January 10 – Houseplant Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

Missing the green leaves and colorful flowers of spring and summer? Maybe it’s time to recreate the sights of warmer days inside with houseplants! Placed in a sunny window, some plants will continue blooming all winter long, making you feel happier. Houseplants also provide health benefits as they produce oxygen, release moisture into that dry winter air, and improve air quality. Add a few herb plants and even cooking will take on new life. Whether you add just one plant or create an indoor garden, today’s the perfect day to get started.

Nobody Hugs a Cactus

By Carter Goodrich

 

Hank, a little cactus, sat in his window and looked out with pleasure on the “empty…hot, dry, peaceful, and quiet” desert. Sometimes, though, visitors came by—like Rosie the Tumbleweed, who cheerfully greeted Hank and commented on the beautiful day. “Hank ignored her. He just wanted to be left alone.” Hank was happy when Rosie passed by without stopping.

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Copyright Carter Goodrich, 2019, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

But then a tortoise ambled by to say hello. Hank shouted for him to get off his property. As he was yelling a jackrabbit bounded by. “‘Hiya, Prickles,’ she shouted,” and Hank turned his fury on her. It wasn’t long before a coyote appeared. Hank shooed him away, but not before the coyote commented, “‘You are as prickly on the inside as you are on the outside.’”

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Copyright Carter Goodrich, 2019, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

When a passing cowboy was told to get off the grass, he countered that there was no grass and added that it seemed “‘somebody needed a hug. Too bad nobody hugs a cactus,’” he added. A lizard on the wall was quickly dispatched with a warning that Hank did not want a hug. That was just fine with the lizard, who didn’t want to give him one anyway.

By now, nighttime had fallen, and an owl landed on the roof of Hank’s house. Hank gazed at the owl, and the owl gazed back. Begrudgingly, Hank offered to give the owl a hug. But the owl flew off, and “for the first time, Hank began feeling a little lonely.” The next morning, Hank felt a little sad and had begun reconsidering that hug.

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Copyright Carter Goodrich, 2019, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Just then the wind picked up, and a Styrofoam cup flying by stuck to Hank’s face. Rosie tumbled by and knocked it off before rolling on. Hank thought about Rosie’s kindness and felt bad about all the times he’d been mean to her. He decided he wanted to make amends. Over several days he grew a beautiful flower, and when Rosie passed by again, he called out and offered it to her with a big smile. “Rosie was so surprised, she jumped up and gave Hank a big hug. It felt so nice Hank didn’t want to let go.” Which was a good thing, because they were stuck together. But they don’t mind; they like being stuck together better than being alone.

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Copyright Carter Goodrich, 2019, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Well-known for his talent for creating charming characters who steal your heart, Carter Goodrich takes on the cantankerous among us—or those cranky days—and shows that kindness does soften even the prickliest of shields. Carter’s diminutive grouch may be discourteous but he’s also adorable, hinting at the softie that lies below the prickles and turning those dissuasive phrases hurled at his neighbors into lines that will elicit giggles from kids and adults. Carter’s thin-limbed and elongated jackrabbit and cowboy are also stylishly humorous. The tortoise that sits in front of Hank’s house hiding in his shell throughout the story serves dual purposes, showing how rejection makes others feel while also demonstrating what it looks like to be truly isolated and alone. Hank’s slow change of heart rings true and the act of selflessness that brings him and Rosie together makes for another funny scene and a satisfying ending.

A story that is sure to be embraced for crabby days and cheerful days, Nobody Hugs a Cactus would be a favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | ISBN 978-1534400900

To learn more about Carter Goodrich and his books, film work, and art, visit his website.

Houseplant Appreciation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flip-flop-craft

Flip-Flop Plant Holder

 

Flip-flops aren’t only for your feet—or for summer! With this easy craft you can make a whimsical way to hang succulents and other light plants on walls or even windows!

