June 1 – National Say Something Nice Day

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About the Holiday

Starting off the month of June with a compliment, encouragement, or praise for the people in your life can only make the summer brighter for everyone. In today’s world where too often bullying and negativity are evident, a single nice word or action can make a tremendous difference in how people feel about themselves and those around them. To celebrate today’s holiday, look for opportunities to say something nice to your family members, friends, and those you meet during the day. But don’t just make this a one-day thing, whenever you see that you can share a smile or a laugh, tell someone they’re doing a good job, or help out—do it!

Be Kind

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jen Hill

 

At school during snack time when Tanisha spilled grape juice on her new dress, the class burst out laughing. One student remembered that their mom always taught them to be kind and tried to make Tanisha feel better by saying, “Purple is my favorite color.” The student thought Tanisha would smile, but she just ran away. All during art class, Tanisha’s classmate thought about what they should have done instead, wondering, “What does it mean to be kind anyway?”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

They think, “Maybe it’s giving.” Like baking treats for someone who lives alone, or giving away old clothes to someone who can use them. Helping out might also show kindness. For instance, “putting dirty dishes in the sink” or taking care of a pet. Paying attention to others could be another way to show you care. Like noticing someone’s new shoes, offering to be the new girl’s partner in class, or even just listening to someone’s stories—even if you’ve heard them before. Sometimes being kind is easy, but there are other times when it can be challenging or even scary—“like sticking up for someone when other kids aren’t kind.”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The child decides that maybe all they can do for Tanisha is to sit near her and paint her a picture of purple and green—of pretty violets. They hope that small acts like these will join with other people’s and that they will expand, fanning out from school into the community, across the country, around the world, and back. “So we can be kind. Again. And again. And again.”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Miller’s tender prose is perfect for planting the seeds of kindness and opening discussions about what it means to be caring and compassionate. With more and more children speaking up and creating change, Miller’s gentle and affirming story shows readers that it’s often the little things that count the most. Some of the examples she gives are acts that many children may do already, confirming their innate sensitivity, while others may spark new ideas and expand readers’ definition of kindness.

Jen Hill’s soft-hued illustrations beautifully depict the emotional tug at the heart that Tanisha’s spilled grape juice sets in motion for the protagonist and young readers. As one caring child wonders what kindness really is, Hill clearly portrays diverse children helping out at home, at school, and in their community locally and—as the kindness spreads—around the world. Hill draws the caring student with gender neutral clothing and hair, allowing all children to relate to the story’s main character. 

Be Kind is a lovely perceptive and sensitive book that would be an asset to any home or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1626723214

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jen Hill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Say Something Nice Day Activity

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Say Something Nice! Cards

 

Do you want to give someone a nice surprise? Print out these cards and give one to a friend, to someone you’d like to know, or to anyone who looks like they need a pick-me-up! If you’d like to make your own cards, print out the blank template and write and/or draw your own message! You can also print these on adhesive paper and make your own stickers.

Say Something Nice! Cards | Say Something Nice! Cards Blank Template

Picture book review

January 27 – National Seed Swap Day

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About the Holiday

If you love to garden, you may want to get involved with National Seed Swap Day! The first Seed Swap Day was held in Washington DC in 2006. Since then it has grown to be a nation-wide event as gardeners get together to trade the seeds from their best plants. Not only does this improve the biodiversity in your local area, it’s a great way to make new friends! To learn more about what events are planned in your area, visit the official National Seed Swap blog.

