October 8 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

All this month people are reading and celebrating their favorite books—both old and new. It’s also a terrific time to honor independent bookstores that serve their community with carefully chosen titles for all ages of readers. Some indies focus on one genre or age of reader, offering a vast array of familiar and surprising books for customers to explore. Others are known for a particular ambience—mysterious, scholarly, fun! But all give readers a sense of community and a feeling of awe and wonder at all of the stories to discover. This month make a stop into your local bookstore a family event and pick up a new book (or several) for everyone!

King Mouse

Written by Cary Fagan | Illustrated by Dena Seiferling

 

In a wordless spread, a child with a tricycle cart full of various shaped crowns wheels through a field, spilling crowns as she goes. Later, a mouse creeps out of his hole in the ground and looks for something to nibble. He finds no food but does spy a small crown “glittering in the grass.” After inspecting it, he places the crown on his head. “It was a perfect fit.” Just then a bear walks up and asks the mouse if he is a king. The mouse replies that he is. The bear bows and cries, “‘Hail to the king!’”

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Image copyright Dena Seiferling, 2019, text copyright Cary Fagan, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Soon a crow lands on a nearby branch. The bear introduces the mouse king. When the crow learns that the mouse is hungry, the crow immediately sets to looking for food to offer him. As the bear and the crow gather food, a tortoise approaches. Thrilled to learn that they “at last” have a king, he joins in. The mouse gobbles up all the seeds the trio brought.

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Image copyright Dena Seiferling, 2019, text copyright Cary Fagan, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

After he was full, the mouse announces that he is bored. As the three are deciding what to do, a fox appears. She suggests they perform a play. The mouse is delighted with the drama. He applauds. “‘I haven’t been this amused for ages,’ he said. ‘I like being king.’” Meanwhile, a snake slithering through the woods spies another crown. She puts it on her head.

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Image copyright Dena Seiferling, 2019, text copyright Cary Fagan, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

As soon as she does the other animals hail her as their queen. Everyone, that is, except the mouse who isn’t too happy. When the animals bow to the queen, the fox, the tortoise, and the crow each find a crown just their size hiding in the grass and proclaim themselves royalty. The bear searches for a crown for himself but can’t find one. He plods away while the others dance around singing their own praises. The bear finds a tree stump and sits down, dejected about his lack of good luck.

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Image copyright Dena Seiferling, 2019, text copyright Cary Fagan, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Discovering that the bear is no longer with the group, the mouse goes in search of him. When he finds him, the mouse removes his crown and begins picking dandelions. He creates a wreath and gives it to the bear. The two sit quietly together. When the sun begins to set, the mouse hints that he might have a better vantage point “from up there.” The bear obliges and lifts the mouse to his shoulder. “‘I’m not really a king,” the bear sighs. The mouse agrees and then notes the beautiful sunset. Now it’s the bear’s turn to agree, and “they sat for a long time.” Returning through the field, the child, her tricycle cart now empty, spies a pile of five crowns discarded on an old tree stump.

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Image copyright Dena Seiferling, 2019, text copyright Cary Fagan, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Cary Fagan’s modern fable has much to say and, as the genre often affords, offers much for readers to ponder and talk about. It is a fitting time for this story that, among other themes, questions the nature of leadership. When the mouse finds the first crown, not only does he proclaim himself king but he demands food and entertainment from his sudden subjects, unconcerned with their needs. But, yet, the animals mechanically bow to him and rush to fulfill his whims. When the snake, crow, and tortoise also find crowns, they gleefully decree their own sovereignty, forgetting the bear.

The mouse, however, seems to have learned a lesson. When he finds the bear, he removes his crown and offers one of his own creation to the bear, making him the only “king” independently chosen. Wiser than the others, the bear understands that he does not rule the others, and the mouse too sees that the equality of friendship and the grandeur of nature that is beholden to no one is more majestic than any crown. The introduction of the child in the wordless spreads give kids and adults the opportunity to discuss the possibility that the main story is one of imaginative play. Fagan’s dialogue-rich storytelling spotlights themes of pride, envy, disappointment, friendship, inclusion, and modesty and makes this a perfect tale for a school class, drama troupe, or other group to act out.

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Dena Seiferling’s soft, sepia-toned illustrations give the story a magical, dream-like quality while also anchoring it in the “real world.” Small snapshots that accompany the text on the left-hand pages introduce each animal as they come on the scene while full-page images clearly show the progression of the story and the changing attitudes of the animals. Early on, the mouse is uncertain, nibbling at the unknown object he finds. But once the crown is settled on his head, it takes only three pages for him to be accepting tributes and one more to find him lounging and demanding.