Supplies

  • Child’s flip-flops with elastic heel straps
  • Buttons or charms
  • Small plastic solid-bottom pot
  • Small plant
  • Dirt
  • Hot glue gun
  • Heavy duty mounting strips
  • Small shovel or spoon

Directions

  1. Place the flip-flop toe down on your work surface. With the hot glue gun, attach the buttons to the plastic toe straps of the flip-flops.
  2. Add dirt to the pot
  3. Add plant to the pot
  4. Slip the pot into the elastic strap and gently push down so it is also supported by the plastic toe straps
  5. To hang, use appropriate-weight mountable strips.
  6. To make an interesting and attractive arrangement, use various sizes of flip-flops

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

Picture Book Review

December 21 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing better than spending the chilly days of winter snuggled up with a new or favorite book. If you’re still looking for gifts to give, it’s not too late to head to your local bookstore to find stories that will make kids (and adults) eyes light up. And if you’re a post-holiday shopper (and who isn’t?), make sure to check out those bookstores again. After all, it’s a loooong winter!

Odd Dog Out

By Rob Biddulph

 

Busy dogs all dressed in black and white make their way to work while dogs at play in identical stripes take to the soccer field. At the pool, swimmer dogs don yellow caps and yellow tubes while sailor dogs in their uniform uniforms pilot their yellow boats. In fact, “soldier…scout…. They all blend in. / No dog stands out. / But wait.” On a certain street, you’ll see “someone…is dancing to a different beat.”

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Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Wrapped in a rainbow-colored scarf, “this dog flies low” when others fly high, and “when they say ‘Kick!’…this dog ways ‘Throw!’” It’s plain to see that this dog just “does not fit in.” Having tried her best to be like the others, this unique pup packs her bag and leaves town. As she walks, the seasons change from winter to spring to summer to fall. She traverses the sea and climbs mountains until she comes to Doggywood and wonders if this is the place for her.

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Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

She takes a look and her eyes light up. “‘Well, bless my bow-wow, can it be? / A hundred others just like me!’” There are dogs playing guitar and riding bikes, gliding on the wind, and playing basketball. And coming and going on the street, dogs in rainbow-colored scarves stream by. “But wait.” Are they really all alike? Do you see? “Somebody this afternoon / is whistling a different tune.”

The newcomer thinks that she can help. She approaches this dog with his black cap and sweater to commiserate and tell him she knows how he feels being the “‘Odd Dog Out.’” But it turns out that this dog is proud of being unique and standing out. And he tells her that she should feel that way too. After a bit of thought, she has to agree “‘…there’s nothing wrong with being me.’”

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Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Then she knows just what to do. She grabs her bag and takes a flight. And when she lands in her old hometown, all those busy dogs and playing dogs turn to look. “‘They cheer! They clap! They whoop! They shout! / ‘We’ve really missed our Odd Dog Out!’” It seems that while she was away, some of these “identical” dogs did some thinking. Now what do you see? “Each one a doggy superstar… So blaze a trail. / Be who you are.”

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Copyright Rob Biddulph, 2016, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Through his charming rhymes and bouncy rhythm, Rob Biddulph creates a surprising tale that highlights that well-known advice: “bloom where you are planted.” When a dog who does her own thing amidst a sea of uniformity leaves home and finds a place where she fits in, readers will notice that she just replaces one homogenous place for another. The dog may feel more “at home” surrounded by other dogs who wear colorful scarves, soar on wind gliders, play guitar, and ride bikes, but is she really stretching herself and building her self-esteem? It can be difficult for kids (and people of all ages) to display their full personality, but when that happens they can’t display their full potential either. Biddulph encourages kids to be proud to let their uniqueness show while demonstrating that differences are recognized and appreciated more than they might think.

Kids will love Biddulph’s enchanting dachshunds and especially the sweet “Odd Dog Out.” His vibrant digital illustrations are superb at showing the cookie-cutter sameness of all the other dogs in humorous two-page spreads and smaller snapshots that remind one of the patterns of wrapping paper. When our colorful heroine appears among a cadre of black-suited business dogs, her satisfied smile and dancing feet stand in stark contrast to the other, serious dogs that have their feet firmly planted on the ground. Many clever spreads that readers will want to linger over bring them to the final pages where they’ll have fun pointing out and talking about the dogs who have decided to embrace their true natures.

