December 31 – Universal Hour of Peace Day

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About the Holiday

The idea of Barbara Condron, the Hour of Peace encourages people worldwide to live conflict free for the hour between 11:30 p.m. December 31 and 12:30 January 1 and enter the new year in a spirit of love and hope. The holiday was first celebrated on October 24, 1995 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and the autumnal equinox. In 1996 the holiday was moved to January 1st and took place at noon GMT. It now spans the transition from the outgoing year to the new year.

Peace is an Offering

Written by Annette LeBox | Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

 

Peace comes in many forms, as simple as “an offering” of “a muffin or a peach. / A birthday invitation. / A trip to the beach.” Peace is being thankful for the wonders of nature, a parent’s love, the coolness of rain or morning dew, even a steaming “bowl of hot stew.”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Peace is those times when we are together, in a hug, with sweet words, or cuddling to hear a story. Peace comes in reassurance to the questions that might worry: “Will you wait when I’m slow? / Will you calm by fears? / Will you sing to the sun / to dry my tears?”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Where is peace found? In so many places! In a picture or a “belly laugh.” And even when tragedy strikes or “in your darkest hour,” peace can be found, for “peace is a joining, not a pulling apart. It’s the courage to bear a wounded heart.” Peace is finding safety and a “freedom from fear.” It’s found when you “offer a cookie…comfort a friend…sing a quiet song.” When you’re open to catching “a falling star” then peace will “walk beside you / wherever you are.”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Annette LeBox builds beautiful phrase upon beautiful phrase until midway through her inspiring story when she takes readers gently by the heart and shows them the way forward through any event that disrupts inner peace. LeBox reveals that capturing or recapturing those simple joys that make up a fulfilling life—and more importantly offering that kindness, help, and inclusion to others—brings hope, healing, and happiness not only to others but to yourself as well.

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Stephanie Graegin excels in pairing text with quietly powerful images of togetherness and the tranquility such closeness brings. As diverse groups of friends, siblings, and families go about their day at school, eat out, navigate puddles and long walks, and enjoy time playing and laughing with each other, readers will be moved by Graegin’s tender details and will enjoy following and pointing out the characters who return from page to page. Images of loss (a mother hugs her two children close as they sit on a park bench overlooking a cityscape and little boy gazes at a picture of his dog) offer poignant opportunities for adult and kids to discuss life changes and events in the news that affect us all. Illustrations of uplifting ideas and gestures that children can use to express their vision of kindness and peace will inspire young readers.

A stirring and heartfelt look at the ways children and adults can share peace, comfort, and encouragement, Peace is an Offering is superb book to add to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0803740914

Discover more about Annette LeBox and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stephanie Graegin, her books, and her art on her website.

Universal Hour of Power Day Activity

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Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

 

A peaceful feeling inside can make your spirits soar like balloons in the air. Decorate the balloons in this printable page in your favorite colors (maybe even add a bit of glitter!) and hang it where seeing it will make you happy.

Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

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You can find Peace is an Offering at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 25 – Christmas Day

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About the Holiday

Christmas is anticipated all year round for the joy of giving, the fun of receiving, and the message of hope the holiday gives. Honoring the birth of Jesus, Christmas is a religious observation celebrated with hymns, special services, prayers, and remembrance of others. Incorporating long-held traditions from around the world, the holiday also welcomes Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Papá Noel, Ded Moroz (“Grandfather Frost” in Russian), Julenissen (“Christmas Gnome” in Norway), and many other names, who brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve. The day inspires family dinners, home baking, parties with friends, and togetherness.

The Christmas Cat

Written by Maryann Macdonald | Illustrated by Amy June Bates

 

“Jesus was beautiful, like all babies,” but on the night he was born he cried and cried. Mary tried everything to comfort him—a warm blanket, feeding him, rocking him—but nothing soothed him. Looking on, the other animals longed to help. “Doves fluttered down from the rafters, settling on the creaky stable door.” Although their coos were soft and musical, the baby did not stop crying.

