July 9 – Cow Appreciation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-jump-cover

About the Holiday

While today’s holiday started out as a clever ruse to entice people to eat more chicken, it also gives us an opportunity to think about the world’s bovine citizens. These gentle animals deserve healthy and humane treatment as they provide our diets with needed protein as well as delicious treats. Cows appear in untold numbers of stories and songs for little ones, making them a favorite of young readers everywhere!

Cows Can’t Jump

Written by Dave Reisman | Illustrated by Jason A. Maas

 

In this early literacy/beginning reader picture book, Dave Reisman introduces kids to nineteen animals and the way they can move. The repeated refrain, which begins with “cows can’t jump, but they can swim,” leads to young readers meeting a gorilla who can’t swim but who can swing, a galloping giraffe, a slithering snake, a stampeding bull, and many other favorite animals reacting to the previous interloper in humorous ways. Reisman presents active, evocative, and high-interest verbs that will capture the attention and imagination of young readers and help with their vocabulary development.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-jump-slither

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

The short, simple sentences will have even the youngest child joining in on the repeated phrases, and with repeat readings, they’ll begin to remember how each animal moves and be able to happily read along. The underlying theme of the story—that each animal is unique—will resonate with adult readers and their little ones.

Jason A. Maas’s bright, textured paintings put the focus on each animal and their movements. Page turns are cleverly designed so that the animals meet under startling and funny circumstances. The cartoon-inspired drawings will delight kids and elicit plenty of giggles as each animal responds to the newcomer with wide eyes and quick getaways, until…the lizard leaps onto a branch that is already occupied and discovers that “sloths can’t leap…but they can sleep.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-jump-stampede

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

Cows Can’t Jump will be released in a bilingual English/Spanish edition: Las vacas no pueden saltar in August, 2019.

Ages 2 – 7

Jumping Cow Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0980143300 (Paperback) | ISBN 978-0998001005 (Stubby and Stout Board Book)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-quack-cover

Cows Can’t Quack

Written by Dave Reisman | Illustrated by Jason A. Maas

 

Following the same format as Cows Can’t Jump, Dave Reisman brings together a gaggle of animals all making their own unique sounds. Here twenty-two animals from the farm, forest, ocean, and air show off their vocal stylings with funny results. As the moose grunts, the donkey hee-haws, the hippo brays, the goose cackles, and the day ends with a puppy snoring, little ones will be eager to learn more about these creatures.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-quack

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

Just as in Cows Can’t Jump, Reisman enchants with verbs that invite kids to participate in the reading with their own interpretations of the sounds. Children will also enthusiastically read along on the repeated phrasing. While each animal speaks in its own language, children are reminded of the diversity and richness of the world’s languages.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-moo

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

Once again Jason A. Maas’s animals, with their rakish charm and humorous responses that cause feathers to fly, a baby penguin to hatch, and a donkey to kick up his heels, will have little ones laughing along with their language learning.

Ages 3 – 7

Jumping Cow Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0980143348 | ISBN 978-0998001012 (Stubby and Stout Board Book)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-cover

Cows Can’t Spin Silk

Written by Dave Reisman | Illustrated by Jason A. Maas

 

Little ones will be happy to see their cow friend from Cows Can’t Jump and Cows Can’t Quack in this third book in the Cows Can’t… Series. This time, she looks on astonished as a silk worm drops down into the barn doorway on a long, silky thread. Cows may not be able to “spin silk…but they can make milk.” The woodpeckers in the nearby tree look astonished at this talent, but in the next moment they return to what they do best: “hammer holes.” The surprised alligator can’t do that, but he “can dig gator-ponds.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-silk

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

The alligator in their midst sends the rest of the animals scurrying—from the spider that weaves a web to the chickens that “lay eggs” to the ants that “build bridges.” Joining the animals are some other talented insects—caterpillars that “construct cocoons, wasps that “craft paper,” and bees that create honey”—and a few sea creatures like squid that “can squirt ink,” oysters that “can produce pearls,” and octopuses that “can erect barricades.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-milk

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

The inclusion of some more unusual animals and their impressive talents in Cows Can’t Spin Silk offer adults and kids an opportunity to discover more about the animal kingdom and what each animal can do. In addition to presenting new vocabulary, and a read aloud treat, the book can encourage families to get outdoors to see if they can find evidence of any of the animal creations mentioned in the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-bridges

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

Readers familiar with Jason A. Maas’s illustrations for the series will be delighted with the gentle suspense that carries the story as the alligators, skunks, chipmunks, beavers, bears and fourteen other animals use their smarts to create homes, defend themselves, make tools, and display other skills.