Under the book jacket, a delightful cityscape and a “Where’s Waldo?” type of challenge awaits.

A terrific book offering lots of opportunities to talk about self-acceptance, accepting others, and the value of being different (and showing it), Odd Dog Out is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.         

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062367266

To learn more about Rob Biddulph, his books, and his art, visit his website.

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You can find Odd Dog Out at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 22 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

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

The Scarecrow

Written by Beth Ferry | Illustrated by The Fan Brothers

 

Golden autumn has quieted the fields. The hay is rolled and the scarecrow waits for spring. The animals and the crows stand at a distance, afraid of this figure that does his job so well. “He never rests. / He never bends. / He’s never had a single friend, / for all the woodland creatures know / not to mess with old Scarecrow.”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Winter comes with gentle snow, and Scarecrow dreams of “spring…of buds and blooms and things that sing.” When spring dawns with warm sun and green grass, a tiny crow—with a “broken wing?”—“drops from midair” and attracts Scarecrow’s attention. Then Scarecrow does a most surprising thing: “He snaps his pole, / bends down low, / saves the tiny baby crow.” He tucks the baby in the straw near his heart, and as he sleeps and settles in, Scarecrow “sings the sweetest lullaby.”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The baby heals and the two become the best of friends. As the little crow grows, he and Scarecrow “will laugh and wish on stars, forgetting who they really are…” Spring turns to summer, and Scarecrow proudly watches as Crow learns to fly, but with the return of autumn, he knows that Crow must leave. Through late autumn and the frigid winter, Scarecrow slumps on his pole, alone—“Broken heart. Broken pole. Nothing fills the empty hole.” Then with the spring rains, the crow returns with wings wide open and Scarecrow welcomes him with a hug. The crow mends Scarecrow’s broken pole and refreshes his hay and then he says, “‘I’m here to say.’”

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Crow and his mate build a nest in the spot where he grew up. Soon, “five small eggs are tucked unseen,” and Scarecrow watches over them for he knows that soon they will hatch baby crows. “And they will love him from the start, and they will grow up in his heart.” Throughout the year, these friends and more keep Scarecrow company and love him so.

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2019, text copyright Beth Ferry, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

In her story of a scarecrow and a baby crow who form a family, Beth Ferry’s gorgeous, lyrical language sweeps readers into Scarecrow’s world and lets them stand with him through the changing seasons and the progression of his transformation from a lonely existence as bleak as winter to a life as bountiful as summer. Ferry’s alternating short, staccato lines and longer, flowing rhythms create an emotional bond between the reader and Scarecrow. With a single sentence, in which Scarecrow and Crow forget “who they really are,” and through her periodic use of future tense, Ferry sparks hope and welcome reassurance for the future—not only for these two characters, but for us all. Crow’s return to raise his own family where he learned love and security and to help the aging Scarecrow is a moving portrayal of home, and the reciprocal devotion between Scarecrow and the crows will bring a tear to readers’ eyes.

Through their softly hued and textured mixed-media illustrations, The Fan Brothers create a tapestry of rural life, with its sometimes generous, sometimes harsh conditions.  As autumn turns to winter, Scarecrow is seen from a distance as animals look on, showing the divide in this natural landscape and the fear that rules it. But when a baby crow drops into the scarecrow’s life, he changes the dynamic, as children often do. With this life-changing event, The Fan Brother’s images become brighter, and the gauziness of the first spreads—so effective in depicting the barrier between Scarecrow and the rest of the world—clears. In turns Scarecrow is tender and proud, wistful and overjoyed—images that will tug at adults’ hearts. As Scarecrow once again stands tall and is surrounded by his crow family and the other animals on a sunny fall day, The Fan Brothers bring readers full circle in this story where the seasons of bounty and hardship mirror so well the cycles of life.

A thoughtful and beautifully conceived masterpiece, The Scarecrow is a must for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062475763

Discover more about Beth Ferry and her books on her website.

To learn more about The Fan Brothers, their books, and their art, visit their website.

Picture Book Month Activity

CPB - Bookmobile

Books on the Move!

