September 8 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Read a New Book Month is a fantastic time to scour your local bookstore and library for books that have recently been published or books that are new to you. Finding a book that you’ve never read before is exciting at any age, and discovering a new book about a favorite topic is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Today’s board book is definitely one that will spark a love for reading and learning in children who are just discovering the wonder of books.

Thanks go to Danna Smith and Little Simon for sharing a digital copy of Wake Up Freight Train! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Wake Up, Freight Train!

Written by Danna Smith | Illustrated by Jon Andersen

 

For the townspeople it’s time for sleeping, but down at the train station, things are just getting underway as the freight train prepares for its nighttime run. First things first, however. It’s time to rouse the cars one by one. “Choo-choo! Wake up, steam engine, alone on your track. Let’s hook up the freight cars to the hitch on your back.”

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Image copyright Jon Andersen, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Second in line is the tender that carries the coal. Behind it are cars three, four, and five with supplies for building and heating. Car six is the hopper then …  “Cattle car coming! You’re filled with fresh hay, / hauling some heifers, moooooving this way.” The boxcar follows and finally, “it’s your turn, caboose! / Let’s hook you up fast. / The crew rides in you— / you’re the car that goes last.”

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Image copyright Jon Andersen, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Little Simon.

With all the cars hitched and the coal bin full, the train rolls out of the station. “Toot-toot goes the horn, / blink-blink go the lights, / clang-clang goes the bell, all through the night.” The train chugs over hills and across fields until, with the dawning sun, it arrives at its destination and “our freight train’s long journey has come to an end.”

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Image copyright Jon Andersen, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Little (and big) train lovers will adore Danna Smith’s rhyming tribute to freight trains that carry goods and animals across states, and sometimes across the country. Smith’s introduction to each type of car is infused with childlike wonder and that special conversational relationship young children have with the world around them. As readers greet each car, they not only learn information about the car’s load and role but hear internal rhymes, alliteration, and even a few puns—all building blocks for early literacy. Smith’s gentle rhythm, paired with the nighttime setting, also makes Wake Up, Freight Train! a perfect read aloud for bedtime.

Jon Andersen’s beautiful, soft blues and greens of a starlit night will put little ones in the mood to be carried into dreamland even as they discover how each different car looks and what it carries. The changing landscape behind each pair of train cars offer interest and continuity while also giving kids an opportunity to talk about how long this train is. Sleepy animals come out to watch as the cars are hitched together, reminding little readers that it might just be bedtime for them too, and the peek of pink on the horizon in the last spread reassures them that tomorrow will come soon.

Wake Up, Freight Train! delightfully captures young children’s fascination with trains and is sure to become a favorite for bedtime (or anytime). The book is highly recommended for home bookshelves; daycare, school, and public library collections; and as a gift for babies and preschoolers.

Ages 2 – 4

Little Simon, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534492516

Discover more about Danna Smith and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jon Andersen and view a portfolio of his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Freight Train Coloring Page

 

Who doesn’t love a train?! With this coloring sheet, kids can make their train as colorful as they want! They may even want to add a few animals and birds to the background!

Freight Train Coloring Page

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You can find Wake Up, Freight Train! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 7 – Buy a Book Day

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About the Holiday

Today is one of the best days of the year! Anyone who loves books will want to take the opportunity of the holiday to visit their favorite bookstore and buy one of those books you’ve been hearing and reading about. And why stop at just one? Winter is coming—that time when there’s nothing more cozy than snuggling in with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and reading late into the night. As the school year begins, children – even the youngest readers – benefit from having new books in their home libraries that reflect their changing interests and maturing thoughts. Take a little time to look through the offerings of your local bookstore and let your kids pick out some new favorites! 

The Thank You Book

Written by Danna Smith | Illustrated by Juliana Perdomo

 

For little ones, “Thank you” may be one of the first phrases they learn when they begin getting out into the world. Thanking grandparents and other relatives, friends, teachers, librarians, store employees, and others becomes a part of every day. But for kids just learning manners and communication skills, prompts to say “thank you” may seem kind of random, confusing, and maybe even a bit intimidating.

