January 3 – It’s International Quality of Life Month

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About the Holiday

How one achieves their definition of a good quality of life may differ for every person, but in general it encompasses being happy and satisfied with one’s relationships, work, living conditions, and self. Whether you find happiness and quality of life in outdoor or indoor pursuits, with others or alone, at work or at home, this month’s holiday gives you time to get in touch with your inner quiet place and reflect on changes or improvements to bring you more peace and happiness in life.

I’d like to thank Berbay Publishing for sharing a copy of Nobody Owns the Moon with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Special Note: As I have been asked to take on extra shifts as a staff member at my local public library due to personnel shortages, I will be taking a break from posting daily reviews over the next coming months. In between new reviews, I invite you to explore all of the holidays, author and illustrator interviews, activities, and, of course, the wonderful books featured on Celebrate Picture Books.

Nobody Owns the Moon

By Tohby Riddle

 

Upon the opening pages readers are treated to an engaging treatise on the success (or not so) of certain animals trying to “make a life for itself in cities.” The fox, we learn, is especially adept because it is “quick-witted and able to eat a variety of foods.” We are then introduced to one such city-dweller, Clive Prendergast – a self-named fox because his real name “can only be pronounced by foxes.”

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Copyright Tohby Riddle, 2021, courtesy of Berbay Publishing.

Clive lives in a small apartment and works on a factory production line. At night he takes to the streets, visiting food stalls and watching the interesting goings-on. Clive has a few friends, but the one he sees the most is Humphrey, a donkey who is “one of those creatures that live in cities with less success than foxes” and “doesn’t always have a fixed address.” While Humphrey has had jobs, he has trouble keeping them. Right now he’s working as a piano removalist.

One day Clive saw Humphrey sitting on the stone steps of “a statue of a great conqueror.” Clive thought he looked tired and underfed. Then he noticed a blue envelop sticking out of Humphrey’s tote bag. It turned out that Humphrey had found it in the street and planned on eating it, but thinking Clive was also hungry he offered it to him without a second thought. When Clive opened the envelope, he found two tickets to that night’s performance at the theatre. They should go, he said.

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Copyright Tohby Riddle, 2021, courtesy of Berbay Publishing.

“That night Humphrey and Clive attended the premier of Nobody Owns the Moon – the latest play by the city’s most celebrated playwright. Before the show, ticket-holders were treated to hors d’ oeuvres and punch. Then they were shown to their front-row balcony seats. The play was wonderful, full of humor and poignancy. Tears filled Humphrey’s eyes at the show’s “bittersweet ending” and again as they enjoyed a beverage and “large slice of cake in the theatre’s elegant restaurant.”

Filled with the wonder of the evening, Clive and Humphrey headed out into the “glimmering melee of lights and sounds that was their city at night. “‘This is our town!'” they exclaimed to each other, and before they went “their separate ways, Humphrey gave Clive a big hug goodnight.”

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Copyright Tohby Riddle, 2021, courtesy of Berbay Publishing.

Immersive and openhearted, Tohby Riddle’s poignant friendship tale is as surprising and inclusive as the invitation Humphrey finds. Opening with lines that could come straight from a nature documentary, the story quickly becomes interwoven with an air of mystery and anticipation as Clive Prendergast and Humphrey are introduced. Riddle’s inclusion of smart details, such as Clive’s fox name being unpronounceable to humans and Humphrey’s job that takes advantage of a donkey’s strong back, adds a verisimilitude that will delight readers. The emotional core of the story comes with Clive’s and Humphrey’s friendship, which is equitable and caring and full of generosity. The discovery and use of the theater invitation ushers in sumptuous scenes of a glittering theater, delicious food, and a life-affirming performance while also touching on the importance of satisfying the body and the soul, however one defines this.

Equally captivating are Riddle’s collage-style illustrations, which incorporate sly humor and thought-provoking perspectives. The book opens with an illustration of Clive Prendergast lounging in a comfortable armchair between Vincent van Gogh’s painting “A Wheatfield, with Cypresses” and a window which frames a view of the city that cleverly mirrors the famous artwork. Clive’s position suggests his comfort in both environments. Humphrey’s difficulties fitting in, on the other hand, are depicted in an Italian restaurant where, distracted for a moment, the plates of spaghetti and meatballs he’s carrying tip precariously over a customer sitting under a photograph of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Other images that contribute to the depth and atmosphere of this book are theater posters advertising Vaudeville and magic acts, Russian nesting dolls and fresh foods for sale in Clive’s multicultural neighborhood, and the copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass next to a view-master in Humphrey’s tote bag.

