June 6 – Garden Exercise Day

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About the Holiday

Did you know that gardening is good exercise? Well, all that tilling and digging and bending and carrying adds up to quite a strenuous workout! Today’s holiday encourages couch potatoes (eye just couldn’t help myself) to get up and get out! In addition to exercise, gardening provides other health benefits, such as nutritious food, stress relief, and a sunny dose of vitamin D. So grab a planter or patch, some dirt, and some seeds and plot out (so sorry…) your garden!

Lola Plants a Garden

Written by Anna McQuinn |Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

 

Lola has a book of garden poems that she absolutely loves. Her favorite poem is: “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, / How does your garden grow? / With silver bells / and cockleshells / and pretty maids all in a row.” She likes that poem so much, in fact, that it has inspired her to plant her own garden. Lola’s “mommy says there is room near the vegetables.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-plants-a-garden-reading

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

Lola checks out a stack of books about flowers from the library and with Mommy’s help makes a list of her favorites. “They go to the garden store to buy seeds.” At home Lola and Mommy dig in the dirt and drop in the seeds. Lola uses the “seed packets to mark where the flowers are planted.” Then Lola waits. While waiting she uses the time to create her own book about flowers. She cuts paper petals, stems and leaves and even adds a butterfly. “Mommy types the Mary Mary poem, and Lola glues it in.”

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

After that, Lola threads some silver bells onto a string. She places several shells on her shelf and adds some beads as well. With wood, cloth, and yarn, Lola “even makes a little Mary Mary.” At last, Lola sees green shoots popping out of the ground. She carefully pulls up weeds around her plants. Day by day, her flowers grow taller and “open up to the sun.”

When the garden is in full bloom, Lola’s daddy helps her hang the string of bells above it. Mary Mary is given her own special spot too. When her little plot looks perfect, Lola invites her friends to see her garden. She and Mommy make cupcakes, and Lola wears a flowered shirt, flowers in her hair, and a beaded bracelet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-plants-a-garden-watching-shoots

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

Lola’s friends love the garden. “They share the crunchy peas and sweet strawberries that Mommy grew.” While the four friends enjoy the cupcakes and juice, Lola entertains them with a story starring her Mary Mary doll. Already Lola is thinking about what garden she will plant next.

Little ones will be excited to meet Lola, whose love of flowers and the “Mary Mary” poem spurs her creativity in so many directions—from gardening to crafting to cooking to pretending. Anna McQuinn’s engaging story shows how reading can inspire action, and puts Lola in charge of making her vision come true. With simple yet lovely storytelling, McQuinn taps into children’s desires to reenact what they see and read and to share their successes with others. Through her work, Lola becomes the subject of her own “Lola Lola” poem, which closes the book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lola-plants-a-garden-weeding

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

Rosalind Beardshaw’s Lola is an adorable and determined girl with an ever-present smile. Young readers will love being invited into Lola’s home, going along to the garden store, watching her flowers bloom into glorious colors, and joining her picnic with friends. Seeing the progression of all of Lola’s projects may motivate readers to copy her—which would make for a fun summer activity!

Lola Plants a Garden will captivate fans of Lola’s other adventures and make new readers want to discover them all. The book would make a great addition to home libraries as Lola will quickly become a friend children will want to visit with again and again. Lola Plants a Garden has recently been published in paperback in English and Spanish editions

Ages 2 – 5

Charlesbridge Publishing, 2017 (Paperback)| ISBN 978-1580896955 (English); 978-1580897860 (Spanish)

Discover more about Anna McQuinn, her books, and her work with children on her website!

Visit Rosalind Beardshaw’s website to learn more about her books and artwork!

You can join Lola in her adventures with these fun activities on the Alanna Books website!

Garden Exercise Day Activity

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Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game, copyright Celebrate Picture Books, 2017

Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing rolled vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the determined number of rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

Picture Book Review

April 12 – It’s National Humor Month

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About the Holiday

Perhaps these days we should consider making every month Humor Month, but until that happens, enjoy as many laughs as you can during April. No matter what you find funny or how you express your sense of humor, this month’s holiday allows you to indulge the more ridiculous aspects of life!

Meet the McKaws

By Ged Adamson

 

Captain Stan and Tiny McKaw, Stan’s parrot first mate, love everything about being pirates—“Sailing the seven seas, fighting battles, and searching for treasure! What could be better? Yes, life is pretty perfect for Stan and Tiny” until…Tiny’s parents come to visit. Mr. and Mrs. McKaw aren’t on board 5 minutes before the squawking begins. Mrs. McKaw takes exception to Stan: “‘He doesn’t’ look like much of a captain to me. He’s just a boy!’” And while Mr. McKaw is trying to apologize for his wife’s behavior, he lets out “a huge, disgusting BURP!”

Tiny’s mom is appalled at the state of the ship, calling it “a messy old wreck,” and Tiny’s dad starts in with a long, meandering story of his days as a pirate, complete with a treasure map, a deserted island, the Kraken, sword fights, canon fire, a treasure chest, and even a commendation. I think you get the picture. Problem is…Mr. McKaw never was a pirate.

Maybe a nice sit-down dinner will clear the air and get things started off on the right pegleg again. With a big grin the cook presents the special meal he has prepared in the McKaw’s honor, but after “just one mouthful, both the McKaws were violently sick. ‘Horrible! Horrible!’” cries Mrs. McKaw. The poor cook bursts into tears and runs back to the galley. Perhaps nighttime will bring a little relief. But no, Mr. McKaw snores and Mrs. McKaw nags in her sleep.

