Joni Sussman from KarBen showed me, so I couldn’t wait to see what she would do with this very simple board book. I LOVE the illustrations. The children look like they are having a blast on the front cover.

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale definitely combines humor with a heartfelt message. The story is a retelling of a traditional Yiddish tale. What about this tale really resonated with you for today’s kids? How did you make it your own?

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I was reworking a folktale for one editor, but by the time I found a folktale that I liked and reworked that editor had already taken on a story too similar to it. I remembered this story as a child, but I wanted to make it a folktale for everyone, so I took out the Rabbi and added a wise woman instead.  Every story that I read had a wise man—times have changed.  

I also added a bit of rhyme and a repeated refrain.  The story is basically about being grateful for what you have, which is perfect for COVID times as everyone is feeling like Farmer Earl with family members working and learning in the house; it’s too crowded.

If you had to live with three groups of animals like the family in your book—small, medium, and large—what would they be?

I love hamsters (They’re sooo cute and fuzzy).

Goats crack me up; they always look like they’re up to something. 

As far as large animals go, there are too many that I’d like to have: elephants (I could teach them to paint), dolphins and gorillas (I could teach them to speak—I’m fascinated by Koko the gorilla), and pandas—just because they look so cuddly.

Oh, and unicorns (because they’re magical).

I love Kritina Swarner’s whimsical-yet-realistic illustrations, especially as the house becomes more and more crowded and chaotic. Do you have a favorite spread?

I love her work. There’s so much detail: in the wise woman’s dress, the fabric on her chair. Also, if you look closely, the plants are growing in her window from scene to scene, there’s a mouse under a bed, and my favorite spread is the toilet paper scene. However, I also like the expressions on the cat’s faces throughout the book. They are NOT amused at the amount of animals in the house.

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You’re also an accomplished ventriloquist and have an adorable puppet named Maria who accompanies you on visits to schools and libraries. How did you get involved in ventriloquism and can you describe your program briefly? How do the kids respond to Maria?

I am a self-taught ventriloquist. I used to talk for my sister’s blanket, her food, and her dolls. She was 5 years younger than I was so she was the perfect audience.  

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I take Maria to every school visit–even my virtual ones (I just did one with 600 children). In my program I talk to children about every step I take from sticky notes at 3 am, to revisions, to submitting a polished manuscript to an agent or an editor.  

Maria is my side-kick, because you had better be funny if you are in front of 350 – 600 children. Plus, kids LOVE Maria! Some don’t know how she talks; it’s magical to them and I don’t want to ruin that magic.  

If Maria and I are doing “high tea” at a tea house or a public show at a library, I have to bring Maria’s car seat, eye mask, and blanket. Children follow me out to my car to watch me buckle her in with a seat belt. 

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One time, after a show, a boy came up to me and wanted to know how his parents could “buy” him a puppet like Maria. I told him that I got the last talking puppet on the internet. Enough said. 

Here’s Maria as Alice in Wonderland for another show that we did.  She likes to dress up. (It took me three hours to sew felt Mary Janes onto her white socks. Ugh!)

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One day I had to take Maria shopping to Walmart to get her PJs because we had a bedtime, bears, and books show. I didn’t know her size. I held Maria up in the seat of the cart with my right hand while pushing the cart with my left hand. We had quite the following that day up and down the aisles.  Kids just wanted to follow her around. 

What do you like best about being an author for children?

My favorite part is when I get to see the illustrations; to see if the illustrator took my words to a new level. And, I LOVE seeing children enjoying my books and laughing at the puns.  

What’s up next for you?

I’m always working on something, but it’s always a waiting game.  Anything can happen on any day. An editor can email me from a year ago to tell me that something that I sent them is now a go.  I’m not going to lie— 

CPB - Pinochio

every day is full of surprises and disappointments.  Being an author is very emotional. You have to have thick skin.

Thanks so much, Karen, for this awesome discussion about your books and sharing so much about your life as an author! I wish you all the best with Happy Birthday, Trees!, A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale, and all of your books!

Picture Book Month Activity

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Plant a Tree! Activity Pages

 

Whether you need to wait awhile before you can plant a tree or are in a warm-weather locale that allows for planting now, you can enjoy these two tree activity pages!

