August 16 – National Tell a Joke Day

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About the Holiday

Is there anything better than a big belly laugh? Hearing or seeing something that tickles your funny bone can be one of the best parts of a day. Did you know that the first recorded joke dates back to 1900 BC? It seems those early Sumerians were a pretty rowdy bunch. And not only them, humor has been a part of every culture from their earliest days. And why not? Laughter makes us feel better psychologically and even has the power to heal. Celebrate today by sharing your favorite jokes!

Knock Knock

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Guy Francis

 

Bear’s eyes are droopy, and he’s all tucked in under his puffy quilt. With his teddy bear clasped in his hand, he’s just about to turn out the light when: “KNOCK KNOCK.” Dutifully, Bear rouses himself and goes to answer it. “Who’s there?” he says. The answer comes back: “Justin.” “Justin who?” Bear opens the door and Fox rushes in with an armload of firewood. “Justin the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by!”

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Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Fox is just piling the logs in the fireplace when there’s another “KNOCK KNOCK” at the door. Startled, Bear asks the requisite question and learns that Ken has also come calling. But as soon as the door is opened a crack, three wisecracking blue jays fly in carrying streamers. While Fox seems happy to see them, Bear is not so keen.

A moment later another “KNOCK KNOCK” brings one more visitor, who’s lugging a huge pot of stew in his two oven-mitted paws. Bear can hardly keep his eyes open, but when he hears a raucous “KNOCK KNOCK,” he can’t help but ask yet again, “Who’s there?” It’s “Olive.” “Olive who?” The door bursts open to a chorus of “Olive us!” Waiting to enter is a whole gang of friends who are carrying balloons, hot chocolate, cupcakes, and even some knitting. But there’s still room for more, and another “KNOCK KNOCK” brings a “Good grief” from Bear and a familiar face at the window with a playful take on an old wolfish ultimatum.

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Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

The party’s going full swing, but all Bear can do is “yawwwwnnn” from the comfort of his armchair and remind his guests that he really needs some…. “KNOCK KNOCK, KNOCK KNOCK, KNOCK KNOCK.” “WHO’S THERE?” Bear roars. He swings the door wide and finds Al, who has a very special message for this very special party given just for Bear. Then the animals tuck Bear in tight, whisper sweet goodnights, and leave him to his winter slumber. And when he wakes up? Harry is ready to play! KNOCK KNOCK!

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Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Tammi Sauer’s clever story told through knock-knock jokes will have young readers rolling with laughter as poor bear grows wearier and wearier but continues to answer the KNOCK KNOCK summons. Each knock-knock joke ingeniously moves the story along while introducing a crew of Bear’s friends, who, it turns out, has planned a special send-off for their pal’s hibernation. Kids will love chiming in on the famous line the big bad wolf used on the three little pigs and noticing that the little chipmunk is reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears to tuck his friend in. Over- tired Bear’s tirade quickly melts into a warm embrace for all his friends when he realizes why they’ve come. The revelation of Bear’s name when springtime rolls around offers one more laugh at the end of the story and allows Bear to get in on the fun.

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With each knock on the door, Guy Francis ramps up the hilarity as Bear reacts with startled, wide-eyed surprise to each guest, who enters with a twinkle of sly acknowledgment of his or her joke. The animals seem right at home as they build a fire in the fireplace, cook on the stove, decorate the living room—and even Bear himself. Kids will laugh out loud at Bear’s flustered expressions and his cavernous yawn as the party preparations continue around him. When Bear is finally ready to put his big paw down, only to realize that all the commotion is really for him, his toothy grin says it all. The sweet looks and big hugs all around as well as a brand-new, comfy quilt float Bear off to dreamland for the winter. When spring comes, a refreshed Harry, looking not quite so grizzled comes knocking on the woodland animals’ Hobbit-style homes to repay the visit.

Knock Knock will knock kids’ socks off, and you can bet the book will go into much-loved rotation and begin a love of this funny joke form. The book would make a terrific gift and addition to home bookshelves as well as a lighthearted choice for funny classroom story times.

