January 4 – It’s National Hot Tea Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-cover

About the Holiday

There’s nothing cozier during the month of January than enjoying a steaming cup of your favorite, flavorful tea as the temperature dips and the snow swirls. To celebrate this month’s holiday, why not try a new kind of tea or throw a tea party? Many teas have health benefits and can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. This drink has been around for thousands of years and is enjoyed the world over. So boil up some water, grab the honey or sugar, add a splash of milk if you like, and enjoy!

Tea with Oliver

By Mika Song

 

Oliver the cat sits at his kitchen table, holding a conversation with himself. It’s something he does “a lot.” He’d like to have a cup of tea, but wonders who will join him. Philbert, the little mouse under the couch calls up that he would be happy to drink tea with Oliver, but Oliver doesn’t hear him and Philbert is “too shy to come out.” Meanwhile, Oliver is having a tea party with his teddy bear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-paper-airplane

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

“Philbert decides to write Oliver a letter. ‘Dear Oliver, Let’s have tea,’” it reads. Philbert secretly hopes they have cookies too. Now, though, Oliver is cleaning the floor, and Philbert’s letter gets swept back under the couch. While he sweeps, Oliver sings about his lonesomeness, and Philbert tries another tactic. He folds his note into an airplane and shoots it into the air. Instead of floating into Oliver’s field of view, however, it hits him in the back. “Eek! A flea!” Oliver cries. He dances around, scratching and itching and completely misses the note.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-cups-break

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

Philbert is just imagining what to do next when someone knocks on the door. When Oliver opens it, his wild cousin Lester leaps in playing his banjo. Oliver invites him for tea. “I’m throwing a party,” Lester says, “but I guess there could be tea.” Philbert’s ears perk up. He wants to go to this tea party. Feeling brave, Philbert decides to deliver his note to Oliver personally.

It seems Lester’s party is at Oliver’s house, and before Philbert can deliver his letter, the guests start arriving. The guests are too boisterous and bouncy to want tea, and Philbert, wanting to stay out of the way, flattens himself against the floor. “I don’t like this party one bit,” he tells himself. Oliver tries to serve tea to some other guests, but they’re dancing and too busy for tea. From far below, Philbert shouts, “Me! I want tea!” But Oliver doesn’t hear him. Then one guest bumps into Oliver, and his tray of teacups goes flying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-lying-on-floor

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

“The party ends as quickly as it began” as Lester and the other guests depart, leaving Oliver to clean up the shards of china. Oliver lays on the floor, despairing that he’ll “never have tea with anyone now.” He rolls over to see Philbert under the couch. Philbert introduces himself and hands Oliver his letter. Mistaking it for a tissue, Oliver blows his nose in Philbert’s note.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-blowing-nose

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

Philbert alerts Oliver to his error, and contritely Oliver opens the note and reads it. He’s surprised and excited to find that Philbert wants to have tea with him, but then  remembers that he has no more cups. Now it’s Philbert’s turn to be excited – and surprising.”Yes you do!” He runs away and returns pulling a soft cushion holding two of Oliver’s tea cups. “I saved these for you!” Philbert exclaims. “Hooray!” Oliver cheers. “And the new friends sat down to a nice cup of tea.” With cookies.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-tea-party

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

Mika Song’s sweet story will have little ones giggling as one thing after another goes just a little bit wrong. Many will empathize with Philbert’s predicament as he tries to attract Oliver’s attention and will cheer along with Oliver when he saves two of Oliver’s beloved tea cups and the day. Song’s straightforward tale offers gentle lessons on the true nature of friendship as Philbert watches out for Oliver when others don’t, and the two discover they have a lot in common despite the traditional differences between cats and mice.

Through her delicate ink and watercolor illustrations, Song brings out the adorable natures of Oliver and Philbert, the subtly humorous and slapstick events of the afternoon, the moments of disappointment, and Philbert’s happy surprise that lead to the friend’s cozy tea party. 

Tea with Oliver will charm young readers and would be a cute, often-asked-for addition to home libraries. 

Ages 4 – 8 

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062429483

Discover more about Mika Song and her books on her website.

