May 20 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

When you love to read, you want to share the excitement that books hold. Get Caught Reading Month encourages people to pass along their love of all things written by asking folks to take pictures of themselves reading their favorite book and uploading those images to social media. Movie and TV celebrities, sports figures, authors, illustrators, teachers, mom, dads, grandmas and grandpas, and kids of all ages take part in this favorite annual event. Why don’t you?!

I received a copy of What About Worms!? from Hyperion Books for Children for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

What About Worms!? (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!)

By Ryan T. Higgins and Mo Willems

 

Piggie comes to Gerald with a new book that he’s having trouble reading. In fact, he “cannot make heads or tails of it.” “Why not?” Gerald asks. “Because,” Piggie says with great mirth, “it is about WORMS!” And so, Piggie and Gerald and readers are off…! The story revolves around a little tiger, who believes he is big and brave and “NOT afraid of anything…except worms.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins and Mo Willems, 2020, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

Tiger’s wary of how they feel and how they squirm; plus, it’s hard to know which end is their head and which is their tail. Tiger forgets his fears when he spies a lovely pot of flowers. He picks it up and takes a deep breath of the sweet aroma. But then he remembers…. There’s dirt and where there’s dirt, there’s bound to be WORMS. The pot flies from his hands and smashes into pieces on the ground. In the spilled dirt, Tiger sees…no worms.

To take his mind off breaking the pot, Tiger picks a shiny, red apple from a tree and takes a big bite. Oh, how delicious apples are! But… “GULP!” Tiger tosses his apple away and it lands “SPLAT!” at his feet. In the bits of apple, he sees…no worms. He looks sadly at his lost pot and apple. Those worms, he shouts, they “ruin everything.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins and Mo Willems, 2020, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

And now there’s another wriggly, striped worm right near him. But when Tiger takes another look, he realizes that it’s only the cover of a book. Reading is just what he needs right now. But what if… “it is a book about WOOOOOOOORMS!!!” Tiger throws the book and runs away as fast as he can. All of this commotion attracts none other than a group of worms who, seeing the retreating figure, discuss how they are afraid of tigers.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins and Mo Willems, 2020, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

Just then they find the gifts that Tiger has left behind. They frolic in the dirt, munch the apple, and are excited about the book—especially since they can see from the cover that it’s a book about worms. But when they open it up, they discover it’s not about worms at all—but about tigers. With trepidation they begin reading, and by the end of the book these worms have learned so much about tigers that they’ve had a change of heart. So much so that when they catch a glimpse of Tiger, they each want to give him a big “worm hug!”

Piggie closes the book and wonders if Gerald liked it. He did! Especially its surprising ending. And Piggie? He says, “I love a book that worms its way into your heart.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins and Mo Willems, 2020, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

Ryan T. Higgins is a master of laugh-out-loud storylines that lead up to a gem of a plot twist, and in What About Worms!? slapstick meets worry with smashing results. Kids will crack up at Tiger’s over-the-top reactions as they devour this well-paced story that’s also loaded with vocabulary they’ll be excited to recognize or learn. Repeated words and phrases flow naturally in this dialogue-driven story, increasing the enjoyment of the reading and learning process. Not only does Higgins address fears, friendship, regret, and a love of books, he also reminds kids of the truth of that important adage: You can’t tell a book by its cover.

As always, Higgins’ bold illustrations carry the story with actions and emotions that are humorous, identifiable, and relatable. Children familiar with Higgins’ Mother Bruce books will recognize beloved facial expressions on Tiger, and a cameo appearance from Mo Willems’ Pigeon will delight them. Speech bubbles contain one sentence only, making them easy to follow for beginning readers.

Sure to be a favorite and reached for often, What About Worms!? is a must whether you’re adding to your collection of Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! books or just starting out with the series.

Ages 4 – 8

Hyperion Books for Children, 2020 | ISBN 978-1368045735

To learn more about Ryan T. Higgins, his books, and his art, visit his website. Ryan’s site is under construction, but he and all your favorite characters will be back!

Discover more Elephant & Piggie Books as well as all of Mo Willems’ books on Pigeon Presents.

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Cup of Dirt (and Worms!)