Plant a Tree Coloring Page | Stately Tree Dot-to-Dot

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You can find Happy Birthday, Trees! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

June 19 – New Friends Day

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About the Holiday

Friendships and making new friends are so important to our happiness that this national holiday is actually celebrated three times a year—on January 19th, July 19th, and October 19th. Making friends is one of the first skills little ones learn as they begin, as babies and toddlers, to join playgroups, music groups, daycare, and other social activities. Sharing books with stories about friendship, that model good examples of talking and playing with others, and which depict an appreciation for people’s differences is a wonderful way to expand a child’s social and emotional development. Sharing life with good friends a joy to be cherished. Start your little one off on the journey with today’s book!

Will You Be Friends with Me?

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Jo de Ruiter

 

As the story opens, two vignettes show a little brown boy greeting the dawn while a blond, bespectacled girl shows up to the breakfast table after everyone has finished. “I wake early,” the boy says. “You sleep late.” At the playground later, this same girl enjoys the swings with another girl. She observes, “My hair’s curly. / Yours is straight.” On a trip to the pool, this second girl meets a Black girl, who, wearing two types of floaties and a swimming cap, just dips her toe in the water as her new acquaintance jumps in, noting, “I say, ‘Now!’ / You say, ‘Wait?’” Then as they both dry off, she asks, “Will you be friends with me?”

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Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

At school the early riser notices that his tablemate likes to use different art materials than he does. Is one better than the other, he wonders, but it doesn’t keep him from asking, “Will you be friends with me?” A picnic and snack time during soccer practice are two more places where pairs of kids meet each other and discover different ways of doing things that don’t deter—and probably prompt—the repeated refrain, “Will you be friends with me?”

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Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

All of these children meet on a grassy hill to play a game of leapfrog, encouraging each other to soar as high as they can. As the early bird reads on a sunny porch and the night owl reads by flashlight under her covers, the boy reveals, “I like morning. / You like night. / We’re just different. / That’s all right!” And indeed it is as these new friends show readers how to play instead of squabble, share instead of judge, and embrace each other’s differences because they know—and readers discover—that “life is much more fun that way.”

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Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

Kathleen Long Bostrom’s delightful ode to making friends combines simplicity and intricacy in equal measure. Her endearing verses blend declarative sentences about various personality traits with questions kids commonly ask each other about their favorite things—questions that readers will enjoy answering as well. These pages give adults and kids an opportunity to talk about differences and similarities within their own family, classroom, sports team, and friends. The repeated phrase, “Will you be friends with me?,” is a joy to read aloud, and children will love chiming in each time. This simple, welcoming invitation is also one that kids can remember and use, whether they’re outgoing or more hesitant, whenever they meet someone they’d like to be friends with. The final line: “I’m glad you’re friends with me!” is a heartfelt sentiment everyone wants to hear and is just as appropriate for new friends as for old or even between adult reader and child.

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Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

Jo de Ruiter’s adorable illustrations sparkle with the actions, expressions, and emotions of children navigating their world while discovering themselves and those around them. Her fresh color palette and kid-favorite places make each page one that readers will want to explore. Kids will enjoy following the fluid pairings of friends and their varying interactions. Diversity within the group of friends in race and ability—the boy who’s the early riser wears leg braces and uses forearm crutches—reflects readers’ experiences at school and in their community.

Playful, charming, and enriching, Will You Be Friends with Me? is an inspiring book for home story times, classroom reading, and public library collections. The book can also spark discussions about making friends at the beginning of a school year or during any new experience. The bouncy rhythm makes this a book little ones will want to hear again and again.

Ages Birth to 5

WorthyKids, 2020 | ISBN 978-1546033806

Discover more about Kathleen Long Bostrom and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jo de Ruiter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

New Friends Day Activity

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Beaded Friendship Bracelet

 

Little ones love to make, wear, and share special bracelets. In this easy-to-make bracelet, each color of bead can represent friends and/or family. Fill it all at once or add beads with each new friend made.

Supplies

  • Wooden or plastic beads in various colors—one color for each friend or family member. You can use medium-size beads for the center and smaller beads for the rest of the bracelet, if desired
  • Elastic, embroidery thread, or string
  • Scissors
  • Plastic sewing needle with a large eye

Directions

  1. Determine the number of friends your child would like the bracelet to represent.
  2. Choose a different color of bead in both sizes for each friend.
  3. Determine the color pattern of the beads.
  4. Measure your child’s wrist and cut a length of elastic, embroidery thread, or string, leaving it long enough to tie onto the first and last beads (and make a loop clasp if using thread or string).
  5. Help your child thread the needle with the elastic, embroidery thread, or string.
  6. Thread the first bead onto the elastic, thread, or string, leaving about a half-inch at the end.
  7. Pull end of thread over bead and tie a knot with the end and the length of string.
  8. Approximate the center of your bracelet and thread several small beads in the chosen color pattern onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  9. Thread the medium beads onto the bracelet in the same color pattern.
  10. Follow with more small beads to finish the bracelet.
  11. Tie the last bead onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  12. To make a loop clasp on the end if using embroidery thread or string, loop the thread or string.

