September 24 – World Gorilla Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2017, the same year that the Karisoke Research Center, operated by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, celebrated its 50th anniversary, World Gorilla Day encourages people around the globe to honor these majestic beasts and take action to help protect them in the wild. An annual fund-raising initiative, “Gorillas on the Line…Answer the Call,” works with zoos, aquariums, schools, and other organizations to raise funds by collecting cell phones for recycling. To learn more about World Gorilla Day and ways that you can get involved or even adopt a gorilla, visit the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International website.

The Boy and the Gorilla

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Cindy Derby

 

The sun casts long shadows as a little boy, his father, and a few mourners walk away from the cemetery. In the background a gorilla, strong and watchful, knows he’s needed. At home, the boy and his father sit on the sofa, aware of the family and friends gathered, but separated by grief. The gorilla waits silently nearby, filling some of the empty space. Escaping into the backyard, the boy kneels in his mother’s garden to pick a tomato. Now that he is alone, the boy acknowledges the gorilla, who asks if he can help. “Okay,” the boy says.

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Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2020. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Here, to this friend of his heart, the boy can express his deep sadness as well as the questions he has about death. “My mom died,” he says. Gently holding one and picking up another tomato, the gorilla answers, “I know.” As some of the routines of life return, the boy and his dad are separated by their individual thoughts and the tasks that need to be done. But the boy works through his questions about whether all people die, where his mom went, and if she can “come back home” with the gorilla. To each question, the gorilla offers honest answers as well as comfort. His mom won’t come home, the gorilla explains, “But she’s always with you.”

When the boy misses the things he and his mom did together, the gorilla quietly suggests that his dad might do them too. The gorilla reassures the boy when he needs to be alone or look for his mother in out of the way places. Finally, the boy asks the question that tugs at his mind: “Why did she have to die?” The gorilla acknowledges his pain, saying “It hurts not to be able to be with someone we love.” When the boy wonders when he’ll feel better, the wise gorilla says, “When you know she’s still with you.”

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Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2020. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The boy is ready to see his mom in their shared activities, like baseball, baking, and gardening. Each of these are gifts from his mother that will stay with him forever, the gorilla reminds him. That day, the boy goes to find his father and tell him the feeling he’s been carrying: “I miss Mom.” His dad takes him in his arms and they share their grief. The gorilla embraces them with love and understanding. The boy and his dad sit together looking at photographs and talking about Mom. The gorilla watches them from across the room. Later, they plant new flowers together, and then as the sun sets and the gorilla ambles away across empty fields, the boy and his dad walk back to the house, hand in hand.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-swings

Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2020. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

In her emotionally resonant story, Jackie Azúa Kramer gives adults a poignant way to talk with children—and readers of any age—about the feelings of sadness, confusion, and loss that fill their hearts and days after someone they love passes away. Beginning with general questions that children have about death, Azúa Kramer offers honest answers or acknowledgements that “no one knows” the answers. She then leads readers to ways they can accept a loved-one’s death and find comfort in memories, discover the constancy of their love in shared activities, and reach out to others. Told entirely in dialogue between the boy and the gorilla and, later, between the boy and his father, the story feels as personal as an embrace, allowing a grieving child to identify with it without any distancing. Beautifully paced, the story ends with a sense of acceptance, hope, and renewal.

Cindy Derby’s watercolor and mixed media illustrations will stir readers’ hearts with her touching depictions of the little boy and his father, both struggling in the wake of the loss of their mother and wife. The gorilla, painted in shades of purple and gray, is a hulking, yet soft, presence, a representation of the magnitude of the boy’s sadness but his capacity to understand too. Derby incorporates fragility and strength into her images that reinforce the boy and father’s changing awareness: On the day of his mother’s funeral, the boy goes into the garden to pick tomatoes. The gentle care the gorilla takes in helping hold these tender fruit reflects his mindfulness of the boy’s vulnerability. At the park, the chains on the swing set, where the boy and gorilla come to terms with the fact that his mother will not come back, as well as the climber appear precariously brittle, yet they are both capable of holding great weight. And a single branch, no thicker than a twig, supports them as they talk about why the boy’s mother died.