The Bad Seed

Written by Jory John | Illustrated by Pete Oswald

 

A sunflower seed stares straight off the page and admits it: “I’m a bad seed. A baaaaaaaad seed.” He knows that all the other seeds feel the same way. They point him out and mumble, “There goes a baaaad seed.” You might wonder just how bad a seed he can be. Pretty bad…he’ll tell you himself. Are you ready? Take a listen: “I never put things back where they belong. I’m late to everything. I tell long jokes with no punchlines.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Heard enough? Still think this seed may not be so bad? Well, what if you knew he was unhygienic, a little untruthful, and sometimes a lot inconsiderate. Why does he do this stuff? You know…he’s “a bad seed. A baaaad seed.” Was he always this way, you might wonder. The answer’s No. In fact, he “was born a humble seed on a simple sunflower in an unremarkable field.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He just hung out with his big family of seeds until the flower began to droop, the seeds scattered and then…there was this bag. The seed was almost eaten by a giant with a big, scary mouth but was “spit out at the last possible second.” He landed under the bleachers, and when he woke up he found his life changed forever. He had “become a different seed entirely.” He’d “become a bad seed.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He was in unknown territory, by himself. He’s happy to share the sad details: “I stopped smiling. I kept to myself. I drifted. I was friend to nobody and bad to everybody. I was lost on purpose. I lived inside a soda can. I didn’t care. And it suited me.” That is it did suit him until recently. This seed did some soul searching, and decided to be better.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

So now he still does some of that bad stuff (did you hear someone talking during a movie? That was probably him), but he does some good stuff too—like having good manners and smiling at people. Now, he says, “even though I still feel bad, sometimes, I also feel kind of good. It’s sort of a mix.” He’s just going to keep trying, and thinking, and readjusting his behavior and his view of himself. And now when he’s walking down the street, he still hears, “There goes that bad seed.” But he also hears, “Actually, he’s not all that bad anymore.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Jory John’s sly look at bad behavior is a sophisticated psychological thriller for the youngest set. John’s humorous take on the “bad seed” descriptor gives him full reign to explore some of the more serious life events that can cause sadness, loneliness, and even personality changes. As the once-happy seed loses his home, scatters from family, and ends up a bit bruised and battered, he sees his once sunny life turn dark.

With a hardened heart, he goes about his days, acting badly and letting the comments of others define him. To his credit, however, this seed has the presence of mind—and enough honesty—to recognize his bad behavior and also to know that only he can change it. The niceties that the seed foregoes will have kids and adults laughing out loud as his reputation seems a bit more roguish than the reality. And the authentic ending holds a reassuring kernel of truth—life is a bit of a mix, but happiness often wins out.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

It’s understandable if you don’t quite believe the sunflower seed when he says he’s a baaaad seed in Pete Oswald’s adorable illustrations. Sure, he scowls and furrows his brow, butts in line, and gets a bit stinky, but underneath that hard shell, really lies the heart of a softie. The other seeds in the neighborhood—pistachios, peanuts, almonds, chestnuts, cashews, and more—are fed up, though, registering fear, dismay, and even anger over the sunflower’s behavior. When the sunflower seed has a change of heart, however, others take note, and he gets another crack at life.

The Bad Seed is a funny book that kids will love to hear again and again. It also provides many teachable moments for those times when life gets a little discouraging. If you’re looking for an original book that has a bit of everything to add to a home, classroom, or public library would make a great addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062467768 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1338346664 (Paperback, 2018)

Discover more about Jory John and his books on his website

Learn more about Pete Oswalk and view a portfolio of his artwork on his tumblr.

How good is this The Bad Seed book trailer? Take a look!

National Seed Swap Day Activity

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Seed Packet Coloring Pages

 

All of your favorite veggies come from seeds, of course!, and those seeds come in packets that are little bits of art. Grab your crayons or pencils and color these printable Seed Packet Coloring Pages.

Carrots Seed Packet | Peas Seed Packet | Broccoli Seed Packet | Corn Seed Packet

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You can find The Bad Seed at these booksellers:

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

Picture Book Review

October 29 – Internet Day

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About the Holiday

It’s nearly impossible to imagine the world without the Internet anymore. Today’s holiday commemorates the first internet transmission, which occurred on October 29, 1969. On that day Leonard Kleinrock and Charley Kline, a graduate student at UCLA, attempted to send the word “login” to Bill Duvall at Stanford. While the initial attempt crashed the system after the letter O, the transmission was completed an hour later. As in the invention of the telephone, a simple message ushered in phenomenal change in the way the world disseminates information and how it communicates.  

