December 2 – Get Ready for Christmas

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About the Holiday

For those who celebrate Christmas, Santa Claus’s visit is eagerly anticipated. Kids and adults alike all know about Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, his stable of magic reindeer, and his nighttime ride, but how did Santa become…well…Santa? You’ll find out in today’s book!

Tundra Books sent me a copy of When Santa was a Baby for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

When Santa Was a Baby

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Geneviève Godbout

 

When Santa was a baby his parents loved his merry dimples and his “‘little nose…like a cherry,’” and when they tickled his tiny toes, expecting a gurgle or coo, they heard a booming “‘HO, HO, HO!’” As he grew older and learned his colors, Santa developed a distinct preference for red, so the “‘dandy blue pajamas from Aunt Mable’” went back in the drawer. “‘Maybe he’ll be a firefighter,’” said his mom.

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Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

On his birthday, Santa had fun opening a passel of presents, including a toy firetruck from mom and dad, toys from Grandma and Uncle Ned, and “yellow pajamas from Aunt Mable.” But after he’d opened them, he wrapped them up again and gave them away to other children. On his next birthday, Santa asked for a pet that looked like a horse “that had horns and could pull a flying sled.” His parents weren’t sure about all this, so they got Santa a hamster, who soon had eight babies that loved pulling the matchbox full of little toys that Santa hitched them to. Santa’s dad though it was “‘extraordinary,’” and his mom said, “‘He’s so creative!’”

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Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Santa was extraordinary in lots of other ways too. His curiosity for the cold blast from the refrigerator and the sooty chimney led his proud parents to think he might grow up to be a scientist. Santa had a best friend named Eldred, and together they loved to make toys and other things. As a teenager, he “knew his own mind” and even though “he didn’t always fit in with the crowd,” the other kids liked him, and, of course, “his parents thought he was wonderful.”

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Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Now Santa is all grown up and has “followed his childhood dreams.” He has a crew of elves, led by Eldred, to make toys and he finally has the reindeer he always wanted. On Christmas Eve as he flies around the world, his parents “listen for his sleigh bells. They wave and blow kisses as Santa dips low over their house.” It’s just what they “always thought he’d do.”

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Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Linda Bailey’s gentle, humorous tale of Santa Claus’ origins in a little boy who always knew who he was and followed his heart will delight children of all ages. With a sprinkling of descriptions about Santa that echo Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, Bailey’s storytelling fits nicely into the traditional image of Santa while revealing while answering kids’ questions about his generosity, the elves, his reindeer, and his North Pole home. Adults will appreciate the support Santa’s bemused parents show as their child grows up and their pride in the man their son is. Underlying Bailey’s story about Santa is an uplifting reminder for all kids to embrace who they are and to follow their dreams.

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Image copyright Geneviève Godbout, 2015, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2015. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Geneviève Godbout’s slightly gauzy illustrations rendered in muted browns, greens, and golds punctuated with red bridge the past and the present with rustic details and universal hair and clothing styles, adorable hamster pets, and Christmas traditions. Children will giggle at the booming “Ho, Ho, Ho!” that erupts from baby Santa and the image of him standing naked (except for one red sock) in front of the open refrigerator with a fan blowing and a popsicle waiting on the table. Little readers will be happy to see that young Santa had an elf friend, who was equally comfortable being himself while wearing green and long, pointy-toed socks. Godbout’s images of the grown Santa at the North Pole and flying in his sleigh on Christmas Eve close out the story in a cheery and satisfying way.

Charming from beginning to end, When Santa Was a Baby would be an often-asked-for addition to Christmas story times from year to year and is highly recommended for home and library collections.

Ages Preschool and Up

Tundra Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1770495562 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1101919163 (Board Book)

Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Geneviève Godbout, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Christmas Activity

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Polish-Dipped Ornaments

 

These plastic ornaments swirled with colorful nail polish make eye-catching decorations for your tree. Make some to give to friends too!

