June 16 – Father’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today is all about celebrating dads and telling them how much you love them. It’s a great day to think of all the things dads do for their kids and their families and to share a thank-you, a hug, and of course a book! Reading together is one of the best ways for dads and their kids to bond not only today, but every day!

It’s Great Being a Dad

Written by Dan Bar-el | Illustrated by Gina Perry

 

A lovely pink unicorn with a sparkling rainbow horn clip-clops over a grassy hill, a golden castle and a candy forest in the background. The playful animal believes it’s “great being a unicorn. Who wouldn’t want to be a unicorn?” What makes them so special? Well…as she says, “We’re terrific at prancing and we’re very pretty and, best of all, we have an adorable horn just above our eyebrows.” It’s hard to argue with those reasons!

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But it seems there are some downsides to this whole unicorn thing. Grazing might be at the top of the list. That shiny horn just always seems to get in the way. There’s no way for teeth to touch the ground, and trying to grab a snack off a table just results in the table being stuck on the “adorable horn.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

How about Bigfoot? What’s it like for him? Let’s ask—here comes Bigfoot now! “It’s great being Bigfoot. I love being Bigfoot. Who wouldn’t want to be Bigfoot?” What’s so great about being…you know…? Well…he’s warm in his furry coat, he’s well camouflaged among the trees, and his super strength “can help unicorns get tables off their heads.” Sounds great! What could go wrong? Hmmm…. It seems those big feet get themselves into some sticky situations—like ending up with a tree trunk lodged around your leg.

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maybe being a Robot is better. Indeed! In fact, Robot says, “If I had feelings, I would love being a robot.” Pretty compelling stuff there. Robot is very flashy and has lots of memory and has an arm that can convert into a saw just in time to help “unicorns and Bigfoot with their wood problems.” So what’s not to like? Rain can really mess with the mo(tor)-jo.

Poor Loch Ness Monster! She’s not even going to try being positive. It kind of stinks being a monster—especially when you don’t feel like one. But maybe things aren’t all bad. Unicorn, Bigfoot, and Robot hitch a ride on Nessie’s back across the lake to the hospital. There they meet a “fairy queen ballerina doctor” who loves being a fairy queen ballerina doctor. Who wouldn’t?

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

This Jill-of-all-trades can prescribe medicine for the sick, “perform a happy dance” for the sad, and wave her magic wand “if you have trouble with your saw arm…or your head horn or your big foot.” Sounds perfect…until a “sneaky flying alligator pirate” swoops in and swipes the magic wand just as the fairy queen ballerina doctor is about the save the day. “Dad!”

Ha! Ha! Here’s a little guy who’s super excited to be a sneaky flying alligator pirate. “I’m sneaky, so you never see me coming. I can fly, so you can never catch me. And… And…that’s enough reasons. So what’s not to like about being a sneaky flying alligator pirate?” Ooof! “Dads, that’s what!”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But how does Dad feel about being a dad? Let’s see: “It’s great being a dad. I love being a dad.” It does look pretty fun! Dad gets to remove pizza box “tables” from hobby horse unicorns; remove stepped-on drums from a brown-fuzzy-hoodied-and-hiking-booted Bigfoot; fix cardboard-saw arms; give medals to super swimmers; and “return magic wands to… to… ‘Fairy queen ballerina doctors. I told you a million times already.’ Right. What she said.” Plus Dad can help little brothers play nicely.

So you must be wondering… “what’s not to like about being a dad? Sudden makeovers, that’s what.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Dan Bar-el’s laugh-out-loud romp through an afternoon of play hits the perfect tone to entertain kids and adults as well. Bar-el’s wry delivery and repetition of the appealing—and not-so—traits of each fantasy character will have readers giggling and eagerly anticipating the next page. The revelation that the characters are kids with big imaginations offers multiple payouts in creativity, personalities, friendship, and family.

Gina Perry’s vibrant, whimsical illustrations riff on all the fantasy clichés to ramp up the humor in this vivacious story. When happily-ever-after turns into happily-never-after for each character, Perry amusingly depicts their dismay, but the next page finds them cheerfully adjusted to their new circumstance and weaving it into a revised storyline. As the story wraps up, readers will enjoy pointing out aspects of the kids’ interests and the parts of the backyard that spurred their imagination in earlier pages. The diverse group of friends is welcome, and good-natured Dad doesn’t really seem to mind his impromptu makeover.

It’s Great Being a Dad is a fantastically fun read-aloud that makes a wonderful gift for dad and would be an often-asked-for addition to home and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770496057

Discover more about Dan Bar-el and his books on his website!

You find a gallery of illustration work and books by Gina Perry on her website!