 

Bookmobiles deliver books to people who are homebound or don’t live near a library. This month you can celebrate these little libraries on wheels by making this bookmobile from a recycled box. Make it with the open top up, and you can even use it as a desk organizer!

Supplies

  • Printable Book Shelves and Sign Template
  • Cardboard box, 16-oz pasta or other recyclable boxes work well (I used a 5” x 7 ¼ -inch pasta box)
  • Small wooden spools or wheels
  • Paint
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife (optional)
  • Strong glue
  • Paint brush

Directions

1.Gently pull the box apart at the seam and lie flat with the unprinted side facing up

2. To Make the Awning:

  • On one of the wide sides of the box, measure a rectangle 1 inch from the top of the box, leaving at least 1 ¼ inches at the bottom of the box and 1 ¼ inches on both sides
  • With the x-acto knife or scissors cut the sides and bottom of the rectangle, leaving the top uncut
  • Paint the top and underside of the awning (if you want to make stripes on the awning lay strips of tape side by side across the awning. Remove every other strip of tape. Paint the open stripes one color of paint. When the paint dries replace the tape over the paint and remove the tape from the unpainted stripes. Paint those stripes a different color.)

3. Paint the rest of the box on the unprinted side any way you like, let dry

4. Cut the Printable Book Shelf template to fit the size of your window opening, leaving at least a ½ inch margin all around

5. Tape the book shelf to the inside of the window

6. Reconstruct the box, making the original seam an inside flap

7. Glue the flap and sides together

8. If using small spools for wheels, paint them black. Let dry

9. Glue the wheels to the bottom of the box

10, Attach the Bookmobile sign, found on the printable template, above the awning

** To Make a Desk Organizer from the Bookmobile

  • Cut an opening in the top of the bookmobile with the x-acto knife or a scissor

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You can find The Scarecrow at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

November 19 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

Familiar stories are part of the glue that keep families together. This month, when homes can be full of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for the Thanksgiving holiday, is a perfect time to share those stories once again with the youngest members in mind. Whether the events and anecdotes happened last week or long ago, each story brings family members closer and provides a bridge from generation to generation. 

One More Hug

Written by Megan Alexander | Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

 

As the story opens, a mom looks back at a special night when while tucking her little one into bed he was frightened by a tree at the window and asked for “‘One more hug, Mama.’” One day, a broken toy brought tears and a request: “‘one more kiss, Mama.’” Mama remembers the first day of school and standing at the bus stop. She squeezed her little boy tight as the bus approached. When the bus stopped and the “doors opened with a loud SCREEEECH,” the boy “whispered, ‘One more squeeze, Mama.’”

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

As her boy grew older, the tree that had once frightened him became a favorite to climb, the toys were replaced with a bicycle, and any reservations about the bus were long gone. But now there were new experiences, and her son asked for one more hug before going out on stage, “one more kiss after [he] slipped on the ice. One more song before bedtime.”

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Years went by and climbing the backyard tree led to climbing a rock wall. The boy taught his little brother how to ride his bike while he “joined the track team, and ran all the way to school.” At last came the day when the boy was all grown up and drove away with a backward glance and a wave goodbye. Then his mother wondered if her son knew how proud she was of him and how much she loved him. She hoped he knew that he would always be her boy and that she “would always be there for [him].” And then came the day when her son surprised his mama with a visit, and they both got “one more hug.”

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

In her heart-swelling story, Megan Alexander, a national correspondent for Inside Edition, has written a love letter to children that perfectly expresses the emotions parents feel for their children as they grow from babyhood to adulthood. Based on her own experiences with her two young sons, Alexander’s story is a warm embrace of reassurance that lets little ones and those beginning to chart their own course know that parental love and support is always with them. Her focus is particularly on raising sons who understand that it’s okay to have fears and share their feelings with those they love.

