December 30 – It’s National Cat Lover’s Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-cover

About the Holiday

If you share your home with a cat, then you know how these furry friends can change your life. Whether you love them for their playful antics, for their companionship, or even for their independent spirit, your life just wouldn’t be the same without their daily presence. Cat Lovers Month is the perfect time to celebrate your cat or kitten with some extra attention and care. If you’re considering adopting a cat, now would be a great time to contact your local animal shelter or rescue group to give a cat a forever home.

The Catawampus Cat

Written by Jason Carter Eaton | Illustrated by Gus Gordon

 

On a regular Tuesday morning, the catawampus cat came into town “slightly askew.” Everyone was busy, so no one saw him until Mr. Grouse, the grocer, noticed his unusual walk and “tried to straighten him out.” His wife Lydia, who for twenty years had been chilly to her husband, asked what was wrong with the cat, and they both tilted their heads to study him. There, under the vegetable stand, they saw Lydia’s wedding ring lost twenty years before, and suddenly Mr. Grouse noticed that Lydia looked just as she did when they first met. “They kissed and on walked the catawampus cat, still askew…”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-house

Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

The bored barber, “Bob Long, who was giving a woman a long bob,” saw the catawampus cat from his window and was so startled he snipped, and clipped the woman’s bangs at an angle. She loved it, and the catawampus cat continued on. He passed Tom who was painting the Mayor’s house in the usual way until he tilted his head to get a better look and scribbled a diagonal stripe down the front of the house. “‘Brilliant!’ Exclaimed Mayor Meyer. ‘A work of art!’”

The town daredevil made a world record after spotting the cat. The town librarian had a life-changing revelation after seeing the cat. And little Bushy Brows Billiam, suddenly understood his lesson better by looking at things a bit differently.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-library-full

Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

All through town, people began tilting their head and even walking at a slant. Architects began building homes, apartments, and stores that leaned, and car makers designed “off-kilter” vehicles. The effect on the town and the people was amazing. They found favorite possessions they thought lost forever, “and rediscovered old friends they thought they’d never know again.” The first Tuesday of the year was designated “Catawampus Cat Day.” Confetti was flung at an angle, a band played off-key, and the crowd was entirely catawampus.

“‘Well? What do you think of it?’” Mayer Meyer excitedly asked the catawampus cat. “‘We’re all different now, just like you.’” The catawampus cat gazed at him thoughtfully, then stretched, “straightened himself out…and walked out of town, once again uniquely catawampus.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-school

Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

In his delightfully inventive story, Jason Carter Eaton rejoices in all those people (and cats) who walk their own way through life. He encourages young readers to embrace their uniqueness, telling them it’s a good thing to view the world with a different perspective. Even as the catawampus cat inspires the townspeople, Eaton strikes a humorous cautionary note about the nature of fads. He also happily reminds readers that the truly innovative will always find a way to be different.

Gus Gordon’s adorably confident cat sets off his chain reaction of “uniqueness” in detailed mixed-media illustrations that provide lots of opportunities for kids to discover new (and old—sometimes even antique) perspectives as they watch the catawampus cat walk through this diverse town in his own particular way. Surprising and funny details drawn in along the way will also have readers lingering and giggling over each page. Cat lovers will recognize some endearing cat-titudes in the catawampus cat that make feline friends so loveable. The endpapers provide a map of the catawampus cat’s route through this very lucky town.

Smile- and laugh-inducing from cover to cover, The Catawampus Cat would be a favorite and often-asked-for choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0553509717

To learn more about Gus Gordon, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Cat Lover’s Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-bead-cat-craft

A Little Ball of Kitten Love

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-cover

You can find The Catawampus Cat at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 11 – International Mountain Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-cover

About the Holiday

This United Nations-sponsored holiday aims to raise awareness of the crucial importance of mountains to the livelihood and even survival of the world’s population. Covering nearly one-fourth of the earth’s land mass, mountain areas are home to almost one billion people, and over half of the human population relies on mountains for clean energy, food, and water, including 60 to 80 percent of the world’s freshwater supply. Today, mountains are under threat from land degradation, over exploitation, natural disasters, and climate change. This year’s International Mountain Day theme is Mountains Matter, and scientists, activists, and others involved in protecting these unique ecosystems will be advocating for recognition and protection on social media and directly to politicians who can enact change. To celebrate, learn more about the importance of mountains and consider getting involved locally or with national organizations.

