August 3 – It’s Back to School Month

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school's-first-day-of-school-girl's-picture

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school's-first-day-of-school-older-kids

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

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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

May 4 – Petite and Proud Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-smallest-girl-in-the-smallest-grade-coverAbout the Holiday

Life’s not about how tall you are but about how big your heart is! Today we celebrate people who are 5’4” and under—the petite! There are many advantages to being on the smaller side—it’s easier to fit into tight spaces; airline, train, and other transportation seats are more comfortable; and we can blend into the crowd more easily when we’re having a bad hair day. All-in-all being petite is pretty perfect!

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

Written by Justin Roberts | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

Sally McCabe was so small that she was mostly overlooked. “She was the smallest girl in the smallest grade.” The other kids heard her name called every morning along with theirs, and they passed her in the hall on the way to class, but no one knew that “Sally was paying super extra special attention” to what went on around her. For instance, she noticed the kite someone had lost in the tree and had counted twenty-seven keys on the janitor’s ring.  She watched as the leaves turned “green to gold in the fall” and when “Tommy Torino was tripped in the hall.”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Justin Roberts. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

She saw wildflowers turn their face toward the sun and “was there when the stray cats who normally fought / conducted a meeting in the church parking lot.” On the playground she saw Kevin McKuen get shoved down the slide and knew of the “tears that he wanted to hide.” On Parent-Teacher day, too, she watched kids pulled down the hall by parents upset at what they had heard. But during all this, no one happened to see Sally watching or knew what that could mean.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Justin Roberts. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Sally understood that these slights, mean words, and cruel actions kept building and building without any stop, and she finally decided that something must change. So one day during lunch she stepped out of line, stuck her hand in the air, and announced very loud, “‘I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. / Stop hurting each other! This is enough!’”

Some kids just giggled and ignored what she’d said, but many others joined in with their hands in the air. “Like waves rolling in, one after another— / first Molly rose up, then Michael’s twin brother. / It was Tyrone and Terence, then Amanda and Paul, / who pushed out their chairs and stretched their arms tall.” And they all felt connected “like the janitor’s keys. Fastened together with a heavy steel ring / that held all the secrets to unlock everything.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-smallest-girl-in-the-smallest-jump-rope

Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Justin Roberts. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

After that day, things went back to normal—but with much welcomed kindness in small doses and places. Spaces were made for strangers to sit, doors held wide open, and many such “moments that get taken for granted—a wildflower appearing that no one had planted.” And so the world changed for this school and this town all because Sally was courageous and kind and paying attention.

Justin Roberts’ rhyming tribute to the empathy and bravery of one little girl who takes notice and makes a difference shows kids and adults that anyone can create change no matter who they are. Readers of all ages will recognize the hurts that Roberts chooses to include, good examples of the small and large acts that cause physical and emotional pain. The infectious rhythm and the inspirations of kindness—from the alley cats’ truce to wildflowers to keys (objects that at once have familiarity and deeper meanings)—give the book resonance far beyond the immediate reading.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Justin Roberts. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Christian Robinson’s bright, wide-lens drawings of Sally’s schoolroom, cafeteria, and playground give young readers the same view Sally has, allowing them to also find the examples of arguing, pushing, whispering, and other slights that she reacts to. An illustration of Sally and her classmates sitting at their desks shows exactly how small she is in comparison to the other children; the rest of the pages demonstrate just how big her heart is. Each page offers opportunities for kids and adults to discuss the problems of bullying and options for how they can make a difference.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade is a wonderful reminder of how important each person is in making the world a happier place and would make an excellent addition to home libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014 | ISBN 978-0399257438

Visit Christian Robinson’s website, where books and art are always fun!

Check out all the music, videos, activities, and other stuff by Justin Roberts on his website!

Petite and Proud Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-books-review-kindness-cards

Kindness Cards

 

Being kind to someone can be as easy as slipping a friendly note into someone’s locker or backpack or leaving a card for a favorite teacher, bus driver, or librarian. If you notice someone who could use a pick-me-up, you could give them one of these cards too! Print out your Kindness Cards and start spreading some good cheer!