Supplies

  • Plastic ornaments, available at craft stores
  • Nail polish in various colors
  • Plastic bowl or container, deep enough to dip the ornament into the water
  • Drying stand – I used a clear, plastic egg carton, or string for hanging ornaments to dry

Directions

Fill the plastic container with warm to hot water

  1. Using two or three colors, gently “paint” the water with the nail polish, using the brush or a toothpick in dots and swirls
  2. Slowly dip the plastic ornament into the water and turn it to pick up the nail polish floating on the top of the water
  3. To dry, place the ornament on a stand or hang with a paper plate, wax paper, or other paper to catch drips

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You can find When Santa Was a Baby at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

November 25 – It’s Farm City Week

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About the Holiday

National Farm City Week aims to raise awareness of America’s farmers and ranchers, who “dedicate their lives to promoting our nation’s agricultural abundance and environmental stewardship.” During this week we take the opportunity to support the crucial relationship “between farms and families and work to ensure farming remains an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way of life for future generations.” It is through the hard work of farmers and their enterprises—both large and small—that the country’s health and well-being are maintained.

Farmblock

Written by Chrisopher Franceschelli | Illustrated by Peskimo

 

A rooster calls all kids to take a trip to the farm to see all that happens year ‘round in this adorably chunky board book! Little readers will have a blast following a sister and brother—and their dog—as they say good morning to the ducks in the pond, the cows outside the barn, and the chickens who are happy to share their eggs and show off a dozen newly hatched chicks.

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Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Morning greetings give way to morning chores, and the children take buckets of compost “past the old blue tractor” to the pile, where their dog has discovered a perfect place to roll and play. Ewww! A hose and a tub of soapy water cleans him up. Then it’s time to visit the “big red barn” to “help mild the cows, brush the horses, and feed the goats. Even the “mama sow and all her piglets” get their breakfast slop.

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Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

On this fall day, the corn and the apples are ready to be harvested. The fresh corn is just right for a picnic, and the apples will make a delicious pie for Grandpa. There are pumpkins in the field for making jack o’ lanterns, and later all the members of the family sit down around the long dinner table to celebrate Thanksgiving.

As the weather turns frosty, Mama chops logs and the kids gather kindling for the woodpile. The “horses in the paddock don’t mind a little snow, but the birds in the forest appreciate the seeds the girl and boy scatter for them. Evening falls and it’s time to “head home to roast marshmallows by the fire.”

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Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

The family is happy when spring comes. “Bees buzz in every flower…and the lambs are born.” The animals are excited to be outside in the pasture again. It’s time to get the ground ready for planting “so the plants grow up…and up! And the plants grow down…and down!” The grass grows high in summer, but then it is cut and “rolled into bales to hoist high into the hayloft.” Berry bushes produce plump, juicy berries for jam to sell on farmers market day!

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Image copyright Peskimo, 2019, text copyright Christopher Franceschelli, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

With plenty of surprises and sprightly storytelling, Christopher Franceschelli gives little readers a tour of a farm throughout the year. His straightforward sentences are cheery and sprinkled with words such as compost, harvest, paddock, and hoist that children who are developing their vocabulary will be proud to know. Kids will be excited to see annual events that their familiar with as well as to learn about the crops and the changes for the animals that occur during each season.

Just as in the other block books in the series, Peskimo delights readers with lots of cut-out windows to peek through, gate-fold pages to open out…and out and even up and down. Behind the gate folds await sweet and humorous discoveries that will have little ones giggling and aww-ing. Each page is bright and bold, and smiles abound from the close siblings to their mom, dad and grandpa to the cute animals and their babies. Even the jack o’ lanterns have wide grins. Kids and adults will enjoy pointing out and talking about all of the details of farm life included on every page and especially the antics of the tiny mouse on each spread.

A charmer that will captivate little ones’ imagination, Farmblock is a book that children will want to read again and again. The book makes a terrific gift and addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages Baby to 3

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419738258

You can view a portfolio of artwork by Peskimo on their website.

Farm City Week Activity

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Grow a Garden Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

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You can find Farmblock at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

November 4 – It’s National Knit a Sweater Month

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About the Holiday

If you’re a reader or writer, you’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, in which writers dedicate themselves to writing 50,000 words—or a novel-length manuscript—this month. While these folks are weaving stories, knitters around the world are involved in their own super challenge. Inspired by NaNoWriMo, knitters are getting out their needles and yarn to create a 50,000-stitch—or sweater-size—garment. November, with its cooler, but not frigid, weather is a perfect time to make a new wooly wonder for the winter. Whether you keep your creation for yourself or give it away as a gift, the satisfaction of having completed the challenge will keep your heart warm all  year. For more information and to find like-minded artists, join the group at Ravelry.