Alexander’s lyrical storytelling with repeated phrasing builds a bridge between ages as the boy grows up while also cementing the bond between mother and son. As much as this story is for children, adults will feel a lump in their throat as the boy moves away and his mother wonders if he knows how much she loves him. Alexander’s honest depiction of that universal hope gives the story a multilayered depth that gives children insight into their parents’ feelings—another kind of bond that will resonate with repeated readings as the child grows older.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Hiroe Nakata’s lovely watercolor and ink illustrations shimmer with the rapport between mother and son. Nakata uses alternating wide-angle images and close-up views to emphasize the tender moments that “one more” hug or kiss provide. Snapshots of familiar, yet fresh-feeling activities undertaken during different seasons show the boy growing and becoming stronger and wiser at pivotal stages of his life. The mother expresses joy, sympathy, understanding, and always an abiding love. The final spreads where the now-adult son comes home with arms open for his mama, shows clearly that he, indeed, knows how much she loves him.

The family theme is carried out in animal pairs that populate Nakata’s beautiful nature settings. Among these, a snail and her baby crawl near the boy’s newspaper hat, a mother and baby squirrel scamper up the tree next to the bus stop, and ants parade into their hole carrying food for the nest. Children will enjoy finding these animals on nearly every page, and they will fall in love with the family’s adorable dog, who also grows up throughout the story.

A story parents or caregivers and their children will love to snuggle up with, One More Hug makes a wonderful gift and addition to home, school, and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534429710

Discover more about Megan Alexander, her work, and a song she wrote that was inspired by the story, von her website.

Family Stories Month Activity

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Free Hug Coupons

 

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

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You can find One More Hug at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

October 15 – 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!

I received a copy of Good Night, Little Blue Truck for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with HMH Books for Young Readers in an amazing book and toy prize pack. See details below.

Good Night, Little Blue Truck

Written by Alice Schertle | Illustrated in the style of Jill McElmurry by John Joseph

 

Toad, driving Little Blue Truck, bumpity-bumped down the road. “Thunder crashing! / Lightening flashing! / Two good friends / were homeward dashing.” They drove into their warm garage and closed the door. Soon, Goat and Hen came knocking, wanting a dry place to hide. Then “‘Honk!’ said Goose. ‘Don’t care for lightning! / Stormy nights are a little bit frightening!’” Cow agreed and asked to come in too.

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Duck and Pig wanted in too but wondered if there was enough room for them. “‘Beep-beep-beep!’” Little Blue Truck invited them in. He said that inside they were “‘warm and dry’” while the “‘plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!’” The animals huddled on and around Blue and listened as it rained and thundered. Feeling safe and comfortable, “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’” Then Goat and Pig joined in to say that they weren’t afraid of a little thunder…well, “‘not very.’”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

When the storm had blown itself out and the moon shone in the sky, all the animals were ready to head home to get some sleep. “‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’” With Goat and Hen, Goose and Cow, and Pig and Chicken in the back and Duck on the hood, Toad drove them home. They stopped at Pig’s pen, Duck’s tranquil pond, and Hen’s cozy coop. Goat put on his pajamas in the barn, Goose took to her nest, and Cow stood under a tree in the grassy field.

Then Toad and Blue drove home again. Back in the garage, warm and snug, “Toad lay down on his own small bed. / ‘Croak! Good night, Little Blue,’ he said. / Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

A new Little Blue Truck book always gives readers and the adults who share these adventures with them a reason to cheer. With her enchanting rhymes that are a delight to read aloud, Alice Schertle once again creates a story of friendship and comfort that’s just right for bedtime. As lightning and thunder crackle in the sky, Blue and Toad make it into the warm garage just as the rain begins pelting down. The other animals aren’t so lucky and come in search of a dry place and friendship. Little Blue and Toad invite them in with reassurance that there’s room for all. As the animals bravely wait out the storm, little readers will also feel snug and part of the group. When the storm is over and Little Blue and Toad deliver Cow, Duck, Goose, Pig, Hen, and Goat to their comfy beds, kids will also feel their eyes closing as they drift off to sleep in their own cozy bed.

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Readers will love reuniting with Jill McElmurry’s familiar blue truck and his good friend Toad in this nighttime adventure. As the wind whips the trees and large raindrops and jagged lightning fill the dark sky, Little Blue’s eyes shine and his garage glows with welcome. Kids will be happy to see their favorite friends gathered together for this impromptu party. The muted colors brighten as the storm passes and a “smiling” moon lights up the starry sky once more. Readers will enjoy pointing out the family of rabbits that hop into the scene from page to page and seeing which of Little Blue’s cozy comforts Pig, Duck, and Hen take home with them.

