April 21 – National Kindergarten Day

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About the Holiday

National Kindergarten Day honors the birthday of Friedrich Wilhelm August Frobel who was born April 21, 1782 and is credited with starting the very first Kindergarten in Germany in 1837. Recognizing that children learn through play and experience, Frobel established a foundation for modern education. The first kindergarten in America was opened by Margarethe Schurtz in 1856 in Watertown, Wisconsin. Kindergarten became part of some public school systems in 1873. Even though kids aren’t in their regular classes right now, we still celebrate all of their achievements, creativity, and love of fun. Little ones’ enthusiasm and natural empathy can make them great teachers too—as today’s book shows.

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Kindergarrrten Bus to check out. All opinions are my own.

Kindergarrrten Bus

Written by Mike Ornstein | Illustrated by Kevin M. Barry

 

As the little tykes climb the plank into the kindergarten school bus, they’re met by a most unusual driver. He has a hook hand, a peg leg, a curly beard, a broad-brimmed hat with a parrot perched on the edge, and he greets the first little boy like this: “Ahoy, boy! What? It be ye first day of kindergarrrten? Well, don’t worry, laddie—it be me first day as a bus driverrr!” The pirate shows the kids to their seats and lays down the rules. Any infractions…. Well, Polly will tell ya: “Raaaaa, mutiny!”

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The kids don’t seem too sure of this turn of events. They each talk about how they miss their family, their pets, their toys, and how it’s all a little scary. But the pirate will have “no blubberin’ on me bus! Pirates don’t get scared! We eat bones for supperrr!” he tells them. And as far as them missing their moms and dads? “We ain’t got time for that fluffy stuff!” he says. So the bus takes off, and the driver sings a ditty about brave these little buccaneers are as they go.

But the route turns as bumpy as a churning sea with potholes that rattle Polly so much she flies out the window…I mean “winderrr.” The pirate wails after his parrot, “Waaaa arrrgh waaaa arrrgh!” Then the bus comes to a screeching halt amid a pirate melt-down. “I can’t drive me bus without me sweet snuggly Polly! I can’t do it, I tells ya! I can’t! I can’t I can’t!”

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Everyone piles out, and the kids try to reassure the poor driver, reminding him of all the things he told them. Turns out that ol’ pirate “was only hornswogglin’” and that he considers himself “nothin’ but a scared, blubberin’ boob of a buccaneer.” The kids are empathetic and reassuring, and pretty soon the pirate is feeling better about things.

Back on the bus, the little ditty is less bravado and more true bravery. As they pull up at the X, where “the treasure of all treasures” awaits the kids, the pirate gives one more lesson before letting all those little “scoundrels walk the plank—errr, I mean, exit the bus.” But why is a pirate driving a school bus? one little boy wants to know. Well, that answer may surprise you and it be somethin’ ye just have to see for yourself!

An afterword from the author discussing tips for talking with kids about fears and worries follows the story.

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Could Mike Ornstein actually be a pirate? I’m thinking yes! His ease with Pirate-ese makes this dialogue-rich story a comical treasure that will have kids “Harrr, harrr, harrr-ing” at every twist and turn in the book—and lucky for them, there’s a whole loot of those. Scrumptious words like “blubberin’, hornswogglin’, landlubbers,” and “blue-footed booby bird” as well as a liberal sprinkling of rrrrs make this book a joyful read-aloud that kids will clamor to participate in. Nuggets of reassurance about “rrrespect,” admitting fears and worries, and enjoying school are pure gold.

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Kevin M. Barry’s wide-eyed, rakish kids and scallywag of a bus driver are the perfect companions on this hilarious journey to the first day of kindergarten. The school bus—a wooden jalopy with porthole windows, a ship’s wheel steering wheel, and a teddy bear jolly roger—comes to a tipping point when the pirate’s beloved Polly flies the coop. As the pirate dramatically looks to the skies and admits his false bravado, the kids—skeptical, astonished, and empathetic—look on. While one curly-haired little girl reassures the pirate, the other kids channel their own bravery and get ready to have a fun day at school. Readers will love the expressive faces, small details (a fish-skeleton belt buckle, a girl’s “I Got This” t-shirt), and, of course, ruffled Polly.

Kindergarrrten Bus is a rip-roarin’ yarn with a heart of gold that will get kids and grown-ups laughing and talking about feelings, fears, and the fact that everyone gets scared sometimes. A go-to book for fun story times and moments when a little more encouragement is needed, Kindergarrrten Bus would be a favorite on home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363988

To learn more about Kevin M. Barry, his books, and his art on his website.

National Kindergarten Day Activity

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Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze

 

Join the crew of scallywags to pick up supplies on your way to finding a treasure chest full of gold in this printable maze.

Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze Puzzle | Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze Solution

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You can find Kindergarrrten Bus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 21 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

For many children across the country August is the month for going back to school—or just starting on that journey. Some children eagerly look forward to spending the day in a classroom with other kids and learning new things from their teacher or teachers. For others the transition from home to school is a little more daunting. Finding ways to reassure hesitant students can go a long way toward happiness and success in school. Books can help! Through the experiences and feeling of all types of children and characters in picture books, chapter books, and middle grade and young adult novels, kids can share their feelings, whether they are excited or more uncertain about the school year ahead.

Truman

Written by Jean Reidy | Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

 

Truman was a little round tortoise “the size of a donut—a small donut—and every bit as sweet.” He lived with “his Sarah,” who was just as quiet and thoughtful as he was, in an apartment above a busy street. One day, Sarah ate an extra-big banana, wore a new sweater, and strapped on an enormous backpack. She even gave Truman extra green beans for breakfast. Then before she left, “she kissed her finger and touched it to his shell and whispered, ‘Be brave.’”

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Image copyright Lucy Ruth Cummins, 2019, text copyright Jean Reidy, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Truman got to thinking about all the new things he’d seen that morning. He looked out the window and saw Sarah getting on the number 11 southbound bus. She had never done that before. Truman waited and waited and waited for Sarah to return. At last, we could wait no longer and decided he would go after her, even if it meant catching the bus “amid the honking and the growling and the shrieking” of the street below. Of course, his tank might be a problem, but there was that nice rock pile….

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Image copyright Lucy Ruth Cummins, 2019, text copyright Jean Reidy, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

In a moment he was out and traversing the soft pillows and rubber boots, wooden floor and “endless rug. Without Sarah, their home seemed vast and uncharted and unsettling.” But as Truman reached the window, he realized that he couldn’t see the street at all and that he didn’t even know which way was south. Truman was beginning to lose heart. Then he heard, amid all the other sounds, the number 11 bus and Truman felt brave.

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Image copyright Lucy Ruth Cummins, 2019, text copyright Jean Reidy, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

“He was just about to slip under the door” when it opened and Sarah walked in. She saw him immediately and was so full of wonder at his amazing feat. She gently put him back in his tank. Truman felt proud. Later, Sarah read him a story she’d written and he couldn’t wait for that day when Sarah would take him with her south where they would “see new sights and hear new sounds and think new thoughts…together.”

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Image copyright Lucy Ruth Cummins, 2019, text copyright Jean Reidy, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Jean Reidy’s sweet and surprising tale of a tiny tortoise with a big heart has everything you’d want in a story of friendship and new experiences. This adorable pair are two of a kind, ready to explore and meet new challenges. Truman’s trek from his tank to the front door is as daring as any grand adventure, and Sarah’s recognition of her pet’s bravery is reassuring and affirming for all those facing journeys of their own. Reidy’s gentle storytelling sparkles with evocative vocabulary and the kinds of perfect little details that draw kids in. As Sarah tells Truman to “be brave,” she could be encouraging herself as well, and their day, each successful in its own way, is something both can take pride in. Readers will relate to Reidy’s touches of humor and Truman’s indefatigable spirit.

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Lucy Ruth Cummins’ stylish illustrations, rendered in a bright yet soothing color palette have a wonderful welcoming feeling as readers are introduces to Sarah, who has a delightful affinity for tutu-like skirts, and Truman, who likes nothing better than being close to “his Sarah.” Kids will fall in love with this tiny, adorable tortoise as he nibbles green beans, contemplates the differences in the morning routine, and makes his way across the rug and past scary toys to the front door. Kids will enjoy keeping an eye on the Sarah’s little yellow flower from page to page. The moment when Sarah finds Truman at the front door shines with their mutual love for each other, and their tender story time will captivate any child.

Endearing from beginning to end, Truman will be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534416642

Discover more about Jean Reidy and her books on her website.

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

Back to School Month Activity

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Follow the Turtles! Game

 

You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe! 

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You can find Truman at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review