Father’s Day Activity

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I Love Dad Building Blocks

 

This craft will stack up to be a favorite with kids! With wooden blocks and a little chalkboard paint, it’s easy for kids to make these unique building blocks that show dad just how they feel about him. They’re also great for gifts, decorating, party favors, or when you just have a little time to play!

Supplies

  • Wooden blocks in various sizes, available from craft stores
  • Chalkboard paint in various colors
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk in various colors

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden blocks with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. Write words or draw pictures on the blocks
  3. Have fun!

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You can find It’s Great Being a Dad at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 15 – National Smile Day

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About the Holiday

Where do you find enough smiles to fill twenty-four hours? Come on, you know! Friends, loved ones, books, movies, videos, jokes, and more funny stuff can instantly elicit that bright, shiny facial expression! Today is a day to share smiles with people you know and those you don’t. So get out there and be happy!

Happy

By Emma Dodd

 

Nestled in a hole in a pine tree, an owl—who could be a mom, a dad, or any caregiver—cradles an adorable tiny owlet under its wing. “I know that / you are happy / when you wake me / with a song,” the owl says. As they venture out onto a limb, the owl adds, “I know that / you are happy / when you hop / and skip along.” With the repeated “I know that you are happy” the owl describes other ways the owlet shows her joy: giggling, with rambling conversation, playing loudly, acting proud, and trying “something new…and / if you don’t succeed at first, I’ll help until you do,” the owl reassures the little one.

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Copyright Emma Dodd, 2015, courtesy of Nosy Crow.

But every day cannot be happy, the owl concedes, and when “things are looking gray, / I’ll do my best to chase / the gloomy clouds away.” As the sun sets on the secluded home and the owl and owlet drift into sleep, the owl reveals: “I love it when you cuddle close / and whisper, ‘I love you.’ / And I am happiest / of all… / when you are happy too.”

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Copyright Emma Dodd, 2015, courtesy of Nosy Crow.

Perfect for all parents and caregivers, Emma Dodd’s celebration of how a child’s joy resonates in others’ hearts makes shared reading time special. The lyrical rhythm of the repeated lines accompanied by the sentiments of encouragement and the transposition of point of view give this book impact and poignancy.

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Copyright Emma Dodd, 2015, courtesy of Nosy Crow.

Dodd’s lovely illustrations of the endearing owl and owlet pair perfectly express the type of discovery that leads to joy on both a child’s and an adult’s part. With its little raised foot, extended tiny wings, and jubilant, smiling beak, the young owlet is both lovable and loved. Dodd’s beautiful muted, blue, green, brown and orange settings shimmer with gilded accents: delicate gold pine needles frame the owls’ home, the baby owl splashes in a glistening puddle under a gleaming moon, sparkling stars light the midnight blue sky, and rain showers fall in glinting streaks as the owls look on.

Simply put, Happy will put a smile on your face and bring a tear to your eye. This lovely lullaby will quickly become a favorite for bedtime or cuddle time and is a must for young children’s bookshelves. Happy also makes a perfect gift for new parents or other caregivers. 

Ages Birth – 5

Nosy Crow, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763680084 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0763696429 (Paperback)

Smile Power Day Activity

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Make Someone Smile Cards

 

Sharing a smile can make someone’s day! With these printable Make Someone Smile Cards you can spread joy to people you know—and even to those you don’t! Give one to a family member, coworker, or friend. You can surprise your favorite barista, hair stylist, librarian, or shop owner by handing them a card or leaving it where they’ll find it. It’s even fun to tuck a card among the items on a shelf or in a book for someone to find later. Remember, the power of a smile is awesome!

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You can find Happy at these booksellers

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

June 13 – National Weed Your Garden Day

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About the Holiday

So, you’ve planted your seeds and seedlings and they’ve started coming up, but so is something else. Suddenly, it’s a race for ground space, water, and nutrition between the veggies, fruit, or flowers and a fast-moving intruder. How do you slow down the intruder or keep it at bay? That’s where today’s holiday comes in. National Weed Your Garden Day encourages people to set aside some time each day to weeding their gardens and give their crops the best environment to grow in.