Children will be enchanted by the dramatic scenes of the play the animals put on for the mouse, and the tall crown the snake wears is a cunning stroke of suspense and one-upmanship. The illustration of the bear leaving the group as the others, oblivious to his feelings, parade around provides an opportunity for adults to talk about empathy and inclusion. As the bear and the mouse watch the setting sun together, readers can imagine that a new and more thoughtful day will dawn tomorrow.

A profound and affecting book, King Mouse is a story that will move and inspire children to think about interacting with others. The book would be have multiple applications for home, classroom, and school libraries and is a must for public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Tundra Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-0735264045

Discover more about Cary Fagan and his books on her website.

To learn more about Dena Seiferling, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Book Month Activity

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Book Love! Word Search

 

There are all kinds of books for every reader. Find your favorite along with twenty favorite genres in this printable puzzle.

Book Love! Word Search Puzzle | Book Love! Word Search Solution

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You can find King Mouse at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 3 – It’s National Photographer Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

National Photographer Appreciation Month is for all photographers, professional and amateur. The month-long holiday gives people an opportunity to really look at the photographs they see in newspapers, books, online, and even in their own home and truly appreciate the artistry that goes into capturing a moment, a place, or a personality to tell a bigger story. October is also a great month to go through your own family photographs and relive or rediscover favorite memories. To celebrate, consider having a professional portrait taken of yourself, your kids, or your whole family to decorate your home, give as gifts, or send as a holiday card. There are also many galleries displaying photographic work to explore. 

Operation Photobomb

Written by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie | Illustrated by Matthew Rivera

 

Monkey and Chameleon loved scavenging stuff from tours that came through their neck of the jungle. One lucky day when they raided a backpack, Monkey discovered a polaroid camera while Chameleon came away with a roll of toilet paper. Monkey had a bit of a learning curve to get the hang of taking great shots, but soon he was snapping stylish pics of all his friends.

Monkey got so good that he started taking themed pictures. He took some that were “only for the birds” and others of “just animals with fur.” Chameleon was beginning to feel left out, so just as Monkey was going to click the button on a cute-as-a-button shot of two frogs on a branch, Chameleon swung in on a vine, shouting, “‘Photobomb!’”

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Image copyright Matthew Rivera, 2019, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

“‘Chameleon, please don’t do that!’” Monkey said. “But Chameleon was just getting started.” The Capybara family suddenly had a new member in their portrait; Sloth’s new baby was joined by a chameleon-y brother; and as Monkey was about to capture Grandma Macaw blowing out her 76th birthday candles, Chameleon photobombed in, sending the cake splat all over her and her guests.

“‘Help me stop him from wrecking all the pictures!’ Monkey howled.” Toucan did a song and dance routine to distract him, Jaguar tried to fling him away, and the tapirs attempted to form an impenetrable line, but he was always able to sneak in. Monkey shrieked at him, and the other animals complained that he had ruined their once-in-a lifetime pictures. Chameleon blushed pink and red and said, “‘Fine. You won’t see me in any more pictures.’”

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Image copyright Matthew Rivera, 2019, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

So Monkey went back to work. But the animals took a close look at their shots and noticed a phantom-like Chameleon blending in with them or their surroundings. “CHAMELEON!” they shouted. The animals huddled together to find a solution. Monkey had an idea, and they whispered and plotted until they had the perfect plan. “Operation Photobomb was a go.” Monkey called Chameleon over and arranged him in a perfect pose. Then he aimed his camera and counted down. When he reached “three” the Macaws yelled “‘Bombs away!’” and pelted him with juicy fruit. “Click!” Monkey took the shot.

Chameleon was covered in sticky pulp and juice. The animals laughed. But Chameleon didn’t think it was so funny. “‘You ruined my pic…Ohhhhh!’” he said. Monkey handed him the roll of toilet tissue and offered a truce. Chameleon agreed to both. Although it was hard, Chameleon stayed out of Monkey’s pictures from then on. But then he had an idea that was “picture-perfect.” He knew just the people who “loved a good photobomb.”

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Image copyright Matthew Rivera, 2019, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie’s funny take on the photobomb phenomenon will have kids laughing and joining in with shouts of “photobomb!” as Chameleon inserts himself into all of the animals’ precious shots. When Chameleon ignores the animals’ complaints and requests to stop and instead uses his camouflage to trick them (a shrewdly worded hints at this), Monkey’s idea to give him a bit of his own medicine teaches him a valuable lesson. Chameleon also discovers a clever, more productive, and welcome way to enjoy his favorite activity. Through their fast-paced and humorous storytelling sprinkled with puns, Luebbe and Cattie reveal several truths about friendship, respect for others, and appropriate timing. Their surprise ending will satisfy and delight kids. It offers opportunities for discussion on social skills, putting others first, and finding the right time and place to engage in certain activities and behaviors.

