December 30 – It’s Cat Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

As 2018 gives way to 2019, we give one last bow to those friends that keep us smiling, whether at home or in cute pics and videos online. Who are they? Cats! With their “who me?” looks, disregard for privacy, and utter confidence that they rule the house, cats and kittens make life better in so many ways. If you’re thinking about adding a furry family member to your home this coming year, check out the sweet cats at your local animal shelter.

Quackers

By Liz Wong

 

Quackers, a little orange tabby, wants to say hello! “Meow.” Quackers is a duck. “He knows he’s a duck because he lives at the duck pond with all the other ducks.” Not only that, but all of his friends are ducks. Sometimes, though, when he looks around at all the white feathers and orange beaks, he feels a bit out of place, and communicating is sometimes difficult. There’s also the issue of food—some of the things he’s given to eat are pretty slimy or tiny or hard to chew, and duckweed seems to be on the menu all the time. The worst, though? Getting wet.

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Copyright Liz Wong, 2016, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

One day, Quackers meets another duck who looks like him and sounds like him. In his joy, Quackers blurts out, “‘I’ve never met a duck who understands me!’” The gray kitten, Mittens, is confused at first and then understands and then laughs. At last, she invites Quackers to follow her. They end up at a farm where Mittens lives with “a whole flock of strange ducks. Ducks just like Quackers.”

Mittens shows Quackers how they “chase mice,” which Quackers prefers to swimming; “drink milk,” which is more delicious than duckweed; and clean themselves, which Quackers is a bit iffy on. Soon, Quackers is napping with his new friends. As much as he enjoys being a cat, Quackers starts to miss the duck pond. He even finds that he has a craving for duckweed. He scampers back and discovers that “most of all, he missed his friends.”

Now Quackers splits his time at the pond and the farm. Sometimes he’s a duck, and sometimes he’s a cat. But all the time “he’s just Quackers, and that makes him completely happy.”

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Copyright Liz Wong, 2016, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

As mom to a cat who thinks he’s part person and possibly part dog, I fell in love with Liz Wong’s little Quackers and little readers will too. Kids will giggle as Quackers sits contentedly on a lily pad, accepts slugs and snails as snacks with a meow-nimum of fuss, and explains to Mittens that he’s a duck.  Readers, who are beginning to develop their own identity, will be cheered when Quackers embraces both his duck and cat sides. They’ll understand that it’s what’s inside a person that matters and that being yourself is the best thing you can be. Wong’s adorable kittens and ducks will charm kids, and her simple hand-lettered text and speech bubbles create a cozy reading experience that’s like a sweet hug in a book.

Full of humor, self-acceptance, and inclusion, Quackers should find a home on any child’s and classroom’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553511543

Discover more about Liz Wong, her books, and her art on her website.

Cat Lovers Month Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These adorable kittens all have a twin, but they’ve gotten mixed up while playing. Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

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You can find Quackers at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 25 – Christmas Day

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About the Holiday

Christmas is anticipated all year round for the joy of giving, the fun of receiving, and the message of hope the holiday gives. Honoring the birth of Jesus, Christmas is a religious observation celebrated with hymns, special services, prayers, and remembrance of others. Incorporating long-held traditions from around the world, the holiday also welcomes Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Papá Noel, Ded Moroz (“Grandfather Frost” in Russian), Julenissen (“Christmas Gnome” in Norway), and many other names, who brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve. The day inspires family dinners, home baking, parties with friends, and togetherness.

The Christmas Cat

Written by Maryann Macdonald | Illustrated by Amy June Bates

 

“Jesus was beautiful, like all babies,” but on the night he was born he cried and cried. Mary tried everything to comfort him—a warm blanket, feeding him, rocking him—but nothing soothed him. Looking on, the other animals longed to help. “Doves fluttered down from the rafters, settling on the creaky stable door.” Although their coos were soft and musical, the baby did not stop crying.

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of amyjunebates.blogspot.com/

The gentle brown cow tried next, lowing the lullaby she used on her own calf, but Jesus cried louder. And even though the donkey meant well, her braying “made Jesus cry loudest of all.” Then from a hiding place a little kitten crept “step by careful step” toward Mary and Jesus. Leaping lightly onto Mary’s lap, the kitten “nuzzled Jesus’s neck. Then he began to purr, a calm, contented purr that came from deep inside.” Jesus gazed at the tiny kitten, and as he touched the soft fur his crying quieted. The barn grew silent and the new family and all the animals slept soundly.

