November 16 -It’s National Young Readers Week

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by Pizza Hut and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress since 1989, this week-long holiday centers on raising awareness of reading. Schools participate in setting reading goals for their students who are then rewarded for meeting them. Principals, teachers, and families get involved too, as kids all over the country get excited about reading.

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise

By David Ezra Stein

 

The little red chicken was excited to come home from school and tell her Papa the amazing thing she’d learned that day. “Today,” she said, “my teacher told us every story has an elephant of surprise.” She grabbed her papa’s arm and hurried him to the big comfy chair to read a story and find the elephant. Papa corrected her, saying that her teacher hadn’t mentioned an elephant of surprise but an element of surprise. What’s that? Chicken wanted to know.

Papa explained that the element of surprise is the part that “makes you say, ‘Whoa! I didn’t know that was going to happen.’” That sounded like an elephant to Chicken, so she urged her papa to start reading. Papa opened the book with a caution that he didn’t think there were any elephants in the story. Papa began reading The Ugly Duckling. He had just gotten to the part where the ugly duckling peered into the pond at his reflection and discovered that… “Surprise! I’m an Elephant!” The blue elephant with pink wings and a waterlily hat thanked Chicken for finding him.

Papa looked askance at Chicken, but Chicken was undaunted and argued that her teacher had said that every good story had an elephant, that The Ugly Duckling was a good story, and therefore The Ugly Duckling “must have an elephant of surprise.”

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Copyright David Ezra Jones, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Next Chicken picked out the story of Rapunzel. Papa read, and the Prince had just climbed up the tower and was gazing at his love while she said… “Surprise! I’m an Elephant!” The elephant was impressed by Chicken’s powers of detection. Papa considered his little chicken and told her that the idea of an elephant in Rapunzel was “ludicrous.” But Chicken just looked at him with eyes sad and sorry for the poor elephant “waiting for someone to find him.”

Chicken told Papa she had to read one more story and find the elephant for homework. Papa was resigned. Chicken pulled The Little Mermaid off the shelf and Papa began to read. The little mermaid drank the magic potion, crawled from the sea, and fainted. When she awoke, the prince was there, and she saw that her dream had come true—she had… “elephant legs! Wow! That was a surprise!” Chicken exclaimed.

Now that Chicken had found her three elephants, Papa was ready to tell her a story that could in no way have elephants in it. Chicken was ready with her pencils to draw the pictures. Papa’s story was about a daughter who loved elephants so much she saw them everywhere—even when there were no elephants. There were no elephants when she got dressed or when she had breakfast before she went to… “Elephant school!” Chicken was so happy to find an elephant right at the end of the story that she gave Papa a big hug before asking him to help her with her math homework.

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Copyright David Ezra Jones, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

You can feel the giggles forming in giddy anticipation of where the elephant of surprise will appear from the very first page of David Ezra Stein’s adorable sequel to Interrupting Chicken. The little red chicken’s glee at her certainty that an elephant lives in every good story is infectious, and empathetic readers will be on the lookout for this well-placed pachyderm. Stein expertly wrings droll humor from the juxtaposition of the flowery retellings of The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid with the weighty substitution of the elephant at the moment of greatest suspense.

The endearing relationship between Papa and his little chicken is one of the sweetest charms of this series, and Stein fills every page with this warmth through his color palette of rich reds and blues and the little details of home: a steaming cup of tea sits on a small table next to Papa’s chair, Chicken brings in a snack of chips and dip to munch while listening, and a single lamp throws a cozy glow over the room. It’s easy to see by the gleam in little chicken’s eyes that she cherishes not only the stories but her special time with Papa. Young readers will embrace Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise with the same zeal.

For laugh-out-loud, snuggly story times, Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise can’t be beat. Whether your child is a fan of Interrupting Chicken or just meeting the little red chicken for the first time, David Ezra Stein’s sequel makes a perfect gift and will be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763688424

National Young Readers Week Activity

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Elephant Coloring Pages

 

Color these pages and put them in your favorite books to make sure you can always find an elephant of surprise inside!

