October 14 – It’s Black Cat Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

If you look at an annual calendar of pet holidays, you’ll see that cats reign supreme. This month, though, we celebrate one particular kind of feline: the black cat. While black cats are just as cuddly and sweet as any other cat, the superstition that they bring bad luck make them the least adopted of all cats. If you’re considering adopting a cat or kitten, think about giving a black cat a forever home.

Bambino and Mr. Twain

Written by P. I. Maltbie | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

On a particular November day in 1904, a crowd gathered outside the brownstone where Samuel Clemens, known to readers as Mark Twain, had recently come to live. Reporters, readers, and neighbors had come to wish Sam a happy birthday. But they were shooed away by his housekeeper, Katy. Since his wife, Livy, had died five months earlier, Samuel had not felt happy; he didn’t want to see anyone or even leave the house.

“From an upstairs window an old man with wild white hair and a black cat watched the crowd walk away. ‘Everyone wants to meet witty Mark Twain,’ the man said. ‘But tell me, Bambino, would they want to meet sad, old Samuel Clemens?’” Soon his daughter Jean entered the room and persuaded her father to come downstairs for cake and ice cream with the promise that Bambino, their black cat, could have some too.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

In the middle of the cake stood a single candle—a tradition that Livy had started so that Samuel would “‘never grow old.’” With a dish of ice-cream to himself, Bambino took the place of Sam’s older daughter, Clara, who couldn’t be with them that night. Friends had invited Sam for dinner, but he did not want to go. As winter settle in, so did Samuel. He rarely left his bed, littering the covers with papers and books—so many “that the cat had difficulty finding a soft place to sleep.”

As Christmas approached, instead of attending the parties he was invited to, Samuel wandered around his big house, gazing at pictures of Livy and playing games—like billiards—with Bambino. When spring arrived, Katy rushed around opening windows to air out the house. In a sunlit upstairs room, “Bambino attacked the sunbeam dancing on the wardrobe door. Sam opened the door. The sunbeam shone on a white suit. Bambino swatted at it.” Sam lifted the suit from the closet and looked at it fondly. While Livy was alive he had worn that suit every summer. “‘Those were happy days,’” he recalled.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012, text copyright P. I. Maltbie, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Just then, outside the open window, Bambino saw a squirrel that had been chattering at him for days. With a leap Bambino was chasing the squirrel down the street. “‘Bamb-i-i-i-n-o-o-o!’ Sam’s voice echoed over the city noises.” Sam and Jean put up Lost Cat posters offering a $5.00 reward (a week’s wages) for Bambino’s return. Sam didn’t know how he would tell Clara that Bambino was gone, but Jean reassured him that someone would find their cat.

“Soon a steady stream of people appeared on Sam’s doorstep with cats and kittens of every size, color, and breed.” Seeing the crowd, Sam came out onto his stoop. One little girl offered to let Sam borrow their family’s cat until Bambino returned, and others brought him cats they thought would comfort him. But Sam thought Bambino would not “‘take kindly to finding a foreign cat in his kingdom.’” Reporters wanted to talk to this beloved author about Bambino too, “and this time Sam talked to them.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Four days later, Katy found Bambino on the doorstep as if nothing had happened. Sam was overjoyed. “‘To celebrate, we’ll feast on the fatted salmon,’” he said. Sam’s experience with his kindly friends, neighbors, and readers had given him a new perspective. He was ready to rejoin the world and enjoy what it had to offer. An announcement in the newspaper let people know that Bambino had returned, but they continued to drop by to wish Sam well. Now, Sam smiled and talked with them.

Sam had several white suits made, and they became his trademark. At his home in Connecticut, he held a musical gala and talked and joked the way he used to. Jean and Clara had not seen their father this happy in a long time. And Bambino? He just “blinked his eyes and purred.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

P. I. Maltbie’s focus on a particular year in Samuel Clemens’ life provides a deeper portrait of this author known for his wit, wisdom, and social commentary. Maltbie’s detailed and compassionate storytelling reveals the stages and effects of grief and the way a pet or a good friend can help in a way that is accessible and understandable for children. His tracing of the passage of time from fall to summer allows readers to see that recovery from sadness or other events is a personal journey, but one that is made easier with the enduring love and reassurance of family and friends. Readers who love the stories and novels of Mark Twain will appreciate this touching glimpse into Samuel Clemens’ life.

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Daniel Miyares’ crisp, mixed-media and digital illustrations resonate with muted, yet saturated colors that reflect Samuel Clemens’ mourning. Perky Bambino is a constant presence, celebrating Sam’s birthday, playing billiards with Sam, and curled up on Sam’s bed. Bambino’s dramatic leap out the window will wow kids, and they will empathize with Sam as pages without the black cat reflect Sam’s feeling of loss. Young readers will be inspired by the little girl who offers her own family cat to comfort Sam and be cheered to see the positive effect Bambino’s return has on Sam as he again embraces the world dressed in the iconic white suit, which signals Sam’s lightening mood and regained good humor.

Bambino and Mr. Twain is an excellent biography to share with children at home and school to show that everyone undergoes good and bad times, but with faithful and loving family and friends, problems can be resolved and happiness restored.

