October 7 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future. From business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment, Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the holiday was expanded to a month in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. learn more about the holiday, find resources for classrooms and homeschooling, videos, and more to use not only this month but throughout the year, visit the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-kitchen

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-mamá

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Ańo Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-new-years-eve

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Albert Whitman & Company in a giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela, written by Alexandra Alessandri | illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks 
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Reply with a holiday tradition for extra entry. Each response gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from October 7 through October 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 14.

Prizing provided by Albert Whitman

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-are-all-family-word-search

We Are All Family English/Spanish Word Search

 

Find the names of family members in both English and Spanish in this printable heart- shaped word search puzzle.

We Are All Family Word Search PuzzleWe Are All Family Word Search Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-cover

You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 5 – It’s Positive Attitude Month

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About the Holiday

With all that’s going on this year, it’s hard to always stay positive. But trying to stay relaxed during times like these can be beneficial in many ways. Being upbeat can improve your health, lower chances of depression, make you more motivated, and lead to better relationships with family and friends. Yoga and relaxation exercises can help. For kids, reading funny books together can lighten the mood and lead to some much-needed laughter. Today’s book is a perfect place to start!

Thanks to little bee books for sending me a copy of Mootilda’s Bad Mood for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Corey Rosen Schwartz in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Mootilda’s Bad Mood

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call | Illustrated by Claudia Ranucci

 

Mootilda woke up from her nap with hay in her hair, her pillow tossed to the side, and her favorite lovey lying on the floor. To make her feel better, her moomaw gave her an ice pop, but when “she grabbed the stick and took a lick, it landed at her feet.” Mootilda scowled. “‘I’m in a bad MOOD!’” she shouted. Her moomaw tried to put things right. “‘That’s terri-bull,’” she said. “She smoothed her cowlick, smooched her cheek, and said, ‘Go jump some rope.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mootilda's-bad-mood-kitchen

Image copyright Claudia Ranucci, 2020, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirstie Call, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Mootilda found some friends and started off just fine, but a trip-up sent them all in a heap. “‘I’m in a bad MOOOD!’” Mootilda bellowed.  Next, to soothe her exasperation, she tried swimming in the pond with the sheep. But while the lambs easily went “kerplop,” Mootilda did a painful “bovine belly flop.” The sheep agreed that Mootilda’s dive had been a “‘ca-lamb-ity,’” but suggested she take a bike ride. But her ride was not relaxing, and her game of H-O-R-S-E went astray. Mootilda stomped and yelled and thought she had been cursed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mootilda's-bad-mood-jump-rope

Image copyright Claudia Ranucci, 2020, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirstie Call, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

But then the chickens who’d been playing in the bushes nearby told Mootilda their story of woe: a basketball had crashed their block building, their balloon had flown away, and their art projects had all been ruined. Mootilda thought it was quite a “cow-incidence” that they were “in a bad mood too.” That was just the word for what they were feeling, and the chickens scratched and clucked and crowed along with Mootilda. “‘We’re in a bad MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!’” But then, like her moomaw, Mootilda offered each chicken an ice cream dessert. She was just about to take her first lick of hers when… a crow flying by “knocked hers in the dirt.” Mootilda stared at her dropped cone… “and then she laughed. / her laughs rang on and on. / then suddenly, to her surprise, / her gloomy mood was…gone!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mootilda's-bad-mood-biking

Image copyright Claudia Ranucci, 2020, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirstie Call, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

No child will be able to stay unhappy long once they hear Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call’s hilarious moood-boosting story. Rosen Schwartz and Call really milk the farmyard puns for maximum fun while providing a rollicking read aloud with giggle-inducing rhymes and rhythm. Mootilda’s move to cheer up the chickens mirrors her moomaw’s comfort and will remind readers of their own parents’ or caregivers’ reassurances. Mootilda’s reaction to losing her ice cream cone is pitch perfect and the final funny scene brings the story full circle. Kids will love chiming in on the repeated “I’m in a bad mooood” phrases, and as Mootilda proclaims that she’s “over the moooooooon,” you can be sure they’ll ask to hear the story one moooooore time.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mootilda's-bad-mood-nap

Image copyright Claudia Ranucci, 2020, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirstie Call, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Claudia Ranucci’s Mootilda is having the worst day ever, but the deep pout on her pink snout is more endearing than angry. As Mootilda tries activity after activity to have some fun and improve her mood, only to see disaster strike again and again, alert readers will be drawn to the background of each spread, where the chickens are experiencing their own fiascoes, caused by Mootilda’s mishaps. Flapping wings, flying art supplies, a buried sandcastle, a wayward balloon, and an explosion of blocks will keep kids laughing. Bold typography invites kids to read along on the puns, and Ranucci’s vibrant color palette will always brighten readers’ day.

