December 9 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

The month of December is a gift-giver’s delight, and there’s no better gift for everyone on your list than a book (or two or…). With so many new books hitting bookstore shelves, there really is a perfect one to fit everyone’s taste. Young children, especially, benefit from reading a wide range of picture books from laugh-out-loud or touching stories to nonfiction that introduces them to influential people, science, history, nature, math—like today’s book. If you’re looking for gifts to give, it’s not too late to head to your local bookstore to find books that will make your child’s eyes light up.

I’d like to thank Tra Publishing for sending me a copy of Octopuses Have Zero Bones for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Octopuses Have Zero Bones: A Counting Book about Our Amazing World

Written by Anne Richardson | Illustrated by Andrea Antinori

 

If you’re looking for a book that opens kids’ eyes and mind to new ways to interact with numbers and fall in love with everything they have to tell about us and the world around us, then you’ll want to wrap your arms around Octopuses Have Zero Bones. This multilayered and eye-opening romp through the ability of numbers to describe, explain, provide perspective, and amaze celebrates the numbers from zero to nine and the power of numbers ten to nine billion.

Kids at all levels will find accessible ways to explore the math concepts that enliven every page, from basic counting to higher-level ideas that include measurement, extrapolation, and estimation as well as complex scientific facts. And how does all of this learning begin? With 0 and simple statement and probing question: “ZERO, all by itself, is nothing. Can you imagine nothing?” It might be hard for kids to think about how “nothing” can be important or have an effect. But Anne Richardson, with illustrative help from Andrea Antinori, reveals that because “octopuses have ZERO bones…” they “can squeeze through very small places.” And, if that doesn’t surprise you, she also presents this fascinating tidbit: “Dry Valleys, Antarctica, gets ZERO rain or snow.” In fact “there’s been no precipitation for two million years.” Two million! That’s nearly as impressive as zero!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-octopuses-have-zero-bones-whale

Image copyright Andrea Antinori, 2022, text copyright Anne Richardson, 2022. Courtesy of Tra Publishing.

But that’s not all! There are more examples, and then Richardson shows how that simple digit 0 can make a single whole number explode into 100, 1,000, 100,000 and so on. She moves from there to tackle the numbers 1 through 9, by themselves and then attached to one 0. Readers next learn about 10—10 decibels, a creature with 10 legs, 10 fingers, and 10 toes. Those familiar with counting know that 2 comes after 1, and Richardson and Antinori help kids visualize this number with peanut shells that contain two individual nuts, the 2 moons of Mars, and more. Here, readers are shown what happens when two zeros are attached to the number two, and, of course, they’re given a few intriguing examples of 200.

This pattern is continued throughout the pages from 3 and 3,000 to 9 and 9,000,000,000. Along the way, children learn about the different types of clouds, how many times a bear’s heart beats per hour, how many chambers the human heart has, how many grains are in a two-pound bag of rice, and the astounding number of leaves you’d find on a typical mature oak tree. Ever wonder how many gallons of water flow over Niagara Falls every ninety seconds? You’ll find out here—along with the ph of water (7), what that means, and the ph number of other common liquids.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-octopuses-have-zero-bones-two

Image copyright Andrea Antinori, 2022, text copyright Anne Richardson, 2022. Courtesy of Tra Publishing.

Have you ever tried to measure a raindrop? It’s okay! Richardson shows kids just how big the biggest raindrop can be and reveals what happens if one happens to exceed this limit. Kids fascinated by space will want to check out the pages about the number 8, and future biologists will find interesting facts there too. Entomologists may want to flip to the discussions of the numbers 4, 6, and 9 before settling in to start again at the beginning. The number 9 is pretty awesome, especially if you like narwhals and bananas, and you’ll discover that no matter how antsy you might get while waiting for what seems like for. ev. er, you’ll never, ever be able to jiggle as many times as a cesium atom.

While Octopuses Have Zero Bones ends at nine billion, Richardson reminds readers that while “NINE BILLION is a big number…it’s not the biggest. You can keep counting forever.” Even into the trillions and beyond. In her Author’s Note that follows the text, she reveals the event that sparked the idea for this book and encourages children to “go out into the world and count or measure something, anything”; to do this short-term and long-term; to “be astonished, take a closer look” and “discover many wonderful things.”

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Image copyright Andrea Antinori, 2022, text copyright Anne Richardson, 2022. Courtesy of Tra Publishing.

Andrea Antinori depicts each concept with whimsical illustrations that exude humor and personality while pointing readers to examples of the featured number or numbers. But her pages do much, much more as well. Take two page spreads that portray the number 1 for example. There is an image of our one sun as is mentioned in the text, and there is an image of a man with one heart as mentioned in the text. But this heart is a tattoo, which leads kids to notice that the man has other tattoos—all single images.

He is raising one arm, but at the end of that arm is a hand with five fingers just waiting to be counted. And—oh yeah—next to him is the adorable red octopus from the page about zero, who is also waving at the reader with one arm, but there’s a line of suckers on it (some singular, some in pairs) that also invite counting. And that’s just to get kids started. There are clouds, birds, and a sea full of dots to check out too. Now multiply that kind of clever detail and recurring characters by 30 pages and kids have almost innumerable ways to learn from and engage with this book.

Octopuses Have Zero Bones is a book that readers can page through from beginning to end or dip into whenever curiosity hits. It’s the perfect boredom buster because, as Anne Richardson notes, kids can jump off from any randomly chosen page into their own discovery and research at home, in their neighborhood, or on the Internet.

This book would be a much-used reference on home and bookshelves and is a must for classroom, school, and library collections.

Ages 5 – 9 and up

Tra Publishing, 2022 | ISBN 978-1735311524

You can find a Kids Activity Guide, Teacher’s Guide, and Posters for Octopuses Have Zero Bones to download on the Tra Publishing website.