Dandy

Written by Ame Dyckman | Illustrated by Charles Santoso

 

When Daddy Lion looked out the window and saw the little yellow flower of a dandelion nodding to him “on his perfect lawn. He ran for his clippers….” But when he got out there, his adorable daughter, Sweetie, was already there watering her “flower.” “‘Her name is Charlotte. She’s my best friend,’” the tyke said, gazing up at her daddy with her big, bright eyes.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Daddy may have let it go, except for the neighbors who railed over the hedge that the weed would take over his yard, the neighborhood, and even the universe. The giraffe caught Daddy in a steely gaze and said, “‘You KNOW what you have to do.’” While his daughter read in the family room, Daddy snuck out with his shovel, and even though the dandelion gave him its most winning look, he raised the shovel high above it, readied for the forward swing, and… “‘Hi, Daddy!’” Sweetie was there reading to Charlotte.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

During nap time, Daddy tiptoed out of Sweetie’s room and ran pell-mell with his mower toward the little weed. “But Sweetie was there” camped out with a tent and sleeping bags for her and Charlotte. When Sweetie was preoccupied with raiding the cookie jar for snack time, Daddy leashed up a hungry goat… but Sweetie beat him to it with a tea party, complete with cookies for her, Charlotte, and the goat.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

“Once again, Daddy hoped his friends wouldn’t notice. They did.” They spurred him on to get rid of that dastardly dandelion, and Daddy tried everything from nunchucks to chemicals to a jackhammer and, finally, a cannon. But each time, Sweetie was there. Until, that is, she took the bus to her swimming lesson. Promising his daughter to “take care of Charlotte,” Daddy waved goodbye and rushed out to the yard with the neighbors cheering him on.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

But there, propped up on Charlotte’s leaves, was a painting by Sweetie of Daddy standing next to Charlotte surrounded in hearts. When Daddy held it up, he and the neighbors shared a good cry. “(They were daddies, too.)” But just then, Daddy’s clippers slipped out of his hand. Daddy and the neighbors put Charlotte back together as best they could and “hoped Sweetie wouldn’t notice.” With tears in her eyes, though, she came to Daddy and pulled him outside to show him that something was “‘WRONG with Charlotte!’” And there, bent and broken but taped together, stood Charlotte, and where her bright yellow flower had been there was a cloud of white fluff.

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Daddy gazed out at the lawn and then down into Sweetie’s crumpled face and chose. He picked up Charlotte and blew, sending the fluff flying. And soon, Sweetie was introducing Daddy to “‘Charlotte Two! And Charlotte Three! And Charlotte Four! And…’” And Daddy thought they were all “DANDY.”

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Image copyright Charles Santoso, 2019, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2019. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Smart, sweet, and surprising, Dandy is a delight from beginning to end. The book’s cover, dotted with posing dandelions, hint at the endearing personalities that preserve these sunny weeds while the front endpapers depict perfect lawns where kids play and dads snip, clip, and dig up any interlopers. The back endpapers show a change of heart on the part of these dads following the story.

In between, Ame Dyckman’s pitch-perfect, laugh-out-loud series of events in which Sweetie is always there to protect her best friend, Charlotte, will charm kids and adults. Dyckman’s Sweetie lives up to her name with her invitation to tea, love-filled painting, and ever enthusiastic “Hi, Daddy!” greeting from Charlotte’s side. Clever wording introduces a plot twist that will melt the heart of even the most stalwart lawn lover, and the touching suspense leads to a tender moment between father and daughter.

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Charles Santoso infuses every page of Dandy with humor that grows more and more hilarious as Daddy tries to placate the neighbors only to be bested by his adorable daughter who has enormous eyes, rosy cheeks, and even a heart-shaped nose. The action gets off to a fast start as Daddy Lion, his face plastered to the window in horror, is taunted by the waving dandelion. Clippers in hand, he’s caught up short by Sweetie’s introduction of her “best friend Charlotte,” a scene that only grows funnier as Daddy’s methods of destruction escalate.

The five neighbors—a modern day, suburban-dressed Greek chorus—keep up the pressure, but crumble in the end. As the dads surround the injured Charlotte, surgical masks in place and holding a variety of medical instruments, kids and adults will be thoroughly invested in Charlotte’s prognosis. The final illustration of Sweetie and Daddy happily watering their crop of Charlottes proves that love has the deepest roots.

Highly original, funny, and touching, Dandy is a must for home, classroom, and public libraries, and makes a perfect gift for dad on for Father’s Day or any day.

Ages 4 – 8

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0316362955

Discover more about Ame Dyckman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Charles Santoso, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Weed Your Garden Day Activity

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Dandelion Garden Coloring Page

 

With their bright yellow petals and soft fluff, it’s easy to see why dandelions can be a child’s favorite flower, so here’s a little patch of dandelions that kids can keep inside! Just add some color and maybe a bit of cotton or polyfill  to bring this printable garden to life.

Dandelion Garden Coloring Page

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You can find Dandy at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 1 – It’s Children’s Book Week & Interview with Jodi McKay

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week, a celebration of reading and books, turns 100 this year! Founded in 1919, this longest-running literacy initiative in the US, was a collaborative effort by Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, Frederic G. Melcher, the editor of Publishers Weekly, and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library. In 1916, the American Booksellers Association and the American Library Association, in conjunction with the Boy Scouts, sponsored the first Good Book Week.