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of amyjunebates.blogspot.com/

As time passed and the kitten grew into a cat, he and Jesus became close companions, playing together under the fig tree. When it was naptime, “it was the cat’s turn to watch over the baby and purr him to sleep.” But one day their peaceful life was shattered. Jesus’s father, Joseph, learned through an angel that King Herod was looking for Jesus. Harod had heard rumors that Jesus would grow up to be king one day. “Herod’s soldiers, the angel said, were racing toward Bethlehem, hoping to find the baby Jesus and destroy him.”

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus hurried to leave their home, packing everything they had to go now—in the middle of the night—to escape detection and flee to Egypt. With all their goods piled onto their donkey, Mary and Joseph were ready to leave. But where was Jesus’s cat? “Mary and Joseph combed through the tall grass, searched the shadows near the fire and looked high in the branches of the fig tree. But the cat was nowhere to be found.”

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

It was much too dangerous to linger, and so, sadly, the family left Bethlehem without their beloved pet. In the chill night air, Jesus was uncomfortable; he missed his cat. “He clenched his tiny fists and screamed.” Joseph worried. Were the campfires on the horizon Herod’s soldiers? Could they hear Jesus crying? Both Mary and Joseph missed the calming influence of their cat. Suddenly, Jesus heard a familiar wail. Out of the basket tied to the donkey’s flank popped his companion. Jesus reached out for him, and the cat leaped into his arms.

After the two had greeted each other as long lost friends, they fell asleep to the cat’s tender purring as “the donkey carried them far away from Herod’s soldiers and their terrible swords, far away to the safe land of Egypt. Love had saved them.” As the two grew older together, they loved each other as only a pet and it’s child can. “They were meant for each other…from the very first Christmas night, in the bright starlight.”

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of amyjunebates.blogspot.com/

In her Author’s Note following the text, Maryann Macdonald reveals that her story is inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of La Madonna del Gatto or the Madonna of the Cat, in which the baby Jesus is depicted holding and playing with a cat as he sits on his mother’s lap, as well as legends of a cat that lived in the stable where Jesus was born.

Maryann Macdonald’s gentle story of the baby Jesus soothed by a kitten on the night he was born and saved by this same pet on his flight to Egypt will captivate young children. The focus on the child-animal bond will delight little ones with pets of their own and makes the Christmas story immediately accessible. Macdonald’s lyrical language beautifully portrays the emotion and setting of the story, and she establishes the danger faced by the family with age-appropriate suspense.

Amy June Bates enhances the story with gorgeous traditional paintings of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, the stable and its animals, and the nighttime journey to Egypt. Her watercolor, gauche, and pencil illustrations glow with warm ambers, greens, and midnight blues. The barn animals are sweetly gentle and earnest in their attempts to soothe the crying baby, and the realistic portraits of the family demonstrate their love for each other. Children will especially like the images of Jesus and his pet cat cuddling and playing together. The final illustration of Mary, Jesus, and their cat echoes the drawing by Leonardo da Vinci that accompanies the Author’s Note.

For pet owners and animal lovers, The Christmas Cat would make a meaningful addition to their holiday collection.

Ages 3 – 6

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-0803734982

To learn more about Maryann Macdonald and her books, visit her website!

To view a portfolio of artwork by Amy June Bates, visit her blog!

Christmas Day Activity

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Cute Christmas Cat Coloring Page

 

This cute kitty is all decked out for the holiday! Have fun with this printable Cute Christmas Cat Coloring Page!

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You can find The Christmas Cat at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 22 – It’s Cat Lover’s Month

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About the Holiday

You’re a cat lover, right? You just can’t help watching cute kitten videos or smiling at those sweet cats on Twitter or frisky kitties on Instagram. Maybe you even have a cat at home that makes you laugh with their antics or cuddles up for some snuggle time. If you are a cat lover, this month was created just for you. So indulge in all things feline – and if your home and heart are yearning for a ball of fluff, consider adopting a new friend from your local shelter.