Connecting this story to the idea that each person has their own special talent or talents extends the educational language and literacy learning of the book to personal discussions and explorations adults can share with their kids.

Ages 3 – 7

Jumping Cow Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0998001029 (Paperback ) | ISBN 978-0998001036 (Stubby and Stout Board Book)

Recommended by early literacy organizations, such as the Parent-Child Home program, the Cows Can’t Series offers little learners and beginning readers familiar, reassuring, and fun encouragement as they begin learning the structures of language and developing confidence in their own skills. The books would be welcome additions to home, classroom, and public library collections for read aloud story times or for beginning readers.

To learn more about Jumping Cow Press and find  printable activities, visit their website. And watch for the newest title in the Cows Can’t… Series: Cows Can’t Blow Bubbles, coming in August 2019.

Discover more about Jason A. Maas, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 5.06.04 PM

Cows Can’t Jump Word Search

 

Each animal in Cows Can’t Jump has a special way of moving. Can you find seventeen words that describe how different animals get around in this printable puzzle?

Cows Can’t Jump Word Search Puzzle | Cows Can’t Jump Word Search Solution

You can find the Cows Can’t Series at these booksellers

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-cover

Cows Can’t Spin Silk

Amazon 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-quack-cover

Cows Can’t Quack

Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-jump-cover

Cows Can’t Jump

Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Picture Book Review

 

January 7 – Tempura Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-japanese-words-cover

About the Holiday

Tempura is a delectable dish that originated in Japan when Portuguese Jesuits introduced the recipe in the 16th century. Traditionally, seafood and vegetables are breaded and fried, but other ingredients, including broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, chicken, and some cheeses, are also cooked tempura style around the world. The word tempura derives from the Latin word tempora, which means “times” and refers to Lenten times or Ember Days. To celebrate today’s holiday, enjoy a meal of tempura! You can also learn more about the Japanese culture with your child with today’s book!

My First Book of Japanese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book of Japanese Language and Culture

Written by Michelle Haney Brown | Illustrated by Aya Padron

 

Upon opening My First Book of Japanese Words, readers are immersed in the beauty of Japan—it’s homes, cities, natural environment, and cuisine. The first page introduces the alphabet with “A is for ari. / A teeny weeny / ant crawls / with teeny / weeny legs on / the bamboo plant.” Moving from the bamboo grove to the city, D takes children on a ride. A “densha—a train in Japan—goes choo choo down / the track as fast as it can.” They disembark at “E…for eki where trains come and go. / An eki in English is station, you know.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-japanese-words-station

Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

They may be on their way to G “for gakkō, / the word for school, / where we make lots of friends and / learning is cool.” At lunch time kids discover that “H is for hashi. / Chopsticks are nice / for picking up goodies / like veggies and rice.” After lunch there are games like Janken for J, “a game played in / Japan. It’s Rock, / Paper, Scissors / (make those with your hand.)”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-japanese-words-futon

Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

“N is for neko / a kitty so sweet. / She says ‘nyah’ / when she wants / a treat.” If kitty is having a snack, kids want one too! “O is for onigiri / a Japanse / treat— / a rice ball / that’s yummy / and fun to eat!” Good manners are found when “R is for rei. / We bow when we say / ‘Good morning’ and / ‘Thank you’ and / ‘Have a good day.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-japanese-words-kitten

Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

A child’s learning begins with S for sensei, a teacher from whom students learn aboutT for tanuki…a raccoon dog / with a twinkly eye” and U for uma, “a beautiful horse.” Learning new things is exciting and makes you want to cheer. Learn how with “W is for Waa! / which is how we say Wow!” “Y is for Yatta! / ‘I did it!’ ‘Yay!’ / This is a word / I like to say.” The alphabet ends with “Z is for zō, / an elephant BIG— / but if he sees a mouse / he might dance a jig.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-japanese-words-dog

Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

With language that invites readers to discover the connections between cultures, Michelle Haney Brown’s charming rhymes entice children to learn these Japanese words and will spark an interest in learning more. The verses on each page are accompanied by paragraphs that expand a reader’s knowledge of the object or idea presented. In some cases, Brown discusses the absence of particular letters or sounds in the Japanese language.

Aya Padron’s paintings transport children to Japan where they can experience life at home, school, and in nature. Whimsical, tranquil, and lively scenes help young learners absorb the full meaning of the words presented while also teaching them about the culture, sights, sounds, and games of Japan. Each word is also written in Kanji (when applicable) and Kana. Padron’s illustrations glow with a love of this lyrical language and will enchant children. 

My First Book of Japanese Words is a superb book for young language learners and transcends its alphabet book roots to become a book of poetry that would be a fine addition to any child’s bookshelf or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 8

Tuttle Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-0804849531

Discover more books for children and adults about Japan and a host of other countries  on the Tuttle Publishing website.

