October 17 – National Pasta Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates one of the world’s favorite foods. With over 600 different shapes and sizes, pasta offers a wealth of recipe choices, from fancy to plain to that can’t-live-without Mac n’ Cheese. Pasta—the Italian word for dough—has been part of people’s diets since ancient times and was introduced to America by Thomas Jefferson in 1789, when he brought the first pasta machine and a supply of macaroni back home from a trip to France. There’s only one way to enjoy this special culinary event—so get the pot boiling or head out to your fav Italian restaurant and eat up!

The Great Pasta Escape

Written by Miranda Paul | Illustrated by Javier Joaquin

 

The pasta was fresh. Oh! I don’t mean that way—I’m just sayin’ they were new to the world. They? Well, yeah—you’ll see. The pasta was…recently made at the factory, and they knew their place. Each type “stuck to their own kind” in their own boxes, and they never talked to one another or the people who worked the machines or the lines. “They didn’t mix, move, or mingle. They were very good noodles.”

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Image copyright Javier Joaquin, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

They went from shelf to shipping carton thinking of the super places they would end up. For instance, the wagon wheel imagined a home on the range with some cool boots, a ten-gallon hat, and a horse. But one day a piece of fettuccine overheard two workers talking about lunch. One was going to have pasta salad and one had brought leftover Pho.

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Image copyright Javier Joaquin, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Fettucine immediately called a meeting and expressed his fears (“Aaaaah! They’re going to EAT us!”), but the rest of the pasta thought this scenario was ridiculous. “‘Why would the humans make us, only to get rid of us?’” reasoned Bow Tie. Raman was getting tied up in knots, while Mac was trying to cool things down.

The Rotini gang believed Fettucine, though, and pointed everyone’s gaze in the direction of the directions on their boxes. All the pasta were aghast. Fettucine began crying, “‘Just cover me in Alfredo sauce now.’” While Ramen snarked, “‘You mean Afraid-o sauce.” Bow Tie tried the civilized approach to calm the situation, and chill Mac brought a more laid-back vibe to the scene.

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Image copyright Javier Joaquin, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

They needed a plan, though. Fettucine suggested hiding; Bow Tie voted for a peaceful sit-in; and Ramen wanted a more forceful opposition. But Mac reminded them to meditate on that “super place we’ve been hearing and dreaming about.’” Rotini was all for action, though, and in a moment had drawn up a schematic that might work if they sacrificed the Ravioli. This idea did not sit well with the Ravioli or the Tortellini. Emotions began to boil over, and a fight broke out on the factory floor.

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Image copyright Javier Joaquin, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

All seemed lost until…an angel appeared with an ingenious proposal. Everyone stopped wrestling to watch the presentation she’d “cooked up.” It looked good. Spaghetti wrote some signs, and the rest of the pasta hung them in plain sight. The sign on the door announced that the factory was closed. The pasta machines were all “out of order,” and the cartons were all labeled to be shipped to “Super Awesome Island, Paradise.” Then the fettucine, the bow ties, the ramen, the spaghetti, the rotini, the ravioli, and all the rest went back to their own boxes and waited…until they found themselves “on vacation in a very super place.”

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Image copyright Javier Joaquin, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Miranda Paul dishes up a funny, dough-lightful story that will keep readers laughing while they noodle on the ideas of teamwork and friendship. Paul sprinkles plenty of puns throughout the pages while also stirring in more subtle humor based on each type of pasta’s shape or use in common recipes. The elbow macaroni is hip and calm befitting its use in Chili Mac, the bow tie is formal and mannerly, and it should come as no surprise that the rotini, with his spiral body, should come up with the most convoluted plan. When Angel Hair appears and unites the pasta in a successful bid to replace one “super” place with another, readers will see that by mixing it up and working together they can accomplish super things.

In his bold, colorful illustrations, Javier Joaquin provides each type of pasta with a distinct and expressive personality that readers will respond to. As the boxes of pasta sit on the factory shelf, waiting to be loaded into cartons, observant kids will see the heroes of the story hanging out in their respective packages. The vibrant dreams of each pasta stand in stark contrast to the sterile factory environment, spurring readers to cheer when their clever plan to escape comes true.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1499804805

Discover more about Miranda Paul and her books on her website.

View a portfolio of illustration and graphic design work by Javier Joaquin on his website.

