April 29 – It’s National Month of Hope

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About the Holiday

Founded in 1991, National Month of Hope encourages people to bring hope to those in need both emotionally and physically. Reaching out to let a friend know you’re there for them, volunteering to help out in the community or on a personal level, and simply sharing a smile with those around you are all ways to show others you care. These days, staying in touch online and checking up on family and friends spreads happiness and hope for when we can all be together again. 

Little Mole Finds Hope

Written by Glenys Nellist | Illustrated by Sally Garland

 

Little Mole felt sad. He didn’t know why he felt bad inside, he just did. His mama told him he needed to find hope. Little Mole wondered where. As she took his paw, Mama said, “‘Sometimes, hope is hiding in the darkness. Sometimes it’s hard to see. But it’s always there.'” Mama led her son out of the tunnel, but on the way she pointed out a “brown, wrinkled” bulb hanging from the ceiling. Little Mole thought it was dead.

But Mama explained that that bulb would someday soon become a lovely daffodil. She asked her son to picture it swaying with the breeze, and when he said he could see it, she told him “That is hope.'” When they crawled out of the burrow, Little Mole saw trees without leaves. “They stretched out like skeleton bones silhouetted against the sky.” Little Mole thought they were dead. But Mama explained that buds and then leaves would soon appear. She asked Little Mole to imagine it. With excitement he told her he could see it. Again, Mama said, “‘That is hope.'”

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Image copyright Sally Garland, 2020, text copyright Glenys Nellist, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Mama and her little one continued on past Mr. Rabbit’s garden, where they saw another example of hope hiding in an unexpected place. When they got home, Little Mole was happy.He said he’d had a wonderful day and understood that “there was always hope, even in the darkest places.” Mama tucked her son into bed with a kiss, and Little Mole fell asleep dreaming of the colorful spring to come.

Back matter includes a Discussion Guide for Caretakers that gives them tools for talking about the story, tips on helping a child who feels sad, and how to share their own experiences and where hope can be found.

Glenys Nellist’s uplifting story could not have come at a better time. With children at home and their normal lives disrupted, many may be feeling sad and unusually stressed. While many things have changed, there are still those aspects of life that remain constant. A parent or caregiver’s love is one; signs of spring and summer are another. Nellist’s honest and straightforward storytelling, acknowledges feelings of sadness and the fact that they are often unattributable to any concrete cause. Mama’s gentle acceptance of her son’s emotions and her actions in showing him signs of renewal will resonate with children familiar with the cycles of winter and spring and give adults models for conversations with their own children. Perfectly paced, Nellist’s book provides opportunities for adults and kids to look for other constants in their lives and to reaffirm their love for one another––now and always.

Sally Garland’s textured illustrations, rendered in warm tones that reveal the coziness of the Mole’s home and vibrant, sunny colors as Little Mole imagines springtime, will delight children and draw them into the meaning of the story. As Mama clearly points out the bulb, the bare trees, and a sleepy chrysalis, children will enjoy guessing what each will become and how they represent hope. Readers will also like finding other symbols of hope and signs of Mama’s and Little Mole’s love throughout the story.

Lovely in every way and highly recommended for talking with children about their feelings, Little Mole Finds Hope is a book kids will enjoy for its storytelling and its heart again and again.

Ages 3 – 6

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506448749

Discover more about Glenys Nellist and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Sally Garland, her books, and her art here.

Month of Hope Activity

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Little Mole Finds Hope Activity Pack

 

You can find lots of fun in this printable activity pack found on the Beaming Books website.

Little Mole Finds Hope Activity Pack

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You can find Little Mole Finds Hope at these booksellers

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

 

February 3 – It’s Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week

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About the Holiday

This week was established to raise awareness and promote literacy and the joys and benefits of reading. During the week, children’s authors and illustrators attend special events at schools, bookstores, libraries, and other community centers to share their books and get kids excited about reading. To learn more about how you can instill a lifelong love of learning in your children, visit ChildrensAuthorsNetwork!