Ages 5 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2012 | ISBN 978-1580892728 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1580892735 (Paperback)

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books, and his art on his website

Black Cat Awareness Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-match-the-kittens-puzzle

Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These kittens all have a twin, but they got mixed up while playing! Can you find the pairs again in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bambino-and-mr-twain-cover

You can find Bambino and Mr. Twain at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 23 – Autumn Equinox

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About the Holiday

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, fall has arrived! If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, welcome to spring! Today, daytime and nighttime will be equal, ushering in a changing of the seasons. For some that means cooler weather, shorter days, and a slowing down in nature which leads to our being able to see the brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges in the leaves of certain trees. The phenomenon featured in today’s book. For others nature is just awakening, with all the beauty warm weather and new growth bring. Wherever you live, enjoy the activities and events the change in season brings!

Leaf Jumpers

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Leslie Evans

 

One of the marvels of autumn is watching the trees change their summer clothes for colorful cool-weather dress. In their classic, Leaf Jumpers, Carole Gerber and Leslie Evans teach young readers how to identify eight of nature’s beauties by the shape and fall color of their leaves. On a crisp afternoon, two children (and their dog) watch “a soft wind shake the trees. It lifts the leaves and sets them free.” As the leaves flutter down, the kids race to catch them in the air as they call out their names.

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Image copyright Leslie Evans, 2004, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2004. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

First come maple leaves “bright and vivid as a match.” Joining them, “the sugar maple’s leaves are orange, like pumpkins in a pumpkin patch.” The boy compares his hands to a white oak leaf and seeing birch leaves on the ground thinks they are as oval and sunny as an egg. Their dog likes hiding among the fringy yellow-green willow leaves, while the girl gently holds a ginkgo’s “wavy golden leaf” that’s “shaped just like a little fan.”

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Image copyright Leslie Evans, 2004, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2004. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

High up in the sycamore a squirrel crouches on a branch, camouflaged in the dense foliage. The boy and girl wave to it, and their dog, all attention, is ready for a chase. The kids pick up leaves by the handful and toss them into the air, dancing underneath. As the leaves land, the boy and girl giggle. “Leaf hats settle on our heads.” The girl grabs a rake and begins gathering the leaves, and when they are mounded deep, the three leap into the beckoning “pile of colors.”

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Image copyright Leslie Evans, 2004, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2004. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

With lyrical verses, Gerber invites kids to enjoy the fun that comes when the vibrant fall leaves blanket the ground. Her sprightly descriptions are just right for teaching even the youngest readers to recognize trees by the intricate details of their leaves. Smooth or jagged, thin or wide, red, orange, or yellow, each leaf has a story to tell. Gerber’s also compares the color or the shape of each leaf to something children are familiar with, helps them to remember and distinguish each type of leaf. But, of course, Gerber understands that for little ones, autumn leaves mean just one thing, and she celebrates kids’ excitement and creativity in her final pages, where the leaves become enticing playmates.

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In her vivid illustrations, Leslie Evans spotlights each type of leaf while also infusing her pages with that giddy exhilaration that cooler weather and falling leaves creates in kids. The antics of the children’s brown-and-white dog adds humor as it hides in the willow leaves, anticipates a squirrel race, and frolics with the kids in the soft, welcoming pile. Touches of red, blue, violet and tan in the children’s clothing set off the dazzling leaves, producing a warm and cozy effect you’ll love snuggling up with.

Now in a board book edition, Leaf Jumpers makes a perfect book to have on hand at home to take along on fall trips to farmers markets and parks or on strolls around the block. It’s also a great book to share as leaves begin changing color and tumbling down and before those fun leaf-raking sessions. Leaf Jumpers is a wonderful resource for classrooms and libraries to include in their collections as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Charlesbridge, 2017 | ISBN 978-1580897822 (Board Book, 2017) | ISBN 978-1570914980 (Paperback, 2006)

Discover more about Carole Gerber and her books on her website.

To learn more about Leslie Evans, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Autumn Equinox Activity

CPB - Cinnamon Apples (2)

Cinnamon Apples

 

Warm apples sprinkled with cinnamon sugar is one of the most delectable treats of autumn. Here’s an easy recipe for making this delicious dessert or side dish.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of apples, Macintosh or Granny Smith apples are good choices
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

CPB - Cinnamon Apples ingredients (2)

Directions

  1. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon
  2. Peel and core 2 large apples
  3. Thinly slice apples
  4. Combine apples and cinnamon sugar/brown sugar mixture
  5. Stir until well combined
  6. Drizzle with lemon juice and stir again
  7. Cook apples on the stove at medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until desired texture

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You can find Leaf Jumpers at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 4 – Independence Day

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About the Holiday

Today, the United States commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 by delegates of the original 13 colonies, which asserted that the colonies considered themselves a new nation and no longer part of the British Empire. The day is traditionally celebrated with parades, picnics, and grand fireworks in cities and towns across the country or in one of our beautiful national parks. The holiday also provides the opportunity to remember and honor all the people who have come to America’s shores and have helped to build our nation. 

