December 21 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Whether you’re still looking for a gift to give, looking forward to the upcoming break from school, or wondering how to spend the long winter days with your kids in an exciting new way, the books in today’s lineup will get hearts and imaginations racing and families and friends creating and playing together. You won’t believe what you can make with simple supplies you’ll find in your own home or nearby until you check out the three books below. Working on these projects together with your kids will make lasting memories while setting them free to tinker on their own pays big rewards in self-confidence, pride, and imagination building. 

Thank you to Page Street Kids for sharing Cardboard Creations for Kids, The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations, and Play & Learn Activities for Babies with me for review consideration. All opinions on the books are my own.

Cardboard Creations for Kids: 50 Fun and Inventive Crafts Using Recycled Materials

By Kathryn Ho

 

You will never look at a cardboard box the same way again after exploring the pages of Kathryn Ho’s wildly inventive guide to turning boxes, tubes, egg cartons, lids, wooden skewers, and other bits and bobs you have around the house into nearly anything your child can imagine. Like what, you ask? Well, for the homebody, there’s the charming cottage, complete with shingled roof and flowers (or maybe lollipops) in the window boxes. For kids who prefer adventures far from home, the rocket, retro van, or the submarine will take them as far as their imagination can take them!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cardboard-creations-for-kids-cottage

Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Other big-box beauties include an ice-cream cart with a jaunty umbrella, a play oven with knobs that turn, a puppet theater, a castle with a working drawbridge, a tent for camping under the stars (or ceiling festooned with star stickers), and a room-dividing screen that’s great for playtime or drawing on.

But what if you don’t have a big box? Kathryn Ho has you covered with dozens of ideas that will put a gleam in your child’s eyes and have you shaking your head in admiration for her clever crafting. The next chapter is all about creating things that really move, from a train to a school bus to a mini monster truck, complete with a big “personality with headlight eyes and a monster grin.” Other vehicles include a jet plane, a race car to rival any wooden toy, and a sailboat.

Kids who love construction vehicles will really dig the bulldozer with working shovel and the crane that can actually pick up the blocks you’ll make or any other small item from home. And if your kids have been asking for a puppy, the adorable hound will steal their heart.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cardboard-creations-for-kids-rocket

Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Next, Kathryn moves on to creations that can enhance any playtime experience. “Adding just a few simple props to their pretend play can spark so many opportunities for discovery and delight,” she says at the beginning of the fourth chapter, which includes ideas that will delight kids whether they’re playing indoors or out. Got a young builder in the family? Make a tool belt, complete with a screw driver, hammer, wrench, and T-square. Fairy or gnome lovers will want to make their wee friends toadstool homes or maybe a triple-decker treehouse. Machine lovers will want to pretend with the cardboard laptop, and playing grocery store will be even more fun with the clever cash register. There are plenty of other ideas to spark pretend play here too.

Of course, boxes often are best-loved for what’s on the inside, and Kathryn offers up ten amazing designs for games like monster mini golf, tabletop soccer, and an intricate labyrinth that make use of a box’s inside space. There are also instructions on how to make a camera, space helmet, and shadow puppet theater as well as a swing and a cradle for a doll or teddy bear. And did I mention the car wash – with rotating brushes? So clever!

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Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Designs for simple playthings, room decorations, stamps, and even a flower press make up the final chapter of the book and provide ideas for those rainy or snowy afternoons when a quick craft is just the thing to keep kids busy and happy.

Introductory chapters reveal everything you need to know about the different kinds of cardboard and what they’re best used for, the basic tools for creating with cardboard as well as cutting tips and how to prepare the cardboard. Kathryn Ho also discusses where to source boxes and cardboard if you don’t have what you need at home. Kathryn even makes it easy to create many of the designs by including templates for fourteen of the crafts in the back of the book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cardboard-creations-for-kids-puppet-theater

Copyright Kathryn Ho, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Cardboard Creations for Kids is a book I would have LOVED to have when my kids were young. This is a must addition to any home as a go-to resource for school projects, art classes, scout projects, pretend play, party ideas, and so much more. Not only will you want to make all of these creations, they’ll spark your and your child’s imagination and desire to try your own hand at designing. The book is also a must-buy for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 10

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645674627

You can connect with Kathryn Ho on her Instagram, Cardboard Folk.

You can find Cardboard Creations for Kids at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-book-of-amazing-lego-creations-cover

The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have

By Sarah Dees

 

Are your kids LEGO fanatics eager for every new kit that comes out? Do little tiles occupy buckets and boxes and more buckets in your toy boxes and closets? Then this is the book for you! Open the cover and you’ll discover more than seventy-five creatures, vehicles, games, and dioramas perfect for imaginative play all described with illustrated, step-by-step instructions that make it easy for kids to put them together themselves (but adults will find it hard to resist digging into the stash and building some of these too!).

Sarah Dees begins with eight awesome vehicles, including a retro race car, hot rods, a tank and Humvee, an ATV for off roading, and a sports coupe and tiny car for impressing the inhabitants of any LEGO city. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-book-of-amazing-lego-creations-race-car

Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Chapter Two gets kids excited about building their own town that even boasts a trampoline park where people can challenge themselves on the climbing wall, play basketball, pit themselves against arcade games, have a picnic, and, of course, jump on the trampoline. Perhaps your child is more into playing music than playing games. If so, they can put together their own “rockin’ garage band to “take the stage at the city park.” A keyboard player, piano player, drummer, and a couple of guitar players will have everyone cheering.