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Image copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of gedadamson.com

The next morning Captain Stan wakes up to the worst insult of all—guano dots his royal blue pirate coat. Even this offense, though, pales in comparison to what Stan sees next. Perched between his parents sits Tiny in a crisp white shirt and tie with his feathers slicked back. This is the last straw. “GET OFF MY SHIP!!” yells Captain Stan. Mr. and Mrs. McKaw waste no time in flying the coop, but there’s no respite for Captain Stan and Tiny for dead ahead is a colossal storm.

The ship is no match for the lightning, crashing waves, and fierce winds. The cook, the cabin boy, Captain Stan, and the remains of the broken brigand are washed into the roiling sea. “Just when all seems lost, however, Tiny gives a great SQUAWK! ‘It’s Mr. and Mrs. McKaw!’” cries Stan. “‘And my aunts, uncles, cousins…everyone!’” says Tiny. The parrots rescue everyone and fly them safely to nearby Blue Feather Island, which just happens to be Tiny’s home.

All the members of the parrot family help Stan build a new ship, and in the process he gains a new perspective on Mrs. and Mr. McKaw’s personalities. “Mrs. McKaw’s bossiness turned out to be very useful” as she delegates jobs, and Mr. McKaw keeps the crew entertained while they work “just by being Mr. McKaw.” The two are even hungry enough to eat up everything the cook prepares, much to his delight.

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Image copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of gedadamson.com

With a new ship finally complete, it’s time for the McKaws to take wing. Stan thanks them for all their help and apologizes for throwing them off his ship. On her part, Mrs. McKaw apologizes for being rude and thanks Stan for taking care of Tiny. And what about the new ship? It might be even better than the original with a bold parrot-emblazoned sail and a parrot figurehead pointing the way. As the crew sets sail, Captain Stan acknowledges, “‘You know, Tiny, I’m really glad I met the McKaws.’”

With the dash of a swashbuckler and the true aim of a compass, Ged Adamson depicts the high and low tides of family life in this high seas adventure. His humorous portrayals of personality traits that can drive family members crazy will resonate with kids and adults alike as they laugh through the travails Captain Stan and Tiny suffer during a visit by Tiny’s parents. In a sweet turn of events, though, Adamson reminds us that when storms come—in whatever form—the momentary squalls are forgotten, the anchor of family relationships is dropped, and everyone battens the hatches together.

Adamson’s vivid illustrations of Captain Stan in his sharp pirate garb, colorful (in more ways than one) Mr. and Mrs. McKaw, and the well-fitted wooden ship will delight pirate fans of all ages. Mr. McKaw’s imaginary stories are cleverly portrayed as chalk drawings on a black background, and the sea swirls with cool hues of blue and turquoise. Like Captain Stan, readers will be glad they have a chance to Meet the McKaws and will want them to visit again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

Sky Pony Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1629146188

Discover more of Ged Adamson’s work on his website!

Meet Ged Adamson and learn about his inspirations, his writing life, and his other books in this funny and insightful Q & A!

National Humor Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-copyright-review-avast!-pirate-treasure-map-game

Original Avast! Pirate Treasure Map Board Game design by Conor Carroll copyright 2016

Avast! Pirate Treasure Map Board Game

 

Playing board games together can lead to some pretty funny times. Enjoy this printable Avast! Pirate Treasure Board Game! It’s Arrgh-uably the best game on the seven seas!   

Supplies

Printable Avast! Game Board and Game Pieces

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Original artwork copyright Conor Carroll and Celebrate Picture Books, 2016

Directions

  1. Print the Avast! Board Game pages (Options: print on white paper, parchment-colored paper, or on card stock. To make white paper appear old – as in the picture – paint with a tea wash before taping together. See directions for tea wash below)
  2. Tape together the 4 pieces of the map. (Option: map pages printed on regular paper can be  glued to a piece of poster board to make the game board more sturdy.) 
  3. Print the Avast! Pirate Loot Tokens
  4. Cut out the Avast! Pirate Loot Tokens
  5. Print the Avast! Game Cards
  6. Cut out the Avast! Game Cards

To use a tea bag to make the map look old:

  1. Steep a black tea tea bag in 1/4 cup boiling water for 3 minutes
  2. Squeeze the tea bag dry over the cup and discard
  3. With the paint brush, paint the 4 pages of the map with the tea before taping them together
  4. Let dry or dry with a hair drier set on Low.

To Play the Game

  1. Each player chooses a Pirate Loot Token as their playing piece to move along the board
  2. Shuffle and stack the Game Cards
  3. Choose which player will go first
  4. Players choose the top card from the pile and follow the directions to move spaces on the game board.
  5. After moving, players should put their game card in a discard pile
  6. If Game Cards run out before the end of the game, flip over the discard pile and use the cards again
  7. The first player to arrive at the X on the map finds the treasure and is the winner!

