February 18 – It’s Boost Your Self-Esteem Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate self-esteem—that inner knowledge of and appreciation for all the things that make you unique! Having a good self-image is important for living a full and happy life. Taking time now and then to evaluate your feelings, your achievements, and your goals is a worthy exercise. When you believe in yourself you can accomplish more, and like the friends in today’s book you’ll feel like a superhero!

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt

By Ben Clanton

 

In A Super Start, Narwhal and Jelly are hanging out. Narwhal’s excited because after a swim and a waffle he’s “going to become a superhero!” Jelly is surprised that Narwhal thinks it would be so easy, after you need the “super outfits” (Narwhal’s got that covered with a snazzy yellow cape); the “super names” (“Super Narwhal” sounds pretty super to Narwhal): and the secret identities (let me introduce you to the dapper mustachioed and bespectacled Clark Parker Wayne, wealthy and eccentric trillionaire).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-cape

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Super Narwhal is also going to need a sidekick. Jelly kicks around a few names—Shark, Octopus, and Turtle—but Narwhal has someone else in mind. Jelly, of course! Jelly’s eyes widen with the possibilities. Sting or Blue Lightening might be cool monikers, but no!— “Jelly Jolt the Super Sidekick” has an electrifying ring to it. Suddenly, Jelly remembers they’ll need superpowers. Narwhal has trouble being invisible or strong, flying or breathing fire, but there’s something even more important than powers—lunch! Yum, yum! Jelly says, “I think waffles are my super weakness.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-super-sidekick

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

In Narwhal, You’re a Superstar, Super Narwhal has come to the rescue of Star. While Star likes the ocean she thinks that maybe she belongs in the sky. “Maybe I am a real star, but I fell to earth and hit my head or something and now I don’t remember!” she says. Narwhal’s up for helping out, but without super strength he can only toss Star back into the sea. Even with Octopus’s cannon, Narwhal is no more successful. They think about building a rocket ship, but neither is exactly a rocket scientist. Then Narwhal has a super idea. Star wishes on…herself…and “Poof!” Star is back where she belongs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-eat-lunch

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Super Narwhal vs Blue Jelly a.k.a. the Super Superpower finds Clark Parker Wayne, wealthy and eccentric trillionaire discovering a very blue (as in sad) Jelly. In a jiff Super Narwhal appears to save the day! He asks Jelly “What’s wrong? Did someone steal your mustache?” But Jelly’s too blue to join in the repartee. Then Super Narwhal wonders if Jelly’s upset because he set his hair on fire. Jelly seems a bit perturbed at that suggestion—they are underwater, after all. But maybe Super Narwhal is onto something.

Maybe, just maybe, Jelly’s down because a bubble called him “a blue-footed booby,” or because a pirate pig poked him, or because he “got stuck in a tuba!” With a “hee” and a “heehee!” and a “heeheehee!” Jelly is beginning to smile. And when Super Narwhal puts them all together, Jelly can’t help but jiggle with a laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing is. But Super Narwhal is there to help—right? So he somberly asks “what is wrong?” By now, though, Jelly can’t remember.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-kapow

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Jelly gives his Super Friend a super hug. But then he does recall the problem. It seems crab was dissing his superhero outfit and calling him “Jelly Dolt.” “This is a job for Jelly Jolt and Super Narwhal!”, exclaims Narwhal. Jelly’s intrigued, but thinks they ought to leave crab alone. Guided by advice from his “great, great, great, great grandpa Nautilus,” which went something like “Do unto otters,” however, Narwhal reveals that they are off to make crab a superhero.

When they get their, though, Crab isn’t feeling it and lets off some steam, but Super Narwhal is undeterred. “Ahoy Crab! Prepare to be super-fied!” he announces. And with a KAPOW! Crab has become “The Claw! a.k.a. Super Snap!” At last, Super Narwhal has discovered his superpower—the ability to “bring out the super in others.” And with that, Super Narwhal, Jelly Jolt, and Super Snap swim off to Superfy the ocean.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-superfy

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Two more short and funny stories make an appearance between the continuing saga of Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt. Super Sea Creatures is loaded with facts on several types of ocean creatures, and Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick is a delectable comic written by Narwhal and Jelly that’s full danger, heroics, and puns.

Ben Clanton’s adorable Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt, the second in the Narwhal and Jelly series, is a sweet, laugh-inducing romp that is a marvelous take-off on the superhero genre and a perfect way to spend free time with two worthy ocean friends. Clanton fills his comics-style story with plenty of suspense, witty repartee, good advice, and even a bit of science to satisfy any young reader. Narwhal and Jelly, with their eager, inviting smiles, enthusiasm to tackle whatever obstacles get in their way and their ready inclusiveness, are truly superheroes to applauded

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt would make a sunny addition to summer reading and a splash on any child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 6 – 9

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101918296

Discover more about Ben Clanton, his books, and his artwork on his website!

Play along with Narwhal and Jelly on their own website!

Boost Your Self-Esteem Month Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-about-me-robot-sheet

All about Me!

 

The more you know about yourself, the better you’ll be able to share your talents and friendship with others. Fill out one of these printable All about Me! sheets and hang it in your room or school locker to remind yourself how awesome you are!

All about Me! Robot Sheet | All about Me! Stars and Balloons Sheet

Picture Book Review

February 3 – It’s Library Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

Book lovers love the library! The stacks of books, the reading tables, the stacks of books, the quiet study nooks, and…did I mention the stacks of books? Spending time at the library—whether in story time, perusing the shelves, or reading in a comfortable chair—is a fun way to wile away a morning or afternoon. To celebrate this month, check out the special events at your library, and take an extra moment while checking out your books to thank your librarian!

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Written by Lisa Papp

 

Madeline does not like to read—anything. “Not books. Not magazines. Not even the menu on the ice-cream truck.” Madeline especially doesn’t like to read out loud. At school the teacher tells her to keep trying, but the words often don’t make sense, sentences get stuck in her mouth “like peanut butter,” and other kids laugh when she gets things wrong.

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Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Madeline would love to get a star sticker or even a smiley face for reading, but she only ever gets “Keep Trying” stickers. “Stars are for good readers, Stars are for understanding words, and for reading them out loud.” But Madeline knows that stars are also for making wishes, so she wishes for her very own star. All week Madeline waits for her star, but by Friday she still doesn’t have one.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-wishes

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

On Saturday Madeline’s mother takes her to the library, where Madeline reminds the librarian that she doesn’t like to read. Mrs. Dimple tells her that today they have something she might enjoy. The librarian asks her, “‘Madeline Finn, would you like to read to a dog?’” Madeline looks into the reading room to see kids and all kinds of dogs—big and small—on the reading rug.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-rug

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Mrs. Dimple introduces Madeline to Bonnie and tells her that Bonnie is a very good listener. Madeline thinks “Bonnie is beautiful. Like a big, snowy polar bear.” Madeline chooses a book and begins to read. At first the letters get “mixed up, and the words don’t sound right.” Madeline looks at Bonnie and Bonnie gently looks back at her. She doesn’t giggle like the kids at school, and Madeline feels better. She begins again. When Madeline gets stuck on another word, Bonnie doesn’t mind. She just puts her paws in Madeline’s lap and waits until she figures it out. After that, Madeline and Bonnie “read together every Saturday. It’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes,” Madeline thinks.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-meets-bonnie

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Bonnie teaches Madeline to be patient—even about getting a star sticker. Pretty soon it’s time to read aloud at school again. Madeline goes to the library on Saturday to practice with Bonnie, but neither she nor Mrs. Dimple are there. Back at home, Madeline worries. But her mom tells her that Bonnie was just busy and that she will do fine at school. She suggests, “Just pretend that you’re reading to Bonnie.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-with-bonnie

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

On Monday, Madeline is nervous as she gets up to read. “The first sentence goes pretty well,” but in the next Madeline makes a mistake, and then another. She hears someone giggle. Madeline takes a deep breath and pretends that Bonnie is next to her. Before she knows it, she’s at the bottom of the page. Madeline looks “at her teacher, and she has a big smile on her face.”

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Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Holding her star in her hand, Madeline exclaims, “I did it! I got my star!” On Saturday, Madeline shows Mrs. Dimple her star. She’s excited for Madeline then tells her that Bonnie has a surprise for her too. Mrs. Dimple opens the door to the reading room and asks, “Madeline Finn, would you like to read to Bonnie–and her puppies? Yes, please!” Madeline says. “Nice and loud.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-puppies

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is a gentle and uplifting story for all children—whether they are reluctant or avid readers. Lisa Papp’s moving portrayal of a little girl struggling to read, keep up with her classmates, and attain a gold star is filled with honesty and heartfelt emotion. Papp’s pacing is excellent, demonstrating Madeline’s ongoing efforts, and Bonnie’s absence right before reading day allows for Madeline to find within herself the courage and confidence to read in front of her class. Papp’s story is a good reminder that a nonjudgmental environment is best for anyone trying to learn a new skill.

Papp’s soft-hued illustrations beautifully represent her story with realistic portrayals of the kids at school, Madeline’s frustrations at “messing up” words and sentences, and Madeline’s hopeful nature and perseverance to achieve reading success. The calm, quiet tone to Papp’s illustrations echo the acceptance that Bonnie offers to Madeline. Kids will love the sweet reading therapy dogs and are sure to pick out the one they would most enjoy reading to.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is an encouraging story for reluctant or struggling readers at home and a thoughtful addition to classroom libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Peachtree Publishing, 2016 | ISBN 978-1561459100

Discover more about Lisa Papp and her books on her website

Library Lovers Month Activity

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Reading Buddy Bookmark

 

Puppy’s make great reading companions! With this printable Reading Buddy Bookmark you’ll always have a friend to read with!

Picture Book Review

January 25 – Opposite Day

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About the Holiday

It’s Opposite Day! If you hear that the sky’s blue, it’s probably gray, if you’re told dinner’s yucky, that’s a compliment, and if your boss says that report is due today—well, you better finish it because not everyone plays along. Kids are especially fond of today’s holiday, and why not? Challenging yourself to think differently is fun! Of course there’s one emotion that can make us act a little turned upside down and backwards every day—as you’ll see in today’s book!

When an Elephant Falls in Love

Written by Davide Cali | Illustrated by Alice Lotti

 

“When an elephant falls in love, he does many foolish things.” He takes unusual risks and hides when he sees the apple of his eye. Instead of sloughing off in the hygiene departmet, he “takes a bath every day, and even washes behind his ears.” Even though he knows it’s better to eat nutritious foods, there’s that yummy dessert in the fridge that calls to him.

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

While his appearance never seemed to concern him before, now “he dresses with care” even though deciding which tie to wear is difficult. Letters to his beloved get written and then crumpled up and tossed away. And his work is abandoned in favor of “staring at the clouds for hours and hours.”

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

When he gathers his courage, the elephant in love will get close to his loved one—well, close enough to leave flowers, but not so close that he stays after ringing the bell. Sometimes that happy, in-love feeling turns into sadness when the elephant thinks, “‘If only she knew I existed!’” There comes a day, however, when it all comes together—the natty dressing, the nice, clean scent, the words in the letters, and those flowers that are discovered before the elephant has fully disappeared. What happens then? “It’s love!”

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Copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Davide Cali’s sweetly honest look at what it’s like to fall in love—for the first time or any time—will charm young readers and resonate with adults. The story is enchanting in its unapologetic presentation of the “foolish” things the elephant does—all things that are just part of growing up. Readers will see that with a few steps forward (and a few steps back), they will achieve their heart’s desire.

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Alice Lotti’s little boulder of an elephant is as adorable as they come. With a tiny dot of an eye and simple lines accenting his ears, toes, and trunk, the elephant expressively goes about his days with her on his mind. Lotti’s white background highlights the elephant as he walks a tightrope holding a tiny pink umbrella, showers himself while immersed in a claw-foot bathtub, and searches the mirror for the answer between the green and orange tie. Lotti’s color palette is fresh and vibrant, and her clean lines give the illustrations a sophisticated look. The elephant’s beautifully textured, mottled hide lends a soft vulnerability to her sensitive pachyderm. Readers will have fun spotting the little yellow bird that is the elephant’s constant companion, a special cloud floating into view, and the flowers that bring the two elephants together.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452147277

Learn more about Alice Lotti and view a portfolio of her artwork on her website.

Opposite Day Activity

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Fall in Love with Dot-to-Dots

 

Dot-to-Dot pictures offer a little bit for everyone—a little mystery, a little counting, a little bit to color, and a lot of fun! Since it’s Opposite Day, why not work from the last number to the first in this printable Fall in Love with Dot-to-Dots.

Picture Book Review

October 10 – National Face Your Fears Day

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About the Holiday

Going outside your comfort zone can be scary, but being afraid holds you back and affects your quality of life. Today’s holiday encourages people to face their fears and overcome trepidation or hesitance and say, “I’m going to do it!” Perhaps knowing that others are also trying the hard thing today will provide a little extra courage. You never know what you can achieve until you take that first step!

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)

By Dan Santat

 

If readers don’t quite remember what happened to Humpty Dumpty back in the day,  his unfortunate accident is captured on the title page. But this is not a story about falling (we all do that sometimes). Instead, as the subtitle reveals, it’s about the recovery. Here, Humpty Dumpty tells his story his way—what really happened on that fateful day and afterward.

Humpty takes readers back to the scene where it all happened: his “favorite spot high up on the wall.” He acknowledges that it’s a strange place for such a fragile being to be, but up there he felt closer to the birds. He goes on to say that he’s not really comfortable with all the fuss and the fancy “Great Fall” title. It was just a mistake; even if that mistake did change his life.

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Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

It turns out that despite what we’ve all learned, the king’s men were able to patch Humpty up. Well, at least partly. His shell was repaired, but inside? “There were some parts that couldn’t be healed with bandages and glue.” Where Humpty once loved his bunk bed above his desk, he now slept on a mat on the floor; he only bought items from the lowest grocery store shelves; and even though he passed the wall every day, he knew he could never climb the ladder to the top again.

Humpty resigned himself to watching the birds from the ground through a pair of binoculars. Then, one day, a paper airplane streaked across the sky and gave him an idea. Paper airplanes looked so easy to make, but Humpty found it hard. Day after day he struggled, suffering paper cuts and scratches. One day, though, he “got it just right.” In his hand was a beautiful paper bird.

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Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

Humpty took his bird plane outside and launched it into the air. “It flew like nothing could stop it.” Humpty felt happier than he had in ages, and even though watching his plane wasn’t the same as being on top of the wall among the birds, “it was close enough.” But then the unthinkable happened—the bird plane flew over the wall. Humpty was well aware that “unfortunately, accidents happen…they always do.”

For a minute Humpty Dumpty considered walking away. But then he remembered all the work he’d put into his plane, which led him to think about all the things he was missing out on. He looked up that tall, tall ladder and started to climb. The farther up he got, though, the more afraid he became. Without looking up or down, he continued climbing. “One step at a time.”

When he reached the top, he “was no longer afraid.” At that moment, as his shell began to crack and he felt lighter and more powerful. Humpty tells readers that he hopes they won’t remember him as “that egg who was famous for falling,” but as “the egg who got back up and learned how to fly.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-after-the-fall-cereals

Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

Dan Santat deftly works with preconceived notions and a well-known idiom to turn the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty into an inspirational “happily ever after” story. Just as fears can come to define a person, traditional interpretations of this tale classify Humpty as a chicken egg and specify his lack of repair as physical. But what if, as Santat envisions, Humpty is the egg of a bird that soars and that his hurts are more internal? Then readers can identify with this hero who doesn’t give in and who conquers his fear to come out of his shell and fly. Santat’s honest, straightforward storytelling will resonate with young readers and listeners. The gentle reassurance in After the Fall will encourage children to try again—one step at a time.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-after-the-fall-walking-past-wall

Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

Santat’s luminous illustrations express wonder, humor, and touching moments in ways that not only enhance the story but make readers think about other issues as well.  Children will want to linger over the pages to catch all the references to Humpty’s bird watching hobby, take in the enormity of the wall that Humpty Dumpty confronts, and catch humorous takes on the original rhyme, including Santat’s King’s County Hospital. Adults and kids alike will enjoy poring over and discussing the wall of cereals, and as Humpty’s tiny hand reaches for the next rung on the ladder adults may feel a lump in their throats. When Humpty breaks free of his shell and emerges in the same form as the paper bird he created, readers may consider whether Humpty spent time only working on his toy or on himself as well.

After the Fall is a picture book that offers reassurance and invites deeper discussion. The book would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626726826

Learn more about Dan Santat and After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) on the book’s website.

Face your Fears Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mind-jar

Calming Sensory Jar

 

You can capture the beauty of a glittering snowfall in this easy craft—that also makes a special gift for a friend!

Supplies

  • Small to medium mason jar or other decorative jar with a tight lid
  • White glitter glue,
  • Light blue glitter glue,
  • Fine white and/or blue glitter
  • Large white and/or blue glitter
  • Warm water

Directions

1. For every 1/2 cup of warm water add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue glitter glue
  • 2 teaspoons fine glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon large glitter

2. Close lid tight

3. Shake

4. As glue dissolves, the liquid will become clearer and the glitter will remain suspended in it

Picture Books Review

 

September 26 – Love Note Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to communicate how they feel about each other by writing a note of affection to their special someone, child, or friend. Sure, you can always text your note, but why not get creative? Leave your note on the bathroom mirror, tuck a written message into a lunch bag, hide a post-it in your loved-one’s shoe, or drop a letter off in person and share a cup of tea. Of course, you may choose to send a different kind of love note—as you’ll see in today’s book!

Little Wolf’s First Howling

Written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky | Illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee

 

The day had come for a big step in Little Wolf’s education. As Big Wolf led his son to the top of the hill, Little Wolf hung back, exploring every plant and rock formation. “‘Tonight’s the night,’ said Big Wolf, “‘Your first howling.’ Little Wolf’s ears shivered with excitement. ‘I’m ready,’ he said. ‘I’m ready to howl!’” They sat on the hill watching the stars and the moon appear. Little Wolf was eager to start.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

First, however, Big Wolf needed to “demonstrate proper howling form.” He stood up, breathed deeply, and lifted his face to the dark sky. “AAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” he howled, letting the last notes fade into the night air. The sound thrilled Little Wolf. He leaped on a fallen tree, raised his head and let out an “aaaaaaaaaaooooooooooooo I’m hoooowling, ‘oooowling, ‘ooooowling!”

Big Wolf gazed at his son with amusement and surprise and gently told him that he did not use proper finishing form. Again he demonstrated. Little Wolf was sure he knew how to do it now. He raised his head high and gave it all his might. “aaaaaaaaaaoooooooo…dibbity dobbity skibbity skobbity skooo-wooooo-wooooooooooo.” Little Wolf enthusiastically waited for his father’s opinion.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf wanted to be supportive; he wanted to be a good dad. “‘Son, I am proud of your nose, which has led to many new trails. I admire your strength when you tumble with the other pups. Most of all, I love how your ears express your thoughts. But your howling? It is not proper howling form.’”

Little Wolf felt listened carefully one more time as his father showed him again how to howl. The call was beautiful as it echoed over the hills. Then it was Little Wolf’s turn. Inside, his “heart swelled with wildness and joy,” and even though he knew what was welling up inside of him was not correct form, he opened his muzzle and let it out: “skiddily skoddily beep bop, a booobooo booooooooo…boppita boppita wheeee bop, a diddily daddily doooooooooooooo…”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-wolf's-first-howling-big-wolf-demonstrating

Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf cocked his head and perked up his hears and listened closely. As the notes floated past him, “his tail started wagging. His ears started twitching. His paws started tapping.” Then, before he knew it, he joined in with a “yip-yip a dibby, dibby, do-wop a dooooooooo!,” and Little Wolf repeated it back. As the sky grew darker and the moon rose high, the two voiced filled the valley with jazzy music.

The time grew late, and father and son headed back home. Little Wolf couldn’t wait to tell the others about his first howling. “‘Big Wolf smiled. ‘Oh, I expect they already know,’” he said.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-wolf's-first-howling-howling-together

Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Laura McGee Kvasnosky’s father and son story is heartening in many ways. Big Wolf’s gentle and patient teaching style shows the love he has for his child while Little Wolf’s eagerness to please his dad is equally warm, but also overflowing with his own personality. In Big Wolf, Kvasnosky has created a wonderful adult character. By prefacing his instructions with Little Wolf’s strengths, Big Wolf demonstrates not only proper howling form, but also a beautiful understanding of how to build Little Wolf’s self-confidence and self-image. His willingness to really listen to Little Wolf’s howling and allow his son to take the lead is a lesson that is enriching for both children and adult readers. Kids will adore howling like Little Wolf, and adults will smile at the last line, which is full of humor and love.

Kate Harvey McGee’s gorgeous nighttime scenery provides the perfect backdrop to this sweet story. As the night grows darker, her blues become lush and deep, highlighting Big and Little Wolf as they raise their voices to the bright full moon. Yellow accents in the flowers, typography, and tiny owlets create a cozy glow that reflects the love between father and son. Stippling of the wolves fur coats brings these beautiful animals to life. Images of the father and son, both close together and a bit farther apart, mirror their relationship and the pup’s growing independence.

Little Wolf’s First Howling is a fantastic read aloud and a cozy book to snuggle up with at bedtime. It would be a much-asked for favorite for home libraries and classrooms.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763689711

You can learn more about Laura McGee Kvasnosky and her books—and find cool projects to do too—on her website!

Love Note Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kindness-cards

Love Notes to Share

 

Today’s a perfect time to share your feelings with those you love! Print out these cute Love Notes and give them to your favorite people!

Picture Book Review

September 25 – World Dream Day and Interview with Author Michelle Cuevas

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About the Holiday

World Dream Day is a global participatory holiday that encourages individuals, schools, businesses, and families to focus on their dreams and make them reality. Discovering and acting on your dreams can transform not only your life, but the lives of others. Imagine how the world could change if everyone had the opportunity to live their dreams. Today, feel inspired and empowered to do or become whatever you’ve always dreamed of!

Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow

Written by Michelle Cuevas | Illustrated by Sydney Smith

 

Smoot the Shadow was bored. Bored. Bored. For seven and a half years, he’d been doing the same things over and over. Every day, he and his boy—to whom he was firmly connected—“brushed the same teeth, frowned the same frown, and drew the same pictures—always staying perfectly inside the lines.” Smoot’s boy never jumped, ran, or even laughed, so Smoot never did either.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

Excet at night. Then, while the boy slept, Smoot dreamed. He dreamed in a multitude of colors about singing, dancing, and having fun. One day, with an unexpected “pop” Smoot became free of his boy. He didn’t waste a moment, but packed a few things and headed out into the world. He jumped rope, rode a carousel and climbed a tree to say hello to a little bird. He even got to dance in a field of multicolored wildflowers just like in his dreams.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

Suddenly, other shadows took notice. As they watched Smoot play, they became braver too. “‘If he can follow his dreams, we can too,’” they reasoned. The first shadow to take the plunge was a dandelion. As it soared away into the sky, becoming an indistinct form, people tried to guess what it was. All this attention emboldened the shadows of a cricket and a grasshopper who had “formed a band, but were nervous about playing music in public.” Their shadows, however, picked up their instruments and played “like cool shade on a hot afternoon.”

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

A frog’s shadow discovered his inner prince, and a dragonfly’s shadow floated out over the city as a ferocious dragon. Even a lowly rock’s shadow had dreams of greatness, transforming into “a cathedral, and then a skyscraper, and finally a castle that reached the clouds.” Smoot began to grow afraid of the imagination he’d unleashed. What if the shadows of zoo animals escaped and roamed through town or if the sun was eclipsed by the shadow of an enormous whale? How would anyone catch them?

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

But Smoot had an idea. He made a castle from the ambitious rock and some others. The frog moved in to live like a prince, and the dragonfly guarded the gate. Then Smoot sang with the grasshopper and cricket to give them more courage, and he blew the dandelion seeds into the air. The shadows all saw that their dreams had come true, so they returned to their owners, who also felt different.

And Smoot’s boy? All the excitement had inspired him to be more like his shadow. After he and his shadow reconnected, they ran, tumbled, jumped in puddles, and played in “singing, ringing, flying, vibrant, dancing color.”

Through her rambunctious shadows, Michelle Cuevas creatively externalizes that small (or loud) voice inside many people that is yearning to be heard and acted on. For many children and adults, giving free reign to their alter ego can feel uncomfortable or even frightening. In her lyrical and uplifting book, Cuevas reveals these dreams for greatness, recognition, or freedom and encourages readers to let go and chase them. She shines a light on how they can take that first step through play, teaming up, or using their imagination and talents to make their dreams come alive.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of sydneydraws.tumblr.com.

Sydney Smith’s striking images immediately orient readers to the monotone world the boy lives in. While outside the window colors abound, inside, the boy sits on a gray sofa with a black-and-white rug and his black-and-white dog nearby. The walls are white, the floor is dull, and even the plant—standing away from the light of the window—is browning. Perhaps, however, the painting above the boy offers hope and a little foreshadowing: Black images play on a white canvas, but a swipe of blue and a red dot add lively, colorful accents. Likewise, the red-covered book the boy reads is a bright spot in this otherwise dreary room.

The boy’s shadow, however, dreams in color. When Smoot pops free of his restraints and goes on a play-filled adventure, the illustrations are full of action and vibrancy. Smoot smiles and exults in his freedom. His joy is infectious, and his antics and clever ways of ensuring that each character gets to fulfill their aspirations will inspire children to uncover their own inner world.

Smoot: a Rebellious Shadow is a heartfelt and empowering book for hesitant and more adventurous children alike. It would make an ideal book for home libraries and classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN  978-0525429692

Discover more about Michelle Cuevas and her books for children and tweens on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Sydney Smith on Tumbler!

World Dream Day Activity

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Live Your Dream! Shadow Blackboard

 

Shadows are fun to create and play with! Making a black board from a shadow is a great way to show your imagination while making a useful decoration for your room. Put on your inventive thinking cap and devise a unique shadow by using toys or other objects from home. You can even make a shadow of yourself! Making the blackboard may require two people.

Supplies

  • Black thick poster board, 1 or 2 pieces or a tri-fold depending on how large your blackboard will be
  • Large sheet of white or light paper
  • Objects to create the shadow
  • Pencil
  • Scissors or x-acto knife
  • Mounting squares or tape
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. To Make a Shadow Blackboard from an object or objects
  2. Choose two or three objects, such as toys, musical instruments, shoes, knick-knacks, etc., that will make interesting shapes or ideas. Arrange the objects in a way to create the picture you want. (In the photo above, a cactus-shaped pillow and a ukulele were used to create the shadow)
  3. Either outside in a sunny spot or inside with a light, lay the white paper on the ground
  4. As one person holds the item or items above the paper, trace the shadow.
  5. Alternately, if the objects are large enough, you can arrange them and trace them on the white paper or directly on the black poster board.
  6. Cut the shadow out of the white paper
  7. Trace the shadow on the black poster board with the chalk
  8. Cut the image out of the black poster board
  9. Attach the shadow blackboard to your wall with the mounting squares or tape
  10. Use colored chalk to write or draw your dreams and doodles on your blackboard

To Make a Shadow Blackboard of Yourself

  1. Lie down on the white paper
  2. Strike a pose
  3. Have someone else trace you
  4. Cut out your figure
  5. Trace the figure onto the black poster board
  6. Cut out the figure from the black poster board
  7. Attach to the wall with the mounting squares

Meet Author Michelle Cuevas

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I’m excited to talk with Michelle Cuevas today about Smoot, her research adventures, and her very innovative Halloween costumes!

What draws you to write quiet picture books about introspective characters?

I actually think about this question a lot! I suppose it has to do with being a bit of a lone wolf as a kid – I loved making up song lyrics, building rock gardens, writing a newspaper about the lives of neighborhood animals. I was good at creating little worlds inside my own world, (I have three brothers, so I had company, but mostly the fighting-over-monopoly kind). I also think that in everyday life, it’s not always the big-bad-villain-monster that we’re up against. Often the things we face are inside – fear, loneliness, grief. I like characters who take on that kind of struggle, who make the everyday ‘okay this is hard but I’m going to keep trying’ feel extraordinary.

What was your inspiration for Smoot?

Smoot came to me when I had a couple candles lit and the shadows made me think I should do a book about shadow puppets… or a shadow puppeteer… something in that world. As I started writing, I realized that the most interesting character by far was the shadow. What were the shadow’s innermost dreams? Thoughts? Ideas? A lot of people ask about his name also. I think it’s a combination of “smudge” and “soot,” (though a child I met suggested it could also be “small” and “foot.” Definitely possible). I have such a great time naming characters in my books, I think I would thoroughly enjoy a career at Crayola in the color-naming department.

If you were a runaway shadow, where would you go or what would you do?

If I were a runaway shadow I might like to try being other things for a while – you could go be the shadow of a galloping horse, a skyscraper, a cloud across the surface of the ocean. The possibilities are pretty endless.

One of your activities is falconry, which conjures up such wonderful images. Could you tell how you became involved in falconry and a little bit about it?

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I like to do research for my books, so falconry started as research for my second novel about a boy who is half bird and hatched from an egg. I got very interested in it, even looking into getting my own Harris Hawk, but it takes many years and several days of hunting every week. Maybe someday!

I’ve also done research by riding elephants, bird banding with ornithologists, interviewing astrophysicists, spending time with butterflies, and more. It’s a really interesting part of my job!

Your research sounds fascinating and such fun! Is there anything you’d like to try that you haven’t yet?

I like to keep trying new things as a writer, and one new adventure I’m trying is artwork. I LOVED Shel Silverstein as a kid, so I’m pretty sure he’s my inspiration. I’ve been afraid to illustrate my own picture book, so far just sticking to little line drawings in my last two novels.

Perhaps I’ll take a cue from Smoot, be brave, and give picture books a try in the near future!

In your beautiful The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, the main character collects and delivers messages sent through bottles tossed into the sea. If you were going to write such a note to your readers, what would you say?

My dedication for Uncorker read:

For the Ocean Bottle Senders and Ocean Bottle seekers:

Try. Want. Wish. Tell

Is everyone as intrigued by book dedications as I am? When I read a book, I love imagining who the people are in the dedications, why did the author choose them? I often think about themes of my books when I write a dedication to a specific person. Since Uncorker is about a man with no name, and since the messages sent in bottles are often to no one in particular, I decided my dedication should reflect both of these feelings too.

As an author of middle grade and picture books, what do you find is the best part of writing for children?

The best part of writing for children… well, from my perspective, the best part is the sense of fun. I started out during my fiction MFA writing stories for adults. I’d often turn in stories with talking plants or deer that broke into houses. These stories confused the other writers in my program. Who were they for? Not serious-thinking adults. My mom sent me care packages, often with books inside, mostly kids’ books I had loved when I was younger or new ones she thought looked cute. I read them and it was a light bulb-over-my-head moment. I started writing my first novel about a prolific painting elephant my last year of graduate school and suddenly, my writing felt like me. I was able to do all the wild, free, magical things I had wanted to do all along in my writing. I was finally having fun.

And I think the best part in the “interacting with the world” category is when a child (or adult) says they connected to a character, or that a character’s tale made them cry. We don’t know one another very well, but I know how it feels when a book makes me cry. It’s a remarkable connection, really blows me away every time.

What’s Up Next for You?

Up next for me are visiting schools to talk about my new books Smoot and The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole. In April 2018 I have a new picture book out with Catia Chien called Town of Turtle. It’s about a turtle who decides to do some renovations to his shell, which of course get wildly out of hand.

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I have to ask: what is your favorite holiday, and do you have any stories you’d like to share?

My favorite holiday… I’ve always loved making costumes and the idea of getting to be a character on Halloween. Even in the last few years I’ve been… a pro wrestler, a deer with branch antlers, Cindy Lou-Who, a falconer… the list goes on. Last year I was Lydia Deetz from the movie Beetlejuice. When I was Cindy Lou-Who I spent a couple days making a wire-rigged headpiece with some very architectural hair. Making the costume is half the fun. I have several glue gun burns to prove it.

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I also got my Bernese Mountain dog a backpack to hand out candy. I don’t usually let him wear clothing, but made an exception for lollipop duty.

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Thanks, Michelle, for the fun and inspiring interview—and all of the fantastic pics! I wish you all the best with Smoot and all of your other books!

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You can find Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow at these booksellers

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

You can connect with Michelle on: her website | Twitter

Picture Book Review

September 24 – National Punctuation Day

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About the Holiday

What’s so great about punctuation? Everything! Using correct punctuation allows you to express exactly what you mean. You’ve seen—and no doubt laughed at—examples of misplaced or misused punctuation: “Let’s eat John” versus “Let’s eat, John” and the random placement of quotation marks when no one’s talking or referencing another source. And while in the grand scheme of things the series comma may not make that much difference in some cases, but lawsuits have been won and lost on just this detail. Texting has changed the way punctuation is used—or not, and while a smiley face may be a substitute for the exclamation mark or a frowny face an emotive period in casual communications, knowing the rules of punctuation for school and business is still important. Today, why not pay more attention to the way punctuation is used to make formal communications as well as books clearer and more meaningful.

Exclamation Mark

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal | Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

 

! “stood out from the very beginning.” When he was standing in a row of ……, it didn’t matter if he was in the middle or at the end—he still stuck out. The only time he wasn’t so noticeable was when he laid down to go to sleep. Sometimes he twisted himself into coils and did somersaults to be like the others, but nothing worked. “He just wasn’t like everyone else. Period.” This left him feeling “confused, flummoxed, and deflated.”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

He was just about to run away from all his problems when he met ?. ? rushed right up to him and wanted to know everything. “Who are you?…What’s your favorite color? Do you like frogs?…Do you wanna race to the corner? Is there an echo in here? Is there an echo in here?…Why do you look so surprised?….” The list went on and on.

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

“STOP!” ! shouted. The sound stunned him. ? smiled and wanted him to do it again. ! didn’t know if he could, so he tried a small “Hi!” “That felt right, so he tried something bigger. Howdy!” And then he said, “Wow!” After that there was no stopping him: “You’re it!…Home run!…Yum!…Look out!…Thanks!…Boo!…Go!”

He rushed off to show everyone what he could do. The …… were delighted and “there was much exclaiming.” Now feeling happy and confident, ! “went off to make his mark.”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s clever story of an exclamation point searching for self expression is as moving as it is original. Kids will recognize his feelings of sticking out in a crowd and uncertainty of purpose and applaude when ? comes on the scene to befriend !. Readers will giggle knowingly at the barrage of questions, and feel emboldened themselves as ! finds his voice and his own unique contribution.

Tom Lichtenheld’s adorable punctuation marks hanging out on kid-ruled paper demonstrate all the expression and expressions of this well-crafted story. With simple dot eyes and small streak mouths, Lichtenheld animates the various emotions of the periods, exclamation mark, and question mark as they discover !’s special talent with individuality for each. The unbridled exuberance of ?‘s and !’s meeting makes this a terrific book about friendship as well.

! deftly points out “What would we do without exclamation points?” Likewise it asks, “What would we do without each one of us?” The positive message, creatively and humorously presented, makes this book a terrific addition to any child’s library.

Scholastic Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-054543679

You’ll find more about Amy Krouse Rosenthal, her books for children and adults, videos, other projects, and so much more on her website!

Discover a portfolio of books by Tom Lichtenheld as well as fun book-related activities and resources for teachers on his website!

!!!! for this ! book trailer!

National Punctuation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pencil-riding-kids-find-the-differencesExcellent Writers Find the Differences Puzzle

 

These kids love to write and know their punctuation! Can you find the twelve differences in this printable Excellent Writers Find the Differences Puzzle?

Picture Book Review