Every resident of a LEGO village needs to stay in shape, and they can do that at the gym, using the free weights, bench press, pull-up bars, floor mats, or treadmills. After this full day of activity, LEGO kids can relax in their cozy bedroom, where bunkbeds; a desk complete with bookshelves, lamp, and accessories; a toy table; and a dresser await.

But what about that forest on the edge of town? That magical place is populated with fairytale characters from favorite stories. Take a dragon (after you build it, of course!) to the Three Little Pigs Bake Shop. Bake shop? You bet! Sarah reveals that “after the unfortunate incident with the house of bricks and the Big Bad Wolf coming down the chimney, the Three Little Pigs decided to put their brick house up for sale and make a fresh start in a different part of Fairytale Forest.” After buying a “lovely gingerbread house…and watching some inspiring baking shows, they decided to open their very own bake shop!” And this little cottage does look good enough to eat…I mean eat in!

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Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Jack, of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, lives here too in a tidy home with a little garden. Jack can climb that stalk all the way to the Castle in the Clouds, where he finds the goose that lays golden eggs. No magical forest is complete without a few Terrible Trolls to outsmart, and kids will have a blast building the ones in this book and making up their own.

And what would any Fairytale Forest be without unicorns, a “scheming and conniving witch” who lives in a treehouse lair, complete with potions and a crackling fire in the fireplace and “might be stealing a baby dragon or helping herself to some of the treats at the Three Little Pigs Bakery.” Kids will love coming up with stories of brave knights rescuing the dragon from its cage. Perhaps they’d like to make the wise “Wizard of Marshy Bog” and his pet raven to cast a spell and vanquish that witch! Instructions for making a griffin and a host of small forest creatures finish up the chapter.

If the world of spies is more your child’s thing, building the TEK Agent Headquarters will be an assignment they can’t refuse. This secret, impenetrable room even has a working “secure sliding door that opens when you turn a knob.” And what does all this security protect? The “TEK Agent Headquarters is the place for agents to invent gadgets, fix equipment and monitor villain activity with powerful cameras and computers” that kids construct from scratch.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-book-of-amazing-lego-creations-race-car

Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

If the agents need to get a bird’s eye view of nefarious activity, the Drone Launch Station is the perfect addition to the agents’ equipment and contains all the high-tech gear kids can make—a surveillance trailer, equipped with listening devices, recorders, computers, and more; speedy hover craft; jet packs; and a Hero Bot—to defeat the Villain Bot. Sarah Dees even gives kids ideas for disaster scenes that will spark plenty of storylines.

After all that action, a Vacation by the Sea is in order. Young builders can create a relaxing beach scene and a surf shop at the edge of the shore. A super-clever idea even allows kids to make waves worthy of any pro surfer. But what’s this on the horizon? A pirate ship! And under the sea? A colorful diorama of fish, sea plants, and sea creatures that any scuba diver would love to explore.

Kids ready to make their own city or town? Sarah finishes up her book with Awesome Mini Builds that will help kids enhance any landscape with vehicles of all types, animals from around the world, candy machines, robots, cameras and lab equipment, tiny houses, and more. Play and Display shows kids how to build a city skyline, working miniature golf fields, a solitaire game, treasure boxes, and even mosaics and self portraits worthy of hanging on the wall.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-book-of-amazing-lego-creations-race-car

Copyright Sarah Dees, 2021, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Sarah Dees, author of four other books in the LEGO project book series, continues to amaze with the diversity of kid-pleasing projects made from those little colorful blocks. The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have is a must for all LEGO lovers and is sure to turn newbies into diehard fans. The book also makes a perfect gift for any occasion and one to definitely add to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 6 – 12 and up

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645673507

To learn more about Sarah Dees and her books, visit her at Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls.

You can find The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-cover

Play & Learn Activities for Babies: 65 Simple Ways to Promote Growth & Development from Birth to Two Years Old

By Hannah Fathi

 

If you have a baby or young toddler at home or in your family, you know how active they are and that they’re learning all the time. “How can you develop their language and motor skills, emotional intelligence, creativity and problem-solving abilities and occupy them all day?” Hannah Fathi has the answers to this question with her 65 easy-to-make and inexpensive ideas that will delight kids and adults alike.

Hannah begins each of her chapters with a discussion about how the projects will promote development—such as strength, investigation, dexterity and coordination, sensory awareness, visual awareness, and imagination—and how this development is important to the growth of your child long-term. The first chapter is entitled “Strengthening and Active Play” and presents ideas for making tummy time, which is “an important time for baby to strengthen their neck, back, and shoulders and prevent flat spots on their head,” engaging. A cardboard stand, complete with plastic pockets that can hold bold black-and-white images or photographs to entertain babies, will “encourage them to lift their head and push up on their arms.” You can also help your baby become more aware of their body and movement with the clever Rattle Socks that will make a sound each time baby kicks or moves their feet. This is a toy that can grow with your child as they learn to walk too!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-rattle-socks

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Babies who are able to sit on their own or with support will be mesmerized by the Spider Web Toy Grab that uses a laundry basket, string, and small toys to create a framework that encourages problem-solving skills and investigation while developing small motor skills. Older babies and toddlers will enjoy the hands-on learning of Transforming Disks that teach nature science and the Box Car that promotes imaginative play.

