March 7 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

In February we show our love with valentines, candy, and flowers. How can we continue to prove our love through the month of March? With books! National Reading Month is the perfect time to say “I love you,” by buying your family members and/or friends a special book they’ll cherish. Reading with your kids also gives you time to relax, giggle, talk, and enjoy some precious moments together. Why not start with today’s book, which is all about family love! 

I’d like to thank Tammi Sauer for sharing a copy of Lovebird Lou with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Lovebird Lou

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

 

“Lou came from a long line of lovebirds.” His relatives all loved sharing the love, and Lou loved being a lovebird “until his flock visited the other side of the island.” There he saw pelicans who could fly in figure eights, flamingos who could stand on one leg, and nightingales who sang beautiful songs. Lou looked at his ordinary family and decided he wanted to be a pelican.

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2022, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Not wanting to quash his dreams, his mom said, “‘Okay, cupcake.'” Lou took off from the branch and flew through the air, doing intricate patterns just like the pelicans. His family members were all supportive. “‘We love you, Lou!'” they shouted, and when Lou bonked into a tree, his mom and dad caught him before he fell.

Lou thought maybe he’d make a better flamingo, so he joined the big pink birds in the shallow water and adopted the pose while his family cheered him on. “‘We love you, Lou!'” they all squawked. He was doing great until he lost his footing and splashed down. His parents were right there to dry him off and encourage his next dream to become a nightingale.

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2022, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

When Lou joined the ethereal chorus, he opened his beak and… well… his family members were his only fans. Back with his parents, Lou was disappointed that he couldn’t be a pelican, flamingo, or nightingale. “‘Maybe I’ll just be a rock.'” Lou said. His parents were all in and they even found a perfect place for him to sit and made him a “#1 Rock” sign to accompany him.

All day, Lou excelled at sitting in his spot until darkness and then rain fell. Lou was downhearted, wet, and scared. Lou knew the pelicans, flamingos, and nightingales couldn’t help him. He hurried his tail feathers back to his lovebird family, who welcomed him with lots of reassurances and “‘We love you, Lou!'” “‘I love you too!’ said Lou.”

The pelicans, flamingos, and nightingales thought that was so sweet. In fact, the next day they all shared their love in their own way too. As for Lou, he now understood that “lovebirds were good at the most important thing of all.”

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2022, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Tammi Sauer’s sweet story shows kids that every family has their own traditions and talents that are just right for them. When Lou is dazzled by the pelicans, flamingos, and nightingales – who all seem more exciting than his one-note family – and wants to emulate them, his parents’ hilarious support of his endeavors are spot on and will make both kids and adults laugh with recognition. Sauer’s quick pace, silly endearments, and frequent choruses of “‘We love you, Lou!'” will have kids wanting to hear the story over and over to chime in on each expression of love.

Stephanie Laberis’s vibrant lovebirds – first introduced in pairs of cuddly closeness and with Lou sandwiched between mom and dad – are charming and, in one funny image, look comically clueless as they watch the other birds demonstrate their special abilities. Little Lou is adorable as he tries his best to keep up with the other birds, tumbling with the pelicans, balancing with the much bigger flamingos, and scaring the nightingales with his raucous squawk. Despite his setbacks, Lou is always ready to try again, which makes both his dejected and his hopeful expressions touching. And hearts will be full when Lou – and the other birds – learn that all-important lesson about love.

A humorous and moving book about family togetherness, Lovebird Lou will be a well-loved addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Union Square Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1454941880

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stephanie Laberis, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Reading Month Activity

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Lovebirds Coloring Page

 

Get cozy with your loved ones and color these adorable lovebirds!

Lovebirds Coloring Page

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You can find Lovebird Lou at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 14 – Valentine’s Day

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About the Holiday

Hearts are full on Valentine’s Day as we share our love for family, friends, and special sweethearts. This centuries-old holiday continues to grow as people engage in traditional and new ways to express their feelings. But what about the other 364 days of the year? Well, of course, love – in all its wonderful forms – is in the air on those days too as today’s book so charmingly reveals.  

Love Is for Roaring

Written by Mike Kerr | Illustrated by Renata Liwska

 

One day at school, the teacher gave her class an impossible assignment – at least for Lion. With their tables full of paper, paint, markers, crayons, scissors, and tape, the students were supposed to “show your Love.” “‘For whom? For what? and WHY?’ roared Lion.” He threw a tiny tantrum. “‘I don’t like pink and I don’t like hearts. I won’t do it!'”

