November 24 – Small Business Saturday

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About the Holiday

Sure, you could buy all of your gifts online or join the throngs at some big box store, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, head out to the independently owned shops in your area and see what kinds of unique items you can pick up for the people on your list. Not only will you find gifts that will surprise and delight your friends and family, you’ll be helping your local economy. More and more people every year are enjoying the camaraderie and atmosphere of Small Business Saturday. With friendly shop owners and a relaxed shopping experience, it’s no mystery why.  Why don’t you join in this year? 

Betty’s Burgled Bakery: An Alliterative Adventure

By Travis Nichols

 

“Ahoy!” Antoine hails the caller to the control center when the red alert button lights up. He listens carefully as Betty the Panda describes the crime. “A bread bandit burgled by bakery before breakfast!” It seemed her “counters and cupboards were completely cleared of carrot cake, cornbread, and crackers. This is a considerable crummy crime,” she sums up with aptly punny indignation.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine is immediately on the case, calling in his detectives from their various pursuits to “dutifully deal with [the] distressing dilemma.” When they arrive at Betty’s Bakery, she shows them the empty shelves and is assured that they will “find the fully fed, fiendish foe.” The detectives fan out across the store and are surprised that anyone could have broken in without tripping the powerful security system.

Josie believes the “key to catching this kitchen crook” is in examining what they left behind—namely the “kale crumpets” and a cash register full of money. The gumshoes have been so hard at work trying to crack the case that Quentin has gone to the market next door and brought back snacks to sustain them. Everyone digs in, except Betty who’s “in need of nary a nibble.” When Morgan the chicken is finished with his snack, he inquires whether perhaps Betty didn’t hear something since she lives right above the bakery. But Betty, it seems, is a deep sleeper and heard nothing.  

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine looks around and has a quick question for Quentin about how long he thinks it would take to “acquire this quantity of baked goods.” Josie notices that the racks are so high that “no runt could ransack this room.” Meanwhile, Steve the monkey has discovered a clue. He thinks they could track the tooth marks in a tasty tart.

Steve is just about to match the distinctive notch in the half-eaten cookie to one sharp tooth in a snoozing Betty’s lower jaw when…swipe!…Betty grabs the cookie and gobbles it up. The detectives look on in astonishment. “Sleepwalking?” suggests Mike the bull. “Sleep eating,” corrects Josie. Just then Betty wakes up to see all the detectives staring at her, ready to solve the case.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“You yearn for sleep, yes?” asks Steve. Sharon, the duck reminds Betty that she last ate yesterday, yet she wanted no snack, and Quentin reveals, “you ate your yield of yummies yourself.” Betty’s surprised… astounded… asleep! But the Gumshoe Zoo has a bit of celebrating to do since they “zipped this zany, zigzagging zinger with zeal! The press celebrates them too with an article in the 1000% True News. But what’s this on Page 2? A valuable painting has been stolen! It seems there’s a new case for the Gumshoe Zoo to solve!

Notes about alliteration and some very hungry animals follow the text.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Travis Nichols’ witty alliterative alphabetic mystery will have little ones giggling at the zany language and big words that trip off the Gumshoe Zoo detectives’ tongues, while adults will laugh along and shake their head in appreciation of the clever construction of the story. Detective-story tropes, including the round-up of detectives caught in the middle of chores or play, a clueless member of the team, and the locked-room mystery, add to the fun. The panel illustrations set a quick pace for the investigation and clearly show the objects or ideas being alliteratively alluded to to boost younger readers’ understanding.

Betty’s Burgled Bakery will be a favorite of little linguists-in-the-making as well as for mystery lovers. It’s a book that will be asked for again and again. It makes a fun and unique addition to home bookshelves and a terrific English or writing lesson lead-in for classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452131832

Learn more about Travis Nichols, his books, and his art on his website

Small Business Saturday Activity

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Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Before this pan goes into the oven, can you find the eighteen baking-related words in this printable word search puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-betty's-burgled-bakery-cover

Betty’s Burgled Bakery can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 16 – It’s Happy Cat Month

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About the Holiday

It’s safe to say that when kitty is happy, everyone’s happy. Cats have a particular way of tugging at your heart with their meows, yowls, and emotion-filled mews. Of course, we want to make sure they have everything they need to feel good. That’s what this month’s holiday is all about. To celebrate, spend some extra time with your furry friend, make sure they’re up-to-date on their vaccinations, and surprise them with a new toy or extra treat or two.  