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Image copyright Juliana Perdomo, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith. Courtesy of Little Simon.

This is where Danna Smith’s delightfully cheery story about sharing your appreciation comes in. With charming rhymes, Smith answers the questions of why, when, and to whom thanks are appropriate while infusing her story with the positive feelings that thanking someone for their kindness instills in the thanker and the one being thanked.

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Image copyright Juliana Perdomo, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Smith begins with an inviting and easy-to-understand definition of thankfulness that will resonate with young children: “When someone is thoughtful or kind in some way, ‘thank you’ are two very nice words to say.” She then goes on to provide specific examples of times that gratitude is warranted as well as language to help kids express their feelings for specific acts of kindness. As illustrations show children engaged in various activities, readers discover they can say, “‘Thank you for helping.’ ‘Thank you for sharing.’ / ‘Thank you for teaching.’ ‘Thank you for caring.’”

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Image copyright Juliana Perdomo, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith. Courtesy of Little Simon.

But is saying those types of words the only way to show your gratitude? Children (and especially those who are reluctant to talk with people they don’t know well or feel shy about speaking up) learn that there are other ways to show gratitude, including giving hugs, drawings, and tasty treats.

Smith then reveals a well-known secret about saying thank you that will make today’s inclusive kids happy to be part of an appreciative community: “If you start with one thank-you, you’ll find it will grow.” And, indeed, Smith finishes her story by assuring readers that kids all over the world are thanking others for their friendship and kindness.

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Image copyright Juliana Perdomo, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Danna Smith’s sweet board book, with its jaunty rhymes and enthusiasm for sharing gratitude is just the kind of story parents, teachers, and other adults will want to read with their little ones and little ones will want to hear again and again. Her open-ended phrasing allows adults and kids to discuss the types of people who are helpers, sharers, teachers, and care-ers, as well as those within their family and friends who are deserving of thanks and on which occasions. Smith also gives kids ideas for a wide range of ways to say thank you that may use their talents and mean more to them than words. These examples can also spark talks between parents, teachers, and other caregivers on other ways to show thanks. And what if you have a child who just feels appreciation deep inside? They are represented in these pages too.

Juliana Perdomo’s vibrant illustrations of kind acts by friends, parents, teachers, veterinarians, bus drivers, activity instructors, and others will enchant little ones and get them talking about all the times someone has done something nice for them. Readers of all ages can’t help but be filled with gratitude and good feelings when they’re greeted by Perdomo’s smiling and enthusiastic characters. Perdomo mirrors Smith’s text to give kids a concrete understanding of the concepts while filling her pages with cheer and heartfelt gratitude. The idea that saying thank-you can bring people together in a community and around the world is one that will excite kids and encourage them to show their appreciation.

Joyful and inspiring, The Thank You Book would be a favorite read aloud in any young child’s home library and is a must for all daycare, school, and public library board book collections.

Ages 3 and up

Little Simon, 2022 | ISBN 978-1665902922

Discover more about Danna Smith, her books, poetry, and paintings on her website.

You can connect with Juliana Perdomo on Instagram and Twitter.

Buy a Book Day Activities

 

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Thank You! Postcard

 

Do your kids have someone they’d like to thank for a kind act, a gift, or just for being a loved family member or friend? This cheery Thank You postcard makes it easy for kids to show their gratitude and share their love to people close by or far away. This card is also perfect to share for the upcoming holidays!

Thank You! Postcard

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Thankfulness Jar

 

It’s good to remind yourself periodically – or even every day – of all the things you have to be thankful for and all the acts of kindness you’ve received. This activity sheet gives children (and adults who want to participate with their kids) a place to collect all these “thank-you”–worthy experiences. Just write a word or short description inside the jar each time you feel thankful. You might even want to share your appreciation with the people whose names appear in your jar with a note, a picture, a hug, or a homemade craft to show how much they mean to you. 