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2022, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books for Children.

Mouse wanted to help and told Lion there must be something that he loved. But Lion protested, saying that while love was fine for some, he did not “‘love love.'” He didn’t like hugs or kisses or sweets. Mouse thought and thought and then decided there might be another way to think about love.

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2022, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books for Children.

Mouse asked Lion if he didn’t love “‘running and playing.'” Mouse also seemed to remember that Lion loved dozing – especially during class movie times. “‘And growling, and roaring…You don’t love that?'” Mouse prodded. And how about playing together? Lion thought it over, and while hugs, kisses, and sugary sweets weren’t his thing, he knew that playing and chasing and catching were. And there was one more thing that Lion realized he loved – his friendship with Mouse. So he happily worked at the table to make a special card with a pink heart on the front just for Mouse. 

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2022, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Books for Children.

Mike Kerr’s gentle story embraces children who may squirm at expressions of love that include hugs, kisses, or other showy displays of affection while reminding readers that love also can be revealed in favorite activities and moments shared with others. Mouse’s thoughtful response to Lion’s initial refusal to participate in craft time demonstrates empathetic friendship and alternate thinking that will resonate with kids. Honest dialogue between Lion and Mouse gives readers language to discuss their own feelings about love and other emotions as well as about how they like to express them. As Lion comes to see that he does love many things, he realizes that friendship is intrinsic to all of them and is a powerful kind of love in itself – a kind of love that he wants to share.

Kids will be captivated by Renata Liwska’s adorable and humorous illustrations. As Lion questions the assignment to show your love, his classmates look on with expressions of shock, sympathy, and confusion while a tiny inchworm makes a run for the door. Lion’s tantrum is more cute than cranky, and  Mouse, wanting to help, nearly becomes part of Lion’s stress snacking and moves a safe distance away to talk about the situation. Images of Lion participating in the rambunctious activities he likes best are joyful, and the final illustrations of Lion, now excited to share his love for Mouse, are heartwarming.

A sweet story of friendship as well as a meaningful way for adults and kids to talk about emotions and expressing their feelings, Love Is for Roaring will become a quick favorite on home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections. 

Ages 4 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1681191249

Discover more about Mike Kerr and Renata Liwska, their books and their art on their website.

Valentine’s Day Activity

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Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

 

These friends are collecting valentines! Can you help them follow the paths to find more in this printable puzzle?

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

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You can find Love Is for Roaring at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 4 – Get Ready for Valentine’s Day

About the Holiday

Love is in the air! Love for family, friends, and our special valentines. Begun as a religious feast day, Valentine’s Day became a day of romance with the bloom of courtly love during the 14th century. In England during the 18th century, those in love began showing their affections by giving flowers and candy and making valentine’s cards. Now, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar and a favorite of adults and kids alike. 

Love, Violet

Written by Charlotte Sullivan Wild | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

Out of all the kids in her class, Violet thought only one “raced like the wind. Only one had a leaping laugh. Only one made [her] heart skip. Mira.” Every day, Violet dreamed of “astounding Mira with heroic feats,” of “bringing her treasures” and of all the adventures and fun they could have playing pirates, astronauts, knight and princess, and more. But whenever Mira asked her to play or wondered what she was drawing, Violet became shy and ran away.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2022, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild, 2022. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

But on the day before Valentine’s Day, Violet had an idea. She made a glittery valentine for Mira and signed it “Love, Violet.” She dreamed that this might be the start of their adventures together. Before leaving for school, Violet tucked the valentine under her lucky white cowgirl hat. On the way, she heard other kids teasing each other about their valentines, and when Carlos asked Violet if she’d made someone a special card, Violet blushed and ran off, holding tightly to her hat.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2022, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild, 2022. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Suddenly, Mira raced up to her and complimented her on her hat. “Snow sparkled on Mira’s eyelashes. Mira was magnificent.” Violet thought her valentine was not nearly good enough. With her heart pounding “like a hundred galloping horses,” Violet dashed away. All during class she worried whether she could actually give Mira the valentine and if Mira would want it anyway. Mostly, she worried that they’d never have their adventures.