Picture Book Review

April 3 – National Tweed Day

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About the Holiday

Today is one of those holidays that is up to interpretation. While April 3, 1823 was the birthday of notoriously corrupt politician William M. (“Boss”) Tweed, it’s not clear why commemorating that date would be desirable—expect perhaps as a timely cautionary tale. Instead most like to celebrate the natty, multi-hewed fabric embraced by professors and other fashionable folk world-wide. Tweed originated as a hand-woven fabric in Scotland. The earthy tones mirrored the Scottish landscape, and, like tartans, could distinguish a particular estate or family based on the sheep providing the wool and the pattern.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

By Simms Taback

 

Joseph’s coat was old and worn with patches overlapping patches all along the bottom. It was time to do something about it, so Joseph, “made a jacket out of it and went to the fair.” Time went by and that sporty jacket also “got old and worn.” The hem was frayed, the cuffs were torn, and patches overlapped patches all up and down the sleeves, so Joseph “made a vest out of it and danced at his nephew’s wedding.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-joseph-had-a-little-overcoat-men's-chorus

Image and text copyright, Simms Tayback, courtesy of simmstaback.com

Years past, and that little vest suffered the same fate as the coat and the jacket. But Joseph was clever. The vest became a scarf that he wore to sing in the men’s chorus. Wicked weather took its toll, and eventually the scarf  had more holes than material. With careful cutting, the scarf made a jaunty tie to wear when visiting his sister.

You know how it goes with ties. The edges grew threadbare and stains marred the pattern. Joseph’s animals considered it a goner, but Joseph had another idea. He made a handkerchief to accessorize his favorite shirt and enjoyed a “glass of hot tea with lemon.” That same handkerchief also helped Joseph whenever he had a cold, and in time it “got old and worn.”

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Image and text copyright, Simms Tayback, courtesy of simmstaback.com

Joseph had one more idea. “He made a button out of it and used it to fasten his suspenders.” One day, Joseph lost his button, and even though he searched everywhere, he couldn’t find it. “Now he had nothing. So Joseph made a book about it. Which shows…you can always make something out of nothing.”

Classic tweed calls for a classic book, and Simms Taback’s tale of a master recycler will have kids in stitches. Not only is the story clever, but ingeniously hidden die-cut holes in the pages let readers guess—and then follow—each iteration as the original coat gets smaller and smaller. The bold, multimedia illustrations are full of humor, history, and tradition and give kids and adults lots to look at and talk about. Children will love helping Joseph look for his button under the watchful gaze of Sigmund Freud, whose wide-eyed portrait seems to be taking in all the action. The final “moral to the story” is inspired and inspiring.

Originally published in 1999, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat remains fresh and innovative for today’s young readers. The book was a favorite of my own kids, and would be a much-asked-for addition to home libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 1999 (hardcover) | ISBN 978-0670878550

Scholastic, 2003 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0439217316

National Tweed Day Activity

CPB - Button Coat

Pin the Button on the Coat Game

 

Pin the Button on the Coat is a fun game you can make yourself and play anytime! It’s great for a button-themed party or on any day that you’re holed up and wanting something to do! The game is played like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” and the object is to get the buttons lined up as close to the center of the coat as possible. Have fun!

Supplies

  • Fleece or felt inyour choice of colors, 2 pieces of 8 ½” x 11” to make the coat and smaller pieces or scraps to make buttons
  • Fabric glue
  • Scissors
  • Black marker
  • Clothes hanger
  • Clothes pins

CPB - Button Coat II

Directions

  1. Cut out the body of the coat, sleeves, and collar
  2. With the fabric glue, attach the sleeves to the edge of the coat, and the collar to the top of the coat.
  3. Let dry
  4. Cut circles for buttons from the other colors of fleece or felt, as many as you need
  5. With the marker make dots to represent holes in the buttons
  6. When the glue on the coat is dry, attach it to the clothes hanger with the clothespins

Picture Book Review

December 27 – Visit the Zoo Day

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About the Holiday

After all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s nice to just take a relaxing outing with the family. What better place to go than the zoo, aquarium, or other animal park? Don’t let the cooler (or cold) weather deter you! The meandering paths, opportunities to learn about the world’s creatures, and chance to get some fresh air all add up to the perfect way to spend the day!

There’s a Giraffe in My Soup

By Ross Burach

It seems that in such a fine establishment ordering the Special of the Day—Sonia’s Tomato Soup—would be easy, but for one little boy it is anything but. “Excuse me, waiter?” The boy politely summons the red-tuxedoed attendant, who is polishing crystal to a diamond sheen. “There’s a giraffe in my soup!” Offended, the waiter pokes his verrrry long nose in the air and says, “That simply cannot be.” But when he comes nose to teeth with said errant ingredient, he speeds off with the giraffe on his tray through the kitchen door.

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Image copyright Ross Burach, courtesy of rossburach.com

Ah, a new bowl of soup is delivered post haste! But as soon as the bowl is set on the table, a little frog pokes its bulging eyes over the rim. Only it’s not a frog, but an alligator with its chompers ready to reverse the dining experience. It’s even seasoning the poor boy with pepper! Once again the waiter comes to the rescue.

Before the waiter even lifts the cover from the next bowl of soup, a suspicious blue trunk emerges. The elephant flails in the small bowl of soup as the boy yells for help. “Save her! Save her! Please hurry!” Before the elephant drowns, the waiter is on the scene. The next bowl fares no better. “Yak! Yak! Yak!” the boy shouts. “Yuck? Yuck? Yuck?” the waiter thinks, insulted by the young food critic. But no, indeed a hairy, horned yak has invaded the soup.