Ages 3 – 6

Scholastic Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1338116946

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Guy Francis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Tell a Joke Day Activity

Fox_in_Suit

Animated Animals Coloring Pages

 

These animals have heard some funny jokes, but they need a bit of color! Grab your crayons, markers, or pencils and have fun!

Happy Hedgehog | Laughing Fox | Smiling Sheep

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You can find Knock Knock at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 5 – National Underwear Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates those undergarments that make our outerwear look and feel better and that make kids of a certain age giggle with delight. Established in 2003 by Freshpair, the leading online retailer of underwear for men and women, the day promotes a feeling of confidence in your wardrobe from the foundations out. Of course, kids are just concerned with having a bit of fun, especially if it includes wearing their underwear on their head—as you’ll see in today’s book!

Underwear!

By Jenn Harney

 

Ah! There’s a “bare bear” ready to depart the bathroom after a bath, but his dad says, “‘Stop right there! You should be wearing underwear!!!’” The precocious tyke and future linguist puts on an innocent face and asks, “‘Under where?’” He banters with his dad about all the places his underwear might be until his dad points directly to them and gives his son a verbal map: “‘Right there! / On the chair, / there’s a pair / of underwear!!!’”

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Copyright Jenn Harney, 2019, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

There may be a valid reason the little bear doesn’t want to don his underwear as there’s a “‘big tear.’” Luckily, there’s also a “‘spare.’” Now that the little bear has a good pair of underwear, he’s suddenly forgotten “‘where to wear this underwear.’” And so he starts his fashion show, demonstrating that a simple pair of whitey tighties can double as a vest, a leotard, and several good ways to hide. Then this clever bear proves that any hair salon would be proud to offer the historical, retro, and cool styles he’s brushed up on with a cottony twist.

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Copyright Jenn Harney, 2019, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

With his underwear at the ready, the bear also becomes two superheroes before his dad intervenes again with: “‘What the heck’s goin’ on in there?!’” Oh no! Little Bear has to hide from the flooded mess he’s made. He turns out the light, dives in the tub, and waits…. A scare for dad and a thorough soaking for both later, the little bear reaches for a “‘dry new pair’” under his father’s watchful eye.

Dry and dressed, the young bear is ready for bedtime story time. After a tell-tale yawn, Dad carries his son carefully to bed. But is his little one really asleep or is he about to start this rhyming game all over again?

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Copyright Jenn Harney, 2019, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

With twenty different rhymes for “underwear” Jenn Harney ingeniously weaves a story that’s positively hilarious. The little bear’s exuberant play is infectious and silliness at its best and will have both children and adults laughing out loud. The pitch-perfect banter between father and son during this raucous bath time as well as the fast-paced rhythm makes this book a delight to read aloud.

As the little bare bear splashes through a puddle left over from his bath, Harney demonstrates that she knows what bath time is really all about for kids. Hanging from the chair’s seat, the necessary underwear is in full view of readers, inviting them to join in as the little bear jokes with his dad. His clever clothing, super heroes, and hair styles (a multilayer bouffant is creatively held together with two toothbrushes and decorated with his rubber ducky) will no doubt encourage fun—and funny—imitations. The characters’ spot-on facial expressions add plenty of comic depth to the story while also revealing the loving relationship between the two.

Underwear! will be a favorite, often-asked-for addition to home and library bookshelves. The book’s agile use of rhyme and rhythm make it a joyful book for classroom story times and writing and reading lessons as well.

Ages 2 – 6

Disney-Hyperion, 2019 | ISBN 978-1368027939

To learn more about Jenn Harney, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Underwear Day Activity

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Sock Tumble Match-Up!

 

These socks had fun tumbling and turning in the drier, but they were each separated from their twin! Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Sock Tumble Matching Game?

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You can find Underwear! 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

July 12 – National Simplicity Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday honors transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, who was born on this date in 1817 and along with his many other talents and interests advocated for a simplified life. As summer heats up with a full calendar of camps, activities, vacations, work, day trips, and more, take today “off” and just enjoy the simple pleasures around you.