Derby also evocatively portrays how the boy and his father are each processing their feelings independently as two-page spreads allow for the boy to appear on one page while his father is on the other. They gradually grow closer—appearing on the same page, but in different places or rooms. When the little boy courageously approaches his dad, their reunion is moving, and to see them sitting next to each other after the page turn is uplifting and affirming. Derby’s use of color, especially touches of red, adds metaphorical depth to the story, and children will want to watch for the little red bird that seems to watch over this family from page to page, until the boy and his father reconnect and move forward.

For any child who has suffered a loss or knows a friend who has, or for families looking for a way to discuss death and the process of grieving, The Boy and the Gorilla is a must. The book also belongs in every school and public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-0763698324

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Cindy Derby, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-cover

You can find The Boy and the Gorilla at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

August 19 – National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day

About the Holiday

While some celebrate Sandcastle Day on the first Saturday of August and others take part in National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day on August 19, any sunny summer day is perfect for going to the beach and letting your artistic abilities take over! In expert hands, sand and water become elaborate  multistory castles and sculptures of animals, ships, mermaids, and nearly anything one can imagine. 

Sandcastle

By Einat Tsarfati

 

A girl finds an empty spot near the water’s edge and begins to build a sandcastle. This is no ordinary castle, though. It’s “a real castle with domes and turrets and a crocodile moat. And large windows with an ocean view.” Indeed, it is a spectacular castle, representing all the world’s architecture and decorated with seashells. Winding staircases lead to outside viewing spots, and its sculptural features are astounding. The girl stands on tippy-toe on a tall tower to place a pebble just on the tip of a taller tower.

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Inside chandeliers hang in the great hall and above the double staircase on either side. The girl pauses her construction for a moment to gaze out of the five-paned bay window at the rolling sea. But she is not alone. A king peaks out of a doorway, watching her. Soon more kings and queens from across the globe had discovered the girl’s castle and came to visit, bringing along their children and pets and plenty of luggage.

They took in their surroundings, marveling at the girl’s craftsmanship. “‘It’s one hundred percent sand,’ murmured a king with a curly mustache. ‘And you can hear the ocean!’ added a queen with a fancy pearl necklace.” From the great hall they fanned out into the castle to enjoy its many rooms—the music room and the aquarium room; the camping room, complete with trees and a tent; the ice-skating rink and the carousel; the natural history room and the archaeology room with its brontosaurus skeleton. There was a library and a room with many safes for the royal jewelry. Visitors could play tennis, dance, and spend time feeding the swan in the pond room. Of course, there were bedrooms, and bathroom, and dining rooms galore.

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

The first night there was a “grand party in the ballroom. Dollops of ice cream were served all night long. It was awesome.” But in the morning the kings and queens saw things quite differently. The almond strudel, the pizza, the soups, the sandwiches, and all the cakes were full of sand. The next day, the Triathlon of Knights Tournament of badminton, cards, and Twister was “completely ruined. ‘Aargh! There is sand in my suit of  armor!’ sobbed the bravest knight in the kingdom.” It was so bad that he couldn’t even pick up a card from the pile. Royal toes grew itchy. Royal treasure chests became welded shut. And one old queen thought it was “even worse than a single pea underneath [her] mattress.

They all came to the girl to bitterly complain. There wasn’t much the girl could do. After all, the castle was made of sand. She decided to make a sand ball and then another and another until there were enough for a huge sand ball fight. Then, suddenly, the castle sprung a leak, and the kings and queens, their kids, and their luggage floated away on furniture, towers, and pedestals. Everything was washed away, so the girl “built a sandcastle.”

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Einat Tsarfati’s Sandcastle is a feast for the eyes, loaded with humor, marvels, and whimsy on every page. From the crowded beach to the luxurious interior of the sandcastle, kids will have a blast scouring the detailed drawings for their favorite feature. As the royal visitors’ initial awe dissolves into whiny complaining, Tsarfati’s droll storytelling will elicit plenty of laughs (and maybe even a bit of recognition). The girl’s clever solution to her guests’ dissatisfaction may surprise readers, but with a turn of the page, Tsarfati promises to begin the imaginative journey all over again.