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Image copyright Ross Burach, courtesy of rossburach.com

Bowl after bowl is delivered and bowl after bowl the boy encounters a walrus (that balances the chair and the boy on his nose), an ostrich (with its head in the soup), a koala bear (shhh…it’s sleeping), a snake (burp…it swallowed the boy!), and a whale (well…you can imagine). The bruised and sweating waiter slumps on the table with his last offering. “Here, huff at last. Your soup, huff roaring with flavor.”  “Lying? Lying? Lying?” the waiter hears from the boy’s chair. He has had enough and loses his cool. “Sure, I made a minor gaffe with the giraffe. Maybe I overlooked a whale. But when it comes to taste, I am a professional. Do not dare accuse me of…LION!! Why didn’t you say something!”

Trying to tame the lion with his platter and a fork, the waiter runs for the kitchen. He returns bandaged and on crutches to reveal to the boy that there has been a mix up. It seems the zoo was sent the restaurant’s food and the restaurant was sent the zoo’s animals. The little boy is magnanimous and ready to let bygones be bygones. “Let’s skip the soup. Maybe dessert?” The waiter agrees.

He wheels out the dessert cart to present “one mousse…with a cherry on top!” And while the whipped cream and sprinkles look appetizing, the hooves and antlers? Not so much. “Never mind!” says the boy. “I’m eating somewhere else!” He quickly hops on his Big Wheel tricycle to follow the parade of animals on their way back to the zoo.

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Image copyright Ross Burach, courtesy of rossburach.com

Just as it’s impossible not to laugh at the perennial favorite restaurant joke—“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup!” / “What’s a fly doing in your soup?” / “The backstroke”—There’s a Giraffe in My Soup creates giggles on every page. Ross Burach creates a great comedy team in the little boy who only wants a bowl of soup and the snooty waiter who aims to please. Their dialogue crackles with puns, misunderstandings, and witty banter. Mixed in to the recipe are the creatures—some clueless, some dangerous, and some just out of their element—that act as the catalyst for the animated facial expressions and frenetic action that propel the story. Vivid colors, a variety of typography, and some of the cutest zoo animals ever complete the entertaining effect.

There’s a Giraffe in My Soup is sure to be asked for again and again and would be a very welcome addition to any child’s library.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062360144

Learn more about Ross Burach and view his illustrations on his website!

Reader! There’s a book trailer in this blog post!

Visit the Zoo Day Activity

 

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In the Soup! Animal Card Game

Play this fun and easy game to fill your bowl with a variety of animals!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print out the bowl and playing card templates, one of each for every player
  2. Color the cards and bowl if you would like to
  3. Roll the die to see who goes first
  4. Each player takes turn rolling the die to collect animals to fill their bowl:
  • 1 = Elephant
  • 2 = Giraffe
  • 3 = Seal
  • 4 = Lion
  • 5 = Alligator
  • 6 = Whale

The first player to fill their bowl with all six animals is the winner

Picture Book Review

December 17 – Maple Syrup Day

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About the Holiday

Pancakes and waffles are great, but they’re even more delicious with maple syrup! That sweet, golden slooow-pouring topping that makes for a perfect breakfast (and breakfast-for-dinner meal) deserves its own holiday! Before you get out into the hustle and bustle of the weekend, why not celebrate a little with a tall stack and lots of maple syrup?!

Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book

Illustrated by Lotta Nieminen

 

Sometimes a novelty book comes along that transcends the “kid” category and provides fun and “Ooooh!’ moments for readers of all ages. Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book offers just this kind of delicious excitement. Opening the cover is like walking into a cozy kitchen, finding your favorite recipe and gathering all the necessary ingredients. The first two-page spread presents in visuals and words the recipe and the utensils and other cooking items needed to make pancakes.

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, courtesy of phaidon.com

With the second two-page spread, cooking begins! A scoop of baking powder, two tablespoons of sugar, and half a teaspoon of salt are added to the bowl. But what about the cup of flour? Readers get to add that themselves with a pull tab that simulates the flour joining the other ingredients in the green mixing bowl. The clever cut of the opening and the mottled and powdery appearance of the illustrated flour gives the sensation of actual pouring.

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, courtesy of phaidon.com

Next readers get to measure out the cup of milk with the help of a pull tab that gives kids control over the amount being served. Four marks on the side of the measuring cup provide an opportunity to talk about fractions and the ¼, ½, and ¾ lines that are also incorporated into real glass measuring cups or the separate cups that come as part of a set. Once the milk is ready, it goes into the mixing bowl with the melted butter and the egg.

Grab your whisk and get stirring! A wheel on the side of the page lets kids “combine” these wet ingredients from their individual parts into a cohesive yellow batter. Now that the batter is ready, it’s time for “STEP 4: Ladle the batter into separate circles in the hot, buttered frying pan.” Readers will love pulling the tab that releases the batter into the pan—leaving just a drop of batter to sizzle on its own (and you know how good those crispy drops can be!)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pancakes-an-interactive-recipe-book-flipping-pancakes

Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, courtesy of phaidon.com

The batter is bubbling—which means it’s time to flip the flap jacks! As the spatula appears from the top of the page, kids can lift one of the little round yellow pancakes from the fry pan and turn it over. Ingeniously, the reverse side is delectably browned. A turn of the page invites by-now-hungry readers to follow “STEP 6: When both sides are browned, stack the finished pancakes on a plate.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pancakes-an-interactive-recipe-book-on-plate

Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, courtesy of phaidon.com

A pancake-sized round indentation on the plate just begs to be filled with the browned pancake from the previous page. Adding the pancake to the sunny plate, kids will feel as if they are holding the spatula and carefully slipping it atop a stack ready to be eaten. The last page encourages readers to “add butter, syrup, fruit, jam, lemon juice, honey, or whipped cream and taste what you’ve made! Delicious!”

