February 19 – XXIII Olympic Games


About the Holiday

Today we celebrate all the athletes around the world participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. While competing against each other and for different countries, each athlete knows the same hard work, determination, courage, and spirit it takes to be a champion. Most of the athletes have dedicated their lives to practicing and perfecting their skills. As today’s book shows, learning a new sport starts with the first step.

Mice Skating

Written by Annie Silvestro | Illustrated by Teagan White


“During the cold winter months, most field mice take cover…tunneling deep underground, burrowing into farmhouse walls, nesting in hollow logs.” Lucy was different. She loved to scamper in the snow and feel the frost on her whiskers. Most of all Lucy loved her “fluffy wool hat with the pink pom-pom on top.” Wearing this hat, Lucy was brave and bold. “It made her bloom!” But while Lucy loved everything about winter, her friends only saw Lucy’s freezing fur, dripping nose, and “chedder-ing” teeth.


Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When Lucy invited her friends to go outside with her, they declined, preferring to stay “warm and toasty till spring.” Lucy enjoyed catching snowflakes and making snow angels and snowmice, but she wished she could share the fun with her friends. She tried bringing winter inside, but her snow cones and giant icicles melted, and the indoor snowball fight “was a soggy flop.”


Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day while playing outside, Lucy slipped on an icy puddle. She slid and then “she…soared!” Lucy was hooked. She made ice skates from pine needles and went back to the pond. “At first she wobbled. She fell more than once. But with practice, soon she was ice-skating.” Lucy couldn’t wait to tell her friends, and she had an idea. She gathered supplies,went back home, and got to work. 


Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Every day Lucy went skating. When she returned, she went to her room and worked quietly with yarn, thread, and pine needles. Her friends couldn’t help but be curious. They peeked through her door and peppered her with questions. At last Lucy was ready. “She placed a new hat on each mouse’s head. ‘These will keep you warm,’ she said, ‘inside and out.’” Mona, Millie, and Marcello “marveled at their new hats.”


Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Then, with a bag slung over her shoulder, Lucy led her friends outside and to the pond. In front of her dazzled friends, Lucy “spiraled and swirled, swizzled and twizzled, loop-de-looped.” “‘Marvelous!’ cried Mona. ‘Spectacular!’ called Millie. ‘Brie-vissimo!’ cheered Marcello. Suddenly,  they all wanted to try. Lucy opened her bag and handed each one their own pair of skates.

Gingerly, they slid onto the ice. They wobbled and fell. “But with practice, soon they were mice skating.” They squealed and squeaked with joy, and Marcello said, ‘”Who knew winter could be so goud-a?’” “‘I did,’ said Lucy, beaming. And together they bloomed like spring.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mice-skating-lucy-skating (2)

Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

For one reason or another, it’s sometimes hard to get friends, family, or others to try something new. Sometimes, it’s us that balk a bit at getting out and exploring different opportunities. Annie Silvestro’s cheery story is a sweet and gentle reminder that often fun, exhilaration, and wider horizons are just a few steps away. Silvestro offers some sage advice along with her delightful friendship story as Lucy makes hats and skates for her friends to show them what they’re missing. Readers will love her charming and sprightly adjectives that beautifully depict the cozy home comforts and refreshing outdoor atmosphere of winter, and will giggle at Marcello’s creative cheese—but not cheesy—puns.


Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Readers cannot be faulted for maybe wanting to spend winter underground, too, in the homey den Teagan White has fashioned for Lucy and her friends. The penchant of mice to gather bits and bobs here and there is reflected in the thread-spool table, the clothespin shelf for displaying cheese, and the half-pencil rung on a ladder. The mice also use button plates and acorn-top mugs. The fire in the fireplace crackles as acorns and herbs dry on a line above it. Outdoors is just as magical with sparking snowflakes, snowy fields, and red berry accents. White’s full-page illustrations interspersed with pages of circular insets are rendered in muted greens, browns, and pinks that enhance this snug wintertime story.

A sweet friendship story for any time of the year, Mice Skating would be a lovely addition to home and classroom libraries.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Book, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454916321

Discover more about Annie Silvestro and her books on her website.

Learn more about Teagan White and view a portfolio of her art on her website.

IIXXX Olympic Games Activity


We’re Skating! Coloring Page


Ice skating is one of winter’s most enjoyable activities! Here’s a printable We’re Skating! Coloring Page to enjoy too!

Picture Book Review

February 10 – National Umbrella Day


About the Holiday

When you grab your umbrella and open it (not indoors of course!), do you ever think about what an ancient device it is? The umbrella was invented over four thousand years ago and appears in art from ancient Greece, Egypt, China, and Assyria. The Chinese developed waterproof umbrellas to use in the rain by waxing and lacquering paper umbrellas. One of the first umbrella shops opened in London in 1830 and is still open for business there today. If it’s raining or snowing where you are today, celebrate the holiday by taking your umbrella for a spin. If you’re having fair weather, why not get yourself a new umbrella? After all, spring is coming!

The Green Umbrella

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Maral Sassouni


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

NorthSouth Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0735842182

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

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

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

National Umbrella Day Activity


Rain Stick Craft


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


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


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

Picture Book Review

December 11 – It’s Write a Friend Month


About the Holiday

During the month of December people like to reach out to friends near and far and share the events of the past year. Write a Friend Month commemorates such communication and encourages writers to pick up a pen and paper and send a “real letter” full of intriguing details that inspire a response. Finding a letter or card in the mailbox still makes people smile. So, why not take a little time this month to write a letter to your friends?

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo


In a bit of cross-curriculum creativity, the teachers in two distinct school districts have combined the annual poetry units and pen pal projects. Not only do the kids get to make new friends, they must write their letters in rhyme. George Slair has been matched up with Blaise Dragomir. What George doesn’t know—but readers do—is that Blaise is a dragon; and what Blaise doesn’t know—but readers do—is that George is a boy.

In his first missive, George begins boldly and honestly: “Dear Blaise Dragomir, / We haven’t met each other, and I don’t know what to say. / I really don’t like writing, but I’ll do it anyway. / Yesterday my dad and I designed a giant fort. / I like playing catch and soccer. What’s your favorite sport? / Sincerely, George Slair”


Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

As Blaise reads the letter he interprets George’s cardboard box, blanket, and umbrella fort as a medieval stone fortress with an iron gate and whittled-to-a-point log fencing. Blaise writes back: “Dear George Slair, / I also don’t like writing, but I’ll try it, I suppose. / A fort is like a castle, right? I love attacking those. / My favorite sport is skydiving. I jump near Falcor Peak. / Tomorrow is my birthday, but my party is next week. / Sincerely, Blaise Dragomir”

In his next letter, dated October 31, more earth-bound George tells Blaise that parachuting is awesome, that his dog destroyed his fort, and that he is trick-or-treating as a knight—a revelation to which Blaise has a visceral response. But what is scary to one pal is tame to the other. On November 14th Blaise relates: “Knights are super scary! I don’t like trick-or-treat. / Brushing teeth is such a pain, I rarely eat a sweet. / My pet’s a Bengal Kitten and tonight she needs a bath. / What’s your favorite class in school? I’m really into math!”


Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

Reading December’s letter Blaise learns that George likes art and imagines George’s table-top volcano science project as a roaring, lava-spewing mountain. In January George is impressed to learn that Blaise’s father is a fire-breather. He conjures up images of a dad in a fancy, caped costume creating fire out of nothing while the truth is a lot more explosive. February brings word that there is a pen pal picnic planned for June, and in March Blaise tells George about a special outing with his dad: “Soon he’s gonna take me flying, once it’s really spring. / It’s such a rush to ride the air that flows from wing to wing.”


Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

Springtime also sees the two becoming better friends. The formal “Sincerely, George” or “Sincerely, Blaise” sign-off of the first letters has evolved into “Your friend”  as George expresses his wonder at Blaise’s parents: “Hi, Blaise! / Skydiving and flying? Wow, your parents rock! / I’m lucky if my father lets me bike around the block.” Then it appears that this project has been a success in all areas as George asks, “Once the school year’s over and this project is complete, / should we continue writing? ‘Cause it could be kind of neat….”

Blaise is all in. In his May letter, he writes, “Hey, George! / I’m psyched about the picnic and I can’t wait to attend. / Who’d have thought this pen pal thing would make me a new friend? / Writing more sounds awesome. I was gonna ask you, too! / I’ve never liked to write as much as when I write to you.”


Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

With a growing sense of anticipation, readers know that with a turn of the page June will come, and that June brings the long-awaited picnic. How will George and Blaise react when they see each other? As the kids approach the Pen Pal Picnic spot, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has his hands to his face. And as the dragons peek out from behind the trees, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has her hand to her face.

“‘Blaise?’” George ventures, as a slice of tomato drops from his hamburger. “‘George?’” Blaise presumes, although he wrings his tail. “‘My pen pal is a dragon?’”… “‘My pen pal is a human?’”

These two-page spreads say it all—or do they? Well, not quite…

Huge grins burst out as George and Blaise exchange high fives (and fours). The other kid- and-dragon pals are having a blast too! And the teachers? “‘Our plan was a success, my friend, or so it would appear!’ / ‘The Poetry and Pen Pal Project! Once again next year?’”


Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

With his usual aplomb, Josh Funk charms with rhyme and reason in this clever tribute to friendship, diversity, and writing (on paper!). The letters between the two pen pals are endearingly kid-like, full of the subjects that are important in a child’s life, including pets, school, hobbies, and parents, which can be brilliantly open to interpretation—or misinterpretation. Blaise Dagomir and George Slair’s names are similarly inspired, and may introduce kids to the ancient legends of Saint George and the Dragon and the poem by Alfred Noyes, St George and the Dragon. Kids will enjoy seeing how George and Blaise’s friendship grows over the school year, evidenced in the openings and closings of their letters. The letters are a joy to read aloud as the rhymes swoop and flow as easily as Blaise soars through the air.


Following the alternating sequence of the letters, Rodolfo Montalvo depicts each pen pal’s perception of the message along with the reality in his illustrations that are—as George exclaims—“as awesome as it gets.” Both characters are sweet and earnest, and while surprised by what they think the other’s life is like, happily supportive. The full-bleed pages and vibrant colors dazzle with excitement and humor and ingenious details. Kids will love the juxtaposition of George’s idea of Blaise’s Bengal “kitten” and the reality of a nearly full-grown tiger. The two views of fire-breathing will also bring a laugh, and readers will enjoy picking out features of the two homes. The final spreads build suspense as to how George and Blaise will react to each other, and the resolution is a delight.

One striking aspect of both the text and the illustrations is the similarity between the two pen pals. While their activities and experiences may be on different scales, they are comparable and understandable to each child. Likewise, everywhere in the paintings, Montalvo uses complementary colors to unite George and Blaise. This cohesiveness beautifully represents the theme of inclusiveness.

The fun dual-meaning rhymes and endearing illustrations make Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale a must for kids’ (and dragon’s) bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0451472304

From more books to activities for kids, there’s so much to see and do on Josh Funk’s website!

Discover the world of Rodolfo Montalvo’s books and artwork on his website!

Dear Reader, check out this blazing hot Dear Dragon book trailer!

Write a Friend Month Activity


Dependable Dragon Pencil Case


U-knight-ing all your pens, pencils, and other supplies in this Dependable Dragon Pencil Case will fire up your imagination! Have a blast making this fun craft!


  • Printable Dragon Pencil Case Template – Wings | Face
  • Sheets of felt, 8 ½-inch by 11-inch
  • 2 Dark green
  • 1 Light green
  • 1 white
  • 1 black
  • 1 yellow
  • 1 purple
  • Fabric Glue
  • Glitter glue or Fabric paint (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Velcro
  • Green Thread (optional if you would like to sew instead of glue your case)
  • Needle (optional, needed if sewing)


  1. Print the Dragon Templates
  2. Cut out alternating rows of scales from the dark and light green felt (7 each). For one row, cut a rounded top (instead of straight across) to make the top of the head (see picture). (One row of scales is longer so you can tile them. You will trim them later: see the double row of scales on the template for how the scales should look)
  3. Cut the eyes from the white felt, pupils and nostrils from the black felt, horns from the yellow felt, and wings from the purple felt. Set aside.


To make the head

  1. Fold one dark piece of felt in half lengthwise
  2. Cut a wavy line along the bottom of the felt to make lips (see picture)
  3. Glue a ½-inch-wide strip along open side and along bottom (or you can sew it)


To add the scales

  1. Starting at the bottom, lay on row of scales a little above the wavy bottom. Glue the top to the base.
  2. Overlap an alternating green row of scales on the first row, glue the top
  3. Continue alternating dark and light green scales until you reach 9 inches
  4. Use the rounded row of scales for the top of the head (see how to insert horns before attaching top of head)

To insert the horns

  1. On the rounded row of scales, mark where you want the horns to be
  2. Cut two small slices in the felt where the horns will go
  3. Insert the bottoms of the horns into the slits

To finish the head

  1. Glue the top of the head to the base
  2. Trim any longer rows of scales to meet the edges of the base
  3. Add the eyes and nostrils to the face

To make the closure for the case

  1. Cut the base following the line of the rounded row of scales
  2. Glue or sew strips of Velcro along the inside edges

To attach the wings

  1. Turn the dragon case to the back
  2. Glue or sew the wings to the center of the back, attaching them at the center edge
  3. Outline the wings in glitter glue (optional)


Picture Book Review

August 3 – It’s Back to School Month


About the Holiday

I know, I know…you’re not ready to go back to school yet! But all over the country, teachers, administrators, parents, and…yes, kids…are preparing for the day when school opens again for another year. Now’s the time to pick that folder that’s just right, find a new backpack, buy some new clothes, and decide that this year is going to be the best year yet! And as today’s book shows—even school is getting ready for school!

School’s First Day of School

Written by Adam Rex | Illustrated by Christian Robinson


During the summer an empty lot was cleared and leveled. Bricks were brought in and stacked in neat order to become a school. A sign reading Frederick Douglass Elementary was placed above the door. “’That’s a good name for me,’ thought the school.” On most days Janitor came to the empty school to buff floors, wash windows, and spruce up the classrooms for opening day. The school liked the peaceful days with Janitor.


Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

It wouldn’t always be this way, though, Janitor told the school. Soon teachers and all kinds of children would arrive, wanting to play and learn. The school didn’t think he liked the sound of that, but Janitor reassured him. Still, the school was wary. On the first day, kids poured off buses and jumped out of cars. They ran through his halls, sat in all the rooms, and opened and closed his doors and lockers. They even scrambled around the jungle-jim.


Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Then the school heard some older kids talking on the playground. “‘This place stinks,’ said one, and the school gasped. ‘I hate school,’ said another with puffy hair to the agreement of his friends. The school sagged a little.” There was even one little girl with freckles who didn’t want to come into the school at all and had to be carried in. “‘I must be awful,’ the school whispered to himself.” That afternoon when the puffy-haired kid took a drink from the fountain, the school “squirted him in the face. Then he felt bad about it.”


Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In one kindergarten room, the kids were sitting on one of the school’s rugs. When the teacher asked each student to say their name, they all did, except for the freckled girl. “‘I don’t like school,’” she said to herself, and the school thought, “‘Maybe it doesn’t like you either.’” At last, the ruckus died down, and the school felt a little more peaceful. But then, suddenly, his fire alarm rang and all the children had to leave. They all “walked to the other side of the field and stared at him. He was so embarrassed.” When the kids finally came back in, he held his doors open and said, “‘Sorry. Sorry’” to each one—even the girl with freckles.


Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At noon the students ate lunch. At one table a boy told a joke that made another boy blow milk out his nose. While the school thought this a bit icky, he did have to admit it was a pretty funny joke. “Even the girl with freckles liked it.” Back in the kindergarten room, the kids learned about shapes and then drew pictures. The freckled girl drew a picture of the school. The school was impressed. It looked just like him. The teacher even hung the picture on the bulletin board.


Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At 3:30 after the kids had gone home, the janitor returned. The school told him all about the day; about the mistaken fire alarm, and the joke, and the little girl’s picture. Janitor told the school that it sounded as if he’d had a big day. The school was surprised. “‘Do you think you could invite everyone to come back tomorrow? Especially that little freckled girl.’” The janitor thought he could do that. Later, when the work was all done, Janitor and the school watched the sun set together. The school admitted that at first he had thought he was the janitor’s house. He guessed that another building was his house. Yes, the janitor said, “‘but you get to be a school. That’s lucky.’ And the school thought he was probably right about that.”


Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Adam Rex performs a pretty neat trick in personifying a new school building on his first day of school. By infusing the school building with the same emotions as children, Rex lets kids see how their comments, actions, fears, nerves, and successes look from the outside and allows them to embrace their own feelings and empathize with others. Happy with the comfortable camaraderie and routines of life with Janitior, Frederick Douglass Elementary is wary of changes that the first day of school will bring. Like any child leaving home for the first time, the school is a little shocked, uncertain, shy, and thoughtful. And to add a bit of humor, Rex gives the school a small attitude of schoolyard justice. The ending rings true while flipping the idea that teachers live at school and revealing that school is a lucky thing all around.

Christian Robinson captures the heart of the story with his simply drawn yet expressive kids, who smile, scowl, laugh, play, and make friends. The homes and school building are equally emotive, with doors and steps that register happiness or thoughtfulness as the day progresses. Robinson’s bright, distinctive color palette and diverse school population invite readers in to find friends and enjoy a first or another year of school.

School’s First Day of School is a fantastic book to share with kids as the school year approaches and during the first days or when going to school gets tough. The book would be a charming addition to classrooms and home libraries.

Check out more books, art, and other fun stuff by Adam Rex on his website!

Discover more about Christian Robinson, his books, and his artwork on his website!

Back to School Month Activity


Pencil It In Maze


School and pencils go together like, , , kids and a fun puzzle! Find your way through this printable Pencil It In Maze!

Picture Book Review

July 25 – Thread the Needle Day


About the Holiday

Sometimes life takes a bit of finessing. When you’re stuck between two seemingly opposing positions, it can be hard to know what to do. Do you choose one side over the other, or is there a better way? Today’s holiday promotes the art of negotiation, that delicate “threading the needle” balance that actually does satisfy all sides involved. Many times both sides just want to be heard and understood. Good and open communication can lead to solutions and make everyone feel empowered.

I Am Henry Finch

Written by Alexis Deacon | Illustrated by Viviane Schwarz


The finches were a talkative bunch. In the morning the flock traded “good mornings”: “‘Good morning, Aziz Finch!’ ‘Good morning, George Finch!’ ‘Good morning, Tiffy Finch!’ ‘Good morning, Henry Finch!’” In the afternoon, they wished each other “Good afternoon!” Evening brought wishes of “Good evening!” And “at night, they said GOOD NIGHT.” The next day the round robin salutations began again. They were only interrupted when the Beast came.


Image copyright Viviane Schwarz, text copyright Alexis Deacon. Courtesy of vivianesxhwarz.blogspot.com

“Then they would all shout, THE BEAST, THE BEAST! And fly as fast as they could to the top of the nearest tree, where they would sit and shout until the Beast moved on.” It remained this way until one night “a little finch woke up in the dark and quiet. He had a thought, and he heard it. I AM HENRY FINCH, he thought.” He considered this thought as well as many others. He wondered if other finches had thoughts like his. He imagined himself defeating the Beast. “I COULD BE GREAT, thought Henry.”

The next morning the Beast did come. Henry envisioned himself standing atop the vanquished Beast and decided now “was the time for greatness.” Screaming his name, he flew directly at his foe…and was…swallowed. Inside the belly of the Beast, Henry had disparaging thoughts. “YOU ARE A FOOL, HENRY FINCH, he thought.” He regretted becoming the beast’s dinner. His troubled mind raced ahead through what would happen to him in the Beast’s digestion process, and yet he continued to think.


Image copyright Viviane Schwarz, text copyright Alexis Deacon. Courtesy of vivianesxhwarz.blogspot.com

He pondered, “WHO AM I?”and concluded that even if he wasn’t Henry Finch, he was something. “I AM,” he decided, and then he considered the cyclical nature of…well…nature. “IT IS,” he realized. He listened to the grumbling, gurgling sounds inside the Beast. He could even “hear the thoughts of the Beast.” It was on the hunt for any “crawling, swimming, flying, walking” creature it could find to feed his family. Henry had had enough. “NO!” he thought. The Beast heard Henry’s thought, and the next one and the next one that told the Beast that all creatures have families and that from now on the Beast would eat only plants because they “have parts to spare.”

Yes, the Beast determined, “I WILL EAT PLANTS,” and when Henry told the Beast to open his mouth wide, the Beast complied. Out popped Henry much to the surprise and delight of the other finches. Henry told them everything that had happened. When he was finished, a small finch piped up, “I HAVE HAD A THOUGHT. GOOD-BYE, EVERYONE. I WILL COME BACK.” She flew off guided by her vision of landing atop a mountain. One by one, every finch envisioned its own great deed and flew away to achieve it, promising to return. And Henry? Gazing up at them as they disappeared into the sky, “he smiled a finch smile. GREAT! thought Henry.”


Image copyright Viviane Schwarz, text copyright Alexis Deacon. Courtesy of candlewick.com

Alexis Deacon’s unique tale is sure to raise plenty of giggles and “Oh, no’s!” followed by more giggles and finally cheers as Henry comes to terms with his greatness and, despite his diminutive size, figures out a way to vanquish the Beast. Like René Descartes before him, Henry comes to the conclusion that “I think, therefore I am,” and with pluck and self-confidence decides that his existence warrants attention and respect. Deacon’s inspirational story is perfectly aimed at his young audience who are just beginning to “have thoughts” about who they are, who they want to be, and what they want to do. Henry’s wavering and uncertainty are presented with honesty and humor that will resonate with kids, and his final victory is a joy.


Image copyright Viviane Schwarz, text copyright Alexis Deacon. Courtesy of vivianesxhwarz.blogspot.com

Viviane Schwarz could not have hit upon a more ideal way to depict Henry and the other finches than in the red fingerprints that determine their individuality. With only a few changes to his sketched-in features, adorable Henry becomes sweet, fearful, resolute, courageous, and of course thoughtful. The blue Beast with its mold-green tongue dominates the pages when it appears and dwarfs the tiny birds and other creatures it slurps up. When Henry is eaten and slides through the Beast’s digestive system, the pages turn appropriately black until Henry decides that “NO!” he is not going to become dinner today. A two-page spread of the life cycle for birds, insects, snakes, rats, plants, and even the Beast is a beauty.

I Am Henry Finch is a book that stirs emotions and stimulates discussion, and Henry—like another literary Finch who refused to accept the status quo—is a terrific hero to add to any home bookshelf.

Ages 5 – 8

Candlewick, 2016 | ISBN 978-1406365481 (Paperback) | ISBN 978-0763678128 (Hardcover, 2015)

You can connect with Alexis Deacon on his blog “A Place to Call Home.”

You’ll find more about Viviane Schwarz, her books, and her Cat and Bag web comic as well as videos, worksheets, and other goodies on her website.

Thread the Needle Day Activity


Think Before You Speak Coloring Page


Everyone can make a difference by taking time to talk to friends or others when problems come up or opinions vary.  How do you keep a conversation productive and possitive? Print out this Think Before You Speak Coloring Page to remember the rules of beneficial communication.

Picture Book Review

June 19 – It’s National Zoo and Aquarium Month


About the Holiday

This month’s observance pays tribute to the role of zoos and aquariums and the work they do for education, conservation, and research to protect the world’s animals. As zoos and aquariums build exhibits that more closely resemble the animals’ natural habitats and offer interactive and hands-on programs, more visitors can learn about the environments and science of each amazing creature. These institutions are also reaching out with personal and online visits to schools by zoologists and other experts, increasing the interest in biology and animal science to students. Nearly 175 million people—50 million of which are children—visit zoos and aquariums each year. To celebrate today, visit your local zoo or aquarium!

Goldfish Ghost

Written by Lemony Snicket | Illustrated by Lisa Brown


In a big round bowl in a certain boy’s room in a seaside town, “Goldfish Ghost was born.” For a while, Goldfish Ghost just hung out looking at the ceiling, but he got lonely, “so Goldfish Ghost floated out of the bowl and drifted toward the window to find some company.” He drifted over the compact little town nestled near the ocean and watched over by a lighthouse that “everyone said was haunted.”


Image copyright Lisa Brown, text copyright Lemony Snicket. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At the pier seagulls screeched, waiting for a snack. They weren’t interested in talking to Goldfish Ghost, so he caught the breeze into town. The sidewalks and shops were busy with locals and tourists “buying sweaters and postcards and pets and groceries, but everybody there was with somebody else, so no one was looking for company.” Goldfish Ghost kept drifting and soon reached the beach. No one there noticed him either.


Image copyright Lisa Brown, text copyright Lemony Snicket. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The swimmers and sunbathers also didn’t seem to notice the “ghosts of creatures who had lived in the sea” that were now floating in the air just above the surface of the ocean. Goldfish Ghost might have joined them, but he didn’t feel comfortable among these wild fish. “It can be hard to find the company you are looking for.” Goldfish Ghost stopped for a moment “atop a beach umbrella and wondered what to do.” Finally, he returned home to his bowl.


Image copyright Lisa Brown, text copyright Lemony Snicket. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When he got there, however, he found a new goldfish swimming happily in the bowl. While she seemed okay, Goldfish Ghost thought they wouldn’t have much in common, so he continued his search for the right companion. In the still night air, he heard a voice say, “‘I’ve been looking for company.’” Goldfish Ghost followed the sound to the lighthouse, where he found the ghost of the old keeper. She was also lonely and looking for someone to talk to.

She held Goldfish ghost gently “and placed him where the light had once shone for sailors at sea.” Then in silent happiness, the two ghosts gazed out at the world together.


Image copyright Lisa Brown, text copyright Lemony Snicket. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Lemony Snicket, most fortunately, interprets the world through a singular lens. In Goldfish Ghost he gives quirky, yet comforting, meaning to the sad reality of aquarium ownership while connecting Goldfish Ghost to the world’s natural lifecycle. Inherent in the story is also the idea of friendship and the idea that while some kids (and adults) may feel invisible to others at times, there is someone out there who will make a perfect companion, if you just keep looking.

Lisa Brown’s soft-hued, matte watercolor illustrations set a snug, soothing atmosphere as young readers follow Goldfish Ghost on his journey. From the little boy’s room and its seascape décor to the inviting lighthouse on the edge of the shore, Brown gives kids plenty to discover on every page. Alert readers will notice other ghosts on the pier and on the beach, find the little boy leaving the pet store holding a familiar plastic bag, and may want to name the ghostly creatures floating above the ocean. When Goldfish Ghost finally finds a friend in the lighthouse keeper (whose reading runs to the same interests as the little boy’s), kids will be cheered to see that he gets new “life” in the golden glow of the Fresnel lens.

With a splash of humor and a lot of heart, Goldfish Ghost makes a tender choice for story times as well as for children who have lost a pet or are navigating the world of friendships.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626725072

You’ll discover the world of Lisa Brown, her books, comics, and illustrations, on her website!

National Zoo and Aquarium Month Activity

Fill a Fishbowl Coloring Page


With these printable pages you can color your favorite fish and fill a bowl to decorate your room!

Fish Bowl | Friendly Fish

Picture Book Review

November 12 – Fancy Rat and Mouse Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mouse-and-the moon

About the Holiday

Today gives us a chance to take another look at rats and mice. I’m not talking about the kind of mouse I’ve seen scurrying around in my garage or the kind of rat that…well, honestly, I hope is nowhere near my garage. The guys  we’re celebrating today are fancy, which means they are bred to make good pets. Despite their bad rap, mice and rats are smart, loyal, and clean. They don’t require as much care as a dog or cat, and they can be fun to play with. The American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association holds events around the country to introduce people to these alternative pets. Today, you may want to check one out.

The Mouse and the Moon

By Gabriel Alborozo


“In a dark and broken tree, in a dark and wild wood, there lived a little mouse. All alone. His only friend was the moon.” The little mouse waited each night for the moon to appear so that he could talk about his day and his hopes, dreams, and fears. The moon always listened silently. The little mouse began to think that the moon was just too far away to hear him, so he went in search of his friend.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mouse-and-the moon-mouse-lives-alone

Image and text copyright Gabriel Alborozo, courtesy us.macmillan.com

The mouse scampered through the woods, but no matter how far he went, the moon never seemed any closer. Pretty soon the mouse was far from home and “was feeling a little afraid.” When he stopped to rest, the mouse looked into the night sky, but could no longer see the moon. Suddenly, he heard a whispered “‘Hello?’” The mouse cautiously looked around and replied, “‘Hello?’” “And there, floating in a small, still pool, was the moon.” The mouse was excited to have found his friend at last.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mouse-and-the moon-mouse-goes-to-find-moon

Image and text copyright Gabriel Alborozo, courtesy us.macmillan.com

But what he didn’t see was the tiny fish “hidden from sight, beneath the moon’s reflection.” The little fish was equally glad to finally hear from his friend the moon. “‘I’ve been waiting so long to talk to you!’ bubbled the tiny fish.” The two spent the night telling each other everything. As the sun rose, the moon began to fade. The mouse and the fish both pleaded for the moon to stay. The mouse crept as close to the edge of the pool as he could, and the fish swam close to the surface of the water.

When the moon’s reflection finally vanished in full daylight, “the two new friends saw each other for the first time….Both together and both happy.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mouse-and-the moon-mouse-runs-through-woods

Image and text copyright Gabriel Alborozo, courtesy us.macmillan.com

Gabriel Alborozo’s sweet, gentle story of friendship found is a beautiful tribute to perseverance, bravery, and discovery. After spending time telling the moon all about their lives with no response, the fish and the mouse, instead of giving up, go in search of their friend. For the mouse this means leaving his comfort zone and facing on his own some of the fears that he has shared with the moon. The fish, meanwhile, continues calling out until he receives an answer back. While both believe they are talking to their long-held confidant, when the moon disappears, the fish and the mouse happily embrace each other as new friends. Alborozo’s lines are simple and tranquil, with alliteration that flows as smoothly as the ripples on a pond.

Alborozo’s striking black-and-white illustrations, punctuated in the early pages only by the adorable golden-haired mouse, well represent the mouse’s loneliness of the heart. Similarly, the golden-scaled fish lives in a black-and-white world until he and the mouse see each other. As the moon vanishes, the pool and pond grasses are transformed by yellow, green, violet, blue, and orange hues into a sunny, happy landscape echoed in the smiles of the new best friends.

The Mouse and the Moon is a lovely quiet story time or bedtime book, and its comforting charm will make it a favorite with many children. This book would be a nice addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 7

Henry Holt, 2016 | ISBN 978-1627792240

To discover more picture books as well as a gallery of “bits not in books” by Gabriel Alborozo, visit his website!

Fancy Rat and Mouse Day Activity


Cute Mice Coloring Pages


Here are a couple of fancy mice – one just hanging out and one all dressed up in her finest clothes – for you to color. After you’ve colored these pages, why not write a short story about them!

Cute Mouse Coloring Page | Dressed-up Mouse Coloring Page

Picture Book Review