A Chip Off the Old Block

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

Rocky had an impressive family. There was Aunt Etna, Uncle Gibraltar, and his Great-Grandma Half Dome. His cousins were pretty well-known too. In fact, “tons of his relatives were rock stars.” Rocky loved hearing his parents’ stories about his family. Rocky wanted to be important too, but his parents thought he was too little. He may have been “just a chip off the old block” like his dad said, “but inside, Rocky was a boulder!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-aunt-etna

Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Rocky made a plan, and in the morning he hopped on a pickup truck headed for Arizona to join his cousin The Wave. As soon as he got there, though, a gust of wind blew him away. He landed hard and “noticed that a piece of him had broken off.” Undeterred, he caught a flight with an eagle out to Wyoming and another cousin, The Tower. Rocky was almost settled in when a rainstorm washed him over the side.

At the bottom of the long slide down, Rocky hitched a ride on a car bound for Texas. There, he thought he could watch over the sauropod tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park. But it didn’t take long for an armadillo to dig him out and send him back on the road again. this time he was determined to go to South Dakota. When he arrived, tinier than when he’d begun his trip, he decided that he’d make a terrific souvenir of his cousin Rushmore.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-the-wave

Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Just then he heard the news. The park was closing because a crack had been discovered in Abraham Lincoln’s nose. “Rocky was crushed.” His dreams of being important would never come true now. But looking up at his cousin, he realized that maybe he could help. A passing lizard gave him a ride to the top, and Rocky jumped. He tumbled down, down and right into the crack in Lincoln’s nose. “He was a perfect fit! I did it! I did something important! I saved Abraham Lincoln!” Rocky exaulted, excited and proud.

Down below, visitors and park employees cheered. Reporters relayed the news, and photographers took pictures. The park was saved, and it was “all thanks to Rocky, the little pebble that wouldn’t be taken for granite.”

A guide to igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks, illustrated descriptions of some of the world’s most majestic rock formations, and an Author’s Note about Mount Rushmore follow the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-mount-rushmore

Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

There’s so much to love about Jody Jensen Shaffer’s A Chip Off the Old Block! Part adventure, part educational travelogue, and completely inspirational—with lots of funny wordplay to boot—Shaffer’s story will charm kids. Little Rocky is a sweetie of a go-getter who has big dreams and sets out to achieve them. He overcomes obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments and adjusts to changes with optimism while never losing heart and building up his self-confidence. Kids will cheer when Rocky finally finds the place where he can make the most monumental difference.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-rocky

Daniel Miyares’ gorgeous illustrations depict the splendor of Rocky’s magnificent cousins and the landscape they dominate while cleverly tracing his journey from state to state, carried along by a truck and a car, in a backpack, and with the help of some animal friends. Rocky is full of personality and childlike expressions that will endear him to readers. Miyares’ full-color, full-bleed pages will get kids excited to learn more about geology and each rock formation, and will no doubt inspire some vacation wish lists.

A Chip Off the Old Block is a smart and witty book that will excite a child’s imagination. It would be a terrific addition to home bookshelves and should be included in classroom libraries to accompany STEM, STEAM, and English Language Arts lessons and well as fun story times.

Ages 5 – 8

Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2018 | ISBN 978-0399173882

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and find teachers’ resources and activities on her website.

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books and his art, visit his website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-cover

You can find A Chip Off the Old Block at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Penguin Random House

International Mountain Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-marvelous-mountains-word-search

Marvelous Mountains! Word Search

 

If you love mountains, you’ll want to find the names of the nineteen mountains in this printable word search puzzle – no climbing necessary!

Marvelous Mountains! Word Search Puzzle | Marvelous Mountains! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-cover

You can find A Chip Off the Old Block at these booksellers

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

 

 

Picture Book Review

May 13 – National Frog Jumping Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there's-nothing-to-do-cover

About the Holiday

Once upon a time there was a writer named Samuel Clemens who published his first short story titled Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog. He later published the story under the title The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which even later became The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. The title of this story wasn’t the only name change in Clemen’s life. He is best known as Mark Twain, one of the best known and most read American authors. The story of this fabled jumping frog and the California Calaveras County’s actual annual Frog Jumping Contest, begun in 1849, are the origins of today’s holiday. The present day frog-jumping record was set by Rosie the Ribeter, who in 1986 jumped 21 feet, 5 ¾ inches.

There’s Nothing to Do!