Nerdy Birdy Tweets

Written by Aaron Reynolds | Illustrated by Matt Davies

 

Nerdy Birdy and Vulture are best friends even if they are a little…well, a lot…different. While Nerdy Birdy’s favorite thing to do is play video games, Vulture spends her time “snacking on dead things.” There are three things, though, that they have fun doing together. They love to “make fun of each other’s lunch, make silly faces, and take goofy pictures of each other.”

One day while Nerdy Birdy was on his phone, he found a new game called Tweetster. The game was fantastic because you could make lots of friends, play games with them, and “tweet messages and pictures for them all to see.” Vulture thought it all sounded pretty boring even though she tried to sound supportive. In an hour Nerdy Birdy already had fifty new friends. Over the next few days he gained hundreds of other friends and discovered that some of them were really neat—like a flamingo, an ostrich he played games with, and a puffin from Iceland.

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Image copyright Matt Davies, 2017, text copyright Aaron Reynolds, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Vulture tried to remind Nerdy Birdy that she was pretty cool herself and that she was “dying of boredom.” Nerdy Birdy took note—but only partially because he was too busy looking at all the new stuff on his phone. Eventually, Vulture gave up trying to lure Nerdy Birdy back and flew away. It was nighttime before Nerdy Birdy even noticed. The next day Vulture was back with a surprise: she was now on Tweetster too.

“They tweetstered—TOGETHER!—all morning.” Then at lunch they stopped playing and had fun like they used to. But after lunch when they went back to tweetstering, Vulture discovered a shocking picture. Nerdy Birdy had tweeted a pic of Vulture eating an old chicken leg with the caption from @NerdyBirdy that read: “@Vulturegirl is a messy eater. She eats dead things. EWWWWWWW!!” When Vulture showed him her phone, though, Nerdy Birdy was nonchalant. He thought it was funny, that’s all. But Vulture was embarrassed and upset that Nerdy Birdy hadn’t thought about her feelings.

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Image copyright Matt Davies, 2017, text copyright Aaron Reynolds, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Vulture flew off, and this time she hadn’t return even after a week had passed. Nerdy Birdy didn’t know what to do. He decided to ask all of his new friends for advice. He waited and waited, but no one tweeted back. It took a whole day before anyone answered, and even then he got only three responses. @Puffinstuff wondered what Nerdy Birdy expected him to do about it since he lived in Iceland; @Ostrich49 thought the situation was pretty funny and offered an LOL; and @Pinkflamingo7 suggested Nerdy Birdy was a bird brain.

While these replies were unhelpful in solving Nerdy Birdy’s problem, they were “super-duper helpful” in another way. Nerdy Birdy closed his game and took off. He flew everywhere looking for Vulture and finally found her in an oak tree. He landed on a nearby branch and began to apologize. Vulture listened and then asked, “‘What about your five hundred Tweetster friends?’ Nerdy Birdy shrugged. ‘One real live you is worth a thousand Tweetster friends,’” he said. So now Nerdy Birdy and Vulture are back to being best friends. Some days they do what Nerdy Birdy wants, and some days they do what Vulture wants. “And some days they even get together…and Tweet!” at the top of their lungs.

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Image copyright Matt Davies, 2017, text copyright Aaron Reynolds, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Aaron Reynolds’ sweet Nerdy Birdy is back and just trying to fit in with the Internet crowd on Tweetster. There’s so much fun and so many friends to be had! But when Nerdy Birdy gets caught up in the impersonal world where someone’s joke is another one’s hurt, he learns the true meaning of friendship. Reynolds’ relationship and dialogue between two opposites who happen to be best friends rings true as Vulture finds her friend drifting away but tries to stay supportive and even join in. Reynold’s humor highlights Nerdy Birdy’s obliviousness to Vulture’s feelings, allowing readers to understand that their actions sometimes have far-reaching consequences. The two birds’ agreement to compromise is a wonderful example of true friendship, and children will cheer when Vulture and Nerdy Birdy go back to being besties.

