January 4 – It’s National Hot Tea Month

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing cozier during the month of January than enjoying a steaming cup of your favorite, flavorful tea as the temperature dips and the snow swirls. To celebrate this month’s holiday, why not try a new kind of tea or throw a tea party? Many teas have health benefits and can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. This drink has been around for thousands of years and is enjoyed the world over. So boil up some water, grab the honey or sugar, add a splash of milk if you like, and enjoy!

Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party

Written by Yumi Heo | Illustrated by Naoko Stoop

 

One day when the heat of the day had past, yet it wasn’t quite evening, “the moon and the sun had a tea party.” They got to talking, and Moon mentioned that moms and dads down below always got their kids ready for bed. Sun disagreed, telling Moon that they got “their children ready for school.” Moon countered that children needed to sleep. At this, Sun flared, saying they needed to go to school.

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Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

They continued to argue over whether the streets of the world were busy or empty, whether birds flew in the sky or dozed in their nests, and even about their reflections in the river. The disagreements became so heated that Cloud heard them as he drifted along. Cloud asked what the matter was. When he heard, he told them they were both right said, “‘You must each stay up past your bedtime, and you will see.’”

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Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The next morning, Moon hid behind Cloud and peered out at a busy world. She discovered that Sun had been right. She saw “Moms and dads pouring cereal and putting on coats, dogs chasing their tails, and trees standing guard in green uniforms.” That evening instead of setting, Sun hid behind Cloud and discovered that Moon had been correct. Sun watched “Moms and dads tucking in blankets and reading stories, dogs sweetly dreaming, and trees standing guard in gray pajamas.” Sun was amazed. The next day, Sun and Moon reflected on what they had seen, “and in the world below, everything shone in their light.”

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Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Yumi Heo, who passed away in 2016, created the perfect pairing of characters and theme in her clever story as nothing, many would have you believe, is so assured as the dichotomy of Day and Night. As Moon and Sun argue over what people and nature do on earth, Heo invites readers—who already know that both Sun and Moon are right—to actively participate in their perspective-changing discoveries. By presenting, first, the compelling evidence that informs Sun and Moon’s opinions of the world and, second, the revelations Cloud makes possible, Heo gives kids insight into how understanding, empathy, and an appreciation for others develops. Enlightenment, however, doesn’t come without an openness to accepting alternate viewpoints, and here is where Heo’s multi-layered story shines. After Sun and Moon allow Cloud to show them the other side, they do not reject the truth of what they see, but find common ground. Heo ends her story with hope and growth as during their respective shifts the next day, Sun and Moon continue to contemplate each other’s perspective.

In her mixed-media illustrations, beautifully textured with a plywood base, Naoko Stoop brings to light Moon and Sun’s opposing views of the world and, in their facial expressions, demonstrates how quickly arguments and stalemates can occur. Stoop’s daytime scenes depict a diverse city community in spreads that readers will love to linger over to find kids and adults engaged in activities that reflect their own lives. As Sun and Moon describe their own mutually exclusive experiences, Stoop cleverly focuses on one busy corner where a bookshop and a bakery—two bastions of diversity—sit side-by-side. Stoop’s color palette is muted and lovely, with cheery views of daytime and cozy images of nighttime, making this a distinctive book to share at bedtime or for quiet, thoughtful daytime story times.

Thoughtful, contemplative, and comforting with a timely message of awareness, acceptance, and reconciliation, Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for classroom and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2020 | ISBN 978-0385390330

To learn more about Naoko Stoop, her books, and her art visit her website.

National Hot Tea Month Activity

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Tea Bag Buddy

 

It’s fun to have a tea party with a friend, and this little tea bag buddy is ready to hang out with you!

Supplies

  • Tea bags
  • Poly-fill
  • Permanent markers
  • Needle

Directions

  1. Gently open a tea bag, unfold it, and discard the tea
  2. Remove the string with the tag and set aside
  3. Fill the tea bag with a bit of poly-fill
  4. Thread the string of the tag through the needle
  5. Fold the tea bag back up
  6. Fold the ends of the bag under and sew them closed with the tag string, leaving the tag dangling
  7. With the permanent markers, draw a face on the front of the tea bag

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You can find Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 19 – It’s National Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

When we think about our lives, we can be thankful for many things. At the top of the list for parents and other caregivers are the children in their lives. Gratitude and expressions of thanks are two of the earliest emotions passed down to children through gentle “what do you say?” prompts for any gift or compliment given to teaching kids to write thank-you notes to friends and family. During the holidays—and this week in particular—we are mindful of all of our blessings and of those less fortunate than we are.

Zonderkidz sent me copies of Nighty Night and Good Night and Let’s Get Ready for Bed to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Zonderkidz in a cozy giveaway! See details below.

Nighty Night and Good Night

Written by Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki | Illustrated by Tod Carter | Painted by Chuck Vollmer

 

Ben’s bedtime routine always included a simple prayer. “‘Dear God, Thank you for this day. Please help all of our family and friends sleep well tonight! Amen.’” Then he turned out the light and went to sleep. But sometimes—like tonight—Ben couldn’t fall asleep easily. He turned on his nightlight and that’s when his fluffy friends, Bear, Lamby, and Sleepy Puppy came to life to help.

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Lamby, of course, thought counting sheep would put Ben to sleep, but when Ben got to ten he had to stop. He didn’t know what came next, and he wasn’t sleepy yet. Bear suggested Ben fluff his pillow, so he tossed his pillow in the air until it was nice and soft, but he still wasn’t sleepy. Sleepy Puppy was sure that yawning would make Ben tired, so they all marched around the room yawning widely, but that didn’t do the trick either.

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

At last, Bear pulled his guitar from behind his pillow, Lamby took to Ben’s little piano, and Sleepy Puppy began thrumming on the bass. It was time for a lullaby! Ben’s three friends began to sing: “‘Lay down, sweet child, and go to sleep. / The Lord be with you and give you His peace. / Lay down, sweet child, and go to sleep. / The Lord be with you tonight.’” Soon, Ben’s eyes began to close. Even Sleepy Puppy was feeling tired too. Lamby prayed one last prayer for Ben to sleep well and the three “drifted off to sleep.”

Ages 2 – 5

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310767015

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Let’s Get Ready for Bed

Written by Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki | Illustrated by Tod Carter | Painted by Chuck Vollmer

 

Eddy the bear was looking for his friend Sleepy Puppy. Lamby had just seen him going to get ready for bed. The two thought it would be fun to sneak a peek at Puppy’s nighttime routine. They snuck upstairs where they saw soap bubbles foaming under the bathroom door. Inside, Sleepy Puppy soaked in the clawfoot tub. “A warm bubble bath is what this pup needs / after a big day of mess-making deeds.”

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

All clean and dry, Puppy tugged on his favorite pajamas. “Fuzzy and soft, these pj’s are cozy. / They keep his toes warm and turn his cheeks rosy.” Then it’s time to brush his teeth and finally hit the hay. Puppy knew he had something special to do before he climbed under the covers. He knelt by his bed and prayed, “‘Thanks, God, for my family, for my mom and dad, / and for all the fun with my friends that I had.’” Then he asked God to keep them all safe and help them to sleep well.

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Looking at a book before closing his eyes was the next step in his routine. The stories were so funny that he laughed and laughed. He shut the book and snuggled in for a long night’s sleep. But he still felt wide awake. He wondered, “‘Did I leave something out? Or do something wrong? I know!’ he remembered. “‘I’m missing a song!’”

Lamby and Eddy were there on the spot. Eddy strummed the guitar and Lamby  played the piano, and their song went like this: “‘Rock-a-bye, Puppy, in the tree top, / When the wind blows the cradle will rock. / Forward and back, the cradle it swings / ‘till deep into sleep, Puppy it brings.’” They sang another verse and Puppy was soon snoozing. “Then Lamby and Bear both whispered good night. They tucked Puppy in and turned off the light.”

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Nighty Night and Good Night and Let’s Get Ready for Bed are the first two titles in a new series, Nurturing Steps™ launched by Grammy® Award winning artist Michael W. Smith for babies and toddlers. The series combines books and music to give parents, grandparents, and other caregivers a way to “enliven a young child’s journey with hope and faith through song and storytelling.” The stories are sweet and comforting for little ones as they echo the bedtime routine of many children. Bedtime prayers feature prominently in both stories. In Nighty Night and Good Night, Ben prays with his mother, while in Let’s Get Ready for Bed, Puppy performs all of his bedtime routines on his own.

The familiar dilemma of not being able to fall asleep is addressed in each book with fun suggestions that ultimately lead into the soothing heart of the story—a lullaby. The reassuring words and calming tunes of both songs will quiet children and help them drift off to sleep. As an added bonus, each book includes a link that allows readers to listen to Michael W. Smith sing the same lullaby.

Youngest readers will be charmed by Ben and his three stuffed animals who know just how to be good friends when you need them most. An accompanying album of sleepy songs is also available.

Ages 2 – 5

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310767480

You can learn more about Nurturing Steps by visiting the website.

Let’s Get Ready for Bed! Giveaway

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I’m partnering with Zonderkidz in this amazing bedtime giveaway in which one (1) winner receives:

  • Copies of both Nurturing Steps books,
  • Michael W. Smith’s accompanying Lullabyalbum,
  • plus sleepy slippers for your little reader!

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing and samples provided by Zonderkidz.

Gather around for the Let’s Get Ready for Bed book trailer!

Meet the Nurturing Steps Creators

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Michael W. Smith is a successful recording artist who has recorded more than 25 albums and had numerous hit radio songs in the Christian and General markets. He’s won numerous Grammy and Dove Awards and is the founder of Rocketown, an outreach to teenagers in a 38,000 square-foot facility in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. He is involved in mission work around the world. He has also written several best-selling books, including Old Enough to Know and Friends Are Friends Forever. He and his wife, Debbie, have five children and live in Nashville.

You can follow Michael W. Smith on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

 

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Mike Nawrocki, co-creator of VeggieTales and the voice of the beloved Larry The Cucumber, has been part of the pulse of the Veggie brand since its inception in 1993. Mike has created, written, and directed most of the popular “Silly Songs with Larry” segments, including fan favorites “His Cheeseburger” and “The Hairbrush Song.” He has also lent his screenwriting and directing talents to dozens of VeggieTales episodes such as “Madame Blueberry and The League of Incredible Vegetables,” as well as both of the properties’ theatrical release films, Jonah and The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. In addition, Mike has authored a number of VeggieTales books and CD projects as well as developing and writing for another of Big Idea’s hit animated properties, 3-2-1 Penguins.  Mike is currently focused on developing new children’s properties centered around fun characters, engaging storytelling, and wholesome values. Mike makes his home in Franklin, TN with his wife and two children.

Visit NurturingSteps.com | Follow Zonderkidz on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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You can find Nighty Night and Good Night and Let’s Get Ready for Bed at these booksellers

Amazon: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed | Barnes & Noble: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed | Books-a-Million: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed | IndieBound: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed

Picture Book Review