February 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day & Interview with Author Marsha Diane Arnold

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About the Holiday

Are you a RAKtivist? You know—a Random Acts of Kindness Activist! Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? It is! And all it takes to be a RAKtivist is to do nice things—kind things—for everyone and anyone. These things don’t have to be big, or hard, or expensive, either. In fact, the best kindness acts are free! If you see someone having a bad day, give them a smile. Is someone struggling with a box, a bag or keeping their stuff in their locker? Give them a hand. Does someone always eat lunch alone? Offer to sit with them and have a conversation. You’re also encouraged to give others a card to brighten their day. You’ll find some to print out at the end of this post!

There are as many ways to be a RAKtivist as there are people on the planet. Right now, there are 17,009 registered RAKtivists from ages 14 to 89 in 87 countries! You can join them and learn more about this uplifting holiday on the Random Acts of Kindness Website!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of May I Come In? to check out, and is partnering with me for a giveaway! Learn more below!

May I Come In?

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Jennie Poh

 

Outside, the rain poured down, and “Raccoon shivered. When “thunder roared, Raccoon quivered.” And the flashes of lightening were just too scary to watch. Raccoon did not like being alone on such a stormy night, so he “grabbed his umbrella and hurried out the door.” Raccoon made his way through muddy Thistle Hollow to his old friend Possum’s tree-trunk den.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There he found Possum nice and dry under his canopy. Raccoon asked, “‘Possum old friend, may I come in?’ / ‘What bad luck,’ Possum replied. ‘My den’s too small for one your size.’” Raccoon climbed down and with a “swish, plish” walked “all the way to Quail’s brambles.” As the wind whipped Raccoon’s scarf, he asked Quail if he could come in. But Quail said her brambles were formed too tight, and Raccoon was too wide to fit inside.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Next, Raccoon swish, plished to Woodchuck’s hole. Dug into a hill near an old broken tree and lit by a small candle lamp, Woodchuck’s hole looked cozy. But when Raccoon asked his old friend if he could come in, Woodchuck said, “‘What bad luck. I’ve only room for one to hide.’” Raccoon went away sadly and “stood shaking in the rain. His umbrella blew inside out, His fur felt wet and spongy.” He really did not want to spend the night alone.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There was one more house to try. Raccoon saw a light glowing in the distance. He hurried nearer and nearer and nearer. He knocked at the door and when Rabbit answered, Raccoon could see all of her little rabbits behind her as they “hopped and bopped to the raindrops.” Raccoon hesitantly asked his question then almost immediately took it back. After all, her house was so full. But Rabbit swung the door open wider. “‘What good luck,’ said Rabbit. ‘Come right in. There’s always room for a good friend.’” Rabbit gave Raccoon a comfortable chair to sit in and brought him a cup of tea.

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

As the storm raged on, Raccoon hummed and smiled happily, smelling the aroma of carrot stew that filled Rabbit’s home. Soon, there was another knock on Rabbit’s door and three voices rang out: “‘being alone on a night like tonight is scary.’” When Rabbit opened the door this time, there stood Possum, Quail, and Woodchuck. The ten little rabbits just kept hopping and bobbing.

Rabbit and Raccoon gazed at each other knowingly. “‘What good luck,’ they said. ‘Come right in. There’s always room for all our friends.’”

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Image copyright Jennie Pho, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

From the very first page, young readers will be engrossed in Marsha Diane Arnold’s sweet story of a raccoon who’s looking for company and comfort on a stormy night. As Raccoon swish, plishes through his neighborhood, knocking on door after door only to be met by excuses for why he can’t come in, children will empathize with him and be cheered when Rabbit joyfully invites him in. Readers will understand that they are sometimes like Raccoon, needing a bit of help or support. They will also see that they can always be like Rabbit, offering kindness and inclusion. Arnold’s lyrical language and repeated phrases invite children to read along, offering another sense of camaraderie during story time.

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Jennie Poh’s Thistle Hollow is as cute as its name with cozy dens, brambles, and homes carved into hills and trees and adorable woodland neighbors. The lovely smoky blue-grays and dusky greens enhance the beautiful scenery as raindrops plink, plonk and the wind whips Raccoon’s scarf and umbrella. Alert readers may notice that a single owl watches Raccoon as he makes his way from Possum’s den to Quail’s brambles, but as he approaches Rabbit’s inviting home, a pair of birds snuggle against the wind in a hollow tree. Rabbit’s home is warm, snug, and relaxed as the ten bunnies hop and bop, enjoying some fun with their siblings and guests.

May I Come In? would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and school libraries to open discussions of kindness, inclusion, and helpfulness for children. The story could easily be adaptable to acting out for a classroom or children’s program to highlight the lesson of inclusion and make it more personal.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363940

You’re invited to download the May I Come In? Activity Pages here or from Sleeping Bear Press.

May I Come In? Coloring Page May I Come In?  | Matching PageMay I Come In? Rhyming Page

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jennie Poh, her books, and her art work, visit her blog.

