January 29 – Curmudgeon’s Day

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About the Holiday

You know how gray days (literal and metaphorical) make you feel—grumpy, irritable, standoffish. Today is a day when it’s ok to indulge—and maybe even celebrate—those feelings. Remember, grouchiness can lead to change, so take control and do what you can to alleviate the situation. Whether you choose to stay home today and do nothing or get out there and make the best of it, have a happy Curmudgeon’s Day!

Grumpy Monkey

Written by Suzanne Lang | Illustrated by Max Lang

 

Jim Panzee woke up feeling pretty rotten. “The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and the bananas were too sweet.” Jim didn’t know why he was feeling this way. Norman the gorilla, Jim’s next-door neighbor, suggested that he might be grumpy. But Jim insisted that that wasn’t the problem. As the two walked along, they met Marabou, a long-legged bird. Norman explained that Jim was grumpy, but Jim denied it. Marabou pointed out that even Jim’s hunched posture showed his grumpiness. Jim wiggled his arms and shook his legs to prove how un-grumpy he was.

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Image copyright Max Lang, 2018, text copyright Suzanne Lang, 2018. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Next, they met Lemur, and Norman told him all about Jim’s grumpiness. Lemur couldn’t understand it, especially since it was “‘such a wonderful day.’” “‘Grumpy! Me? I’m not grumpy,’ said Jim.” Lemur said Jim’s grumpiness was obvious from the way he furrowed his eyebrows, so Jim raised them. They continued walking until Jim “tripped over Snake.” Norman gasped; this would only make Jim grumpier, he thought. Jim reminded Norman that he wasn’t grumpy in the first place. Snake wanted to know then, if that was true, why Jim was frowning. Jim obliged and put on a big smile.

Now Jim looked happy, but he still wasn’t happy. Everyone, it seemed, “wanted Jim to enjoy this wonderful day.” The birds wanted him to sing along with them, but Jim just scowled. The other monkeys wanted Jim to swing with them, but he just swatted their welcoming hands away. The zebras invited him to roll in the dust with them, and the peacocks wanted him to stroll along with them, but Jim didn’t feel like doing these things either.

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Image copyright Max Lang, 2018, text copyright Suzanne Lang, 2018. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Everyone had an idea on how to make Jim less grumpy, but Jim simply hunkered down and exploded: “‘I’M NOT GRUMPY!’ And he stormed off.” Jim felt bad for shouting at everyone, but he felt even worse for himself. He decided that maybe he was grumpy and he began to feel really sad. Just then, though, he saw Norman. “Norman was slumped. His eyebrows were bunched up, and he was frowning.” Jim asked him if he was grumpy.

It wasn’t that, Norman replied. He was sore from getting quills stuck in his behind while dancing with Porcupine. Jim asked him if he was okay, and Norman said, “‘It hurts but I’ll probably feel better soon enough.’” Then Norman asked Jim if he was still feeling grumpy. Norman admitted he was, but said, “‘I’ll probably feel better soon enough, too. For now, I need to be grumpy.’” The two friends agreed that it was a good day to be grumpy, which made them feel a little better already.

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Image copyright Max Lang, 2018, text copyright Suzanne Lang, 2018. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Suzanne Lang’s funny story belies an important truth about feelings for kids and adults: sometimes you just feel grumpy, and the best way to assuage it is to acknowledge the feeling, stew a bit, and let happiness return. Well-meaning Norman is a true friend who, after trying to cheer Jim up and suffering his own grumpiness-inducing mishap, comes to understand that like physical pain, sadness takes time to heal too. Readers will laugh at Jim’s attempts to embrace his friends’ suggestions while understanding that these surface “fixes” don’t get to the root of what’s bothering Jim. Children will also giggle at Norman’s sticky situation but show him plenty of empathy too. The pair’s final camaraderie is heartwarming.

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Image copyright Max Lang, 2018, text copyright Suzanne Lang, 2018. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Max Lang’s lush illustrations overflow with style and humor that kids will love. Little Jim with his surly glower tries to make his friends happy, but readers will recognize his half-hearted attempts—from wiggling his arms to raising his eyebrows to forcing a smile—as things they’ve probably done themselves. As more and more of Jim’s friends get in on the act, their cartoony expressions will make kids laugh. When Jim just can’t take it anymore and beats his chest while shouting, both children and adults will have a chuckle over how spot-on this portrayal is. The quiet companionship between Norman and Jim that follows is a welcome image of acceptance.