Picture Book Review

March 31—Eiffel Tower Day

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About the Holiday

Today we say Ooh-La-La for one of the world’s most striking and recognizable monuments—the Eiffel Tower. The tower was erected in 1889 for the International Exhibition of Paris, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Construction took 2 years, 2 months, and 5 days. This iconic landmark was named for the chief engineer, Gustave Eiffel, and has inspired generations of locals and visitors alike.

Antoinette

Written by Kelly DiPucchio | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

On a day which seemed like most others, Mrs. Bulldog spied out the window at her puppies playing in the yard. Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette scrambled around, chasing each other back and forth. They darted through the door and dashed around the kitchen. They are always so energetic “and ridiculously cute, but please don’t tell them that.”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

When Mrs. Bulldog looked at her children, she knew that each was special. The boys had already demonstrated some of their talents. “Bruno was strong, Rocky was clever, and Ricky was fast.” Antoinette was still pondering her unique talent, but her mother was not worried. “‘You have something extra special. I can feel it in my bones!’” she told her daughter, but Antoinette had some doubts.

“Every day the family went to the park to play with their doggy friends,” and this day was no different. When they got there, Antoinette was happy to see Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and especially Gaston. The puppies frolicked on the lawn, racing around after balls and butterflies and enjoying tasty biscuits. Suddenly, though, everyone noticed a problem. One of the puppies seemed to be missing!

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The little ones lined up to be counted. There were Rocky, Ricky, Antoinette, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Gaston—but no Ooh-La-La! Mrs. Poodle was frantic, but Mrs. Bulldog reassured her. “‘We will find her!’ she insisted.” Clever Rocky followed some footprints he found in the mud, but they did not lead to Ooh-La-La. Ricky ran around the lake, but only found a family of ducks. With his super strength, Bruno checked under boulders, but Ooh-La-La was not hiding under any of them.

“In that moment Antoinette felt a tug in her heart and a twitch in her nose.” She followed the scent from sidewalk cafes to street vendors to sign posts. She hurried past “buggies and bicycles and broomsticks.” Nothing could deter her. Her nose led her to the Louvre, where Antoinette barked excitedly, but the guard would not let her through the door. In a dizzying dash, she wound round and around the guard, skirted past him, and sprinted into the museum.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Antoinette scurried passed the crowds admiring the art and leaped to the top of a tall sculpture just in time “to save Ooh-La-La from a perilous fall” as she chased a butterfly. Mrs. Poodle was overwhelmed with gratitude. Mrs. Bulldog beamed with pride at her brave daughter, and the two shared a knowing look. Gaston looked on with a special smile of his own.

That is a story from long ago. Today, Antoinette and Gaston are raising a family of their own, and Antoinette is “one of the most famous police dogs ever to patrol the streets of Paris.” If you’d like, you can visit her statue in the park!

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Antoinette gets her own adventure and discovers her special talent in Kelly DiPucchio’s sequel to Gaston. With three bounding brothers, Antoinette feels a little lost in the shuffle, wondering when she’ll discover what she’s good at. Young readers with precocious siblings or friends will empathize with Antoinette’s feelings and be bolstered by her shining moment, which demonstrates that abilities often appear at the most unexpected—and crucial—times. The delightful ending provides a clever and satisfying answer to the story’s main question.

Christian Robinson’s jaunty illustrations of Antoinette and her brothers and friends will cheer fans of Gaston and enchant new readers. Kids will love following the bouncy puppies through the park, where an artist paints the fountain, a woman feeds the pigeons, and a man creates enormous bubbles to float in the air. As Antoinette races through Paris to find Ooh-La-La, readers can track her from page to page through the charming streets and finally to the Louve. Robinson’s soothing, muted blues, greens, and browns lend sophistication to this sweet blended family tale.

Antoinette is an adorable story that is sure to become a favorite of little ones. On its own or paired with Gaston, Antoinette would make a wonderful addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481457835

Discover more about Kelly DiPucchio and her books on her website!

Check out Christian Robinson’s books and learn more about him and his artwork on his website!