To make any bad day better and any good day exceptional, Mootilda’s Bad Mood would be a fast favorite on home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1499810868

Discover more about Corey Rosen Schwartz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kirstie Call and her books and to sing along with Mootilda’s Song, visit her website.

You can learn more about Claudia Ranucci and view a portfolio of her work on her website.

Mootilda’s Bad Mood Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Corey Rosen Schwartz in a giveaway of 

  • One (1) copy of Mootilda’s Bad Mood, written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirstie Call | illustrated by Claudia Ranucci

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite mood brightener for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from October 6 to October 12 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 13. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Positive Attitude Month Activity

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

Mooood Brightening Cow Mug

 

It’s hard to be in a bad mood with a cup of hot cocoa served in this cute cow mug that you’ve made yourself! 

Supplies

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

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Directions

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mootilda's-bad-mood-cover

You can find Mootilda’s Bad Day at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 2 – Name Your Car Day

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About the Holiday

We love our cars! Sometimes it seems we spend more time with them than with our own family – and maybe some of us do! What do you call such a reliable partner? A friend, of course! Our friends have names, so why shouldn’t our cars? That’s the idea behind today’s whimsical holiday. To celebrate, give your car the perfect moniker. All names are open, well… 

Thanks to Blue Slip Media and Aladdin for sending me a copy of All Except Axle for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m revved up to be offering a giveaway of the book as well! See details below.

All Except Axle

Written by Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley

 

At the car assembly plant, all the new cars were happily getting buffed before they rolled off the conveyor belt and raced into their slot on the lot. That is… “all except one. Axle.” From the parking lot, the cars drove up the ramps and onto the big transport trucks for the next part of their adventure. But one car lagged behind, watching from a distance – Axle.

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Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

The transport trucks vroomed onto the highway, but…. They were one short. “Earlene, and her passengers…were waiting for Axle.” Axle idled nearby. “‘I think I’m out of alignment,'” he told Earlene. “‘I think you’re stalling,'” Earlene said. The other cars were encouraging, but Earlene got Axle moving with a loud HONNKK!

Finally zooming down the highway, the other cars loved feeling the wind and “[leaning] into the twists and turns.” But Axle felt carsick. When the reached the dealership, the other cars eagerly explored the lot and showroom. All except Axle, who “hurried back up Earlene’s ramp and pleaded with her to go back to the plant. 

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Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

With a Vroom they were off – but not to the plant. Soon, Earlene veered into a truck stop, where, she said, Axle could practice. Axle made right turns, left turns, and U-turns around the cement columns and followed Earlene around and around the lot. Then they left the truck stop and headed out to the flatlands, the foothills, where “the slope grew steeper and steeper,” and even into the mountains. From high on the top of a mountain, Axle stopped to enjoy the view.

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Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Earlene was zipping back down the curvy mountain road with Axle far behind. Then Axle smelled something burning and watches as Earlene “rockets up a runaway truck ramp.” When Earlene finally stopped, they saw the flat tire. Earlene needed a tow truck and Axle was her only hope. He turned around and climbed the mountain road again. It was a strain on his engine, but when he reached the top, Axle kept on going all the way back to the truck stop.

There he found a tow truck and led it straight back to Earlene. “‘Nice job, kid,’ the tow truck said” then offered Axle a ride back into town. But Axle replied, “‘No thanks, I can drive!'” and he zoomed ahead to lead Earlene and the tow truck back to the city. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-city

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Car, truck, and vehicle fans will love Sue Lowell Gallion’s story that boosts little ones’ self-confidence with reassurance and a sweet hero who just needs a little more practice to discover the courage under his hood. With plenty of puns to tickle readers, Gallion’s story reflects the feelings of kids hesitant to make changes or leave their comfort zone. Axle’s reactions mirror many behaviors anxious or hesitant children display, allowing adults and kids an opportunity to talk about emotions. Her well-paced story also lets readers to ride along with Axle as he tries out and improves his skills. When Earlene needs help, Axle may feel a moment of nervousness, but with his new-found belief in himself, he takes to those once-scary roads and saves the day.