 

This classic favorite is frightfully good––especially while reading!

Ingredients

  • 1 4-ounce package of instant chocolate pudding
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 8-ounce container of whipped topping
  • 16-oz package of chocolate sandwich cookies
  • Gummy worms

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Directions

  1. Beat milk and pudding mix together in a bowl until well blended and slightly thickened; let stand to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir whipped topping and 1/2 of the crushed cookies into pudding.
  3. Spoon 1 tablespoon crushed cookies into each serving cup.
  4. Fill each cup 3/4-full with pudding mixture and top with remaining crushed cookies.
  5. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  6. Top with gummy worms before serving

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You can find What About Worms!? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 1 – National Author’s Day

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About the Holiday

There may be no better month to celebrate Author’s Day than in November. Not only is it Picture Book Month, but thousands of people set aside their usual routine to take part in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, when writers try to complete at least a first draft of a novel in one month. The holiday was instituted in 1928 by Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement, Illinois Women’s Club. An avid reader, she established Author’s Day to thank writer Irving Bacheller who sent her an autographed story in response to her fan letter. The day was officially recognized in 1949 by the United States Department of Commerce. McPherson’s granddaughter, Sue Cole, promoted the holiday after Nellie’s death in 1968. To celebrate, people are encouraged to write a note of appreciation to their favorite author.

Who is the Mystery Writer? (Unlimited Squirrels)

By Mo Willems

 

Mo Willems passel of fifteen squirrels—and one winged squirrel-wanna-be—is back in this beginning-reader series that offers lots of laughs along with enthusiastic encouragement for new readers. The table of contents (introduced by a punny joke) reveals that there are plenty of stories and jokes to come before the Tale End, where kids get to celebrate their detective skills.

First up is The BIG Story: Who is the Mystery Reader? Zoom Squirrel, Zap Squirrel, Zip Squirrel, Flink Squirrel, and Wink Squirrel are walking along when they come to a STOP sign. Zoom Squirrel pulls up quick and stops the crew—not because of the sign, exactly, but because he can’t read it. Zap, Zip, and Flink are in a bit of a tizzy about how to discover what the sign says, while Wink Squirrel excuses himself and walks off the page.

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Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

In the wink of an eye, a masked squirrel appears to suggest the squirrels read the sign. The other squirrels are mesmerized by their hero, and as he passes out his card, all Zoom Squirrel can say is “Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.” After the squirrels reveal their predicament, the Mystery Reader springs into action. He begins by sounding out the letters, but Zoom Squirrel shouts “STOP!” He doesn’t see how this is helping.

After a bit of explanation, Zoom is ready to try sounding out the letters for himself—and… he’s got it! While congratulations are being passed around, the Mystery Reader excuses himself and walks off the page. When Wink Squirrel returns, his friends tell him what he’s missed. Thus, begins the search for who the Mystery Reader really is. Zoom has turned into quite a reader, but his interpretation of the Mystery Reader’s card leads to his mistaken impression that he is the Mystery Reader. He’s just beginning his thank-you speech, when the real Mystery Reader is back (with a wink).

Zoom feels a bit deflated until the Mystery Reader gives him his own “New Mystery Reader” mask and underpants. Zap, Zip, and Flink think it’s too bad that Zoom missed meeting this new mystery reader. The Mystery Reader ends the story with a wry “Well… We learned something today.” To which Zoom responds, “Squirrels do not know much about costumes! Up next is an “Acorn-y Joke” that is guaranteed to be “100% corny!”—much to the delight of readers!

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Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

In the following segment, Wonder Squirrel is doing some deep thinking about the origins of writing. Now, everyone wants to know. This is a job for… The Book of Wonders! Inside The Book of Wonders! readers learn about cuneiform, hieroglyphs (and how they influenced our alphabet), the Inca’s use of knotted ropes, and the invention of paper. Kids also learn that there are mysteries about writing still to be solved.

Another Acorn-y Joke will have kids giggling, and then it’s time for readers to learn how Mo Squirrel makes a book—from idea to agent and editor, to writing, rewriting and redrawing, to re-rewriting and re-redrawing, and finally to printing. The Tale End poses a conundrum of sorts. Zap, Zip, and Flink are shocked to discover that they never learned who the Mystery Readers are. Readers at home, will feel empowered to be in on the joke as Zoom Squirrel and Wink Squirrel wink at each other knowingly.

