February 12 – Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was born February 12, 1809. He was elected president in 1861, shortly before the beginning of the Civil War, and went on to become one of the most beloved presidents in the nation’s history. In 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in rebel states and led to the abolition of slavery across the country. Lincoln’s birthday is celebrated in various ways throughout the United States. Organizations and institutions dedicated to teaching and preserving Lincoln’s legacy often hold large-scale events. A wreath-laying ceremony and reading of the Gettysburg Address is traditionally held at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Take some time today and on Presidents Day, which is observed on February 17 and commemorates the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, while remembering all those who have served as president.

I received a copy of Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln from Katherine Tegan Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with HarperCollins. 

Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln

Written by Shari Swanson | Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

 

Young Abe Lincoln was deep in the forest when he heard the whistle that told him the corn he’d brought to the mill was ready. He knew he’d be late, but it was worth it to have saved a frog from the jaws of a snake. When Abe got back to the mill, John Hodgen, the miller, wondered what it had been this time that had kept Abe so long. “‘I just can’t move along fast like some boys, Mr. John, because I see so many little foolish things that make me stop. I can’t help it to save my life,“‘ Abe answered.

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2020, text copyright Shari Swanson, 2020. Courtesy of Kathrerine Tegen Books.

On his way home, he heard rustling in the bushes. At the bottom of a cliff, Abe found a dog with a broken leg. Although he “was only seven years old, Abe had spent his whole life on a Kentucky farm and knew how to tend to animals.” He cut a small branch to make a splint and peeled bark from a pawpaw bush to use as a bandage. He tied it all together with rawhide from his belt. It was already dark when Abe and the dog reached home.

Even though his mother knew he was prone to lateness, she’d been worried, but Abe told her about the “‘honey of a dog’” he’d found and begged her to let him keep it. “‘He’ll do lots of good things for me,’ he told her. ‘You just watch and see.’” Abe’s mother relented and soon Honey was on the mend. Even though, once healed, Honey’s foot was curved, he was able to keep up with Abe on his adventures.

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2020, text copyright Shari Swanson, 2020. Courtesy of Kathrerine Tegen Books.

On another day, after Abe had dropped off his grain at the mill, he grew tired of waiting and wandered into the woods, where they found the mouth of a cave. “Deep, twisting caverns traveled for hundreds of miles under Kentucky. A boy and his dog could get lost in caverns like these.” Abe and Honey made their way down into the rocky darkness. Abe was too busy looking around at the stalactites, bats, and other creatures who lurked in the shadows to notice the gap between two boulders. In a moment he was stuck tight. “Honey normally never left Abe, but this time he headed alone back into the darkening woods” to get help.

Meanwhile, everyone in town had gathered to look for Abe. Abe’s mother was at least relieved to know that Honey was with her son to protect him. As the search party began to look, Abe’s mother heard a noise in the bushes. Then she saw Honey dashing toward her. He barked and whined, but when he saw Mr. John, Honey “jumped up…and barked in his face.” Mr. John called for everyone to follow Honey.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-honey-the-dog-who-saved-lincoln-rescue

Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2020, text copyright Shari Swanson, 2020. Courtesy of Kathrerine Tegen Books.

Honey led them through the forest to the cave’s entrance. Mr. John blew on his whistle, and Abe answered. Mr. John crept in and found Abe. There was no room for him to swing a sledge hammer to break the rock, so he pulled him out “even though it meant leaving some of the boy’s hide behind.” Once outside, Abe’s mother rushed to hug him and Honey. Abe had been right about Honey doing great things. And for many more years, Honey and Abe enjoyed adventures together.

Back matter includes a timeline recounting Abraham Lincoln’s major life events as well as his adventures with animals throughout his life.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-honey-the-dog-who-saved-lincoln-more-adventures

Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2020, text copyright Shari Swanson, 2020. Courtesy of Kathrerine Tegen Books.

In her enchanting story, Shari Swanson introduces young readers to the boy who would grow up to be the 16th president of the United States. Children meet this beloved man as a peer, discovering that his kindness, self-deprecation, sense of humor, and big heart were always part of his personality and guided him throughout his life, during good times and times of turmoil. Abraham Lincoln’s voice drives Swanson’s storytelling, which is charming and uplifting and gives a feel for the community that raised a president. Children may be awed by the responsibility Abe took on as a mere seven-year-old but will also recognize and appreciate his knowledge, competence, and confidence. Abe’s relationship with Honey is heartwarming, demonstrating that love and loyalty are repaid in many ways.

Chuck Groenink’s digital illustrations shine with sun-dappled Kentucky forest scenes and raise the stakes with foreboding and atmospheric images of the darkened cavern. His double-page spreads give readers close-up views of the action in the story as well as places they may not be familiar with, such as the mill and the Lincoln family’s log cabin. Images of Abe setting Honey’s broken paw, sneaking table scraps to Honey, and rescuing a variety of animals will delight kids. Torchlit scenes of the nighttime search party and dramatic rescue will have readers on the edge of their seats but knowing that Honey is watching out for Abe, they will be as certain of the triumphant ending.

A charming and compelling story for teaching young children about Abraham Lincoln and the lessons his life exhibits, Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln would be a first-rate addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2020 | ISBN 978-0062699008

Discover more about Shari Swanson and her books on her website. You’ll also find an educators’ curriculum guide and a child’s activity kit to download on her website. or here:

Educators’ Curriculum Guide | Activity Kit for Kids

To learn more about Chuck Groenink, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Katherine Tegen Books in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of , Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln, written by Shari Swanson | illustrated by Chuck Groenink

Here’s how to enter:

This giveaway is open from February 12 – February 18 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on February 19. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by HarperCollins

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Activity

CPB - Abe Lincoln's Top Hat chalkboard (2)

Abe Lincoln’s Top Hat Chalkboard

 

Abraham Lincoln was known for the black top hat he wore – and for his inspiring words In this activity you can learn how to make a top hat chalkboard to use for your own drawings or inspiring words!

Supplies

  • Cereal Box (I used a large sized cereal box), cardboard or poster board
  • Chalkboard Paint (black)
  • Paint brush
  • Hot Glue Gun or extra-strength glue
  • Removable mounting squares
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. If you are using cardboard or poster board: cut a rectangle at least 8 inches wide by 12 inches long for the hat and 12 inches long by 2 inches wide for the brim (but your top hat can be any size you’d like!)
  2. If you are using a Cereal Box: open the seams of the Cereal Box
  3. Cut the panels of the cereal box apart
  4. Take one face panel and one side panel
  5. With the chalkboard paint, paint both panels
  6. Let the panels dry
  7. Attach the side panel to the bottom of the face panel to create the shape of Lincoln’s top hat
  8. Hang Abe Lincoln’s Top Hat Chalkboard 

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You can find Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 21 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing better than spending the chilly days of winter snuggled up with a new or favorite book. If you’re still looking for gifts to give, it’s not too late to head to your local bookstore to find stories that will make kids (and adults) eyes light up. And if you’re a post-holiday shopper (and who isn’t?), make sure to check out those bookstores again. After all, it’s a loooong winter!

Odd Dog Out

By Rob Biddulph

 

Busy dogs all dressed in black and white make their way to work while dogs at play in identical stripes take to the soccer field. At the pool, swimmer dogs don yellow caps and yellow tubes while sailor dogs in their uniform uniforms pilot their yellow boats. In fact, “soldier…scout…. They all blend in. / No dog stands out. / But wait.” On a certain street, you’ll see “someone…is dancing to a different beat.”

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Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Wrapped in a rainbow-colored scarf, “this dog flies low” when others fly high, and “when they say ‘Kick!’…this dog ways ‘Throw!’” It’s plain to see that this dog just “does not fit in.” Having tried her best to be like the others, this unique pup packs her bag and leaves town. As she walks, the seasons change from winter to spring to summer to fall. She traverses the sea and climbs mountains until she comes to Doggywood and wonders if this is the place for her.

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Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

She takes a look and her eyes light up. “‘Well, bless my bow-wow, can it be? / A hundred others just like me!’” There are dogs playing guitar and riding bikes, gliding on the wind, and playing basketball. And coming and going on the street, dogs in rainbow-colored scarves stream by. “But wait.” Are they really all alike? Do you see? “Somebody this afternoon / is whistling a different tune.”

The newcomer thinks that she can help. She approaches this dog with his black cap and sweater to commiserate and tell him she knows how he feels being the “‘Odd Dog Out.’” But it turns out that this dog is proud of being unique and standing out. And he tells her that she should feel that way too. After a bit of thought, she has to agree “‘…there’s nothing wrong with being me.’”

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Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Then she knows just what to do. She grabs her bag and takes a flight. And when she lands in her old hometown, all those busy dogs and playing dogs turn to look. “‘They cheer! They clap! They whoop! They shout! / ‘We’ve really missed our Odd Dog Out!’” It seems that while she was away, some of these “identical” dogs did some thinking. Now what do you see? “Each one a doggy superstar… So blaze a trail. / Be who you are.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-odd-dog-out-seasons

Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Through his charming rhymes and bouncy rhythm, Rob Biddulph creates a surprising tale that highlights that well-known advice: “bloom where you are planted.” When a dog who does her own thing amidst a sea of uniformity leaves home and finds a place where she fits in, readers will notice that she just replaces one homogenous place for another. The dog may feel more “at home” surrounded by other dogs who wear colorful scarves, soar on wind gliders, play guitar, and ride bikes, but is she really stretching herself and building her self-esteem? It can be difficult for kids (and people of all ages) to display their full personality, but when that happens they can’t display their full potential either. Biddulph encourages kids to be proud to let their uniqueness show while demonstrating that differences are recognized and appreciated more than they might think.

Kids will love Biddulph’s enchanting dachshunds and especially the sweet “Odd Dog Out.” His vibrant digital illustrations are superb at showing the cookie-cutter sameness of all the other dogs in humorous two-page spreads and smaller snapshots that remind one of the patterns of wrapping paper. When our colorful heroine appears among a cadre of black-suited business dogs, her satisfied smile and dancing feet stand in stark contrast to the other, serious dogs that have their feet firmly planted on the ground. Many clever spreads that readers will want to linger over bring them to the final pages where they’ll have fun pointing out and talking about the dogs who have decided to embrace their true natures.

Under the book jacket, a delightful cityscape and a “Where’s Waldo?” type of challenge awaits.

A terrific book offering lots of opportunities to talk about self-acceptance, accepting others, and the value of being different (and showing it), Odd Dog Out is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.         

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062367266

To learn more about Rob Biddulph, his books, and his art, visit his website.

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You can find Odd Dog Out at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 22 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

There’s still time to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re in shopping mode, be sure to put plenty of picture books on your list for the kids in your life. You know what they say—and it’s really true: A book is a gift you can open again and again!

The Scarecrow

Written by Beth Ferry | Illustrated by The Fan Brothers

 

Golden autumn has quieted the fields. The hay is rolled and the scarecrow waits for spring. The animals and the crows stand at a distance, afraid of this figure that does his job so well. “He never rests. / He never bends. / He’s never had a single friend, / for all the woodland creatures know / not to mess with old Scarecrow.”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Winter comes with gentle snow, and Scarecrow dreams of “spring…of buds and blooms and things that sing.” When spring dawns with warm sun and green grass, a tiny crow—with a “broken wing?”—“drops from midair” and attracts Scarecrow’s attention. Then Scarecrow does a most surprising thing: “He snaps his pole, / bends down low, / saves the tiny baby crow.” He tucks the baby in the straw near his heart, and as he sleeps and settles in, Scarecrow “sings the sweetest lullaby.”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The baby heals and the two become the best of friends. As the little crow grows, he and Scarecrow “will laugh and wish on stars, forgetting who they really are…” Spring turns to summer, and Scarecrow proudly watches as Crow learns to fly, but with the return of autumn, he knows that Crow must leave. Through late autumn and the frigid winter, Scarecrow slumps on his pole, alone—“Broken heart. Broken pole. Nothing fills the empty hole.” Then with the spring rains, the crow returns with wings wide open and Scarecrow welcomes him with a hug. The crow mends Scarecrow’s broken pole and refreshes his hay and then he says, “‘I’m here to say.’”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Crow and his mate build a nest in the spot where he grew up. Soon, “five small eggs are tucked unseen,” and Scarecrow watches over them for he knows that soon they will hatch baby crows. “And they will love him from the start, and they will grow up in his heart.” Throughout the year, these friends and more keep Scarecrow company and love him so.

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

In her story of a scarecrow and a baby crow who form a family, Beth Ferry’s gorgeous, lyrical language sweeps readers into Scarecrow’s world and lets them stand with him through the changing seasons and the progression of his transformation from a lonely existence as bleak as winter to a life as bountiful as summer. Ferry’s alternating short, staccato lines and longer, flowing rhythms create an emotional bond between the reader and Scarecrow. With a single sentence, in which Scarecrow and Crow forget “who they really are,” and through her periodic use of future tense, Ferry sparks hope and welcome reassurance for the future—not only for these two characters, but for us all. Crow’s return to raise his own family where he learned love and security and to help the aging Scarecrow is a moving portrayal of home, and the reciprocal devotion between Scarecrow and the crows will bring a tear to readers’ eyes.

Through their softly hued and textured mixed-media illustrations, The Fan Brothers create a tapestry of rural life, with its sometimes generous, sometimes harsh conditions.  As autumn turns to winter, Scarecrow is seen from a distance as animals look on, showing the divide in this natural landscape and the fear that rules it. But when a baby crow drops into the scarecrow’s life, he changes the dynamic, as children often do. With this life-changing event, The Fan Brother’s images become brighter, and the gauziness of the first spreads—so effective in depicting the barrier between Scarecrow and the rest of the world—clears. In turns Scarecrow is tender and proud, wistful and overjoyed—images that will tug at adults’ hearts. As Scarecrow once again stands tall and is surrounded by his crow family and the other animals on a sunny fall day, The Fan Brothers bring readers full circle in this story where the seasons of bounty and hardship mirror so well the cycles of life.

A thoughtful and beautifully conceived masterpiece, The Scarecrow is a must for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062475763

Discover more about Beth Ferry and her books on her website.

To learn more about The Fan Brothers, their books, and their art, visit their website.

Picture Book Month Activity

CPB - Bookmobile

Books on the Move!

 

Bookmobiles deliver books to people who are homebound or don’t live near a library. This month you can celebrate these little libraries on wheels by making this bookmobile from a recycled box. Make it with the open top up, and you can even use it as a desk organizer!

Supplies

  • Printable Book Shelves and Sign Template
  • Cardboard box, 16-oz pasta or other recyclable boxes work well (I used a 5” x 7 ¼ -inch pasta box)
  • Small wooden spools or wheels
  • Paint
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife (optional)
  • Strong glue
  • Paint brush

Directions

1.Gently pull the box apart at the seam and lie flat with the unprinted side facing up

2. To Make the Awning:

  • On one of the wide sides of the box, measure a rectangle 1 inch from the top of the box, leaving at least 1 ¼ inches at the bottom of the box and 1 ¼ inches on both sides
  • With the x-acto knife or scissors cut the sides and bottom of the rectangle, leaving the top uncut
  • Paint the top and underside of the awning (if you want to make stripes on the awning lay strips of tape side by side across the awning. Remove every other strip of tape. Paint the open stripes one color of paint. When the paint dries replace the tape over the paint and remove the tape from the unpainted stripes. Paint those stripes a different color.)

3. Paint the rest of the box on the unprinted side any way you like, let dry

4. Cut the Printable Book Shelf template to fit the size of your window opening, leaving at least a ½ inch margin all around

5. Tape the book shelf to the inside of the window

6. Reconstruct the box, making the original seam an inside flap

7. Glue the flap and sides together

8. If using small spools for wheels, paint them black. Let dry

9. Glue the wheels to the bottom of the box

10, Attach the Bookmobile sign, found on the printable template, above the awning

** To Make a Desk Organizer from the Bookmobile

  • Cut an opening in the top of the bookmobile with the x-acto knife or a scissor

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

You can find The Scarecrow at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

October 7 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving Our Nation. From the military, to business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the commemoration was expanded to a month in 1988. You can learn more about today’s holiday, find classroom and other resources, and discover fun facts on the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Written by Anika Aldamuy Denise | Illustrated by Paola Escobar

 

In 1921 Pura Theresa Belpré left her home in San Juan to visit Nueva York and celebrate her sister’s wedding. “Words travel with her: stories her abuela taught her. Cuentos folklóricos Pura retold in the shade of a tamarind tree, in Puerto Rico.” Pura’s visit lengthened, becoming a new start in a new land. At first, she got a job in a garment factory, but then Pura saw that the library needed a bilingual assistant. Pura spoke Spanish, English, and French. She thought she was perfect for the job, and the library did too.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

But while she shelved books, she noticed that there were no books of folktales from Puerto Rico in the collection. “How lucky for the library that Pura has story seeds ready to plant and grow.” In the children’s room she sits with the kids around her and tells the story of a beautiful cockroach and a galant rat who loves her: “la cucarachita Martina and el ratoncito Pérez.

After sharing the story with the children at the library, Pura hopes to “plant her story seeds throughout the land.” Pura makes puppets and performs her folktales for families who come to listen “en inglés y español.” But Pura wants children to be able to readPérez y Martina and other cuentos de Puerto Rico.” She types up her story and sends it to the publisher Frederick Warne. He agrees to publish her book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-planting-stories-children's-room

Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Now Pura travels from library to library and to schools, “churches and community centers…planting her story seeds in the hearts and mind of children new to this island who wish to remember la lengua y los colores of home.” She spends her time writing, traveling, and speaking until she meets and marries Clarence Cameron White. Pura decides to take a year off from working at the library to be a wife. But one year becomes many as she and Clarence travel, playing music and telling stories. They spend many happy years together. When Clarence dies, “Pura’s story must begin again.”

“It is 1961,” and Pura returns to the library. Now other storytellers share Pura’s stories with the children and “the seeds she has planted…have become a lush landscape into which she steps as though she has never left.”

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

An Author’s note reveals more about the life and work of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City and the author of the first mainstream Latinx storybooks published in America. Back matter also includes selected bibliographies, archival resources, titles of articles and films, a list of books for further reading, and more information on the four folktales mentioned in the book.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Anika Aldamuy Denise’s lovely and lyrical tribute to the trailblazing and prolific Pura Belpré is a fast-paced introduction to the influence this librarian, storyteller, and writer had on children and the community as the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York and the first published Latinx children’s author in America. By blending Spanish words and phrases and English into her evocative sentences, Denise reflects the immigrant experience while also embracing Belpré’s and her Latinx reader’s love for and pride in their culture. As children learn how Belpré brought Spanish-language programs and books to children and families in New York and beyond, they will be inspired to look for ways that they, too, can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

Mirroring the lush landscape of language that Pura Belpré tended, Paola Escobar infuses her illustrations with rich hues and enveloping details. Belpré’s love for San Juan and her heritage is shown through the sprinkling of flowers, rendered in the bright pastels of her native country, that float around her whenever she tells her stories. The whimsical images of Martina and Pérez, characters from her first published folktale, also follow her from page to page throughout the story. Spectacular images of the city and inside the New York Public Library will have readers lingering over the pages.

A gorgeous read-aloud about a woman all children should know, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré is a must for all school and public libraries and would make an inspiring choice for home collections as well.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062748683 | Spanish-language edition ISBN 978-1400212644

Discover more about Anika Aldamuy Denise and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Paola Escobar, visit her on tumblr.

Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-are-all-family-word-search

We Are All Family English/Spanish Word Search

 

Find the names of family members in both English and Spanish in this printable heart- shaped We Are All Family Word Search! Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-planting-stories-cover

You can find Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré at these booksellers

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

Sembrando historias: Pura Belpré: bibliotecaria y narradora de cuentos

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

Picture Book Review

Pk Review

 

June 27 – It’s National Zoo and Aquarium Month

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About the Holiday

This month’s observance pays tribute to the role of zoos and aquariums and the work they do for education, conservation, and research to protect the world’s animals. As zoos and aquariums build exhibits that more closely resemble the animals’ natural habitats and offer interactive and hands-on programs, more visitors can learn about the environments and science of each amazing creature. These institutions are also reaching out with personal and online visits to schools by zoologists and other experts, increasing the interest in biology and animal science to students. Nearly 175 million people—50 million of which are children—visit zoos and aquariums each year. To celebrate today, visit your local zoo or aquarium!

Be Nice to Spiders

By Margaret Bloy Graham

 

One morning as the Zoo Keeper was about to open the gate, he noticed a matchbox with a note attached to it. The “note read: ‘Please look after Helen. I’ve had her since she was a baby, but I can’t keep her anymore. We have to move to an apartment that won’t take pets. Thanks, Billy.” When the Keeper opened the box, out jumped eight-legged Helen. She scurried into the maple tree and then “quickly spun a long silk thread and lowered herself into the ventilator of a big building” that turned out to be the Lion House. The poor lions—a father lion, a mother lion, and four cubs—were beset by flies. “The lions were annoyed, but Helen was delighted. She loved to eat flies.” Right away she wove a big, sticky web. “One by one the flies got caught…. And one by one Helen ate them.”

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Copyright Margaret Bloy Graham, 1967, courtesy of HarperCollins.

After a week, the Lion House was free of flies and the lions were comfortable. Helen moved on to the Elephant House. She set up her web, and in a week the elephants were happy too. Next, Helen went to the Zebra House and after she “had caught all the flies there, the zebras were able to eat their hay in peace.” In fact, the zoo turned into a peaceful place for all the animals. Helen was very content too.

One morning, the Keeper called all the workers together and told them that the Mayor was coming for a visit that day. He wanted them to clean up all the cages and especially “‘get rid of all those spider webs.’” Joe said that he thought spiders were beneficial, but the Keeper thought the spider webs made the zoo look a mess. With their brushes, brooms, and hoses, the workers scrubbed the cages clean. When they got to the Camel House, they found one of Helen’s webs loaded with flies. He swiped at the web, but Helen had vanished.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-nice-to-spiders-Helen

Copyright Margaret Bloy Graham, 1967, courtesy of HarperCollins.

When the Mayor arrived, he declared that he’d never seen the zoo looking “‘so neat and the animals looking so well.’ Meanwhile Helen was still in the Camel House, hiding in a crack in the ceiling.” She was afraid to come out. Days passed and Helen grew hungry. Flies returned and began to bother the camels again. One night, Helen was so hungry that she came out and spun a web. She decided to stay in the Camel House—“she didn’t dare go anywhere else.” This was good for the camels, but not good for all the other animals.

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Copyright Margaret Bloy Graham, 1967, courtesy of HarperCollins.

The Keeper couldn’t understand what had happened. As he and Joe walked through the zoo, the animals and even the visitors were under clouds of flies and looking miserable. But then they went into the Camel House. Here there were no flies, and the camels were peaceful and happy. Then Joe spied one of Helen’s webs. “‘Look, Chief,’ Joe shouted. ‘Now I know what’s going on! See that spider up there? It’s eating all the flies…. Spiders are useful. That’s what I tried to tell you the other day.’”

The Keeper called all the workers together and told them about Joe’s discovery. He also had a new rule for the zoo: “‘Be nice to spiders.’ Soon the Zoo became famous for its happy, healthy animals, and Helen was treated like a queen.” One day, Helen even got her picture on the front page of the newspaper under the headline: “Local Zoo Named Best of Year; Three Cheers for Spider! Says Keeper.

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Copyright Margaret Bloy Graham, 1967, courtesy of HarperCollins.

One of the people reading the newspaper was Billy’s dad. He showed the article to Billy, and the next day Billy went to visit Helen. He introduced himself to the Keeper, and then noticed something special in Helen’s web. It was an egg sac. “‘I bet there’ll be plenty of baby spiders soon,’” exclaimed Billy. And sure enough, a few days later Helen became the proud mother of lots and lots of little spiders. “From then on, Helen and her children and all the animals in the Zoo lived happily ever after.”

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Copyright Margaret Bloy Graham, 1967, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Margaret Bloy Graham’s classic story has been a kid-favorite since 1967—I know it was a favorite of mine and I was happy to pull my Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club Edition copy out of my collection for this review. Billy’s sweet concern for his pet spider, Helen’s initiative in dropping into the Lion House, and the natural solution to the zoo’s fly problem all combine to make this a story that is ever-fresh and appealing to kids. Graham’s smooth and straightforward narration is sprinkled with realistic dialogue and builds to a suspenseful turn that is riveting to children. Kids with pets of their own will cheer when Billy learns that Helen is a hero. The idea of natural, environmentally safe solutions to pest control is still relevant and resonant today.

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Copyright Margaret Bloy Graham, 1967, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Graham’s illustrations have lost none of their charm, in fact kids will be enchanted by the vintage look and adore little Helen who, with a smile on her face, snares plenty of flies in her webs. Readers will like seeing just how a spider goes about constructing a web and will enjoy spying where Helen is on each page. You can bet there will be a chorus of “noooo!” as a zoo worker raises his broom to sweep away Helen and one of her webs and an enthusiastic “yesss!” when Joe points out just how vital she is to the zoo. The illustrations also give adults and kids an opportunity to talk about how things have changed at zoos over the intervening years.

An impactful story with lots of heart, Be Nice to Spiders will be a favorite of kids who love spiders, zoos, and the environment.

Ages 4 – 7

HarperCollins, 1967

National Zoo and Aquarium Month Activity

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Splendid Spider Coloring Page

Having a spider in the house is lucky! Here’s an alert spider just waiting for some flies. Grab your crayons or pencils and feed him – or be a little silly. What else can this spider catch in his web?

Splendid Spider Coloring Page

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You can find Be Nice to Spiders at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 18 – National Go Fishing Day

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About the Holiday

Is fishing your thing? Do you like nothing better than heading down to the lake or stream and spending a relaxing day with a fishing pole, some bait, and the possibility of reeling in a “big one?” Perhaps you like fly fishing better, challenging yourself to flick that hook in just the right place. Then again, maybe taking a boat out to deep water and pitting yourself against the truly big fish is more your style. However you like to fish, make some time to enjoy your hobby today

Go Fish!

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Zoe Waring

 

Goose has packed his tackle box, backpack, and umbrella, and with his fishing pole slung over his shoulder he heads down the road to meet his friends at the pond. It’s time to “go fish!” While Raccoon, Bunny, Cat, Beaver, and Mouse have all cast their lines from the dock, Goose has gotten tangled in his. It’s okay, though, really, because when the others pull up their lines, they sadly see “No fish.”

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Image copyright Zoe Waring, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Goose has managed to straighten things out and is trying to bait his hook as his friends enthusiastically try once again. But, alas, there are still “no fish.” Oh dear! Goose has dropped the jar of worms, and they’re all wriggling away. By this time the others doubtfully “go fish,” and their suspicions are confirmed when they pull up “no fish” but lots of other intriguing items.

Suddenly, though, the crew sees a shadowy fish swimming near the dock. Goose is finally ready, so his friends let him try his luck. His hook and bobber sail over the water right to where the shadow is. Did he catch it? The line gets tight, and everyone helps Goose reel it in while chanting “Fish! Fish! Fish!” Their catch breaks the surface of the water, and…”Whoa.”

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Image copyright Zoe Waring, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

This is no ordinary fish! It’s ENORMOUS! The friends scramble down the dock as fast as they can to the safety of the grassy hill. They sit dejectedly, their stomachs rumbling. Goose is reading the newspaper that Beaver caught earlier when something catches his eye. It’s an ad for pizza! He calls. He orders. They have a pizza party! Peering over the dock is the enormous fish. The friends notice his sad expression. “Oh! Fish?” They wonder what to do. Goose knows! Like a fishing expert, he hooks a slice of pizza and sends it sailing toward their new friend Fish. A few bites later, it’s time for everyone to splash in the cool, blue pond.

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Image copyright Zoe Waring, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

With only ten words and a pondful of charm, Tammi Sauer and Zoe Waring have created a book that will have kids laughing and happily shouting along “Go fish!” “No fish!” with a minimum of prompting on the first read through and no help necessary on subsequent go ‘rounds—of which there will be many, many. Goose, with his tangled line and lost worms, makes an endearing comic foil to Waring’s sweet, more experienced Beaver, Cat, Bunny, Raccoon, and Mouse.

Strategic placement of the words “go” and “fish carry the story through the excitement of a day of fishing, the disappointment of empty hooks, renewed and dashed hopes, a passel of silly catches, and one distinctive fish. An unexpected “whoa” ushers in a rhyme scheme that little ones will love as well as a pizza-perfect ending for all. Waring’s bright backgrounds showcase her adorable characters and their easy-to-read expressions. Readers will have fun following the fates of the “catches of the day” to see how they play into this fabulous fish story.

Fans of Tammi Sauer and Zoe Waring’s Truck, Truck, Goose! as well as readers new to Goose’s adventures will be hooked on Go Fish! from the first page, making this book a definite catch for home and classroom libraries.

Ages Preschool and up

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062421555    

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zoe Waring, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Go Fishing Day Activity

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Go Fishing Game

 

Kids can go fishing right at home with this easy-to-make game! With a paper plate pond, a few printable fish, and a few other supplies, kids will be catching a whole lot of fun!

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Color the paper plate blue
  2. Print the Go Fishing! Game Playing Die (optional)

To Make the Fish

  1. Print the fish templates, color fish, and cut out
  2. Tape a paper clip to the back of the fish
  3. If using back-to-back templates, cut fish out, put a paper clip between the sides and glue or tape the two sides together

To Make the Fishing Pole

  1. Tie a length of string to the straw, pencil, or dowel
  2. Sandwich the other end of the string between the two circular magnets
  3. Lay the fish on the plate
  4. Go fishing!

Optional Game: Kids can roll the die to determine which fish to catch

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You can find Go Fish! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 13 – It’s National Egg Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the amazing egg! Since ancient days people have relied on eggs for protein and other nutrients as part of a healthy diet. Eggs also provide delicate canvases for incredible works of art. If you’re fond of eggs—on their own or whipped up into a quiche, frittata, or other delicacy—crack a few open and enjoy your favorite recipe!  

The Good Egg

Written by Jory John | Illustrated by Pete Oswald

 

Have you ever met an egg that was so good he would rescue a cat from a tree, “…carry your groceries, …water your plants,” or “paint your house?” Well, you have now! And this isn’t some fly-by-night goodness, this little egg has always been this way even though all the other eggs in the carton exhibited less-than-stellar behavior.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2019, text copyright Jory John, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

What did they do? Are you ready for this? “They ignored their bedtime. They only ate sugary cereal.” There were tantrums…and it only got worse. The good egg tried to help—after all, he was “a verrrrrry good egg,” but no one paid any attention. Eventually, the good egg cracked under the pressure of  trying to make his carton buddies as good as he was.

The good egg decided to leave the market and the other eggs behind. Did they care? It didn’t seem like it. The egg traveled far and wide and into his very own heart. The egg “took walks” and “read books.” He took up writing, painting, and meditation. Slowly, the cracks began to heal. Feeling better, the egg made a big decision. He decided to go back to the market and his friends. But this time, he would “try not to worry so much” and he’d be good to the other eggs and himself.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2019, text copyright Jory John, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The good egg had discovered that he missed the other eggs, but how would they feel about his come back? He needn’t have worried. They welcomed him home with egg-citement. It seems that while the good egg was gone, the other eggs became a little better behaved. And now? Here’s what the good egg “realized: The other eggs aren’t perfect, and I don’t have to be, either.” The whole experience gave the good egg a whole new perspective, and he’s glad to be home.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2019, text copyright Jory John, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Behavior studies have never been as bewitching as in Jory John and Pete Oswald’s The Good Egg, a sequel of sorts to The Bad Seed. Everywhere he looks, the good egg finds ways to be helpful, peaceful, and…well…good. But his friends are a rowdy bunch, given to messes, tears, destruction—badness. When the good egg’s perfectionism meets this unruliness, he cracks. When the good egg leaves the carton in search of healing, John invites readers to consider the line between fun and rotten behavior from both sides.

Children prone to perfectionism see that it’s okay to give themselves a break and let go at times, while those who tend to be wild learn that reigning in some impulses can lead to more enjoyment. John’s clever egg names, funny examples of good and rotten behavior, and pun-filled wordplay will have kids giggling from the first page while his nod to self-care practices and the empowering ending give them moments for thoughtful contemplation.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2019, text copyright Jory John, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Pete Oswald dishes up a full menu of visual jokes from the wrinkled bacon slice getting help with her groceries to the intravenous yolk drip the good egg gets on his trip to the doctor to the stack of books with eggs-centric titles that are part of the good egg’s recovery. The dozen eggs—all with distinct personalities—may be “fresh” as the carton proclaims, but they make for eggsellent companions on this journey of self-discovery.

Witty and ingenious, The Good Egg will be an often-asked for addition to home, school, and public libraries for perfectly fun-filled story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Harper Collins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062866004

Discover more about Jory John and his books on his website.

To learn more about Pete Oswald, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Take a crack at The Good Egg book trailer!

National Egg Month Activity

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Egg Carton Chickens and a Basket Full of Games

 

With these cute egg-carton chickens you can come up with lots of games to play! This fun craft and game activity is eggs-actly what you need to start hatching some real fun!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • White craft paint
  • Markers: red, yellow, black for the face; any colors you’d like for wings and eggs
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Construction or craft paper in white and a color of your choice

Directions

  1. Cut the notched flap off the egg carton and set aside
  2. Cut the top off the egg carton
  3. Cut apart all the egg cups and trim slightly so they sit flat
  4. Paint the egg cups with the white paint, let dry
  5. Add the face, comb and wings to the chicken with the markers. Make six chickens with one color wings and six chickens with another color wings.
  6. From the egg carton flap cut thirteen small egg-shaped playing pieces
  7. With the markers, decorate twelve of the eggs in pairs—each egg in the pair with the same design
  8. Color one egg yellow and add a beak, eyes, and wings to make it a chick

Games to Play

Tic-Tac-Toe (2 players)

  1. On a 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper draw a regular tic-tac-toe board or make it fancy – like the picket fence-inspired board in the picture
  2. To make the fence-inspired board on a colored background, cut 2 9-inch-long x 3/4-inch wide strips of white paper, cutting a pointed tip at one or both ends. Cut 2 white  8-inch x 3/4-inch strips of paper with a pointed tip at one or both ends. Glue the strips to the background.
  3. Each player chooses a set of chickens with the same colored wings
  4. Play the game as you usually do

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Find the Matching Eggs (2 or more players)

  1. Have one player hide one egg under each chicken
  2. Shuffle the eggs around and form them into three lines of 4 chickens each
  3. Another player lifts one chicken at a time to find matching eggs. If the eggs don’t match, put both chickens back and start again

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Where’s the Chick?

  1. Use as many chickens and eggs as you want (fewer for younger children, more for older)
  2. One player hides the chick under one of the chickens and eggs under the others.
  3. Another player has three chances to find the chick

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I’m sure you can also design your own games for your adorable chickens to play! With more chickens you can even make a checkers set or replicate another of your favorite board games!

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You can find The Good Egg at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review