Lisa Manuzak Wiley’s bold and vibrant illustrations will appeal to kids – and especially vehicle-lovers – with detailed images of cars on a factory line, loaded into transport trucks, and heading out on the open road. Her vehicles are both realistic and whimsical, and their expressive headlight eyes clearly reflect Axle’s trepidation and the other cars’ excitement for their adventure. Children will enjoy pointing out and counting the different cars from page to page.

For children who need a little encouragement on the road of life, All Except Axle is an engaging and reassuring story that’s sure to capture their imagination.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534440227

Discover more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books on her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axle-storytime-kit

You can find an All about Axle Storytime Kit with a puzzle, puppets, a coloring page, discussion questions, and a coping strategies worksheet on Sue’s website here.

To learn more about Lisa Manuzak Wiley, her books, and her art, visit her website.

All Except Axle Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Blue Slip Media and Aladdin in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of All Except Axle, written by Sue Lowell Gallion | illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with a name for your car for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from October 2 to October 8 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 9. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Aladdin

Name Your Car Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truck-racing-game-wood

Racing for Friendship Game

Here’s a racing game that kids will love! With poster board, paper, and chalk or other art supplies, kids can place their track in a city, the country, the desert, or even in outer space! Once the scene is ready, get out your own toy cars or trucks to play with or use the printable truck game pieces included below. Use a traditional playing die or the included printable 8-sided playing die. The first player to the finish line wins—or shake it up a bit and make the last person to the line the winner.

The track can be laid out on the floor and taped in place or created on poster board or paper with the supplies below:

Supplies

  • Poster board or tri-fold display board. I used a 12-inch by 4-foot section of a tri-fold board in my example. This allows you to fold up the board for easier storing.
  • White paper
  • Chalk, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Toy trucks or cars
  • Printable Truck Game Pieces (optional)
  • Printable 8-sided Playing Die

Directions

  1. Cut 30 4- or 5-inch by 1½-inch strips from the white paper
  2. Have kids lay out a track on the board using the white paper strips (each strip is one space) leaving room in between the rows for scenery
  3. Glue or tape the strips in place
  4. Draw scenery around the track OR cut trees, buildings, landmarks, or other scenery from paper and color. Glue or tape to board. 
  5. Print and assemble 8-sided playing die with tape (optional)
  6. Give each player a toy truck or car. Alternately, print and cut out included Truck Game Pieces. (To make them sturdier, print on heavy paper or glue them to cardboard)
  7. Choose a player to go first
  8. Players take turns rolling the die and moving the appropriate number of spaces
  9. The first (or last) player to the finish line is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-cover

You can find All Except Axle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 12 – National Mindfulness Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2009 by the nonprofit Wisdom Publications to raise awareness of mindfulness and its benefits. The day is celebrated with workshops, meditation groups, or just by taking some time out of the day to spend time in quiet contemplation on your own. For more information and  articles on mindfulness practices, tips on getting started, and how to set up your own meditation group, visit mindful.org.

What’s in Your Mind Today?

Written by Louise Bladen | Illustrated by Angela Perrini

 

As readers open the cover, an encouraging narrator ask them, “What’s in your mind today?” The narrator goes on to give some gentle instructions on how to relax and count ten breaths to reach a place of quiet contemplation: In and out again, you’re up to two. Now there are only eight more to do. In…and out…and there goes three.” Once the child has counted ten breaths, the narrator says they can open their eyes and look at the thoughts in their mind. The narrator asks, “Are they angry or are they kind?”

There are many kinds of thoughts in a child’s mind, and sometimes it’s hard for them to describe how they feel. The narrator introduces five children and their thoughts for readers to identify with. First comes Molly, who can’t pin her thoughts down then comes Oliver, whose “thoughts are monsters, stomping around.” How can he manage these thoughts? By facing them head on, “they have no power of the their own to stay.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-in-your-mind-today-birds

Image copyright Angela Perrini, 2020, text copyright Louise Bladen, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

George is troubled by his thoughts that bounce around like bubbles. But he, too, can make them pop and float away. Amelia feels nervous, but with a word she can feel braver. And Sophie? She keeps bad thoughts away before they can ever settle in. The narrator reassures readers that thoughts—whether good or bad—don’t have to last. If they breathe and are mindful they will feel “calm and at peace.”