Elephant Coloring Page 1 | Elephant Coloring Page 2

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You can find Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 23 – It’s Library Card Sign-Up Month

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About the Holiday

Don’t you wish there was somewhere that you could find all the books you’d love to read and then be able to take them home for free? Oh! You’re right! There is such a place—and what’s even more amazing is that there’s one in almost every town. Libraries are one of the most valuable community services, and this month people are encouraged to visit their local library and sign up for a library card. It’s easy and free and pays way more benefits than any of the store cards hanging from your keychain. Kids, especially, are excited to get their own library card that can start them off on a lifetime love of reading. So, if you or your child don’t have a library card, visit your library and make it a special event!

A Big Surprise for Little Card

Written by Charise Mericle Harper | Illustrated by Anna Raff

 

Little Card lived with a whole bunch of other cards who had important jobs and knew just what they were for. Only “Little Card and Long Card were still waiting for their special letters to arrive” telling them what they were. One day when Little Card and Long Card raced to bring the mail back inside, they slipped and the envelopes went flying. Little Card picked one up addressed to him and opened it. He jumped with joy to read, “‘Dear L.C., Congratulations! You are a birthday card. Your training starts tomorrow.’”

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Image copyright Anna Raff, 2016, text copyright Charise Mericle Harper, 2016. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Little Card excelled at birthday card school and loved everything about parties—the decorating, the games, and especially the singing. Little Card “always sang the loudest.” But one day, Long Card met him at the door with some big news. Their letters had gotten mixed up and Long Card was the birthday card, not Little Card. Not only that, but it was delivery day and neither of them had time to go back to school. All Long Card could tell Little Card was that his job was “interesting and exciting,” and then she added, “‘Just remember, always use a quiet voice.’”

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Image copyright Anna Raff, 2016, text copyright Charise Mericle Harper, 2016. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

As Little Card waited to be delivered, he decided that his job sounded a lot like a party, so when he was dropped off, he ran in and “shouted…HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” He was immediately shushed and told that this was a library. Little Card thought that should be celebrated too, so he shouted, “HAPPY LIBRARY!” Miss Penny, the librarian came to see what all the fuss was about, and when she saw Little Card, she took him to meet Alex, who was getting her first library card.

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Image copyright Anna Raff, 2016, text copyright Charise Mericle Harper, 2016. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

They spent the afternoon playing games, having a snack, and decorating with “a rainbow of books” that they couldn’t wait to read. All that was missing was a song, Little Card thought. So he sang as quietly as he could. When it was time to go, “Miss Penny smiled gave Little Card a gold star” as she checked out Alex’s books.

As they left Little Card was sad that Happy Library Day was only once a year. But when Alex showed him that Happy Library Day was six days a week, Little Card cheered. Not only that, but the next day was Miss Penny’s birthday. Little Card knew exactly how to celebrate—and he knew “just who to invite.”

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Image copyright Anna Raff, 2016, text copyright Charise Mericle Harper, 2016. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Charise Mericle Harper’s sweet story cleverly addresses so many themes of childhood from discovering one’s talents, to dealing with new and unexpected situations to obeying rules while still having fun. On top of this, Harper infuses her story with a love of books and an introduction to all the things a library has to offer. Comparing the library to a party will delight children and adults alike, and the combined Happy Library Day and Happy Birthday party to come brings two friends together and may inspire unique parties of all kinds.

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Anna Raff’s Little Card is as excited and enthusiastic as any child eager to learn and explore their world. As he impatiently waits to shout out “Happy Birthday,” he giggles and taps his toes, and when his fortunes turn, Little Card takes on the new challenge with a smile and boundless energy. Kids and adults will enjoy laughing together over the rainbow of book titles—and may even want to try making up their own stories to go with them.

Filled with humor, joy, and friendship, A Big Surprise for Little Card will be a favorite for home and classroom story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763674854

Discover more about Charise Mericle Harper and her books on her website.

To learn more about Anna Raff, her books, and her art, visit her website.

It’s Library Card Sign-Up Month Activity

CPB - Bookmobile

Bookmobile Craft

 

Bookmobiles are love on wheels! If libraries are some of your favorite places, you’ll like making this bookmobile from a recycled box! You can even use it as a desk organizer!

