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.

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

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.’”

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craft-back

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

January 15 – It’s International Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

Do you value craft store coupons more than the ones from the grocery store? When you look at math formulas, do you see brand new applications? Can you make a gourmet meal out of three leftover ingredients? If you think outside the box then you have a bright future! Whether you work in a traditionally creative field or not, the ability to think differently is a valuable asset.  This month explore your creative side and share your ideas! 

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.

International Creativity Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-magnetic-can-craft (2)Creativity is Magnetic! Fun Cantainer

 

A can with a lid can make a creative kit if you fill it with magnetic pieces that can be used to make scenes, faces, or even poems. Make the magnets yourself and you can create a kit that is uniquely yours! Make a kit to put in the car too!

Supplies

  1. Can with a lid, available at craft stores or with various types of tea
  2. Small craft magnets and/or magnetic strips
  3. A variety of small items such as:
  • Foam or felt shapes
  • Scrap booking stickers 
  • Googly eyes in various sizes
  • Felt or heavy paper
  • Small charms
  • Small toys

Directions

To Make Scenes

  1. Attach magnets to shapes, stickers, or small items
  2. Arrange them into a scene or design on the side of the can

To Make Faces

  1. Attach magnets to googly eyes
  2. Make noses and mouths out of the felt or heavy paper
  3. Attach magnets to facial features

To Make Poems 

  1. Use Magnetic Sheets, leaving the white paper on
  2. Write words on the white paper
  3. Cut out words
  4. Arrange them into a poem on the side of the can

Store your magnetic pieces inside the can

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding a pearl in an oyster is a lucky thing! Here are two oysters brimming with shiny pearls. Grab your crayons, markers, or pencils—maybe even some glitter—and have fun with this printable Secret Pearls Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

January 14 – Organize Your Home Day

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About the Holiday

Sometimes it seems that clutter multiplies while you’re not looking. The beginning of the year offers an opportunity to clean out those closets, pantries, and basements that can be breeding grounds for mess. Getting the house back in shape can be fun if you get the whole family involved. Kids will appreciate being asked for their suggestions on organizing their rooms and may have some pretty creative ideas—just like the boy in today’s book! 

If I Built a House

By Chris Van Dusen

 

While Jack’s mother digs in the garden and their dog snoozes in the sun, Jack is reconsidering his house. It’s just like the others in the neighborhood, he says—“boxy and boring and basically bland. / It’s nothing at all like the house I have planned.” Sure, his house will have function and flow, but the rooms inside are where his real genius will show. Then with the flair of an HGTV host, Jack invites his mom in to see what he means.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-i-built-a-house-dreaming

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

First up is the kitchen that has a mind—and arms—of its own. In this “Kitchen-O-Mat,” Jack tells his mom, “You don’t have to cook and you don’t have to clean. / It’s done by a space-age robotic machine. / It makes all the meals, and the food is deeelish. / Then it washes and puts away every last dish.” The living room is every kid’s dream of an indoor playground, with furniture that spins, a ball pit, and two trampolines.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-i-built-a-house-playground-room

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The bathroom is built assembly-line style with no shower or tub—just an ingenious “Scrub-a-Dub-Dub. / Just step on the belt and it washes you clean— / Even the places that you’ve never seen!” Jack’s bedroom’s a penthouse of glass in the round, with a 200-feet long twisty slide that deposits you into the Art Room through a round door in the wall. The wall is great for drawing on too, but “…don’t worry, it’s cool. / Hung way up high, on a big giant spool, / Is a huge roll of paper that hangs to the floor. / Just draw till you’re done, / Then pull down some more.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-i-built-a-house-kitchen-larger

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

If you’ve ever wanted to explore outer space, Jack’s Flying Room is the place for you. With just a flip of the switch on the wall, you’re floating here and there, totally free. In Jack’s house you’d go from flying to racing in the Racetrack Room, which “features a racetrack that loops all around / with superfast go-karts that don’t make a sound.”