Louise Bladen, a meditation and mindfulness coach for children and adults, infuses each page of What’s in Your Mind Today? with a soothing cadence that promotes relaxation. By introducing five children, Bladen touches on common emotions and reassures kids that everyone has thoughts of anger, nervousness, or other ideas that leave them troubled. Bladen offers comfort and support by revealing to readers that they have control over whether they listen to and act on these thoughts or not and how to feel peaceful amid changing and sometime turbulent thoughts. Bladen’s rhyming verses and easy rhythm make this a read aloud that is accessible to even the youngest readers.

On the first page, Angela Perrini invites readers to join the circle of children who, with their eyes closed, sit on a mat silently mindful of their thoughts. On the next spread, as one child breathes a row of threes bends toward them. When they breathe out, the trees bend away. To demonstrate how light deep breathing makes you feel, Perrini depicts a pair of lungs filled with clouds and hot-air balloons. As the children in the story confront their thoughts, charming double-page spreads take readers inside the children’s silhouetted heads to watch as they send angry thoughts running, pop troubling bubbles, and directly tell their thoughts to go away with purpose until all that is left is tranquility.

An affirming introduction to mindfulness, What’s in Your Mind Today? would be a go-to book on home, classroom, or public  bookshelves to help kids still anxious or disruptive thoughts and reconnect with their inner peace.

Ages 4 – 8

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506463773

To learn more about Angela Perrini, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-in-your-mind-today-cover

You can find What’s in Your Mind Today? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 31 – We Love Memoirs Day

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About the Holiday

In 2013, Victoria Twead and Alan Parks, who have written about their life stories themselves, established today’s holiday to foster a warm and welcoming community for readers and writers of memoirs. The idea took off and now We Love Memoirs Day brings the art and heart of this personal form of writing to people across the world. If you like to read memoirs, today’s a terrific day to visit your local bookstore or library and pick one up. If you’ve ever thought of penning the story of your own life and/or family, today’s holiday gives you the perfect opportunity to start!

Memoirs of a Tortoise

Written by Devin Scillian | Illustrated by Tim Bowers

It’s April and Oliver the tortoise is in his garden with his pet, Ike. Ike has brought him “a plate of lettuce and dandelions and a bright, crunchy apple.” Oliver loves Ike and he can tell that Ike loves him too by the way he runs his hand over his shell. “This, this is life and it’s beautiful,” Oliver thinks. In May, Ike throws a stick that Oliver will never fetch, and they laugh over this old, favorite joke. Oliver thinks, “Eighty times I’ve watched spring arrive in the garden, and it’s always perfect.” He spies a bit of red on the other side of the garden and ambles off to investigate.

It’s June by the time he reaches the hibiscus grove. Oliver enjoys taking things slow—just like Ike does. July and August pass with special moments of companionship and fun. As September comes, life begins slowing down. “The days are getting shorter” and Ike is “taking lots of naps in the garden.” Oliver enjoys having Ike nearby and decides that “the next time he throws the stick, I’m going to fetch it.”

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2020, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

October arrives, but the regular routine of the garden has been broken. Oliver hasn’t seen Ike or been fed in several days. Oliver makes due with pumpkin from the garden, but he misses Ike. By November, Oliver is “afraid Ike is gone.” The idea makes him sad. After all, he thinks, Ike was still so young. He was 80 years old.” Oliver had thought they would grow old together and wonders where Ike is. In December, Oliver decides to go talk to someone who has more experience than he does—his mother, who is 137 years old.

It takes Oliver until February to cross the ten gardens between Ike’s house and where his mother lives. When Oliver’s mother sees her son, “she smiles wide and her eyes sparkle.” Oliver tells his mother that Ike is gone. She understands his sadness and tells him how much Ike loved him. But Oliver wonders why Ike couldn’t stay with him.

Oliver’s mother explains “we only get to have pets in our lives for a little while.” Then she offers words of comfort: “And when they’re gone, we count all those beautiful days we were lucky enough to have them with us. We’re so lucky.”