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way)

By Patrick McDonnell

 

Little red cat opens one eye from his nap and is astonished to see the door hanging open. Quickly, he scurries out and down the walkway, very pleased with himself. Until he meets an Alligator—an alligator who has his enormous jaws open. Ahhh!. The cat runs past him, and the alligator gives chase. They don’t see the Bear—half way up a tree. But the bear sees them and joins the chase.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Soon, they find themselves hurtling past chicken’s coop, from which Chicken scrambles out clucking loudly. They all run on until…Yikes! Danger! Is that a Dragon napping there? Eeek! It is! The dragon is up—which is so alarming that there’s now an Egg! Wait! Fire! Run from the flames! Do you have your sun Glasses?

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The crew keeps running while cat thinks of Home, slip on the Icy pond, swing through the Jungle, and trespass on castle grounds where the King and princess see them from a turret window. The princess points and shows her dad Lost cat poster on the castle wall. But by now the cat, the alligator, the bear, the chicken, the dragon, and the egg are traversing Mountain peaks until the dragon shouts, Nnnnnnnn Oooooooo! as everyone else goes Over a cliff. Thankfully they all packed their Parachute.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Dropped into unknown territory this ragtag group has lots of Questions, and, of course, by now they need to use the Restroom. At last, the Sun is setting, and everyone is very Tired. But what is that shining in the darkness? It’s the king and princess to the rescue on a Unicorn! Unbelievable! And they have Valentines for each of them! This leads to lots of hugging to show what valued friends they’ve all become.

It’s time for everyone to head for home, so they Wave goodbye, and the king gives little red cat a scroll. When red cat unrolls the paper, he finds a map with a spot marked with an X. Now he knows just where to go to Yawn—and catch some Zzzzzzzzzzzs.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

A key in the back of the book provides the words for each letter.

Readers will laugh all the way through Patrick McDonnell’s wordless alphabet book as little red cat skedaddles when the door is open and has himself a letter-perfect adventure.  McDonnell offers a fully developed tale with clear clues to the words that define each letter while also leaving plenty of opportunities for kids to find other words that also apply. McDonnell’s cartoon animals are fierce only in their expressive cuteness and the adorable princess and her kindly dad provide just the magical ending this buoyant escapade deserves.

A marvelous way for children to interact with the alphabet and language, The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) will grow with kids as they increase their vocabulary and develop their sense of humor, making it a must for classroom and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0316502467

Discover more about Patrick McDonnell, his books, and his comic strip MUTTS on his website.

Run on over to watch this The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away book trailer!

Happy Cat Month Activity

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Fishing for Playtime Cat Toy

 

Cats are happy when they’re 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 get!

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

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You can find The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABCs (the Hard Way) at these booksellers

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

 

 

Picture Book Review

August 31 – National Trail Mix Day

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About the Holiday

Going out for a hike or just a day of doing errand? Then you’ll want to take along a snack to keep you going. Trail mix is just the thing! With its combination of nutritional value—quick energy from dried fruit or granola and more long-lasting energy from nuts—and its ability to be carried easily, trail mix is a perfect take along! Little ones can also enjoy their own versions of trail mix made with their favorite cereal and nutritious finger foods. Why not plan an outing with your kids, some trail mix, and a great book—like today’s!

Adventures with Barefoot Critters: An ABC Book

By Teagan White

 

The barefoot critters—two foxes, a squirrel, a deer, and a triceratops—love to go on adventures! Adventures that will take them through the alphabet. First, little deer and Squirrel must build a bridge over the frozen stream to get to the Foxes’ house. Oh dear! It seems one little fox has a cold. Happily, he has a mouse friend to bring him hot chocolate with marshmallows.

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Copyright Teagan White, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

It’s fun to “play dress-up at home…or on Halloween!” And the stream is the perfect place to “float boats” in the fall. In spring lying on the grass is nice. Of course, the barefoot critters can always find places to jump, no matter what season it is. Making music to dance to with friends is a happy way to spend an afternoon and finding “treasure by the ocean” is always exciting.

