November 20 – Get Ready for Christmas

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-cover

About the Holiday

There’s nothing better to get kids in the spirit of Christmas than by sharing holiday stories both old and new. Packed with all the excitement and anticipation of the season, Christmas books offer humor, tradition, inspiration, and new perspectives on this favorite holiday. Stuff your stockings with pre-Christmas reads, and don’t forget that books make the perfect present for all ages!

Thank you to Flyaway Books for sending me a copy of The Worst Christmas Ever for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

The Worst Christmas Ever

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Guy Porfirio

 

One spring day Matthew and Lucy’s dad came home from work and announced that the family would be moving to California. Lucy was excited, but her big brother was less than enthusiastic. Their mom thought it would be an adventure. That night in bed, Matthew’s dog Jasper licked his tears away. Before they knew it, spring had turned to fall and the moving van was being loaded up. “Matthew watched his life being packed away.”

In California everything was different, from school to church to nature—where the leaves stayed green and flowers bloomed even in the winter. He missed the fun he and Jasper used to have playing in the autumn leaves. Soon, even though it didn’t feel like it, it was almost Christmas and time to get the tree. Mom thought that would get them all in the spirit of the holiday.

But “Matthew muttered, ‘No snow. Worst Christmas ever. It’ll take a miracle to make it feel like Christmas.’” Lucy wanted to know what a miracle was. Matthew told her but was sure they wouldn’t find one there. “‘Oh, yes, I will!’ said Lucy. ‘I’ll find the miracle!’” At the Christmas tree lot—which was a far cry from the tree farm Matthew loved—there were plenty of trees to choose from, but they felt “prickly and dry,” and some were colored pink, purple, or blue with fake snow. Lucy wanted a pink one, but Dad stuck with green.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-tree-shopping

Image copyright Guy Porfirio, 2019, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2019. Courtesy of Flyaway Books.

Back home, Lucy dived under her bed. She was looking for a miracle, she said. Matthew was skeptical, but “he smiled, just a little.” On the Sunday before Christmas, the pastor at church asked for a volunteer family to play the holy family in the outdoor nativity. Dad raised his hand and “Lucy jumped up and down” and offered her doll Gabriela to play baby Jesus. Matthew tried to hide behind the hymn book.

Three days before Christmas Eve, while Matthew and Jasper were at the park, Jasper chased after a squirrel and then seemed to vanish. Matthew rushed home, sobbing. Although the family searched for hours, they couldn’t find Jasper. The next day they handed out flyers and called the shelters, but no one had seen him. On Christmas Eve, Matthew couldn’t get excited about decorating the tree, and Lucy’s constant singing of “Away in a Manger” didn’t help either.

As he participated in the Christmas Eve service, Matthew’s “heart ached for Jasper, lost somewhere in that terribly silent night.” During the last song, Matthew and his family slipped out, put on their costumes and walked to the stable on the church lawn. Lucy put her doll in the manger. As the congregation sang carols in the misty night, Matthew thought he could almost feel the snow he’d left behind.

Suddenly, Lucy shouted, “‘Look!’” The pile of hay was moving! Lucy thought Gabriela had come to life. “‘It’s the Christmas miracle!’” she said. Matthew “lifted the wriggling blanket in the manger and gasped.” It was Jasper, who’d been sleeping deep in the hay. “‘It is a miracle! You found your way…home,’” Matthew exclaimed. And with that he looked around and realized that this was home and this was the “‘best Christmas ever’” because it “had come, right in the middle of Matthew’s feeling lost in the world. Just as it had come that first Christmas, long ago. Ready or not.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-singing

Image copyright Guy Porfirio, 2019, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2019. Courtesy of Flyaway Books.

Kathleen Long Bostrom’s emotional Christmas story captures feelings of loss and sadness children feel when life changes or unexpected misfortunes occur. Framed by Christmas, a time of magic, good memories, and miracles, Bostrom’s story offers hope for new perspectives and rediscovered happiness. Through Matthew and his younger sister, Lucy, Bostrom creates realistic portraits of children that will resonate with readers. Her detailed storytelling, rich with dialogue and sprinkled with humor, will charm kids. Matthew’s friendship with Jasper is a highlight, and Jasper’s running off sets up suspense and the joyful ending. The story has particular resonance this year when beloved traditions may change, families may not gather as usual, and the holidays may take on a different feel. Reading the book with children can help them discuss their feelings and find new ways to share the Christmas spirit.