This Thankfulness Jar also makes a meaningful activity for Thanksgiving Day! Why not print a copy for each guest at your table, provide a pencil, and get everyone sharing what they’re thankful for this year!

Thankfulness Jar Activity Sheet

 

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You can find The Thank You Book at these booksellers

Amazon  | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review 

April 20 – It’s the Month of the Young Child

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About the Holiday

During the month of April, we celebrate families and their young children. The aim of the holiday is to raise awareness of all the ways people can support and advance children’s happiness and wellbeing. Getting kids excited about learning and experiencing new things, getting to know their community, engaging in healthy habits like eating well and exercising are important components of a happy life. Today’s book incorporates many of these goals and will delight young readers. Earlier this month, families, schools, and caregivers celebrated the Week of the Young Child with different special activities encouraged each day of the week. These activities are fun all this month and anytime of the year. To learn more about how you can incorporate Music Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Work Together Wednesday, Artsy Thursday, and Family Friday into your schedule visit the website of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Animals Move

Written by Jane Whittingham

 

It’s no secret that little ones love to jump, run, climb, and snuggle. Not only are these activities fun and great for getting the wiggles out, they help kids build strong muscles and develop large and fine motor skills. In her new book, Jane Whittingham entices children to get moving while also introducing them to fifteen baby animals and what they are called through her engaging rhythmical and rhyming text. Even the youngest children will pick up on Whittingham’s lively words and want to read along too.

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Copyright Jane Whittingham, 2022, courtesy of Pajama Press.

Beautiful, action-packed nature photographs of each baby animal – from whale calves to swan cygnets , echidna puggles to alpaca crias, puppies and kittens to tadpoles and more – are paired with photos of a wide range of kids, including a girl with Down syndrome and a young ballerina who uses a walker, mirroring the animal’s motions and inviting readers to pounce, nibble, splash, and dash along with them.

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Copyright Jane Whittingham, 2022, courtesy of Pajama Press.

Animals Move is part of the Toddler Tough series, which, in addition to the text for children, provides adults with a guide on how the book assists with physical, language, and subject-matter learning development. The spirited photographs of readers’ peers engage kids in recognizing a variety of facial expressions, emotions, and body language, which enhances social emotional learning – important skills for success in school and beyond. Back matter also provides ways in which to use the book as a springboard for your own creativity through games, singing, movement exercises, and even making your own book. Sturdy construction and a padded cover complete this well-thought-out book. 

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Copyright Jane Whittingham, 2022, courtesy of Pajama Press.

If you’re looking for a book that’s sure to be an active story time favorite at home, in the classroom, or for library programs as well as a terrific take-along for spontaneous fun on walks, at the park, on picnics, and during other outings, you’ll want to add Animals Move to your book collection.

Ages 2 – 5

Pajama Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1772782387

Discover more about Jane Whittingham and her books on her website.

Month of the Young Child Activity

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Match Up the Animals! Game

 

Test your powers of memory—or your ability to guess correctly—with this Animal Pairs matching game!

Supplies

  • Printable Match Up the Animals! Cards to color
  • Printable Full-Color Funny Matching Cards – Set 1 | Set 2
  • Colored pencils, markers, or crayons
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print the Animal Pairs Cards, print two pages to have double cards. To make the game more difficult print 3 or more pages to find 3 or more groups of matching animals
  2. Color the cards
  3. Cut out the cards
  4. Lay the cards face down on a table in random order
  5. Turn over cards to look for matching pairs
  6. When you find a matching pair leave the cards face up
  7. Continue playing until you find all the matching animal pairs or groups

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You can find Animals Move at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 9 – Get Ready for Easter

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About the Holiday

On this day we celebrate Easter and the renewal it brings. On this day, Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in fulfillment of God’s promise. Spring is also just around the corner and new life is beginning. As the sun rises on warmer days, be inspired to discover new happiness.