Where Is My Pink Sweater?

By Nicola Slater

 

One morning when Rudy woke up, his beloved pink sweater was gone. Sure, “it was a bit too small and showed his belly button. But it was his favorite.” He went to look for it in his tall wardrobe, but all he found was “TEN tumbling cats.” They provided a clue that went like this: “Follow the trail / follow the string / to find your favorite / wooly thing!” Rudy looked down and saw a long strand of pink yarn running along the floor and down the stairs.

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Copyright Nicola Slater, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Downstairs, Rudy spied “NINE jiving llamas in fancy-pants pajamas.” They were so busy eating and sipping and dancing under the disco ball, that they never even saw Rudy. But Rudy noticed the string of yarn and followed it. In the kitchen, “EIGHT prima pigerinas” were pirouetting and having tea. They poured Rudy a cup, and while he was enjoying it, he heard a creak.

He took a quick peek in the basement and saw “SEVEN ski-dogs slaloming on the stairs.” They were all wearing something pink, but not his sweater. Back upstairs in the bathroom, Rudy called out to the “SIX soapy blackbirds.” They answered with same clue the cats had given him, so he followed the string out the window…and into a wading pool, where no one wore a sweater bathing suit. The string continued into the sewer, around a worm, past a little bug, and through the house of “FOUR muttering mice” who offered him cheese and a bit of advice. It led him to a croc-cupied outhouse “but no sweater.”

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Copyright Nicola Slater, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Here the string ended. Rudy was sad that he hadn’t found his favorite sweater. He couldn’t imagine who would have wanted it. He was pondering this question when out of the bushes popped “Trudy! His number ONE sister.” She was wearing his sweater and it fit just right. It was true that “Rudy loved his sweater, but he loved Trudy more.” And just then he knew he was ready for the pink surprise his friends had brought. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-my-pink-sweater-bathroom

Copyright Nicola Slater, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Nicola Slater’s charming mystery for the littlest readers entices them to follow the pink string to solve this adorable whodunit. Along the way they discover a decreasing number of suspects behind flaps and cut outs on Slater’s vibrant and action-packed pages. Adults will enjoy the nods to mystery tropes, including a fantastical wardrobe, a creaky basement door, and a steamy bathroom, while kids will just love all the lively shenanigans going on in Rudy’s house and neighborhood.

Slater’s lyrical storytelling includes jaunty alliteration, humor, and well-paced, gentle suspense that will keep readers guessing while they practice their counting. The sweet solution to the mystery is family- and sibling-relationship affirming. Rudy’s love for his little sister and hers for Rudy shine and will make readers both young and older smile.

An enchanting read aloud board book for little readers and especially for family story times, Where Is My Pink Sweater? would make a wonderful gift and a favorite addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 5

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419736797

To see a portfolio of work by Nicola Slater visit Good Illustration

National Knit a Sweater Month Activity

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Design Your Own Sweater

 

If you could design your own sweater, what would it look like? Would it have stripes? Polka dots? A picture of a puppy, kitten, train, truck, or the logo of your favorite sports team? Use this printable Design Your Own Sweater template and have a bit of fashionable fun!

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You can find Where Is My Pink Sweater? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

November 2 – It’s National Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

November has been designated as a time for reflecting on our lives and being grateful for our family, friends, opportunities, and the things we have. Often—as today’s book emphasizes—it’s good to look closely at the Now and not worry so much about the future in order to truly appreciate our particular gifts and the positive things in our lives. To celebrate Gratitude Month, take time to count your blessings and thank those who are important in you life.

Thankful

Written by Eileen Spinelli | Illustrated by Archie Preston

 

When we contemplate the things we are thankful for, our thoughts often go to the large, all-encompassing ideas: we’re thankful for our families, our friends, our jobs. But Eileen Spinelli points out those smaller, concrete, more personal things that make us happy or make life better in immeasurable ways. To begin, “The waitress is thankful for comfortable shoes. The reporter is thankful for interesting news.”