Random Acts of Kindness Day Activity

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Random Acts of Kindness Cards

 

Here are some cheery cards that are sure to make the recipient’s day happier! Give them to a friend, a family member, your teacher, or your bus driver to show them that you care and that they mean a lot to you!

Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 1Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 2

Meet Marsha Diane Arnold

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Today, I’m excited to talk with Marsha Diane Arnold about why the theme of kindness is important in the books children read, her real-life May I Come In? moment, and what makes life magical.

Thank you, Celebrate Picture Books for inviting me to your blog. Random Acts of Kindness Day seems a perfect time to chat about my new book May I Come In? which demonstrates kindness in such a sweet way.

What inspired you to write May I Come In??

There really was nothing specific that inspired the story. If anything did influence it, it was the wildlife that lived around my home in California. During the time I wrote May I Come In? I was working on a number of stories with woodland animal characters. With these stories, my characters led the way for me. One of the stories was Waiting for Snow with Badger and Hedgehog as characters. Another is Badger’s Seeds, which is coming out from Sleeping Bear Press in 2019. And then there’s May I Come In? with sweet Raccoon searching for a friend to spend a scary night with.

CPB - Marsha Diane Arnold Quail pic

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Here are two of the animals that shared my McGregor hill home in California. The first may have inspired my May I Come In? Quail character.

When Hurricane Irma hit Florida this fall, you experienced May I Come In? in a personal way. Can you talk about that a little?

At the last minute, Hurricane Irma decided to come almost directly over our little town of Alva! In the photo below, it looks as if I’m inviting everyone into my house, just the way Rabbit did, but this was actually taken after the hurricane, as I was celebrating our house still standing. You may notice on the left that not all our trees did as well.

Although our storm was indeed frightening, it was heart-warming to see all the people who opened their doors to friends, family, and strangers who had to be evacuated from their homes. My husband and I had fourteen people—family, acquaintances, strangers—and two dogs under our roof. We learned, like the characters in May I Come In?, that it was comforting to be with others during a frightening time and that including everyone added to the camaraderie.

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As a child you were surrounded by animals on your farm, you went on to help care for sick animals, and many of your books are written with animal characters. Do animals and their behavior inspire your writing? What animal qualities do you think resonate most with children?

Animals have always inspired and fascinated me. I could spend hours watching them, just being with them. They calm me. They make me laugh. They make me cry. Animals must inspire my writing because I write about them so often in my books, from my first book Heart of a Tiger to my newest, May I Come In?

Many animals have family groups and care for each other in similar ways to humans. Children understand and relate to this. In my two board books Baby Animals Take a Nap and Baby Animals Take a Bath my goal was to show very young children the similarities between animals and humans. We all nap. We all take baths.

When I write using animal characters, I’m really writing about children with human qualities. It’s a type of metaphor. Using animals as characters often allows children to identify more easily with certain perspectives.

What is something you love to do on a rainy day?

When I was growing up in Kansas, I actually enjoyed the lightning and the thunder!

Reading is always a lovely way to spend a rainy day. If there’s a warm fire to sit by, as in May I Come In? it’s even better.

The theme of May I Come In? revolves around the idea of inclusion and kindness. Can you speak a little bit on why it’s important for children’s books to portray these ideals? What changes have you seen over the years in children’s receptivity to these qualities?

Being inclusive is such an important quality, a foundation to living a kind and caring life. Because we humans are molded by our experiences when we are young, reading books that show inclusion and empathy are extremely important.

Even with the changes in our culture and technology, I think children are as receptive to these qualities as ever. But it’s vital we model them to children from their birth, through the first seven “magical” years, and onward. Good books with good messages are one way to do this.

One of the many things I love about May I Come In? is how each of Jennie Poh’s illustrations are so inviting, seeming to welcome the reader in.

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Your readers love meeting you at their school, in libraries, in bookstores, and even through Skype. Do you have an anecdote from an event that you’d like to share?

I’ve had such fun over the years visiting schools. There are so many precious memories.

I’m quite an introvert, so I’m grateful when schools invite me to visit their students. It gets me out of my shell; meeting my readers inspires me to keep writing for them.

A wonderful memory is my being flown into a small town on the Kansas plains by the principal in his airplane! It was a long way from an airport. When I arrived at the school in the morning I was greeted by a huge tornado they’d constructed on top of their school, in honor of my book The Bravest of Us All. Inside the gymnasium was a smaller tornado, three students dressed as cows to celebrate Prancing, Dancing Lily, and so much more. A grand time.

A recent memory involves Walter Jackson Elementary School in Alabama. They’ve been celebrating The Pumpkin Runner for about five years now with their Pumpkin Run Day, which is filled with pumpkin-related activities and a one-mile run for the entire school community, in honor of my book and the surprising ultra-marathoner Cliff Young. Two years ago, I was honored to be invited to join in the festivities by their amazing librarian, Todd McDonald. I spent one day doing presentations and another day playing games and running three miles! Yes, three, as they divided the students into three class groupings. Great educators! Great school! Great fun!

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You offer students writing workshops that you call “Funshops,” in which you present images, activities, and brainstorming to spark their imaginations and stories. Could you give an example of an image or activity that you use to fire up kids’ creativity? How do the kids react?