Children can make two or more bracelets to share with their friends.celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-will-you-be-friends-with-me-cover

You can find Will You Be Friends with Me? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 27 – Visit the Zoo Day

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About the Holiday

After all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s nice to just take a relaxing outing with the family. What better place to go than the zoo, aquarium, or other animal park? Don’t let the cooler (or cold) weather deter you! The meandering paths, opportunities to learn about the world’s creatures, and chance to get some fresh air all add up to the perfect way to spend the day!

I Love You, Elephant!

Illustrated by Carles Ballesteros

 

If you’re looking for a joyfully uplifting story to share with your baby or toddler, you’ll find it within the magically changing pages of I Love You, Elephant. The sweet sentiments begin on the cover as a little monkey, holding a banana and surrounded by hearts, comes to visit Elephant. Open the cover and Elephant’s small smile at seeing her friend becomes a wide-open grin as Monkey tells her, “I love your long trunk! I wish I had a trunk like yours.” Not only does Elephant get this compliment, but she also receives the banana as a snack.

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Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Monkey moves on and approaches Lion. “I love you, Lion,” Monkey unabashedly states as Lion glances in Monkey’s direction. Turn the page and Lion’s face lights up to hear how much Monkey loves his “shaggy mane.” The next animal to receive a visit from Monkey is Wildebeest, who looks a little skeptical while Monkey raises “thumbs up” fists to his head. But Monkey just wants to let Wildebeest know how much he admires his big horns. At this, Wildebeest gazes upward with a proud smile on his face. Zebra also gets a confidence boost that leaves her with a big grin of surprise.

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Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

But what about Monkey? How do all the animals feel about him? It turns out they love Monkey as much as he loves them! What exactly do they love the most? Little ones will agree with Elephant, Lion, Wildebeest, and Zebra’s favorite traits about Monkey, and adults will love sharing the animals’ full assessment—“We love you just the way you are!”—with their kids.

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Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Adorably rounded faces that change with the turn of a page that sets in motion a “venetian blind” effect will delight little readers. The change in each animal’s expression reinforces the esteem-building result of Monkey’s spontaneous declarations of what he loves about his friends. The sweet examples in the story are wonderful springboards for discussion and are sure to inspire kids and adults to follow in Monkey’s footsteps and reveal what they love about each family member, their pets, their friends, their toys, their home, and, especially, about each other.

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Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Carles Ballesteros cleverly includes a guessing game each time Monkey approaches a new friend. Through props and hand gestures, Monkey hints at what trait he loves best about each animal. Young readers will have fun trying to name what trait Monkey likes. With vibrant, yet soothing, colors and stylized flowers, vines, and plants, Ballesteros sets his story in a welcoming jungle landscape that children will want to visit over and over again.

A sturdy board book that will become a favorite of babies and toddlers, I Love You, Elephant! makes a heartwarming addition to home, preschool classrooms, and public library shelves as well as a terrific baby shower or new baby gift—for the baby or a young sibling.

Ages Baby – 3

Harry N. Abrams, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419738821

To learn more about Carles Ballesteros, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Visit the Zoo Activity

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Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for siblings to do together and can make a nice decoration for a child’s room or a gift for mom, dad, or other family members.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” A couple of examples are: the elephants standing trunk to trunk or trunk to tail 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features

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You can find I Love You, Elephant! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 11 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

All this month people are reading and celebrating their favorite books—both old and new. It’s also a terrific time to honor independent bookstores that serve their community with carefully chosen titles for all ages of readers. Some indies focus on one genre or age of reader, offering a vast array of familiar and surprising books for customers to explore. Others are known for a particular ambience—mysterious, scholarly, fun! But all give readers a sense of community and a feeling of awe and wonder at all of the stories to discover. This month make a stop into your local bookstore a family event and pick up a new book (or several) for everyone!

