December 7 – It’s Computer Science Education Week

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About the Holiday

Computer Science Education Week was launched in 2009 to raise awareness of the importance of computer coding in all careers and to invite people to learn how to code. Students from kindergarten to grade 12 are especially encouraged to take an interest in computer science and learn coding skills and also to take part in Hour of Code programs at school and elsewhere. The holiday is celebrated in December to honor computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who was born December 9, 1906 and went on to become a United States Navy rear admiral. Her work with machine-independent programming languages led to the development of COBOL, and she was instrumental in many other early computer-related advancements. To celebrate this week, check out the Computer Science Education Week website and Hour of Code and try coding for yourself!

Doll-E 1.0

By Shanda McCloskey

 

“Charlotte’s head was always in the cloud.” She knew everything about computers and was plugged in to the (virtual) realities of each day. One day her mother bought her a present. Charlotte wondered at what kind of electronic marvel might lie underneath the wrapping. When the robotic arm she’d build untied the bow and tore off the paper, Charlotte gazed at the cloth doll in the little stroller uncertainly.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

She wasn’t sure how to play with it; where was the instruction manual? Charlotte took the doll to her lab and tried to engage it in her favorite video game and to get it to dance under the revolving disco ball, but the doll just sat on the floor and stared at her. Suddenly, the doll said “Ma-ma.” Charlotte didn’t think she was Mama material, but then she had a thought: “If the doll could talk, then it must have a power supply.”

Sure enough when she opened the back, she found two batteries. This was more like it! Since the doll’s only word seemed to be “Ma-ma,” Charlotte ran an update on it to increase its vocabulary. But before she could finish, her dog grabbed the doll by the leg and ran off with it. Before Charlotte could stop him, Blutooth had ripped the doll apart.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Charlotte collected the doll’s arms, legs, and head, gathered some more supplies, and went to work in her lab. “With a few spare parts and a bit of code, Charlotte changed the doll.” It looked at Charlotte with its bright eyes and smile and said, “H-e-l-l-o m-y n-a-m-e i-s D-o-l-l-E 1.0.” “And the doll changed Charlotte too.” Charlotte loved Doll-E. She read to it, and played with it, and took it outside, where its fast stroller and new remote-controlled robotic arms were perfect for walking Blutooth.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Shanda McCloskey wonderfully inventive doll story for a new generation will delight children and remind adults that while toys may change, the feelings associated with them never do. Sprinkled with puns and led off with a just-right first line, McCloskey’s smart story shines. Charlotte shows heart and intelligence as she embraces her new doll and makes it a reflection of her own life—just as children have always done with their toys. Charlotte, as a computer whiz, makes a captivating role model for kids, especially girls who code or would like to.

There’s so much to admire in McKloskey’s illustrations, from Charlotte’s dedicated work space/lab outfitted with hand tools, spare parts, and craft supplies to her sweet determination to understand her new, simple doll. Clever details, such as a light bulb hanging over Charlotte’s head when she gets a brilliant idea and a Frankenstein-esque scene as Charlotte repairs her doll add depth and fun to the story’s theme.

A spirited story, Doll-E 1.0 clicks all the buttons as a must for home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0316510318

Discover more about Shanda McCloskey, her books, and her art on her website.

Computer Science Education Week Activity

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Trendy Trending Word Search Puzzle

 

The Internet has added many new words to our language as well as redefining old ones. Search for twenty-two Internet-based words in this printable word search puzzle.

 Trendy Trending Word Search Puzzle | Trendy Trending Word Search Solution!

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You can find Doll-E 1.0 at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

December 5 – International Ninja Day

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About the Holiday

International Ninja Day may have started out as an marketing idea by Ninja Burger in 2003, but the day has grown to embrace all manner of Ninja fun. If you love the stealthy cunning of these masters of martial arts warfare, then today’s for you! To celebrate, watch a favorite ninja movie or TV show, put a bit of charity into the day and perform an act of kindness while remaining “invisible,” or share a great book about ninjas with your kids. Here’s a terrific one to enjoy all year round!

The Secrets of Ninja School

By Deb Pilutti

 

Ruby, a little red-haired girl, is excited to be attending Master Willow’s School for Ninjas. The school, located in a huge house on the outskirts of town, is open only one weekend each summer. Master Willow called his students “‘saplings,’” and each child attended his school eager to learn how to appear invisible, jump skillfully, show patience, and be brave. “But most of all, they came to Master Willow’s School for Ninjas to discover their very own secret skill.”