Oliver has enjoyed his visit with his mother, but in March he’s on his way back home. When he arrives in his own garden, the door of the house opens. Oliver turns instinctively expecting to see Ike, but it’s Ted, Ike’s son. He brings Oliver “a tray of lettuce and dandelions and a bright, crunchy apple.” He rubs Oliver’s shell just like Ike used to do and tells Oliver he’s glad he came home. Ted tosses a stick and the two laugh. “This, for me and Ted, this is life,” Oliver thinks. And he knows his mother was right when she said they were so lucky.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2020, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Devin Scillian’s Memoirs of a Tortoise has it all—humor, poignancy, and a life lesson about the precious moments we share with loved ones. Using the longevity of tortoises, Scillian flips the script on the pet and human relationship with tender and emotional effect. When Ike passes away and Oliver is confused and sad, he confidently sets out to find answers and comfort from someone he can trust—his mother. The ten gardens between their homes may not seem far to us, but to Ike and his mom it’s the equivalent of towns, states, or even countries for us.

This seamless blending of the tortoises’ experience and that of readers’ is both the charm and genius of Scillian’s story. Oliver’s straightforward comments and questions about loss echo those of children and will resonate with them. As Oliver’s mother reminds him to enjoy every day and be thankful for the time he spends with his pets and as Ted enters his life, readers will understand that her advice to embrace all the parts of life applies to them as well.

Tim Bowers’ endearing Oliver is a sweet companion on this journey through a formative experience. As Oliver spends time and enjoys inside jokes with kindly Ike, readers will recognize not only the pet and owner bond but the relationship between children and grandparents. Bowers’ lush depictions of Ike’s garden where he and Oliver play or sit quietly side by side portray the beauty of life that Oliver’s mother so wisely recognizes. Ike’s slowing down and passing away are drawn with sensitivity and through images that allow adults and children to discuss facts and feelings about death, mourning, acceptance, and the cycles of life.

Uplifting and full of wisdom, Memoirs of a Tortoise, is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110199

Discover more about Devin Scillian, his books, journalism, music, and more on his website.

To learn more about Tim Bowers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

We Love Memoirs Day Activity

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Follow the Turtles! Game

You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe! 

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You can find Memoirs of a Tortoise at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 6 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

Starting Kindergarten is a major milestone in any child’s life and ushers in exciting growth in knowledge, friendships, and experiences. But children don’t all perceive and process the world in the same way. Being sensitive to individual differences and talking about issues as they arise are just two of the ways that kids can making navigating school or any new experience easier. Sharing picture books like today’s book can help too! 

Thanks go out to Blue Slip Media and Two Lions for sending me a copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten

Written by Laura Purdie Salas | Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

 

Clover Kitty had just the life she liked. She was able to sit quietly by herself “knitting mittens. Nibbling kibble. Catnapping on a warm floor.” Sometimes she thought about having a friend, “but mostly, life was purrrrrfect.” One day, though, her mother reminded her that it was the first day of kittygarten. Images of mayhem and messes popped into Clover Kitty’s mind. She was not ready for that.

Before she knew it, however, “Clover found herself cowering in Ms. Snappytail’s classroom” amid loud noises, blaring colors, and the glaring sun. Then she felt a tap on the shoulder. She flinched at the touch. A kitty introduced himself as Oliver and smiled at her. Just then Ms. Snappytail flicked the lights on and off and rang a bell to get the class’s attention. Clover closed her eyes and covered her ears. She cringed at having to sit in a crowded circle to hear a story.

“At recess, Oliver came over and asked softly, ‘Do. you want to seesaw with me?'” But before she could answer, Clover was swept up in a “squealing tornado” of kitties playing tag. Her “heart sank.” Lunchtime was just as chaotic, and when Oliver offered her a box of juice, she clawed at it until it sprang a leak. All Clover wanted was a nap.

When nap time came, though, she could only smell Ms. Snappytail’s perfume, and the scratchiness of her mat kept her awake. “School felt nine lives long. Maybe ten.” When the class had to line up and parade through the hallways with costumes on, Clover finally broke down in a tantrum and ran out the door. By the time she got home, she was soaked from a passing rain shower.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Her mother dried Clover off and snuggled with her on the sofa until she fell asleep. The next day, Clover felt sick and Mama let her stay home from school. In the afternoon, Oliver stopped by to say that the class missed her. Mama assured him that Clover would be back the next day, but on Wednesday Clover said she still felt sick. 