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service

Written by Annette Bay Pimentel | Illustrated by Rich Lo

 

Tie Sing, born in Virginia City, Nevada, grew up during a time when “America was a tough place to be Chinese.” Most worked in restaurants or laundries and were paid less than white employees. Tie Sing had big plans, though. “He got a job cooking for mapmakers as they tramped through the mountains, naming peaks. With sky for his ceiling and sequoias for his walls, he stirred silky sauces, broiled succulent steaks, and tossed crisp salads.” He quickly became known as the best trail cook in California.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel, 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com.

In 1915 Steven Mather was trying to convince politicians to create a national park system even though many business people were against it. Mather invited journalists, tycoons, congressmen, and others to go camping for ten days to show them the wonder of America. He knew that the trip had to be perfect, so he hired Tie Sing as his chef. Tie Sing planned gourmet menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that would satisfy the 30 campers. Each day he rose before dawn, cooked eggs and sizzling steaks, and packed box lunches.

As the group hiked across beautiful scenery to the next site, Tie Sing and his assistant washed the dishes, put out the fires, packed the mules, and started the dinner’s sourdough bread. By the time Tie Sing arrived at the new campsite, it was time to begin cooking dinner. “He assembled sardine hors d’oeuvres, sliced juicy cantaloupe, and squeezed lemons to make tart-sweet lemonade. He grilled steaks and venison, fried fish and chicken, and baked sourdough rolls” as good as any fine restaurant. One morning Tie Sing was able to pack the mule early before he served breakfast. When he went back to the mule, however, he discovered it had wandered away—taking all of the best food with it.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel, 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com.

Steven Mather shrugged it off as he left for the day’s hike, but Tie Sing was upset. All of his planning was ruined. That night the dinner wasn’t as fancy, but it was delicious and topped off with “all-American apple pie.” The campers, happily satisfied, talked late into the night about the possibilities of a national park service. The next day, Tie Sing carefully led the mules along a narrow ridge. As the stones crumbled underneath their feet, one mule strayed too close to the edge. He tumbled backward and down the cliff. Bags, boxes, and food went flying. The mule got up and shook itself off, but much of the food, utensils, and equipment was lost.

Hours later Tie Sing limped into camp with “the battered boxes and bent knives and bruised apples he’d salvaged.” The men were ravenous; Tie Sing had to think quickly. He knew just how to use those apples, and under the glow of paper lanterns, the crew enjoyed the most delicious applesauce they’d ever had. Tie Sing knew his job was to fill the party with delicious meals, but “Steven Mather wasn’t the only one who loved the mountains; Tie Sing had the Sierra singing in his blood. He too planned to fill the campers with memories.”

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel, 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

As the pots bubbled on the camp stove, Tie Sing “bent over tiny slips of paper and wrote in English and Chinese.” Following dinner he handed out fortune cookies, each one holding a handwritten message: “Long may you search the mountains.” “Long may you build the paths through the mountains.” “Where but in the mountains would such a man become a spirit with the mountains?”

In the months following the trip, the members of the group “wrote magazine articles, published books, and made movies about America’s national parks.” Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s efforts worked. On August 25, 1916 Congress created the National Park Service. “Today, if you visit Yosemite National Park, you can hike to Sing Peak. It was named for Tie Sing, a mountain-loving American who knew how to plan.”

Three pages of back matter, complete with photographs of Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s actual 1915 trip, answer readers’ questions about Tie Sing, how he kept food fresh in the mountains, details of the trip, and short bios on the members of the mountain party.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mountain-chef-bent-silverware

Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel., 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

Annette Bay Pimentel’s fascinating and timely story of the establishment of the National Park Service highlights the contributions of a Chinese American dreamer who had big plans for himself and the country he loved. Her detailed storytelling enhanced by lyrical phrasing (a linen tablecloth is washed in an icy snowmelt stream and spread “brighter than white-water foam” over a table) reveals the marvel of Tie Sing’s art. Readers will be awed by the dedication and careful planning it took for the gourmet meals and elegant table settings to come together in such rough surroundings. As food and supplies are lost along the way, children will be held in suspense, wondering if Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s strategy worked.

Rich Lo’s beautiful detailed and realistic watercolors transport readers to the mountains and trails of early 1900s California. With vivid imagery Lo lets children see the day-to-day preparations that went into Sing’s meals as well as the dangerous conditions he faced. Lo captures the hazy purple majesty of the mountain peaks, the glow of the campfire in the dark of night, and the vastness of the California environment. Kids may well wonder how Sing managed to create a five-star restaurant atmosphere and menu in the wild, and Lo shows them how it was accomplished.

Mountain Chef gives a unique perspective on an important historical moment—one that still resonates today—and is a compelling book for any classroom as well as for kids interested in history, culinary arts, and the environment and for those who just love a good story.

Ages 6 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580897112 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1580899857 (Paperback, 2019) 

Discover more about Annette Bay Pimentel and her books on her website. You’ll also find a Teacher’s Guide for Mountain Chef.

Learn more about Rich Lo and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

Independence Day Activity

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Majestic Parks Coloring Pages

 

The national parks are home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. You may not be able to visit all of these parks, but you can still enjoy their beauty while you learn a little about them with these printable coloring pages! Then check the map and see if there’s a park near you!