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Copyright Teagan White, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

The barefoot critters love camping—whether it’s indoors, where they “create a quilt fort” or outside, where they can “roast marshmallows!” In the old tree, Fox and Triceratops have built a treehouse! Perhaps the friend who has “come for a visit” will play in it too. Rainy days are wonderful for feeding the ducklings and fishing—as long as Fox and Triceratops don’t forget their umbrella. But what is mouse to do when even though one little fox is wearing his yellow rain jacket, he and his sister track mud all over the newly washed floor?

After all of these wonderful adventures, what will the barefoot creatures do next? “Catch some z’s! Zzzzzz”

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Copyright Teagan White, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

As snug as fuzzy socks on a cold day and as sweet as just-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, Teagan White’s Adventures with Barefoot Critters is a heartwarming snuggle up book to share with little ones. The Fox brother and sister, Deer, Squirrel, and endearingly anachronistic Triceratops are adorable companions on the journey through the alphabet. Cozy colors and richly detailed illustrations are tiny treasures that young readers and adults alike will have fun exploring together. Careful observers will enjoy the amusing arc involving Triceratops and his own adventure to find the Middle Jurassic. A little mouse, a playful snowflake-eating frog, and other woodland creatures will delight little ones as the friends spend the seasons together.

Not only for learning letters and new words, but for sharing lots of smiles, Adventures with Barefoot Critters: An ABC Book would make a much-loved baby gift or addition to home and classroom libraries.

Ages Preschool and up

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1101919132 (Board Book)

A Hardcover edition for ages 4 to 8 with rhyming verses is also available | ISBN 978-1770496248

Discover more about Teagan White, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Trail Mix Day Activity

young girl eating trailmix

Kids’ Trail Mix Recipe

 

Kids will love putting together and eating this healthy and easy-to-make trail mix from Fit WebMD Jr. that they can take along to school, after-school activities, and play dates. To learn more about this recipe visit Fit WebMD Jr.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups low-sugar, whole-grain cereal
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup dried fruit, like cranberries, apricots, apples, or papaya
  • 1 cup nuts, like walnuts, almonds, or pistachios
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • Big bowl
  • Small zip-top bags

How to Make Trail Mix

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Put all of the food in the bowl
  3. Mix it up with your hands
  4. Put 2 handfuls of your trail mix in a zip-top bag
  5. Keep putting trail mix in bags until the bowl is empty Trail Mix Is Healthy for You

Why Trail Mix is Healthy for You

  • Whole grains in the cereal give you energy to run and play.
  • Fruits have vitamins that help your eyes and skin.
  • Nuts have protein that helps make your muscles strong.
  • Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds give you fiber that helps you poop.
  • Dark chocolate may be good for your heart.

For Parents

Trail mix is a fun snack that offers satisfying crunch and sweetness with more nutrients than snacks like cookies or chips. You may even be able to introduce your child to a new food by mixing it in with others that she likes. This recipe is best for kids ages 4 and older, because some ingredients may be a choking hazard for younger children.

Although you could store your trail mix in a large air-tight container, making snack bags is fun and they are more convenient for kids (or parents on the go) to grab. Pre-packaged snack bags also make it harder for kids to eat too much. Remember to let your child’s handfuls determine the portion size. You should be able to make at least 2 dozen snack bags from this recipe.

Little kids can pour ingredients you have measured from cups or bowls into the big bowl. Older kids can measure the ingredients by themselves.

Cereals that are O-shaped or squares or clusters will stand up to handling better than flakes, which can easily turn into crumbs. For better nutrition, look for a cereal whose label says less than 8 grams of sugar and at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. While you’re checking labels, avoid dried fruits with a sugar coating, which adds empty calories and will cause an energy spike and crash.

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You can find Adventures with Barefoot Critters at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 1 – National Purebred Dog Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2014, today’s holiday honors purebred dogs and their unique traits. Each breed has particular skills that make them suited to a wide variety of jobs as companions, herders, and helpers. Unscrupulous breeders and puppy mills have diminished the reputation of purebred dogs, but that’s the fault of the people, not the dogs. Today, celebrate the beauty and personalities of purebred dogs by learning a little about your favorite breed or contact a shelter and see how you could help out! Today’s book gives kids another fun way to learn about twenty-six different breeds.

