January 13 – Skeptics Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-cover

About the Holiday

If you’re attuned to holidays like I am, you may be thinking, “Wasn’t Skeptics Day October 13?”, or even, “I thought Skeptics Day is celebrated on November 4.” And it seems from my research that you’d be right—on both counts, which might lead you to be, well… skeptical about the validity of today’s holiday. But perhaps that was the point the founder or founders of this holiday were trying to make. Instead of simply accepting what you’re told, a skeptic questions what they hear or read and looks for facts to back it up. Kids are born skeptics, always asking “Why?” “When?” “Where?” “Who?” and “How?” To celebrate today, why not spend some time with your kids learning more about a subject you’re interested in.

There Must Be More Than That!

By Shinsuke Yoshitake

 

A little girl stands at the sliding glass doors looking out at the pouring rain. She’s disappointed because her father had said the day would be sunny. She thinks to herself, “…you can’t always trust grown-ups.” Then her big brother comes along and tells her all about the apocalyptic events that may possibly doom the earth and their futures. Things like running out of food, wars, even alien invasions. He heard it from a friend, who heard it from an adult. His sister is shocked and afraid.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-rain

Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

With a heavy heart, she goes to her grandma’s room and reveals what her brother has told her. “Ah, I see…,” Grandma responds. She reassures her granddaughter that no one really knows what will happen and that along with the bad, good things happen too. “Grown-ups act like they can predict the future… but they’re not always right,” she says. And when there’s a choice to be made, they often provide only two things to pick from, when there are actually many more and it’s okay to choose from those.

The little girl realizes that more choices means more possible futures, and she tells her brother so. She already has lots of ideas about the cool things the future might bring—like “a future where it’s okay to spend the day in pajamas…. A future where someone always catches the strawberry you drop…. A future where your room has a zero-gravity switch.” Her brother thinks the strawberry idea sounds great.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-future

Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The little girl is jazzed to think about other futures. She thinks about alternatives to throwing away old shoes, hiding uneaten carrots, and even keeping her mom from getting mad if she gets paint on her clothes. “I’m a slow runner,” she confesses, “but does that mean I’ll never come in first place? No! I might be ‘first place’ in a funny-face contest!”

Her thoughts begin to branch out, and she decides that between polar opposites like “‘love it or hate it,’” “‘good or bad,’” “‘friend or enemy,’” there may be many more emotions to choose from. In fact, the little girl is so excited by her new perspective that she tells her grandma that she wants to make a career out of “thinking up different futures.” Her grandma thinks that’s marvelous, but gently tells her that she probably won’t be around to see them. But the little girl is determined and imagines several scenarios that mean a brighter and longer life for her grandmother. Grandma laughs and agrees that “there must be more for me than that!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-grandma

Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Cheered, the little girl goes to the kitchen to find out what’s for dinner. Although they’re just having leftovers, Mom offers to make her an egg. “Boiled or fried?” she asks. Exasperated, the girl tells her mom about all the other ways an egg can be cooked, used, and played with. They can be scrambled or rolled, painted or stickered, and put in a shoe, a book, or a belly button. They can even be stacked on top of each other or used to make a tall tower. Her mother gets the idea and says she can have her egg made any way she wants. “Hmmm,” the little girl ponders. What do you think she chooses?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-choices

Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Shinsuke Yoshitake’s profound observations, expressed in kid-friendly, sometimes even silly examples, emboldens children to look beyond the choices they’re given by others and create the present and future they desire. Yoshitake touches on serious subjects that children hear discussed by adults, on the news, and in school that can lead to a frightening sense of no control but flips the narrative to show kids that they do have the power to influence events and change them for the better. The choices Yoshitake poses—love or hate, good or bad, friend or enemy—will get kids thinking about other such pairs they’re presented with every day and the nuanced scales between them that more correctly represent their feelings. After showing the little girl giving her grandma a pep talk and convincing her mom that there are a myriad things to do with eggs, Yoshitake ends the story on a comic note so attuned to kids’ enthusiasm for new ideas.