Eiffel Tower Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-eiffel-tower-coloring-page

Eiffel Tower Over Paris Coloring Page

 

Paris is a gorgeous city, full of color and light. Grab your pencils, markers, or crayons and enjoy this printable Eiffel Tower Over Paris Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

February 21 – It’s Love the Bus Month

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About the Holiday

Love the Bus Month, sponsored  by the American School Bus Council, promotes awareness of and offers appreciation to the thousands of school bus drivers across the country who safely transport students every day to and from school, to field trips and to sporting events. To join the celebration, write a note to your bus driver and thank them for all they do for you!

Last Stop on Market Street

Written by Matt de la Peña | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

CJ, fresh from church, skips out into the sprinkling rain. He and his nana wait for the bus under her umbrella. From the bus stop CJ watches as his friend climbs into a warm, dry car and asks, “‘Nana, how come we don’t got a car?’” Nana was just telling CJ that they didn’t need a car when “the bus creaked to a stop in front of them. It sighed and sagged and the doors swung open.’”  As they stepped aboard, Mr. Dennis, the bus driver, pulled a quarter from behind CJ’s ear, making him giggle.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Matt de da Peña, 2015. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers.

CJ and Nana found seats up front across from a man with a guitar and an old woman with a jar of butterflies on her lap. Nana said hello to everyone and “made sure CJ did the same.” As the bus pulled away from the curb, Nana began to knit and CJ looked out the window feeling sorry that he couldn’t just go home after church like his friends. Nana said she felt “‘sorry for those boys….They’ll never get a chance to meet Bobo or the Sunglass Man.’”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Matt de da Peña, 2015. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers.

At the next stop a blind man and his dog got on. CJ gave him his seat, but asked Nana why he couldn’t see. “‘Some people watch the world with their ears.’” Nana told him. When the bus stopped again, two older boys stepped on. CJ wished he could listen to music on a phone like they were, but Nana pointed to the man with the guitar, who began to pluck the strings and sing. CJ closed his eyes and let the music transport him out of the city. In his mind he saw waves and colors, hawks and butterflies. “CJ’s chest grew full and he was lost in the sound and the sound gave him the feeling of magic.”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Matt de da Peña, 2015. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers.

When the man finished his song everyone clapped, and CJ dropped his quarter into the man’s hat. Finally, the bus came to the last stop on Market Street. CJ and his nana stepped off into a neighborhood of “crumbling sidewalks and broken-down doors, graffiti-tagged windows and boarded-up stores.” CJ wondered why it was always so dirty there, but Nana pointed to the beauty of the sky above them. CJ looked up and saw a rainbow arching over the soup kitchen. Then CJ saw familiar faces at the window and felt glad they had come. “‘Me too,’” Nana agreed as she and CJ took up their posts and began ladling soup into bowls.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-last-stop-on-market-street-soup-kitchen

Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Matt de da Peña, 2015. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers.

Matt de da Peña’s gentle nudging to look on the bright side and appreciate the beauty and wonder around you is made all the more poignant for readers by the story’s young protagonist. Through realistic dialogue and honestly expressed feelings, CJ and Nana engage in one of life’s most important lessons—connecting empathetically with others. CJ’s rich experiences on the bus and at the soup kitchen—microcosms of our larger world—broadens his view and enlivens his imagination. Last Stop on Market Street reminds readers that to truly enjoy a meaningful life they must be aware of and appreciate the diversity of people and events around them.

Christian Robinson’s acrylic and collage illustrations are smart, captivating snapshots of CJ’s day as he watches and interacts with a variety of people on the bus and at the soup kitchen. The visual camaraderie of the passengers—old and young, tattooed, talented, and disabled—as they talk together and smile at one another will cheer readers. The color scheme of bright and pastel colors shared from page to page enhances the book’s themes of interconnectedness and cohesion, and the clean, unadorned images reflect the idea that often the simple things in life really are the best.

Last Stop of Market Street, winner of the 2016 Newberry award and a Caldecott Honor book as well as the winner of many other awards, is a superb book to add to any child’s home library.

Ages 3 – 6

G. P. Putnam Suns Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0399257742

Learn more about Matt De La Peña, his books, and more on his website!

Discover more about Christian Robinson and view a gallery of his work on his website!

Get on board this Last Stop on Market Street book trailer!

