April 15 – Take a Wild Guess Day

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About the Holiday

Don’t ya get tired of needing to know the right answer all the time? Today’s holiday takes some of the pressure off by allowing you to indulge in wild guesses. So if the opportunity arises, and someone says, “Guess what?” or asks for your opinion, take full advantage of the day and make the wildest guess you can imagine! Get creative! It will feel good – and everyone will enjoy a laugh!

Are You a Monkey? A Tale of Animal Charades

By Marine Rivoal | English adaptation by Maria Tunney

 

The jungle was alive with activity. “The birds were excitedly chitchatting,” Little Starfish had “climbed up on his rock, eager to see what was going on,” and the other “animals were curious about all the fuss.” As they all gathered round, “Parrot fluffed up her feathers and spread her wings wide. ‘Guess who I am!’” she squawked. Toucan thought she was a pineapple, but Parrot laughed and said she was a lion.

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Image copyright Marine Rivoal, 2017, courtesy of phaidon.com

Just then Cockatoo noticed Crocodile moving closer. He wanted to know what the birds were doing. When he learned they were playing charades, Crocodile wanted to join in the fun too. He arched his body and stuck his nose in the dirt. Cockatoo offered, “‘You’re something long….’” Parrot added, “‘…that sticks out of the ground.’” And eager Toucan shouted, “‘I know! You’re a CARROT!’” But Ostrich knew just who Crocodile was imitating. It was Ostrich, herself, sticking her head in the ground to check on her eggs.

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Image copyright Marine Rivoal, 2017, courtesy of phaidon.com

Next, it was Ostrich’s turn. She bent her neck back and spit water into the air. Cockatoo observed, “‘You’re something bendy….’” Parrot said, “‘And something watery….’” And Toucan guessed, “‘Are you…a CUCUMBER?’” Elephant laughed then showed that Ostrich was pretending to be an elephant like her—spraying water from her trunk.

Elephant knew just what to do next. She grabbed onto a high tree branch with her trunk and swung back and forth. Cockatoo stated, “‘You’re something that hangs from a tree….’” Parrot inquired, “‘Are you a bat?’” And Toucan was so sure he was right this time that he yelled “‘YOU’RE A BANANA!’” But Monkey let them know that Elephant was not a bat or a banana but a monkey like him.

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Image copyright Marine Rivoal, 2017, courtesy of phaidon.com

Monkey had an idea and curled up on the branch. Parrot suggested he was a caterpillar, and Toucan decided he was a COCONUT. No! Chameleon said. Monkey is “‘a chameleon, like me!’” Chameleon then stuck out his looong tongue. It wiggled and wrapped around the branch. Cockatoo knew it was something long and wriggly. Parrot guessed a worm, and Toucan, who “was getting VERY hungry,” hoped it was their dessert.

Snake knew Chameleon was pretending to be her, but she did not want to be dessert. She did, however, want a turn. With her long, flexible body, Snake curled “into a most curious shape” and challenged the birds to guess what she was. As much as they looked and pondered, though, they could not even hazard a guess. From way out in the water, however, a tiny voice called, “‘You’re me!’” “‘You’re right, Little Starfish, it is you!’ said Snake.”

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Image copyright Marine Rivoal, 2017, courtesy of phaidon.com

Starfish so wanted to play along too, but didn’t know what to be. “‘I can’t jump, or hang, or change my shape. I can’t do…anything,’” he sighed. All the animals were quiet, thinking. Suddenly, Elephant lifted him up and “sprayed him high into the air.” Toucan was the first to guess—“‘A SHOOTING STAR!’” he exclaimed. All the animals cheered at Toucan’s correct answer and “agreed that Little Starfish’s charade was the very best one of all.’”

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Image copyright Marine Rivoal, 2017, courtesy of phaidon.com

Marine Rivoal’s Are You a Monkey is a fun, clever, kid-enticing way to learn facts about a group of jungle animals. Employing a favorite game and sprinkled with humor, the story keeps readers engaged and guessing with every turn of the page. The personalities of the three birds are charmingly revealed through their answers to the charades, and kids will giggle along with Toucan’s silly suggestions of food after food. The final charade by Little Starfish is touching and reminds readers that everyone has a special talent and can “reach for the stars” in life. After reading, little ones may even be inspired to look for Little Starfish in the night sky.