When the Children’s Book Council was established in 1944, they assumed responsibility of running this important initiative. The holiday is celebrated with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities across the country with the participation of authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, teachers, and booksellers. This year the theme of the week is Read Now, Read Forever. To find out more about the week as well as activities to download and locations of events in your area, visit Every Child a Reader.

I received a copy of Pencil’s Perfect Picture from Albert Whitman & Company for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Albert Whitman & Company in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Pencil’s Perfect Picture

Written by Jodi McKay | Illustrated by Juliana Motzko

 

Pencil loves his dad so much that he wants to do something special for him. He thinks about baking him a cupcake or giving him a bouquet of flowers, but then he hits on just the right thing. Pencil decides “I’ll draw him the greatest, the best, the most perfect picture he has ever seen!” But there’s a hitch, Pencil doesn’t really know what that is. He heads off to the Art School to find out.

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2019, text copyright Jodi McKay, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

He finds Brush doing a headstand in a paint can, and after Brush adds a golden swoop to a sunset painting, Pencil asks if that’s what makes the picture perfect. “Perfection?” Brush answers. “Pah! I paint for pleasure.” This answer doesn’t really help, so Pencil goes in search of Marker.

Marker shows Pencil all the fancy moves he uses when drawing. Pencil loves the action in Marker’s work and wonders if that’s what makes it perfect. Marker’s not that interested in perfection though, just in doing his best. Pencil then thinks he’ll go ask Pastel for her opinion. He finds Pastel practicing yoga before she creates. Then she faces her blank paper and in a few minutes has a picture that makes Pencil “feel happy.” Could this be the secret to perfection? Pastel says peace is her aim, but Pencil counters, “I don’t think I’ll find peace until I know how to draw a perfect picture” and walks off to find the crayons.

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2019, text copyright Jodi McKay, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The little crayons have all been working hard on their drawings and are proud to show them off. Pencil thinks they’re all perfect and asks how they achieved it, but their teacher reveals that they just “draw because it’s fun.” Pencil’s still no wiser when he meets up with Chalk, but in describing his frustrations, Pencil has a brainstorm.

He hurries home to try a little bit of everything he’s learned. He stands back to take a look at his drawing just as his dad comes in. Pencil explains that he wanted to make a special drawing for him, but he’s just not sure it’s…. His dad studies the drawing and says, “Wow, this picture is PERFECT!” Pencil is excited and wants to know why. As they gaze at the drawing in which Pencil and his dad are smiling and have their arms around each other, Pencil’s dad says, “It’s perfect because YOU drew it for me.”

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2019, text copyright Jodi McKay, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Jodi McKay so sweetly taps into the desire of little ones to show their parents, grandparents, or other caregivers how much they love them while including that lump-in-the-throat moment adults experience when it happens. Through Pencil’s unwavering determination to find the answer, kids are introduced to all their favorite drawing tools and lots of ways to look at art or any pursuit. Pencil’s enthusiasm is infectious and charming, and readers will be happy to take the journey with him. When Pencil puts his own spin on what he’s learned and creates the drawing for his dad, little ones will see that they too have great creative ideas. The reaction of Pencil’s dad is reassuring and teaches an important lesson about anything children pursue—that “perfection” is personal and in the eye of the beholder.

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Opening the cover of Pencil’s Perfect Picture is like stepping into a classroom full of color and joyful kids eager for fun. Juliana Motzko’s adorable Pencil with his stick arms and legs and expressive smile and eyebrows is just the kind of friend readers would love to spend time with. Cleverly, Motzko depicts the other drawing tools as other influences that children meet along their way in life—teachers, coaches, and classmates. Readers will love seeing all of the drawings these artists create and may even want to try drawing some of them themselves (in their own style, of course!). Every page will make kids and adults smile, and the final spreads in which Pencil and his dad stand with their arms around in real life and in the portrait make for the perfect ending.

Sprinkled with humor, Pencil’s Perfect Picture is an adorable and endearing read that would quickly become a favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807564769

Discover more about Jodi McKay and her books on her website.

To learn more about Juliana Motzko, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Jodi McKay

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Jodi McKay lives in Michigan with her husband, son, and two furry friends. She is the PAL coordinator for SCBWI-MI, and is active in several online writing groups. She has two books published by Albert Whitman & Co., WHERE ARE THE WORDS? (2016) and PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE (May, 2019). Jodi is represented by Linda Epstein of Emerald City Literary Agency.

Today, I’m excited to chat with Jodi McKay about Pencil’s origin, how adults can help kids develop and keep their own style, and some of the best parts of book events.

What inspired you to write Pencil’s Perfect Picture?