Get your child crawling across the floor in chase of the Vibrant Straw Roller, a clear plastic bottle filled with colorful bits of straws and/or beads. Other creative ideas include a play mat to use with little cars, a magnetic fishing pole and fish, the Pound-a-Ball box that will encourage your child to stand and squat to push balls through the holes in the top, a color-matching game, and a felt board for teaching shapes.

 
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-straw-bottle

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Hands-on investigation takes center stage in the next chapter with a lift-the-flap book of family photographs that promotes important social-emotional learning while teaching kids about their family and encouraging fine-motor skills. A cardboard box Ball Run will keep babies busy, and the Egg Carton Color Sort activity promotes multiple development skills. You don’t need to buy expensive stacking rings, either, if you follow the directions for making this popular toy with plastic jar lids. Hannah includes many more ideas for keeping your little one busy all day long.

Developing dexterity and coordination has never been as fun as when you make the easy crafts in the next chapter. Each activity is designed to encourage little ones to grab or pick up small objects; spin a wheel; and pull, push, pinch, or bat at objects depending on their age and abilities.

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Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

 

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Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

The projects in the chapter on Sensory Play “primarily focus on hearing, touch and sight to capture your child’s interest and create lasting neural connections.” Taste-Safe Sponge Painting lets babies and toddlers paint and make stamps with more ease than using paint brushes, and the flour-based paint is safe for little tasters. Babies in a crib or enjoying some floor time will enjoy the sights and sounds of cardboard tube shakers. A crinkle square made from felt and parchment paper as well as a water mat created from a freezer bag filled with water and colorful buttons are ingenious! 

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Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Projects for Visual Exploration will thrill little ones with surprises, opportunities for hands-on play, matching games, mobiles, and even an I-Spy bottle to excite them again and again. As kids become more independent, imaginative play “promotes problem-solving, empathy, curiosity, and creativity…while providing opportunities to develop language and social skills.” Squishy sock bunnies, a cardboard hutch, and clever carrots; a pretend mailbox and letters; finger puppets made from tiny socks; a milk-jug fish; and a parking garage for little cars made from cardboard tubes, along with other fun crafts will get kids making up stories in no time. Even toilet training will be easier with Hannah’s ideas.

Rounding out her book, Hannah includes templates for many of the crafts as well as a chart that depicts the type of skill each project provides—a valuable resource as children grow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Play-&-Learn-Activities-for-Babies-finger-puppets

Copyright Hannah Fathi, 2022, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Hannah Fathi’s Play & Learn Activities for Babies is a superb collection of ideas that parents, daycare and preschool providers, and other caregivers will find themselves consulting and creating from again and again. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections and also makes a wonderful and thoughtful gift for baby showers, for new babies, or for anyone with a young child.

Ages Baby – 2 years

Page Street Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1645673989

You can learn more about Hannah Fathi and her book by visiting her at Baby Play Hacks

You can find Play & Learn Activities for Babies at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 6 – Get Ready for Halloween

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About the Holiday

October may have just begun, but kids are already thinking of the thrills and chills of Halloween. Witches and jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and skeletons take center stage all month long with fun Halloween-themed books like this one. So get shivering and giggling with the kids and skeleton in today’s book! 

Thanks go to Page Street Kids for sharing a copy of If You Ever Meet a Skeleton for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Review by Dorothy Levine

If You Ever Meet a Skeleton

Written by Rebecca Evans | Illustrated by Katrin Dreiling

 

Have you ever met a skeleton? No? Phew. Well, if you ever do, there’s no need to be spooked! If You Ever Meet a Skeleton teaches that creepy crawly bones that emerge on Halloween are not as scary as you may think.

On Halloween night, a skeleton claws its way out of the earth, and the trick-or-treating children are frightened. They run away as the bones follow, stumbling over hills and fallen candy. When the skeleton catches up, the kids realize that it may not be as fearsome as they first thought. When they all try to play, the kids find out skeletons have no guts, no muscles, no brains: Because they have no muscle, they can’t win races, and with no brain to count with they play hide-and-seek. “Skeletons have no guts, so they can’t be brave like you. They’re scared of nighttime shadows and owls that say ‘whoooo’”— just like these kids, or maybe me, or you!

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Image copy Katrin Dreiling, 2021, text copyright Rebecca Evans, 2021. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Skeletons have no nose to smell the stinky boots of kids. But most of all, “Skeletons have no friends,” and “they’d like to find a few: some kids with stinky feet and little brothers too.” When a child loses his shoe the skeleton returns it to him, and the group of friends invite the skeleton up to their treehouse fort.

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Image copy Katrin Dreiling, 2021, text copyright Rebecca Evans, 2021. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

They find that “Skeletons like to smile at stories in the dark…” and “they’ll trick-or-treat with you then share their chocolate bar just like buddies do.” And when one friend’s mother brings drinks out to the fort, they love to hear her “SHRIEK!” They dance and play and draw a trio of other skeletons hoping to join their joyous, Halloween romp.