I received a copy of Welcome to Morningtown from Bloomsbury Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m also excited to be partnering with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Welcome to Morningtown

Written by Blake Liliane Hellman | Illustrated by Steven Henry

 

It’s the crack of dawn in Morningtown and “everyone is waking.” A little cub rubs his eyes and sees his dad standing at the foot of his bed, fishing pole in hand, tackle box at the ready. The little tyke yawns and stretches along with the birds in the tree outside his room. Down at the pond, the frogs are “hopping, flopping, splashing awake while the turtles and a beaver enjoying the first cup of the day look on. All over Morningtown the animals, the insects, and even the fish are leaving their beds, brushing their teeth, washing up, and getting dressed.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Next comes breakfast! “Some crunch, some nibble, some sip their morning feast.” Then in houses all around town the windows are opened and the shutters thrown wide. What will the day bring? Perhaps a banjo lesson, a new friend, and chance to help out. The cub dries the breakfast dishes while his mom washes. “Every day’s a surprise, and as the sun rises… busy bees buzz, fun bunnies bounce, and eager beavers slide into the day.” Yes, it’s a busy day in Morningtown. “Everyone is up…except one.” It’s a good thing Mom likes to go fishing too.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Blake Liliane Hellman’s lyrical look at morning and all the promise it holds is an enchanting, cheerful way to start the day for little ones—and their adults. As the bear family wakes up in their stone home, the rest of Morningtown’s residents are also rising and greeting the day with all of those little details that go into getting ready to meet the world. Hellman’s evocative verbs, jaunty rhythms, and humorous ending make Welcome to Morningtown a joy to read aloud.

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Accompanying Hellman’s story are Steven Henry’s beyond adorable forest creatures who populate this peaceful hamlet. The sky glows golden and then softens into a clear, light blue as the animals leave their beds. One snoozing butterfly catches a few more winks on her soft dandelion bed, a tiny turtle enjoys another minute on Mom’s back, and Mr. Mole climbs emerges from his “secret” bed underground while three chirping birds wake a little mountain goat on his snowy ledge. Smiles abound, and readers will find themselves smiling too as they follow the little cub as he gets ready to go fishing with Dad. Henry’s clever details and charming perspectives create a rich and, as the title invites, welcoming community that little ones will want to visit again and again.

To start a little one’s day with enthusiasm for what lies ahead, put them to bed looking forward to tomorrow, or share cuddly down time, the charming Welcome to Morningtown is as sweet as it gets and would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681198736

To learn more about Steven Henry, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Welcome to Morningtown Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Bloomsbury Children’s Books in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Welcome to Morningtown by Blake Liliane Hellman | illustrated by Steven Henry

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

Bonus: Reply with your or your child’s favorite breakfast for an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from July 12 through July 18 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on July 19.

Giveaways open to US and Canadian addresses only | Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

National Simplicity Day Activity

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Pancake Flip-Out

 

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

To Play Pancake Toss

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

To Play With Dice

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

Supplies

Directions

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

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You can find Welcome to Morningtown at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 20 – National Pick Strawberries Day

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About the Holiday

In warmer climates the strawberries are ready to be picked, ushering in one of the delights of summer. For those who live in cooler regions, the fun of going strawberry picking and the delicious treats to follow are being eagerly looked forward to. Strawberries are grown in all parts of the world except for the most frigid areas and are enjoyed alone or in delectable desserts, salads, and other recipes To celebrate today, pick some strawberries—at a farm, in your own garden, or at the market—and enjoy!

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

Written by Don and Audrey Wood | Illustrated by Don Wood

 

It’s quite curious what Mouse is doing with that ladder at this time of day. In fact, it might be worth asking. “Hello little Mouse. What are you doing?” Ah! It seems that beyond the hammock and the huge gnarled tree, there’s a strawberry plant. And on that strawberry plant is an enormous strawberry. Mouse seems very pleased with himself that he’s found it and has the ladder set up to pick it.

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Copyright Don Wood, 1984, courtesy of Child’s Play.