When it was finally time to exchange valentines, Violet gave out all of her cards – except one. Standing next to the coat rack, Violet slowly began to lift her hat. But all at once, Mira appeared, causing Violet to jump, crash into Mira, and fall to the ground amid a pile of coats and scarves. The other kids laughed. Instead of apologizing and handing Mira her card as she wanted to, Violet rushed away again.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2022, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild, 2022. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Alone at recess, Violet lay on the ground and made a snow angel. She’d never be able to face Mira now. Just then, however, she heard “a laugh like leaping horses,” and she jumped up. She realized that only one person had “praised her hat…hadn’t laughed when she fell…had ever asked her to play horses.” It struck her that maybe “Mira wanted to be her valentine.” Violet ran to find Mira, but on her way a gust of wind picked up her hat and her valentine. The glittery heart landed right in where kids were playing.

When Mira heard Violet’s anguished cry, she ran over to see what was wrong. Violet showed her the ruined valentine she had made for her. Mira thought it was still beautiful, and she “tucked a torn bit into her cap.” Then Mira took a locket out of her pocket and gave it to Violet. When she opened it, Violet found a small heart on one side and a purple violet on the other. “‘Want to go on an adventure?’ asked Violet. ‘Yes!’ cried Mira.” And hand-in-hand they ran off – together.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2022, text copyright Charlotte Sullivan Wild, 2022. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Charlotte Sullivan Wild’s emotion-filled story of a girl-girl crush sweetly and realistically portrays the heart-pounding and nerve-wracking feelings of first love. As Violet tries to pluck up the courage to give Mira her valentine, kids will be rooting for her as events and her own fears threaten to derail her dreams of adventuring with Mira. Clues along the way hint at Mira’s reciprocating feelings, but the final exchange of valentines will melt readers’ hearts. Wild’s evocative vocabulary, beautiful phrasing, and natural dialogue make the story a rich read aloud, and her depiction of the adventures Violet dreams of as well as Mira’s concerned and hopeful attention to Violet create a warm and universal friendship story as well.

Charlene Chua reveals all of the hopes, dreams, and angst that go into Violet’s valentine for Mira in her lovely and poignant illustrations. Snapshots of the adventures Violet longs to have with Mira are drawn with the excitement and vivid imagination kids bring to the games they play. As Violet creates her valentine, readers can see how much work and thought she puts into it as paper, glitter, and other supplies lay strewn around her. This portrayal accentuates the disappointment Violet feels when her card meets its fate under the stampeding kids as well as Mira’s delighted reaction upon receiving it. Throughout the story, Chua invites kids to experience and empathize with Violet’s rollercoaster of emotions and mishaps on the way to discovering that Mira has been thinking about Violet too.

A joy-filled story of a crush between two queer girls and their courage to express their feelings to and for each other, Love, Violet is a moving, age-appropriate way to celebrate love on Valentine’s Day or any day you’d like to share your heart. Love, Violet is also a reassuring and affirming invitation for all children to discuss their own feelings with parents or other caregivers. The book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 (and up)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2022 | ISBN 978-0374313722

Discover more about Charlotte Sullivan Wild and her books on her website.

To learn more about Charlene Chua, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Love, Violet Video and Author Story Time 

Author Charlotte Sullivan Wild, illustrator Charlene Chua, and a few other kidlit authors chipped in to make this video about Love, Violet, first crushes, and queer childhood that’s a perfect resource for educators and parents. Start out with listening to Charlotte Sullivan Wild read Love, Violet!

Get Ready for Valentine’s Day Activities

Valentine Activity Sheets

 

Have fun with these printable Valentine’s Day activities!

Share Your Heart! Valentine | Funny Valentine! | Love, Violet Coloring Page

You can find Love, Violet at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 6 – Blog Tour Stop for My Grandma’s Photos

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My Grandma’s Photos

Written by Özge Bahar Sunar | Illustrated by Senta Urgan | Translated by Amy Marie Spangler

 

Ali and his mother are visiting his grandmother, who cannot see or hear very well anymore and often does not recognize Ali or his sister. Today, they have brought old black-and-white photographs to share, but Grandma doesn’t look at them, instead falling asleep as she holds them. Overcome with emotion, Ali’s mother leaves the room, but Ali stays. When Grandma awakens, she notices the photos in her hand and asks if they are of one of Ali’s friends.

