May 6 – National Smile Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mom-loves-little-jumbo-cover

About the Holiday

During this month we take time to make sure our smiles are as bright and healthy as they can be by ensuring that we’re following the latest advice by dental professionals about brushing, diet, and oral health and scheduling dental visits for ourselves and our children. It’s also a great time to celebrate all the things that make us smile. One of which is spending time with our kids. On May 12 families will celebrate Mother’s Day—a holiday that’s guaranteed to bring out smiles all around!

Mom Loves Little Jumbo: Hello I Am Jumbo

By Yasushi Muraki

 

When young readers open the cover of this sweet board book, a tiny elephant named Jumbo introduces himself and his mom. “Mom is big,” he says. “I am small.” Mom’s size and strength come in handy when he falls, Jumbo explains, and if he’s in trouble, his mom keeps him safe. Jumbo’s mom not only protects him from big dangers like lions but from small bothers like rain.

Every day Jumbo’s mom takes good care of him. She shows him where to find the freshest grass and the most delicious fruit. Jumbo’s mom also remembers other things he loves, like having fun and playing hide-and-seek “She makes me laugh,” he says.

To show Mom how much he loves her, Jumbo picks “the most beautiful flower” for her. And at the end of the day? “At bedtime Mom cuddles me tightly. I like this best of all.” Yes, Jumbo reveals, “My mom loves me. And I love my Mom.”

Yasushi Muraki revels in that deeply felt awe little ones feel for their mom and all the things she does for them in his adorable board book. By using the matriarchal, close-knit structure of elephant families for his story, Muraki reinforces the bond between mother and child, which he simply, but lovingly demonstrates in his rich, textured images. Each page welcomes children with comforting  earth tones and actions by Jumbo’s caring mom that even the youngest readers will find meaningful.

Told from Jumbo’s point of view, Muraki’s storytelling incorporates two straightforward sentences on each page. In the first, Jumbo reveals something that his mom does for him, and in the second, he explains how it makes him feel. Jumbo even plays a game with readers midway through the book. When Jumbo picks a flower for his mom, little ones will learn that gestures of love are reciprocal, and the cuddly ending will lead to lots of snuggling between mom and child.

A perfect book for little ones to share with their mom on Mothers’ Day or any day, as a new baby present, or baby shower gift, Mom Loves Little Jumbo: Hello I Am Jumbo would be a favorite on home bookshelves and to find at public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

minedition, 2019 | ISBN 978-9888341788

Discover more about Yasushi Muraki, his books, and his art on his website.

National Smile Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Spool-Elephant-Craft

Spool Elephant and Baby

 

Who wouldn’t like a tiny elephant for a pet?! With this easy craft you can make your own little pal to keep you company.

Supplies

  • Printable Elephant Ears Template
  • 1¾-inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • ¾ -inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • Gray craft paint
  • Chunky gray yarn
  • Gray felt, 1 8 ½ x 11 piece
  • Paint brush
  • Black fine-tip marker
  • Hot glue gun or fabric glue

Directions

To Make the Ears

  1. Print the Elephant Ears Template
  2. Trace and cut out the large and small ears

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the spools with the gray paint, let dry
  2. Glue the tab on the ears to the body of the spool to secure, allowing the ears to stick out on either side of one flat end of the spools
  3. Wind the gray yarn back and forth around the spool, creating several layers of thickness
  4. When the body is as thick as you desire, cut the end and secure with glue

To Make the Trunk

  1. Cut a 2 x 4-inch piece of felt for the large elephant; 1/2 x 2-inch piece for small elephant
  2. Roll tightly and secure with glue
  3. Feed one end of the roll into the hole in the middle of the spool
  4. Cut to desired length

To Make the Tail

  1. Twist a small length of yarn and push it into the hole on the back of the spool
  2. With the marker draw eyes and a mouth on the face

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mom-loves-little-jumbo-cover

You can find Mom Loves Little Jumbo at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

October 28 – It’s National Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-play-cover

About the Holiday

Can it be that National Book Month is almost over? No worries, though! We’re about to start Picture Book Month, so gather as many books as you can from your local bookstore and library and enjoy the best activity there is!

Mirror Play

By Monte Shin

 

There’s no denying that mirrors are beguiling. Looking into one shows you just what you look like—or does it? Well, left is right and right is left, but a mirror gives you a pretty good idea whether your hair looks good, your outfit matches, and if you’re ready to face the world. Little ones, especially, are mesmerized by mirrors that give them the first glimpse of themselves and their smiles, frowns, and giggles.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-play-panda-mouse

Copyright Monte Shin, 2018, courtesy of Minedition.