As it’s also Poetry on Your Pillow Day, which encourages people to enjoy a poem in the morning when they wake up and another poem before they go to sleep at night by placing a poem on a child’s, friend’s, or partner’s pillow why not combine the two and pick a poem from today’s book!

Name That Dog! Puppy Poems from A to Z

Written by Peggy Archer | Illustrated by Stephanie Buscema

 

So, you have a new puppy! The first thing you probably want to do it give your new friend a big hug. The second thing you probably want to do is give your new friend a name! But what? Do you name your pup for the socks on her feet? Or maybe for the way he wags his tail? Or maybe a favorite book character would inspire a good name. Name that Dog! understands the dilemma and gives readers a full alphabet of poetic names to think about. So let’s get started!

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Image copyright Stephanie Buscema, 2010, text copyright Peggy Archer, 2010. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

At A meet Aspen, who’s a Yellow Labrador Retriever. How did he get his name? You can see that “yellow hay and sunshine rays / are things she likes to lay in. / And piles of leaves from aspen trees / are what she likes to play in.” Bandit is a Boston Terrier and with two black patches around his eyes, “he sneaks around from room to room, / a bandit in disguise, / Stealing socks and slippers, / baseball caps and soap. / garden gloves and wooden spoons, / keys and jumping rope.”

The way Cocker Spaniel, Elvis, “dances around…” to “music with a rock ‘n’ roll sound” this pup whose “fur’s long and black” may just make you “…wonder / if Elvis is back!” The fancy Poodle, Noodles, isn’t named for the food. Instead, “All over my puppy / are oodles and oodles / of swirls of fat curls that / remind me of noodles.”

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Image copyright Stephanie Buscema, 2010, text copyright Peggy Archer, 2010. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

At R you’ll find a Saint Bernard. What name might fit him best? Well, “he’s grown quite big so far. / He’s bigger than his doghouse / And he won’t fit in the car!… / Beef stew and juicy soup bones / Are foods he likes the best. / I have the perfect name for him— / Tyrannosaurus Rex.” From R we race to the last letter: Z, where a Dutch Smoushond is “faster than a mustang. / Faster than a train. / Zip! he’s here. ? Zip! he’s there. / Zipper is his name!”

Along the way, readers meet a host of dogs, including a Dalmatian, Westie, Dachshund, Basset Fauve De Bretagne, Portuguese Water Dog, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Niederlaufhund, Scottie, Chihuahua, and more. Two poems about naming a dog bookend the alphabetic verses, creating a tidy package of puppy love.

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Image copyright Stephanie Buscema, 2010, text copyright Peggy Archer, 2010. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Kids who love dogs will eagerly listen to this collection of poems featuring well-known and more unusual breeds. As each dog’s personality is revealed, readers will giggle at their special talents or the shenanigans they get into. Children with dogs will enjoy recognizing some of their own pet’s traits among the poems, and adults will have fun reading Peggy Archer’s charming rhymes and jaunty rhythms. 

Stephanie Buscema accompanies Archer’s poems with sweet, funny, and feisty portraits of each breed of dog showing off their lovable natures. Her vibrant backdrops showcase each dog while also highlighting the humor, mischief, and character expressed in each poem.

Ages 3 – 6 

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2010 | ISBN 978-0803733220 (Hardcover) / Scholastic, 2013 | ISBN 978-0545609098 (Paperback)

Discover more about Peggie Archer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stephanie Buscema and view a gallery of her work, visit her website.

National Purebred Dog Day Activity

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I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle

 

Discover the names of eighteen dog breeds in this printable word search puzzle!

I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle | I Love Dogs! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review

March 23 – National Near Miss Day and Interview with Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson

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About the Holiday

Today we remember a cosmic fly-by that occurred on March 23, 1989. On that day the 300-meter-wide asteroid 4581 Asclepius, named for the Greek god of medicine and healing, came within 430,000 miles of hitting Earth—actually passing through the exact position Earth had held only six hours earlier. This near miss wasn’t discovered until nine days later by astronomers Henry E. Holt and Norman G. Thomas. “On the cosmic scale of things, that was a close call,” Dr. Holt said at the time. To celebrate today, you can thank your lucky stars for this near miss or any others you’ve experienced recently or in your lifetime. Another stellar way to spend the day is to learn more about space and our universe!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of A is for Astronaut to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of a signed copy of A is for Astronaut and a tote bag. View details below.

A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet

Written by Astronaut Clayton Anderson | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

There are some books that just make you say “Wow!” when you open the cover. A is for Astronaut is one of these. Leafing through the pages is like stepping out into a clear, starry night, visiting a space museum, and letting your own dreams soar all rolled into one. When you settle in to read, you discover that each letter of the alphabet introduces both poetry and facts to enthrall space lovers.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To get things started, “A is for Astronaut, / the bravest of souls. / They fly into space / and assume many roles. / They pilot, they spacewalk, / and they even cut hair. / But seeing Earth from our orbit— / that will cause them to stare!” A sidebar reveals more about astronauts—even astronaut nicknames!

“B is for Blastoff, a powerful thing! / When those engines are fired, it’ll make your ears ring.” And did you know that two and a half minutes after blastoff, the engines are cut off and everything begins to float? Pretty amazing! Blasting through the alphabet we come to G, where readers learn about our Galaxy that is “shaped like a spiral filled with billions of stars.”

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

How are astronauts able to walk and work in space? “Space Helmets are crucial and H is their letter.” At K kids meet John F. Kennedy, who helped develop the space program, and L is for the Landing that brings astronauts back to Earth. M is for Meteors with their very long tails, and N, of course, is for NASA, which was formed in 1958 with a “goal to better understand our planet and solar system.”

How do astronauts do that? “Working outside in space is sure to impress. / We call it a Space Walk, and its letter is S. / Floating weightless, with tools and a bulky white suit, / we can fix and install things—it’s really a hoot!” And there’s also V for  “Voyager, two NASA space probes. / They are still sending data, / having long left our globe.”

At Z, time is up—that’s Zulu time and “our reference to England, when London’s clocks chime. / As we fly ‘round the Earth, folks must know our day’s plan, / so we all set our watches to match that time span.” 

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Both children and adults who have an affinity for space travel and all things related to astronomy will want to dip into A is for Astronaut again and again. With his wealth of knowledge and engaging voice, astronaut Clayton Anderson presents a book that will have readers starry-eyed and full of the kinds of facts and tidbits that answer questions and spur further discovery. A is for Astronaut can be read through from A to Z for its vivid poetry or explored in small chunks to absorb the fascinating facts included with each letter—or both. Expertly written for kids of all ages, Anderson’s A is for Astronaut is a stellar achievement.

Scott Brundage’s incredibly beautiful and detailed illustrations will thrill space buffs and serious scientists and engineers alike. Readers will love meeting astronauts tethered to their ship while working in space, experiencing the vibrant, mottled colors of a darkened sky or distant planet, and viewing the technological marvel that is the NASA control room. With the precision of a photograph and the illumination of true artistry, Brundage’s images put readers in the center of the action, where they can learn and understand more about this favorite science.

A is for Astronaut is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries and would be a favorite on home bookshelves for children (and adults) who love space, technology, math, science, and learning about our universe.

Ages 5 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363964

Discover more about retired astronaut Clayton Anderson and access resources on his website, or follow him on Facebook | Twitter | or InstaFor speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

To learn more about Scott Brundage and view a portfolio of his publishing and editorial work, visit his website.

Visit Sleeping Bear Press to learn more about A is for AstronautYou can download two A is for Astronaut Activity Sheets here:

A is for Astronaut Vocabulary Sheet | A is for Astronaut Fill in the Blanks

Meet Astronaut Clayton Anderson
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Today, I’m honored to speak with retired astronaut Clayton Anderson about a pivotal childhood moment that inspired his life’s work, the challenges of being an astronaut, and his most vivid memories from space.  

What inspired you to make the journey to become an astronaut?

It was Christmas Eve, 1968.  I was nine years old when my parents put my brother and sister and me on the floor in front of a black-and-white TV around midnight. We sat on an old throw-rug gifted from our grandmother to watch humans circumvent the moon for the first time in human history. As I watched the control center team and listened to the flight director bark out commands, I was enthralled. “I need a Go/NoGo for the trans-lunar injection burn… FIDO? GO!  Retro…? GO!  Surgeon…? GO!  GPO…? GO! The entire team was GO! The craft disappeared behind the moon, leaving me to enjoy the rapid-fire chatter no more. It was simple static on our TV… for about 15 minutes. Then, after a couple of non-answered calls from the Houston CAPCOM to the Apollo 8 crew, I heard the quindar tone (famous “space-beep” you hear on TV), and the first words from the Apollo 8 commander, Frank Borman: “Houston, Apollo 8. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus!” That’s all I needed. The bit was set in my mind that one day, I would become a United States Astronaut.

How did your perspectives change while on the International Space Station?

I am a man of faith. Seeing our earth from orbit did allow me to have the “orbital perspective” so many astronauts speak of. However, while I totally agree that this perspective changed my outlook and my willingness to do better with trying to protect and preserve our “spaceship earth,” it strengthened my faith in God much more. The earth and those of us privileged to be on it, is not random. There is a reason why Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity and invented calculus. There is a reason why Albert Einstein was able to derive the Theory of Relativity. While I am unable to truly explain my rationale, I believe that there is a higher power. A power that created this universe and gave humans an adaptable brain. That incredible gift will continue to enable us to uncover the secrets of the universe, continuing to strengthen my faith.

What was a big challenge you faced during your career?

The dream of flying in space as an American astronaut was something I pursued for many years of my life. To have finally been selected and given that opportunity is incredible. Yet having the “best job in the universe” is not without difficulty. For me, it was family separation. I love my wife and kids more than anyone… on or off the planet.  To have to be separated from them for months at a time was extremely difficult, especially given their ages (6 and 2) when I began my training. It got easier as they grew older, but it didn’t assuage my guilt very much. While I lived my dream, they sacrificed greatly, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to repay them.

What is your best memory from being in space?

It must be my first spacewalk. Poised above the opened hatch, floating in my spacesuit while looking into the abyss of darkness created by the sun’s travel behind the Earth, I was calm. I watched ice crystals fly from behind my suit (they were created by my sublimator… or air conditioning unit) into the total black void of space. The slight pressure still available after the depressurization of the airlock was “pushing” the crystals into the vacuum of space. I was entranced just watching them sail by. When I finally came back to reality—buoyed by the Mission Control call to exit the airlock—I paused for just a moment to contemplate what was happening. The only thought going through my mind was that “…I was born to be here, right now, in this special place, doing this.”

Seeing my hometown from space…for the very first time, is a very, very close second. On that day, when I expected to excitedly capture photos of my Ashland, Nebraska, I had everything prepped and ready to go. Equipment was strategically placed around the U.S. Lab module’s earth-facing window, cameras were Velcroed securely to the wall, with timers set to remind me when to get into position. Finding my home on earth—without all the wonderfully placed lines, borders, squiggly river italics, and large stars designating capital cities—was tougher than I imagined. But when I finally found success, and saw Nebraska rolling into view by virtue of a big gray splotch known as Omaha (and a smaller gray splotch further southwest called Lincoln), the south bend of the Platte River was the last valid vision I had. When I saw my home, nestled there where the river bent, the place where I was raised and where many of my family and friends still reside, I took not a single photo. I simply broke down and cried. Overcome by the incredible emotions of floating weightlessly, as an American astronaut flying 225 miles above the exact spot where I was born and raised, having first dreamed of doing exactly that, was simply too much for me. So, I did what seemed to come to me naturally.  I wept.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories of your incredible career. I wish you all the best with A is for Astronaut and all of your future endeavors as you inspire children and adults to always reach for the stars.

About Clayton Anderson

Retired Astronaut Clayton Anderson spent 167 days in outer space, having lived and worked on the International Space Station (ISS) for 152 days and participated in nearly 40 hours of space walks. With a strong belief in perseverance and the importance of STEAM as part of every child’s education, Astronaut Anderson brings his “out of this world” insight to issues faced by children, parents, and educators. 