Hmmm. Should I share my favorite? Since it’s Random Acts of Kindness Day, I will!

The Alliteration Game is always a big hit with the students. In the Alliteration game, we take someone’s name and use lots of words that start with the same sound to make a fun sentence.  First, we describe the person in a silly way.  Then we think of an action word, a verb – like hopped or jumped.  After that, depending on the age of students, we might use adverbs to describe how the person does the action – “joyfully jumped” or “happily hopped” – and choose a setting. What’s really fun is that students can then use these sentences as starting places for a funny fiction story. Here’s an example, using my name.

Marsha, the magnificent moose, munched marshmallows in a museum in Manchuria.

Your work has been called “magical” by reviewers, and you also use the word to describe your work, your home in California, and other experiences. What does “magical” mean to you? Where is magic found and what can it do?

I like this definition of “magic” from the Oxford dictionary: “Beautiful or delightful in a way that seems removed from everyday life.”

To me something “magical” is uplifting, something that takes us somewhere else for a moment. But magic can be found almost everywhere, if we open our eyes and ears.  It can sneak up on us and take us by surprise or it can sit beside us and spread its arms around us. I found lots of magic at my home in California where I lived for 35 years – forests, good neighbors, barn owls. Now I’m finding magic in Florida – sandhill cranes, sunsets, ponies down the road.

A journalist once called me “a magician of literary innovations.” I loved that. To me, the best stories have always been magical, taking us away from the house cleaning or the 9-5 job, for a bit of beauty and delight.  So, I took the phrase and ran with it. I used it as the name of my blog Storymagician (inactive at the moment), and I created a Storymagician chant that I share with students when I visit schools. I think all of us can create and use stories to bring a little magic into our lives.

What’s up next for you?

At the moment, I’m doing final editing on my fall 2018 book, Gálapagos Girl with Lee & Low. This is a story inspired by Valentina Cruz who grew up in the Gálapagos Islands.

Also in the fall Mine. Yours. will be out from Kids Can Press, a Canadian company. I’m so honored to be working with them as they usually only publish Canadian authors. Qin Leng is illustrating. I’ve seen some of the early sketches and am so looking forward to the final artwork. Her style is perfect for my story.

Both of these books will be 40 pages long, my first ever 40-page long picture books. As many of you know, most picture books are 32 pages long. It’s interesting to me because Gálapagos Girl is a 500-plus-word story with an author note and back matter and Mine. Yours. is only 25 words! Yet, both editors felt the stories deserved 40 pages.

Another first for me is that Gálapagos Girl is going to be a bilingual book. So much to look forward too!

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I can’t let you get away without asking a few questions about holidays, so…

What holiday do you enjoy most?

I can’t choose just one!

I love decorating the house for Christmas – all the lights!

I really enjoy Halloween and Easter too. We rarely had candy in our house when my children were young, so trick-or-treating was a big deal. They always made their own costumes, with whatever they could find around the house. There were some pretty interesting ones!

Easter was wondrous. When my children were small we would cut a small branch from one of the manzanita trees in our little forest and bring it into the house to decorate with Easter eggs and treasured objects. We always looked for the Easter bunny in the field behind our house, where many rabbits lived. We spotted him several times over the years.

Then there’s Valentine’s Day, the day we just celebrated. I love the red and pink! When my children were young, we always designed and made our own Valentine’s cards. It’s fitting I’m sharing about May I Come In? during Valentine’s week as both are about holding others close, including them in our hearts and our lives.

Has a holiday ever influenced your writing?

I’ve never really written a story about a holiday, but there’s a Halloween story I started over ten years ago that I never finished. Yet, it keeps tapping me on the shoulder. I plan to take another look at it next month. Writers often return to work that’s been collecting dust for years in the hope that this time new ideas will come to them and the story will be completed and ready for the world.

Where can readers find out more about you, your books, and your school visits?

My website is being updated, but you can find out about all those things at www.marshadianearnold.com. And if you want to learn how to follow your characters through a story, as I mentioned in the first question, you may check out my Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books at http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/writing-character-driven-stories.html.

Now, let’s all go out and do a random act of kindness!

Thanks, Marsha, for chatting with me today! I wish you all the best with May I Come In? and all of your books!

You can find May I Come In? at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | MacIntosh Books of Sanibel Island, FL

Marsha Diane Arnold will be reading and signing books at MacIntosh Books in March. If you live or will be near Sanibel Island, check out their event calendar for March to attend an event with Marsha Diane Arnold!

You can connect with Marsha Diane Arnold on:

Her Author Facebook | Personal Facebook (I welcome all) |Twitter | Her Website

Picture Book Review

January 26 – It’s National Hobby Month

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About the Holiday

If you like to take a break from the routine or pressures of the work day and sew, garden, or read, play music, dance, or draw, or if you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill or develop a talent, then this month is for you! During National Hobby Month take some time to research a skill, art, or discipline that strikes your fancy and get started!