Supplies

  • Printable Book Shelves and Sign Template
  • Cardboard box, 16-oz pasta or other recyclable boxes work well (I used a 5” x 7 ¼ -inch pasta box)
  • Small wooden spools or wheels
  • Paint
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife
  • Strong glue
  • Paint brush

Directions

1.Gently pull the box apart at the seam and lie flat with the unprinted side facing up

2. To Make the Awning:

  • On one of the wide sides of the box, measure a rectangle 1 inch from the top of the box, leaving at least 1 ¼ inches at the bottom of the box and 1 ¼ inches on both sides
  • With the x-acto knife or scissors cut the sides and bottom of the rectable, leaving the top  uncut
  • Paint the top and underside of the awning (if you want to make stripes on the awning lay strips of tape side by side across the awning. Remove every other strip of tape. Paint the open stripes one color of paint. When the paint dries replace the tape over the paint and remove the tape from the unpainted stripes. Paint those stripes a different color.)

3. Paint the rest of the box on the unprinted side any way you like, let dry

4. Cut the Printable Book Shelf template to fit the size of your window opening, leaving at least a ½ inch margin all around

5. Tape the book shelf to the inside of the window

6. Reconstruct the box, making the original seam an inside flap

7. Glue the flap and sides together

8. If using small spools for wheels, paint them black. Let dry

9. Glue the wheels to the bottom of the box

10, Attach the Bookmobile sign, found on the printable template, above the awning

** To Make a Desk Organizer from the Bookmobile

  • Cut an opening in the top of the bookmobile with the x-acto knife or a scissor

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You can find A Big Surprise for Little Card at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 15 – International Dot Day

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About the Holiday

Usually, I match books to existing holidays. Today, though, I have the pleasure of posting a review of a book that established a holiday. On September 15, 2009 teacher Terry Shay introduced his class to Peter H. Reynold’s The Dot. From that one event grew a national and then an international celebration of creativity and the freedom to make art with your heart. All around the world, school children and adults are inspired on this day to make their mark and celebrate creativity, courage, and collaboration.

The Dot

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

At the end of art class, Vashti looked at her paper. It was still as blank as it was at the beginning of art class. Her teacher came over and took a peek. She saw right away that Vashti had drawn “‘a polar bear in a snowstorm.’” Vashti wasn’t fooled by the joke. “‘I just CAN’T draw,’” she said. But her teacher had a suggestion. “‘Just make a mark and see where it takes you.’”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti jabbed at the paper with a marker, making a dot right in the center. Her teacher studied her drawing carefully then told Vashti to sign it. That, at least, was something Vashti could do. She signed her name and gave the paper to her teacher. At the next week’s art class, Vashti was stunned to see her dot framed and hanging above the teacher’s desk. She looked at the tiny mark and decided that she could do better than that.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti opened her watercolor set and began. She “painted and painted. A red dot. A purple dot. A yellow dot. A blue dot.” Then she discovered that blue mixed with yellow made a green dot. Vashti went to the easel and began painting lots of little dots in all sorts of colors. She realized if she could make little dots, she could make big dots. She knelt down on the floor with a big piece of paper and a big brush and created a huge dot.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Then on an enormous canvas Vashti “made a dot by not making a dot.” At the school art show, Vashti’s dot paintings covered two walls and were quite a hit. Coming around the corner a little boy spied Vashti. He came close and told her, “‘You’re a really great artist. I wish I could draw.’” Vashti was encouraging, but the little boy said he couldn’t even “‘draw a straight line with a ruler.’”

Vashti wanted to see. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper. With a quivering pencil, he drew a line and handed the paper back to her. Vashti studied the wavy line for a minute, and then gave the paper back. “‘Please…sign it,’” she said.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynold’s classic story of a little girl who believes she can’t draw is inspirational for anyone at any age who listens too closely to that voice in their head that stops them from letting go and doing. Whether it’s painting, writing, changing the décor of one’s house, updating a wardrobe, getting healthy, or even taking a class, the project often seems insurmountable. But what if you could start with a YouTube video, one step, a pair of earrings, a pillow, a word, or…a dot? Reynolds says you can! With his straightforward storytelling, Reynolds gives readers permission to play, experiment, and feel free.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Reynold’s familiar line drawings that sketch out adorable Vashti and her wise teacher are punctuated by the colorful dots that Vashti draws in profusion. Even Vashti, herself, is surrounded by circular auras of color throughout the story, reflecting her talent and creative spirit. The final scene of the art show gallery is a revelation, showing readers that one’s work or life work adds up to an impressive display of the self.