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Image copyright Matt Davies, 2017, text copyright Aaron Reynolds, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Matt Davies’ dry wit is on full display from the cover—where Nerdy Birdy’s phone has a persona of its own—through to the end where the body of a dead raccoon is discreetly covered up by a text box. In between, Davies’ squiggly lines and crosshatch style draw two of the cutest birds you’ll ever see. While Vulture may be a scavenger, she likes to eat her meals from a Hello Birdy lunchbox, and Nerdy Birdy’s oversized glasses reflect his owlish capacity for wisdom.

When Nerdy Birdy hides behind his phone as he plays game after game with his new friends, the camera and banana logo on the back are transformed into a mask that hints at the changes Nerdy Birdy is undergoing. As Nerdy Birdy collects friends, the pages become wallpapered in more and more Tweetster friend notification announcements to show his growing number of followers. Readers will giggle at the dead snacks here and there and recognize all the references to texting and game playing that make this story a modern cautionary tale.

Nerdy Birdy Tweets is a timely friendship story that entertains while it enlightens, which makes it a book kids will Like on their home bookshelves and in their classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626721289

Discover more about Aaron Reynolds and his books on his website

To learn more about Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Matt Davies and his work, visit his website.

You’ll find a fun Nerdy Birdy Tweets Activity Package from Macmillan Publishers here.

Internet Day Activity

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Trendy Trending Word Search Puzzle

 

The Internet has added so many new words and definitions of old ones to our language. Search for twenty-two Internet-based words in this printable Trendy Trending Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

October 4 – Balloons Around the World Day

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About the Holiday

You know you love balloons! Just watching them flutter from mailboxes, bob in the air while tied to a toddler’s wrist, or even float up, up, and away into a blue sky can make you smile. Today’s holiday was established in 2000 by Jeff Brown, who thought these useful and playful favorites deserved a little recognition. Balloons first burst onto the scene in 1783 when Jacques Charles took the first flight in a hydrogen balloon. In 1824 Michael Faraday invented the rubber balloon, and the importance of this discovery cannot be overblown…or…well…you know what happens. To celebrate today’s holiday, why not visit your local party store or grocery store and pick one of the amazing specialty balloons on display—or if you’re a purist, put together a bouquet of colorful traditional balloons.

I Have a Balloon

Written by Ariel Bernstein | Illustrated by Scott Magoon

 

An owl warily hangs onto his balloon as a monkey swings into the picture pointing at the owl’s prized possession. “I have a balloon,” the owl states. “That is a big balloon,” says the monkey. The owl proudly concurs as he repeats the monkey’s praise. But the monkey is not finished with his compliments. “That is a shiny red balloon,” he says. Yes, the owl agrees.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Perhaps, though, the monkey’s compliments are not entirely gratuitous. He adds that the shiny, red balloon would look swell with his shiny, red bowtie and imagines walking into school with such a perfectly matched outfit. In fact, he says, “The only thing I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a shiny, big red balloon.” The monkey’s not without some sense of fairness, though, and offers to trade his teddy bear for the balloon. But the owl isn’t feeling it.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

If teddy bears aren’t the owl’s thing, what about a sunflower? The monkey has one of those too, and it’s enormous—even bigger than the balloon! Is the owl interested in trading? No. Would he like “a robot? No.” “A picture of ten balloons? No.” How about a bowling ball and pin? No and No. Finally, the monkey pulls out a sock. Hmmm…the owl seems a bit intrigued. He can see the merits of this sock: it “has a star on it” and “a perfectly shaped hole.” The monkey has to acknowledge these fine qualities.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Is the owl wavering? The balloon doesn’t do anything—but the sock? There are so many things to do with a sock like that. “You can wear a sock on your tail or your foot or your hand or your ear,” and it makes a perfect puppet. Feeling victory in his grasp, the monkey offers the sock in exchange for the balloon, and the owl agrees. The monkey is surprised. You mean the “sock with a star and a perfectly shaped hole?” That’s the one. 