I received a copy of What’s Up, Maloo? from Tundra Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to partner with Tundra in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

What’s Up, Maloo?

By Geneviève Godbout

 

Maloo is a little kangaroo with an especially hoppy spring in his step. But one day he feels grounded. Instead of hop, hop, hopping to see his friend, he takes “One step. Two steps, Three steps.” Wombat immediately notices that something’s amiss and asks, “What’s up, Maloo?” She brings him inside her cozy den and gives him a slice of pie. While she slides another treat into the oven, Maloo sits forlornly at the table, not touching his pie.

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Copyright by Geneviève Godbout, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

They go down to the river—“Four steps. Five steps. Six steps”—where Crocodile sees it too and asks Maloo what’s wrong. Perhaps a swim will cheer Maloo up, but he sits dejectedly atop his ball and floats with the current. The three go to see Koala. They all want to help Maloo feel better. They try giving him a lift with an electric fan, but the wind just knocks Maloo head over heels.

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Copyright by Geneviève Godbout, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maloo’s friends stay with him, though––“ten steps…one hundred steps…one thousand steps.” They stretch out a blanket and fling Maloo into the air, giving him encouragement. Can he hop? Maloo falls…but springs up again. “Hop!” He floats down, but this time instead of feeling dejected, he’s looking up. Back into the air he goes. He descends, but something is rising up in him. Maloo jumps with a gigantic “Hop!” He smiles. Koala climbs on Maloo’s back while Wombat and Crocodile balance on pogo sticks, and they all “hop like Maloo!’”

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Copyright by Geneviève Godbout, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

With her powerfully emotional images and spare text, Geneviève Godbout allows readers to identify with Maloo as he experiences a time of sadness and recovers happiness with the help of his friends. In her soft, earth-toned illustrations, Godbout provides many perspectives and good examples for children and adults to discuss. Having lost his hop, Maloo seeks out one friend, who engages another friend and yet another, showing children the reassurance and help available by reaching out and having a supportive network. Maloo’s friends are also sensitive to Maloo’s mood, encouraging readers to pay attention to and acknowledge changes they may see in their friends and family. As readers count Maloo’s steps, they’ll see that sometimes the road back to feeling happy can be long, but that good friends stick with you no matter what or how long it takes. They also learn that asking for help starts with one step.

A moving and accessible resource for parents and caregivers to talk with their children about the ups and downs of life and the emotions of sadness and depression, What’s Up, Maloo? is a valuable addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0735266643

To learn more about Geneviève Godbout, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Geneviève Godbout

Born and raised in Quebec, Geneviève Godbout studied traditional animation in Montreal and at the prestigious Gobelins school in Paris. She is the illustrator of a number of books for children, including The Pink Umbrella, When Santa Was a Baby, Kindergarten Luck (Chronicle), and Joseph Fipps (Enchanted Lion). Some of her clients include The Walt Disney Company, Chronicle, HMH, Flammarion, Bayard, Les éditions Milan and La Pastèque. She also works for clothing designers like Nadinoo and Mrs. Pomeranz, creating illustrations and prints for their collections. Connect with Geneviève on her website.

Congratulations on What’s Up, Maloo, your debut picture book as both author and illustrator! Can you talk a little about the journey you’ve taken with this book?

Thank you! I never expected to be an author, but one day I woke up with the feeling I should write my own story about depression. I pictured this little kangaroo that lost his hop and told my French publisher (La Pastèque) about it. The whole creative process was natural, yet I felt incredibly insecure about my own capacities. But once published, we had such a fantastic response that I’m now working on a sequel with the little crocodile! 

What was your inspiration for this story and why this subject is important to you? What do you hope children will take away from your story?

I was inspired by my own experience of depression. I wanted to say that it’s ok to go through tough times and emphasize the importance of being surrounded without judgement. We should feel safe to confess our feelings to a friend. We don’t have to go through this alone. 