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Image copy Katrin Dreiling, 2021, text copyright Rebecca Evans, 2021. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

While skeletons seem spooky to the kids at first, Rebecca Evan’s lyrical rhyming prose about skeletons’ parts helps readers to realize they’re not so scary after all. The story contains an underlying message encouraging readers to not be scared of making friends that may seem different at first glance. The story of friendship is simple, sweet and a delight to read. It’s a perfect bedtime story for anyone who may be frightened of (or excited by) spooky Halloween creatures. Treat yourself by getting into the Halloween spirit with this quirky read!  

Katrin Dreiling is well known for her spooky, yet adorable drawings. She says, “the spooky is a fascinating genre to work with because you need to create a certain atmosphere in a spooky illustration. Also, it is very challenging to achieve a balance so that the finished work is neither too scary nor too bland.” Her multi-medium illustrations in If You Ever Meet a Skeleton accomplish this exactly. The skeletons and children mirror each other with the same cute and spooked expressions. With spreads that are fully black and white, adding to the late-night Halloween scene, pops of red, gold and green draw attention to the diverse cast of children and glorious candy details of the story.

A creative tale of friendship and festivities on Halloween night, If You Ever Meet a Skeleton combines spooky and sweet framed by the tradition of trick-or-treating. The story can also provide a fun way to introduce anatomy to young readers throughout the year.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645672159

Discover more about Rebecca Evans, her books, and her art on her website.

To learn more about Katrin Dreiling, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Halloween Activity

A Little Artsy A Little Craftsy Q-tip Skeleton Image 2

Q-tip Skeleton from A Little Artsy A Little Crafty (littleartsylittlecraftsy.blogspot.com)

 

Create Your Own Q-tip Skeleton Friend

 

You can make a skeleton just in time for Halloween with this easy craft by A Little Artsy A Little Craftsy. Will your skeleton be dancing, walking, scaring—or maybe trick-or-treating? You can find the directions for this craft as well as other fun crafts and delicious recipes on A Little Artsy A Little Craftsy.

You Will Need

  • Q-tips
  • Glue
  • 1 piece of black or other dark colored construction paper
  • 1 piece of white paper or white foam sheet
A Little Artsy A Little Craftsy Q-tip Skeleton Image 1

Q-tip Skeleton from A Little Artsy A Little Crafty (littleartsylittlecraftsy.blogspot.com)

 

What to Do

To Make the Bones

  1. Draw and cut out a skull from the white paper or foam sheet
  2. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in the skull
  3. Cut 2 Q-tips in half for the legs
  4. Cut 2 Q-tips shorter than the leg parts for the arms
  5. Use 4 Q-tips to create the ribs (the top two sets will be slightly shorter than the bottom two)
  6. Cut 1 short piece from the end of one Q-tip to make the neck
  7. Cut 2 short pieces from the ends of one Q-tip to make the feet
  8. Use the stick part of one Q-tip to make the spine
  9. Use the stick part of one Q-tip to cut small pieces for the fingers

To Assemble the Skeleton

  1. Decide how you will pose your skeleton
  2. To make elbow, knee, and ankle joints, glue the “bones” to the construction paper tip-to-tip, end-to-end, or tip-to-end by following the example in the picture.
  3. Follow the picture to place the ribs, neck, and fingers

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You can find If You Ever Meet a Skeleton at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 18 – It’s Happiness Happens Month

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About the Holiday

Happiness doesn’t have to be something we plan for, schedule into our calendars, or spend money on. In fact enjoying special moments during each day, doing something spontaneous with friends or family, taking time for a favorite activity, or even savoring a cup of tea may be all you need to feel happier every day! If anxiety, anger, or other emotion is getting in the way of your happiness, this month can provide an impetus to try soothing activities or mend relationships as today’s book shows. 

Thanks to Page Street Kids for sending me a copy of Clovis Keeps His Cool for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Clovis Keeps His Cool

Written by Katelyn Aronson | Illustrated by Eve Farb

 

Clovis, a bull and former linebacker for the Cloverdale Chargers football team, had inherited his granny’s china shop. As he delicately unpacked and filled the shelves on inventory day, he reminded himself of his granny’s mantra, “‘Grace, grace. Nothing broken to replace.’” But below the surface, “there was just one problem. Clovis had a temper as big as he was.” Running Granny’s shop made him feel calmer, but one day when three of his old rivals came by, they mocked him, calling him a wimp and teasing him about his apron. One said, “‘Well looky here! The bull in the china shop!’” Clovis felt his anger rising. He breathed in and out and counted to ten, and when his hecklers didn’t get a quick response, they walked away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clovis-keeps-his-cool-Granny

Image copyright Eve Farb, 2021, text copyright Katelyn Aronson, 2021. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Before he got to work on dusting day, Clovis did yoga and listened to calming music. Carefully he polished each piece until it gleamed, but then he heard the voices of his rivals once again. “Clovis clenched his teeth. There it was again—that urge to charge.” But instead, he picked up his cat and stroked her soft fur. Bored by Clovis’s silence, the trio moved on. On the day he created a new display in the front window, Clovis filled the shop with the gentle aroma of a lavender candle and made himself a cup of chamomile tea. As he placed the fragile items in the window, he chanted Granny’s saying. “‘Grace. Grace. Nothing. Broken. To replace.’” But suddenly his rivals were back, smearing the window with their noses.