The city’s human inhabitants are all depicted in flat grays and browns while the animals – pigeons, a crocodile, a dancing bear – are portrayed in textured full color. This dichotomy begins to fade at the theater, where a waiter in formal dress offers Humphrey hors d’ oeuvres, in the balcony row where Clive and Humphrey sit, and in the restaurant after the show, a change that offers opportunities for readers to talk about acceptance and how we look at others. The moving ending is eloquent in it’s simple embrace of individuality and acceptance.

A touching, multi-level story that will enchant and impact readers, Nobody Owns the Moon will become a favorite and is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Berbay Publishing, 2021 | ISBN 978-0994384195

Discover more about Tohby Riddle, his books, and his art on his website.

International Quality of Life Activity

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Share a Smile Cards

 

Life is better when you share smiles with those you know—and those you don’t! Try it! When you’re out today at school or other places, give someone a smile. You can be sure that you will have made their day and your day better! These cards are another way you can share a smile. Why not slip one into your dad’s pocket or your mom’s purse, put one in your friend’s backpack, or sneak one onto your teacher’s desk? You can even leave one somewhere for a stranger to find! Have fun sharing your smiles, and see how much better you and the others around you feel!

Click here to print your Share a Smile Cards.

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You can find Nobody Owns the Moon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 28 – Celebrate Hanukkah

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About the Holiday

Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is the Jewish wintertime celebration that commemorates the victory of the small Maccabean army over the much more powerful Greek/Syrian forces and the rededication of the Holy Temple during the second century BCE. Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days in remembrance of the miracle of the oil lamp, which at the time only held enough oil for one day yet burned for eight days. This year Hanukkah takes place from December 10 through 18.

Thanks to Sterling Children’s Books for sharing a copy of The Ninth Night of Hanukkah with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Ninth Night of Hanukkah

Written by Erica S. Perl | Illustrated by Shahar Kober

 

A family has just moved into their new apartment. It’s the first night of Hanukkah, but they can’t find their Hanukkah things amidst all the boxes. So, without the menorah or delicious latkes, Mom, Dad, Rachel, and Max sit on the floor eating pizza. “It was nice…but it didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah.” On the second night, they still hadn’t found the menorah, but Rachel and Max made one from a piece of wood, their jar of nuts and bolts, and some craft paint. It was all ready to light, when Mom discovered that they didn’t have the candles either.

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Image copyright Shahar Kober, 2020, text copyright Erica S. Perl, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With the stores closed, Rachel and Max went next door to apartment 2C. They introduced themselves to Mrs. Mendez and explained their situation. She offered the only candles she had—a box of birthday candles. “Dad lit the shamash. Max and Rachel each used it to light a candle.” Then they opened presents. While it was nice, it still “didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah.
On the third night, the “lucky latke pan” was nowhere to be found, but Max appeared with a steaming plate of French fries from Joe, the super, who lived downstairs.

By the fourth night of Hanukkah, Mom and Dad were beginning to think the box with their Hanukkah things had gotten lost. Max wanted to play dreidel, so while Mom called the moving company, Max and Rachel met the Watson twins, who didn’t have a dreidel, but they did have a toy that spun and spun. On the fifth night, Rachel and Max had made their own dreidel, “which meant they needed gelt.” On the fourth floor, Max and Rachel met Mr. Patel, who handed Max the only chocolate he had—a bag of chocolate chips. All of these substitutions were “nice…but it didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah.”

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Image copyright Shahar Kober, 2020, text copyright Erica S. Perl, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Each night of Hanukkah Max and Rachel missed a different part of their Hanukkah celebration, and each night a new neighbor did the best they could to supply it. On the morning after the eighth night of Hanukkah, a delivery person showed up at the door with Mom’s guitar. She suggested a sing-along, but Rachel reminded her that Hanukkah was over. Max, however, had another idea and pointed to the ninth candle on the menorah. This gave Rachel an idea too, and she and Max whispered and planned. Then they waited. Soon “there was a knock on the door. And another. And another.”