Tempura Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dining-in-japanese-word-search-puzzle

Dining in Japanese Word Search Puzzle

 

Learning the Japanese words for some of your favorite foods is fun! Can you find the names of twenty Japanese words you’d use while eating in this printable Dining in Japanese Word Search Puzzle?

Dining in Japanese Word Search Puzzle | Dining in Japanese Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review

June 3 – Repeat Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-and-after-roller-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday recognizes that some things are just so fun or compelling that you want to do them again and again (ok, yeah…and maybe even again). So if you have a favorite song, show, or activity that you just can’t get enough of, hit that Repeat button and enjoy!

Before and After

By Jean Jullien

 

In this original and funny concept book, kids learn the idea of “before” and “after” with repeated examples of cause and effect. Opening the book, readers meet a Before soon-to-be mom and dad standing belly to belly. Turning the page, they see After, where a now-svelte Mom smiles as the baby hugs Dad, while riding atop a soft seat. Moving on, a rakish cat begins grooming her paw in a portrait of Before. Soon After she is sparkling clean, and her coat is smooth.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-and-after-cat

Copyright Jean Jullien, courtesy of Phaidon Press, 2017

Hmmm…what are those yellow sticks or straws or pasta noodles Before they become ?? Ha! Nailed it! After, those lines became a nice, hot, plate of spaghetti and meatballs! On the next page a child with very long hair is wearing a mischievous look Before. But—Ack! After, that hair has been cut very, very—did I mention very?—short, and the child’s expression is a little bugged out! What’s next? Way After—when the hair is back to its starting point and contentment reigns.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-and-after-chicken

Copyright Jean Jullien, courtesy of Phaidon Press, 2017

Are you a half-full or a half-empty kind of person? Either way the glass and bottle are partly full Before, and the glass and bottle are partly full After—but in differing amounts. Ah! The age-old question has made an appearance: Which came Before? The egg? And which came After? The chicken? Or is it the other way ‘round?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-and-after-roller-coaster

Copyright Jean Jullien, courtesy of Phaidon Press, 2017

At the amusement park, a dad and child—every hair in place—wait in the roller coaster car Before. The dad is all smiles; the child a little wary. After, they sport the wind-blown look, while the child is all smiles and the dad is a bit shaken up. So what caused this change? During—which was a loop-the-loop, up-and-down, high-speed, no-hands thrill! A summer day takes its toll on the girl in the next scene: Before, she arrives at the beach with her shades firmly in place. But After a day of fun in the sun, those shades have left a pale mask on her now-burned face.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-and-after-roller-coaster-during

Copyright Jean Jullien, courtesy of Phaidon Press, 2017

And so we have come to…The Beginning? Yep, that is definitely the beginning of a Dalmatian. Let’s flip the page and see…Ah, yes! And so we have come to The End! (Or the tail—however you’d like to look at it.)

Jean Jullien’s humorous concept book will have kids and adult readers giggling and wondering what comes next page after page. While the text is minimal, the images offer a wealth of opportunities for kids to build prediction skills and talk about how Before became After. The bold images and backgrounds from a modern color palette—as well as the double fold-out roller coaster spread—will engage readers and make Before & After as much an art book as a fun learning tool.

A fun take-along book on outings or for waiting times, Before & After can spur your own game of contrasts.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714874081

View a portfolio of artwork by Jean Jullien on his website!

Repeat Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-origami-find-the-differences

Flying Origami Find the Differences Puzzle

 

These two kids are making origami. While these pictures may look like repeats, there are ten differences. Can you find them all in this printable Flying Origami Find the Differences Puzzle?

Picture Book Review

March 14 – International Ask a Question Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-do-you-see-my-tail-cover

About the Holiday

Admit it—you have a ton of questions. These days, don’t we all! Well, now’s the time to get them out there! Go on—even if you think it’s silly or it seems as if everyone else understands (believe me, they don’t!)—ask away! It’s only through questions that we learn the truth or make new discoveries. Little ones seem to come preloaded with questions, and each one is an opportunity for you to introduce them to our world!

Do You See My Tail?

By Anita Bijsterbosch

 

A bushy tailed animal hails readers from its place in the treetop—“Do you see my tail? Guess who I am!” A red-bellied bird, butterfly, cricket, spider, and ladybug are all standing by to find out too. Opening the flap, little ones are cheerfully greeted by a squirrel who is feeding its babies. “My babies live in a nest in a hollow tree. They like acorns,” the squirrel says. The young squirrels happily reach for the tasty nuts while their mom or dad says, “Hello, squirrel. Hello, sweet baby squirrels.’

