February 20 – Love Your Pet Day

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About the Holiday

Whether you have a dog or cat, hamster or fish, parakeet, iguana, or llama, your pet is one of the most loved parts of your family. Animals’ funny antics, eager personalities, and unconditional love simply make life better. Today’s holiday encourages you to spend more time with your pet. A longer walk or playtime and a special treat will show your pet how much they mean to you. If you’ve been considering getting a pet, maybe today’s the day. Getting a pet can be life-changing—just as the man in today’s book discovers.

Seed Man

By Aiko Ikegami

 

“One day Seed Man came to town.” After he had dug a hole and chosen a seed from his bag, he planted it and then “called the fairies.” The fairies were very good gardeners. They tended the seed with special food and water and sang to it as it grew from a tiny sprout into a tall sapling and finally into a straight, strong tree.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Among its leafy branches, the tree bore fruit unlike any other. There was a toy bunny, bear, and duckling; a drum and a guitar; and a tricycle, train, and plane. There was even a puppy in a basket. When the fruit was ready, the fairies picked it and “delivered Seed Man’s gifts all over town” to the sleeping residents. “Even if someone didn’t know he needed a gift, Seed Man and the fairies knew.”

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

And that is how the man who lived alone with only a photograph of his wife and child to comfort him came to have the dog. When he awoke in his chair, holding the framed picture, he looked at the puppy sitting in her basket in front of him and said, “‘I don’t want a dog.’” As the puppy rolled over and wagged her tail and jumped to greet him, the man said, “‘Ay yi yi.’”  

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But then the man patted the dog and smiled at her. He poured milk into a bowl, and let the puppy sit on his lap. Everything was going well until a butterfly fluttered through the window and captured the dog’s attention. With a leap and a bound, the puppy chased after it, shaking the table and upsetting the coffee cup, the vase of flowers and the framed photograph.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

They all crashed to the floor, shattered.  “The man looked at the broken picture” and sent the dog away. Later, the sky darkened and rain pelted the window. The man wondered what the puppy would do. He picked up his umbrella and “went to look.” The sidewalks were crowded and he couldn’t see the dog anywhere. But the fairies knew right where to find her. They brought her back to the old man.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The man was so happy to see her, and she was happy to see her. He picked her up, and she licked his nose. The Seed Man watched the old man and the puppy together and “knew it was time.” The fairies carried the bag of seeds to the old man’s home and knocked on the door. Now a new Seed Man, his puppy, and the fairies are coming to town.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Aiko Ikegami’s enchanting story offers young readers much to consider about the nature of love and its power to broaden horizons and overcome loneliness, fear, and other emotions. For the old man, the companionship of the puppy opens his heart and reopens his eyes to the world around him. Previously focused on his own feelings and sadness, the man finds in the puppy someone else to care about, a compassion that soon extends to others. As Ikagami’s fairies know, each person has unique needs and responds to different inspirations.

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Ikegami’s whimsical illustrations fill in and expand on her story, the simplicity of which cleverly leaves it open to personal interpretations. Discussions may revolve around the gift of talent, how the seed of love grows when well planted and tended, and how the childlike fairies remind us that children are our greatest gift. And then there’s the Seed Man himself. Is he a mystical figure or can he be anyone paying kindness forward?

Ikegami clearly depicts the emotional transformation the old man experiences. At first stooped with sadness, his change of heart when he accepts the puppy comes with smiles and crinkled eyes, and when he is designated as the new Seed Man, his dramatic change in appearance and disposition shows children that love and purpose found lead to a happy life.

For opening discussions about many aspects of love and happiness, Seed Man is an original story that would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363797

Discover more about Aiko Ikegami, her books, and her art on her website.

Love Your Pet Day Activity

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A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

Picture Book Review

October 25 – National Animal Safety and Protection Month

About the Holiday

This month’s holiday was established by the PALS Foundation to promote safe practices of handling and caring for pets and other animals. There are many ways in which you can participate. If you have pets, make sure they’re up-to-date on all of their  health needs, ensure that they are microchipped and tagged in case they are ever lost, and spend time with your pet, which benefits their emotional and physical health. Wild backyard animals can also use your help. As cold weather approaches make plans to feed the birds and small animals that must rely on supplemented food during the winter. You can also visit a zoo, aquarium, or wildlife refuge and learn more about animal behavior and care. Volunteering at or donating to an animal shelter is another wonderful way to take care of animals in your local area.