Bunny Finds Easter

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Ela Jarzabek

Bunny wakes up on a sunny Easter day ready to celebrate. But she wonders – “‘What is Easter?'” She begins to see the signs of Easter when she goes into the kitchen for breakfast and her mom brings a plate piled with hot cross buns to the table. Then “Ma sets out eggs to decorate. / Soon festive colors fill the plate.”

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Image copyright Ela Jarzabek, 2022, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2022. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Bunny gets dressed to go into town and puts on her “…brand-new bonnet! Bunny LOVES the ribbons on it.” She picks a bouquet of lilies and goes on her way, seeing springtime babies all around. As her family approaches the church, she joins an Easter egg hunt on the lawn and shares the treats she finds with those who aren’t having much luck.

Now it’s time to go to church. They sing “the Easter news,” and then the preacher asks, “‘Who died to take our sins away? And rose again on Easter Day?'” Bunny smiles and her eyes grow bright. “Deep inside her spirit glows.” Then “‘Jesus!’ Bunny sings it out.” / “‘He’s what Easter’s all about.'”

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Image copyright Ela Jarzabek, 2022, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2022. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Laura Sassi’s joyful story about the traditions and meanings of Easter is an uplifting and meaningful way to get little ones excited for the holiday and all of the changes spring brings. Her focus on the true meaning of Easter will enchant kids and gives Christian parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, and other caregivers a poignant starting point for more detailed discussions about their faith.

Ela Jarzabek’s bright and sunny illustrations are as fresh as springtime and will charm little ones, for whom the renewal of spring is a wonder. Her little Bunny is adorable with a smiling, expectant face that depicts the excitement kids feel for the fun Easter holiday traditions like dying eggs, Easter egg hunts, and special new outfits. Jarzabek’s images inside the church are especially joyous as Bunny and her family, along with the rest of the congregation – which includes other children – listen to the preacher and sing favorite Easter hymns. She perfectly captures the awe heart-filling faith of little ones in Bunny’s expressions, and a final group picture invites readers to celebrate Easter with them.

Bunny Finds Easter is a must addition to Christian home libraries for the youngest readers as well as for church libraries and board book collections at public libraries.

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2022 | ISBN 978-0310734192

Discover more about Laura Sassi and her books on her website.

You can connect with Ela Jarzabek on Instagram.

Spend some time on Easter morning as Bunny finds Easter in this book trailer!

Get Ready for Easter Activity

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Adorable Bunny Jar

A little bit of candy makes Easter or any spring day sweeter! With this Sweet Bunny Candy Jar, you can give a child, a friend, or even yourself a special treat that will make you hoppy!

Supplies

  • Printable Hat Rim and Bunny Ears Template
  • Baby food jar (I used a Beech-Nut Naturals jar)
  • White fleece, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches
  • 1 piece of purple foam (Or any color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Small piece of pink foam or felt for nose
  • Googly eyes (I used oval)
  • Medium pom-pom
  • Multi-surface paint, purple (or whatever color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Fabric glue (I used Fabric-Tac)
  • Black ultra-fine or fine tip permanent marker
  • Large nail or ice pick
  • Hammer
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Remove label from baby food jar
  2. Clean and dry jar and lid
  3. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam
  4. Cut out the rim of the hat and remove the center
  5. Trace the ears template onto the white fleece and cut out

To Make the Body and Face

  1. Cut a 2-inch wide by 7-inch long strip of white fleece
  2. Glue the strip of fleece to the jar under the lip and leaving about ½ inch of glass showing at the bottom
  3. Glue on the googly eyes
  4. Cut a little nose from the pink foam and glue to the face
  5. Make the mouth with the permanent marker on a little piece of fleece, cut out and glue under the nose

To Make the Hat

  1. Paint the lid with the purple paint. Let dry.
  2. With the nail or ice pick and hammer, make a hole on either side of the lid to insert the ears. You can make the hole a little bigger with a phillips head screwdriver
  3. Flip the lid over and hammer the edges of the hole flat
  4. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam

To Insert the Ears

  1. Pinch the end of one ear together and push it through one hole in the lid.
  2. Pull it through the hole a bit to form the ear
  3. Repeat with the other ear

Finish the Bunny

  1. Add the foam rim to the lid
  2. Glue the pom-pom to the back of the jar for the tail
  3. Add M&Ms, jelly beans, or other small candy
  4. After Easter, you can use your Bunny Jar to store other small items

Goodreads Giveaway

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Bunny Finds Easter, head over to this Giveaway on Goodreads!

Bunny Finds Easter Goodreads Giveaway

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You can find Bunny Finds Easter at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 1 – Wishing a Hoppy Book Birthday to Every Bunny Dance Now!

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About the Holiday

I’m excited to be celebrating the book birthday of Joan Holub’s and Allison Black’s newest seasonal board book for enthusiastic little readers. With touch-and-feel surprises and lively rhymes and rhythms to get kids engaged with every page, this is one spring charmer you’ll want on your child’s library shelf. 

Thanks to Joan Holub for sharing a digital copy of Every Bunny Dance Now! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Every Bunny Dance Now!

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Allison Black

 

If your kids always have the joys of spring in their heart and a jaunty spring in their step, then they’ll love hoppin’ and boppin’ along with the bundle of bunnies, lambs, ducks, pigs, squirrels, and cows who can’t stop mooovin’ to the groove. Even a skunk and some butterflies join in the fun.

Ready to get started? Then “give your fuzzy tail a wiggle. Twitch your bunny nose and giggle. Skip through flowers in your jammies. Boogie-woogie with the lambies.” Think your kids can resist that invitation? Me neither! 

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Image copyright Allison Black, 2022, text copyright Joan Holub, 2022. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Joan Holub’s infectious rhymes will have little ones jumping and laughing, twirling and peeping – and even doing the chicken dance – as they visit a pond, a mud puddle, a patch of clover, and a colorful field of wildflowers. When all the wiggles are out, kids will find more to love with the touch-and-feel elements on each page that make this a terrific lap-time book as well. However you share this book, you and your kids will want to cheer, “What a great day, bright and sunny. Happy springtime, little bunny!” 

Joan Holub’s enchanting romp is the perfect way for kids to celebrate the season of spring as well as to enjoy the wiggly, giggly fun of movement all year around. Holub’s short sentences, punctuated with invitations to join in on the ducks’ “quack-quack,” the pigs’ “oink-oink,” and the cows’ “mooovin’,” will have kids excited to read along. Those who like a little learning during story time will like pointing out or naming and counting the different animals.

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Image copyright Allison Black, 2022, text copyright Joan Holub, 2022. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Allison Black infuses every page with loads of color and vivacious, smiling animals enthusiastic to spend time with their friends. As the bunnies come topside to start the party, Black sprinkles her vibrant backgrounds with music notes and surrounds the animals with charming flowers, clover, and butterflies. Kids will love spying the adorable bespectacled moles who pop up to attend the celebration too.

An exhilarating and charm-filled way to spend time with little ones and get them excited about reading, Every Bunny Dance Now! will become a quick favorite for active and snuggly story times. The board book makes a fantastic addition to Easter baskets or gift for springtime celebrations.

Ages 2 – 5

Cartwheel Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1338795004

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

To learn more about Allison Black, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-every-bunny-dance-now-cover

You can find Every Bunny Dance Now! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 22 – National Cookie Exchange Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday got its start during the Middle Ages, when spices and dried fruit were becoming popular additions to baked goods. These ingredients were expensive, however, and most families could only afford to bake cookies at the holidays. To celebrate, they held parties to share and appreciate these delicious treats. This tradition lives on in today’s cookie exchanges. To celebrate, organize your own cookie exchange or simply share your favorite cookies with your friends and family members.

Christmas Cookie Day!