National Hot Tea Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-bag-buddy

Tea Bag Buddy

 

It’s fun to have a tea party with a friend, and this little tea bag buddy is ready to hang out with you!

Supplies

  • Tea bags
  • Poly-fill
  • Permanent markers
  • Needle

Directions

  1. Gently open a tea bag, unfold it, and discard the tea
  2. Remove the string with the tag and set aside
  3. Fill the tea bag with a bit of poly-fill
  4. Thread the string of the tag through the needle
  5. Fold the tea bag back up
  6. Fold the ends of the bag under and sew them closed with the tag string, leaving the tag dangling
  7. With the permanent markers, draw a face on the front of the tea bag

Picture Book Review

November 16 – It’s Family Stories Month

Celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Harry-and-Clare's-Amazing-Staycation-Cover

About the Holiday

All families have stories—some funny, some poignant—about family members, friends, and events from the past and even just last week or yesterday! Today’s holiday encourages people to gather together and share their stories, Oral storytelling has been part of people’s lives and culture since ancient times. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected to your own family heritage and build bonds that last forever. The stories your children will be telling start now in the everyday and special moments they share with others.

Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation

Written by Ted Staunton | Illustrated by Mika Song

 

Vacation began on Monday. So did the rain. Harry and Clare decided to go to Mars. After all it was only as far away as the family room and looked quite the same—“except for the volcanoes” that spouted lava all over the rug. Harry found traversing the alien landscape harder than Clare. He had to carry all the luggage while she carried the snacks; and while Clare ate the snacks, Harry was busy drowning in quicksand.

Tuesday dawned gray and rainy. Fortunately, Harry and Clare “could ride a Pasta Linguini racer around an indoor course in the supermarket.” The field was fierce, and Harry told Clare to turn left, but Clare didn’t listen. “‘I’m driving,’” she said. “Following a dizzying skid through the frozen food, Clare let Harry park them in the checkout line.” And while Harry was hanging on tight with both hands as Clare directed, she ate both of their granola bars.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-lava

Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

The downpour continued on Wednesday. The pool seemed the perfect respite, but just as Harry was about to transform into a dolphin doing spectacular dives, “he was captured by a pirate queen who made him walk the plank instead.” Harry’s fortunes only turned bleaker when later that day Teacher Clare caught Harry eating his snack during lessons and sent him to the principal’s office.

Unfortunately, the principal looked a lot like Clare, and she passed a stiff sentence: “‘People who eat during arithmetic are not allowed to eat at all.’” Suddenly, Harry had an idea, but the principal—who mumbled through a mouthful—told him not to speak. Harry was not to be so easily dismissed, however.

As soon as the principal released him, he grabbed a snack and headed up High Staircase Mountain. When he heard the Abdominal Snowman close at his heels, he quickly hid the cookies in his pocket. At dinner, Harry was able to sneak more provisions into his pocket and keep them safe as he performed a high-wire trapeze trampoline act on the couch and jumped through hoops for Clare the Lion Tamer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-hippo

Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

On Thursday the sun finally came out, and Harry and Clare took a jungle tour. The jungle “looked a lot like the park, except for the vines and wild animals.” As they ran through the thick vegetation, Clare and Harry avoided umpire bats and leaped over sandbox hippos on their search for a “‘sunken ship guarded by a monster octopus.’” All this time Harry held on to the idea he’d had.

Then, just as they were being threatened by elephant hummingbirds, Clare realized they’d forgotten to bring snacks and said they’d have to turn their dragons around and go back. Harry, however, simply climbed off his bike dragon and pulled a baby carrot from his pocket. Clare was nonplussed. “‘Where did you get that?’” she wanted to know, but Harry just took something else from his stash and continued munching.

“‘Is that a cookie?’ Clare asked. Harry swallowed. ‘Asteroid burger,’ he said….‘I have asteroid burgers and volcano sticks.’” Clare listened to her grumbling stomach and accepted some of both. She even accepted Harry’s idea that the treasure was in a cave under a mountain as long as an octopus monster still guarded it.

Harry and Clare played for hours. Harry discovered “prehistoric park-bench dinosaur skeletons,” and Clare dispersed a group of squirrel sharks. On the way home Harry and Clare split the “last of the volcano sticks and asteroid burgers. They made a nice combination.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-playground

Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

In his imaginative tale of a rainy school staycation, Ted Staunton captures the sibling power structure with wit and wisdom. Readers will appreciate Harry and Clare’s daily—almost moment-to-moment—inventiveness that mirrors children’s supple imaginations. As a younger brother, Harry bears the brunt of Clare’s bossiness, but in the process begins to grasp where the real clout lies. By biding his time, he quietly advocates for himself and changes the dynamics to both of the children’s benefit. Staunton’s funny dialogue and situations ring true, as do the clever uses of everyday items and places to spur the siblings’ creativity. The final line offers a sweet future for this loveable brother and sister.

Mika Song ingeniously transcribes Harry and Clare’s imaginings into action-packed illustrations full of personality. The sibling relationship unfolds through humorous scenes and animated facial expressions. Harry sinks in bubbling lava while Clare eats snacks at a safe distance; Harry and Clare get caught behind an elderly “racecar” driver in the grocery store: Harry is pulled up short by his changing fortunes on the diving board; and Teacher Clare teeters in her mother’s shoes. Song’s fresh color palette lends an open, airy feeling to the story, and her adorable siblings make for exciting companions for readers any day.

Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation would be a cute addition to any child’s bookshelf for story times and to spur imaginative play. The book could also be a great jumping off point for discussions of empathy and understanding between siblings and/or friends.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770498273

Discover more about Ted Staunton and his books on his website!

You’ll find a portfolio of artwork, comics, and books by Mika Song on her website!

Family Stories Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-printable-snakes-and-ladders-game

Snakes and Ladders Game

 

Family game night is a great place to create memories that become future stories! Here’s a printable Snakes and Ladders game for you to enjoy! Just watch out for that green snake!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the board game template
  2. Determine which player goes first by rolling the die. The player with the highest roll goes first.
  3. The first player rolls the die and moves along the game board, starting at square 1, the number of spaces indicated on the die.
  4. Other players take turns rolling the die and moving along the board.
  5. The first player to reach square 100 is the winner

Ladders: When a player lands on a space with the bottom of a ladder in it, the player moves up to the space at the top of the ladder and continues to play from there.

Snakes: When a player lands on a space with the head of a snake in it, the player slides down to the space with the snake’s tail in it and continues to play from there.

Picture Book Review

April 10 – National Siblings Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-coverAbout the Holiday

National Siblings Day gives people a chance to honor the special bond they have with their brothers and/or sisters. Whether you come from a big family or small, are the oldest, youngest, or somewhere in between, your siblings have had a big influence on your life. Today, take a little time to text or call if you live far apart or get together if the miles aren’t so many.

Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation

Written by Ted Staunton | Illustrated by Mika Song

 

Vacation began on Monday. So did the rain. Harry and Clare decided to go to Mars. After all it was only as far away as the family room and looked quite the same—“except for the volcanoes” that spouted lava all over the rug. Harry found traversing the alien landscape harder than Clare. He had to carry all the luggage while she carried the snacks; and while Clare ate the snacks, Harry was busy drowning in quicksand.

Tuesday dawned gray and rainy. Fortunately, Harry and Clare “could ride a Pasta Linguini racer around an indoor course in the supermarket.” The field was fierce, and Harry told Clare to turn left, but Clare didn’t listen. “‘I’m driving,’” she said. “Following a dizzying skid through the frozen food, Clare let Harry park them in the checkout line.” And while Harry was hanging on tight with both hands as Clare directed, she ate both of their granola bars.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-lava

Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

The downpour continued on Wednesday. The pool seemed the perfect respite, but just as Harry was about to transform into a dolphin doing spectacular dives, “he was captured by a pirate queen who made him walk the plank instead.” Harry’s fortunes only turned bleaker when later that day Teacher Clare caught Harry eating his snack during lessons and sent him to the principal’s office.

Unfortunately, the principal looked a lot like Clare, and she passed a stiff sentence: “‘People who eat during arithmetic are not allowed to eat at all.’” Suddenly, Harry had an idea, but the principal—who mumbled through a mouthful—told him not to speak. Harry was not to be so easily dismissed, however.

As soon as the principal released him, he grabbed a snack and headed up High Staircase Mountain. When he heard the Abdominal Snowman close at his heels, he quickly hid the cookies in his pocket. At dinner, Harry was able to sneak more provisions into his pocket and keep them safe as he performed a high-wire trapeze trampoline act on the couch and jumped through hoops for Clare the Lion Tamer.  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-hippo

Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

 On Thursday the sun finally came out, and Harry and Clare took a jungle tour. The jungle “looked a lot like the park, except for the vines and wild animals.” As they ran through the thick vegetation, Clare and Harry avoided umpire bats and leaped over sandbox hippos on their search for a “‘sunken ship guarded by a monster octopus.’” All this time Harry held on to the idea he’d had.

Then, just as they were being threatened by elephant hummingbirds, Clare realized they’d forgotten to bring snacks and said they’d have to turn their dragons around and go back. Harry, however, simply climbed off his bike dragon and pulled a baby carrot from his pocket. Clare was nonplussed. “‘Where did you get that?’” she wanted to know, but Harry just took a something else from his stash and continued munching.

“‘Is that a cookie?’ Clare asked. Harry swallowed. ‘Asteroid burger,’ he said….‘I have asteroid burgers and volcano sticks.’” Clare listened to her grumbling stomach and accepted some of both. She even accepted Harry’s idea that the treasure was in a cave under a mountain as long as an octopus monster still guarded it.

Harry and Clare played for hours. Harry discovered “prehistoric park-bench dinosaur skeletons,” and Clare dispersed a group of squirrel sharks. On the way home Harry and Clare split the “last of the volcano sticks and asteroid burgers. They made a nice combination.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-playground

Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

In his imaginative tale of a rainy school staycation, Ted Staunton captures the sibling power structure with wit and wisdom. Readers will appreciate Harry and Clare’s daily—almost moment-to-moment—inventiveness that mirrors children’s supple imaginations. As a younger brother, Harry bears the brunt of Clare’s bossiness, but in the process begins to grasp where the real clout lies. By biding his time, he quietly advocates for himself and changes the dynamics to both of the children’s benefit. Staunton’s funny dialogue and situations ring true, as do the clever uses of everyday items and places to spur the siblings’ creativity. The final line offers a sweet future for this loveable brother and sister.

Mika Song ingeniously transcribes Harry and Clare’s imaginings into action-packed illustrations full of personality. The sibling relationship unfolds through humorous scenes and animated facial expressions. Harry sinks in bubbling lava while Clare eats snacks at a safe distance; Harry and Clare get caught behind an elderly “racecar” driver in the grocery store: Harry is pulled up short by his changing fortunes on the diving board; and Teacher Clare teeters in her mother’s shoes. Song’s fresh color palette lends an open, airy feeling to the story, and her adorable siblings make for exciting companions for readers any day.

Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation would be a cute addition to any child’s bookshelf for story times and to spur imaginative play. The book could also be a great jumping off point for discussions of empathy and understanding between siblings and/or friends.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770498273

Discover more about Ted Staunton and his books on his website!

You’ll find a portfolio of artwork, comics, and books by Mika Song on her website!

National Siblings Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-printable-snakes-and-ladders-game

Snakes and Ladders Game

 

It can be fun to play a board game with your sibling! Here’s a printable Snakes and Ladders game for you to enjoy! Just watch out for that green snake!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the board game template
  2. Determine which player goes first by rolling the die. The player with the highest roll goes first.
  3. The first player rolls the die and moves along the game board, starting at square 1, the number of spaces indicated on the die.
  4. Other players take turns rolling the die and moving along the board.
  5. The first player to reach square 100 is the winner

Ladders: When a player lands on a space with the bottom of a ladder in it, the player moves up to the space at the top of the ladder and continues to play from there.

Snakes: When a player lands on a space with the head of a snake in it, the player slides down to the space with the snake’s tail in it and continues to play from there.

Picture Book Review