On the next page, a small, brown tail trimmed in black and white peeks out from behind a bush. “Do you see my tail?” the owner asks. “I have a cute little tail. Guess who I am!” Two sleepy owls, a pair of mice and adorable insects can’t wait to find out either. The open flap reveals a mother deer and her fawn who is “lying in a little nest in the high grass.” As the two give kisses, Mom says, “Hello, deer. Hello, sweet baby deer.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-do-you-see-my-tail-deer-closed-flap

Copyright Anita Bijsterbosch, courtesy of anitabijsterbosch.nl. Image from the original Dutch-language edition.

Next, a long black feathered tail pokes out from behind a tree. This tail belongs to a bird, and it’s fluffy babies are getting a nutritious worm snack. “How loudly they chirp,” the bird tells readers. Along with their meal, the babies get a little love: “Hello bird. Hello, Hello, sweet baby birds.” Turning the page, young readers see a flat brown tail dipping into the water. Inside the flap a beaver cuddles three babies who “are playing in a nest made of tree trunks and branches.”

“Do you see my tail?” the next animal asks. Who could that ball of fluff belong to? Lift the flap to discover an adult rabbit and four scampering babies “hopping around in a hole under the ground.” You can tell the rabbits hello! “Hello, rabbit. Hello, sweet baby rabbits.” A flip of the page reveals another part of the woods where a fiery red tail sways to and fro in the hedges, a woodpecker makes a hole in a nearby tree trunk, and tiny insects enjoy the day. Baby foxes “love to frolic” in their underground nest.

Can readers spot the next animal’s “teeny tiny tail” and guess who it belongs to? Under the flap they will find a hedgehog and three babies “sleeping and eating in a nest made of branches and leaves.” The hedgehogs love the apples that fall from the nearby tree. Say hello to the little hedgehogs! “Hello, sweet baby hedgehogs.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-do-you-see-my-tail-deer-open-flap

Copyright Anita Bijsterbosch, courtesy of anitabijsterbosch.nl. Image from the original Dutch-language edition.

Anita Bijsterbosch’s charming lift-the-flap book introduces toddlers and young children to a variety of animals and their babies through one easily identifiable feature. Each invitation to guess is followed up by a positive, upbeat answer that rewards a little one’s efforts. Two more complete sentences reveal information about the animal’s home as well as a behavioral trait that mirrors the kind of fun or snuggling that young children like to do themselves. The repeated greeting to each animal and their “sweet” babies not only emphasizes the love that families have for each other, but also provides a gentle lesson in the singular and plural forms of each animal’s name. The rich choices, such as frolic, bushy, and hollow used throughout the story promote early language development.

Bijsterbosch’s colorful pages will enchant young readers as cute birds, insects, mice, and other small creatures join in the fun. The fold-out flap is large enough for a detailed depiction of each animal and their home, and the bright eyes and friendly smiles of the adult and baby animals invite children in to learn and play. Little ones will love to name the other creatures and talk about their different habitats. The open art style offers opportunities to count and to discuss concepts such as in, out, inside, outside, on, near, and far, which are the building blocks of early math literacy. Readers will also love looking for the little ladybug on each spread.

Do You See My Tail? would be a wonderful early addition to any toddler’s or young child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 1 and up

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373201

International Ask a Question Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squirrel-dot-to-dot

Cute Dot-to-Dot Pages

 

Can you guess what animals you’ll find when you connect the dots in these two printable Cute Dot-to-Dot Pages?

Dot-to-Dot Page 1 | Dot-to-Dot Page 2

Picture Book Review

January 22 – Celebration of Life Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to give parents, grandparents, and caregivers a nudge to step back and look at our children and grandchildren as the unique individuals they are. Each child has a special personality and innate talents that combine to make them who they are. Today, celebrate each child’s exceptional character! Ask your children what they want from life, what their opinions are, and what is important to them. Then incorporate some of those things into your daily life!

Cake Day

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Estelle Corke

 

An adorable little boy runs to his grandma, excited that it’s “Cake Day!” “That’s right,” his grandma agrees, “Today we’re going to bake a cake!” The boy, hardly able to see over the counter, wants to be picked up and see what’s in the cabinet. His grandma happily obliges, and the pair carefully pick the ingredients for their cake together.