National Pasta Day Activity

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Noodle On This! Puzzle

 

Four pasta dishes are on the stove. Can you find which type of pasta goes to each container in this printable Noodle On This! Puzzle?

Picture Book Review

October 16 – Dictionary Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the birthday of Noah Webster who published his first dictionary—A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language—in 1806 and went on to create the first truly comprehensive American dictionary in 1828. Along the way in completing his life’s work, he learned twenty-six languages, reformed the spelling of many words from the British form to an American spelling, and introduced new American words never before published. To commemorate the holiday, take a little trip through the dictionary or play a word-based game like Scrabble, Boggle, or Balderdash. If you’re interested in lexicography—the making of a dictionary—or just love words, you’ll find Webster’s 1828 Dictionary fascinating reading!

Lexie the Word Wrangler

Written by Rebecca Van Slyke | Illustrated by Jessie Hartland

 

With just one look at Lexie in her cowboy hat, boots, and bandana, or a peek at her talent for riding a horse, twirling a lariat, and rounding up cattle, you could tell she was a wrangler. But Lexie was no ordinary wrangler; she was a “word wrangler.” With her lariat she could rope together separate words and make entirely new stuff. She could tie up “an ear of corn and a loaf of bread and make some tasty cornbread.” A “stick of butter and a pesky fly” became a “butterfly.”

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

In the spring, Lexie tended little letters until they grew into big words. She could also be found in the chuck wagon each morning stirring up big pots of new words from old ingredients. In the blink of an eye, she could transform “an annoying P-E-S-T…into some fine P-E-T-S. And that “S-P-O-T?” With a swirl of the spoon, it became a handy “P-O-S-T.”

Since there were so many words roaming around her ranch, Lexie herded them into sentences, long letters home to Ma, and even fascinating stories. But one day Lexie noticed that something was wrong. When she went to put on her bandana, the d was missing, and tying the banana was impossible. The problem didn’t just involve missing letters, either. Words were disappearing too, creating some pretty strange results. Once after a storm, a big red bow appeared in the sky instead of a rainbow.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

Lexie’s work around the ranch became harder too. Once day, instead of rounding up a neighbor’s calves, she discovered that someone had “released a whole passel of baby g’s into the calf pen” and now “all the little dogies” were “doggies.” Later, when Lexie rolled out her sleeping bag, she discovered that the usually S-T-A-R – speckled sky was full of  “R-A-T-S.”

Lexie realized there was a word rustler on the loose and set out to find him. She headed into the desert, but discovered that the sandy ground had turned into a messy, gooey dessert. After cleaning out her horse’s hooves, she was more determined than ever to find the culprit. She climbed a tall tree and kept a lookout for the word rustler. Soon enough she spied him sneaking toward her front gate and the sign that announced Lexie’s Longhorn Ranch. He was just about to lasso the word “long” when Lexie lassoed him.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

The word rustler protested that he was just having a bit of fun, but Lexie didn’t like the idea of being left with a corral full of horns. All he wanted, Russell admitted, was to work with words like Lexie did. Lexie could see that Russell had talent, so she made him promise to use his skills in a positive way. Then she released him and told him from now on he would be known as “Russell the Word Wrestler.”

Now Russell works alongside Lexie doing jobs like keeping the place free of rattlesnakes by wrestling them into “a baby’s rattle and a harmless snake.” Lexie and Russell are happy to raise baby letters, help words grow, and even teach young cowpokes how to rope and tie words together, so they can join the word-wrangling circuit in the future themselves.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

If Lexie got her lariat around Rebecca Van Slyke’s name and separated the S-L-Y from the K-E, she’d have the perfect description for this nifty story. Deconstructing words can be a fascinating way to get kids interacting with and researching words and spelling as they really think about what they are reading. Van Slyke’s ranch setting serves up an ingenious metaphor for the word wrangling that students are doing at this stage of their education. Her quick wit and smart word choices provide plenty of “ah-ha!” moments, laughs, and opportunities for visual humor. The introduction of Russell allows Van Slyke to increase her stable of puns, which will delight readers.

Jessie Hartland’s vibrant, folk-style illustrations are a rip-roaring accompaniment to the story, providing visual clues and humor as words change due to missing or jumbled letters. Kids will laugh when one of Lexie’s bandanas turns into bananas and may shudder to think how easy it might be for rats to fill the night sky instead of stars. Hartland’s cleverly designed typography lets readers easily see how small words grow into bigger new ones with the addition of one, two, three, or more letters. Likewise, as “wild” words are tamed into a sentence, young writers can begin to understand the mechanics of grammar.