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Mama bear and her little bear get ready for one of the most fun days of the year. “Cooke day, / Time to bake. / Aprons on, / Lots to make!” The little one cracks an egg into the bowl while the butter, flour, and sugar wait their turn. Mom pours warm melted butter and lets her little bear stir it into dough.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With the dough rolled smooth, it’s time to use the cookie cutters to make…”Christmas tree, / Reindeer, bell. / Snowman, star, / Cookie smell.” The pair add angels, candy canes, and drummer boys before sliding the tray into the oven and watching them bake. At last the timer rings but they still must wait. Finally “ready, set… / Decorate!”

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

It’s so much fun spreading the frosting and shaking out sprinkles to create green trees, yellow stars, and red-and-white striped candy canes. Even the bakers can’t resist nibbling a few. But not too many, because these are special “cookie gifts. / Made with care. / Pack them up, / Cooke share!” It’s time to invite friends and family for a yearly treat—“Christmastime, / Spirits bright. / Family hugs, / Cookie night.”

A delectable Christmas Cookie Day Recipe follows the story for all little bakers to try.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Tara Knudson’s jaunty rhyming story captures all the giddy anticipation and fun of a day baking Christmas cookies. Short, lively verses follow Mom and her cub step-by-step as they make and decorate special treats for their annual cookie party and invite little ones to join in on repeat readings. Knudson delights in the enjoyment Mom and her little one feel during their day of baking and goes on to celebrate the deeper meaning and joy of Christmas as the two wrap up their cookies and give them to family and friends.

With tender smiles for each other, Pauline Siewert’s Mama bear and her cub spend a snowy day baking cookies in their cozy kitchen accompanied by a helpful mouse. Siewert’s vibrant colors mirror the cheerful companionship mother and child share on this much-loved day, and her engaging details, like a dusting of flour on the cub’s nose, will charm children. A double-spread scattering of the cookies the two make give little ones a chance to show their knowledge of shapes and Christmastime figures. The heartwarming final scene of the cookie party might just inspire a party of your own. Little ones will also be enchanted by the sparkly cover that opens this adorable book.

The absence of personal pronouns and a red apron for the little cub make Christmas Cookie Day! gender neutral.

A sweet story to spark a fun family tradition and share the joy of giving, Christmas Cookie Day! makes an endearing addition to a child’s home library.

Ages 2 – 6

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310762898

Discover more about Tara Knudson, her books, and her other writing for children on her website.

You can connect with Pauline Siewert on Instagram.

Meet Tara Knudson

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - head shot

I’m excited to be talking today with Tara Knudson about her sweet book, her favorite cookie, and how being a teacher inspires her work.

Christmas Cookie Day has such a joyous feeling. Do you have any special memories of baking with your family when you were a child?  What is your favorite kind of cookie?

I’m so glad that you think CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY has such a joyous feeling! The story evokes happy memories of baking Christmas cookies with my mom and sisters when I was a child. I remember gathering the cookie cutters from the cabinet, excited to get started! We all stood around the kitchen table and decorated our cookies with sprinkles, frosting, and candy pieces. It was so fun!

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - decorating cookies

While I do enjoy eating Christmas sugar cookies, my favorite kind of cookie is chocolate chip, especially ones with dark chocolate chips and a little salt. Yum!

As a regular contributor to children’s magazines like Highlights Hello, Highlights High Five, Baby Bug, and Ladybug, you write stories and poetry for the youngest readers, what do you like about writing for this age? What are a few of the most important ingredients in stories for little ones?

I love writing for little ones because they are so curious about everything in the world around them—sights, smells, sounds, tastes, new experiences, and people. They take it all in as they learn, develop, and grow. I like to be a part of that.

My poems and stories for this age group often include short and simple sentences with some fun words added that young readers may not be familiar with.

You’ve said that you loved to write even as a child. Can you describe your journey to becoming a published writer?