“‘Hmmm…we need flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar to make a cake,’ says Grandma.” With all the ingredients set on the table, the two start measuring. The little chef is eager and curious: “‘Cake Day! How much, Grandma?’” he asks. As Grandma pours the flour into the cup and a soft, powdery cloud envelops them, the delighted boy laughs, “‘Too much, Grandma!’” The two work happily side by side, with Grandma adding the eggs while her grandson pours in the milk.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-too-much-flour

Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy Star Bright Books, 2016

As the ingredients start to mesh, Grandma exclaims, “‘Look! What’s happening to the batter?’” The little boy wants to help it along and takes up the wooden spoon. Round and round he stirs, creating swirls in the yellow batter until it’s ready for the oven. “‘Bake day! Your turn, Grandma!” the boy says and stands wide-eyed as his grandma slides the deep pan into the oven. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-stirring-batter

Image copyright Estelle Corker, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of Star Bright Books, 2016

The little boy and his dog settle in front of the oven to watch the cake bake. With keen expectation the boy asks, “‘Cake day! Ready, Grandma?” Grandma encourages her grandson’s inquisitiveness and explains the process: “‘We have to wait until the cake rises. The heat makes it rise. When you hear the timer go BEEP BEEP it will be ready.’” At last the cake comes out of the oven, but it’s not ready to be decorated yet. First, they must wait for it to cool.

In a short time the high, golden cake can be iced and decorated. The little boy vigorously shakes a jar of sprinkles over the top, scattering a rainbow of colors across the white frosting. The cake is beautiful and just the right complement to the little boy’s Cake Day, Bake Day, Shake Day—Birthday!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-decorating-cake

Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy Star Bright Books, 2016

Ellen Mayer’s language-rich and playful story of a small child and his grandmother baking together is a wonderful introduction not only to reading but to the type of full-sentence conversational modeling that improves and increases literacy. The steps to baking the birthday cake flow organically and lyrically through the loving relationship between the little boy and his grandma, enticing young readers to learn more about the world around them and how it works. The repeated phrases “Cake day! Bake day!,” and “Ready, Grandma?” as well as the boy’s short statements offer opportunities for kids to read along and learn new vocabulary as they develop important language skills.

Estelle Corke’s cheery illustrations glow with enthusiasm and the close bond between grandmother and grandson. The grandmother lifts, steadies, and holds the boy while still allowing him to perform all the tasks he can. The little boy, in his green apron, delights in every aspect of the baking process, his eagerness expressed in his animated smile and lively participation. The homey kitchen is awash in inviting colors and objects that children will recognize. The clearly drawn boxes and jars of ingredients, kitchen tools, and furnishings offer readers a chance to practice their vocabulary and learn new words.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727466

To see more books by Ellen Mayer as well as language development and reading strategies for young children, visit her website!

Visit Estelle Corke’s website to view a gallery of her artwork!

Star Bright Books publishes fiction nonfiction, and bilingual “great books for great kids” and provides literacy resources for readers.

Celebration of Life Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-grandma's-cake

Image copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016

Grandma’s Cake

 

Grandma and her grandson baked a delicious, special cake—and now you can too! Invite your child or children to help, and make a Celebration of Life cake decorated just the way they’d like! Here’s the full recipe that Grandma uses. Recipe courtesy of Ellen Mayer.

A Simple Sponge Cake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus a little to grease cake pan.
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • You will need: 3 mixing bowls:
  1. 1 to cream butter and sugar
  2. 1 to mix flour, baking powder and salt
  3. 1 in which to beat the eggs
  • A 7-inch diameter, deep cake pan

Directions

  1. Butter pan and dust with flour.
  2. Set the rack at the middle of the oven.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside.
  5. In large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In the third bowl, beat the eggs and add milk.
  6. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to butter mixture then alternate with the egg and milk mixture. Continue to alternate ending with flour mixture. Scrape bowl and beater often.
  7. Add vanilla and mix well.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula.
  9. Bake cake about 45 minutes. Insert knife or wooden skewer into the center. If it emerges clean, the cake is done. If not, bake for 5 more minutes.
  10. Remove cake from oven and allow to set for 5 minutes.
  11. Turn cake out onto a cake rack and leave to cool.

Grandma’s Favorite Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1⁄4 stick butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Blend all ingredients together with a mixer until smooth
  2. Spread on the top and sides of cake
  3. Decorate with sprinkles or your favorite topping

Picture Book Review

September 11 – Grandparents Day and Q&A with Author Ellen Mayer

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-very-big-job-cover

About the Holiday

In the early 1970s Marion McQuade had the idea for a special day of the year when grandparents and grandchildren could show their love for one another. She further wanted it to be a day when grandparents could pass down the wisdom they had gained over their lifetime as well as share a bit of family history. Of course the same goes for grandparents learning the latest and greatest from the kids in their lives—from new technology to current fads. When all generations share their experiences, we’re all a lot smarter—and have closer relationships!

