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.

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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

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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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moose-headband-craft-when-a-tree-grows

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-a-tree-grows-cover

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-polar-bear-diving

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-polar-bear-cover

You can find The Little Polar Bear at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 4 – It’s National Bake for Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

Mid-winter is a perfect time to gather with family and friends and spend those cold, indoor day baking your favorite recipes! Baking together is a great way to teach valuable cooking skills and a little math. Talking with kids while baking cane fun too! Tell old family stories, favorite recipes, and funny or memorable culinary experiences at school, home, or while eating out. Of course, the best part of baking together is eating the delicious meals or treats afterward!

There Are No Bears in This Bakery

By Julia Sarcone-Roach

 

Muffin, the “whiskers” of the neighborhood assures readers that “there are no bears in Little Bear Bakery.” After all, he works the nightshift and knows everything that goes on. He knows the scratchy sounds of the mice, the clanging that means the raccoons are raiding the trash, and the flip flap of the bats. But he has to admit that last night there was a new sound: “grrrrrrrrrrr.” He went to investigate.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-baked-window-sill

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

“The air was cool and wet like a dog’s nose.” None of the regular creatures were in the alley, but “the bakery’s back window was open like a crooked smile.” And, again, Muffin heard, “grrrrrr.” He entered the bakery thinking that maybe the intruder was a mouse looking for sprinkles. Then he saw it. Was it a huge mouse? No. It was a tiny bear. The bear was surprised; Muffin was surprised; and Muffin’s tale? It “was the most surprised” of all. The “grrrrrrrr” was coming from the bear’s stomach.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-alley

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Muffin knew just what to do. He gave the cub a slice of cake, let her choose a doughnut from the bakery case, and toppled over a canister of cookies so she could nibble a few. The bear’s belly stopped grumbling, but then the bakery seemed quiet – too quiet. Muffin looked around and saw something in the darkness. It turned out to be a huge bear, and suddenly Muffin was in the dark as he was enveloped in a big hug. “It was warm, like a bath mat in the sunshine. It smelled like that bath mat needed a bath.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-bear-in-bakery

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The mama bear was a bit hungry too and scarfed down some sprinkles. As the sun came up, the bears crept out the window and down the alley toward the forest. With the nightshift over, Muffin headed home to wake up his sleeping human and tell his heroic tale. “It was a messy job,” he said, “but I handled it.” And as Muffin curled up on his pillow, he just happened to mention, “By the way, we’re out of donuts.” Among other things….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-baked-goods

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Julia Sarcone-Roach’s storytelling is as frisky as a kitten and full of hilarious and oh-so-apropos similes from a cat’s point of view. Sarcone-Roach imbues her little feline security guard with the supreme confidence and guilt-free consciousness that cat lovers will recognize. Kids and adults will enjoy the noir-tone of this wry narrator, and like the best parodies, the suspenseful buildups give way to laughs. Sweet moments abound during the off-hours snackfest, and as readers gaze into Muffin’s wide, “who-me?” eyes, they’ll know that after the clean-up there will still be cuddles for this adorable cat.

Sarcone-Roach’s nighttime illustrations are rich with humor and shadowy atmosphere as Muffin relates her suspenseful tale of how she rid the bakery of bears. Clever perspectives immerse readers in Muffin’s experience while also allowing them to laugh at the feline expressions that make these pets so beloved. The little bear cub is as cute as a mini-cupcake and as endearing as any child. Those readers with a cat “alarm clock” will appreciate the morning scene, and the final spread of the bakery will elicit an “Oh!” or two.

If you love any of these: cats, bears, bakeries, mysteries, or a story wonderfully told that kids will want to hear again and again, you’ll want to add There Are No Bears in This Bakery to your home, classroom, or public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0399556654

Discover more about Julia Sarcone-Roach, her books, and her art on her website

National Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcakes

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

This delicious vanilla cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction would definitely please Grandma—and they’ll become your favorite confection too!

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (60g) vanilla Greek yogurt (or plain; or regular yogurt; or even sour cream)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) vanilla almond milk (or cow’s milk; or soy milk; or plain almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1

Vanilla Bean Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4-5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in sugar – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Split 1 vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise. Scrape seeds from half of the vanilla bean into batter. Reserve other half.
  3. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
  4. Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners (or 24 mini) and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bake for 8-9 minutes if making mini cupcakes. Allow to cool.
  5. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (1/4 teaspoon). Frost cooled cupcakes (I used Wilton 1M piping tip). There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.
  6. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 7.

Additional Notes

  1. If you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, add an extra ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead.
  2. Strongly urged to use heavy cream. You may use milk or half-and-half, but heavy cream will give the frosting a thicker texture. I recommend it!