Lotta Nieminen’s Pancakes! is so wonderfully conceived in its bold vibrant images and simple recitation of a pancake recipe. The crisp lines and absence of labels on the ingredients packages, puts the focus on the shapes, providing a chance for discussion of concepts such as rectangle, circle, half-circle, cylinder, oval, and triangle; flat and round; and bigger and smaller. Ideas such as hot and cold, measuring, pouring, mixing, stacking and others can also be introduced. The brilliant interactive elements invite kids and adults alike to play with this book over and over.

The sturdy board pages and convenient size make this a perfect take-along for trips to the market, picnics, appointments, sibilings’ activities, or other outings where waiting is required. For kids and adults who like to help out in the kitchen, love to cook, or are attracted by all things culinary, Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book makes a terrific gift and must have for home bookshelves. 

Ages 2 and up

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872834

To view a gallery of graphic design and illustration work by Lotta Nieminen, visit her website!

Maple Syrup Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pancake-game

Pancake Flip-Out

 

Pancakes are served in a stack because they’re so delicious each one doesn’t last long! This game gives you the chance to see how many pancakes you can flip onto a plate! You can play this game several ways:

To Play Pancake Toss

  1. Give each player the same number of pancakes and see how many they can toss onto the plate during their turn
  2. Make a target with the plate in the middle and draw 3 concentric circles around it. Hitting the target can earn you 20 points. Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point, the second circle is worth 10 points, and the third is worth 5 points. Rotate through the players as many times as you like and add up the points at the end. The player with the most points wins!
  3. Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try throwing them with a spatula!
  4. Make up your own rules—and have fun!

To Play With Dice

  1. Choose a number of pancakes that each player must add to their plate—say, maybe, a baker’s dozen.
  2. Take turns rolling the dice and adding the number of pancakes rolled to the plate. The first player to reach the agreed-upon number is the winner.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print enough copies of the Pancakes and Breakfast Plates for the game you choose and cut them out. Playing pieces can be printed on card stock or on paper. 
  2. If printing on paper, you can glue the pancakes and plate to poster board, cardboard, or foam to give the pancakes more weight for throwing and the plate more support
  3. Once dry, the game pieces are ready for fun!

Picture Book Review

October 13 – It’s National Popcorn Poppin’ Month

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 About the Holiday

National Popcorn Poppin’ Month has been celebrated in October for more than 30 years and was made official in 1999 by then Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. With its salty crunchiness and that enticing Pop Pop Pop rhythm, this snack is a favorite the world over. Its history goes back to the Aztecs and beyond. Early explorers of the 1500s wrote about native peoples roasting corn until it popped and described it as looking like a “white flower.” It was eaten and also strung for decoration.

Most people now eat popcorn with salt and butter, but can you imagine having it with milk? Way before Corn Flakes and Cheerios came on the scene people ate popcorn as cereal! And popcorn really became popular during the Great Depression, when it was one of the only treats people could afford. Why not pop up a batch and  read today’s reviewed  picture book. For more interesting popcorn facts and recipes visit www.popcorn.org.

The Popcorn Astronauts and Other Biteable Rhymes

Written by Deborah Ruddell | Illustrated by Joan Rankin

 

Each season has its much-anticipated delicacies and each food its particular fans. Winter offers hot drinks and cinnamony goodies; Spring ushers in fresh, juicy fruit; Summer requires icy-cold, refreshing treats; and Autumn settles in with warm, comforting meals and snacks. Year-round there are foods to delight the tummy and—in this fun collection of poems—the imagination. So let’s snuggle up on the couch and welcome The Arrival of the Popcorn Astronauts:

“The daring popcorn astronauts / are brave beyond compare— / they scramble into puffy suits / and hurtle through the air. / And when they land, we say hooray / and crowd around the spot / to salt the little astronauts / and eat them while they’re hot.”

Or perhaps those universally loved “Dazzlers of the Dinner Plate” and “Lunchroom Legends” that get their own tribute in Stand and Cheer for MAC and CHEESE! is just what you have in mind. When Winter drapes its icy blanket over the world, a special kind of steaming hot chocolate can always be found at The Cocoa Cabana where “On an ice-skating pond in the state of Montana, / there’s a little red tent called the Cocoa Cabana. Calling all skaters, the big and the small! / Marshmallow Peppermint Cocoa for all!

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Image copyright Joan Rankin, text copyright Deborah Ruddell. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Spring invites The Strawberry Queen and “You’ll know her the minute she enters the room / by the first little whiff of her spring time perfume / and her elegant suit—which is beaded and red— / and the leafy green crown on the top of her head. / Remember to bow and address her as Ma’am, but don’t say a word about strawberry jam.”

Thirsty? Then perhaps you would like A Smoothie Supreme with its very distinctive ingredients: “A whisper of pickle / is what I detect. / with glimmers of turnip / I didn’t expect”… “The mudpuddle splashes / are really delish, / and the finishing touch is that nubbin of fish!” Or maybe you’d like to learn How a Poet Orders a Shake, which goes in part: “‘A frosty cup of moonlight, please,’ / the poet murmurs, low. ‘As mushy as a mittenful / of slightly melted snow…’”

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Image copyright Joan Rankin, text copyright Deborah Ruddell. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Imaginative verses also transform a slice of watermelon into a lake complete with “a little fleet of small black boats”, introduce peaches with their “…sunset of beautiful colors / on the flannelpajamaty skin”, follow the Voyage of the Great Baked Potato Canoes that “…oozed with steam and sour cream. / They were loaded with bacon and chives. / But silverware was everywhere— / and they barely escaped with their lives”, and wonder about who will eat The Last Brownie, which is “As hard and square and rugged as a brownie made of stone.”