Yoshitake accompanies his story with laugh-out-loud illustrations of a little girl who cycles through emotions from anger to doomed to thoughtful to determined and finally to joyful after her brother reveals bad news about the future. Kids will be fully onboard for the fantastical future the girl envisions and the whimsical ways Yoshitake depicts the multitude of options that are available with just a little more thought. A two-page spread with twenty-three different types of eggs will set kids giggling and no doubt wanting to try them all. Likewise, the book’s cover hints at what’s inside with a display of many things a simple piece of cloth can become.

There Must Be More Than That! is a smart, sophisticated, and lighthearted way to shift a child’s perspective and empower them to shed the burdens of the world and create the life they want—on both a small and large scale. The book is sure to be a favorite on home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452183220

Skeptics Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-find-the-differences-kids-reading

Find the Differences Puzzles

 

Are you someone who looks at things skeptically? Do you want to learn the facts before you believe what you see or hear? If so, you’ll enjoy these printable puzzles and see for yourself whether they are the same or different.

Kids Reading Puzzle (easier) | Kid’s Bedroom Puzzle and Solution | Girl Selling Flowers Puzzle and Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-cover

You can find There Must Be More Than That! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 11 – Heritage Treasures Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maud-and-grand-maud-cover

About the Holiday

Heritage Treasures Day is an initiative established in the United Kingdom by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1994 to preserve important parts of human history. Since that time nearly eight billion pounds raised through the national lottery have been dispersed to support more than 40,000 projects. Multiple funds have been created to support various types of programs. For example, “Sharing Heritage” provides money for local heritage sites ranging from personal memories to the conservation of an area’s wildlife, while “Our Heritage” is used to preserve archaeological sites, endangered wildlife, and museum collections. Heritage Grants are given to large projects such as the preservation and restoration of Stonehenge. Today’s holiday celebrates these efforts and raises global awareness of the importance of protecting and passing on our shared history. To celebrate on a smaller scale, take an opportunity to talk about your family’s stories, history, and legacy with your kids.

Maud and Grand-Maud

Written by Sara O’Leary | Illustrated by Kenard Pak

 

On certain Saturdays Maud gets to sleep over at Grand-Maud’s house. She sleeps in a special nightgown that Grand-Maud made for her. “The nightgown goes all the way to the floor, and is made out of plaid flannel, and is softer than anything.” Grand-Maud even made herself one to match. Once dressed, they have breakfast for dinner eaten on trays in front of the TV, where they watch old black and white movies. Maud thinks everything was black and white when Grand-Maud was a child.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maud-and-grand-maud-dinner

Image copyrigh Kenard Pak, 2020, text copyright Sara O’Leary, 2020. Courtesy of Random House.

At bedtime, Maud snuggles into the extra twin bed in Grand-Maud’s room. In this bed Maud always has good dreams, and under the bed hides a wooden chest in which “there is always something new for Maud placed inside, even when Grand-Maud doesn’t know she will be visiting.” Sometimes the thing is something bought new for Maud to use or play with. Other times Grand-Maud has made something for Maud, like “…a pair of mittens, or some cookies to take home so the time between visits is sweeter.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maud-and-grand-maud-chest-treasures

Image copyrigh Kenard Pak, 2020, text copyright Sara O’Leary, 2020. Courtesy of Random House.

But the best times are when the chest holds “something from when Grand-Maud was a little girl herself.” Once Maud found a heart-shaped stone that Grand-Maud had carried in her pocket for a whole year. Now Maud carries it in hers. This time, Maud pulls out a book of fairy tales that Grand-Maud had written her name in. Maud was happy to see her own name in it.

That night, with the lights dimmed, Grand-Maud and Maud talked about the future. Maud said she wants to be a writer and have at least seven children. She imagines living in “‘…a very tall house so that the children can have bunk beds that go up and up and up.’” Grand-Maud says that later Maud will have her own granddaughter. The thought makes Maud smile. In her dream she lives in an apartment just like Grand-Maud’s and is standing at the doorstep to welcome Maud for a special visit.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maud-and-grand-maud-bunkbeds

Image copyrigh Kenard Pak, 2020, text copyright Sara O’Leary, 2020. Courtesy of Random House.