Painting with a rich Pantone color palette, Rivoal captures the lushness of the jungle while providing a stimulating visual feast for readers. Are You a Monkey is a great choice for energetic story times at home or at school and could introduce interactive classroom lessons on animal traits and behavior.

Ages 3 – 6

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714874173

Discover a portfolio of work by Marine Rivoal on her website!

Take a Wild Guess Day Activity

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These are just some of the fun activities you can act out in a game of charades using the printable cards from fun-stuff-to-do.com. 

Spectacular Charades!

 

Playing charades is a fantastic way to spend time with family and friends! Gather kids and adult young and older to act out the topics of your choice. In keeping with today’s holiday, don’t hesitate to make the wildest guesses you can—it’s fun and funny! Check out the wide variety of free, printable charades cards on fun-stuff-to-do.com! You can act out animals, people, emotions, toys, food, and more! You can even create your own!

 

Picture Book Review

April 8 – Draw a Picture of a Bird Day

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About the Holiday

With the onset of spring, our feathered friends are busy building nests and hatching little ones. The return of birds to backyards, parks, and beaches as well as the increased activity gives budding nature artists the perfect opportunity to try their hand at sketching these favorite colorful creatures. Whether you prefer to make detailed renderings or simple line drawings, today’s holiday should inspire you to grab your pencil or paints and create!

Birds & Other Animals with Pablo Picasso

First Concepts with Fine Artists | Illustrations by Pablo Picasso

 

Pablo Picasso, “one of the most famous artists who ever lived,” was a prodigy who loved to draw animals of all kinds. Perhaps best known for his abstract portraits and his colorful canvases, Picasso also created line drawings, many of which were “inspired by poems about animals written by his friend Guillaume Apollinaire, a famous French poet.” The illustrations in Birds & Other Animals with Pablo Picasso come from Picasso’s notebooks and, combined, make a wonderfully conceived concept book for little ones.

Opening to the first page, readers meet three birds, one perhaps a little more steady on its feet than the others. Four more birds follow on the next page, a few gamely trying to stand on one leg like the regal flamingos behind them. From the tropical home of the flamingo, readers next travel to a snowy clime, where “penguins are birds who waddle over snow.”

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All artworks by Pablo Picasso © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2017. © 2017 Phaidon Press

“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” Don’t snooze! The rooster wants you to know that he is a bird too! Of course, “some birds fly,” and many insects have wings too. Flies fly and wasps fly. How about grasshoppers? They prefer to hop! Who else likes to hop? “Bunnies hop…especially to get away from hungry foxes. Does [the] fox look hungry to you?”

Some animals seem to be hungry all the time—like the squirrel on the next page (you know how squirrels are!) and the camel, whose “humps are small. When she eats, her humps will grow!” Do you like dogs? “This little dog has no humps—he’s long like a hot dog!” His friend is a big dog who can do tricks. Horses can learn tricks too and perform for people. They can even rear up and stand on two legs! You know who can’t stand on two legs? Right! Fish! “They swim! Turtles swim too.”

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All artworks by Pablo Picasso © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2017. © 2017 Phaidon Press

But we were talking about birds, weren’t we? There are some birds that are like fish. The pelican is a bird who likes to swim—of course, it likes to eat fish too. The ostrich is too big for either flying or swimming, but it can run—really fast! There are so many kinds of birds, aren’t there? Peacocks have long, colorful tail feathers, and owls like the nighttime. Yes, there are so many birds, “beautiful birds.”

The First Concepts with Fine Artists series by Phaidon Press is one of my favorite new collections for babies, toddlers, and even older kids. As an art lover, I’m impressed with the variety of styles and artists introduced to young children who will be attracted to the colors, shapes, and movement in the chosen artwork. As someone who works with words, I love the way the art is tied together with engaging and conversational text.

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All artworks by Pablo Picasso © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2017. © 2017 Phaidon Press

Birds and Other Animals with Pablo Picasso will enchant little ones with whimsical line drawings of animals that embody charming poise and personality. Each page invites readers to create stories of their own about the characters they see, and both children and adults will enjoy running a finger along the line to discover that most of the animals in this sturdy board book are created from one smooth stroke. Along the way, kids learn facts about certain animals, discover how shapes work together, and find objects to count. 