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Don’t Lick the Dog: Making Friends with Dogs

 

By Wendy Wahman

 

There are “Dogs! Dogs! Everywhere!” Big dogs and little dogs, long-haired dogs and curly-haired dogs, purebreds and mutts. They’re bounding, leaping, wrestling, and bow-wow-wowing. Three kids come running into the park to meet all the dogs but before they do, a hand stops them. The children smile and ask if they can pet the woman’s six dogs. The woman appreciates that they are so polite and reveals that five of her dogs would love a pat, even the tiny Chihuahua sitting on her loooong, pointy shoe. But her sixth puppy, “Maddie might bite.”

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Copyright Wendy Wahman, Don’t Lick the Dog, 2009. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

The youngest tyke jumps forward, eager to meet the soft poodle, but the woman’s elegantly gloved hand cautions, “Easy now, take it slow / when meeting dogs / that you don’t know. / Don’t stick your nose in Stella’s face— / until you’re friends, / she needs her space.” The woman also explains that dogs like to meet new people with a sniff and a lick and advises the kids to stand still while the dogs check out their shoes and curl their fingers in while offering the back of their hands.

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Copyright Wendy Wahman, Don’t Lick the Dog, 2009. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

Small pups like Bootsy are scared when “noisy kids arrive.” But if you pretend to be shy as well, “she’ll come to you; / just give her time.” Even if you’re excited to see a dog, gentle strokes are what they like best, and they will gobble up treats served from a hand held as flat as a plate. Dogs show their love with a “lick, lick, lick!” But when you find “too much is ick, / it’s all right to say enough / to all that sloppy kissy stuff.”

Some dogs like to jump and hug, but if this dance is not for you, “cross your arms and turn your back / when Jake jumps up and barks like that.” Just like people at different times, some dogs want to be left alone. If you hear a growling, grrr-ing rumble, you should know that “this spells trouble.” If you “stand up straight, / stay very still,” and “let her walk away, / she will.”

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Copyright Wendy Wahman, Don’t Lick the Dog, 2009. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

Yes, dogs are fun and like to play, but they “aren’t toys to…poke or chase or tug or tease,” they each have their own personalities. So show that you have good dog manners, and you’ll make lots and lots of canine friends.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt & Company, 2009 | ISBN 978-0805087338

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A Cat Like That

By Wendy Wahman

 

A sweet back cat sits on a flowered patchwork hill dreaming of the perfect friend: one who doesn’t “yell in [her] ear and knows “all the right games, with all the best toys, like a paper bag and catnip mouse, Ping-Ping balls and a twirly bird.” That friend would know just how to stroke behind her ears, under her chin, and right at the base of her tail. But no tickling tummies—that’s for dogs. Another no-no is experimenting to see if cats really do land on their feet—because sometimes, the cat says, she doesn’t.

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Copyright Wendy Wahman, A Cat Like That, 2011. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

The sleek black kitty would “pick a friend who wouldn’t drag [her] around. I’m not a cat like that!” she thinks. A best friend would let her hide and not seek her out, and would let her “bask in the sun” for as long as she liked. A real pal would allow dining to be a solitary affair—well, just the cat and her prey. And her claws? She’d like to keep those to herself too. That friend would also give her privacy at her box and when bathing.

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Copyright Wendy Wahman, A Cat Like That, 2011. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

A real friend would recognize her moods—the little flicks of a tail when happy and the big swishes when not. How would someone know they had been picked as a bestie? They’d feel that sweet kitty winding around their legs and purring, and she’d send them “a kiss with [her] eyes by blinking slowly…” And if the cat got a kiss like this back, she’d know she had found a forever friend. If that cat “could pick a best friend in the whole wide world,” do you know who she would pick? Yes, that’s right! She’d pick you!

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Copyright Wendy Wahman, A Cat Like That, 2011. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

Every little one or older child reacts to dogs and cats in their own way. Some love to meet new animals while others are shy or even afraid of them. Wendy Wahman offers two excellent picture books that explain the rules that allow kids to form successful bonds when engaging with cats and dogs. In Don’t Lick the Dog, Wahman’s advice is shared in humorous rhyming verses that help readers remember the particular behaviors that dogs respond to.

Kids will love the park full of dogs with their distinct looks and personalities all drawn with Wahman’s singular sophistication and style. As the owner of the six dogs is revealed, readers will giggle at her long nose and pockets brimming with treats. Kids will also enjoy following miniscule Bootsy as she rides along on her owner’s shoe from page to page. Each behavior by dogs and children is shown clearly so that readers can fully see and understand how to approach any dog.