A page preceding the stories introduces emote-acorns—small acorn faces that display nine emotions, such as surprised, sad, confused, and proud. These small graphics are found throughout the stories in the bottom corner whenever “the squirrels have big feelings” allowing children to practice not only their print-reading skills but their skills in reading facial expressions as well.

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Copyright Mo Willems, 2019, courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children.

Mo Willems’ zany squirrels will keep kids laughing and shouting out the answers to their questions in this rollicking beginning reader. The text of each story is presented solely in dialog bubbles that are clearly attributed to the speaker. The short phrasing and repeated words will give new readers confidence in their abilities and encourage them to try longer sentences. The non-fiction pages include photographs of the various types of writing discussed, and the facts presented are detailed and written so the target age can easily understand. Readers who would like to learn more are pointed toward the Unlimited Squirrels website.

Willems’ distinctive illustration style is always a delight, and his emotive squirrels are no exception. The graphic novel format gives readers clear, bold and vivid imagery to mirror the text and make reading a visual treat of putting words and actions together. Each squirrel has different colors and markings. Getting to know and recognize the five squirrels in The Big Story: Who is the Mystery Reader? before beginning to read will help kids follow the action and be one step ahead of the mystery for maximum enjoyment and inclusion in the jokes.

A funny and fun addition to the Unlimited Squirrels series, Who is the Mystery Reader? will get kids excited about becoming readers and would be an often-chosen book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Hyperion Books for Children, 2019 | ISBN 978-1368046862

To learn more about Mo Willems and his books, visit his website.

Have fun with more Unlimited Squirrels on their website.

National Author’s Day Activity

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Catch the Reading Bug Bookmark and Bookplate

 

If you love to read, show it with these printable Reading Bug book bling!

I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate | I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Buy

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You can find Who is the Mystery Reader? (Unlimited Squirrels) at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 2 – It’s Children’s Book Week

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy program in the United States. The history of the holiday goes back to 1913, when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, toured the country to promote a higher standard in children’s books and proposed a Children’s Book Week. The week is celebrated by authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, librarians, and schools with special readings, events, and materials to get kids excited about reading. To learn more and find free, downloadable bookmarks and graphic novel, visit Every Child a Reader.

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of the Itchy Book to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Disney-Hyperion in a giveaway of a fantastic prize pack of books and other swag. See details below.

The Itchy Book! 

By LeUyen Pham | Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! Series from Mo Willems

 

Piggie has a question for Elephant: “Do you like books that make you feel things?” Indeed, Elephant does! And Piggie has just the book to give Elephant the feels all over. It’s called The Itchy Book!, and it opens like this:

Dino-Mo, a thoughtful, bespectacled pachycephalosaurus, comes strolling by and notices a sign that reads Dinosaurs Do Not Scratch. “Who knew?” says a tortoise snoozing next to the rock. Dino-Mo is contemplating this new bit of knowledge when a young triceratops comes by whistling a tune. Suddenly, she stops and bends down to scratch her bandaged knee, but before she can get her claws moving, the pachycephalosaurus rushes forwards to stop her.

He shows the triceratops the sign. “But I am ITCHY!” Triceratops tells him. There’s only one thing to do. “Dinosaurs are TOUGH! We do not scratch!” Dino-Mo instructs. The triceratops is doing her best not to think about it when a pterodactyl flies by chased by a bee. The bee catches up to her, and now she has a terrible itch. After a dire warning, Pterodactyl keeps her wings up and toughs it out.

Pterodactyl is ready to do battle against Brontosaurus’s back itch, though and zips up on top to help out. Triceratops thinks this looks like fun and is making the leap when Dino-Mo shouts, “HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!!!” He reminds them all of the sign, and, duly dejected, the three dinos quit their itchfest. But someone else is coming! It’s T-Rex with a scratchy, scratchy tag. He even promises not to eat anyone if they’ll just help with the incredible itching that he can’t reach.