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love

Written by Michelle Edwards | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

One of the first gifts Sophia received when she was a baby was a knitted hat from her neighbor Mrs. Goldman. Now that Sophia is more grown up, she helps Mrs. Goldman make pom-poms for the hats she knits for other babies, friends, and neighbors. “‘Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,’ says Mrs. Goldman, kissing the top of Sophia’s head. ‘This is your keppie, and a mitzvah is a good deed.’”

One day in late autumn Sophia and Mrs. Goldman walk Mrs. Goldman’s dog Fifi. While Fifi is kept warm in a dinosaur sweater and Sophia is cozy in the fuzzy kitten hat and mittens that Mrs. Goldman made them, Mrs. Goldman’s head and ears are unprotected in the icy wind. When Sophia asks her friend why she doesn’t have a hat, Mrs. Goldman tells her “‘I gave it to Mrs. Chen.’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Michelle Edwards. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Sophia begins to worry about Mrs. Goldman. Who will knit a hat for her? “Not Mrs. Goldman. She’s too busy knitting for everyone else.’” Last year Mrs. Goldman had tried to teach Sophia to knit, but it was too hard and took too long, so she decided to stick with making pom-poms. But Sophia thinks maybe it’s time to try again. She goes to her knitting bag and pulls out the hat they had started together. “The stiches are straight and even. The soft wool smells like Mrs. Goldman’s chicken soup.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Holding the needles, Sophia thinks about what she was taught. Even though she drops stitches, she continues to knit. “She wants to make Mrs. Goldman the most special hat in the world.” The next day snow falls on Mrs. Goldman’s head as they walk Fifi. Sophia frets, and at home she begins knitting morning, noon, and night to finish her hat. Winter has set in and one day when the pair walk Fifi, “Mrs. Goldman wraps Mr. Goldman’s scarf around her head like she’s a mummy.” But the wind grabs it and rips it away. Sophia catches it, but shivers at the thought of how cold Mrs. Goldman must be.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Michelle Edwards. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

At home Sophia knits in a frenzy, adding row after row of stitches until the hat is finished. When Sophia looks at it, though, she finds holes where they shouldn’t be and lumpy and bumpy areas. She thinks what she has made looks more like a monster than a hat. Sophia takes out the box containing all the hats Mrs. Goldman has made for her, but they are much too small for Mrs. Goldman to wear. While Sophia’s mama and papa have hats made by Mrs. Goldman, she knows she can’t give those away.

Sophia imagines all the hats she makes with her neighbor and how Mrs. Goldman always tells her that her pom-poms add beauty, and that “‘that’s a mitzvah too.’” Sophia’s heart swells. She finds red yarn—Mrs. Goldman’s favorite color—and her pom-pom making supplies and goes to work. When she is finished and the pom-poms are attached, “Mrs. Goldman’s hat is the most special hat in the world.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Sophia runs next door and surprises Mrs. Goldman with her gift. Mrs. Goldman hugs Sophia and tears come to her eyes. “‘Don’t you like it?’” Sophia asks, but she needn’t worry. “‘I more than like it, I love it,’ declares Mrs. Goldman. ‘Gorgeous. Like Mr. Goldman’s rosebushes. And you know how I love his roses.’” With a kiss for Sophia, Mrs. Goldman begins counting the twenty pom-poms on her hat—“each one made with love.” Mrs. Goldman slips the hat on her head. Now when she and Sophia take Fifi for a walk, Fifi wears her dinosaur sweater, Sophia wears her kitty hat and mittens, and “Mrs. Goldman wears her Sophia hat. Her keppie is toasty warm. And that’s a mitzvah.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Michelle Edwards’ heartwarming story of a little girl who sees that her friend is in need and determines to help draws on children’s natural generosity and shows readers that their efforts are recognized and appreciated. Edward’s gentle and well-paced storytelling allows readers to understand the events and thoughts that bring Sophia to once again attempt knitting. Sophia’s solution to use the pom-poms she knows she makes well (and with love) to cover the holes demonstrates not only the ingenious creativity of kids, but also the idea that love can fill the voids in life.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Brian Karas imbues the story of Sophia and Mrs. Goldman with a magical wonder that floats from page to page like the fluffy snowflakes that are the catalyst for Sophia’s mitzvah. A combination of full-page illustrations and snapshot images show days spent with Mrs. Goldman as well as the moments, hours, and days that adorable Sophia spends knitting her special hat. Sophia, tongue sticking out in determination, wields her knitting needs; she ponders her holey hat while imagining a frightened Fifi; and scraps of red yarn dot the floor and even sit atop Sophia’s head as she creates pom-pom after pom-pom. When Mrs. Goldman pulls the hat over her own head, kids will feel cheered, while adults may feel a small lump in their throat.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman is a gem. Its tender portrayal of kindness, love, and close personal relationships makes it an outstanding choice for any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497106

Discover more about Michelle Edwards and her books, plus activities, recipes, and information on knitting on her website!

Enter a gallery of books, sketches, blog essays, and more by G. Brian Karas on his website!

National Hobby Month Activity

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Winter Hat Match Puzzle

 

These kids have all lost their hats! Can you follow the paths in this printable Winter Hat Match Puzzle to reunite each child with the right hat?