A perfect way to snuggle into bed for fans of Little Blue and his friends as well as for those just getting to know him, Good Night, Little Blue Truck will be a beloved and often-asked-for addition to home bookshelves. The book is a must for school and public libraries to include with the rest of the series.

Ages 4 – 7 

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328852137

Visit HMHBooks.com to learn more about Good Night, Little Blue Truck.

Check out the rest of the Little Blue Truck series!

You can connect with HMH Kids on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Good Night, Little Blue Truck Giveaway

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Good-Night-Little-Blue-Truck-Toy-Chest-Prize

Pack up your toys, it’s bedtime!

 

I’m thrilled to be teaming with HMH Books for Young Readers in this fabulous giveaway prize pack!

One (1) winner receives:

  • A copy of Good Night, Little Blue Truck,
  • Plus a racing tire toy chest! (toys not included)

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

This giveaway is open from October 15 through October 21 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 22.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing and samples provided by HMH Books for Young Readers.

National Book Month Activity

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Little Blue Truck Pajama Party!

 

Whether your child invites friends or just has fun with siblings or on their own, this Little Blue Truck Pajama Party Kit has everything you need to throw a blast of a party! 

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Inside the downloadable booklet you’ll find:

  • Decorating Ideas
  • Circle Time Activity Ideas
  • Two Coloring Pages
  • A Connect-the-Dots Coloring Page
  • A Full-color Little Blue Truck Mask

You’ll find the printable booklet here: Pajama Party Event Kit

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You can find Good Night, Little Blue Truck at these booksellers

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

 

 

October 8 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

All this month people are reading and celebrating their favorite books—both old and new. It’s also a terrific time to honor independent bookstores that serve their community with carefully chosen titles for all ages of readers. Some indies focus on one genre or age of reader, offering a vast array of familiar and surprising books for customers to explore. Others are known for a particular ambience—mysterious, scholarly, fun! But all give readers a sense of community and a feeling of awe and wonder at all of the stories to discover. This month make a stop into your local bookstore a family event and pick up a new book (or several) for everyone!

King Mouse

Written by Cary Fagan | Illustrated by Dena Seiferling

 

In a wordless spread, a child with a tricycle cart full of various shaped crowns wheels through a field, spilling crowns as she goes. Later, a mouse creeps out of his hole in the ground and looks for something to nibble. He finds no food but does spy a small crown “glittering in the grass.” After inspecting it, he places the crown on his head. “It was a perfect fit.” Just then a bear walks up and asks the mouse if he is a king. The mouse replies that he is. The bear bows and cries, “‘Hail to the king!’”

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Image copyright Dena Seiferling, 2019, text copyright Cary Fagan, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Soon a crow lands on a nearby branch. The bear introduces the mouse king. When the crow learns that the mouse is hungry, the crow immediately sets to looking for food to offer him. As the bear and the crow gather food, a tortoise approaches. Thrilled to learn that they “at last” have a king, he joins in. The mouse gobbles up all the seeds the trio brought.

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Image copyright Dena Seiferling, 2019, text copyright Cary Fagan, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

After he was full, the mouse announces that he is bored. As the three are deciding what to do, a fox appears. She suggests they perform a play. The mouse is delighted with the drama. He applauds. “‘I haven’t been this amused for ages,’ he said. ‘I like being king.’” Meanwhile, a snake slithering through the woods spies another crown. She puts it on her head.

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Image copyright Dena Seiferling, 2019, text copyright Cary Fagan, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

As soon as she does the other animals hail her as their queen. Everyone, that is, except the mouse who isn’t too happy. When the animals bow to the queen, the fox, the tortoise, and the crow each find a crown just their size hiding in the grass and proclaim themselves royalty. The bear searches for a crown for himself but can’t find one. He plods away while the others dance around singing their own praises. The bear finds a tree stump and sits down, dejected about his lack of good luck.