About the Author

Anne Richardson is an author of experiences that kindle your curiosity. In her work, everything in the world is astonishing and worthy of our attention, from a drop of rain to the way we figure things out together. She is the senior director of Global Collaborations at the Exploratorium, San Francisco, where she works with partners worldwide to imagine and create new science centers and other extraordinary learning experiences. Richardson holds a PhD and an MS in environmental studies from Antioch University New England, and a BA in art history from Northwestern University. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family, including two little explorers. Visit her at her website.

About the Illustrator

Andrea Antinori is an award-winning illustrator based in Bologna, Italy. Since he was a child, he has loved animals and he has loved to draw them. His favorite animal changes all the time. He likes octopuses very much, but right now, lemurs are the creatures he loves most. He wrote and illustrated the book On the Lives of Lemurs: A Short Treatise on Natural History. Other books he has illustrated include A Book about Whales and The Great Battle, the latter of which has received major international awards including: Best International Illustrated Book — China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair, Premio Andersen — Best book 6-9 years olds, Selected illustrator for exhibition of Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2017, Italian illustrator in IBBY Honor List 2016. You can learn more about her books and her art on her website and connect with her on Instagram.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Cute Sock Octopus Craft

 

Octopuses may have zero bones but they sure do have a lot of arms! With this fast and easy craft you can make your own little octopus to count on to keep you company on your bed, your shelves, or on your desk!

Supplies

  • Child’s medium or large size sock, in any color
  • Polyfill, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Ribbon
  • 2 Small buttons
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue or strong glue

Directions

  1. Fill the toe of the sock with a handful of polyfiber fill
  2. Tie the ribbon tightly around the sock underneath the fiber fill to separate the head from the legs
  3. Tie the ribbon into a bow tie
  4. With the scissor cut up both sides of the sock almost to the ribbon
  5. Cut these two sections in half almost to the ribbon
  6. Cut the four sections in half almost to the ribbon
  7. Glue the eyes to the lower part of the head

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Buy a Book, Plant a Tree

If you purchase Octopuses Have Zero Bones from the Tra Publishing website, they, in partnership with One Tree Planted, plant one tree for every book purchased. At checkout, you have the opportunity to make an additional donation.

Purchase from the Tra Publishing website

You can find Octopuses Have Zero Bones at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 7 – It’s the December Cold Moon

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About the Holiday

December’s full moon is commonly known as the Cold Moon—a Mohawk name that reflects the changing temperatures and the onset of winter’s sustained cold weather—and tonight’s moon offers not only glorious viewing but a rare celestial event. As the moon rises and moves across the sky, it will pass in front of Mars, eclipsing the planet for an hour—a phenomenon called an occultation. What makes tonight’s lunar occultation special is that the moon will block Mars near it’s brightest point, which happens only once every 26 months. This event will be visible to people living in central, western, and southwestern parts of North America on December 7 as well as to those in Western and Northern Europe and Northern Africa on December 8. To learn more about tonight’s Cold Moon and the lunar occultation and to find a schedule of viewing times, visit Space.com. You can also provide interesting information as well as a visual of the moon’s trajectory at In-The-Sky.org. To enjoy the wonder of the full moon anytime, read on about today’s featured book!

I’d like to thank Page Street Books for sending me a copy of Mending the Moon for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Mending the Moon

Written by Emma Pearl | Illustrated by Sara Ugolotti

 

“The full moon was shining bigger and brighter than ever. So big and so bright that it was too heavy to hold itself up in the sky.” Although the moon valiantly tried to hold itself in place, it fell to Earth, shattering like glass as it landed upon a mountain peak. Luna, who watched the sky every night, saw it all. She rushed to wake her grandfather, and together they ran out of the house to try to help. As they entered the woods, they saw moon shards scattered everywhere. “They were hard and smooth and warm. They were pearly and glistening and beautiful.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mending-the-moon-Luna-and-Poppa

Image copyright Emma Pearl, 2022, text copyright Sara Ugolotti, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

When Luna wondered if they could fix the moon and set it back in the sky, her grandfather told her they had to try. “‘The moon is more important than you can imagine,'” he said. Luna and Poppa prepared to begin the big job of picking up the pieces of the moon, but as turned to look around, they discovered that the woodland animals had already begun gathering the pieces. Deer, bears, foxes, rabbits, owls, squirrels, and other animals had all picked up shards and brought them to Luna.

They all carefully reconstructed the moon like a jigsaw puzzle, but when they had put the last piece in place, they realized that one shard was missing. They looked and looked without success. Then Luna saw the lake. “‘The missing piece must be in the lake!’ she cried.” Hearing this, an elk talked to a frog, and he dove in. When the frog resurfaced, he held the missing shard in his mouth. Luna found that it fit perfectly. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mending-the-moon-looking-for-missing-piece

Image copyright Emma Pearl, 2022, text copyright Sara Ugolotti, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Now, how to make sure the pieces stuck together? After an unsuccessful attempt, the silkworms were enlisted to spin thread. With pine needles and lots of patience, Luna, Poppa, and the animals stitched the moon together again with the silk that “…glowed like it was made of moonlight.” Once the moon was reassembled, it was time to think about how to return it to its place in the sky. Luna thought maybe the birds could help, but they were already flying away to their nests.

Or were they? Soon, more birds than Luna had ever seen whooshed out of the darkness—birds, it seemed, from all over the world. As the birds got into position to lift the moon and began soaring into the sky, Luna provided instructions—and encouragement. At last, the moon was back where it belonged. Its sparkled light shone on Luna, Poppa, and the animals, who danced, cavorted, and fluttered in the clearing on the mountaintop.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mending-the-moon-dancing

Image copyright Emma Pearl, 2022, text copyright Sara Ugolotti, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Emma Pearl’s imaginative story shines with the fantastical and nature-focused elements that infuse folktales with their magical power to enthrall children and adults alike. Young readers will instinctively empathize with Luna’s deep connection to the night sky, reflected even in her name, and marvel as the forest animals band together to retrieve the shards and sew them together again. Pearl’s cleverly conceived plot makes enchanting use of the woodland setting, especially in sewing the moon together. Her dialogue between Luna and Poppa as well as the secret communications among the animals will also captivate children and draw them into the mystery and wonder of the story.