After school, Oliver visited again, but when Mama let him in to say hi to Clover, she was nowhere to be found. When Oliver left, Clover felt relieved, but “a hollow twinge twanged in her chest.” Thursday came and Clover was feeling better, but not well enough to go back to school. She sat on the seesaw in her back yard and thought that maybe it would be fun to play with a friend.

On Friday, Clover was ready to return to kittygarten. But today she brought along some “survival gear.” For the glaring lights, she wore sunglasses; to muffle the noise, she brought earmuffs; and to enjoy circle time and nap time, she had her own rug. During the day, she took turns between playing and having alone time. At lunch she concentrated on her meal, and at nap time she slept close – but not too close – to Oliver.

While the day “wasn’t purrrrrect,” Clover came home with stories for Mama. She went to school all the next week and found that kittygarten got easier every day, especially with the help of her new friend Oliver. Kittygarten can still be like riding the seesaw, but now there are definitely more ups than downs.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Linda Purdie Salas perfectly captures the emotions and fears of a sensory-sensitive child through Clover’s thoughts, actions, and experiences. Her descriptive language (that also includes kid-favorite puns) and direct vocabulary serve two important purposes. First, they allow children for whom light, sound, touch, and other sensory experiences are intensified to see themselves portrayed with understanding. Second, they give other kids a glimpse into how their sensory-sensitive friends and classmates perceive the world around them. Through Oliver, Salas models the gentle and caring behavior that makes a day easier and inclusive for sensory-sensitive kids. Salas’s depiction of Clover’s grabbing the juice box, crying during nap time, and tantrum that precipitates her flight from school provide readers with examples of the feeling of a loss of control that many sensory-sensitive or hesitant kids experience in certain situations. Clover’s return to kindergarten with gear that will help her navigate her day, gives all children an opportunity to discuss issues that may bother them as well as how they might help make their classroom or other area a welcoming and pleasant place where everyone can reap the benefits of friendship and learning.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Hiroe Nakata’s watercolor illustrations introduce readers to Clover’s world and how she perceives it through clear visual cues. Upon opening the cover, children are invited into Clover’s bedroom, which is rendered in pastel pinks, yellows, and blues. She is happy to be knitting with just a favorite toy for companionship. When Clover gets to her classroom, however, Nakata uses a brighter color palette and harsh tones of yellow to represent how Cover experiences sunlight and the typical colors found in elementary school classrooms. This first portrayal of Clover’s classroom also portrays tumbling blocks, a struggle between two kids over a toy, a messy art table, and even a bulletin board packed with topsy-turvy numbers. Clover sits in the center of the room, tightly curled, demonstrating her wish for calm and quiet. Subsequent pages give readers many opportunities to point out things that add to the chaos for someone who is sensory-sensitive. For example, the teacher wears a bell on her tail and kittens rush at her on the playground and in the lunch room, invading her personal space. In contrast, Clover’s room contains strings of pompoms or felt hangings instead of bells or chimes and her clothes are hung neatly in her closet. As Clover returns to school, kids will be interested to point out the glasses, mittens, and other items from home that help.

An important book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections, Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten promotes mindful consideration of the images, sounds, smells, and activities that can become overwhelming not only for sensory-sensitive people but for us all. With a charming protagonist and caring friend, the story will inspire better understanding and kindness that benefits children in the classroom and beyond.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542042468

Discover more about Laura Purdie Salas and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Hiroe Nakata and view a portfolio of her books on the MB Artists website.

Take a look at the Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten book trailer!

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten, written by Laura Purdie Salas | illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

To enter:

This giveaway is open from August 6 through August 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on August 14.

Prizing provided by Two Lions

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Activity Sheets

 

You can find six free printable Clover Kitty Activity Sheets that are fun ways to celebrate school, friendship, and learning on Laura Purdie Salas’s website here:

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Activity Sheets

You can order a signed and personalized copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten from Red Balloon Bookshop!