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

While the other saplings learned quickly, Ruby could not get the hang of sneaking invisibly, jumping with skill, being patient, or feeling brave. Most disappointing, Ruby could not discover her own secret skill. She went to see Master Willow, who told her that through practice she would improve and find her skill. Ruby did practice and did improve, but her special skill still eluded her.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

At bedtime, Ruby felt homesick. The other kids told her that saplings did not miss home, but, still, she told them how her father read stories to her when she couldn’t sleep, how her mother lit a nightlight and kissed her nose when she was afraid of the dark, and that her grandmother would bring out her craft box and “they would spend hours making the most magnificent creations” when she was worried.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Not a sound broke the silence. But then Ruby heard “a sniff and a gasp and a wail. Before she knew it all the other saplings were crying.” Ruby knew just what to do. She “sneaked down the hallway” invisibly, jumped over the cat with skill, and “snipped and stitched and stuffed” patiently. She even bravely explained why she was out of bed when Master Willow caught her.

Back in the dormitory, Ruby turned on a lamp, “gave each of the saplings a stuffed dragon and told them stories of bravery and daring.” Master Willow watched and listened with a smile on his face. When Ruby handed him a stuffed dragon too, he told her that her skills were no longer a secret. “‘You are a wonderful storyteller, a fine dragon maker, and a very good friend.’” Ruby was happy, but she “kept practicing, because being brave isn’t always easy. Even for a ninja.”

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Deb Pilutti’s uplifting story takes an honest look, through a fun Ninja lens, at the worries some children have when they compare their skills and talents to others and even against their own expectations. While Ruby struggles to pick up Ninja skills, readers will see that Ruby has other talents, such as perseverance, creativity, and the courage to ask for help. Ruby may feel—like all kids do at times—that she’s different from the others, but she discovers that emotions are universal, allowing her to appreciate and share her gifts for empathy, kindness, and friendship.

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Pilutti’s bright illustrations will endear Ruby to readers as she excitedly goes off the ninja school, keeps practicing despite some mishaps, and sees dragons in clouds and shadows. Images of the saplings jumping, throwing, and meditating will delight little home ninjas-in-training, and the fully stocked Ninja Craft Area where Ruby creates her stuffed dragons will cheer young crafters.

You can make Ruby’s Dragon Softie too!

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Clear instructions and patterns for an adorable dragon that kids can make at home are included at the end of the story.

Ages 4 – 8

Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2018 | ISBN 978-1627796491

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art and to find fun book-related activities, visit her website.

International Ninja Day Activity

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Stealthy Ninja Maze

 

One little Ninja has gotten separated from her group. Can you help her find her way back in this printable maze?

Stealthy Ninja Maze | Stealthy Ninja Maze Solution

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You can find The Secrets of Ninja School at these Booksellers

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Macmillan | Powell’s

September 15 – International Dot Day

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About the Holiday

Usually, I match books to existing holidays. Today, though, I have the pleasure of posting a review of a book that established a holiday. On September 15, 2009 teacher Terry Shay introduced his class to Peter H. Reynold’s The Dot. From that one event grew a national and then an international celebration of creativity and the freedom to make art with your heart. All around the world, school children and adults are inspired on this day to make their mark and celebrate creativity, courage, and collaboration.

The Dot

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

At the end of art class, Vashti looked at her paper. It was still as blank as it was at the beginning of art class. Her teacher came over and took a peek. She saw right away that Vashti had drawn “‘a polar bear in a snowstorm.’” Vashti wasn’t fooled by the joke. “‘I just CAN’T draw,’” she said. But her teacher had a suggestion. “‘Just make a mark and see where it takes you.’”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti jabbed at the paper with a marker, making a dot right in the center. Her teacher studied her drawing carefully then told Vashti to sign it. That, at least, was something Vashti could do. She signed her name and gave the paper to her teacher. At the next week’s art class, Vashti was stunned to see her dot framed and hanging above the teacher’s desk. She looked at the tiny mark and decided that she could do better than that.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti opened her watercolor set and began. She “painted and painted. A red dot. A purple dot. A yellow dot. A blue dot.” Then she discovered that blue mixed with yellow made a green dot. Vashti went to the easel and began painting lots of little dots in all sorts of colors. She realized if she could make little dots, she could make big dots. She knelt down on the floor with a big piece of paper and a big brush and created a huge dot.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Then on an enormous canvas Vashti “made a dot by not making a dot.” At the school art show, Vashti’s dot paintings covered two walls and were quite a hit. Coming around the corner a little boy spied Vashti. He came close and told her, “‘You’re a really great artist. I wish I could draw.’” Vashti was encouraging, but the little boy said he couldn’t even “‘draw a straight line with a ruler.’”