Your illustrations of Maloo feeling sad and losing the spring in his step are touching and instantly recognizable for children. How can adults use the book to talk with their children about the strong feelings of sadness and depression from multiple viewpoints, including the sufferer themselves and their friends?

I chose not to mention why Maloo lost his hop so that kids and adults can fill the gap in the text with their own experience. Maloo’s friends are sweet and full of empathy. I pictured this book as a comforter rather than a sad story. 

You’ve brought iconic characters Anne of Green Gables and Mary Poppins to books for the youngest readers. What are the challenges and joys of working with these beloved characters?
It was quite an intimidating challenge. These characters are so loved by readers (and myself!) that everyone has their own expectations of what they should look like. For instance, Mary Poppins is dramatically different in the original books by P.L. Travers from the Disney movie. But when we think about Mary Poppins, most people picture Julie Andrews, not a severe looking lady with very tall feet. With that in mind, I tried to find my own way of drawing both Mary Poppins and Anne Shirley. It was such an exciting opportunity, I reminded myself to have fun during the creative process without anticipating the public response too much. 

From characters’ round, expressive eyes, rosy cheeks, and sweet grins to animated action punctuated with humor to your gorgeous colors, your picture book illustrations are truly distinctive. How did you develop your signature style?

A style is the expression of one’s sensitivity and creativity. Mine evolved throughout the years as I gained experience and technique. And for some reason, I chose the most time-consuming medium: color pencils! I have always loved them. They’re delicate and precise. My background in traditional animation also has a huge part in the way I draw today. Everything is about movement and expressive posing. 

What do you love best about creating books for children?

I love the idea of touching people and offering them a safe bubble where they can smile and relax. There is nothing better than hearing a child or an adult say they love to curl up in bed with one of my books. 

You went to school in Paris, you’ve worked in London, and now you live in Montreal. Could you name one of your favorite places in each city and tell why you love it?

I was lucky to live in such fabulous and inspiring cities. I loved to get lost in Paris and walk by the Thames river near Hammersmith in London. Each time I go back, it feels a bit like home. As for Montreal, I think it’s the best place in terms of quality of life and I love the contrast between the seasons!

What’s up next for you?

I’m working on a couple of exciting projects including a sequel for What’s up, Maloo? and a third book in the Anne series. I’m kind of booked for the next year or so with Harper Collins, Random House, Comme des Géants, and perhaps Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, but I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say at this stage! 

Thanks, Geneviève! It was wonderful chatting with you. I’m really looking forward to seeing the sequel to What’s Up, Maloo? and all of your upcoming books!

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You can find What’s Up, Maloo? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

September 12 – National Day of Encouragement

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday got its start when a group of high school students attending a leadership conference were asked to devise a solution to what was perceived as a major problem facing young people: a lack of encouragement. Their solution led to the establishment in 2007 of a National Day of Encouragement on which people are prompted to perform deliberate acts of encouragement to cheer and inspire others. The theme for 2019 is “Share a Smile.” To celebrate, smile at those you meet, say a kind word, mail a card, make a call, or send a text to anyone who needs a little more encouragement to complete a goal, deal with a problem, or just to have a good day. You can also print and give out the Encouragement Cards below.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books provided me with a copy of Ruby Finds a Worry for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be teaming with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Ruby Finds a Worry

By Tom Percival

 

“Ruby loved being Ruby.” She was happy swinging on her swing set and exploring her backyard. But one day, she “discovered a Worry.” It wasn’t too big. At first it was just a little nudge, but then it started to grow…and grow. Then it began following her around—everywhere. It sat opposite her at the breakfast table and hung around while she brushed her teeth. Ruby was sure her teacher and the other kids in her class would see it, but they didn’t, “so Ruby pretended that she couldn’t see it either.”

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Copyright Tom Percival, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Ruby kept hoping that it would go away. Then she began to worry that it would never go away. Ruby’s worrying just made the Worry grow even bigger. It was soon so enormous that Ruby felt squeezed for space at home and in the school bus. The Worry filled up all of her thoughts; she couldn’t do the things she loved anymore and “it seemed like she would never feel happy again.”