Picture Book Review

January 5 – National Bird Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates all our feathered friends from the birds in our backyards to the chickens and turkeys that provide us with food to the penguins of Antarctica. They include wild birds and those in captivity, either as pets or in zoos or other aviaries. National Bird Day was established to promote an awareness of issues concerning the safety, health, and protection of the world’s birds. To celebrate put out birdseed and suet for winter birds or learn a little more about the birds in your area.

The Lion and the Bird

By Marianne Dubuc

 

Lion was ready for a day in his garden and had just begun to hoe the rows when he spied a bird lying on the ground. “Oh, poor little thing,” Lion said. He felt he had to do something. He lifted Bird into his paws. Lion settled Bird on a tree stump and bandaged his wing.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2014, courtesy of mariannedubuc.com.

Just then Lion and Bird noticed that Bird’s flock was flying south for the winter. Without hesitation, Lion picked Bird up and placed him gently in his mane. ‘You won’t be cold here,” he told Bird. Then the two went inside Lion’s home, where there was a fire burning in the fireplace and a cozy atmosphere. Lion invited Bird to stay, saying there’s “plenty of room for both of us.”

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2014, courtesy of mariannedubuc.com.

Lion and Bird ate dinner together, and Lion made a warm box for Bird to sit in next to his rocking chair in front of the fire. They sat side by side while Lion read. Then Lion brushed his teeth and Bird brushed his beak and they went to sleep. Bird found a comfortable bed in Lion’s slipper.

Autumn turned to winter with its snow and ice. But Bird was “snug and warm” nestled in Lion’s mane and under a special stocking hat Lion made. They went sledding and ice fishing and spent evenings reading by the fire. The snow piled high, but being with a friend made the winter feel less cold.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2014, courtesy of mariannedubuc.com.

When spring returned the other birds did too. Bird pointed them out to Lion, and Lion told Bird he knew he had to join them. He watched his friend Bird fly off with his flock. “So it goes,” Lion thought. “Sometimes life is like that.” Still, Lion felt sad eating alone, with no one to read to, and without being able to say goodnight to Bird. In summer, Lion’s garden produced a good harvest of bright, red tomatoes, and he spent afternoons reading under his favorite tree.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2014, courtesy of mariannedubuc.com.

When autumn returned again, Lion wondered about Bird as he watched the flock flying south. Then he heard a familiar song. He looked and found Bird waiting on a branch of the tree. Once again Bird settled into Lion’s mane, and they went home to spend the winter together.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2014, courtesy of mariannedubuc.com.

Marianne Dubuc’s tender story of a deep and abiding friendship shows young readers that even distance and time cannot break bonds when love is shared between two people. Dubuc’s spare but profound text empathizes the warmth, attachment, and camaraderie felt between good friends. Her comforting words point to her poignant images in which Lion and Bird spend time together content in each other’s company. The idea that these two friends may not share the same language makes their devotion to each other all the more touching, and their consideration for each other’s feelings offers a moving lesson in kindness.

The Lion and the Bird is an enriching tale for quiet bedtimes and story times and provides a gentle way for parents, caregivers, and teachers to talk with children about friendship.

Ages 4 – 7

Enchanted Lion Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-1592701513

Discover a gallery of books and other illustration projects by Marianne Dubuc on her website.

National Bird Day Activity

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Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle

 

There are so many beautiful birds to celebrate on National Birding Day! You can find twenty kinds of birds without even going outside in this printable Let’s Go Birding! Word Search

Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle | Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review

 

December 12 – It’s Cat Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

If you share a home with a cat, then you know how these furry friends can change your life. Whether you love them for their playful antics, for their companionship, or even for their independent spirit, your life just wouldn’t be the same without their daily presence. Cat Lovers Month is the perfect time to celebrate your cat or kitten with some extra attention and care. If you’re considering adopting a cat, visit your local animal shelter to give a cat a forever home.

Meow!

By Victoria Ying

 

A little kitten finds his mom out in the garden planting seeds. He wants to play. “Meow?” he says, holding up a ball of yellow yarn. Next he tries his dad, who’s stirring up a big pot of something delicious on the stove. “Meow?” the little tyke asks.  Everyone seems busy in this house as the kitten’s sister ignores him while she reads her book in the tall-backed, polka dotted chair.

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Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

“Mrreow…,” the disappointed kitten says. He begins to unwind the ball of yarn. If no one will play with him, he will show everyone how much fun they are missing (and maybe how upset he is too). Trailing yarn behind him, the kitten winds his way through the sitting room and around his sister’s chair, tangling yarn over the chandelier, around the flower in its vase, and around the little table it sits on.

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He nearly trips his dad as he carries a plate of snacks across the kitchen and then weaves in and out among the rows of flowers where his mom is working. “Meow!” But when he lassos and nearly knocks over the fishbowl with a loud “MEOOOW!!” everyone comes running. Mom and dad seat their little one in the time-out chair and give him a joint talking to: “Meow!!”