Highly recommended for funny and immersive story times, Sandcastle wows with ingenuity and will inspire kids’ imaginations. Sure to be an often-asked-for favorite on home, school, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Candlewick, 2020 | ISBN 978-1536211436

Discover more about Einat Tsarfati, her books, and her art on her website.

National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day Activity

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Sandcastle Coloring Page

 

No matter whether you live near a beach or in the city, if the day is sunny or rainy, you can make a sandcastle with this printable coloring page.

Sandcastle Coloring Page

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You can find Sandcastle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 16 – World Snake Day

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About the Holiday

Snakes are beautiful and fascinating creatures, but they often get a bad rap due to their mysterious nature and their portrayals in literature and throughout history. Today’s holiday promotes awareness of dangers to the snake population through habitat destruction, climate change, disease, and other threats. The wide variety of snakes provide many benefits to their natural environments and deserve protection.

I Don’t Like Snakes

Written by Nicola Davies | Illustrated by Luciano Lozano

 

Can you imagine a family who has nothing but snakes for pets? Well, that’s the way it is for the little girl in I Don’t Like Snakes. Sitting in her red chair surrounded by her mother, father, brother and four snakes, she finally pipes up and tells her family that she “‘really, really, REALLY doesn’t like snakes!’” And they ask, “‘Why?’”

“‘Because they slither,’” she answers. Her mom has a ready answer that leads into a scientific discussion of why and how different kinds of snakes move. The mechanics of concertina and serpentine slithering as well as caterpillar crawling are clearly described in both easy-to-understand text and accompanying illustrations. Her father adds more transportation methods, including side-winding, twining, climbing, swimming, and even flying.

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Image copyright Luciano Lozano, 2016, text copyright, 2016. Courtesy of walker.co.uk.

The little girl has to admit these sound pretty smart. “‘But what about their slimy, scaly skin?’” She asks. After all it’s so icky! Well, her mom reveals, snakes aren’t actually slimy, but dry. Following this readers learn why snakes look wet and how they shed their skin. Her dad goes on to explain that a snake’s scales are used for protection and as camouflage or as a warning to other creatures. Ok, the little girl agrees, “‘That’s pretty cool.’”

Still, the girl doesn’t like their flicking tongues. Her mom reassures her that snakes only use their tongues to smell with. Readers then see how a snake picks up the scent of a mouse or other prey and how it is transferred to the Jacobsen’s organ that helps it detect even faint odor trails. “‘That IS interesting,’” the girl tells her mom. “‘But I STILL don’t like the way they stare! It’s creepy.’”

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Image copyright Luciano Lozano, 2016, text copyright, 2016. Courtesy of walker.co.uk.

Dad has the answer to that one. They stare because they have no other choice. Without eyelids, it’s impossible for them to blink. But if you look closely at a snake’s eyes, you can tell if they are a night or day hunter or whether they are chasers or ambushers.

All this information is starting to change the little girl’s mind about snakes. “‘Maybe now that I know something about them, I do like snakes—just a little bit!’” she tells her brother. And just like brothers everywhere, he ups the ante by revealing how snakes kill. He revels in explaining about how some snakes have hollow fangs that inject poison into their victims and how others strangle their prey until there’s no life left. And without proper teeth, snakes have to swallow their dinner whole!

The boy’s sister is braver than he thinks, and now she wants to get in the game. She says that she has discovered something about snakes herself. She knows how snakes have babies. Some give birth to live babies but most lay leathery eggs. Either way, the babies are on their own soon after hatching. The little girl has had a complete change of heart. She now thinks snakes are beautiful. “‘And do you know what?’” she says. “‘I really, really, REEEEEALLLLY LIKE THEM!’”

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Image copyright Luciano Lozano, 2016, text copyright 2016. Courtesy of walker.co.uk.

Whether you like snakes, don’t like snakes, or are somewhere in between, Nicola Davies’ engaging tribute to this interesting and often misunderstood species will delight. Cleverly written to include commonly held opinions and provide compelling facts, I Don’t Like Snakes is part story, part nature encyclopedia seamlessly woven together to create a fascinating and funny read. Kids and adults will respond to the conversational tone, and, like the little girl in the story, be open to a change in attitude toward this intriguing reptile.