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Image copyright Joan Rankin, text copyright Deborah Ruddell. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Deborah Ruddell has included so many more wonderfully delicious, fresh, and surprising poems with clever takes on the foods that flavor our days. The rhymes flow with a sweet, easy rhythm and are as fun to say as they are to hear.

Joan Rankin’s vivid watercolor illustrations bring each poem to life with adorable characters, humorous details, and plenty of action. Her “healthy” gingerbread house set among a broccoli forest is a beautiful departure from the well-known original, a dapper Dracula swoops down on an unsuspecting sleeper, a mouse wields an axe over a crusty brownie, and impressionistic trees hold ripe apples. Kids will love lingering over the pages as they listen to each poem to capture every nuance.

The Popcorn Astronauts and Other Biteable Rhymes makes a fun take-along book for picnics, trips to the farmers market or orchard, and playground—or anywhere that a quick nibble of food would taste better with a “Biteable Rhyme.”

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015 | ISBN 978-1442465558

Discover more books by Deborah Ruddell plus fun activity guides on her website!

National Popcorn Poppin’ Month Activity

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Popcorn Blast-Off Game

 

The popcorn is flying! Can you catch it? This is a fun game to celebrate this most delicious month! And if you keep the popcorn socks, it will make a great quick activity for those times when you want to get up and move but just don’t know what to do.

Supplies

  • 6 pairs of girls socks – white
  • A large bag of cotton balls
  • Towel or small blanket

Directions

  1. Stuff the socks with a large handful of cotton balls (about 25)
  2. Knot the sock as you would a balloon and fold down the remaining ankle cuff
  3. Squish the sock to move the cotton balls until your sock looks like a piece of popcorn
  4. Players hold each end of the towel or side of the blanket so it sags
  5. Place popcorn in the middle of the towel or blanket
  6. On the count of 3, players pull tight on the towel or blanket
  7. Try to catch as many flying popcorn pieces in the towel or blanket as you can

Picture Book Review

September 19 – Talk Like a Pirate Day

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About the Holiday

Shiver me timbers! Avast, ye mateys! Today it be arrgh-uably the best day of the year for all us swashbuckling swabbies that sail the ocean blue a-lookin’ for treasure! Talk Like a Pirate Day, ironically got started in the walled confines of a racquetball court, where a group of guys were doing…well what a group of guys do to encourage each other—toss around pirate phrases. They decided the idea was too good to keep on the court, so they designated September 19th as Talk Like a Pirate Day. They then alerted Dave Barry, comedic writer extraordinaire, who spread word of this day far and wide. Now it’s a favorite of young and old alike. So get out there and do some plunderin’ ye scalliwags!

Pirasaurs!

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Michael Slack

 

There’s a new brigand sailing the bounding main with a crew more rag-tag and wild than any seen before. They roar their chanteys as they set the rigging with their “spiky tails” and play watery pranks on the newbie recruit Who are they? They’ll be happy to tell you themselves—“We’re Pirasaurs! We’re Pirasaurs! We rule the open seas! / We’ll cannon-blast you to the past! We do just what we please!”

All this commotion can be a bit intimidating to the newest matey who knows just what he’s up against: “With lots to learn, I’ve got to earn the crew’s respect and trust. / I’ll rise in rank or walk the plank…I hope I can adjust!” At the point of Captain Rex’s “fabled sword” this little guy—who has yet to cut his sharp teeth—swabs the deck, scrubbing and brushing so fast he ends up in the plesiosaur-infested deep.

Brontobeard steers the ship over the briny waves while “with handy hook, Triceracook / prepares Jurassic feasts!” which leads them all to “…slurp and belch and burp / with buccaneering beasts!” Of course these pirasaurs are after more than fun times—they want treasure! Velocimate navigates by using the stars while our seapuppy reveals that he uses his “smarts to map the charts. / But still we’re led astray!”

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Image copyright Michael Slace, courtesy of slackart.com

Land ho! The pirasaurs come ashore on a distant island. Can treasure be nearby? The crew fans out looking for the X, but no matter how hard they search, they can’t find it. “The crew begins to search within / The frayed and tattered map, / a shadow looms, the water fumes / revealing—It’s a trap!” It seems the pirasaurs had a spy onboard, and now that they’ve found the right spot, he’s alerted his true mates.

They come brandishing swords, sizzling cannon balls, knives, oars, and sneering looks. But Captain Rex’s troop is ready for them. While “a mighty clash erupts upon the sand,” the littlest buccaneer notices a very interesting development. Clutched in the claws of a saur enemy, he sees a fragment of a map. “Ahoy! Avast!” He shouts above the fray. “We’ve got to stop these duels! / Let’s share the scraps of each our maps / To find the gold and jewels!”  The pirasaurs stop fighting and they carefully connect the two shards of paper. Lo and behold! The X is clearly visible! Together the two pirasaur crews uncover the treasure—and what a treasure it is! Not only are there gems, and gold, and silver—the chests contain the nugget of friendship! Now the pirasaurs want readers to join up and join in! “Through battles, brawls and fireballs, / Plus prehistoric roars, / The salty deep is ours to keep— / Come join the Pirasaurs!”