Love the Bus Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-bus-coloring-page

Where Are You Going? Coloring Page

 

Do you love riding the bus? It’s a great way to sightsee while getting where you want to go. Grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and enjoy this Where Are You Going? Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

January 20 – Penguin Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

Who can resist those little black-and-white waddlers from a frozen realm? Today’s holiday gives us a chance to enjoy and learn more about one of the world’s favorite animals. To celebrate, research penguins or visit an aquarium, and, of course, read a great penguin book!

Little Penguins

Written by Cynthia Rylant | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

A tiny penguin stands at the window star-struck by the snowflakes floating gently down. Four more penguins join her to see this marvelous sight. There are so “many snowflakes.” Gathered around the window in their igloo home, the penguins are excited that “Winter is coming!” They rush to collect their cold-weather supplies. Out of the basket they pull mittens—a pair for each, red, blue, green, yellow, sage—“and matching scarves.”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Cynthia Rylant. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

With abandon the penguins raid the bureau, scattering socks like colorful confetti. Warm, dry boots get to leave their cubbies after a looong nap. Bundled up, the penguins tumble out into the winter wonderland. They sled and slide on the deep snow. In places they find the snow is top-of-their-boots deeper, and then suddenly waist-high, “very deep.”

Uh-Oh! Suddenly the landscape is blank-page white! Four of the little penguins look in all directions. “Where’s Mama?” No need to fret—Mama’s coming, skimming down the hill on her belly with the fifth tiny penguin. But the sky is darkening and it’s time to head for home. “In the door and off, off, off, off, off!”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

On go the jammies then warm cookies and filled “sippies” satisfy the tummy. Finally, it’s time to snuggle tight under colored blankets and watch the flurries fly because “Winter is here.”

Cynthia Rylant captures the exhilaration kids feel upon the first snow of winter in her delightful concept book. The flurry of activity to dig out the accoutrements of winter provide little readers the perfect opportunity to learn or—in the case of a bit older kids—to show their knowledge of cold-weather apparel, colors, counting skills, and other ideas. Rylant’s gifted way with even the simplest words turns the question-and-answer format of Little Penguins into a lyrical frolic little ones will love.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

In Christian Robinson’s cozy igloo, the eager brightness of the little penguins is highlighted against the mottled textures of sage walls and reflected in the gleaming gray-blue floor. The little home with its fish weather vane and tall chimney sits at the edge of an icy peninsula, perfectly placed for winter play. The five penguins joyfully don their mittens, wave their scarves and toss socks to and fro in their hurry to get dressed and get outside and enjoy the fat, fluffy snowflakes.

Once there, the penguins become tiny dots on the vast, white hill as they sink waist deep, glide on their bellies, and welcome Mama, who’s joined the fun. As the penguins remove their snow gear back home, Robinson cleverly stripes the two-page spread in the favorite colors of the individual penguins, creating a striking counterbalance to the snug kitchen to come. An old-fashioned stove, retro accents, and fish, whale, and boat décor wrap up the comfy charm of this superb book for young readers.

With its sweet characters and beautiful illustrations, Little Penguins would be a happy and often-asked-for addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 2 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553507706

To learn more about Cynthia Rylant and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of illustration art by Christian Robinson on his website!

Penguin Awareness Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spice-bottle-penguin-craft

Copyright Celebrate Picture Books, 2017

Spicy Cool Penguins

Don’t throw away those empty spice bottles—instead make these cute penguins with their colorful hats who are just waiting to play!

Supplies

  • Empty glass or plastic spice bottle with cap
  • Black paint
  • White paint OR White fleece or felt
  • Black paper
  • Yellow foam or heavy paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Styrofoam ball (optional)
  • Glue
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Paint the inside of the glass or plastic bottle with the black paint, let dry
  2. From the white fleece, cut an oval for the penguin’s belly and glue it on. Alternatively, paint a white oval on the jar to make a belly. Fleece may be a better option for younger children, as the paint can scratch off glass and plastic surfaces.
  3. Glue googly eyes near the top of the jar, but below the cap
  4. Cut a triangle of yellow foam or paper for the beak and glue it on
  5. Cut two tear shapes for the wings from the black paper. Glue the top of the shape to the body of the penguin, overlapping the belly a little. Fold the tips up
  6. Give your penguins Styrofoam ball snowballs to play with!

Picture Book Review