April 16 – It’s National Humor Month

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About the Holiday

There may be no more infectious sound than the tinkle or guffaw of a good laugh. Laughter is therapeutic and can make tough times a little easier. Kids, it seems, are born with the ability to see and appreciate the silliness, absurdity, and fun in life. This month, enjoy the zany side of things—it’s guaranteed to brighten your days and give you a new perspective.

The Book of Mistakes

By Corinna Luyken

 

The whole thing started while drawing a picture. The head of the child looks good—nice little ear and nose, a dot for the left eye. The hair goes on pretty well—a swoop on the right side, straight on the left. The eyebrows are tiny dashes, and the mouth the size of a chocolate sprinkle. Just have to add the right eye…Oh, no! The right eye is too big!! Okay, okay, this mistake can be fixed. The left eye just needs to be a liiittle bigger…Oh, good grief! “Making the other eye even bigger was another mistake.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-book-of-mistakes-splotch-on-head

Copyright Corinna Luyken, 2017, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Maybe…the perspective might just be right for…Yes! “the glasses—they were a good idea.” Okay on to the body. Hmmm… “The elbows and the extra-long neck? Mistakes. But the collar—ruffled, with patterns of lace and stripes—that was a good idea.” And elbow patches make the arms look a little less pointy.

Moving on to the background, a thick and leafy bush is just the thing to hide the animal. Animals? It could be a cat, a cow, or a frog. “Another mistake.” And why is the ground so far below the girl’s feet anyway? Oh! Because she’s wearing roller skates. Nice save! “Those were definitely not a mistake.” Let’s see, the “second frog-cat-cow thing made a very nice rock.” Now, what about the other girl with long hair and one very long leg? Got it! She “looks like she always meant to be climbing that tree” on the side of the page.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-book-of-mistakes-leaves

Copyright Corinna Luyken, 2017, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The ink smudges at the top of the paper can be leaves, but back to the roller-skating girl. What to do with those awkwardly positioned arms? Oh dear—the pen should not have been hovering over the page. How to fix the splotch on the side of her head? Ah-hah! An old-fashioned aviator’s helmet. Or is it a swimming cap? No matter…she’s now holding a yellow balloon in her left hand and lots of strings in her right. Wow, tons of yellow balloons are at the ends of those strings!

She’s skating toward the tree with the long-legged girl, and there are a bunch of other kids playing in it too. Cool! They’re all wearing aviator helmets/swimming caps too. Some are wearing roller skates—good—and they’re erecting some kind of tent over a big branch. Wow! Look at the pink balloons and the green ones! There’s a kid riding a hot-air unicycle through the sky and a skateboarder is floating down to a ramp supported by springs in the top of the tree. Someone’s even tatting a lace banner.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-book-of-mistakes-tree

Copyright Corinna Luyken, 2017, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

“Do you see?” They’re all waiting for the roller-skating girl to bring the yellow balloons. But let’s step back a little. “Do you see—how with each mistake she is becoming?” If we back up some more, she and the tree look so tiny and there’s a big, dark forest in the foreground. “Do you see—” Looking from way far away, doesn’t that forest look a bit like curly hair or…Oh! The top of the roller-skating girl’s cap! She’s so big now, and she’s gazing out of those green glasses at the white page where she’s drawing a small head with a nice little ear and nose and a dot for the left eye. “Do you see—who she could be?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-book-of-mistakes-girl-as-artist

Copyright Corinna Luyken, 2017, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Kids will be charmed by the start of the little head on the first page, begin giggling at the one too-big eye on the third page, and laugh out loud at the even bigger eye on the fifth in Corinna Luyken’s magically inventive The Book of Mistakes. As each mistake is adjusted for or inspires a new twist in the story, young readers will appreciate how creatively right the fix is and look forward to the next mistake and the next. The final pages presenting the tree full of children are so enticing that readers will want to linger over each one to find all the details. Luyken’s minimally colored drawings are funny and endearing and lead readers to question their own perspective and give free reign to their imagination.

The Book of Mistakes is a must for classrooms and highly recommended for home libraries for all those times when mistakes can be perfect conversation starters or the inspiration for…anything!

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0735227927

To find a portfolio of artwork and more information about Corinna Luyken and her books visit her website.

National Humor Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-share-a-laugh-wordsearch

Share a Laugh! Word Search Puzzle

 

Sharing a laugh with friends makes a day better. Can you find the fifteen words about laughter in this puzzle?