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Copyright Wendy Wahman, A Cat Like That, 2011. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

A Cat Like That turns the adoption process around and reveals the inner thoughts of a feline contemplating the friend she’d pick—all in keeping with a cat’s personality. Wahman’s smart, bold, and vibrant artwork creates eye-catching portraits of a cat’s day. Shown in purple light against a black background the lithe cat playfully pounces on a ball, explores the inside of a paper bag, and chews a catnip mouse. She snoozes under a vivid yellow bedspread and lounges in the golden rays of the sun. As the happy cat winds her tail around a new friend’s leg and purrs contentedly in their lap, kids will wish they had a cat like that.

Both Don’t Lick the Dog and A Cat Like That would be valuable additions to home and classroom libraries to teach children how to approach and engage with cats and dogs, whether they are their own pets, friends’ pets, or animals that are unfamiliar to them.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt & Company Books for Young Readers, 2011 | ISBN 978-0805089424    

Discover more about Wendy Wahman, her books, and her art on her website.

Stop right there and watch this Don’t Lick the Dog book trailer!

You’ll love a A Cat Like That and a book trailer like this!

National Animal Safety and Protection Month Activity

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Homemade Dog or Cat Toy

 

With just a little bit of fleece, you can make a toy that both dogs and cats will love to play with! You can make one for your friend’s pets too!

Supplies

  • Fleece, 18 inches long or longer. You can use a single color or mix two or three colors or patterns.
  • Scissors

 

Directions

For throwing, tug-of-war, and joint animal/child play

  1. Cut three strips of fleece 1 to 2 inches wide and at least 18 inches long
  2. Holding all three strips together, knot them at the top by making a loop and pulling the ends through
  3. Braid the three strips together
  4. Knot at the strips together at the bottom as you did the top.

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For throwing or batting

  1. Cut three strips of fleece ¾ to 1 inch wide and about 8 inches long
  2. Holding all three strips together, knot them at the top by making a loop and pulling the ends through
  3. Braid the three strips together
  4. Knot at the strips together at the bottom as you did the top

Picture Book Review

October 21 – It’s Adopt a Shelter Dog Month

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About the Holiday

If you love dogs and are thinking of adding a new member to the family, this month is the perfect time to consider taking in a shelter dog. These puppies and older dogs have lots of love to give and are waiting for families who will love them in return. Your local animal shelter or humane society can help you pick out just the right companion. Another way to celebrate this month’s holiday is to donate to your local shelter. Many are happy to accept supplies, treats, or your time.

The Perfect Dog

By Keven O’Malley

 

Getting a dog is a major decision. Paramount, perhaps, is what type of dog is best, and with so many breeds, how do you break it down? When the little girl in The Perfect Dog receives permission to get a dog, she begins her list for just the right pet. “The perfect dog should be big” she says as she imagines holding a Chow Chow. Or maybe “bigger” like a German Shepherd, or even “biggest” like a Saint Bernard that stands taller than she is. But a Great Dane? Maybe not that big.

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Image copyright Kevin O’Malley, courtesy of pinterest.com/booksbyomalley/kevin-omalley

On the other hand maybe “the perfect dog should be small”—standing around knee height—or “smaller”—mid shin height—or “smallest”—able to fit in a purse. But small enough to sit on her head? Maybe not that small. Next she considers the length of the dog’s hair. “The perfect dog should have long hair,” she believes, already assembling her grooming supplies to plump a poodle’s coif. Or the “longer” hair of a Sheep Dog might be fun to comb and cut, and the “longest” hair of an Afghan Hound would be a dream to brush. But the locks of a Komondor? Maybe not that long.

The girl knows the dog should not be too loud or too slobbery, but it should definitely be “fancy.” Speed is also a consideration. “Fast” as a Beagle? Maybe “faster,” like a Dalmatian. But “fastest,” like a Greyhound, could make walking the dog a challenge. Snuggly is nice for quiet times, but a dog so snuggly it takes over the whole chair is not what the girl has in mind. The little girl does not want a pet that is too slow or too messy either.

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Image copyright Kevin O’Malley, courtesy of pinterest.com/booksbyomalley/kevin-omalley

The day finally arrives for the girl and her family to pick out their new pet. There are so many to choose from! Looking into each face and taking each dog’s traits and qualities into consideration, the family decides that “the perfect dog should be happy…happier…happiest!” But there’s still one surprise waiting. Instead of the girl choosing the perfect dog, she reveals that “the perfect dog found me!” And it was a very happy ending!