Matthew Rivera’s tropical, sun-kissed illustrations will enchant readers. Chameleon, a mottled vibrant blue in most spreads, shows his enthusiastic prankster side popping up at the last moment to join the animals’ photos. Readers will love pointing him out in the polaroid squares scattered throughout the book. They’ll especially enjoy finding him when he camouflages himself against various backdrops. As he discovers his “picture-perfect” audience, kids will see that here he can show all his colors.

Operation Photobomb is a lively and original way to introduce children to ideas of respect for others and proper conduct. The humor and familiar activity will resonate with kids and makes this a book that will be a favorite for thoughtful as well as spirited story times at home, in the classroom, and for public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807561300

Discover more about Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie and their books on their website, BeckyTaraBooks.

To view a portfolio of work by Matthew Rivera and learn more about him, visit his website.

Photographer Appreciation Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-threads-of-friendship-photo-holder

Spool Photo Holder

 

With this easy craft you can make a personalized photo holder for your favorite pictures of friends and family!

Supplies

  • Wooden spool with hole through the middle, top to bottom. (A spool without a hole also works if you make a hole in the top with a hammer and nail), 1 ½ -inch or larger, available at craft stores
  • Colorful twine or light-gauge yarn, 3 to 4 yards
  • Alternatively: you can buy a wooden spool of colorful twine at some discount stores
  • 3 pieces of light-gauge wire 12 to 15-inches long
  • Clay or play dough
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Fill hole in spool with clay or play dough, pushing it well in to provide a base for the wire
  2. Wrap the twine or yarn around the spool to desired thickness
  3. Glue down the end of the twine to keep it from unraveling
  4. With the needle-nose pliers, roll down one end of the wire to create a small coil
  5. Repeat with two other lengths of wire
  6. Cut the three wires to different lengths to provide room for all three photographs
  7. Fit the three wires into the center hole on the top of the spool
  8. Push the wires into the clay until they are held securely
  9. Clip photographs into the coils
  10. Display your pictures!

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You can find Operation Photobomb at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 4 – National Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

National Wildlife Day was established in 2005 by author and pet lifestyle expert Colleen Paige in memory of conservationist Steve Irwin. The day promotes awareness of the importance of conservation of animals, habitats, and the environment worldwide and offers education on the number of endangered and threatened species across the globe. To honor today’s holiday, visit a local zoo, aquarium, or other nature preserve and take some time to learn about what you can do to help protect the environment.

I received a copy of Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys from Bloomsbury Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys

Written by Mike Unwin | Illustrated by Jenni Desmond

 

In their stunning book, Mike Unwin and Jenni Desmond take readers along as twenty diverse animals complete their annual travels to safer, warmer, or more fertile feeding grounds guided by inborn instincts. With compelling and conversational storytelling, Unwin introduces each creature, divulging fascinating and endearing facts about the adults and babies that undertake these epic trips—the shortest, 60 miles; the longest, a breathtaking 60,000 miles!

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Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

Readers will meet a humpback whale and her baby who stick together for more than 15,000 miles—“the longest swim of any animal on Earth”—as they head from the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia to the Antarctic and back in search of krill. As the baby eats, it “will start building up the thick layer of blubber that it needs to keep out the cold.” When it is ten years old, this baby will be fully grown and can look forward to many migrations to come.

If you were stuck waiting at a caribou crossing, you’d want a good, long book on hand. More than 100,000 adults and their young swim across icy rivers and trek over grasslands of the frosty Arctic “inland toward the forests [where] the trees will help protect them when winter comes” and delicious moss and lichen await under snowy blankets.

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Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

Meanwhile in a warmer part of the world, a passenger cries, “Stop the car quick! There’s a red river flowing right across the road…. But look closer. It’s not water: it’s crabs. Big red ones. There are thousands of them. They pour across the road in an army of pincers, then scuttle down the bank on the other side, heading for the sea.” Where does this awesome sight take place? On Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean northwest of Australia as millions of red crabs move from the forests to the sea, en masse.

One of the most mysterious and intricately sequenced migrations is that of the monarch butterfly. Each year it takes four generations and four stops to lay eggs and breed along the way for these stained-glass-gorgeous insects “that can weigh less than a paperclip” to complete their journey from the northern United States and Canada to Mexico.

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Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

And which creature has the stamina for that 60,000-mile voyage? That honor goes to the appropriately named wandering albatross, who “five to ten years ago…left the small rocky island where it was born. Ever since then it has been wandering, covering more than 60,000 miles a year—over a quarter of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Never once has it touched land, though the birds often roost on the surface of the water.” In one or two years, this solitary traveler will return to land to breed and become a stay-at-home parent until its only child is ready to depart.