Luciano Luzano bridges the world of the fictional story and the nonfiction facts in I Don’t Like Snakes with charming sketches of the family and realistic depictions of the snakes they discuss. The little girl with her oversized hair bow and astonished expressions is a disarming guide to discovery. The family’s reptilian obsession is everywhere, from the snakes that twine around the mother, father, and brother’s arms and shoulders to the snakeskin upholstery. The factual information about snakes is accompanied by accurate drawings and representations of the traits portrayed.

I Don’t Like Snakes is a wonderful book for those who already love snakes as well as for those who want to learn more! It’s a great addition to anyone’s nonfiction collection.

Ages 5 – 10

Candlewick Press, 2015| ISBN 978-0763678319 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1536203233 (Paperback, 2018)

Learn more about Nicola Davies and her books on her website!

To view more art and books by Luciano Luzano visit his website!

World Snake Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snake-word-search

Slithering Snake Word Search

 

Snakes wind their way along wherever they want to go. Follow the twists and turns in this printable Slithering Snake Word Search to find the reptile-inspired words!

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You can find I Don’t Like Snakes at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound 

Picture Book Review

February 19 – It’s National Bird-Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

As birds begin coming back to your area during this last bit of winter to build nests, mate, and hatch little cheepers, they still need help finding nutritious food to sustain them. Without the lush vegetation and increased insect activity that will come with warmer weather, birds often rely on backyard feeders for food. Attracting colorful birds to your home can be a rewarding and joyful hobby – one you can enjoy year-round. If you’ve been considering hanging a bird feeder to one of your trees, today is the perfect day to get started!

Bird Builds a Nest: A First Science Storybook

Written by Martin Jenkins | Illustrated by Richard Jones

 

It’s early morning and Bird is already chirping. It’s going to be a busy day! To get started she needs breakfast. Of course, “what she wants is a nice, juicy…worm.” What the worm wants, though, is to not be eaten. So while “bird pulls hard…the worm pulls back.” This is one strong worm, and it ends up winning the tug-of-war. Nearby, though, is a smaller and weaker worm that is just as delicious.

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Image copyright Richard Jones, 2018, text copyright Martin Jenkins, 2018. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Full and satisfied, Bird takes off on her next task. She needs to find twigs. “Lots of twigs.” The first one she finds is more like a branch to the little bird—and is too heavy. The next one is as long as a snake and too heavy too. But there are plenty of perfectly small twigs scattered around, so Bird gets to work. She “can carry one large twig or two medium-size twigs or three or four small twigs (although it’s hard to fit that many in her beak at once).”

What is Bird doing with all of these twigs? Building her nest, of course! It takes time to arrange the twigs she brings back to the branch of her tree. “Carefully, she pushes a twig into the side of the nest and pulls its end back out.” As if weaving a basket, Bird intertwines more and more sticks, making her nest strong. It takes hours to complete her new home. Once in a while a twig falls or she drops one, but there are plenty more to find.

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Image copyright Richard Jones, 2018, text copyright Martin Jenkins, 2018. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Once the twigs are all in place, Bird searches for soft material to line it. She gathers dried grass and feathers. These are so light that it’s easy to carry a lot at one time. Back in her nest she places the grass and feathers inside and “turning around and around, pushing with her whole body, she makes a snug little cup, smooth and soft on the inside.” Now the nest is comfy and all ready for…the five little eggs that are waiting to hatch!

Bird Builds a Nest is a First Science Storybook for young readers that, while showing how birds build nests also demonstrates various scientific forces. As kids see the baby birds emerge from the nest for the first time, they can also answer a few questions in the Afterward that prompt them to think about pushing and pulling, moving light and heavy objects, and the force of gravity. An Index reveals where in the text these forces can be found.

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Image copyright Richard Jones, 2018, text copyright Martin Jenkins, 2018. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Spying a nest in a tree, eave, or other tucked-away space is like finding a secret, and is one of the joys of spring. Martin Jenkins’ delightful day out with Bird gives kids…well…a bird’s eye view of the nest-building process. Just like an artist, this sweet, industrious feathered friend gathers her materials and sets to work to make her instinctual vision come true. Jenkins’ step-by-step description is conversational and homey with words such as snug, tuck, fetching, and twigs that lend themselves to the charming alliteration that gives the story a poetic sound and feel.

Richard Jones’ mixed-media illustrations sing with beautiful folk-art inspired scenes of Bird gathering her material and creating her nest. Softly vibrant earth tones of autumn and spring accentuate Bird’s quiet and solitary endeavor. Bird is bright-eyed and cheerful as she flies back and forth carrying twigs and arranging them just so—activities that are clearly shown for budding scientists to see and understand. Readers will enjoy finding small details here and there—a mouse in a tree hole, a tiny ladybug, hearts in the swirls of the tree bark and formed by leaves, and even a bit of foreshadowing of the eggs to come. The male and female bird cuddle together in the finished nest as two ladybugs find each other under a purple heart, and the little chicks venturing out for the first time will enchant children.

Bird Builds a Nest wonderfully weaves together facts and a sweet story to introduce young readers to one particular natural phenomenon and some of the scientific forces involved. The captivating story would be a terrific addition to home libraries and classroom bookshelves for discussions about the natural world.

Ages 4 – 6

Candlewick Press, 2018 |ISBN 978-0763693466

To learn more about Richard Jones and view a portfolio of his art, visit his website.

National Bird-Feeding Month Activity

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Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle

 

When you put up a bird feeder in your yard, you’ll see so many different kinds of birds come to visit! Find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle.

Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle | Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Solution

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You can find Bird Builds a Nest at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 24 – Global Belly Laugh Day

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About the Holiday

If there’s one thing that unites us all, it’s laughter. A good belly laugh is good for your soul and your health! Today’s holiday encourages and celebrates smiles, laughs, and all the things that bring us joy. It’s also a day to think about and thank those who share their funny stories, fun times, and laughter with us. So celebrate by spending a happy day with friends, telling jokes, watching a funny movie, and reading hilarious books like today’s, which combines a belly and lots of laughs––a perfect match for the holiday!

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse

Written by Mac Barnett | Illustrated by Jon Klassen

 

Early one morning a mouse came face to face with a wolf, “and he was quickly gobbled up.” The mouse was very elegant in his speech and proclaimed, “‘Oh woe!’… ‘Oh me! Here I am, caught in the belly of the beast. I fear this is the end.’” Imagine his surprise when he heard a not-so-elegant voice tell him to “‘Be quiet!’” because the mouse was disturbing his sleep. The mouse demanded to know who was there.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Suddenly, the wolf’s belly was illuminated by the flame of a candle, and the mouse saw a duck sitting up in bed. “‘Oh,’” he said. The duck was a bit perturbed by the mouse’s low-key response, especially since he had been wakened in the middle of the night. Now, though, it was the duck’s turn to be surprised as the mouse told him that it was not the  middle of the night outside, but only morning. The duck admitted that he wished “this belly had a window or two,” and then graciously offered to make breakfast.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The mouse declared the breakfast “‘delicious,’” and inquired where the duck found jam and a tablecloth. He may also have been curious about the dishware, the bread, and even the table, chairs, and framed picture, but he was satisfied with the duck’s answer that “‘you’d be surprised what you find inside of a wolf.’” As the duck continued to talk about his home, the mouse was astonished to learn that the duck lived there. “‘I live well!’” the duck said and went on to explain: “‘I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten.’”

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Making lunch was a joint effort, and when the mouse asked if the duck missed living outside, he emphatically stated, “‘I do not!’” It seemed that when he was outside, the duck was full of the fear of being eaten. Inside, he was free of that worry. The mouse considered the wisdom of this notion and asked if he could live there too. The duck agreed and then played a record and danced a celebratory jig.

All this commotion was making the wolf feel sick. He attributed his aches and pains to something he ate. The duck was no doctor, but he was clever. He shouted up from the depths of the wolf’s belly and gave him “the cure.” According to the duck, ingesting “‘a hunk of good cheese…a flagon of wine…and some beeswax candles’” would do the trick and make him better.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

That night the mouse and the duck ate like kings and toasted the wolf’s good health. But the wolf was not feeling robust. In fact, he felt worse. A passing hunter heard the wolf groaning. He raised his gun and pulled the trigger, but he missed. Realizing what the blast meant, the duck yelled for the wolf to “‘run for our lives!’” In trying to escape, however, the wolf got tangled in the roots of an old tree.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The duck and the mouse determined that that very night they would “‘ride to defend [their] home.’” When they were ready, the wolf opened his mouth, and the mouse and duck—armed with a hockey stick, protected with sauce pan and colander helmets, and yelling “‘Charge!’”—flew out and chased the hunter. “‘Oh woe!’” he cried. “‘Oh death! These woods are full of evil and wraiths!’” He ran and ran until he left the forest, and he never returned.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The wolf was humbled by the sacrifice the mouse and the duck had made for him and offered to grant any request. “You can guess what they asked for.” And while they continue to dance the never-ending night away, “the wolf howls at the moon. ‘Oh woe! Oh woe!’ Every night he howls at the moon.”

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Remember when the Big Bad Wolf gobbled up Granny and Little Red Riding Hood and they survived in his belly until the huntsman cut them out? How was that possible? Mac Barnett reveals the inner workings of this conundrum in this laugh-out-loud fable. The archaic, melodramatic dialog will have readers giggling and participating aloud, as they have to agree with the ingenious duck’s “when life gives you lemons…” philosophy. It’s a good attitude to adopt as we all “get swallowed up” at some point. The trick is learning how to turn misfortune into fortune—or at least a fortunate happenstance. The suitably silly, non-sentimental circumstances will delight kids who relish a bit of the macabre—and, really, who doesn’t?

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-hunter-runs

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jon Klassen brings his signature deadpan style to this funny story, enhancing the humor with his matter-of-fact drawings that let the scenes speak eloquently and humorously for themselves. As the recently gobbled-up mouse sits gazing forlornly into the wolf’s cavernous belly, readers will experience a tickle of suspense imagining what else lies within. When kids see the stash of good stuff the duck has amassed, their little eyes will grow wide with delight. This amusingly dark tale is fittingly lit with candlelight, the errant blast of the hunter’s gun, and the full moon that hears the wolf’s lament. 

Put the The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse on your bookshelf and it won’t stay idle long. For quirky, comical home, classroom, and library story times this book can’t be eat…I mean beat.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763677541

Discover more about Mac Barnett and his books on his website.

You’ll find a gallery of illustration work by Jon Klassen on tumblr.

You know you want to gobble up this The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse book trailer! 

Global Belly Laugh Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-made-you-laugh-word-search

Made You Laugh! Word Search Puzzle

 

Humor and laughing are such a part of our lives that there are lots of words for this universal emotion. Can you find all the words for laughter in this printable puzzle?

Made You Laugh! Word Search PuzzleMade You Laugh! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review

January 1 – Z Day

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About the Holiday

On this first day of the year it seems fitting to let the last letter of the alphabet shine. Today all of those with last names that start with Z get to move to the front row and the front of the line! You might get creative with your celebrations and eat only foods that start with Z—ziti and zucchini sound good, buy a zipper or something zany, read a zine about zombies, and of course go to the zoo to see the zebra!

AlphaOops! The Day Z Went First

Written by Alethea Kontis | Illustrated by Bob Kolar

 

The letter A stands on a little pedestal holding aloft an apple. “A is for app—,” she starts, but is suddenly interrupted by Z, who states, “Zebra and I are SICK of this last-in-line stuff! This time we want to go first!” Y is all for this change and wants to give it a try. Z jumps on the pedestal, and with pride and a prop reveals, “Z is for zebra.” Next up is Y and with her knitting on her lap says, “Y is for yarn.” Although X is a bit wrapped up in Y’s craft, he still manages to plonk out, “X is for xylophone.”

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, text copyright Alethea Kontis, 2012. Courtesy of candlewick.com

W spouts off that “W is for whale, and P, lounging in swimming ring, is happy to tell you that P is for penguins as two of the little fellows toddle nearby.” Wait a minute! P doesn’t come after W…or is it before W? Hmm…This is getting confusing. V wants her rightful place and confronts P, but P brings up the point that no matter how the alphabet runs, some letters “are still stuck in the middle.” N agrees, and M takes off running “closer to the end, just to mix it up a bit.”

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, courtesy of bobkolarbooks.com

A is perturbed by this whole state of affairs, but Z is excited. O takes over with “owl,” and N flies off in the “night.” H takes the spotlight with a tall stack of hats while G waits in the wings whispering, “H, dear, it’s not our turn yet!” A is now fuming. H, however, is happy with her usual lot in life, and R, leaning on her rainbow-colored umbrella, agrees. Z is jumping! “Go wherever you want! Just hurry up, or we’ll never get to the end.” S rushes off to be ready for the page turn where he wrangles a snake above his head. I is chased by insects, V plays the violin, and J runs away with a jack-o’-lantern.

E blasts off toward Earth, where “F is for flowers. And fairies.” Hold on there a minute! V is upset: “Hey, I didn’t get to pick two things. I think I should get another turn.” X, on the other hand seems ok with it because he doesn’t “have much to choose from.” All this fuss is making Z crazy. He just wants things to move along.

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, courtesy of bobkolarbooks.com

Ok, then…the next letters get in line. “T is for taxi and train. L is for lemons and lollipops. K is for kangaroo and kites. And C is for cat and canary in cages.” V is back, inserting and asserting herself with a vacuum in hand, a volcano in the background, a vulture lurking, and valentines scattered about. But Z yanks her away as G says, “Ooh, V is for violence.”

R gets his chance to pop open his umbrella, D fights a dragon, and G frolics with a great gorilla. B gets a bevy of words that make a big mess. M dashes away from a monster, and Q is queen for the day. And that’s that, right? Is it? It’s kind of hard to tell. Z shouts through a megaphone, “Has everyone had their turn?” No! It seems U has been in the bathroom since P.

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, text copyright Alethea Kontis, 2012. Courtesy of candlewick.com.

U is uncertain whether the other letters still want her, but they usher her to the podium. Finally, it is A’s turn, but where is she? “Yikes!” exclaims Y and it’s easy to see why. A has been rounding up the words! Twenty-two of them, in fact—23 if you count “and.” The other letters cheer, and Z says he’s sorry for being bossy, to which A says, “apology accepted.”

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, courtesy of bobkolarbooks.com

Alethea Kontis’s classic alphabet romp is a hilarious, personality filled celebration of the 26 letters that compose our language. As Z’s mixed up experiment goes awry, the letters’ sassy and squabbling comments make for laugh-out-loud reading. Sly wordplay adds to the fun, making this an alphabet book that older kids will enjoy as well. Subtle lessons on cooperation, teamwork, acceptance, and inclusion give readers of AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First lots to discuss while enjoying the show.

Bob Kolar’s bold, bright, and enthusiastic letters nearly pop off the page. Their expressive eyes and mouths display their excitement, distress, pride, and other emotions as the status quo is shaken up by Z. As each letter gets their turn, Kolar infuses the page with visual puns. For example, I is being chased by “insects,” that also happen to be bees (Bs?). His clever choices of nouns allow for discussion of other forms of the words too—as when S juggles a snake that…well…snakes above him. Kids will love lingering over the illustrations to find all of the jokes and letter-related images and to make sure that all of the letters get their due.

AlphaOops! The Day Z Went First is so much more than an alphabet book. Adding it to any child’s bookshelf will suit them to a T.

Ages 3 – 8

Candlewick, 2012 | ISBN 978-0763660840

To discover more about Alethea Kontis and her books for kids and older readers as well as book-related activities, visit her website!

Find a gallery of picture book art, personal art, and other projects by Bob Kolar on his website!

Z Day Activity

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Zing! Goes My Heart Word Search Puzzle

 

Find the 20 words that begin with the letter Z in this printable heart-shaped Zing! Goes My Heart Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Alpha Oops! The Day Z Went First at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 10 – Don’t Step on a Bee Day

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About the Holiday

The bee population is in decline around the world due to habitat disruption and destruction, pesticide use, and colony collapse disorder. Bees (and other pollinators) are crucial to the world’s food supply. Today’s holiday is a reminder to protect bees and help preserve their habitats. By planting flowers and herbs that attract bees and providing safe nesting places for them, you can be part of the solution.

Bee & Me

By Alison Jay

 

As you open the cover of Alison Jay’s glorious, wordless Bee & Me, don’t be surprised if your heart skips a little faster when you find yourself in a city that’s familiar but also magical. From a high vantage point, you look down on a main thoroughfare where a café, a music store, a hat shop, an optometrist, a barber, and a shoe shop line the busy street; stylized cars, buses, and trucks pass by; and people—tiny from this distance—walk a dog, ride a unicycle, carry bags, and try to keep up with two running children. Elevated trains traverse their arched track and helicopters and planes dot the sky.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Turn the page and you’re looking into a four-story apartment house. On the first floor a woman does battle with a fly as her husband types at his green typewriter; on the third floor a boy tries to coax a pigeon to eat out of his hand; and in the fourth-floor apartment, a woman sits at her easel, painting. And what about the second floor? That’s where the story gets started.

A bee, attracted by flowered curtains, has just flown into a little girl’s window as she’s reading a book about flowers. The little buzzy guy flies right up to her face, causing her to toss the book aside and run away in fright. She procures her weapon and raises the fly swatter into position but reconsiders when she sees the bee’s scared face and little legs waving in his own defense. The girl decides to trap him under a drinking glass, but when the bee weakens and then faints, she reads up on bee culture and offers him a spoonful of sugar water, which he slurps up eagerly. The girl goes to the window and releases the bee under the interested gaze of the little boy upstairs.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

That night a storm rages and the rain continues the next day. At her window, the girl finds the bee soaked through. She brings him in, feeds him another spoonful of sugar water, and then, while he sits on a playing die on her vanity, she dries him with her hairdryer and a toothbrush. Happy and fluffy, the bee decides to stay. He and the little girl become fast friends and begin doing everything together. They play checkers, dance, have tea parties, and go places with the bee riding in the girl’s doll carriage or bicycle basket. Nourished with cups of sugar water and popsicles, the bee begins to grow and grow, becoming as tall as the girl, and then taller. They play at the park on the slide and the swing, and the bee even learns how to ride the girl’s bike.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But on a stroll downtown, the bee sees a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a florist’s window. He presses his face to the glass, and the little girl, noticing, buys him a flower. At home, the bee thinks of a meadow of flowers, and his sad face tells the little girl all she needs to know. She gets out a map and shows her friend where there’s open green space. The girl climbs on the bee’s back and they soar from the window, unseen by anyone except the little boy on the third floor.

They fly out of the city, over the river, and into farmland where they find a field of flowers. Carefully, they gather seeds in their bags and on the way back home scatter them across the city. The last seeds in the girl’s bag go into her new window box. Fall has come and the bee and the girl hug and then say goodbye as the bee flies away from her window.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

With winter, an invitation comes from the boy upstairs in the form of a yellow-and-brown striped scarf dangled out of his window, and the two build a snow bee outside their apartment building. In the spring, they walk together through the rain under a polka dot umbrella, and summer sees the seeds in the girl’s window box begin to sprout. In fact the whole city has begun to sprout, with colorful gardens blooming on rooftops, along the edges of sidewalks and streets, and in yards sprinkled here and there.

The purple, yellow, blue, pink, and white flowers attract butterflies and bees, and the people on the street stop now to enjoy the beauty around them. And the girl’s BeeFF? He, of course, comes back to visit and play.

A Bee Aware! Author’s Note about the importance of bees, the kinds of flower and herb plants that attract bees, and how to create and help bees find places to nest follows the story.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

While following the story, which is played out with perfect pacing, humor, and sensitivity, readers can glimpse surprising, delightful, and funny details on every page that tell them more about the people who live in the little girl’s apartment house and the buildings nearby. Alison Jay cleverly uses these snippets of life to show the passage of time and the subplot of what is happening for the little boy who lives upstairs. The girl’s kindness and attention to the needs of the bee, whom she once feared, reminds readers of the benefits of education and opening your heart.

A superb story that encompasses awareness of nature, urban sprawl, the power of friendship, and the change one person can make on another and the world at large all wrapped in stunning art that invites multiple readings, Bee & Me is perfect for cuddly story times with little ones and impactful read alouds with older kids. The book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 8

Old Barn Books, Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763690106

You can learn more about Alison Jay and her books, and view a portfolio of her art on Children’sIllustrators.com

Don’t Step on a Bee Day Activity

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Busy Buzzy Bee Maze

 

Can you help the little bee find her way through this printable Busy Buzzy Bee Maze? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Bee & Me at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review