Part concept book, part tribute to people’s “best friend,” Kevin O’Malley’s The Perfect Dog is a fun romp through different breeds and their unique qualities. If you’ve ever attended a dog show or watched one on TV, you know that there are as many types of canines as there are people. O’Malley applies the language concept of superlatives to describe big, bigger, biggest; long, longer, longest; and other shapes, sizes, and traits in a way that attracts kids’ attention and fosters understanding.

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Image copyright Kevin O’Malley, courtesy of pinterest.com/booksbyomalley/kevin-omalley

As the little girl “tries out” various dogs, O’Malley’s bold, full-bleed illustrations proceed from funny to funnier to funniest, often to the little girl’s dismay. She gets knocked down by the biggest of biggest dogs, finds herself hidden in the longest of longest hair, and flies straight out from the end of the leash attached to the fastest of fastest dogs.

O’Malley knows, too, the real secret about choosing a new pet—one that kids will delight in, just as they do in this book. For any pet lover The Perfect Dog is…perfect!

Ages 3 – 8

Crown Books for Young Readers, Penguin, 2016 | ISBN 978-1101934418

Be sure to visit Kevin O’Malley’s website! You can learn more about his books, watch a video of one of his school visits, and even download free books!

Adopt a Shelter Dog Month Activity

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I (Heart) Dogs! Word Search

 

Dogs are adorable and come in all shapes, sizes, and breeds. Find the names of 26 types of dogs in this printable I (Heart) Dogs! Word Search!

Picture Book Review

June 26 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Just as it sounds, this holiday celebrates all the benefits of owning cat. With so many beautiful breeds of cat to choose from, there’s a perfect pet waiting for you! If you’ve been considering adding a cat or kitten to your family, why not visit an animal shelter and give one – or even two – cats a purr-fect home?

The White Cat and the Monk

Retold by Jo Ellen Bogart | Illustrated by Sydney Smith

 

In the nighttime a white cat approaches a monastery. He slips through a window and pads along a darkened corridor and down stone steps. He creeps behind a barrel, a vase, and a pitcher standing in a row and adds his shadow to the black mosaic on the floor. He leaps the last few steps and hurries along to the doorway that is leaking a bit of light.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, text copyright Jo Ellen Bogart. Courtesy of Groundwood Books.

He slips his paw under the door. This a secret signal alerts the occupant of the room, who opens the door to this playful feline. “I, monk and scholar, share my room with my white cat, Pangur,” the old man explains. He lifts Pangur into his arms and strokes him before releasing him to pursue his “special trade.” The monk also returns to his trade—studying ancient manuscripts to understand their meaning.

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The  monk is a dedicated scholar, revealing, “Far more than any fame, I enjoy the peaceful pursuit of knowledge. I treasure the wealth to be found in my books.” Pangur is a dedicated scholar of another kind, studying “the hole that leads to the mouse’s home.” In that moment both man and cat become hunters—one for meaning and the other for prey.

The two do not disturb each other for each is content in his pursuit. Pangur at last “finds his mouse” as the monk finds “light in the darkness.”

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, text copyright Jo Ellen Bogart. Courtesy of Groundwood Books.

Jo Ellen Bogart’s quiet and graceful retelling of Pangur Bán, a beloved Irish poem from the 9th century is a welcome respite in this age of multitasking and mega-activity. With sparse, but compelling and lyrical language, Bogart uncovers the companionable relationship between the monk and his cat as each follows their heart together.

The fine textured pages of Sydney Smith’s illustrations recall the beauty of parchment as the smooth gray-and-gold line drawings of the monastery’s architecture and characters give way to the vibrant colors of ancient manuscripts and the natural environment. The contentment and friendship of the monk and the cat are sweetly drawn in the characters’ mirrored actions as well as in the depictions of a long-held affection between man and beast in the panels of the manuscript the monk studies. As the monk states, “Ours is a happy tale.”

Reassuring and reaffirming, The White Cat and the Monk honors the individual challenges and quests that make us who we are and would be a wonderful addition to regular quiet-time reading.

