September 19 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

As September winds down, I’m happy to feature another new book for this month’s special holiday. Searching for and sharing new books—whether they are recently published or just new to you—is not only a fun way to spend a day together with kids, but an experience that pays big benefits now and in the future. Make a plan to add a few new books to your home library or visit your local library today!

Thanks go to Bloomsbury Children’s Book for sending me a copy of Time to Roar for review consideration. All opinion on the book are mine.

Time to Roar: A Story about Raising Your Voice

Written by Olivia A. Cole | Illustrated by Jessica Gibson

For Sasha, the meadow in the middle of the forest was where she felt most at peace, where she could “enjoy the feeling of being a bear.” Before dawn, she would lie in the meadow, where “…the smell of green was like a song she knew by heart.” But one morning, Sasha watched as noisy “yellow beasts” began tearing up the meadow with their silver teeth. A squirrel predicted that soon nothing would be left of their home.

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Image copyright Jessica Gibson, 2020, text copyright Olivia A. Cole, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sasha was ready to charge down the hill and confront the machines. But the squirrel advised caution and suggested all the animals have a meeting. Sasha relented. As the squirrel called the animals, they came out of hiding and listed to the squirrel talk about the danger that had come. Sasha was again ready to stop them with her mighty roar, but the bluebird thought she could persuade them with her song. As he flew over the machines, however their noise drowned out his song’s sweetness.

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Image copyright Jessica Gibson, 2020, text copyright Olivia A. Cole, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Rabbit had another idea of how he could distract them, but her attempt went unnoticed too. The deer thought he could lead the machines away from their home, but his appearance made no difference either. In fear, all the animals rushed to hide. “‘It’s the only way we will survive!’” they exclaimed. But Sasha did not hide. “Inside her, anger welled up, sparkling. Maybe it was stronger than yellow beasts.” She thought about all the tactics the other animals had taken. “She knew what had to be done…. Sometimes a bear had to raise her voice.” She ran to the edge of the meadow and ROARED until the echo of her roars shook the yellow machines. This time when the ground shook it was with the rumble of the machines fleeing the meadow.

When the meadow was quiet again, the other animals came out of hiding. They sadly acknowledged that their attempts had not worked, but Sasha consoled them, telling them that there were times when quieter approaches to a problem were needed. But there were also times that required a “ROAR.”

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Image copyright Jessica Gibson, 2020, text copyright Olivia A. Cole, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Olivia A. Cole’s straightforward and powerful story about directly speaking up to oppose dangerous events or people is a very welcome book not only for this time, but for all times and all ages. In an age where young people and even children are leading the charge to procure a peaceful, fair, and unpolluted future, Time to Roar offers encouragement and support for those who courageously “see something and say something,” a lesson they have grown up hearing. A striking feature of Cole’s story is her inclusion of the alternate philosophies and tactics many people advocate to combat threats and her forthright depiction of how and why these approaches often don’t work. Children struggling with bullies or what to do about issues they disagree with at school or in other groups as well as those who want to make a difference in their town, their country, or for the world at large will find much to inspire and empower them in Cole’s well-paced and well-told story.

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Jessica Gibson’s compelling digital illustrations pack persuasive power as Sasha determines to rid the meadow of the bulldozers sent to destroy it. With the turn of one page, the soft colors of an idyllic dawn meadow give way to a harsh glare further spoiled with plumes of smoke and blinding headlights. Black silhouettes of squirrels, rabbits, birds, and dear dash out of the way, visual metaphors for the loss the construction will wreck on the forest. Sasha’s anger and the concern of the other animals shows clearly on their faces, and while the bluebird, rabbit, and deer are well-intentioned, Gibson’s depictions of their attempts to turn back the bulldozers shows the futility of these responses against the enormity of their foe. Gibson’s portrayal of Sasha roaring to shake the earth and the status quo will spur confidence and buoy readers’ hearts.

An empowering story to inspire children to raise their voice, Time to Roar would be an excellent addition to home libraries. The book would also pair well with social studies and history lessons about appeasement and the effects of protest—or the lack of it, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547603701

Discover more about Olivia A. Cole and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jessica Gibson, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Wooden Spoon Microphone

A microphone can help anyone be heard. With this easy craft your child can turn a wooden cooking spoon into a fun microphone for all those times when they have something important to say.

Supplies

  • Long-handled wooden spoon
  • Black craft paint
  • Silver craft paint
  • Black permanent marker

Directions

  1. Paint the handle of the spoon black, let dry
  2. Paint the head of the spoon silver, let dry
  3. After the paint is dry, make rows of small dots on the head of the spoon

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You can find Time to Roar at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 23 – It’s Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

There’s a true art in putting together a delicious meal from seemingly disparate parts, and this month’s holiday honors those with a talent for combining tastes, flavors, and textures. With fresh ingredients available at farm stores, farmers markets, grocery stores, and maybe even your own garden, July is a great month for celebrating the culinary arts. This month spend time with your kids in the kitchen. It’s a terrific way to learn new cooking skills and practice practical math while creating experimental or favorite recipes. And, of course, be sure to remember to make a few treats!

Dozens of Doughnuts

Written by Carrie Finison | Illutrated by Brianne Farley

 

On a bright autumn morning, LouAnn is busy making a dozen doughnuts—her last treat before her long winter nap. “One dozen doughnuts, hot from the pan. / Toasty, and tasty, and ALL for— / DING-DONG! / ‘Woodrow?’” At the door stands a little beaver. LouAnn invites him in and seats him at the kitchen table. They’re just about to split the doughnuts when the doorbell chimes again.

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

This time it’s Clyde, the raccoon. LouAnn welcomes him in and offers him her plate of doughnuts while she whips up another batch. These doughnuts—four for each—are frosted in blue. They’re all about to take a bite when “DING-DONG!” Tospy the possum arrives. “‘Delicious!’ cries Topsy. / She gulps down a swallow. / LouAnn’s heart feels warm, / but her belly feels hollow.” She stirs and she fries and soon has “One dozen doughnuts, hot from the pan. / Some for each friend, and the rest for— / DING-DONG! / ‘Mouffette?’”

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

A skunk joins the group, nibbling and toasting with three doughnuts each as LouAnn uses her last egg to make more. This is it—the last dozen doughnuts. LouAnn is ready to munch when… you know! But there’s not a friend at the door—there are two! Two little chipmunks cram their cheeks full. And LouAnn? “She’s ready to sleep through the snow, ice, and sleet. / But winter is near and there’s NOTHING to eat!”

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

From deep down in her grumbling, rumbling belly there emerges a huge “ROAR!”  as all of the friends “dash for the door.” LouAnn cries it out and collapses on the floor. Then “DING-DONG!” Who could be left? Who is there now? It seems Woodrow and Clyde, Topsy and Mouffette, and even Chip and Chomp are more observant than they might have seemed. They’ve brought milk and flour, eggs and supplies. And after snugging LouAnn into her favorite chair, they go to work. Soon there are “dozens of doughnuts, / hot from the pan. / Stacked up in heaps, and they’re ALL for LouAnn!” But does she gobble them all down, or are there some left for—?

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

I’ve been looking forward to reviewing Dozens of Doughnuts ever since I met Carrie Finison at a kidlit conference last year, and am excited to feature this charmer for Culinary Arts Month. Finison’s bright, bouncy rhythm and perfect rhymes set up brilliant suspenseful page turns that, while disappointing for LouAnn, will have readers in gales of giggles and chiming along after the first surprising twist. LouAnn’s ready willingness to share her dozens of doughnuts is kindness at its best and also provide an invitation for kids to do a little math as each friend shares in LouAnn’s generosity. When LouAnn, getting hungrier and sleepier, finally cracks, sending her friends running, the final “DING-DONG!” ushers in another sweet surprise. Just like readers, it seems LouAnn’s friends have been paying attention to the numbers, and they want to be sure that LouAnn gets her equal share too. Finison’s storytelling provides a baker’s dozen of delight and will become a favorite read aloud for any child.

Deliciously enchanting, Brianne Farley’s illustrations introduce some of the most adorable forest animals around as they come to visit LouAnn, lured by the aroma of her doughnuts. Farley has designed for LouAnn a little stone house that’s an ingenious update on a bear’s cave and has decorated it with from a fresh color palette. Likewise, her autumn foliage makes use of creative raspberry russets and glowing yellows. LouAnn’s facial expressions clearly depict her waning enthusiasm for all the interruptions, but also her gracious personality once she opens the door. Kids will love watching the window beside the front door and trying to guess who each new guest will be.

The detailed images of doughnuts on each animal’s plate makes it easy for children and adults to talk about math concepts, including counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and sorting. When hunger and weariness finally overtake LouAnn, kids and adults will recognize her meltdown and commiserate with her. The return of LouAnn’s friends with supplies and good cheer makes this pre-hibernation party one that all children will want to attend (with their own doughnuts, of course!).

Endearing to the max, Dozens of Doughnuts is a joy to share and is sure to stir up enthusiasm for repeat readings at home, in the classroom, or for public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525518358

Discover more about Carrie Finison and her books on her website.

To learn more about Brianne Farley, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Culinary Arts Month Activity

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Are some of  your CDs a little passé? Not if you can turn them into cute décor like this doughnut – or bagel – hanging.

Supplies

  • Unused CDs or cut circles from cardboard or regular or thick poster board
  • Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
  • Ribbon, any color and length you want
  • Fine-tip markers in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (optional)
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint a wavy edge around the CD or other material and let dry
  2. Add “frosting” by painting from the wavy line inward to the clear center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted. If using another material, draw and cut a center “hole” for your doughnut.
  3. When the “frosting” is dry, draw sprinkles on it with the markers
  4. With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
  5. Hang your decoration

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You can find Dozens of Doughnuts at these booksellers

Amazon| Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 14 – Pandemonium Day and Interview with Author/Illustrator Abi Cushman

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About the Holiday

Do you feel like you’re in a rut? Is life too organized, too sedate? Then what you need is a little pandemonium! If you and your kids have a set plan for today, throw it out and have fun doing whatever comes to mind. Feel like joining the kids in a water balloon fight? Do it! Ever wonder what pickle chocolate-chip cookies taste like? Make them! Today’s holiday is all about freeing yourself from preconceptions and inhibitions that might keep you from letting go and enjoying life to the fullest. Celebrate today by doing something wild with your family. You may even be inspired by today’s book!

By Jakki Licare

Soaked!

By Abi Cushman

 

It is a rainy day and Bear points out that no one is happy. Not even the hula hooping moose! Bear hates when it rains. The rain wrecks all of his favorite things: “ice cream cones, sand castles, cashmere sweaters. What’s that you say?” Bear asks readers. “Why don’t we just go inside my cave until the rain stops?” It’s a good idea, but when Bear and all his friends enter the cave, the Hula-Hooping moose takes up all the space. Bear begins to look for his umbrella. He searches for it everywhere and all his friends help, but no one can find it. Bear explains, “Badger said she found her blue bumblebee umbrella. But not mine.”

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Copyright Abi Cushman, 2020, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Unhappy, Bear sits on a fallen tree wallowing in what a “Blahhhhhhhhhhhhh…” day it is as Moose passes by, cartwheeling and Hula-Hooping at the same time. With a Fwoop, he loses control of the hoop and it flies into a tree. The animals look up, and Bear makes an observation: “Wait a minute. We can’t have a Hula-Hooping moose without a Hula-Hoop, can we.” So they stack up to get moose’s Hula-Hoop out of the tree. Bunny’s juuuuust got it when they lose their balance and all fall into a giant puddle.

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Copyright Abi Cushman, 2020, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

The Hula Hoop falls over Bear’s head and the animals encourage him to try it. Bear gives it a whirl. “There. I did it. Totally unfun. Just like I thought. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a moment to myself.” Bear sneaks around the tree with the Hula-Hoop and twirls it round and round, kicking up big puddle waves. Then all the animals join him and have a blast splashing and Hula-Hooping in the puddles until “everyone is soaked!” Somehow, Bear has acquired everyone’s Hula Hoops, and he’s having so much fun—“It’s so splishy and sploshy! Silly and soggy!” he exclaims—that he hasn’t noticed the rain has stopped. Bear drops the Hula Hoops and shuffles off, grumbling, “Blah. Too sunny.”

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Copyright Abi Cushman, 2020, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Told in first person from Bear’s perspective, Abi Cushman’s Bear humorously reflects every kid’s rainy day blues. Cushman’s humor will bring readers back to read her story again and again. Little kids will giggle at mopey Bear who wishes he could just eat his ice cream cone, Bear’s  hilarious and random Hula-Hooping moose friend, and how no one can fit into Bear’s cave because moose is taking up all the space twirling his hula hoops. Her poignant pauses in the text allow for the momentum of the story to build up to the great big splash! Every child will enjoy diving into this silly story.

Cushman’s soft backgrounds and great animal expressions will pull readers into this soggy adventure. Her illustrations of the melted ice cream cone, rain-drenched fur, and collapsed sandcastles perfectly reflect sad rainy-day blues. Little ones will be sure to pick up on all of the fun illustrative details and the moment when Bear has a change of heart. My kids loved how Badger is sneakily catching Bear’s melting ice cream in his own cup. Also, be on the look out for Bunny who wears Bear’s shrunken cashmere sweater as well as Badger’s broken umbrella after the fall. When the animals tumble into the puddle, Cushman uses a variety of textures and colors that really make the splash jump right off the page. Even the endpapers showcase her visual humor from start to finish. The front endpapers show Badger taking one of the bumblebee umbrellas, and at the end we see Bunny in her oversized cashmere sweater Hula Hooping.

Goofy pandemonium saves the day in the hilarious Soaked!, which is sure to be an often-asked-for favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1984836625

Discover more about Abi Cushman, her book, and her art as well as a Soaked Bear Craft and a 10-page Activity Kit on her website.

Meet Abi Cushman

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Today I’m excited to talk with Abi Cushman about the inspiration for her debut picture book, her road to publication, and how she developed her distinctive art style.

I’m in love with Soaked! and Bear’s rainy adventure. What was the inspiration for Soaked!? And how did you come up with a hula hooping moose?

Thanks, Jakki! I’m thrilled to share Soaked! with you and all the Celebrate Picture Books readers. The initial idea for Soaked! came to me while out for a walk and got caught in a torrential rainstorm. I was 8 months pregnant and well into the waddling stage of my pregnancy. On my slow, soggy walk home, I realized it was actually quite pleasant to be completely soaked. So I wrote this tidbit into my Ugly Sketchbook (the sketchbook where I keep my story ideas):

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After mulling it over for months, I kept drawing various versions of this sorry-looking wet bear. And at that point, I realized I wanted to write a funny story centered around him.

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As for the hula-hooping moose, the beginning of my story involves a badger and a bunny, and I wanted something absurd to break up the rhythm of woodland animals starting with the letter B. (Bear also starts with the letter B, but he’s the narrator.) So, the first absurd thing I thought of was a dancing moose. I pictured him dancing it up in the cave with glow sticks.

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But in revisions, I changed the dancing moose to a hula-hooping one (but made sure those hoops were glow-in-the-dark).

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Soaked! is your debut book. Can you talk about your path to publication?

In 2018, I entered the Portfolio Showcase at the New England SCBWI Conference in Springfield, MA. I included a rough dummy of Soaked! with my portfolio. To my complete amazement, I ended up winning the showcase.

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One of the judges was Jim Hoover, art director at Viking. He asked to see the dummy again and shared it with Tracy Gates, an editor he thought would get my quirky sense of humor. At that point, I introduced them to my agent, Kendra Marcus from BookStop Literary, and she handled all the communications from then on. Jim and Tracy offered feedback on the dummy, so I did some revisions based on their notes. And happily, they loved the revision, and I got an offer for a two-book deal!

Later in the year, I started working with Jim and Tracy on the book. And I can say that making the book was such a collaborative effort, and the final book is so much better than I ever could have imagined because of the experience, knowledge, and talent that Jim and Tracy brought to the table. I finished up all my final art in the fall of 2019, and I finally got to hold the real book in my hands at the end of June this year. It’s a dream come true.

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I know you have your hands full taking care of two little ones. How do you manage making time for your art, writing and creativity in general? Also, has being a mother changed your approach to creating picture books or the content in your picture books?

Yes, life with small children is intense! But, luckily, I have a very supportive husband, which makes all the difference. He’s a teacher and has summers off and he definitely takes the brunt of the childcare/housework in the summer months. Also, I have always been a night owl, so my natural inclination is to work late at night. And that is how I balance home life with work and art. I do most of my writing and art after the kids go to sleep, and the house is quiet.

Being a mother has definitely influenced my writing/illustrating career. For one thing, I’m really well-versed in current picture books. Before the quarantine, my kids and I would visit the library every week. I always took the opportunity to read all the new kids’ books. It was great. And of course, I love that I get to experience the world anew with my kids. Their unbridled curiosity and enthusiasm is infectious. And I think being in touch with kids’ sense of wonder and their sense of humor is so important when you’re writing for kids.

Were there any books that inspired you as a child to become a writer or illustrator or both?

I loved poring over the illustrations in books by Richard Scarry and Beatrix Potter when I was a kid. I would try to draw characters in their style. I always loved that their stories featured animal characters with a lot of personality because I always gravitated toward drawing animals myself. But I never thought of myself as a writer growing up, to be honest. I gained confidence that I could write my own stories when I enrolled in Storyteller Academy in 2016.

Your portfolio is full of lovable creatures who are positively brimming with personality. My favorites are the skydiving hippo and the buffalo standing in the tall grass on a windy day. How did you develop your illustrative style? What mediums do you work in?

Thank you! I am so hopeful that I will come up with a story for both the sky diving hippo and the highland cow. I did both of those pieces as illustration prompts for SCBWI’s DrawThis challenge.

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It took me years to figure out a drawing style that would work for me for kids’ books. When I graduated from college, I was doing a fairly realistic style. My favorite medium was pastels. I later experimented with a cartoonier style that was all digital. I loved the realistic style/traditional approach for the textures and the organic feel. But it was hard for me to work small enough and neat enough.

The cartoony style/digital approach was fun and really easy to correct mistakes and adjust the layout. But it lacked the expressiveness that children’s book illustrations need. When I learned that Mike Curato (Little Elliott) and Sam Garton (I Am Otter) worked in a hybrid manner, it was a game changer for me. I now draw all my characters with a mechanical pencil on computer paper. I scan those into Photoshop, then I color in the characters and paint in the backgrounds using the pastel brush with a Wacom Cintiq tablet. It’s the best of both worlds!

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Can you walk us through how you create your stories? As an author/illustrator do you usually start with writing or sketching or does it depend on the story?

In general, I start with sketches of characters and scenes. I also jot down funny lines. Then I piece those parts together like a puzzle. I’ll draw little thumbnails, and then I put together a little mini-dummy by cutting some computer paper in half and then folding it into a booklet. There’s a lot of cutting and pasting that happens to get the pacing right. Usually, I don’t even sit down to type out the manuscript until I have the story figured out in dummy form first.

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What’s next for you?

I am wrapping up final art for my second book with Viking called Animals Go Vroom!, which comes out next summer and combines animal sounds with transportation. It has die-cut peekaboo windows and challenges readers to guess what goes roar, hiss, and honk. I think kids will have a lot of fun yelling out the answers as they read along.

Thanks so much, Abi, for chatting with me and sharing so many pictures! This has been great fun. I wish you all the best with Soaked! and can’t wait to see Animals Go Vroom!

You can connect with Abi Cushman on

Her websiteInstagram | Twitter

You’ll also enjoy Abi’s two websites

Animal Fact Guide | My House Rabbit 

Pandemonium Day Activity

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Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head Craft

 

Looking for a rainy-day activity to keep the kids busy? Create this active picture that will wow kids even after the craft is done. Blue beads slide on thread making it look like it is actually raining

Supplies

  • Printable Umbrella Template
  • Picture of child pretending to hold umbrella
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Blue Beads
  • White thread, Yarn or Pipe Cleaners (pipe cleaners will work better for pre-school aged children)

Directions

  1. Print out Template
  2. Cut out picture of your child
  3. Tape picture under the umbrella
  4. Cut a small horizontal slit at the top about an inch down
  5. Cut another slit 3″ down
  6. Cut another 1/4″ down
  7. Cut another slit 3″ down
  8. Cut another 1/4″ down
  9. Cut another slit 3″ down
  10. Repeat slits about 2” over. Make about 10 slits total
  11. Tape string/thread/pipe cleaner to the back of picture
  12. Pull string/thread/pipe cleaner to the front
  13. Add a bead or two or three!
  14. Weave string to back through the next slit and then to front again
  15. Add another bead
  16. Repeat till you reach the bottom
  17. Tape string/thread/pipe cleaner to the back
  18. Repeat for the rest of the slits.
  19. Move the picture around and beads will mimic rain falling!

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You can find Soaked! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 15 – Fly a Kite Day

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About the Holiday

When Fly a Kite Day and Global Wind Day occur on the same day, you know it’s time to get outside and send a kite soaring. A terrific activity to do with kids – especially in this time of social distancing, kite flying is not only fun but it teaches concepts about the wind, flight, and distance. And if you make your own kite, kids get a lesson in design and engineering with some practice with tools thrown in too. So celebrate today with the kite of your choice and keep the fun going all summer long. 

Bear Out There

By Jacob Grant

 

While Bear had tea, Spider was showing him the kite he had made. “He was very excited to fly it out in the yard.” Spider loved everything about the outdoors—the sun, the gentle breeze, the plants, and even the bugs. Bear loved everything about staying indoors. He was looking forward to cleaning up his house and having another cup of tea.

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Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But then Spider’s kite took off on its own and because Bear was a good friend, he said he would help look for it. But he reminded Spider: “…you know I do not like the forest.” In fact, Bear did not like anything about the forest—the “filthy ground…the itchy plants…the pesky bugs.” Spider, on the other hand, thought a search through the forest would be fun.

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Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As they walked, Bear grumbled and complained about the fragrant weeds, the noisy owls, and all the other “unpleasant” things all around them. They had still not found the kite when it started to rain. Now, not even Spider was having a good time, and Bear was more miserable than before. “‘Surely this search cannot get any worse!’ he said. But it could.”

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Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Bear gave up. He was ready to go home and have a cup of tea in his comfy chair. But then he saw Spider sitting on a rock. Rain drops splashed off his tiny button hat and he looked bedraggled and disappointed. Bear relented. “‘Maybe we could look just a little farther,’” he said. Spider was happy just to be with Bear.

The rain lessened and Bear and Spider looked up at the clearing sky. There, stuck in the branch of a tree, was Spider’s kite. Back home, they soaked in a hot bath, patched the rips in Spider’s kite, made one for Bear, and, of course, had tea—which they enjoyed while flying their kites from Bear’s comfy chair out in the yard.

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Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Jacob Grant’s seemingly odd-couple friendship between a big black bear and an itty-bitty spider is as charming and comforting as it gets. While Spider loves the outdoors, Bear is a homebody; but when his friend needs help, Bear puts his own feelings aside to help. It doesn’t take long—only one page, in fact—for Bear to give up the tidy day he had planned for a tromp through the woods in search of Spider’s lost kite. As the hunt grows long and conditions worsen, Bear begins to grumble until he finally gives up. Again, though, one glance at disappointed Spider spurs him on to continue the search. And for Spider, just having Bear by his side makes things all right.

The dynamics between Bear and Spider are pitch perfect, mirroring the love and trust between parents and kids, best friends, teachers and students, and other adult-child pairs. A story isn’t a real story without change, and here, too, Grant offers an inspiring truism. The final scene in which Bear and Spider both enjoy flying kites while sipping tea and lounging in Bear’s chair shows the joy of sharing and embracing another’s favorite activity.

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Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Grant’s gentle, soft-hued illustrations are full of meaning and humor, of the forest’s allure that Bear doesn’t see, and of Spider’s feelings that he does. Although Bear is a neat-freak—scrubbing, dusting, and sweeping—he’s careful to leave Spider’s resting spots intact. In the woods, Bear grumbles about the smells, the noise, and the general unpleasantness while readers see a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a topsy-turvy turn of events in an owl’s nest, and a scenic panorama complete with waterfall and butterflies. Coming back to their home with its inviting pink teapot and orange chairs is the perfect antidote to any busy or stressful day.

Bear Out There is an endearing read and would be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves for its sweet depiction of what true friendship between adults and kids or among children is all about. Readers won’t want to miss Jacob Grant’s first Bear and Spider adventure, Bear’s Scare.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681197456

To learn more about Jacob Grant, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Fly a Kite Day Activity

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Soaring Kite Maze

 

The dips and rises your pencil takes through this maze is a little like the way a kite flies through the sky! Print your Soaring Kite Maze and enjoy!

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You can find Bear Out There at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound 

Picture Book Review

January 29 – Curmudgeons Day

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About the Holiday

You know how gray days (literal and metaphorical) make you feel—grumpy, irritable, standoffish. Today is a day when it’s ok to indulge—and maybe even celebrate—those feelings. Being grouchy may even spur you to make a much-needed change, so explore those feelings, take control, and do what you can to alleviate the situation that’s giving you the grumps. Whether you choose to stay home today and do nothing or to get out there and make the best of it, have a Happy Curmudgeon’s Day!

Bruce’s Big Storm

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

“Bruce was a bear who did not like neighbors.” They were always hanging around making noise, bringing him homemade brownies, wanting to borrow things, and wondering if he’d like to come out and play games like “Frying Pan Ball.” Unfortunately, “neighbors lived all over Bruce’s neighborhood.” Bruce had gotten used to these impromptu visits and was happy that they usually didn’t last too long. But one day a big storm brought neighbors and more neighbors knocking at his door and wanting to ride out the storm at his house.

While Bruce bristled at the thought, his mice thought storms were less scary when shared with others, and they invited the whole neighborhood in for a pajama party. Soon, Bruce’s living room was stuffed to the rafters. It seemed the whole neighborhood was there, but then Rupert spied a bunny outside struggling against the wind. Nibbs grabbed the red umbrella and headed out to save him.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2019, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

But the wind grabbed the open umbrella and Nibbs with it, and in a moment Nibbs was soaring away above the house. He tumbled and swirled and finally came to pointy landing in front of the bunny. As the bunny was helping Nibbs down from the handle of the umbrella, another gust of wind swept the umbrella, Nibbs, and the bunny away. Just as they were climbing higher into the air, though, a big, furry paw reached up to save them. But even Bruce was no match for the wind. Into the torrent came the neighbors, who made a chain “and together, they pulled the bunny, the mouse, and the grumpy old bear back to safety—along with the umbrella.”

Back inside, everyone dried off with Bruce’s clean towels and settled in to play games even though “Bruce did not like games.” Then just as the bunny shouted “‘Duck, duck, Bruce!” a tree fell on Bruce’s house and crashed through the roof. Everyone was okay, “but the roof was not.” Even so, all the neighbors stayed and snuggled up in a dry corner for the night.

In the morning Bruce went outside to inspect the damage. His house needed a lot of repairs. As his neighbors headed home, they left “Bruce behind to grumble in the rubble.” But soon, they were back with tools, plans, and lots of supplies “to lend a hand, hoof, paw, or wing to help Bruce rebuild.” In time, Bruce’s house was even better than it had been before. Now it had a “Rumpus Room…for rumpusing,” as Nibbs and Rupert explained. Bruce’s Rumpus Room became a favorite hangout in Soggy Hollow for fun and games. And while Bruce still did not like fun or the neighbors, “they sure liked him.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2019, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Readers will sure like Ryan T. Higgins’ latest installment in his beloved Bruce series. Beginning with the map of Soggy Hollow on the cover beneath the book jacket and the following two-page spread of the Soggy Hollow Community Board—complete with hilarious ads and notices for such neighborhood events as a 5K Turtle Run, Leech Pond swim lessons, and Edible Rocks—Higgins immerses kids in the life and lore of this woodland town. Bruce, his unibrow familiarly and perpetually furrowed, is the same curmudgeon readers have heartily embraced since he adopted a gaggle of hapless geese in Mother Bruce, and his neighbors will raise giggles as they interrupt his peaceful life with their kid-inspired requests.

Higgins delights in poking fun at weather reports and sets up funny sight gags as the neighborhood animals find shelter at Bruce’s house. Of course, readers know there’s no better way to wait out a storm than by spending the day wearing pajamas and playing games, and the party at Bruce’s is as cozy as it gets. Kids will sympathize with Bruce as the morning after reveals the tree’s devastation, but they’ll be cheered to see that his favorite chair was spared. As in all of Higgins’ Bruce books, it doesn’t take long for this grumpy bear to show his true deep-down feelings or the for-bear-ance that  attracts so many friends.

A definite must whether you’re a long-time Bruce fan or just getting to know him. Bruce’s Big Storm will be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2019 | ISBN 978-1368026222

To learn more about Ryan T. Higgins, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Curmudgeon’s Day Activity

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Stay-in Starter Kit

 

Curmudgeon’s Day is a time to surround yourself with favorite comforts. Here are some ideas for a Stay-in Kit that would make spending the day inside so much better:

  • Cozy blanket
  • Soft pillow
  • Comfy jammies
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Fluffy friend
  • Favorite book
  • Coloring book
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Playing cards
  • Good movie or TV show
  • Fun craft project
  • Hot chocolate
  • Tea
  • Popcorn

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You can find Bruce’s Big Storm at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 2 – It’s National Chicken Month

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About the Holiday

For over twenty years, the National Chicken Council has used the month of September to promote chicken sales as the summer grilling season winds down. The endeavor has been so successful that September is now known as National Chicken Month! While chicken on the dinner plate or in a sandwich is delicious, chickens also make good pets and—as today’s book proves—great friends!

Bear and Chicken

By Jannie Ho

 

On a cold winter day, Bear was coming home from his morning walk when “he saw a chicken, frozen in the snow!” He picked her and her knapsack up and brought them inside, where a warm fire crackled in the fireplace. “How does one defrost a chicken? thought Bear.” Bear took a blanket and wrapped the chicken like a burrito and held her tight until her eyes opened. When that happened, Bear smiled and Chicken found herself staring into two rows of very sharp teeth.

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Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Bear took Chicken into the kitchen, where carrots and onions sat on the counter. Bear picked up his cookbook and began to read. “‘You are just in time,’” he said to Chicken. Chicken looked on worriedly as Bear filled a huge, chicken-sized pot with water and put it on the stove to boil. When Chicken inadvertently knocked over a pot of basil, Bear decided it was a perfect addition to his recipe.

With a newly sharpened knife, Bear chopped up carrots, celery, and onions. “‘Hmmm…what else is missing?’ said Bear,” looking right at Chicken. Bear lifted Chicken up to the pot of hot, bubbling broth. Imagining what would happen next, Chicken wriggled out of Bear’s grasp and ran away as fast as she could and out the front door.

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Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Bear chased after her, and even though Chicken “zig-zagged through the trees,” Bear caught up with her. She glanced at the big stick Bear had raised over her head, and thought it was the end for her. But Bear, his feelings hurt, was just holding out Chicken’s knapsack. “‘You forgot this,’” he said. Surprised, Chicken blurted out, ‘”You’re not going to eat me?’” Now it was Bear’s turn to be surprised, and he explained that he was making lunch for both of them.

Still wary, Chicken protested that she wasn’t hungry, but her grumbling tummy gave her away. The two laughed, and after Bear promised to help Chicken find her way home, they went inside to enjoy delicious bowls of vegetable soup.

An adorably illustrated recipe for Bear’s Vegetable Soup and a note about the diet of Black Bears follow the text.

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Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Kids will love the suspense and humor of Jannie Ho’s mistaken purposes story. Her clever culinary puns set the action directly in the kitchen and put young readers in the same mindset as poor Chicken when she wakes up to a very suspicious smile. As Chicken stews about her predicament, little ones will empathize with her while older readers may have fun predicting Bear’s intent. The chase through the woods provides gentle suspense while the sweet reconciliation will have readers giggling along with Chicken and Bear.

Ho brings her distinctively cute artwork to her debut as an author/illustrator with great effect as Bear and Chicken exchange meaningful looks—but is Bear serious about cooking Chicken or just serious about his cooking? Kids will fall in love with little chicken from the moment she’s found in the snow and snugged into a warm blanket. Her worried expression will further endear her to readers, and who can blame them for a bit of worry of their own when Bear’s décor includes such things as a picture of bacon and eggs and the prominently displayed Chicken Cookbook?

A cozy Cozy for the youngest mystery lovers, Bear and Chicken would be a welcome guest on any home, classroom, or public library bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 6

Running Press Kids, 2017 | ISBN 978-0762462667

Discover more about Jannie Ho, her books, and her artwork on her website.

National Chicken Month Activity

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A Chicken to Crow About

 

A long-handled wooden turner makes a plucky decoration for your room or kitchen—and a great reminder to bring your passions to every job! In a few simple steps, you’ll have a cute companion you’ll want to crow about!

Supplies

  • Printable Comb and Scarf Template
  • Long-handled wooden turner, available in kitchen supply stores
  • Red felt
  • Yellow bakable clay
  • Fabric, 12 inches square
  • A small piece of white felt or fleece (optional)
  • White paint (or any color you would like)
  • Black marker
  • Fabric glue
  • Glue gun
  • Paint brush

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden turner, let dry
  2. Cut the scarf from the piece of fabric
  3. Make a beak from the yellow clay and bake it according to package directions

To make the comb

  1. Cut out the comb from the red felt
  2. Fold the felt in half and glue the end together with the fabric glue
  3. Cut short strips from the folded top of the felt, about ½-inch to ¾ -inch in length
  4. Round the corners of the strips slightly

To make the scarf

  1. Fold the fabric in half
  2. With the long, straight edge of the scarf template along the fold, cut out the scarf
  3. With the fabric glue, glue the two sides of the scarf together so that you have two “right” sides
  4. Let dry

To assemble the chicken

  1. Pinch the bottom of the comb together so that the strips open and the felt pleats a little
  2. With the glue gun attach the comb to the back of the painted turner, keeping the bottom pinched together
  3. Attach the beak to the front of the turner
  4. Draw eyes on the chicken with the black marker
  5. Tie the scarf around the neck of the handle, hold in place with a drop of glue in the back if necessary
  6. To make tail feathers in a turner with a hole in the handle, pinch together a small folded piece of white felt or fleece and push it through the hole in the handle of the turner.
  7. Cut or arrange to look like feathers

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You can find Bear and Chicken at these booksellers

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

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