Sara Ugolotti’s striking illustrations glow with an exquisite color palette of lush colors sprinkled with light evanescing from the shards of the moon and the brilliant stars above. Luna’s interactions with woodland animals are filled with joy as they all work together to mend the moon and return it to the sky. Images of the birds in all colors and sizes swooping down to the mountain to help Luna and Poppa will mesmerize kids, and you may even find them dancing in the moonlight along with Luna, Poppa, and all of the animals.

For children who love folktales, fantasies, and a touch of magic to their stories, Mending the Moon will be a favorite addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1645675600

Discover more about Emma Pearl and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sara Ugolotti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

December’s Cold Moon Activity

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Phases of the Moon Blackboard

 

If you have a little space lover in your family, they may like keeping track of the phases of the moon with their own chalkboard! This craft is easy and fun to do together and will make a cool wall decoration for any child’s room.

Supplies

  • Black tri-fold presentation board or thick poster board
  • Pencil
  • White chalk or glow-in-the-dark paint
  • Circular object to trace (or use a compass) to make the moon
  • Mountable squares for hanging

Directions

The chalkboard can be made any size that you prefer by adjusting the size of the board and sizes of the “moon”

  1. Cut your black tri-fold or poster board to the preferred dimensions. My board measures 4 feet long x 1 foot high
  2. To create nine moon phases, with the pencil trace nine circles at equal distances apart in the center of the board
  3. With the chalk or paint, fill in the center circle completely to make the full moon.

To make the moon phases to the right of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the right of the full moon, color in the left side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the right side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the left half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the right half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the left side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

To make the moon phases to the left of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the left of the full moon, color in the right side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the left side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the right half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the left half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the right side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

Hang the blackboard on the wall with mounting squares

You can follow the phases of the moon through each month by adding the dates that correspond to each phase and erasing and changing them as the weeks progress.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mending-the-moon-cover

You can find Mending the Moon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 6 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Dark on Light

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Thanks to Beach Lane Books and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Dark on Light for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Dark on Light

Written by Dianne White | Illustrated by Felicita Sala

 

The setting sun paints the sky a golden yellow, deepening to rose as it slips below the horizon. Trotting down the path from the cozy red farmhouse, it’s windows already aglow, a dog makes its way towards the woods. Three children—a brother and two sisters—look out over their yard and beyond to the rolling hills, wondering where their pet might be. They pull on boots and grab a flashlight. The youngest sister checks the doghouse just in case.

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Image copyright Felicita Sala, 2022, text copyright Dianne White, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Following behind the beam of light, they pass through the gate, leaving their garden gnome behind while knowing how “inviting the trail. Timid the fawn. / Dark the hedge that borders the lawn.” The older sister waves to a doe and her baby standing silently in the meadow as she passes by, The full moon is on the rise as the children wade into the tall grasses where “lavender blooms, fragrant and bright. / Hedge and trail and dark on light.”

The late autumn sky is scattered with stars now as a ghostly figure moves overhead. The boy directs his flashlight upward, just in time to catch a barn owl pass by on its way to perch in a nearby tree. The older children call out their dog’s name and look behind trees while their little sister inspects tiny discoveries hidden in the grass and turns cartwheels in the deepening shadows. The flashlight’s beam illuminates something that begs more investigation. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dark-on-light-garden

Image copyright Felicita Sala, 2022, text copyright Dianne White, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

As a fox looks on and a squirrel, curled up in its nest, dozes, the girl bends down and shines the light into the hollow underneath a tree’s thick roots. And who should appear, but their adventurous pup. The game of hide-and-seek over, the four take in the mystery of the forest: “Damp the moss. Ancient the sky. / Dark the leaves, crisp and dry.” The dog runs from the woods as the kids give chase, the flashlight no longer needed under the glimmering moon. A lone rabbit hidden in undergrowth at the edge of the woods witnesses their play.

They near the house, elated by their nighttime escapade and brimming with the story as they run toward their father, who has come out to meet them with a lantern. The door opens and silver light spills across the porch, down the steps, and onto the well-worn path. Inside, it’s time for quiet cuddling, a story, and saying goodnight: “Cozy the blanket. Pillowed the head. / Dark the attic. Snug the bed. / Sapphire the window, glowing and bright. / Attic and blanket and dark on light.” Downstairs, the dog snoozes in his bed while in the sky above: “white the star, shimmering bright. / House and room and dark on light.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dark-on-light-trail

Image copyright Felicita Sala, 2022, text copyright Dianne White, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

In this follow up to Green on Green, also illustrated by Felicita Sala, and Blue on Blue, illustrated by Beth Krommes, Dianne White calls readers back to explore the natural world. Her lovely, effortlessly flowing cadence transports readers into the wonders and mystery of a late autumn night with a trio of siblings on a mission to find their playful dog. As the three search, White invites readers to notice animals and plants, scents and sounds, and the colors and comfort of darkness and light with her overlapping and repeated phrasing. Her evocative vocabulary (a “timid fawn,” the “burnished moon,” an “ancient sky,” and the forest “veiled and deep,” among other beautiful choices) not only adds to the ambiance of the story but encourages readers to reflect on the complexity of the world around them. White does all of this while also presenting a mystery that kids will no less compelling for it’s gentle and straightforward resolution.

Accompanying White’s lyrical storytelling are Felicita Sala’s captivating watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil illustrations that glow with the setting sun, the warmth of a waiting home, the shimmer of the rising full moon, and the steadfast comfort of a flashlight in hand. Sala perfectly captures the rhythms of childhood, from the three siblings gathered at the window looking for their dog to their search through bushes and grasses close to home and farther afield to their excited return home and quiet bedtime routine. You can almost feel the smooth paving stones leading away from the house, smell the lavender as the older sister picks a small bouquet, and hear the children’s shouts and laughter upon returning home with their pet. The final scenes of cuddled-up reading and goodnight kisses and the house finally dark for the night make Dark on Light a perfect book for bedtime story times.

A superlative melding of lyrical storytelling and exquisite illustration that invites discovery and a love for language, Dark on Light is a book that both children and adults will love sharing for snuggly story times any time. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections.   