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Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

Other creatures presented include the emperor penguin, arctic tern, whooping crane, barn swallow, globe skimmer dragonfly, southern African pilchard, ruby-throated hummingbird, bar-headed goose, great white shark, African elephant, pacific salmon, osprey, blue wildebeest, straw-colored fruit bat, and green turtle.

A map of the world—with each animal’s migratory journey outlined—orients children to the geographic locations and distances involved as well as a few more facts on migration and how pollution and habitat destruction affect migratory patterns follows the text.

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Image copyright Jenni Desmond, 2019, text copyright Mike Unwin, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books.

Mike Unwin’s accessible, descriptive, and sensory snapshots turn this science-based book into an enthralling page-turner. As one astounding true story leads to another, readers will be eager to see which animal comes next and continue learning about this wildlife phenomenon. Well-known for his nature books for children and adults, Unwin captures the spirit of each animal as they take on the formidable challenges of their annual migration and in the process teaches a love and respect for nature.

Accompanying Unwin’s text are Jenni Desmond’s gorgeous mixed-media illustrations, made all the more impressive by the book’s large format. The textured pages dazzle with the movement and grandeur of nature, transporting readers to far-flung parts of the world and showing them the beauty of each animal up close. Icy blues and greens lend images of the Arctic a frosty feel, while vibrant greens set off the brilliant oranges of the monarch butterflies and jeweled feathers of the ruby-throated hummingbird. Wildebeest are menaced by storm clouds and elephants parade along a brown, dusty road. The book concludes with first a dusky and then a moonlit night that welcome bats and turtles to begin their travels.

An excellent choice for home, classroom, homeschool, and public library collections, Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys will be a favorite of both kids and adults for lessons and more casual reading.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1408889916

To learn more about Jenni Desmond, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Wildlife Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wonderful-wildlife-board-game

Wonderful Wildlife Board Game

 

Fascinating animals are found in every part of the world. Play this fun printable Wonderful Wildlife Board Game to match each animal to the area where it lives.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print a World Map for each player
  2. Print one set of 16 Wildlife Tokens for each player
  3. Print two copies of the 8-sided die, fold, and tape together
  4. If you would like, color the map and tokens
  5. Choose a player to go first
  6. Each player rolls both dice and places an animal on their map according to these corresponding sums of the dice below
  7. The first player to fill their map is the winner!
  • 1 = Flamingo – South America
  • 2 = Emperor Penguin – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
  • 3 = Giraffe – Africa
  • 4 = Bald Eagle – North America
  • 5 = Ibex – Europe
  • 6 = Kangaroo – Australia
  • 7 = Panda – Asia
  • 8 = Orca – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
  • 9 = Toucan – South America
  • 10 = Buffalo – North America
  • 11 = Koala – Australia
  • 12 = Lion – Africa
  • 13 = Etruscan Shrew – Europe
  • 14 = Manta Ray – Pacific Ocean
  • 15 = Sea Turtle – Atlantic Ocean
  • 16 = Tiger – Asia

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You can find Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 19 – It’s National Vacation Rental Month

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About the Holiday

A great vacation starts with a great place to stay! Whether you like a cabin by the lake, a cottage by the shore, a tent or camper in the woods, an airbnb, or that good-ol’ staple the hotel, getting away from home can be an adventure in itself. July hosts National Vacation Rental Month because, coming in the middle of summer, it is when most vacations take place. If you haven’t planned a get-away yet, there’s still time to find just the right accommodation for maximum enjoyment!

The Great Indoors

Written by Julie Falatko | Illustrated by Ruth Chan

As the family headed off in their van packed with fishing gear and sleeping bags, the animals knew it was time to start their annual vacation. The bears were the first to arrive. As they gazed appreciatively around their summer home away from home, they sighed happily. “‘Ah, the great indoors!’ said the father bear. ‘The most relaxing week of the year,’ said the mother bear.” Meanwhile their teenage bear was hurrying off to the bathroom to install her makeup and hair supplies. Soon, the beavers showed up, taking over the kitchen with bags of food and ca cooler stuffed with ice cream.

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Image copyright Ruth Chan, 2019, text copyright Julie Falatko, 2019. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

The deer brought the karaoke machine and disco ball. “‘Good-bye peace and quiet!’ said a big deer. ‘Hello, dance party!’ said a bigger deer.” The skunks loved the simplicity of electricity. The bears, the deer, and the skunks all plunked down on the couch in front of the TV while the beavers prepared frosty drinks and lasagna. Yes, “the great indoors was the perfect vacation spot.” The bears took advantage of the opportunity to use their power tools, while the deer perfected their singing, and the skunks got online, made calls, and took lots of showers. Meanwhile, the beavers were cooking, cooking, cooking.