Vashti wanted to see. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper. With a quivering pencil, he drew a line and handed the paper back to her. Vashti studied the wavy line for a minute, and then gave the paper back. “‘Please…sign it,’” she said.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynold’s classic story of a little girl who believes she can’t draw is inspirational for anyone at any age who listens too closely to that voice in their head that stops them from letting go and doing. Whether it’s painting, writing, changing the décor of one’s house, updating a wardrobe, getting healthy, or even taking a class, the project often seems insurmountable. But what if you could start with a YouTube video, one step, a pair of earrings, a pillow, a word, or…a dot? Reynolds says you can! With his straightforward storytelling, Reynolds gives readers permission to play, experiment, and feel free.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Reynold’s familiar line drawings that sketch out adorable Vashti and her wise teacher are punctuated by the colorful dots that Vashti draws in profusion. Even Vashti, herself, is surrounded by circular auras of color throughout the story, reflecting her talent and creative spirit. The final scene of the art show gallery is a revelation, showing readers that one’s work or life work adds up to an impressive display of the self.

Through and through The Dot is charming, moving, and encouraging. It is a must addition to home libraries, public libraries, and classrooms.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2003 | 978-0763619619

Discover more about International Dot Day, download an Educator’s Guide, and see a gallery of projects on thedotclub.org.

You’ll learn more about Peter H, Reynolds, his books, and his art as well as find lots of inspiration and creative tips on his website!

International Dot Day Activity

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Decorate the Dots Coloring Page

 

How would you color these dots? Grab your favorite paints, markers, or crayons and let your imagination fly with this printable Decorate the Dots Coloring Page.

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You can find The Dot at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 14 – National Live Creative Day

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About the Holiday

Do you love that you think differently? That when you look at a leaf, you see a poem or that when you hear the wind, you imagine a painting? And don’t you love those days when you can just let your creative mind take over and you can make something new—no matter what it is? Well, today is one of those days! National Live Creative Day was established to encourage people to embrace their innovative side. There are so many ways to be creative from the arts, to science and math, to what you make for dinner. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “creative type,” enjoy looking at things at work and home in a different way. One of the best ways to celebrate the day is to spend time with a child. Kids are naturally creative and are just waiting for ways to express it!

Douglas, You’re a Genius!

By Ged Adamson

 

While Nancy and Douglas were playing ball in the backyard, the ball rolled through a hole in the fence. A pile of leaves on the other side prevented Nancy and Douglas from seeing where the ball went. But just as they were about to pronounce the ball “a goner,” it rolled back at them. “Nancy and Douglas called into the hole. ‘Thank you!’ But there was no response.” Even a whistle and a bark only brought silence.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Douglas really wanted to know who was on the other side of the fence, so he and Nancy got out their train set and built a track into the hole. They sent the train engine chugging down the track with a note that said, “Hello! We are Nancy and Douglas J” While they waited and waited they made music on pots and pans, danced to a record on the record player, and built a house of cards.

Finally the train made a return trip with another note that said, “¡Hola! ¡Queremos conocerte!” Neither Nancy nor Douglas knew what the words meant, but they increased the pair’s curiosity. The fence was much too tall to climb, but Nancy had a plan. Her plan included her rubber band collection, a trampoline, a helmet, a camera, and… a bouncing, flying Douglas who would take a picture of their neighbor. Douglas thought the plan was dangerous, but Nancy said, “‘Nonsense. You’ll be fine!’” Douglas ran and launched himself into the air and into… a tree.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Douglas said he had a plan, but Nancy was already ready with another of her own. This one was explosive. Douglas grumbled, but Nancy chastised him for having no sense of adventure. The contraption was set in motion and “Douglas moved astonishingly fast, but unfortunately, not in an upward direction.” A little dazed and droopy, Douglas asked if they could try his plan, but first Nancy wanted him to try pole vaulting, kite flying, and many more.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

At last, Douglas shouted, “It’s my turn!!” Nancy conceded, and Douglas started digging. He dug and dug until his plan was finished. There, up against the fence was a mountain of dirt—a mountain they could climb! “‘Douglas, you’re a genius!’” Nancy exclaimed. When they got to the top, they saw the most surprising thing. The neighbor’s yard was littered with discarded contraptions, and there, standing on an equally tall mound of dirt was a boy and his dog. “Hello!” Nancy said. “¡Hola!” the boy said. “Woof!” said Douglas. “¡Guau!” said the boy’s dog.