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Image copyright Dena Seiferling, 2019, text copyright Cary Fagan, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Discovering that the bear is no longer with the group, the mouse goes in search of him. When he finds him, the mouse removes his crown and begins picking dandelions. He creates a wreath and gives it to the bear. The two sit quietly together. When the sun begins to set, the mouse hints that he might have a better vantage point “from up there.” The bear obliges and lifts the mouse to his shoulder. “‘I’m not really a king,” the bear sighs. The mouse agrees and then notes the beautiful sunset. Now it’s the bear’s turn to agree, and “they sat for a long time.” Returning through the field, the child, her tricycle cart now empty, spies a pile of five crowns discarded on an old tree stump.

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Image copyright Dena Seiferling, 2019, text copyright Cary Fagan, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Cary Fagan’s modern fable has much to say and, as the genre often affords, offers much for readers to ponder and talk about. It is a fitting time for this story that, among other themes, questions the nature of leadership. When the mouse finds the first crown, not only does he proclaim himself king but he demands food and entertainment from his sudden subjects, unconcerned with their needs. But, yet, the animals mechanically bow to him and rush to fulfill his whims. When the snake, crow, and tortoise also find crowns, they gleefully decree their own sovereignty, forgetting the bear.

The mouse, however, seems to have learned a lesson. When he finds the bear, he removes his crown and offers one of his own creation to the bear, making him the only “king” independently chosen. Wiser than the others, the bear understands that he does not rule the others, and the mouse too sees that the equality of friendship and the grandeur of nature that is beholden to no one is more majestic than any crown. The introduction of the child in the wordless spreads give kids and adults the opportunity to discuss the possibility that the main story is one of imaginative play. Fagan’s dialogue-rich storytelling spotlights themes of pride, envy, disappointment, friendship, inclusion, and modesty and makes this a perfect tale for a school class, drama troupe, or other group to act out.

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Dena Seiferling’s soft, sepia-toned illustrations give the story a magical, dream-like quality while also anchoring it in the “real world.” Small snapshots that accompany the text on the left-hand pages introduce each animal as they come on the scene while full-page images clearly show the progression of the story and the changing attitudes of the animals. Early on, the mouse is uncertain, nibbling at the unknown object he finds. But once the crown is settled on his head, it takes only three pages for him to be accepting tributes and one more to find him lounging and demanding.

Children will be enchanted by the dramatic scenes of the play the animals put on for the mouse, and the tall crown the snake wears is a cunning stroke of suspense and one-upmanship. The illustration of the bear leaving the group as the others, oblivious to his feelings, parade around provides an opportunity for adults to talk about empathy and inclusion. As the bear and the mouse watch the setting sun together, readers can imagine that a new and more thoughtful day will dawn tomorrow.

A profound and affecting book, King Mouse is a story that will move and inspire children to think about interacting with others. The book would be have multiple applications for home, classroom, and school libraries and is a must for public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Tundra Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-0735264045

Discover more about Cary Fagan and his books on her website.

To learn more about Dena Seiferling, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Book Month Activity

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Book Love! Word Search

 

There are all kinds of books for every reader. Find your favorite along with twenty favorite genres in this printable puzzle.

Book Love! Word Search Puzzle | Book Love! Word Search Solution

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You can find King Mouse at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 2 – It’s Family History Month

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About the Holiday

Family History Month has been celebrated in October since 2001. Coming before the family holidays of fall and winter, it’s a fantastic time to explore your family history. Knowing the people who you came from can be enlightening in so many ways. Not only can you find out where your ancestors came from geographically, you can learn what traits have been passed down from generation to generation—traits that have made you who are. This month take time to dig into your genealogy. Online databases and other research methods make it easier than ever to learn more about your family history!

My Name is Wakawakaloch!

Written by Chana Stiefel | Pictures by Mary Sullivan

 

Wakawakaloch had a problem. Well, it wasn’t really her problem; none of the kids at school could pronounce or even remember her name. After another day in which her name was mangled (Oog called her “‘Walawala,’” Boog shouted “‘Look out, Wammabammaslamma!’” and Goog cheered her on during Club Club with “‘Swing, Lokamokatok!’”), Wakawakaloch was as angry as an erupting volcano.