This time they didn’t stay outside but barged in and began insulting the picture of Granny. Clovis restrained himself until one of his rivals picked up Granny’s favorite teacup and threw it at Clovis, taunting him to catch it like in his old football days. But Clovis couldn’t turn in time and the cup sailed past him and smashed on the floor. “Clovis was all out of grace. He chose the chase. And charged. ‘GET OOOOOOUUT!’” he shouted.

He stormed through the shop pushing them out as china crashed and smashed around him. He chased the three through town, finally cornering them in an alley. This was a Clovis they recognized, and they shook in fear. Clovis was preparing to strike when a teabag that had become tangled on one horn swung into view. With a tear in his eye he thought of Granny and all that had been broken: her teacup, her shop.

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Image copyright Eve Farb, 2021, text copyright Katelyn Aronson, 2021. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

But then, “from somewhere deep in Clovis’s memory, Granny’s voice answered: My dear…Grace. Grace. What is broken can be replaced.” He looked at his cowering rivals and told them who he was: “‘Look, I may be a bull. But I’m no bully.’” Then he offered them a cup of tea. Back at the shop, Clovis set up a table and served tea surrounded by the broken china. “For a moment, it was as if they were all on the same team. It made the hecklers think…”

The next day they were back. But they weren’t there to heckle Clovis as he feared. They were there to help. And “they came back the next day and the next.” Each day, Clovis served tea as they put the shop back together. Now Clovis enjoys playing football and practicing yoga with his new friends, and he always has “plenty of grace to go around” while he serves high tea for all.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clovis-keeps-his-cool-tea-with-rivals

Image copyright Eve Farb, 2021, text copyright Katelyn Aronson, 2021. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Katelyn Aronson’s clever take on the idiom “like a bull in a china shop” provides readers with a profound and heartwarming look at issues of anger management, bullying, graciousness, friendship, and being oneself. Through her rich storytelling, kids meet a bull with an outsized temper who uses his granny’s influence and strategies to calm his anger. They also are introduced to a gang of bullies who think it’s funny and/or permissible to torment Clovis past his tipping point and end up breaking a precious family heirloom.

Aronson’s thoughtful pause in her narrative before what seems will be an inevitable fight lets Clovis—and by association, readers—decide to take control of who he really is. His choice propels the story to a poignant lesson. Aronson’s characters give adults and children an opportunity to discuss how Clovis ultimately chooses to treat his rivals with kindness, and—although not presented in the text—what the bullies may have thought about and regretted when Clovis invited them to tea instead of fighting them. Her gracious ending shows kids that just like broken objects, relationships can be mended when both sides work at it.

Eve Farb’s stunning images of Clovis’s China Shop packed with intricately decorated vases, delicate tea sets, and gleaming dishware are gorgeous backdrops to Clovis’s delicate touch in pouring a cup of tea, stocking and cleaning the fragile giftware, and performing his morning yoga ritual. Interposed with these are snapshots of Clovis in his more rough-and-tumble persona. When the bullies show up, they are depicted from Clovis’s (and readers’) point of view through the shop window.

A highlight of Farb’s illustration is her command of the emotional impact of Aronson’s story. The animals’ facial expressions and body language clearly reveal their actions and emotions, and when Granny’s favorite teacup crashes to the floor, the next page spread demonstrates Clovis’s anger in a powerful closeup. As Clovis corners his rivals in the alley, readers once again see them through Clovis’s point of view, but this time the bullies’ eyes hold fear. Another compelling page spread follows this as the teabag—glowing with Granny’s grace—refocuses Clovis’s thinking. Farb’s next bold pages compare and contrast notions of brokenness, connection, and even redirection of energy—all served up with tea and scones.

A unique and emotionally resonant story that will captivate kids and can spark important discussions, Clovis Keeps His Cool is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645672135

Discover more about Katelyn Aronson and her books on her website.

You can connect with Eve Farb on Instagram.

Happiness Happens Month Activity

CPB - Happiness typography

Happiness Is… Game

 

Happiness is all around you! Grab one or more friends to play a game that reveals what things make you happy. 

  1. Like the “Geography” game: the first player names something that makes them happy, the next player must think of something that starts with the last letter of the word the previous player said. The game continues with each player continuing the pattern. Players drop out as they cannot think of a word. The last player left is the winner.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clovis-keeps-his-cool-cover

You can find Clovis Keeps His Cool at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 6 – National Coaches Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 1972 by President Richard Nixon to honor the men and women who inspire us to work harder and do our best in many of life’s pursuits. Coaches help us develop a good work ethic, learn how to work as a team, and learn how to focus and achieve goals. Sometimes our most influential coaches can be surprising—as you’ll see in today’s book.

Thanks to Page Street Kids for sending me a copy of Kid Coach for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Kid Coach

By Rob Justus

 

Kid Coach knew a challenge when he saw it. And he saw a couch-potato sized challenge lying in his own living room with soda in one hand and a computer, a tablet, and a phone all streaming a different wrestling match in the other. And…yeah…there was a bowl of peanuts there too. Was Kid Coach up to the task of turning this marshmallow into a champion? He thought yes and dragged his dad away from all the distractions.

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Copyright Rob Justus, 2020, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Kid Coach started his dad’s strength training with simple push-ups and an itty-bitty bar bell. But soon those “small wins” led to “bigger challenges and major wins” until Kid Coach and Dad were ready to “wrangle big guys, bad guys, bald guys, (and a scary guy with tattoos of big, bad, bald guys!) in the grandest arena of them all”—the “Wrestle-Rumble Mania Kingdom Tournament of Champions.”

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Copyright Rob Justus, 2020, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

At the match the competition is fierce, but Dad “snaps into action” and soon those big, bad, and bald guys in their fancy costumes are being flipped, chopped, and tied into knots. Kid Coach cheers him on, whistling and clapping, until he begins to notice something. “Dad starts to dance a little too long, celebrate a little too much, and rudest of all…he won’t even shake hands! Instead of making friends, Dad’s leaving the other wrestlers sad and mad.

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Copyright Rob Justus, 2020, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

That’s when Kid Coach does some soul-searching and realizes he didn’t teach his dad everything about being a true champion. A real champion, he knows, is a leader, someone who inspires others, and “most of all, they make everyone feel like a winner.” By now, Dad was feeling kind of bad himself for being so insensitive. Kid Coach gave him a hug, and the two of them tried to make amends. But the other wrestlers didn’t want flowers, and they weren’t interested in high-fives. So, Dad dug deep and came up with…a “sincere apology” and…a jumbo bag of chips! Now all those frowns have turned into smiles and everyone’s having a blast in the ring.

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Copyright Rob Justus, 2020, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Rob Justus reminds children about good sportsmanship and the qualities that make for a true champion in his visually exhilarating story. Kids will be all in with the couch-potato twist in which a child physically drags his dad—who holds on for dear life—from his leisurely pursuits.

Images of this noodle-thin dad in his flashy robe going up against some real heavyweights will have kids giggling, and his over-the-top celebrations will elicit plenty of laughs. But Justus doesn’t let this behavior go without showing its effects on the other wrestlers—and ultimately on Dad too. As Kid Coach and his dad try to mend fences with the other competitors, kids will see that gifts and token gestures aren’t as meaningful as a straightforward apology. The loving relationship between the boy and his dad is a highlight of the story, and will have readers—kids and adults—engaging in some rough-and-tumble play and plenty of snuggles.

For rambunctious story times with an inspirational life lesson, Kid Coach will be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2020 | ISBN 978-1624148866

To learn more about Rob Justus and see a portfolio of his work, visit his website.

National Coaches Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-best-father-trophy-coloring-page

Best Dad Coloring Page

 

Good coaches win lots of trophies, and there’s no better coach than Dad! Let your dad know what a great coach he is with this printable coloring page!

Best Dad Coloring Page

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You can find Kid Coach at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 14 – National Lazy Day

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About the Holiday

Lazy Day may be the easiest day of the year! Today you have carte blanche to do absolutely nothing. Don’t feel like changing out of your pajamas? Don’t! Feel like lounging in front of the TV all day – or taking a nice long nap? Do it! We all need down time, maybe this year more than most. So grab some snacks (ready-made, of course), find your comfort spot, and relax!

The Little Blue Cottage

Written by Kelly Jordan | Illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

 

All year long the little blue cottage waited at the edge of the bay for the little girl to come visit again, and every summer she did. Then the house “whistled and hummed and filled with light.” Up in her room, sitting on the window seat and gazing out at the of the large, porthole-shaped window, the girl “whispered, ‘you are my favorite place.'”

From the end of the dock, the little girl watched sailboats skim over the waves and dolphins leap above them. In the sky seagulls and pelicans circled, looking for food. When evening came, the girl and her mother and father sat in the creaky rocking chairs and watched the moon rise and the stars twinkle. Waves were the little girl’s lullabies.

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Image copyright Jessica Courtney-Tickle, 2020, text copyright Kelly Jordan, 2020. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Fall came too soon, and as the family drove away, the little girl waved goodbye to the blue cottage. All winter long, “the little cottage shivered through snow, ice, and rain.” But with the warm sun, the girl and her family returned. Then “the little cottage smelled like bacon, pancakes, and popcorn. The little girl smelled like syrup, sunscreen, and sea.”

As summers came and went, the girl grew. She took to the outdoors and the sea, swimming with the fish and waterskiing on top of the waves. On hot nights she caught fireflies. When summer storms battered the little cottage, it “stood strong” as the girl stayed snug and safe inside. And so it was that the girl and the little blue cottage “grew up together.”

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Image copyright Jessica Courtney-Tickle, 2020, text copyright Kelly Jordan, 2020. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

One year, the girl didn’t return with the summer. That year turned into many more, and the blue cottage became weather-beaten and gray, but it never gave up hope that the girl would come back. Then it happened. The cottage heard a beep-beep and the crunch of gravel. The girl – now, though, a mother herself – had returned with her own family. In her old room, she sat at the round window and whispered, “‘I missed you while I was away.'”

Once again the cottage became filled with light and the sounds and smells of summers long ago. The girl painted the cottage blue and “it was just like always.” And at night they fell asleep to the waves’ lullaby.

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Image copyright Jessica Courtney-Tickle, 2020, text copyright Kelly Jordan, 2020. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Infused with the deep-seated impressions of childhood, Kelly Jordan’s lyrical The Little Blue Cottage speaks of tradition, growing up, and the steadfast continuity of life. While the story beautifully depicts a seaside setting, readers will be reminded of their own special place or tradition – the one that will grow with them, coloring their hopes and dreams just as the blue cottage does for the little girl. Throughout the story, children follow two storylines: that of the family and that of the cottage. This dual storyline reinforces Jordan’s reminder of the cyclical nature of life and assures them that memories are never lost but always in reach to sustain them.

Jessica Courtney-Tickle’s airy and enchanting illustrations shine with sun-dappled loveliness and delicate renderings of the vegetation and sea creatures that make the seaside unique. Courtney-Tickle’s rich colors give each scene depth and movement. The storm scene is especially compelling From panel to panel and page to page, children can see changes taking place, and pointing these out while reading will give kids and adults an opportunity to talk about the transformations in the book as well as in their own lives. As the girl – now a mother – sits on the end of the dock with her smiling face tipped toward the sun, children will happily bask in the story as well as their own dreams for the future.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2020 | ISBN 978-1624149238

Discover more about Kelly Jordan and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jessica Courtney-Tickle, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Lazy Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Cute-Sloth-coloring-page

Carefree Sloth Coloring Page

If there’s any animal that represents carefree relaxation, it’s the sloth. On this laziest of days, grab some crayons or colored pencils (or maybe just one or even none at all!) and enjoy this printable coloring page.

Carefree Sloth Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-blue-cottage-cover

You can find The Little Blue Cottage at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 26 – National Take Your Dog to Work Day

 

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About the Holiday

In 1996 Pet Sitters International established Take Your Dog to Work Day as a time to raise awareness of the pets left home all day by themselves with no stimulation. The organization was also dedicated to promoting adoption from local and humane shelters. Over the years the idea of Take Your Dog to Work Day has grown in popularity. This year our pets have been our constant companions at work, providing their own kind of encouragement and always a bit of entertainment. To celebrate today’s holiday, give your “office mate” a little extra treat!

Dogs and their People

By Anne Lambelet

 

When the day is fine, a girl likes “to take the long way home from school” and watch people and their dogs. Some people have both babies and puppies, while others share their advanced age with their loyal hound. “Some dogs and their people look alike, and others could not be more different, but however they look, each person “seems to have found their perfect match.”

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Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

Take Cordelia Vanderlay, the painter, and her dog Fluffernutter Vanderlay, who loves to make prints of her paws. Or Jennette and Lisette, who are twins, but very different. While Jennette likes to wear sleek black attire, her sister loves things that are frilly. And their dogs—a smooth dark greyhound and a fluffy, groomed standard poodle—are perfect mirrors of their owners. And of course there’s “Lord Banberry and his schnauzer, O’Grady,” who both sport the same impressive, well-trimmed, downturned mustachios.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dogs-and-their-people-park

Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

A young hot-dog lover, accompanied by his wiener-dog dachshund, buys an after-school treat from Freddie McDarrow and his smiling pup. Yes, “watching dogs and their people is fun,” the girl says, “because I can always tell they are best friends.” But she’s always happiest to come home to her best friend…can you guess who?

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Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

Anne Lambelet’s story charms as she introduces dog-and-owner pairs who look alike, act alike, or are polar opposites but still besties. As author and illustrator, Lambelet perfectly melds the joy of people- and pet-watching with a Victorian elegance that sets her story in an enchanting universe. Readers will get a kick out of Lambelet’s flowery names—both human and pet—that add to the ambience and seem as perfect as the friendships.

Lambelet’s unique mixed-media style of illustration, which highlights each owner and their dog—often with simple props surrounded by airy white space, but also in several two-page spreads that give kids a glimpse into the girl’s city—brings texture, interesting perspectives, and movement to the pages. Her lovely, muted color palette is as refreshing as the glow of autumn, and her fashionable city dwellers and their equally well-turned-out pooches could easily have just stepped out of a fashion magazine. Lambelet’s surprise ending will delight readers and gives the other side a sweet, heart-felt nod.

A jaunty trip through the joys of pet-and-people friendships, Dogs and their People will be a much-asked-for favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves and would be a fun spark for or take along on a people- and pet-watching walk.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146893

Discover more about Anne Lambelet, her books, and her art on her website.

National Take Your Dog to Work Day Activity

CPB - Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

 

Each of the puppies has a friend. Can you match them up based on one trait? There may be multiple right answers! Why do you think the dogs you chose go together in this printable puzzle?

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dogs-and-their-people-cover

You can find Dogs and Their People at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop| IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 23 – It’s National Tennis Month

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About the Holiday

When the weather turns warm, thoughts turn to love. Not romantic love, but tennis! Tennis can’t be matched for thrilling one-on-one competition, exercise, and fun. While this year the world’s great tennis tournaments may be cancelled, outdoor tennis courts may be open, allowing you to reap the benefits of this favorite sport. Even though tournament viewing is limited this summer, you can always immerse yourself in a stirring biography of the game’s great players––starting with today’s book that’s all about love––of tennis and family!