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

But wait! The monkey now seems to have had a change of heart: “All I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a sock with a star and a perfectly shaped hole. It makes me SO HAPPY!” So, the owl and the monkey seem to be back to square one: “I have a sock. You have a balloon,” the monkey states. “I have a balloon,” the owl concurs. Phew! Well, that’s settled! Or is it…?

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ariel Bernstein’s quick-witted owl and monkey may not end up trading objects, but they sure trade banter—much to the benefit of little readers. In the dynamic dynamics between the capricious monkey and the astute owl, there is much for children to talk and think about. While the monkey lives in the moment, bouncing from one desire to another, the owl plays a longer game, considering each of his options.

When the monkey hits upon the sock after and the owl accepts, kids may well wonder if the owl is using a little reverse psychology to redirect the monkey away from his balloon or whether he really wants that sock. Children might also think about an object’s value when seen through another’s eyes. In the end, both the monkey and the owl seem happy with their objects, raising another talking point on being satisfied with what you have. Bernstein’s funny, mirrored dialog is a joy to read out loud and also allows for various interpretations in tone that could lead to multiple readings and meanings.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Scott Magoon sets the stage and the characters’ personalities on the first page as the adorable, coconut-shaped monkey swings in on a vine much to the wariness of the tolerant, blue owl. Humorous touches will keep kids giggling (the monkey attends Monkey C. Do elementary school) and provide an arc for this clever story. Children will notice that the branch that breaks in the first pages is bandaged together with the very useful sock later on. Magoon deftly handles the change in fortunes with wry looks, imagination bubbles, and plenty of action.  A little foot that appears on the second-to-last spread provides a bit of foreshadowing to the story’s final laugh.

I Have a Balloon is a terrific read aloud and would be a much-asked-for addition to classroom or public libraries and for any child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481472500

You’ll discover more about Ariel Bernstein and her books as well as a Teacher’s Guide on her website!

Check out the gallery of illustration work by Scott Magoon on his website

Balloons Around the World Day Activity

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Volleyballoon

 

This mashup of two favorite activities—volleyball and balloon batting—makes a fun, safe indoor game for parties or playtime. All you need is a balloon, a strip of masking or duct tape and a few enthusiastic players.

Set Up

  • Find a large open space to play in
  • Divide the area in half with a strip of tape. This is the “net”
  • Blow up and tie a traditional balloon
  • Teams can consist of any number of players

Playing the Game

  • The object of the game is to keep the balloon in the air while tapping it back and forth over the tape “net” designated on the floor.
  • If the balloon hits the floor, the other team earns a point
  • The first team to reach 10 points is the winner. The number of points needed to win can be adjusted depending on the age of the players and the time available to play

Picture Book Review

September 8 – It’s All-American Breakfast Month

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About the Holiday

Bacon has been around since ancient times. In early French it was known as Bako, in German as Bakko, and in Teutonic as Backe. In Middle English it was called Bacoun, but all these words simply meant “back,” as in the back meat of pigs. Preserved and flavored, bacon is a favorite the world over and has seen an explosion of uses in the past few years, from enhancing cupcakes, apple pie, and chocolate chip cookies to spicing up peanut butter sandwiches, lasagna, and French toast. But there’s nothing quite as enticing as two or three crispy slices sitting on the edge of a plate of eggs or pancakes as part of an all-American breakfast!

Everyone Loves Bacon

Written by Kelly Dipucchio | Illustrated by Eric Wight

 

From Egg to Waffle to Pancake, there was no one who didn’t love Bacon—even Bacon himself. Well…maybe French Toast was an exception, but he “doesn’t like anyone.” Bacon loved all the attention the other foods gave him. Jalapeño wanted to sit next to him, and Garlic thought he smelled so good! He made the fruit and vegetables laugh with his “charming stories and funny jokes,” and, boy, could he play the ukulele!

