February 6 – It’s Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week and Interview with Author Sally Nicholls

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-button-book-cover

About the Holiday

If you’re a fan of children’s authors and illustrators, then this week is one you’ll want to celebrate. All week long, authors and illustrators visit bookstores, schools, and other venues to share their love of children’s literature and get kids and adults excited about reading and writing. Some of these events include storytelling, writing workshops, readings, and presentations. To find out more about the Children’s Authors Network and discover classroom resources to use throughout the year, visit the Children’s Authors Network website.

The Button Book

Written by Sally Nicholls | Illustrated by Bethan Woollvin

 

A squirrel comes across a red button on the forest floor. He nudges it with a stick and then gives it a good press just to see what will happen. Ha! The button’s lid opens and a little horn rises on a pole. “Beep!” it says. A dog and a bird appear from behind a tree and a bush to find out what the noise is all about. Now the three of them find an orange button. The squirrel gives it a push. “It’s a clapping button! Everybody clap!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-button-book-beep

Image copyright Bethan Woollvin, 2020, text copyright Sally Nicholls, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

When the dog, the bird, and the squirrel find a blue button in the forest, they wonder how they’ll ever press it. This button is so big all three could stand on it and there would still be room. Luckily, an elephant is passing by. This blue button is “a singing button!” Two more animals wander by to listen to the trio sing. Down the road, the five friends find a green button that makes everyone giggle—well, almost everyone.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-button-book-blue

Image copyright Bethan Woollvin, 2020, text copyright Sally Nicholls, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But the yellow button is one everyone likes. “It’s a bouncing button!” Wow! Everyone’s bouncing and tumbling—right off the page. Time to settle down to some cuddles with the pink button. Ahhh. Maybe this would be a good time to stop pressing buttons. Well…there is a purple button right over there. Everyone’s a little unsure—should they press it or not?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-button-book-singing

Image copyright Bethan Woollvin, 2020, text copyright Sally Nicholls, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

No! Stop! “Ha ha! Hee hee! That tickles! “Please, press the pink button, quick!” Oh no! Not the green button again! “Have you learned any manners yet?” Oh, good. This is more like it––the blue button! Yay! Let’s sing and play some instruments. The red button wants a little attention again too! Hey, look! There’s a new white button on the wall. What does that one do? Wait! It’s dark now. What are we supposed to…. Oh! “Goodnight, everyone.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-button-book-hugs

Image copyright Bethan Woollvin, 2020, text copyright Sally Nicholls, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Sally Nicholls’ fresh take on interactive picture books will have kids in stitches as they beep and clap, sing and dance, jump and hug, and do all the moves while eagerly wanting to see which button they get to press next. Nicholls’ prompts are irresistibly enticing and become funnier and more personal with every page turn. Her cyclical storyline gives readers the chance to revisit their favorite buttons while leading to the surprising, but just-right ending (or is it really the end?). Along with all of this fun, kids are also introduced to various colors, shapes, sizes and spatial relationships. There are plenty of opportunities for kids to count and talk about different types of buttons as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-button-book-red

Image copyright Bethan Woollvin, 2020, text copyright Sally Nicholls, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Young readers will be enchanted with Bethan Woollvin’s curious, bubbly, talented, fun-loving kids…I mean…characters as they discover button after button on pages that mirror each button’s color. As if by magic, the squirrel, dog, bird, and other friends also change color as they press and respond to every button, inviting readers to follow along. While kids will egg on the animals to press all the other buttons, when they come to the white switch on the wall, children may very well let out a plaintive Noooooo…! But Woollvin has them covered here too. A little exploration of the nighttime bedroom will reward readers with a “Wake Up!” button so they can start all over again.

If you’re looking for a lively read aloud to spark interactive story times that will be asked for again and again, you’ll want to add The Button Book to your home, classroom, or public library collection.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0735267152

Discover more about Sally Nicholls and her books on her website.

To learn more about Bethan Woollvin, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Sally Nicholls

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sally-nicholls-headshot-black-and-white

I’m thrilled to have this chance to talk to Sally Nicholls today about her adorable and fun picture book, its journey, and what she’s looking forward to in sharing it with readers.

You burst into the book world with your debut middle grade novel Ways to Live Forever, which won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and was made into a movie in 2010. Since then you’ve published many more novels, including your latest middle-grade, A Chase in Time. The Button Book is your first picture book. What inspired you to write this story?

Reading to my baby! He loved books, but until he was about eighteen months, he didn’t like any that were just story. He wanted books he could interact with. I used to go to the library and look for anything with a button or a flap or touchy-feely bits. We read a lot of picture books, and I was fascinated by which ones worked and which ones didn’t – why exactly were Fox’s Socks and Where’s Spot? so successful but other books weren’t?

I decided I’d like to have a go at writing one myself. I know paper engineering and fur and so forth is expensive for publishers, and realistically that wasn’t my area of expertise anyway. So I set myself the challenge to write a book a baby would enjoy in the same interactive way, but only using words.

I love how active and funny The Button Book is! Kids are definitely going to be giggling, up on their feet, and playing along. It also has a wonderful cyclical storyline. How did you choose what the buttons do and infuse your story with so much reader interaction?