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Copyright Tom Percival, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then one day, Ruby saw a boy sitting glumly on a park bench. She recognized that look—and the Worry floating just behind him. For the first time, Ruby realized that other people had Worries too. She sat next to the boy, and they began to talk. As the boy told her what was troubling him, “his Worry began to shrink.” Then Ruby told the boy about her Worry, and it shrank away too. With both Worries gone, the world seemed brighter, and the boy and Ruby jumped for joy. Ruby “felt like her old self again.”  Ruby still found Worries sometimes, “but now that she knew how to get rid of them, they never hung around for long.”

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Copyright Tom Percival, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Tom Percival’s reassuring story is so welcome for children who tend to let their worries crowd out other thoughts and even their happiness. Percival’s straightforward and honest depictions of the stages of worrying—first twinges, growing fears, pretending everything’s okay, and overwhelming anxiety—are both educational and helpful for kids struggling with these feelings. Two stand-out sentences in which Percival directly reveals to readers the worst and best things they can do with a Worry provide excellent guides for dealing with this common emotion.

Working hand-in-hand with the text, Percival’s clear illustrations show Ruby’s progression from a happy, carefree little girl to a child paralyzed by her worries. Ruby’s initial curiosity and courage, shown through full-color spreads, gives way to uncertainty and reticence as her once-happy expression turns sad and the world around her is washed in somber grays. As the Worry keeps up its constant presence, Percival depicts three vignettes—Ruby’s birthday, Ruby riding her bike, and Ruby practicing the piano—that depict activities that can cause worry but also be spoiled by it. Ruby’s discovery that other people also have worries comes with another bit of insight. As Ruby talks to the boy, she reveals that she—perhaps instinctively—knows just what he needs to feel better. Helping kids implement this awareness to advocate for themselves as well is what this book is all about.

A supportive and encouraging book for kids who have a high sensitivity for worrying as well as for those who have periodic doubts, Ruby Finds a Worry should be part of every classroom and public library collection and would be a comforting book to own and share for home libraries too.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1547602377

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

Ruby Finds a Worry Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Bloomsbury Children’s Books in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

This giveaway is open from September 12 through September 19 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 20.

Giveaways open to US and Canadian addresses only | Prizing provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

National Day of Encouragement Activity

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Random Acts of Encouragement Cards to Share

 

Today’s a day to spread a little encouragement to friends, neighbors, teachers, and anyone who looks as if they could use some cheering up.

Random Acts of Encouragement Cards 1Random Acts of Encouragement Cards 2

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You can find Ruby Finds a Worry at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 13 – It’s National Egg Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the amazing egg! Since ancient days people have relied on eggs for protein and other nutrients as part of a healthy diet. Eggs also provide delicate canvases for incredible works of art. If you’re fond of eggs—on their own or whipped up into a quiche, frittata, or other delicacy—crack a few open and enjoy your favorite recipe!  

The Good Egg

Written by Jory John | Illustrated by Pete Oswald

 

Have you ever met an egg that was so good he would rescue a cat from a tree, “…carry your groceries, …water your plants,” or “paint your house?” Well, you have now! And this isn’t some fly-by-night goodness, this little egg has always been this way even though all the other eggs in the carton exhibited less-than-stellar behavior.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2019, text copyright Jory John, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

What did they do? Are you ready for this? “They ignored their bedtime. They only ate sugary cereal.” There were tantrums…and it only got worse. The good egg tried to help—after all, he was “a verrrrrry good egg,” but no one paid any attention. Eventually, the good egg cracked under the pressure of  trying to make his carton buddies as good as he was.