Ages 3 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534487895

About the Author

Dianne White is fond of lavender blooms and the way an orange moon hangs in the evening sky. She’s the author of several picture books, including the award-winning Blue on Blue, illustrated by Caldecott medalist Beth Krommes, and Green on Green, illustrated by Felicita Sala. Dianne lives with her family in Gilbert, Arizona, where many nights at twilight, the desert blazes rose on sapphire on dark on light. For more information and to download a free activity kit, visit diannewrites.com. You can connect with Dianne on Facebook: Dianne White | Instagram: @diannewrites | Twitter: @diannewrites

About the Illustrator

Felicita  Sala is a self-taught illustrator and painter. She has a degree in philosophy from the University of Western Australia. She now lives and works in Rome. She draws inspiration from nature, children, mid-century illustration,  folk art, and architecture. To learn more, visit felicitasala.com. You’ll also find Felicita on Instagram: @felicita.sala

Read a New Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flashlight-clip-art

Flashlight On, Flashlight Off Game

 

It’s fun to play games in the dark! During Earth Hour flip off your lamps and overhead lights and play this game that challenges your memory while you think about our planet! This game can be played with two or more players.

Supplies

  • Flashlight 
  • 6 – 12 small objects (the number of objects can be adjusted depending on the ages of the players)
  • A table or floor area large enough to lay out the objects

Directions

With the Flashlight On:

  1. Lay out the objects on a table or on the floor
  2. Give all the players time to look at the objects and try to memorize them
  3. Choose one player to remove one of the objects

With the Flashlight Off

  1. Turn off the flashlight
  2. While the room is dark, the designated player removes one object from the rest
  3. Turn the flashlight back on

With the Flashlight Back On

  1. The other players try to figure out which object is missing

Variations

  • In addition to removing one object, the other objects can be moved around to different positions
  • Remove more than one object at a time
  • Add an object instead of removing one

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dark-on-light-cover

You can find Dark on Light at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 2 – It’s Buy a New Book Month

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  • celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaves-to-my-knees-spanish-english-cover

Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

For children, picture books provide one of the best ways to interact with facts and feelings. Stories that speak to their experiences, both common and new, alongside illustrations that bring the story to life let them discover the world around them. Today’s stunning nonfiction books are loaded with illustrations or photographs that let kids see exciting details about science, history, biographies, nature, and so much more. This month, take a look for fiction and nonfiction picture books about your child’s passions to add to your home library. And be sure to check out today’s book that incorporates both!

Thanks to Star Bright Books for sharing a digital copy of Leaves to My Knees with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Leaves to My Knees

Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

 

Daddy has a surprise for Camille and her little brother Jayden. They get dressed in their coats—big for Camille and little jacket with a stegosaurus hood for Jayden—and head into the backyard. There, Camille discovers her dad has gotten her a rake of her own. It’s not as big as Dad’s, but it’s bigger than Jayden’s little rake. It’s the perfect size for Camille.

Camille marches right off to rake a pile of leaves. But not just any pile—she has a goal. “‘I’ll rake leave all the way up to my knees!’” she tells her dad. The three get working on the yard. Camille concentrates on gathering leaves, listening to the different sounds that the various sized rakes make: “The leaves go swush when Daddy rakes. They go swish when I rake. They go sweeeee when Jayden tries to rake.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaves-to-my-knees-putting-on-jackets

Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Lurking under the leaves are twigs and acorns that clog up Camille’s rake. She worries that she’ll never be able to rake leaves to her knees. She calls for Daddy’s help, and together they clear Camille’s rake. “‘You’re good to go now, Camille,’” Daddy tells her. Back at it, Camille rakes and rakes. Then she steps into the pile she’s accumulated to measure it. Her pile only comes up to her ankles. Camille grabs her rake harder and with determination she collects more leaves. But wait! Jayden is stealing leaves from her pile to add to his! Camille guards her pile with her rake, and sends her little brother over to Daddy’s bigger pile. Camille checks her measurements again. Her pile has grown, but only up to the top of her boots.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaves-to-my-knees-raking

Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Camille rakes ‘bunches of leaves,” and her pile gets taller, until “‘Oh no! A BIG BREEZE!!’” sends lots and lots of leaves swirling “Whoosh!” into the air and scattered to the ground. “I will never rake leaves to my knees!” Camille thinks. And when she measures again, her pile is back to her ankles. Daddy encourages her to keep going, and Camille is committed to achieving her goal. She throws off her coat, grabs her rake, and works on gathering up all the leaves she had, plus more. At last, too tired to rake anymore, Camille wonders. Has she done it? “‘Time for measuring!’ says Daddy.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaves-to-my-knees-pile-up-to-ankles

Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Camille relinquishes her rake to her dad then, holding her breath, steps into her pile. “‘TA-DA!’” Camille raises her arms in victory. She steps out, positions herself a good ways away, and winds up for the run and jump. “‘GO!’ yells Daddy. ‘GO!’ Jayden yells too.” Camille flies through the air and lands, laughing, into her pile. Then Jayden jumps in. And Daddy? He gives Camille  “really big squeeze” for raking “leaves all the way up to [her] knees.”

A note for parents, teachers, and other caregivers written by Marlene Kliman, a mathematics learning expert and senior scientist at TERC, describes how the story incorporates the math of measurement and sizes and how adults can extend the lesson by pointing out elements in the book’s illustrations and while going about their day or doing common chores, such as cleaning up and sorting laundry.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaves-to-my-knees-jumping-in

Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2022, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2022. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Ellen Mayer’s Leaves to My Knees has everything that makes a story a young reader’s favorite—a spunky main character that kids will identify with, an achievable goal, successes and setbacks, suspense, humor, and a child-propelled victory. And it all revolves around an early math concept that comes naturally to children and which invites playful learning not only during the fall, but any time of the year. Shoveling snow and making snowballs in winter, yard cleanup and gardening in spring, and building sandcastles and raking grass clippings in summer as well as in-home fun with laundry piles, toys, and other objects are all ways to extend the story.