I actually wrote Pencil’s Perfect Picture thinking that it would be a companion book to my first book, Where Are The Words? That story ends with the characters asking Pencil to draw them pictures for the story they just wrote. I figured book number two would show Pencil trying to draw pictures for them, but not just any pictures, they had to be perfect. That idea came from watching my son struggle with drawing something “just right.” He had developed a sense of perfection when it came to his art and that broke my heart a little. I realize that kids start to compare themselves to their peers or others as they grow up, but I didn’t want that to affect how he approached his creativity. I had to make sure the story addressed that idea of perfection especially when it comes to art. My editor suggested that I change who Pencil draws his picture for to include more of a family theme which I loved. It adds a layer of heart that is relatable to kids as they often draw pictures for their parents or loved ones.

I love the message of Pencil’s Perfect Picture. As you say, children seem to learn so quickly to compare their work and themselves to others. What are a couple of ways that adults can help them appreciate and embrace their unique view of the world.

Yes, agreed! I know it has to do with some developmental stage where the self becomes less important and peer opinions more important, but it’s imperative not to lose that sense of self. We have to celebrate our individuality, explore what makes us unique, and find ways to express ourselves with our imaginations. Parents have a special job when it comes to fostering all of that, and for me it really comes down to creating a judgement-free zone not just with art, but with all aspects of life. For the sake of time let’s stick with art here.

  • Provide your child with different types of art supplies: markers, crayons, paint, fabrics, clay, etc. Let them pick what they want to use and how they want to use it (watch where those small pieces go!).
  • When your child is finished, talk to him or her about what they made, how it made them feel, what is their favorite part about their art project. Keep it positive.
  • Remember, art is never wrong. Emphasize that to your child. It is awesome because they imagined it and brought it to life. No one else can make that same picture.
  • Consider creating with your child. I think kids love to see their parents use their imaginations so grab a marker or a crayon and draw together! Need a fun idea? Try to draw a perfect picture together.

Here’s what you will need:

  • Paper
  • Pencil, crayon, marker, whatever is fun to draw with

Instructions:

One person starts by drawing something simple, a shape, a line, etc. Take turns adding elements to the picture until you both decide it’s perfect. Enjoy your masterpiece!

Another wonderful aspect of your book is that you include so many different personalities in Brush, Marker, Pastel, and the Crayons. Which do you identify with most and why?

I really like this question! It’s taken me a minute to think about it and the one I have chosen is not an obvious answer if you know me. I think I’m most like Marker. I’m not particularly sporty or a fan of sweat bands, but I am organized like him. He’s a “First, Next, Last” kind of guy which is how I can be when it comes to tackling a project. Also, his motto, “Do your best” resonates with me.

When my son was young, he and his friends took to sharpening old pencils down to the eraser to see how small they could get them. We loved those cute nubbins! Your first book, the very clever Where Are the Words? also has a pencil character. Do you have a special place in your heart for pencils, a favorite pencil or a special memory involving pencils or writing instruments?

I know, it must seem like I have a thing for pencils, but I’m sorry to say that I don’t. I used to draw a ton with pencils, color and plain. Lots of doodles in the margins of notebooks, drawing pads full of patterns, cartoons, likenesses. I never write with pencils though, I use pens for the most part which makes one wonder why I didn’t include a pen in the story, right? I do have a favorite pen—it has a sloth on it, which makes me very happy.

On your website you mention that The Story of Ferdinand was your favorite book as a child. Me too! In fact, I just found a boxed edition for $3.00 at my wonderful local used book store and snapped it up. I really identified with Ferdinand, but there’s also so much sage advice in that book. What is about that book that made it a favorite for you?

There is so much to love about that book—the sense of calm I feel when I read it, the way pacing is used to create both tension and ease, the words Leaf chose that paint beautiful pictures (smelling flowers under a cork tree), and how Ferdinand stayed true to himself. LOVE it!

One fun part of being a children’s author must be visiting schools and holding other events. What do you like best about meeting your readers? Do you have any anecdote you’d like to share?

Yes! I love meeting readers and chatting with them about books—what they like, what they don’t like, and listening to their story ideas. It’s such a great feeling to see kids get excited about writing and reading, it makes me think that I’ve done my job as an author.

Some of my favorite moments happen when I see a young reader connect with the humor in my books. I love the laughs and the, “aha!” moment of understanding the joke. Some of my funnier experiences have happened during school visits. There’s always the question, “How old are you?” and the follow up comment, “My mom is that old!” or the looks I receive when the kids walk into the room and say, “That’s her!” and “She’s the author!” I’ve never seen myself as that person and hearing their whispers is funny to me. Of course, there are also sweet moments filled with hugs and thank you’s from the students.

What’s up next for you?