A Dictionary of Wrangler Words follows the text.

Lexie the Word Wrangler is an entertaining and educational choice for kids who love words, puns, and the West. It would be a welcome gift and imaginative addition to home libraries. The book would also be an inspiring starter for writing, spelling, and other language arts units.

Ages 5 – 8

Nancy Paulson Books, 2017 |ISBN 978-0399169571

To learn more about Rebecca Van Slyke, visit her website.

View a gallery of illustration work by Jessie Harland on her website.

Dictionary Day Activity

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What a Difference a Letter Makes Word Search Puzzle

 

Each of the word pairs in this puzzle are close in spelling but not in meaning. Take a look and find the twenty words in this printable What a Difference a Letter Makes Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

October 12 – It’s National Seafood Month

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About the Holiday

Love seafood? Me too! This month seafood takes center stage as a delicious, healthy, and versatile dietary choice. With so many types of seafood—each with its own distinct flavor—it’s easy to create dishes that satisfy every taste. Seafood has played a part in cuisine around the world since earliest history. Why not explore some recipes from other cultures while you celebrate this month?

There Might Be Lobsters

Written by Carolyn Crimi | Illustrated by Laurel Molk

 

Suki may have liked going to the beach, but there were many things there that scared her. Eleanor encouraged her puppy to come down the stairs and join her on the sand, but Suki sat at the top overwhelmed with doubt. She was such a small dog, “and the stairs were big and sandy, and she hadn’t had lunch yet, and she might get a shell stuck up her nose.” She might even “tumble down on her head…and need stitches, and, besides, there might be lobsters.”

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Image copyright Laurel Molk, 2017, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Suki thought she’d sit with her toy monkey Chunka Munka and watch, but Eleanor was there to pick her up and carry her down the steps. Eleanor wanted to play and tossed her beach ball in Suki’s direction. The big ball bounced and rolled toward Suki, and Suki took off. What if the ball “hit her nose,” or “knocked her down?” If that happened she might never get home and might have to “eat seaweed to survive.” Besides, didn’t “beach balls attract lobsters?” Suki grabbed Chunka Munka and ran away.

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Image copyright Laurel Molk, 2017, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Eleanor scooped her dog up again and brought her to the water’s edge. She was sure Suki would enjoy swimming with her. But Suki gazed out at the vast sea and the approaching waves that “might toss her out to the middle of the sea” where she could “float all the way to Tasmania or even Florida.” She could be “swallowed by a whale,” and besides isn’t that where lobsters live? So Suki and Chunka Munka chose to stay on shore.

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Image copyright Laurel Molk, 2017, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Suddenly, a wave picked up Chunka Munka and the little monkey was washed out to sea. Soon he began to sink. “Suki started to paddle.” She swam past a beach ball, into a wave, and maybe even over a lobster to save Chunka Monka. When they landed once more on dry land, Suki felt brave and proud. Eleanor was proud of her puppy too. She picked up Suki and Chunka Monka “with a ‘yay’ and a ‘hooray’ and swung them gently through the air.” Then Suki sat on the beach, enjoyed the waves, and “watched for lobsters. And they didn’t see one all day.”

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Image copyright Laurel Molk, 2017, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

When fears and doubts have kids in their claws, Carolyn Crimi’s reassuring story of a little dog who does a big deed is just the kind of support they need. It can be easy for scary thoughts to overwhelm reality, but through Suki’s worries and Eleanor’s patient encouragement, Crimi gives readers a chance to empathize with the little puppy while recognizing that some fears are unfounded. Suki’s unselfish act to save her beloved toy may spur children to dip their toe into the waters and become brave themselves.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-might-be-lobsters-eating-ice-cream

Image copyright Laurel Molk, 2017, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Laurel Molk’s adorable Suki will have readers rooting for her as she sits forlorn and hesitant at the top of the stairs, cowers from the beach ball, and stops short at the water’s edge. When Chunka Monka floats away, Molk immediately shows Suki in the ocean swimming to catch him, demonstrating that the natural instinct to help often overrides fears and leads to self-confidence and growth. Molk’s watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations are as bright, wide-open, and inviting as the beach itself. Each page offers readers lots to see, giggle over, and talk about while they cheer on Suki—and discover the only lobster on the beach.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763675424

To find out more about Carolyn Crimi and her other books, and have a laugh or two (or three), check out her website.