Told from Camille’s point of view, the story also engages children’s emotions as they join in to cheer Camille on as her leaf pile grows and commiserate with her when it shrinks. The close relationships among Camille and her dad and little brother ring true with dialogue-rich storytelling that is always encouraging. Strong themes of determination and persistence will also appeal to parents and teachers, who can point to how many times Camille has to start over before accomplishing her goal and her positive, resolute attitude.

Nicole Tadgell’s exuberant illustrations shine with personality, and kids will immediately become invested in each character as Dad gets working on a big job that needs doing, Jayden runs, jumps, and copies his big sister, and Camille unwaveringly works on her pile of leaves. Camille’s setbacks are clearly depicted, along with her and her father’s facial expressions that give adults and kids an opportunity to talk about disappointment, frustration, perseverance, and feelings of accomplishment. Each image also demonstrates the math component of measurement and sizes in the story with various-sized rakes, the growing and diminishing leaf pile, big and little jackets, and other objects that invite comparison.

Tadgell’s soft-hued pages are infused with the feeling of fall and hum with activity as cardinals, blue jays, chickadees gather at the bird feeder, squirrels scamper up and along the fence, and leaves continue to float to the ground. Readers will love following little Jayden’s antics and be inspired by Camille’s wide smile as she enjoys the reward of all her hard work.

Leaves to My Knees is a multilayered read aloud infused with the enthusiasm and rhythms of childhood that kids will want to hear again and again. Its mathematics base and themes of determination and perseverance rewarded will appeal to parents, teachers, and other educators as a way to engage children in active, hands-on learning. The book is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Star Bright Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1595729590 (Leaves to My Knees) | ISBN 978-1595729613 (Hojas hasta las rodillas/Leaves to My Knees

Picture Book Month Activities

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Coloring Pages and Teaching Guides

 

You can extend the fun and learning in Leaves to My Knees with these activities, which include three fun coloring pages from the story, a hands-on play-dough art and discovery activity, and a detailed educator’s guide for teachers, homeschoolers, parents, and other caregivers that offers multiple ways to use Leaves to My Knees to explore math, mathematical thinking, and reading comprehension through the story and beyond at home, school, and elsewhere.

Meet Ellen Mayer

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You can find Leaves to My Knees on Amazon

Leaves to My Knees: Hardcover | Paperback

Hojas hasta las rodillas / Leaves to My Knees: Paperback

You can also order from Star Bright Books

Leaves to My Knees: Hardcover | Paperback

Hojas hasta las rodillas / Leaves to My Knees: Paperback

Picture Book Review

December 1 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Bright Winter Night

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Thank you to Two Lions and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Bright Winter Night for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Bright Winter Night

Written by Alli Brydon | Illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

Something magical is happening as “the song of snow” begins, and all of the woodland animals are gathering to complete a special task. Falcon flies in “silken strings” as “Wren flutters while she chirps and jigs, determined as she lays down twigs.” Beaver’s brought more sturdy boughs, and Stag’s back and antlers provide a sturdy base as the Rabbits use the wood and ribbons to build a sleigh. Attaching the reins Mouse brings and with the Wolves “all clear,” Bear climbs aboard to provide a comfy seat. 

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Image copyright Ashling Lindsay, 2022, text copyright Alli Brydon, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The Wolves take up the reins. “There’s just one goal. They must move fast— /  for soon the northern lights will pass!” The Wolves race over clearings and down hills, pulling the sleigh behind them. But the terrain is tough, and “the sleigh careens, the rabbits jump as all the rest go . . . BUMP, BUMP, BUMP!” But Stag is there to dig them out of the snowy drifts, and Beaver rights the sleigh and gets it back on track.

Suddenly through the bare and silent branches, “they spy a flash, and Squirrel says, ‘WHOA— / COME ON FRIENDS, LET’S GO, GO, GO!'” They hurry through the crystal night to a clearing, where, gazing upward, they’re enveloped in the grandeur of the northern lights. “The colors dazzle, glow, and blaze— / the flashes sizzle, shock, amaze!” In this moment, huddled together—”beak and muzzle, fur and feather”—this diverse group of animals are united in their awe of nature’s beauty, and a “peacefulness so warm and bright, / settles in their hearts tonight.”

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Image copyright Ashling Lindsay, 2022, text copyright Alli Brydon, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Alli Brydon’s brisk and lovely story is at once a lyrical call to appreciate and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and a poignant appeal to put aside perceived differences and embrace what connects us. As the animals work together to build a sleigh that will transport them to view the northern lights, they each bring to the project their own talents to make it sturdy and comfortable for all. When the sleigh flips, they again pull together to set things right. Brydon’s deft rhymes and rhythms build step-by-step as the animals construct the sleigh then flow as smoothly and quickly as the runners over the snowy trail. Even the sled’s momentary mishap is palpably felt with Brydon’s well-paced “BUMP, BUMP, BUMP!” And when the friends finally reach the clearing, Brydon captures not only the breathtaking view but the tranquil contentment it brings.

Using lush blues and shades of grey, Ashling Lindsay draws readers into the snowy woods, where blushes of pink, purple, and auburn highlight scampering rabbits, squirrels, and beaver as well as fluttering birds and majestic stag. Stylized trees, their feathery leaves touched with pink lend a mysterious air to the silent forest. As snowflakes fall, readers watch as the animals bind the twigs and branches just so to create their sleigh. And then they’re off. A two-page spread lets kids run with the wolves as they race into the oncoming snow. Lindsay’s image of the animals all snuggled together on the sleigh, protected by Bear, is heartwarming, while their topsy-turvy tumble into the snow will make some kids say “oh no!” and others giggle with memories of their own spills. Her interpretation of the northern lights sparkles and shimmers and will have kids adding their own “OOOOH! AHHHH!” to those of the animals gazing skyward.