The Button Book is basically all the things my baby loved the most. If I wanted to make him laugh, I would pretty much just blow raspberries at him or tickle him or get him to clap. So that part was very easy.

The cyclical storyline came from watching programmes like The Teletubbies which really play on repetition. And also having my own baby who liked to say “Again!” Of course, the joy of The Button Book, which I hadn’t really realised until I read it with my second child, is that the child can have as much ‘again’ as they want just by pressing the button.

Bethan Woollvin’s adorable illustrations really invite camaraderie and play. What was your reaction to seeing her illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread and if so, what do you love about it?

I love Bethan’s work. My British publisher asked if I’d like to work with her and it was an instant yes. I’m not a very visual thinker, so I didn’t really have any expectations for how the book would look when it was illustrated. It’s been so exciting to see it take shape.

I think my favourite spread is probably the cover. It looks so colourful and inviting and unusual.

How has the experience of publishing a picture book differed from publishing your novels? Was there any part of the process that surprised you?

How long it took! I was sent finished artwork about eighteen months before the book was published. Printing picture books is so expensive that publishers need to get as many co-editions as possible to reduce the cost. So there’s a very long lead time.

What’s the best part about being an author for children? What are you most looking forward to as you promote The Button Book and share it with readers?

Books matter so much to young children. I’ve seen how much they matter to my family, and one of the most joyful things about The Button Book is how much my second baby loves it. (My eldest likes it too, but he’s a bit old for it now. Also, my baby has no idea that his mum wrote the book, which makes his love even more special.) So that, and also hearing from readers who have been touched by my books in particular ways, perhaps if the storyline resonates with them, or helps them through a difficult time, or just helps them learn to read!

Do you have any anecdote from a book event that you’d like to share?

I took The Button Book in to share with my eldest son’s class, and I got the children to help me make up a story. It was Halloween, so the children said they wanted a story about a vampire who likes flowers. One little boy objected (I think because he wanted his own idea to be picked) which my son took as a misogynistic slight. “Boys can like flowers!” he told him. I felt very proud.

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently finishing off a YA novel about a teen mother whose baby is being raised as her youngest brother. It’s a romance and a family story, and it’s set in a Yorkshire village in Christmas 1919, so there’s a ball, and a young man in an army greatcoat, and lots of chilblains. I don’t know if that’s going to find an American publisher though.

My next picture book is called Who Makes a Forest? It’s an ecological story about the power of small things to come together to make great changes.

What is your favorite holiday? Why is it your favorite?

This sounds weird, but I love the dead days between Christmas and New Year. All the stress of Christmas is over, everyone is off work and school, families are together, and it’s understood that your job is just to snuggle up by the fire and eat leftover turkey and Christmas cake and mince pies.

Thanks, Sally! It’s been wonderful chatting with you! I wish you all the best with The Button Book and all of your books and am looking forward to seeing Who Makes a Forest? when it’s released.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-button-book-cover

You can find The Button Book at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

October 22 – National Color Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shivery-shades-of-halloween-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday has a pretty simple goal—to encourage people to appreciate all the colors that make up our world and to use color to express their feelings, their personality, and their creativity. The stunning beauty of changing leaves makes fall the perfect time for celebrating color, and October is usually when this gorgeous natural phenomenon is at its peak. To have fun with today’s holiday, experiment with color—you may see the world in a whole new way!

Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals | Illustrated by Jimmy Pickering

 

Have you ever thought, “What color is Halloween?” Sure, we all know it’s orange and black—but what about the rest of the color wheel? Tell me—what’s your favorite color? Purple? Let me look through Shivery Shades of Halloween…Yes! Halloween is purple—“Twilight, / Shadows, / Monsters lurking, / Secret potion— / Poof! It’s working! Dusky-musky, bruisy-oozy, cruelish-ghoulish / Blotch of purple.”

Hey! This is fun! Give me another one! Gray, you say? Hang on…. Yes! Halloween is Gray! “Tombstone, gargoyle, / Dungeon wall, / Rats and rubble, / Haunted hall, / Dusty-fusty, dimly-grimly, shady-fraidy / Shroud of gray.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shivery-shades-of-halloween-blue

Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, 2014, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals, 2014. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Okay, now it’s my turn. I’m choosing…Red. Yep! Halloween is also Red: “Tip of fang, / Flash of cape, / Horns and tail, / A gash, a gape, Bloody-ruddy, burning-churning, blushing-gushing / Stain of red.”