Written by Dev Petty | Illustrated by Mike Boldt

 

So… Frog has accepted that he’s a frog, and he knows it’s okay to get bigger, but now he can’t think of anything worth doing. His dad finds it hard to believe there’s nothing to do. He suggests swimming, but Frog says it’s “too wet”; playing, but none of the toys surrounding Frog inspire him, and even joining Pig in doing crafts, but Frog is so bored he has to rest up against Pig’s popsicle-stick Eiffel Tower.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there's-nothing-to-do-too-wet

Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2017, text copyright Dev Petty, 2017. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

What’s left? Cleaning his room. This choice gets Frog hopping to see if his “friends have any better ideas.” Rabbit’s idea of a good time alternates between jumping and staring. Cat shows Frog how to lick between his toes, and Owl advises napping all day. Perhaps  Pig can come up with the perfect activity after all. Pig is happy to unfurl his “Fantastic List,” and he and Frog take a look.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there's-nothing-to-do-pig's-list

Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2017, text copyright Dev Petty, 2017. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Frog’s not too keen on most of the to-dos and lies flat on his back in disgruntlement. Just then another frog comes by wondering what’s the matter. Frog complains that the whole day is almost over and he hasn’t done anything. Well, the frog says, when there’s nothing to do, do nothing. “Sometimes the best ideas come when you stop looking for them.” Then this amphibious guru shows Frog how to sit still, empty his mind, and wait.

Suddenly, the world glows with beauty and promise. Frog has never seen life in just this way. Later, when Dad asks Frog what he did all day, Frog is enthusiastic about the Nothing he did. In fact, he wants to do it all over again tomorrow. So what if there’s school the next day—Frog has a long To-Do List of his own now. What’s on it? Nothing!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there's-nothing-to-do-deep-breath

Image copyright Mike Boldt, 2017, text copyright Dev Petty, 2017. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Dev Petty’s Frog is any child’s sure (web)-footed guide to the big issues of growing up. This time he’s looking for help in overcoming his boredom, but he learns that what’s good for the goose (or the Pig, Rabbit, Cat, and Owl) isn’t necessarily good for the gander. When he discovers that inner voice that leads him to his own kind of fun, Frog finds that his lily pad is loaded with possibilities. As in I Don’t Want to Be a Frog and I Don’t Want to Be Big, Frog’s impish questions and opinions will have kids giggling and hoppy to come to the same realizations about life as Frog does.

Mike Boldt’s Frog is sly and endearing as he jumps from friend to friend and activity to activity in search of the perfect day. Kids will love laughing at Rabbit’s goofy stare, ewwing along with Frog at Cat’s bathing ritual, and cheer Pig’s enthusiasm and do-anything attitude. Frog’s glowing revelation lets readers discover their own vistas, and Dad’s proud and satisfied look at the end shows kids that dreaming up their own fun leads to a day well-spent.

There’s Nothing to Do! is a terrific addition to the series, and it’s witty banter will make it an often-asked-for read on any child’s bookshelf. A ribeting choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399558030

Discover more about Dev Petty and her books and find fun activities on her website

To learn more about Mike Boldt, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Got nothing to do? Hop on over and watch this There’s Nothing to Do! book trailer!

National Frog Jumping Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frog-dot-to-dot

Frog Dot-to-Dot Activity Sheet

 

Can you hop from number to number and help the frog appear in this printable Frog Dot-to-Dot Activity Sheet? Then give him a lily pad or other place to live and color it all in!

Picture Book Review

May 3 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month and Interview with Author Jody Jensen Shaffer

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-cover

About the Holiday

Launched in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers and managed by Every Child a Reader, Get Caught Reading Month hopes to instill a love of reading in every child and encourages people of all ages to read more. Celebrities, authors, illustrators, and others participate by sharing pictures of themselves reading an old favorite or new book on social media. Special materials are available for and programs held in schools, libraries, bookstores, and community venues all month long. Why not join in by finding a new book to lovelike today’s book?! For more information and to find resources, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

Penguin Random House sent me a copy of A Chip Off the Old Block to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m partnering with Penguin Random House in a giving away a copy of A Chip Off the Old Block. See details below.