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Image copyright Eric Wight, 2015, text copyright Kelly Dipucchio, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Ham, sausage link, and sausage patty were jealous, “but Bacon didn’t care about them. Not one bit.” After all, “He was becoming a real celebrity. His picture appeared on t-shirts. And billboards. And buses.” Bacon was so enthralled with himself that he began to forget his friends. Sometimes he even “pretended not to know some of his old friends.” Bacon had fans, and that was enough for him.

Bacon began to live the high life of sports cars, designer clothes, and the latest fads. He was even the star of the breakfast pastry parade. “Indeed Bacon was the toast of the town. Until….” Well…we did warn you that “everyone loves Bacon.”

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Image copyright Eric Wight, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Kelly Dipucchio’s witty cautionary tale about a piece of bacon that gets too big for his broiler sizzles with snappy sentences and the perils of celebrity. She chooses words and experiences that are recognizable to any child navigating the world of school, siblings, and friends, and with sly winks to popular culture shows that mistaking fans for friends ends badly and that there is always someone “bigger” than you.

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Image copyright Eric Wight, 2015, text copyright Kelly Dipucchio, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Even if readers don’t like the taste of bacon, they won’t be able to resist Eric Wight’s adorable slice who becomes the star of a 1950s-era diner. From the first page where Bacon admires himself in the back of a spoon, kids will giggle as Bacon takes pictures with equally cute Hotdog, Chicken Leg, Pickle, Garlic, and Jalapeño, leads a citrus parade complete with paper cocktail umbrellas, and plays the ukulele for swooning tater tots, French fries, and curly fries. But as the other foods grow sad and disgruntled with Bacon’s attitude—even brandishing fancy toothpicks—kids will understand and empathize with these forgotten friends. When Bacon meets his fate on the last page, readers are sure to fork over a howl of surprise.

Ages 3 – 6

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015 | ISBN 978-0374300524

To learn more about Kelly Dipucchio and her books, visit her website!

All-American Breakfast Month Activity

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Amazin’ Bacon Maze

 

There’s some tasty bacon sizzling in the center of this frying pan-shaped maze. Can you find your way through this printable Amazin’ Bacon Maze to eat it up? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

July 29 – Rain Day

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About the Holiday

Are you feeling a bit parched? Is the grass turning brown and the garden droopy? Would a rainy day be the perfect antidote? Well, today, wishing might just make it so! Throughout history people have relied on rain to nourish crops, fill up reservoirs, and cool things down. Rain is a crucial part of the ecosystem and a weather pattern that deserves its own holiday. So, no saying “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.” You can do that tomorrow!

The Green Umbrella

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Maral Sassouni

 

On a gray and rainy day, Elephant went out walking with his green umbrella. He met a hedgehog who hailed him and said, “‘Excuse me. I believe you have my boat.’” Elephant was perplexed, so Hedgehog expounded on his theory. “‘I crossed deep oceans on my boat and faced the crash of icy waves. I saw dolphins leap two by two and tasted the salty spray of whales. The stars were my guide and my boat a faithful friend.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-hedgehog

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

This poetic travelogue did not convince Elephant of the umbrella’s provenance, but he offered to let Hedgehog ride along and share in its protection. The two came upon a Cat, who took one look at the green umbrella and recognized it as her tent. Hmmm…said Elephant and Hedgehog. It was true replied Cat, and she related how when she visited the woods to study plants and flowers, she would rest in its shade and drink a cup of tea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-bear

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

This story seemed no more plausible than Hedgehog’s, but Elephant invited Cat to ride along and share in its protection. As they continued on, a Bear approached, sure that they had his flying machine. “‘Your what?’ asked the Elephant, the Hedgehog, and the Cat.” The Bear got a faraway look in his eyes as he said, “‘I soared through clouds high up in the air and saw Northern Lights glimmer above rolling hills. I floated on wings free and far from the noise of busy towns below.’”