Are you more of a swimmer? Well, Jack’s thought of that too with a Fish Tank Room where you can snorkel and dive with turtles, stingrays, an octopus, and all sizes of fish. Tired of houses that just sit in one place? Then you’ll love the room that Jack’s left for last. “Literally speaking, this room is a BLAST! / “So welcome. Sit down, I’ll seal up the hatches. / This Plexiglass Playroom completely detaches!” Powered by jets, you can soar all around the neighborhood. For Jack, “this room is as good as it gets!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-i-built-a-house-racetrack-room

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

With all of these features and incredible rooms, Jack tells his mom, “My house will be nifty. My house will be neat. / My house will stand out as the best on the street.” Wistfully dreaming of his modern design, Jack says, “If I built a house, that’s just what I’d do.”

Chris Van Dusen knows how to tap into the mind of a child with all of its fantastic imaginings and anything-is-possible daring. Young readers will love seeing what Jack dreams up in his kid-perfect house that combines the best of features of their favorite playgrounds and attractions. Dusen’s sprightly verses pair uncommon words amid complex sentences, and the jaunty rhythm is a joy to read aloud.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-i-built-a-house-front-door

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Dusen’s retro illustrations are bold and vibrant with plenty of cool and ingenious details in each room to fascinate kids. The snaking arms that busily cook in the kitchen, merry-go-round coffee table, replaceable wallpaper, and loop-de-loop racetrack offer the kinds of playful pandemonium that kids crave. If only all smart houses looked this cool.

Funny and imaginative, If I Built a House would be a lighthearted choice to inspire creativity at home or in the classroom.

Ages 3 – 7

Dial Books, 2012 | ISBN 978-0803737518

To learn more about Chris Van Dusen, his books, and his illustration work, visit his website.

Organize Your Home Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-jar-craft

Shark Organizer Jar

 

Does your room need a little organizing? This fun Shark Organizer Jar will take a bite out the messiness and make your room look awesome too!

Supplies

  • Wide-mouth plastic jar, like a peanut-butter jar
  • Gray craft paint
  • White craft paint
  • Black craft paint
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Find a point in the middle of the jar on opposite sides of the jar
  2. Mid-way between these points on the other sides of the jar, find a point about 1 1/2 inches above the first points
  3. From the first point draw an angled line up to the higher point and down again to the lower point to make the shark’s upper jaw
  4. Repeat Direction Number 3 to make the shark’s lower jaw
  5. With the gray paint fill in the jar below these lines to make the shark’s head
  6. Along the jawline, paint jagged teeth with the white paint
  7. Add black dots for eyes on either side of the shark’s head
  8. Let dry

Picture Book Review

January 13 – Make Your Dream Come True Day

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About the Holiday

Children are asked about their hopes and dreams as soon as they enter school. In kindergarten kids draw about them, and as they grow older, they write about them and begin working to make those dreams a reality. Adults also have goals they want to achieve at work, at home, or just for themselves. Today’s holiday encourages people to define their dream, make a plan, and take the road toward fulfilling it. That spark of inspiration can burn brightly and long and guide you to the future you always wanted!

Happy Dreamer

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

A child floats on a golden, sparkling swirl of their own creation. “I am a happy dreamer,” they say. “I’m really good at dreaming. Daydreams, big dreams, little dreams, creative dreams.” In fact, this child is a “dreamer maximus!” There are times when they’re told to ignore that voice inside…to “sit still” and pay attention. But the music inside is persistent and persuasive, inviting the child to move, to play along and let it out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-dreamer-maximus

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Sometimes dreams require quiet. Then the child says, “I make time to stay still and hear myself think—to let go and see what takes shape.” Can you see it too? There are dreams so big, the child reveals, that sometimes “I’m a shout-at-the-top-of-my-lungs dreamer (even if I’m just a loud-inside-my-head dreamer!)”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-musical-beat

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

There are times when dreams come in colors that paint a surprising path, and sometimes there are so many dreams firing at once that they cause “creative chaos.” When you ask make me clean up, the child says, I will, but “cleaning up hides my treasures” and “there is less of ME to show.” When that happens, the child explains, “…I feel alone. BOXED IN.” But there is always an escape, a way to recover the “happy dreams.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-focus

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

You know what? the child says, “I’m really good at being me. A dreamer—surprising, caring, funny, gentle, smart.” Falling or failing don’t hurt because dreamers always bounce back and keep going. Do you know what kind of dreamer you are? There are so many kinds! What makes you happy? Exploring, working hard, being with family or friends, being alone? Maybe laughing, acting, being wild, being strong. Are you civic-minded, peaceful, thoughtful?

What’s “the best way to be a happy dreamer? Just be YOU.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-all-kinds-of-dreamers

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Peter H. Reynolds is always inspirational, finding just the right words to include all readers while speaking directly and intimately to each reader individually. In Happy Dreamer, Reynolds taps into the ways ideas and talents come knocking, whispering, or shouting to be heard and set free. His lyrical language is engaging for even the youngest readers and meaningful for adults as well—on both a personal level and for those who are parents, caregivers, or teachers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-happy-dreamer-bouncing-back

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

From the first image in which the child floats on the glowing swirl of dreams, readers will follow the child as they play music, discover shapes in the clouds, swing to lofty heights, shout to the world, paint a rainbow path, create fireworks and treasures, and break free from the restraints of the world that sometimes tamp down dreams. A double gate-fold filled with dreamers will delight readers as they search for just the type of dreamer they are. Written in the first-person and with gender neutral clothing and hairstyle, Happy Dreamer is a universal story.

Empowering, encouraging, and accepting, Happy Dreamer is a superb choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, 2017 | ISBN 978-0545865012

Discover more about Peter Reynolds, his books, and his art on his website.

Make Your Dream Come True Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dream-job-application-activity

Dream Job Application

 

Imagine you are applying for your dream job. What would it be? Why are you the right candidate? Have fun with this printable Dream Job Application and start on the road to your happy future!

Picture Book Review

January 12 – It’s International Creativity Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-neville-cover

About the Holiday

Are you an artist, a writer, a decorator, a chef? How about a floral arranger, a woodworker, a fashion designer, or a gardener? Inside almost every heart lies a desire to create. Whether you use your ingenuity in your job or as an escape from the routine, this month celebrates all that is innovative. Sometimes this comes not in something you can see or touch but in a new thought or novel way of solving a problem—as seen in today’s book!

Neville

Written by Norton Juster | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

A little boy stands on the sidewalk alongside his belongings and watches the moving van drive out of sight. “Now it was quiet, and there he was, where he really didn’t want to be.” It wasn’t as if anyone had consulted him about moving. He did not look forward to the next day at school with a new teacher and no friends. The boy sat dejectedly on his new front steps. His mom came out and sat with him. “‘Maybe you’d like to take a little walk down the block. You might even meet someone,’” she said.

The boy grumbled but got up and headed down the street, skeptical of meeting new friends that easily. As he walked, he looked around without much interest. “But then he stopped. He turned around slowly, put his head back, took a deep breath, and called out, NEVILLE….” When nothing happened, he tried it again, louder. “NEVILLE.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-neville-new-house

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2011, text copyright Norton Juster, 2011. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Suddenly, a boy about his age was standing next to him saying he should yell louder. He did, but the newcomer still didn’t think it was loud enough. He joined in and the two shouted, “but not very together.” A little girl appeared to tell them that no one could understand the overlapping words. Then “she raised her arms, counted to three and brought them down like a conductor. They all shouted at exactly the same time.”

Pretty soon kids were coming from all over the neighborhood. Many already knew the name and were shouting it before they even reached the group. They didn’t all yell together, but it was fun trying anyway. During a break in the yelling, one child said, “‘Hey, I don’t know anyone named Neville who lives around here. Is he new?’” The boy spoke up, “‘I guess so. Everyone has to be new sometimes, don’t they?’” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-neville-group-of-kids

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2011, text copyright Norton Juster, 2011. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The other kids wondered if Neville was a friend of the boy’s. He admitted that he was probably his best friend. One little girl thought the boy had to be pretty special if Neville liked him so much. And just like that everyone wanted to know more about Neville. They asked the boy question after question. “‘I like Neville already!’” someone cried out.” The group even broke up as some kids went to find Neville on the next block. By this time, adults were taking notice too. It was getting time to go home, and one by one the kids left, but only after a promise that they could continue looking for Neville tomorrow. The boy promised to be there, and everyone walked and skipped away happily.

As he watched them go, the boy listened to their conversations. Their voices floated toward him, saying “I hope we find Neville…. Even if we don’t, I like his friend a lot…. Maybe better!… Hey, what was his name?… Oh, we’ll have to ask hi tomorrow.” He started back to his new house, waving to one of the kids he’d met on his way.

When he reached his front door, he took a long look at his house. “‘Not so bad,’ he had to admit.” He ate dinner and got ready for bed. His mom tucked him in and whispered, “‘Good night, Neville, pleasant dreams…. ‘Good night, Mom,’ he whispered back, an in a moment he was asleep.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-neville-special

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2011, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With perfect pitch and a timeless charm, Norton Juster presents a clever “new-kid-on-the-block” story that will enchant readers. The boy’s feelings on moving day are honestly portrayed and sprinkled with humor, and as he trudges down the street in search of new friends, children will be rooting for him. The boy’s creative method of attracting attention offers camaraderie and suspense in equal measure. The inclusive questions and comments from the neighborhood kids are touching, reassuring readers that Neville will fit in just fine.

As the story opens, G. Brian Karas presents Neville’s house and neighborhood in gray-scale tones. Only his belongings and the family car have color. At the encouragement of his mother, Neville walks off down the piano keyboard of a sidewalk toward a horizon of nothingness. The first attempts at calling “Neville” are gray and blue, but suddenly another child comes by, and the grass begins to turn green and the name becomes purple-and-blue plaid. When the little girl enters the scene, Neville (both the name and the boy) shine brighter and the atmosphere turns spring-like.

When kids from all over join up, they bring with them a riot of color in their unique clothing and the voices. The image showing the kids on the grass, peppering Neville with questions is heartening, and as the children head home, the scene pans out to show the diverse neighborhood in full color. Even Neville’s house is painted and has a flower basket hanging out front. His bed is cozy, moonbeams shine through the window, and sweet dreams are close at hand.

Neville is a terrific book for kids experiencing a move to a new home or school, joining a new group, or who love a clever and humorous story. It would make a fun read-aloud for home or the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2011 | ISBN 978-0375867651

Creativity Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-name-organizer-jar

Personalized Organizing Jar

 

With your own creativity you can make a personalized organizer jar that looks cool on your desk while keeping things tidy.

Supplies

  • Wide-mouth plastic jar, like a peanut butter jar
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-name-organizer-jar

Directions

  1. With the chalkboard paint, paint a shape to write your name in
  2. With the acrylic paint, make a border around the chalkboard shape or get more creative—make a roaring dinosaur, for example!
  3. When the paint dries, add your name with the chalk
  4. Add your favorite pens, pencils, markers, bookmarks, stickers, and other supplies

Picture Book Review

 

January 11 – Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-cover

About the Holiday

Melting snow or winter rains can cause plenty of opportunities to take part in today’s holiday! Jumping in puddles isn’t just for kids, either. Come on! You know you want to! So pull on those boots, find a puddle, and…jump!

Puddle

By Hyewon Yum

 

A little boy stands in the middle of the room with his arms folded firmly in front of him. “I hate rainy days!” he says. He flops onto a chair—half on, half off—and bemoans the weather. He “can’t go to the playground,” “can’t play soccer,” can’t ride his bike. His mom invites her grumpy boy to draw with her, but he’s so grumpy that he tells her he’s “never going to draw!” That’s okay, Mom says. She can draw without him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-grumpy-cat

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In a moment Mom sings out, “Ta-da! It’s an umbrella.” Intrigued just a little, the boy comes over to the desk and takes a peek. He recognizes his own blue umbrella. The little boy thinks something is missing, though, and asks if his mom can draw him holding it. Mom obliges and draws a yellow-slickered little boy holding the blue umbrella over his head.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-drawing

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

But there’s still something missing. The boy doesn’t want to stand there all alone. Where’s his mom? Where’s Billy? The boy’s mom isn’t so sure she can draw a dog, but Billy comes out just fine with a feathery tail and shaggy ears. Mom looks very stylish in her checkered raincoat and boots too. There’s just one problem—there’s no rain.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-dialoge

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The little boy picks up the crayon and draws blue slanting lines all around. “I’m really good at this,” he says. More and more rain fills the page, and Mom and her son hold their umbrellas in front of them as they trudge on. Pretty soon, Mom points to something in the path ahead. “It’s a puddle!” the boy exclaims. Before Mom can stop him, he’s ditched the umbrella and is running for the puddle.

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Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

With one leap, he’s in the middle of it, stomping and splashing. Waves of water splatter everywhere, spraying Mom and Billy. “I told you not to go in there,” Mom says. “Now you’re all wet and I am too.” But her son reassures her that it’s okay; after all, it’s just a picture. Billy wants in on the fun and jumps in, bounding and shaking and showering water everywhere. Now it’s the little boy’s turn to be perturbed. “It’s just a picture,” his mom reminds him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-blue-umbrella

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The drawing makes the boy want to have some real fun. “Why not?” agrees his mom. So they put on their raincoats and rain boots and grab their umbrellas and head out. Even Billy has his own orange cape. What do they see on the sidewalk not far ahead? A puddle—with room for all!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-splashing

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Hyewon Yum’s clever story-within-a-story intrigues on many levels. With ingenuity, the mom pulls her son out of his gray-weather funk by offering an understated yet creative lure that can’t fail to reel him in. Once invested in the drawing, the boy sees the possibilities for real play and turns the once “nothing to do” day into an afternoon of fun. The dialog between mother and son that carries the story is natural and honest, propelling the plot from drawing to outside exploration.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-chair

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Yum’s engaging illustrations likewise hook readers as the more realistic images of the mom and son, living room, desk with drawing pad, and even the artist’s hand disappear from the pages as rain pelts the sketched mom, boy and Billy. Children will become so fully engrossed in the made-up story that it seems as if the trio are already out in the rain. When “life” then imitates art, readers will be wishing for their own puddles to jump in.

Puddle proves that the power of art and storytelling can change perceptions, create new realities, and make for a whole lot of fun! The book would be a terrific addition to home bookshelves and classrooms for story times, creative moments, and—of course—rainy days.

Ages 4 – 7

Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2017 | ISBN  978-0374316952

Discover more about Hyewon Yum, her books, and her art on her website.

Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-umbrella-matching-puzzle

Rainy Day Mix Up

 

These matching umbrellas and raincoats have gotten mixed up. Can you pair them up again to have fun in the rain in this printable Rainy Day Mix Up Puzzle? How will you match them?

Picture Book Review

January 8 – National Argyle Day

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About the Holiday

The argyle pattern that is so familiar today comes from the tartan of Clan Campbell, which originated in Argyll in western Scotland. The pattern was used by Clan Campbell for kilts and plaids, but has distinguished socks of various clans in Scotland since the 17th century. The argyle pattern became popular in Britain and the United States following World War I when the Duke of Windsor adopted it for his golf clothing. Today, argyle can be found on clothing, furniture, fabrics, and decorated items of all kinds.

Argyle Fox

By Marie Letourneau  

 

Argyle Fox lived in a tree in the middle of the forest. Badger, Beaver, and Groundhog lived nearby. One spring day when the wind whipped “down the mountainside and through the trees,” little Argyle told his mother that he was going out to play cards. His mother was skeptical, telling him his cards might blow away. Argyle found a spot on an old tree stump and, when the wind died down, he built a tall house of cards. Just as it had grown to be the “tallest tower in the whole world,” however, the wind came and sent it flying.

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

“No fair!,” cried Argyle, and he went home to search his closet for something else to do. Way back behind the soccer ball, boat, and hats, Argyle found his old spider costume. He tried it on and discovered it still fit. He returned to the forest and between two trees wove the elaborate web of “the world’s scariest spider.” The squirrels warned Argyle that playing spider in the wind could be dangerous, but Argyle laughed and continued to play. “‘Beware!’ Argyle replied with a hiss. ‘Beware, or I will capture you in my web!’”

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

But the wind whooshed through the trees, and Argyle ended up tangled and upside down in his own web. Playing pirate by the creek sounded like a better idea anyway. Argyle planted his jolly roger on a stump spanning the river and “set sail,” but the beavers said, “‘You can’t play pirate in the wind, Argyle Fox.’” Argyle looked at the beavers. “‘Arrg,’” he said. “‘I’ll make you walk the plank.’” Just then the wind picked up his newspaper pirate hat and sailed away with it. “‘Argyle stomped off toward the meadow’” with his soccer ball.

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

There he met Badger. “‘I’m the star of the soccer team,’” Argyle told him. “‘I will now kick the winning goal.’” Badger didn’t think this was a good idea in the wind, but Argyle replied, “‘You’d better watch out or I will tackle you!’” Argyle kicked the ball as hard as he could. The wind caught it and threw it into the branches of a tall tree.

Argyle scampered off to the hill where he built a cardboard-box castle. Brandishing his sword, Argyle cried out to Groundhog, “‘I am a brave knight, ready to fight the terrible, ferocious, fire-breathing dragon!’” Groundhog cautioned Argyle about the wind, but Argyle only challenged Groundhog to a duel. Before the duel could begin, though, the wind picked up Argyle’s castle and carried it far away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-castle

Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

Argyle picked up all of his things and went home. He told his mother that he would never play in the wind again. Perhaps, said Mama Fox, you will think of something you can do in the wind. Argyle doubted it, but he thought and thought. He looked at all of his toys and suddenly had an idea. “He cut, tied, knitted, painted, and taped. Finally, it was finished!” Argyle went out to the meadow and waited. “His heart pounded with excitement Would it work? Would he FINALLY be able to play in the wind?”

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

At last the wind came by and Argyle let go of his creation. “Huzzah!‘ cried Argyle. ‘A kite is the most prefect thing to play in the wind.’” Argyle’s mother was proud of him for thinking up a kite all on his own. Argyle was so happy with his kite, that he made one for each of his friends, and they all flew their kites in the meadow together.

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

Marie Letourneau’s story of a little fox who just wants to play and is thwarted at every turn is a multi-layered tale of life’s ups and downs where big ideas sometimes get carried away on ill winds. Such times can bring disappointment or, as Argyle finds, an opportunity for discovery and accomplishment. As little Argyle tries game after game in the disruptive wind, disregarding the warnings and advice of his older neighbors, he learns through his own experience. His frustrations are vented in language appropriate to each character he plays and will make kids giggle. When Argyle goes home, listens to the gentle encouragement of his mother, and comes up with his own solution, he experiences the excitement and satisfaction of self-reliance and ingenuity.

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

Letourneau’s delicately beautiful illustrations in soft blue, green, and orange hues will charm readers as adorable Argyle tries building a house of cards, building a web, playing pirate, kicking the soccer ball, and playing knight in lovely, detailed scenes that kids will like to explore. When Argyle goes back home, children will be intrigued to see how pieces of each of his toys become a part of his kite and may very well want to read the story again to find all the ingredients to that perfect windy-day plaything.

In addition to being a cute adventure to share with young readers at home or in the classroom, Argyle Fox is a terrific lead-in to discussions about self-reliance, self-confidence, creativity, and trial-and-error as well as the possible consequences of this important method of learning.

Ages 3 – 7

Tanglewood, 2017 | ISBN 978-1939100092

Learn more about Tanglewood Books on their website.

Discover more about Marie Letourneau, her books, and her art, and find fun activities to download on her website.

National Argyle Day Activity

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Argyle Pattern Template

 

Argyle patterns come in all colors and make whatever they decorate look festive! Design your own argyle pattern with this printable Argyle Pattern Template.

Picture Book Review