A Chip Off the Old Block

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

Rocky had an impressive family. There was Aunt Etna, Uncle Gibraltar, and his Great-Grandma Half Dome. His cousins were pretty well-known too. In fact, “tons of his relatives were rock stars.” Rocky loved hearing his parents’ stories about his family. Rocky wanted to be important too, but his parents thought he was too little. He may have been “just a chip off the old block” like his dad said, “but inside, Rocky was a boulder!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-aunt-etna

Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Rocky made a plan, and in the morning he hopped on a pickup truck headed for Arizona to join his cousin The Wave. As soon as he got there, though, a gust of wind blew him away. He landed hard and “noticed that a piece of him had broken off.” Undeterred, he caught a flight with an eagle out to Wyoming and another cousin, The Tower. Rocky was almost settled in when a rainstorm washed him over the side.

At the bottom of the long slide down, Rocky hitched a ride on a car bound for Texas. There, he thought he could watch over the sauropod tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park. But it didn’t take long for an armadillo to dig him out and send him back on the road again. this time he was determined to go to South Dakota. When he arrived, tinier than when he’d begun his trip, he decided that he’d make a terrific souvenir of his cousin Rushmore.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-the-wave

Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Just then he heard the news. The park was closing because a crack had been discovered in Abraham Lincoln’s nose. “Rocky was crushed.” His dreams of being important would never come true now. But looking up at his cousin, he realized that maybe he could help. A passing lizard gave him a ride to the top, and Rocky jumped. He tumbled down, down and right into the crack in Lincoln’s nose. “He was a perfect fit! I did it! I did something important! I saved Abraham Lincoln!” Rocky exaulted, excited and proud.

Down below, visitors and park employees cheered. Reporters relayed the news, and photographers took pictures. The park was saved, and it was “all thanks to Rocky, the little pebble that wouldn’t be taken for granite.”

A guide to igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks, illustrated descriptions of some of the world’s most majestic rock formations, and an Author’s Note about Mount Rushmore follow the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-mount-rushmore

Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

There’s so much to love about Jody Jensen Shaffer’s A Chip Off the Old Block! Part adventure, part educational travelogue, and completely inspirational—with lots of funny wordplay to boot—Shaffer’s story will charm kids. Little Rocky is a sweetie of a go-getter who has big dreams and sets out to achieve them. He overcomes obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments and adjusts to changes with optimism while never losing heart and building up his self-confidence. Kids will cheer when Rocky finally finds the place where he can make the most monumental difference.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-rocky

Daniel Miyares’ gorgeous illustrations depict the splendor of Rocky’s magnificent cousins and the landscape they dominate while cleverly tracing his journey from state to state, carried along by a truck and a car, in a backpack, and with the help of some animal friends. Rocky is full of personality and childlike expressions that will endear him to readers. Miyares’ full-color, full-bleed pages will get kids excited to learn more about geology and each rock formation, and will no doubt inspire some vacation wish lists.

A Chip Off the Old Block is a smart and witty book that will excite a child’s imagination. It would be a terrific addition to home bookshelves and should be included in classroom libraries to accompany STEM, STEAM, and English Language Arts lessons and well as fun story times.

Ages 5 – 8

Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2018 | ISBN 978-0399173882

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and find teachers’ resources and activities on her website.

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books and his art, visit his website.

Meet Jody Jensen Shaffer

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Jody-Jensen-Shaffer-author-photo

I’m excited to talk with Jody Jensen Shaffer today about what she loves about writing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, her favorite childhood memories, and her rescue dog, Sophie.

What was the spark for A Chip off the Old Block?

Hi Kathy! Thanks for having me on your blog. The spark for A Chip off the Old Block was the phrase, “Rocky loved his rock star relatives.” It came to me as I was brainstorming picture book ideas, and it felt like the first line of a story. I loved the word play of the line, so I created a story around it. I just had to discover who Rocky was and what his story would be.

A Chip off the Old Block combines terrific storytelling with science and history. What would you like for readers to take away from the book? How have children reacted to Chip?

Thanks! It was lots of fun to write. I hope readers take away from the book the idea that you’re never too small to matter and to never give up on your dreams. Bonus points if they learn a little about rocks, US landmarks, maps, and natural formations! I’ve been really happy with how Chip has been received by children and adults! One class even did a Google maps tour of the places Rocky visits in his travels.

You write across the spectrum of children’s literature from poetry to nonfiction to fiction. Can you briefly describe what you like about each?

I love writing poetry because of the challenge of the form. It’s like putting a puzzle together, and the pieces are brevity, beauty, meaning, and joy.

