December 18 – Root Vegetables and Exotic Fruit Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-potato-pants-cover

About the Holiday

With all the special baking, cooking, and dining that takes place this month, it’s a good time to celebrate some staples of our diets as well as some unusual ingredients. Root vegetables, such as potatoes, onions, yams or sweet potatoes, celery root, turnips, and parsnips make meals homey and delicious, while exotic fruits, such as persimmon, dragonfruit, sapodilla, durian, and jackfruit, make for special and festive sides and desserts. This month try some new recipes that highlight two nutritious ingredients.

Potato Pants

By Laurie Keller

 

Potato is so excited that Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store is selling potato pants that he’s doing a little dance—the robot, which he calls the “po-bot,” of course! He dances all the way to the store where potatoes are pouring in from all over and even delivered by Spud Bus, Tater Taxi, and Tuber Uber. They’re all rushing to Lance Vance’s because the sale is “Today Only” and “once they’re gone, they’re gone.” Potato knows just want he wants “…a stripey pair just like the ones in the window with stripey suspenders for added stripey-ness.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-potato-pants-po-bot-dance

Copyright Laurie Keller, 2018, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

But then, through the window, Potato spies an eggplant—and not just any eggplant. It’s the same eggplant who, in his hurry to Lance Vance’s for the eggplant pants sale yesterday, ran into Potato and knocked him into a trash can. Now, Potato worries, “If he sees me in Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store, he’ll push me again—and ruin my brand-new potato pants!” All Potato can do is watch from outside as all the other potatoes find just the pants for them.

He finally thinks to call the grocery store. Since they have potatoes, they just might carry potato pants too, he reasons—and he could avoid that eggplant altogether. But the grocery store doesn’t have potato pants, spud slacks tater trousers, or even yam chaps, so Potato has to think of another way to get his pants while avoiding the eggplant. And time is running out. “There’s only one pair of pants left on the rack.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-potato-pants-storefront

Copyright Laurie Keller, 2018, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The dire situation emboldens Potato. He barrels toward the store and bursts through the door knocking Eggplant aside and ripping his new eggplant pants. Potato is too late anyway; the last pair of potato pants has just been sold. Potato is steamed and he lets loose with a tirade about how “that eggplant ruined everything” and how “he has brand-new perfect eggplant pants” while Potato has nothing and how unfair it all is.

Just then another spud points out that Eggplant’s pants aren’t perfect anymore since Potato tore them. Now Potato is scared as Eggplant gets right in his face and tells him that the only reason he was at Lance Vance’s in the first place was to…turn Potato into mashed potatoes? the spud wonders…apologize for pushing him. Eggplant is hoping that Potato will forgive him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-potato-pants-eggplant

Copyright Laurie Keller, 2018, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Potato agonizes over this dilemma and finally decides to…forgive him and offer his own apology for tearing Eggplant’s pants. At that, the store clerk appears to tell Eggplant they can fix his pants and that Potato can have the stripey potato pants in the window. Both Eggplant and Potato are so happy they leave the store doing the po-bot and the egg-bot in their perfect new pants.

An Author’s Note introduces kids to the creator of potato pants—Tubérto—and unveils his latest collection of pants for “both the active and the couch potato.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-potato-pants-trash-can

Copyright Laurie Keller, 2018, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A laugh-out-loud, tongue-tickling read aloud, Laurie Keller’s Potato Pants is silliness at its best with lots of heart to boot. Keller’s clever mix of narration and dialogue draw kids into the mind of Potato as he bounces from the excitement of possibly getting stripey pants to the fear of facing his nemesis to the disappointment of missing the sale to plucking up the courage to forgive and apologize to Eggplant. Speech bubbles bring these dapper spuds to life as they negotiate the racks at Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store (adult readers should be prepared to read that name over and over!).

Keller’s bright, mixed-media (including potato stamps) illustrations are full of action, dynamic perspectives, and a community of potatoes and yams as delightfully bumpy, lumpy, and unique as those seen at any grocery store or farmers market. Kids will love picking out their own favorite potato pants from Tubérto’s fabulous collection, and you can bet they’ll jump up to do the Po-bot dance too.

Fun for all, Potato Pants will inspire many tuberific story times at home, in the classroom, and at public and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250107237

To learn more about Laurie Keller, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Root Vegetables and Exotic Fruits Month Activity

Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 3.10.47 PM

Veggie Dot to Dots

 

You can dig up some fun with these three printable root vegetable dot-to-dot coloring pages.