Line it all up and Birds and Other Animals with Pablo Picasso rewards readers with sophisticated fun. The book would make a lovely new baby gift or a delightful addition to young children’s home libraries.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714874180

Draw a Picture of a Bird Day Activity

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Flight of Fancy Bird Drawings

 

Birds come in all shapes and sizes—which kind of bird is your favorite? With these two printables you can learn how to draw a bird and color a pair of birds who are busy collecting flowers!

Learn to Draw a Bird | Birds Carrying Flowers

Picture Book Review

December 17 – Maple Syrup Day

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About the Holiday

Pancakes and waffles are great, but they’re even more delicious with maple syrup! That sweet, golden slooow-pouring topping that makes for a perfect breakfast (and breakfast-for-dinner meal) deserves its own holiday! Before you get out into the hustle and bustle of the weekend, why not celebrate a little with a tall stack and lots of maple syrup?!

Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book

Illustrated by Lotta Nieminen

 

Sometimes a novelty book comes along that transcends the “kid” category and provides fun and “Ooooh!’ moments for readers of all ages. Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book offers just this kind of delicious excitement. Opening the cover is like walking into a cozy kitchen, finding your favorite recipe and gathering all the necessary ingredients. The first two-page spread presents in visuals and words the recipe and the utensils and other cooking items needed to make pancakes.

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, courtesy of phaidon.com

With the second two-page spread, cooking begins! A scoop of baking powder, two tablespoons of sugar, and half a teaspoon of salt are added to the bowl. But what about the cup of flour? Readers get to add that themselves with a pull tab that simulates the flour joining the other ingredients in the green mixing bowl. The clever cut of the opening and the mottled and powdery appearance of the illustrated flour gives the sensation of actual pouring.

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, courtesy of phaidon.com

Next readers get to measure out the cup of milk with the help of a pull tab that gives kids control over the amount being served. Four marks on the side of the measuring cup provide an opportunity to talk about fractions and the ¼, ½, and ¾ lines that are also incorporated into real glass measuring cups or the separate cups that come as part of a set. Once the milk is ready, it goes into the mixing bowl with the melted butter and the egg.

Grab your whisk and get stirring! A wheel on the side of the page lets kids “combine” these wet ingredients from their individual parts into a cohesive yellow batter. Now that the batter is ready, it’s time for “STEP 4: Ladle the batter into separate circles in the hot, buttered frying pan.” Readers will love pulling the tab that releases the batter into the pan—leaving just a drop of batter to sizzle on its own (and you know how good those crispy drops can be!)

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, courtesy of phaidon.com

The batter is bubbling—which means it’s time to flip the flap jacks! As the spatula appears from the top of the page, kids can lift one of the little round yellow pancakes from the fry pan and turn it over. Ingeniously, the reverse side is delectably browned. A turn of the page invites by-now-hungry readers to follow “STEP 6: When both sides are browned, stack the finished pancakes on a plate.”

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, courtesy of phaidon.com

A pancake-sized round indentation on the plate just begs to be filled with the browned pancake from the previous page. Adding the pancake to the sunny plate, kids will feel as if they are holding the spatula and carefully slipping it atop a stack ready to be eaten.  The last page encourages readiers to “add butter, syrup, fruit, jam, lemon juice, honey, or whipped cream and taste what you’ve made! Delicious!”

Lotta Nieminen’s Pancakes! is so wonderfully conceived in its bold vibrant images and simple recitation of a pancake recipe. The crisp lines and absence of labels on the ingredients packages, puts the focus on the shapes, providing a chance for discussion of concepts such as rectangle, circle, half-circle, cylinder, oval, and triangle; flat and round; and bigger and smaller. Ideas such as hot and cold, measuring, pouring, mixing, stacking and others can also be introduced. The brilliant interactive elements invite kids and adults alike to play with this book over and over.

The sturdy board pages and convenient size make this a perfect take-along for trips to the market, picnics, appointments, sibilings’ activities, or other outings where waiting is required. For kids and adults who like to help out in the kitchen, love to cook, or are attracted by all things culinary, Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book makes a terrific gift and must have for home bookshelves. 