The magic of mirrors to reflect an image is used to remarkable effect in Monte Shin’s cool and clever Mirror Play. The book’s ingenious design includes twelve thick pages in the middle of which is set a colorful, and sometimes complex, shape that rotates a full circle. A shiny surface that creates a perfectly clear reflection is incorporated into a fold-out attached to the back cover. Together, these two elements can keep children (and adults) riveted to the many figures that can be made simply by setting the mirror at a 90-degree angle in the middle of the page and turning the shape this way and that.

One stop along the shape’s trajectory creates an image that is instantly recognized and which answers the question on the next page. For example, the first page contains a blue cone with a wing attached to its left side floating on a red background marked with chalk-outlined clouds. Set the mirror at the provided notches and turn the cone slightly, and an airplane appears! Turn the cone more and more and you find what might be a butterfly, a jet, a tent, a clothespin, a kite, a gavel, and an arrowhead.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-play-panda-figure

Copyright Monte Shin, 2018, courtesy of Minedition.

Turning the book to the right, to the left, and upside down also provides new perspectives on the shapes and images that appear. On a page splotched deep red, a curious shape might become a water beetle, an alien, a fish, a badge or an acorn, a heart, a rabbit, two birds beak to beak, a fly, and a mosquito. 

Backdrops of a lily pad, a block of cheddar-cheese yellow, polka dots, leaves, and a mountain peak, among others, give young explorers hints as to what the asked-for figure might be. Finding the answers to these questions is fun, but it’s only the beginning to discovering a world of geometric shapes, abstract designs, and imaginary creatures.

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-play-panda

Copyright Monte Shin, 2018, courtesy of Minedition.

Mirror Play is an excellent choice as a gift for toddlers and preschool children. It would be a go-to book for interactive story times as well as for taking along on outings or whenever waiting will be part of the day. Older kids may also enjoy the challenge of discovering the various shapes and designs they can make with this “magic” mirror.

Ages 3 – 5

Minedition, 2018 | ISBN 978-9888341535

National Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shape-sticks-game

Shape Sticks Game

 

With some popsicle sticks and markers, you can make a colorful matching game for little ones!

Supplies

  • Popsicle sticks – long or short
  • Markers

Directions

  1. Choose a marker and on the ends of three popsicle stick draw a different shape, for example: popsicle stick 1: square and circle; popsicle stick 2: square and triangle; popsicle stick 3: triangle and circle
  2. Repeat with other colors of markers
  3. On a table or the floor, children can lay the sticks down to match the same shape or color until all the sticks have been used. Sticks can be laid down end-to-end or end-to-side.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shape-sticks-game-2

In Addition

You can also make a set of popsicle sticks drawn with all the same shape in different colors to have a larger color-matching game

Older children may enjoy making their own sets of Shape Sticks and experimenting with a larger number of sticks and different patterns and colors.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-play-cover

You can find Mirror Play at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 23 – International Rabbit Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-lion-and-little-rabbit-cover

About the Holiday

With their little pink noses, long ears, and soft fur, rabbits make your heart melt. Today’s holiday was established to promote the protection and care of rabbits—both domestic and wild. Found in almost all types of environments—with more than one half of their total population living in North America—rabbits need protection from habitat destruction and predators. They are also a popular gift in spring, and families are encouraged to learn all about their needs and behaviors to determine if a rabbit is the best fit for the household. Because of their sweet, innocent nature, bunnies are often featured in children’s books. To celebrate the holiday, read a few of your favorites—including today’s book!

The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit

By Keiko Kaichi

 

Once King of the Plains, Old Lion had given up his place in the herd to his sons and now lived a quiet life alone. One day while napping, he felt a tickle in his mane and smelled a tantalizing aroma nearby. Old Lion discovered a tiny baby rabbit sleeping peacefully in the soft fur of his mane. “‘Hey,’ Old Lion thought, ‘this little one won’t fill my belly. But if I let him eat enough, he’ll grow up to be big and delicious!’” So Old Lion gathered as much grass as he could and fed the baby rabbit well, all the while feeling hunger growing in his stomach.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-lion-and-little-rabbit-herd

Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

To pass the time between feedings, Old Lion told Little Rabbit about his younger days on the savanna. “Little Rabbit crinkled up his nose with joy when he listened to Old Lion’s stories.” When other animals saw Old Lion and Little Rabbit together, they couldn’t believe it. As Old Lion talked to Little Rabbit, he remembered his big family and the joy of having children around him. He wondered how they were doing. But he knew that he couldn’t go back once he had “lost the fight to be the leader of the herd. Sometimes his old scars still ached him, especially during the cold nights.”