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You can find Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

July 13 – Go West Day

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About the Holiday

On this date in 1865, Horace Greeley, a writer and editor of the New-York Daily Tribune, is purported to have stated, “Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.” He was, supposedly, reacting to the adverse living conditions he found in his own city and echoing the sentiments of many, who did pack up their family and all of their possessions and begin the long, arduous trek across the country to find a better life. Those intrepid souls expanded our nation, and the idea to “go west” is now synonymous with a certain determination, bravery, and sense of adventure.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing Southwest Sunrise with me for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own. 

Southwest Sunrise

Written by Nikki Grimes | Illustrated by Wendell Minor

 

Jayden mopes all the way from New York to New Mexico, upset about moving from his beloved city to “a place of shadows.” Shadows and drabness are all he sees when he gets off the plane. In the morning, though, he wakes up “to a knife of sunlight slicing through” his room. Here, his window doesn’t have bars, and the view is of a “mountain striped in rainbow.” Jayden is surprised; he didn’t know that was there.

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Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

A string of chili peppers brightens the kitchen. Jayden isn’t optimistic that he’ll see any other colors in his new desert surroundings. His mom gives him a field guide to New Mexico at breakfast, and as he pages through it he doesn’t really think he’ll find any of the colorful flowers inside. But then, as he looks around, he spies the burgundy wine-cup and yellow bells that “wake up the desert with their silent ring.” He finds more flowers from the book that add red and purple to the landscape.

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Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Jayden walks on, farther away from his new house. The unfamiliar silence is broken by “the mad chatter of winged gossips passing secrets” from one piñon tree to another. He watches the long-tailed magpies swoop through the “deep waves of turquoise overhead” and wonders why he never saw so much sky in New York. Still, he misses looking up and seeing the grandeur of the skyscrapers.

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Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Looking down again, Jayden finds a striped lizard that seems happy to run along his hand, tickle his fingers. Instead of seashells, he finds bones and an abandoned turtle shell. “What stories do they have to tell?” he wonders. He continues his walk and, upon turning the corner, finds himself in the shadow of a different kind of skyscraper—rugged, red, and rocky. On the air, Jayden hears his mom calling. He picks some flowers the colors of sunset to take home to her. He waves as he nears the house and sees her standing on the porch and flashes her “the first smile she’s seen since New York.” He thinks that maybe New Mexico can be Home.

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Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Nikki Grimes’ lyrical story is in plot a tale about moving from one part of the country to another, but in spirit it is a invitation for children and adults alike to open their heart to new experiences, to find the beauty in the unfamiliar and the joy in the unexpected. As Jayden journeys from New York to New Mexico and then around his new environment, Grimes explores honest emotions—the disappointment and anger change can bring, the preconceived ideas about the unknown that can color feelings and actions, and even that moment when a person can reject or accept the new circumstance or opportunity. As a poet, Grimes excels at the perfectly chosen detail and sublime description. Here, her words put readers in the spotlight of New Mexico’s laser sun, let them feel the skittering feet of a lizard, meet a haughty raven, and bask in the rainbow of colors Jayden never expected he’d see. His final smile and resolve to give his new city a chance fulfills the new dawning inherent in the title and is uplifting encouragement for all.

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Slouched down in his airplane seat, baseball cap pulled low over his eyes, Wendell Minor’s Jayden is a picture of despondency. But things begin to look brighter when, in the morning, he notices the mountains and colors he missed the night before. Minor’s sun-washed illustrations allow readers to discover the beauty of the New Mexico desert along with Jayden. His new home is light and open, with a timbered ceiling and windows free of the bars he’s used to. Minor’s use of perspective allows children to view sweeping vistas of the desert landscape as well as images of some of the creatures found there. Putting the raven front and center gives kids an idea of the size and attitude of this striking bird. Fiery reds and oranges, vivid yellows, pinks, and purples, and glorious blues punctuate the sandy backdrop as Jayden’s thoughtful expressions depict his growing appreciation for his new home.

An exquisite book for any child, whether they are moving to a new home, exploring new experiences, or keen observers of their surroundings, Southwest Sunrise would be a joyful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547600823

Discover more about Nikki Grimes  and her books as well as educator guides and resources on her website.

To learn more about Wendell Minor, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Go West Day Activity

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Beautiful Desert Coloring Pages

 

The desert has plants, animals, and landmarks seen nowhere else. Grab your crayons or pencils and give these two printable scenes some of its unique color.

Curious Rabbit Desert Scene | Western Sun Desert Scene

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You can find Southwest Sunrise at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review