Sara O’Leary’s story about the connection between a grandmother and her granddaughter who share the same name is sweet and endearing. With homey details—a homemade nightgown, breakfast for dinner, and especially the wooden chest that always holds a surprise, O’Leary perfectly captures the comforting love and sense of adventure children feel when spending time with their grandparents. The old movies Maud and Grand-Maud watch together, the treasures Grand-Maud passes down to Maud, and the interest Grand-Maud shows in her granddaughter’s future all demonstrate simple but meaningful ways for older and younger generations to share their experiences and build understanding and strong bonds. O’Leary’s straightforward and lovely storytelling, highlighted with realistic dialogue, makes for rich and cuddly story times that can lead to discussions between kids and adults about their own family heritage. Her moving ending charms with a look toward a future of continued family ties.

Kenard Pak’s soft illustrations in warm browns, reds, and blues will enchant readers as they are invited into Grand-Maud’s cozy brownstone apartment to share a sleepover with Maud. Pak alternates between images of the close-knit grandmother and granddaughter, happy to be sitting side by side while sharing meals, memories, and talks of the future, with pages that give children a closer look at their breakfast supper, the enticing wooden chest and past items it has contained, and Maud’s imaginings, including the stories she’ll write, her future children’s bunkbeds, and that childlike idea that the world in the era of black-and-white movies was also black and white.

As snug and as full of love as a hug, Maud and Grand-Maud is a tender book for grandparents and grandkids to read together or for parents and children to cuddle up with whenever they’re missing Grandma. The book would make a favorite read to spark conversations about family history and family stories. Maud and Grand-Maud is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Random House / Penguin Random House Canada, 2020 | ISBN 978-0399554582

Discover more about Sara O’Leary and her books on her website

To learn more about Kenard Pak, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Heritage Treasures Day Activity

CPB - Cookie Jar Museum (2)

Create a Family Story Exhibit

 

Every item has a story. A fun and educational way for kids to learn family stories and interact with their own history is for family members to each create an exhibit of favorite or meaningful objects in your home. Tags can tell how each item was obtained, any funny or interesting story that is attached to it, and what it means to the owner. Displaying and talking about the exhibits can be a fun way to spend time together while seeing common objects in a whole new light.

Supplies

  • A number of household 
  • Paper or index cards
  • Marker, pen, or pencil
  • A table, shelf, or other area for display

Directions

  1. To get started help children gather a number of items from around the house to be the subjects of their exhibit. An exhibit can have a theme, such as Travel Souvenirs, or it can contain random items of your child’s choice, like toys, plants, tools, or artwork.
  2. Using the paper or cards, children can create labels for their exhibit items. Older children can write the labels themselves; younger children may need adult help.
  3. Spend a little time relating the story behind each object: where it came from, how long you’ve had it, and when and how it was used in the past. Include any funny or touching memories attached to the item. Or let your child’s imagination run free, and let them create histories for the objects.
  4. When the labels are finished, arrange the items on a table, shelf, or in a room, and let your child lead family members on a tour. You can even share the exhibit with family and friends on FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or other app.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maud-and-grand-maud-cover

You can find Maud and Grand-Maud at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 5 – National Cuddle Up Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-owl's-bedtime-cover

About the Holiday

As the icy days of January settle in, National Cuddle Up Day reminds us that snuggling up with someone you love warms you, warms your heart, and builds strong relationships. Children especially love the comfort and security that hugs bring. And what would bedtime be without snuggling in with a good book – like today’s sweet sure-to-be favorite.