You can connect with Clayton Anderson on:

His website: astroclay.com | Facebook | Instagram | TwitterFor speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

You can find A is for Astronaut at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

Near Miss Day Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocket-to-the-moon-tic-tac-toe-game

Rocket to the Moon! Tic-Tac-Toe Game

 

You can launch your own Tic-Tac-Toe Game with this set you make yourself! With just a couple of egg cartons, some crayons, and a printable game board, you’ll be off to the moon for some fun! Opposing players can be designated by rockets and capsules. Each player will need 5 playing pieces. 

Supplies

  • Printable Moon Tic-Tac-Toe Game Board
  • 2 cardboard egg cartons
  • Heavy stock paper or regular printer paper
  • Crayons
  • Black or gray fine-tip marker

Directions

To Make the Rockets

  1. Cut the tall center cones from the egg carton
  2. Trim the bottoms of each form so they stand steadily, leaving the arched corners intact
  3. Pencil in a circular window on one side near the top of the cone
  4. Color the rocket body any colors you like, going around the window and stopping where the arched corners begin
  5. With the marker color the arched corners of the form to make legs
  6. On the cardboard between the legs, color flames for blast off

To Make the Capsule

  1. Cut the egg cups from an egg carton
  2. Color the sides silver, leaving the curved section uncolored. (If your egg cup has no pre-pressed curve on the sides of the cup, draw one on each side.)
  3. Color the curved section yellow to make windows
  4. With the marker, dot “rivets” across the capsule

Print the Moon Game Board and play!

Picture Book Review

March 7 – It’s International Mirth Month

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About the Holiday

Invented by Allen Klein, aka Mr. Jollytologist, International Mirth Month encourages us to find humor during stressful situations. And while there are plenty of those, there are also lots of way to laugh and relieve the strain that’s often part of everyday life. Laughter makes us feel better and is even recognized as a healing tool. So celebrate this month by getting together with friends and family for some fun watching funny movies or TV shows, and reading funny books. After all, running away from your problems doesn’t help…or does it? Find out in today’s book!

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way)

By Patrick McDonnell

 

Little red cat opens one eye from his nap and is astonished to see the door hanging open. Quickly, he scurries out and down the walkway, very pleased with himself. Until he meets an Alligator—an alligator who has his enormous jaws open. Ahhh!. The cat runs past him, and the alligator gives chase. They don’t see the Bear—half way up a tree. But the bear sees them and joins the chase.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Soon, they find themselves hurtling past chicken’s coop, from which Chicken scrambles out clucking loudly. They all run on until…Yikes! Danger! Is that a Dragon napping there? Eeek! It is! The dragon is up—which is so alarming that there’s now an Egg! Wait! Fire! Run from the flames! Do you have your sun Glasses?

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The crew keeps running while cat thinks of Home, slip on the Icy pond, swing through the Jungle, and trespass on castle grounds where the King and princess see them from a turret window. The princess points and shows her dad Lost cat poster on the castle wall. But by now the cat, the alligator, the bear, the chicken, the dragon, and the egg are traversing Mountain peaks until the dragon shouts, Nnnnnnnn Oooooooo! as everyone else goes Over a cliff. Thankfully they all packed their Parachute.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Dropped into unknown territory this ragtag group has lots of Questions, and, of course, by now they need to use the Restroom. At last, the Sun is setting, and everyone is very Tired. But what is that shining in the darkness? It’s the king and princess to the rescue on a Unicorn! Unbelievable! And they have Valentines for each of them! This leads to lots of hugging to show what valued friends they’ve all become.

It’s time for everyone to head for home, so they Wave goodbye, and the king gives little red cat a scroll. When red cat unrolls the paper, he finds a map with a spot marked with an X. Now he knows just where to go to Yawn—and catch some Zzzzzzzzzzzs.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

A key in the back of the book provides the words for each letter.

Readers will laugh all the way through Patrick McDonnell’s wordless alphabet book as little red cat skedaddles when the door is open and has himself a letter-perfect adventure.  McDonnell offers a fully developed tale with clear clues to the words that define each letter while also leaving plenty of opportunities for kids to find other words that also apply. McDonnell’s cartoon animals are fierce only in their expressive cuteness and the adorable princess and her kindly dad provide just the magical ending this buoyant escapade deserves.

