July 23 – Gorgeous Grandma Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate grandmothers and give them the praise they deserve! Besides loving and always being there for their grandkids, grandmas are out there working, having fun, exploring new adventures, and sharing it all with family and friends. They’re also the source to go to for family memories and stories of generations past. In short, grandmas are gorgeous inside and out! Children benefit in many ways from having a close relationship with their grandparents. To celebrate today’s holiday, plan an outing or a visit between children and their grandmother. If that isn’t possible, call or write, and it’s always fun to read a book about grandmas—like today’s sweet book!

With Love, Grandma

Written by Helen Foster James | Illustrated by Petra Brown

 

Little Hedgehog waves goodbye to Grandma, who’s off on an adventure. Along the way Grandma writes letters to her grandchild about all the fun she is having and how her experiences remind her of her dearest love. Grandma’s first letter is dated May 15th and addressed Dear Sweat Pea…. She is writing from a meadow of wildflowers and says “Grandma misses you, but your love grows in my heart. She also sends along a packet of wildflowers for her grandchild to plant.

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Image copyright Petra Brown, 2018, text copyright Helen Foster James, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

May 18th finds Grandma describing a mountain hike she took with friends, and she includes a picture of a deer and fawn she saw. She suggests that she and her “Sunshine” “go for a hike the next time you visit CAMP GRANDMA. She closes saying, “I love you ‘over the river and through the woods’ and to the tippy-tip-top of the highest mountain.”

It’s June 3rd and Grandma’s writes “Ahoy, Matey!” to tell her little one about her “full-of-fun day” kayaking. She even made a pirate hat complete with feathers to send along with her letter and promises to make one together at CAMP GRANDMA. She signs off, “I’ll always love you to the stars and back. With Love, Grandma XOXO. PS Explore more!”

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Image copyright Petra Brown, 2018, text copyright Helen Foster James, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

“Dear Snickerdoodle,” Grandma writes on June 10, “I was at the beach today.” Making s’mores with her friends reminded her of the time she made them with little Hedgehog. She’s ready to do that again at CAMP GRANDMA and sends a “funny saying, but it’s true. ‘Every day, I LOVE you s’more!’” On June 15th Grandma’s travels are over and she’s back home ready to have her “Dear Cupcake” come to visit. She’s whipping up a batch of cupcakes they can share at CAMP GRANDMA because she and her grandchild “go together like fronting on a cupcake.”  She ends her letter “With Love, Grandma XOXO. PS Grandma loves you!”

As quick as a wink, Little Hedgehog is packed and running up the walkway to CAMP GRANDMA with arms stretched wide to receive Grandma’s loving hug.

Free of personal pronouns and illustrated with gender-neutral clothing, With Love, Grandma XOXO will be embraced by all children. Beautiful, easy-to-follow illustrated directions for making s’mores and a paper pirate hat follow the text.

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Image copyright Petra Brown, 2018, text copyright Helen Foster James, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Helen Foster James’ story in letters is so adorably charming that young readers will snuggle in to learn about Grandma’s next adventure and her endearing reminders to her grandchild. James’ grandma is energetic, creative, and accomplished, and her independence and zest for life mirrors today’s grandparents. Each page is filled with tons of love and the knowledge that little ones are always in a grandparent’s heart even if or when distance separates them. While sharing encouragement, teachable moments, gentle advice, inside jokes, and favorite activities, Grandma reveals her pride in and devotion to her grandchild. Little listeners will be reminded of their own grandmas and the special bond they have.

Petra Brown’s stunning two-page spreads gorgeously depict Grandma’s adventures—from a wildflower meadow, mountain pass, plein air painting class, and Memorial Day parade to a rambling river, bookstore, and rainy day. Playful snapshots of Grandma and Little Hedgehog laughing and enjoying each other’s company at home are also interspersed among the lovely illustrations. Images of the flower seed packet, photo, postcard, and pirate hat Grandma sends with some letters adds depth and interest to the story.

This tender, warm-hearted book is like a big hug from Grandma on the bookshelf that can be shared again and again. With Love, Grandma makes a joyful gift to or from Grandma—one that will be cherished.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585369423

Discover more about Helen Foster James and her books on her website.