An inspiring story for snuggly bedtime or daytime read alouds, Bright Winter Nights swells the heart with it’s focus on the power and beauty of nature to spark friendship and peace. The book is sure to be asked for again and again and is highly recommended for home and public library collections as well as for teachers, homeschoolers, and other educators, who will find it a stirring addition to lessons on space, geography, and natural phenomenon.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542022248

About the Author

Author Alli Brydon is inspired by natural wonders and what they can teach us, and she strives to bring that magic to the books she writes for children. Recent picture books include Lobstah Gahden, illustrated by EG Keller, and Love Around the World, illustrated by Wazza Pink. She also writes nonfiction about creatures, from insects to lemurs to humans. Alli holds an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in New York and lives in England with her family. Learn more at www.allibrydon.com. You can also connect with Alli on Instagram: allibrydon and Twitter: Alli Brydon

About the Illustrator

Ashling Lindsay is an artist and writer from Belfast, Ireland. Her picture books are published in more than ten languages and have received various awards and accolades, including a nomination for the Kate Greenaway Medal; being shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Klaus Flugge Prize, and the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year; and being longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards. In 2020 she was awarded the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Honour Award for Illustration with her book The Tide, written by Clare Helen Welsh. Learn more at www.ashlinglindsay.co.uk. You’ll also find her on Instagram: ashling.lindsay

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You can find Bright Winter Night at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 30 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

There’s still time to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re doing holiday shopping, don’t forget to add picture books to your list for the kids in your life. With so many picture books to choose from on all kinds of topics, there’s sure to be a perfect book for each child. You know what they say—and it’s really true: A book is a gift you can open again and again, and today’s story is one kids will love to hear all through the year.

Thanks to Megan Litwin and Clarion Books for sharing a digital copy of Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night

Written by Megan Litwin | Illustrated by Nneka Myers

 

Readers are invited along for a walk on a crystal-clear, moonlit snowy evening as a father and child discover how “nightfall sets the world aglow.” As darkness deepens overhead, and the stars twinkle over a white-blanketed field, “the sky sparkles like a chandelier.” Passing a pond where families are skating while snowflakes fall, “dusting glitter on earth’s face, / dressing trees in coats of lace,” the pair wave to a friend and then make their way into town.

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Image copyright Nneka Myers, 2022, text copyright Megan Litwin, 2022. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

Here they come upon their village shimmering with magic as strings of white, gold, and colored lights outline rooftops, connect building to building, and create a glistening spectacle of snowy patches. Windows glow with candles glittering in wreaths for Christmas, menorahs for Hanukkah, and kinaras for Kwanza. The flame of diya lamps for Diwali joins them. In the central square, a brilliant star shines forth as people gather around, enjoying all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the winter holidays. Father and child join in on this “Beaming, gleaming, lively sight— / twinkle, twinkle, winter night.”

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Image copyright Nneka Myers, 2022, text copyright Megan Litwin, 2022. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

On their way home and to bed, they pass a picture window where they can see a mom and her two kids hanging Christmas decorations, a fire flickers in the fireplace. In the woods, a deer and her fawn doze, curled up under a small tree, its branches covered in sparkling snow. In town, kids are tucked under covers but can’t resist going to the window for one last look, for “twinkle, twinkle, winter night. / Everywhere you look . . . / there’s light.”

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Image copyright Nneka Myers, 2022, text copyright Megan Litwin, 2022. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

You know that special glow you feel during the winter when the moon and stars seem to shine more brightly; the hearth or wood stove glimmers with extra warmth; snow and ice twinkle when caught in a beam of light; and, around the holidays, neighborhood streets wink on with glorious displays? The glow you wish could last all year long? Megan Litwin captures that feeling in her lovely Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night not only for the winter months, but all year around. Litwin’s graceful rhymes and rhythms immerse readers in winter’s quieter atmosphere and slower pace and invites them to really look at nature, at their communities, and in their own homes to find the light and magic there. Throughout the story, Litwin reintroduces her title phrase strung with glittering new adjectives, reminding readers of just how ardently we embrace the exquisite beauty of light. Her flowing storytelling is a joy to read aloud, making this a perfect book for bedtime or quiet story times.

Nneka Myers’ stunning pages seem to actually dance with the twinkling of stars, the glittery shimmer of snowflakes, and the breathtaking radiance of decorated homes, shops, and streetscapes. Images from Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Diwali can be found in Myers’ illustrations of the town and its winter festival. Her rich purples, blues, and fuchsias set off the sparkling lights, patches of snow, and wide smiles of the townspeople as they mingle in the square welcoming and celebrating winter’s diverse and poignant holidays.

A book that shines with an appreciation for the beauty of light, nature, and community all around us, Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night would quickly become a favorite on home bookshelves for snuggly reading throughout the year and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Clarion Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-0358572046

Discover more about Megan Litwin and her books on her website.

To learn more about Nneka Myers, her books, and her art, visit her website. You can also visit her on Instagram and Twitter.

Meet Megan Litwin

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Megan Litwin holds a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons University and is a former teacher whose lifelong work is to grow lifelong readers. Megan lives in Massachusetts with her family. 

You can connect with Megan on Her Website | Instagram | Twitter

I’m excited to be talking with Megan Litwin today about her debut picture book, her journey to publication, and how parents can instill a love of reading in their kids.

Hi, Megan! Congratulations on your beautiful book! Your writing in Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night really shimmers with so many gorgeous images of light. Was there one spark of inspiration for your story, or how did it come about?

Thank you so much for those kind words! I certainly agree that illustrator Nneka Myers has created the perfect shimmery, glimmery world for readers here! As for the story, there absolutely was an initial memorable spark. It happened on a cold, dark December drive. One of my sons was newly captivated by all the light he saw—everything from the snow to the moon to the houses decked out for the holidays. It was like the whole world was suddenly made of magic. He kept calling out things he noticed in his tiny toddler voice as we drove and repeating the words “twinkle lights” over and over. I realized I wanted to find a way to showcase this bright and beautiful time of year, with the focus not on any one particular holiday, but on the shared magic of these lights.

Can you tell readers a little about what your journey from that first idea to having Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night published was like?