Mesa Verde National Park | Gates of the Arctic National Park | Hawaii Volcanoes National Park | Biscayne National Park | Acadia National Park | Everglades National Park | Rocky Mountains National Park | National Parks Map

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You can find Mountain Chef at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 7 – It’s Pet Appreciation Week

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About the Holiday

Pets give us so much love and joy that we often want to do something special for our furry friends in return. The first full week of June gives us the opportunity to show our pets how much we appreciate them! Why not spend a little extra time walking or cuddling with your pet? Or maybe make them a favorite treat or get them a new toy. Another way to show how much our pets mean to us is to schedule a regular check-up to make sure they’re healthy and up-to-date on vaccinations. However you celebrate, you know your pet will appreciate it!

Lola Gets a Cat

Written by Anna McQuinn | illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

 

Lola loved cats, and while she had a room full of stuffed cats in all colors and sizes, she wanted a real kitten of her own. Her mother told her that “looking after a cat is a lot of work.” Lola wanted to learn more, so Mommy took her to the library to get a book about cats. Lola learned lots of interesting information about cats and how to take care of them.

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Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, 2017, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Lola decided to pretend that Dinah, one of her stuffed kitties, was real. She made a special bed for Dinah from a shoe box and blanket. She made a chart and checked off when she fed, bathed, and played with Dinah. Mommy saw what a good job Lola did with Dinah and agreed that Lola could have a cat. First, Lola and Mommy went to the computer to “find out how to adopt one.” Then they went to the animal shelter where Jeremy showed “them three perfect cats.”

Lola looked at the orange tabby, the black cat who was napping, and the playful gray ball of fluff. Even before Lola made her choice, the little gray one chose her! Jeremy gave Lola a list of all the things she’d need at home to make the little kitten feel comfortable and happy. The next day, Lola and Mommy went shopping at the pet store, and Lola and Daddy set up a special corner in the house with the cat’s toys and bed.

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Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, 2017, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Finally, everything was ready. Lola and Mommy went back to the shelter. The kitten was afraid to go into the carrier at first, but including her own blanket made her feel safe. At home, Lola watched her new kitten explore her corner and new things. Lola named her cat Makeda, “the name of an African queen.” Every day, Lola took “excellent care of Makeda.”

Lola’s friend Ty was excited to meet Makeda and even brought her a present. Makeda now feels at home—especially when she’s cuddling with Lola! At night Lola reads a story to Makeda before bedtime. She loves Makeda, and reading to her “is the best of all.”

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Image copyright Rosalind Beardshaw, 2017, text copyright Anna McQuinn. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Anna McQuinn’s little Lola is loved by young readers for her curiosity, gentle nature, and can-do spirit. Lola’s sweet personality overflows in this story as she decides that she’d like a pet and then demonstrates to her mommy and daddy that she understands the responsibility. Through her charming storytelling, McQuinn invites little readers to be part of Lola and Makeda’s journey and share in their warm friendship. Lola’s supportive parents offer guidance but allow Lola to thoughtfully make her own decisions and show what she can accomplish.

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Throughout her colorful illustrations, Rosalind Beardshaw’s Lola shows intelligence, self-confidence, and pride as she practices tending for a cat, learns about cat behavior and care, listens to the animal shelter manager, and gets everything ready for her new cat. Detailed images realistically depict the items a cat requires, a bit of the procedure of adopting a shelter cat, how to give a new pet space to assimilate into their new environment, and a good example of a pet-care chart, giving those contemplating a new pet a good primer for children. The quiet joy that infuses each page, makes Lola and Makeda  perfect companions for little readers.

Whether new to the Lola series, adding to a collection, or looking for a character and story a little one will fall in love with, you’ll find that Lola Gets a Cat is perfectly at home on family and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 5

Charlesbridge, 2017 | ISBN 978-1580897365 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1580897365 (Paperback)

Discover more about Anna McQuinn and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rosalind Beardshaw, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Kids and Pets Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-match-the-kittens-puzzle

Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These kittens all have a twin, but they got mixed up while playing! Can you find the pairs again in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-gets-a-cat-cover

You can find Lola Gets a Cat at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

March 1 – Read Across America Day and Interview with Author Cathy Breisacher

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 1997 by the National Education Association. Celebrated across the country, the day encourages children to discover a love of reading that will follow them throughout their life. Reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures and, begun early, it can be a powerful force for future success. Through reading, kids learn about the world, meet different people, laugh, cry, and are always entertained. To commemorate the day, authors, illustrators, politicians, athletes, librarians, and families hold special reading events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and community centers. Celebrate today by reading with a child or on your own. Visit your local bookstore or library and find some new books to share—or grab some favorites from your own shelf and enjoy them again!

I received a copy of Cavekid Birthday from Charlesbridge to check out. All opinions are y own. I’m excited to be partnering with Charlesbridge in a giveawy of Cavekid Birthday. See details below.

Cavekid Birthday

Written by Cathy Breisacher | Illustrated by Roland Garrigue

 

In two neighboring caves on the very same day, Caveboy and Cavegirl were born. They did everything together and grew to be best friends. “Eventually Caveboy discovered that he loved…rocks!” He showed Cavegirl his collection of shiny, spiny, smooth, and colorful rocks to Cavegirl and even taught her how “to play stone toss.” Cavegirl developed a love of tools—tools that she could dig, build, and paint with. She shared her tools with Caveboy and “taught him how to create masterpieces on cave walls.”