The good egg decided to leave the market and the other eggs behind. Did they care? It didn’t seem like it. The egg traveled far and wide and into his very own heart. The egg “took walks” and “read books.” He took up writing, painting, and meditation. Slowly, the cracks began to heal. Feeling better, the egg made a big decision. He decided to go back to the market and his friends. But this time, he would “try not to worry so much” and he’d be good to the other eggs and himself.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2019, text copyright Jory John, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The good egg had discovered that he missed the other eggs, but how would they feel about his come back? He needn’t have worried. They welcomed him home with egg-citement. It seems that while the good egg was gone, the other eggs became a little better behaved. And now? Here’s what the good egg “realized: The other eggs aren’t perfect, and I don’t have to be, either.” The whole experience gave the good egg a whole new perspective, and he’s glad to be home.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2019, text copyright Jory John, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Behavior studies have never been as bewitching as in Jory John and Pete Oswald’s The Good Egg, a sequel of sorts to The Bad Seed. Everywhere he looks, the good egg finds ways to be helpful, peaceful, and…well…good. But his friends are a rowdy bunch, given to messes, tears, destruction—badness. When the good egg’s perfectionism meets this unruliness, he cracks. When the good egg leaves the carton in search of healing, John invites readers to consider the line between fun and rotten behavior from both sides.

Children prone to perfectionism see that it’s okay to give themselves a break and let go at times, while those who tend to be wild learn that reigning in some impulses can lead to more enjoyment. John’s clever egg names, funny examples of good and rotten behavior, and pun-filled wordplay will have kids giggling from the first page while his nod to self-care practices and the empowering ending give them moments for thoughtful contemplation.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2019, text copyright Jory John, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Pete Oswald dishes up a full menu of visual jokes from the wrinkled bacon slice getting help with her groceries to the intravenous yolk drip the good egg gets on his trip to the doctor to the stack of books with eggs-centric titles that are part of the good egg’s recovery. The dozen eggs—all with distinct personalities—may be “fresh” as the carton proclaims, but they make for eggsellent companions on this journey of self-discovery.

Witty and ingenious, The Good Egg will be an often-asked for addition to home, school, and public libraries for perfectly fun-filled story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Harper Collins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062866004

Discover more about Jory John and his books on his website.

To learn more about Pete Oswald, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Take a crack at The Good Egg book trailer!

National Egg Month Activity

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Egg Carton Chickens and a Basket Full of Games

 

With these cute egg-carton chickens you can come up with lots of games to play! This fun craft and game activity is eggs-actly what you need to start hatching some real fun!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • White craft paint
  • Markers: red, yellow, black for the face; any colors you’d like for wings and eggs
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Construction or craft paper in white and a color of your choice

Directions

  1. Cut the notched flap off the egg carton and set aside
  2. Cut the top off the egg carton
  3. Cut apart all the egg cups and trim slightly so they sit flat
  4. Paint the egg cups with the white paint, let dry
  5. Add the face, comb and wings to the chicken with the markers. Make six chickens with one color wings and six chickens with another color wings.
  6. From the egg carton flap cut thirteen small egg-shaped playing pieces
  7. With the markers, decorate twelve of the eggs in pairs—each egg in the pair with the same design
  8. Color one egg yellow and add a beak, eyes, and wings to make it a chick

Games to Play

Tic-Tac-Toe (2 players)

  1. On a 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper draw a regular tic-tac-toe board or make it fancy – like the picket fence-inspired board in the picture
  2. To make the fence-inspired board on a colored background, cut 2 9-inch-long x 3/4-inch wide strips of white paper, cutting a pointed tip at one or both ends. Cut 2 white  8-inch x 3/4-inch strips of paper with a pointed tip at one or both ends. Glue the strips to the background.
  3. Each player chooses a set of chickens with the same colored wings
  4. Play the game as you usually do

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Find the Matching Eggs (2 or more players)

  1. Have one player hide one egg under each chicken
  2. Shuffle the eggs around and form them into three lines of 4 chickens each
  3. Another player lifts one chicken at a time to find matching eggs. If the eggs don’t match, put both chickens back and start again

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Where’s the Chick?