My journey as a writer has been a long one. I still have my creative writing stories from second grade. Reading them now makes me laugh! Growing up, the stories were always special to me, but I did not know yet that I wanted to be a writer.

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - school writing folder

I started writing poetry when I was in high school. As I dealt with the problems and frustrations that adolescence can bring, I often wrote poems to express my feelings. After college, I became a Spanish teacher and I often used children’s picture books in the          classroom. I would spend hours at bookstores searching for favorite ones. It was during that time that I fell in love with picture books and decided that I wanted to write them.

In pursuit of my goal, I won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that allowed me to take a break from my teaching job and live in Barcelona, Spain for a year and experiment with writing for children. I wrote many poems and rhyming stories for children. I continued to write after my return to the U.S. As years passed, I sold articles and poems to children’s magazines and continued to work on my picture book manuscripts as I worked as a teacher and later took care of my two sons. Finally, I signed with an agent who helped me sell my first book.

Can you talk a little about your work as a teacher? How do your experiences influence your work?

My teaching background is unique because I have taught different subjects to students of many ages. I started my teaching career as a high school Spanish teacher. Then, while in Barcelona, I taught English to middle school students. Upon my return to the U.S., I taught Spanish to grades K-2 and then math to grades 1-4. 

Whichever subject I teach, and to whichever grade level, there is always something for me to gain as a writer when I work with students. Whether it be from something that happens in the classroom or something that a student says that sparks a writing idea, being around children gets my creative juices flowing! I hope to get back in the classroom soon.

What’s up next for you?

My next book, EASTER EGG DAY, will be released in February, 2020. Also, I’m happy to announce that a third book in my holiday board book series will follow. I will share details about that book soon. I have plenty of non-holiday projects as well that I hope will make their way into the world in the near future.

What’s your favorite holiday?

My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love the excitement that leads up to it, the beautiful decorations, the spirit of giving, and the true meaning of the season. It’s such a magical and joyous time for people of all ages filled with traditions and love. I’m so happy that CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY can be a part of it all!

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - making cookies

Thanks so much for chatting with me, Tara! I wish you a wonderful holiday and much success with all of your writing!

You can connect with Tara Knudson on

Her website | Instagram | Twitter  

National Cookie Exchange Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-kids-craft

Gingerbread Kids Ornaments

 

All cookies don’t have to be edible! With this easy craft children can make gingerbread kid ornaments to decorate your tree or windows or to give to family and friends!

Supplies

  • Printable Gingerbread Girl and Boy Template
  • 2 Brown foam sheets
  • White paint (or any color you like)
  • Glitter in two colors
  • Paint brush
  • 2 Small heart buttons (optional)
  • Mounting squares (for mounting)
  • Thread  and needle (for optional hanging)

Directions

  1. Trace gingerbread kid templates on brown foam sheets and cut out
  2. Paint around the edges with the white paint then add trim to the edge of the dress and the top of the socks 
  3. Add buttons
  4. Add faces
  5. Paint the hands of each figure then sprinkle glitter over the wet paint to make mittens
  6. To use as decoration, attach mountable squares. To use as an ornament, use a threaded needle to make a hole in the top of each figure and tie the thread to create a hanger.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-cover-2

You can find Christmas Cookie Day at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 9 – National Llama Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the llama, that South American long-necked animal in the camel family that has traditionally served as a pack animal and provides both wool and meat. Because of their spirited personality and high cuteness factor, llamas make perfect companions for holiday cheer. To celebrate today, lliven up your holidays with today’s book! And be sure to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of this new holiday favorite! You’ll find the details below.

Fa-La-La Llama

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Allison Black

 

Sure, kids can celebrate Christmas with Santa and elves and reindeer, but wouldn’t it be even more fun to party with llamas? Wild and wooly, llamas lend a cheery vivaciousness to the holidays with their fashion sense, their decorating savvy, and their beautiful singing voices—really!