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Image copyright Roland Garrigue, 2019, text copyright Cathy Breisacher, 2019. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

As their birthdays neared, Cavegirl tried making Caveboy a present, but her efforts failed. She decided to go to Caveman’s Collectibles to see what she could find. There, she spied a “‘Box for Caveboy’s rocks!’” Caveman was happy to make a trade. Cavegirl said, “‘Have nothing to trade except…tools!’” It took all ten of Cavegirl’s tools to get the box, but she knew Caveboy would love it.

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Image copyright Roland Garrigue, 2019, text copyright Cathy Breisacher, 2019. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Meanwhile, Caveboy was making a present for Cavegirl. He had no luck either, so he hurried down to Caveman’s Collectibles. Inside, he spied the perfect gift: “‘Box for Cavegirl’s tools,’” he told Caveman. This box cost twenty rocks—all that Caveboy had—but he knew Cavegirl would love it. When they exchanged gifts, they ripped off the wrapping and…. Without tools or rocks to keep in the boxes, they found other uses for them. They were great for playing hide-and-seek and making carts to race in, but they began to miss their old favorite things.

They went back to Caveman Collectibles and told Caveman their dilemma. “‘Make trade?’ they asked.” For their rocks and tools, Caveboy and Cavegirl gave Caveman a shiny polished and painted store. And Cavegirl and Caveboy? They had best birthday ever!

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Image copyright Roland Garrigue, 2019, text copyright Cathy Breisacher, 2019. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Cathy Breisacher knows how much kids love to rock their birthdays. In her original story set in a precociously prehistoric time, Breisacher chisels a funny and touching tale about the true meaning of friendship. Cavegirl and Caveboy only pause for a moment before trading their most precious belongings to get a gift for the other. Without things to put inside the boxes, Caveboy and Cavegirl—like kids of all eras—find other creative ways to use them. When they begin to miss their rocks and tools, instead of feeling regret they work together to devise an innovative way to get them back—and make Caveman happy too. Kids will be wrapped up in the suspense and enjoy hearing—and repeating—Breisacher’s cavespeak, and in the end will take the ever-timely lesson to heart.

There are plenty of hairy moments in Cavekid Birthday, and Roland Garrigue takes full advantage to create wild and wooly (mammoth) illustrations to accompany the story. Caveboy and Cavegirl play hide-and-seek among dinosaur bones, race their bear and elephant ancestor pets, and may be the world’s first collector and artist. Hilarious modern-primitive mash-ups—like furry, animal skin wrapping paper—will have kids laughing and pointing out the anachronisms.

Children would love finding Cavekid Birthday among their gifts, and adding the book to home, classroom, and library shelves will ensure a sweet and timeless story time.

Ages 4 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2019 | ISBN 978-1580898768

Discover more about Cathy Breisacher and her books on her website.

To learn more about Roland Garrigue, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Book trailer good! Watch. Fun!

Meet Cathy Breisacher

011CB

Thank you for having me!  I love your questions.  They were a lot of fun to answer.  I’m excited to have an opportunity to share a bit about myself and my books.

I love the prehistoric setting of your book. What was it about this time period and these characters that attracted you?

One day, I spotted an adorable clipart image of a cavegirl and a caveboy. That image got me thinking about how fun it would be to write a story with cavekids as the main characters. I’m glad I chose them, especially once I decided to write a story with a Gift of the Magi twist. Using the prehistoric setting for this theme seemed like a great idea since cavekids had no money, and they really wouldn’t have had many possessions. I’m sure cavekids had a few items they treasured, so thinking along these lines helped me to craft the story.

Roland Garrigue, the illustrator, shared with me that he loved the idea of kids having a Mammoth and a Cave Bear as pets. His art work is so detailed and charming. I adore the caves, the animals, and the cavekids that he drew. Cave art intrigues me and I enjoyed researching and learning about places such as the Cave of Lascaux in France.  It’s been educational for me to work on this book because I have been imagining what life would have been like a long, long time ago. And, in my libraries, it’s been fun talking to students about prehistoric life as well.

Which would you collect—rocks or tools—and why?

I would definitely collect tools. I enjoy painting, just like Cavegirl! And even though I’m not much of a gardener, I do think I’m pretty handy whenever my husband and I take on home projects. I have a makerspace in my library and I enjoy making things. My husband, on the other hand, is a rock collector. He studied Geology in college and he is always picking up rocks and bringing them home.

What were a few of your favorite books when you were a child? Do you have a special memory related to any of the books you liked?

I loved Ramona Quimby. I read all the Ramona books, and the rest of Beverly Cleary’s books, too. For picture books, I read and reread the Frances books by Russell Hoban. I also loved Madeline and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.   

Did you always like to write? What inspired you to write picture books?