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of amyjunebates.blogspot.com/

The gentle brown cow tried next, lowing the lullaby she used on her own calf, but Jesus cried louder. And even though the donkey meant well, her braying “made Jesus cry loudest of all.” Then from a hiding place a little kitten crept “step by careful step” toward Mary and Jesus. Leaping lightly onto Mary’s lap, the kitten “nuzzled Jesus’s neck. Then he began to purr, a calm, contented purr that came from deep inside.” Jesus gazed at the tiny kitten, and as he touched the soft fur his crying quieted. The barn grew silent and the new family and all the animals slept soundly.

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of amyjunebates.blogspot.com/

As time passed and the kitten grew into a cat, he and Jesus became close companions, playing together under the fig tree. When it was naptime, “it was the cat’s turn to watch over the baby and purr him to sleep.” But one day their peaceful life was shattered. Jesus’s father, Joseph, learned through an angel that King Herod was looking for Jesus. Harod had heard rumors that Jesus would grow up to be king one day. “Herod’s soldiers, the angel said, were racing toward Bethlehem, hoping to find the baby Jesus and destroy him.”

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus hurried to leave their home, packing everything they had to go now—in the middle of the night—to escape detection and flee to Egypt. With all their goods piled onto their donkey, Mary and Joseph were ready to leave. But where was Jesus’s cat? “Mary and Joseph combed through the tall grass, searched the shadows near the fire and looked high in the branches of the fig tree. But the cat was nowhere to be found.”

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

It was much too dangerous to linger, and so, sadly, the family left Bethlehem without their beloved pet. In the chill night air, Jesus was uncomfortable; he missed his cat. “He clenched his tiny fists and screamed.” Joseph worried. Were the campfires on the horizon Herod’s soldiers? Could they hear Jesus crying? Both Mary and Joseph missed the calming influence of their cat. Suddenly, Jesus heard a familiar wail. Out of the basket tied to the donkey’s flank popped his companion. Jesus reached out for him, and the cat leaped into his arms.

After the two had greeted each other as long lost friends, they fell asleep to the cat’s tender purring as “the donkey carried them far away from Herod’s soldiers and their terrible swords, far away to the safe land of Egypt. Love had saved them.” As the two grew older together, they loved each other as only a pet and it’s child can. “They were meant for each other…from the very first Christmas night, in the bright starlight.”

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of amyjunebates.blogspot.com/

In her Author’s Note following the text, Maryann Macdonald reveals that her story is inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of La Madonna del Gatto or the Madonna of the Cat, in which the baby Jesus is depicted holding and playing with a cat as he sits on his mother’s lap, as well as legends of a cat that lived in the stable where Jesus was born.

Maryann Macdonald’s gentle story of the baby Jesus soothed by a kitten on the night he was born and saved by this same pet on his flight to Egypt will captivate young children. The focus on the child-animal bond will delight little ones with pets of their own and makes the Christmas story immediately accessible. Macdonald’s lyrical language beautifully portrays the emotion and setting of the story, and she establishes the danger faced by the family with age-appropriate suspense.

Amy June Bates enhances the story with gorgeous traditional paintings of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, the stable and its animals, and the nighttime journey to Egypt. Her watercolor, gauche, and pencil illustrations glow with warm ambers, greens, and midnight blues. The barn animals are sweetly gentle and earnest in their attempts to soothe the crying baby, and the realistic portraits of the family demonstrate their love for each other. Children will especially like the images of Jesus and his pet cat cuddling and playing together. The final illustration of Mary, Jesus, and their cat echoes the drawing by Leonardo da Vinci that accompanies the Author’s Note.

For pet owners and animal lovers, The Christmas Cat would make a meaningful addition to their holiday collection.

Ages 3 – 6

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-0803734982

To learn more about Maryann Macdonald and her books, visit her website!

To view a portfolio of artwork by Amy June Bates, visit her blog!