Carrot Dot-to-Dot | Onion Dot-to-Dot | Radish Dot-to-Dot

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-potato-pants-cover

You can find Potato Pants at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 16 – It’s National Pear Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-we-pears-yet-cover

About the Holiday

In 2004 the United States Department of Agriculture declared December National Pear Month to highlight the flavor of this delicious fruit. Whether you enjoy them fresh off the tree or baked into a delicious treat, pears brighten up any meal or snack! To celebrate this month try one (or more) of the 10 varieties grown in the U.S. and discover a new recipe that makes pears the star!

Are We Pears Yet?

Written by Miranda Paul | Illustrated by Carin Berger

 

A pair of pear seeds—one brown and one green—are celebrating what they will become. “Hooray! I love pears!” says the smaller seed as the two dance on stage. The little seed wonders if they are pears yet, but the bigger seed tells her, “not yet.” First, they have to find soil. Just then a quirky fellow appears rolling a wagon mounded with dark, fertile dirt. Perhaps now they’re pears, the little one thinks, but—no—they must wait for rain.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-we-pears-yet-seeds

Image copyright Carin Berger, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At that, a stagehand holds up a raincloud overhead and a shower of nourishing droplets falls. Surely, they’re pears now, the small seed thinks, but the bigger seed knows that after rain, they need the sun. The sun answers the call, and the little seed is ready to become a pear. “Are we pears now?” she asks. Her friend furrows his brows. “Be patient. We’re waiting for the cold,” he tells her.

Brrr! The tiny seed doesn’t like being cold, so her friend suggests she “take a nap.” The two lie still and snooze—and what a snooze! Two years later, they wake up, but they’re still not pears. Waiting is so hard! But there’s more waiting to come…. First, these two little seeds have to grow into trees. The small seed can’t believe it! “A-pear-ently you need another lesson,” her pal reveals—and another nap.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-we-pears-yet-soil

Image copyright Carin Berger, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

One year later, they wake up again. The little one hardly wants to ask, but she’s so curious…. Are they pears yet? No. And the waiting seems to be taking a toll on the second seed too. He’s tired of all the questions and says, “You know what? I lied. We will never be pears. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER.” But is something happening to these seeds? They seem to be sprouting—and growing tiny leaves!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-we-pears-yet-rain

Image copyright Carin Berger, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Two more years go by and it’s time for a “costume change.” They’re trees! But are they pears? The little tree doesn’t even want to hear it. She runs away covering her ears. But—“Hey, look!”—the big tree is holding a brown pear by the stem, and then the little tree discovers a green pear of her own. “We are pears!” they shout happily. “A pair of friends?” the green pear asks as the two hold hands and dance around. The brown pear agrees and adds, “With something very special inside.” What is it? An x-ray reveals two tiny seeds—that are going to be pears!

Five “peary” interesting facts and a bibliography for further reading follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-we-pears-yet-x-ray

Image copyright Carin Berger, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Quirky and fun, Miranda Paul’s story of two pear seeds will delight kids who know what it’s like to wait and wait to grow up. Through her simple, but evocative dialogue, Paul reveals the amazing facts of the life cycle of pear trees while entertaining readers with humor and sowing the seeds of friendship.

Carin Berger’s clever collage-style illustrations are perfectly aimed at young readers familiar with school plays and animation that often bring favorite foods to life. Berger’s carnival-inspired stagehands are charming additions that lend a comical flair to the pages.

A fun and memorable way for kids to learn the life-cycle of pears and spark interest in other crops, Are We Pears Yet? makes a great addition to classroom bookshelves as well as terrific read aloud for little gardeners, cooks, and nature lovers.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017  | ISBN 978-1626723511

Discover more about Miranda Paul and her books on her website

To learn more about Carin Berger, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Pear Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pears-word-search

Delicious Pears! Word Search Puzzle

 

If you like pears, you’ll want to discover all nine types in this printable puzzle!

Delicious Pears! Word Search Puzzle | Delicious Pears! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-are-we-pears-yet-cover

You can find Are We Pears Yet? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 26 – It’s Sweet Potato Awareness Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-cover

About the Holiday

Sweet potatoes are yummy and satisfying—and they’re healthy! Full of vitamins A and C, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, sweet potatoes make delicious side dishes for almost any meal. Sweet potato fries, muffins, pies, and—of course—casserole are just a few of the ways you can enjoy this natural treat. To celebrate today’s holiday, cook up your favorite recipe and discover some new ones!