But there is some disturbing news. Even though Mouse is half way up the ladder, it might just be good to ask if he’s heard about “the big hungry Bear.” His shocked reaction would say he hasn’t. Maybe it would be good to emphasize just “Ohhh, how that Bear loves red, ripe strawberries.” The Mouse wants to protect his find, but there’s no time to lose. After all that Bear “can smell a red, ripe strawberry a mile away….”

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Copyright Don Wood, 1984, courtesy of Child’s Play.

Oh! The Mouse already has the strawberry off the stem. Well, this does pose a problem. You see, that only helps the Bear smell it more easily. Run, little Mouse! That Bear will soon be tromping through the forest on his huge feet with his huge appetite and find that strawberry. Burying it won’t help. Putting it under lock and key won’t help. And there’s no disguise the Bear can’t see through.

In fact… “There’s only one way in the whole wide world to save a red, ripe strawberry from a hungry Bear!” That’s right, so…get a knife… and… “cut it in two.” Then “share half with me. And we’ll both eat it all up!” And the Bear? Well, he’ll have to find another red, ripe strawberry.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-mouse-the-red-ripe-strawberry-and-the-big-hungry-bear-eating

Copyright Don Wood, 1984, courtesy of Child’s Play.

This classic story by Don and Audrey Wood was a favorite in my house and continues to excite gasps and giggles in kids today. The enticing storyline, teased along through innocent-sounding questions and “helpful” suggestions, leads to a twist ending that begs the question: Was there ever really a bear? Young readers will be thrilled to discover that they, too, get to share in that delicious red, ripe strawberry.

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Don Wood’s pleased-as-punch, surprised, worried, hurried, and ultimately satisfied Mouse is the star of the story and as cute as his readers, although the strawberry, dressed up in a glasses-and-moustache disguise, may get the biggest guffaw. The forest, with its gnarled trees and overhanging vegetation, offers a suspenseful obstacle course for the fleeing Mouse, and the Mouse’s home is a cozy spot for a snack.

A perfect book to jump-start gardening with kids, as a take-along on outings, as a lead-in to snack time, or for any spirited story time at home or in the classroom, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear is a perennial charmer.

Ages 2 – 5

Child’s Play, 1984 | ISBN 978-0859530125 (Paperback); 978-0859531825 (Hardcover, 1997); 978-1846434037 (Board book, 1998); 978-1846434051 (English/Spanish edition, 2011)

To learn more about Don and Audrey Wood and their books and find activities, secrets, and more, visit their website.

National Pick Strawberries Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-go-strawberry-picking

Let’s Go Strawberry Picking! Matching Puzzle

 

It’s strawberry-picking day! Can you match pairs of strawberries before you put them in the basket in this printable Let’s Go Strawberry Picking! Matching Puzzle.

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You can find The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 7 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month and Interview with Author Cathy Ballou Mealey

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About the Holiday

Reading is great all the time, but this month we celebrate actually being seen with a book in hand laughing at a funny line, shivering over a suspenseful scene or maybe even tearing up over an unexpected plot twist. Throughout the month, authors, illustrators, actors and actresses, athletes, business people, teachers, and students all upload pictures of themselves reading to encourage others to discover the joys of this fun and important pastime. To learn more about the holiday and find resources to download or order, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

I received a copy of When a Tree Grows from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Sterling Children’s Books in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

When a Tree Grows

Written by Cathy Ballou Mealey | Illustrated by Kasia Nowowiejska

 

We all know that age-old question “When a tree falls in a forest does it make a sound?” Inexplicably, this riddle seems to forget all about the adorable woodland animals—many of which we meet in this hilarious book that poses many thought-provoking conundrums of its own. For instance: “When a tree grows in the forest, two things can happen. It becomes a scratching post for Moose’s itchy antlers, and the tree sways gently side to side. OR… CRASH-BOOM! Moose pushes a little too hard, the tree falls on a cave, and the bear inside wakes up.”

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Image copyright Kasia Nowowiejska, 2019, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But how does Bear react? He can stay inside… OR come out to see what all the ruckus is about. And when he comes outside? Well, the domino effect could take over the forest… OR not. Alert readers will notice that Bear’s not the only one affected by the falling tree. Squirrel loses his home, but does he find the perfect replacement when a Nifty Nuts truck loaded with acorns gets entangled in this roller-coaster ride of a story… OR not?

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Image copyright Kasia Nowowiejska, 2019, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

As readers follow the action, they’ll wonder—will Squirrel discover a lifetime supply of nuts? Fame and fortune? An empty spot in his heart? And when (if?) “Scribble-Scratch! He writes a letter to Moose,” will Moose eat it or read it? The answers to these forest-related questions lead to a fantastic welcome-home feast with party hats and decorations and, of course, lots and lots of acorns that Squirrel will either gobble all up… OR….

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Image copyright Kasia Nowowiejska, 2019, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Nuttiness abounds in this funny story that will have kids on the edge of their seats and excitedly chiming in as each situation plays out, leading to more and more consequences for Squirrel. Cathy Ballou Mealey’s action-packed storytelling, punctuated with onomatopoeia, makes each page a joy to read aloud. Underlying all of the shenanigans is a sweet friendship story that will tug at readers’ hearts as the gently suspenseful circumstances seem to take Squirrel farther and farther away from the forest. Kids will cheer along with Moose, Bear, and a bevy of other cute animals as they celebrate Squirrel’s homecoming and enthusiastically approve of what Squirrel does with his windfall to guarantee that all the friends can stick together forever.

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Kasia Nowowiejska populates this most friendly of forests with adorable, wide-eyed animals whose expressions perfectly reflect their dilemmas without giving away the secret answers. Kids will laugh out loud to see Moose nervously clinging half-way up a tree as Bear growls, applaud squirrel’s aim with a slingshot, and wish they could join in the party when Squirrel comes home. Nowowiejska’s beautiful earth-tone color palette provides depth and texture to the lush foliage while highlighting each animal’s choices in clever and original ways that kids will love. The onomatopoeic phrases are spotlighted with vibrant, bold lettering, ensuring that readers will add their own spin to this fun element of the story.

No “OR…”s about it, When a Tree Grows will be a hit for lively, animated story times and would be an often-requested addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 and up 

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454921202

Discover more about Cathy Ballou Mealey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kasia Nowowiejska, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Cathy Ballou Mealey

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Cathy Ballou Mealey lives with her family north of Boston, where she delights in watching silly squirrel antics and is waiting patiently for a moose to appear. Her favorite nut is the hazelnut and her favorite cupcake is cardamom crème.

Thank you for inviting me to the fabulous Celebrate Picture Books! I am delighted to join your celebration of Get Caught Reading Week by talking about writing inspiration and what we might learn from our hobbies and jobs, and also sharing a story starter for a favorite fall holiday!

I’m delighted that we get to talk about all of these things—and more! So let’s get started at the beginning of your journey with When a Tree Grows!

What was the spark of inspiration that led to When a Tree Grows?

When A Tree Grows was inspired by a distant creaky Crash! that I heard in the woods while hiking with my family. Was it a falling tree? An animal? I wondered: What if that crash had scared a bear or frightened a deer?

Building on that “OR” question, I framed a wacky story with two different possible outcomes, one rather expected and one funny, unexpected outcome. Readers will find that “OR” spotlighted on the bottom corner of each recto page with a clever curled paper art effect.

You must have had fun coming up with the alternate scenarios in your book. Can you share any that didn’t make the cut?

An early draft had a sweet city scene between Squirrel and a pigeon, but it didn’t make the final cut. It was tender and poignant, but needed a funnier alternative outcome to move the storyline along. In the end, I am happy that only Squirrel, Moose and Bear share the spotlight!

I love Kasia Nowowiejska’s illustrations that combine adorable, expressive animals with silly antics. Do you have a favorite spread? Did anything in the illustrations surprise you? 

I agree! Kasia is from Poland, and I loved the European flair in her forest sketches. Seeing the warthog was a complete, delightful surprise. Warthogs are not animals we would typically see in a North American woodland, and that leads to great discussions with young readers.

You have degrees in psychobiology and classical civilization. Can you describe these a bit and how they are connected? Does your study of psychobiology help inform the character development in your stories?

Psychobiology is the study of the brain, behavior and cognitive processes. I found it fascinating to research why and how we think, feel and do the things we do! I learned how to be a good observer, listener, and follower of the empirical method. I also studied classical civilization because I loved Latin, and the professors were extremely gifted storytellers. They brought ancient texts to life through dramatic readings and captivating extemporaneous performances. Exactly how these field of study inform my present work is unclear, but a liberal arts education really does cultivate curious minds!

In your bio, you also say that you were a crossing guard, hash-slinger, gift-wrapper, and pet sitter. This sounds like perfect prep for becoming a picture book author! Have any of these jobs inspired a story? Do you have a funny or surprising experience you’d like to share?

Writers DO find a way to wring fictional purpose out of anything, don’t we? I have found that one common theme across many of my stories is work. In When A Tree Grows, Squirrel gets a job in the Nifty Nuts factory as a quality control inspector. That’s one job I have not done! But working as a department store gift-wrapper was a job where quality mattered. Customers could buy a specialty paper/ribbon combination or choose the free “store wrap” which was red with tiny white checkered squares. The squares had to line up perfectly, no matter how lumpy or bumpy the item was, or the boss would make us re-wrap it. Wrap a floor lamp? Rocking chair? I like to imagine one of my co-wrappers invented printed gift bags out of desperation.

In previous interviews, you’ve described how you wrote your first picture book to enter the Cheerios “spoonful of stories” contest. But did you always like to write? What kinds of writing did you do? What inspired you to try the picture book form?

As a kid I loved to write and illustrate greeting cards, so my earliest efforts were short and to the point, just like picture books. I also wrote scripts for Muppet-like puppet shows, assigning the best roles to myself, of course. When school assignments piled up and writing lost its luster, I stopped scribbling for pleasure. Decades later, having children led to reading many picture books and to many boxes of Cheerios. So those factors definitely helped re-ignite my passion for writing and picture books specifically.

When a Tree Grows was released on April 2. What have you found to be the best part of being a published author? If you’ve held any book events, can you describe the reactions of kids to your story?

Of course seeing Tree on bookstore shelves and in readers’ hands is delightful. Hearing people laugh at the funny spots is a thrill! I like to ask a helper to wave a big sign that says “OR” to dramatize the page turns during readings. And kids love to see Squirrel scooping coins out of the fountain to buy a bus ticket home – so naughty!

What’s up next for you?

Next up for me is a still-secret, super funny picture book with an amazing publisher in Canada. A sloth and a squirrel team up for a special mission. Look for an announcement soon, and a book sometime in 2021!

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

Halloween – because it is in the fall, my favorite season. It also happens to be my birthday! Costumes, candy, glowing pumpkins, being outside after dark – all these elements make magical memories for kids. And on top of all that I got a cake, candles, and presents too? Pretty great.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

What a great idea! Let’s imagine re-casting When A Tree Grows as a Halloween story.

When an Owl hoots in the forest on Halloween, two things could happen.

Warthog blows out the candle in her pumpkin. Trick or treat is over.

OR…

Eek! Warthog is startled and tosses her candy into the air.

When Warthog tosses her candy into the air, two things could happen.

What do YOU think should happen next?

Oh my! Let’s see…

Bat neatly snatches all the candy out of the air with her trick-or-treat bag.

OR…

A candy corn ricochets off a tree and bonks bat, sending her wildly off course.

Readers? What do YOU think? Add your ideas in the comments section below!

Well, this was tons of fun, Cathy! I’m so glad we had a chance to chat! I wish you all the best with When a Tree Grows!

You can connect with Cathy Ballou Mealey on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

When a Tree Grows Giveaway

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

  • One (1) copy of When a Tree Grows written by Cathy Ballou Mealey | illustrated by Kasia Nowowiejska

To Enter:

Leave a comment here on this post answering the story starter at the end of my interview with Cathy or mention your favorite kind of forest animal.

OR…

Follow me @CelebratePicBks and Cathy @CatBallouMealey on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet

This giveaway is open from May 7 through May 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 14.

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books

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

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Moose starts a whole string of events in today’s book! What will you get up to in your own moose antlers?

Supplies

  • Stiff brown paper
  • Brown hair band
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Tape

Directions

  1. Trace your hands with fingers spread on the brown paper. Leave a 1 – 2 inch tab on the end of the wrist for wrapping around the head band
  2. Cut out the hand prints
  3. Place one hand print on the right side of the headband with the thumb of the hand pointing up.
  4. Wrap the tab around the headband and secure with tape
  5. Place the second hand print on the left side of the headband with the thumb pointing up.
  6. Wrap the tab around the headband and secure with tape.

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You can find When a Tree Grows at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 27 – International Polar Bear Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate polar bears, the largest member of the bear family and a critical part of the Arctic ecosystem. These beautiful creatures spend much of their time at the edge of ice packs, from which they hunt for food. Their excellent sense of smell allows them to sense food up to a mile (1.6 km) away. Increasingly polar bears are under threat from changes in climate which are shrinking their habitat and affecting their quality of life. In honor of today’s holiday take time to research polar bears and consider donating to a cause for their protection.

Little Polar Bear

By Hans de Beer

 

At last little Lars is old enough to go hunting with his father, and they head out into the white, frozen expanse to find the perfect fishing spot. While Lars watched from the edge of an ice pack, his dad disappeared underwater for so long that Lars began to worry. When he finally surfaced, however, he brought with him a large fish for dinner. After dinner it was time to sleep. Lars’ father showed him how to build a wall of snow to lie behind that would protect him from the wind.

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Copyright Hans de Beer, 2016, courtesy of NorthSouth Books.

During the night as Lars and his father slept, the ice cracked between them, sending Lars floating away by himself. When Lars woke in the morning, he discovered that he was alone and that the warm sun was melting his ice floe little by little. Just as the ice threatened to disappear entirely, a barrel floated by and Lars crawled on top of it. “Then a storm began to rage. As Lars clung to his bobbing barrel he missed his father and his pile of snow more and more.”

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Copyright Hans de Beer, 2016, courtesy of NorthSouth Books.

By the time the storm subsided Lars was far from home. He found himself in a place with no snow or ice; instead “almost everything was green and the sun was very warm.” Lars left the barrel and padded onto the sandy beach. The hot sand burned Lars’ paws, and he ran to the nearby river to cool them. “But just as he was about to plunge in, a very big, tan animal sprung out of the water.” Frightened, Lars ran away, but the hippopotamus followed him and introduced himself. Henry had never seen a white bear, and Lars had never seen a tan animal.

Lars told Henry about his trip and how he wanted to find father. Henry didn’t know how to help, but he figured that Marcus the eagle would know what to do. With Lars on his back Henry started the long journey across the river, through the jungle, and over the mountains. On the way, Lars loved seeing all the different colors, creatures, and vegetation. He climbed trees, met a chameleon, and sniffed at a butterfly. When they came to the mountains, Henry had trouble climbing, but Lars scampered ahead and showed him where to step.

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Image copyright Hans de Beer, 2016, courtesy of NorthSouth Books.

Finally, Henry couldn’t go any farther. He and Lars found a place to rest for the night. The view of the water made Lars homesick, but Henry reassured him. The next day, high on the mountain, Lars and Henry found Marcus. “The eagle looked at Lars and then said, ‘Well, well, a polar bear in the tropics! You’re a long way from home aren’t you, young man?’”

Marcus explained that he could indeed help Lars get home, but they would need the assistance of Samson. In the morning a gray whale swam near shore, and Lars climbed on his back. While Henry was happy that Lars could find his way home, he was also sad to see him go. He and Lars said goodbye to each other. As Henry looked on, Samson and Lars swam out into the open ocean with Marcus flying “along a bit to set them on their way.”

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Image copyright Hans de Beer, 2016, courtesy of NorthSouth Books.