At the moment I am busy preparing for upcoming book-signing events as well as a few future events for the Michigan SCBWI members. Otherwise, I am still writing, writing, and writing some more. I have a couple of stories ready to send to my agent, one ready for submission to editors (fingers crossed!), and a bunch waiting for revisions or reworking.

What’s your favorite holiday?

Christmas all the way. I love the joy of the holiday, the shared excitement, the smells and sounds, and the colorful, glittery décor. It’s all about family, love, and giving. There’s not much better than that!

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Christmas definitely has inspired some stories (surprise!), however I was informed that holiday, Christmas specifically, stories are really hard to sell. I’m not giving up hope though, I will just need to find the right spin on a holiday theme and maybe it will become one of those few that are chosen.

Thanks so much Jodi! This was fun! I wish you all the best with Pencil’s Perfect Picture, Where Are the Words, and all of your future projects!

You can connect with Jodi on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter | You can email her at Jodi@JodiMcKayBooks.com

Pencil’s Perfect Picture Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Jodi McKay in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) signed copy of Pencil’s Perfect Picture, written by Jodi McKay | illustrated by Juliana Motzko

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from May 1 through May 7 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 8.

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

Children’s Book Week Activities

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Pencil’s Draw Your Own Picture Page

 

Are you eager artist? Then Jodi McKay and Pencil have a treat for you—a page where you can create their own “perfect picture!” Download it here and get drawing!

Draw Your Own Picture Page

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Surprise Ferocious Beings Paper Project

 

Today, Jodi’s also sharing one of her favorite craft ideas courtesy of Janette Nyberg’s Craft Whack website. If you love to draw—and add an element of surprise to your work—you’ll love this clever idea! After your kids do this one, they’ll want to take a look at all of the fun ideas on this fantastic site!

Surprise Ferocious Beings Paper Project

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You can find Pencil’s Perfect Picture at these booksellers

Albert Whitman & Co. | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 18 – National No Beard Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re a fan of the bearded look – whether full or scruffy – today is a day to rethink your style and perhaps have a shave. If you’ve worn a beard for some time, do you remember what you looked like before your grew it? Does your family? Maybe you have kids who have never seen you without a beard! You may find you like a clean-shaven appearance, just like the dad in this story. If not, of course, you can always regrow your beard – maybe your kids can help you pick out a style. There are many to choose from in this book!

Beard in a Box

By Bill Cotter

 

A little boy is so proud of his dad. He thinks his dad is “the coolest…the tallest, the fastest, the strongest. The awesomest!” The boy has done a little research and can boil all this greatness down into one quality: his dad’s beard. In fact, he’s found that the length of a beard has a direct connection to the awesomeness factor. Knowing this, the little boy wants to grow a beard of his own.

He tries everything. He scribbles one on with markers, attaches hairy patches from his pet cat to his cheeks with glue, and smudges on chocolate syrup (but that disappears with a few licks by the cat). Then he hears “an amazing offer” on TV. “SCAM-O! Makers of the Talking Toupee and the Baby Barber Kit” have created “Beard in a Box.”

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Copyright Bill Cotter, 2016, courtesy of cotterillustration.squarespace.com.

This great kit promises that in just 5 easy steps anyone can “grow a beard (almost) instantly.” With such a fabulous face of hair, in no time the wearer will have the life of a lumberjack, a pirate, or a rock star. What’s in the box? The boy discovers that each kit comes complete with “beard seeds, mirror, step-by-step instruction manual, style guide, comb, trimming scissors, and  mustache mousse.”

The boy rushes to the phone and orders one. Every day he sits by the mailbox waiting for his kit to come in. Finally, “6 – 8 weeks later” it arrives. The boy opens the package and starts his treatment. First up, is choosing a style. There are so many to pick from! Does he want the hippie look? The wizard? Maybe, the hipster, the tycoon, or the beatnik. The Octopus may be a little too tentacle, the King Tut a little too ancient, and the Double-Beard a little too…two.

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Copyright Bill Cotter, 2016, courtesy of cotterillustration.squarespace.com.

But that can all be decided later. The boy slathers on the seeds, waters them, does the prescribed facial exercises, and repeats “steps 1 – 4 for 10 – 15 years.” Wait? What?! The boy is incensed. “AHHHHHH!!! Stupid Beard in a Box!…Who would have thought SCAM-O would be a dishonest company?” Dad comes on the scene just then and wonders what all the fuss is about.

His son begins to tell him, but…wait a second…something’s different. What is it? His dad has shaved his beard! Well, this is the last straw! How will the boy be awesome like his dad now? But Dad puts his arm around his son and tells him, “Awesomeness doesn’t have anything to do with beards. It’s about the kind of person you are.” And then he shows his boy what he means. They play basketball together, ride bikes together, and jam together. And as they head out to the fishing hole, what’s the cat up to? “Beep, boop, beep.” He’s ordering “SCAM-O’s new Fur-Ever Spray-On Fur.”