  1. Use as many chickens and eggs as you want (fewer for younger children, more for older)
  2. One player hides the chick under one of the chickens and eggs under the others.
  3. Another player has three chances to find the chick

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I’m sure you can also design your own games for your adorable chickens to play! With more chickens you can even make a checkers set or replicate another of your favorite board games!

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You can find The Good Egg at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

November 28 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

There’s still time this week to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re in shopping mode, be sure to put plenty of picture books on your list for the kids in your life. You know what they say—and it’s really true: A book is a gift you can open again and again!

The Visitor

By Antje Damm

 

Elise sat alone in her gray house day after day and night after night because she was too afraid—of everything—to go out. To spend her time and because she liked a neat house, she cleaned it every day. Sometimes she opened a window to air it out. “Then one day something unbelievable happened.” A blue paper airplane came zipping in through the window.

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Copyright Antje Damm, 2018, courtesy of Gecko Press.

She looked at it lying on the floor in front of her and decided it did not belong in her tidy house, so “she scooped it into the fire.” But as Elise tried to sleep that night, the plane flew here, there, and everywhere circling through her house—or did it? “She was too scared to sleep.” The next day, someone came to the door. Elise didn’t know who it could be and was not about to open the door, but the knocking continued.

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Copyright Antje Damm, 2018, courtesy of Gecko Press.

Finally, a bit perturbed, Elisa opened the door and stared at the boy standing there. “‘I’m here for my plane,’” he said. Then he urgently needed to use the bathroom. Elise was surprised to hear herself telling the boy he’d find the bathroom upstairs. As he came back downstairs, he spied a portrait on the wall and asked Elise who it was. She told him that it was her on the day of a special dance. “‘I wore my prettiest dress,’” she said. “‘Cool!’ said the boy and he looked around some more.”

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Copyright Antje Damm, 2018, courtesy of Gecko Press.

He found a bookcase loaded with books and asked Elise to read him one. It had been “a long time since Elise had read to anyone,” but the boy was attentive and wanted to hear all the stories in the book. After that he wanted to play hide-and-seek. When the game was finished, the boy was hungry, so Elise gave him a slice of buttered bread. Then she told him it was probably time for him to go home. Elise found that she felt sad.

Before he left, the boy asked Elise what her name was and told her his. Emil said goodbye to Elise and told her he’d had fun. “‘Bye for now, Emil,’ she said.” That night Elise got out some blue paper and began folding. It took her many tries, and crumbled paper began to pile up at her feet. But at last she did it just right, and she smiled at the new paper airplane on her table.

The Visitor was translated from German by Sally-Ann Spencer.

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Copyright Antje Damm, 2018, courtesy of Gecko Press.

Antje Damm’s story, played out in stunning photographed 3D dioramas, is a triumph of light and color conquering shadow and isolation. As the story opens, Elise sits alone at her table, bowed by fear and the gloominess of her closed-up house. But when the blue airplane flies through the open window, things begin to change. A yellow glow appears outside the panes of glass, brightening the room and beginning to dispel the murk. The next morning the light is a fiery orange, and with the knock at the door, the light seeps underneath, seeming to want to come in. Will Elise let it?

When she opens the door to Emil, dressed in red and yellow, the light spreads across the floor. A red path follows Emil up the stairs while details of Elise’s home assume depth and definition. As Emil notices Elise’s youthful portrait, her apron and cheeks turn pink to mirror her picture. Similar to an Impressionist painting, the walls, floor, and furnishings take on a colorful, stippled beauty as Elise reads to Emil, and readers can see on the shelf above her bed toys left there long ago perhaps by her own children. The vivid intensity of the colors that linger after Emil leaves hints at the rich life Elise may once have had and may reenter thanks to Emil.

With mystical overtones that will delight children, The Visitor is a thought-provoking and uplifting tale of the difference one person can make. The unique mixed-media art makes this a captivating choice for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Gecko Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1776571888

Picture Book Month Activity

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Follow the Story! Maze

 

Can you find your way through the story from beginning to “The End” in this printable Follow the Story! Maze?