“The new friends got busy right away on a new plan.” This one was the most elaborate yet. And all the kids in the neighborhood agreed that “it was the most genius plan of all.”

A glossary of the Spanish words and phrases used in the story precedes the text.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Ged Adamson’s contraption-filled celebration of curiosity, creativity, and diversity reunites readers with Nancy and her sweet pooch, Douglas in a story that suspense, laughs, and a surprising ending. Douglas’s ingenious solution to their dilemma is a truly unexpected, rib-tickling delight, and the discovery that Douglas has an equally intelligent new friend will enchant readers.  Nancy’s eagerness to share her ideas and acknowledgement of Douglas’s success will resonate with kids. These interactions also provide good talking points about cooperation and listening to others. The relationship between Nancy and Douglas is sweet and heartwarming. Extending that friendship to their neighbors and the community is an exciting development in their story—and hopefully future stories. The addition of Spanish characters to the series is a welcome inclusion, and the dual-language plan the kids devise will inspire readers to learn new words.

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Adamson’s Nancy and Douglas are as enthusiastic and adorable as ever. As they work to overcome the formidable fence, Adamson’s use of perspective and action will spark plenty of giggles. Nancy’s graphed-out Rube Goldberg-style contraptions will enthrall young engineers and fans of slapstick humor, and snapshots of Douglas warily trying them all will trigger laugh-out-loud moments.

For old and new fans of Douglas and Nancy, Douglas, You’re a Genius! is a no-brainer for inclusion on home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2018 | ISBN 978-1524765309

To learn more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Live Creative Day Activity

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Contraption Crazy! Maze

 

Can you follow the marble through the crazy track in this printable maze?

Contraption Crazy! MazeContraption Crazy! Maze Solution

Want to make a Douglas of your own? Click here!

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You can find Douglas, You’re a Genius! At these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 27 – National Just Because Day

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About the Holiday

Doesn’t that sound refreshing? A whole day devoted to doing things “just because.” As the school year starts up again and the less structured days of summer fade, it’s fun to contemplate what you can do just because you feel like it, it makes you happy, or it’s something nice you want to do for someone else. With no expectations, no directions, and no nagging deadlines, today’s holiday lets you be the captain of your actions and fate! So get out there and do that thing! You might surprise yourself and others—just like the little girl in today’s book!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash

Written by Nicholas Day | Illustrated by Tom Disbury

 

Sylvia Samantha Wright was awesome at finding stuff. In fact, “on Monday, she found some leaky tires. And some tangled ropes that were underneath the leaky tires. And some old wood that was underneath the tangled ropes that were underneath the leaky tires.” She brought it all home in her wagon and stored it in the garage. When her father wanted to know “‘Why?,’” she told him that she had a plan.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Tuesday, Sylvia found a half-used pack of gum and added it to her stash. Her brother thought it was time for “‘another sister.’” On Wednesday, when Sylvia showed the Mayor the busted pipes, old motors, and empty paint cans she had collected, the Mayor was a bit skeptical about Sylvia’s project. Her next acquisition was a whole wagonload of “polka-dotted party hats from a store that was getting out of the polka-dotted party hat business.” On her way home, Sylvia ran into old Ezekiel Mather, who rarely spoke or smiled. Ezekiel appreciated the hats in Sylvia’s wagon, though, and wanted to know what she was working on.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Sylvia had to admit that she didn’t quite know. That’s when Ezekiel smiled and said, “‘That’s the best part. The part before you know.’” On Friday, Sylvia and Ezekiel found a dumpster full of half-rotten bananas. Sylvia didn’t know what she’d do with them, but they excited her nonetheless.

