January 14 – It’s Book Blitz Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-the-secret-valentine-cover

About the Holiday

Is your motto “So many books, so little time?” Is every shelf, nook, and cupboard in your house filled with books? Is your library card the first one on your ring? If so, you’ll love Book Blitz Month! During this month book lovers are given the green light to read, read, read as many books as possible! For kids, Book Blitz Month can be particularly exciting. Sit down with your child or students and make a stack of books they’d like to read. Find time every day to read one, two, or a few of the books in the pile. Seeing the stack shrink gives kids a sense of accomplishment, and they’ll love building it up again! Mix reading with fun activities to encourage a new generation of avid readers!

I received a copy of Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine to check out. All opinions are my own.

Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine

Written by Jonathan London | Illustrated by Andrew Joyner

 

Duck was meandering down the lane when she heard birds happily twittering over their Valentine’s Day cards. Suddenly, Duck realized that she didn’t have a valentine, but in the next moment she came up with an idea. Later that day, while Hippo was dusting his house there was a knock at the door. He rushed over hoping that it was Duck, but when he opened the door he found only a card that said, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Come to the park today at 4 pm. And bring something for your Valentine!” The card wasn’t signed, and all Hippo saw was a “white feather floating down, landing softly on the ground.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-the-secret-valentine-birds

Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Down at the pond, Turtle was napping when he heard a splash. He woke up to find a card floating on a nearby lily pad. The heart on the front “reminded him, just a little bit, of a pizza with a slice out of it!” The card had the same message as Hippo’s and it wasn’t signed either. Turtle was disappointed to find his valentine, Pig, wasn’t there.

Pig was at her pizza shop. As she was tossing dough in the air, the bell above her door jangled. Pig was startled and the dough fell on her head. When she got cleaned off, she saw a card with a heart on it under her door. The card told her to come to the park at four o’clock and bring something for her valentine. “Pig blushed and raced outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of her valentine. ‘Turtle! Are you there?’” she called.

At his market, Elephant was excited to discover a card in his mailbox. He twirled around so quickly, trying to catch a glimpse of Duck or Pig that he fell down and crumpled his trunk. “He sat up and rubbed it. Then he held the card against his heart and beamed.” Back at Hippo’s house, it was only one o’clock, but he was dressed in his finest suit and brushed his teeth. At two o’clock, Turtle grabbed his basket full of doughnuts and headed for the park.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-the-secret-valentine-idea

Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

At three o’clock, Pig was in the bathtub. She quickly scrubbed away the pizza dough, dried off, and put on her favorite dress. She hurried out, holding a pizza box aloft. Elephant left his house at three thirty with a bouquet of flowers held in his trunk, and with fifteen minutes to spare, Hippo hurried down the path “with a box of chocolate and flowers, hoping that Duck would be there.”

Exactly at four o’clock the four friends arrived at the part, “but…where, OH WHERE, was Duck?” Just then, Duck popped out of a bush and announced, “‘TA-DA! I’m the secret valentine!’” She presented Hippo with a rose, and said, “‘The best valentines are friends!’” Everyone danced and cheered, and then they sat down for a picnic and passed around their cards and goodies and enjoyed spending Valentine’s Day together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-the-secret-valentine-hippo

Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Jonathan London’s beloved Duck and Hippo and their friends are back in a sweet Valentine’s Day story that combines humor and mystery with a heartwarming message about friendship. Duck’s ingenious idea for each friend to bring something for their valentine will get kids thinking about the nice things they can do for their friends and others to show how much they appreciate them. Little readers will giggle at the mishaps that befall each character and empathize with the bit of nervousness each one experiences when presented with their card. The happy enthusiasm of this group of friends is as infectious as ever and may inspire your own Valentine’s Day picnic.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-the-secret-valentine-friends

Fans of Duck, Hippo, Turtle, Pig, and Elephant will be happy to be reunited with their favorite characters through Andrew Joyner’s bright and inviting illustrations. As readers drop in to watch each friend receive their card, they’ll love hunting for the hint at who the secret valentine is. Suspense grows as each character gets ready, and little ones can discover what time it is on a variety of clocks, which may spark an interest in finding similar clocks in their own homes and towns. The final pages showing the five friends and the birds celebrating the holiday together are joyful and full of love.

An adorable and feel-good story to share at Valentine’s Day or whenever love is in the air, Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine is fun addition to the series and to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503900356

To learn more about Andrew Joyner, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no mystery that you’ll love this Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine book trailer!

Book Blitz Month Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

I Love You! Jar

 

Do you ever feel like saying “I love you” to friends and siblings, but don’t know how? Here’s a gift you can make that will tell them what is in your heart.

Supplies

  • A clear jar with a lid—you can use a recyclable jar or buy a mason jar or other decorative jar at a craft store
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Add hearts to the jar—you can add as many as you like and even continue to fill the jar after you’ve given it away. Here are some ideas:

  • Add one heart for each year you have known your friend
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your friend, sibling or others (write those traits on the hearts)
  • Give a new heart whenever the recipient of your jar does something nice for you
  • Encourage the recipient of your jar to pass the love along! Tell them they can give a heart from the jar to someone that they have special feelings for.