To learn more about Petra Brown, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Gorgeous Grandma Day Activity

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World’s Best Grandmother Certificate

Do you have the world’s best grandmother? Of course you do! Show her how much you love her by giving her this printable certificate!

World’s Best Grandmother Certificate

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You can find With Love, Grandma at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 7 -World Chocolate Day

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About the Holiday

The purpose of World Chocolate Day is simple! Most likely instituted to celebrate the introduction of chocolate to Europe on July 7, 1550, the day gives people everywhere the perfect excuse to indulge in this favorite flavor sensation. You know what to do! Bake some brownies, order a double scoop of your favorite chocolate-based ice cream, make a chocolate cake (with chocolate frosting, of course), or whip up a batch of chocolate chocolate chip cookies, and enjoy!

Grandpa Cocoa: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family

By Elizabeth Zunon

 

It’s a little girl’s birthday, and she and her daddy are making her “family’s special celebration cake” while her mom “goes to pick up another treat.” While they bake, the girl’s father reminds her that “‘chocolate is a gift to you from Grandpa Cacao.” The girl has never met her grandfather since he lives in Africa and she wonders if she is like him. Her father begins to tell her the story of his growing up on her Grandpa Cacao’s Ivory Coast farm.

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As they add flour to the bowl, Daddy explains how her grandfather knew just when the fruit was ripe for picking. “Just like the way I can spot the end of summer from tinges of orange at the tips of treetops,” the girl thinks. Then, her father goes on, Grandpa Cacao expertly sliced the pods without damaging any of the beans inside. “‘Did you ever help?’” the girl asks as they melt the chocolate and butter for the cake. Her daddy says that everyone in the village worked together and that when he turned seven, he was allowed to help but only after he’d finished his homework and chores.

The white beans were put into pits lined with banana leaves and stirred periodically until they became light brown. Then they were moved to a cement floor to dry in the sun. The beans had to be taken in each night, and when storms came the beans had to be covered. The girl imagines her grandpa could smell the rain coming the way she could “smell a cold day.”

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

While they crack and add the eggs, the girl’s father tells her how the beans sounded and tasted when they were ready to sell. The story is making her hungry, and she wonders what Mommy could be bringing home. When he was older, Daddy says, he helped bag the beans to sell to the cacao buyers, who would send them to factories to be made into chocolate. With the money from the cacao beans, they bought “food, school supplies, uniforms, books, and fabric to have out special occasion clothes made.”

The cake batter is ready to pour into the pan, and she carries the big bowl to her daddy. She reminds him of Grandpa Cacao carrying a big basket of cacao pods. The thought makes them both smile. Then the girl’s thoughts return to what her mother is bringing home. Perhaps it’s a new dress or the puppy she wants. Daddy dips his finger in the chocolate batter and the girls licks the spoon. It makes him think of how he and the other kids snuck tastes “of the pulp from the cacao fruits or the candy-sweet drink” they made.

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Baking in the oven, the cake smells delicious. Just as the timer rings, the doorbell chimes. When the girl opens it, she sees her mommy with an older man she’s never seen before. “‘Happy Birthday!’” he says, and the girl recognizes his voice from their phone calls. He hugs her and then gives her a big orange pod. It’s her birthday present, he tells her. But being with her Grandpa Cacao is “the best birthday present ever in the world.”

An Author’s Note following the text describes Elizabeth Zunon’s childhood in Abidjan, the realities of the cacao trade and Fair Trade products and a bit about how the illustrations were created. There are also brief discussions on the science and history of chocolate as well as a page on how cacao goes from bean to treat. Bakers will also be pleased to see the recipe for the special Chocolate Celebration Cake made in the story.

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Elizabeth Zunon’s celebration of family and pride in one’s heritage is a compelling read that shines with a strong father – daughter relationship, shared memories, and the joys of working together. The warmth shared by the girl and her daddy is evident as she revels in hearing the story of Grandpa Cacao and identifying with him even though he lives far away. Zunon’s smooth delivery of Grandpa Cacao and Daddy’s story imparts fascinating details of how cacao is grown, harvested, and prepared for sale. While the little girl may wish for a new dress or a puppy, she is happier with the surprise of meeting her grandfather at last.