After Samson had swum a long distance, icy cliffs once again appeared on the horizon. As they drew closer, Lars spotted his father standing at the edge of the ice scanning the sea. Lars called out to him, and Lars’ father couldn’t believe his eyes. In thanks for bringing back his son, Lars’s father caught a big fish and gave it to Samson. Lars and his father started toward home, and as they walked “Lars talked about all of the amazing things he had seen.” His father was astonished. “‘You didn’t meet anyone who was white?’” he asked. “‘Nobody, except a chameleon,’ said Lars, ‘but that doesn’t count.’” Lars laughed, but his dad couldn’t understand the joke.

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Copyright Hans de Beer, 2016, courtesy of NorthSouth Books.

Hans de Beer’s sweet, adventurous little polar bear has been long beloved by young readers who have followed his journeys and escapades through many books. This favorite introduction to Lars, his father, and the North Pole was reissued in 2016 and is as timely now as when it was first published. De Beer’s straightforward story of a young bear suddenly taken away from home, surviving by instinct, and discovering new places, friends, and ideas, is at once exciting and comforting. As Lars finds himself in unfamiliar territory populated with animals and creatures he’s never seen before, he doesn’t shy away from the experience, but embraces the diversity of what he sees just as the tropical animals accept him. The kindness and camaraderie shared among the animals is a universal lesson for all.

Little ones love de Beer’s expressive animals and the caring interactions between them. Kids will laugh when Henry pops out of the river to say “boo!” and giggle to see Lars and the chameleon sticking out their tongues together. The soft pastel palette invites kids to linger over the pages and experience both the frozen tundra and lush jungle with the same awe as Lars. Readers will cheer when Lars is reunited with his father, but will also look forward to traveling with their new friend again in his other adventures.

Ages 3 – 8

NorthSouth Books, 2016 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0735842649

International Polar Bear Day Activity

CPB - Polar Bear scarf

CPB - Polar Bear Banner

Polar Bear Scarf or Banner

Polar bears aren’t cold in the winter—and neither should you be! Here are directions and printable templates for making a cute scarf to keep you warm, or—if you’d rather—a banner to warm up your room.

Supplies

  • Printable Polar Bear and Igloo Template
  • 1 Strip of blue fleece 4 ½ feet long x 7 inches wide for the scarf
  • 1 Piece of blue scrapbooking paper for a banner
  • Pieces of white, black, blue, and purple fleece or scrapbooking paper to make the polar bear, igloo, snowflakes, and ice floes.
  • String or twine for banner
  • Scissors
  • Fabric or paper glue

Directions for Scarf

To make the fringe at each end of the scarf

  1. Make 7 cuts about 4 inches long
  2. Tie a knot at the top of each fringe section

To make the pieces for the scarf or banner

  1. Trace the polar bear and igloo sections from the Printable Template onto white fleece and cut out
  2. Trace the two ice floes onto blue fleece and cut out
  3. Trace the door of the igloo onto blue fleece and cut out
  4. Trace the polar bear’s scarf onto purple (or any color) fleece and cut out
  5. Cut out round snowflakes
  6. Cut out a small circle from black fleece for the Polar Bear’s nose

On one end of the scarf

  1. Glue the smaller ice floe on one end of the scarf
  2. Tie the bear’s scarf around its neck before gluing the bear to the scarf
  3. Glue the polar bear onto the scarf with its feet on the ice floe
  4. Glue on the polar bear’s nose
  5. Make a small dot for the polar bear’s eye with a marker
  6. Glue snowflakes above polar bear

On the other end of the scarf

  1. Glue the bigger ice floe to the scarf
  2. Glue the three pieces of the large igloo to the scarf, leaving a little space between sections
  3. Glue the small white door of the igloo on top of the last two igloo sections
  4. Glue the small blue door onto the white door
  5. Glue snowflakes above the igloo

Directions for Banner

  1. Cut a point at the bottom of your banner
  2. Follow the directions above to trace the pieces of the polar bear and igloo from the printable template onto scrapbooking paper
  3. Follow the directions above to glue the pieces of the polar bear and igloo to your banner
  4. Attach string or twine to back of banner to make a hanger

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You can find The Little Polar Bear at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review