I have always enjoyed writing. When I was in elementary school, I liked to draw and write, and my teachers always complimented me and encouraged me to keep at it. I was drawn to the magic of picture books when I was in graduate school studying to become an Elementary School Counselor. At the campus library, there was a room for Education majors filled with picture books. It was wonderful. I would get caught up in the stories (ones that I remembered from my childhood and new ones that I wanted to use in the classroom). I started thinking about how fun it would be to write my own books someday. But I didn’t actually pursue this idea until several years later. One day, I received a brochure in the mail about a Children’s Book Writing Conference in Chautauqua, New York put on by the Highlights Foundation. I was so intrigued.  The conference was absolutely amazing.  I left that conference feeling inspired to write picture book stories that would someday be in kids’ hands.

One of the best parts about being an elementary school librarian must be reading books with students. Do you have any memorable anecdote about story time you’d like to share? 

Story time is so special.  Kids’ reactions are the best and they say the funniest things. Recently I read Tammi Sauer’s book Knock Knock (illustrated by Guy Francis). After the story, kids eagerly began raising their hands and telling their own knock knock jokes. As soon as one student told a joke, the next kid’s hand went up, and on and on it went. Very few of their jokes made any sense, but they were cracking themselves up and it made me smile. You never know what will happen during story time.

Probably my favorite story to read during story time is Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen).  Kids are so amazed at how Sam and Dave keep digging around the diamonds. The students start yelling at the characters as the story is being read. It’s fantastic. The page turns in this book work so well.  The storytelling is brilliant.

Congratulations on your second picture book—Chip and Curly: The Great Potato Race—which is being released in May! This looks like another fun and original story full of humor. Can you talk a little more about this book and how it came to be?

This book is a story about two potatoes, Chip and Curly, who compete against each other in Spud City’s Annual sack race. Chip has his heart set on winning the Golden Bushel Award, but when Curly shows up with a spring in his step, Chip is worried. He practices and gains admiration from the other taters in town, but he wonders if he will be able to get this win in the bag or if his dreams of winning will be mashed.

Chip and Curly cover

I had such a fun time coming up with a list of all of the kinds of potatoes there are, and generating a list of words and phrases associated with potatoes. There is an Annual Potato Festival close to where I live, and I enjoy going to it. That event was really the inspiration for this book. While strolling alongside the craft booths one year, I felt inspired to write a book with potatoes as the characters. After some thought, I knew I wanted the story to address competition.  Following several drafts of this story, it occurred to me that a sack race would be the perfect situation for potato characters to be in.

I wanted to have fun with this story and fill it with potato puns to make both adults and kids chuckle. I hope readers will see how enjoyable it can be to play with words and language. The illustrations by Joshua Heinsz are colorful and bright, and readers will want to keep their eyes peeled for the variety of potato characters that appear on the pages. Finally, and probably most importantly, this book touches on the themes of friendship, competition, and the idea that winning isn’t everything. I want readers to think about how good it feels when we practice good sportsmanship. This is a meaningful topic to discuss with children, especially in light of today’s climate. Chip and Curly, the Great Potato Race will release on May 15, 2019 and is published by the incredibly talented team at Sleeping Bear Press.

What are you most looking forward to about being a published author?

I am looking forward to meeting new people—young readers as well as adults: parents, authors, illustrators, bookstore owners, librarians, teachers, and folks in the publishing industry. I can’t wait to make these wonderful connections. I am also looking forward to writing new stories and sharing them with the world.

What’s up next for you?

I have two manuscripts I’m working on right now, and my agent has a couple of my other stories out on submission.  I will be traveling a bit this spring and summer to promote my two books.  I will be posting the list of events on my website at www.cathybreisacher.com.

Since Celebrate Picture Books is holiday based, I have to ask—what’s your favorite holiday and why?

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love being around family and celebrating the true reason for the season. There is always an extra skip in people’s step between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. It’s not just a one-day celebration. The festivities last for a month and get-togethers and fun activities bring people together. It’s a time of the year when there is so much joy, love, and hope.  Interesting note: the earliest drafts of my cavekid story were called Cavekid Christmas, but after a series of revisions, it became Cavekid Birthday.

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

Many years ago, I had a chance to spend Thanksgiving in New York City and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person instead of watching it on TV. I watch the parade every year, but to see it in person was truly magical.

Thanks, Cathy! I’ve really enjoyed our chat and getting to know you better! I wish you all the best with Cavekid Birthday and, along with all of your readers, can’t wait to meet Chip and Curly!

You can connect with Cathy Breisacher on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

Cavekid Birthday Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Charlesbridge in a Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Cavekid Birthday written by Cathy Breisacher | illustrated by Roland Garrigue

This giveaway is open from March 1 through March 7 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 8.

Prizing provided by Charlesbridge

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Read Across America Day Activity

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Homemade Shaving Cream Wrapping Paper

 

If you have birthdays coming up or plans to give a book or two for Read Across America Day, grab the kids and have fun making this wrapping paper that has a high hands-on coolness factor.