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Image copyright Archie Preston, 2015, text copyright Eileen Spinelli, 2015. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Gardeners are happy when their crops begin to grow, and firemen are glad when the fire goes out. “The poet is thankful for words that rhyme. The children for morning story time.” Without color and light, the artist could not paint, doctors give thanks “when their patients get well,” and travelers are thankful when they find a nice place to stay. Dancers give thanks for music that inspires them, and tailors for their sewing machines.

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Image copyright Archie Preston, 2015, text copyright Eileen Spinelli, 2015. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Chefs are happy when diners clean their plates, the honey maker for the busy bees, and the sailor for his “sturdy boat.” “The birder is thankful to list a new bird. The pastor is thankful for God’s loving word.” Crafters? Well, they’re “thankful for glitter and glue.” And the reader, the listener? They’re “ever so thankful for you!”

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Image copyright Archie Preston, 2015, text copyright Eileen Spinelli, 2015. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Eileen Spinelli’s endearing story of thanks for all of the objects, ideas, actions, and feelings that make every person unique and each situation just a little bit better is a heartfelt reminder of life’s joys for Thanksgiving Day and every day of the year. Her easy-flowing, rhyming verses depict a wide range of particular moments and broader experiences—each of which make the world a richer place. The final pages reveal what every little reader wants to hear and share—the mutual love between parent and child.

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Image copyright Archie Preston, 2015, text copyright Eileen Spinelli, 2015. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Archie Preston accompanies each couplet with a humorous illustration starring two adorable siblings playing out each scenario. Preston’s colorful, detailed line drawings show all the industrious, playful, and thoughtful togetherness that makes children and adult readers thankful for every day.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2015 |ISBN 978-0310000884 (Hardcover); 978-0310761402 (Board Book, 2017)

Discover more about Eileen Spinelli and her many books on her website.

National Gratitude Month Activity

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Gratitude Tree Activity Page

 

There are so many things to be thankful for! Fill in the leaves on this printable Gratitude Tree Activity Page with the things you’re thankful for then color the page!

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You can find Thankful at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

October 31 – National Magic Day

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About the Holiday

Little ones know all about magic. Not only the rabbit-out-of-a-hat kind, but the wonder-of-the-world kind. Where do they get that wide-eyed awe at the amazing things the world has to offer? Some of it’s inborn, while the rest comes from you and books that make them laugh, think, and become part of a community. Reading books—like today’s—right from the start opens kids’ eyes to the magic around them—even what comes after “Abracadabra!” National Magic Day got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31—the date of his death in 1926—as National Magic Day.

My Magical Dragon

Illustrated by Yujin Shin

A prince and princess in a magical kingdom are lucky to have “a dragon who was kind and strong” watch over them. One day the dragon soars through the air with the princess and prince on her back. They fly over mountains and ponds, homes and mushrooms and are delighted to see all the wondrous creatures—like flying horses, baby dragons, little monsters, fairies, and even a unicorn—who lived in their land.

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

They glided through the sky until they spied a very special place. “At Grandma’s castle they stopped for tea, which Dragon helped make magically.” As Grandma brought out scrumptious ice cream, sparkly cupcakes, and a colorful salad, the dragon used her fire-breathing talents to heat the logs and make the teapot boil and sing.

After they’d feasted and had fun with their friends, the princess and prince took a nighttime flight on their protective dragon. While the kingdom grew quiet and all the creatures slept in their cozy homes or under the stars, the prince and princess snuggled into their beds and the dragon “took a long snooze underground.”

The short and sweet rhyming story of a prince and princess’s trip to Grandma’s is the frame for Yujin Shin’s adorable, show-stopping illustrations and interactive elements that will have little readers enthralled with each page of this joyful board book. The fun begins on the cover with a wheel to turn that adds a rainbow of glittery highlights to the dragon’s wings, body, and fire through shaped cutouts. 