Wild! And that’s just the beginning! There are also spirited, spooky rhymes about brown, yellow, blue, white, green, and, of course, orange and black.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shivery-shades-of-halloween-black

Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, 2014, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals, 2014. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Mary McKenna Siddals brings joy and a love of words—their sounds and their effects—to her verses that transport kids to the throbbing heart of Halloween on the broomsticks of color. In Shivery Shades of Halloween, Siddals presents all the spine-tingling  places, characters, and objects that make this holiday, and any mystery, so much chilling, thrilling fun. With giggles, ewwws, and a few shivers, kids will delight in the original and imaginative phrasing in this clever concept book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shivery-shades-of-halloween-white

Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, 2014, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals, 2014. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Jimmy Pickering’s vibrant, full-bleed illustrations ooze, flash, and swirl with the colors of Halloween. For Green, a “queasy-peasy” web-eared reptile slurps a “vile brew” from a test tube as an evil scientist looks on and the walls seep with a thick green sludge. Purple zaps and sparks as the reptile is transformed into a smiling goblin with bats’ wings and five legs. This goblin then leads readers from page to page where they meet a tricky ghost, a haunted graveyard, a spell-casting wizard and crystal-ball-reading witch, a floating candlestick in a haunted house, a howling werewolf, a dancing caldron, a clumsy demon, and a trio of trick-or-treaters. Each painting incorporates touches of the other colors introduced, creating eye-catching and suspense-building pages.

Shivery Shades of Halloween is a book that kids will want to hear and you will want to read over and over. For teachers, the book makes a wonderful resource for writing lessons and to show the power of evocative words not only around Halloween, but at any time of the year. Shivery Shades of Halloween is one concept book that transcends its holiday theme and would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well as school, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 2 – 7

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0385369992

Take a peek at Victoria scaring up some fun by reading Shivery Shades of Halloween!

To learn more about Mary McKenna Siddals and her other books, visit her website! You’ll also find lots of activities as well as activity sheets to extend your enjoyment of Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors as well as her other books.

Here’s a link to Shivery Shades of Halloween Activity Sheets.

You can also connect with Mary McKenna Siddals on her Shivery Shades of Halloween Facebook Page, where you’ll find more fun and a whole community of readers.

Discover more about Jimmy Pickering and view a gallery of his illustrations, paintings, sculpture and more on his website. 

Halloween Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-halloween-mobile

Halloween Hang-ups

 

With glue, glitter, and your imagination you can make your love of Halloween and its ghosts, ghouls, pumpkins, and more colorfully transparent to all!

Supplies

  • Printable Halloween figure templates | Template 1 | Template 2
  • Poster board or other heavy stock paper or cardboard
  • White glue
  • Glitter in a variety of colors
  • Googly eyes (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Wax paper
  • Popsicle or craft sticks
  • Needle
  • White thread (or any color)
  • Fine-tip permanent marker
  • Hot glue gun or regular glue

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-halloween-mobile-craft

Directions

  1. Print the Halloween Figures templates
  2. Cut out the figures
  3. Trace the figures onto the poster board
  4. Cut out the figures around the outside edge and also along the inside edge
  5. Lay out the figure templates on the wax paper
  6. Gently pour some white glue into the center of the figure template
  7. Smooth the glue completely to the edges of the figure template, adding glue if needed
  8. Sprinkle glitter on the glue, as much or as little as you’d like

To dry the glue

  1. Let the figures sit overnight OR:
  2. Place the figures on the wax paper in a warm oven. Turn the oven on to 200 – 250 degrees and let it come up to heat. Then turn the oven off and place the figures inside. Check after 15 minutes and check frequently until dry.

After the glue is dry

  1. Add faces to the ghosts with a permanent marker
  2. Add googly eyes with the hot glue or regular glue
  3. If desired, color the edge of the template to match the color of the glitter

To hang figures

  1. Thread a needle with the desired length of thread and gently push the needle through the glue near the top of the figure.
  2. Tie the thread around a chandelier, curtain rod, or any other place you would like to decorate

Picture Book Review

August 17 – National Black Cat Appreciation Day

celebrate-picture-books-big-box-little-box-cover

About the Holiday

If you want a pet who’s always surprising, loves to play, and will make you laugh, you can’t go wrong with a cat. Frisky kittens and even older, more loafing cats display such varied personalities that each day brings new fun adventures. Today, we celebrate one particular type of cat—the black cat. While black cats are just as loving and cute as tabbies or their tiger-striped friends, they are much less likely to be adopted from shelters or find forever families due to the superstitions that surround them. If you are considering adding a kitten or cat to your family, think about adopting that cute black kitten that is sure to steal your heart.

Bloomsbury Books sent me a copy of Big Box Little Box to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Big Box Little Box

Written by Caryl Hart | Illustrated by Edward Underwood

 

In a house full of boxes, there lives one very happy cat! Do you see her peeking around the “Big box?” The orange and pink striped one that’s tied neatly in red string? Maybe she wonders what is in the “little box” nearby. Wow! Look at all those boxes to hide among on the next page! There’s a “huge box,” a “tiny box, a “thin box” and a “fat box.” The kitty has even found a box to sit on. Oh, no! Now it’s a “flat box.”

The cat has found six more boxes in every color to explore. She’s even found a red one that’s just perfect to nap in. No? Oh well. Two hands pick her up and place her into her own box—a comfy “snore box.” The cat wakes up to more boxes decorated with fancy designs and even some to play dress-up in. Four little boxes for four tiny paws and a pink box perfect to be a “hat box.” But walking? Whoa! “Slippy box. Slidey box” leads to a “Run away and hidey box.”

Here’s a box with a suspicious hole in the corner. Kitty peers inside and “mouse squeaks.” The chase is on: “scurry, pounce, chase, bounce!” Cat and mouse play and sleep, happily becoming “new friends.”

If you’ve ever seen a cat explore any box they find, you’ll know how purr-fectly spot-on Caryl Hart’s Big Box Little Box is! Little ones will be charmed by the cute kitty and the jaunty rhymes that introduce kids to sizes, colors, positions, and even friendship all through (mostly) two-word phrases. Young readers will eagerly read along as they follow the curious cat from page to page and box to box. Humorous asides, including when the kitten is moved from “my box” to “your box” and she and the mouse first spy each other, will delight kids.

Edward Underwood illustrates Hart’s highly entertaining book with verve and humor and gives the cat the kind of playful personality that makes them such endearing companions. The cat’s expressive green eyes peek from and around boxes; she wears boxes as hats, shoes, and hiding places; and, of course, she flops inside a chosen few for several catnaps. The game of cat and mouse is full of action and cheery fun. Bold colors and a dynamic design will keep children riveted to the pages as they have fun learning these early childhood concepts—as well as a bit about cats!

A joy to read aloud, Big Box Little Box would be a sweet and enchanting addition to home and classroom bookshelves. The minimal text offers many opportunities to discuss a wide range of early math and literacy concepts, and the book lends itself easily to learning extensions from drawing to stacking and filling to building. The book would make a fun gift for babies and teachers.

Ages 2 – 6

Bloomsbury Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681197869

Discover more about Caryl Hart and her books on her website.

National Black Cat Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cat-match-puzzle

Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

All of these kittens have twins, but they’ve gotten separated while playing. Can you find the matching pairs in this puzzle? Click the link for a printable puzzle!

Match the Kittens Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-big-box-little-box-cover

You can find Big Box Little Box at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 30 – Checklist Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shivery-shades-of-Halloween-cover

About the Holiday

The origins of Checklist Day may be found in early aviation history when pilots devised a system to ensure that all procedures and safety measures had been completed before takeoff. With so many dials, buttons, and measurements to attend to, a checklist made it easier to keep track of what had been done. The idea was applicable to almost every endeavor, and people quickly adopted it for all types of business and personal uses. As Halloween approaches, use today’s holiday to make sure you have everything you need to celebrate. Got a costume? Check! Got candy? Check! Got a Jack-O’-Lantern? Check! And make sure you have all the colors of Halloween represented with today’s book!

Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals | Illustrated by Jimmy Pickering

 

Have you ever thought, “What color is Halloween?” Sure, we all know it’s orange and black—but what about the rest of the color wheel? Tell me—what’s your favorite color? Purple? Let me look through Shivery Shades of Halloween…Yes! Halloween is purple—“Twilight, / Shadows, / Monsters lurking, / Secret potion— / Poof! It’s working! / Dusky-musky, bruisy-oozy, cruelish-ghoulish / Blotch of purple.”

Hey! This is fun! Give me another one! Gray, you say? Hang on…. Yes! Halloween is Gray! “Tombstone, gargoyle, / Dungeon wall, / Rats and rubble, / Haunted hall, / Dusty-fusty, dimly-grimly, shady-fraidy / Shroud of gray.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shivery-shades-of-halloween-blue

Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

Okay, now it’s my turn. I’m choosing…Red. Yep! Halloween is also Red: “Tip of fang, / Flash of cape, / Horns and tail, / A gash, a gape, / Bloody-ruddy, burning-churning, blushing-gushing / Stain of red.”

Wild! And that’s just the beginning! There are also spirited, spooky rhymes about brown, yellow, blue, white, green, and, of course, orange and black.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shivery-shades-of-halloween-black

Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

Mary McKenna Siddals brings joy and a love of words—their sounds and their effects—to her verses that transport kids to the throbbing heart of Halloween on the broomsticks of color. In Shivery Shades of Halloween, Siddals presents all the spine-tingling  places, characters, and objects that make this holiday—and any mystery—so much chilling, thrilling fun. With giggles, eewwws, and a few shivers, kids will delight in the original and imaginative phrasing in this clever concept book.

Jimmy Pickering’s vibrant, full-bleed illustrations ooze, flash, and swirl with the colors of Halloween. For Green, a “queasy-peasy” web-eared reptile slurps a “vile brew” from a test tube as an evil scientist looks on and the walls seep with a thick green sludge. Purple zaps and sparks as the reptile is transformed into a smiling goblin with bats’ wings and five legs. This goblin then leads readers from page to page where they meet a tricky ghost, a haunted graveyard, a spell-casting wizard and crystal-ball-reading witch, a floating candlestick in a haunted house, a howling werewolf, a dancing caldron, a clumsy demon, and a trio of trick-or-treaters. Each painting incorporates touches of the other colors introduced, creating eye-catching and suspense-building pages.

Shivery Shades of Halloween is a book that kids will want to hear and you will want to read over and over. For teachers, the book makes a wonderful resource for writing lessons and the power of evocative words not only around Halloween, but at any time of the year. Shivery Shades of Halloween is one concept book that transcends its holiday theme and would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well as classroom and other libraries.