Little Chef

Written by Matt Stine & Elisabeth Weinberg | Illustrated by Paige Keiser

 

Lizzie is a little girl who has always loved to cook. In fact, her mom and dad call her “their Little Chef.” She has her own chef’s uniform, complete with hat, and doesn’t mind the long hours a chef has to keep. Today, Lizzie is extra excited because “Grandmas is coming over for dinner!” Lizzie has learned all of her cooking skills from her Grandma, and tonight she is going to prepare a special dinner just for her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-since-baby

Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Lizzie knows she’ll need extra energy today, so she’s starting off by making her “famous scrambled eggs.” She whips eggs in a bowl with a fork and adds salt and pepper. After breakfast, Lizzie and her mom get ready to go to the farmers’ market to buy the ingredients for “Grandma’s Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes.” Lizzie wants Grandma to see that she “can cook just like her.” At the farmers’ market, Lizzie picks out the freshest sweet potatoes she can find. Back home, Mom and Dad peel and chop the potatoes and help Lizzie put them into the big pot of boiling water. When the potatoes are soft, it’s time for “the best part about making Smashed Sweet Potatoes. Smashing them!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-grandma-coming

Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Then “it’s time to add the secret ingredient! Grandma says every great recipe has one. It makes a chef’s food taste extra special and delicious.” But when Lizzie consults the recipe, no secret ingredient is listed. Lizzie decides she will just have to add one of her own. She looks in the spice cabinet and after going through bottle after bottle, she finds the perfect one. Lizzie gives her finished Smashed Sweet Potatoes a taste and waits for Grandma. Finally, Grandma arrives and everyone sits down to dinner. When Daddy tastes the sweet potatoes, he says, “‘Mmm!’” Mommy says, “‘ Mmmm!’” too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-eggs

Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

But what will Grandma say? Grandma takes a bite and exclaims, “‘These are even BETTER than my own Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes.’” Then Grandma wants to know what Lizzie’s secret ingredient is. But of course Lizzie can’t tell her that! Grandma picks up Lizzie and gives her a big hug. “‘…being with you is the best ingredient of all,’” she says. And as Lizzie lies in bed later that night, reading her cookbook by flashlight, she wonders what she’ll cook tomorrow.

A recipe for Chef Lizzie’s (Grandma’s) Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes that encourages young chefs to experiment with their own secret ingredient follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-ingredients-list

Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Kids who love to cook or help out in the kitchen will be delighted by Matt Stine and Elisabeth Weinberg’s story of a little girl who wants to impress the grandmother who inspires her. Lizzie’s enthusiasm for cooking and her confidence in her skills make this an uplifting tale for children of all talents. Lizzie’s special bond with her grandmother adds a tender family element to the story and her big-hearted nature makes her a sweet companion for little readers. The recipe included in the back of the book invites children to make Lizzie’s Smashed Sweet Potato recipe and find their own secret ingredient—an invitation few will be able to resist.

Adorable little Lizzie, with her wild frizz of hair is energetic, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and a free spirit. With dashes of humor, Paige Keiser follows her through a day of creating the perfect dinner for Grandma. Dressed in her chef’s uniform, Lizzie splashes her dog with egg, sends him sneezing in a cloud of pepper, and turns him orange as she whacks away at the soft chunks of sweet potatoes. Images of Mom and Dad happily encouraging and supporting Lizzie in her cooking are heartwarming, and Grandma’s big hug is as sweet as it gets.

A charming and inspiring story, Little Chef is a fun read for culinary kids and any child experimenting with their talent and striving to do their best. The book would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public libraries and a great gift for grandmothers and grandkids to share.

Ages 2 – 6

Feiwel & Friends, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250091697

Discover more about Elisabeth Weinberg, executive chef and owner of Miss Elisabeth’s Catering in New York and a Food Network “Chopped” Champion on her website.

Find out more about Matt Stine and his work as a music producer and composer for Broadway and Off-Broadway on his website.

To view a portfolio of artwork by Paige Keiser, visit her website.

Sweet Potato Awareness Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baking-with-grandma-coloring=page

We Love to Cook! Coloring Pages

 

Add your secret ingredient and get cooking on these printable coloring pages!