For ways to adapt this recipe and more scrumptious recipes, visit Sally’s Baking Addiction. I guarantee you’ll go back again and again!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-cover

You can find There Are No Bears in This Bakery at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 7 – National Salami Day

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About the Holiday

If you like that spicy, dried sausage that’s so delicious in sandwiches and salads or with cheese and crackers for a tasty snack, then you’ll love today’s holiday! Established by the Salami Appreciation Society in 2006 in Henrico, Virginia, National Salami Day can best be celebrated by enjoying your favorite salami or trying a new flavor sensation. 

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich

By Julia Sarcone-Roach

 

Oh dear… something happened to your sandwich? Well… “it all started with the bear. You see, when the bear woke up and left his den for his morning exercises, he caught a whiff of ripe berries in the back of a pickup truck. After eating his fill, he fell asleep in the bed of the truck. He woke once again to find himself “being quickly swept along like a leaf in a great river. The forest disappeared in the distance and high cliffs rose up around him.” Soon he found himself in a city—a forest like he had never seen before.

celebrate=picture-books=picture-book-review-the-bear-ate-your-sandwich-morning-exercises

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, courtesy of jsarconeroach.com

Still, he found many similarities to home. The fire escapes, clothes lines, and rooftops offered challenging places to climb, the lamp posts scratched his back just fine, and there was a new sidewalk that was just as squishy as the mud in the forest. This forest also had many intriguing smells, but each time the bear explored one he found someone else had gotten there first. He continued to follow his nose and discovered a playground full of fun things to do. He was at the top of the slide “when he saw it.”

celebrate=picture-books=picture-book-review-the-bear-ate-your-sandwich-eating-berries

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, courtesy of jsarconeroach.com

“There it was. Your beautiful and delicious sandwich. All alone.” The bear was wily, though. “He waited to make sure no one saw him (not even the sandwich) before he made his move.” Feeling safe, the bear grabbed that sandwich and gobbled it all up. He was just licking his lips when he heard a “sniff, snuffle, slobber, snort behind him.” He turned around to find four canine witnesses to his misdeed.

He fled the scene, loping down the street to the nearest tall tree and escape. From the top of this telephone pole, he could see way down the river to his own forest. He stowed away on a boat and fell asleep to its gentle rocking. “When he opened his eyes, he heard the breeze in familiar branches and the birds’ and bugs’ evening song.” He was home.

celebrate=picture-books=picture-book-review-the-bear-ate-your-sandwich-at-the-playground

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, courtesy of jsarconeroach.com

“So. That’s what happened to your sandwich.” Really! I was there—“I saw it all.” I even tried to save your sandwich, but all I could retrieve was this tiny piece of lettuce. I know you’re disappointed, and “I’m sorry to have to tell you about your sandwich this way, but now you know….” Would your own puppy pal lie to you?

Julia Sarcone-Roach knows how to spin a yarn. Her clever and funny confessional story will have kids’ glued to the eye-witness testimony about a bear who, according to the report, seems to be both sympathetic and a scoundrel. The surprise ending will make readers laugh—especially if they have mischievous siblings, friends, or pets. Sarcone-Roach’s vibrant, gauzy illustrations echo the fantastical imagination of the sly Scottie while giving vibrant life to the forest and city. Her depictions of the bear performing his morning exercise ritual, clambering across apartment buildings, encountering his competition for scraps, and attempting the playground equipment are endearing, and his utter astonishment at being caught is a comical joy.

celebrate=picture-books=picture-book-review-the-bear-ate-your-sandwich-beginning

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, courtesy of jsarconeroach.com

Ingenious clues sprinkled throughout the pages may lead some skeptical readers to doubt the veracity of the story, but the ending is delightfully satisfying and unexpected to all—except, perhaps, for the pup’s owner.

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich is a fun, charming, (mis?)adventure that kids will giggle through and ask for over and over. It would make a favorite addition to home libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Knopf Book for Young Readers, 2015 | Hardcover: ISBN 978-0375858604 | Paperback, 2018: ISBN 978-1984852090

Discover more about  Julia Sarcone-Roach and her work on her website.

National Salami Day Activity 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sandwich-scramble-puzzle

Scrumptious Sandwiches Word Scramble 

 

Sandwiches are fun to build and delicious to eat! The only hard part is trying to figure out which kind to have. Maybe this list will help! Print this Scrumptious Sandwiches Puzzle and unscramble the names to pick your favorite. Here’s the Solution!

celebrate=picture-books=picture-book-review-the-bear-ate-your-sandwich-cover

You can find The Bear Ate Your Sandwich at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 15 – 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!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-knock-knock-Justin

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-knock-knock-Firewood

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!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-knock-knock-Fox

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 4 – National Friendship Day

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About the Holiday

Originally founded in 1919 by the Hallmark Card company to encourage people to celebrate their friends by sending cards, the holiday has transitioned into a worldwide event commemorated in multiple ways from sending an emoji-filled text to getting together to share favorite activities. However you choose to celebrate, be sure to let your friends know how much they mean to you!

Bloomsbury Children’s Books sent me a copy of Bear’s Scare to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of a copy of Bear’s Scare. See details below.

Bear’s Scare

By Jacob Grant

 

Bear was very tidy. Every day, he swept and dusted and took great care to make sure everything was put in its proper place. “There was one thing Bear loved to care for most of all. A small stuffed friend, named Ursa.” Bear and Ursa spent every minute of every day together, and each day they cleaned their house top to bottom.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear's-scare-cleaning

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

One day, Bear discovered a book lying on the floor. He was sure he hadn’t left it there, and when he picked it up, he found a sticky spider’s web attached to it. He was sure that the spider was making his neat house sticky and messy and that the spider was nothing like them at all. He looked the house over more carefully, and “the more he searched, the more messy webs he found. ‘Ursa, we have a spider problem,’ said Bear.”

As the spider knitted a scarf using two legs while pouring tea using two more and then painted a picture of one of Bear’s potted flowers, Bear fretted over the mess the spider was making. He was determined to find the spider. Bear and Ursa searched everywhere but did not find it. Bear even lifted up the sofa to peer underneath. When he lowered the sofa to the floor again, however, Bear did not see that Ursa’s arm became pinned under its leg.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear's-scare-webs

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

When Bear picked up Ursa, her arm ripped off. “Bear lay there for some time,” sad about what had happened to Ursa and about the mess he’d made. Then he ran to get supplies to “help his friend.” When he got back, though, the spider had already reattached Ursa’s arm with its sturdy web. Bear hugged Ursa tight.

Then, “among the books, Bear found something he never expected.” The bookshelf the spider called home was just as neat as Bear’s house. There were books, and a broom, and even a painting of Bear. “‘I certainly do not mind sharing my home with one more friend,’” Bear said. And Bear and Ursa were content—even when one new friend turned into many.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear's-scare-bear-finds-spider

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

For those who embrace the status quo and like things just so, Jacob Grant’s sweet story demonstrates that there’s always room for one—or many—more. While Bear initially thinks the spider is not like him and Ursa, his quiet appreciation for spider’s help as well as his realization that he and the spider do share many of the same attributes models the kind of thoughtful inclusion that builds strong friendships.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear's-scare-spider-painting

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Grant’s endearing illustrations show Bear’s love for Ursa as he cradles the little stuffed bear while reading to her, carries her from room to room, appolgizes for the accident, and hugs her when she is fixed. The little round spider who sports a button with a loop of thread for a hat is adorable as it goes about its artistic pursuits. The final double-page spread of the spider lounging in a web hammock attached to Bear’s reading chair while fourteen other spiders play, work, and listen to Bear read to Ursa is heartwarming. Kids will love finding the little spider on each page as well as all the ways in which the spider’s shelf is similar to Bear’s house.

A touching tribute to friendship—old and new—as well as a thoughtful contemplation on preconceived notions for young readers, Bear’s Scare is a delightful book to share at home and in the classroom.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681197203

Discover more about Jacob Grant, his books and his art on his website.

Get caught up in the Bear’s Scare book trailer!

Bear’s Scare Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Bloomsbury Children’s Books to offer a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Bear’s Scare by Jacob Grant

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, August 4 – 10. 

A winner will be chosen on August 11.

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

National Friendship Day Activity

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Friendly Storytelling Bear Craft

 

Bear loved to read stories with Ursa and the spider! Now you can tell your own stories with this Friendly Storytelling Bear Craft! Use the templates and/or make your own expressions to make up great stories! You can also play a game to collect all the parts of the bears face to win.

Supplies

  • Printable Bear Head Template
  • Printable Eyes and Noses Template
  • Printable Eyebrows  and Ears Template
  • Light brown felt or fleece (or color of your choice), 8 ½ x 11 inch piece
  • Dark brown felt or fleece(or color of your choice), 8 ½ x 11 inch piece
  • White felt or fleece, 8 ½ x 11 inch piece
  • Black felt or fleece, for pupils
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • 1 playing die (optional)

Directions

  1. Print templates
  2. Cut bear head from light felt or fleece
  3. Cut eyes from white felt or fleece
  4. Cut nose and inner ears from dark brown felt or fleece
  5. Cut pupils from black felt or fleece
  6. Glue pupils onto white eyes

Alternately: Color and play with the paper set

For a Fun Story Time

Give the bear different faces and make up stories of why he looks that way!

To Play a Game

Roll the die to collect parts of the bear’s face. The first player to create a full face is the winner.

  • Die dots correspond to:
  • 1—one eyebrow
  • 2—second eyebrow
  • 3—one eye
  • 4—second eye
  • 5—nose
  • 6—inner ears

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear's-scare-cover

You can find Bear’s Scare at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review