Now that Little Rabbit was growing bigger, he sometimes hopped far into the field, exploring just for fun. Then Old Lion worried that he might not come back, fearful that all his time and hard work would be wasted. He would call after Little Rabbit, reminding him to come back, and Little Rabbit always did.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-lion-and-little-rabbit-hopping-in-moonlight

Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

They spent their days watching the other animals, Little Rabbit perched on top of the lion’s head in order to see better. As time went by, Old Lion began to wish he could be satisfied with a diet of plants and wondered about the unfamiliar feeling in his heart. “Could it be that he was starting to care about this little creature who trusted him so blindly? Such a thing made no sense. Still, he had to admit that something warm stirred in him when he saw Little Rabbit each morning.”

One day as Little Rabbit played among the weeds while Old Lion rested, Hyena came calling. When he saw the little bunny, he immediately asked to share in the delicious meal as he often did. Old Lion was taken off guard and stammered that Little Rabbit was not nearly big enough to make a meal of. Hyena protested and pounced. Old Lion found his former quick reflexes and “with one gulp he snatched up Little Rabbit into his jaws.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-lion-and-little-rabbit-hyenna

Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

With a bit of regret but admiration for his old friend, Hyena turned and skulked away. When they were alone, Old Lion opened his mouth wide and let Little Rabbit climb out. He saw that his tiny friend had suffered a cut on his paw and bandaged it carefully. Then he placed Little Rabbit on his head and began to walk in the direction of the wind. “He could no longer deny that he loved Little Rabbit.”

Old Lion walked and walked to the edge of the savanna, where bushes and tall grasses blossomed. He set Little Rabbit down gently and nudged him forward. “You’ll be safe” there, Old Lion told him. “You’ll find other rabbits there—maybe even your family.” Little Rabbit gazed at Old Lion sadly, but the lion reassured him that it was time to go home. Old Lion watched Little Rabbit bound away and “felt a tickle on his face as a tear ran down his cheek.” Then he turned and walked back to where his throne waited.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-lion-and-little-rabbit-letting-rabbit-go

Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

Keiko Kaichi’s books masterfully tug at readers’ heartstrings with poignant stories populated with adorable characters that immediately inspire love and empathy. In The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit, the lion’s history is revealed naturally and at a pace that makes his transformation believable and all the more emotional. Just as do children within a family, Little Rabbit alters Old Lion’s life simply through trust and dependence. Children will respond to the growing love between Old Lion and Little Rabbit. They will also find the solution to the mystery established at the beginning both surprising and satisfying. Adult readers cannot be faulted for feeling a small lump in their throat when Old Lion unselfishly protects Little Rabbit from Hyena and then takes him to safety.

Kaichi’s acrylic and pencil drawings are both evocative of the golden savanna and filled with tender sentiments. Old Lion may once have been a fierce predator, but he is now a contemplative and caring elder statesman while Little Rabbit is a wee nubbin of cuteness. As he sits next to the much bigger lion, his tiny paw touching Old Lion’s arm, or collects a bouquet of weeds under Old Lion’s watchful gaze, Little Rabbit swells readers hearts.

Superb in every way, The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit would make a wonderful choice for home bookshelves as well as for public and school libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

minedition, 2017 | ISBN 978-9888341245

International Rabbit Day Activity

Adorable Bunnies Coloring Pages

 

Bunnies are such loveable little creatures that you just can’t help but say “Awwww!” when you see one. Here are two printable Adorable Bunnies Coloring Pages for you to enjoy!

Bunny Coloring Page | Three Bunnies Coloring Page 

Picture Book Review

May 5 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-lion-and-little-rabbit-cover

About the Holiday

Initiated in 1999 and sponsored by the Association of American Publishers, Get Caught Reading Month inspires people of all ages to discover or rediscover the joys of reading. No matter what types of books you like best—from fiction to nonfiction, mystery to humor, picture books to novels—there are stories on bookstore and library shelves that will enhance your life! This month take the opportunity to read a new book or an old favorite and get caught up in the magic!