Little Owl’s Bedtime

Written by Debi Gliori | Written by Alison Brown

 

“It was late o’clock” when Little Owl was cuddled up next to Mommy for a bedtime story. Mommy read, “‘Then all the little bunnies closed their eyes and fell fast asleep. The end.’” As she closed the book, she told Little Owl that it was time for him to go to sleep too. But Little Owl wasn’t having it. “‘NO, NO, NO!’” he stated. He didn’t want to close his eyes, fall asleep, or have the day end. What he did want was another story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-owl's-bedtime-no

Image copyright Alison Brown, 2020, text copyright Debi Gliori, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mommy Owl made a bargain with Little Owl that involved one more book and then sleep. Little Owl agreed. The little mice were all tucked in and dreaming when Mommy read “‘The End,’” and Little Owl snuggled down into bed, where… what with the lumpy pillow and hot blanket, Little Owl just could not get comfortable enough to go to sleep. Plus, why was it sooo dark? Little Owl called for Mommy.

Mommy Owl explained about the “Bashful Frog Chorus” and how the shy frogs would only come out to sing when it was completely dark. But she gave Little Owl a tiny nightlight to make him feel better. Little Owl tried again, but he tossed and turned and suddenly realized that Hedge, his favorite toy, was missing. He could never sleep without Hedge. Mommy thought Hedge may have gone in search of a snack at the Acorn Bakery, but a few minutes later Little Owl found her under his pillow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-owl's-bedtime-second-story

Image copyright Alison Brown, 2020, text copyright Debi Gliori, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

All was quiet until Little Owl heard a strange “‘quiet, snorty kind of noise.’” Mommy knew right away that this was the gentle snoring of the butterflies slumbering “in their flower beds”—a lucky sound to hear. Once more, Mommy and Little Owl said goodnight. But the next minute brought more complaints. Mommy Owl came to her son’s bedside and said, “‘Look, you’ve woken up Hedge. Poor Hedge! Let’s tuck her back in.’”

As they were settling Hedge in, Little Owl had a confession. He couldn’t fall asleep because he was “too excited about seeing Grandma and Grandpa Owl” the next day. Now that Mommy knew what was really on Little Owl’s mind, she had a secret: “‘Tomorrow will come much faster when you fall asleep.’” Little Owl was surprised to hear this, and with a kiss from Mommy, he nestled into bed. He read Hedge a story, calmed her fears about the dark, and explained that the sound she heard was just Mommy singing in the bathtub. Then he snuggled deep into his covers and fell asleep, not even waking for the one last kiss Mommy gave him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-owl's-bedtime-mommy

Image copyright Alison Brown, 2020, text copyright Debi Gliori, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Adorable from beginning to end and full of sweet and creative on-the-fly explanations for the darkness, strange sounds, and lost toys that can disrupt a child’s sleep, Debi Gliori’s story will enchant both fans of the Little Owl series and new readers. Kids and adults will be charmed by the relationship between Little Owl and Mommy built on patience, trust, and love. Little Owl’s real reason for his wakefulness couldn’t be more endearing, and the way he repeats his and Mommy’s bedtime routine with Hedge shows the comfort of multigenerational bonds.

Alison Brown invites kids into Little Owl’s cozy tree-trunk home for cuddly bedtime routines that may remind them of their own “Goodnights.” Little Owl is sweetly expressive as he asks for just one more book and wrestles with sleeplessness, while Mommy answers his calls with cheerfulness and warmth. Brown’s lovely illustrations bring to life Mommy’s inventive stories of the Bashful Frog Chorus, Acorn Bakery, and snoozing butterflies with beautiful details that will delight kids and adults. Little Owl’s thoughts of visiting his grandparents come with hugs and happiness and a special cake made just for him and his little sister.

A loving hug in a book, Little Owl’s Bedtime is sure to bring cuddly comfort and sweet dreams and will be a favorite for children and adults to share at bedtime or any story time. The book would make a treasured gift and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections. Readers will also want to check out the other two books in the series, Little Owl’s First Day and Little Owl’s Egg.

Ages 2 – 5 

ISBN 978-1547604494

Discover more about Debi Gliori and her books on her website.