On Saturday everything changed. “The water tower sprung a few leaks,” and while the Mayor was setting up buckets to catch the water, she was washed downstream sitting on the playground’s tire swing. Then the main power line crashed, cutting out the security system at the zoo’s “Larger-Sized Animal House.” Out walked an Asian elephant, three hippopotamuses, a group of orangutans, and some capybaras.” On their way through town the elephant pulled up the flag pole—with the Mayor attached.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Sunday, Sylvia went to the Mayor with her wagons loaded with junk and offered her help. “‘I’ve got this,’” she said. And she did! She fixed the water tower, redesigned the power system, and built a new and improved playground. And what about the zoo animals? It seemed a dumpsterful of half-rotten bananas was just the thing to entice them back home. There was just one thing left in Sylvia Samantha Wright’s wagon: polka-dotted party hats. What were those for? “‘For the party, of course.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Nicholas Day’s witty, sequential story is a spirited tribute to those who can see the potential in even discarded things. Sylvia’s confident answers to people’s questions of “why?” will cheer both those children and adult readers who have a secret (or not-so-secret) stash of objects waiting for just the right project. As Sylvia amasses a seemingly disparate array of junk, readers’ suspense will grow as they wonder just how she’s going to use it all. As the out-of-her-depth mayor relinquishes control to Sylvia, kids will cheer as Sylvia Samantha Wright knows all the right solutions.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tom Disbury’s charming cartoon-style line drawings instantly make Sylvia a heroine for her astute junk plucking and her plucky can-do attitude. Images of her growing piles of junk will intrigue children, and illustrations of the Mayor riding the rapids on a tire, flailing on a floating log, and clinging to the flag pole add classic slap-stick humor to the story. Those with an artistic and/or a scientific bent will be fascinated with depictions of Sylvia’s ingenious inventions and innovations.

Sure to spark an interest in creativity, experimentation, building, and inventing, Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash would be a lively addition to STEM lessons in the classroom as well as a humorous and inspiring read at home.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585364008

Discover more about Nicholas Day and his writing on his website.

To learn more about Tom Disbury, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash Giveaway written by Nicholas Day | illustrated by Tom Disbury

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, August 27 – September 2. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on September 3.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Just Because Day Activity

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Recycled Crafts & Inventions

 

Look around your house or classroom. Are there boxes, cups, bottles, and other doodads that could be repurposed or reimagined? You bet! Collect as many of these items as you want and put your imagination to work. You’ll be amazed at what you can create—just because!

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You can find Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 3 – It’s National Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

It may seem like summer vacation just began, but it’s already time to start thinking about the new school year. The stores are stocked with clothes, supplies, and plenty of gear to make the new school year the best ever. But the stuff of going to school is just part of getting ready. Kids are looking forward—eagerly or maybe with a little trepidation—to meeting new friends, having new teachers, and exploring new subjects and ideas. Making the transition to a different grade easier and exciting is what National Back to School Month is all about.

Simon & Schuster sent me a copy of Idea Jar to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Simon & Schuster in a giveaway of a copy of Idea Jar. See details below.

Idea Jar

Written by Adam Lehrhaupt | Illustrated by Deb Pilutti

 

On the teacher’s desk sits an Idea Jar that holds her student’s story ideas. The teacher “says a story can be about anything” the kids want it to be. Like maybe “a space robot” or a “horseless cowgirl” or, yes, even that Viking who is trying to hoist himself over the edge of the jar to freedom. See, “there’s no such thing as a bad story idea,” and there are so many ways to tell your story.

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

You can even combine your own ideas or make up a story with a friend. And maybe even that Viking in the back of your mind would make a good character too. He certainly thinks so. His motto is “Everything is better with a Viking”—even a giant badger who has lost her pink dress.

There is one thing about the Idea Jar, though. “It’s important to create stories for your ideas, or else your ideas get rowdy.” Just look at that Viking, who’s poking…at…the…jar! “Oh no! The ideas!”  They’re all loose! Now the robot is shooting his laser eyes and the dragon is swishing its enormous tail and the ideas are running amok!

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

“These ideas need a story. Will you help?” Great! Should we? Should we start with the Viking? What if he gets into a battle with the space robot? Then gets rescued by the dragon? Who’s ridden by the horseless cowgirl! What? You’d like to change some ideas around? Go for it! This is your story, after all! “Wow! You were awesome!” You made all of those story ideas very, very happy. But it’s time that they went back in the jar to meet some other ideas for next time.