Thanks to Page Street Kids for sending me a copy of Serena: The Littlest Sister for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Serena: The Littlest Sister

Written by Karlin Gray | Illustrated by Monica Ahanonu

 

On that day when “Serena stood in Arthur Ashe Stadium and kissed the trophy,” her fans, sisters, and parents cheered. How had that day come about? It started thirteen years earlier when Serena, then four years old, joined her older sisters on the tennis court where their dad coached them. As he showed Serena how to swing, her sisters celebrated when she hit one and ran after the ones she didn’t. Mostly, the equipment they used was old and donated. Sometimes the balls had even lost their bounce, but “their father explained that it was good practice for Wimbledon—a Grand Slam tournament where the balls bounced lower because the tennis court was made of grass.”

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Image copyright Monica Ahanonu, 2019, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

When they weren’t on a real tennis court, the girls played a pretend game of tennis on the sidewalk. Serena loved when she won these games “because, well, Serena loved being the star.” As they grew older, their father never allowed them “to use the word can’t.” Their mom told them, “‘Whatever you become, you become in your head first.’ So the girls dreamed of what they could become.” While the other sisters became a nurse, a lawyer, and a singer, Venus and Serena became top tennis players.

Venus was taking the tennis world by storm with her hard hitting, speed, and 100-miles-per-hour serve. Serena wanted to play in tournaments too, but her father said she wasn’t ready. But one day, Serena noticed an application for a tournament Venus was playing in. Serena filled it out and sent it in. At the tournament, Serena snuck off to play on one court while her parents watched Venus on another. Serena ran her opponent ragged and won the match.

Serena thought her father might be angry, but instead he was proud and began teaching her how to play against her next opponent. “Serena won all her matches, moving up and up until…she faced her big sister in the final match.” During the match, Serena asked Venus to let her win one game, but Venus ignored her plea. Later at home, though, Venus traded her gold trophy for Serena’s silver one. “Serena cherished that trophy.” Serena idolized Venus and did everything she did until her father reminded her that she was her own person. Some people didn’t think Serena would have the success Venus did, but her oldest sister told her, “‘You’ll have your day. And it’s gonna be even bigger.’”

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Image copyright Monica Ahanonu, 2019, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

After several years of winning, Serena, Venus, and her family moved to Florida for training. On those courts the girls stood out for their skin color, their beaded braids—and “their powerful strokes.” When Venus was fourteen, she was allowed to enter professional tournaments. She won her first match. When Serena turned pro, she didn’t win. The two teamed up as doubles partners, and by the time she was sixteen, Serena had grown in both height and confidence. She had her own style of play too.

The sisters continued to play as a doubles team, and in 1999 they won the French Open Doubles competition. Venus was eighteen and Serena was seventeen. That same year, the sisters entered the US Open, the tournament Serena had long dreamed of winning. Surprisingly, Venus was knocked out early, but Serena kept winning her matches. In the finals she met the player who had beaten Venus. Serena served eight aces and “her fierce forehand earned her point after point.” Serena won the match and became “the first black woman to win a Grand Slam singles tournament in more than forty years.” At the awards ceremony, Serena thanked her dad, her mom, and her sisters for all of their support. The crowd cheered as cameras flashed. “And one of the many headlines of the day read, Little Sister, BIG HIT!”

An Afterword highlights other victories Serena and Venus have enjoyed during their careers, follow-ups on their sisters, and quotes from each of the five sisters.

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Image copyright Monica Ahanonu, 2019, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Karlin Gray’s masterful biography of Serena Williams shows young readers the determination, confidence, and strong familial bond that followed Serena throughout her life and made her one of tennis’s most influential women players. The family’s remarkable life and focus on what one can achieve will inspire all kids, no matter what their dream is. Choosing seminal events in Serena’s and Venus’s life, Gray follows Serena’s reputation on the court as she loses and wins matches, building suspense until that day when she accomplishes her goal and wins the US Open. Her inclusion of articles and comments that cast doubt on Serena’s future success demonstrates that even the greats face opposition and naysaying, and Serena’s sister’s advice to ignore it is sound.

Monica Ahanonu’s textured, collage-style illustrations leap off the page with vibrant images full of action and the girls’ personalities. As the girls race onto a court for practice, their eager expressions show their love of the game and being together. Even as a four-year-old Serena has the steely-eyed gaze of a champion as she watches the bouncing ball and lines up for her swing. Ahanonu’s use of various perspectives and shadowing create dynamic scenes on the court, and tennis lovers will be thrilled at the many illustrations of Venus and Serena playing their sport. The bond between the sisters is evident in images of Serena interacting with one or more of her sisters. Those who remember Serena’s win at the 1999 US Open will recognize her joy.

Perfectly aimed at young readers who are the same age as Serena and Venus when they began developing their skills and sport, Serena: The Littlest Sister is an inspirational biography of a present-day role model that is sure to spark an “I can” attitude. Adults who have followed the Williams sisters’ rise to tennis stardom will be equally enthralled with this beautiful biography. The book would make a stirring addition to home, classroom, and library collections.

Ages 8 – 11

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146947

Discover more about Karlin Gray and her books on her website.

To learn more about Monica Ahanonu and her work, visit her website.

National Tennis Month Activity

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Tennis Love Word Search Puzzle

 

If you’re a tennis ace, you’ll enjoy finding the tennis-related words in this printable word search puzzle.

Tennis Love Word Search Puzzle | Tennis Love Word Search Solution

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You can find Serena: The Littlest Sister at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound

Picture Book Review