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.”

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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.

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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

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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…”

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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.

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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

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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 

September 21 – It’s Self-Awareness Month and Interview with Author/Illustrator Cale Atkinson

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About the Holiday

Self-Awareness Month was established to encourage people to get to know themselves, not as others see them but as they really are. Only when a person really knows who they are, where they’ve come from, and what they want can they achieve happiness. While it can be hard not to compare oneself to others, each person’s value comes from their own spirit, talents, and thoughts. Once people accept themselves, they can find their place in the world and accomplish wonderful things. To celebrate this month’s holiday, take some time to reflect on your life and see if you are being true to yourself.

Where Oliver Fits

By Cale Atkinson

 

Opening the book, you might feel as if you’ve upended a jigsaw puzzle box. But as you look at all the pieces spilled across the page, you’ll realize that each one is so different—and they have legs and faces! So you look at the words: “Do you ever wonder where you fit?”, and you think, “yeah, I do.” Well, “Oliver wondered too.” Who’s Oliver? He’s the little roundish piece down in the corner. Yep, that’s him—the cute one (sure, they’re all cute in their own way, but you know what I mean).

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2017, courtesy of Cale Atkinson and Tundra Books.

Oliver was just getting started on this journey called life, and he “couldn’t wait to see where he fit. He wanted to be part of something exciting…Something wild…Something out of this world!.” Maybe he’d sail the seas as part of a pirate kraken, rock out as the central piece of a guitar-shredding monster, or zoom to the moon as the heart of an astronaut unicorn.

Oliver was excited to start looking around for his perfect place. He met a group of blue and red guys who had a roundish space waiting to be filled, but when he asked about joining, it seemed his colors weren’t a good match. On his second attempt at friendship, Oliver was told he wasn’t square enough. (Didn’t that used to be a good thing?) The third group Oliver approached had a bumpy, angled space to fill. They just laughed when they saw him coming.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-oliver-fits-pirate

Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2017, courtesy of Cale Atkinson and Tundra Books.

Oliver was getting frustrated and feeling down. He decided that he had to change. “Maybe I have to be more like them and less like me,” he thought. Remembering the first group—the one that wanted “more red,” Oliver took a red marker and colored himself in. At first, when they saw him, the group accepted him happily. When the marker began to run, though, he was booted out. Maybe changing his color didn’t work, but what if he altered his shape?

He covered himself with connecting blocks and went in search of the square guys, but when he found them, they told him he was now “too square!” Oliver tried disguise after disguise. Some made him “too tall”; some made him “too short,” and others were just wrong, wrong, wrong. Poor Oliver was at his wit’s end. “If someone else is what they want, someone else is what they’ll get!” he determined.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-oliver-fits-too-much-blue

Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2017, courtesy of Cale Atkinson and Tundra Books.

He took some cardboard, glue, tape, and paint and fashioned himself the perfect bumpy, angled suit. Then he went back to the third group he’d met. Ohhh! They greeted him as an old friend. They loved his shape and his color and invited him to join them. At last Oliver had found a place to fit. In fact, “he fit so well that no one had a clue it was really him.” Oliver was happy—or was he? As he watched other pieces come and go, rejected for not being just right, Oliver began to wonder, “am I really still me?”

The fun of fitting in began to wear off, so he removed his disguise and left the group. While it was good to be himself again, he was back to square one with nowhere to go. Oliver felt dejected. All of his plans to be part of something wild and wonderful were falling apart. He was alone. Suddenly, Oliver saw two other pieces who had also changed to fit in. When they came near and took off their disguises, Oliver saw that he could join them in a—truly—perfect fit. Through his experiences, Oliver “discovered that you can’t rush or force your fit. All you can do is be yourself.” Then the exciting, wild, and out-of-this-world part will take care of itself, because the world isn’t complete without you—or Oliver.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-oliver-fits-too-square

Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2017, courtesy of Cale Atkinson and Tundra Books.

Kids will fall in love with little Oliver the moment they see him. Excited, earnest, and sweet, Oliver is navigating his way through the world, looking for the place he fits best—just the same as they are. Cale Atkinson understands the way children—and adults—try out various groups and even personas while forming friendships and even a sense of self. His conversational style will resonate with readers, many of whom have asked or will ask themselves the same questions as Oliver.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-oliver-fits-monster-unicorn

Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2017, courtesy of Cale Atkinson and Tundra Books.

Atkinson’s use of a puzzle piece as his main character is smart, sophisticated, and fun too. Young readers will giggle at some of Oliver’s disguises even while they recognize that each costume doesn’t “fit.” The image of Oliver encased in his bumpy, angled costume is particularly moving as he comes to the conclusion that hiding himself is not the answer. The final image of the completed puzzle is a delight that children will want to linger over. They’ll enjoy discovering little Oliver in the midst of the life he had imaginated as well as flipping back and forth through the pages to find how each group of pieces fits into the whole.

Where Oliver Fits is a fantastic book for classrooms and a child’s home library for fun story times and for those days when a little more encouragement is needed.

Ages 3 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101919071

Discover more about Cale Atkinson, his books, and his art as well as some pretty amazing animation on his website!

Self-Awareness Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jigsaw-puzzle-craft

I Am… Jigsaw Puzzle

 

Everyone is made up of various talents, personality traits, and feelings that make them unique. With this I Am… Jigsaw Puzzle, you can celebrate the things that make you…you!

Supplies

  • Wooden jigsaw puzzle, available at craft stores
  • Child’s wallet-size photo
  • Paint in various colors
  • Markers
  • Magnetic squares or strips (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Paint the puzzle pieces in any colors or patterns you like, let dry
  2. Glue the picture of yourself to the center puzzle piece
  3. On the other pieces write words that describe you
  4. Attach magnetic squares or strips to the back of the pieces (optional for hanging on a refrigerator)
  5. Put the puzzle together or use the individual pieces as separate magnets to display all of your wonderful qualities!

Q & A with Cale Atkinson

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Today I’m happy to talk with Cale Atkinson about Where Oliver Fits, a major benefit of being a children’s author and illustrator, and his own early self-awareness.

What inspired you to write Where Oliver Fits?

As I was walking home one afternoon I watched everyone around me busily rushing around. Some were going this way, others that way, some in a group, some alone. It made me think how we are all running around, trying to find our fit in life and our fit in the world, much like a bunch of puzzle pieces.

How did you get involved in illustrating and writing picture books?

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Adorable characters inspire and keep Cale company while working.

Ever since I was young I was eager to tell my own stories, be it in the form of comics, cartoon strips, or picture books. I’ve been writing stories from an early age but only started to seriously attempt writing picture books years later, once I had been working as a professional artist and began to understand how to go about it.  I’m still amazed to see a book I’ve written sitting in a bookstore!   

You’ve said that you believe in tea more than sleep. As a fellow tea enthusiast, I’d love to know what your favorite tea is.

I’m actually a simple straight up Orange Pekoe guy! Give me a big box of that Tetley, and I’m happy. As my tea drinking friends dubbed it, I like my peasant tea!

In a letter you once wrote as a child, you show such self-confidence and self-awareness as an artist. Can you talk about that a little?

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Cale Atkinson’s studio – where the magic happens

I honestly don’t really know where that came from! I truly wasn’t a confident kid in most aspects, but for some reason I was always 100% confident that I would become an artist/storyteller in some form or another. I’ve always loved creating as well as sharing my latest story, drawing or idea. I was a shy child, but felt with art I could let the drawings do the talking for me.

If you were a puzzle piece would you rather be an edge piece or one in the center? Why?

I think I would be a corner piece, so I could still be near other pieces to hang out with, but also have my own space when I need it. Rather than being all crammed up on all sides somewhere in the middle!  I would also be able to glimpse the world beyond the puzzle’s edges, and let everyone know what’s out there!

What’s the best thing about writing and illustrating for kids?

Not having to pretend to be an adult.

Do you have an anecdote from a book signing or school visit you’d like to share?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-oliver-fits-cale-atkinson-spongebob-slide

Copyright Cale Atkinson, courtesy of Cale Atkinson

I always love sharing examples of the various things I’ve worked on in my school visits. When I showed a slide of SpongeBob SquarePants from a game I helped work on, the entire group of kids broke out into singing the SpongeBob theme song!

What’s up next for you?

I’m happy to report I have two written/illustrated books coming in 2018!

The first is titled Off & Away, published through Disney Hyperion.  It’s a story of courage, overcoming fears, and larger than life adventures.

The second is titled Sir Simon – Super Scarer, published through Tundra Books.  Simon the ghost introduces us to the world of haunting, what it means to be a ghost, and how much he dreads doing his ghost chores.

What is your favorite holiday?

Halloween, hands down! I love the fun of it! Costumes! Pumpkins! Candy! Old scary movies! What’s not to love?!

Do you have an anecdote from a holiday you’d like to share?

My dad was always into Halloween just as much as my brother and I.  Every year we would add more and more decorations out onto the front lawn. One year we added dry ice, making everything all foggy! Another year my dad made a giant, fully functioning Guillotine, which could cut a full pumpkin in half! Not the safest, but we thought it was amazing (and happy to report none of us lost our heads).

Thanks, Cale, for stopping by today! I’ve really enjoyed our fun, funny, and insightful chat. I wish you all the best with Where Oliver Fits and all of your other books!

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You can find Where Oliver Fits at these Booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Mosaic Books (signed copies available for order)

You can connect with Cale Atkinson on his:

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Tumbler

Picture Book Review

September 20 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Do you ever walk into a bookstore or library and wish you could read all the new books on the shelves? Me too! This month’s holiday encourages readers to get out there (or in there!) and search for some new books to take home and read, read, read!

Small

By Gina Perry

 

A little—and I mean little—girl is out and about in the big—and I mean big—city. All around her are buildings, people, and trees that seem to emphasize her smallness. Standing next to the “wide street. Tall buildings,” she thinks, “I look small.” Compared to the “noisy cars. Speeding bikes,” she even walks small.

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Copyright Gina Perry, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

While buying and eating lunch, the little girl is surrounded by more examples of how tiny she really is. Even the ducks at the pond appear bigger than she is with their oversized QUACK! QUACK! Yes, says the girl as she abandons her “huge food” to the gobbling ducks, “I am small.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-small-gina-perry-hot-dog

Copyright Gina Perry, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

But…in the park she spies a tall slide and with determination climbs the high ladder. At the top and with a Whoosh!, she suddenly says, “I feel big because I can fly.” Down on the blacktop with her colorful chalk, she becomes an artist capable of expressing her big dreams. On the basketball court, she barely comes up to the teenagers’ knees, but, still, the ball she throws rises to the net. “I play big because I am fierce,” she explains.

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Copyright Gina Perry, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

When she’s happy, the little girl’s voice rings through the air, and her bravery allows her to swing through it too. She brings her mom flowers because her heart overflows with love, and when she’s just tall enough to ride the Ferris wheel, she soars over the city because she is “BIG!”

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Copyright Gina Perry, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Gina Perry zeroes in on what it means to be a child surrounded by bigness in her profound and encouraging book that shows young readers that size is not only measured in outward ways, but in the intensity of one’s heart, dreams, personality, and self-confidence. Through visual juxtapositions that kids will recognize and appreciate, Perry demonstrates the various meanings of “small” and “big” that influence a child’s thinking and feelings. When the little girl approaches the slide, however, her perspective changes, allowing her and readers to soar. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-small-gina-perry-basketball

Copyright Gina Perry, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Perry’s distinctive illustrations are full of humor and a very welcome cast of diverse characters. Children will love lingering over each page to talk about the ideas of big and small, long and short, wide and tall and the less-concrete ideas of “bigness” of thought and action. Kids will also like following the yellow butterfly that keeps the little girl company from spread to spread.

Small is a wonderful book to give as a gift or to add to home libraries. It also makes a great discussion starter in classrooms, which are full of children in various stages of growth.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1499804010

Discover more about Gina Perry, her books and her art on her website!

Read a New Book Month Activity

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A Taaalll Stack of Books Coloring Page

 

One new book is great, but a whole stack of new books? Fantastic! Have fun coloring this printable Taaalll Stack of Books Coloring Page and then enjoy reading a new book!

Picture Book Review

September 18 – National Respect Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to help people focus on how they can be more respectful of others—family, friends, and strangers. It’s also a day to think about yourself. Do you respect yourself and your abilities? Self-respect is crucial for achieving your goals, both personal and professional. There are many ways to show respect. Good manners, listening to others, acknowledging others with a “thank you” or “great job,” and inclusion are only a few of the ways that people can start building the kinds of respectful relationships that lead to success.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange

By Adam Rex

 

As the book opens, readers meet two smiling friends—an apple and a pear who ask the jaunty and rhyming question: “Who wouldn’t travel anywhere to get an apple or a pear?” A little purple fruit joins the fun with “And if a chum hands you a plum, be fair and share that tasty treat!” From the sidelines an orange watches in anticipation like a child waiting to leap into a twirling jump rope. When the banana and peach arrive, enjoying a beachside cabana, the orange takes the initiative and calls out, “Hey, are you guys going to need me for this book?”

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

But the action continues with caped grapes and a kind of high-fiving dance party where all the cute fruit are cheering themselves on. The persistent orange peeks out from the background just to remind them that he’s there. As the fig admits that she’s not very big, the orange begins to catch on to the pattern of invitations, and his once-present grin begins to fade. With a shrug he acknowledges that “nothing rhymes with me, but…” he’d still like to be included.

If nearly getting sucker punched by a “peewee” kiwi’s “pucker punch” counts as being included, then the orange is front and center. But then a cantaloupe riding an antelope enters the scene with a dietary suggestion.”If you aren’t a fan of cantaloupe, then feed it to an antelope.” Not a fan of that rhyme? Well…the orange agrees with you, and he’s a little unsure about the quince on the next page too. But…back to the dance party, where all the newly introduced “cute fruit” are now cutting the rug.

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

The produce seem to be losing control as they reach for rhymes. I mean, “you can keep them in a bowl or in a boot—fruit!” Really? Is it actually a good idea to eat out of a shoe? Poor Orange doesn’t “even know what that is.” Want a little philosophy with your fruit? Then try this on for size: “I think cherries are ‘the berries’ and a lychee is just peachy. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a book by Friedrich Nietzsche.” Impressive!

That bit of nonsense just makes Orange mad, though. As Nietzsche throws his hands in the air and joins the festivities, Orange is nonplussed: “I don’t see why he’s in this poem and I’m not.” Good question! And now the banana again?! Didn’t he already have his turn? And the pear? Didn’t she get to lead the whole thing off? Maybe this is one of those circular plots…. Whoa! Here’s a twist—a wolf wants to take a bite of Pear. 

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

But suddenly a transformation takes place that brings up some pretty deep questions: “then does that pear become a pearwolf when the moon is full and bright? Will the apple have to grapple with this pear with fangs and hair?” Now that the story has gone to the dark side, the orange decides he’s “glad he’s not part of it.” Yet, wait! A caped grape comes to the rescue, and Orange realizes that “this book is amazing.”

The cute fruit party is in full swing with a band, a singer, and a whole lot of dancing. The rhymes are coming fast and furious—some a bit better than others, according to Orange—and he decides to just hang out on the next page. There, though, as he stands alone and dejected and surrounded by lots of white space, Orange hears a cheery sound. It’s Apple with a welcoming rhyme: “But the fruit are feeling rotten, ‘cause there’s someone they’ve forgotten.” And while what Apple says next might not technically be a real word, it does the job with a little hip-hop beat: “It’s the orange. He’s really smorange. There’s no one quite as smorange as orange.”

This, of course, could go either way, so Orange asks for a little clarification and discovers that “smorange” means “totally awesome in every way.” And with that, the jam continues, with Smorange Orange out in front.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nothing-rhymes-with-orange-smorange

Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Adam Rex’s cool, funny, and sophisticated riff uses the fact that the word orange has no rhyme to explore the ideas of exclusion and inclusion and show readers that there’s always a way to embrace others and make them feel good and part of the group. 

Rex has created very appealing characters in Orange and the others. Without a mean seed in their bodies, they’re just having fun and being a bit silly. In a very welcome plot turn, Apple and the other fruit recognize that Orange feels left out and come to him with a solution. Rex’s vivacious fruit are as cute as they think they are, and little Orange is endearing with his alternately easy smile and sad eyes. The addition of a dancing Friedrich Nietzsche is genius and will have both kids and adults laughing.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nothing-rhymes-with-orange-apple-and-pear

Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Nothing Rhymes with Orange is a fantastic read-aloud for home and classroom story times. The book would be a much-asked-for favorite and would make a perfect gift or addition to home libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452154435

You’ll have a blast exploring the world of Adam Rex on his website!

National Respect Day Activity

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Initial Respect Craft

 

Here’s an easy craft that you can make for yourself or as a gift for someone else. This Initial Respect Craft can be used as a decoration or as a bookend while it reveals all the qualities that you respect in yourself, a family member, or a friend.

Supplies

  • Wooden letter
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk

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Directions

  1. Paint the letter with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. On the letter, write words that reflect the qualities that you respect in yourself, in a family member, or in a friend
  3. Display your letter to remind yourself that you should always be treated and treat yourself and others with respect.

Picture Book Review