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

As the award-winning author of Warning: Do Not Open this Book, Please Open this Book, This is a Good Story, and many others, Adam Lehrhaupt knows a thing or two—or three—about corralling ideas into a story. By appealing directly to students and any story creator, the narrator of the madcap Idea Jar will excite kids to pay attention to the ideas rattling around and flashing through their minds and inspire them to write, draw, or tell their own stories. The persistent Viking, who gives story suggestions throughout the book and nudges the story along, will delight kids and can serve two purposes for teachers or other writing coaches.

With his infectious enthusiasm, the Viking is that great idea that knocks at your consciousness until it is used. His whispered recommendations may also remind writers and artists of that little self-editor who so often can keep great ideas from running free. Learning to manage both of these is what great storytelling is all about. As the Viking sails into the classroom portrayed in the book, kids will jump at the chance to turn on their imaginations and give him—and their own characters—a story full of suspense, humor, and unexpected twists and turns.

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

As a space robot rockets from the Idea Jar, a horseless cowgirl lifts herself over the edge, and a big, scaly arm reaches from within to pull out the words “dragon” and “giant,” kids will be instantly invested in these characters without a story…yet. Deb Pilutti’s vibrant and dynamic illustrations show the creative process in action, whether a child’s talent lies in writing, drawing, or even reciting ideas aloud. The crafty Viking makes a frequent appearance—just like any good idea does—to prod the ideas in the jar (including the horseless cowgirl, the space robot, and the dragon as well as a pirate, a unicorn, a giraffe, a monster, and various animals) to unleash their inventive power. As the story comes together, the students and teacher cheer as they see their creation come to life. 

Kids will love answering the call to create a story and interacting with the ideas in Idea Jar. Idea Jar is infused with the natural spontaneity and inventiveness of children’s imaginations, making it a winner for jump-starting writing or art lessons in classrooms and inspiring creativity at home for kids and adults.

Ages 4 – 8 (and up)

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481451666

Discover more about Adam Lehrhaupt and his books on his website.

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Deb Pilutti

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Today I’m excited to talk with author/illustrator Deb Pilutti about her new book Idea Jar with Adam Lehrhaupt, her branding work inspired by vintage signs, and the old Creepy Crawlies Thingmaker, a toy which I was surprised and delighted to discover we both loved as children.

Readers will love the way the characters interact with each other and with the kids writing and drawing stories in Idea Jar. Can you describe your journey from when you first received Adam Lehrhaupt’s manuscript for Idea Jar to the finished book?

I am a fan of Adam’s Warning: Do Not Open this Book! so I was quite excited when Paula Wiseman at Simon & Schuster asked me if I would like to illustrate IDEA JAR. Who wouldn’t want to illustrate a book with a Space Robot, a Viking, a cowgirl and a Dragon as the main characters? Adam left a lot of room for me to play. He did not specify what the other ideas in the jar would be, only the characters he had written into the text. It was fun to develop additional characters and their relationships and mini-side stories, like the developing friendship between the Yeti and the small dog, and the mouse driving a race car.

Kids’ imaginations are always so full of possibilities, and they can make such funny and amazing leaps of character and plot. What are some steps you’d give young writers and illustrators for capturing those snatches of imagination and developing an idea into their own story?

Keep a journal. I have several that I write or doodle in. If there is something I find interesting, like an idea or a character, I go back to it and try to work out a story. I start by asking questions of the character or situation. What would happen if… type of questions.

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Your branding work for Sea World, Warner Brothers, artists, food trucks, and more are infused with such a fun vintage vibe. Do you have a favorite decade to draw design ideas from, and why?

I absolutely love vintage signage and type from the 50s and 60s. Some of it is so campy while others can be evocative or elegant. The colors used were bold and saturated.

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Before you began illustrating and writing for children, you designed toys, and in your recent release The Secrets of Ninja School, the main character makes dragon stuffies for all of her classmates. Why do you think playing with traditional toys is so important for children? What was your favorite toy when you were a child?

Mostly because it’s fun. I also think it’s a way to navigate the world, but that isn’t something I thought about as a child. When I was young, I loved making Creepy Crawlers, which was an incredibly dangerous toy at that time. You pored possibly toxic goop into a metal mold and cooked it in a blisteringly hot ThingmakerTM oven, which resulted in many scorched fingers. But totally worth it, because once the plate cooled, you would have an army of colorful and stretchy bugs.