“You tell him,” says Triceratops, and Dino-Mo does. They all acknowledge that “It is tough to be tough.” Only Dino-Mo is itch free, but in a show of solidarity, he asks the other dinos to make him itchy. Triceratops tickles him with a feather. Pterodactyl throws cut grass on him, and Brontosaurus adds an ant. Everyone else is getting itchy just watching all of this, but Dino-Mo doesn’t flinch. Even a wool sweater brings no response.

With a bit of a crazed look in his eyes, Dino-Mo recites the mantra “Dinosaurs…Do…Not…SCRATCH!” as the other dinos shower him with itch-inducing things until they’re all just a bundle of itchiness. They’re hanging tough, though. They’re proud. They’re doing what the sign says. Then the tortoise, refreshed from his nap, gets up and wanders away leaving the whole sign exposed. It seems there’s a little more to this dinosaur scratching business than originally thought. Have an itch to find out what? You’ll have to read along with Elephant and Piggie!

LeUyen Pham rocks the prehistoric landscape with her hilarious early reader that will have all ages of kids—and adults too—giggling, laughing, and groaning in sympathy for these dinos with Gigantosaurus-sized itches. As anyone knows, just thinking about scratching makes the problem worse. Throw in a rule about not scratching, and you have Pham’s recipe for a perfectly frantic and giddy story that kids will love to read again and again.

Pham’s expressive dinosaurs—who really want to obey the law etched in stone—are endearing as they tough it out and encourage their friends to do the same. Bold colors, a great dynamic among the dinosaurs, and the cartoon-inspired format will engage kids. Repeated words and phrases as well as speech bubbles color-coded to each dinosaur will guide early readers.

The Itchy Book!, Book 5 of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series, is a must for early and emerging readers or for any fan of the Elephant & Piggie books, It’s also a terrific read-together for younger kids. Adding The Itchy Book! to home bookshelves and classrooms will make them richer—and funnier! 

Ages 6 – 8 , younger children will enjoy having The Itchy Book! read to them.

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 | ISBN 978-1368005647

Discover more about LeUyen Pham, her books, and her art on her very cool website.

Learn more about Mo Willems and his books, find fun activities, and much “Mo” on his website.

To Learn More about The Itchy Book! visit the book’s Official Site.

Children’s Book Week Activity

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Dino Diorama

 

Ever get an itch to visit the land of the dinosaurs? With this fun Dino Diorama craft you can make a mini version for your own room.

Supplies

  • 1-pound plastic deli container or glass jar
  • Three or four small plastic dinosaur toys
  • Dirt or sand to create a ½-inch ground layer in the bottom of the container
  • Small rocks or pebbles
  • Plastic leaves or plants, available from craft or fish tank supply sections of pet stores
  • Or use succulents in place of plastic plants to make a terrarium diorama
  • Goo-B-Gone for removing label-glue residue from the deli container (optional)

Directions

  1. Wash the deli container and carefully remove the label
  2. Use Goo-B-Gone to remove any residual glue (optional)
  3. Spread the dirt in the bottom of the container
  4. Place the rocks, plants, and dinosaurs into the container
  5. Put the lid on the container
  6. Or plant the succulents and decorate around them with the rocks and dinosaurs
  7. If using succulents, leave the container open

Picture Book Review

September 21 – World Gratitude Day

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About the Holiday

In 1965 an international gathering in Hawaii established World Gratitude Day as a time for people everywhere to formally appreciate and give thanks for all the wonderful things in the world. In 1966 the attendees celebrated World Gratitude Day on this date in their individual countries, beginning a tradition that has grown over time. The benefits of positive thinking have become well documented. The founders of Gratitude Day also recognized that by taking a day to celebrate the amazing parts of our lives we might become happier, more content people.

The Thank You Book: An Elephant & Piggie Book

By Mo Willems

 

Piggie and Gerald are relaxing together when Piggie thinks “I am one lucky pig. I have a lot to be thankful for….” Then it dawns on her that she “had better get thanking!” With resolve she vows to thank every important person in her life. Gerald doesn’t believe Piggie will be able to do this and is sure she will forget someone—even someone important. But piggie is determined, emphasizing, “I. Will. Thank. EVERYONE” and she trots off on her “Thank-o-rama” while Gerald stands by in awe.

First Piggie encounters her squirrel friends and thanks them for their great ideas, next Piggie gives Snake a big hug for playing ball with her. The Pigeon is thanked for “never giving up,” and Piggie even apologizes for The Pigeon’s never being in their books, although the sly Pigeon knows better. Piggie whistles and dances away to continue her mission, while Gerald reiterates that she will forget someone.

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Image copyright Mo Willems, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Piggie comes upon Mouse, Birdies, Rhino, Hippo’s Big Sister, Barky Dog, Pelican, Bear, Hippo and Worms, and thanks them all for “being great friends.”  Doing a cartwheel, Piggie says, “See that, Gerald? I am a thanking machine!” But Gerald is miffed because Piggie has forgotten someone important, and he gives Piggie a big smile. Piggie seems to get the hint and promises that her next thank you will be a big one. And it is! Piggie yells up at Whale, “Thanks, Whale! You are nice!”

Ice Cream Penguin receives gratitude for the ice cream, and Doctor Cat is thanked for “being a great doctor” while Gerald tags along behind. Piggie meets Brian Bat and thanks him for sharing drawing time. By now Gerald is getting a bit steamed, and tries to attract Piggie’s attention quietly and then with a shout—“PIGGIE!”—that sends Piggie reeling. “You are forgetting someone,” Gerald reminds her, looking her straight in the eye. “Someone VERY important.”

Finally Piggie understands. She gazes at Gerald wide-eyed and says, “Now I know who you are talking about.” Gerald smiles, but his happiness is short-lived as Piggie thanks the flies for cooking with her. Gerald can’t take it anymore. Waving his arms he shouts, “NOT THE FLIES, PIGGIE! But Piggie gives it right back—waving arms and all: “I CANNOT THINK OF ANYONE ELSE I HAVE FORGOTTEN TO THANK, GERALD!”

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Image copyright Mo Willems, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Gerald displays an “it’s obvious” pose and finally Piggie does understand. She is shocked and contrite. “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Elephant Gerald!” Piggie gushes, holding Gerald’s hands. With a hug Piggie continues, “You are the best friend a pig could ever have!” Gerald accepts Piggie’s thanks, but reveals that he did not think Piggie had forgotten him. Piggie is so confused! She explodes: “WHO DID I FORGET TO THANK!?!”

“Our reader.” Gerald says “You forgot to thank our reader.” Poor Piggie is so embarrassed. “You are right!” she says. Piggie looks straight out from the page and with sincerity says, “Thank you for being our reader!” Gerald joins her to say, “We could not be ‘us’ without you,” and Piggie agrees: “You are the best!” The two friends congratulate each other on their thanking and return to relaxing together. “Yep,” Piggie thinks once more. “I am one lucky pig.”

With this 25th Elephant and Piggie Book, Mo Willems brings his award-winning early-reader series to an end in an emotional tribute to all of the duo’s friends and their readers. In The Thank You Book Gerald and Piggie’s special relationship, born of humor, conflict, misunderstandings—and ultimately understanding, is on full display. The evocative illustrations reveal Gerald’s growing discontent and consternation while the dialogue, displayed in speech bubbles and with varying type sizes, expresses the changing dynamics of the story.

While regular readers of the Elephant and Piggie books will be sad to say goodbye to new stories, Willems has left them with many wonderful memories and adventures to return to again and again. New readers will be—like Piggie—very lucky to discover these two friends and develop their own relationship with this unique pair.

Ages 3 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1423178286

Find books, games, activities, and lots more on Mo Willem‘s website and play along with Pigeon and the gang on Pigeon Presents!

Do you want to know what’s up next for Gerald and Piggie? Head over to Mom’s Radius: life. love. books. and find out! You’ll also discover a whole bookcase-worth of books you’ll want to read!

World Thank You Day Activity

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What Are You Thankful For? Poster

 

Write all of the amazing things in your life that make you happy on this colorful, printable What Are You Thankful For? Template! Then display it in your room or locker to make you smile or remind you to thank everyone who is important to you! 

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Picture Book Review