Share a Laugh! Word Search PuzzleShare a Laugh! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review

April 15 – National Rubber Eraser Day

The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that little item at the end of the pencil or near at hand that gives us second (or third…or fourth…or…) chances. The rubber eraser has been around since 1770, when Joseph Priestly invented a vegetable gum that could remove pencil marks and Edward Nairne developed it into an eraser that could be widely marketed. In 1839 Charles Goodyear’s work with vulcanization made erasers more durable, and Hyman Lipman put pencil and eraser together in 1858. What did people do before the rubber eraser? They still made mistakes, but wax and even crustless bread were the remedies of choice. To celebrate today, draw or write with abandon and feel free to erase as often as you want!

The Pencil

Written by Allan Ahlberg | Illustrated by Bruce Ingman

 

Even before the title page readers learn of a little pencil, alone in the world. One day the pencil quivers and begins to draw. The pencil draws a boy, who asks for a name, and receives “Banjo” in reply. The boy wants a dog, and the pencil obliges. Bruce is the dog’s name, and he wants a cat. Mildred is immediately created, and of course Bruce chases Mildred. Banjo chases Bruce. They need a place to run, so the pencil draws a house, a town, and a park.

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Image copyright Bruce Ingman, 2012, text copyright Allan Ahlberg, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

All this excitement makes the trio hungry and tired. Banjo demands the pencil draw him an apple, Bruce wants a bone, and Mildred really wants a mouse but settles for cat food. There’s just one problem—the food is so unappetizing in black and white. The pencil thinks for a bit and comes up with a solution. He draws a paintbrush named Kitty. Kitty colors the food, the boy, the dog, the house, the town, and the park. Mildred is left as created – she’s a black-and-white cat anyway.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-pencil-black-and-white

Image copyright Bruce Ingman, 2012, text copyright Allan Ahlberg, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The team of Pencil and Paintbrush creates a whole family, a friend for Bruce, a ball (Sebastian) for Banjo, and a kitten for Mildred. But all these extra characters cause trouble. Sebastian breaks a window, and the mom, dad, sister, and grandpa aren’t completely satisfied with the traits they’ve been given. What’s a pencil to do? Draw an Eraser, of course!

The eraser takes care of the problems, but he grows fond of his power to rub things out. He erases the table, chair, front door—the whole house. And that’s not all! Nothing the Pencil and Paintbrush have created is safe. Eraser rubs everything out until all that’s left is the pencil and the eraser locked in opposition.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-pencil-paintbrush

Image copyright Bruce Ingman, 2012, text copyright Allan Ahlberg, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The pencil draws a wall, a cage, a river and mountains with fierce animals but none of it is a match for the eraser. Then the pencil has a brainstorm and draws…another eraser! The two erasers engage in an epic battle, and in the end they rub each other out.

Pencil recreates everything he had before, and Kitty colors it all in, including a new picnic with a runaway boiled egg named Billy and ten A-named ants to clean up the crumbs. As the day fades into night, a moon appears in the sky along with a cozy box for Pencil and Paintbrush to sleep in.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-pencil-rubs-out-everything

Image copyright Bruce Ingman, 2012, text copyright Allan Ahlberg, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Allen Ahlberg is a master at tapping into children’s unbridled imagination and silly side. His endearing story of a little pencil who creates himself a world full of friends and excitement—as well as the inevitable conflict—will keep kids laughing with its word play, topsy-turvy names, and mad-dash action. As the eraser rubs out everything in its path, kids will also understand the gentle, underlying  lesson that simply getting rid of a problem can sometimes just create more and that resolution is a better tact.

Bruce Ingman’s sly, childlike illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Ahlberg’s story, deftly depicting the friendship and collaboration between Pencil and Paintbrush as they create house and its family with a mom sporting a crazy hat, a dad with large ears, and a grandpa smoking a pipe he doesn’t want. As Eraser begins his rampage, readers will enjoy the giddy suspense of how it will all end and will be happy to see that Paintbrush once again fills the pages with joyous and vivid color.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2012 | ISBN 978-0763660888

National Rubber Eraser Day Activity

CPB - Pencil Maze

Pencil It In! Maze

 

Sharpen your pencil and start having fun with this printable pencil-shaped maze. 

Pencil It In Puzzle!  | Pencil It In! Solution

Picture Book Review

March 29 – It’s International Ideas Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate something that you can’t see or hold but which is real all the same. What is it? An idea! Ideas are amazing things. Sometimes seemingly conjured up out of thin air and sometimes the “Eureka!” result of long, hard work, ideas fuel our arts, sciences, education, and home life. So today, write down those ideas you have while driving or commuting to work, while in the shower, when you’re daydreaming, or just as you turn off the light to go to sleep. You never know what they might become!

Tundra Books sent me a copy of The Magician’s Secret to check out. All opinions are my o own. I’m also partnering with Tundra in a giveaway of The Magician’s Secret. See details below.

The Magician’s Secret

Written by Zachary Hyman | Illustrated by Joe Bluhm

 

When Mom and Dad dropped Charlie off at his grandfather’s for an overnight visit, they pleaded with him to make sure his grandson went to bed early. “‘No more hocus-pocus!’” his daughter said. That wasn’t just some phrase she conjured up, because her father had once been a magician and was still “like a big kid who never grew up.” He loved to play games with Charlie and “also knew the most amazing tricks.” But he never told Charlie his secrets.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-attic

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

What Charlie loved best were Grandpa’s stories. Whenever Grandpa told a story, he and Charlie went up to the “most cobwebby corner of the attic” where a big green trunk full of special things from Grandpa’s adventures sat. Grandpa would pull out an item and begin to talk. This night he showed Charlie an hourglass filled with sand that Grandpa said came from the tomb of King Tut.

Another time, he pulled out a scarf that had belonged to the World War I Red Baron fighter pilot. Grandpa had plucked it from the Red Baron’s neck during a dogfight in which Grandpa left the Baron and his plane floating in a French sea. One summer evening the story revolved around a coconut shell that he found on a tropical beach. He had fallen asleep under a palm tree only to be awakened by a roaring T-Rex intent on eating him. Just in the nick of time, “dozens of rocks rained down through the air, scaring the nasty dinosaur away.” Who had saved him? Grandpa never told, saying that was for Charlie to figure out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-red-baron

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie loved Grandpa’s stories, but his father said that they were just “things Grandpa’s made up.” Charlie couldn’t believe it. He felt like he “had lived every one of those adventures with Grandpa. How could they not be true?” When Charlie asked his grandfather about it, Grandpa sighed. He said the problem with grown-ups was that they didn’t “have faith in make-believe” but that if you “use your imagination, you can turn a dream into something real.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-twilight

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie wasn’t so sure, but Grandpa assured him: “‘We’ve done it over and over again, with cameras and computers, automobiles and airplanes…. Magic is all around us, kiddo—in me and in you.’” Then Grandpa waved his hands in the air and produced a…rock. He said it was the philosopher’s stone that could do magical things, but the secret was that “‘You have to see it, you have to believe it.’” That night Charlie fell into a deep sleep with the rock under his pillow. When he woke up, he heard an earth-shattering roar. He looked and saw a T-Rex threatening his grandpa. He looked at the rock in his hand and knew what to do….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-in-bed

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Zachary Hyman makes magic with traditional storytelling combined with the wonder of imagination and the encouragement to make dreams come true. As Grandpa talks about his daring feats, Charlie believes him, but more importantly, Charlie believes that he could do such marvelous things too. Hyman’s reminder that all great discoveries and achievements began as someone’s seemingly impossible idea is well aimed at his young audience whose boundless imaginations may just be our next realities. Hyman’s evocative language and conversational tone  will keep children enthralled until the surprise ending.

Joe Bluhm lends a mysterious enchantment to Hyman’s story with his atmospheric depictions of the cobwebby attic, darkened, creature-infested tomb, and twilit skies. Turning from the setup to the heart of Grandpa’s stories, readers are immersed in vibrant colors and dazzling light, representative of that flash of ingenuity or creativity in each of us. In a nice cyclical set of images, Charlie is first seen watching TV and playing aviator, spaceman, explorer, artists, and magician with Grandpa in sepia-toned snapshots. Near the end of the book when Grandpa talks about the power of imagination, these same scenes are presented in full color with Charlie as a pilot, astronaut, movie director, mountain climber, race car driver, and explorer.

Like the best magic trick, The Magician’s Secret will captivate readers but will also tell them what they really want to know: the answer to how they can do wondrous things themselves. The book would make a terrific addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770498945

To learn more about Joe Bluhm, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no secret that you’ll love this The Magician’s Secret book trailer!

International Ideas Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-share-your-bright-idea-activity

Share Your Bright Idea! Page

 

Do you sometimes have a lightbulb moment when an idea seems just right? Use this printable Share Your Bright Idea! Page to write about or draw your idea!

Picture Book Review

February 13 – Get a Different Name Day

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About the Holiday

It can be fun to try out new names or special nicknames in forming your identity. For those who are not so fond of their birth name, choosing a new name offers comfort, control, and happiness. Actors, writers, and other creative types sometimes change their name to something that is more memorable, easier to say, is flashier, or has more cred. To celebrate today’s holiday, try on a few different names. If you were going to change yours, what would you pick?

My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream?

Written by Jennifer Fosberry | Illustrated by Mike Litwin

 

Mom opens her daughter’s bedroom door with a cheery “‘Good morning, Isabella. It’s time to get up and out of bed.’” But the little girl yawns and stretches and most emphatically states, “‘My name is not Isabella!’” Mom plays along, wondering who has then been sleeping here. “‘My name is Sally,’” Isabelle states, “‘The greatest, toughest astronaut there ever was!’” Having Sally Ride in the house is fine with Mom, as long as she puts on her space suit and comes down for breakfast.

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Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010, text copyright Jennifer Fosberry, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

When the little girl comes to the table, it seems she is no longer Sally. Hmmm… her mother says. She doesn’t know who will eat the delicious waffles she has made. Annie, the greatest, fastest sharpshooter, grabs the syrup and aims for her target.

Soon it’s time for school, but when the bus arrives, Annie is nowhere to be found. In her place is “‘Rosa, the greatest, bravest activist that ever was.’ ‘Well, Rosa’” her mother says, “‘March over there and take your seat on the bus.’” School ends, but the bus doesn’t drop off Rosa. Instead, the freshly made chocolate chip cookies will be enjoyed by “‘Marie, the greatest, smartest scientist who ever was.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-name-is-not-isabella-rosa-parks

Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010, text copyright Jennifer Fosberry, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

Her mom is happy to see Marie and offers to get the cookies while Marie discovers the answers to her homework. Well, the cookies must fill Marie up, because when dinner rolls around, Elizabeth Blackwell shows up to set the table. At bath time, Elizabeth doesn’t feel like soaking in the relaxing bubbles, so she sends “‘Mommy, the greatest, sweetest mother who ever was,’” instead.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-name-is-not-isabella-marie-curie

Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

With pajamas on and teeth brushed the “little girl climbed into bed, [and] the mother says, “‘Good night, Mommy.’” But Mommy is standing near the starlit window, so who is sleeping in the little girl’s bed? “‘Isabella, the sweetest, kindest, smartest, bravest, fastest, toughest, greatest girl that ever was.’” And as she sleeps, she “dreamed about who she would be tomorrow.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-name-is-not-isabella-annie-oakley

Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

In Jennifer Fosberry’s inspiring story, it’s not that the little girl doesn’t want to be Isabella, it’s that she wants to be the best Isabella she can be. In thinking about her role in the world, she’s chosen to emulate five of the most amazing women the world has ever known—and that’s just on day one. Fosberry’s ending, with its view toward tomorrow, allows children to consider all of the influential women throughout history and working today as role models. Her inclusion of “Mommy” as one of Isabella’s heroines is a welcome tribute to the job of motherhood. After all, it’s clear from the way Isabella’s mother supports her daughter’s alter egos without a “Sally who? or a “Rosa who?” that she has taught Isabella about these “greatest” women. It’s just one lesson this mother—and all mothers—teach their children.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-name-is-not-isabella-isabella (2)

Mike Litwin will enchant readers with his colorful illustrations of Isabella and her transformations. Whimsical details and even the way Isabella’s stuffed toy mouse changes into a real companion for Sally, Rosa, Annie, Marie, and Elizabeth mirrors the power of imagination and education in the formation of a child’s identity and the discovery of their particular talents. Isabella is adorable with her purple hair—just another proof of her individuality—and inspirational in her can-do attitude

Short biographies and portraits of Sally Ride, Rosa Parks, Annie Oakley, Marie Curie, and Elizabeth Blackwell follow the text.

A book that will charm as well as educate, My Name is Not Isabella is a classic that makes a great introduction to the women mentioned in the story and can spur further discovery for younger readers. It would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2010 | ISBN 978-1402243950

Discover more about Jennifer Fosberry and her books on her website.

Learn more about Mike Litwin, his books, and his art on his website.

Get a Different Name Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-initial-bookend

First and Last Initials Bookends

 

You can show your pride in your name (or play with changing it) with this easy craft that will keep all your books tidy on their shelf! This makes a great gift too!

Supplies

  • Sturdy wooden letter blocks in the child’s first and last initials. Or, if the child would like to try on a new name or nickname, the first letter of their new name.
  • Chalkboard or acrylic paint
  • Colored chalk
  • Paint brush

 

Directions

  1. Paint the letters, let dry
  2. With the chalk write words that describe you or names of your heroines and/or heroes
  3. Display your bookends

Picture Book Review

January 31 – Inspire Your Heart with Art Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrating art is always a great thing! Today we champion that feeling you get inside when you create or experience art—no matter what kind is your favorite. Paintings, books, music, sculpture, quilts, photography, and other arts show you a bit of the world in a new way—a way, perhaps, you’ve never thought of before. Art can inspire, gladden,  sadden, anger, teach, and compel action. Today, let your heart be inspired by art by visiting a museum, bookstore, library, concert, or gallery. Or, if you’re creative, take some time to give your imagination full reign. And what if you’re friends with someone named Art? Well, that’s a lucky thing for today too—as today’s book shows!

Seen Art?

Written by Jon Scieszka | Illustrated by Lane Smith

 

A little boy has arranged to meet his friend Art at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-third Street in New York City. When he arrives, however, Art isn’t there. The boy asks a woman nearby, “‘Have you seen Art?’” The lady points him in the direction of a beautiful new building further down the street. When he gets there, the boy doesn’t see Art, but he does meet an official-looking gentleman. “‘You seen Art?’” the boy inquires.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

“‘MoMA?” the man asks. The boy remembers that the lady asked the same thing and, figuring it’s some kind of code word, answers, “‘Yes.’” Great news! The building is just opening, the man tells him. After giving a woman at a desk the code word, the boy is led upstairs. The woman stops in front of a painting with blue swirls, writhing trees, and a moon glowing over a quiet village. “‘Can’t you just feel the restlessness? The color? The emotion?’” The boy can feel it, but he’s more interested in finding Art.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-seen-art-collage

Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

A little man standing nearby seems to know where to go, and he leads the boy through a room filled with more paintings and sculpture. The man stops in front of a painting. “‘Look at that red! Look at that open box of crayons inviting us in. The grandfather clock? It has no hands. Time is suspended.’” The boy sees all this too. But, really, what he wants to know is—“‘is Art here?’”

A little girl across the room knows what he means. She can show him art. She takes him past a fur-covered teacup and spoon to a painting of an eye. But this is no ordinary eye. Instead of blue, brown, or green, this eye is made of clouds. “‘Your dream can be what is real,’” she explains. They see another painting with a melting clock in which time is messed up too, but it’s still not Art.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-seen-art-chair

Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Suddenly, a painter hugs the boy for his astute observation. He asks, is art “‘trying to capture dreams? Or is it making images everyone can recognize?’” He presents a painting covered in the letters of the alphabet—or “‘are they something more?’” The boy has to admit that “‘they could be both.’” Next, the boy meets a baby who points out a picture of a brown “‘moo moo’” cow. In fact, in every corner someone is expounding on a painting in front of them: “‘The pain! The mystery!….the constellation of shapes.’”  And there’s the composition, the color, and the atmosphere to consider too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-seen-art-dejected

Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

But each time the boy answers, “‘Not exactly the Art I was looking for.’” Perhaps, he is interested in the Bell-47D1 helicopter hanging from the ceiling. Is it art? The boy strides past more pieces; they are puzzling, personal, playful, provocative, and powerful. Art is not just paintings, he is told. Finally! They seem to be getting it. He begins to ask one more time about his friend, but then he’s shown photographs, sculpture, objects, and films.

The boy decides he needs to find Art on his own. He discovers a majestic painting as long as two rooms, a slippy-slidey chair, images of soup cans that make him hungry and lead him to the café, and sculptures of a family and a goat. Soon it’s time to leave. Feeling dejected, the boy thinks he’ll never find his friend. “‘Hello, again,’” he hears. It’s the lady he met that morning. “‘Did you find art?’” she asks.

The boy is about to say no, but he remembers everything he has seen. “‘Yes,’” he answers as he walks out the door. And there, he finds Art waiting for him! What else is there do to but go through MoMA again?!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-seen-art-friend

Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Notes on each piece along with thumbnail images follow the text.

With clever word play, a humorous nod to the juxtaposed ideas “I know what I like/I like what I know,” and a wink at the world of art criticism, Jon Scieszka takes readers on a tour of the art collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The simple misunderstanding of the word Art in the story introduces children to the nature of interpretation and the variety of forms it can take. Through the many people the little boy meets, Scieszka presents a fabulous opportunity for adults and children to talk about opinions and how each person can have their own while accepting those of others. Scieszka’s rich language is as enticing as the art presented and gives kids and adults a vast vocabulary to use in talking about what art—and life—has to offer.

Lane Smith’s simple line-drawn and abstract figures are the perfect tour guides to the reproductions of famous paintings, sculpture, installations, and other art found at MoMA. Printed in full, vibrant color, the artwork dazzles, drawing readers in to stop and explore each image. An excellent survey of classic and modern pieces, Seen Art? will delight and fascinate kids and adults.

For art lovers and those just discovering the world of creativity, Seen Art? is an absorbing book that will entice both children and adults to learn more about art. The book would be a welcome addition to home libraries and a fun and engaging addition to school art programs or units.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2005 |ISBN 978-0670059867

Discover more about Jon Scieszka, and his books, as well as other fun stuff on his website.

View a gallery of book illustration and other artwork by Lane Smith on his website.

Inspire Your Heart with Art Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-crayon-craft

Rainbow Crayon Art

 

With this cool project you can create an art piece that’s as colorful as a rainbow and as unique as you are! Adult help is needed for children.

Supplies

  • Box of 24 crayons
  • White foam board or thick poster board, 8 inches by 17 inches
  • A small piece of corrugated cardboard, about 5 inches by 5 inches (a piece of the foam board can also be used for this step)
  • A small piece of poster board, about 5 inches by 5 inches
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife (optional)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hair dryer
  • Old sheets or towels, newspapers, a large box, or a trifold display board

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-crayon-craft

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-crayon-craft

Directions

  1. Remove the various red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet hued crayons from the box of crayons
  2. Strip the paper from the crayons by slicing the paper with the x-acto knife, or removing it by hand
  3. Line them up in order at the top of the white foam board
  4. With the hot glue gun, attach the crayons to the board with their tips facing down 
  5. Cut an umbrella or other shape of your choice from the poster board
  6. Trace the umbrella or other shape onto the corrugated cardboard or a piece of the foam board and cut out
  7. Glue the umbrella or other shape to the foam board, about 4 ½ inches below the crayons, let dry
  8. Set up a space where you can melt the crayons. The wax will fly, so protect the floor and walls by placing the art piece in a large box or by hanging newspapers, old sheets or towels on the walls and placing newspapers on the floor. A trifold display board and newspapers works well.
  9. Stand the art piece upright with the crayons at the top
  10. With the hot setting of the hair dryer, blow air at the crayons until they start to melt
  11. Move the hair dryer gently back and forth across the line of crayons from a distance of about 6 to 12 inches away. The closer you are to the crayons, the more they will splatter.
  12. The crayons will begin to melt and drip downward
  13. You can experiment with aiming the hair dryer straight on or at an angle to mix colors
  14. Wax that drips onto the umbrella or other shape can be chipped off after it dries or wiped off to create a “watercolor” effect on the shape
  15. Once the hair dryer is turned off, the wax cools and dries quickly
  16. Hang or display your art!

Picture Book Review

January 30 – It’s Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

Kids are born creative, that’s for sure! With their huge imaginations and love for pretending, almost anything goes! Parents trying to keep up with their little charges need to stay on their toes and be inventive too. Answering all the “what,” “why,” and “how” questions takes some ingenuity, managing sibling rivalry takes finesse, and introducing new foods, getting a room cleaned, or making sure homework’s done? Well, “innovative” doesn’t begin to describe the brainstorms that (sometimes) lead to success. But at the end of the day (literally and figuratively) adults are inspired by their kids and wouldn’t trade their role for a minute. Yes, it’s great being a mom, grandmother, grandfather, teacher, dad—as you’ll see in today’s book!

It’s Great Being a Dad

Written by Dan Bar-el | Illustrated by Gina Perry

 

A lovely pink unicorn with a sparkling rainbow horn clip-clops over a grassy hill, a golden castle and a candy forest in the background. The playful animal believes it’s “great being a unicorn. Who wouldn’t want to be a unicorn?” What makes them so special? Well…as she says, “We’re terrific at prancing and we’re very pretty and, best of all, we have an adorable horn just above our eyebrows.” It’s hard to argue with those reasons!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-great-being-a-dad

Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But it seems there are some downsides to this whole unicorn thing. Grazing might be at the top of the list. That shiny horn just always seems to get in the way. There’s no way for teeth to touch the ground, and trying to grab a snack off a table just results in the table being stuck on the “adorable horn.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

How about Bigfoot? What’s it like for him? Let’s ask—here comes Bigfoot now! “It’s great being Bigfoot. I love being Bigfoot. Who wouldn’t want to be Bigfoot?” What’s so great about being…you know…? Well…he’s warm in his furry coat, he’s well camouflaged among the trees, and his super strength “can help unicorns get tables off their heads.” Sounds great! What could go wrong? Hmmm…. It seems those big feet get themselves into some sticky situations—like ending up with a tree trunk lodged around your leg.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-great-being-a-dad

Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maybe being a Robot is better. Indeed! In fact, Robot says, “If I had feelings, I would love being a robot.” Pretty compelling stuff there. Robot is very flashy and has lots of memory and has an arm that can convert into a saw just in time to help “unicorns and Bigfoot with their wood problems.” So what’s not to like? Rain can really mess with the mo(tor)-jo.

Poor Loch Ness Monster! She’s not even going to try being positive. It kind of stinks being a monster—especially when you don’t feel like one. But maybe things aren’t all bad. Unicorn, Bigfoot, and Robot hitch a ride on Nessie’s back across the lake to the hospital. There they meet a “fairy queen ballerina doctor” who loves being a fairy queen ballerina doctor. Who wouldn’t?

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

This Jill-of-all-trades can prescribe medicine for the sick, “perform a happy dance” for the sad, and wave her magic wand “if you have trouble with your saw arm…or your head horn or your big foot.” Sounds perfect…until a “sneaky flying alligator pirate” swoops in and swipes the magic wand just as the fairy queen ballerina doctor is about the save the day. “Dad!”

Ha! Ha! Here’s a little guy who’s super excited to be a sneaky flying alligator pirate. “I’m sneaky, so you never see me coming. I can fly, so you can never catch me. And… And…that’s enough reasons. So what’s not to like about being a sneaky flying alligator pirate?” Ooof! “Dads, that’s what!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-great-being-a-dad

Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But how does Dad feel about being a dad? Let’s see: “It’s great being a dad. I love being a dad.” It does look pretty fun! Dad gets to remove pizza box “tables” from hobby horse unicorns; remove stepped-on drums from a brown-fuzzy-hoodied-and-hiking-booted Bigfoot; fix cardboard-saw arms; give medals to super swimmers; and “return magic wands to… to… ‘Fairy queen ballerina doctors. I told you a million times already.’ Right. What she said.” Plus Dad can help little brothers play nicely.

So you must be wondering… “what’s not to like about being a dad? Sudden makeovers, that’s what.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-great-being-a-dad

Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Dan Bar-el’s laugh-out-loud romp through an afternoon of play hits the perfect tone to entertain kids and adults as well. Bar-el’s wry delivery and repetition of the appealing—and not-so—traits of each fantasy character will have readers giggling and eagerly anticipating the next page. The revelation that the characters are kids with big imaginations offers multiple payouts in creativity, personalities, friendship, and family.

Gina Perry’s vibrant, whimsical illustrations riff on all the fantasy clichés to ramp up the humor in this vivacious story. When happily-ever-after turns into happily-never-after for each character, Perry amusingly depicts their dismay, but the next page finds them cheerfully adjusted to their new circumstance and weaving it into a revised storyline. As the story wraps up, readers will enjoy pointing out aspects of the kids’ interests and the parts of the backyard that spurred their imagination in earlier pages. The diverse group of friends is welcome, and good-natured Dad doesn’t really seem to mind his impromptu makeover.

It’s Great Being a Dad is a fantastically fun read-aloud that would be an often-asked-for addition to home and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770496057

Discover more about Dan Bar-el and his books on his website!

You find a gallery of illustration work and books by Gina Perry on her website!

Creativity Month Activity

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Family Charades

 

Getting together to play charades is a fun way to spend family time with a little bit of thought, a little bit of action, and lots of laughs. You can find lots of charades cards, ideas, and rules at funstufftodo.com.

Picture Book Review

January 17 – It’s Hobby Month

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About the Holiday

Hobbies are great! They give us the chance to explore our creative side, form friendships, travel, and get away from the stresses of daily life. Sometimes hobbies can even lead to better and more satisfying careers. This month celebrate your hobby! Throw a party for others who share your passion, consider signing up with an online site to sell your wares, or join a group of like-minded people. It’s also a wonderful time to share your talents with others—like the protagonist of today’s story! 

Prudence the Part-Time Cow

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

 

Out in the pasture swatting flies with her tail and lumbering along with the rest of the herd, “Prudence looked like a full-time cow.” But when she had a little time off from her bovine duties, Prudence “was a part-time cow.” While being milked she was a scientist, reading a book on the milking process that she found “udderly amazing.” The salt licks were perfect blocks for architect Prudence’s wondrous structures. And engineer Prudence experimented with automatic lighting, even if the results in the water trough were a bit electrifying.

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

The other cows didn’t like it. They wanted Prudence to be more like them. She would never fit into the herd, they whispered to each other. Prudence fretted. She wanted to have friends and fit in, so “she decided to try to be like the others.” Dutifully, she went down to the pond with the rest of the herd for a little refreshment and was doing fine until… “she calculated the water temperature and wind speed. ‘Sixty-eight degrees and four miles per hour.’”

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

The other cows were miffed, especially Bessie, who said “‘Cows don’t calculate,’” while carefully counting her calves as she called them from the pond. Another day as the herd lazed under a tree, Prudence joined them, leaving only once to create a hat from an old wagon wheel, scrap of cloth, and piece of rope she found nearby. The other cows snorted. “‘Cows don’t create,’ said Patty as she jostled to find some shade.”

Even sleeping the same way as the others was difficult for Prudence. When she had a brainstorm in the middle of the night she just had to explore it—no matter how noise she made. The herd had given up. Alone and sad, Prudence thought and thought of ways to make the others like her. Then it hit her! “‘Cow Power!’” That night the barn rang with the sounds of her idea. But it wasn’t only one idea! When the herd woke and saw yet another contraption, they rolled their eyes and said “‘Not again, Prudence! What is this mess?’” Until…

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-prudence-the-part-time-cow-cow-power

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

Bessie saw the “cow-culator” Prudence had made to help her keep track of her calves. Patty was thrilled with the “portable shade tree” made from an umbrella, a saddle, and some dangly adornments. And Spotz thought his new guitar made from a shovel and fishing line was “gnarly.” Prudence was suddenly pretty popular! Even though “she knew she would always be a part-time cow,” she was happy to feel like a “full-time member of the herd.”

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-prudence-the-part-time-cow-happy-animals

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

Jody Jensen Shaffer’s moooving and funny story of a cow with a scientific bent will delight kids. Little ones who think differently will empathize with Prudence’s wish to be herself while also fitting in with the herd. As the cows stand around in a pond and huddle under a tree, Shaffer offers a wink to the crowd mentality and peer pressure that can foster inaction and clone-like behavior. Prudence makes a gentle, but determined role model as a thinker who won’t be cowed by others’ opinions.

Stephanie Laberis’s cartoon-inspired illustrations of a herd of very distinct cows are a perfect accompaniment to this humorous story with a meaningful message. Prudence, with her fluff of pink hair, is happiest when fulfilling her creative visions. As the other cows disparage her efforts and isolate her from the herd, Prudence’s sad eyes and droopy tail and ears make the effect of their words obvious. Each page offers an opportunity for readers to discuss diversity, individuality, and what it means to be a friend.

Prudence the Part-Time Cow would be a wonderful addition to school and classroom libraries as well as to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Co, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627796156

Find out all about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and magazine writing for children on her website!

Discover a gallery of illustration and craft work by Stephanie Laberis on her website!

Hobby Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craftMooo Mug

 

Milk—regular or chocolate!—will taste so much better in a Mooo Mug  you make yourself! 

Supplies

  • White ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Black permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Pink permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Brown permanent marker or paint for ceramics

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Directions

  1. With the pink marker or paint, draw an oval shape for the nose near the bottom of the mug. Let dry.
  2. With the brown marker or paint, draw two angled nostrils inside the pink oval and color them in. Let dry.
  3. Color in the nose with the pink marker or paint.
  4. With the black marker, color the top tip of the handle where it meets the mug to make the tail.
  5. With the black marker or paint, draw two wavy lines on either side of the face starting at the top, angling toward the middle and returning to the bottom of the mug. Leave white space between the lines.
  6. Draw circles for eyes within the black lines. Add black pupils at the bottom of the eyes.
  7. Color inside the black lines and around the eyes to make the face markings.
  8. With the black marker or paint, make two or three splotches on the back of the mug.
  9. Let the mug dry and follow the directions for the markers or paint to set the color.
  10. Pour yourself a mooo mug of milk and enjoy!

Picture Book Review