Well, Elephant could play this game too. The umbrella was his and his alone. When he was a child, Elephant said, the umbrella was his pirate sword, his tightrope balance, and his baseball bat. By this time the rain had stopped. Elephant rolled up his umbrella and said good-bye to the Hedgehog, the Cat, and the Bear. The three couldn’t stand to see their boat/tent/flying machine taken away, so they clung to the Elephant.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-tea-party

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A moment later they met an old Rabbit. “‘I believe you have my cane,’” he said. The others thought he was wrong. But this handy stick, the Rabbit explained, had helped him climb pyramids, hike mountains to ancient ruins, and navigate dark caves full of treasure. Again the Elephant objected, but seeing the old Rabbit mopping his forehead, he opened it and shaded the Rabbit from the sun. The Cat offered to make a pot of tea, and the Bear and the Hedgehog helped lay out a picnic lunch.

Under the cool umbrella, the five “shared their stories, drank tea, planned adventures, and became fast friends.” From then on when it was sunny, they went “Sailing, Camping, Flying, and Hiking” together. “And when it rained they stayed dry under the green umbrella.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-friends

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Jackie Azúa Kramer’s multi-layered story delves into the large points and small nuances of relationships old and new. The Elephant’s green umbrella is both a subject of envy and a uniting object. It also serves to demonstrate Elephant’s ability to stick up for himself as well as his willingness to share. As each animal presents an imaginative and compelling reason why the green umbrella belongs to them, the Elephant rejects the story while accepting the friend. In each animal’s lushly described imagination, Kramer does a beautiful job of showing readers how each of these friends are similar. She reveals that while friends can have different opinions, they can still find common ground.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-followers

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Maral Sassouni’s dream-like illustrations are both exotic and homey. Village houses give way to turreted and domed towers, and the imaginative stories the animals tell are accompanied by details as free, cozy, or eccentric as their tales. The Elephant’s account is cleverly rendered in sepia tones, showing the age of the memories and who the original owner of the coveted umbrella really is. The final images of the five new friends sharing adventures in the green umbrella are sure to delight little ones.

The Green Umbrella is a perfect book to share on rainy days or sunny days. With humor and creativity, the book provides an opportunity to talk about the nature of friendship and sharing with children. It would make an often-read addition to public, classroom, and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

NorthSouth Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0735842182

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer, her books, and a fun book-related activity on her website!

Learn more about Maral Sassouni and her artwork on her website!

Don’t wait for a rainy day to watch The Green Umbrella book trailer!

Rain Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rain-stick-craft

 

Rain Stick Craft

 

The steady sssshhhhhh of gentle rain is a sound that never fails to relax. With this easy craft, you can create your own rainfall for whenever you need  to de-stress.

Supplies

  • Heavy cardboard tube
  • Aluminum foil
  • Wrapping paper or other paper 
  • Rice or popcorn – 1/3 to 1/2 cup
  • Paint (optional)
  • Paint brushes (optional)
  • Rubber bands – 2

Directions

  1. Paint the cardboard tube, let dry (optional)
  2. Cut the paper into 3-inch or 4-inch squares
  3. Cover one end of the tube with paper and secure with a rubber band
  4. Crumple and twist two or three long pieces of foil 
  5. Put the foil strips into the tube
  6. Add the rice or popcorn to the tube
  7. Cover the open end of the tube with paper and a rubberband
  8. Turn the tube end-to-end and listen to the rain

Picture Book Review

July 11 – Cow Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

While today’s holiday started out as a clever ruse to entice people to eat more chicken, it also gives us an opportunity to think about the world’s bovine citizens. These gentle animals deserve healthy and humane treatment as they provide our diets with needed protein as well as delicious treats. Cows appear in untold numbers of stories and songs for little ones, making them a favorite of young readers everywhere!

Prudence the Part-Time Cow

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

 

Out in the pasture swatting flies with her tail and lumbering along with the rest of the herd, “Prudence looked like a full-time cow.” But when she had a little time off from her bovine duties, Prudence “was a part-time cow.” While being milked she was a scientist, finding a book on the milking process “udderly amazing.” Salt licks were perfect blocks for architect Prudence’s wondrous structures. Engineer Prudence experimented with automatic lighting, even if the results were a bit electrifying.

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

The other cows didn’t like it. They wanted Prudence to be more like them. She would never fit into the herd, they whispered to each other. Prudence fretted. She wanted to have friends and fit in, so “she decided to try to be like the others.” Dutifully, she went down to the pond for a little refreshment and was doing fine until… “she calculated the water temperature and wind speed. ‘Sixty-eight degrees and four miles per hour.’”

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

The other cows were miffed, especially Bessie, who carefully made sure she had all her calves as she moved them along. Another day as the herd lazed under a tree, Prudence joined them, leaving only once to create a hat from an old wagon wheel, scrap of cloth, and piece of rope she found nearby. The other cows snorted, especially Patty, who jockeyed for a better position in the shade.

Even sleeping the same way as the others was difficult for Prudence when she had a brainstorm in the middle of the night. Spotz, the bull, was not happy with the noise she made with her latest invention. The herd had given up. Alone and sad, Prudence thought and thought of ways to make the others like her. Then it hit her! That night the barn rang with the sounds of her idea. But it wasn’t only one idea! When the herd woke and saw yet another contraption, they rolled their eyes. Until…

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-prudence-the-part-time-cow-cow-power

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

Bessie saw the “cow-culator” Prudence had made to help her keep track of her calves. Patty was thrilled with the “portable shade tree” made from an umbrella, a saddle, and some dangly adornments. And Spotz thought his new guitar made from a shovel and fishing line was “gnarly.” Prudence was suddenly pretty popular! Even though “she knew she would always be a part-time cow,” she was happy to feel like a “full-time member of the herd.”

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-prudence-the-part-time-cow-happy-animals

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

Jody Jensen Shaffer’s moooving and funny story of a cow with a scientific bent will delight kids. Little ones who think differently will empathize with Prudence’s wish to be herself while also fitting in with the herd. As the cows stand around in a pond and huddle under a tree, Shaffer offers a wink to the crowd mentality and peer pressure that can foster inaction and clone-like behavior. Prudence makes a gentle, but determined role model as a thinker who won’t be cowed by others’ opinions.

Stephanie Laberis’s cartoon-inspired illustrations of a herd of very distinct cows are a perfect accompaniment to this humorous story with a meaningful message. Prudence, with her fluff of pink hair, is happiest when fulfilling her creative visions. As the other cows disparage her efforts and isolate her from the herd, Prudence’s sad eyes and droopy tail and ears make the effect of their words obvious. Each page offers an opportunity for readers to discuss diversity, individuality, and what it means to be a friend.

Prudence the Part-Time Cow would be a wonderful addition to school and classroom libraries as well as to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Co, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627796156

Find out all about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and magazine writing for children on her website!

Discover a gallery of illustration and craft work by Stephanie Laberis on her website!

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craftMooo Mug

 

Milk—regular or chocolate!—will taste so much better in a Mooo Mug  you make yourself! 

Supplies

  • White ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Black permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Pink permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Brown permanent marker or paint for ceramics

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Directions

  1. With the pink marker or paint, draw an oval shape for the nose near the bottom of the mug. Let dry.
  2. With the brown marker or paint, draw two angled nostrils inside the pink oval and color them in. Let dry.
  3. Color in the nose with the pink marker or paint.
  4. With the black marker, color the top tip of the handle where it meets the mug to make the tail.
  5. With the black marker or paint, draw two wavy lines on either side of the face starting at the top, angling toward the middle and returning to the bottom of the mug. Leave white space between the lines.
  6. Draw circles for eyes within the black lines. Add black pupils at the bottom of the eyes.
  7. Color inside the black lines and around the eyes to make the face markings.
  8. With the black marker or paint, make two or three splotches on the back of the mug.
  9. Let the mug dry and follow the directions for the markers or paint to set the color.
  10. Pour yourself a cow mug of milk and enjoy!

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You can find Prudence the Part-Time Cow at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review