Guy Porfirio’s vivid illustrations shine with realistic action and are especially effective in depicting Matthew’s and Lucy’s emotions and different reactions to moving, a warm-weather Christmas, and looking for the Christmas miracle. Matthew’s close relationship with his dog is sweetly portrayed, and his sadness is evident even as he goes about the traditional Christmas Eve activities. Alert readers may notice the hint of Jasper’s black-and-white tail mixed in with the hay as the family walks across the church lawn to take their places in the stable, letting them experience the giddy excitement of Christmas Eve discovery and also rejoice with Matthew when Jasper is found.

A poignant story that inspires children to look for the promise of Christmas in surprising places and all year long, The Worst Christmas Ever would be a favorite seasonal read aloud that would be asked for throughout the year as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Flyaway Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1947888098

Discover more about Kathleen Long Bostrom and her books on her website.

You can connect with Guy Porfirio on Twitter.

Get Ready for Christmas Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-craft-cover

Mini Accordion Book

 

With this craft you can make a little book for your own writing, pictures, or stickers. With a holiday-themed cover, you can use it as an advent calendar or holiday wish list. This little book would also make a fun gift to make for your friends.

Supplies

  • 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper – single or double sided
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or a page of the child’s own writing or drawing
  • Cardboard
  • Stickers, pictures
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-pages

Directions

  1. Draw a 3-inch border around the edge of the 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper. This will make a 6-inch square in the center of the paper
  2. Draw a line from the top of the paper to meet the left edge of the 6-inch square. The line will be 3 inches from the left side of the paper.
  3. Draw a 3-inch line from the top center of the 6-inch square to the center of the square

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To Cut the Paper

  1. Beginning with the line at the top of the piece of paper, cut down the left edge of the 6-inch square.
  2. Cut across the bottom of the square.
  3. Cut up the right side of the square
  4. Cut across the top of the square to the line in the center.
  5. Cut down the 3-inch center line to the middle of the square

To Fold the Pages

  1. Draw light or dotted lines every 3 inches along the strip of paper
  2. Starting at the top of the strip, fold the paper on the lines accordion style.
  3. Make the first fold by folding the first 3-inch section down towards you.
  4. Fold the second 3-inch section back away from you
  5. Continue folding the 3-inch sections down and back until the strip is entirely folded

To Make the Cover

  1. Cut two 3 ½ -inch squares from the cardboard
  2. Cut two 4 ½-inch squares of from the decorative paper, wrapping paper, or child’s writing or drawing
  3. Cover the cardboard with the paper, folding the excess paper over the edges and securing with glue

To Assemble the Book

  1. With the strip of paper completely folded, glue one cover to the top 3-inch square
  2. Glue the second cover to the end 3-inch square

Fill the book with writing, drawings, stickers, whatever!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-cover

You can find The Worst Christmas Ever at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 19 – New Friends Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-will-you-be-friends-with-me-cover

About the Holiday

Friendships and making new friends are so important to our happiness that this national holiday is actually celebrated three times a year—on January 19th, July 19th, and October 19th. Making friends is one of the first skills little ones learn as they begin, as babies and toddlers, to join playgroups, music groups, daycare, and other social activities. Sharing books with stories about friendship, that model good examples of talking and playing with others, and which depict an appreciation for people’s differences is a wonderful way to expand a child’s social and emotional development. Sharing life with good friends a joy to be cherished. Start your little one off on the journey with today’s book!

Will You Be Friends with Me?

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Jo de Ruiter

 

As the story opens, two vignettes show a little brown boy greeting the dawn while a blond, bespectacled girl shows up to the breakfast table after everyone has finished. “I wake early,” the boy says. “You sleep late.” At the playground later, this same girl enjoys the swings with another girl. She observes, “My hair’s curly. / Yours is straight.” On a trip to the pool, this second girl meets a Black girl, who, wearing two types of floaties and a swimming cap, just dips her toe in the water as her new acquaintance jumps in, noting, “I say, ‘Now!’ / You say, ‘Wait?’” Then as they both dry off, she asks, “Will you be friends with me?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wake

Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

At school the early riser notices that his tablemate likes to use different art materials than he does. Is one better than the other, he wonders, but it doesn’t keep him from asking, “Will you be friends with me?” A picnic and snack time during soccer practice are two more places where pairs of kids meet each other and discover different ways of doing things that don’t deter—and probably prompt—the repeated refrain, “Will you be friends with me?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hair

Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

All of these children meet on a grassy hill to play a game of leapfrog, encouraging each other to soar as high as they can. As the early bird reads on a sunny porch and the night owl reads by flashlight under her covers, the boy reveals, “I like morning. / You like night. / We’re just different. / That’s all right!” And indeed it is as these new friends show readers how to play instead of squabble, share instead of judge, and embrace each other’s differences because they know—and readers discover—that “life is much more fun that way.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-swim

Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

Kathleen Long Bostrom’s delightful ode to making friends combines simplicity and intricacy in equal measure. Her endearing verses blend declarative sentences about various personality traits with questions kids commonly ask each other about their favorite things—questions that readers will enjoy answering as well. These pages give adults and kids an opportunity to talk about differences and similarities within their own family, classroom, sports team, and friends. The repeated phrase, “Will you be friends with me?,” is a joy to read aloud, and children will love chiming in each time. This simple, welcoming invitation is also one that kids can remember and use, whether they’re outgoing or more hesitant, whenever they meet someone they’d like to be friends with. The final line: “I’m glad you’re friends with me!” is a heartfelt sentiment everyone wants to hear and is just as appropriate for new friends as for old or even between adult reader and child.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends

Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

Jo de Ruiter’s adorable illustrations sparkle with the actions, expressions, and emotions of children navigating their world while discovering themselves and those around them. Her fresh color palette and kid-favorite places make each page one that readers will want to explore. Kids will enjoy following the fluid pairings of friends and their varying interactions. Diversity within the group of friends in race and ability—the boy who’s the early riser wears leg braces and uses forearm crutches—reflects readers’ experiences at school and in their community.

Playful, charming, and enriching, Will You Be Friends with Me? is an inspiring book for home story times, classroom reading, and public library collections. The book can also spark discussions about making friends at the beginning of a school year or during any new experience. The bouncy rhythm makes this a book little ones will want to hear again and again.

Ages Birth to 5

WorthyKids, 2020 | ISBN 978-1546033806

Discover more about Kathleen Long Bostrom and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jo de Ruiter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

New Friends Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friendship-bracelet-craft

Beaded Friendship Bracelet

 

Little ones love to make, wear, and share special bracelets. In this easy-to-make bracelet, each color of bead can represent friends and/or family. Fill it all at once or add beads with each new friend made.

Supplies

  • Wooden or plastic beads in various colors—one color for each friend or family member. You can use medium-size beads for the center and smaller beads for the rest of the bracelet, if desired
  • Elastic, embroidery thread, or string
  • Scissors
  • Plastic sewing needle with a large eye

Directions

  1. Determine the number of friends your child would like the bracelet to represent.
  2. Choose a different color of bead in both sizes for each friend.
  3. Determine the color pattern of the beads.
  4. Measure your child’s wrist and cut a length of elastic, embroidery thread, or string, leaving it long enough to tie onto the first and last beads (and make a loop clasp if using thread or string).
  5. Help your child thread the needle with the elastic, embroidery thread, or string.
  6. Thread the first bead onto the elastic, thread, or string, leaving about a half-inch at the end.
  7. Pull end of thread over bead and tie a knot with the end and the length of string.
  8. Approximate the center of your bracelet and thread several small beads in the chosen color pattern onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  9. Thread the medium beads onto the bracelet in the same color pattern.
  10. Follow with more small beads to finish the bracelet.
  11. Tie the last bead onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  12. To make a loop clasp on the end if using embroidery thread or string, loop the thread or string.

Children can make two or more bracelets to share with their friends.celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-will-you-be-friends-with-me-cover

You can find Will You Be Friends with Me? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

April 8 – National Zoo Day

The View at the Zoo by Kathleen Long Bostrom and Guy FrancisAbout the Holiday

Zoos are wonderful places to see and learn about exotic animals from around the world. In addition to creating educational exhibits, zoological experts are involved in the preservation of endangered species. To celebrate the day, you might visit your local zoo, donate your time or money to further a zoo’s mission, or consider “adopting” a zoo animal—many zoological institutions offer this fun and rewarding program.