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My cousin is a graphic designer and whenever I visited her as a child I loved seeing her special corner of the house. It was so full of color and knick-knacks (inspiration, really, I guess) and works in progress, that I developed a fascination with artists’ studios. Do you mind describing your work space a little? What is your favorite thing in it?

My studio is in a small bedroom. I have a long table with a computer and extra monitor set up on it, and I sometimes sketch here as well. A painting easel is in the corner of the room. It’s a very messy place, with papers everywhere and knick-knacks and toys and bits of shiny things on every surface. I like all of my toys, but my favorite one is a realistic toy model of a T-rex with a moveable jaw.

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What’s the best part of being a children’s illustrator and author?

I have always loved books. To be involved with the art of bookmaking is a wondrous thing. My favorite part of the process is making the final illustrations.

Do you have any anecdotes from a reading or event that you’d like to share?

I was visiting a school last April and had a blast creating stories with the students using an Idea Jar. We made some pretty silly stories together. One student came up with a zombie tomato for a character, which was brilliant!

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently working on final illustrations for two books. The first is Old Rock (is not boring). A story about a rock sounds like it could be boring, right? At least Old Rock’s friends think so. Old Rock reveals her own surprising story, slowly and languidly, as rocks do. I’m also illustrating a sequel to Ten Rules of Being a Superhero. It’s called Ten Steps to Flying Like a Superhero. I had so much fun with the characters from the first book that they are back for another adventure. Lava Boy’s superhero toy, Captain Magma, wants to fly more than anything. They devise a plan, which does not go as anticipated.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Summer Solstice. I live in Michigan, which is quite lovely, but the cold and dark of winter can get a bit old. I miss the light. Our summer nights are very long. On Summer Solstice, I try to stay outside until the last vestiges of daylight disappear at around 9:45.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Yes, I illustrated The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan, illustrated by Susan Collins Thoms.

Thanks so much for chatting, Deb! I wish you all the best with Idea Jar and all of your books!

National Back to School Month Activities

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Make Your Own Idea Jar

If you have lots of ideas looking for a place to hang out, discover how to make your own Idea Jar and find some cool starter ideas from Adam Lehrhaupt! Make your own IDEA JAR!

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Dream up Story Ideas

Do your kids (or maybe you!) want to think up awesome story ideas? Check out Deb Pilutti’s 5 Methods of Generating Story Ideas

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You can find Idea Jar at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 2 – It’s National Crayon Collection Month

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About the Holiday

Kids love going to restaurants that provide a fun placemat and crayons to color with while they wait. But what happens to those crayons when the meal is over? Most times they’re thrown in the trash with the napkins and straws and other items left behind. Wouldn’t it be great if those gently used crayons could go on to be used by other kids at schools that can’t afford such supplies? They can! Begun by Crayon Collection, National Crayon Collection Month encourages restaurants, hotels, and other organizations that provide free crayons to collect the ones left behind and donate them to under-serviced schools. As school arts programs are threatened with budget cuts, these important supplies can make a big difference in the lives of students. The ability of children to express their creativity is a crucial part of their education and growth.  You can get involved too! To learn how you can make an impact, visit CrayonCollection.org. Or look into donating crayons (and other supplies) to a school in your area.

The Day the Crayons Came Home

Written by Drew Daywalt | Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

 

One day, as Duncan and his crayons were creating something together, Duncan received a mysterious package of postcards. The first postcard Duncan read was from Maroon Crayon, who, it turned out had been marooned in the couch, broken in half when Duncan’s dad sat on him, and then “nursed back to health” by paperclip. Now ready to rejoin the pack, Maroon Crayon was asking to be rescued.

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Image copyright Oliver Jeffers, 2015, text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2015. Courtesy of Philomel Books.

The next postcard brought distressing news from Pea Green Crayon, who feeling unloved, had changed his name to Esteban the Magnificent and was “running away to see the world.” Neon Red Crayon was feeling similarly dismissed and was writing—with a bit of well-earned pique—from the side of the pool at the Ritz Motel. “REMEMBER that great vacation we had with your family? Remember how we laughed when we drew a picture of your dad’s sunburn? Remember dropping me by the hotel pool when you left? Clearly you do NOT, BECAUSE I’M STILL HERE!” Still, Neon Red Crayon was taking it upon herself to walk home.