LONG. That December drive was eleven years ago! I had the initial spark and a first draft poured out of me immediately. But it was not yet the story I wanted to tell. It didn’t have the magic I had seen and felt. It was too long, too wordy, overly descriptive. And so . . . I let it sit. I revisited it off and on over the years, but only around times of great inspiration . . . usually around this time every year! The idea never left me, but it wasn’t until 2016 (when I joined SCBWI) that I began working on this manuscript with the serious attitude it takes to publish. I took it to my first critique groups, I took it to conferences to get agent/editor feedback, I cut and polished and rewrote with a keener eye and ear—and 25 drafts later, it went out on submission. Even then, it was not quick! This manuscript went all the way to acquisitions with another publisher before landing, very happily, with Kate O’Sullivan at Clarion/HarperCollins (then Houghton Mifflin) in 2020.

You previously worked as a classroom teacher and reading interventionist. Can you talk about these positions? What did you love best about being a teacher?

I was a second-grade classroom teacher for nine years, and then spent time in part-time roles after my second son was born. I’ve worked as a literacy interventionist and a school library teacher, and I also helped our local school set up and run a take-home book program. I have always felt entirely at home in a school, and think I’ll always be a “teacher-at-heart.” In fact, one of the things I’m most excited about in this new phase of my book-centered career is being able to go into classrooms to do reading and writing workshops with kiddos.

How did you help kids not only learn how to read but to be excited about reading?

My years as a classroom teacher were especially magical because of the tight-knit community we built each year. In those early years of school, each classroom feels like a family. And a lot of deep connection can happen through books. We connected through our daily read alouds, huddled close together on the rainbow rug, and also through discussions about whatever we were reading, which were full of connections to our own lives and the books we had read before as a “reading family.” It was so important to me that my students saw books as magical. I wanted them to learn to read – but to love to read as well, because engaging comfortably in that process for your whole life opens so many doors. One of the best thank-you gifts I ever received was from a parent who wrote that I had inspired her daughter to be an “under-the-covers-with-a-flashlight-reader!” Nothing could make me happier.

Do you have any suggestions for how parents can instill a love of reading in their kids?

My best advice for instilling a love of reading is simple. Read together. Read often. Surround your kids with books of all kinds. Find books that bring you joy and read them alongside your kids. Modeling a love of reading and celebrating books is the first step.

And, since we’re talking about this, if anyone is interesting in more tips on growing readers, I include a section focused on that in my seasonal author newsletter that comes out just four times a year. It is called “Read, Write, Magic”—and you can sign up on my website!

What was your favorite type of book to read when you were a child? What kinds of books do you gravitate toward as an adult?

As a child, I loved books about animals and also things that had a healthy dose of magic or wonder. Some favorites were The Velveteen Rabbit, Animalia, and The Polar Express. I also loved series as I got older because I got to spend time in a world with characters I came to know and love. I was a big Sweet Valley Twins and Nancy Drew fan, and was (and still am) a Harry Potter lover. As an adult, I still enjoy ALL those same things! I would add that overall, the books I love best are ones that make me FEEL something. Or according to my husband’s observations, books that make me cry…

You’ve also published poetry in two anthologies: Friends & Anemones and An Assortment of Animals, released by the Writer’s Loft. Do the rhythms of poetry come naturally to you? What is your writing process once you have an idea?

Yes, those rhythms do come naturally, actually—even though I wouldn’t consider myself a poet! I’ve never studied poetry, and don’t know how to analyze it using all the proper terminology. For me, it is all about feel and sound. I think that is what initially drew me to picture books, way back when. Picture books have a bit of poetry and music and theater all mixed in. I like to say that I “play with words” for a living now. I pour words out onto a page for a first draft…and then I play. I cut, change, arrange, rearrange…over and over and over. I count beats, I read it aloud. My kids say it looks like I’m talking to myself!

You have such enthusiasm for meeting your readers at book events as well as spending time with kids in the classroom through your three different school workshops designed for various elementary age groups. Do you have an anecdote from any of these events you’d like to share?

I love interacting with young readers and writers at events and in schools. Kids are the best! I love the way they see the world, their honest language, and their willingness to try new things.

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One of the workshops I offer schools is about poetry, and the idea that to write a poem (or most anything), you need to play with words. And at the end of the session, I always wrap up the same way I began—by asking them to finish the sentence “Poetry is (blank).” It is fun and illuminating to see how their answers differ from the beginning. One of my favorite moments was when a first grader simply said, ‘You were right. Poetry IS fun.” He looked both surprised and excited by that thought. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the day.

What do you like best about being a children’s author?

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Reading aloud to kids! That was always my favorite part of the day when teaching. And now I get to do that all the time as an author—this time with words I wrote myself. It’s WILD!!

What’s up next for you?

I am thrilled to be launching the first of two books in an early reader series with Penguin Young Readers in February 2023. Dirt & Bugsy: Bug Catchers is about two sweet boys who love to catch bugs.

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Each book features backyard adventures and lots of cool bugs—including a bit of backmatter for bug-loving readers. Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn did a fabulous job illustrating, and I can’t wait for newly budding readers to hold these books in their hands and to feel confident (and happy) while reading them. Kirkus recently gave it a great review, saying “Bugs, friendship, and fun—what more could burgeoning readers want?” Hooray!

I also have a second picture book just under contract. Stay tuned…

Thanks, Megan, for this amazing chat! It’s easy to see how much you love kids and books—and connecting kids to books! Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Nights certainly has that magical touch! I’m sure readers can’t wait to discover Dirt & Bugsy: Bug Catchers as well! I know I can’t! I wish you all the best with Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night!

Picture Book Month Review

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celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-menorah-in-window-coloring-page  celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kwanzaa-coloring-page

Winter Lights Coloring Pages

 

Celebrate the lights of winter with these printable coloring pages!

Christmas Candle | Diwali Diya Lamp | Hanukkah Menorah | Kwanzaa Kinara

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You can order signed or personalized copies of Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night at

Word on the Street Children’s Books and Gifts

You can find Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 28 – It’s Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

There are many things to be thankful for this month and all throughout the year. At the top of the list would be our friends—both old and new. Celebrate your friendships during the holidays and tell the people in your life how thankful you are for them! You can show them too with little acts of kindness—like the friends in today’s book! 