Follow the Story! Maze | Follow the Story! Maze Solution

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You can find The Visitor at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 21 – National Hugging Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is as simple as it sounds. Established to encourage people to show more emotion in public. National Hugging Day lets you show the people you love just how much you love them—with a nice, big hug!

Hug Machine

By Scott Campbell

 

A little boy comes over the hill, robot-long arms raised and hands ready to do some serious hugging. “Whoa! Here I Come! I am the Hug Machine!” he announces. He hugs his mom around the knees while she’s cooking. His dad is reading the newspaper when his knees are squeezed. And his sister keeps talking on the phone while she gets her hug from “the hug machine.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-machine-over-the-hill

Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Then the little boy goes out into his neighborhood where he hugs a policeman, a woman watering her plants, a businessman waiting for the bus, two unsuspecting women, and a little girl. He even hugs (very gently) the girl’s helium balloon. In fact, the boy hugs everything in his path—trees, fire hydrants, park benches, and mailboxes. “No one escapes the Hug Machine.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-machine-path

Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The boy’s hugs make everyone feel just right. It doesn’t matter if the things are big or small, soft or hard, square or long, the Hug Machine embraces them all. When he spies a crying baby, the Hug Machine goes to work. In a moment the “hug’s accomplished,” and the baby is smiling. But “what about me?” the porcupine asks. “No one ever hugs me.” Outfitted in a baseball catcher’s mask, with a pillow tied around his middle, and sporting oven mitts, the boy gives the porcupine a great big cuddle. “They are missing out!” the boy exclaims.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-machine-porcupine

Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A whale thinks it is too big to be hugged, but the boy finds a ladder, climbs to the top and gives a sliding hug all the way to the whale’s tail. How does the Hug Machine stay in prime hugging shape with lots of energy? Pizza, of course! And after a couple of slices, the Hug Machine is ready to get back out there! He runs through his neighborhood hugging everyone and everything in sight. There’s even a huge hug for you!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-machine-baby

Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

After that spurt of hugging, the Hug Machine is tuckered out. “Hug Machine can hug no more,” the boy says as he lies on the floor. But a pair of hands reaches out. “Why, yes,” the boy says, as his mom scoops him up into a hug of his own. “The Hug Machine is always open for business.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-machine-neighborhood

Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Scott Campbell’s Hug Machine is as adorably irresistible as little ones’ enthusiastic and spontaneous demonstrations of love. Readers will giggle when they see all the people and things this Hug Machine embraces without question and sometimes with creativity. Kids will also love the double spread, wide-armed hug just for them. The repeated phrases make this a perfect read aloud and read along for even the youngest readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-machine-fire-hydrants

Copyright Scott Campbell, 2014, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Campbell’s illustrations are always endearing. The surprised recipients of the little boy’s hugs are left with a smile on their face, and even the inanimate objects seem to gain a stronger sense of purpose after being hugged. The little boy’s wide eyes and always-ready arms and hands mirror the eagerness of children to find and react to any recognized needs. And pizza, of course, is the perfect kid fuel.

With plenty of opportunities for laughs and lots of hugs, as well as offering a fantastic way to talk about emotions, empathy, and kindness, Hug Machine is a terrific book to add to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014 | Hardcover ISBN: 978-1442459359 | Paperback, 2017 ISBN: 978-1338255423 | Board book, 2017 ISBN: 978-1338255423

Discover more about Scott Campbell and a portfolio  of his work on his website.

National Hugging Day Activity

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Free Hug Coupons

 

Everyone needs a hug now and then! With these printable Free Hug Coupons you can be sure that all of your favorite people get a sweet hug when they need it most.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Free Hug Coupons
  2. Color the coupons (optional)
  3. Hand out the coupons to your friends and family members and tell them that each coupon is good for one free hug from you.
  4. When someone hands in a ticket to you, give them your best biggest hug!