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Copyright Bill Cotter, 2016, courtesy of cotterillustration.squarespace.com.

Bill Cotter’s unique, multi-level story revels in visual humor that will get kids laughing and thinking about issues of growing up. Through SCAM-O’s Beard-in-a-Box come-on, Cotter addresses the consumerism that tells kids and adults that outer appearances are more important than what’s inside. With gentle understanding and active participation, the boy’s father demonstrates the kinds of qualities that make a thoughtful and caring person. Cotter knows how much children look to their parents and other adults in developing their own personalities and behavior. By juxtaposing the two influences in the boy’s life, Cotter nudges young readers to recognize and reject the artificial.

Cotter’s little boy, enthusiastic to be like his awesome dad, will charm children. Young readers will also have fun choosing their favorites from among the suggested beards in SCAM-O’s kit. The boy’s pet cat makes a funny sidekick, and the final scene of the loving dad and son heading out on another adventure is heartwarming.

Ages 4 – 8

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553508352

To discover more about Bill Cotter, his picture books, chapter books, and art, visit his website!

National Men’s Grooming Day Activity

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Marvelous Moustaches

 

A Moustache can look distinguished or madcap! Here are some printable Marvelous Moustaches that you can use to make yourself look whacky, wild, and wonderful! Just color them, glue or tape each to a thin wooden craft stick or chop stick and hold them to your face for fun!

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You can find Beard in a Box at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review

October 4 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

For readers every month is Book Month, but October is especially set aside to highlight books and the love of reading. Fall is a book bonanza as publishers release new books in all categories and the holiday gift-giving season beckons. Books, of course, make superb gifts for all ages! So whether you’re looking for a new or new-to-you book to read right now, or new titles to give to all the family and friends who will be on your list, this month is a perfect time to check out your local bookstore to see what wonderful books are on the shelves!

Shark Dog and the School Trip Rescue!

By Ged Adamson

 

When your dad’s an adventurer and you get to travel with him, your life is pretty exciting. In fact, you can discover lots of unique places, people, objects, and animals. And sometimes they even follow you home. Well, at least one did—Shark Dog, the most perfect pet imaginable! “He’s sort of a dog, but he’s also kind of a shark. Life with him is a great big adventure.”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Today is the class field trip, and since Dad is an explorer, Ms. Ablett invited him—and Shark Dog—along. Out in the woods, the class saw insects and frogs and toads enjoying a leisurely day basking on their lily pads—that is until Shark Dog wanted to join the fun and with a splash the frogs ended up on Ms. Ablett’s head. Deeper in the forest, we saw deer, a fox, a snake, rabbits, and so much more. During lunch it started to rain, but the class was nice and dry in a cave until…well, let’s just say ”Shark Dog loves mud!”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

After the rain, we paired up to go exploring. We all had cool experiences, “but there was one discovery that got everyone’s attention. Footprints. BIG footprints!” Shark Dog did what he does best and began sniffing. We all followed him until he found a bear cub in trouble. Her foot was caught under a fallen tree. Shark Dog “grabbed the tree trunk” in his sharp teeth, and “we all joined in.”

When the bear cub was happily on her way back home, we realized that now we were lost. But Shark Dog wasn’t! He knew just how to lead us back to the bus. The whole class agreed that with Shark Dog along, this was the best school trip ever!

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Ged Adamson’s sweet-natured shark-pup mix—first introduced in Shark Dog!—is as endearing as ever as he romps about during a school field trip showing more of his puppy side than his shark side. When his sharp teeth and super strength are needed, though, this lovable mutt is ready to perform a swimmingly successful rescue. Shark Dog’s enthusiasm is infectious and will have readers giggling at his unintended mishaps. The discovery of unusual footprints and the ensuing chase provides humor and gentle suspense, and the effort to free the baby bear is a sweet show of teamwork.

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Adamson’s bright, fresh artwork brings a smile as the diverse group of children show happy excitement while discovering creatures in the woods and working in pairs to find something of interest to share. The children’s expressions of concern and quick willingness to help the trapped bear will resonate with today’s philanthropic kids. Any child would love to go on a field trip like this one!

Shark Dog and the School Trip Rescue! is an adorable addition to story times at home and in the classroom – especially as a fun lead in to a school field trip.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062457189

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

National Book Month Activity

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Book-Loving Shark Maze

 

This shark loves to read! In fact, she wants to devour that whole stack of books. Can you help her cross the sea to get them in this printable puzzle?