Ages 2 and up

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872834

To view a gallery of graphic design and illustration work by Lotta Nieminen, visit her website!

Maple Syrup Day Activity

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Pancake Flip-Out

 

Pancakes are served in a stack because they’re so delicious each one doesn’t last long! This game gives you the chance to see how many pancakes you can flip onto a plate! You can play this game several ways:

To Play Pancake Toss

  1. Give each player the same number of pancakes and see how many they can toss onto the plate during their turn
  2. Make a target with the plate in the middle and draw 3 concentric circles around it. Hitting the target can earn you 20 points. Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point, the second circle is worth 10 points, and the third is worth 5 points. Rotate through the players as many times as you like and add up the points at the end. The player with the most points wins!
  3. Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try throwing them with a spatula!
  4. Make up your own rules—and have fun!

To Play With Dice

  1. Choose a number of pancakes that each player must add to their plate—say, maybe, a baker’s dozen.
  2. Take turns rolling the dice and adding the number of pancakes rolled to the plate. The first player to reach the aggreed-upon number is the winner.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print enough copies of the Pancakes and Breakfast Plates for the game you choose and cut them out. Playing pieces can be printed on card stock or on paper. 
  2. If printing on paper, you can glue the pancakes and plate to poster board, cardboard, or foam to give the pancakes more weight for throwing and the plate more support
  3. Once dry, the game pieces are ready for fun!

Picture Book Review

November 5 – Book Lovers Day

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About the Holiday

The first Saturday in November is set aside for all book lovers out there who like nothing more than to snuggle into a cozy nook with a favorite book. It’s a great day to discover a new author or to reread a beloved one. With so many kinds of books available—mystery, adventure, humor, biography, non-fiction, novels, and more—you may want to read more than one today! How many can you read?

Hug This Book!

Written by Bernie Saltzberg | Illustrated by Fred Benaglia

 

When you grab onto a book and open the cover, you know what to do! But did you know that books themselves may have some ideas on the subject? Today’s reviewed book has plenty of fabulous, page-turning ideas and is happy to share them with you. Its first thought is a pretty big one: “You can read this book to a hippo.” I know!—wouldn’t that be a blast?

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, text copyright Barney Saltzberg. Courtesy of Phaidon Press

It seems that books watch how readers treat their pets, and they want in: “You can kiss and hug and smell this book. / That might sound sort of silly. / You can wrap this book in a sweater, / if it ever gets too chilly.” That sounds as cozy as enjoying hot chocolate in front of a fire—with this book, of course!

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, text copyright Barney Saltzberg. Courtesy of Phaidon Press

The book continues—“You can make up a story to tell to this book.” Hmmm…I never thought about it. Maybe books don’t like doing all the work all the time. Maybe they’d like to just relax and be entertained. Well, I’m sure you can come up with something fun and fantastic! And just to keep you on your toes, the book offers a few more challenges: “Can you read this book in the mirror? / Or sing the words in this book like a song? / If you sing it to the birdies, maybe they’ll sing along.” After completing those activities maybe it’s time for a nap. Don’t forget to take the book too, but be ready to giggle because… “Maybe you’ll hear it snore.”

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And when you wake up all refreshed you can try reading the book while dancing, twirling, leaping, skipping…you can even take it to lunch, “just do not try to feed it.” Then suddenly and all too soon the book comes to the last page. Don’t be sad, though. “Even though this book is over, / it isn’t really the end. / You can start at the beginning / and read it to a friend!”

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, text copyright Barney Saltzberg. Courtesy of Phaidon Press

Barney Saltzberg’s love for books is infectious. His witty rhymes bubble with the thrill of reading and playfully challenge kids to take books along no matter where they go or what they do. The cadence of Saltzberg’s lines invite multiple readings—the way the rhythm of movement in hopscotch, jump rope, or dancing is inherent in the fun. Kids will giggle at the examples Saltzberg conjurs up—reading to a hippo, listening to a book snore, feeding a book—and you can bet that they will want to invent some of their own! Get ready to hug this book—and many others. After all isn’t that what best friends do?