Ages 2 – 7

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0385369992

Take a peek at Victoria scaring up some fun by reading Shivery Shades of Halloween!

To learn more about Mary McKenna Siddals and her other books, visit her website! You’ll also find lots of activities as well as activity sheets to extend your enjoyment of Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors as well as her other books.

Here’s a link to Shivery Shades of Halloween Activity Sheets.

You can also connect with Mary McKenna Siddals on her Shivery Shades of Halloween Facebook Page, where you’ll find more fun and a whole community of readers.

Discover more about Jimmy Pickering and view a gallery of his illustrations, paintings, sculpture and more on his website. You can also find him on Facebook!

Checklist Day Activitycelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-halloween-hanging-figures-black-background

Spooky Halloween Mobile

 

With glue, glitter, and your imagination you can make your love of Halloween and its ghosts, ghouls, pumpkins, and more colorfully transparent to all!

Supplies

  • Printable Halloween figure templates | Template 1 | Template 2
  • Poster board or other heavy stock paper or cardboard
  • White glue
  • Glitter in a variety of colors
  • Googly eyes (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Wax paper
  • Popsicle or craft sticks
  • Needle
  • White thread (or any color)
  • Fine-tip permanent marker
  • Hot glue gun or regular glue

 

Directions

  1. Print the Halloween Figures templates
  2. Cut out the figures
  3. Trace the figures onto the poster board
  4. Cut out the figures around the outside edge and also along the inside edge
  5. Lay out the figure templates on the wax paper
  6. Gently pour some white glue into the center of the figure template
  7. Smooth the glue completely to the edges of the figure template, adding glue if needed
  8. Sprinkle glitter on the glue, as much or as little as you’d like

To dry the glue

  1. Let the figures sit overnight OR:
  2. Place the figures on the wax paper in a warm oven. Turn the oven on to 200 – 250 degrees and let it come up to heat. Then turn the oven off and place the figures inside. Check after 15 minutes and check frequently until dry.

After the glue is dry

  1. Add faces to the ghosts with a permanent marker
  2. Add googly eyes with the hot glue or regular glue
  3. If desired, color the edge of the template to match the color of the glitter

To hang figures

  1. Thread a needle with the desired length of thread and gently push the needle through the glue near the top of the figure.
  2. Tie the thread around a chandelier, curtain rod, or any other place you would like to decorate

Picture Book Review

August 14 – It’s Family Fun Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-circle-triangle-elephant-cover

About the Holiday

Every month can be full of family fun, but in August we take time to celebrate the longer, more relaxed days during summer vacation that can lead to special times together. Little ones especially love having fun while exploring and learning about the world. This month look for those spontaneous or planned moments that make good memories!

Circle, Triangle, Elephant! A Book of Shapes & Surprises

By Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuchi

 

This brightly colored concept book is sure to intrigue little learners and have them giggling while discovering and pointing out shapes, colors, and even doing some counting. On the first page a regular stack of shapes are presented: “triangle, circle, square.” A large blue square gives support to a smaller pink circle while a smaller red triangle creates a bit of a hat on top. The next page rearranges this order and replaces the square with a rectangle. The circle is still pink, but it’s larger and on top. Underneath is an orange rectangle, and balancing these two shapes on its tip is the triangle, now purple.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-circle-triangle-elephant-elephants

Copyright Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuchi, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Turning the page, we find: “triangle, elephant?!, circle” Wait, what?! Oh my! This does shake things up a bit! How did that elephant get between a pink triangle and a red circle? And he’s brought his family! On the next page we find a small elephant standing on a larger elephant who’s standing on a yellow rectangle. I’m sure they’re just passing through and we’ll be back to regular shapes in a second.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-circle-triangle-elephant-boats

Copyright Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuchi, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Maybe if we turn the page really fast… “elephant, boat!, triangle” Oh! I see, the little elephant is taking a boat ride home, but they have run aground on a teal triangle. Here come “boat, boat, boat” to help! Ah, good! The elephants are safely on their way now. One more boat to go and we’ll be back to… “triangle, face! square.” That’s no ordinary face—it’s cute and clownish. A bit like a jack-in-the-box, really, the way it’s resting on a blue rectangle and wearing a yellow triangle at a jaunty angle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-circle-triangle-elephant-faces

Copyright Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuchi, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Okay, okay, on the next page there are… a couple more faces bouncing on a pointy triangle. I hope they’re not balloons! And on the facing page is our original face stacked with a very pretty green rectangle and a bright yellow lemon! Oh! The next page is nice. It makes a bit of a picture: the orange sun is shining above a bus that’s traveling on a green square carpet of grass. Uh-oh! The bus has gone a little off course. On the next page it’s driving on top of two big lemons. “bus, lemon, lemon.” Is that even possible?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-circle-triangle-elephant-bus-lemons

Copyright Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuchi, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Hmmm… what’s this next one? “square, square, square.” Not quite as exciting, you think? Maybe, but look! The top square is yellow, the bottom square is red, and the middle square is…? Orange, right! Good job! Oh this is fun! All right, next we have “square, bird, rectangle” and after that “bird, boat, triangle.” On the facing page a small pink bird and a larger green bird are racing that bus. Go, “bird, bird, bus.”