When all the neighbors had gathered, Max and Rachel explained their Shamash Night celebration. Like the Shamash candle “helps light all the other candles,” they said, their new neighbors had helped them celebrate Hanukkah. “‘So we wanted to say thanks—to the Shamash and to you,’” Rachel said. Just then the delivery person appeared with the long-lost box. On the ninth night in their new home, Mom and Dad, Rachel and Max ate, played, sang, and danced with all of their new friends, “and best of all, it felt exactly like Hanukkah.”

An Author’s Note following the story tells about the history and tradition of the shamash candle and the idea that sparked the writing of The Ninth Night of Hanukkah. Erica S. Perl also provides a guide on how families can hold their own “Shamash Night.”

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Image copyright Shahar Kober, 2020, text copyright Erica S. Perl, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Community, resilience, and children’s creativity infuse every page of Erica S. Perl’s story that’s a wonderful Hanukkah read as well as a story families will want to share all year around. The apartment-house setting and the family’s just-moved-in situation combine to create a charming microcosm of making friends, getting to know new neighbors, and discovering the generosity of strangers. Rachel and Max, creative, close-knit, and accommodating, will captivate kids as they go along on their scavenger hunts for the makings of a homey Hanukkah celebration.

Perl’s substitutions—from birthday candles to French fries to a ukulele will appeal to readers. The repeated phrase “It was nice, but it didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah” applies to many make-do conditions and will resonate with children. It also provides suspense and a nice counterpoint for when the night does finally fulfill the Hanukkah feeling. Max and Rachel’s “Shamash Night” offers a message of gratitude not only for things but for friendship.

Shahar Kober’s warm-toned illustrations mirror the heartfelt story and the kindness of the diverse group of neighbors as they provide workable solutions to Max and Rachel’s requests. Images of Rachel and Max creating a homemade menorah, dreidel, and wrapping paper may inspire kids to design their own Hanukkah or other holiday decorations and traditional items. Kober’s cartoon-style characters are expressive, demonstrating their disappointment in missing their well-loved Hanukkah things but more so their cheerful acceptance of what the neighbors can provide. Kids will enjoy watching the antics of the family’s cat, who likes to be in the middle of the action, but also is happy to make do with a moving box as a new napping spot.

A heartwarming and joyful Hanukkah story with messages of kindness, generosity, acceptance and a loving sibling relationship, The Ninth Night of Hanukkah is highly recommended for all home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1454940883

Discover more about Erica S. Perl and her books on her website.

To learn more about Shahar Kober, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Celebrate Hanukkah Activity

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Star of David Decoration

 

Kids can add a bit of sparkle to their Hanukkah celebrations with this Star of David craft.

Supplies

  • 6 mini craft sticks
  • 2 round lids from clear plastic deli containers
  • Silver glitter
  • Blue craft paint
  • Clear-drying glue
  • Thin ribbon or string, 8 – 10 inches long

Directions

To Make the Star of David

  1. Paint the craft sticks with the blue paint, let dry
  2. Glue three of the craft sticks together to form a triangle; repeat with the other three sticks
  3. Glue the two triangles together to create a Star of David
  4. Glue a short length of ribbon to the top back of the Star of David

To Make the Case

  1. Apply a thin layer of clear-drying glue to the top, indented side of one of the lids
  2. Sprinkle the lid with the glitter, let dry
  3. When the glue is dry, center the Star of David in the lid with the ribbon trailing over the rim of the lid. The Star of David will be free hanging inside the case from the ribbon.
  4. Glue the rim of the indented side of the second lid to the rim of the first lid
  5. When dry, tie the ribbon into a loop for hanging

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You can find The Ninth Night of Hanukkah at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 8 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Do you have friends you haven’t seen or talked to in a while? Is there someone new at work or school who could use a friend to show them the ropes or grab lunch with? If so, this month’s holiday gives you the opportunity to reach out and say hi. Instituted a decade ago by the Oddfellows organization in the UK, Friendship Month is a super time to show kindness to those you know and those you don’t—yet!  

All We Need

Written by Kathy Wolff | Illustrated by Margaux Meganck

 

In All We Need, Kathy Wolff and Margaux Meganck work in perfect harmony to show children that happiness resides in simple basics that satisfy our needs while nurturing us and bringing us together. Wolff’s lilting lyrical verses give Meganck a strong framework for her lovely illustrations that follow a group of children and their families from a park to a potluck community dinner. Each of Wolff’s verses are presented on two double-page spreads that invite readers to guess what necessity is being described before they turn the page. These poignant page turns also provide a short beat between around the answer that allows children to think a moment about its importance to them and others.

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The book begins in a park with Maganck’s a mother, her toddler, and her daughter who is sitting against a tree and holding a dandelion in the foreground. The long view takes in a fountain splashpad. Wolff reveals, “All we need / is what’s found in the breeze, / in the stillness of nothing, in the rustle of trees, / when we take a deep breath, what’s not seen—but is there . . . / All we need . . ..” Turn the page and a close-up of the girl blowing the dandelion while her brother tries to capture the flying fluff reveals “. . . is air.”

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The next page spread takes readers into the splashpad, where children cavort and a little girl is taking a drink break. An Asian mother watches her son enjoying the spray of the fountain. Turn the page and you can almost feel the cooling droplets as the kids revel in their fun. A couple of pages later, it’s time to leave and two families make their way down a city block towards home. Snapshots of the three main families cooking food will pique kids’ curiosity as to what they’re making and where they are going as following pages show them securing the meals for travel.

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Readers discover that they are all going to the same place, and they greet each other with smiles and hugs. The kids help their parents decorate tables with flowers and set up the serving table with plates, bowls, and cups. Maganck’s illustration of the crowd that gathers to enjoy the food and camaraderie as well as Wolff’s appeal “to share” offers a welcome opportunity for readers and adults to talk about what kind of gathering it might be, when they have attended similar events, and what community events mean to them.

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

A heartening tribute to our universal bonds, All We Need is an eloquent invitation to appreciate life’s simple gifts and build community around them. The book would be a stirring addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1619638747

Discover more about Kathy Wolff and her books on her website.

To learn more about Margaux Meganck, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Friendship Month Activity

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Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. Offering friendship to all, the interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become buddies with one another. 

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures

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You can find All We Need at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 30 – Talk in an Elevator Day

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About the Holiday

There are many moments in life when the opportunity arises to make a connection with someone you don’t know – even if only fleetingly. Today’s holiday highlights one of these – a ride in an elevator. Instead of standing quietly until you reach your floor, the founders of Talk in an Elevator Day wanted to encourage people to strike up a conversation, maybe lighten the day with a joke, or just say hi! whether their traveling companions are a friend, neighbor, or stranger. The community in today’s book certainly celebrates the spirit of today’s holiday!

Going Up!

Written by Sherry J. Lee | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

Sophie and her dad, Leonard, have been invited to Olive’s birthday party on the tenth floor of their apartment building. She and her dad bake their favorite cookies to bring—”molasses with jam in the middle. It’s my grandma’s recipe,” Sophie says. Sophie and her dad live on the first floor, so just before 2:00, they head for the elevator, where Sophie pushes the button to go up.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The elevator stops at the second floor, and when the door opens, “the Santucci brothers, Andrew and Pippo”—two biker dudes—get on. “‘Hey, Little Bit!’” Pippo says to Sophie. On the third floor, a couple and their dog, Norman, get on, along with a “Happy Birthday” balloon. On the fourth floor, Mr. and Mrs. Habib and their grandkids, Yasmin and Jamal, are waiting with a “big bowl of gulab jamun” which they made especially for Sophie and her dad.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Things are getting pretty tight in the elevator by the time it reaches the fifth floor, so Leonard puts Sophie on his shoulders and Sophie holds the cookies on her head like a hat. The elevator door opens at the eighth floor to find Grace and Arnie standing there with a bass and a clarinet. Can they fit too? With a squeeze or two, they juuust make it. One more floor to go…. Will anyone else fit?

At last, the elevator reaches the tenth floor, and with a DING everyone runs, cartwheels, dances, and tumbles out—all to wish Olive a Happy Birthday. And who is Olive? Take the elevator up to see!

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Sherry J. Lee’s warm and welcoming story of a group of diverse neighbors getting together to celebrate the birthday of one of their favorite tenants will delight kids. With the thrill of riding a real elevator, readers will eagerly await the door’s opening on every floor, where they’re introduced to a new family or individual. Told from Sophie’s point of view and rich in dialogue, the story shines with inclusiveness as the neighbors greet each other enthusiastically.

Humor and suspense builds as the elevator stops on each floor and more and more people bringing food, instruments, pets, and housewarming gifts squeeze into the tiny space. The elevator provides a natural setting for fun math and observational engagement, and kids will love flipping back through the pages to count, add, talk about spatial relationships, and notice hints about the favorite talents and activities of each neighbor.

With her colored pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, Charlene Chua creates a vibrant apartment building community that works in perfect synchronicity with Lee’s story. Images of the diverse neighbors—from Black Sophie and Leonard to two supposed tough guys (who sport cat tattoos and carry the tiniest of kittens) to a same-sex couple and a South Asian family to Oliver’s owner, who uses a wheelchair—reflect readers’ urban, suburban, and rural experiences.

On the journey from the first floor to the tenth, Chua includes a cornucopia of humorous, sweet, and “oh no!” clues that define personalities, add to the suspense, and hint at the identity of the birthday girl. The pull-out page as everyone tumbles out of the elevator is a showstopper that will have readers of all ages pointing, giggling, and appreciating all the residents of this special home. Opportunities to visualize and discuss math concepts occur with each push of the button or turn of the page. After taking this trip, kids will eagerly look for and welcome the diversity and individuality in their own neighborhoods.

Clever, sweet, and organically inclusive, Going Up! is a book kids will want to read again and again. As a charming story on its own and with so many applications for discussion and cross-curricular activities, the book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1525301131

Discover more about Sherry J. Lee and her books as well as a fun Going Up! Activity Kit on her website.

To learn more about Charlene Chua, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Talk in an Elevator Day Activity

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Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Any party is more fun with lots of treats! Can you find your favorite in this baking pan puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

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You can find Going Up! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 26 – Celebrating All or Nothing Day with Jane Kurtz

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Jane Kurtz is an award-winning children’s book author, speaker, educator. She is also on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Children’s and YA Literature. She is a co-founder of the nonprofit Ethiopia Reads, an organization that brings books and literacy to the children in Ethiopia, where Jane grew up. She also heads the creative team of Ready Set Go Books, a project of Open Hearts Big Dreams to create fun, colorful, local language books for people in Ethiopia. She is the author of many books for children, including River Friendly River Wild, winner of the SCBWI Golden Kite award for picture book text, and What Do They Do With All That Poo?, a finalist to the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Excellence in Science Books list; it has also been named to several state reading lists, voted on by children.

You can connect with Jane Kurtz on Her website | Instagram | Twitter

Hi Jane! I’m so glad you could join me to celebrate All or Nothing Day, which encourages people to seize the day—whatever comes—and make the best of it, even if that means overcome fears or obstacles to accomplish something they’ve always wanted to do. The stars of  your latest book, Chickens on the Loose, certainly embrace this philosophy and stop at nothing to enjoy a bit of freedom!

I love your and John Joseph’s book not only because it’s funny and action-packed but because my family had our own “chickens on the loose” experience last year when two chickens mysterious ly showed up in our yard—right outside our cat’s favorite window. Needless to say, he was delighted with all the activity. They hung around for a bit and then wandered away. We’re not entirely sure how they got to our yard or where they came from, but they’ve never been back. It definitely made for a fun memory!

Since you’ve published more than forty books for children in a variety of genres – including many award winners – I’m sure readers would like to know how you get the ideas for your books. How do you know when an idea “will stick?”

 When I was a young writer, I only remember hearing that books come from a writer’s imagination. I still think that a writer has to have a way of imagining scenes in vivid detail, but often the ideas that first spark a book (or a scene) come from staying curious and paying attention to life as it happens right around me. With my new picture book, Chickens On The Loose, for example, the idea sparks came from my neighbor’s chickens running around my backyard in Portland, Oregon—and from the many notices I was reading on my “Next Door” neighbor site pleading for help with escaped chickens. My mind drifted to where the chickens would go in my urban neighborhood. It’s hard for me to craft a draft from a mere spark of an idea, though. One thing that makes an idea stick is when it comes paired with a lively voice. “Chickens on the loose. Chickens on the lam, zipping from the yard as quickly as they can.” Where did those words come from?

I suppose they came from my imagination.

Later, when I was working with an editor to refine the story arc, I was having trouble imagining what plot move would allow the chickens to shake off the people who were following and slowly make their own way back home. I was walking in my neighborhood park when I saw a dog walker with too many dogs on too many leashes and a desperate look on her face that said the situation might be out of control any minute. Suddenly, in my mind, I saw the chickens and crowd running around a corner, tangling with all those leashes…humans landing “splat” with chickens flapping onward.

Just like a cook experiments, tries something, adds, tastes, steps back, considers…I sometimes instantly and sometimes slowly know that I’ve come up with a sticky idea for a book or a scene depending on the sensation it leaves in my reader’s mind. The whole thing takes curiosity, patience, and anything that keeps discouragement at bay.

Thanks so much for sharing your creative process with us! I hope you’re having a wonderful—and idea-filled—summer!

Now let’s take a look at:

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Chickens on the Loose

By Jane Kurtz | Illustrated by John Joseph

 

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

Oh no! The backyard gate is open and there are “chickens breaking loose. / Chickens on the lam. / Zipping from the yard, / as quickly as they can.” It’s a wild chicken chase, with humans trailing behind, trying and failing to stop the loose chickens. The chickens zoom and do not stop; they peek in windows, take items from shops. They do some yoga at a local studio, before grabbing some snacks at an outdoor food court fest. What a crazy, hilarious, chicken-filled mess!

An ever-growing crowd of people race behind, trying to stop them in their tracks. Throughout the story, each new member of the crowd yells, “STOP!” but the chickens pay no heed. When the chickens reach the local pet store, “‘STOP!’ shouts everybody. But the chickens will not stop. / ‘No way!” they say, “We will not stay.” It sounds like BOC BOC BOC.” What will bring these chickens home? Find out in the madcap ending that will have kids wanting the hear the story all over again.

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Image copyright John Joseph, 2021, text copyright Jane Kurtz, 2021. Courtesy of West Margin Press.

Author Jane Kurtz wows again with another read-out-loud tale perfect for youngsters. Her infectious rhymes and zippy rhythm propel the story with wit as quick as those runaway chickens. Kurtz’s vivacious vocabulary adds to the fun, and her repeated phrasing will have kids vocally joining the chase. 

John Joseph’s colorful, comedic drawings feature a diverse cast of city residents of different races, religions, ethnicities, and abilities. The girl whose chickens got loose in the first place leads the crowd down the streets from page to page. Joseph illustrates the neighborhood with colorful storefronts, homes, bustling crowds, and the silliest of chickens. The exaggerated body language and expressiveness of the humans and chickens tell a story in themselves, adding a great deal of humor to the story. 

Ages 4 – 8

West Margin Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1513267241

For classroom resources, a peek inside the book, and a fun video, check out this page on Jane Kurtz’s website!

For more fantastic reading, check out these picture books and middle grade reads by Jane Kurtz too!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-do-they-do-with-all-that-poo-cover    celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-planet-jupiter-cover 

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You can find Chickens on the Loose at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 2 – National Leave the Office Early Day

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About the Holiday

Would you like to spend less time at the office and more at home with your kids or just relaxing with a good book or favorite hobby? Employee productivity expert Laura Stack thought most people would say yes, so in 2004 she established today’s holiday to raise awareness of adjustments and strategies workers and management can take to make the work day more efficient and productive so that people can leave on time. A better balance between work and home life has benefits for people’s health, happiness, relationships, and their job itself. 

Somewhere in the City

Written by J. B. Frank | Illustrated by Yu Leng

 

The sun has set and it’s growing late. “Somewhere in the city,” Lucy peers out her window hoping to hear her dad’s footsteps amid the “bustle of the street below.” A dog across the street barks, and Lucy calls out “‘Daddy’s coming home.’” Across town Lucy’s father turns off his computer, grabs his briefcase and jacket and says goodbye to his coworkers. He rushes through the office lobby and “Swish, Swish” spins through the revolving door and onto the street.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-Lucy

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

While she waits, Lucy watches the baker mixing dough through the plate glass window. She stirs and stirs in a big bowl. “Somewhere in the city,” Daddy hurries past a musician “playing a lullaby to the people passing by.” Some friends who are listening invite Lucy’s dad to stop and chat, but he begs off, telling them he needs to get home to tuck his little one into bed. At home, Lucy yawns and puts on her pajamas. At the bus stop, a woman also yawns after a long day. The bus finally comes, but Lucy’s dad does not get off.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-dad

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

“Somewhere in the city” Daddy’s been delayed. When the path finally clears, he runs toward home. He passes a street performer and thinks how much Lucy would love it. Meanwhile, Lucy stretches out her time getting ready for bed, but her mom finally taps her watch and tells her it’s time for bed. But how can Lucy go to sleep without “hearing that special something?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-carousel

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Finally, Daddy is on the train and although Lucy is in bed, she’s not sleeping. She dances to the music floating through her window from the radio in the grocery store below, she plays with her cat, and at last she hears the door open. Snuggled up with Daddy as he reads her a story, Lucy rests “her head on his chest…hears that special something,” and sighs with contentment.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-waiting

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Steeped in the sights, sounds, and pop-up events of a city and enriched by the urgency of a parent-child reunion for a daily tradition, J.B Frank’s story will delight kids and adults alike. Frank’s repeated phrase “somewhere in the city” makes the story universal while playing with pacing and enhancing Lucy’s and her father’s feelings. Children will love the back-and-forth storytelling that keeps tabs on Daddy’s progress through the city and Lucy’s attempts to delay bedtime. When Daddy finally makes it home, what Lucy has been waiting for will melt readers’ hearts.

Yu Leng’s realistic portrayals of the city share space with dreamlike whimsy in clever transitions that young readers will adore. As Lucy’s father rushes through the city, he meets up with surprising performers, a humorous delay that’s just right for little readers on their way to “counting sheep,” and other fun-living city folk. Just as charming is the view from Lucy’s window of the bakery, grocery store, bus stop and the rooms of her apartment home, all washed in a sleepy blue, punctuated by the welcoming golden glow of Lucy’s bedroom light. Lucy and her father’s facial expressions clearly show their changing emotions, and the final spreads of them sharing a special moment is heartwarming.

Enchanting, smart, and touching, Somewhere in the City would make a wonderful gift for dads anytime and especially for Father’s Day or for new dads. The book  is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Familius, 2021| ISBN 978-1641702607

Discover more about J. B. Frank and her books on her website.

You can connect with Yu Leng on Instagram.

National Leave the Office Early Day Activity

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Briefcase Craft and Dream Job Application

 

Kids will have fun pretending to be dad or mom going off to the office with this easy-to-make craft and printable Dream Job Application! 

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

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You can find Somewhere in the City at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 14 – Dance Like a Chicken Day

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About the Holiday

Time to get your fancy dancy pants on for National Dance Like a Chicken Day! National Dance Like a Chicken Day is just about as wacky as it sounds. Its purpose is to encourage people to dance like chicken or do the “Chicken Dance.” The Chicken Dance song was composed by a Swiss accordionist in the 1950s. When the song reached audiences in the US in the ‘70s, the dance moves were created to accompany the song. The dance continues to be a silly tradition to this day with records for World’s Largest Chicken Dance and World’s Longest—spanning 24 city blocks! To top it off, Celebrate Picture Books has the perfect, funky, dancing jive of a book to start off the joyous celebration.

Thanks go to West Margin Press and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Chickens on the Loose for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. We’re happy to be teaming with them on a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Chickens on the Loose

By Jane Kurtz | Illustrated by John Joseph

 

Oh no! The backyard gate is open and there are “chickens breaking loose. / Chickens on the lam. / Zipping from the yard, / as quickly as they can.” It’s a wild chicken chase, with humans trailing behind, trying and failing to stop the loose chickens. The chickens zoom and do not stop; they peek in windows, take items from shops. They do some yoga at a local studio, before grabbing some snacks at an outdoor food court fest. What a crazy, hilarious, chicken-filled mess!

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Image copyright John Joseph, 2021, text copyright Jane Kurtz, 2021. Courtesy of West Margin Press.

As the chickens “hitch a ride on skateboards / to rest their aching feet,” paint walls, and take a trip through the pet store (where they share their love of freedom with the penned-up animals), an ever-growing crowd of people race behind to try and stop them in their tracks. Throughout the story, each new member of the crowd yells, “STOP!” but the chickens pay no heed. When the chickens reach the local pet store, “‘STOP!’ shouts everybody. But the chickens will not stop. / ‘No way!” they say, “We will not stay.” It sounds like BOC BOC BOC.” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chickens-on-the-loose-food-truck

Image copyright John Joseph, 2021, text copyright Jane Kurtz, 2021. Courtesy of West Margin Press.

When the chasers and escapees finally collide with a giant “SPLAAAT!!!,” the chickens know it’s time to head back home. They take their tired legs and waddle through raindrops and puddles with heads hung low. When they are back at the coop, they close their eyes and take a rest. One bathes their feet, another dozes under a snazzy polka dot eye mask. They take a snooze until, “Oops! Yikes! That old mood strikes…” and the chickens are on the loose once more! 

Backmatter includes information on keeping urban chickens and general chicken facts. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chickens-on-the-loose-pet-store

Image copyright John Joseph, 2021, text copyright Jane Kurtz, 2021. Courtesy of West Margin Press.

Author Jane Kurtz wows us again with another read-out-loud tale perfect for youngsters. Her infectious rhymes and zippy rhythm propel the story with wit as quick as those runaway chickens. Kurtz’s vivacious vocabulary adds to the fun, and her repeated phrasing will have kids vocally joining the chase. In her bio following the story, she explains that her inspiration for the book stemmed from childhood experiences raising chickens with her family while living in Ethiopia. She aims to engage readers in a fun tale while teaching that chickens can happily live in cities and urban areas too.

John Joseph’s colorful, comedic drawings feature a diverse cast of city residents of different races, religions, ethnicities, and abilities. The girl whose chickens got loose in the first place is seen throughout the pages, leading the crowd down the streets. Joseph illustrates the neighborhood with colorful storefronts, homes, bustling crowds, and the silliest of chickens. The exaggerated body language and expressiveness of the humans and chickens throughout the book tell a story in and of themselves—from happy chickens with sandwiches and pizzas in beak to people gleefully and nervously chasing after the flock, the facial expressions add a great deal of humor to the story. 

Chickens on the Loose is a perfect edition to home collections, classrooms, and libraries. One that is sure to make readers laugh out loud, and maybe even inspire a round of the Chicken Dance!

Ages 4 – 8

West Margin Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1513267241

Jane Kurtz is an award-winning children’s book author, speaker, educator, and she is on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Children’s and YA Literature. She is a co-founder of the nonprofit Ethiopia Reads, an organization that brings books and literacy to the children in Ethiopia, where Jane grew up. She also heads the creative team of Ready Set Go Books, a project of Open Hearts Big Dreams to create fun, colorful, local language books for people in Ethiopia. She is the author of many books for children, including River Friendly River Wild, winner of the SCBWI Golden Kite award for picture book text, and What Do They Do With All That Poo?, a finalist to the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Excellence in Science Books list; it has also been named to several state reading lists, voted on by children. To learn more, you can connect with Jane on her Website | Instagram | Twitter

John Joseph is an artist, illustrator, elementary school teacher, avid gardener, and community leader. He earned a degree in visual arts from Colorado State University and a Masters from Lesley University, and has won the ACP Excellence in Publishing Award for Best Picture Book. He lives in Colorado with his wife, two sons, and a German shepherd. You can connect with John on his Website | Instagram

Dance Like a Chicken Day Activity

West-Margin-Press-chickens-on-the-loose-activity-kit

Chickens on the Loose Activity Kit

 

Download this story time kit to make chicken puppets, complete a chicken maze, check out some chicken yoga poses and more!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chickens-on-the-loose-cover

You can find Chickens on the Loose at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review