View a gallery of books illustrated by Laurel Molk as well as other artwork, visit her website.

National Seafood Month Activity

What a Catch! (1)

What a Catch! Word Search Puzzle

 

There are so many types of seafood! Can you find the twenty names of fish and shellfish in this printable What a Catch! Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

October 11 – It’s Positive Attitude Month

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About the Holiday

Things are good! Really, they are! Sometimes it’s kind of hard to think this way, but Positive Attitude Month encourages people to see the bright side of things. A positive attitude can give you more strength and resources to face the hard stuff while letting you enjoy the good stuff. Because there is good stuff out there just waiting for you—really!

Waiting for Goliath

By Antje Damm

 

Bear is patiently waiting at the bus top. He’s been there since the sun came up. It’s no bother because he’s expecting his best friend, Goliath. While Robin builds her nest, Bear tells her about Goliath. He’s stronger than Bear and smart too. “‘He can count to eighteen!’” Bear exclaims proudly. Nighttime comes, but Goliath doesn’t. Bear curls up on the bus stop bench and goes to sleep.

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Copyright Antje Damm, 2017, courtesy of Gecko Press.

Another morning dawns and as Bear inspects a spider web and Robin’s babies peep, peep for food, Robin suggests some bad news: “‘Your Goliath isn’t coming.’” Bear is positive his friend will arrive, though. “‘He is definitely coming. You’ll see,’” Bear counters. Later, while Bear has left his post for a minute, the robins announce that someone has come. Bear has a foolproof sniff test to determine if it is Goliath. When the answer comes back that this creature does not smell nice, Bear growls, “‘Then it’s not Goliath.’”

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Copyright Antje Damm, 2017, courtesy of Gecko Press.

Finally, a bus arrives but no one gets off. Bear is starting to get lonely because the robins have all flown south for the winter. To keep himself occupied, Goliath sometimes dances or plays with the snowflakes that begin drifting down. Sometimes he even forgets what he’s there for. As winter settles in, Bear grows more and more tired. He lies down under the bench and goes to sleep. He awakes to warm air and sunshine.

Suddenly, “he hears a faint noise like a hand sliding slowly across paper. Goliath is coming!” A little snail slithers up full of apologies for being so late, but Bear is just happy to see him. He has big plans for the two of them. After so much time spent on the ground, they take to the swing at the park and soar.

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Copyright Antje Damm, 2017, courtesy of Gecko Press.

As an avid reader of Samuel Beckett’s work, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the title of Antje Damm’s new book. As in the play Waiting for Godot, readers of Waiting for Goliath wonder “who is the mysterious visitor?” Unlike Vladimir and Estragon, though, Bear does finally meet up with his friend—much to the delight and surprise of little readers.

Some expectations may be set when Bear describes his best friend as stronger than he is, very smart, and nice-smelling; there’s also the matter of his name. Put these all together and most kids may imagine a big, friendly giant of a buddy. On the other hand, time seems a bit wonky. It’s been a year since Bear first took a seat at the bus stop. What could be taking this enormous creature so long to get there? So maybe readers will adjust their guess. Just like Bear, kids are also waiting to discover who is coming.

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During that year, readers are treated to Damm’s very original collage-diorama photographs. With unending patience Bear, whose head, body, and legs seem articulated from separated bits of paper, sits on a red cardboard bench. The paper bus stop sign and trash can are attached to a thin wooden skewer. Cardboard grass springs from the ground, and the tree takes center stage through a year of seasons demonstrated by the robin’s building a nest, raising a family, flying away for the winter, and returning once more. Along the way, colors change, new creatures enter and leave, and Bear changes position. Goliath’s appearance comes as a cheerful surprise, and as the two go off to play together, readers will feel that the wait was definitely worth it.

Waiting for Goliath would be an adorable addition to children’s home libraries for happy story times and times when waiting gets…..long.

Ages 3 – 5

Gecko Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1776571413

Positive Attitude Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Smile!-It's-a-Positively-Fun-Word-Search

Smile! It’s a Positively Fun Word Search Puzzle

 

Positivity makes you smile! And this puzzle is full of positivity! Can you find the twenty upbeat words in this printable Smile! It’s a Positively Fun Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

October 9 – Curious Events Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the mysteries in life. Those little (and big) events that make us scratch our heads, rush to our favorite social media site, or ponder the greater meaning of life. It seems there’s always something we’d like to understand better, a conspiracy theory we’d like proved or disproved conclusively, or just a question that has always nagged at the back of one’s mind. Sometimes even the most obvious of occurrences aren’t exactly what they seem—as in today’s book. Take the opportunity of Curious Events Day to explore the questions you have!