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

At first Ali doesn’t recognize the person in the picture, but then he notices a beauty mark on the person’s cheek and realizes that it’s a photo of his grandma when she was a young girl. When he tells her, his grandma suddenly remembers the day it was taken and the garden in which it was taken. She begins to look at the other photographs and recognizes a family picnic and her wedding day. Suddenly, Ali’s grandma becomes very animated and invites him to see her world.

“At that moment I felt as if I were being pulled into the photo,” Ali says. “Together with Grandma, I traveled into the past.” Ali sees his grandma as a child his own age, climbing a tree and leaping from branch to branch. When Ali joins her, his grandma whispers to him, ‘”It can’t really be taught with words. You have to find yourself a tree and climb it every day.'”

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Grandma jumps down and runs into another photo with Ali right behind her. Here, Grandma is a teenager riding a ferry, feeding seagulls, and dreaming of her future. Another photo takes them to the shop where she worked as a master seamstress. “A young woman tried on the skit Grandma had made for her. She twirled and laughed, and said she loved it. Grandma’s face beamed proudly, and mine did too,” Ali says.

The last photograph takes them to Grandma’s wedding. ‘”Let me show you how much you look like your grandpa,'” Ali’s grandma tells him. Grandma is wearing a “gorgeous wedding gown she’d made herself” and Grandpa looked so handsome as they dance together. At last, Ali’s grandma tells him it’s time for him to go home. When Ali asks if she’s coming too, she replies that she’s happy there. “‘I’m going to dance with y our grandpa a little longer. … Your grandpa and I have been apart for such a long time, you know.'”

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Ali protests and says he wants to stay there with her, but Grandma tells him that he must go “‘to collect memories and photos of your own.'” She reminds him that if he misses her, she will always be there in the photos and that she “‘won’t forget anyone or anything ever again.'” Tears spring to Ali’s eyes. He hugs and kisses his grandma one last time. When he opened his eyes, Ali was back in the present. Now his family has hung most of Grandma’s photographs on the walls of Ali’s room. “Whenever I miss her,” he says, “I look at her photos. I’m sure she’s still there, at peace, dancing away….”

Note: While the male pronoun is used on the book’s jacket flap and in this review, the story contains no pronouns associated with Ali and the illustrations depict a child with short hair and wearing overalls.

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Özge Bahar Sunar’s beautiful tribute to the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, first published in Turkey, offers an emotional bond between generations as Ali joins his grandma in formative moments during her life and discovers that they share many of the same experiences and dreams. Readers will be captivated by Sunar’s conversational storytelling and empathize with Ali’s gentle acceptance of his grandma’s failing memory.

As Ali’s recognition of his grandmother as a young girl in one of the photos and her recollection of the picnic it portrays leads to a magical trip back in time, readers will likewise become interested in learning more about their own grandparents and other relatives. For Ali and readers, his grandma’s passing takes place in the world of the photographs as Grandma chooses to remain dancing with her husband. Ali’s sweet and comforting hugs and final kiss for his grandmother before returning to the present reassures children that the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren continue endlessly through time.

Senta Urgan’s wispy pastel pencil illustrations, sprinkled with collage fabrics and sewing items, flowers, coins, and other elements as well as photographs of the author’s and illustrator’s families combine to create a moving, dreamlike feel that immerses readers in the story’s enchanting travel through time. As Ali’s grandma tells him that he must go while she stays behind, she is shown in a loving embrace with her husband on their wedding day, reinforcing the idea that for her, death is a comforting coming home to a place where she will be forever young. Flowers, vines, and trees that surround and support the characters create a motif that death is a natural part of life and that one’s love for another nurtures and grows.

A beautiful and tender way to talk about the life and death of a grandparent, family member, or beloved friend, My Grandma’s Photos is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542031158

Özge Bahar Sunar is a former teacher turned children’s author. She has written multiple picture books, including the bestselling The Hedgehog and the Exhibit, illustrated by Ceyhun Şen, which was translated into seven languages. Sunar lives with her two children in Antalya, Turkey, where she loves to think up new stories while hiking in the wild. You can find her on Instagram @ozgebaharsnr.

Senta Urgan is a graduate of Mimar Sinan University, where she studied sculpture. Since 2010 she has been illustrating books for children, including picture books and novels, and also works as a graphic designer. She is the founder of the brand Mala Hermana Handmade, where she exhibits her illustrations and ceramic art. You can connect with her Instagram @toporulkesindekikes.