Zunon’s mixed-media, collage style illustrations beautifully meld the world inside the family kitchen with the girl’s imagining of life in Africa on Grandpa Cacao’s farm. The opaque screen-printed images of Grandpa Cacao, the girl’s father as a child and young man, and the other villagers, are powerful reminders to readers that their family and family history is always with them and supporting them.

A unique book to share during family story time, in the classroom, or during a library program, Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family would be a much-loved addition to home, school, and public library collections. And don’t forget to include cake!

Ages 3 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681196404

Discover more about Elizabeth Zunon, her books, and her art on her website.

World Chocolate Day Activity

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My Kids’ Favorite Brownies from Cookies & Cups, copyright Shelly Jaronsky, January 29, 2019. Courtesy of cookies&cups.com.

Cookies & Cups My Kids’ Favorite Brownies

 

If you’re looking for a scrumptious chocolatey brownie that melts in your mouth, look no further than Shelly Jaronsky’s My Kids’ Favorite Brownies recipe on Cookies & Cups. While you’re there, you’ll want to look around at all of Shelly’s delicious recipes! 

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You can find Grandpa Cocoa: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 17 – It’s National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month

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About the Holiday

One of the best parts of summer is all the fresh fruit and veggies that are available in your own garden, at farmers markets, and at grocery stores. Vibrant red strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, and tomatoes; deep green lettuce and kale; and a rainbow of squash, peppers, and potatoes make cooking and eating a special treat. There’s no better way to celebrate the season than by making favorite recipes—and trying some new ones—with your favorite fruits and vegetables.

I received a copy of When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree

Written by Jamie L. B. Deenihan | Illustrated by Lorraine Rocha

 

Your birthday present wish list isn’t that long, but it is tech-y, full of dreams for a phone, a computer, headphones, and even a drone. But what does Grandma bring? “Surprise! It’s a…lemon tree.” Fortunately, you know your manners, so you look happy—even excited—on the outside while inside you feel more frown-y and maybe a bit cry-y as you thank her sweetly. What you don’t do is “drop it off a bridge. Tie it to your birthday balloons. Play ding dong ditch the lemon tree.”

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Image copyright Lorraine Rocha, 2019, text copyright Jaime L. B. Deenihan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Instead, the next day you find a sunny spot for your tree, water it just enough, and protect it from danger. When winter comes, you bring it inside and keep it warm. When you see that it’s growing, you repot it. You wait and wait some more. “Once the snow melts, it’s time to bring your lemon tree back outside,” and pretty soon, you find yourself “picking lemons! Woo-Hoo!”

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Image copyright Lorraine Rocha, 2019, text copyright Jaime L. B. Deenihan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

All those lemons are great for slicing and squeezing. But that’s a lot of lemon juice. What to do? “Gather these items: 1. Lemon juice. 2. Water. 3. A pinch (or handful) of sugar. 4. Flashy lemonade stand. Cue dazzling smile and…” you’ll have plenty of money to “finally buy exactly what you want.” You know what that is, right? Something off that wish list, or… “something you can really enjoy.” Something like that wagon full of plants and flowers you’ve bought to make a garden that “you can share with others too”—especially Grandma!

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Image copyright Lorraine Rocha, 2019, text copyright Jaime L. B. Deenihan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Directly addressing the reader, Jamie L. B. Deenihan introduces the unthinkable gift and the inexpressible emotions it elicits with droll wit that kids will respond to with knowing giggles. But today’s crop of readers is a complex bunch, and they’ll also appreciate the value of a living, growing, giving present that they can care for and share. As the little girl tends to her lemon tree through the seasons—reading to it, transplanting it to roomier quarters, measuring it, and even naming it—Deenihan lends a layer of depth that readers will recognize from their own experiences of growing up.

At last, the lemons are ready to be picked and made into lemonade and the girl reaps the fruits of her labor in her popular lemonade stand. But these are more profound than perhaps expected as, instead of spending her cash on items from her electronics-heavy wish list, she buys a garden-load of new plants with which she transforms her neighborhood. How do the other kids react? They seem happy enough to leave their robots on the sidewalk and put away their phones to enjoy a day in nature.