I’d like to thank Two Lions and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of The Best Gift for Bear with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Best Gift for Bear

By Jennifer A. Bell

 

Hedgehog was baking gingerbread cookies for all of her friends. She carefully considered what shapes and decorations she would make for each recipient, making sure she created a replica of one of their favorite things or showed how special they were. She even made individual rabbit cookies “for each rabbit,” and “Hedgehog knows a LOT of rabbits.” But she still had to bake cookies for. Bear, and she couldn’t decide what to make.

Should she make ice skates? “Bear had taught her to twirl and glide” on the pond. Or maybe something from springtime. Bear loved watching butterflies. Or perhaps sunflowers like the ones Bear had shown her that summer. Thinking about all the fun times they had together, Hedgehog decided a batch of cookies was just not enough. “‘Bear should have a grand gift, a special gift, something wonderful . . . just like Bear,'” she thought. But what?

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Copyright Jennifer A. Bell, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

And then as she approached home after delivering all of her cookies, she “saw her frosted roof” and had an idea. She got to work right away “and happily baked her way into the night.” Then in the morning “Hedgehog began to build her gift.” With gingerbread bricks and sweet icing, she built and decorated a house for Bear. It had butterflies and sunflowers and even Bear, wearing a coat, scarf, and ice skates. Hedgehog put it on her sled and stood back to admire it. 

Hedgehog pulled her sled over the hills and through the snow to Bear’s house. But the calm afternoon turned windy and snowy. The squalls made it hard for Hedgehog to pull or push the sled, and then, when Hedgehog was nearly at Bear’s, one huge gust sent the gingerbread house flying and scattered it into pieces. Hedgehog looked at the broken house sadly and didn’t see Bear, in pajamas and carrying a lantern, approaching. 

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Copyright Jennifer A. Bell, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Bear knelt down then picked Hedgehog up and blew away the snow from her quills and coat. Hedgehog gave Bear’s cheek a big hug. “Grand, special, WONDERFUL Bear!” Bear brought Hedgehog inside, wrapped her in a soft, cozy blanket and made her a cup of tea. As they sipped their tea, they commiserated together over the gifts they had made each other—Hedgehog’s broken gift for Bear and the misshapen cookies Bear had made for Hedgehog. “‘… but I thought I’d try again tomorrow,'” Bear told her.  Hedgehog then had a wonderful idea to bake the cookies together. With Hedgehog snugged into a teacup with her blanket and Bear toasty under a warm quilt, the two friends couldn’t wait for tomorrow to spend the day together—”the best gift of all!”

Recipes for Hedgehog’s Gingerbread Cookies and Grandma’s Honey Icing are included with the story. Hedgehog’s clever designs for her gift cookies will give kids lots of ideas for decorating their own cookies too!

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Copyright Jennifer A. Bell, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Jennifer A. Bell’s sweet and charming story wraps readers in the warmth of a heartfelt hug as Hedgehog puts all of her love and thoughtfulness into the gingerbread cookies she carefully bakes for each of her friends and neighbors—and especially for Bear.  Bell’s gentle humor and charming phrasing that takes readers step-by-step through Hedgehog’s memories of Bear’s kindnesses, and her days spent baking and building Bear’s gingerbread house will delight kids. The windstorm and its aftermath provides suspense and an emotional tug as Hedgehog (and readers) experience disappointment but then, a moment later, the tender and supportive friendship between Hedgehog and Bear.

Bell’s enchanting illustrations are full of cheer and delicious-looking cookies. As Hedgehog tries to decide what to make for Bear, her memories of their times spent throughout the year depict the fun they’ve had and also the adorable size difference between them. Shades of red, pink, blue, green, and gingerbread brown create a graceful and well-paced cohesion from page to page while also bestowing a palpable sense of the chilly winter outside and the cozy warmth inside. The red ribbon that flows in a connecting pattern between some pages and frames vignettes in others highlights the heart at the center of this story.

A touching story about true friendship and the most important gifts of all, The Best Gift for Bear is a book children will enjoy all through the year and is sure to inspire cookie baking and decorating. The book would be a much-loved addition to home, school, and public library collections. It would make a terrific gift or read aloud for any cookie-decorating party. 

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542029223

About the Author and Illustrator

Jennifer A. Bell is the illustrator of more than forty children’s books, including the Sophie Mouse series. She studied fine art at the Columbus College of Art & Design, and her work can also be found on greeting cards and in magazines. This is the first picture book she’s written and illustrated. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about her at www.jenniferabell.com. You can connect with Jennifer on Instagram: @jbellstudio | Facebook: Jennifer A. Bell Illustration | Twitter: @JenniferABell_

Gratitude Month Activity

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Gingerbread Kids Decorations 

 

Gingerbread’s not only delicious to eat! Creatively iced gingerbread has long been used as decorations in homes and windows. With this easy craft, kids can make decorations for their rooms, to hang for the holidays, or to give to friends or family members.

Supplies

  • Printable Gingerbread Kids Template
  • 2 Brown foam sheets
  • White paint (or any color you like)
  • Glitter 
  • Paint brush
  • 2 Small heart buttons (optional)
  • Mounting squares (for mounting)
  • Thread  and needle (for optional hanging)

Directions

  1. Cut out gingerbread kids templates
  2. Trace gingerbread kids on brown foam sheets and cut out
  3. Paint around the edge of the gingerbread boy and girl with the white paint
  4. Add trim to the dress
  5. Add trim to make socks
  6. Add dots of paint for buttons
  7. Add faces
  8. Paint or add a bit of glue to the hands of each figure then sprinkle glitter on the paint to make mittens
  9. Glue heart buttons on (optional)
  10. To make a wall or gift box decoration: Attach mountable squares to back
  11. To make an ornament: With a threaded needle make a hole in the top of the figures and tie the thread to create a hanger.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-best-gift-for-bear-cover

You can find The Best Gift for Bear at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review