Fred Benaglia’s adorable characters swim and paddle, snuggle and swing, play and imagine all the while with their nose in this book. The fanciful coloring and quirky landscapes enhance both the originality and universality of this tribute to book love. Benaglia’s artwork—from the fish nibbling at a child’s toes to the cars zipping through the cities—radiate personality invites creative thinking. Readers will especially want to linger over the two-page spread of a smiling child conjuring up a host of stories to catch every imaginative detail in the chalk drawings. The big red heart on the  cover under the book jacket is a clever touch, connecting Hug This Book! to “this book” in the text.

For all book lovers, Hug This Book! is a fun, funny romp and will be a welcome, often-asked-for addition to a child’s library.

Ages 2 – 7

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872841

You’ll love discovering all the books, music, and videos on Barney Saltzberg‘s website!

Cuteness abounds on Fred Benaglia‘s website, where you’ll find book illustrations and so much more!

Can you hug this Hug This Book! book trailer?

Book Lovers Day Activity

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Book Lovers Book Bag

 

Whether you’re buying new books at your local bookstore or checking some out at your library, carry those treasures home in their own special bag! This kid-sized bag was made from recycled materials!

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

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Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

Picture Book Review

November 2 – Look for Circles Day

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About the Holiday

Today is one of those days that gets you really observing the world in a new way. As you go about your day at the office, at school, at shops, or just while driving here and there, be aware of all the different circles you see. Sure, there are the obvious ones—the tires on your car, the signals on a stoplight, the lid of your water bottle or coffee cup…but how about all the less-seen circles? Knots on trees, a lemon slice, the center of a flower, the ripple of a raindrop or pebble dropped in a puddle… Whether you look for circles through the eye of geometry or they eye of art, be fully aware of the shapes around you!

Squares & Other Shapes: with Josef Albers (First Concepts with Fine Artists)

Paintings by Josef Albers

 

Opening Squares & Other Shapes, readers encounter a vibrant magenta square nesting in an autumn maple leaf-hued square which floats in a square of clear, winter-sky blue. On the next page two orange squares beckon you to follow into the glowing, yellow center square. Could it be a doorway or window leading somewhere?

In another painting, a bold yellow rectangle and an equally bold blue rectangle host guests: “two little rectangles lying down for a nap.” But the calm is shattered on the next page as stacks of red and blue rectangles shake and tumble: “Watch Out! It’s raining rectangles!”

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

Now circles want a turn, and they want to have fun! In a large black rectangle a white circle and a red circle play stoplight: “Circle, Circle, Stop!” while on the next page blue, black and spirally circles jump and frolic—“Bounce, Circles, Bounce!” Turn the page—can you count all of the little circles in the rectangle or all of the baby circles in the rectangle on the right-hand page? Some of the babies are leaping away—or are they just joining the group? What do you think?

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

Next the black rectangle is back, but this time with two white squares inside. Wait a minute—how did those little yellow circles get into the bottom square? “Hey circles, get out of that square!” Of course triangles don’t want to be left out. Dusky triangles in many sizes connected tip to tip enjoy their light, white background, but on the next page they’re left in shadow—“Hey triangles, who turned out the lights?”

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

Be careful turning the page to look at the two intersecting triangles: “Ouch, these triangles look sharp!” Maybe it’s better to move on to the big, vivid triangle on the right. Oooh, so many colors! Nine, in fact! Hmmm… “Is this one big triangle, or lots of little triangles?” These paintings are getting more complex! Now there are “blue squares in pink squares, pink squares in blue squares; rectangles in rectangles, circles in circles, and more triangles in triangles. But here’s a different painting: the rectangles are perfect rectangles, but the squares are a little off, and what kinds of shapes do those curved lines make?—“Funny shapes in funny shapes!” And the last painting? Back to squares. Red, purple, and blue squares. “Beautiful squares.”

Following the paintings, the last page provides a captivating biography about Josef Albers’ life and work aimed at the book’s young audience.

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

Imagine being able to own a stunning collection of famous paintings by a world-renowned artist and educator to teach your child about shapes, color, and art. With Squares & Other Shapes by Josef Albers you can! The second in the First Concepts with Fine Artists series, Squares & Other Shapes presents readers with more than 30 painting by Josef Albers, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Most well-known for his Homage to the Square paintings, Albers worked with color and shapes to challenge perceptions and promote creative thinking.