4. Give your I Love You! jar to a friend, your parents, your siblings, or anyone who fills your heart with joy.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-the-secret-valentine-cover

You can find Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

November 2 – It’s National Gratitude Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-give-thanks-cover

About the Holiday

November has been designated as a time for reflecting on our lives and being grateful for our family, friends, opportunities, and the things we have. To celebrate Gratitude Month, take time to count your blessings and thank those who are important in your life.

I received a copy of Duck and Hippo Give Thanks from Two Lions to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Two Lions in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Duck and Hippo Give Thanks

Written by Jonathan London | Illustrated by Andrew Joyner

 

As Hippo raked leaves, he was “dreaming of a good, old-fashioned Thanksgiving,” but his reveries were interrupted by Duck, who landed with a plop right in the middle of Hippo’s leaf pile. When Hippo asked his friend what he was doing, Duck answered that she was having fun and invited Hippo to join her, but with a huff he said, “‘I’m trying to make the pile all nice and tidy!’” Just then, Hippo was bonked on the head by a falling apple. He handed it to Duck as a snack, who said, “‘Thanks, Hippo!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-give-thanks-leaves-falling

Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That reminded Hippo that tomorrow was Thanksgiving and he asked Duck to celebrate with him. Duck suggested they invite all of their friends. They went to the grocery store to buy supplies. The shopping went quickly as Hippo whooshed down the aisles with Duck in the cart grabbing food as they went. When Hippo wanted a ride in the cart, though, he got stuck. Elephant rushed over and got him out. To thank him, Duck and Hippo invited him to their Thanksgiving feast.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-give-thanks-poof

Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At the bakery, Turtle let them skip ahead of him in line, so he was invited too. For lunch, Duck and Hippo went to Pig’s Pizza. To thank her for the delicious slices, Duck invited her to their dinner the next day. “‘Yummy!’ cried Pig. ‘I can’t wait!’” Back home, they began preparations. They helped each other gather leaves, pumpkins, squash, and apples then decorated the table together. Duck even “did a dance on the tabletop and sang, ‘TA-DA!’” before going home with the promise of seeing Hippo tomorrow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-give-thanks-dreaming

Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, text copyright Jonathan London, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

While Hippo was dreaming of his big old-fashioned Thanksgiving, Duck had called together Elephant, Pig, and Turtle. “‘Let’s make something special for Hippo!’” he told them. Thanksgiving morning Hippo was up early. He baked apple and pumpkin pie, acorn squash, and other goodies. Then he sat down to wait for his friends. He waited and waited. The sun went down and the moon rose. Still, Hippo’s friends hadn’t arrived. Finally, they burst through the door with a surprise for Hippo. Hippo eagerly wondered what it was.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-give-thanks-hippo-dreaming

Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

One by one, they showed what they had brought. Turtle held a tray of Chinese egg rolls, Elephant had made sea-cucumber sushi, Pig had created one of her famous pizza napoletanas, and Duck offered a plate of peanut-butter-and-jelly tacos. “‘SURPRISE!’” they all cheered. Hippo frowned. This was not the Thanksgiving feast he had imagined.

But then he saw how happy all of his friends looked. “He spread his arms wide and said, ‘WELCOME!’ And thank you for being who you are!’” They all sat around the table, held hands, and gave thanks for “being together, and for sharing natures bounty.” Then they gobbled up the best Thanksgiving feast ever. And when they were done? They went outside and dove into the leaves!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-give-thanks-friends

Image copyright Andrew Joyner, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

In his warmhearted Thanksgiving story, Jonathan London presents gentle conflicts which are resolved with generosity, friendship, and understanding as Duck, Hippo, and their friends prepare what each considers the perfect Thanksgiving feast. The spirit of the story lies in Hippo’s quick realization that a “good old-fashioned Thanksgiving” doesn’t lie solely in one type of meal, but in including friends, new traditions, and togetherness. Other examples of acceptance, of thoughtfulness, and of shaking off trivial accidents and minor complaints between the characters show young readers that happiness can be achieved when one fully considers a situation from both sides.

Andrew Joyner’s bright, action-packed illustrations clearly show the fond friendship between Duck and Hippo as they plan Thanksgiving dinner together. Duck’s carefree personality contrasts and complement’s Hippo’s more fastidious nature. Through the wide smiles, playfulness, and generous acts of the supporting characters young readers will understand that instead of ruining Hippo’s feast, they are excited to participate and contribute to it. Clear facial expressions and highlighted text also spotlight the strong bonds among these friends.