I Am a Cat

By Galia Bernstein

 

Simon, a little gray tabby, proudly introduces himself, saying, “I am a cat. Just like you!” You might think this sweet greeting would be met warmly, but instead, the kitten’s audience stares at him wide-eyed and then…bursts out laughing. The tiger, lion, cheetah, puma, and panther think this is the funnies thing they’ve ever heard.

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Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2018, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The lion protests that the little ball of fluff can’t be a cat because “cats have a mane and a tuft at the end of their tails” and a fierce roar because “they are the king of all beasts.” The cheetah didn’t think the gray cat had the legs or speed to be a cat. The puma had never seen such a small and weak cat living in the mountains like he did, and the panther knew cats were black and lived in the jungle.

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Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2018, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The tiger may have been the most skeptical of all. He thought that the gray creature in front of him might be a rat, but a cat that wasn’t orange? Ha! Simon looked at each cat with their individual traits and wondered aloud how they could all consider each other cats, but not him. Well, replied Lion, it’s “‘because we also have many things in common. We all have small, perky ears and flat noses…long whiskers and long tails.’” They also all showed Simon their teeth and claws and eyes that could see in the dark.

“‘I have all those things,’” Simon said. “‘Only smaller.’” The lion, tiger, puma, cheetah, panther, and tiger took a second look. They couldn’t deny it: Simon was a cat. They even admitted that he was one of the family. Then they played and pounced and prowled, “like cats of all sizes do.”

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Copyright Galia Bernstein, 2018, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Galia Bernstein’s ingeniously uses a variety of “big cats” to expose the kinds of smug, narrow-minded thinking that leads to prejudice based on color, abilities, social standing, and size. Simon’s polite push-back to the rebuffs he gets from the other cats echos the kind of honest, probing questions that little ones often ask. To their credit, the other cats recognize and admit to their blind spots and welcome Simon into the family. Bernstein’s straightforward storytelling provides a perfect setup for the satisfying and enriching ending.

Bernstein’s bold images of each big cat interacting with adorable and earnest Simon cleverly demonstrates the differences as well as the similarities between them. The lion and Simon lie side by side, their paws crossed and their tails intertwined. The puma and Simon sit next to each other leaning slightly to the left. And the panther and Simon both lounge in a tree batting at the same butterfly. The final spread of all the cats frolicking together is joyful and will make children smile knowingly.

I Am a Cat is a story that’s as fun as it is meaningful and deserves a place on any child or classroom bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Harry N. Abrams, 2018 | ISBN 978-1419726439

Discover more about Galia Bernstein, her book, and her art on her website.

You’ll love watching this I Am a Cat book trailer!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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Purr-fect Friends Maze

 

One little kitten wants to play with her friends, Can you help her find her way in this printable puzzle?

Purr-fect Friends Maze | Purr-fect Friends Maze Solution

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You can find I Am a Cat at these booksellers

Abrams BooksAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million|IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 14 – It’s Cat Lover’s Month

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About the Holiday

If you’re a cat lover, then you know how these little balls of fluff can change your life. Whether you love them for their playful antics, for their companionship, or even for their independent spirit, your life just wouldn’t be the same without their daily presence. Cat Lovers Month is the perfect time to celebrate your cat or kitten with some extra attention and care. If you’re considering adopting a cat, visit your local animal shelter to give a cat a forever home.

Vincent Comes Home

By Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley

 

“Vincent lived on a cargo ship. His paws had never touched land.” He liked living onboard the ship—there was plenty of fish to eat, seagulls to chase, and freedom to roam. At night he loved to gaze at the twinkling stars. His home, the Domus sailed to ports all over the world picking up and delivering goods. The ship was “always coming and going. Never staying.”

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Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Although Vincent loved seeing all of the new and exciting places, he could only experience them from afar. He also enjoyed looking at all of the souvenirs in the captain’s cabin. “They seemed to have visited every place imaginable. Every place except one.” Vincent heard the crew talking about a place called Home. It sounded amazing, and the little cat wanted to go there some day.

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Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When the ship docked the next day, “Vincent heard the first mate shout, ‘We’re HOME!!!’” Vincent couldn’t wait to see this exciting place. When he looked over the ship’s rail, though, this city looked like many others. He couldn’t see why it was so special. Vincent decided to follow one of the crew to find out. As soon as the “crewman opened the door, a bunch of people yelled ‘WELCOME HOME!’” Everyone inside hugged and kissed the crewman.

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Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Vincent looked in other windows and saw the same things there. He decided that Home wasn’t really a place but where the people who loved you lived. “I guess I don’t have a Home,” he thought. He wandered around town and gazed at the familiar stars. Just then he heard a voice he knew. It was the captain. “‘I’ve been looking all over for you!’” he said. He picked Vincent up and scratched his chin and belly. “‘Let’s go home,’” he told Vincent.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vincent-comes-home-cargo-captain-finds-vincent

Copyright Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jessixa and Aaron Bagley’s endearing story about the meaning of Home will charm young readers who are beginning to navigate their own way in the world, leaving home for school and activities. Their lyrical storytelling offers tender comfort and heartwarming reassurance that Home is rich with those who love you and is always there waiting for your return. 

Beautiful watercolors bring to life the unique cargo ship setting, with its vibrant containers and world port-to-port schedule as well as the homey galley, staterooms, and common areas that make Domus a well-chosen name. Seen from afar, the European city, tropical island, and arctic vista—as well as the captain’s cabin filled with posters and souvenirs from the Domus’s trips—will entice young readers to do a bit of armchair traveling themselves. But, like Vincent, they will embrace their own home as the most wonderful place in the world.

A thoughtful book for children just entering school or other new situations or to share the warmth of home, Vincent Comes Home would be a welcome addition to personal or classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1626727809

Discover more about Jessixa Bagley, her books, and her art on her website.

To learn more about Aaron Bagley, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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A Little Ball of Love Craft

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

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You can find Vincent Comes Home at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 29 – National Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Cat lovers get it! The mercurial personalities of felines keep us laughing, shaking our heads, and, of course, loving these singular pets. Cats are the stars of social media, they inspire fashion statements, decorate mugs and dish ware, and are cuter than cute. But there are many cats and kittens that don’t have a forever home. National Cat Day was established in 2005 by pet and family lifestyle expert and animal welfare advocate, Colleen Paige. Her goal was to raise awareness of the number of rescue cats that need permanent homes while also celebrating the unique relationship between cats and those who love them. Today’s book is simply purr-fect for those who love cats and books!

Bambino and Mr. Twain

Written by P. I. Maltbie | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

On a particular November day in 1904, a crowd gathered outside the brownstone where Samuel Clemens, known to readers as Mark Twain, had recently come to live. Reporters, readers, and neighbors had come to wish Sam a happy birthday. But they were shooed away by his housekeeper, Katy. Since his wife, Livy, had died five months earlier, Samuel had not felt happy; he didn’t want to see anyone or even leave the house.

“From an upstairs window an old man with wild white hair and a black cat watched the crowd walk away. ‘Everyone wants to meet witty Mark Twain,’ the man said. ‘But tell me, Bambino, would they want to meet sad, old Samuel Clemens?’” Soon his daughter Jean entered the room and persuaded her father to come downstairs for cake and ice cream with the promise that Bambino, their black cat, could have some too.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

In the middle of the cake stood a single candle—a tradition that Livy had started so that Samuel would “‘never grow old.’” With a dish of ice-cream to himself, Bambino took the place of Sam’s older daughter, Clara, who couldn’t be with them that night. Friends had invited Sam for dinner, but he did not want to go. As winter settle in, so did Samuel. He rarely left his bed, littering the covers with papers and books—so many “that the cat had difficulty finding a soft place to sleep.”

As Christmas approached, instead of attending the parties he was invited to, Samuel wandered around his big house, gazing at pictures of Livy and playing games—like billiards—with Bambino. When spring arrived, Katy rushed around opening windows to air out the house. In a sunlit upstairs room, “Bambino attacked the sunbeam dancing on the wardrobe door. Sam opened the door. The sunbeam shone on a white suit. Bambino swatted at it.” Sam lifted the suit from the closet and looked at it fondly. While Livy was alive he had worn that suit every summer. “‘Those were happy days,’” he recalled.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012, text copyright P.I. Maltbie, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Just then, outside the open window, Bambino saw a squirrel that had been chattering at him for days. With a leap Bambino was chasing the squirrel down the street. “‘Bamb-i-i-i-n-o-o-o!’ Sam’s voice echoed over the city noises.” Sam and Jean put up Lost Cat posters offering a $5.00 reward (a week’s wages) for Bambino’s return. Sam didn’t know how he would tell Clara that Bambino was gone, but Jean reassured him that someone would find their cat.

“Soon a steady stream of people appeared on Sam’s doorstep with cats and kittens of every size, color, and breed.” Seeing the crowd, Sam came out onto his stoop. One little girl offered to let Sam borrow their family’s cat until Bambino returned, and others brought him cats they thought would comfort him. But Sam thought Bambino would not “‘take kindly to finding a foreign cat in his kingdom.’” Reporters wanted to talk to this beloved author about Bambino too, “and this time Sam talked to them.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Four days later, Katy found Bambino on the doorstep as if nothing had happened. Sam was overjoyed. “‘To celebrate, we’ll feast on the fatted salmon,’” he said. Sam’s experience with his kindly friends, neighbors, and readers had given him a new perspective. He was ready to rejoin the world and enjoy what it had to offer. An announcement in the newspaper let people know that Bambino had returned, but they continued to drop by to wish Sam well. Now, Sam smiled and talked with them.

Sam had several white suits made, and they became his trademark. At his home in Connecticut, he held a musical gala and talked and joked the way he used to. Jean and Clara had not seen their father this happy in a long time. And Bambino? He just “blinked his eyes and purred.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

P.I. Maltbie’s focus on a particular year in Samuel Clemens’ life provides a deeper portrait of this author known for his wit, wisdom, and social commentary. Maltbie’s detailed and compassionate storytelling reveals the stages and effects of grief and the way a pet or a good friend can help in a way that is accessible and understandable for children. His tracing of the passage of time from fall to summer allows readers to see that recovery from sadness or other events is a personal journey, but one that is made easier with the enduring love and reassurance of family and friends. Readers who love the stories and novels of Mark Twain will appreciate this touching glimpse into Samuel Clemens’ life.

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Daniel Miyares’ crisp, mixed-media and digital illustrations resonate with muted, yet saturated colors that reflect Samuel Clemens’ mourning. Perky Bambino is a constant presence, celebrating Sam’s birthday, playing billiards with Sam, and curled up on Sam’s bed. Bambino’s dramatic leap out the window will wow kids, and they will empathize with Sam as pages without the black cat reflect Sam’s feeling of loss. Young readers will be inspired by the little girl who offers her own family cat to comfort Sam and be cheered to see the positive effect Bambino’s return has on Sam as he again embraces the world dressed in the iconic white suit, which signals Sam’s lightening mood and regained good humor.

Bambino and Mr. Twain is an excellent biography to share with children at home and school to show that everyone undergoes good and bad times, but with faithful and loving family and friends, problems can be resolved and happiness restored.

Ages 5 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2012 | ISBN 978-1580892728 

Coming in paperback in May, 2019. Available for preorder | ISBN 978-1580892735

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books, and his art on his website

National Cat Day Activity

Purr-fect Friends Maze

 

One little kitten wants to play with her friends. Help her find her way in this printable maze!

Purr-fect Friends Maze Puzzle |  Purr-fect Friends Maze Solution

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You can find Bambino and Mr. Twain at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 15 – It’s Black Cat Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

There may be many pet holidays—and even cat holidays—but this month we celebrate one particular feline: the black cat. While black cats are just as cuddly and sweet as any other cat, the superstition that black cats bring bad luck make them the least adopted of all cats.  If you’re considering adopting a cat or kitten, think about giving a black cat a forever home.

The Scariest Book Ever

By Bob Shea

 

On the very first page a little ghost lets kids know just what kind of book they’re holding—a scary one! It’s so scary that even before the first page—back on the title page—there were “dark woods” that are “probably crawling with hungry monsters with smelly breath, sharp fangs, and pointy claws.” At least the ghost hopes so. He also hopes he doesn’t spill his orange juice on himself, but you know how that goes—once you think about something, it happens.

Now the ghost is soaking wet and naked as a window. He can’t go into the forest like that! He sends you off into the woods alone and promises to meet you “in a couple of pages.” You see that the woods are full of pointy trees, whose shadows all create arrows pointing to one particular spot. “Well?” the ghost asks, “What do you see? A dark hole?” The ghost’s wide, owl-like eyes glow from the darkness, and he warns readers that “nothing ever good comes out of a dark hole!” He reassures them that they can stay here and help “with the haunted housework” which includes cleaning the bathroom. “That’s scary, right?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-scariest-book-ever-forest

Copyright Bob Shea, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

But you go back, and what’s this? Out of the hole pops the cutest little bunny you ever did see! Her cheeks are pink and she’s wearing an adorable coat. A smiling snail, ladybug, and worm have also come to say hello. Back to the ghost who’s now up to his elbows in is rubber gloves (ghosts have elbows, right?). He wants to know all about the scary thing that came out of the hole. He’s even got some guesses: “Snakes made out of bees? A spider in a crabby mood? Broccoli?”

The ghost thinks the whole story of a sweet bunny is some kind of trick to get him into those frightening woods. But he’s happily scared right where he is, thank you very much. Can’t you see the ferocious black kitten lapping up milk with her little pink tongue? But you are pretty brave. Look at you–you just went back into the forest, where the bunny is giving out invitations to a Spooky Party to all of her friends.

The ghost wants to know what you saw…no he doesn’t…yes he does…no he doesn’t! Ok, so when he hears it, he doesn’t believe it. “Whimsical woodland creatures? Invitations? To a party? Nice try. What’s next, pumpkin picking in a pumpkin patch?” But as you’re leaving again, the ghost realizes his skepticism is a bit off-putting, so he tries to lure you back with doughnuts—“Spooooooooky doughnuts.” Meanwhile, the bunny is leading a parade through the forest, where the trees seem to be getting smaller and smaller. Sure enough the “whimsical woodland animals” have been visiting a pumpkin patch and these smiling little gourds are coming along to the party too.

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Copyright Bob Shea, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

“OOOOOOOHHHHH….” No, the ghost isn’t trying to be scary; his belly just aches from all the doughnuts he ate. See them? If you think the story about the pumpkin patch is going to rouse the ghost, you’re sadly mistaken. The ghost thinks it’s just a tall tale and does a bit of scolding: “Gimme a break. You think I died yesterday? I’m not falling for that. I’m staying right here.” And while he’s at it, he’s upset that the kitten has been so frightened that all she can do is pounce and play with a soft pink ball of yarn.

But you know how readers are—always turning the page! So here we are, and everyone is doing crafts and eating treats. The ghost figures since he “didn’t hear any screaming” and there were just crafts and cupcakes that the “woods aren’t that scary after all.” He decides to drop in—but just to “save you from the cupcakes.” He means “the super scary monsters.” But what’s this?! Horrible monsters like bats and Frankenstein and bandits and jack o-lanterns. There’s even another ghost. “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!”

The ghost zips away, giving you a very stern tougue lashing, “Why didn’t you warn me? Are you trying to scare me more to death?” But the kitty sets him straight about the whole costume party thing, so he goes back—kitty first though. And when he gets back, everyone’s taken off their costume, and the ghost can see who’s underneath. “Oh, ha, ha, ha! Very funny,” he chuckles. No one loves a costume party more than a naked ghost.”

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Copyright Bob Shea, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Bob Shea has written one scary funny book for little readers, who will guffaw at the juxtaposition of frightening and cute and the ghost’s examples of some pretty scary stuff. Shea’s chatty ghost who sends readers into the woods and then wheedles, scoffs, and chides them afterward is an adorably sympathetic spirit—one that kids will take to heart from the first page.

Shea’s unique style and humor as well as one very cool printing trick that allows for a “naked ghost” to appear on the page will make readers Oooo and Ahhhh—in a good way. Black- and blue-toned pages alternate with candlelight-yellow ones to mirror the little ghost’s deep, dark fears and the festive reality of the bunny’s party. The final reveal not only puts the ghost at ease but also any readers who may feel a bit of trepidation about Halloween or the unseen in general.

The Scariest Book Ever is not just for Halloween as readers will love the garrulous ghost and the giggly, gentle nudge to try something new any time of the year. The book makes for fun and dramatic read-aloud story times at home, in classrooms, and at the library.

Ages 4 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1484730461

This could be the scariest The Scariest Book Ever book trailer!

Black Cat Awareness Month Activity

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Cats and Pumpkin Coloring Page

Halloween may be scary, but these two kittens and happy pumpkin are sweet! Give yourself a treat and enjoy this printable Cats and Pumpkin Coloring Page.

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You can find The Scariest Book Ever at these booksellers

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

YYPicture Book Review

September 26 – It’s Happy Cat Month

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About the Holiday

 Even though September is winding down, it’s never too late to make sure that your cat is happy. After all, a cat should be happy all the time, right? While this month offers opportunities to make sure that your cat is getting everything they need to be healthy, it’s also a good time to consider your cat’s social interactions. Do they have a stimulating environment to keep their minds sharp? Do they get to spend quality time with you? Do they have high perches and places to hide? Do they get enough exercise? All of these things engage the social needs of cats, who like to play and with and have the attention of their owners. To celebrate this month, think about your cat’s life from their perspective to ensure your cat is a happy cat.

Kitten and the Night Watchman

Written by John Sullivan | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

On his way out the door, the night watchman “hugs his wife and children…and drives to work” as the sun is setting. As the sky darkens, he patrols the construction site once an hour. There’s a lot to do. He makes sure every door is locked, that the workshop is clear, and that no one is disturbing the vehicles or equipment.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

He rests for a moment with a hot cup of coffee under the twinkling stars and “thinks of his boy and girl, safe and asleep at home.” But the night watchman is not alone. A little gray kitten peeks out from behind a truck’s tire. The kitten approaches the night watchman and follows him as he continues his rounds through the yard, where “an excavator bows like a strange giraffe.”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The kitten knows the night watchman will share his dinner before they are off on their rounds again. They see insects hovering in the light of the lamppost and hear birds call to each other. But when the night watchman goes back to his office and waits for the kitten to follow him through the door, “the kitten isn’t there. She is nowhere to be seen.” The night watchman hears a dog bark, cars roar, and the rattle of the train passing and worries.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A moth flits around the desk lamp, and the night watchman gently carries it outside. When he opens the door, the little kitten is waiting for him. He picks her up and gives her a cuddle. Then it’s time again for their rounds. While the sun breaks on the horizon, the night watchman packs up his things to go home. As he drives through the wakening city, “this time he is not alone.” He talks to the kitten and tells her, “‘I know a boy and girl who will want to give you a name.’”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Through his beautiful and emotionally resonant story, debut author John Sullivan lets kids follow along as a night watchman quietly makes his rounds during those midnight hours that are so mysterious and intriguing to young children. Sullivan’s lyrical phrasing, attention to nighttime creatures, and whimsical transformations of trucks, cranes, and backhoes create poetry and art from the concrete world of a construction site. The endearing relationship between the night watchman and the kitten makes the moment of suspense a tug at the heart, and its quick and loving resolution will charm young readers.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Taeeun Yoo’s soft, textured illustrations envelop readers in fiery sunrises and sunsets, the lovely purple’s and blues of early evening, and the shadowy indigo of midnight. The darkness is broken here and there by the night watchman’s flashlight that throws a grainy and fading beam across the construction site, the full moon and blinking stars, lamplight, and the cozy lit windows of the watchman’s office. Standing silently silhouetted against this backdrop are the buildings and machinery of the construction site.

When the little kitten peeks from behind a truck tire, her little presence is surprising and endearing. An unseen—but heard—dog, speeding car, and rumbling train interrupt the calm night and disquiets the night watchman. Again, the kitten makes a surprising and endearing entrance. The little gray ball of fluff is another bright spot in the night—a friend to keep loneliness at bay—and as the sun rises, the promise of a sunny morning for the watchman’s children will delight readers.

Kitten and the Night Watchman is a quiet, poignant story that would be an often-read choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon and Schuster, A Paula Wiseman Book, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481461917

Discover more about Taeeun Yoo, her books, and her art on her website.

Happy Kitten Month Activity

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A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This happy little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

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You can find Kitten and the Night Watchman at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review