Amy Marie Spangler is a cofounder of Istanbul-based AnatoliaLit Agency, and a commercial and literary translator with numerous books and short stories to her credit. You can connect with Amy on Twitter @Amy_Spangler.

Thank you to Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of My Grandma’s Photos with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

My Grandma’s Photos Blog Tour Activity

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Spool Photo Holder

 

With this easy craft you can make a personalized photo holder for your favorite pictures of friends and family!

Supplies

  • Wooden spool with hole through the middle, top to bottom. (A spool without a hole also works if you make a hole in the top with a hammer and nail), 1 ½ -inch or larger, available at craft stores
  • Colorful twine or light-gauge yarn, 3 to 4 yards
  • Alternatively: you can buy a wooden spool of colorful twine at some discount stores
  • 3 pieces of light-gauge wire 12 to 15-inches long
  • Clay or play dough
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Fill hole in spool with clay or play dough, pushing it well in to provide a base for the wire
  2. If using your own twine or yarn: wrap the twine or yarn around the spool to desired thickness and glue the end down to keep it from unraveling
  3. With the needle-nose pliers, roll one end of each wire to create a small coil
  4. Cut the three wires to different lengths to provide room for all three photographs
  5. Fit wires into the center hole on the top of the spool and push them into the clay until they are secure
  6. Clip photographs into the coils

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You can find My Grandma’s Photos at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 15 – It’s Young Readers Week

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About the Holiday

Established in 1989 by the Center for the Book and Pizza Hut as a way to celebrate reading and invite kids and adults to discover the fun and benefits of reading, Young Readers Week is a favorite on any book-lovers’ calendar. Bringing together businesses, schools, families, and libraries, the Book It! program offers encouragement and resources to get kids excited about reading. To learn more and find activities, printables, reading trackers, and other resources for schools and families, visit the Book It! program website.

Thank you to Disney-Hyperion and Big Honcho Media for sending me a copy of Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.) for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.)

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Norman was a porcupine whose best friend, Mildred, was a tree. During the day, Norman loved playing baseball with Mildred (even though she always struck out—and, if truth be told, never even swung at the ball), bird-watching, “playing ‘tree’ together, and even playing chess (even if Norman had to play both black and white). At night, Norman settled himself in Mildred’s branches and read to Mildred (who always asked for “one more chapter.” Sometimes Norman just liked being with Mildred, holding hands with a low-growing branch.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Then one day an interloper popped from the ground complete with some leafy appendages. “And WHO is THAT?!” Norman asked Mildred. Of course, “it was another tree”—a tree that did not belong with Norman and Mildred. At first Norman just stewed, but soon he began to worry about whether Mildred might prefer this other tree to him. And, in fact, as the other tree grew taller, it seemed that Mildred didn’t need Norman to play baseball, birdwatch or play “‘tree’” anymore. “Life wasn’t the same.”

On the day that Mildred and the other tree actually touched leaves, Norman decided that was “the last straw. Even though, in this case, there were no straws. Just branches.” He decided to take action and devised the perfect plan. One night, Norman dug up the other tree, plopped it into a wheelbarrow, “and took it far away. Very far away.” So “very, very far away” that he needed a rowboat to get there.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

And on a tiny island, Norman replanted the other tree and rowed back to shore. After that things were back to normal—sort of. But Mildred was suspicious; she had questions. Norman did his best to offer possibilities after first explaining that he hadn’t done anything with the other tree. “Maybe it went on vacation,” he said. “Maybe it moved. How should I know?” And then he reassured Mildred that she still had him.

But there a niggling disquiet came to Norman. He began to fear that someone had seen him and that maybe “digging up your friend’s friend…was NOT the right thing to do.” His guilt ate at him until, under Mildred’s accusing gaze, he tripped and fell into the other tree’s empty hole. “Norman had hit rock bottom. ‘I have hit rock bottom!’” he announced. He knew what he had to do.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

He took the wheelbarrow and the rowboat and hurried to the tiny island. Back home, he replanted the other tree right where it had been before. “Norman knew life was going to be different.” Maybe it would even be better, he contemplated from the comfort of his hammock. “Just the three of them”—until the other tree’s best friend appeared from its nest, saw Norman, and demanded to know “And WHO is THAT?!”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ryan T. Higgins’ superbly well-conceived story of personal relationships tested by newcomers paints the wide swath of emotions that friendships, sibling bonds, and other connections spark in the human heart with his well-known and ameliorating humor. Higgins’ honest look at the progression of contentment, jealousy, resentment, fear, and sadness leading up to a desperate act followed by short-lived satisfaction, denials, guilt, dread, introspection, and finally acceptance not only makes for a dramatic and suspenseful read, but offers kids and adults a compelling way to talk about the delicacy and resilience of strong relationships.