The View at the Zoo

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Guy Francis

 

“Rise and shine! Attention, please! Monkeys get down from those trees!” So calls the zookeeper as he begins his rounds, waking up the zoo animals to greet another day of visitors. Once the bear cubs are up, the lion’s mane is combed, the elephant has wiped his nose, and the giraffes are standing tall, the gates are flung open.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-view-at-the-zoo-snake

Copyright Guy Francis, 2010, courtesy of Ideals Children’s Books.

The day is full of excitement, observations, and education—“My, what silly things they do, all these creatures at the zoo.” Some creatures walk and waddle to an inner beat. Some carry babies in pouches or on their backs while others are noisy—howling and shrieking. And look at how some love to eat! There are those who primp to stay neat and clean, and those that will nip your fingers if you get too close!

Yes, the zoo is full of intriguing specimens! As the sun goes down the visitors head for the exit, and the animals watch them leave. It’s been another good day. Those people sure put on quite a show! The owl exclaims, “What a hoot! Folks have no clue the view that we have at the zoo!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-view-at-the-zoo-parrots

Copyright Guy Francis, 2010, courtesy of Ideals Children’s Books.

The View at the Zoo is a perfect union of words and illustration. Kathleen Long Bostrom’s text tells the story in a jaunty rhyme that will have kids giggling all the way through. Guy Francis’s lush, detailed illustrations are full of humor and reveal the real “watchers” of the story. Kids will have fun picking the animal and people pairs out of the crowd who are “dancing to their own inner beat,” carrying babies on their backs or in pouches, making noise, chowing down, getting clean, and flashing dangerous teeth. This zoo is colorful, wild, and populated with animals happy to study the exotic creatures on the other side of the fence.

Ages 3 – 6

Worthy Kids/Ideals Publishing, 2015 | ISBN 978-0824956691 (Paperback)

Discover more about Kathleen Long Bostrom and her books on her website.

To learn more about Guy Francis and his books and view a portfolio of his illustration work, visit his website.

National Zoo Lovers Day Activity

CPB - Zoo Day Word Search II (2)

Round up the Animals! Word Search

 

Cand you find the fifteen animals in this printable Round Up the Animals! word search? Here’s the Solution.

April 8 – National Zoo Lovers Day

The View at the Zoo by Kathleen Long Bostrom and Guy FrancisAbout the Holiday

Zoos are wonderful places to see and learn about exotic animals from around the world. In addition to creating educational exhibits, zoological experts are involved in the preservation of endangered species. To celebrate the day, you might visit your local zoo, donate your time or money to further a zoo’s mission, or consider “adopting” a zoo animal—many zoological institutions offer this fun and rewarding program.

The View at the Zoo

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Guy Francis

 

“Rise and shine! Attention, please! Monkeys get down from those trees!” So calls the zookeeper as he begins his rounds, waking up the zoo animals to greet another day of visitors. Once the bear cubs are up, the lion’s mane is combed, the elephant has wiped his nose, and the giraffes are standing tall, the gates are flung open.

The day is full of excitement, observations, and education—“My, what silly things they do, all these creatures at the zoo.” Some creatures walk and waddle to an inner beat. Some carry babies in pouches or on their backs while others are noisy—howling and shrieking. And look at how some love to eat! There are those who primp to stay neat and clean, and those that will nip your fingers if you get too close!

Yes, the zoo is full of intriguing specimens! As the sun goes down the visitors head for the exit, and the animals watch them leave. It’s been another good day; those people put on quite a show! The owl exclaims, “What a hoot! Folks have no clue the view that we have at the zoo!”

The View at the Zoo is a perfect union of words and illustration. Kathleen Long Bostrom’s text tells the story while Guy Francis’s illustrations reveal the meaning of the story. Kids will have fun picking the animal and people pairs out of the crowd who are “dancing to their own inner beat,” carrying babies on their backs or in pouches, making noise, chowing down, getting clean, and flashing dangerous teeth. This zoo is colorful, wild, and populated with animals happy to study the exotic creatures on the other side of the fence.

Ages 3 – 6

Ideals Children’s Books, 2010 | ISBN 978-0824956295

National Zoo Lovers Day Activity

CPB - Zoo Day Word Search II (2)

Round up the Animals! Word Search

 

Find all the animals in the zoo! Print this Round Up the Animals! word search and have fun! Here’s the Solution.