Like rolling waves on the high seas, Josh Funk takes readers on a boisterous journey full of twists, turns, and tricks with the rowdiest group of pirates ever to set sail! Funk’s rhymes flow as fast and smooth as a sloop on a fair-weather day. The new recruit is understandably intimidated by the Jurassic giants, but while these pirates may be dinosaurs, they are modern in their thinking. When the little guy suggests they share, they’re all for it, leading to the best discovery of all—friendship!

Michael Slack signed up all the faves—brontosaurs, triceratops, stegosaurus, spinosaurus, velociraptor, pterodactyl, of course T-rex, and some dinos that haven’t even been discovered yet—in this cross-epoch epic! And these aren’t the scurvy dogs you’re used to from science class. They’ve got eye patches, peg legs, hooks, earrings, and some pretty rad hats and jaggedy shorts. And oh, yes, did I mention they’re super colorful? Purple, orange, green, blue, mauve…. Readers can almost smell the sea air in Slack’s detailed, full-bleed pages of rowdy pirasaurs, tangled rigging, gross cooking, brave swashbuckling, and, ultimately, found treasure.

Pirasaurs! is definitely treasure for your bookshelves, as kids will want to read it again and again. Savvy?

Ages 3 – 9

Scholastic, 2016 | ISBN 978-0545750493

Josh Funk’s website has information on his books, fun activities for kids, book trailers, and much more!

You know Michael Slack’s awesome books! Find them as well as a gallery of illustrations and more on his website!

Ahoy, me Hearties! You be watchin’ this Pirasaurs! book trailer!

Talk Like a Pirate Day Activity

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Original artwork copyright Conor Carroll and Celebrate Picture Books, 2016

Avast! Board Game

 

Ahoy, Mateys! Avast! Somewhere on the island is buried treasure! Test your skills against rotten food, stormy seas, and even the Kraken (don’t worry, there are good days too!) as you traverse the forbidding landscape in search of jewels and gold!

Supplies

Printable Avast! Game Board and Game Pieces

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-avast!-pirate-game-tokens

Original artwork copyright Conor Carroll and Celebrate Picture Books, 2016

Directions

  1. Print the Avast! Board Game pages on white paper or parchment-colored paper or on card stock.
  2. To make regular white paper appear old – as in the picture – paint with a tea wash before taping together. (See directions for tea wash below)
  3. Cut out the Avast! Pirate Loot Tokens
  4. Cut out the Avast! Game Cards
  5. Tape together the 4 pieces of the map. Option: map pages printed on regular paper can be  glued to a piece of poster board to make the game board more sturdy. 

To use a tea bag to make the map look old:

  1. Steep a black tea tea bag in 1/4 cup boiling water for 3 minutes
  2. Squeeze the tea bag dry over the cup and discard
  3. With the paint brush, paint the 4 pages of the map with the tea before taping them together
  4. Let dry or dry with a hair drier set on Low.

To Play the Game

  1. Each player chooses a Pirate Loot Token as their playing piece to move along the board
  2. Shuffle and stack the Game Cards
  3. Choose which player will go first
  4. Players choose the top card from the pile and follow the directions to move spaces on the game board.
  5. After moving, players should put their game card in a discard pile
  6. If game cards run out before the end, flip over the discard pile and use the cards again
  7. The first player to arrive at the X on the map finds the treasure and is the winner!

 

Q & A with Author Josh Funk

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Today Josh Funk, author of Pirasaurs!, Dear Dragon, and Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast drops by to talk about his work, his influences, upcoming books, and a very special ironing board!

What were some of the books you enjoyed most as a child?

Hmm. I hate starting this interview off negatively, but I find this question a bit problematic as it’s in the past tense. In many (most?) ways I’m still very much a child. Hee hee (wink).

I had a lot of the standard favorite picture books: CorduroySylvester and the Magic PebbleCaps for SaleThe LoraxLyle, Lyle, Crocodile.

But one of my more underrated favorites is The Adventures of the S.S. Happiness Crew: The First Adventure: Cap’n Joshua’s Dangerous Dilemma. The illustrations probably look familiar as it’s Eric Hill of the Spot series. My Aunt Betty gave me this book on the day my younger brother was born (I was three). I think it was the first book that I encountered where I shared a name with a character—which I certainly found thrilling as a three year old.

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Your rhymes are so inspired—have you always wanted to be a writer? How did you come to be a picture book author?

Actually, I wouldn’t say I’ve always wanted to be a writer. When I was a child, maybe 3rd grade, I wrote a rhyming poem about Larry Bird and another about Roger Clemens (I grew up a Celtics and Red Sox fan in the Boston suburbs). My parents were pretty impressed with the poems (and still have copies of them), but I didn’t really do too much writing after that as a child.

Until late high school and college when I learned how to play guitar. I wrote a bunch of songs, but I was always more of the clever & quirky type of songwriter, not the smooth and poetic type. It might have something to do with being a huge fan of They Might Be Giants for most of my life. When I had kids, any time I broke out the guitar, the kids just saw it as a toy, and I’d be halfway through a song before they started telling me, ‘My Turn!’

But around the same time, I was reading a lot of great picture books to my kids, and that’s when I decided to try writing my own. Some of my favorites included Iggy Peck, ArchitectThe Curious GardenThe Gardener, and Vunce Upon a Time. I was inspired, and it turns out that my rhyming songwriting skills actually paid off when it came to writing rhyming picture books.