You know what this book could use? A hat. And there it is! Just around the corner: “hat!, square, bus.” Haha! You’ll love the next page: “hat, hat, elephant.” That elephant looks so dapper wearing two hats. Let’s see what else we can find. Awww! Next there’s “square, triangle, fish!” And what a cutie—blue with little green dots! I guess it’s time to wind this fun down with “triangle, circle, square” and two elephants who would each like to say goodbye with their own very colorful triangles and circles.

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Copyright Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuchi, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuchi have created a concept book that will get little ones excited about learning the names of shapes, colors, and various objects. An enthusiastic reading will have kids laughing and wanting to read along as adults talk with them about what they see on each page. Cleverly constructed, the book invites deeper thought about the shapes and colors presented. The shapes come in different sizes and can also be found within the boat, face, bus, birds, fish, and elephant. Children may discover—on their own or with a bit of help—that with a few adjustments parts of the lemons, elephant, fish, and hats contain or could be made into circles, triangles, squares, or rectangles.

The colors of the shapes and objects are vibrant and eye-catching. The primary colors are all here, but so are the secondary colors and other beautiful mixtures that could lead to an opportunity to get out paints and have fun while experimenting and learning about color.

Circle, Triangle Elephant! A Book of Shapes & Surprises is a wonderful first shapes and colors book for children. It would make a great gift for baby showers, new babies, or toddlers. The sturdy board book is perfect for tucking away in a diaper bag to bring out during waiting times or outdoor activities.

Ages 1 – 5

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714874111

Family Fun Month Activity

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Water Color Fun

A splish-splashy way to let kids experiment with colors is to let them explore with a tub or sink full of water and some food coloring. As they drip individual colors into the water, the colors spread, mixing with each other to form new colors.

Supplies

  • A plastic tub, a sink, or a bathtub
  • Food color – one multi-color box
  • An apron or old clothes
  • A spoon or other utensil to mix colors

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Directions

  1. If the child is young and playing at the sink while standing on a stool or chair, adult supervision is advised.
  2. Fill the tub or sink 1/3 to 1/2 way with cool water
  3. Allow child to choose a color from the box
  4. Let the child squeeze the bottle, dropping a bit of color into the water
  5. Let the child choose another color
  6. Before adding this color to the water, talk with your child about what they think will happen when the two colors mix together.
  7. Let the child drop the new color into the water a small distance from the first color
  8. Allow the colors to mix naturally or with a spoon.
  9. You can mix colors in different corners or sections of the tub or sink to see, for instance, what happens when yellow and red food color or blue and red food color mix. What happens if all the colors are mixed together?
  10. Discover your own questions to explore!

Picture Book Review

May 6 – Join Hands Day

Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was instituted to foster better communication between the older and younger generations and to recognize the ways that all people, no matter what their age, can help each other. Many communities use this day to begin a dialogue between their elderly and their youth, getting young people involved in visiting care centers and older adults helping out at schools and other youth programs. Another great way to celebrate is for grandparents and grandkids to spend the day together!

Rainbow Stew

By Cathryn Falwell

 

Grandpa’s making pancakes for his three favorite kids—his granddaughter and two grandsons. The kids are excited to be visiting their grandpa where they can play outside all day long. On this particular day, however, rain spatters the windows, and the kids are disappointed: “Whimper, sigh, / cloudy sky, / is it too wet to play? / We don’t want to stay inside / because of rain today.” But their grandpa knows just what to do! “Let’s go and find some colors for my famous Rainbow Stew!” he suggests.

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Image copyright Cathryn Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Out to the garden they run in their raincoats and hats. “Splish, splash, / puddle dash, / We bounce right out the door. / We’re off to find some red and green, / some yellow, orange, and more. / Grandpa shows us how to move / Between each garden row. / Lifting up the drippy leaves, /  we see what colors grow.” They collect green spinach, kale, and zucchini; yellow peppers, purple cabbage and eggplant, red radishes and tomatoes; brown potatoes; and orange carrots. After some muddy fun among the plants, the kids go inside, get dried off, and begin to prepare their colorful stew.

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Image copyright Catherine Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Peel, slice / chop and dice, / colors fill the pot. / Stir in herbs and water / and then wait till it gets hot.” While the pot simmers on the stove, Grandpa and the kids snuggle on the couch with favorite books, reading together until the stew has simmered to perfection. The family then sits down to a homemade, colorful, delicious lunch of Rainbow Stew. 

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Image copyright Cathryn Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Cathryn Falwell’s Rainbow Stew is a wonderful book to share with young children on many levels, offering opportunities for learning as well as playing. Introducing colors through familiar and delicious vegetables can get kids excited about gardening, cooking, even going to the grocery store. The rhyming verses each begin with an energetic couplet that kids will enjoy repeating or acting out. The bright colors of Grandpa’s house mirror the vividness of the garden vegetables, and young readers may enjoy matching the vegetables to items in the kitchen, living room, and more. 

Children will identify with the disappointment of the three siblings when they learn it’s too wet to spend the day outside as well as their glee at squishing in the mud. The close bond between the kids and their grandfather as they cook and read together is a strong anchor for this story and promotes early literacy.

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Image copyright Cathryn Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

A recipe for Rainbow Stew follows the story. Reading Rainbow Stew, preparing the delicious dish, and doing the puzzle below makes for a fun rainy – or sunny – day!

Ages 4 – 7

Lee & Low Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1600608476

Learn more about Cathryn Falwell and her books and art on her website!

To discover more about Rainbow Stew as well as activities to accompany the book, head over to rainbowstewbook.com!

Join Hands Day Activity

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Give Me Your Hand Interchangeable Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. Offering friendship to all, the interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become buddies with one another. 

Supplies

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Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures
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Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Picture Book Review

April 14 – It’s National Garden Month and Q & A with Author/Illustrator Wendy Wahman

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About the Holiday

One of the wonderful activities of spring and summer is gardening. As the sun warms, farmers and gardeners till their land and plant seeds with eager anticipation of the harvest to come.  April is Gardening Month, and the second week is designated especially for vegetable gardening. Our meals would not be as tasty and nutritious without carrots, squash, peas, beans, peppers, potatoes, and all the rest of these colorful foods. Today’s container gardens give even reluctant gardeners great ways to grow their own—without the work of a large plot. Whether you enjoy gardening on a large or small scale, take the opportunity of this month to start planting the seeds of a rewarding hobby!

Rabbit Stew

By Wendy Wahman

 

“Rusty and Rojo toiled and tilled in their vegetable garden all summer long.” But now the crops have ripened, and the two foxes are ready to enjoy the bounty of their hard work—so are their neighbors, the Rabbits. As Mommy Rabbit and the bunnies nibble away in a corner of the garden, Rusty gently squeezes the tomatoes and finds them “plump, yet firm.” “Perfectly so,” Rojo agrees as he lifts Daddy Rabbit from the carrot patch. “At last,” Rusty and Rojo exclaim, “the time is ripe for our prizewinning Rabbit Stew!”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

While Rojo picks “lean, green runner beans,” the Rabbits look on worriedly. Daddy tries to hide, but Rusty spies him in the wheelbarrow full of purple kale. Then, when the family dives back into their cozy “hole sweet hole,” they find that their convenient carrot snacks are being abruptly snatched away—only to be added to the pot of “splendid Rabbit Stew.”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

Next come raisins and celery “and roly-poly blueberries.” But what about those white and gray bits of fluff? Will they end up in the foxes’ buckets too? Of course “juicy red tomatoes, fresh sprigs of parsley, and sweet yellow peppers” are also musts for the foxes’ “finest-ever Rabbit Stew.” With the pot overflowing with colorful veggies, only one more thing is needed—“one…big…round…white…bowl…for our favorite Rabbit, Stew—and his family too!”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

With her fertile imagination and a clever play on words, Wendy Wahman offers up a delightful story that will have readers guessing until the very end. Along with the mystery and the yummy descriptions of each ingredient, Wahman presents a counting game for readers. As Rusty and Rojo pick their vegetables, children can count the ten runner beans on the trellis, nine purple kale leaves in the wheelbarrow, eight carrots from the burrow, and all of the other ingredients on down to one. But do Rusty and Rojo need one big white rabbit or something else? Kids will love the twist at the end and cheer to see Daddy Stew, Mommy Strudel, and their little bunnies—Dumpling, Biscuit, and Ragu—dining on the special meal grown and created just for them.

Everyone’s garden should look as deliciously vibrant as Wahman’s riotous patch of vegetables! The vivid colors jump off the page while providing texture and nuance to the illustrations. They also give kids another concept to learn and talk about. Little details, such as the tiny caterpillar and the yellow butterfly that follow the bunnies from page to page, as well as the fancy burrow lined with photos of friends and family will enchant readers. 

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy o f Wendy Wahman.

Welcome themes of friendship, diversity, and inclusiveness can also be found within the illustrations and the story.

Rabbit Stew is a bright, humorously sly story that would be a wonderful addition to any child’s library. The book also makes a perfect companion for trips to the farmers market, on picnics, or to spur interest in home gardening. The attention to the details of what rabbits can safely eat, as well as the number and color concepts provided in the illustrations, makes Rabbit Stew a great choice for school story times and spring lessons.

Ages 3 – 7

Boyds Mills Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1629795836

You can download a fun Rabbit Stew Activity Sheets from Boyds Mills Press!

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

You’ll dig this Rabbit Stew book trailer!

National Garden Month Activity

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

Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

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

Supplies

Directions

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

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

Meet Author/Illustrator Wendy Wahman

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Today, I’m really happy to be chatting with Wendy Wahman about her art, her books, her inspirations, and a really sweet school visit she had recently.

Your bio mentions that you worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer until 2009. Can you describe your work there?

I worked in the art department doing maps, graphics, info-graphics and illustrations for every section of the newspaper. Ninety percent of the work was on deadline, so I learned to think and draw fast.

Our poor beloved P-I. It was 146 years old when Hearst closed it down. About 150 of us went down with the ship. Best job I ever had. I miss the variety and culture and importance — and honesty — of journalism. I miss my P-I family, very much.