Ages 4 and up (this book will be enjoyed by both children and adults)

Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1554987801

You’ll find a gallery of artwork by Sydney Smith on his tumblr!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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Fishing for Playtime Cat Toy

 

Cats love to chase after bouncing, sliding objects, and they love fish. While this toy may not taste as good as fish, it sure smells better and doesn’t require worms or hooks to attain!

Supplies

  • Old or new child’s sock
  • Fiber Fill
  • Yarn or string
  • Fabric paint or markers
  • Small bell (optional)
  • Catnip (optional)

Directions

  1. Paint or draw fins and eyes on the sock
  2. Fill the sock with fiber fill
  3. Add a teaspoon of catnip (optional)
  4. Add a small bell (optional)
  5. Use the yarn or string to close the opening with a strong knot
  6. Leave a long section of yarn or string to pull or dangle the toy

Picture Book Review

June 19 – It’s National Zoo and Aquarium Month

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

May 28 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

Pets give us unconditional love, provide companionship, and add entertainment and fun to our lives. This month is set aside to focus on our pets. To celebrate spend extra time with your furry friend, make sure they have everything they need to stay healthy, and give them a little extra treat. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting a dog, cat, bird, or small animal from your local animal shelter. You’ll both benefit!

If I Had a Gryphon

Written by Vikki VanSickle | Illustrated by Cale Atkinson

 

Sam gazes at her first pet—a hamster—as he slumbers on his bed of shavings. She’s a little disappointed because mostly all he does is eat, sleep, and hide. She snuggles into her reading chair with a cup of tea and a book of mythical creatures and thinks: “If only I could have a pet / With strange, exotic powers, / I know that I’d find lots to do / To while away the hours.” She considers having a unicorn whose mane she could braid and who she could ride through fields of posies, then remembers that “Unicorns are pretty, / but they’re also very shy. / On second thought, I’d like to give a hippogriff a try.”

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, text copyright Vikki VanSickle. Courtesy of Tundra Books

Sam plans to take her hippogriff to the dog park to “run and jump and fetch” and “to give his wings a stretch.” Considering it again, though, she realizes that the dogs may find a hippogriff scary and that “when it comes to playing ball, / Well, things could get quite hairy.” Instead, she decides to get a sasquatch “with burly, curly fur,” but then she remembers all the time she’d spend brushing out the tangles. A gryphon with “flashing feathers” sounds better until she thinks how she’d have to fly it every day “regardless of the weather.”

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, text copyright Vikki VanSickle. Courtesy of Tundra Books

A kraken would be an unique pet, but to survive the cold, wet depths while playing with it she’d need a scuba suit. A warmer companion might be a dragon, although she thinks with its “temperamental snout / I’d need a fire extinguisher / to put her sneezes out.” A kirin could be a possibility, although it “needs a field of grass / At least an ocean wide” to keep it happy; and a jackalope, while cute, is much, much, much too hoppy.

A phoenix might be an enduring pet, but it “needs a chimney nest / That’s smoke and fire proof” while a “Manticore needs special floss / For EACH and EVERY tooth.” There are oh so many creatures to contemplate—from harpies and chupacabras to fairies and kelpies to basilisks and sprites—but each is problematic in its own way.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, text copyright Vikki VanSickle. Courtesy of Tundra Books

Sam takes another look at the adorable hamster in its cage and reconsiders: “He may not be a gryphon, / Or a creature from the sea, / But I am his and he is mine / And that’s enough for me.”

Vikki VanSickle’s entertaining rhymes frolic, gallop, and prance through her encyclopedic array of fantastic beasts. Her young readers will be delighted that the fun of an imaginary menagerie is not just for the older set and will eagerly await each newly considered pet. VanSickle includes all the favorite mystical creatures, plus fascinating new ones that will spark kids’ imaginations and have them scrambling to find out more about them. The juxtaposition of attractive and less so traits of each possible pet adds a nip of humor to the verses that will make kids giggle. Sam’s ultimate realization that her hamster is the perfect companion is a sweet ending that reaffirms readers’ own relationship with their pets.

Cale Atkinson’s Sam is already a dreamer when she acquires her hamster. Her mug of tea sports a picture of a narwhal, her bookmark is a paper-thin dragon, and the book of Mythological Creatures that she consults is already well-thumbed. As the little girl with the square-rimmed glasses contemplates each creature as pet, Atkinson presents an illustration that is both humorous and beautiful. The hippogriff with its bird legs in front and horse legs in back is a gorgeous hue of blue, but it’s expressive reaction to seeing the dogs at the park as well as its enthusiasm to play along also causes the dogs to hide behind a tree. The sasquatch is a cutie, but he also snarls Sam’s bike and bed, trees, road signs, and a dog in its thick brown hair. And a turquoise dragon may shimmer with lovely scales, but it also chars walls and furniture. Despite its apparent sloth, Sam’s hamster actually is the perfect pet—besides, he might have a secret identity of his own!