A marvelous way for children to interact with the alphabet and language, The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) will grow with kids as they increase their vocabulary and develop their sense of humor, making it a must for classroom and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0316502467

Discover more about Patrick McDonnell, his books, and his comic strip MUTTS on his website.

Run on over to watch this The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away book trailer!

International Mirth Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-made-you-laugh-word-search

Made You Laugh! Word Search Puzzle

 

No matter whether you chuckle, guffaw, or giggle, laughter really is the best medicine! Find all of the synonyms for laugh in this printable Made You Laugh! Word Search Puzzle!

Made You Laugh! Word Search PuzzleMade You Laugh! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review

January 7 – Tempura Day

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About the Holiday

Tempura is a delectable dish that originated in Japan when Portuguese Jesuits introduced the recipe in the 16th century. Traditionally, seafood and vegetables are breaded and fried, but other ingredients, including broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, chicken, and some cheeses, are also cooked tempura style around the world. The word tempura derives from the Latin word tempora, which means “times” and refers to Lenten times or Ember Days. To celebrate today’s holiday, enjoy a meal of tempura! You can also learn more about the Japanese culture with your child with today’s book!

My First Book of Japanese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book of Japanese Language and Culture

Written by Michelle Haney Brown | Illustrated by Aya Padron

 

Upon opening My First Book of Japanese Words, readers are immersed in the beauty of Japan—it’s homes, cities, natural environment, and cuisine. The first page introduces the alphabet with “A is for ari. / A teeny weeny / ant crawls / with teeny / weeny legs on / the bamboo plant.” Moving from the bamboo grove to the city, D takes children on a ride. A “densha—a train in Japan—goes choo choo down / the track as fast as it can.” They disembark at “E…for eki where trains come and go. / An eki in English is station, you know.”

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Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

They may be on their way to G “for gakkō, / the word for school, / where we make lots of friends and / learning is cool.” At lunch time kids discover that “H is for hashi. / Chopsticks are nice / for picking up goodies / like veggies and rice.” After lunch there are games like Janken for J, “a game played in / Japan. It’s Rock, / Paper, Scissors / (make those with your hand.)”

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Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

“N is for neko / a kitty so sweet. / She says ‘nyah’ / when she wants / a treat.” If kitty is having a snack, kids want one too! “O is for onigiri / a Japanse / treat— / a rice ball / that’s yummy / and fun to eat!” Good manners are found when “R is for rei. / We bow when we say / ‘Good morning’ and / ‘Thank you’ and / ‘Have a good day.’”

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Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

A child’s learning begins with S for sensei, a teacher from whom students learn aboutT for tanuki…a raccoon dog / with a twinkly eye” and U for uma, “a beautiful horse.” Learning new things is exciting and makes you want to cheer. Learn how with “W is for Waa! / which is how we say Wow!” “Y is for Yatta! / ‘I did it!’ ‘Yay!’ / This is a word / I like to say.” The alphabet ends with “Z is for zō, / an elephant BIG— / but if he sees a mouse / he might dance a jig.”

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Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

With language that invites readers to discover the connections between cultures, Michelle Haney Brown’s charming rhymes entice children to learn these Japanese words and will spark an interest in learning more. The verses on each page are accompanied by paragraphs that expand a reader’s knowledge of the object or idea presented. In some cases, Brown discusses the absence of particular letters or sounds in the Japanese language.

Aya Padron’s paintings transport children to Japan where they can experience life at home, school, and in nature. Whimsical, tranquil, and lively scenes help young learners absorb the full meaning of the words presented while also teaching them about the culture, sights, sounds, and games of Japan. Each word is also written in Kanji (when applicable) and Kana. Padron’s illustrations glow with a love of this lyrical language and will enchant children. 

My First Book of Japanese Words is a superb book for young language learners and transcends its alphabet book roots to become a book of poetry that would be a fine addition to any child’s bookshelf or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 8

Tuttle Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-0804849531

Discover more books for children and adults about Japan and a host of other countries  on the Tuttle Publishing website.

Tempura Day Activity

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Dining in Japanese Word Search Puzzle

 

Learning the Japanese words for some of your favorite foods is fun! Can you find the names of twenty Japanese words you’d use while eating in this printable Dining in Japanese Word Search Puzzle?

Dining in Japanese Word Search Puzzle | Dining in Japanese Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review