A feel-good story with humor and a positive message about the true meaning of Thanksgiving, Duck and Hippo Give Thanks—the latest in the Duck and Hippo series, which includes Duck and Hippo in the Rain and Duck and Hippo Lost and Found—is a wonderful addition to the series for fans and a terrific holiday book for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503900806

To learn more about Andrew Joyner, his books, and his art, visit his website.

You’re invited to watch the Duck and Hippo Give Thanks book trailer!

Duck and Hippo Give Thanks Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions Publishing in this giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Duck and Hippo Give Thanks written by Jonathan London | illustrated by Andrew Joyner

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, November 2 – 9. Already a follower? Thanks! Just  Retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on November 10.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Two Lions Publishing.

National Gratitude Month Activity

celebrate-picture-bks-picture-book-review-thanksgiving-worksheets-i-spy-alphabet

Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game

 

Things to be thankful for are all around you! What do you see? Find an entire alphabet of favorite things with this printable Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game Page!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-and-hippo-give-thanks-cover

You can find Duck and Hippo Give Thanks at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 12 – National Rivers Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-otters-love-to-play

About the Holiday

Rivers are beautiful, provide recreation, and are crucial to our water supply. Did you know that in the United States 65% of our drinking water comes from rivers and streams? This month environmentalists and others promote awareness of the importance of keeping the nation’s rivers pollution free to protect the fish and animals that call them home and increase enjoyment for all. To help the cause, join a volunteer river clean-up crew, help monitor water quality, or learn more about your local river system. Whether you like to fish, swim, boat, or just laze on the bank, June is the perfect month to get out on a river! You might even see some otters—the subject of today’s book!

Otters Love to Play

Written by Jonathan London | Illustrated by Meilo So

 

It’s spring and two otters have moved into an abandoned beaver lodge to start a family. In a soft nest of moss, leaves, and grass the mother otter gives birth to three pups. The pups first open their eyes to the world when they are five weeks old. At two months old they’re ready to come out of the den to play. Playtime is fun, but for the baby otters it’s also work. Running, twisting, wrestling, and matches of tug-of-war teach valuable hunting skills and solidify family bonds.

As spring turns to summer, the pups’ thick waterproof coats grow in, and it’s time for swimming lessons to begin. There are no floaties here! The mother otter simply grabs her charges by the scruff of the neck and drops them into the river. Their mother shows them how to dive and glide and come to the surface as they follow her single file. “Within days, the otter pups gracefully spin and flip and swish like underwater acrobats.” Again and again “they scramble up a mud slide and SLIIIIIIIIIIIDE back down to the water—Ka-Spash!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-otters-love-to-play-in-autumn

By the end of the summer the pups know how to catch small fish and how to nudge out frogs, crayfish, turtles, and snakes from their hiding places among the rocks. Autumn brings more opportunities for fun as the nearly full-grown pups tumble in the fallen leaves. Even winter’s blasts don’t deter the otters. With their thick fur they roll in the snow and catch fish in the icy river water.

But an ominous shadow appears on the fresh snow as the pups belly-slide down a snowbank. Something is waiting and watching…. So too is mother otter. Screaming and hunching she “slides across the snow and with a terrible GRRRROWL…scares the fox away!” Throughout the winter the otters snuggle in their den, and when the rainy spring makes muddy river banks, the otters come out and speed down the slippery slide “because otters love to play!”

You can’t help but love otters. Watching them dive, swim, and frolic just puts a smile on your face. And what’s more these sleek river creatures are fascinating animals! Jonathon London has written a story that captures the spirit and exuberance of one otter family while incorporating intriguing facts about their dens, birth statistics, purposeful play, hunting techniques, protective fur, predators, and defenses—did you know that otters can slide on snow at speeds up to 18 miles (29 kilometers) per hour?! London’s lyrical journey through the first year of an otter’s life makes captivating reading for young children just navigating the world themselves.

Meilo So’s enchanting otter family will delight readers. Images of the pups somersaulting, sliding, splashing, and swimming charmingly depict the sleek, supple movements of these frisky animals. Their smooth coats, rendered in soft browns with white and black accented texture, and their mischievous, ever-present smiles are realistically portrayed, inviting kids to reach out and pet them. So’s river scenes are beautiful—the pale blue water reflects deep gold and green trees, pink and yellow wildflowers and delicate green grasses flutter along the river bank, and the depths of the underwater world swirl with muted sage greens and blues as the otter pups frolic among gray- and olive-hued fish. Autumn comes with fiery orange and purple leaves, and winter falls shivery white as the russet fox is chased away.

Otters Love to Play would be a lovely gift for any child and a welcome addition to any classroom or school library.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763669133

Visit Jonathan London’s website for more books by this prolific author.

View more books and art by Meilo So.

National Rivers Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-otter-coloring-page

Otter Coloring Page

 

You “otter” love this coloring page, with its cute river creature who has just caught dinner! You can color it with pencils, crayons, or markers or consider making a collage with bits of paper, cloth, or leaves and sticks. Give the otter a den to snuggle in and a river for frolicking! Here’s your Otter Coloring Page!