Christmas Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cat-coloring-page

Cute Christmas Cat Coloring Page

 

This cute kitty is all decked out for the holiday! Have fun with this printable Cute Christmas Cat Coloring Page!

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You can find The Christmas Cat at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 5 – National Cheese Pizza Day

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About the Holiday

Pizza is one of those foods that just puts a smile on your face. It’s associated with parties, good times with friends, and relaxing weekends. It’s also one of the few foods that is so varied that you can have it made your way with your own favorite ingredients. Of course, today we celebrate that favorite of kids, the star of many a birthday party, and the perfect base to any pizza—the cheese pizza. Even this “basic” pizza can have pizzazz, though, if you fancy it up with multiple types of cheese and some delectable herbs and spices! So celebrate today by calling up your fav pizza place or making a pie of your own.

Secret Pizza Party

Written by Adam Rubin | Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

 

Raccoon, plastered against the Pizza Shop window, drools over cheesy slices others are eating inside. He so wants a piece and would even be happy with the leftovers in the back alley trash. But when he tries to paw one out of the can, he gets swept away with a broom. Maybe  if he knew how to ask politely things would be different.

Raccoon loves pizza so much that he thinks it should hang in art museums and that people should eat it in the bathtub. “Of course the best part about pizza is the gooey cheesiness, salty pepperoni-ness, sweet tomato-ness, and crispity, crunchity crust. Yum!” Maybe a pizza party will cheer Raccoon up—a secret pizza party. Why should it be secret? Because secret is special— like an intricate secret handshake only you and one other person know, or a secret stair case that leads…who knows where, but somewhere amazing!

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Adam Rubin, courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Besides, you know what a regular raccoon pizza party would be like—there would be brooms and horrified faces and panicked shouts of “Get that raccoon off the table!!!” But here’s how a secret pizza party would sound: “Get that raccoon another slice of pizza, he’s the guest of honor.”

So the first order of business for this secret pizza party is…ordering! Before the call is placed, though, you’ve got to think: if you call and order the pizza, you’ll have to give your address. And if you give your address, the pizza guy will know where you live. And if the pizza guy knows where you live he “might recognize you from the posters and chase you off with a broom.” So what are you to do? A disguise will do the trick. “Okay now, play it cool. You’re just an honest pizza-buying citizen who left his wallet in the car,” and as soon as the pizza is in your hands you make a run for it back to your tree.

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Adam Rubin, courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Ok, phew, great job! Now you can enjoy…but not too loud or with too much light. You don’t want anyone to see. Wait a minute! What’s that right outside your home? Another secret pizza party where everyone is wearing masks?

Perfect! Ok, you’ve infiltrated the party…you’re reaching for a slice of pizza…and no one suspects a thing. NO! NO! NO! You’re rolling in the pizza on top of the table!! You blew your cover. Grab as many pieces as you can and run because here they come with the brooms…!

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Adam Rubin, courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Adam Rubin’s madcap read-a-loud about a pizza-obsessed raccoon and his quest for a broom-free night of pizza indulging will have kids laughing from Raccoon’s first wistful look to his final triumphant dash. Rubin’s conspiratorial tone makes readers active participants in Raccoon’s covert operation to secure a pizza without a sweeping disaster, ramping up their level of involvement and enjoyment. The text—from the secret handshakes to the broom-bots to words such as “bonk,” “booyah,” “crispity crunchity,” and “happy screams”—is silly, kid-friendliness at its best and is as enticing as the aroma of hot-out-of-the-oven pizza.

Daniel Salmieri’s noodle-armed, broom-wielding humans and animated, fanatical raccoon amplify the humor that infuses every scene in Rubin’s tale. A slice of pizza hanging between two masterpieces in a museum or being devoured in a bubble bath, an intertwining handshake, a ridiculous disguise, and two types of raccoon-sniffing broom-bots are just a few of the images that make Secret Pizza Party a kid’s dream come true. In addition there are plenty of sly details, such as a pizza-shaped lampshade, projectile brooms, and Raccoon’s fairy-tale imagination. My favorite laugh-out-loud moment shows Raccoon blending into the secret pizza party outside his tree house by simply holding up a twig as a handle to his natural “mask.”