I love writing fiction because I can choose any characters I want, put them in any situations I want, and have fun with the language, voice, and story.

I love writing nonfiction because I love learning new things! And my interest in science comes to me naturally because of my dad’s influence. He was a college professor of biological sciences (and a great wordsmith).

You’ve said that you loved being a kid. What’s one of your favorite memories? How does being able to tap into that feeling of childhood influence your work?

I have so many great memories of my childhood: fishing with my family at local ponds, riding bikes to the swimming pool, visiting my dad’s lab at the college, even working our huge garden with my siblings (before we were allowed to ride our bikes to the swimming pool). I feel so blessed to have had the parents I had and the childhood they gave me. It’s easy to recall feelings of being loved and valued. I hope to send that same message to my readers through my writing.

You say you can remember the exact moment you learned to read. Can you talk about that a little?

It’s a very brief memory. I was reading an early chapter book and laboriously sounding out each syllable, index finger on page, when it occurred to me that if I just read “lighter,” the words might come to me more easily. I relaxed, I guess, and the words came. It was like a light switch turned on. From then on, I read fluently.

What’s the best part about being a children’s author? Do you have an anecdote from an author event that you’d like to share?

There are so many great things about writing for children, and I feel really blessed to be able to do it, but if I have to choose the best thing, I’d say it’s being able to play with words for a living. In terms of an anecdote, I was Skyping with a class for World Read Aloud Day recently, and a little guy stepped up to the screen and told me how much he liked one of my less well-known books. I felt his sincerity, and I appreciated him telling me.

In 2017, your book Prudence the Part-Time Cow was chosen to represent Missouri in the National Book Festival in Washington DC that is hosted by the Library of Congress. Can you talk about this honor a little? How was Prudence chosen and what did it mean for you as an author and for the book?

I was super excited to learn that the Missouri Center for the Book chose Prudence for that honor! At the National Book Festival, each state chooses a book to represent it. All the states’ books are displayed together in one room for festival-goers. I didn’t attend the event, but several people who did told me Prudence sold out several times!

You’re a dog lover and have a rescue dog named Sophie. I’d love to hear more about her!

How much time do you have? Just kidding. She’s part long-haired dachshund, part chihuahua, we think. Very friendly, a good walking companion, pretty, and a real cuddler. She sleeps under the sheets with us.

What’s up next for you?

In July 2018, just in time for back-to-school, Beach Lane will publish It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus! about a school bus’s first day of school. In 2019, Grosset & Dunlap will release my bobble-head biography, Who Is Jackie Chan? I’ve got more projects coming that have yet to be announced, so I better stop there. I’ll continue to publish poetry in great children’s magazines, too.

What’s your favorite holiday? Do you have an anecdote from any holiday you’d like to share?

I really like Earth Day and Arbor Day. I love helping take care of the earth.

Thanks, Jody! It’s been so great chatting with you! I wish you all the best with A Chip Off the Old Block and all of your books and projects!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-cover

You can find A Chip Off the Old Block at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Penguin Random House

(Leaving a review is one of the best ways to support authors and illustrators!)

You can connect with Jody Jensen Shaffer on

Her website | Twitter

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reading-bug-book-plate

Catch the Reading Bug Bookmark and Bookplate

 

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

I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

Picture Book Review

April 1—International Pillow Fight Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snoozefest-cover-image

About the Holiday

Pillow fights are fluffy fun that’s more about laughing than combat. Once only enjoyed by siblings, at sleepovers, and to delay bedtime, pillow fights have become the stuff (stuffing?) of mass swatfests worldwide. So grab your pillow, swing with all your might, and let the feathers fly!

SnoozeFest

Written by Samantha Berger | Illustrated by Kristyna Litten

 

Snuggleford Cuddlebun is the sleepiest sloth in Snoozeville. “Now that sloth can sleep, for a month at a go. / The few time she rises, she moves in slo-mo.” But there is one annual event that sets her heart—and her feet—racing enough to leave her cozy bed—SnoozeFest. “This is the place where the best sleepers go / to snore their way through this naptacular show.” So Snuggleford packs up her her jammies and teddy, her pillow and book and joins the other great sleepers on the bus that will take them to the NuzzleDome.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snoozefest-snoozeville

Image copyright Kristyn Litten. courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin

As Snuggleford looks for the best place to camp, she sees that she’s in good company. The wildcats, wombats, koala bears, brown bats, squirrels, and armadillos are also setting up tents, laying down sleeping bags, and lounging in hammocks—which is Snuggleford’s favorite too. After finding her spot “she strolls through the stands / for posters and T-shirts / and swag from the bands.” Soon it’s time for the show to begin with the P. J. Parade, where sleepwear from such designers as Diane von FirstInBed and Louis Futon are on full display.