Supplies

  • 1 can of shaving cream
  • Food coloring
  • Shallow baking tray
  • Frosting spatula or regular spatula
  • Toothpicks or skewer for swirling food coloring
  • White paper, computer paper works well

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Directions

  1. Squirt the shaving cream onto the tray in small amounts and spread into a thin layer with the spatula
  2. Squeeze a few drops of different colored food coloring onto the shaving cream
  3. With the toothpick or skewer gently swirl the colors. Alternately, gently smooth the colors around and together with the icing spatula.
  4. Lay a piece of white paper on top of the shaving cream
  5. Gently pat the paper all over. Do not submerge the paper in the shaving cream.
  6. Lift the paper up and place on the table
  7. Let sit for a few minutes
  8. Scrape the shaving cream off the paper and let the paper dry
  9. To wrap larger boxes, tape several pieces of paper together

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You can find Cavekid Birthday at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 29 – National Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Cat lovers get it! The mercurial personalities of felines keep us laughing, shaking our heads, and, of course, loving these singular pets. Cats are the stars of social media, they inspire fashion statements, decorate mugs and dish ware, and are cuter than cute. But there are many cats and kittens that don’t have a forever home. National Cat Day was established in 2005 by pet and family lifestyle expert and animal welfare advocate, Colleen Paige. Her goal was to raise awareness of the number of rescue cats that need permanent homes while also celebrating the unique relationship between cats and those who love them. Today’s book is simply purr-fect for those who love cats and books!

Bambino and Mr. Twain

Written by P. I. Maltbie | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

On a particular November day in 1904, a crowd gathered outside the brownstone where Samuel Clemens, known to readers as Mark Twain, had recently come to live. Reporters, readers, and neighbors had come to wish Sam a happy birthday. But they were shooed away by his housekeeper, Katy. Since his wife, Livy, had died five months earlier, Samuel had not felt happy; he didn’t want to see anyone or even leave the house.

“From an upstairs window an old man with wild white hair and a black cat watched the crowd walk away. ‘Everyone wants to meet witty Mark Twain,’ the man said. ‘But tell me, Bambino, would they want to meet sad, old Samuel Clemens?’” Soon his daughter Jean entered the room and persuaded her father to come downstairs for cake and ice cream with the promise that Bambino, their black cat, could have some too.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

In the middle of the cake stood a single candle—a tradition that Livy had started so that Samuel would “‘never grow old.’” With a dish of ice-cream to himself, Bambino took the place of Sam’s older daughter, Clara, who couldn’t be with them that night. Friends had invited Sam for dinner, but he did not want to go. As winter settle in, so did Samuel. He rarely left his bed, littering the covers with papers and books—so many “that the cat had difficulty finding a soft place to sleep.”

As Christmas approached, instead of attending the parties he was invited to, Samuel wandered around his big house, gazing at pictures of Livy and playing games—like billiards—with Bambino. When spring arrived, Katy rushed around opening windows to air out the house. In a sunlit upstairs room, “Bambino attacked the sunbeam dancing on the wardrobe door. Sam opened the door. The sunbeam shone on a white suit. Bambino swatted at it.” Sam lifted the suit from the closet and looked at it fondly. While Livy was alive he had worn that suit every summer. “‘Those were happy days,’” he recalled.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012, text copyright P.I. Maltbie, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Just then, outside the open window, Bambino saw a squirrel that had been chattering at him for days. With a leap Bambino was chasing the squirrel down the street. “‘Bamb-i-i-i-n-o-o-o!’ Sam’s voice echoed over the city noises.” Sam and Jean put up Lost Cat posters offering a $5.00 reward (a week’s wages) for Bambino’s return. Sam didn’t know how he would tell Clara that Bambino was gone, but Jean reassured him that someone would find their cat.

“Soon a steady stream of people appeared on Sam’s doorstep with cats and kittens of every size, color, and breed.” Seeing the crowd, Sam came out onto his stoop. One little girl offered to let Sam borrow their family’s cat until Bambino returned, and others brought him cats they thought would comfort him. But Sam thought Bambino would not “‘take kindly to finding a foreign cat in his kingdom.’” Reporters wanted to talk to this beloved author about Bambino too, “and this time Sam talked to them.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Four days later, Katy found Bambino on the doorstep as if nothing had happened. Sam was overjoyed. “‘To celebrate, we’ll feast on the fatted salmon,’” he said. Sam’s experience with his kindly friends, neighbors, and readers had given him a new perspective. He was ready to rejoin the world and enjoy what it had to offer. An announcement in the newspaper let people know that Bambino had returned, but they continued to drop by to wish Sam well. Now, Sam smiled and talked with them.

Sam had several white suits made, and they became his trademark. At his home in Connecticut, he held a musical gala and talked and joked the way he used to. Jean and Clara had not seen their father this happy in a long time. And Bambino? He just “blinked his eyes and purred.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

P.I. Maltbie’s focus on a particular year in Samuel Clemens’ life provides a deeper portrait of this author known for his wit, wisdom, and social commentary. Maltbie’s detailed and compassionate storytelling reveals the stages and effects of grief and the way a pet or a good friend can help in a way that is accessible and understandable for children. His tracing of the passage of time from fall to summer allows readers to see that recovery from sadness or other events is a personal journey, but one that is made easier with the enduring love and reassurance of family and friends. Readers who love the stories and novels of Mark Twain will appreciate this touching glimpse into Samuel Clemens’ life.

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Daniel Miyares’ crisp, mixed-media and digital illustrations resonate with muted, yet saturated colors that reflect Samuel Clemens’ mourning. Perky Bambino is a constant presence, celebrating Sam’s birthday, playing billiards with Sam, and curled up on Sam’s bed. Bambino’s dramatic leap out the window will wow kids, and they will empathize with Sam as pages without the black cat reflect Sam’s feeling of loss. Young readers will be inspired by the little girl who offers her own family cat to comfort Sam and be cheered to see the positive effect Bambino’s return has on Sam as he again embraces the world dressed in the iconic white suit, which signals Sam’s lightening mood and regained good humor.

Bambino and Mr. Twain is an excellent biography to share with children at home and school to show that everyone undergoes good and bad times, but with faithful and loving family and friends, problems can be resolved and happiness restored.

Ages 5 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2012 | ISBN 978-1580892728 

Coming in paperback in May, 2019. Available for preorder | ISBN 978-1580892735

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books, and his art on his website

National Cat Day Activity

Purr-fect Friends Maze

 

One little kitten wants to play with her friends. Help her find her way in this printable maze!

Purr-fect Friends Maze Puzzle |  Purr-fect Friends Maze Solution

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You can find Bambino and Mr. Twain at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 2 – World UFO Day

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About the Holiday

World UFO Day was established in 2001 as a time when alien-life enthusiasts could get together, talk about their theories, and share stories and evidence gathered. To celebrate watch some UFO-themed movies, read up on reported alien encounters or outer space-themed science fiction, or throw a UFO party. However you decide to have fun on World UFO Day, just make sure it’s an out-of-this-world experience.

Breaking News: Alien Alert

By David Biedrzycki

 

Night has fallen and Mama Bear puts Baby Bear down to sleep in a soft meadow bed. Suddenly, though, a light from above focuses on the Bear’s den and begins to lift a dozing Baby Bear into the sky. Mama Bear grabs one of his legs while Papa Bear takes hold of one of Mama Bear’s legs, and together they’re transported into an alien spaceship. It’s still dark as the morning news broadcasts a News 3 Special Report from Hundred Acre Park.

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Copyright David Biedrzycki, 2018, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Reporter Chad Newsworthy is standing in the middle of the meadow where one large crop circle surrounded by little crop circles attest to the strange goings on. Newsworthy looks into the camera and reports: “According to eyewitnesses, last night an alien spaceship snatched up bears, moose, rabbits, and squirrels from this very meadow.” A half-eaten carrot is shown as evidence, and a local scout troop who saw the whole thing is standing by.

One scout is telling how she caught the alien abduction of a friend’s toy bunny on her phone while a headline scrolls across the bottom of the report: “It appears aliens can’t tell the difference between live and stuffed animals.” A local farmer is also interviewed about his missing cow, goat, and piglet. To flesh out the story UFO expert E. T. Fonehome gives his opinion on what the aliens may look like.

Meanwhile, the animals who are waiting to learn their fate in the darkened spaceship are unaware of the commotion down on Earth. News reporting has moved to the zoo, where four of the most popular animals are missing, while, unfortunately, the parrot Annoying Ralph was left behind.

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Copyright David Biedrzycki, 2018, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Not one to miss an opportunity for some face time on TV, Mayor Luke Atme pulls together a press conference where he assures his constituents: “Good afternoon, my fellow citizens! I’m not here to talk about my election campaign, but to express my deepest concern for those poor, defenseless animals.” The scrolling headline reveals that “polls show that if election were held today, mayor would lose to Annoying Ralph.”

By now dusk has fallen. A crowd has gathered behind reporter Chad Newsworthy, and the alien souvenirs are selling like hotcakes. But what’s happening on the spaceship? The aliens have the animals surrounded and Baby Bear is approaching one young alien who’s holding a string—or is it pull cord…? All over the world, the news is exploding with this universal story that “we are not alone.”

Suddenly, in the dark night sky, the spaceship zooms into view and hovers above the park. As it lands and lowers its ramp, “witnesses report hearing strange music.” Chad Newsworthy looks intently into the camera and reports what everyone is feeling: “There are no words for this moment. The human race holds its breath.” Then the moment everyone has been waiting for occurs, and the animals descend the ramp… “with goody bags?!” As the aliens lift off, it seems humans have to concede that “we are not the only party animals in the universe!”

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Copyright David Biedrzycki, 2018, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

David Biedrzycki’s Breaking News: Alien Alert is funny, pun-filled storytelling at its best. Sly references to news reporting, alien abduction, and emergency response tropes add layers of depth that will keep kids as well as adults laughing from the mysterious beginning to the surprising end. Biedrzycki’s focus on the Earthlings in the story increases the suspense and the clever payout when the animals are released.

Biedrzycki’s dynamic art captures the personalities who often get involved in sensational news stories. Speech bubbles let readers easily follow the action as the news spreads from person to person. An bit of evidence left at the scene may give super sleuths an early clue to the ending.

For laugh-inducing story times that kids will want to tune into again and again, Breaking News: Alien Alert is a definite UFO—Undeniably Fantastic Option—for home and classroom libraries.

 Ages 4 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2018 | ISBN 978-1580898041

To learn more about David Biedrzycki, and his books visit his website.

World UFO Day Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-space-alien-coloring-page

Booking through Space! Coloring Page

 

These aliens have a very special spaceship to travel in! Grab your crayons or pencils and make their universe more colorful!

Booking through Space! Coloring Page

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Breaking News: Alien Alert can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review