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Opening the book, readers enter the kingdom at the front gate of the violet castle. On the lawn a winged pony meets a butterfly, a pink and a purple unicorn splash in a fountain, and cute-as-a-bug bugs peek out of colorful flowers. A mermaid in the moat even swims by to say hello. The highlight of the spread is the silver gate, which lifts up with a gentle push to reveal the prince and princess in the tower, a knight, a fairy, and a smiling monster. Down below, behind the gate, an orange and spotted dragon rouses from a nap.

Turn the page, and the trio are on their way to Grandmas. Little ones will want to linger over this two-page spread as happy and welcoming magical creatures appear from their fantastical homes, in clouds, and from behind mountains. Another easy-to-maneuver interactive element lets kids set the dragon’s wings flapping up and down. The prince and princess look as excited and amazed as readers will be.

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

At Grandma’s, little ones will spy a few friends who have made the journey with the princess and prince. Tiny fingers can easily move the wheel to help the dragon blow her fiery breath to heat up the teapot. In a clever use of the wheel, it takes a bit of turning for the pot to steam—timing that mirrors a real teapot on the stove.

The tranquil nighttime scene will put little ones in mind of sleep as they see now-familiar friends happily snoozing as the princess, prince, and dragon arrive back at the castle. A cut-away view of the hill under the castle shows the dragon’s lair, and how the baby’s play while Mom’s away. With the pull of a tab—the mother dragon settles in for a long slumber. The tab also reveals another room in the dragon’s vast den and the silhouette of a dragon flying across the full, golden moon.

On the back cover, a cute mushroom challenges readers to find her in the book. Locating this character on each page will charm little ones.

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

An enchanting, interactive story adults will enjoy sharing with their kids over and over, My Magical Dragon makes a wonderful gift for little ones, babies, and baby showers. The book will also be a favorite on your own home bookshelf and is a great choice for preschool and public library collections.

Ages Baby – 3

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419737312

National Magic Day Activity

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Cute Dragon Coloring Page

 

This cute dragon is no ordinary dragon, she’s a magical dragon! Print and grab the crayons—and don’t forget the glue stick and glitter!

Cute Dragon Coloring Page

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You can find My Magical Dragon at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 26 – National Pumpkin Day

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About the Holiday

What would Halloween be without jack-o-lanterns or autumn without pumpkin pie? Even the seeds of the orange gourds we celebrate today are delicious with a little roasting. Whether you like pumpkins that are perfectly round or a little misshapen, small or behemoth, why not visit a pumpkin patch and pick a perfect pumpkin.

You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie

Written by Amy E. Sklansky | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

In a big cozy, chair next to a roaring fire, a mom snuggles with her little boy. In a pretty nursery dotted with stars, a dad watches his tiny daughter, who’s learning to crawl. He tells her, “You light up any room / with your grin so big and wide.”

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

In a bright and homey kitchen, a mother sprinkles the final touches on a pumpkin pie while her toddler helps. She says, “Your scent is just delightful— / like cinnamon and spice.” Outside, a mom and baby bundled up in the chilly weather share a hug, and the mom confesses, “Each time I kiss your yummy cheek, / I have to kiss it twice.”

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

At a farm, as Dad and his little one pick the perfect pumpkin, Dad wraps his arms around his child and says, “Your hugs are irresistible / Because you’re such a treat.” A mom playing with her daughter smiles and tells her, “I love to make you giggle. / No sound is quite as sweet.” In another home, dinner has been served and it’s time for dessert, but who are the parents praising as the “star of any feast”—the pumpkin pie or their children? The happy kids know the answer! And a baby drifts off to sleep with the sweet assurance, “You’re my little pumpkin pie, / Each and every piece.”

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

Parents and other caregivers will love cuddling up with their little one and sharing the endearing rhymes in Amy E. Sklansky’s sweet tribute to the most special of relationships. The tender phrases on each page echo the spontaneous bursts of wonder, amazement, and of course love that fill an adult’s heart while thinking about or interacting with their child. The affection expressed with each verse will delight little ones.

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Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, text copyright Amy E. Sklansky, 2013. courtesy of amysklansky.com.

Talitha Shipman’s colorful and cozy illustrations embrace the parent-child relationship with depictions of the gestures, smiles, and assurances adults share with children. Little ones, sitting on Mom or Dad’s lap will be charmed by the happy faces of the babies and toddlers on each page and feel that same warm comfort. Extended fun can be found in discovering the pumpkin or pumpkins as well as the accompanying orange theme on each spread.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-my-little-pumpkin-pie-pumpkin-farm

Image copyright Talitha Shipman, 2013, courtesy of talithashipman.com.