The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit

By Keiko Kaichi

 

Once King of the Plains, Old Lion had given up his place in the herd to his sons and now lived a quiet life alone. One day while napping, he felt a tickle in his mane and smelled a tantalizing aroma nearby. Old Lion discovered a tiny baby rabbit sleeping peacefully in the soft fur of his mane. “‘Hey,’ Old Lion thought, ‘this little one won’t fill my belly. But if I let him eat enough, he’ll grow up to be big and delicious!’” So Old Lion gathered as much grass as he could and fed the baby rabbit well, all the while feeling hunger growing in his stomach.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-lion-and-little-rabbit-herd

Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

To pass the time between feedings, Old Lion told Little Rabbit about his younger days on the savanna. “Little Rabbit crinkled up his nose with joy when he listened to Old Lion’s stories.” When other animals saw Old Lion and Little Rabbit together, they couldn’t believe it. As Old Lion talked to Little Rabbit, he remembered his big family and the joy of having children around him. He wondered how they were doing. But he knew that he couldn’t go back once he had “lost the fight to be the leader of the herd. Sometimes his old scars still ached him, especially during the cold nights.”

Now that Little Rabbit was growing bigger, he sometimes hopped far into the field, exploring just for fun. Then Old Lion worried that he might not come back, fearful that all his time and hard work would be wasted. He would call after Little Rabbit, reminding him to come back, and Little Rabbit always did.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-lion-and-little-rabbit-hopping-in-moonlight

Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

They spent their days watching the other animals, Little Rabbit perched on top of the lion’s head in order to see better. As time went by, Old Lion began to wish he could be satisfied with a diet of plants and wondered about the unfamiliar feeling in his heart. “Could it be that he was starting to care about this little creature who trusted him so blindly? Such a thing made no sense. Still, he had to admit that something warm stirred in him when he saw Little Rabbit each morning.”

One day as Little Rabbit played among the weeds while Old Lion rested, Hyena came calling. When he saw the little bunny, he immediately asked to share in the delicious meal as he often did. Old Lion was taken off guard and stammered that Little Rabbit was not nearly big enough to make a meal of. Hyena protested and pounced. Old Lion found his former quick reflexes and “with one gulp he snatched up Little Rabbit into his jaws.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-lion-and-little-rabbit-hyenna

Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

With a bit of regret but admiration for his old friend, Hyena turned and skulked away. When they were alone, Old Lion opened his mouth wide and let Little Rabbit climb out. He saw that his tiny friend had suffered a cut on his paw and bandaged it carefully. Then he placed Little Rabbit on his head and began to walk in the direction of the wind. “He could no longer deny that he loved Little Rabbit.”

Old Lion walked and walked to the edge of the savanna, where bushes and tall grasses blossomed. He set Little Rabbit down gently and nudged him forward. “You’ll be safe” there, Old Lion told him. “You’ll find other rabbits there—maybe even your family.” Little Rabbit gazed at Old Lion sadly, but the lion reassured him that it was time to go home. Old Lion watched Little Rabbit bound away and “felt a tickle on his face as a tear ran down his cheek.” Then he turned and walked back to where his throne waited.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-lion-and-little-rabbit-letting-rabbit-go

Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

Keiko Kaichi’s books masterfully tug at readers’ heartstrings with poignant stories populated with adorable characters that immediately inspire love and empathy. In Old Lion and Little Rabbit, the lion’s history is revealed naturally and at a pace that makes his transformation believable and all the more emotional. Just as do children within a family, Little Rabbit alters Old Lion’s life simply through trust and dependence. Children will respond to the growing love between Old Lion and Little Rabbit. They will also find the solution to the mystery established at the beginning both surprising and satisfying. Adult readers cannot be faulted for feeling a small lump in their throat when Old Lion unselfishly protects Little Rabbit from Hyena and then takes him to safety.

Kaichi’s acrylic and pencil drawings are both evocative of the golden savanna and filled with tender sentiments. Old Lion may once have been a fierce predator, but he is now a contemplative and caring elder statesman while Little Rabbit is a wee nubbin of cuteness. As he sits next to the much bigger lion, his tiny paw touching Old Lion’s arm, or collects a bouquet of weeds under Old Lion’s watchful gaze, Little Rabbit swells readers hearts.