Higgins’ plump and rakish Norman garners immediate affection with his adorable expressions and enthusiastic friendship with the steadfast Mildred so that when “the other tree” comes into the picture, readers will feel a deep empathy with his predicament. Depictions of how Norman sees interactions between Mildred and the other tree as usurping his role are clever and meaningful conversation starters. The aftermath of Norman’s replanting of the other tree also provides insight into whose life Norman really uprooted. In his pitch-perfect ending, Higgins reminds kids that no one lives in isolation and that their own experience may be mirrored in someone else’s.

An outstanding story that charms as a favorite read-aloud for humorous story times as well as one that makes a poignant impact on social-emotional growth, Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.) is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney-Hyperion, 2021 | ISBN 978-1368026239

You can connect with Ryan T. Higgins on Twitter. 

To find more books by Ryan T. Higgins and an Activity Kit/Educator’s Guide for teachers and families, visit Ryan’s page on the Disney Books website.

Young Reader’s Week Activity

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We Love to Read! Maze

 

Help the kids pick up books and find their way through the library in this printable maze.

We Love to Read! Maze Puzzle | We Love to Read! Maze Solution

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You can find Norman Didn’t Do It! (Yes, he did.) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 10 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s picture books are amazing! Offering inspiration, characters that really speak to kids, moments to laugh out loud or reflect, glimpses into history, revelations in science, and much of the best art currently being produced, picture books defy their slim appearance with content that can change young lives. Reading a wide variety of books to children from birth on up is one of the most rewarding activities you can do. Make choosing the books to read a family affair! Kids love picking out their own books and sharing cozy and fun story times with you!

Thanks to Beaming Books for sharing a digital copy of The Girl with Big, Big Questions for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

The Girl with Big, Big Questions

Written by Britney Winn Lee | Illustrated by Jacob Souva

 

There once was a girl who was always asking questions about everything she saw and heard and thought. “Her days were filled with adventures galore,/ since her mind was so full of wonder. / ‘How long can a turtle stay in its shell? / Why does lightning come before thunder?’” From morning to bedtime she questioned her mom, her neighbors, her classmates, her teachers. “‘Could I fly if I got a good running start? / The nearest volcano is . . .where? / Are monsters real? What’s Spanish for blue? / Is it okay to cut my own hair?’”

At first everyone tried to answer all the girl’s questions, but as they piled up, people began to just roll their eyes and, finally, her friends at school told her “‘Please stop! Just quit it!’” The girl felt embarrassed. She “tried to quiet her thoughts” and not ask so many questions. But then one day she saw a bird making a nest in a broken fence close to the ground.

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Image copyright Jacob Souva, 2021, text copyright Britney Winn Lee, 2021. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

She wondered why the bird didn’t choose a tree for its nest, so she went to the library and did some research. Outside, she made observations and came up with an answer. Then she made a report to her class: “‘There are not enough trees in our town!’” Now her friends were asking questions about what they could do to help and devised a plan to plant “more trees in their parks.” And the girl understands that asking big questions is good and can lead to important actions and changes; “Asking questions is how we all grow!”

In her enchanting story about a girl who’s part super-observer, part philosopher, and completely engaged with her world, Britney Winn Lee invites readers to also look outward and inward and discover the questions that inform their particular world view and call to action. With humor and an intriguing list of questions to get kids thinking, Lee’s bouncy rhymes will pique their curiosity and instill a desire to learn not only about the big stuff, but about all the tiny Who? What? Why? When? and Hows? that make life interesting and always new.

Jacob Souva’s charming and lovely illustrations will delight kids as the adorable wide-eyed girl is surrounded by speech bubbles and clouds full of images representing her questions. Readers can almost hear the girl’s questions as the bubbles bump up against each other, overlap, and expand to fill two-page spreads, adding a vivacious energy to the story. Souva depicts the classmates’ admonition and the girl’s searching for her own answers with clever metaphorical imagery.