Something’s Fishy

By Jean Gourounas

 

A vigilant penguin sits beside an ice-fishing hole while snowflakes flutter in the air. Her line dips silently into the blue water. “Hey, what are you doing?” a smiling rabbit asks, coming up behind her. But the penguin only tells him to “shh!” The rabbit is an inquisitive little rascal, though, and sort of asks the obvious: “Are you fishing?” All this talking brings in the walrus, who’s also curious as to what’s happening. The bunny tells the walrus his view of the fishing idea.

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Copyright Jean Gourounas, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Fishing! Well, the walrus wants to know if the penguin is catching anything. It looks grim, the rabbit says, just as a seal comes on the scene and asks the requisite question. “Shh!” the penguin tells them again. The seal repeats the previous conversation, asking “Are any fish biting?” The answer is still the same, though, and the bunny doesn’t know what’s wrong with those fish.

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Copyright Jean Gourounas, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

A moose approaches the group and, despite the fishing hole, the fishing pole, and the fishing line, asks what the penguin is doing. The others are happy to confirm the fishing interpretation of events. The moose is quicker on the draw to see that the fish are not biting, but wants to know why. Ah, the age-old question of fishermen everywhere. “We don’t know!” exclaim the seal and walrus. But the rabbit has decided to add a bit of erudition to the conversation: “I’m baffled,” he states.

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Copyright Jean Gourounas, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

The person who has just come along is also intrigued to know whether the penguin has been successful. “No!” rings out from the crowd. Then they all wonder what’s wrong. That may be good enough for everyone else, but the rabbit ups the ante with another big word: “I’m perplexed,” he admits. Next up is a polar bear, who just wants to know what’s going on. Having spent so much time trying to discover the same thing, the rest of the crew feel at one with the penguin and shout, “We’re fishing!” The rabbit includes the caveat “But the fish aren’t biting.”

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Copyright Jean Gourounas, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

The polar bear knows a thing or two about catching fish and inquires about the type of bait. Ah ha! Now we’re getting somewhere. “Some cake,” answers the penguin. The idea of cake as fish bait doesn’t seem to trouble anyone. In fact, they can’t believe the fish haven’t jumped at the chance to have this tasty treat. The rabbit? Well, he’s just plain flummoxed. When a bull enters the picture, he takes one look around and asks, “Hey, are you guys having a party?” He gets filled in on the whole fishing/cake/not biting thing, and they all decide that “something’s fishy!”

At last it seems the penguin is going to succeed! She tells everyone to quiet down because she hears something. Bubbling up from deep below the ice comes, “SURPRISE!” as a school of fish wearing party hats wish a stunned newcomer “Happy Birthday!” And when they’ve nibbled their fill, the fish call up for “More cake, please!”

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Copyright Jean Gourounas, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

This sly puzzle of a story by Jean Gourounas will delight readers and keep them guessing until the very end. Along the way, children are given some hints that turn out not to be red herrings at all, but real clues to this gentle arctic mystery. Young readers may wonder why the penguin needs quiet, what the fish are waiting for, and even if there’s something to the bull’s suggestion of a party. Kids will giggle as the same questions and answers are asked over and over again in various ways, and don’t be surprised when your little one adds the words “baffled,” “perplexed,” and “flummoxed” to their growing vocabulary. 

Gourounas’ rounded-off characters are cute and expressive, welcoming others to the group and the ongoing discussion with wide, wondering eyes. Sometimes they consider each other, while at other times they look right out at the reader, inviting them to join in too. The brown, textured paper and matte blue, white, brown, and black hues that define the various animals, work in conjunction with the text to create a low-key gathering above ground that is a humorous counterpoint to the festivities below. Little ones who might be concerned with the fate of the fish as they nibble on the cake will be cheered by the last page—and may want a piece of cake themselves to celebrate this funny book.

Ages 3 – 6

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714875316

Curious Events Day Activity

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Haunted House Coloring Page

 

The month of October is full of curious events, spooky mysteries, and surprises. Here’s a printable Haunted House Coloring Page for you to enjoy. Add some ghosts and other curious characters from your imagination to the room!

Picture Book Review

October 4 – Balloons Around the World Day

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About the Holiday

You know you love balloons! Just watching them flutter from mailboxes, bob in the air while tied to a toddler’s wrist, or even float up, up, and away into a blue sky can make you smile. Today’s holiday was established in 2000 by Jeff Brown, who thought these useful and playful favorites deserved a little recognition. Balloons first burst onto the scene in 1783 when Jacques Charles took the first flight in a hydrogen balloon. In 1824 Michael Faraday invented the rubber balloon, and the importance of this discovery cannot be overblown…or…well…you know what happens. To celebrate today’s holiday, why not visit your local party store or grocery store and pick one of the amazing specialty balloons on display—or if you’re a purist, put together a bouquet of colorful traditional balloons.

I Have a Balloon

Written by Ariel Bernstein | Illustrated by Scott Magoon

 

An owl warily hangs onto his balloon as a monkey swings into the picture pointing at the owl’s prized possession. “I have a balloon,” the owl states. “That is a big balloon,” says the monkey. The owl proudly concurs as he repeats the monkey’s praise. But the monkey is not finished with his compliments. “That is a shiny red balloon,” he says. Yes, the owl agrees.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-have-a-balloon-monkey-meets-owl

Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Perhaps, though, the monkey’s compliments are not entirely gratuitous. He adds that the shiny, red balloon would look swell with his shiny, red bowtie and imagines walking into school with such a perfectly matched outfit. In fact, he says, “The only thing I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a shiny, big red balloon.” The monkey’s not without some sense of fairness, though, and offers to trade his teddy bear for the balloon. But the owl isn’t feeling it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-have-a-balloon-problem

Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

If teddy bears aren’t the owl’s thing, what about a sunflower? The monkey has one of those too, and it’s enormous—even bigger than the balloon! Is the owl interested in trading? No. Would he like “a robot? No.” “A picture of ten balloons? No.” How about a bowling ball and pin? No and No. Finally, the monkey pulls out a sock. Hmmm…the owl seems a bit intrigued. He can see the merits of this sock: it “has a star on it” and “a perfectly shaped hole.” The monkey has to acknowledge these fine qualities.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Is the owl wavering? The balloon doesn’t do anything—but the sock? There are so many things to do with a sock like that. “You can wear a sock on your tail or your foot or your hand or your ear,” and it makes a perfect puppet. Feeling victory in his grasp, the monkey offers the sock in exchange for the balloon, and the owl agrees. The monkey is surprised. You mean the “sock with a star and a perfectly shaped hole?” That’s the one. 

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

But wait! The monkey now seems to have had a change of heart: “All I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a sock with a star and a perfectly shaped hole. It makes me SO HAPPY!” So, the owl and the monkey seem to be back to square one: “I have a sock. You have a balloon,” the monkey states. “I have a balloon,” the owl concurs. Phew! Well, that’s settled! Or is it…?

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ariel Bernstein’s quick-witted owl and monkey may not end up trading objects, but they sure trade banter—much to the benefit of little readers. In the dynamic dynamics between the capricious monkey and the astute owl, there is much for children to talk and think about. While the monkey lives in the moment, bouncing from one desire to another, the owl plays a longer game, considering each of his options.

When the monkey hits upon the sock after and the owl accepts, kids may well wonder if the owl is using a little reverse psychology to redirect the monkey away from his balloon or whether he really wants that sock. Children might also think about an object’s value when seen through another’s eyes. In the end, both the monkey and the owl seem happy with their objects, raising another talking point on being satisfied with what you have. Bernstein’s funny, mirrored dialog is a joy to read out loud and also allows for various interpretations in tone that could lead to multiple readings and meanings.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Scott Magoon sets the stage and the characters’ personalities on the first page as the adorable, coconut-shaped monkey swings in on a vine much to the wariness of the tolerant, blue owl. Humorous touches will keep kids giggling (the monkey attends Monkey C. Do elementary school) and provide an arc for this clever story. Children will notice that the branch that breaks in the first pages is bandaged together with the very useful sock later on. Magoon deftly handles the change in fortunes with wry looks, imagination bubbles, and plenty of action.  A little foot that appears on the second-to-last spread provides a bit of foreshadowing to the story’s final laugh.

I Have a Balloon is a terrific read aloud and would be a much-asked-for addition to classroom or public libraries and for any child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481472500

You’ll discover more about Ariel Bernstein and her books as well as a Teacher’s Guide on her website!