A book that offers a humorous way for kids and adults to talk about not only sadness but other emotions that can sometimes overwhelm, Grumpy Monkey is an excellent choice for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0553537864

To learn more about Max Lang, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Curmudgeon’s Day Activity

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How Do You Feel? Emotions Storytelling Bear

 

With this Emotions Storytelling Bear, you and your child can talk about different emotions and feelings while changing the expressions on the bear’s face. Use the templates and/or make your own facial features. You can also use the bear to make up stories or play a game.

Supplies

  • Printable Bear Head Template
  • Printable Eyes and Noses Template
  • Printable Eyebrows  and Ears Template
  • Light brown felt or fleece (or color of your choice), 8 ½ x 11 inch piece
  • Dark brown felt or fleece(or color of your choice), 8 ½ x 11 inch piece
  • White felt or fleece, 8 ½ x 11 inch piece
  • Black felt or fleece, for pupils
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • 1 playing die (optional)

Directions

  1. Print templates
  2. Cut bear head from light felt or fleece
  3. Cut eyes from white felt or fleece
  4. Cut nose and inner ears from dark brown felt or fleece
  5. Cut pupils from black felt or fleece
  6. Glue pupils onto white eyes

Alternatively: Color and play with the paper set

For a Fun Story Time

Give the bear different faces and make up stories of why he looks that way!

To Play a Game

Roll the die to collect parts of the bear’s face. The first player to collect all of the bear’s facial features is the winner.

  • Die dots correspond to:
  • 1—one eyebrow
  • 2—second eyebrow
  • 3—one eye
  • 4—second eye
  • 5—nose
  • 6—inner ears

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You can find Grumpy Monkey at these book sellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 15 – International Day of Families

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About the Holiday

This United Nations sponsored observance was initiated in 1993 to reflect the importance of families worldwide. The day provides an opportunity to promote issues affecting families, including social, economic, educational and demographic topics. This year’s theme is Families, Healthy Lives and Sustainable Futures and focuses on ending poverty, promoting shared economic prosperity, social development, and health while protecting the environment. The holiday is marked with workshops, educational opportunities, publications, and special community events.

Families, Families, Families

Written by Suzanne Lang | Illustrated by Max Lang

 

Families—haven’t they always come in all shapes and sizes? With all different customs and traditions? Families, Families, Families delves into this most enduring—and endearing—structure of life in a way that makes sense to kids in a funny and honest way. “Some children have lots of siblings. Some children have none” the book starts. “Some children have two dads. Some have one mom. Some children live with their grandparents…and some live with an aunt.”

Lang does an excellent job of presenting all types of familial arrangements within the pages of the book. Nearly every child will happily find themselves here. Interspersed among the varieties of households, humorous comparisons and rhymes (“some children have many pets…and some just have a plant!”) elevate this book to a tribute to understanding, acceptance, and inclusion. After all…“if you love each other, then you are a family.”

Max Lang hit on an inspired way—during this era of selfies, snapchat, and the like—to illustrate the concepts of family. More than 17 animal families pose for portraits in which comic drawings of smiling moms, dads, kids, and relatives are superimposed onto photographed backgrounds. The portraits are framed with another touch of humor: A chicken family photo sits in a frame made of hay, an octopus and her four children smile from a frame made of seashells, and the Tigers are displayed in a frame of bones. The photos hang on wallpapered, barn, and underwater cave walls; sit on fireplace mantels; are pinned to bulletin boards; and fill scrapbook pages.

Families, Families, Families brilliantly demonstrates how every child takes pride in his or her family—just as the readers take pride in theirs.

Ages 3 – 7

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0553499384

International Day of Families Activity

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Make Your Own Recipe Box

 

One of the best ways to spend time together is to bake up a favorite recipe and enjoy the results! World Baking Day is celebrated this week, so for the next few days, I’ll be offering baking-related activities for you to have fun with! With a small box you can make your own recipe organizer to keep tasty recipes close at hand!

Supplies

  • A small box with a hinged lid or separate lid, at least 5 inches by 3 1/3 inches (fits a small index card). A Twinings Tea Box works well as does a small wooden box available from craft stores
  • Washi tape or paint
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Cover your box with washi tape or paint your box
  2. Decorate your box with your unique style

Picture Book Reviews