This week I’m happy to be sharing five new board books from Little Simon and to be partnering with them in an amazing giveaway of all five books. Simon & Schuster sent me the books to check out. All opinions are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below. Watch every day this week for another terrific title!

Hello Knights! (A Hello Book)

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Chris Dickason

 

A knight checks out her shining reflection in the mirror before starting a day full of important jobs. In the castle, “knights run up. Knights run down. Take the queen her royal crown.” And what does the king need? Well! “Knights march here. Knights march there” all to “take the king his underwear.”

Besides these duties, knights have to protect the castle from dragons, but oh, no! Here they come! Purple, green, orange and pink, they’re flying in from every direction! The dragons are huge – much bigger than the knights. How can they defeat those fire-breathing beasts? The knights shout from the castle wall, warning the dragons to go away. But the dragons say they’re “coming in! “Will a battle now begin?”

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Image copyright Chris Dickason, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

On the turret the knights hold their swords, ready to fight. But one clever knight has a different solution. What’s that she says? “Wave the…underwear?” This flag is raised, and “all the dragons stop and stare.” What do they think? What do they do? In just a minute they’re “Huff-puff laughing dragon-style.” With belly laughs and music and dancing, a “party starts. Battle ends.” Now “knights and dragons” are “making friends.”

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Image copyright Chris Dickason, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Little royalty will giggle and gasp as colorful dragons menace the castle only to be stopped by a silly display of the king’s underwear. Joan Holub’s fast-paced, dialogue rich storytelling will keep the youngest readers riveted to her gently suspenseful story that ends in laughs and a big bash, where the knights and dragons show off their musical talents, while a dragon and horse dance, the queen meets a newly hatched dragon, and the king roasts marshmallows by dragon fire. Holub’s short sentences invite kids to read along on second, third, fourth… readings.

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Image copyright Chris Dickason, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Chris Dickason’s kingdom is as shiny as polished silver and as busy as a beehive, with knights running here and there to serve the king and queen and thwart the dragons. The queen with her smiling eyes and fluffy white kitten sits elegantly as the knights set her golden and jeweled crown atop her turquoise hair. The tattooed king readies himself to put his undies on as a knight looks away and a shocked dragon peers through the window. Little knights in the making will love the double-spread view of the dragons soaring through the clouds and the ensuing battle preparations. The showstopper is the double gatefold that reveals the castle courtyard complete with two die-cut walls that enclose a wild and royal jammin’ party with new friends.

Hello Knights is jousting good fun that little ones will want to hear again and again. The book is a treasure for gift-giving, home, library, and preschool classroom bookshelves.

Ages 1 – 4

Little Simon, Simon & Schuster, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534418684

Discover more about Joan Holub and her books on her website.

To learn more about Chris Dickason, his books, and his art on his website.

The Gift of Story Time Giveaway

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Little Simon board books make the perfect gift for all of the young readers in your life! With cute and creative illustrations, accessible and engaging stories, and the perfect size and durability, these books are great for new parents and for reading aloud. These fun series teach important lessons and concepts through adorable characters, interesting stories, and hilarious creatures!

One (1) winner receives this collection of five sweet stories from Little Simon

  • The Itsy Bitsy School Bus, written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček
  • Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud, written by Ame Dyckman |illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
  • Día de los Muertos, written by Hannah Eliot | illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
  • This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Daniel Roode
  • Hello Knights!, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Chris Dickason

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, October 8 – 14. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 15.

 Giveaway open to US addresses only | Prizing and samples provided by Little Simon.

National Book Month Activity

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Knight’s Tunic

 

Being a knight is exciting and fun! It’s even better with a knights tunic to wear! With this easy-to-make tunic, a t-shirt can be recycled into some cool royal wear!

Supplies

  • Tee shirt with the sleeves cut off
  • Thin cardboard (a cereal or other food box works well)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Scissors
  • Permanent Markers 
  • Play jewels (optional)
  • Fabric glue
  • Rope, twine, or shoelace for a belt
  • Tape

Directions

  1. Cut the sleeves off of the T-shirt
  2. Use the cardboard to create a crest shape
  3. Cover the cardboard with aluminum foil
  4. Tape the aluminum foil in back if necessary
  5. Children may enjoy decorating the crest for their tunic with markers and/or play jewels by themselves or with a bit of adult help
  6. Attach the finished crest to the tunic with fabric glue
  7. Use rope, twine, or a shoelace for a belt

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You can find Hello Knights at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review