Check out the gallery of illustration work by Scott Magoon on his website

Balloons Around the World Day Activity

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Volleyballoon

 

This mashup of two favorite activities—volleyball and balloon batting—makes a fun, safe indoor game for parties or playtime. All you need is a balloon, a strip of masking or duct tape and a few enthusiastic players.

Set Up

  • Find a large open space to play in
  • Divide the area in half with a strip of tape. This is the “net”
  • Blow up and tie a traditional balloon
  • Teams can consist of any number of players

Playing the Game

  • The object of the game is to keep the balloon in the air while tapping it back and forth over the tape “net” designated on the floor.
  • If the balloon hits the floor, the other team earns a point
  • The first team to reach 10 points is the winner. The number of points needed to win can be adjusted depending on the age of the players and the time available to play

Picture Book Review

September 29 – It’s National Courtesy Month

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About the Holiday

A bit of common courtesy goes a long way. Just think of how two little words, like “I’m sorry,” “Excuse me,” and “Thank you,” can make a frown turn into a smile and make a bad day suddenly feel okay.  Today’s holiday encourages people to use good manners, watch out for others, and treat everyone the way you would like to be treated. When these niceties are forgotten…. Well, today’s book shows us what can happen….

Hotel Bruce

Written by Ryan T. Higgins

 

“Bruce was a bear who lived with four geese,” but he was not happy about it. Since he was their mom, however, it meant going south with them every winter even though he would rather have taken a loooong nap. Leaving home, taking public transport, and hanging out on crowded beaches took a toll on Bruce. So one spring when Bruce returned home to discover mice had turned his home into the Woodland Hotel, he went on a grouch-fueled rampage and swept the mice out into the night.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Satisfied, he climbed the stairs to bed only to find it overrun with a moose, a porcupine, a raccoon, and a rabbit; three turtles were snoozing underneath. Let’s just say quarters were a bit snug. “The next morning Bruce woke to the sounds of birds chirping, and squirrels chattering, and possums having a pillow fight.” He found a frog in his toilet, got porcupine prickles in his posterior, was sprayed with skunk perfume right after showering…and a beaver gnawed the corner off his kitchen table. There was even a fox at the stove trying to convince the turtles to jump into a hot, veggie-filled “bath.” But when the mice tried to politely usher Bruce out of the Woodland Hotel, he’d had enough and asked to see the manager.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

While the mice argued over who was the manager, things in the kitchen were getting steamy. The fox’s turtle soup had “turned bad.” The kitchen looked as if a turtlenado had blown through—even Bruce’s best silverware was missing! “Bruce started to lose his cool.” Just then a vanload of elephants arrived for a vacation. “Finally, Bruce lost his temper. ‘THIS IS NOT A HOTEL! THIS IS MY HOUSE! EVERYBODY OUT RIGHT NOW!’”

Drooping with dejection, the “guests” tromped away. “Sheesh! I thought they’d never leave,” one mouse snarked. At that, Bruce tossed the interlopers out into the rain, where they sat sad and bedraggled. “Bruce’s house was a quiet, peaceful place once again.” At least until the geese honked sympathetic honks. Bruce sighed and opened the door….

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Ryan T. Higgins’ curmudgeonly bear is back with a fine, funny sequel that will have kids giggling at poor Bruce’s plight. Adults will appreciate the sly wink to the penchant of woodland animals to take up roost in any warm, unoccupied space and will perhaps feel more than a little sympathy with Bruce as he finally rousts his “guests” from his home. The wise-cracking mice add levity and a few well-placed honks from Bruce’s “kids” tug at his heart.

Higgin’s madcap illustrations put readers in Bruce’s big, burly paws as he endures one predicament after another. While the woodland animals run wild, their slightly guilty faces reveal that even they know all is not on the up-and-up as they watch Bruce’s unibrow rise with surprise and furrow in anger. The geese, so eager to follow and fit in, look ridiculously cute in their bellhop uniforms, and Higgin’s detailed depictions of Bruce’s home will have kids lingering over each page.

Ages 5 – 8

Disney – Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1484743621

Connect with Ryan T. Higgins on his website and learn more about his books, school visits, and summer camp for kids.

National Courtesy Month Activity

 

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Courtesy is Contagious Word Scramble

 

When you use good manners and courtesy, people notice and are inspired to do the same! Can you unscramble the twelve words or phrases in this printable Courtesy is Contagious Word Scramble. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review