Through and through The Dot is charming, moving, and encouraging. It is a must addition to home libraries, public libraries, and classrooms.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2003 | 978-0763619619

Discover more about International Dot Day, download an Educator’s Guide, and see a gallery of projects on thedotclub.org.

You’ll learn more about Peter H, Reynolds, his books, and his art as well as find lots of inspiration and creative tips on his website!

International Dot Day Activity

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Decorate the Dots Coloring Page

 

How would you color these dots? Grab your favorite paints, markers, or crayons and let your imagination fly with this printable Decorate the Dots Coloring Page.

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You can find The Dot at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 6 – It’s International Assistance Dog Week

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About the Holiday

International Assistance Dog Week was established by Marci Davis, the author of Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook, host of PetLifeRadio.com’s internet radio show “Working Like Dogs, and a paraplegic, to honor these loyal companions that through training and constant love transform the lives of those with disabilities. The holiday also promotes awareness and educates the public about service dogs and recognizes those who raise and train them from puppyhood. To commemorate today’s holiday, learn more about assistance dogs and the heroic deeds they perform. To learn about events in your area, visit the International Assistance Dog Week website.

Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship

Written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes | Illustrated by Scott Magoon

 

When the puppy, Rescue, a Seeing Eye dog in training, heard his trainer say “‘You aren’t meant to be a Seeing Eye dog,’” he worried. His family had always been Seeing Eye dogs, and he didn’t know what else he could do. But his trainer did. “‘The service dog team is better for you,’ his trainer said. ‘Service dogs work beside their partners, instead of in front of them.’” Rescue hoped he would make a good service dog. “He didn’t want to let anyone down.”

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

In the nearby city, a girl named Jessica had been hurt. Her right leg seemed to be healing, but “the doctors had to remove part of her left leg so she could be healthy again.” The doctors told her that she would have to use a wheelchair or prosthetic leg for the rest of her life. Jessica worried about how she would walk and do things by herself. “She didn’t want to let anyone down.”

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Meanwhile Rescue was learning all of the skills he’d need as a service dog. He learned how to fetch things and open doors. Jessica was also learning new skills. She practiced using a wheelchair, getting out of bed, putting on her prosthetic leg, and walking. Even though she made progress every day, Jessica felt frustrated about the things she could no longer do.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

One day, a visitor brought her service dog to meet Jessica. Jessica was so impressed by everything the dog could do, that she filled out an application to receive a dog of her own as soon as her visitor left. After Jessica left the hospital, she “got some very exciting news. Rescue got exciting news too.”

At last, the day arrived for Jessica and Rescue to meet. They liked each other immediately. After Rescue showed Jessica all the things he could do, they went back to the city to begin working together. Rescue brought her things she needed, he barked when Jessica needed someone, he could even push the walk button at street crosswalks.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Even though Rescue was a strong worker, Jessica knew he was also a dog who liked to have fun. “She made sure that Rescue had playtime every day.” Then one day, Jessica’s “doctor told her that her right leg would have to be removed too. She would need to wear two prosthetic legs.” Jessica was very sad, but Rescue knew just what to do to help her. As Jessica slept, Rescue cuddled up next to her.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Once again, Jessica and Rescue went into training together. “They did chores together, played together, and snuggled together.” Both Jessica and Rescue felt happy. “‘You changed my life, Rescue,’” Jessica told her companion. “‘I couldn’t have done this without you.’” Rescue was proud of them both.

An Author’s Note from Jessica Kensky and her husband Patrick Downes, both injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, follows the text and provides more information about the story, their Service Dog, Rescue, and the NEADS organization.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Based on Jessica Kensky’s real-life partnership with Rescue, Rescue & Jessica offers children a thoughtful and honest portrayal of loss, hope, and recovery. Jessica’s story will touch young readers while answering questions that many have as they interact with and see similar partnerships of Service Dogs and children or adults with physical disabilities. The Boston Marathon bombing is never mentioned in the story, leaving it up to adult readers to explain the details depending on the age and sensitivities of the listener. The addition of Rescue’s point of view gives readers a window into the intelligence and loyalty of these valiant animals. While not shying away from the difficulties that Jessica faced, each page is infused with courage and the resiliency of the human spirit.