Book-Loving Shark Maze | Book-Loving Shark Maze Solution

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You can find Shark Dog and the School Trip Rescue at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 1 – It’s National Fishing Month

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About the Holiday

Is fishing your thing? Do you like nothing better than heading down to the lake or stream and spending a relaxing day with a fishing pole, some bait, and the possibility of reeling in a “big one?” Perhaps you like fly fishing better, challenging yourself to flick that hook in just the right place. Then again, maybe taking a boat out to deep water and pitting yourself against the truly big fish is more your style. However you like to fish, make some time to enjoy your hobby this month!

Hooked

Written by Tommy Greenwald | Illustrated by David McPhail

 

Joe is a little boy who loved to fish. He didn’t mind that “nothing much happened” while he waited for the fish to bite. “Joe’s dad thought fishing was boring. ‘I like more action,’ he said. ‘And I don’t like worms.’” Joe always wished his dad would change his mind. Joe decided to join the town’s fishing club. He and the other kids “fished in streams, ponds, rivers, and brooks.”

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Image copyright David McPhail, 2018, text copyright Tommy Greenwald, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

All this fun made Joe love fishing even more. He tried to get his dad to try it, but he always said, “‘No, thank you.’” One winter day, the fishing club planned to go ice fishing. Each child needed to be accompanied by an adult. When Joe asked his dad if he would go, he agreed—as long as he never had to go fishing again. On Saturday, Joe and his dad headed out in the twelve-degree weather to meet the other kids at the lake.

After Joe’s dad made a hole in the ice, they put in their lines. They waited and looked around and waited some more. “Then Joe and his dad started to talk. They talked about everything: baseball, movies, music, food, school, animals, and a bunch of other stuff.” By the end of the day, they still hadn’t caught anything, and Joe’s dad was freezing. Joe worried that his dad would never like fishing after today.

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Image copyright David McPhail, 2018, text copyright Tommy Greenwald, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Just as they were about to leave, though, Joe got a bite on his line. He and his dad both jumped up, but Joe’s dad slipped on the ice and fell. With one huge pull, Joe reeled in his catch. At first, Joe didn’t know what kind of fish he’d caught, but then he realized it wasn’t a fish but a soggy, stuffed, pink elephant. Everyone laughed, and Joe was embarrassed. He wanted to throw the elephant back in, but his dad stopped him.

In the car, Joe and his dad talked about all the things that had happened that day, laughing the whole way home. At home, Joe’s dad washed and dried the elephant. “It came out warm and fluffy,” and Joe’s dad suggested they name it Ella. When spring rolled around and Joe was planning his first fishing trip, his dad asked if he could go too.

They sat under a tree and “talked and laughed and had a great time.” It didn’t matter that they only caught one little fish. After that, Joe’s dad loved going along on every fishing trip. “You could say he was hooked.”

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Image copyright David McPhail, 2018, text copyright Tommy Greenwald, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A heartening and tender story for children to share with their dads, Tommy Greenwald’s Hooked is also a gentle reminder that there’s much more to sharing an activity with kids than the activity itself. Parents wanting to share their own hobbies and knowledge with their children will also find a whole world of new experiences open up if they sometimes follow their child’s lead. Greenwald’s straightforward storytelling honestly portrays the relationship between Joe and his dad through realistic dialogue and clearly exhibited thoughts and feelings. The growth and strengthening of the pair’s relationship is uplifting and moving.

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David McPhail lends his well-known talent for portraying children to Greenwald’s poignant family story. His line drawings, softly washed in watercolor and pastel, wistfully depict Joe’s hope that his father will join him in fishing and his disappointment when he refuses. As Joe’s dad warms to spending the day ice fishing and later accompanies Joe on future trips, children will be cheered to see Joe and his dad smiling and laughing together. Young readers will love the detailed images of Joe’s home life and fishing trips.

A book to spur discussions and bonding between fathers and sons or daughters, Hooked would make a meaningful addition to home bookshelves and is a must for school and children’s libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1596439962

To learn more about David McPhail, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Fishing Month Activity

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Go Fishing Game

 

Kids can go fishing right at home with this easy-to-make game! With a paper plate pond, a few printable fish, and a few other supplies, kids will be catching a whole lot of fun!

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Color the paper plate blue
  2. Print the Go Fishing! Game Playing Die (optional)

To Make the Fish

  1. Print the fish templates, color fish, and cut out
  2. Tape a paper clip to the back of the fish or slip a paperclip on the nose of the fish
  3. If using back-to-back templates, cut fish out, put a paper clip between the sides and glue or tape the two sides together

To Make the Fishing Pole

  1. Tie a length of string to the straw, pencil, or dowel
  2. Sandwich the other end of the string between the two circular magnets
  3. Lay the fish on the plate
  4. Go fishing!

Optional Game: Kids can roll the die to determine which fish to catch

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You can find Hooked at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review