Rosa’s Very Big Job

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Sarah Vonthron-Laver

 

Rosa may be little, but she has big ideas about how to help. While Mama is out shopping for groceries for that night’s dinner, Rosa decides to surprise her by folding and putting away the laundry. The basket is piled high with fluffy dry clothes, sheets, and towels. Rosa watches her grandpa reading the newspaper. “‘Please help me, Grandpa!’” she says. She tugs on her grandpa’s hands, trying to pull him out of his chair. “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get up.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-very-big-job-rosa-likes-to-help

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Grandpa seems to have a little trouble managing: “‘It’s difficult to carry these enormous piles,’” he sighs. But Rosa knows that smaller armloads work better. Grandpa’s clothes come unfolded as he puts them in the drawer. “‘Be neat. Like me,” Rosa says, showing him her tidy stack. Poor Grandpa! He has to keep hanging up the same jacket over and over. “‘It’s difficult to keep this jacket from sliding off the hanger,” he says. Rosa has the answer: “‘Zip it up,’” she explains. “‘Then it stays on.’”

Grandpa sinks back into his chair. “‘You are terrific at doing laundry, Rosa. And I am exhausted,’” he says. But this is no time to quit—Rosa has big plans. As she steps into the now empty laundry basket, she exclaims, “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get in the boat. Help me sail back to there.’” Rosa points to the linen closet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-very-big-job-rosa-uses-basket-as-boat

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Suddenly, the floor swells with ocean waves teeming with fish. Grandpa channels his inner sailor as he holds aloft a sheet as a sail. As the wind billows and they come perilously close to the kitchen table, he says, “‘It’s difficult to sail around this enormous rock!’” Contemplating the rising sea, he exclaims, “‘It’s difficult to sail over this enormous wave!’”

There’s a dangerous storm ahead, warns Grandpa, “‘I can’t hold the sail in this strong wind.’” Rosa is there to help and grabs one side of the sheet. “‘Hold tight,’” she orders. “‘Use both hands.’” At last the seas die down and Grandpa is ready to steer the laundry basket back to port, but Rosa has a more entertaining thought. Spying a sock on the floor, Rosa wants to catch the “enormous fish.” Grandpa obliges and picks up a hangar for a fishing pole. He holds Rosa as she stretches out over the edge of the laundry basket to land her fish.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-very-big-job-sailing-with-sheet

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Just as Rosa nabs the fish, Mama comes home with her bags of groceries. She’s surprised to see that the laundry is not in the basket. Rosa runs to her and proudly explains, “‘We put all the laundry away. It was a very big job. We carried enormous piles. Grandpa dropped things. And I picked them up. It was very difficult for Grandpa. He got exhausted. But not me. I am terrific at laundry!’” Mama agrees that Rosa is a terrific helper. Then Rosa leads her mother to see the most surprising thing of all—the fish she has caught for dinner!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosas-very-big-job-rosa-and-grandpa-fishing

In her series of Small Talk Books® Ellen Mayer presents exciting stories for preschoolers full of imagination and rich language learning. Rosa’s Very Big Job introduces Rosa, a sweet girl bubbling with enthusiasm and the desire to help. The close relationships between Rosa, her mother, and her grandpa promote cooperation as well as effective modeling of speech patterns and a way to introduce larger words in an organic manner through play and common chores. Rosa’s inventive idea to turn the laundry basket into a boat is delightfully enhanced by her grandpa’s willingness to share in the story and expand on it. Humor, cheerful banter, and the easy camaraderie between Rosa and Grandpa invite young readers to join in the fun as they build confidence in their language learning.

Sarah Vonthron-Laver depicts Rosa’s afternoon with her Grandpa with joy and the spirited energy young children bring to everything they do. Grandpa is happy to spend time with his granddaughter, yet shows honest feelings of tiredness and frustration that spur on the plot. The transition from doing laundry to using the basket as a boat is as seamless as a child’s imagination, and the way Rosa and her grandpa use household items to create “sails,” “rocks,” “fish,” and “fishing poles” will give readers great ideas for post-reading play. Bright colors, an adorable kitten, and familiar surroundings welcome young children into the world of reading and expanded vocabulary.

Rosa’s Very Big Job would be a welcome addition to a young child’s bookshelf, not only for its fun story that kids will want to hear again and again, but for its leap into imagination that kids will want to replicate.

Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development, provides tips for parents, grandparents, and caregivers following the text.

Ages 2 – 6

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727497

Discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books as well as book-related activities and literacy initiatives she’s involved with on her website!

Find Sarah Vonthron-Laver on Facebook!

Grandparents Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-big-job-paper-dolls-made

Original illustrations by Saran Vonthron-Laver, Copyrights © 2016 Star Bright Books. Paper dolls created by AislingArt and Celebrate Picture Books, copyrights © 2016

Rosa’s Very Big Job Paper Dolls

Rosa loves helping out at home. She’s terrific at doing laundry – folding and putting away the family’s clothes, socks, and linens. You are terrific at helping too! Can you help Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa get dressed and ready for the day with these printable paper dolls? You’ll even find a laundry basket, socks, and Rosa’s sweet kitty to play with! 

Supplies

Printable Paper Dolls, Clothes, and Extras

  • Heavy stock paper and/or poster board
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Print dolls on regular paper or heavy stock paper. Dolls printed on heavy stock paper may stand on their own with the supplied stand cross piece. For dolls printed on regular paper, you can cut the supplied stand templates from poster board or card stock and glue the dolls to the backing.
  2. Rosa’s kitty and the laundry basket can also be attached to the supplied template if needed
  3. Print clothes for each figure
  4. Color the blank clothes templates any way you’d like
  5. Cut out clothes and extra items
  6. Fit outfits onto dolls
  7. Make up your own stories about Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa!

Interview with Author Ellen Mayer

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-Ellen-Mayer

Today, I’m happy to present a fascinating interview with Ellen Mayer, a writer and expert in early literacy, in which she discusses her involvement with various organizations and programs, her baby granddaughter, why Hug Your Cat Day is at the top of her list of holidays, and gives us a peek at a very special sugar egg.

I’m really interested in your work in the education and literacy fields. Could you talk a little bit about your job as an education researcher and an early literacy home visitor, and how you got into those fields?

I got into these fields after leaving a Sociology PhD program right near the end.  I didn’t want to be an academic and teach, I wanted to do applied research – to solve practical problems out in the world and to make a difference in the lives of those who were struggling. At the Harvard Family Research Project at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, I studied the ways that families from underserved communities were engaged in supporting their children’s learning and education, and created research-based materials for families and schools to promote effective engagement. One of these was the Family Involvement Storybook Corner—curated picture book selections with family engagement themes. That got me interested in early literacy and picture books.

After researching family engagement in children’s learning for many years, I decided I wanted to go out into the field and be a practitioner and work directly with families on this topic. I worked as an early literacy home visitor with diverse families with the Parent-Child Home Program, modeling ways to share stories with little ones to build early language. I actually got paid to read picture books and play with families in their homes!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-Ellen-Mayer-home-visit

At the same time, I was pitching my Small Talk Books®, a collection of playful stories about everyday activities that provide fun for kids and ideas for adults – Rosa’s Very Big Job is one. The adults in the stories are engaged with children’s learning, modeling conversational ways to build young children’s language.

I read that your book Red Socks, another of the Small Talk Books®, is being used in a program to turn wash time at Laundromats into talk time for literacy development. Could you discuss this early literacy initiative?

Yes! Wash Time/Talk Time is a terrific campaign led by Too Small To Fail, a joint initiative of the Clinton Foundation and the Opportunity Institute teaming up with a host of partners to turn Laundromats in underserved areas into venues for early literacy. This campaign distributes free books and information to families in Laundromats about building early language to help close what’s called the “word gap” by promoting parent conversation with babies and young children. Almost 60% of children in our country start kindergarten behind in their language development and this then sets them on a downward path and they get even further behind in school.

Red Socks was a natural fit for this program. In it a Mama narrates what she is doing for her little pre-verbal child as she folds the laundry and dresses the child—and as they search for a missing sock!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-Ellen-Mayer-Red-Socks-book-interior-art

Illustration © 2015 by Ying-Hwa Hu, text © 2015 Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books

I have to say that it’s a dream come true that Too Small To Fail is using my book.

Wash Time/Talk Time is really reaching the families on the other side of the word gap who most need the ideas and inspiration in Red Socks. When I began writing the Small Talk Books® I wanted to include stories about doing laundry, as it’s something we all do as parents and provides lots of things to talk about with children. (Like the color of socks!) In fact, I used to sit in Laundromats and observe families when I was thinking up ideas for stories. I guess that’s the sociologist in me.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-Ellen-Mayer-free-laundry-day

We just had the opportunity to visit one of the Laundromats in the campaign—at the Free Laundry Day in Tampa, FL hosted by The Laundry Project—and share Red Socks with families. You can see some of the fun illustrator Ying-Hwa Hu and I had here: 

What inspired you to begin writing picture books?