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Scott Magoon’s realistic, digitally created illustrations will rivet children to the story with clear depictions of Rescue’s training and Jessica’s stay at the hospital. As Jessica suffers grief and worry, she is surrounded by darkness, but even here, spots of light are given in images of her parents’ vigil at her hospital bedside, a physical therapist’s encouragement, and the comfort Rescue provides on a starlit night. As Jessica learns to walk again with her prosthetic leg, black storm clouds give way to gray showers seen outside the therapy room window and the city—her home and ultimate destination is seen across the river in the distance.

A sunburst accompanies Jessica’s first experience with a Service Dog, and as she and Rescue become partners, the gray-tone images acquire a bit of green grass that blossoms into spring and then full-fledged summer when Jessica resumes some of her past activities with her family. The final two-page spread of Jessica, with Rescue by her side, leaving gray skies behind and walking across a bridge toward home and the glowing promise of a sunny day is moving and triumphant.

A poignant and uplifting story, Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship is highly recommended for any young reader and a must for pubic and school or classroom libraries.

Candlewick, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763696047

To learn more about Scott Magoon, his books, and his art, visit his website.

International Assistance Dog Week Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Biscuits

 

These homemade dog biscuits are fun to make and a special treat for your dog at home, a neighbor’s pet, or dogs waiting for forever homes at your local shelter. Why not get together with your friends and make a batch? Then share them with your pets or dogs who need a little extra love.

Children should get help from an adult when using the oven.

Supplies

  • 1 large bowl
  • Large spoon or whisk
  • Cookie cutters – shaped like traditional dog bones or any favorite shape

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Add buckwheat flour to bowl
  3. Add powdered milk to bowl
  4. Add salt to bowl
  5. Stir to mix dry ingredients
  6. Add water
  7. Add melted margarine or butter
  8. Add egg
  9. Stir until liquid is absorbed
  10. Knead for a few minutes to form a dough
  11. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, one Tablespoon at a time
  12. Place the dough on a board
  13. Roll dough to ½ inch thickness
  14. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  15. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  16. Biscuits will be hard when cool.

Makes about 40 biscuits.

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You can find Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 27 – National Get Gnarly Day

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About the Holiday

Hey, dude! You don’t need to be a surfer to enjoy Get Gnarly Day! Today’s holiday is less about pitting yourself against the wild seas and more about challenging yourself to toss away old ideas and try new ones. So, whether you’re hanging ten or not, don’t be afraid to get rid of those habits, thoughts, or actions that are cluttering up your life—just like Bear in today’s book!

Big Brown Bear’s Cave

By Yuval Zommer

 

One day Big Brown Bear came upon a cave that was just perfect for him, and he moved right in. Even though it was dusty and dark in just the right ways, when he stretched this way and that, “the cave just didn’t fit quite right.” So Big Brown Bear went for another walk to find another cave. What he found instead astonished him. “Humans had their own caves!” These were dark and dusty just like his, but “they were full of STUFF!”

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Copyright Yuval Zommer, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Bear decided that stuff would make his cave just right too. He collected all kinds of stuff, like stuff with wheels, stuff with handles, and stuff in boxes. He wanted to fill up his cave top to bottom with stuff. When his friends came by to see Bear and his new home, there was no room for them amidst all the stuff. In fact, there was hardly any room for Bear “to even stretch or scratch or do any of the other things that bears generally like to do.” And when he was invited to go fishing, he couldn’t go because he got stuck in the middle of all his stuff. It took lots of pulling and tugging by his friends to free Bear from his stuff trap.

Bear decided he’s had enough of stuff, so he and his friends took it all “back to the humans’ caves. Bear’s cave was empty again, but now his friends could curl up inside too, and “Bear found the perfect spot for sleeping right away” in his just-right home.

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Copyright Yuval Zommer, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Yuval Zommer’s quick romp that takes readers from the excitement of collecting all sorts of cool stuff to the realization that there really is such a thing as too much will make kids laugh as Bear enthusiastically carries home bikes and watering cans and boxes, boxes, boxes, gets stuck in the muddle, and finally pops free with a tumble. But how can Bear’s cave be so full and yet so empty at the same time? Young readers will see that it’s not the amount of stuff they have that makes a home—or a heart—feel just right, but the friends that share their space.