Baking with Grandma | Cooking with Dad

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-cover

You can find Little Chef at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 12 – It’s World Kindness Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-kind-cover

About the Holiday

Today begins a week-long awareness of acts of kindness and how gestures of praise and encouragement of others can make life better for all. These days, when negativity seems all pervasive, take some time to look around and really see the goodness that is being done. Take a vow to join in and help make the world a better place for you and especially for your children. Just a smile, a single nice word or a helpful action can make a tremendous difference. To celebrate this week’s holiday, seek out opportunities to say something nice to your family members, friends, coworkers, and those you meet along the way.

Be Kind

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jen Hill

 

At school during snack time when Tanisha spilled grape juice on her new dress, the class burst out laughing. One student remembered that their mom always taught them to be kind and tried to make Tanisha feel better by saying, “Purple is my favorite color.” The student thought Tanisha would smile, but she just ran away. All during art class, Tanisha’s classmate thought about what they should have done instead, wondering, “What does it mean to be kind anyway?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-kind-spilled-juice

Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

They think, “Maybe it’s giving.” Like baking treats for someone who lives alone, or giving away old clothes to someone who can use them. Helping out might also show kindness. For instance, “putting dirty dishes in the sink” or taking care of a pet. Paying attention to others could be another way to show you care. Like noticing someone’s new shoes, offering to be the new girl’s partner in class, or even just listening to someone’s stories—even if you’ve heard them before. Sometimes being kind is easy, but there are other times when it can be challenging or even scary—“like sticking up for someone when other kids aren’t kind.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-kind-in-the-neighborhood

Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The child decides that maybe all they can do for Tanisha is to sit near her and paint her a picture of purple and green—of pretty violets. They hope that small acts like these will join with other people’s and that they will expand, fanning out from school into the community, across the country, around the world, and back. “So we can be kind. Again. And again. And again.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-kind-around-town

Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Miller’s tender prose is perfect for planting the seeds of kindness and opening discussions about what it means to be caring and compassionate. With more and more children speaking up and creating change, Miller’s gentle and affirming story shows readers that it’s often the little things that count the most. Some of the examples she gives are acts that many children may do already, confirming their innate sensitivity, while others may spark new ideas and expand readers’ definition of kindness.

Jen Hill’s soft-hued illustrations beautifully depict the emotional tug at the heart that Tanisha’s spilled grape juice sets in motion for the protagonist and young readers. As one caring child wonders what kindness really is, Hill clearly portrays diverse children helping out at home, at school, and in their community locally and—as the kindness spreads—around the world. Hill draws the caring student with gender neutral clothing and hair, allowing all children to relate to the story’s main character. 

Be Kind is a lovely perceptive and sensitive book that would be an asset to any home or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1626723214

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jen Hill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Kindness Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-say-something-nice-cards

Say Something Nice! Cards

 

Do you want to give someone a nice surprise? Print out these cards and give one to a friend, to someone you’d like to know, or to anyone who looks like they need a pick-me-up! If you’d like to make your own cards, print out the blank template and write and/or draw your own message! You can also print these on adhesive paper and make your own stickers.

Say Something Nice! Cards | Say Something Nice! Cards Blank Template

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-kind-cover

You can find Be Kind at these booksellers

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

 

Picture book review

November 4 – Zero Tasking Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-cover

About the Holiday

So that time of year has come around again—the time change, but the good one, the one where we gain an extra hour of sleep. But what to do with that extra hour? Should we really spend it sleeping when there are so many other things we can or should do? The people who instituted Zero Tasking Day says “Yes!” Or at least they think we should take it easy. So, instead of rushing around and filling up that extra hour, relax and take some time to really appreciate all the favorite things in your life—like the girl in today’s book.

Now

By Antoinette Portis

 

A girl, barefoot and with her arms raised high, runs through a field, feeling the exhilaration of the wind on her face. “This is my favorite breeze,” she says. She finds an apple-red maple leaf, which, at this moment, is her favorite. At the beach, she has dug hole after hole, but her favorite is the one she is making right now.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-cloud

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In the mud that has splattered her ankles, she finds a pink, wriggly worm that tickles her palms when she picks it up. As the girl stretches out on a hill to watch the clouds float by, she decides that her favorite is “the one I am watching.” The best rain is one that creates a river in the street for her paper boat—the one that was her favorite until it sailed into the grate

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-tree

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The most marvelous tree has sturdy branches for the girl to swing from, and a delicate, bell-shaped flower produces her “favorite smell.” There are many birds to feed at the park, but the one she likes the best is the one that comes close enough to eat out of her hand. Her favorite song is the one that swells inside her heart and bursts out with joy, and the most delicious gulp and bite are those that quench her thirst and calm her hunger.