Shapes are one of the earliest concepts introduced to babies and young children. Even the youngest readers will be riveted by the beautifully reproduced paintings in this large board book that present squares, circles, rectangles, and trianges in clear but creative ways. The easily understood labels, repetition, and recognizable patterns offer key strategies that are known to build strong reading and comprehension skills. Kids will love the humorous text that brings the paintings to life, helping them to also see that art is not static, but active and open to interpretation by each viewer.

Squares & Other Shapes with Josef Albers is a wonderfully conceived concept book that can grow with children as it offers readers enjoyment and education on so many levels. The book would be an often-sought-out addition to home and library bookshelves and also makes a perfect present for baby showers and other gift-giving holidays.

Ages birth – 5 (and up)

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872568

Look for Circles Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-circle-puzzle

Circle of Shapes Puzzle

 

Build a circle from different shapes with this puzzle that grows as you add pieces! You can also use these shapes to create your own art!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the shape templates
  2. Cut out the shapes
  3. Trace shapes onto different colored paper
  4. Cut out the colorful shapes
  5. Build the puzzle from the central square to the edges of the circle (It may be easier to keep the puzzle in place by sticking the pieces down with a little tape applied to the back of the pieces)

You can also use the shapes to create your own art!

Picture Book Review

 

October 1 – International Coffee Day

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About the Holiday

Is there anything better than sitting down with a steaming cup of coffee for a little break during the day? Today’s holiday lets people all over the world do just that. Whether you like your coffee strong and hot, with lots of milk, or flavored with tastes of the season, there are versions of this delicious drink just for you. With an ancient and storied history, coffee is one food that unites us all. To celebrate why not grab a cup of joe for yourself, stir up a foamy hot chocolate for your kids, and sit down with a good book – like today’s brain teaser!

Undercover: One of These Things Is Almost Like the Others

By Bastien Contraire

 

Undercover agents complete successful missions by blending in with their surroundings and the people they encounter, but’s impossible for them to actually become the people they are investigating. In the same vein Undercover: One of These Things Is Almost Like the Others cleverly inserts a closely shaped item onto a two page spread that contains a family of objects (for instance a soccer ball among fruit).

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Image copyright Bastien Contraire, courtesy of phaidon.com

The pink, green, and brown stenciled illustrations boldly placed on a white background offer stimulating visuals while also making the task of discovering the interloper surprisingly tricky as out perceptions and even preconceived notions are tested. Many of the match-ups provide not only a challenge but sly humor as well, riffing on the shapes, purpose, relationship, and even history of the items on the page. 

Picking out the imposter is only the beginning of the fun readers can have with Undercover. Each page can start a discussion of how the odd item is different and how it is similar to the others; the similar objects can be categorized into smaller sets; industrious kids may like to design their own pages giving the “almost” image some companions; and wordsmiths may want to invent stories involving the groupings and how they came to be.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-undercover-one-of-these-things-is-almost-like-the-others-ice-cream

Image copyright Bastien Contraire, courtesy of phaidon.com

Fans of “I Spy” types of books and games will love testing their knowledge and observational skills against the pod of whales, city modes of transportation, insects and fish, sea-worthy craft, various types of food, office equipment, and a host of birds and animals in this 64-page wordless picture book. Perfect for classrooms and home bookshelves, Undercover: One of These Things is Almost Like the Others is sure to be asked for again and again on any day when fun, quiet entertainment is just what’s called for.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-undercover-one-of-these-things-is-almost-like-the-others-dogs

Image copyright Bastien Contraire, courtesy of phaidon.com

Bastien Contraire’s stylized stencil-print illustrations of long-antennae beetles; flat and spiny fish; friendly dinos; ice cream treats; farm, forest and antlered animals; musical instruments; and more will delight kids and spur them to discover the names of each. The rounded edges, sleek lines, and delineated details of the images may even inspire budding artists to try their own hand at stenciling.

Ages 4 and up

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872506

International Coffee Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ceramic-mug-craft

Mug Masterpiece

 

Somehow drinks taste better in a mug you’ve decorated yourself! With this easy craft you can design a mug for your hot chocolate, tea, juice, or any favorite drink!