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Image copyright Lorraine Rocha, 2019, text copyright Jaime L. B. Deenihan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Between the front endpapers—where the neighborhood streets are empty of people, a vacant lot between apartment buildings collects trash, and a kite lies forgotten on a rooftop—and the back endpapers—where the sidewalks are full of kids, flower pots dot stoops, the vacant lot is a thriving park, and the kite soars above the buildings—an unforeseen and surprising transformation takes place. Lorraine Rocha captures the girl’s internal conflict about her gift with humorous snapshots of what she shouldn’t do with the tree and then juxtaposes them with others that show her becoming more and more invested in her little, leafy charge.

When the lemons are picked, they spill out of the bowl and dot the counter, a sunny accents to the girl’s soft-blue kitchen. The long line at her lemonade stand attests to their delicious allure. Rocha cleverly mirrors the ubiquity and sterility of electronics in her illustration of the gray Mega Store, where the only colorful element is the display of plants on sale. The final two-page spread of the lush and vibrant garden is joyously inclusive, and kids will love peering into the windows to see how the neighborhood has been brought together.

A book to spark a love of gardening, discussions on community, and a second look at all of those tech toys, When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-145492381

Discover more about Jamie L. B. Deenihan and her books on her website.

To learn more about Lorraine Rocha, her books, and her art, visit her website.

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree written by Jamie L. B. Deenihan | illustrated by Lorraine Rocha

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from June 17 through June 23 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on June 24.

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month Activity

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Lovely Lemon Centerpiece

 

Brighten up your table with this cute birdy centerpiece! Kids will have fun making their own birds and nest with a couple of lemons and a few easy-to-find supplies.

Supplies

  • Lemons (one for each bird)
  • Googly eyes
  • Toothpicks
  • Yellow tissue paper
  • Yellow felt, fleece, or paper
  • Brown paper sandwich bag
  • Parchment paper or other light paper
  • Strong glue
  • Tape

Directions

To Make the Bird

  1. Insert the toothpick into the lemon to make the beak
  2. Glue on the eyes 
  3. Cut a length of tissue paper about 2 inches by 4 inches
  4. Fold the paper in narrow widths accordion style
  5. Pinch one end together and fan out the paper to make the tail
  6. Flatten the pinched end and glue it to the lower back of the lemon
  7. Crumple a bit of tissue paper and glue to the top of the lemon
  8. Cut small wings from the felt, fleece, or paper
  9. Glue the wings to the sides of the lemon

To Make the Nest

  1. Cut the bag open along one side and along the bottom
  2. Roll up the bag and form it into a circle, taping the ends together. (To make a larger nest tape two bags together)
  3. To make the nesting material, cut narrow strips from the parchment or light paper
  4. Fill the ring with the nesting material

Set the bird or birds in the nest

Enjoy!

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You can find When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 9 – National Bagel Day

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About the Holiday

With its deliciously soft, doughy inside and crusty outside, the boiled-then-baked bagel is a favorite for breakfast, lunch, and snacks! Bagels come in all sorts of flavors and varieties and with toppings for every taste, there’s no denying that the bagel is comfort food at its best. To celebrate today’s holiday, visit your favorite bakery and enjoy!

The Bagel King

Written by Andrew Larsen | Illustrated by Sandy Nichols

 

“Every Sunday morning Zaida went to Merv’s Bakery for bagels.” Sometimes his young grandson, Eli, went with him. When he did, Mrs. Rose always gave him a pickle from the big jar behind the counter. When he didn’t, “Zaida delivered his bagels right to his door.” Zaida went to Merv’s every Sunday no matter what the weather. The “warm, chewy, salty bagels were the best thing about Sunday.”

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Image copyright Sandy Nichols, 2018, text copyright Andrew Larsen, 2018. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

One Sunday, though, the familiar knock on the door never came. Later, Zaida called Eli and told him he had “slipped on some schmutz at Merv’s” and had gone to the doctor. Zaida had hurt his tuches and was ordered to relax at home for two weeks. Eli ran right over. As they sat together, both Eli’s and Zaida’s stomach rumbled with missing the usual bagels.