Picture Book Review

December 28 – Christmas Bird Count

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About the Holiday

Concerned with declining bird populations, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman suggested a new holiday tradition—a Christmas Bird Census that would count birds instead of hunting them. The first census took place on December 25, 1900. On that day, twenty-seven birders, centered mostly in northeastern North America, counted 90 species of birds. The tradition has grown tremendously from those humble beginnings. Today, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave all types of weather to conduct the count, which helps conservationists and scientific organizations create strategies for protecting the health and habitats of bird populations. The Christmas Bird Count is now held from December 14 through January 5. To learn more or to get involved yourself, visit the Audubon website. 

Grumpy Bird

By Jeremy Tankard

 

Bird woke up on the wrong side of the nest. “He was too grumpy to eat” and “too grumpy to play.” In fact, he was so grumpy he couldn’t even lift himself into the air. “‘Looks like I’m walking today,’ Bird said.” His steps took him past Sheep who was grazing in a field. When Sheep found out that Bird was walking, she offered to come along.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grumpy-bird-waking-up

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2007, courtesy of jeremytankard.com.

The two soon came to where Rabbit was nibbling grass. Rabbit was curious about what Bird was doing. “‘I’m walking,’ said Bird. ‘It’s no fun.’” Even this less-than-enthusiastic response enticed Rabbit, though, and he joined in. Raccoon was just scampering down a tree truck when he spied the little parade. He called out to Bird to see what was going on. “‘I’m walking,’ snapped Bird, ‘What does it look like?’” Well, Raccoon said, “‘It looks like fun,’” and he joined the group.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grumpy-bird-rabbit

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2007, courtesy of jeremytankard.com.

Next, they came upon Beaver gathering sticks. His inquiry into Bird’s actions was met with a bit of pique: “‘Let me give you a hint,’ said Bird. ‘You do it by putting one foot in front of the other.’” Beaver caught on right away, and since he loved walking, he came too. When the animals passed Fox and the usual question was asked, Bird lost his temper. “‘WHY DOES EVERYONE KEEP ASKING ME WHAT I’M DOING?’ Bird shouted. ‘I’m walking, okay?’” That sounded okay to Fox, so she bounded along too.

“Bird walked,” and so did the other animals. When Bird stopped, the animals stopped. And when “Bird stood on one leg,” so did everyone else. Bird tried jumping, and the other animals jumped too. Bird began to have a change of heart. He thought this game was pretty fun. It was so fun, in fact, that “Bird forgot all about being grumpy” and invited his friends to “fly back to [his] nest for a snack. And they did.’”

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Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2007, courtesy of jeremytankard.com.

Jeremy Tankard’s adorable Bird who has the grouchies will keep kids giggling and laughing as his crankiness grows. The repeated phrasing allows enthusiastic listeners to join in, and a dramatic reading will enhance the humor. The animals’ good-natured responses to Bird’s grumpiness reminds kids that everyone has bad days, and that a little bit of silliness goes a long way toward making friends smile again. The fanciful ending, stated so simply, provides a bit of magic that suggests anything is possible—especially among good friends.

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Tankard’s illustrations are as multi-layered as his story, with sophisticated backgrounds that swirl with vibrant color, texture, bubbles, and sketched-in details. Silhouetted woods, sun-drenched fields, and riots of flowers give shape to Bird’s walking path while also highlighting the thickly outlined characters. As the appropriately blue Bird marches along on spindly legs, kids will be amused by his narrowed eyes and furrowed brow. Even his beak seems clenched. When he finally takes note of his fellow walking companions, his eyes turn questioning then attentive and finally cheerful.

Grumpy Bird would be a much-asked-for addition to any child’s bookshelf, especially on those days when a little more encouragement is needed.

Ages 3 and up

Scholastic Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0545871822 (Board Book edition); 978-0439851473 (Hardcover edition, 2007)

Discover a portfolio of books and art by Jeremy Tankard on his website

Christmas Bird Count Activity

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Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle

 

It’s fun to watch for different kinds of birds when you take a walk or in your own backyard. Can you find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review