Her favorite tooth leaves a gap in her smile “because it’s the one that is missing.” She and her squeezed-tight cat may differ on the best hug, but they probably agree that their favorite moon is the crescent outside the window tonight. But what is her favorite “Now?” It is this moment, because she is having it with you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-boat

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Antoinette Portis lends her unique perspective to this uplifting book that encourages kids—and, as readers see in the final image, adults—to live in the moment and become fully conscious of the present object, feeling, experience, or sensation. As the little girl’s favorites build on each other, readers become aware of a growing appreciation for all the small joys that make up a day. The theme of the book is revealed on the first page as the girl welcomes the refreshing breeze. The simply drawn, unencumbered illustrations mirror the simple pleasures that she finds everywhere. But look closer and there is more profound meaning in each.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-elephants

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The veins in the maple leaf become the girl’s smile as she holds it to her face; her song radiates from her in a golden sun-shaped swirl; and the girl’s clothing changes through a year’s worth of experiences as it also matches the color of her feeling or activity, allowing her to become one with it. As readers reach the end of Now, they see two hands holding a book open to an image of an elephant and her calf, animals known for their strong family ties. This illustration leads into and strengthens the final page, where the girl and her mother sit reading that book together. The text and picture work in tandem to embrace the reader while letting both children and adults interpret the previous images in their own way.

Now is a beautiful, quiet book that reminds children and adults to slow down and truly enjoy the fleeting moments of life. It is a wonderful book to share and will open discussions of “favorite things” for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626721371

To learn more about Antoinette Portis and her books, visit her website.

Zero Tasking Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleepy-owls-maze

Sleepy Owls Sleepover Maze

 

One wide-awake owl wants to join friends as a sleepover. Can you help bring them together in this printable Sleepy Owls Sleepover Maze. Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-cover

You can find Now at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 30 – It’s National Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everybody's-favorite-book-cover

About the Holiday

It’s been a terrific month of celebrating the joys of reading at home, in the classroom, and at the library! Every book read to and with a child enriches their life and helps to foster a life-long love of learning. Whether your child likes books that are fiction or nonfiction, stories or poetry, funny or poignant, there are a vast array of new and old books to teach them about the world and get them excited about being part of it. There really is a book for every child—as you’ll see in today’s review!

I received a copy of Everybody’s Favorite Book from Imprint to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Macmillan Publishing in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Everybody’s Favorite Book

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Claire Almon

 

You are quite lucky, the narrator greets you, to be holding the world’s most favorite book. What makes it everybody’s favorite? Well, “lots of great books have cool heroes.” But these are heroes with just one talent—“like spacemen! Or ninjas! Or cowgirls!” In this book, though, the hero multitasks! What is he? “A space ninja cow!” and “his name is Bob.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everybody's-favorite-book-opening

Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Of course, a hero needs a villain to vanquish, and Bob is lucky because instead of a one-dimensional bad guy, he gets to pit himself against a fierce mash up of a robot, a dragon, and a pirate. What’s this horrible marauder’s name?. Are you ready? It’s Corky! So Bob and Corky fight. It’s thrilling…it’s dangerous…it’s stopped? Ah, the narrator sees now— “everybody doesn’t like violent books” and since this is Everybody’s Favorite Book, the story needs to be a bit more… Well, let’s see if Princess Glittersprinkles can help!

Yes! A tea party would be splendid. Bob and Corky and the princess sit down to a lovely spread with the adorable but really, really, really, really BIG guinea pig, Snuggy. But, wait! We’re forgetting about babies. Baby’s love books too, right? Now might be a good time to offer a bit of ABC fun. “A is for Apple. B is for Bob.” By the way…where is Bob? Is that a suspicious bulge in Snuggy’s cheeks? 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everybody's-favorite-book-tea-party

Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Finding Bob’s going to require spies, especially cool ones. Now, while they’re out spying, let’s give it up for those teachers and librarians who love big, educational words like “Gallimaufry, Codswallop, and Frippery.” Sure, the narrator knows the definitions, but the book will be more fun and educational if you read them for yourself. Oh, dear! Are those words too educational? Then maybe a poop jok…wait a minute! Do you see a suspicious bump in Snuggy’s belly? No, me either.