Full of pizza, playfulness, and a persevering raccoon, Secret Pizza Party is a book that kids will want to hear again and again. It would make a delicious addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 9

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-0803739475

Find out more about books by Adam Rubin on his website!

Daniel Salmieri has a gallery of his work and books on his website for you to see!

 National Cheese Pizza Day Activity

CPB - Pizza Day Toppings

Create Your Pizza Game

 

Play this fun game to build your pizza ingredient by ingredient before the others! For 2 – 8 players.

Supplies

Directions

Object of the Game: to fill a pizza slice with 5 delicious ingredients

  1. Print a Pizza Crust Game Board and Ingredients Cards
  2. Each player picks a slice on the board to fill
  3. Roll the dice to choose who goes first. Play
  4. The first player rolls the dice and places an ingredient on their slice according to the numbers below
  5. Play passes to the right
  6. The player who fills their slice with all 5 ingredients first, wins

Alternative for older kids: Print a game board for each player. The first player to complete the whole pizza is the winner

Each number on the playing die corresponds to one ingredient or other instruction, as noted below:

1: add sauce (red x)

2: add cheese

3: add green peppers (green squares)

4: add garlic (white half moons)

5: add pepperoni

6: remove one ingredient and pass the playing die to the next player

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You can find Secret Pizza Party at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 23 – It’s National Goat Cheese Month

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About the Holiday

Launched in 1998 by the American Cheese Society, National Goat Cheese Month promotes the delicious variety of cheeses made from goat’s milk. With less fat, cholesterol, and calories than cheese made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk cheese—or Chevre—offers delectable options for all types of recipes and cooking. Goat cheese has been enjoyed since around 5000 BC, when the Greeks first domesticated the goat. Since then, goat’s milk cheese has been embraced by people around the world. To celebrate, add your favorite type of goat’s milk cheese to your meals. If you’ve never tried goat’s milk cheese, now’s the time!

El Chupacabras

Written by Adam Rubin | Illustrated by Crash McCreery

 

“This all happened a long time ago, en una granja de cabras. / Todo esto ocurrió hace mucho tiempo, on a goat farm.” There, a young girl named Carla lived with her father, Hector. While Hector tended to the goats, Carla tended to her bicicleta. Every day, they were up early—con el sol—to feed and milk the goats. Hector even sang to the goats. One night, while they were sleeping, Hector and Carla heard a strange sound that sounded like “THHHBBBBTTZFFFFF!.”

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Image copyright Crash McCreery, 2018, text copyright Adam Rubin, 2018. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

“A la mañana siguiente, one of the goats había desaparecido. / The following morning, una de las cabras had disappeared.” Carla took off on her bicycle to find it. What she discovered was “a goat pancake”—“una tortita de cabra.” As soon as Hector saw the goat, he knew El Chupacabras, the goat sucker, had struck. While legend had it that el chupacabras was a frightening monster, the reality was that he was “a tiny gentleman”—“un caballero diminuto.” Mostly he enjoyed churros dipped in a mug of chocolate, but sometimes he just had a hankering to suck a goat.

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Image copyright Crash McCreery, 2018, text copyright Adam Rubin, 2018. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

As she was strolling her cart of flowers past the farm, the flower lady heard Hector’s fury. She offered him a bag of magic dust that could protect his goats. “Try a little,” she said. Hector doused the goats with the magic powder. When he gave the empty bag back to the flower lady, she gasped. “I said un poquito!” Just then the goats began to grow…and grow…and grow. With each step they destroyed more and more of the farm.

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Image copyright Crash McCreery, 2018, text copyright Adam Rubin, 2018. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Carla jumped on her bicycle and rode through the forest calling “¡Chupacabras! ¡Socorro!”—“Goat Sucker! Help!” The dapper little creature suddenly appeared, asking what had happened. Carla told him about the gigantic goats, and el chupacabras was happy to help. They reached the town just in the nick of time. One by one, el chupacabras sucked each goat down to size. And the goat sucker? He was fat and happy.