Zommer’s beautifully detailed and textured digital art brings the forest alive with scruffy squirrels, deep, dark caves, falling leaves, and one furry Bear. His revelation of “human caves” sets up a clever “Ah-ha” moment for both kids and adults and will no doubt have children asking if they can play in the cave after reading. Zommer’s pages invite lingering to view all of the items piled on the floor, shelves, and in Bear’s cave. Readers can make a fun game of seeing how much of Bear’s stuff they have as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Templar Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763696467

National Get Gnarly Day Activity

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Flip-Flop Flower Pot Holder

 

Do you have some old flip-flops taking up space in your closet? With this super easy craft you can make them into pretty gnarly plant or small item holders.

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You can find Big Brown Bear’s Cave at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 22 – National Hammock Day

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About the Holiday

Holidays don’t get more leisurely than this one! Perhaps invented by the Ancient Greeks, perhaps created by people in South America according to Christopher Columbus’s journals, hammocks are the epitome of relaxation. What better time is there to kick back and lounge than during the hot, hazy days of July? So enjoy—and read a book, like today’s collection of poetry!

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

Selected by Paul B. Janeczko | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Firefly July is perfect for lazy summer days when light, but still meaningful reading enjoyed in a hammock or under a shady tree is relaxation at its best. Paul B. Janeczko has collected 36 short (none are over eight lines long) poems from some of the best poets of today and yesterday. Haiku, free form, and rhyming verses illuminate the seasons of the year and encapsulate unforgettable sights, sounds, and feelings.

A girl’s spring’s respite spent gazing into the bay from shore is depicted in Lillian Morrison’s The Island:

“Wrinkled stone / like an elephant’s skin / on which young birches are treading.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Lillian Morrison, 2014; Gerald Jonas, 2014.  Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

A nighttime train trip provides mystery and ongoing changes in Carl Sandburg’s Window:

“Night from a railroad car window / Is a great, dark, soft thing / Broken across with slashes of light.”

Joyce Sidman’s A Happy Meeting likens a summer rain to romance and life:

“Rain meets dust: / soft, cinnamon kisses. / Quick noisy courtship, / then marriage: mud.”

At the seashore, beach birds are industrious in April Halprin Wayland’s Sandpipers:

“Sandpipers run with / their needle beaks digging—they’re / hemming the ocean.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis, 2014; April Halprin Wayland, 2014. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser ask such a beguiling question for autumn:

“What is it the wind has lost / that she keeps looking for / under each leaf?”

And the rising giants of city life inspired Susan Nichols Pulsifer in Tall City:

“Here houses rise so straight and tall / That I am not surprised at all / To see them simply walk away / Into the clouds—this misty day.”

Along the way readers will encounter a pickup truck loaded with old rotary fans and another rusting in a field; fog that decorates and creeps; animals and insects that share our space; our past, our present, and our future. And when it’s time to close the book, Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser reveal:

“A welcome mat of moonlight / on the floor. Wipe your feet / before getting into bed.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Ted Kooser, 2014. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

I can only wish I’d been able to visit Melissa Sweet’s studio while she created the illustrations for this book! Each painting is as unique in style, beauty, and emotional effect as the poems they interpret. Her renditions of each poem help readers—especially children unfamiliar with metaphor and abstract imaging—to fully understand and appreciate each poem while also leaving room for personal reflection.

The first thing that strikes a reader when opening Firefly July is the gorgeous juxtaposition and mixture of vibrant color. Her illustrations take readers on a journey from an aqua farm house with a patchwork garden to a serene elephantine rock island to the deep turquoise ocean traversed by ships while the full moon beams down upon them. Readers ride crowded subways, gaze out moving train windows, and visit cities bright in daylight and glowing at night. They frolic through fields of delicate grasses and vibrant flowers, quietly walk snowy paths, and take their place among the stars.

Firefly July is as stunning as any coffee table book and is a must for a young reader’s—or any poetry lover’s—library.

Ages 4 and up

Candlewick Press, 2014 Hardcover ISBN 978-0763648428 | Paperback, 2018 ISBN 978-0763699710

Take a look at more books and artwork by Melissa Sweet on her website!

National Hammock Day Activity

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Lazy Days Coloring Page

 

Coloring can be so relaxing—perfect for a day dedicated to kicking back! Color this printable Lazy Days Coloring Page and dream of lounging beside the lake, with the gentle breeze gently rocking the hammock, while you drift off to sleee….zzzz…..

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You can find Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems at these booksellers

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

June 25 – It’s Pride Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of June the LGBT community celebrates diversity, cultural accomplishments and influence, and the strides that have been made politically and socially. The month also highlights that there is still far to go before the LGBT community achieves full equal rights and acceptance. Around the world, the rainbow flag, designed in 1978 by American artist, gay rights activist, and U.S. Army veteran Gilbert Baker, flies proudly over a variety of events, including parades, marches, concerts, book readings, parties, and workshops.

Julián Is a Mermaid

By Jessica Love

 

Julián and his abuela are riding the subway, when three women dressed as mermaids enter their car. The women’s shimmery aqua dresses, complete with flowing tail, capture the young boy’s attention because “Julián LOVES mermaids.” As they move down the track, one of the mermaids combs through her long hair; another, her head adorned with a filmy, seaweed-red pouf decorated with jewels fixes her tail; and the third waves at Julián, who smiles back.

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

In Julián’s imagination the aqua dresses become a wave engulfing him in the frothy sea. He frees himself from his shorts and tank top while his tightly curled hair, loosens and floats upward. A ray with a rainbow of fish, jelly fish, eels, and an octopus following it its wake surround Julián, and when they’ve all passed by, he’s magically grown a pink tail with a golden fin. He swims, flips, and whirls in the water and then meets a fantastical fish who presents him with a shiny necklace.

The daydream vanishes as Julián hears his abuela say, “‘Vámonos, mijo. This is our stop.’” The three mermaids wave goodbye at the door of the subway car as Julián and his abuela walk down the platform. On the way home, they pass three girls playing in the spray of a fire hydrant.  “‘Abuela, did you see the mermaids?’” Julián asks. Without looking down, his abuela says, “‘I saw them, mijo.’”

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

On their doorstep, Julián tells his abuela that he too is a mermaid. The older woman takes this in without expression. Inside, as Julián’s abuela takes a bath, Julien sets off to make his imagination a reality. He frees himself from his shorts and t-shirt, harvests fronds from his abuela’s palm tree and flowers from her vase for a headdress, applies her lipstick in the vanity mirror, and ties the sheer, delicate curtain from her window around his waist for a tail.

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

With the costume complete, Julián is reay to swim just as his abuela steps into the room. She takes one unreadable look at Julián, says “‘Oh’” and “‘Uh-oh’” and leaves the room. Julián folds his arms, looks uncertainly at his “tail,” and checks out his face in the mirror. In a moment his abuela is back, dressed and ready to go out. She holds out her hand to Julián and presents him with a pearl necklace.

She takes Julián’s hand and leads him outside and down the sidewalk. Julián holds his abuela’s arm and walks beside her with his head held high. They meet up with a crowd of men, women, and children dressed as mermaids and other sea life. At first Julián holds back, but Abuela holds out her hand. “‘Like you, mijo. Let’s join them,’” she says. And as they join the parade—Julián revels in his freedom while he dances right behind the three aqua mermaids.

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jessica Love’s joyful story will raise a lump in your throat. Perfectly constructed with a minimum of text and facial expressions that reveal so many nuances of wonder, awareness, and acceptance, Julián Is a Mermaid offers young readers and adults a rich tapestry for discussing emotions, memories, and experiences related to growing up, identity, and finding ones place. Love’s gorgeous color palette brings the beauty of the sea and the creativity of the imagination fully to life.

Julián’s abuela is a marvel of understated strength. Her seemingly strict gaze on Julián provides a bit of humor and the suspenseful turning point in the story, but as her eyes soften—just a little—when she takes Julián to the parade, readers will know that not only does she accept, but she truly understands. Julián knows this too, which is dynamically demonstrated when Abuela appears as the generous fish in his daydream. With so many people around the world striving for their voices to be heard, Julián is a Mermaid is an important gem to cherish and share.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763690458

National Pride Month Activity

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Mermaid Coloring Page

 

Everyone loves mermaids! Grab your crayons or pencils and even some glitter and enjoy this printable Mermaid Coloring Page!

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You can find Julián is a Mermaid at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review