To learn more about Alison Brown, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Cuddle Up Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snuggle-buddy-craft

Snuggle Buddy Craft

 

Kids find going to sleep so much easier with a buddy to snuggle with! With this easy-to-make craft, your child can make a friend to dream with and personalize their pal anyway they want!

Supplies

  • 1 8-inch by 11-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the body (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project). A larger piece of fleece can be used to make a larger buddy
  • 1 5-inch by 8-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the hair (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project)
  • 1 small piece of fleece or other material for a pocket, clothes, or blanket
  • Small scraps of fleece or other material for the face
  • Fiber Fill
  • Thread and sewing needle OR fabric glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Fold the large piece of fleece in half lengthwise and sew along the open side and along the bottom. Alternatively, if using a larger size piece of fleece, fold upward and sew or glue the two sides closed.
  2. Turn the form inside out

To Make the Hair

  1. Cut a piece of fleece as wide as your buddy and about 7 – 8 inches long
  2. Fold the fleece lengthwise
  3. Insert both ends of the fleece into the opening at the top of the body
  4. Sew or glue the opening shut, securing the hair
  5. Cut strips about ¼-inch wide from the top of the hair to close to where the hair is sown into the body

To Make a Pocket or Clothes

  1. Cut a piece of fleece in the shape of a pocket, shirt, pants, diaper, or blanket
  2. Sew or glue the pocket or clothes to the buddy

To Make the Face

  1. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in whatever way you would like your buddy to look. 
  2. Sew or glue the face to the buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-owl's-bedtime-cover

You can find Little Owl’s Bedtime at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 31 – Universal Hour of Peace Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peace-is-an-offering-cover

About the Holiday

Created by Dr. Barbara Condron at the School of Metaphysics, the Universal Hour of Peace encourages people worldwide to live conflict free for one hour – from 11:30 p.m. December 31 to 12:30 January 1 – and enter the new year in a spirit of love and hope. The holiday was first celebrated on October 24, 1995 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and the autumnal equinox. In 1996 the holiday was moved to January 1st and took place at noon GMT. It now spans the transition from the outgoing year to the new year. Where can you find peace? You’ll find many ideas in today’s book.

Peace is an Offering

Written by Annette LeBox | Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Peace comes in many forms, as simple as “an offering” of “a muffin or a peach. / A birthday invitation. / A trip to the beach.” Peace is being thankful for the wonders of nature, a parent’s love, the coolness of rain or morning dew, even a steaming “bowl of hot stew.” Peace is those times when we are together, in a hug, with sweet words, or cuddling to hear a story. Peace comes in reassurance to the questions that might worry: “Will you wait when I’m slow? / Will you calm by fears? / Will you sing to the sun / to dry my tears?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peace-is-an-offering-stew

Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Where is peace found? In so many places! In a picture or a “belly laugh.” And even when tragedy strikes or “in your darkest hour,” peace can be found, for “peace is a joining, not a pulling apart. It’s the courage to bear a wounded heart.” Peace is finding safety and a “freedom from fear.” It’s found when you “offer a cookie…comfort a friend…sing a quiet song.” When you’re open to catching “a falling star” then peace will “walk beside you / wherever you are.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peace-is-an-offering-tent

Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Annette LeBox builds beautiful phrase upon beautiful phrase until midway through her inspiring story when she takes readers gently by the heart and shows them the way forward through any event that disrupts inner peace. LeBox reveals that capturing or recapturing those simple joys that make up a fulfilling life—and more importantly offering that kindness, help, and inclusion to others—brings hope, healing, and happiness not only to others but to yourself as well.

Stephanie Graegin excels in pairing text with quietly powerful images of togetherness and the tranquility such closeness brings. As diverse groups of friends, siblings, and families go about their day at school, eat out, navigate puddles and long walks, and enjoy time playing and laughing with each other, readers will be moved by Graegin’s tender details and will enjoy following and pointing out the characters who return from page to page. Images of loss (a mother hugs her two children close as they sit on a park bench overlooking a cityscape and little boy gazes at a picture of his dog) offer poignant opportunities for adult and kids to discuss life changes and events in the news that affect us all. Illustrations of uplifting ideas and gestures that children can use to express their vision of kindness and peace will inspire young readers.