I came to picture book writing through a backdoor. When I was at Harvard Family Research Project, I was thinking about new ways to convey our ideas from research into practice for parents, and it occurred to me that a read-aloud picture book could address an audience of parents, as well as the primary one of children. My boss was enthusiastic about the idea, and so I enrolled in an adult ed class on writing for children. Then I turned one of our research case studies about challenges an immigrant Latino family had in communicating with their son’s teacher into a picture book, Tomasito’s Mother Comes to School/La mamá de Tomasito visita la escuela. Joe Cepeda did the art for it, and we made it downloadable for free.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-ellen-mayer-tomasito

Illustration ©2007 Joe Cepeda

What’s up for you next?

Some new things! I have a fellowship with the Storytelling Math Project that’s funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation and coordinated by TERC, a not-for profit STEM research and development organization here in Cambridge, MA. I’ll be a member of a group that’s identifying, creating, and promoting math-infused storybooks for diverse young children and I hope to create a couple of Small Talk Books® along these lines—probably about supermarket shopping! I also was asked to help out the Highlights magazine editorial team that creates HELLO magazine for 0-2 years and be an outside reviewer for issues before they go to publication. And then I’ll be volunteering as a visiting children’s book author to the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative, the family engagement and early childhood hub of the Somerville, MA Public Schools, sharing my books with playgroups and new parent groups.  

But mostly, I plan to write! I have a bunch of picture book manuscripts in various states, and ideas for new ones. These manuscripts are different from the Small Talk Books®; they don’t have a deliberate educational underpinning to them. They are fun, and just fun. One, for example, is called What To Do With Ruby-Lou and it’s about a baby who doesn’t laugh, no matter what her family does. Who is going to be able to get a laugh out of Lou? Well, it’s a surprise and it just might require some audience participation. I’ve had an agent in the past and hope to find a new one to rep me with these picture books.

You recently became a grandmother. Can you tell me a little about your granddaughter?

I thought our granddaughter was the most wonderful and expressive baby in the world when was she born – of course! She and my advance copy of the new Rosa book arrived into the world at just about the same time.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-Ellen-Mayer-granddaughter-holding-book

At three months now my granddaughter is a big reader and is riveted on the B&W hi-contrast board book genre, especially one board book about cars and trucks. She moves her head back and forth, from one end of the spread to the other, scanning the images on the page like a studious scholar of some ancient text.

What is the best part about being a grandmother?

For me the best part about being a grandmother is being able to simply enjoy my granddaughter and play with her and watch her develop, and not have to worry about taking care of her daily needs. I didn’t have to stress when she refused to take the bottle before starting full-day childcare. That wasn’t my job. (She did take it – of course!) They live nearby, and seeing her once or twice a week, I love noticing small changes on each visit. I also love seeing our daughter and son-in-law parent.

Have you given thought to what you’d like your granddaughter to call you?

Our daughter asked us ahead of time what we’d like to be called when we became grandparents. I thought it was a wise idea to be proactive and select a name immediately, to avoid being named by the grandchild something like “Grandma GA-GOO-GA.” My great aunt Jane is called “Nini” as a grandmother, and I’ve always loved that, but I didn’t want to steal it. So I chose “Mimi.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-Ellen-Mayer-ellen-with-granddaughter

It sounds as if Grandparents Day may be one of your top holidays! Do you have another favorite?

When I was little, I liked Easter a lot because it combined a lot of my favorite things: crafts, springtime, running around outside, candy. Also, we didn’t dress up much as kids, but I do remember Easter bonnets!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-Ellen-Mayer-dying-easter-eggs

When our children were little, their birthdays became my favorite holiday celebrations. Now that they are grown, maybe I need to pick a new favorite holiday? I see that June 4th is Hug Your Cat Day. That might be just right: we have a rather large and ferocious cat and when she actually lets you hug her, well, it’s a cause for celebration.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-Ellen-Mayer-hugging-cat

Do you have an anecdote from any holiday that you’d like to share?

When I was six years old, I saw the Easter Bunny. I was staying at my Grandparents’ house, and I looked down the stairwell, and there he was, crossing the landing at the foot of the stairs. He was quite tall, wore a yellow slicker that was too small for him, and he was carrying a large Easter basket. I’m afraid I didn’t have my Brownie camera with me at the time to snap a photo.

But I do have an unwrapped sugar Easter egg that I’ve saved from that era.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-ellen-mayer-easter-egg

Thanks for sharing so much about your work and life, Ellen! I wish you all the best with Rosa’s Very Big Job, your other Small Talk Books®, and of all your other ventures!

You can also find Ellen Mayer on Facebook and Twitter

Rosa’s Very Big Job can be found at

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

Other Small Talk Books® available from Ellen Mayer and Star Bright Books include Cake Day, Red Socks, and A Fish to Feed and can also be found at the above booksellers.

Visit Ellen Mayer on her:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Picture Book Review