If this really is Everybody’s Favorite Book, it seems that “we are still missing so many things that everybody likes. Things like wizards! And a fairy tale!” And so many other characters and things to do…. Hey! Why is everyone fighting? There’s plenty of room for everybody, but right now “this is nobody’s favorite book.” What’s needed is a hero. “Oh wait! There’s Bob,” launching from Snuggy’s HUGE burp just in time! “Maybe he has an idea.” Bob suggests a “sweet ending.” This is more like it! All the hugs and smiles and cooperation is so sweet. Sweet, Snuggy. Not sweets! Oh dear….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everybody's-favorite-book-stop

Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Mike Allegra will have kids laughing out loud with every page turn in his riotously clever genre mash-up. Allegra’s well-meaning narrator offers up droll juxtapositions of characters and situations while riffing on favorite books and movies, fads and fantasies with some crafts, coloring, and craziness to boot. The fast pace, abrupt interruptions, and zigzagging storyline keep kids guessing and eager to find out what comes next. As the action devolves into a free-for-all, the promise of a book for everybody is fulfilled with inclusive hugs and teamwork.

Claire Almon’s cartoon-inspired illustrations are bold, dynamic, and full of action with plenty of humor thrown in. Ingenious details, comically used tropes, and familiar styles of graphics from kids favorite TV shows and movies give young readers a feeling of shared experiences and culture that underline the theme of friendship. Readers will love following Bob’s journey to escape from Snuggy’s belly, and cutaways and character involvement from page to page keeps everybody reacting to the narrator’s directions until the big finale.

For book lovers of all stripes, Everybody’s Favorite Book will be a much-asked for addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves. The book makes a terrific gift for all those readers on your list.

Ages 3 – 7 

Imprint, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250132765

Discover more about Mike Allegra, his books, and other projects on his website.

To learn more about Claire Almon, her books, and her art, visit her tumblr.

Meet Mike Allegra

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mike-allegra-headshot

I’m excited to be chatting with Mike Allegra today about his inspiration for his most original book, what kind of mash-up character he’d be, and his role in a family holiday tradition.

What was the inspiration or spark for Everybody’s Favorite Book?

The idea came to me while wandering around the children’s book section of Barnes & Noble. In the picture book area, I stumbled upon a huuuuge display dedicated to ninjas. Everything you could imagine was ninja-related: ninja pigs, ninja school, ninja camp, ninja grandma, ninja notary public… It was crazy. So I thought, “Hmm…I wonder if I can write a book about a ninja? Then I saw another display dedicated to astronauts and a third display dedicated to cowboys—and thought, “Hmm…I wonder if I can put ninjas and spacemen and cowboys into a single book?” That thought soon evolved into, “I wonder if I can cram a spaceman and ninja and cowboy into a single character?”

And Bob the Space Ninja Cow was born.

Then the creative floodgates opened wide. I giddily zipped around the children’s section looking for characters and genres and themes I could shoehorn into a single picture book. It was a blast!

If you were a mashup hero like Bob or even a mashup villain like Corky, what would you be? What would your name be?

I would want to be a mastodon-sized guinea pig like Snuggy. And I’d want to fly. And solve mysteries.

And they would call me Wondersnug, The Flying Pigamajig.

You’ve done a bit of everything in the writing field—plays, journalism, essay-writing, communications, editing—what do you like about writing for children?

Writing for children is like giving yourself permission to let your creative spirit soar. The possibilities are almost endless. I can write about a Space Ninja Cow! Or a dragon who knits! Or a boy who turns into a Kafka-esque giant bug! My mind can move in the wildest, weirdest directions. It’s wonderful.

You wrote so much as a child that a teacher predicted you’d become a writer. Was your work always funny?

No, but I always tried to make it funny, which is not the same thing.

My sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Snelback, was the first person outside of my own family to say that I could write “funny.” And Mrs. Snelback was not one of those teachers who spouted compliments. Quite the opposite, really. She was pretty miserly, compliment-wise.

So when she told my parents that I should pursue a career as a writer, it really meant something. Mrs. Snelback didn’t say anything unless she absolutely, positively, 100% believed it. That’s why Mrs. Snelback will always be my favorite teacher. She shoved me onto the writing path and it has been an amazing journey.  

How do you tap into the humor and rhythms that really make kids laugh?

I’d love to say something profound here—like: “I try to see the world through the wondrous eyes of a child”—but the truth is a lot simpler: I like writing silly things and kids like reading silly things. So it works out for both of us!

I love hearing about how holidays inspire picture books. Can you talk a little about your first published children’s picture book, Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday?

Ah, the great Sarah Josepha Hale. She is so awesome. She was a celebrated and prolific writer. She edited the most widely read magazine in America. She founded charities, led patriotic fundraising drives, championed college educations for women, and used her magazine to influence public opinion on a wide spectrum of topics—the most famous of which was a nationalized Thanksgiving, which at that time was rarely celebrated outside of New England.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sarah-gives-thanks-cover
And she did all these things in the early- to mid-1800s, when women were widely seen as second-class citizens. And she also did all of these things while raising five children by herself! 

See what I mean? Awesome!

Once I learned about Sarah, I just had to write about her. 

This summer two books in your Prince Not-So-Charming series were released. Can you introduce readers to this prince with other dreams and the very capable princess he encounters?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-prince-not-so-charming-once-upon-a-prank

Prince Carlos Charles Charming is the young prince of the happy and peaceful land of Faraway Kingdom and the sole heir to the kingdom’s throne. But Carlos would much rather be a jester, so he’s forced to live a double life of sorts, performing dangerous princely duties to satisfy his mom and dad (the queen and king) while also searching out venues to perform his juggling routine and road-test his impressive collection of fart jokes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-prince-not-so-charming-her-royal-slyness

Princess Pinky, from the neighboring kingdom of Ever After Land, is in a similar situation; she would happily give up her crown to be an artist.

So Carlos and Pinky become fast friends who pursue their passions while going on princely and princessly adventures. (Oh, and Carlos has a pet dragon named Smudge who likes to knit. So there’s that, too.)

Any sneak peek into the prince’s future?

Carlos is going to be very busy. In future books he’ll joust, get turned into a frog, lead a search-and-rescue expedition, and attempt to stop a war.

What’s up next for you?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-scampers-thinks-like-a-scientist-cover

Well, I have another picture book coming out in March titled Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist, which I’m excited about. I just recorded the audiobook for it—which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you think of my voice.

I’m also writing a middle grade murder mystery novel.

What’s your favorite holiday?

I love Christmas, but as I get older, I find myself gravitating toward holidays that contain a lot less hoopla. Thanksgiving is the holiday for me. I get to eat my favorite food on a crisp fall day. (Oh, how I love the fall with its pumpkin-spiced everything!) Also, I was born on November 25th, so I can celebrate my birthday on Thanksgiving, too! Thanksgiving is pretty much perfect.

In other words, Sarah Josepha Hale was a very wise woman.

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

Sure! When I was a kid, every Christmas the entire family would assemble at my grandparents’ house to open presents and eat dinner.

One year—I think I was about seven—I noticed that every time a present was opened, half the room would say, “Ooh,” the other half would say, “Ahh,” and my grandmother would say, “Isn’t that nice!”

No joke; this happened every single time for every single present.

The problem, as I saw it, was that it these responses were too disorganized; everyone was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over everyone else. It was a big ol’ mess of noise. So I stood up and asked if I could conduct my family’s reactions like Leopold Stokowski. They happily agreed.

So whenever a present was opened, I would wave my arms to cue the “Ooh-ers,” the “Ahh-ers,” and Grandma’s “Isn’t that nice!” I never felt more powerful in my life. More importantly, almost everyone in the room was practically peeing their pants laughing. And, from that point forward, an Allegra Christmas tradition was born.

Everybody’s Favorite Book Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Macmillan Publishing in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Everybody’s Favorite Book by Mike Allegra  | illustrated by Claire Almon

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, October 30 – November 5. Already a follower? Thanks! Just Retweet for a chance to win. Quote your Retweet with your favorite kind of book for an extra entry.

A winner will be chosen on November 6.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Macmillan Publishing.

National Book Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-book-love-word-search-puzzle

Book Love! Word Search

 

There are all kinds of books for every reader. Find your favorite along with twenty favorite genres in this printable puzzle.

Book Love! Word Search Puzzle | Book Love! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everybody's-favorite-book-cover

You can find Everybody’s Favorite Book at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 1 – It’s National Fishing Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooked-cover

About the Holiday

Is fishing your thing? Do you like nothing better than heading down to the lake or stream and spending a relaxing day with a fishing pole, some bait, and the possibility of reeling in a “big one?” Perhaps you like fly fishing better, challenging yourself to flick that hook in just the right place. Then again, maybe taking a boat out to deep water and pitting yourself against the truly big fish is more your style. However you like to fish, make some time to enjoy your hobby this month!

Hooked

Written by Tommy Greenwald | Illustrated by David McPhail

 

Joe is a little boy who loved to fish. He didn’t mind that “nothing much happened” while he waited for the fish to bite. “Joe’s dad thought fishing was boring. ‘I like more action,’ he said. ‘And I don’t like worms.’” Joe always wished his dad would change his mind. Joe decided to join the town’s fishing club. He and the other kids “fished in streams, ponds, rivers, and brooks.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooked-Joe-asks-dad

Image copyright David McPhail, 2018, text copyright Tommy Greenwald, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

All this fun made Joe love fishing even more. He tried to get his dad to try it, but he always said, “‘No, thank you.’” One winter day, the fishing club planned to go ice fishing. Each child needed to be accompanied by an adult. When Joe asked his dad if he would go, he agreed—as long as he never had to go fishing again. On Saturday, Joe and his dad headed out in the twelve-degree weather to meet the other kids at the lake.

After Joe’s dad made a hole in the ice, they put in their lines. They waited and looked around and waited some more. “Then Joe and his dad started to talk. They talked about everything: baseball, movies, music, food, school, animals, and a bunch of other stuff.” By the end of the day, they still hadn’t caught anything, and Joe’s dad was freezing. Joe worried that his dad would never like fishing after today.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooked-fishing-club

Image copyright David McPhail, 2018, text copyright Tommy Greenwald, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Just as they were about to leave, though, Joe got a bite on his line. He and his dad both jumped up, but Joe’s dad slipped on the ice and fell. With one huge pull, Joe reeled in his catch. At first, Joe didn’t know what kind of fish he’d caught, but then he realized it wasn’t a fish but a soggy, stuffed, pink elephant. Everyone laughed, and Joe was embarrassed. He wanted to throw the elephant back in, but his dad stopped him.

In the car, Joe and his dad talked about all the things that had happened that day, laughing the whole way home. At home, Joe’s dad washed and dried the elephant. “It came out warm and fluffy,” and Joe’s dad suggested they name it Ella. When spring rolled around and Joe was planning his first fishing trip, his dad asked if he could go too.

They sat under a tree and “talked and laughed and had a great time.” It didn’t matter that they only caught one little fish. After that, Joe’s dad loved going along on every fishing trip. “You could say he was hooked.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooked-ice-fishing

Image copyright David McPhail, 2018, text copyright Tommy Greenwald, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A heartening and tender story for children to share with their dads, Tommy Greenwald’s Hooked is also a gentle reminder that there’s much more to sharing an activity with kids than the activity itself. Parents wanting to share their own hobbies and knowledge with their children will also find a whole world of new experiences open up if they sometimes follow their child’s lead. Greenwald’s straightforward storytelling honestly portrays the relationship between Joe and his dad through realistic dialogue and clearly exhibited thoughts and feelings. The growth and strengthening of the pair’s relationship is uplifting and moving.

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 4.24.01 PM

David McPhail lends his well-known talent for portraying children to Greenwald’s poignant family story. His line drawings, softly washed in watercolor and pastel, wistfully depict Joe’s hope that his father will join him in fishing and his disappointment when he refuses. As Joe’s dad warms to spending the day ice fishing and later accompanies Joe on future trips, children will be cheered to see Joe and his dad smiling and laughing together. Young readers will love the detailed images of Joe’s home life and fishing trips.

A book to spur discussions and bonding between fathers and sons or daughters, Hooked would make a meaningful addition to home bookshelves and is a must for school and children’s libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1596439962

To learn more about David McPhail, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Fishing Month Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-go-fishing-game-4

Go Fishing Game

 

Kids can go fishing right at home with this easy-to-make game! With a paper plate pond, a few printable fish, and a few other supplies, kids will be catching a whole lot of fun!

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-go-fishing-game-1

Directions

  1. Color the paper plate blue
  2. Print the Go Fishing! Game Playing Die (optional)

To Make the Fish

  1. Print the fish templates, color fish, and cut out
  2. Tape a paper clip to the back of the fish or slip a paperclip on the nose of the fish
  3. If using back-to-back templates, cut fish out, put a paper clip between the sides and glue or tape the two sides together

To Make the Fishing Pole

  1. Tie a length of string to the straw, pencil, or dowel
  2. Sandwich the other end of the string between the two circular magnets
  3. Lay the fish on the plate
  4. Go fishing!

Optional Game: Kids can roll the die to determine which fish to catch

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooked-cover

You can find Hooked at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review