A stirring and heartfelt look at the ways children and adults can share peace, comfort, and encouragement, Peace is an Offering is superb book to add to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0803740914

Discover more about Annette LeBox and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stephanie Graegin, her books, and her art on her website.

Universal Hour of Power Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Peace-Coloring-Page-balloons

Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

A peaceful feeling inside can make your spirits soar like balloons in the air. Decorate the balloons in this printable page in your favorite colors (maybe even add a bit of glitter!) and hang it where seeing it will make you happy.

Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peace-is-an-offering-cover

You can find Peace is an Offering at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 28 – Get Ready for New Year’s Eve

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

About the Holiday

It’s safe to say we’re all happy to be saying goodbye to 2020 and looking forward to 2021 with hope and resolve. A new year offers opportunities for reflection and growth as well as sharing the traditions that keep our families and friendships strong no matter what challenges we face. Today’s book celebrates all three of these parts of life at the New Year or any time.

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.

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

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 Año 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.

Get Ready for New Year’s Eve Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-new-years-coloring-page

New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

 

Celebrate the New Year with this printable coloring page! You might even want to add some glitter to make the fireworks even more spectacular!

New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

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

December 7 – It’s Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-latkes-for-santa-claus-cover

About the Holiday

With so many gift-giving opportunities this month, December is the perfect time to discover new books for any age! Whether you’re sharing the fun or traditions of a holiday, adding to a favorite series, looking to inspire with nonfiction, or buying a baby their first book, the delight, wonder, and shared experiences of reading offers is one of the best presents you can give. This month visit or order from your local independent bookstore to pick out special books for the loved ones on your list. (And don’t forget to treat yourself!)

Latkes for Santa Claus

Written by Janie Emaus | Illustrated by Bryan Langdo

 

Anna was composing an email to Santa, letting him know her house would be a new stop on his route since her new dad and stepbrother celebrated Christmas. She promises him that she’s going to leave him “the best Santa treat ever.” Hearing this, Anna’s brother Michael countered that his cookies were “the best Santa treat ever.” In the kitchen, Michael invited Anna to help him bake, but she was trying to think of something better than cookies.

Her mom was making Bubbe Sadie’s. matzo ball soup, and the aroma made Anna think this would make the perfect snack for Santa. But Michael reminded her that Santa needed finger food, and she imagined “Santa gulping on his sled. / Slurp. Burp. Slop. Spill. / Matzo balls on Santa’s head.” That would never do, she thought. Then she spied Aunt Bea’s noodle kugel on the counter and knew the “sweet taste of noodle kugel” would be just the thing.

His sugar cookies finished, Michael had moved on to making the oatmeal cookies he said Santa loved. He mentioned that Santa wouldn’t be able to eat kugel with his fingers, and Anna pictured him trying with disastrous results. How about Aunt Sarah’s delicious tzimmes root vegetable stew. But was it finger food? Michael didn’t think so. And Santa so loved his chocolate chip cookies. “Anna imagined— A bowl of stew zipping by. / Santa spooning on his sled. / Slurp. Burp. Slop. Spill. / Gobs of stew on Santa’s head.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-latkes-for-santa-claus-noodle-kugel

Image copyright Bryan Langdo, text copyright Janie Emaus, 2020. Courtesy of Sky Pony.

Anna went off to think about the perfect treat, and finally it came to her. In fact, her mom had just made a batch. She went to the kitchen, put some on a plate, and hid them for later. That night she stayed awake until the house was silent. Then she snuck into the pantry and placed four latkes on the plate with Michael’s cookies. This time she imagined Santa happy and satisfied as he nibbled on the latkes. “The wind whistled Christmas songs. The stars twinkled like Hanukkah lights” as Anna waited to hear Santa’s reindeer land on the roof. She just closed her eyes for a second… and then Michael was waking her up on Christmas morning.

They ran downstairs and were excited to find that not only had Santa taken all of Michael’s cookies, he’d also grabbed all of Anna’s Latkes. Just then there was a familiar bing from the computer. Anna found an email from Santa saying how much he’d loved her latkes and was already looking forward to next year’s treat. He’d boasted about them so much, in fact, that Mrs. Clause wanted Anna’s recipe.

Reading this, Michael decided that maybe cookies were kind of boring after all, and suggested Grandma Linda’s lemon jello. Was that a finger food? Anna didn’t think so, but she was sure they could come up with something Santa would love. After all, they had a whole year to think about it.

Recipes for Grandma Sylvia’s Potato Latkes and Santa’s Sprinkled Sugary Shapes follow the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-latkes-for-santa-claus-matzo-ball-soup

Image copyright Bryan Langdo, text copyright Janie Emaus, 2020. Courtesy of Sky Pony.

Janie Emaus’s original story focused on a favorite part of Christmas Eve traditions—Santa’s snack—presents a clever and inclusive way for blended families to celebrate the joys of Hanukkah and Christmas together. Through Anna’s humorous imaginings of Santa trying to eat matza ball soup, kugel, and tzimmes, Emaus offers readers funny rhyming verses with repeated phrasing that kids will love to chime in on, especially “Slurp. Burp. Slop. Spill.” Michael and Anna’s sibling rivalry over the snack is good-natured and shows how this new brother and sister pair are quickly becoming a team. The list of traditional Jewish dishes will excite kids who already love them and entice those who aren’t to try them. Anna’s impressions of the world outside her window on this special night invite readers to embrace both of these meaningful holidays and those who observe them.

In Bryan Langdo’s vibrant and engaging illustrations, Hanukkah and Christmas reside side-by-side, just as Anna and Michael do. A menorah is prominently displayed on the fireplace mantle and Michael spins a dreidel while Christmas lights line the walls and a Christmas tree stands lit and decorated nearby. When the kids take to the cozy kitchen, Anna’s grandmother stands at the stove stirring a large pot of matza ball soup. The banter between Michael and Anna over Santa’s treat ushers in vivid and giggle-inducing images of Santa trying to spoon up splashing soup, dodging flying bowls of kugel, and finally wearing the bowl of stew on his head all while attempting to steer his sleigh. Sketched with a light touch, Langdo’s characters are charming and warm, and Anna and Michael are delightful siblings to carry this story about acceptance and family love.

A fun and inclusive story for Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations and to celebrate the joys of family, Latkes for Santa Claus would make an excellent gift for pre-holiday story times and baking and a charming addition to home, school, and public libraries for any time of the year.

Ages 3 – 6

Sky Pony, Simon & Schuster, 2020 | ISBN 978-1510759886

Discover more about Janie Emaus and her books on her website.

To learn more about Bryan Langdo, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

Screen Shot 2020-12-06 at 7.29.26 PM

Make Latkes for Santa

 

With this coloring sheet and puzzle, you can put together a plate of latkes for Santa – or yourself!

Make Latkas for Santa Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-latkes-for-santa-claus-cover

You can find Latkes for Santa Claus at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 5 – International Ninja Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-naughty-ninja-takes-a-bath-cover

About the Holiday

International Ninja Day may have started out as an marketing idea by Ninja Burger in 2003 to celebrate their speedy delivery, but the day has grown to embrace all kinds of Ninja fun. If you love the stealthy cunning of these masters of martial arts warfare, then today’s for you! To celebrate, watch a favorite ninja movie or TV show, show off your nimble ninja moves, or perform an act of kindness while remaining “invisible.” Today’s also a great day to sneak in some ninja reading time with your kids!

Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath

Written by Todd Tarpley | Illustrated by Vin Vogel

 

Naughty Ninja had been training in the jungle when his rumbling stomach told him it was time to go home. As he stepped in the door, he announced that he needed food. But Naughty Ninja aka Will “was covered with river mud, smelly leaves, and beetle dung. Flies buzzed around him.” His mom and dad told him he needed to take a bath before he had his “ninja nuggets.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-naughty-ninja-takes-a-bath-flies

Image copyright Vin Vogel, 2019, text copyright Todd Tarpley. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Will’s dad filled the tub and calmly reminded him not to say “‘Ninja to the rescue’” because whenever he did bad things happened. But Naughty didn’t hear. He was focused on the flies that were now swarming around his dad. He recognized them as “wild, poisonous flies from the jungle.” His dad saw the gleam in his eyes and begged him not to say those dreaded words.

But they were already leaving Naughty Ninja’s mouth, and his foot was already coming up to kick those flies. Unfortunately, he kicked his dad instead. Dad fell backward into the tub of water. Naughty Ninja was sure a fierce alligator had dragged his dad into the tub. Calling out his signature phrase, Naughty Ninja leaped into the air and rescued his dad. Of course, he also caused a tidal wave of water to fill the bathroom. He was sure his dad was okay now, but Dad said he was ‘not better.’ Naughty Ninja thought about this. “It could only mean one thing…invading samurai warriors!” In on smooth move, Naughty Ninja picked up the bubble bath, soared into the air, and poured it into the tub. In a moment, clouds of bubbles filled the room. Naughty Ninja yelled for his dad to run.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-naughty-ninja-takes-a-bath-flood

Image copyright Vin Vogel, 2019, text copyright Todd Tarpley. Courtesy of Two Lions.

As water and bubbles, bath toys and toothbrushes flowed out of the bathroom, Naughty Ninja bounded across the bathroom and out the door. Ninja Dad gave chase with an armload of towels. But Dad slipped and slid on a towel across the room and back again. “Naughty Ninja thought that looked like fun.” He grabbed a towel and slid loop-de-loops around the floor, walls, and ceiling. By this time even Ninja Dad was having fun.

They came to a halt in front of Mom, who wanted to know what they were doing. “Naughty Ninja and Dad stopped and slowly pointed at each other.” Mom didn’t care who started it or how it had happened. She was just thrilled with how clean the house looked. Dad smiled at Will. It was just another successful Ninja rescue.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-naughty-ninja-takes-a-bath-wheee

Image copyright Vin Vogel, 2019, text copyright Todd Tarpley. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Todd Tarpley’s madcap ninja adventure will thrill kids who play hard and have active imaginations. His funny description of Naughty Ninja’s dire need for a bath segues naturally into the slapstick comedy to come. Ninja Dad’s wary warning ramps up the suspense, and readers will be eagerly anticipating Naughty Ninja’s catch phrase to see what “bad things” happen. Tarpley’s disconnect between Naughty Ninja’s thought process and his dad’s desires to get him in the tub create moments that will have appreciative kids laughing out loud. As Dad embraces the slip-sliding fun and Mom thanks them for cleaning the house, readers will be happy to adventure with this Ninja Family again and again.

Vin Vogel’s humorous, action-packed illustrations depict all the fun of Naughty Ninja’s imagination with clever details and a deft eye for scenes that make kids giggle. Flailing arms, heroic leaps, and air-born kicks are all part of Naughty Ninja’s repertoire, and his ninja outfit (which includes a black hoodie with the size tag sticking out and one untied sneaker) is inspired. Readers will enjoy pointing out the flies, bath toys, and bath accessories that become unwitting stars of Naughty Ninja’s daring rescue.

Sure to be a favorite of Ninja-loving kids and fun-loving adults, Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542094337

Discover more about Todd Tarpley and his books on his website.

To learn more about Vin Vogel, his books, and his art, visit his website.

International Ninja Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stealthy-ninja-maze

Stealthy Ninja Maze

 

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

Stealthy Ninja Maze | Stealthy Ninja Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-naughty-ninja-takes-a-bath-cover

You can find Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound