July 28 – National Day of the Cowboy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-real-cowboys-cover

About the Holiday

Observed annually on the fourth Saturday of July, the day commemorates the “contributions of the Cowboy and Cowgirl to America’s culture and heritage.” The heyday of the cowboy and cowgirl came after the Civil War when Texas experienced a booming wild cattle population. As the population of the United States grew, the demand for beef increased. Cowboys and cowgirls drove nearly 5 million head of cattle north to meet the demand, sparking tales, legends, and a rich history of the Great Plains in their boot and hoof steps. With no written laws on the books, cowboys even came up with their own code of conduct, which included living each day with honestly and courage, taking pride in your work, standing up for what’s right, and many more rules to live by. For more information visit The Day of the Cowboy website.

Real Cowboys

Written by Kate Hoefler | Illustrated by Jonathan Bean

 

Real cowboys wake with the dawn’s light and are careful not to make too much noise for the people still sleeping in the “little houses in the hollow, and up the mountains, and at the edge of fields in the distance.” It is natural for the cowboys to think of others. Their job is to care for the herd; to help a stranded calf and their dog who is trying to lure it to safety; to soothe the herd when thunder rumbles overhead.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-real-cowboys-dawn

Image copyright Jonathan Bean, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Real cowboys sing soft, slow songs to their cows to encourage them to continue moving when the path is narrow and dangerous and to sleep when coyotes howl in the night. Cowboys are good listeners—heeding the advice and warnings of the trail boss and other cowhands. “Sometimes they listen for trucks, and wolves, and rushing water. And sometimes they just listen to the big wide world and its grass song.” Along the way cowboys keep themselves safe with their wide-brimmed hats and leather chaps.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-real-cowboys-saving-calf

Image copyright Jonathan Bean, text copyright Kate Hoefler. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Because the cattle drive is long—lasting “for hours, or days, or weeks”—cowboys learn to be patient. “Even on a fast horse, they have to move with the slow rhythm of a herd….” When they need help, real cowboys don’t hesitate to ask, using hand and hat signals to alert other cowhands. “Real cowboys want peace. They don’t want stampedes, where all the cattle spook, and thunder over the earth, and scatter in dust storms.” Sometimes, however, this happens, and sometimes a few cattle and dogs are lost. Thinking of them when times are quiet, “real cowboys cry.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-real-cowboys-cowboys-cry

Image copyright Jonathan Bean, text copyright Kate Hoefler. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

At night cowboys take turns eating and sleeping so there is always someone to watch over the herd. When they pack up camp and move on, real cowboys are mindful of the earth, and when they are far from home, inside themselves they can feel homesick, even if they look tough on the outside. “Real cowboys are as many different colors as the earth. Real cowboys are girls too.” In their hearts “real cowboys are artists,” creating stories that are bigger than the wide open prairie. “They wonder what’s past the horizon. And one day, when their work is done, real cowboys find out.”

Kate Hoefler’s moving tribute to cowboys and cowgirls demonstrates the qualities of kindness, thoughtfulness, and mindfulness that we want to share with our children. With lyrical language she follows cowboys on a cattle drive, where they experience the joys and sorrows that life entails for all. Hoefler’s pacing echoes the day-to-day movement of the herd as well as readers’ daily life. Delving into the responsibilities and characteristics of these men and women is a unique way to open the world to children and promote discussions about the traits of caring individuals.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-real-cowboys-stampede

Image copyright Jonathan Bean, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Jonathan Bean’s hand-stenciled illustrations printed in four Pantone colors are particularly effective in portraying the life of the cowboys and cowgirls entrusted with herds of cattle. Early morning dawns to rose skies that color even the horses and reflect in the drinking trough. Cattle, obscured by dust raised on the trail, form the backdrop to a cowboy worriedly watching his dog coax a calf from a cliff, and afternoon turns to night in a two-page spread where a cow nuzzles her calf as it sleeps. Depictions of the enormity of the herd traveling from one place to another amid sweltering days, rain storms, and blizzards are beautifully rendered, and the emotions of the cowboys are clearly discernable and touching.

Real Cowboys is stunning in both language and illustrations. For quiet story times, bedtime, or times for reflection and inspiration, this book would make an excellent addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544148925

To view a gallery of illustration by Jonathan Bean, visit his website!

National Day of the Cowboy Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rootin'-tootin'-round-up-maze

Rootin’-Tootin’ Round-Up Maze

 

These cowgirls and cowboys have a surprise waiting for them. Can you help them round it up in this printable Rootin’-Tootin’ Round-Up Maze?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-real-cowboys-cover

You can find Real Cowboys at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

January 18 – It’s International Quality of Life Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-car-cowboy-hay-bales

About the Holiday

Enjoying a good quality of life means being happy where you live and in your relationships, your job, and your situation in general. Finding the right balance can be hard, but with perseverance and support from friends and family, you can discover and attain the best lifestyle for you.

Cowboy Car

Written by Jeanie Franz Ransom | Illustrated by Ovi Nedelcu

 

“Ever since he was knee-high to his daddy’s hubcaps, Little Car wanted to be a cowboy.” He watched cowboy movies on the TV in his city garage and loved everything about cowboy life. Little Car lived in the city, squeezed in between lanes and lanes of cars and unable to see the sky for the soaring skyscrapers. He dreamed of sleeping under the stars and roaming the wide open plains. But everyone told Little Car, “‘Cars Can’t Be Cowboys.’”

Little Car’s dad wanted him to be a city taxi, like him; his mom hoped he’d be “a family car and settle down in a garage close to home.” Neither of those futures, however, offered the excitement of “herding cattle by day” and the camaraderie of “circling up around the campfire at night,” so when Little Car grew up he headed out West. First, he needed to look the part, but where would he find a hat big enough? He pulled up at a cowboy supply depot, and there on the roof sat the perfect 50-gallon hat!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-car-cowboy-hay-bales

Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

With the hat settled firmly on his roof, Little Car drove on to the Circle R. Ranch. There he met Dusty, who listened to Little Car’s dream of being a cowboy and gave him a bit of bad news: “‘Cars can’t be cowboys. They can’t ride horses!’” Little Car was disappointed, and so was Dusty—the ranch really needed extra help. Little Car wanted to prove his mettle, so Dusty agreed to let him try a few cowboy tests. The next morning, Little Car “zoomed around the barrels in no time. He was used to making quick turns around tight corners in the city.” He was also strong enough to carry heavy loads and move bales of hay. He could even round up li’l doggies in the dark in the beam of his headlights.

The next day Dusty promised to take Little Car to the rodeo. When they got there, though, Little Car was told he couldn’t participate because he didn’t ride a horse. Still, he was excited to watch Dusty ride Double Trouble, the biggest, meanest bull on the circuit. With Dusty hanging on tight, Double Trouble bucked and snorted and leaped. In a minute Dusty was thrown to the ground, and Double Trouble was headed straight toward him.

“With tires squealing, horn honking, and the radio blasting, Little Car got everyone’s attention—including the bulls.” He zipped right and left, “swerved, stopped, backed up, and drove around and around until the bull’s snorts turned into snores.” Afterward, a news reporter wanted to know if he was a cowboy at the Circle R. Ranch. “‘He sure is,’ Dusty said. ‘In fact, he’s my pardner!’”

Watching the report on the garage TV, Little Car’s mom and dad proudly exclaimed, “‘That’s our cowboy!’” And “Little Car drove off into the sunset, home on the range at last.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-car-cowboy-hay-bales

Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Li’l pardners enamored of the cowboy life will be charmed by Little Car and his dreams to leave the big city for the freedom of cowboy life. With clever turns of phrase and a sprinkling of puns, Jeanie Franz Ransom takes readers on an endearing ride through the ups and downs, disappointments and successes of navigating life on one’s own. When Little Car uses his city experience, smarts, and courage to save Dusty and earn a spot at the ranch, despite not being able to ride a horse, kids will see that they too can overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals.

Children will love adorable Little Car as he snuggles next to his mom and taxicab dad in the garage. With wide headlight eyes and a grill with an ever-present grin, Little Car makes his way out West, where kids will giggle at the 50-gallon hat atop an old general store, whoop as Little Car completes his cowboy tests, and cheer when he outwits Double Trouble to save the day. As Little Car drives off into the sunset, readers will know that he—and they—have a bright future ahead.

Car and cowboy or cowgirl enthusiasts, as well as kids new to school and other activities will find a friend in Little Car and ask to hear his story again and again. Cowboy Car would make a sweet addition to story time and bedtime reading.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1503950979

Discover more about Jeanie Franz Ransom and her books on her website!

You’ll find a portfolio of books and illustration work by Ovi Nedelcu on his website!

International Quality of Life Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-follow-the-open-road-mazeFollow the Open Road Maze

 

 

These four kids are ready to head out and enjoy the day! Match each child to the right car in this printable Follow the Open Road Maze to get them on their way!

Picture Book Review

November 19 – Have a Bad Day Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bad-day-at-riverbend-cover

About the Holiday

Ever get tired of telling others to “have a nice day!” when you—or they–are not really feeling it? Do you work in the customer service industry (and who doesn’t in one way or another) and deal with difficult personalities on a daily basis but still need to smile and wish the person a good day? Well, today’s holiday was established to give us all a bit of relief and encourages people to end their interactions or conversations with the surprising “Have a bad day!” It’s probably safe to say that upon hearing this, even the grumpiest of grumps would have to smile—even a little bit—and acknowledge that maybe everything isn’t so terrible.

Bad Day at Riverbend

By Chris Van Allsburg

 

“Riverbend was a quiet little town—just a couple dozen buildings alongside a dusty road that led nowhere.” It was the kind of town the stagecoach passed through without even stopping, where nothing new ever happened. But one day Sheriff Ned Hardy did see something new—a bright light that flashed on and off in the western sky. He was sitting in the jailhouse, pondering this strange occurrence when Owen Buck, the blacksmith’s son, ran in with some news. “In between gasps, Ned Hardy heard the words ‘stagecoach’ and ‘something awful.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bad-day-at-riverbend-stagecoach

Copyright Chris Van Allsburg, 1995, courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

Outside, a crowd of townsfolk stared at the stagecoach, which was standing still at the end of the road. “The horses were covered with great stripes of some kind of shiny, greasy slime.” No one knew what this was or what had happened. Ned Hardy tried to remove the slime that hung from the horses “in loopy ropes or stuck out like stiff wire.” But as hard as he tried, the sheriff could not tear the stuff away from the horses’ bodies.

The stagecoach driver was nowhere to be seen, so Ned Hardy saddled his horse and went to search for him. Along the way he came upon the same strange markings he’d seen on the horses. It covered the ground and the cacti. He didn’t have much time to consider what he saw before he heard a sound nearby. The sheriff found the coachman lying behind a bolder. He was also “covered with the greasy slime. Thick stripes of the stuff ran right across his eyes and mouth.” Ned Hardy picked the driver up and put him on his horse for the ride back to Riverbend. As they passed over a ravine, they saw a herd of cattle, which also carried the odd, colorful markings. Once again the sheriff saw the flash of light over Riverbend.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bad-day-at-riverbend-horses-covered

Copyright Chris Van Allsburg, 1995, courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

As the two rode back into town, they saw that even tidy Riverbend had not been spared. Some of the townspeople had been marred as well, and “they all told the same story: Without warning, the sky overhead had filled with a brilliant light, a light that froze everything it touched…’Like stepping out of a privy and looking straight into the sun at high noon,’ one of the cowboys said….When the light passed, they were covered with the greasy marks.”

Ned Hardy was not about to let his town down. He went outside to confront this mysterious foe. Inspired by his bravery, other townspeople joined him. Just then they saw the flash of light again. “‘Whatever evil thing has done this is out in those hills,’” Ned Hardy said, “pointing in the direction of the light. ‘I aim to ride out there and put an end to it.’” He took a posse out to the canyon, which was now a mess of greasy slime as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bad-day-at-riverbend-cows-covered

Copyright Chris Van Allsburg, 1995, courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

They rode on toward the horizon where the light always seemed to appear. But just over a hill they saw a most terrible sight. “There was a man standing perfectly still at the bottom of the hill. He was as tall as a cottonwood tree and as skinny as a broomstick. He looked like he was made entirely of the greasy stuff that now covered the countryside.”

Ned Hardy was sure this stranger was the cause of all their troubles. With the go-ahead from the sheriff, the posse advanced, ready to take their shot at capturing him. “But just as they came over the hill, they were frozen in the bright light that suddenly filled the sky” as a little hand scribbled away with red, blue, green, and purple crayons. “And then the light went out.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bad-day-at-riverbend-kid-coloring

Copyright Chris Van Allsburg, 1995, courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

For its outright cleverness and superb storytelling, Bad Day at Riverbend is one of my all-time favorite picture books. In his story set in the Old West, Chris Van Allsburg—master of the “what if…?”—has turned a coloring book into a suspenseful who-done-it for young readers. With the twang and tone of a Western movie and detailed line drawings, Van Allsburg empathizes with the coloring book characters, who are mystified by what is being done to them and their surroundings.

As Ned Hardy and his posse happen upon a stick figure drawn into their landscape, readers may begin to suspect who the perpetrator really is. The final pages reveal satisfying “Ah-ha!” moments as a child’s arm and hand appear from the corner wielding a stick of “greasy slime.” The following two-page spread shows a boy or girl wearing a red cowboy hat busy at work and surrounded by art supplies. The last page, on which a closed coloring book lays on a table, answers the question, “what was that bright light?”

Bad Day at Riverbend is the kind of unique story that would capture any child’s imagination and make a wonderful addition to a home library. It would also make a great gift for coloring book enthusiasts.

Ages 4 – 8

HMH Books for Young Readers, 1995 | ISBN 978-0395673478

Find out more about Chris Van Allsburg and his books on his website.

Have a Bad Day Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-very-bad-bad-word-search

A Very Bad, Bad Word Search Puzzle

 

Some days are just bad…bad…bad! They make us feel sad, glum, dreary…Well, you know! Cheer up by finding the twenty words for describing a bad day in this printable A Very Bad, Bad Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution

Picture Book Review

April 24 – It’s Car Care Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-car-cowboy-hay-bales

About the Holiday

So, after a long winter of standing around in freezing temperatures, slipping on icy pavement, and not getting quite as much exercise as usual, your car could use some tender loving care. April is the perfect time to schedule a maintenance checkup, give your auto a bath, and take ‘er out on the open road for a nice, long run. You never know, your car may have dreams too—just like the cute coupe in today’s story.

Mosey on down below to find an chance to win a copy of Cowboy Car!

Cowboy Car

Written by Jeanie Franz Ransom | Illustrated by Ovi Nedelcu

 

“Ever since he was knee-high to his daddy’s hubcaps, Little Car wanted to be a cowboy.” He watched cowboy movies on the TV in his city garage and loved everything about cowboy life. Little Car lived in the city, squeezed in between lanes and lanes of cars and unable to see the sky for the soaring skyscrapers. He dreamed of sleeping under the stars and roaming the wide open plains. But everyone told Little Car, “‘Cars Can’t Be Cowboys.’”

Little Car’s dad wanted him to be a city taxi, like him; his mom hoped he’d be “a family car and settle down in a garage close to home.” Neither of those futures, however, offered the excitement of “herding cattle by day” and the camaraderie of “circling up around the campfire at night,” so when Little Car grew up he headed out West. First, he needed to look the part, but where would he find a hat big enough? He pulled up at a cowboy supply depot, and there on the roof sat the perfect 50-gallon hat!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-car-cowboy-hay-bales

Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

With the hat settled firmly on his roof, Little Car drove on to the Circle R. Ranch. There he met Dusty, who listened to Little Car’s dream of being a cowboy and gave him a bit of bad news: “‘Cars can’t be cowboys. They can’t ride horses!’” Little Car was disappointed, and so was Dusty—the ranch really needed extra help. Little Car wanted to prove his mettle, so Dusty agreed to let him try a few cowboy tests. The next morning, Little Car “zoomed around the barrels in no time. He was used to making quick turns around tight corners in the city.” He was also strong enough to carry heavy loads and move bales of hay. He could even round up li’l doggies in the dark in the beam of his headlights.

The next day Dusty promised to take Little Car to the rodeo. When they got there, though, Little Car was told he couldn’t participate because he didn’t ride a horse. Still, he was excited to watch Dusty ride Double Trouble, the biggest, meanest bull on the circuit. With Dusty hanging on tight, Double Trouble bucked and snorted and leaped. In a minute Dusty was thrown to the ground, and Double Trouble was headed straight toward him.

“With tires squealing, horn honking, and the radio blasting, Little Car got everyone’s attention—including the bulls.” He zipped right and left, “swerved, stopped, backed up, and drove around and around until the bull’s snorts turned into snores.” Afterward, a news reporter wanted to know if he was a cowboy at the Circle R. Ranch. “‘He sure is,’ Dusty said. ‘In fact, he’s my pardner!’”

Watching the report on the garage TV, Little Car’s mom and dad proudly exclaimed, “‘That’s our cowboy!’” And “Little Car drove off into the sunset, home on the range at last.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-car-cowboy-hay-bales

Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Li’l pardners enamored of the cowboy life will be charmed by Little Car and his dreams to leave the big city for the freedom of cowboy life. With clever turns of phrase and a sprinkling of puns, Jeanie Franz Ransom takes readers on an endearing ride through the ups and downs, disappointments and successes of navigating life on one’s own. When Little Car uses his city experience, smarts, and courage to save Dusty and earn a spot at the ranch, despite not being able to ride a horse, kids will see that they too can overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals.

Children will love adorable Little Car as he snuggles next to his mom and taxicab dad in the garage. With wide headlight eyes and a grill with an ever-present grin, Little Car makes his way out West, where kids will giggle at the 50-gallon hat atop an old general store, whoop as Little Car completes his cowboy tests, and cheer when he outwits Double Trouble to save the day. As Little Car drives off into the sunset, readers will know that he—and they—have a bright future ahead.

Car and cowboy or cowgirl enthusiasts, as well as kids new to school and other activities will find a friend in Little Car and ask to hear his story again and again. Cowboy Car would make a sweet addition to story time and bedtime reading.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1503950979

Discover more about Jeanie Franz Ransom and her books on her website!

You’ll find a portfolio of books and illustration work by Ovi Nedelcu on his website!

Car Care Month Activity

celebrate -picture -books-picture-book-review-follow-the-open-road-maze

 

Follow the Open Road Maze

 

These four kids are ready to head out and enjoy the day! Match each child to the right car in this printable Follow the Open Road Maze to get them on their way!

Picture Book Review