I was quickly introduced to The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and went to the annual New England spring conference in 2012 – and I learned a ton. At the same spring conference in 2013, I met Heather Kelly who had just founded The Writer’s Loft  in another Boston suburb and immediately jumped on board. Both SCBWI and The Writers’ Loft have been extremely influential in my writing life, both in regards to the craft and the business. Fast forward to 2016, and I co-coordinated this past spring’s New England SCBWI conference (along with Heather Kelly) and I’m a member of the board of The Writers’ Loft.

And I can still use the guitar a little bit. I recorded the music for both the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast book trailer and the Pirasaurs! book trailer. 

Your books are so varied. What sparks an idea for a book in general, or what was the spark for any of your books in particular?

I often think about what I’d like to see illustrated. I can’t draw particularly well, but I sure thought it would be fun to see what a Pirate-Dinosaur looked like, so I wrote Pirasaurs! I thought it might cool to see a boy and a dragon as pen pals, so I wrote Dear Dragon. I was entertained by the idea of breakfast foods causing catastrophic culinary chaos in the fridge. So I wrote Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast.

I think the varied styles are mostly due to the fact that each of the books is published by a different publisher and illustrated by a different illustrator. But I couldn’t be happier with the look of all three.

Your books contain such rollicking rhymes—can you describe your writing process?

Well it took some time to discover and then implement the following tidbit, but the most important thing about a rhyming picture book is not the rhyme … or the rhythm. Most important is a good story. So figuring out the story has to come first.

I’ll spend some time getting to know the characters, their goals, conflicts, and making sure I’ve got a satisfying ending in mind. Once I’m through the brainstorming process, I’ll usually hammer out a first draft over the course of a few days to a week. Then I’ll revise. I share the manuscript with critique partners and groups over the next few days/weeks/months. If it ever gets to the point where I think it’s good enough, I’ll send it to my agent.

I’ve refined my process over the last five years, and my first drafts are better now than they were then. I know better which ideas to pursue and which aren’t as marketable. I’ve made lots of valuable mistakes along the way. But I still have lots to learn. I can always improve my process.

What is the best part of writing picture books?

Probably when a parent says to me that they’ve read a book I wrote 5 times because their child kept requesting it over and over again. And that the parent was happy to oblige.

Can you describe your work space a little?

I mostly write (like I am now, answering these questions) on my laptop while laying in bed. Sometimes there’s music or a movie on in the background (often it’s Scott Pilgrim vs the World). Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and have an idea or a line or a scene that I just can’t get out of my head, so I write it on my phone … again, while in bed.

So, as far as work space, I guess it’s mostly a digital one. I do most of my writing in google docs in a chrome browser, often with thesaurus.com open in one tab and possibly rhymezone.com open in another.

My office mates are authors Jess Keating, Tara Lazar, and Anna Staniszewski who I ‘speak’ with in google chat, while I converse with my editors and agent via email.

What is the favorite object in your work space and why?

Probably my puffalump, Monkey Dude, who you can see in my head shot above

You have two more books scheduled for release in 2017: a sequel to Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk. Can you give readers a sneak peek? Are there any other books on the horizon?

In LP&SFT: The Case of the Stinky Stench, there’s something foul in the fridge and Inspector Croissant (Sir French Toast’s nephew) asks our main characters to help him find the source of a terrible odor. They search everywhere from Onion Ring Cave to Corn Chowder Lake, confident that the culprit is right under their noses… but I won’t spoil any more of it for you – you’ll just have to wait until next spring. Brendan Kearney is back as the illustrator and I kinda think it might be better than the first one.

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk is my first story not written in rhyme. It was supposed to be the tale of Jack … and the beanstalk, but really … it’s not. All the narrator wants to do is tell the traditional tale properly. But Jack just won’t do what he’s supposed to! Jack constantly questions why he should sell his cow (Bessie’s my best friend) or climb the beanstalk (but it’s soooo tall) or enter the castle (there’s probably a giant in there). This one is illustrated by Edwardian Taylor – and he’s so talented! Follow him on Instagram to see his greatness!

And yes, there are certainly more books on the horizon. But … I can’t talk about them yet. Stay tuned.

I can’t properly call my blog holiday themed without asking you a few related questions, so…

What is your favorite holiday?

Halloween. Can’t beat candy corn and costumes.

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

A few years back I needed to wrap some holiday presents in private. So I went to the basement bathroom and stacked them up on an old ironing board. Over the next few days, the kids noticed the wrapped gifts and asked why they were in there, so I jokingly said that I was storing them on the ‘Winter Solstice Ironing Board.’

And now, every year around the holidays, we put all the family’s presents on that same ironing board during the holiday season … but we now keep the ‘Winter Solstice Ironing Board’ in the living room. Luckily, I haven’t needed to iron anything in the month of December since then.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Nothing I can report on yet … but hopefully I’ll have news on that soon!

Well, Josh, I can’t wait to find out—and I’m sure readers can’t either! Thanks so much for sharing more about your work and influences! I wish you all the best with Pirasaurs! and all of your other books!

Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as picture books – such as the Award-Winning LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling), PIRASAURS! (Scholastic), DEAR DRAGON (Viking/Penguin), LP&SFT: THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH (Sterling, 2017), IT’S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (Two Lions, 2017), and more.

Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.

Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes picture book manuscripts.

Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.

Find out more about Josh Funk at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

Pirasaurs! and Josh Funk’s other books can be found at:

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

Connect with Josh on:

joshfunkbooks.com | Facebook | Twitter

Picture Book Review