Superb in every way, Old Lion and Little Rabbit would make a wonderful choice for home bookshelves as well as for public and school libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

minedition, 2017 | ISBN 978-9888341245

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-catch-a-book-maze

Catch a Book! Maze

 

One boy has a whole stack of books to share with his friends! Can you help him through this printable Catch a Book! Maze? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

March 11 – It’s Youth Art Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-cover

About the Holiday

Youth Art Month was established in 1961 by the Crayon, Water Color, and Craft Institute in conjunction with the National Art Education Association to emphasize the value of participating in art for all children. Involvement in the visual arts improves problem solving, observation, creativity, and communications skills. The observance continued to grow, later including secondary school students in 1969 and the creation of the Council of Art Education to oversee the month’s events in 1984.

Art shows, special exhibits, school and community events, and fundraisers are all part of the celebration. The highlight of the month is the School Flags Across America…Flying High competition in which students design a flag around a particular state theme. The flags are judged and the winning flag from each state is made into an actual flag and flown with the others in Washington DC. A child’s love of art often begins early as they are exposed to a variety of beautiful images in picture books, such as today’s original concept book.

Opposite Surprise

By Agnese Baruzzi

 

Opposite Surprise poses a series of  questions that invite young children to ponder various opposites while also challenging their perceptions. For instance, is the blue truck on the opposite page small or big? Well, in comparison to what, you might ask. A flip of the half-fold flap answers this question and allows readers to say that the blue truck is small when compared to the big digger behind it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-small-or-big-

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-truck-flap

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-small-or-big-open-flap

Image copyright Agnese Baruzzi, courtesy of Minedition

Is there one sheep on the next page or many? It seems that the gray sheep is standing alone, but pulling the flap reveals a whole flock of diverse sheep. Now, how about that fancy, blue box—is it empty or full? Empty you might reply quickly, but perhaps…. With a tug on the page, kids discover that this container is not a box but an aquarium teeming with fish of all sizes! Toot, toot! A little train is chugging along on the next page. Is it short or long? With just an engine and a caboose, the train appears short. In reality, though, there’s plenty of room for passengers in the train’s two long cars.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-short-or-long-train

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-short-or-long-open-flap

Image copyright Agnese Baruzzi, courtesy of Minedition

Look at that cute orange caterpillar! Is it straight or curvy? Opening the flap will make kids giggle to see just what a wiggly guy this is! The next one is easy-peasy! Hot or Cold? Anyone can see that the sun is hot, hot, hot! But wait! A gentle pull exposes two delicious (and dripping) ice pops! There’s a little bit for both neatniks and messy-types on the next page as the crisp, clean red shirt suddenly becomes dirty with the flick of the flap.

Turning the page reveals a window. Are the shutters closed or open? It would appear they are closed, shutting out the view. But with a simple pull they open, letting in the sun for the plant and the bird on the windowsill. Now, seriously, must we debate slow or fast when a tiny turtle is the subject of the question? Apparently so, because readers discover that nothing is what it seems when they open the flap to find the turtle transformed into a jet plane soaring through the sky. And finally, readers come to a yellow pencil. Is it thin or wide? Standing straight and tall, it hardly takes up more room than a pinky finger. But with the page stretched out, that thin pencil becomes the sides of a bridge wide enough to span a river.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-hot-or-cold-sun

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-hot-or-cold-open-flap

Image copyright Agnese Baruzzi, courtesy of Minedition

Agnese Baruzzi’s unique concept books goes beyond the usual clear-cut definitions of opposites to present a new way of looking at and interacting with the world. Her smart, colorful illustrations invite little readers to answer not only the prompted question, but to explore further. The little blue truck is small, yes, but it is also smaller than the digger. This one page also invites adults to talk about the idea of “in front of” and “behind.” Throughout the book there are opportunities to count, talk about direction and spatial relationships; discuss why the ice-pops are melting; and explore many more topics that are the building blocks for reading, speech, and math literacy.

Opposite Surprise would be a fantastic baby shower or new baby gift; a wonderful take-along for car rides, outings, or wait times; and an excellent addition to toddler’s bookshelves as well as library and classroom collections.

Ages birth – 5

Minedition, 2017 | ISBN 978-9888341375

Youth Art Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-drawing-page

Fun Framed Drawing Page

 

Use this printable Fun Framed Drawing Page to make your own creation, family flag, or story!

Picture Book Review

September 27 – It’s Fall Hat Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-brown's-fantastic-hat-cover

About the Holiday

As the weather turns cooler in certain parts of the world, it’s time to pull out those old favorite cozy hats or buy a stylish new one to keep your head and ears warm! Whether you like wearing felt hats, knit hats, furry hats, or even top hats—like the character in today’s book—this is the season for you!

Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat

By Ayano Imaí

 

Mr. Brown lived alone and, if you asked him, he’d tell you he liked it that way. He “had no friends and he didn’t want any.” If you were privy to his secret thoughts, however, you’d learn that Mr. Brown was actually very lonely. Mr. Brown liked to take long walks, and when he went out, he always wore his “smart,” distinctive hat. “One day while Mr. Brown was sleeping, a woodpecker flew down and started tapping a hole in his hat, thinking, ‘What a wonderful nest this hat would make!’”

When Mr. Brown woke up he was shocked to discover that a bird had moved into his hat. Someone living this close to him was not what Mr. Brown had in mind at all. Then to Mr. Brown’s dismay the “woodpecker soon told all his friends about the wonderful new home and invited them all to join him.” Soon Mr. Brown’s hat was full of holes—and birds! You might think a regular hat would not have enough room for so many residents—but Mr. Brown’s hat was no ordinary one. As more and more birds moved in, his hat grew taller and taller!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-brown's-fantastic-hat-birds-live-in-hat

Image copyright Ayano Imaí, courtesy of minedition

As the days went on Mr. Brown discovered that he was beginning to enjoy the birds’ singing and their company. Now Mr. Brown had renewed purpose in his daily walks: “He loved to show off his hat. Everywhere he went it was full of the music of singing birds.” People on the street took notice and wanted to emulate Mr. Brown. All over town people began wearing tall hats, “but the birds preferred to stay with Mr. Brown no matter how hard people tried to persuade them.”

One day as autumn settled in, Mr. Brown noticed that all the birds had flown away. He was sad and didn’t understand where they had gone or why they had left him. He wondered if he would see them again. The idea of a quiet life no longer held the appeal it once did, and Mr. Brown missed his friends. He tried to convince himself that he didn’t care that the birds had left, but he continued to fill the feeders and watch out for them every day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-brown's-fantastic-hat-looking-out-to-sea

Image copyright Ayano Imaí, courtesy of minedition

Even though it was time for Mr. Brown to take a long winter’s nap, he tried to stay awake, worried that there would be no one to care for the birds if they returned. But nature took its course, and Mr. Brown fell into a deep sleep. One morning after a particularly vivid dream in which Mr. Brown could hear the birds singing, he woke to a tapping sound. He went to the door and peered out.

Spring had come and with it Mr. Brown’s hat had grown roots and sprouted branches and leaves. The old holes were filled with their previous tenants. The sight filled Mr. Brown with joy, and he finally could admit to himself that sharing his life with friends “was better than being alone.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-brown's-fantastic-hat-hat-grows-into-tree

Image copyright Ayano Imaí, courtesy of minedition

Ayano Imaí’s gloriously beautiful book plumbs the nature of solitude and loneliness as well as the value of friendship with an honesty that is at once heartrending and uplifting. For so many quiet, introspective people—children and adults alike—navigating the world of small talk, casual relationships, and making friends is similar to traveling uncharted territory, where the language and mores are foreign. It can become easier to tell oneself that it doesn’t matter, when in reality it matters a great deal. Many times happiness comes when one finds their niche or, in some surprising way, a niche finds them.

Imaí tells the story of Mr. Brown and his fantastical hat in straightforward narration, but more profound meaning is revealed in her illustrations. Mr. Brown, it is discovered, is a brown bear who has taken on the aspects of humans. He walks upright, carries an umbrella and bag, owns a home, and wears a hat. His fur is even the same color as the townspeople’s clothing. But while he may be among people, he is not of them. His home has a grass floor which sprouts mushrooms and weeds; another weed pokes out from the bristles of his brush; a tree branch juts from a wall; and mushrooms share space with the laundry on the drying line.

Mr. Brown comes from nature and belongs with nature, so it is no surprise that the birds flock to him and prefer him to humans, who in an ironic twist long to be like Mr. Brown. I especially like the ending of Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat, in which Mr. Brown stays true to himself. He does not suddenly discover his “wild” side and become someone that he is not. He is able to remain a quiet, introspective bear while also embracing his friends, his love for them, and his place in the world. He finds inner happiness and loved ones to share it with.

Ages 3 – 8 (and up)

minedition, 2014 | ISBN 978-9888240845

Fall Hat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-favorite-hat-matching-puzzle

Favorite Fall Hat Matching Puzzle

 

Each child has a favorite hat for cooler weather. Follow the paths in this printable Favorite Fall Hat Matching Puzzle to find out which hat each child chooses!

Picture Book Review