Pretty soon there was a knock on the door and three of Zaida’s elderly neighbors came in. All three were just as hungry as Eli and Zaida. It turned out that Zaida had been hosting a bagel feast for the four of them for years. When Zaida told them about his tuches, they said “‘Oy! Are you all right?’” But they were all disappointed about the bagels.

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Image copyright Sandy Nichols, 2018, text copyright Andrew Larsen, 2018. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

As the week went on, Eli visited his grandfather every day. He brought chicken soup one day, another day he brought chicken soup and a book, and on yet another day, he brought chicken soup and a canine friend for company. On Saturday night, though, it wasn’t chicken soup Eli was thinking about, but bagels. “Even the moon looked like a bagel all smothered with cream cheese.”

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Image copyright Sandy Nichols, 2018, text copyright Andrew Larsen, 2018. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The next morning, Eli woke up early and walked down to Merv’s with a list in his hand. When he reached the counter, he handed Mrs. Rose the list. As she read it, she said, “‘This looks very familiar. Except for the last item.” Eli told her that it was a surprise. With the big bag hugged close, Eli left Merv’s and went to Zaida’s. When Zaida saw the big bag of bagel, he was surprised! His friends were delighted. “‘The boy’s a prince,’” said Mr. Goldstck, but “Zaida proudly declared, ‘He’s the Bagel King!’”

Then Eli reached in and brought out his surprise—a jar of Merv’s pickles. As Eli ate his “warm, chewy, salty” bagels, he knew “bagles were the best thing about Sunday. The best thing, that is, except for Zaida.”

A glossary of the Yiddish words used in the story and a bit about bagels and chicken soup precede the text.

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Image copyright Sandy Nichols, 2018, text copyright Andrew Larsen, 2018. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

With a sprinkling of Yiddish words and an old neighborhood atmosphere, Andrew Larsen depicts a close relationship between a grandfather and grandson who bond over bagels, pickles, and a deep love for one another. While Zaida is the one who begins the Sunday bagel tradition, this is Eli’s story as he takes it upon himself to help his grandfather recuperate and makes sure that he, Zaida, and Zaida’s friends don’t miss their favorite day for a second time. Young readers will find in Eli a peer role model for showing care and concern for family members and friends. Larsen’s straightforward storytelling peppered with realistic and humorous dialogue is as warm and cozy as sitting down to a Sunday family breakfast.

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Sandy Nichols’ fresh, retro illustrations stylishly bridge the generations while also reveling in the friendly city neighborhood feeling that provides a backdrop and context for Eli’s emotional growth within the story. Images of Eli hanging over the arm of his grandfather’s sofa in boredom and disappointment, wistfully dreaming of bagels on Saturday night, and proudly making his list, buying the bagels, and delivering them—complete with a surprise—to Zaida and his friends will delight readers.

The Bagel King is an uplifting, joyful for all kids coming into their own and desiring to make a difference. The book would make a sweet gift for grandparents or grandkids, a snug family story to add to home libraries, and a terrific choice for classroom or library storytimes.

Ages 4 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1771385749

Discover more about Andrew Larsen and his books on his website.

National Bagel Day Activity

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CD (Compact Doughnuts) Decoration

 

Do you have an old CD that could use an upgrade? With this easy craft, you can turn it into a cute doughnut (or bagel) hanging.

Supplies

  • Unused CDs
  • Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
  • Ribbon, any color and length you want
  • Fine-tip markers in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (optional)
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint a wavy edge around the CD, let dry
  2. Paint the center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted
  3. When the icing paint is dry, draw sprinkles on the icing with the markers
  4. With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
  5. Hang your decoration

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You can find The Bagel King at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 6 – Mitten Tree Day

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About the Holiday

The feel of a cozy mitten on freezing fingers is one of the luxuries of wintertime. But where did mittens come from? You might be surprised to discover that the word “mitten” comes from the French word mitaine, which was an old nickname for a cat, because early mittens were typically made of animal fur. The earliest mittens, dating to around 1000 AD, were used as sheaths for gloves, adding extra protection for cold hands. Today, I’m pleased to review the book in which Mitten Tree Day is said to have its origins! Originally published in 1997, the story has endured and continues to spark programs in schools, libraries, and communities around the country.

The Mitten Tree

Written by Candace Christiansen | Illustrated by Elaine Greenstein

 

In a small house at the end of a lane Sarah lives all alone. Her own children have grown and moved away, but as she watches the kids gather at the blue spruce tree to wait for the school bus she remembers all the years that she walked her son and daughter to this same spot. As she makes her way down the lane to her mailbox, she wishes the children will wave and smile, but they never seem to notice her. Still, it makes Sarah smile to see them.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

One winter morning Sarah notices all the kids throwing snowballs and making snowmen—all except one little boy dressed all in blue who lacks the mittens needed to join his friends. All day Sarah worries about the boy with no mittens. As the sun goes down Sarah digs “through the basket of yarn scraps she had saved for many years.” She finds her needles and four shades of blue wool. Then Sarah begins to knit.

With the rising sun Sarah hurries to the bus stop and hangs the new blue mittens on the spruce tree. Then she hides behind a hedge to watch. The little boy in blue is the first to arrive at the bus stop. When he sees the mittens hanging there, he tries them on and finds that they fit perfectly. With a big smile he makes “a perfect snowball” and throws “it high into the winter sky.” Soon Sarah sees a little girl with mismatched mittens. That night she finds the perfect color of wool and knits a pair to match the girl’s red coat.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Every morning Sarah watches the children, looking for any who have no mittens. During the day her needles are busy making gifts for these children. The next morning before anyone else is up she rushes to the spruce tree and adorns it with the mittens she has knitted. The children have warmed to the “game,” and each day search “under every branch and bough for another pair of mittens.” Once or twice Sarah thinks the boy with her blue mittens sees her, but his eyes don’t linger.

On the day before the school’s winter break Sarah fills her knitting basket with the latest mittens she’s knit. She heads out the door and down the lane. When she reaches the blue spruce, she hangs “mittens on every branch.” When the children arrive, they stand “very still for a few minutes looking at the mysterious, beautiful mitten tree.” As they board the bus, each child is wearing a new pair of mittens. Sarah sees them appear one by one in the bus windows, but none see Sarah.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Sarah goes home feeling happy and with her heart as full as it was “when the sounds of her own children had filled her house.” But what awaits Sarah? As she climbs the stairs to her porch, she notices a “basket woven with thick brown vines and decorated with a large white bow.” She’s surprised to see that it is filled to the brim with balls of colorful yarn. Even today Sarah knits new mittens for all the children in town, and “every time her basket is empty, a new full one appears.” Sarah doesn’t know who brings the basket, just as the children don’t know who supplies the mittens. “But someone must….”

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Candace Christiansen’s heartwarming story of kindness given and reciprocated will inspire kids to see that anyone can make a difference in the lives of others by using their talents to fill a need. This gentle, quiet tale offers suspense that will pique readers’ curiosity from page to page, and the mystery surrounding the never-empty basket of wool provides a satisfying and moving ending that also reassures kids that deeds of thoughtfulness and compassion are noticed. The grandmotherly Sarah and familiar school bus stop setting and winter activities will resonate with readers.

Elaine Greenstein’s softly colored, folk-style illustrations give the story a cozy feeling—perfect for cold-weather reading, The variety of intricately knitted mittens, with their hearts, stripes, snowflakes and cables, are charming, and the enchanting image of the blue spruce decorated with mittens makes it easy to see how The Mitten Tree continues to inspire so many acts of kindness and charity.

Ages 3 – 7

Fulcrum Publishing, 2009 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1555917333

Mitten Tree Day Activity

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Mitten Match & Coloring Page

 

Mittens often get lost or mismatched in the fun of winter activities. Find the pairs in this printable Mitten Match & Coloring Page and then decorate them!

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You can find The Mitten Tree at these booksellers

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

Celebrate Picture Books

November 1 – National Author Day

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About the Holiday

What would we do without authors? Through their imagination we’re transported into new realms, learn fascinating facts about the world around us, and laugh, cry, and come together as we collectively embrace their characters. Today’s holiday was established in 1928 by Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, who was an avid reader and grateful owner of a signed copy of a story by Irving Bacheller. To show her thanks, she instituted Author’s Day. The holiday was officially recognized in 1949 by the US Department of Commerce. To celebrate, people are encouraged to write a note of appreciation to their favorite author.

Up the Mountain Path

By Marianne Dubuc

 

In all her many years, Mrs. Badger has “seen many things.” A small collection of things on her kitchen shelves reminds her of all the places she’s been. But every Sunday, Mrs. Badger goes on an adventure that is always the same and always different. She walks the path that leads from her home to the top of a small mountain.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

On her way out of her garden, she says hello to Frederic, a white-throated sparrow. She picks mushrooms for Alexander the fox, careful to avoid the poisonous ones, and if she encounters someone who needs help, she lends a hand before moving on. This Sunday, though, “she has a feeling she is being watched.” Without turning to look, she says “‘There’s enough for both of us, if you’re hungry.’” Out of the bushes bounds a kitten. They eat together and Mrs. Badger tells the kitten about Sugarloaf Peak. The little one would like to see it too, but is afraid of being too small.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Even though Mrs. Badger reassures her new friend, the kitten stays put, so Mrs. Badger continues on her way. In a moment, the kitten is by her side. Lulu is her name, she tells Mrs. Badger. They find walking sticks and travel over a stream, through trees, and along the path. Lulu asks lots of questions, but “Mrs. Badger teaches Lulu how to listen instead, how to help others, and that life is made up of many choices.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

When they come to a fork in the path, Mrs. Badger lets Lulu decide which way to go. She knows “that you have to listen to your heart.” On the way, they sing songs and stop to rest beside a blue pond. As the path grows steeper, they know they are near the top of Sugarloaf Peak. Will, a turkey vulture who has known Mrs. Badger for a long time welcomes them. When they reach the top, Mrs. Badger gives Lulu a hand to scramble up the last few feet.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

They sit together at the top looking out over the tree tops to the horizon. “Lulu doesn’t say a word. She’s on top of the world.” After that, Lulu became Mrs. Badger’s constant companion on her Sunday hikes. They see many things, and Mrs. Badger teaches Lulu about the plants and creatures along the way. In time, it is Mrs. Badger who needs to rest beside the blue pond and needs help scrambling up the last few feet of Sugarloaf Peak. But at the top, they both still think “‘It’s wonderful!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-up-the-mountain-path-kitten

Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

One Sunday when Lulu comes to Mrs. Badger’s house, she “doesn’t have the strength to climb Sugarloaf Peak,” so Lulu goes alone. Her solo journeys continue week after week, and every time she returns to Mrs. Badger’s to tell her “all about her discoveries. She also brings new treasures” for Mrs. Badger’s shelves. “Gradually, Mrs. Badger’s mountain becomes Lulu’s mountain.” One day, Lulu finds a path she’s never taken; she also has the feeling that she is being watched. Without looking, she offers to share her snack—and then to share the path to the top.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Marianne Dubuc’s poignant story about one’s path through life celebrates the gathering of knowledge and experience and the passing on of this acquired wisdom to younger generations. In her quiet, straightforward storytelling, Dubuc builds a deep understanding of Mrs. Badger through her kindness, philosophies, and willingness to share. Her excellent pacing—which sees Mrs. Badger as a lone traveler then accompanied by Lulu and finally happy to hear about Lulu’s solo adventures as Lulu then takes up the mantle with a new friend of her own—movingly demonstrates the cyclical nature of life.

Duboc’s charming illustrations, rendered in greens and browns sprinkled with bright color are adorable and as endearing as a hug. The sweet smiles and connections between characters mirror the patience, kindness, and understanding we all want our children to experience on their journey. Up close images of Mrs. Badger’s treasures combined with the vast vista from the top of Sugarloaf Peak reveal that happiness springs from paying attention to the small details as well as the big picture.

A heartwarming, uplifting, and life-affirming book, Up the Mountain Path—which was named a Best Picture Book of 2018 by Publishers Weekly—is a treasure to add to home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Princeton Architectural Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1616897239

To learn more about Marianne Dubuc, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Author Day Activity

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Dear Author Notepaper

 

Today’s holiday encourages people to write letters thanking their favorite authors. If you wrote a letter to your favorite author, what would you say? Color the book and then jot down your letter on  this printable Book Notepaper. 

Book Notepaper

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You can find Up a Mountain Pass at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 6 – National Noodle Day

Noodle Magic by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and Meilo So Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Noodle on this: what’s the difference between noodles and most other dry pastas? Noodles contain eggs! It’s just this kind of fascinating fact you can learn on National Noodle Day. Whether you like spinning the long strands around your fork or slurping them right from the bowl, noodles make the perfect comfort food whether they’re mixed with sauce, pesto, or meat and veggies. People make some pretty awesome crafts from them too! And that’s not just modern-day creativity, either. Thirteenth-century bakers made their dough into birds, stars, words, and other shapes. To celebrate today enjoy your favorite noodle recipe!

Noodle Magic

Written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong | Illustrated by Meilo So

 

The emperor’s birthday is coming, and everywhere excitement fills the air. Mei’s Grandpa Tu will no doubt be making his famous noodles for the celebration. Mei loves to watch her grandfather work, slapping and kneading the dough and pulling the strands of noodles. He is so creative with his cooking that everyone marvels, even the Moon Goddess. In fact, Grandpa Tu is such an extraordinary artist that he makes noodle jump ropes and kite strings for Mei and her friends. They are as “simple as a sunflower” and as “easy as a sea breeze” to make, says Grandpa Tu.

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Image copyright Meilo So, text copyright Roseanne Thong. Courtesy of meiloso.com

But Mei thinks there is more to his talent and wishes that she had his magic. Her grandfather believes she does possess it. One afternoon the pair watch animal-shaped clouds fill the sky, and Mei asks if her grandpa can catch them with noodles. That night he makes a batch of noodles, and in the morning the two collect clouds as the sun appears.

On the day before the emperor’s birthday, everyone is busy making something special—everyone except Grandpa Tu. The villagers are perplexed. On such an important day, they will all want to enjoy noodles—and what about the special long-life noodles for the emperor? It is time, Grandpa Tu tells Mei, for her to make the noodles.

Mei is surprised and terrified. She slaps and kneads the dough as she has seen her grandfather do, but it remains ordinary. Where is the magic? “‘Trust in yourself,’” Grandpa Tu tells her, but Mei is doubtful. She decides that perhaps if she gives the Moon Goddess a gift, she will get magic in return. “‘You have all the magic you need,’” her grandfather assures her. Still, he helps Mei make enough dough to form an enormous ball of noodles.

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Image copyright Meilo So, text copyright Roseanne Thong. Courtesy of meiloso.com

Mei throws the ball to the Moon Goddess and calls out for the Goddess to give her magic. Wisely, the Goddess reminds Mei that magic must come from inside. Mei closes her eyes and thinks very hard. She tussles with the Moon Goddess in a noodle tug-of-war, and suddenly…Snap!…the noodles break. The sky rains noodles of all shapes and sizes, Mei has discovered the magic that was in her all along!

With the charm of a Chinese folktale, Roseanne Greenfield Thong tells the universal tale of self-discovery. Her lyrical language adds a magic of its own to the tale, as when Mei watches her grandfather make dough: “she loved the powdery flakes that hung in the air and freckled the morning light.” The relationship between the little girl and her grandfather is lovingly portrayed, offering a gentle depiction of the wisdom and reassurance provided by extended family members.

Meilo So brings the story to vibrant life with her colorful paintings of village life, Mei and Grandpa Tu’s home, and the Moon Goddess. The magic of Grandpa Tu’s noodles is cleverly shown in the transparent animals, dragons, and birds outlined in noodles that frolic across the pages. The two-page spreads of Mei’s village are particularly captivating, as packed with interesting scenes and details as any bustling town.

Ages 4 – 8

Orchard Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-0545521673

To learn more about Roseanne Greenfield-Thong and her books, visit her website.

Discover more about Meilo So, her books, and her art on her website.

National Noodle Day Activity

CPB - Noodle Puzzle

Noodle on This! Puzzle

 

Everyone has their favorite kind of noodles! Help these noodles get to the right plate, bowl, or pot in this printable Noodle on This puzzle that’s as wiggly as a wet noodle!

Noodle Magic by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and Meilo So Picture Book Review

You can find Noodle Magic at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Picture Book Review