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

When her parents asked what was wrong, Wakawakaloch said she wanted to change her name to Gloop. Pa thought Gloop was a good name, but reminded his daughter that her name had been “‘in family many, many moons.’” But Wakawakaloch was inconsolable. Not only could no one say her name right, but she never found it on any T-shirts. Ma and Pa thought there was only one thing to do—take her to see Elder Mooch.

Despite his leathery skin and aroma of “rotting mammoth poop,” Elder Mooch was an insightful Neanderthal. He started off with an ill-considered joke that set Wakawakaloch reaching for tissues from the nearby dispenser rock. But she poured out her heart and the fact that she wanted an easy name, one found on T-shirts. She could just imagine all of the heroic and adventurous things she could do with a name and T-shirt like that.

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Elder Mooch looked at her and then bestowed his wisdom. He told her she was a “‘forward thinker’” but “‘must be a backward seer too.’” This bit of knowledge cost her two pigeons and left her smoldering. What did he mean by that? Later that night as she tossed and turned in bed, she caught a glimpse of the paintings on her wall. They showed her great-great-great-great-great grandmother Wakawakaloch “performing brave and heroic acts…. Little Wakawakaloch placed her hand on the ancient handprint of her mighty namesake. It was a perfect match.”

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

In the morning, Wakawakaloch was smiling. She no longer wanted to be called Gloop, and she told her parents that she was ready to help others. When the Roll-the-Boulder tournament came round, Wakawakaloch had her personalized T-shirt stand all set. Oog, Boog, and Goog thought her shirts for Chana, Sioban, Xavier, Eoghan were “‘Ooga booga’ (way cool).” Wakawakaloch had even made one for herself. Elder Mooch wanted to buy three, and when little Hoopaloopie came by, Wakawakaloch got to work on another shirt.

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Image copyright Mary Sullivan, 2019, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

For all those kids who never find their names on shirts, mugs, necklaces, keychains, or other personalized items and who frequently hear the question, “How do you pronounce that?,” Chana Stiefel’s book is for you! This fresh tale will also resonate with any child who feels different for any reason. Wakawakaloch, with her strong personality, thoughtful introspection, and creative solution, is a character that readers will love and want to emulate. Stiefel deftly navigates this sensitive landscape with a combination of honest feelings and hilarious mispronunciations, prehistorical details, and descriptions. Readers will laugh all the way through but will also be absorbing the lesson that everyone should embrace their own “mighty” personality and be celebrated and recognized for their unique qualities.

In her vibrant illustrations, Mary Sullivan creates a comically anachronistic ancient world, where safety cones made of stone mark the playground, a stone telescope is aimed out the window, mail is delivered (this part may be accurate, I’d have to check), and cupcakes are eaten with forks. Kids will want to linger over each page to point out all of the funny elements that add depth and glee to this story. Wakawakaloch shows the feelings bubbling up inside her with furrowed brows, livid gestures, and ready tears, while the other kids cluelessly continue to distort her name even after being told the right pronunciation multiple times. Wakawakaloch’s visit to Elder Mooch is a funny take on therapy sessions, but his advice leads to a welcome image of contemplation and realization that makes Wakawakaloch appreciate her family history and also want to contribute to its—and society’s—advancement. Wakawakaloch’s T-shirt booth is sure to inspire kids to make their own shirt too.

A delightfully inventive story with many applications and prompts for further discussion as well as activities celebrating individuality, My Name is Wakawakaloch! will be a much-asked-for favorite on home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328732095

Discover more about Chana Stiefel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Sullivan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Check out My Name is Wakawakaloch! “ooga booga” book trailer!

Family History Month Activity

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I Love My Family Tree! Coloring Page

 

Family trees are often filled with the names of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and where your family came from. But you can also fill the spaces with family traits that have made you who you are. Print this I Love My Family Tree! Coloring Page then write the names or draw pictures of your family members or family qualities that you admire in the hearts. Afterwards, grab your crayons, color the picture, and hang it where you can see!

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You can find My Name is Wakawakaloch! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review