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Image copyright Kristyn Litten. courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin

“Then all the big spotlights dim down in the Dome, / and everyone turns on their night-light from home.” The first band to perform is the “Chamomile Rage” and although the crowd is half asleep by the middle of the first song, “the snoozers yawn deeply, yet still clap for more. / The second act’s also a guaranteed snore.” Then “a poet named Burrows recites a haiku / and imitates rain with his didgeridoo.”  More acts take the stage—the Nocturnal Nesters and the Quiet Quartet, Tranquility Trio and the Drowsy Duet. Yes, “These are the best bands for deep relaxation, / followed by Sweet Dreams and Deep Hiber-Nation.”

For Snuggleford Cuddlebun the concert is all she could want. In fact, “Several days later the SnoozeFest is done. / And who’s still asleep? Why it’s Miss Cuddlebun.” She folds up her things, tosses away her trash, and rides the bus back home. There she climbs into bed and shuts her eyes and dreams of next year’s SnoozeFest.

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Image copyright Kristyn Litten. courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin

Samantha Berger’s SnoozeFest is one of the cutest, most original bedtime books around. With wit and charm Berger makes full use of the festival setting and experience. Her inspired rhymes, adorable band names, and atmosphere that combines just the right amount of excitement and slumber-inducing lilt, will delight kids of all ages and adults as well. From Snoozeville to the NuzzleDome to a full verse of blanket nicknames, Berger has come up with the “wumphiest, coziest, comfiest” words to send little ones off to dreamland.

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Image copyright Kristyn Litten. courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin

Krisyna Litten’s illustrations, designed with a vintage-yet-modern air and color palette, are the perfect accompaniment to Berger’s story. Anyone would love to join Litten’s sweet Snuggleford and the other “great sleepers” at SnoozeFest. Snuggleford’s endearing slothy smile and the joyful camaraderie of the other festival goers invite kids to explore every page. The crowd consists of loveable moles, koalas, raccoons, bears, foxes, porcupines, and more adult and baby animals enjoying the show.  Two-page spreads of the darkened festival grounds lit by nightlights and starlight are gorgeous, peaceful landscapes of blues and gold that set a sleepy tone for little readers.

SnoozeFest would be a very welcome addition to any child’s bookshelf for story times and bed times, and would make a perfect gift.

Ages 3 – 7

Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin, 2015 | ISBN 978-0803740464

You’ll have plenty of fun discovering lots of books, Nickelodeon videos, and more creative stuff by Samantha Berger on her website!

You can catch up with Krisyna Litten on her blog!

You won’t want to snooze through this book trailer!

International Pillow Fight Day Activity

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Perfect Pillow Case

 

Decorating your own pillow case gives you distinction during any pillow fight—and guarantees sweet dreams while sleeping too!

Supplies

  • White, or single-color pillow case
  • Fabric markers
  • Cardboard or newspaper

Directions

  1. Iron or smooth out the pillow case
  2. Insert cardboard or newspapers inside the pillow case to keep markers from bleeding through
  3. Design and color your pillow case with the markers

Picture Book Review

October 9 – Curious Events Day

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About the Holiday

Today is set aside to ponder the mysteries of life—kind of like all the X-Files rolled up into one day! It’s fun and fascinating to explore the unknown, to wonder if mythical creatures really exist, or to allow yourself (if even for just a moment) to accept strange phenomenon as true. And then there are just those weird things that happen that make you think “why me?” or “why not me?” and give you a new perspective on life. Today, be conscious of the unexplained—you know you want to believe!

Bug in a Vacuum

By Mélanie Watt

 

A bug enjoying a lazy afternoon takes advantage of an open door and flies into a house. It’s cleaning day and the bug buzzes through the bathroom, through the kitchen (taking a quick hop and skip over the cooling apple pie), across a bedroom, and stops on top of the household globe. Meanwhile someone is vacuuming, unaware of or unconcerned with what lays in the powerful machine’s path.

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Image and text copyright Mélanie Watt. Courtesy of Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca.