In the end, everything turned out well. Hector and the flower lady fixed the damage in the town, and “Carla spent many happy years on the farm with her father and his new friend. / Carla pasó muchos años felices en la granja con su padre y su nueva amiga.”

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Image copyright Crash McCreery, 2018, text copyright Adam Rubin, 2018. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

I picked up this book with joy in my heart after reading just the first blended language line. Adam Rubin’s mix of English and Spanish/Spanish and English sentences immediately immerses readers in this bilingual story in a way that they can clearly understand the meaning of unfamiliar words and phrases. Part mystery, part melodrama, and complete laugh-out-loud pandemonium, Rubin’s retelling of the legend of El Chupacabras will have kids begging to hear or read the story again and again. Phrases like “goat pancake” and “goat sucker” will illicit extended giggles as will the description of the diminutive creature at the center of the action.

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Image copyright Crash McCreery, 2018, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Accompanying Rubin’s storytelling to maximum effect are Crash McCreery’s mix of realistic and humorous illustrations. While Hector and Carla tend to their neat, quiet goat farm, the wide-eyed goats warily look around, hide out in a leafless tree, and suffer the indignities of a blast of magic powder and, of course, the necessary goat sucking that returns them to normal size. The first glimpse of the goat pancake is a showstopper, and the portrayal of Hector carrying home the poor goat draped in his arms like a folded blanket is hilarious. The fact that the goat still has the wherewithal to eat Hector’s handkerchief is comic gold. But this is the story of el chupacabras, and the hairy, scaly, and monocled “tiny gentleman” is a rib-tickling delight.

Brilliant bilingual writing and sublime silliness make El Chupacabras an exceptional addition to home and classroom libraries. The blended sentences will spark enthusiasm for language learning during fun and funny story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0399539299

Discover more about Adam Rubin and his books on his website.

National Goat Cheese Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goat-eating-flowers-coloring-page

Hungry Goat Coloring Page

 

Goats are famous for their appetites! The goat in this printable coloring page is happy to be munching on flowers. Can you give the scene a little color?

Hungry Goat Coloring Page

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You can find El Chupacabras 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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-name-that-dog-puppy-poems-from-a-to-z-chewy

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-name-that-dog-puppy-poems-from-a-to-z-elvis

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-love-dogs-wordsearch-puzzle-shorter-size

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

April 29 – International Dance Day

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About the Holiday

International Dance Day was founded in 1982 by the Dance Committee of the International Theater Institute. This date was chosen to commemorate the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, who was born in 1727 and is credited with creating modern ballet. Today’s holiday encourages people to celebrate dance and “revel in the universality of this art form.” There are so many styles of dance to watch and participate in. Today, enjoy a performance or find a venue where you can kick up your heals in your favorite kind of dance!

Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing

Written by Marilyn Singer | Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

 

The rhythms of dance and the cadence of poetry create a natural pairing as these seventeen poems that celebrate the moves, music, and thrill of dances from around the world demonstrate with toe-tapping joy.

In Cha-Cha a boy attending his Uncle Nate’s birthday party learns the cha-cha from his grandma. At first he says “I don’t / know these moves. / My fee / feel like hooves.” But then “something clicks! / Okay, it’s old school. / I say, / cha-cha’s cool!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feel-the-beat-hip-hop

Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

While the kids at school brag about their parents’ jobs, one boy has them beat in Hip-Hop: “No fumbling, no bumbling, / my pops is tops at tumbling. / He’s elastic, so fantastic. / Papa’s so gymnastic!” But while Dad “will swipe and windmill” and “slide on his knees, / do lots of flares and coin-drops” and “boomerang and freeze,” the boy adds “…wait / until you see my mom!”