How did you get started illustrating and writing books for children?

I was really just snooping around for illustration work. I had an idea for a book on dog body language I wanted to do, but imagined ‘a real writer’ should write it. I sent out some of the dog body-language art samples and heard back from four major publishers. Laura Godwin at Henry Holt called me, and was so passionate about dogs and kids—and my art. She asked to see a dummy. What dummy, right? I had no dummy, just an idea and some art samples. I took two weeks off from the P-I and put together a dummy. Laura helped me tremendously, as did my brilliant writer husband, Joe Wahman.    

Don’t Lick the Dog is a how-to primer on being safe with dogs. We followed with the companion book, A Cat Like That. We never did do my dog body-language book. It’s sitting here patient as can be. “Good dog, book.”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, Don’t Lick the Dog. Courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

 

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, A Cat Like That. Courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

Your art is so varied—from humorous to infographics to striking, serious editorial work. You also work with crisp, clean lines and beautiful textures. Can you talk about your process and inspirations?

Thank you so much, Kathy. Well. I sit and think and read a lot. Mostly I just look and try to distract myself from thinking too hard. I like to thumb through my Thesaurus. When I’m stuck, I try to remember to move away. This can be physically—exercise or a walk; mentally—read or look through books; or emotionally—play with my dogs or call somebody. I say, try, because too often I sit rooted, thinking, thinking. Better to get up and move.

What was the inspiration for Rabbit Stew?

I feed my dogs a homemade stew of meat & veggies. Long ago, I was stirring up an enormous batch of dog food, when “rabbit stew” fluttered to mind. Rabbit Stew is also a counting book, counting down veggies from ten to one. It’s also a color book. It was a challenge to find ingredients safe for rabbits, in different colors and not give it away. Like, rabbits love dandelions and they’re very good for them, but I only know a couple of people who would knowingly toss dandelions into the pot. No potatoes; they are toxic to bunnies, and cabbage isn’t good for them either. 

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A happy fan enjoys reading “Rabbit Stew” with lunch! Photo courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

You give presentations at schools and libraries. Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share?

I did a school visit recently in southern California and got to take my mom to a presentation for 4th graders. I introduced her to the students, and they gave her a loud round of applause! Even more tender, when I was signing books (and the other stuff kids want signed), they asked if my mother would also give them an autograph. Is that the sweetest or what? Children can be so inspiring, healing, and wise. 

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Wendy reads “Don’t Lick the Dog” to enthusiastic kindergarteners in Kennewick, WA. Photograph courtesy of Wendy Wahman

You also teach bookmaking to kids. That sounds fun and fascinating! Can you tell me a little bit about these classes?

I’m so glad you asked about these little books, Kathy. I love making them and sharing the process. Anyone can make one. I’ve taught them to kindergarteners through seniors. I call them “Insight Books,” because what comes out can be surprising, revealing, and often cathartic. Random lines inspire images and ideas. Some people write, others write and draw. Sometimes we collage. Even if you do nothing at all put look, the lines may stimulate ideas. These book are fun to make with a partner too. 

What’s up next for you?

I’m very excited about my next book, Pony in the City (Sterling Publishers). Kevan Atteberry’s book, Swamp Gas, releases the same day, Sept. 9th, and we’re talking about having a co- launch party.

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman. Proofs of “Pony in the City” (Sterling, releasing Sept. 9 this year) courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

I’m working on Nanny Paws (Two Lions), a book inspired by my little white poodle, LaRoo, and the children next door. Here’s a picture of LaRoo and my other dog Jody with my friend Vikki Kaufman‘s poodles. Vikki is a breeder of beautiful silver and blue standard poodles. Vikki took the picture, can you tell?  Her dogs are staring straight at her. Poor LaRoo. She is a shy girl and just wants to get away from the masses.

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Wendy with LeRoo and Jody and Vikki’s TinTin, Nickel and Eureka.

I’m also working on a dummy for a beautiful story written by Joe, “One Bird” (www.joewahman.com). I’m doing the art for both Nanny Paws and Joe’s story in a new/old style for me: pencil and watercolor.

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Image from “One Bird,” written by Joe Wahman, illustrated by Wendy Wahman. Courtesy of Wendy Wahman

 Do you have a favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving.

Do you have an anecdote from a holiday you would like to share

If you come over for Thanksgiving, prepare yourself for a vegetarian feast. We don’t eat animals here — but we do make them big, round, splendid bowls of stew.

Thanks so much, Wendy! It’s been a lot of fun! I wish you all the best with all of your books!

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You can find Wendy’s books at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Boyds Mills Press

You can connect with Wendy on:

BēhanceFacebook | LinkedIn | PinterestTwitter

Visit Wendy’s shops:

Cafe Press: http://www.cafepress.com/profile/109591016

RedBubble:  http://www.redbubble.com/people/wendywahman/portfolio

Zazzle: http://www.zazzle.com/wendoodles/products

Wendoodles coloring book: http://www.amazon.ca/Wendoodles-Wendy-E-Wahman/dp/1517403456

Picture Book Review