Supplies

  • Ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Paint included with mug decorating kit
  • OR
  • Bakeable ceramic markers
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Design and decorate your mug
  2. Follow the directions on the mug kit to bake on the paint OR
  3. Follow the directions of the ceramic markers to finish your mug

 

 

September 17 – International Eat an Apple Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-toto's-apple-cover

About the Holiday

The apple is one of the world’s most valuable foods, enjoyed by people all around the globe. Apples come in so many crispy, delectable types and flavors—from sweet to tangy. Whether you like red, green, or yellow apples they are delicious in pies, tarts, muffins, salads, or just by themselves. Today, why not buy a bushel or a peck of apples from your favorite store or farm stand—or for even more fun, visit an orchard to pick them right from the tree! What you do with them is all up to your imagination!

Toto’s Apples

By Mathieu Lavoie

 

Like a more earthy Romeo, Toto the worm gazes at his beloved—a rosy red apple. He “is down low” and it “is up high”. He needs a plan because he is determined to win that apple. Just then a bird flies by and Toto has an idea. Using their natural enmity, “Toto gets busy” and paints a twig in his image. He displays it in a prominent place, and hides. When the bird zooms in to snatch the delicious snack, Toto catches a ride on the bird’s tail feathers. Up he soars…to be deposited in…the wrong tree.

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Image copyright Matieu Lavoie, couresy of Phaidon Press, phaidon.com

Now “Toto is here. The apple is over there.” As often happens “a squirrel approaches.” Watching it climb his tree, “Toto has an idea.” Once again “Toto gets busy.” He paints himself the red of the tree’s berries and when the squirrel passes him by, “Toto hangs on tight” to the squirrel’s bushy tail. Off Toto goes…into…the tree top. While the squirrel naps, Toto looks longingly at the apple of his eye so far below.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-toto's-apple-squirrel

Image copyright Matieu Lavoie, couresy of Phaidon Press, phaidon.com

A falling leaf gives Toto another brainstorm. He paints a leaf with rainbow colors, and after a moment to bolster his courage…he “takes the plunge!” He flits and floats so close to…the ground. Landing gently on the grass, Toto is back to the beginning. Now what? Suddenly, he sees Didi and a friend arriving with a ladder. He hunkers down to scout out the situation. The ladder is placed against the tree trunk. The friend climbs the ladder. The apple lands in the hands of Didi, who…takes a big munch! “Toto is devastated.”

Just then Didi pivots to watch a passing airplane and drops the apple. Knowing “that it’s now or never,” Toto burrows in. As the plane disappears Didi again turns her attention to the apple…“and swallows Toto!” Poor Toto? No! “The apple is inside. So is Toto. Toto is happy.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-toto's-apple-butterfly

Image copyright Matieu Lavoie, couresy of Phaidon Press, phaidon.com

Mathieu Lavoie’s Toto’s Apple is part concept book, part tasty treat of absurdist fun that kids will eat up. As Toto’s predicament goes from bad to worse, his steadfast eye on his goal lends suspense and a growing comedic lilt to this very minimalist tale. Little Toto is an adorable hero, a tiny pink and red striped softie with one great love. His determination and clever solutions to his dilemma will not only make kids laugh but inspire them to muster their courage and think outside the box.

Lavoie’s simple but bold illustrations provide just the right amount of visual explanation of Toto’s changing fortunes (and facial expressions) for kids to enjoy the full, escalating, laugh-out-loud humor on every page. Readers will understand—as so many great literary works reveal—that wherever you and your beloved can be together is where true happiness is found.

At its core Toto’s Apple is a book that will be asked for again and again and should be “up high” or “down low” or anywhere in a child’s bookcase.

Ages 3 – 8

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872513

Find Mathieu Lavoie on Facebook and his website!

International Eat an Apple Day Activity

CPB - Cinnamon Apples (2)

Cinnamon Apples

 

Warm apples sprinkled with cinnamon sugar is one of the most delectable treats of autumn. Here’s an easy recipe for making this delicious dessert or side dish.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of apples, Macintosh or Granny Smith apples are good choices
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

CPB - Cinnamon Apples ingredients (2)

Directions

  1. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon
  2. Peel and core 2 large apples
  3. Thinly slice apples
  4. Combine apples and cinnamon sugar/brown sugar mixture
  5. Stir until well combined
  6. Drizzle with lemon juice and stir again
  7. Cook apples on the stove at medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until desired texture

Picture Book Review