You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie is a board book that little ones will want to hear again and again and that parents and other caregiver will love to share. It would make a wonderful gift and a sweet addition to any home bookshelf.

Ages 2 – 4

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-0316207140

Discover more about Amy E. Sklansky and her books on her website

To learn more about Talitha Shipman, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Pumpkin Day Activity

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Rock! Paint! Pumpkin! Craft

 

With carefully chosen rocks you can create one jack-o’-lantern or a whole pumpkin patch!

Supplies

  • Round, smooth rock ( or rocks in a variety of sizes)
  • Orange craft paint
  • Black permanent marker or black craft paint
  • short sturdy twig (one for each rock)
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue
  • Paintbrush

Directions

  1. Clean and dry the rock
  2. Paint the rock orange, let dry
  3. Draw or paint a jack-o’-lantern face on the rock, let dry
  4. glue the short twig to the top  of the rock pumpkin

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-my-little-pumpkin-pie-cover

You can find You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 4 – Kids Music Day and Interview with Carole Gerber

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About the Holiday

Kids Music Day was established in 2016 by Keep Music Alive to raise awareness of the importance of music education for children. The day includes events like student performances, opportunities for kids to see and try a wide range of instruments, instrument donation drives and more. On the first Kids Music Day, 80 music schools in 24 US states took part. In 2017 that number jumped to over 400 participants in more than 40 states and Canada. Last year 600 music schools and retail shops in 10 countries participated with free music lessons and other activities. Keep Music Alive is a nonprofit whose mission is to demonstrate the importance of music in everyone’s life from listening for pleasure to participating as an instrumentalist or composer to partaking in music therapy and more. To learn more, visit keepmusicalive.org and kidsmusicday.org

I received a copy of If You’re Scary and You Know It! from Familius for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Familius in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

If You’re Scary and You Know It!

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Noël Ill

 

Your kids have it, right? That giddy energy as they prepare for the big night of chills and thrills and decide on the most pressing question: What will I be? Carole Gerber and Noël Ill know exactly how that feels, and their book, a rollicking adaptation of the participatory favorite “If You’re Happy and You Know It” will keep readers moving and giggling all month long—and beyond.

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Image copyright Noël Ill, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Perfectly suited for singing or reading, If You’re Scary and You Know It! Introduces eight adorably creepy characters for kids to play and play with. Kids under the Halloween spell may be feeling a bit witchy these days. If that’s true, there’s only one thing to do: “If you’re witchy and you know it, mix a brew. / Throw some frog legs in your potion—icky poo! / Cackle as the cauldron bubbles. / Add a taste of trolls and troubles. / If you’re witchy and you know it, mix a brew.”

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Image copyright Noël Ill, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Kids got a taste for spooky tricks instead? Then they’ll love to “…moan and groan. Float around and haunt the people in your home.” Especially any younger siblings! Now that the fun is truly out of the bag, kids can brandish their pirate sword, flash a fiendish vampire smile, howl at the full moon, shoo crows away from the pumpkin patch, and perform other bits of mischief.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-you're-scary-and-you-know-it-scare-crow

Image copyright Noël Ill, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

By this time their teeth may be chattering and their bones rattling. Well then, “If you’re bony and you know it, touch your toes. / You can bend and twist to strike a funny pose. / Spread your arms and bend your knees— / move in any way you please! / If you’re bony and you know it, touch your toes.” Finally, that most anticipated day arrives! What now? You know! It’s time to “meet up with your friends out in the street. / Walk together door-to-door, to get candy and lots more! If you’re scary and you know it—Trick or Treat!

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Image copyright Noël Ill, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Kids and adults alike will fully get into the spirit of Halloween with Carole Gerber’s clever and enticingly impish rhymes that will have them moving their feet, yowling ghoulishly, and laughing together. Gerber’s rich language and detailed action-packed storytelling are a joy to sing or read aloud and give kids plenty to imitate as they listen. Children will love joining in on the repeated phrases, and older kids will learn the jaunty verses in no time.