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Image copyright Oliver Jeffers, 2015, text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2015. Courtesy of Philomel Books.

Yellow and Orange crayons wrote to let Duncan know they’ve put their argument “over which of us was the color of the sun” aside now that the sun has fused them together forever in the backyard. They don’t care what color the sun is anymore—they just want to come home. But perhaps “Tan (or possibly Burnt Sienna?) Crayon” has the saddest tale to tell. He’s had a hard time of it since being eaten by the dog and is now “more carpet fuzz than crayon.”

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Image copyright Oliver Jeffers, 2015, text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2015. Courtesy of Philomel Books.

Up from the basement comes a postcard from Glow in the Dark Crayon, who was abandoned there last Halloween after Duncan used him to draw scary stuff on the wall. He just wants to be brought into the light because he’s “kind of … terribly … horrified ….” Meanwhile, Esteban has reached the front door, seen that the world is rainy, and has decided to return.

A dryer mishap has left Turquoise Crayon with one of Duncan’s socks stuck to his head, one compelling question, and one big desire to be reunited with the other crayons. But it’s not just Duncan’s crayons who are begging to be brought back into the fold. Duncan’s baby brother’s “Chunky Toddler Crayon” wants to be saved from another week like the last one in which the little tyke had “bitten the top of my head, put me in the cat’s nose, drawn on the wall and tried to color GARBAGE with me!”

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Image copyright Oliver Jeffers, 2015, text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2015. Courtesy of Philomel Books.

Brown Crayon admits that he’s embarrassed by what Duncan used him for, but still wants to come back, and Neon Red Crayon has sent postcards from all over the world as she’s made her way back, at last sending a card picturing herself skiing in the Amazon Rain Forest. After reading all of these missives, Duncan felt bad and ran around the house collecting them. But where would he put them? They “were all so damaged and differently shaped than they used to be that they no longer fit in the crayon box.”

But why did the crayons have to fit the box? Duncan had a better idea. He built a box to fit the crayons—“a place where each crayon would always feel at home.”

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Image copyright Oliver Jeffers, 2015, text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2015. Courtesy of Philomel Books.

An instant classic, Drew Daywalt ‘s and Oliver Jeffers’ sequel to the equally loved The Day the Crayons Quit, The Day the Crayons Came Home is a laugh-out-loud look at life as a forgotten crayon. As given voice by Drew Daywalt, these crayons, with personality, attitude, and some legitimate gripes, make hilarious champions for any story time. Daywalt’s selection of colors and mishaps is inspired, and his recurring characters, Esteban and Neon Red Crayon, add just the right touch of silly cluelessness as they wax poetic.

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From the first glimpse of Maroon Crayon facing the indignity of being sat upon and emerging from the wreckage with a full beard, tattered paper, and paperclip bandage, kids will be hooked on the lives of these misplaced, misused crayons. Each crayon’s expression reveals the personality and predicament of these little heroes. Vintage postcards and crayon-drawn backdrops add to the distinctive look of this very original story in letters. A page of glow-in-the-dark drawings and text will have kids running for the nearest closet or dark corner to check it out, and the final reveal of the crayons’ new home will inspire readers to create one of their own.

A colorful, creative addition to any home or classroom library, The Day the Crayons Came Home (and its companion The Day the Crayons Quit) will be asked for again and again…and again.

Discover more about Drew Daywalt and his books on his website.

To learn more about Oliver Jeffers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Crayon Collection Month Activity

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Crayon Rainbow 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

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CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 1 (2)

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. Glue the crayons with their tips facing down to the board with the hot glue gun
  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 poster board shape onto the corrugated cardboard, let dry
  8. Glue the umbrella or other shape to the foam board, about 4 ½ inches below the crayons
  9. Set up a space to melt the crayons. The wax will fly, so protect the floor and walls by placing the art piece in a large box or hanging newspapers, old sheets or towels on the walls and placing newspapers on the floor. A trifold display board and newspapers works well.
  10. Stand the art piece upright with the crayons at the top
  11. With the hot setting of the hair dryer, blow air at the crayons until they start to melt
  12. 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
  13. The crayons will begin to melt and drip downward
  14. You can experiment with aiming the hair dryer straight on or at an angle to mix colors
  15. 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
  16. Once the hair dryer is turned off, the wax cools and dries quickly
  17. Hang or display your art!

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You can find The Day the Crayons Came Home at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review