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Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

The little guy didn’t mean to cause trouble. Are his parents really mad at him? What can he do? “meow…?” He really is sorry, “meow.” Dad and Mom understand. Dad hands his son a yellow cloth to clean up. The kitten mops up the spilled fishbowl water and begins rewinding his ball of yarn. His sister holds the tall chair as he reaches to remove the strings from the chandelier.

Mom lets her son help in the garden, and Dad shows him how to bake and decorate special mouse cookies, “meow!” Big sister scoots over and makes room for her brother in her chair and reads to him. “Meow!” Later the whole family enjoys the cookies and plays Cat’s Cradle with the yarn. After that it’s bath time and teeth-brushing time. Then with kisses and sweet dream wishes—“Meow. Meow…”—it’s bedtime. “purrrrr…”

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Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Nearly wordless picture books don’t come much more adorable and full of emotion than Victoria Ying’s Meow! With only one syllable and well-placed punctuation, Ying presents the rollercoaster of emotion that little ones can feel when disappointed. Ying’s gauzy, textured illustrations are bright and inviting, and the facial expressions of each character perfectly portray the meaning behind their looks and meows—from hopeful and listening to surprised and frustrated to anger, reconciliation, and resolution.

Images of the family taking time to play with the littlest one are heartwarming and demonstrate a touching solution for restoring household harmony while showing children that they are loved and important.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-meow-victoria-ying-fish

Copyright Victoria Ying, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Meow! is a sweet and meaningful story that even the youngest readers will understand and appreciate. A dramatic reading of the various emotions involved in each “meow” as well as a bit of discussion and an invitation for little ones to read along can promote empathy and give children a voice for those feelings that are sometimes so hard to describe. Meow! would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062440969

Discover more about Victoria Ying, her books, and her art on her website.

Cat Lovers Month Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These playful kittens have gotten separated from their twin. Can you match them up again in this printable Match the Kitten Puzzle?

Picture Book Review

December 10 – Jane Addams Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2007 and commemorates the day in 1931 when Jane Addams became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to bring about social change, equality, and peace. Each year the Jane Addams Peace Association presents awards to outstanding children’s books that promote peace and justice. To learn more about Jane Addams and the Jane Addams Peace Association, visit janeaddamspeace.org.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams

Written by Tanya Lee Stone | Illustrated by Kathryn Brown

 

On a busy street stands a very special house where anyone is welcome and some find a home. In 1889 Jane Addams, a wealthy young woman, bought an elegant house in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Why? At just six years old on a trip with her father, Jane “noticed that not everyone lived like her family did.” Right then she vowed that when she grew older, she would live in a poor community and “find a way to fix the world.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane was brave and strong. Sometimes she and her stepbrother George would “sneak away at night to explore in nearby caves.” Jane was also smart and “read and read her father’s book collection,” which also served as the town library. Unlike most women at the time, Jane went to college. She attended Rockford Female Seminary and “graduated at the top of her class.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

After graduation, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, and when her father died that same summer, “Jane felt lost.” Two years later some friends invited her to travel to Europe with them. Although they went to the opera, museums, and many beautiful places, it was an experience in London that stuck with her. There she saw many “people in ragged clothes with outstretched hands, begging a cart vendor to buy his rotten fruits and vegetables that hadn’t sold at the market.” 

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When Jane returned home, the question of how she could help nagged at her. She returned to London to learn about Toynbee Hall, where poor and wealthy people lived together and learned from each other. Here, skills, such as cooking, were taught to provide people with the education to find jobs. Toynbee Hall was called a settlement house, because the rich people who worked there lived there as well.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane now knew what she wanted to do. In 1889 Chicago was a diverse city with a large immigrant population. Many didn’t speak English, which made it hard for them to find jobs. “Large families were crammed into ramshackle houses with no running water.” Garbage lay in the street, and tough kids ran wild with nothing else to do.

Jane found a large house in the middle of one of these areas that had once belonged to Charles J. Hull and upon his death had been given to his cousin, Helen Culver.  When Helen discovered what Jane wanted to do, she donated the house for free. Jane left the house unlocked, letting people know that they could come there whenever they needed. In time, people did find their way to Hull House when they were hungry or out of work. Jane also had her own way of dealing with unruly children or those who didn’t understand her generosity. Once when a man broke into Hull House twice because he had no job and no money, Jane gave him a job.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane helped the neighborhood in other ways too. She built a public bath so that people could stay clean and avoid illness. She convinced “public officials to build more public baths.” Because children had nowhere to play, Jane convinced a neighbor to give her his unused lot near Hull House. She tore down the buildings and built Chicago’s first playground. For kids whose parents worked long hours, she started a morning kindergarten and after school clubs. She also began offering evening classes for children who worked during the day.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane had help with her endeavors. Her friend “Ellen Gates Starr was her partner from the start.” Many other people also helped. They moved into Hull House and “taught literature, art, English, math, science, and cooking.” Hull House continued to grow, and by 1907 Jane oversaw thirteen buildings, including “a gymnasium, coffee house, theater, music school, community kitchen, and an art gallery.”

By the early 1920’s more than 9,000 people visited Hull House every week. Jane’s work “changed a bad neighborhood into a great and strong community.” Today, you can still see Jane Addams’ commitment to others in the community centers that bring people together in nearly every city and town.

An Author’s Note with more information on Jane Addams follows the text.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Tanya Lee Stone brings the story of Jane Addams’ work in Chicago to children in a compelling biography that gives readers a fully developed portrait of this most amazing woman. Stone’s active and evocative language puts children in the Hull House neighborhood, allowing them to get a feeling for and understanding of the issues of the time. Stone’s excellent examples of how Jane Addams responded to a variety of problems facing her community and even Hull House itself, demonstrate how generosity, empathy, and kindness can make positive changes in people’s lives. Depictions of Jane’s early compassion and commitment give children a sense that they too can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Kathryn Brown’s riveting illustrations capture Jane’s early moments of concern for others, bravery, and study that informed her adult life; times of decision and cooperation that led to the establishment of Hull House; scenes of poverty, upheaval, and need that touched Jane’s heart; and images of her successes in Chicago that inspired others around the country. Brown’s softly hued watercolors are beautifully infused with realistic period details and honest emotion that provide readers with a strong foundation for understanding and appreciating the life of Jane Addams.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams is an inspiring choice for children with a philanthropic heart and to open discussions on how one person can make a difference. The book would be a welcome addition to home and classroom libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0805090499

To learn more about Tanya Lee Stone and her books, visit her website.

You can view a gallery of illustration work by Kathryn Brown on her website

Jane Addams Day Activity

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Jane Addams Coloring Page Poster

 

Jane Addams is an inspiration to all! Print this Jane Addams Coloring Page and hang it in your room or locker to inspire you to make a difference and be a positive influence in your community!

Picture Book Review

November 22 – Go for a Ride Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the joy of going for a ride to explore the unknown, revisit a favorite place, or spend time with friends or family. Whether you choose to go by bike, car, train, or plane, getting away can broaden your horizons and provide a much-needed dose of relaxation. November 22, coming close to the holiday season and commemorating several vehicle-related patents, is the perfect opportunity to go for that ride you’ve been wanting to take. Children, especially, love the excitement of and benefit from the new experience of travel.

Molly & Mae: A Friendship Journey

Written by Danny Parker | Illustrated by Freya Blackwood

 

Waiting on the platform at the little train station, “Molly found Mae beneath a bench” then “Mae found Molly in the newspaper shop.” They spent their coins in the bubblegum machine and sat on a bench blowing big pink bubbles. “After that, Molly and Mae were stuck.” To pass the time they took pictures in the photo booth, walked a tightrope line on the floor, twirled like ballerinas, shared sherbet and secrets, and vowed to be friends forever.

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Image copyright Freya Blackwood, 2017, courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

On the train they played with their dolls, got hungry, bounced on the seats and hung from the backs, skipped up the aisle, crawled under the seats, lounged in the seats, and played I Spy. But then Molly and Mae had an argument. Molly thought her younger friend was “silly,” and “Mae was tired of being bossed around.” They sat in silence watching the rain splatter the windows and the gray, misty world pass by.

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Image copyright Freya Blackwood, 2017, courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

“Drawing on the glass, Molly and Mae missed each other.” Molly glanced at Mae and snuck under the seat and peeked at Mae. “Then she took the words she should have said and started to build a bridge.” Mae apologized and explained too “until the bridge was strong enough to hold them both.” As the train traveled on, the sky cleared and the girls saw hills, lakes, and bridges and zipped through dark tunnels. At night they watched the twinkling stars as the train passed through crossings in small towns until it reached their destination. Molly and Mae packed up their things and jumped onto the platform holding hands. Then they left the station together.

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Image copyright Freya Blackwood, 2017, courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Danny Parker wonderfully captures the capacity for children to form deeply felt friendships that may only last a day or, under the right circumstances, can last a lifetime. As Molly and Mae bond over their common boredom in waiting for the train, they enjoy common jokes, treats, and games. But as the day wears on, they become short with each other, and their friendship is threatened. Molly’s willingness to apologize, and Mae’s eager reciprocation are welcome examples of how to mend hurt feelings. Parker’s simple, yet lyrical storytelling allows children to read between the lines and fill in their own similar experiences that makes Molly and Mae a beautiful universal story about the journey of life.

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Image copyright Freya Blackwood, 2017, courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Freya Blackwood’s lovely illustrations give readers so much to see and talk about as Molly and Mae meet and spend the day together in the station and on the train. Rendered in quiet sepia tones, the images of the train station and the interior of the train cars could depict any trains anywhere in the world. The girls, in their colorful clothing and horsing around with the excitement of the journey and a new-found playmate, are the focal point of each spread. When their argument occurs, the pastel green fields and blue sky out the windows turn grey as rain pours down.

As Molly and Mae find words to rebuild their friendship, the train traverses a stone bridge, and as the girls make up, the sky once again turns sunny. Clever split pages give cut-away views of the train’s interior on top and bottom while the progress of the trip is shown in the middle, and the rectangular shape of the book allows for long two-page spreads that mirror the length of the train and also, perhaps, the long future friendship to come.

Molly and Mae: A Friendship Journey is a gorgeous quiet book for reflective children. With its detailed illustrations, it is also a wonderful book to share before a train trip or to take along on the journey.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1328715432

Discover more about Danny Parker and his books on his website

To learn more about Freya Blackwood, her art, and her books, visit her website

Go for a Ride Day Activity

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Let’s Go for a Ride! Word Search Puzzle

 

There are so many ways to go for a ride! Find the twenty types of transportation in this printable Let’s Go for a Ride! Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

November 3 – World Jellyfish Day

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About the Holiday

Jellyfish may be some of the most fascinating creatures in the sea, and they are certainly among the most beautiful. Often seen in groups—called swarms, blooms, or smacks—these ancient ocean invertebrates can be transparent, yellow, red, blue, and even effervescent. Jellyfish capture prey and defend themselves by emitting toxins through painful stings. To celebrate today’s holiday, visit a local aquarium or—if you live in a climate where jellyfish are present at this time of year, head to the beach to watch them in their natural habitat.

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish

By Jarrett J. Krosoczka

 

Peanut Butter, a little seahorse, and Jellyfish were best friends who loved to explore the ocean and all its treasures together. Unfortunately, their adventures always seemed to take them past Crabby, “who would taunt as they slipped by, ‘You guys swim like humans.’” Jellyfish and Peanut Butter tried to ignore him, pretending they didn’t hear his hurtful jibes, but “Crabby was relentless. ‘You guys smell like rotten barnacles! Pee-yew!’” He compared them unflatteringly to sea slugs and his grandmother’s “run-walk shoes,” and ended with “what a bunch of bubbleheads!”

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Copyright Jarrett J. Krosoczka, 2014, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Jellyfish bravely stood up to Crabby, saying, “‘driftwood and sea stones may break our bones, but names will never hurt us.’” Of course, Crabby had a retort to that which involved the fact that Jellyfish was an invertebrate. One day, as Peanut Butter and Jellyfish passed Crabby’s house on their way to the big reef, they steeled themselves for the insults to come. But all they heard was quiet – until the sounds of sobbing reached their ears.

They swam on and found Crabby trapped in a lobster pot that was being pulled to the surface of the water. He called out to them that he was scared. Jellyfish and Peanut Butter looked at each other. Was it their responsibility to help Crabby? Peanut Butter thought that his situation looked pretty serious. And Jellyfish agreed. He even had a plan.

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Copyright Jarrett J. Krosoczka, 2014, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The two friends swam up to the lobster trap, and Peanut Butter wrapped his tail around a slat in the door. When he pulled it open, however, Crabby didn’t move. Peanut Butter wanted him to hurry, but Crabby had a confession to make. He couldn’t swim, and he was afraid of heights. Now, Jellyfish had an idea.

He swam to the top of the lobster trap and with all his tentacles working feverishly, he tried to untie the knot in the rope. The trap was coming closer and closer to the fisherman’s boat. Just in the nick of time, the knot loosened, but then Crabby was hurtling to the bottom of the ocean. Peanut Butter and Jellyfish raced to catch it. “They grabbed ahold and lowered it to safety.”

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Copyright Jarrett J. Krosoczka, 2014, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Crabby felt weak as he returned to his rock, but he stuttered out a thank you to Jellyfish and Peanut Butter. Then he told them that he was sorry for all the things he had said. “Crabby may have been afraid of heights, but he was brave enough to apologize.” Crabby admitted that he may have felt jealous of all the fun Peanut Butter and Jellyfish had “exploring the open waters.” Jellyfish told Crabby that there was “plenty to explore close to the ocean floor” too. In fact, that’s where “they found their greatest treasure.”

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Copyright Jarrett J. Krosoczka, 2014, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s seafaring friendship story for little ones uses humor and a generosity of spirit to teach kids a lesson about empathy. Readers may giggle over Crabby’s taunts, but they will also understand the hurt they cause Peanut Butter and Jellyfish. Following this, the kindness showed by Peanut Butter and Jellyfish toward Crabby when he is in trouble then comes as a powerfully surprising message on compassion. Crabby’s willingness to admit his fears, own up to his jealousy, and apologize, as well as the trio’s growing friendship, provides many thought-provoking topics for children to consider.

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Copyright Jarrett J. Krosoczka, 2014, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Krosoczka’s illustrations of the undersea world give readers plenty of details to enjoy while adorable Peanut Butter and Jellyfish take center stage. When their sweet smiles give way to wary looks, kids will know trouble is on its way. Each scene during Crabby’s entrapment and escape provide gentle suspense while demonstrating the story’s themes of understanding and acceptance. As the three explore a chest overflowing with gold in the final spread, readers can debate what the “greatest treasure” is.

Ages 3 – 7

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0375870361

Discover more about Jarrett J. Krosoczka, his books, and his art on his website.

World Jellyfish Day Activity

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Jellyfish Coloring Page

 

Watching a jellyfish float on the ocean current can be mesmerizing! Grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons—and maybe some glitter too—and enjoy this printable Jellyfish Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review