When the girl’s classmates tell her to quit asking so many questions, the day turns rainy and the previously vivid colors of her thoughts and questions become the muted panels of her enveloping umbrella. The vibrant colors return in the library’s shelves of books as the girl finds answers to the one question about the bird’s nest that occupies her mind. The girl’s influence on her classmates is clearly shown in the final spreads as each child is paired with a questioning bubble of their own.

An engaging way to encourage curiosity, a questioning mind, and a love of learning and doing, The Girl with Big, Big, Questions would make an inspiring addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

You’ll also want to check out Britney Winn Lee and Jacob Souva’s The Boy with Big, Big Feelings, a story for all children who are sensitive to their own emotions, empathize with the cares of other people and the world, and are looking to make friends and make a difference.

Ages 5 – 8

Beaming Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1506473789

Discover more about Britney Winn Lee and her books, visit her website.

To learn more about Jacob Souva, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Let’s Read! Coloring and Find the Differences Pages

 

Print out a few copies of this coloring page and find the differences page then invite your friends over for some fun and, of course, reading!

Let’s Read! Coloring Page | Find the Differences Page

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You can find The Girl with Big, Big Questions at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 28 – Celebrating the Happy Cat Month Book Birthday of Miss Meow

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About the Holiday

It’s safe to say that when kitty is happy, everyone’s happy. Cats have a particular way of tugging at your heart with their meows, yowls, and emotion-filled mews. Of course, we want to make sure they have everything they need to feel good. That’s what this month’s holiday is all about. To celebrate, spend some extra time with your furry friend, make sure they’re up-to-date on their vaccinations, and surprise them with a new toy or extra treat or two.

Thanks to West Margin Press for sharing a digital copy of Miss Meow with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Miss Meow

By Jane Smith

 

Miss Meow is a little girl who prefers being a cat. She has a soft head with two perky ears and a long tail. Things that make Miss Meow purr are getting scratched between the ears while reading with her mom and brother, Felix; chasing her toy mouse; napping in the sun; and lapping up water and snacks from her bowls. Things that make her hiss include taking a bath, having her snacks stolen, having her tail pulled, and having someone—like her little brother—intrude upon her territory.

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Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

One stormy night Miss Meow discovers her favorite mouse toy torn open in her room. The fluff inside was scattered across the floor. “Miss Meow’s fur stands straight up. Her ears flatten against her head. She knows who did this—who always does this!” She runs to her mom and complains about Felix. Then she “stalks toward her brother, pointing her claw.” Snack crackers crunch underfoot. Not only has Felix broken her toy, he’s upset her snack bowl.

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Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Miss Meow is caterwauling and stomping around when she slips in a puddle of water and falls to all fours—“Meee-ow!” But then Felix notices a “mysterious trail of wet paw prints” leading from the kitchen. Miss Meow, Felix, and Mom follow them to Miss Meow’s room, where they find . . . “a sopping wet intruder” asleep on Miss Meow’s pillow. Felix is thrilled to see the kitty, but Miss Meow is not. She chases the interloper through the house until she has him trapped in the kitchen.

But when Miss Meow sees that the stray is cold, shivering, and scared, her heart melts. “‘Here, kitty. It’s okay,’ she coos softly.” As the cat approaches, Miss Meow apologizes to her brother. The cat purrs as Miss Meow pets him between the ears then all three curl up on the pillow for a warm afternoon nap.

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Copyright Jane Smith, 2021, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Young feline fanatics will purr with delight at Jane Smith’s tale of a little girl with a big imagination and an all-in love for cats. The uncanny similarity in behavior between cats and kids gives Smith full range to shine a humorous spotlight on bath time, naptime, territorial disputes, and sibling rivalry. But, as part cat, part human, Miss Meow’s natural empathy for her fellow cat and for her brother takes over when she sees how miserable the stray is and realizes that she owes Felix an apology. Smith’s use of present tense puts kids in the middle of the action, while her vivid and evocative illustrations clearly depict the characters’ emotions. Readers will love spying the first glimpse of the hidden stray, and Miss Meow’s mad-dash chase through the house leads to a sweet resolution.

Both a captivating story and an engaging way to talk to kids about their emotions and family relationships, Miss Meow is a purr-fect read aloud for all kids.

Ages 4 – 6

West Margin Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1513289458

You can connect with Jane Smith on Twitter and linktree.

Happy Cat Month Activity

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A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This happy little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball, and when it’s painted it’s stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball. Paint the inner ear.
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-meow-cover

You can find Miss Meow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review