What do I mean? Well, let’s pick a favorite Christmas song—say, “Deck the Halls” with its catchy chorus. You and the kiddos probably sing it this way: “Deck the halls with boughs of holly. Fa la la la la la la la la!” But the sleighful of llamas gathered together in Joan Holub’s board book sing it this way: “Decorate our hats with holly. Fa la la la la la la Llama.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fa-la-la-llama-hats

Image copyright Allison Black, 2021, text copyright Joan Holub, 2021. Courtesy of Cartwheel Books.

But these festive llamas aren’t just dressing up for the holidays, they’re going caroling, dancing under a disco ball in silly pants, and ice skating on the pond. How do these lovely llamas keep their hooves from freezing? “Mittens warm in snowy weather. Fa la la la la la la Llama.” And how about gifts? Sure! These llamas are adept at “Juggling presents all together. Fa la la la la la la Llama.”

With all the preparations complete, the hot cocoa poured, and a fire crackling in the hearth, there’s only one thing left to do—and that is to say (or sing), “Merry Christmas! Cozy good cheer. Fa la la la la la la Llama. / Wishing you a Happy New Year! Fa la la la la la la Llaaamaaa!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fa-la-la-llama-dancing

Image copyright Allison Black, 2021, text copyright Joan Holub, 2021. Courtesy of Cartwheel Books.

Get ready to giggle and “La-la-llaaamaaa” with your little ones in Joan Holub’s effervescent take on a favorite holiday song that also includes touch-and-feel elements that begin right on the front cover, where a shiny ribbed foil evergreen is about to be turned into a Christmas tree. Opening the cover, little ones find that a white Christmas is assured as textured glittery snowflakes fall on a cheerful, pink llama. Other enticing treats include a pink tulle tutu ice-skating skirt, a silver rippled foil-wrapped present, and a sparkly bowtie of netting, foil, and glitter. Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa, and he’s here too with a soft and wooly beard to tickle tykes’ fingertips—and fancy!

If you’re looking for a fun, infectious holiday story to share with your little one, you’ve found it! Joan Holub’s catchy rendition of “Deck the Halls” for the youngest readers is sure to have the whole family “Fa la la la la la la Llama-ing” as you decorate the tree, wrap gifts, bake cookies, and, of course, sing carols. Holub’s word choices make the verses easy for kids to remember, inviting them to read or sing (it’s impossible to resist singing!) along.

Allison Black’s adorable llamas decked out in winter’s most cozy hats, scarves, mittens, and sweaters can’t help but make you smile. Their enthusiasm for the season mirrors children’s own excitement, and their holiday activities will be familiar to kids as well. Black’s vibrant backgrounds, colorful fa-la-las, organically integrated touch-and-feel surprises, and sprinkling of humor make this a book little readers will want to put on repeat.

A perfect pre-holiday or advent gift, joyful story time read, or Christmas day stocking stuffer, Fa-La-La Llama is sure to be a hit with little ones and their grown-ups and is a must for any young child’s holiday board book collection at home, school, or public libraries.

Ages 2 – 5

Cartwheel Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1338681475

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

To learn more about Allison Black, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Fa-la-la Llama Giveaway

Fa-La-La Llama Giveaway Picture

I’m thrilled to be teaming with author Joan Holub in a giveaway of this adorable interactive holiday book, illustrated by Allison Black. One Grand Prize winner will receive:

  • One (1) copy of Fa-la-la Llama signed by Joan Holub
  • One festive llama pillow

Two lucky winners will receive:

  • One (1) copy of Fa-la-la Llama signed by Joan Holub

To Enter

This giveaway is open from December 9 to December 12 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 13. 

Prizing provided by Joan Holub

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

National Llama Day Activity

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Dress Up Llama Coloring Page

 

This cute llama wants to dress up for the holidays! Just download and print to add a scarf, hat, sweater and all the trappings of winter! And don’t forget to add some glittery snow to the scene!

Dress Up Llama Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fa-la-la-llama-cover

You can find Fa-La-La Llama at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review