August 6 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

Starting Kindergarten is a major milestone in any child’s life and ushers in exciting growth in knowledge, friendships, and experiences. But children don’t all perceive and process the world in the same way. Being sensitive to individual differences and talking about issues as they arise are just two of the ways that kids can making navigating school or any new experience easier. Sharing picture books like today’s book can help too! 

Thanks go out to Blue Slip Media and Two Lions for sending me a copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten

Written by Laura Purdie Salas | Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

 

Clover Kitty had just the life she liked. She was able to sit quietly by herself “knitting mittens. Nibbling kibble. Catnapping on a warm floor.” Sometimes she thought about having a friend, “but mostly, life was purrrrrfect.” One day, though, her mother reminded her that it was the first day of kittygarten. Images of mayhem and messes popped into Clover Kitty’s mind. She was not ready for that.

Before she knew it, however, “Clover found herself cowering in Ms. Snappytail’s classroom” amid loud noises, blaring colors, and the glaring sun. Then she felt a tap on the shoulder. She flinched at the touch. A kitty introduced himself as Oliver and smiled at her. Just then Ms. Snappytail flicked the lights on and off and rang a bell to get the class’s attention. Clover closed her eyes and covered her ears. She cringed at having to sit in a crowded circle to hear a story.

“At recess, Oliver came over and asked softly, ‘Do. you want to seesaw with me?'” But before she could answer, Clover was swept up in a “squealing tornado” of kitties playing tag. Her “heart sank.” Lunchtime was just as chaotic, and when Oliver offered her a box of juice, she clawed at it until it sprang a leak. All Clover wanted was a nap.

When nap time came, though, she could only smell Ms. Snappytail’s perfume, and the scratchiness of her mat kept her awake. “School felt nine lives long. Maybe ten.” When the class had to line up and parade through the hallways with costumes on, Clover finally broke down in a tantrum and ran out the door. By the time she got home, she was soaked from a passing rain shower.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Her mother dried Clover off and snuggled with her on the sofa until she fell asleep. The next day, Clover felt sick and Mama let her stay home from school. In the afternoon, Oliver stopped by to say that the class missed her. Mama assured him that Clover would be back the next day, but on Wednesday Clover said she still felt sick. 

After school, Oliver visited again, but when Mama let him in to say hi to Clover, she was nowhere to be found. When Oliver left, Clover felt relieved, but “a hollow twinge twanged in her chest.” Thursday came and Clover was feeling better, but not well enough to go back to school. She sat on the seesaw in her back yard and thought that maybe it would be fun to play with a friend.

On Friday, Clover was ready to return to kittygarten. But today she brought along some “survival gear.” For the glaring lights, she wore sunglasses; to muffle the noise, she brought earmuffs; and to enjoy circle time and nap time, she had her own rug. During the day, she took turns between playing and having alone time. At lunch she concentrated on her meal, and at nap time she slept close – but not too close – to Oliver.

While the day “wasn’t purrrrrect,” Clover came home with stories for Mama. She went to school all the next week and found that kittygarten got easier every day, especially with the help of her new friend Oliver. Kittygarten can still be like riding the seesaw, but now there are definitely more ups than downs.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Linda Purdie Salas perfectly captures the emotions and fears of a sensory-sensitive child through Clover’s thoughts, actions, and experiences. Her descriptive language (that also includes kid-favorite puns) and direct vocabulary serve two important purposes. First, they allow children for whom light, sound, touch, and other sensory experiences are intensified to see themselves portrayed with understanding. Second, they give other kids a glimpse into how their sensory-sensitive friends and classmates perceive the world around them. Through Oliver, Salas models the gentle and caring behavior that makes a day easier and inclusive for sensory-sensitive kids. Salas’s depiction of Clover’s grabbing the juice box, crying during nap time, and tantrum that precipitates her flight from school provide readers with examples of the feeling of a loss of control that many sensory-sensitive or hesitant kids experience in certain situations. Clover’s return to kindergarten with gear that will help her navigate her day, gives all children an opportunity to discuss issues that may bother them as well as how they might help make their classroom or other area a welcoming and pleasant place where everyone can reap the benefits of friendship and learning.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Hiroe Nakata’s watercolor illustrations introduce readers to Clover’s world and how she perceives it through clear visual cues. Upon opening the cover, children are invited into Clover’s bedroom, which is rendered in pastel pinks, yellows, and blues. She is happy to be knitting with just a favorite toy for companionship. When Clover gets to her classroom, however, Nakata uses a brighter color palette and harsh tones of yellow to represent how Cover experiences sunlight and the typical colors found in elementary school classrooms. This first portrayal of Clover’s classroom also portrays tumbling blocks, a struggle between two kids over a toy, a messy art table, and even a bulletin board packed with topsy-turvy numbers. Clover sits in the center of the room, tightly curled, demonstrating her wish for calm and quiet. Subsequent pages give readers many opportunities to point out things that add to the chaos for someone who is sensory-sensitive. For example, the teacher wears a bell on her tail and kittens rush at her on the playground and in the lunch room, invading her personal space. In contrast, Clover’s room contains strings of pompoms or felt hangings instead of bells or chimes and her clothes are hung neatly in her closet. As Clover returns to school, kids will be interested to point out the glasses, mittens, and other items from home that help.

An important book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections, Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten promotes mindful consideration of the images, sounds, smells, and activities that can become overwhelming not only for sensory-sensitive people but for us all. With a charming protagonist and caring friend, the story will inspire better understanding and kindness that benefits children in the classroom and beyond.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542042468

Discover more about Laura Purdie Salas and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Hiroe Nakata and view a portfolio of her books on the MB Artists website.

Take a look at the Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten book trailer!

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten, written by Laura Purdie Salas | illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

To enter:

This giveaway is open from August 6 through August 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on August 14.

Prizing provided by Two Lions

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Activity Sheets

 

You can find six free printable Clover Kitty Activity Sheets that are fun ways to celebrate school, friendship, and learning on Laura Purdie Salas’s website here:

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Activity Sheets

You can order a signed and personalized copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten from Red Balloon Bookshop!

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You can find Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

November 19 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

Familiar stories are part of the glue that keep families together. This month, when homes can be full of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for the Thanksgiving holiday, is a perfect time to share those stories once again with the youngest members in mind. Whether the events and anecdotes happened last week or long ago, each story brings family members closer and provides a bridge from generation to generation. 

One More Hug

Written by Megan Alexander | Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

 

As the story opens, a mom looks back at a special night when while tucking her little one into bed he was frightened by a tree at the window and asked for “‘One more hug, Mama.’” One day, a broken toy brought tears and a request: “‘one more kiss, Mama.’” Mama remembers the first day of school and standing at the bus stop. She squeezed her little boy tight as the bus approached. When the bus stopped and the “doors opened with a loud SCREEEECH,” the boy “whispered, ‘One more squeeze, Mama.’”

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

As her boy grew older, the tree that had once frightened him became a favorite to climb, the toys were replaced with a bicycle, and any reservations about the bus were long gone. But now there were new experiences, and her son asked for one more hug before going out on stage, “one more kiss after [he] slipped on the ice. One more song before bedtime.”

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Years went by and climbing the backyard tree led to climbing a rock wall. The boy taught his little brother how to ride his bike while he “joined the track team, and ran all the way to school.” At last came the day when the boy was all grown up and drove away with a backward glance and a wave goodbye. Then his mother wondered if her son knew how proud she was of him and how much she loved him. She hoped he knew that he would always be her boy and that she “would always be there for [him].” And then came the day when her son surprised his mama with a visit, and they both got “one more hug.”

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

In her heart-swelling story, Megan Alexander, a national correspondent for Inside Edition, has written a love letter to children that perfectly expresses the emotions parents feel for their children as they grow from babyhood to adulthood. Based on her own experiences with her two young sons, Alexander’s story is a warm embrace of reassurance that lets little ones and those beginning to chart their own course know that parental love and support is always with them. Her focus is particularly on raising sons who understand that it’s okay to have fears and share their feelings with those they love.

Alexander’s lyrical storytelling with repeated phrasing builds a bridge between ages as the boy grows up while also cementing the bond between mother and son. As much as this story is for children, adults will feel a lump in their throat as the boy moves away and his mother wonders if he knows how much she loves him. Alexander’s honest depiction of that universal hope gives the story a multilayered depth that gives children insight into their parents’ feelings—another kind of bond that will resonate with repeated readings as the child grows older.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Hiroe Nakata’s lovely watercolor and ink illustrations shimmer with the rapport between mother and son. Nakata uses alternating wide-angle images and close-up views to emphasize the tender moments that “one more” hug or kiss provide. Snapshots of familiar, yet fresh-feeling activities undertaken during different seasons show the boy growing and becoming stronger and wiser at pivotal stages of his life. The mother expresses joy, sympathy, understanding, and always an abiding love. The final spreads where the now-adult son comes home with arms open for his mama, shows clearly that he, indeed, knows how much she loves him.

The family theme is carried out in animal pairs that populate Nakata’s beautiful nature settings. Among these, a snail and her baby crawl near the boy’s newspaper hat, a mother and baby squirrel scamper up the tree next to the bus stop, and ants parade into their hole carrying food for the nest. Children will enjoy finding these animals on nearly every page, and they will fall in love with the family’s adorable dog, who also grows up throughout the story.

A story parents or caregivers and their children will love to snuggle up with, One More Hug makes a wonderful gift and addition to home, school, and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534429710

Discover more about Megan Alexander, her work, and a song she wrote that was inspired by the story, von her website.

Family Stories Month Activity

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Free Hug Coupons

 

Everyone needs a hug now and then! With these printable Free Hug Coupons you can be sure that all of your favorite people get a sweet hug when they need it most.

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You can find One More Hug at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review