If I Had a Griffin is a fun romp through a mystical realm of pets that kids will love to hear again and again. The book would be a welcome addition to kids’ bookshelves, especially if they have older siblings enjoying that other series that features magical creatures!

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1770498099

To learn more about Vikki VanSickle and her books as well as to download an If I Had a Gryphon Activity Guide and coloring page, visit her website!

National Pet Month Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Treats

 

Pets love it when you do something special for them! Here’s a recipe for homemade dog biscuits that will taste even better than store-bought because they’re made with love! Making dog biscuits is a fun way to spend time together and benefit furry friends. These biscuits make tasty treats for your own pet, or consider making a batch to donate to your local animal shelter. This recipe is easy and proven to be a favorite.

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

Supplies

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Makes about 40 biscuits

May 23 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of May we take time to be extra mindful of our pets. As the weather becomes hot, pet owners are encouraged to ensure that their pets have the proper care to keep them cool, hydrated, and healthy—and remember, never leave pets unattended in cars with the windows rolled up. Now that nice days are ahead of us, enjoy the opportunity to take dogs on long, leisurely walks or to the dog park and to spend extra time with indoor pets. If you are thinking of adopting a new pet, there are shelter animals that are looking for forever families.

Daisy Gets Lost

By Chris Raschka

 

Daisy, a sweet, energetic puppy, is enjoying a game of fetch with her little girl. She’s chased her blue ball into the woods where she happens upon a bushy-tailed squirrel gathering acorns. The squirrel knows the jig is up and, tossing away the acorn, takes off running with Daisy close at its tiny heels. Deeper and deeper into the woods they go until the squirrel leaps onto a tree trunk and with some quick scrambling is gone.

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Copyright Chris Raschka, courtesy of Scwhartz & Wade

Daisy stops at the base of the tree and peers into the high branches. What does she see? It suddenly occurs to her who she doesn’t see. Where is her little girl? At the same time, the little girl is wondering where Daisy went. “Daisy!” she cries; but Daisy, surrounded by trees, can’t hear her. The little girl begins to search for her pet. She finds the blue ball, but no puppy. “Daisy?” she asks. She picks up the ball and looks right, left, and all around.

Meanwhile, Daisy is trying to find her way out of the forest. She runs right, left, and all around then realizes she is lost. She hunkers down and lets out a plaintive “Aaawoooooooooooooooooooo.” The little girl hears Daisy’s distress signal and rushes toward her, calling “Daisy!” Daisy hears the little girl’s joyful exclamation and bounds forward. They meet in a sweet, tight hug. And while Daisy gives her little girl kisses and the girl holds her close, who does Daisy see spying on them from high in the tree?

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Copyright Chris Raschka, courtesy of Scwhartz & Wade

In this nearly wordless sequel to A Ball for Daisy, Chris Raschka once again tells a tale of emotional heft that will resonate with young readers. With a few wavy lines and several expressive smudges, Raschka creates one of the most loveable puppies to ever run across the pages of a picture book. As Daisy, with her ball clasped between her teeth, and the squirrel, with its acorn grasped in its paws, stare each other down, kids will know that the game’s afoot.

But when Daisy and the little girl realize that Daisy is lost, readers will understand their worry and fear, not only for the characters, but on a personal level. Raschka’s bold lines and dense colors depict the impenetrable forest as well as the intensity of Daisy’s and the girl’s feelings. The endearing reunion of Daisy and her little girl will reassure children that their loved ones are never far away. The sly squirrel, reappearing at the end, adds a bit of humor and gives kids an opportunity to extend the story as they imagine Daisy’s next move.

For kids with pets or who love animals, those looking for reassurance, or anyone who enjoys a great story artfully told, A Ball for Daisy would be a wonderful addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2013 | ISBN 978-0449817414

You’ll find a gallery of artwork by Chris Raschka on his tumblr!

National Pet Month Activity

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Find the Pet Maze

 

This detective and her sidekick are searching for a lost pet! Can you help them find a path through the maze to the lost corgi in this printable Find the Pet Maze? Here’s the Solution!