The bug is “on top of the world when it happened. Its entire life changed with the switch of a button.” Suddenly it is sucked past the little bristles and into the dusty interior of the canister. Finding itself here amid the forgotten debris, the bug goes through many stages as it ponders its plight. Stage one is Denial. Surrounded by fluffy fuzz the bug thinks to itself, “This is amazing! Doesn’t get much cozier than this…” But then the quiet and dark makes the bug suspicious. Maybe it’s a surprise party! Or perhaps it’s a dream! The bug pinches itself to wake up, but all that does is hurt.

Stage 2 follows—Bargaining. The bug calls out “Excuse me, you’ve vacuumed the wrong bug!” It even offers a different day to be so inconvenienced: “Can I be vacuumed next Monday instead? Tonight’s bowling night with the dung beetles!” Finally, it promises to turn over a new wing and writes a contract of sorts: “Dear vacuum, IF you set me free, I promise to avoid my favorite hangouts: windowsills, picnics, porta-potties. A new Bug.” When there’s no response to this plea, the bug moves on to…

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Image and text copyright Mélanie Watt. Courtesy of Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca.

Stage 3—Anger. The bug throws a fit: “I WANT OUT NOW!!! NO MORE MR. NICE FLY!!! It threatens, becomes paranoid, demands attention, and turns the dust bunnies into its own personal army. The sounds from inside the canister are frightening—but no one’s there to hear them.

Stage 4 strikes heavy with—Despair. When the dust, scraps of paper, broken pencil, tack, paperclip, playing card, broken Q-tips, and other waste settles, the bug takes stock. “My life’s a mess” it realizes. “How will I ever pick up the pieces?” it wonders. It decides: “I’m at the end of my rope. My dreams are crushed. The odds are against me.” The poor bug goes on: “I’ll never see the sky again. I’ll never be extraordinary. I have no future.” At last, though, the bug is ready for…

Stage 5—Acceptance. The bug surrenders itself to its fate and learns to “appreciate what I have.” It goes so far as to say, “I don’t wish to change a thing. Everything will be okay.”

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Image and text copyright Mélanie Watt. Courtesy of Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca.

It is at this point that the bug feels itself on the move, gliding across the carpet, waiting at the curb, and traveling away at top speed as the vacuum cleaner sits atop the Bull Dog Waste Service truck. The trip takes it up a hill to the city dump where the vacuum is unceremoniously dropped on a pile and the hose is dislodged. When the machine comes to a rest, the bug sees the most magnificent sight—a way out. The bug flies into the streaming sunlight and on to another adventure.

A sub-plot involving the family’s wiener dog who has lost his beloved stuffed toy to the overzealous vacuum adds suspense to the story, and his thoughts about retrieving his toy inject more comical elements and mirror the bug’s contemplations.

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Image and text copyright Mélanie Watt. Courtesy of Tundra Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca.

Mélanie Watt, with tongue firmly in cheek, takes readers on an emotional roller coaster as an unsuspecting but very lucky bug finds itself engaged in the five stages of grief after it is sucked into a vacuum cleaner. Watt’s text and full-bleed, vintage-style illustrations go hand-in-hand (or wing-in-wing) to tell the bug’s and dog’s stories.

Each stage of the bug’s turmoil is introduced with an image of a product named for the psychological phase and labeled with humorous puns and platitudes. The dated décor, colors, and objects make Bug in a Vacuum visually stunning, and the bug hero is a cutie who readers will empathize with and cheer for. Eagle-eyed readers will also love finding all the items slurped up into the cleaning machine lying on the floor of each page. The first page defining Bug as “an insect” and “an unexpected glitch” and Vacuum as “a cleaning machine” and “a void left by a loss” hints at the fun and thoughtfulness to come.

Bug in a Vacuum would make a great gift and addition to home bookshelves—a welcome pick-me-up for those days when things don’t always go so well.

Ages 4 – 9

Tundra Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1770496453

You can learn about the many, many books by Mélanie Watt on her website!

To find a fun Bug in a Vacuum activity guide by Tundra Books/Penguin Random House of Canada, click here!

Get sucked in to this Bug in a Vacuum book trailer!

Curious Events Day Activity

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Hidden Word Coloring Page

 

Curious events are often steeped in mystery. The real meaning or cause of a phenomenon can be hidden from view, but that just makes it more fun! Curious about what this printable Hidden Word Puzzle says? Color it and find out!