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Image copyright Ruth Chan, 2019, text copyright Julie Falatko, 2019. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

But as the week dragged on, “things got less than perfect.” The animals’ muscles ached from all the dancing and video game playing, the teenage bear hogged the bathroom, and the kitchen was left a disaster. “And still it got even worse.” Father bear broke the bed, a deer created a toaster fire, a skunk blew out the speaker, the garbage piled up, and the dishes had to be washed outside in the puddle left from the hose.

By the end of the week, “everyone was ready to go home.” The sounds grated, the work was overwhelming, and little skunk missed “peeing behind a tree.” Still, they all agreed they’d had a great time and were looking forward to next year. And just as they headed back to the woods, the family came back from their camping trip and opened the door to find…well….

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Image copyright Ruth Chan, 2019, text copyright Julie Falatko, 2019. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Julie Falatko hilariously turns the table on people’s penchant to get away from it all in the great outdoors with her sly story of woodland besties spending a week together in a house vacated for a family vacation. As the animals settle in, Falatko riffs on everything from vacation clichés to the challenges of traveling with kids and teens to enjoying typically summer-only treats. There are even a few droll nods to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Kids will laugh out loud to see their favorite activities adopted in a new wild way.

Echoing people’s happiness to return home no matter how fun the vacation, Falatko humorously reminds readers that there’s no place like home, while holding out eager anticipation for the next adventure. The unsuspecting family’s return—an ingenious and comically perfect combination of text and illustration—wraps up this vacation spree with just the right note of surprise (and perhaps a nudge to remember to leave the great outdoors without a trace).

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Image copyright Ruth Chan, 2019, text copyright Julie Falatko, 2019. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ruth Chan’s funny depictions of the animals gathering at their vacation “rental” will have kids and adults giggling from the first page. She nails the giddy excitement of being away from home with all the excess supplies and grand schemes that go along with it. Stepping through the door of the hotel, cabin, or even tent, what adults don’t gaze around with appreciation as the kids run off to claim a bed or the bathroom or get ready for a swim? Treats that might be off-limits the rest of the year are suddenly on the menu to great delight, and the lure of all the time in the world to do just what you want is irresistible.

Chan’s vivid illustrations are loaded with comical details just waiting to be unpacked. For example, ice-cream flavors include saltlick ice, vanilla with “real oak” clusters, honey cream, and log ice. Kids will love following the week-long antics of the hair-obsessed teenage bear, who creates a “Fur De-Frizzer 2000” and then can be seen sporting its successful results. A clever aerial view of all the rooms in the house lets kids see the chaos of a vacation out of control, and as the great indoors begins to lose its luster, readers are in for more humorous portrayals of how life diverges for people and animals.

For vacationers or staycationers, The Great Indoors is just the ticket that will have kids rarin’ to go—or stay—but definitely laughing and asking for more. The book would be a funny and favorite addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Disney- Hyperion, 2019 | ISBN 978-1368000833

Discover more about Julie Falatko and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ruth Chan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Vacation Rental Month Activity

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Family Vacation Fun! Maze

 

This family is really looking forward to their vacation in the woods. Can you help them find their way to their cabin in this printable maze?

Family Vacation Fun! Maze | Family Vacation Fun! Maze Solution

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You can find The Great Indoors at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 3 – Wild Koala Day

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About the Holiday

If you love koalas, you’ll want to join in on this Australian holiday that’s dedicated to celebrating koalas and protecting their habitats. Koalas survive by eating the gum leaves of eucalyptus trees, but these forests are threatened by deforestation, fire, and climate change. Conservationists are calling for the preservation and replanting of these important forests. To show solidarity with the cause and koalas, people are encouraged to wear gum leaves (or any leaf), plant a tree, and post a picture of a wild koala on social media, using #wildkoaladay. You can learn more about today’s holiday by visiting the Wild Koala Day website.

I received a copy of Koala Is Not a Bear from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Sterling Children’s Books in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Koala Is Not a Bear

Written by Kristin L. Gray | Illustrated by Pachel McAlister

 

Koala couldn’t wait to go to camp, meet the other campers, and have lots of fun. Since this was her first trip away from home, she packed some of her favorite things in case she felt homesick. When she got to camp, she found a cabin for birds, one for crocodiles, and one for cats, but she couldn’t find her cabin. Just as she was about to ask for directions, Grizzly came running out to meet her and welcome her to Bear Cabin.

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Image copyright Rachel McAlister, 2019, text copyright Kristin L. Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Koala was introducing herself when, “‘Hold it!’ said a voice. ‘Koala is NOT a bear.’” It was Kangaroo, who, Grizzly said, was “‘a bit of a know-it-all.’” Koala was tired from looking for the right cabin and only wanted a place to put her gear and relax. She showed off her “‘sharp teeth and claws,’” and Grizzly agreed that Koala must be a bear. But then Kangaroo reminded them that “‘crocodiles have sharp teeth and claws’” too.

Koala was not to be deterred and scampered up a tree just like a bear. Kangaroo countered with the example of lemurs, who also climb trees but are not bears. Koala had another bear-like trick up her sleeve, though, and let out a growl a bear could be proud of. Kangaroo brought up tigers. Koala then got down on all fours and crawled along accompanied by Grizzly. Duck had a sage observation that went like this: “‘If she walks like a bear and talks like a bear, she must be a bear.’”

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Image copyright Rachel McAlister, 2019, text copyright Kristin L. Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

“‘Tail?’” questioned Kangaroo, and while Koala didn’t have a proper tail, she did have thick fur that kept her warm and dry. Grizzly figured the issue was settled and they all went into the cafeteria to eat. But not so fast. Kangaroo had a book, which she said proved Koala was not a bear. And instead of similarities, Koala began to see the differences between her and Grizzly. She didn’t like berries or fish and she didn’t hibernate during winter. Suddenly, Koala thought she “didn’t belong in Bear Cabin. Maybe she didn’t even belong at camp.”

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Image copyright Rachel McAlister, 2019, text copyright Kristin L. Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Koala began to feel homesick and went off to a corner to look at the picture of her family she’d brought along. She had just opened her pouch to get out the photograph when, right behind her, Koala heard that familiar voice. “‘Aha! I knew it,’ cried Kangaroo. ‘Koala has a pouch! Like ME.” But when Kangaroo got a glimpse of Koala’s photograph, she recognized her great-aunt Quokka. “‘Your great-aunt?’” said Koala. “‘Quokka’s my great-aunt.’”

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Image copyright Rachel McAlister, 2019, text copyright Kristin L. Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Koala had a feeling…and asked some more questions: had Kangaroo ridden in her mother’s pouch, been called a joey, and come from Australia? Yes, yes, yes, answered Kangaroo. Suddenly, Koala and Kangaroo knew exactly what Koala was—a marsupial—which made her and Kangaroo family! They both got a bear hug from Grizzly and went off to settle into Marsupial Cabin, just as Platypus arrived looking for Duck Cabin….

A short Author’s Note about marsupials follows the text.

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Image copyright Rachel McAlister, 2019, text copyright Kristin L. Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

In her funny and layered story of mistaken identity, Kristin L. Gray reveals facts about koalas and the order marsupials while also making the point that we all embody more similarities than differences. As Koala narrows in on which cabin is hers, alert readers will enjoy besting Kangaroo in discovering who Koala will be bunking with. Duck provides humorous asides that will keep kids giggling, and the pitch-perfect surprise ending promises to send young animal lovers scurrying to do some research.

Through vibrant, action-packed illustrations, Rachel McAlister showcases all the ways in which Koala is like a bear—as well as crocodiles, lemurs, and tigers—but ultimately belongs in the marsupial family. Grizzly’s stalwart support of her new friend is endearing as she also shows her claws and teeth, climbs a tree, growls fiercely, crawls beside her, and in the end clasps her in a big bear hug when it’s discovered that Koala is actually a marsupial. The cafeteria scene shows happy camaraderie and invites readers to learn which scientific families the other campers fall into.

A fun story for animal lovers or to accompany science and STEM lessons in the classroom, Koala Is Not a Bear would make for an engaging story time at home or at school.

Ages 4 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454927457

Discover more about Kristin L. Gray and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rachel McAlister, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Koala Is Not a Bear Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in a Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Koala Is Not a Bear written by Kristin L. Gray | illustrated by Rachel McAlister

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from May 3 through March 9 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 10.

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Wild Koala Day Activity

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Cute Koala Coloring Page

 

For a koala, a eucalyptus leaf is the perfect snack! Here’s a printable coloring page of a koala in its natural habitat to help you celebrate Wild Koala Day!

Cute Koala Coloring Page

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You can find Koala Is Not a Bear at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

March 18 – International Ideas Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate something that you can’t see or hold but which is real all the same. What is it? An idea! Ideas are amazing things. They ideas fuel our arts, sciences, education, and home life. This month-long holiday invites all you would-be inventors and clever folk alike to think differently and pay attention to your brainstorms. So, write down those ideas you have while driving, while in the shower, when you’re daydreaming, or just as you turn off the light to go to sleep. You never know what they might become!

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel

 

All the field mice gathered at the vegetable garden to play and eat, eat, eat. But one day an owl arrived, so the mice went off to the grassy fields far away where they were safe but not nearly as well-fed. “Still they all agreed that having a hungry belly was better than filling the belly of a hungry owl.” After that the mice kept their distance from the farm—all except Scampers, who hid nearby and watched the owl. She thought there was something a little suspicious about it since the owl never moved.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

When Scampers’ friend Nibbles saw what she was doing, he was afraid for her safety. But Scampers was gung-ho on finding out what was going on. The next day they waved a rag-doll mouse above the cauliflower, but the owl stayed put. “‘Maybe owls can tell if a mouse is fake,’ Nibbles whispered.” That gave Scampers another idea. She jumped out and yelled “HELLO!” to the owl, but the owl didn’t blink. Nibbles thought maybe owls were hard of hearing, so Scampers put on her one-girl-band set. Nothing.

Next it was time to bring out the heavy machinery, but even when Scampers lobbed an egg at the owl from her homemade eggapult, the owl didn’t move. Nibbles thought that owls might not like eggs, but a soaring rock had the same result. Scampers decided it was time to try out all of her experiments on another owl—one they’d find in the woods.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

While Nibbles hid in the hollow of a tree, Scampers called out “HELLO!” “An owl’s head spun around.” The owl nabbed the rag-doll mouse in a snap, and he did not sit still for the eggapulted rock. “‘Maybe you’ve figured out why the garden owl doesn’t move,’” Nibbles said. Now it was time to explain it all to the other mice. With a glittery display, Scampers and Nibbles presented their findings.

As Scampers and Nibbles raced to raid the veggies, the other mice lagged behind, skeptical about what they’d heard. “‘Sometimes a new discovery is so amazing that others need a little time to accept it,’” Scampers told Nibbles. “‘So while they’re thinking it over, let’s eat.’”

Extensive back matter includes an illustrated description of how scientists think over a problem, more information about Great Horned Owls and field mice, suggestions for teachers on reading the book to students, ways teachers can discuss science and engineering practices, and four activities kids can do at home or in school that engage them in science, technology, engineering, and math learning.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

In his clever story, Mike Allegra infuses the scientific method with enthusiasm, humor, and a problem that will engage kids. When the field mice are run out of their vegetable garden by an owl who has taken up residence on a fence post, readers will love following Scampers as she uses her logical mind and a few experiments to restore their food source. Through Scampers’ keen sense of observation and engineering know-how, kids see how to go about proving a hypothesis correct. As Nibbles eats away at Scampers’ results with the kinds of alternate theories scientists must disprove, children get caught up in the suspense and thrill of discovery that fuels scientific advancement.

Elizabeth Zechel’s field mice know how to feast—and how to get things done. With bright eyes and jubilant expressions, the mice chow down on corn and tomatoes, and as Scampers performs her experiments her joy in the process is evident. More timid Nibbles bites his nails, wraps his tail tightly around himself, tries to stop the eggapult in its tracks, and cowers in the crook of a tree as danger looms. Zechel’s detailed drawings realistically depict the garden, forest, and wildlife. Her two Great Horned Owls beautifully demonstrate the difference between the false one and the real one, which has focused and piercing eyes, soft textured feathers, sharp talons, and quick reflexes.

Perfectly aimed at young scientists with charming characters, fun language, and a glittery final report that mirrors school projects, Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist is a terrific addition to home, classroom, and library STEM collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Dawn Publications, 2019 | ISBN 978-1584696438

Discover more about Mike Allegra, his books, and his other writing on his website

To learn more about Elizabeth Zechel, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Ideas Month Activity

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Green onions as they looked when put in the jar on Day 1

Green Onions Garden in a Jar

 

Kids will be wowed by this gardening experiment that shows results in as little as two days and just keeps getting more dramatic as the days go by.

Supplies

  • 1 or 2 batches of green onions (also called scallions and spring onions)
  • Jar
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Here’s how the onions looked two days later.

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Three days later, the green onions are really growing!

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In four days the stalks have gotten much longer and new shoots have appeared.

Directions

  1. Cut the stalks off of each onion so that the bulb and about two inches of stem remain. 
  2. Place all of the onions in a jar with the bulbs and roots in the water and the stalks above the rim of the jar
  3. Place the jar in a sunny spot and watch the onion tops grow taller day by day
  4. Harvest the stalks and enjoy them in a variety of recipes and as a substitute for chives

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You can find Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 24 – National Compliment Day

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About the Holiday

Getting a compliment can make the world seem brighter. Maybe this is what inspired New Hampshire residents Kathy Chamberlin and Debby Hoffman to create National Compliment Day in 1998. How to celebrate today’s holiday is simple. Take a look around and when you see something about someone that you like, tell them! Does your friend’s sense of humor always lift your spirit? Tell them! Did your employee do a great job today? Tell them! Are your kids the light of your life? Tell them why! You don’t have to limit your compliments to friends and family either. Giving a compliment to someone you don’t know may just make a big difference in their day. So, today, be generous with those nice comments!

Giraffe Problems

Written by Jory John | Illustrated by Lane Smith

 

Giraffe was self-conscious about his neck—and why not? After all, it just seemed “too long. Too bendy. Too narrow. Too dopey” and “too” so many other things. All-in-all, he summed it up this way: “Yes, my neck is too necky.” Giraffe could feel everyone staring at it. He’d tried “dressing it up,” and hiding, but nothing made it better.

No other animals had such a ridiculous neck. Zebra’s was stylishly striped; Elephant’s was “strong and powerful, yet graceful”; and Lion’s was “adorned with a glorious mane of flowing locks.” Even the reassurances Giraffe’s mom gave didn’t make him feel better. In despair, Giraffe laid his long neck on a rock and sighed. But the rock turned out to be a turtle shell—with a turtle inside.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2018, text copyright Jory John, 2018. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

What luck! Turtle had been watching Giraffe from afar and thought his neck was pretty spiffy. Turtle said, “Oh, how I wish my neck looked like yours! I’d get so much done in a day.” He longed to be able to look around properly and grab things that were high up. But instead Turtle was “saddled with this little excuse for a neck.” Turtle even demonstrated how far his neck could reach—which was not far at all.

Giraffe was nonplussed to find another neck sufferer. But they were happy to have found each other. Turtle introduced himself as Cyrus, and Giraffe said his name was Edward. In this spirit of camaraderie, Cyrus confessed a secret. “There is a hill in the distance, which you can surely see from your great vantage. I’ve stood on that very hill for seven straight days now staring skyward, watching as a single piece of fruit—a lone banana!—slowly changed from green to yellow, ripening.” Cyrus’s frustration poured forth as he explained how he’d spent sleepless nights waiting for the fruit to drop so he could taste just a bit of it. Then came the disappointment and self-recrimination as he revealed how foolish he felt as he stretched his “neck toward those greedy branches, only to be limited by my own physical shortcomings.” He topped off this soliloquy with a small smile.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2018, text copyright Jory John, 2018. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Edward summed it up, just to be sure. “You want a banana from a tree.” That is indeed what Cyrus wanted. Easy as one, two, three, Edward plucked the banana from its branch and dropped it in front of Cyrus. Cyrus gobbled it up and declared it delicious. In thanks, Cyrus complimented Edward on his “impressive” neck that allows him “to do amazing things.” In return, Edward complimented Cyrus’s neck, saying “it’s elegant and dignified, and it works well with your shell. They each appreciated the other’s viewpoint then Edward had a suggestion for his new friend. Soon, each was smiling and complimenting the other on how they looked in their handsome bowties. And for the first time ever, both Edward and Cyrus felt good about their necks.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2018, text copyright Jory John, 2018. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Who knew animals have the same insecurities as people? Jory John, that’s who—much to readers’ benefit! John’s completely original story about a giraffe and a turtle who both despair about the state of their necks will make readers laugh out loud even as they empathize with these two endearing characters. Edward’s flowery reveries comparing his own imperfect neck to those of his fellow animals and Cyrus’s burst of vexation at the limits of his neck are hilarious—and, really, who doesn’t feel this vociferous sometimes? Following this, the friendship forged by Edward’s ease at fulfilling Cyrus’s simple request provides a satisfying ending that’s all the more charming for its modest honesty—and bowties.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2018, text copyright Jory John, 2018. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

When Jory John and Lane Smith team up, you always know you’ll be opening the cover to an exceptional experience. Here, sweet Edward juts onto pages with a neck so long that often only his head and neck, or body and neck, or just his neck appear. His attempts at disguising his most noticeable feature under neckties, behind palm trees, and in other natural surroundings will only make readers love him more. Edward is a born storyteller with a beautifully inlaid shell and an expressive face that makes his confession all the more touching. Alert readers will notice that the supposedly gawking animals all have their own unique features and perhaps are as self-conscious as Edward is. The muted and mottled browns, greens, reds, and golds that color the textured images are perfectly suited for the natural environment, and a gatefold page that flips up to let Edward procure the banana will delight kids.

Giraffe Problems is a must for fun story times as well as for when a child (or adult) needs a bit of a boost. The book would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves. And if you’re looking for more adorable animals with problems, check out Jory John and Lane Smith’s Penguin Problems!

Ages 3 – 7

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-1524772031

Discover more about Jory John and his books on his website.

To learn more about Lane Smith, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Compliment Day Activity

Caring Compliment Cards

 

Sharing a compliment is a great way to brighten someone’s day and make new friends! With these printable cards, you’ll always have a sweet compliment at hand to give to a friend, a teacher, a librarian, or anyone who looks as if they need encouragement.

Compliment Cards 1 | Compliment Cards 2

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You can find Giraffe Problems at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review