Is it meringue or Merengue? Maybe a bit of both…because doing it right means “Moving sideways, / turning wrists, / while we do / our pretzel twists. / We sway our hips, we shift our legs, like we’re whipping / lots of eggs.”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, text courtesy of Marilyn Singer. Courtesy of kristivaliant.com

It’s fun to let go when learning the Salsa. All you need is to “Feel the beat / in your feet, / in your heart. / Then you start.” So “Don’t be shy. / Come on try. / In this class, / show some sass.” If only shopping could be so entertaining…. But, wait! Maybe Conga is the solution. “We’re at the MALL. / I’m very BORED. / I hate the STORES, / I hate the HORDE…. / ‘Just one more SHOP’ / turns into FOUR. / I’m gonna SCREAM, / I’m gonna ROAR.” Then music starts and a line grows long—“Uh uh uh, KICK! / You cannot WHINE / when you are ON / a conga LINE! / Uh uh uh, KICK! / A flash mob BALL! / Keep shopping, MOM! / I love the MALL!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

The library may be a quiet, staid place most of the time, but Swing Dance takes over one special library. “On the plaza in July, / underneath the summer sky / where you can get to hear good bands, / kick your feet, wave your hands, / we’re gonna swing. / That’s our new thing / We’re gonna swing!” A boy and his mom have joined lots of other dancers having fun on the square— “We step…step… / rock step. / we’re full… / of pep. / We Lindy hop. / Bibbidy-bop! / We Lindy hop!”

And for those kids who look at the Square Dance unit in PE with trepidation, this girl feels the same: “Got a partner, lost my shoe. / Allemande left? I haven’t a clue….Did that caller give a cue? / Don’t promenade me. Shoo, boy, shoo!…Bow to Francisco, bow to Sue. / One more swing. It’s over! Whew! / I tried real hard, but alas, it’s true. / I’m flunking out of square dance!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

Other poems introduce the Foxtrot, Hora, Samba, Two-Step, Argentine Tango, Waltz, Bhangra, and Polka. Notes about each dance, giving a description, a bit of history, and basic rhythms and steps, follow the text. A CD of dance music is also included.

Marilyn Singer begins her exuberant celebration of dances from around the world with a pair of the reverso poems for which she is well known: All Over the World, Dancing is Joy and Joy is Dancing All Over the World. With this start, Singer invites readers to put on their dancing shoes and enter ballrooms, classrooms, and outdoor spaces filled with music. From birthdays to bar mitzvahs to weddings to spontaneous parties, Singer imbues each experience with the beats, steps, and sometimes missteps of dance with expressive vocabulary and humorous asides. Reading the poems aloud offers its own special treat as the meter of each poem reflects the rhythm of the dance described.

Kristi Valiant’s vibrant two-page spreads put kids in the center of the action where individuals, couples, and groups enjoy groovin’ to the music in their own style. Dancers swirl, stomp, hop, twirl, sway, dip, and kick up their heels on sunny days and under glowing nighttime light. So join in—no experience or partner necessary!

For kids who love music and dance and for those who love poetry of all kinds, Feel the Beat; Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing is a fun addition to home libraries—and may spark an interest in learning how to perform these dances.

Ages 5 – 9

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0803740211

Discover more about Marilyn Singer and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Kristi Valiant on her website!

International Dance Day Activity

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Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle

 

People all around the world love to dance! Can you find the names of twenty types of dances in this printable Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

 

April 24 – It’s National Frog Month

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About the Holiday

As the weather gets warmer, rain falls, and swampy areas and wetlands swell with water, the peeps and throaty croaks of frogs begins to fill the nighttime air. April is the perfect time to learn more about frogs and their importance to the ecosystem. Frogs are vital to the food system, and they eat insects that are harmful to crops and carry disease. Because they don’t drink water but absorb it through their skin, frogs are particularly susceptible to pollution. This, in addition to habitat destruction, climate change, and an increase in invasive species, threaten the frog population, making the conservation of their environment of utmost importance. This month, visit an aquarium, nature preserve, or zoo where you can learn more about these fascinating creatures.

I Don’t Want to be a Frog

Written by Dev Petty | Illustrated by Mike Boldt

 

“I want to be a cat,” a little frog announces to his father. “You can’t be a cat,” his dad answers, which elicits the inevitable “Why not?” from his son. His dad isn’t quite ready for this conversation and gives him the standard “because you’re a frog” response. Well, it turns out the little frog would rather be almost anything other than what he is. As he rattles off a list of alternatives that he considers much better, his dad warms to the game and counters each of his son’s suggestions with the realities of life (at least their life).

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2015, text copyright Dev Petty, 2015. Courtesy of Doubleday Books for Young Readers.

When little frog opines that he’d like to be a rabbit, his dad points out that he doesn’t have long ears. Being a pig seems like an attractive option, but Dad reminds him that he doesn’t have a curly tail or eat garbage. While both son and father believe being an owl would be “the greatest thing ever,” three things are standing in the way: Frogs don’t have wings, they don’t look wise, and they can’t spin their heads around.

So what’s so bad about being a frog? It’s “too wet,” “too slimy,” and there’s “too much bug eating,” little frog complains. Just then a wolf sneaks up and wants to know why the little guy is so glum. Without turning around to see who’s asking, the frog reveals his plight.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2015, text copyright Dev Petty, 2015. Courtesy of Doubleday Books for Young Readers.

With glee the wolf lets the frog in on a little secret, explaining that he revels in eating cats, rabbits, pigs, and owls. In fact, just talking about it makes him hungry.  “Guess the one thing I never eat,” the wolf urges. “Badgers?” guesses the little frog. But no, the answer is “frogs.” And why? Because they are “too wet and slimy and full of bugs.”

Wiser for this fresh perspective, the young frog sends the wolf off with a hearty, “I guess you can’t fight nature. We are what we are. You are a fierce hunter.” As the wolf walks away all’s well that ends well—except not so much for the creature who next happens upon the scene!

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2015, text copyright Dev Petty, 2015. Courtesy of Doubleday Books for Young Readers.

Dev Petty’s sassy-in-a-good-way young frog’s identity crisis is pure fun! The notion of self-acceptance and that each person is built, has talents, and embodies skills just right for who they are is playfully presented by Petty’s sweet father-and-son team. The humorous, escalating dialogue will keep kids laughing, and the surprise ending is a perfect twist. Petty’s endearing amphibian has spawned two sequals—I Don’t Want to Be Big and There’s Nothing to Do. A third, I Don’t Want to Go to Sleep, is due this fall.

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Mike Boldt’s olive green frogs are a delight as they trade off assurance and skepticism in their life-lesson conversation. Dad, initially mystified by his son’s pronouncements, discusses the issue with patience and genuine curiosity, his eyes registering cunning and understanding behind oversized glasses. His son, wide-eyed and vocal, displays the honesty of children with his questions. Boldt’s illustrations of the rabbit, pig, and owl that so captivate the young frog, juxtaposed with the father’s objections, are comical joy, as are the frogs’ looong legs and expressive faces. The final scenes with the enlightening wolf, whose head spans two pages, offer more laughs as the father and son resolve their differences.

Kids will love hearing I Don’t Want to be a Frog again and again, making it sure bet for home and classroom bookshelves. And now, even the littlest tadpoles can enjoy the story with the new board book edition.

Ages 3 – 7

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2018 (Board Book) | ISBN 978-0525579502 | 2017 (Paperback) 978-1338225259 | 2015 (Hardcover) 978-0385378666  

Discover more about Dev Petty and her books on her website

To learn more about Mike Boldt, his books, and his art, visit his website.

You do want to watch the I Don’t Want to be a Frog book trailer!

National Frog Month Activity

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Hop Along Matching Game

 

Hop along now and help these frogs! Each of these fantastic frogs has a twin, but they’ve gotten separated. Can you spot the identical pairs? Print out the Hop Along Matching Game and draw a line between the pairs.

picture book review