Picture Book Review

October 6 – It’s National Pizza Month

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About the Holiday

Pizza is one of those foods that just puts a smile on your face. It’s associated with parties, good times with friends, and relaxing weekends. It’s also one of the few foods that is so varied that you can have it made your way with your own favorite ingredients – while your table mates can too. The mix of ingredients also makes pizza a great metaphor for life or a microcosm of society. However you look at pizza, this month indulge in all your favs!

Secret Pizza Party

Written by Adam Rubin | Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

 

Raccoon, plastered against the Pizza Shop window, drools over cheesy slices others are eating inside. He so wants a piece and would even be happy with the leftovers in the back alley trash. But when he tries to paw one out of the can, he gets swept away with a broom. Maybe  if he knew how to ask politely things would be different.

Raccoon loves pizza so much that he thinks it should hang in art museums and that people should eat it in the bathtub. “Of course the best part about pizza is the gooey cheesiness, salty pepperoni-ness, sweet tomato-ness, and crispity, crunchity crust. Yum!” Maybe a pizza party will cheer Raccoon up – a secret pizza party. Why should it be secret? Because secret is special— like an intricate secret handshake only you and one other person know, or a secret stair case that leads…who knows where, but somewhere amazing!

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Adam Rubin, courtesy of Penguin Random House

Besides, you know what a regular raccoon pizza party would be like—there would be brooms and horrified faces and panicked shouts of “Get that raccoon off the table!!!” But here’s how a secret pizza party would sound: “Get that raccoon another slice of pizza, he’s the guest of honor.”

So the first order of business for this secret pizza party is…ordering! Before the call is placed, though, you’ve got to think: if you call and order the pizza, you’ll have to give your address. And if you give your address, the pizza guy will know where you live. And if the pizza guy knows where you live he “might recognize you from the posters and chase you off with a broom.” So what are you to do? A disguise will do the trick. “Okay now, play it cool. You’re just an honest pizza-buying citizen who left his wallet in the car,” and as soon as the pizza is in your hands you make a run for it back to your tree.

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Adam Rubin, courtesy of Penguin Random House

Ok, phew, great job! Now you can enjoy…but not too loud or with too much light. You don’t want anyone to see. Wait a minute! What’s that right outside your home? Another secret pizza party where everyone is wearing masks?

Perfect! Ok, you’ve infiltrated the party…you’re reaching for a slice of pizza…and no one suspects a thing. NO! NO! NO! You’re rolling in the pizza on top of the table!! You blew your cover. Grab as many pieces as you can and run because here they come with the brooms…!

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Adam Rubin, courtesy of Penguin Random House

Adam Rubin’s madcap read-a-loud about a pizza-obsessed raccoon and his quest for a broom-free night of pizza indulging will have kids laughing from Raccoon’s first wistful look to his final triumphant dash. Rubin’s conspiratorial tone makes readers active participants in Raccoon’s covert operation to secure a pizza without a sweeping disaster, ramping up their level of involvement and enjoyment. The text—from the secret handshakes to the broom-bots to words such as “bonk,” “booyah,” “crispity crunchity,” and “happy screams”—is silly, kid-friendliness at its best and is as enticing as the aroma of hot-out-of-the-oven pizza.

Daniel Salmieri’s noodle-armed, broom-wielding humans and animated, fanatical raccoon amplify the humor that infuses every scene in Rubin’s tale. A slice of pizza hanging between two masterpieces in a museum or being devoured in a bubble bath, an intertwining handshake, a ridiculous disguise, and two types of raccoon-sniffing broom-bots are just a few of the images that make Secret Pizza Party a kid’s dream come true. In addition there are plenty of sly details, such as a pizza-shaped lampshade, projectile brooms, and Raccoon’s fairy-tale imagination. My favorite laugh-out-loud moment shows Raccoon blending into the secret pizza party outside his tree house by simply holding up a twig to his natural “mask.”

Full of pizza, playfulness, and a persevering raccoon, Secret Pizza Party is a book that kids will want to hear again and again.

Ages 3 – 9

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-0803739475

Find out more about books by Adam Rubin on his website!

Daniel Salmieri has a gallery of his work and books on his website for you to see!

 Pizza Month Activity

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What’s Your Favorite Topping? Word Search

 

Pizza is so delicious, but everyone has their favorite kind. Find the names of 18 different ingredients in this printable What’s Your Favorite Topping? Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution!