August 30 – National Frankenstein Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who in 1818 at the age of 18, penned one of the most influential books of all time. Considered the first modern science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus incorporates elements of horror, psychology, love, abandonment, and acceptance. These themes and Shelley’s enthralling storytelling created a book that is always current. During this 200th anniversary year of the publishing of classic novel, discover (or rediscover) the spellbinding thrill of reading Frankenstein.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Júlia Sardà

 

Mary was a dreamer. She liked to spend time alone, thinking and imagining “things that never were.” Mary called these daydreams “‘castles in the air.’” Mary loved to write stories too, but her daydreams were even more thrilling. When Mary wanted to read and dream, she went to the graveyard and sat next to her mother’s grave. Mary’s mother had died when Mary was only 11 days old.

While Mary loved her father, she didn’t like the way he punished her. Mary didn’t like his new wife, either. Mary’s father is friends with many famous people, and he invites them to visit. One night “a writer named Samuel Taylor Coleridge recites a strange, eerie poem—The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Mary loves such poems.” Even though she was supposed to be in bed, she hid and listened, shivering “with fear at the spine-tingling tale of a ship full of ghosts.” Forever after, Mary remembered that night and that poem.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

By the time Mary was fourteen, she was unhappy at home and causing trouble. One night, when she was sixteen, she and her stepsister, Claire, ran away with a “brilliant, young poet” named Percy Bysshe Shelley. They traveled through Europe, one day finding themselves outside a “ruined castle. It’s called Castle Frankenstein. Such an interesting name! Does it stick in Mary’s mind?”

Eighteen months later, the three traveled to Switzerland, where they became friends with Lord Byron—the most famous poet in the world. One night as torrential storms crashed around Lord Byron’s house, he read ghost stories from Fantasmagoriana. After reading, Byron challenged his friends, who also included a doctor named John Polidori, to write a ghost story. Eighteen-year-old Mary, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Polidori accepted the challenge. But Mary could not think of a good story idea.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Soon, Shelley and Polidori gave up on their ghost stories, but their talk of new scientific experiments excited Mary. “Electricity can make the muscles of a dead frog twitch. Could it bring a dead creature to life? The idea is both thrilling and frightening.” The idea captured Mary, but instead of a frog, she imagined “a hideous monster, made of dead body parts, stretched out—and coming to life!” Mary suddenly realized she had the idea for her ghost story.

It took nine months for Mary to finish her story. When it was published, some people thought it had been written by Percy Bysshe Shelley—they didn’t “believe young Mary could have done it! How could a girl like her come up with such a story?” But she was a writer, assembling bits and pieces, ideas, and scientific changes in her imagination until they turned into the book Frankenstein. In the two-hundred years since the novel was first published, the story has become a classic. It has sparked movies, inspired other writers, and become a favorite all around the world.

An extensive Author’s Note about Mary Shelley, her life, and inspiration as well as Linda Bailey’s thoughts on the story behind Frankenstein follows the text. A full-page portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and a list of sources rounds out the informative backmatter.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

With atmospheric and riveting details, Linda Bailey captures the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the influences on her imagination that resulted in Frankenstein. Bailey’s use of the present tense is inspired as it reflects the continued currency of the novel while encouraging today’s readers to embrace their “castles in the air.” Facts about Mary’s travels, new scientific discoveries, and favorite books sprinkled throughout the story inform readers on how the imagination combines experiences to create art.

One look at Júlia Sardà’s spellbinding cover tells readers that they are in for an extraordinary reading experience. Muted tones of red, green, gold, blue, and plum cloaked in black create a thrilling backdrop to Bailey’s story. Ghostly winged creatures fly over Lord Byron’s home on a stormy night, smoky monsters emerge from Fantasmagoriana, a frog sits up in its coffin, and the spectre of the monster leans over Mary and sleeps at her feet as she writes her novel. At once spine-tingling and cozy, Júlia Sardà’s illustrations will draw children into this superb story of a ghost story.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is sure to spark the imagination of children who love literature, art, and writing. The book would be a thrilling addition to classroom libraries for literature and writing classes as well as an inspiring favorite on home bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770495593

Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Júlia Sardà, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Frankenstein Day Activity

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Monstrously Good Puzzle

 

See if you’re a Frankenstein scholar by filling in this printable puzzle full of words and phrases about the novel!

Monstrously Good Puzzle | Monstrously Good Puzzle Word ListMonstrously Good Puzzle Solution

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You can find Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

August 26 – International Dog Day

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About the Holiday

International Dog Day was established in 2004 by Colleen Paige to raise awareness of all the dogs who need forever homes. The day also celebrates dogs of all breeds and honors the work of these faithful friends, whether they are family pets or specially trained as service dogs, police dogs, or search-and-rescue dogs. The month of August is also Inventor’s Month—a time when we celebrate those creative types who think differently and put their imagination to work to design new products and services we may not even know we need until we have them. The mashup of these two holidays brings us…well…today’s book!

Experiment #256

By Marty Kelley

 

Ian is working on Experiment #256—a jet pack for his dog Wilbur. Ian’s room doubles as his lab, as the tools, supplies, and (especially) loose parts scattered all over attest to. Ian may be a bit messy, but with the methodical mind of any good inventor, he is taking detailed notes about his experiment in his Science Journal. While he has completed the jet pack, the entry on the fire-tinged journal page reveals: “I have quite a few parts left over.” Still, it’s time to try this marvel out.

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Copyright Marty Kelley, 2019, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ian straps it onto Wilbur, pushes the remote button, and… Wilbur is flying—straight for Lisa’s Studio, where a large “Keep Out!” sign greets visitors to her room. Ian jots down thoughts about the successful launch, but also a fear about those missing parts. As Wilbur bursts through the door, Ian’s sister and all of her sheet music go flying. Thanks to the turbo booster, Wilbur only stays a moment, but is still zooming… right into Grandma’s bubble bath. This turns out to be one of those good news (the jet pack works under water)/bad news (rubber duck and Grandma are not happy) situations, which Ian dutifully notes in his journal.

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Copyright Marty Kelley, 2019, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But Wilbur’s flight isn’t over yet. On his way out the window and into the backyard, he grazes Mom, who’s practicing yoga. Ian learns one important fact from this part of the experiment: “Yoga pants are surprisingly flammable.” As Wilbur crashes through the garden there’s more good news in that the broccoli has suffered irreparable losses and more bad news in that the peas have not. Wilbur’s trajectory next takes him into the neighbor’s yard, where he gets “tangled up in the undies that Mrs. Marino was hanging on the line,” and then skyward.

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Copyright Marty Kelley, 2019, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

By the time Ian catches up with him, Wilbur is only a speck at the top of a very high contrail. Ian is distressed. He documents in his journal that not only did he launch his “best friend into space,” Wilbur “doesn’t have a space helmet” and “he didn’t even bring a snack.” Meanwhile, back on earth, Mrs. Marino is still giving Ian a piece of her mind when he is suddenly cast in a saucer-shaped shadow. He looks up to find Wilbur parachuting home clinging to a pink-and-flowered pair of Mrs. Marino’s undies. Ian faithfully notes: “straps on jet pack not secure.”

Gazing into Wilbur’s goggled, angry eyes, Ian concludes that maybe Experiment #256 was not the best idea. But as any good inventor will tell you, a failed experiment is not a flop but merely an inspiration. So, while Lisa, Grandma, Mom, and Mrs. Marino may still be unhappy, Wilbur is thrilled with his new Snack Blaster. And Ian is hard at work on another, more securely strapped jet pack for….

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Copyright Marty Kelley, 2019, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Marty Kelley’s inventive story—told entirely through Ian’s science journal notes and hilarious illustrations—will keep readers giggling from the first page to the last. Before the story even gets going, kids are treated to a collage of laugh-out-loud photos showing thirteen of Ian’s previous experiments, providing a bit of foreshadowing about #256. Ian’s cryptic observations in his journal lead kids to follow defenseless Wilbur from room to room, yard to yard, and Earth to outer space and back while discovering the chaos wrought by Ian’s runaway jet pack. Flying objects, shocked faces, and, of course, those undies will have readers lingering over the pages to find all the comic details. Kelley’s vivid, textured, two-page spreads are full of action and give the story a retro feel while including timeless visual jokes and a kid-pleasing ending.

An imagination booster for story times when adults and kids want to share a laugh and a bit of science, Experiment #256 would be a funny addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110137

Discover more about Marty Kelley, his books, and his art, visit his website.

International Dog Day Activity

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I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle

 

If you love dogs, you’ll have fun discovering the names of eighteen dog breeds in this printable word search puzzle!

I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle | I Love Dogs! Word Search Solution

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You can find Experiment #256 at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 2 – National Coloring Book Day

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About the Holiday

A few years back adults discovered (or rediscovered) what kids already know—that coloring is fun! Not only is it fun, but letting your creativity turn a page from black-and-white to full-color is relaxing and satisfying. Today’s holiday was established in May 2015 by Dover Publications, a leader in the coloring book industry. In fact, Dover published the first coloring book for adults—Antique Automobiles Coloring Book—in 1970. You know how to celebrate today! Grab your box of crayons, your kids, and your friends and have a coloring party! To learn more about the holiday and download a free mini coloring book visit the Coloring Book Day website. You can find more coloring pages to download on the Crayola website. To learn more about the man who invented crayons, keep reading!

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

Written by Natascha Biebow | Illustrated by Steven Salerno

 

Edwin Binney was an inventor who truly appreciated all the colors around him. In fact, “color made him really, really HAPPY!” Perhaps he loved color so much because all day long in the mill where he worked he was surrounded by nothing but black: “black dust, black tar, black smoke, black ink, black dye, black shoe polish. His company sold carbon black, a new kind of pigment, or colored substance, make from the soot of burning oil and natural gas.” Edwin worked with his cousin C. Harold Smith, and their company was called Binney and Smith.

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

While Harold was the salesman, Edwin was the tinkerer who had made better pencils for writing on slate and a wax crayon that wrote on both paper and wood. His wife, Alice, thought he was just the person to create better crayons for kids. The existing crayons were too big and clunky, and artists’ crayons were too expensive.

Edwin gave it some thought and started experimenting with wax for substance and rocks and minerals for color. Then he and his workers fine-tuned their batches, adding only “a pinch of this pigment, a sploosh of that one, a little hotter, a little cooler…and voilà, LOTS of different shades!” Now, instead of being covered in black dust at the end of the day, “Edwin came home covered in color.”

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

At the factory, Edwin’s team worked on their top-secret formula and finally poured the mixtures into “thin, crayon-shaped molds” to make crayons that were just the right size for children. Finally, in 1903, Edwin had the product he wanted. “He’d invented a new kind of colored crayon” and wanted a new name to go with it. Alice had just the right suggestion, and Crayola crayons were born.

The first boxes contained eight colors and sold for a nickel. As they shipped out to stores, Edwin wondered if the kids would like them. Children loved their fine points, clear lines, and long-lasting color. By this time, inexpensive paper was also available, so kids didn’t have to draw or write on slate tablets anymore.

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

At the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, Edwin’s Crayola crayons won a gold medal. As time went on, Edwin and his team made even more colors, many inspired by nature and even the flowers in Edwin’s own garden. Some of the colors you’ll find in a box today were given their names by children, including “macaroni and cheese” and “robin’s egg blue.” Now, kids all around the world can create just the picture they want, with lots and lots of color.

Back matter includes an illustrated description of the process of making Crayola crayons, an extended biography of Edwin Binney, and a bibliography of resources.

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Natascha Biebow’s quickly paced biography of Edwin Binney and the invention of Crayola crayons is a deft portrait of the man and his times that were on the cusp of and central to so many innovations that created the modern world. Biebow’s emphasis on Binney’s willingness to listen and match his inventions to people’s needs is a lesson on collaboration and the true spirit of invention for today’s future pioneers. In her fascinating and accessible text, Biebow relates the problems with late 1800s writing and drawing mediums while also building suspense on how Binney and his team created the new crayons. Children will be awed to discover the thought, experiments, and materials that went into those first thin sticks of color. Short paragraphs that explain more factual information about topics in the story, including carbon black, the availability of paper, European crayons, and pigments are sprinkled throughout the pages.

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Steven Salerno’s color-drenched pages are beautiful tributes to the man who brought a new age of color into children’s lives. In a clever page turn, Edwin Binney stands in his garden with his arms outstretched appreciating the rainbow of flowers, the deep-blue sea, the light-blue sky, and a fiery red cardinal flying by. The next page takes kids into Binney’s mill, where he stands in the same position, but now seeming to bemoan the sooty environment. Salerno brings the time period alive for kids through hair and clothing styles and school and home furnishings. Several pages give readers a field trip into Binney’s secret lab to see the mechanics of making crayons at work. The front and end papers invite kids to give the wrapper-less crayons pictured a name based on their colors and then to make a drawing of their own.

A high-interest biography of the man who changed the way kids could interpret their world, The Crayon Man is a must for young inventors, artists, and thinkers as well as for classroom story times, social studies lessons, and art classes. The book would be a welcome addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 9

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328866844

Discover more about Natascha Biebow and her books on her website.

To learn more about Steven Salerno, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Coloring Book Day Activity

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Cool Coloring Pages

 

You know what to do on Coloring Book Day! Here are three coloring pages for you to print and enjoy!

Cave kid Coloring Page | Dragon Coloring Page | Mermaid Coloring Page

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You can find The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 22 – National Hammock Day

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About the Holiday

Even during the summer when days are supposed to be a bit more leisurely, it’s good to have a reminder to relax. That’s what today’s holiday is all about. While the origination of the hammock is up for debate—some believe it was invented by the Ancient Greeks, while others look to Christoper Columbus’s journals as evidence that it was created by people in South America—there’s no denying that hammocks are the epitome of relaxation. As summer hits its middle stride, why not kick back a little and lounge—and if you don’t have a hammock, a towel at the beach, a lawn chair, or even your most comfy chair indoors will work just fine too! 

Tomorrow Most Likely

Written by Dave Eggers | Illustrated by Lane Smith

 

Warm, long summer days lend themselves to quiet contemplation about life right now, what tomorrow might bring, and even how the future will play out. Often thoughts turn to the new and the different and how things will change. But the comfortable routines of each day can anchor kids (and adults) in familiarity and a welcome reassurance, while allowing for a liberating whimsy and imagination that makes all the difference and makes each person unique.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2019, text copyright Dave Eggers, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

While it may seem that everything around us is in flux, Eggers reminds us that “Tomorrow most likely / there will be a sky. / And chances are it will be blue.” There aren’t too many days when you won’t see that squirrel, “and chances are his name is Stu.” Tomorrow you will have breakfast or lunch or dinner and then go out “where people are found.”

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2019, text copyright Dave Eggers, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

When you are out there, you’ll hear familiar sounds and see awesome sights you’ve seen before. But among these usual things, keep your eyes out for the surprises and your heart open to feelings. The more you do, the more you’ll notice and the more experiences you’ll have. “You might ride a whale. / You could eat a cloud. You might write a song / and sing it too loud.”

So as you are dreaming of what will come next, always remember: “Tomorrow most likely / will be a great day / because you are in it, / and Stu is okay.”

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2019, text copyright Dave Eggers, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

With his exceptional talent for capturing the wonder of the world and giving it a home within the covers of a book, Dave Eggers both reassures and nudges kids to soak up the familiar and the unusual and realize their place in the middle of it all. The specific examples Eggers presents will have readers looking more closely at the small details they come across each day, while the quirkiness of others will spark their imagination.

Echoing Eggers’ text, Lane Smith’s beautifully mottled and textured mixed media, collage-style illustrations are anchored in a city atmosphere while soaring with colorful skyscrapers, active kids, and—especially—the unexpected. Readers will appreciate the clever perspectives and juxtapositions that put the little boy into just the right place to let his unique contributions shine. Sprinkled with musical notes, shop signs, traffic signs, words in various languages, and a few fanciful animals, the pages are a joy to linger over and talk about.

A book that is sure to spur inspired discovery and mindfulness while offering a boost of self-esteem, Tomorrow Most Likely is a sparkling gem of positivity and would be a favorite on home, classroom, and library shelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Chronicle Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1452172781

Discover more about Dave Eggers and his books for kids and adults on his website.

To learn more about Lane Smith, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Hammock Day Activity

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Just Hanging Around! Coloring Page

 

Some days are just for relaxing! Draw yourself in the hammock and then color this printable coloring page.

Just Hanging Around! Coloring Page

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You can find Tomorrow Most Likely at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 5 – Mechanical Pencil Day

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About the Holiday

The first pencil was created in Switzerland Inn 1565 Conrad Gesner created the first pencil when he wrapped a graphite stick in string. Later, the graphite would be encased in wood to make it easier to sharpen. Fast forward to 1822 when Sampson Mordan and John Isaac Hawkins of Britain patented the mechanical pencil that could advance the lead to keep it always sharp. Today, mechanical pencils work in one of three ways: ratchet-based, clutch-based, or screw-based. The various widths of lead now let writers, artists, designers, engineers, and others create to their specific needs. To celebrate today, why not explore how a mechanical pencil works with your child, and then have fun drawing or writing together! There’s even a printable page below to get you started!

 

Duck Gets a Job

By Sonny Ross

 

Duck needed a job. All of his friends talked about their super office jobs in the city and encouraged him to get one too. Duck scoured the want ads in the newspaper. There were lots of jobs in tech, finance, and business. He imagined himself working with spreadsheets like his friends did. The jobs “seemed boring, but he applied anyway. And he got an interview!”

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Duck agonized over what he’d wear. He tried on an outfit that made him look cool, one that was very professional, and one that was his natural, casual look. He decided to go with the professional style. Next, Duck thought about how he would get to the office. “Flying would make him tired and sweaty, but public transportation is tricky for ducks.” In the end he walked… and he got lost. Once in the city, he hailed a taxi, and while he rode to the interview “he gave himself a pep talk.”

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Talking to the interviewer made Duck very nervous, but, still, he was offered a job. Sitting in his little cubicle with “spreadsheets full of facts and figures” in front of him, Duck realized that this job “did not interest him at all.” Duck decided to quit. Duck had always dreamed of being an artist, so he looked at job ads for the Creative Quack Magazine and found one he thought he’d like. “For his interview, he dressed in his natural look and put samples of his best work in a portfolio.”

He prepared for his trip into the city, and when he got to the office he didn’t feel at all nervous. He showed the art director his portfolio feeling confident about his work. The art director loved his work and offered him a job. Now Duck loves his job, and he’s especially glad “that he had decided to follow his dreams.”

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

The strength of Sonny Ross’s affirming story comes in its straightforward approach to recognizing when an action is not right for you and feeling free to change course. While Duck is looking for the perfect job, the story is appropriate for any activity that children embark on as they find their place in the world. Ross peppers his story with clues that will alert readers to Duck’s true feelings about the two jobs—internal thoughts, clothing styles, and confidence level to name a few—feelings that they too can rely on to guide them in the choices they make.

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Ross’s matte mixed-media illustrations are fresh and stylish in a palette of blues, reds, and golds. Kids experimenting with their own look will appreciate Duck’s dilemma in choosing between cool, professional, and natural clothing styles. They’ll also empathize with his previous attempts at using public transportation and his travails in getting to the first interview on time. When Duck decides that a “spreadsheet job” isn’t for him, the page backgrounds lighten, his road to the interview is smooth, and his happiness is evident. A clever contrasting juxtaposition comes in the depictions of Duck’s two very different interviews. While the businessman sits at his desk peering down on tiny Duck who can barely see over the desk and is nearly swallowed up in his chair, the art director kneels down to Duck’s level to shake his wing in congratulations on getting the job.

Both an entertaining story and a lesson for kids on trusting their gut and staying true to themselves, Duck Gets a Job is a confidence-boosting tale for any home or classroom bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Templar Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763698966

Discover more about Sonny Ross, his books, and his art on his website.

Mechanical Pencil Day Activity

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Click…Click…Create! Page

 

Grab your mechanical pencil and get clicking or twisting! Then create a design, a picture, a poem, a story, or whatever you imagine on this printable page!

Click…Click…Create! Page

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Duck Gets a Job is available at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 16 – Father’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today is all about celebrating dads and telling them how much you love them. It’s a great day to think of all the things dads do for their kids and their families and to share a thank-you, a hug, and of course a book! Reading together is one of the best ways for dads and their kids to bond not only today, but every day!

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!

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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 makes a wonderful gift for dad and 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!

Father’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-building-blocks-craft

I Love Dad Building Blocks

 

This craft will stack up to be a favorite with kids! With wooden blocks and a little chalkboard paint, it’s easy for kids to make these unique building blocks that show dad just how they feel about him. They’re also great for gifts, decorating, party favors, or when you just have a little time to play!

Supplies

  • Wooden blocks in various sizes, available from craft stores
  • Chalkboard paint in various colors
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk in various colors

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden blocks with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. Write words or draw pictures on the blocks
  3. Have fun!

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

You can find It’s Great Being a Dad at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 31 – Web Designer Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-sandcastle-cover

About the Holiday

With Memorial Day just past, it’s officially summer. Soon kids will be getting out of school and enjoying the beach and/or camp. A favorite summer past time is computer camp, which is a perfect mashup of fun and learning. Today’s holiday celebrates all of the inventive web designers who create clear, workable, and enjoyable sites where we can shop, get the latest news, watch videos, play games, and so much more. Our computers, phones, and tablets are so interwoven with our daily routine that we can’t even imagine life without them anymore. All that designing and coding takes specialized knowledge, education, and skill. If you know a web designer, thank them for their hard work—and if you know a child (or perhaps even yourself) who would like a career in coding or web design, get them started with a class or two—and today’s book!

How to Code a Sandcastle

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

It’s the last day of Pearl’s summer vacation, and she’s hit the beach with her parents. Her goal is to build a sandcastle. It’s not like she hasn’t tried on other beach days, but there was always something that destroyed it. There was the frisbee that landed on top of it, then a surfer glided right into it, and another girl’s dog, Ada Puglace, thought it needed a moat. But today, Pearl brought her robot, Pascal, to build her sandcastle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-sandcastle-ruined-sandcastles

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

As Pearl explains, “He’ll do whatever I tell him—as long as I tell him in code. It’s not a secret code—it’s special instructions that computers understand.” Pearl points out the perfect spot on the beach for her sandcastle and tells Pascal to build it. But Pascal doesn’t move. Pearl realizes that she must break down the one big request into smaller problems for Pascal to solve. Easy-Peasy, Pearl thinks.

The first problem Pearl gives Pascal is: “find a place to build.” First Pascal travels out to sea, but Pearl tells him they must build on land. So Pascal rolls out into the parking lot. Hmmm…that’s not right either. Pearl decides she must be “very specific with my instructions.” When she tells Pascal to “find a flat spot on sand that isn’t too close to the water,” he marks an X on a perfect sandy spot. Great!

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

The second problem Pearl gives Pascal is to “gather up sand.” She’s learned to be very particular in her instructions, so she gives her robot a three-step process: “Fill the pail with sand, dump the sand on our spot, pat the sand down.” This works just right, so Pearl continues telling Pascal the directions, until she grows tired of speaking.

There must be a better way, Pearl thinks. How about a loop? Pearl directs Pascal to “loop through this sequence,” and just like that Pascal is off and rolling and Pearl gets to relax. A while later, Pearl discovers that Pascal had built a pyramid-high pile of sand, so Pearl tells him to stop. Next, they will “shape and decorate the castle.” Pearl comes back with pretty seashells to add to the castle, while Pascal brings back the lifeguard—in his chair. Pearl orders Pascal to bring back something smaller. When he comes back with a crab, she tells him it must be something that doesn’t move, and when he shows up with a baby’s pacifier, Pearl knows she must do a better job of explaining.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

She decides to give him “if—then—else” instructions. With these detailed directions, Pascal returns with a shell and some seaweed. Finally, it’s time to shape the castle. They use their buckets and hands to build a beautiful castle that even has a turret. The shells, rocks, and seaweed are the perfect finishing touches. With the castle finally finished, Pearl runs off to get her toys.

But when she gets back, Pearl discovers that the rising tide has washed their sandcastle out to sea. And to make matters worse, Ada Puglace is back to add another moat. Hmmm… a moat? Pearl thinks. That’s what she needed the first time. Pearl really wants to rebuild, but it took her half a day to make the first one. Then she realizes that the code is already written. All she has to do is use it again. In no time a new sandcastle stands gleaming on the beach.

There’s just one more problem to solve. Quickly, Pearl gives Pascal a new looped sequence to dig the moat. Now it’s time to play—or “code an entire kingdom!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-sandcastle-finished-castle

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

A Foreward written by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, introduces readers to this organization that is “working to close the gender gap in technology” and get girls of all ages excited about coding and future opportunities in science and technology. 

Pearl and Pascal’s Guide to Coding with brief discussions of Code, Sequence, Loops, and If-Then-Else follows the text.

With his infectious enthusiasm and talent to reach kids in new and innovative ways, Josh Funk, a computer programmer by day and super writer by night, is a perfect guide to the joys of coding for young learners. Taking kids out to the beach for a bit of sandcastle building—an endeavor that is often fraught with dangers—is a terrific way to show the procedures and power of coding. Pearl’s initial missteps in programming Pascal provide laugh-out-loud moments while also demonstrating that computer programs work with precise instructions. Her inexperience but quick learning will give readers confidence in their own abilities to code and where to look for problems if their program does not run as smoothly as they’d like. When high tide washes Pearl and Pascal’s sandcastle out to sea, readers may groan in empathy, but the opportunity to do it all again—only bigger and better—will make them cheer.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Sara Palacios’s golden beach is a wide-open and inviting platform to introduce the world of computer programming to young readers. Sunny and enthusiastic, Pearl, in her heart-shaped sunglasses, is persistent and smart in figuring out just how to make Pascal do what she wants. Pascal is a round, rolling cutie, perpetually happy to perform its duties. Series of panels and speech bubbles depict each instruction Pearl gives Pascal, clearly showing readers how coding and a computer’s response to its instructions work. Sequence loops are cleverly portrayed with typeface that creates a circle around Pearl’s floating ring and later around the trench that will surround the castle and become the moat. The final image of Pearl and Pascal celebrating their successful day together is powerful encouragement that a new day of girls and women in technology and science is on the horizon.

Coding a Sandcastle is a motivating combination of lighthearted fun and accessible education that will encourage girls—and boys—to get involved with computer coding just for their own enjoyment or as a future profession. It’s a must for school media and computer class libraries, and with this book on home bookshelves, kids won’t want to just play on the computer—they’ll be asking to program too.

Ages 4 – 8

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0425291986

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find lots of fun activities to do too on his website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Web Designer Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bringing-the-outside-in-painted-pails-craft

Personalized Painted Pail

 

A trip to the beach or park isn’t complete without a pail to collect shells, seaweed, sea glass, pebbles, sticks, nuts, or other things in. But why should all the cool stuff be on the inside? With this craft you can decorate your pail to show your unique personality!

Supplies

  • Plastic or metal pail
  • Craft paint in various colors
  • Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating, for multi-surface use
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint designs on the pail
  2. When paint is dry spray with acrylic coating to set paint
  3. Let dry

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-sandcastle-cover

You can find How to Code a Sandcastle at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review