In her delightful, spritely illustrations, Noël Ill replicates the eerie autumn atmosphere that adds to the thrill of Halloween while also clearly depicting motions that children can perform with each verse. Ill’s diverse kids float, dance, growl, screech, and shake with the same enthusiasm as little readers. The final two-page spreads invite children to that nighttime world of magic and treats.

A must inclusion in any Halloween collection, If You’re Scary and You Know It! is a book you’ll want to keep out year-round for energetic, active story times. It is a perfect book to share with groups and as an activity at Halloween parties. Published in a board book format, this book will also appeal to older children.

Ages 3 – 6

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701464

Discover more about Carole Gerber and her books on her website.

To learn more about Noël Ill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Carole Gerber

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Poet and author Carole Gerber has written sixteen picture books, three chapter books, and more than one hundred elementary science and reading texts for major publishers. Her picture book, A Band of Babies, was named a 2017 Best Book for Children by Amazon editors. She holds a BS in English education and an MA in journalism from Ohio State, and has taught middle school and high school English as well as college newswriting and factual writing at OSU.

I’m thrilled to be chatting with Carole Gerber today about how adults can have fun with her new book, how she gets everyone participating at school visits, and a favorite part of her writing routine.

The rhythm of If You’re Scary and You Know It comes from a favorite child’s interactive song, but your clever verses go well beyond the simple repetition of the original. What inspired you to adapt this song for Halloween? I love the examples of scary that you chose and your other fun, evocative words. How did you choose your scary adjectives and develop each verse?

It’s much easier to write a story or song based on an existing one, because the structure is already there. Most kids and adults know the tune “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” so I decided to use it as a template. I then looked on Amazon to see what similar Halloween books were already on the market. If there were dozens, I would not have written mine. Luckily, I saw only one. It was titled If You’re Spooky and You Know It. I love the word “spooky” and had at first thought to use that word in my title. However, I did not want my book to compete with a title already published. I wanted a story/song that kids could act out, so I chose eight characters and thought up different silly but logical actions for each. For example, the pirate shouts “Yo ho!” and waves his sword, the witch “cackles” as she mixes her brew, the black cat arches her back and spreads her claws, and so on.

If You’re Scary and You Know It lends itself to singing and acting out as well as reading. Do you have any advice for adults on sharing this book with kids and “playing” with it?

Get into it along with the kids! Be playful and happy and sing your heart out. Kids love it when adults act silly. It’s fun to cackle like a witch, shout like a pirate, and shout “Meeeoow” as you spread your “claws.” Plus, the funny-sounding descriptors like “vampy,” “fiendish” and “hairy” are fun for everyone to sing. And, without realizing it, kids will learn some interesting vocabulary.

Noël Ill’s enchanting illustrations are adorably kid-centric. They also really invite kids to join in on the fun. Did you get to collaborate on the illustrations? I know it must be hard to choose a favorite illustration—but do you have one?

The publisher’s art director let me choose among the work of three artists he thought would do a good job. All were talented, but Noël’s illustrations were so sweet, bright, and clever that I knew she would come up with pictures that perfectly complemented my words. And she did! As is customary, I got to see sketches before she did final illustrations, and my input was honored. The first thing she illustrated was the cover – and I was thrilled! When all illustrations were complete, I learned from her short online video that the illustration of the black cat is based on her own childhood Halloween costume. After seeing the resemblance, the black cat became my favorite illustration! You can see it here: https://youtu.be/NPsn7syYvJo

You sponsor children around the world through World Vision. Does this experience influence your writing in any way?

Some of the money I earn as a writer helps children in less fortunate parts of the world get fed and educated. I became a World Vision sponsor 34 years ago when my daughter Jess was born and began adding more children as she grew up. I became a sponsor for another Christian relief organization, Feed My Starving Children, 20+ years ago when I learned about their amazing organization while researching an article for a magazine. Contributing regularly to these charities for children is one small way I can consistently thank God for giving me the opportunities I’ve had as a writer and also the great good fortune to be born in the United States. 

In addition to your fiction for children, you’ve authored a long list of school reading and science texts for all grade levels and about a wide range of topics. How did you get started writing for this market? What kind of research goes into each book? Do you have a favorite and why?

 I got into the education market as a result of writing textbook ad copy for McGraw-Hill. The product manager put me in touch with some editors. Each book I wrote had to be written at a specific reading level, and often I was required to use certain vocabulary words. Many of them required extensive research, which I mostly did online using reputable sources. One of my favorites was Once There Were Two: The Negro Baseball League. It was enlightening to learn about how African-Americans were forced to play in a separate league and had to stay in “colored” hotels. The most challenging were the books I wrote as part of a series called “Retold Classics.” I had to summarize and rewrite very simply The Iliad and other stories based on an oral tradition. Eeek! It was challenging to boil these lengthy tales down to their “bones.”

Your school visits sound amazing – especially the “poetry jams” and creating a class poem collaboratively with students. Can you talk about what you love about visiting schools? Do you have an anecdote from one you’d like to share?

After showing a funny slide show of my “creative process,” I let kids use the microphone (which they love) to do the talking. They read from my book Seeds, Bees, Butterflies and More: Poems for Two Voices. I also wrote funny, tricky riddle poems specifically for school visits that kids read in pairs. The poems give clues about common objects (i.e., pencil, basketball). The first student in the audience to guess the correct answer chooses a partner and they read the next poem. To guess correctly, students must LISTEN! 😊. At the end, those who haven’t yet participated read from my poem for 13 voices titled “Cats!” Kids who are shy or not good readers get their chance to shine. As a lesson extension, the teacher is given a format for collaboratively writing a class poem if she or he chooses.

Do you have a special place you like to write or routine while writing?

I prefer to write on my desktop computer, which is in my home office. I have a laptop I can use if I am away, but I prefer the keyboard on my desktop. My routine requires me to drive to Starbucks to buy a chai latte before I seriously spend any time writing. I periodically attempt to stop this addiction. I did quit once for a few months but went back to buying one as an occasional treat and soon was back my costly morning habit. Sigh.         

What’s up next for you?

I have another holiday book out this year: The Gifts of the Animals, A Christmas Tale. It is loosely based on an old Latin hymn and tells in verse about gifts the stable animals gave to prepare the manger. It is beautifully illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara, who lives in Japan and speaks very little English. There’s an interesting story about how she was chosen. I’d love to share it with your readers if you invite me back.

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

Clearly, I love both Halloween and Christmas! I have had two Halloween books published and three Christmas books. I grew up in a small town in a simpler time. My mother helped us make our Halloween costumes and my sister and I went trick-or-treating with our neighborhood friends. Everyone’s parents stayed home to hand out treats. At Christmas, we participated in church children’s productions.

Do you have an anecdote from any holiday (or holiday-themed book) that you’d like to share?

I admit to soaping a few windows of people who turned out their lights and did not answer their doors on Halloween. This was one of the “tricks” played on those did not “treat.” Once for the church Christmas play, my sister and I got to play the parts of shepherds. We wore our chenille bathrobes as costumes and got to sing a Christmas song with nine parts in which each letter of “Christmas” had a line. I don’t recall her letter, but mine was “A’s for all he stands for.”

Thanks so much, Carole! It’s been wonderful learning about your work and about your love of chai lattes—they’re my favorite too!  I can’t wait to talk to you again soon about your upcoming Christmas book The Gifts of the Animals, A Christmas Tale!

Kids Music Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rock-pumpkin-craft

Rock Jack-O-Lantern

 

With carefully chosen rocks you can create one jack-o’-lantern or a whole pumpkin patch!

Supplies

  • Round, smooth rock ( or rocks in a variety of sizes)
  • Orange craft paint, and other colors for a multi-hued pumpkin patch
  • Black permanent marker or black craft paint
  • Short sturdy twig (one for each rock)
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue
  • Paintbrush

Directions

  1. Clean and dry the rock
  2. Paint the rock, let dry
  3. Draw or paint a jack-o’-lantern face on the rock, let dry
  4. Glue the short twig to the top  of the rock pumpkin

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-if-you're-scary-and-you-know-it-coverPicture Book Review

You can find If You’re Scary and You Know It! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review