September 10 – It’s Children’s Good Manners Month

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About the Holiday

As kids go back to school and will be interacting with other students, teachers, coaches, group leaders, and others, this month is dedicated to the kinds of manners that promote good relationships and cohesive gatherings. Thinking about how one’s actions will affect others is part of being a great friend, teammate, or participant in any activity. Family life with parents and siblings is also better when everyone treats each other with good manners and respect.

Sonny Says Mine!

Written by Caryl Hart | Illustrated by Zachariah OHora

 

Sonny and his friends are playing on the playground when he spies a stuffed pink bunny in the sandbox. “Ooh! SO soft. SO cute. SO cuddly. I’ll call you Bun-Bun!’ he says.” But Meemo runs up to Sonny, interested in the bunny too, but Sonny pulls Bun-Bun away with a determined, “Mine!” Sonny plays with Bun-Bun, feeding her, dancing with her, reading her a story, and finally putting her to bed under a sand blanket.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sonny-says-mine-Bun-Bun

Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But then Honey and Boo come over and Boo is crying because she’s lost her bunny doll Suki. While Boo sits sadly on the bench, Honey looks all over for Suki. Sonny says nothing and tells Meemo to stop barking. Then Honey directly asks Sonny if he’s seen Suki. “No!” he says, hiding the doll behind his back. Honey and Boo go back to their search. Sonny is so happy with Bun-Bun. “He LOVES Bun-Bun SO much.”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But Meemo scolds Sonny and tries to take Suki. Sonny hides Bun-Bun and goes to play with Boo and Honey. But Boo is too sad to play pirates or to eat chocolate cake. “Now Sonny feels sad too.” What will he do? He goes to his hiding place and retrieves Bun-Bun. He hides Bun-Bun behind his back as he walks near Honey and Boo. Then he gives Bun-Bun to Boo and apologizes. Now everyone is happy! “Woof!” says Meemo. “Hooray!” says Boo. And what does Sonny say? He wants you to “Come back soon!”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sharing something can be hard. Giving back something you’ve found and LOVE to its rightful owner can be even harder. Caryl Hart understands these strong tugs on the heart and in her tender and realistic tale shows little ones the other side of the story—the sadness a friend experiences over losing a beloved toy or other object. Each of the characters demonstrate different actions and emotions providing adults and kids opportunities to discuss feelings and various roles of friendship. With their natural empathy, kids will identify with both Sonny and Boo and learn how in this type of situation real happiness and peace of mind are found.

Zachariah OHora’s instantly recognizable illustrations bring a cute, comforting, and completely relatable vibe to the story. Sonny’s instant love for Bun-Bun is palpable and little ones will know exactly what’s at stake when he’s asked to give the bunny up. On the other side, Boo’s grief is also evident as tears stream from her eyes and the usual fun of playtime and snacks offer no cheer. Meemo and Honey have their own reactions too, which give kids more perspectives to consider. As Sonny contemplates what to do, children will empathize with both Sonny and Boo as they know one of them will be left unhappy. But Through OHora’s touching illustrations, they’ll see that Sonny makes the right choice—and how it really makes him feel.

The first in the new Sonny Says series, which introduces preschoolers and kindergarteners to universal experiences, Sonny Says Mine! is a multilayered story that is as adorable as it is encouraging and educational. The book will captivate young readers just beginning to venture out into the world and make friends and is highly recommended for home, classroom, and library shelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1547605804

Discover more about Caryl Hart and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zachariah OHora, his books, and his art, visit his website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sonny-says-mine-cover

You can find Sonny Says Mine! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 26 – International Dog Day

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About the Holiday

In 2004 Colleen Paige established International Dog Day to remind people – especially those who may be looking for a new pet – of all the dogs in shelters that need forever homes. The day also celebrates dogs of all breeds and honors the work of these faithful friends, whether they are family pets or specially trained as service dogs, police dogs, or search-and-rescue dogs. If you’re thinking of adding a new family member of the furry kind, or if you’d just like to make a difference to animals in shelter care, call or visit your local humane society or other shelter.

Thanks go to Beach Lane Books and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Pug & Pig and Friends for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Pug & Pig and Friends

Written by Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by Joyce Wan

 

Whether fans of Pug and Pig or new readers, kids will be delighted with the invitation to spend time with Pug, Pig, Squirrel, Robin, and Cat at their trim blue-and-white home. These friends like to play together, but not all of them have the same idea of what fun is.

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Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

While Pug, Pig, Squirrel, and Robin “like to explore in the bushes,” Cat “watches from the fence.” Pug, Pig, Squirrel, and Robin like to chase each other around the yard. “But not Cat. She watches from the porch. What does Cat like to do?” Cat thinks surprises are fun. She likes to sneak up on Pug, especially when he’s snoozing. With a loud “MRROW!” Cat startles Pug and makes him jump. Then Cat and Pig laugh. But Pug, Squirrel, and Robin do not. “They do not like surprises at all.”

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Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Suddenly, the sky grows dark and rain begins to fall. Pug and Pig run to their little house, while Squirrel and Robin scurry to their nests. But where can Cat go? Thunder rumbles and lightning flashes. Cat quickly climbs into the tree and holds on tight. When the rain turns to sprinkles, Robin, Squirrel, and Pig try to get Cat to come down, but she’s too afraid. “Pug has an idea.”

Pug curls up on the welcome mat and closes his eyes. Cat sees him and has an idea of her own. She climbs down from the tree and sneaks up to the front porch. Suddenly, there’s a sound. But who surprises who? And who gets the giggles afterward?

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Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Kids are sure to want to giggle along with Sue Lowell Gallion’s latest Pug & Pig story again and again as surprises abound and these fast friends care for each other despite their small differences. Gallion’s gentle reminder that not all kids like surprises becomes a clever plot twist when Pug helps Cat while showing her that he can enjoy her favorite game too.

With her adorable, brightly colored illustrations, Joyce Wan once again brings to life Gallion’s story in ways that are both familiar and fresh and will enchant little ones. The sweetly smiling faces of the characters and their sheer joy of playing together is captivating and will put a smile on the faces of kids and adults. As the sky turns from blue to rainy gray, kids will love getting caught up in the excitement as the friends make their mad dash for cover. As the sun returns so do the shenanigans and the belly laughs.

Whether you’re adding to your collection of the Pug & Pig series or just getting started, the charming Pug & Pig and Friends is a must for home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534463004

You can read a fun interview with Sue, Joyce, Pug, and Pig here.

Discover more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books on her website.

To learn more about Joyce Wan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Dog Day Activity

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Pug & Pig and Friends Activity Kit

 

Kids can have lots of fun with Pug, Pig, Squirrel, Robin, and Cat with the puppets, puzzles, and craft in this printable Activity Kit found on Sue Lowell Gallion’s website! You’ll also find Activity Kits for Pug Meets Pig and Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat plus extra coloring pages!

Pug & Pig and Friends Activity Kit 

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You can find Pug & Pig and Friends at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 18 – It’s Happiness Happens Month

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About the Holiday

Happiness doesn’t have to be something we plan for, schedule into our calendars, or spend money on. In fact enjoying special moments during each day, doing something spontaneous with friends or family, taking time for a favorite activity, or even savoring a cup of tea may be all you need to feel happier every day! If anxiety, anger, or other emotion is getting in the way of your happiness, this month can provide an impetus to try soothing activities or mend relationships as today’s book shows. 

Thanks to Page Street Kids for sending me a copy of Clovis Keeps His Cool for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Clovis Keeps His Cool

Written by Katelyn Aronson | Illustrated by Eve Farb

 

Clovis, a bull and former linebacker for the Cloverdale Chargers football team, had inherited his granny’s china shop. As he delicately unpacked and filled the shelves on inventory day, he reminded him of his granny’s mantra, “‘Grace, grace. Nothing broken to replace.’” But below the surface, “there was just one problem. Clovis had a temper as big as he was.” Running Granny’s shop made him feel calmer, but one day when three of his old rivals came by, they mocked him, calling him a wimp and teasing him about his apron. One said, “‘Well looky here! The bull in the china shop!’” Clovis felt his anger rising. He breathed in and out and counted to ten, and when his hecklers didn’t get a quick response, they walked away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clovis-keeps-his-cool-Granny

Image copyright Eve Farb, 2021, text copyright Katelyn Aronson, 2021. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Before he got to work on dusting day, Clovis did yoga and listened to calming music. Carefully he polished each piece until it gleamed, but then he heard the voices of his rivals once again. “Clovis clenched his teeth. There it was again—that urge to charge.” But instead, he picked up his cat and stroked her soft fur. Bored by Clovis’s silence, the trio moved on. On the day he created a new display in the front window, Clovis filled the shop with the gentle aroma of a lavender candle and made himself a cup of chamomile tea. As he placed the fragile items in the window, he chanted Granny’s saying. “‘Grace. Grace. Nothing. Broken. To replace.’” But suddenly his rivals were back, smearing the window with their noses.

This time they didn’t stay outside but barged in and began insulting the picture of Granny. Clovis restrained himself until one of his rivals picked up Granny’s favorite teacup and threw it at Clovis, taunting him to catch it like in his old football days. But Clovis couldn’t turn in time and the cup sailed past him and smashed on the floor. “Clovis was all out of grace. He chose the chase. And charged. ‘GET OOOOOOUUT!’” he shouted.

He stormed through the shop pushing them out as china crashed and smashed around him and chased the three through town, finally cornering them in an alley. This was a Clovis they recognized, and they shook in fear. Clovis was preparing to strike when a teabag that had become tangled on one horn swung into view. With a tear in his eye he thought of Granny and all that had been broken: her teacup, her shop.

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Image copyright Eve Farb, 2021, text copyright Katelyn Aronson, 2021. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

But then, “from somewhere deep in Clovis’s memory, Granny’s voice answered: My dear…Grace. Grace. What is broken can be replaced.” He looked at his cowering rivals and told them who he was: “‘Look, I may be a bull. But I’m no bully.’” Then he offered them a cup of tea. Back at the shop, Clovis set up a table and served tea surrounded by the broken china. “For a moment, it was as if they were all on the same team. It made the hecklers think…”

The next day they were back. But they weren’t there to heckle Clovis as he feared. They were there to help. And “they came back the next day and the next.” Each day, Clovis served tea as they put the shop back together. Now Clovis enjoys playing football and practicing yoga with his new friends, and he always has “plenty of grace to go around” as he serves high tea for all.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clovis-keeps-his-cool-tea-with-rivals

Image copyright Eve Farb, 2021, text copyright Katelyn Aronson, 2021. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Katelyn Aronson’s clever take on the idiom “like a bull in a china shop” provides readers with a profound and heartwarming look at issues of anger management, bullying, graciousness, friendship, and being oneself. Her rich storytelling, kids meet a bull with an outsized temper, who uses his granny’s influence and strategies common to all to calm his anger. They also are introduced to a gang of bullies who think it’s funny and/or permissible to torment Clovis past his tipping point when they break a precious family heirloom.

Aronson’s thoughtful pause before what seems like an inevitable fight lets Clovis—and by association, readers—decide and take control of who he really is. His choice propels the story to a poignant lesson. Aronson’s characters give adults and children an opportunity to discuss how Clovis ultimately chooses to treat his rivals with kindness, and—although not presented in the text—what the bullies may have thought about and regretted when Clovis invited them to tea instead of fighting. Her gracious ending shows kids that just like broken objects, relationships can be mended when both sides work at it.

Eve Farb’s stunning images of Clovis’s China Shop with their intricately decorated vases, delicate tea sets, and gleaming dishware are gorgeous backdrops to Clovis’s delicate touch in pouring a cup of tea, stocking and cleaning the fragile giftware, and performing his morning yoga ritual. Interposed with these are snapshots of Clovis in his more rough-and-tumble persona. When the bullies show up, they are depicted from Clovis’s—and readers’—point of view through the shop window.

A highlight of Farb’s illustration is her command of the emotional impact of Aronson’s story. The animals’ facial expressions and body language clearly depict their actions and emotions, and when Granny’s favorite teacup crashes to the floor, the next page spread demonstrates Clovis’s anger in a powerful closeup. As Clovis corners his rivals in the alley, readers once again see them through Clovis’s point of view, but this time their eyes hold fear. Another compelling page spread follows this as the teabag—glowing with Granny’s grace—refocuses Clovis’s thinking. Farb’s following bold pages compare and contrast notions of brokenness, connection, and even redirection of energy—all served up with tea and scones.

A unique and emotionally resonant story that will captivate kids and can spark important discussions, Clovis Keeps His Cool is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645672135

Discover more about Katelyn Aronson and her books on her website.

You can connect with Eve Farb on Instagram.

Happiness Happens Month Activity

CPB - Happiness typography

Happiness Is…Game

 

Happiness is all around you! Grab one or more friends to play a game that reveals what things make you happy. Here are two ways to play:

  1. Like the “Geography” game: the first player names something that makes them happy, the next player must think of something that starts with the last letter of the word the previous player said. The game continues with each player continuing the pattern. Players drop out as they cannot think of a word. The last player left is the winner.
  2. Using a time limit (depending on age): players must think of something that makes them happy. Players drop out if they cannot think of a word within the time limit. The last player left is the winner.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clovis-keeps-his-cool-cover

You can find Clovis Keeps His Cool at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 11 – Making Life Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established by Apriori Beauty in 2015 to recognize all those people who make life more fun, meaningful, joyful—more beautiful—for someone else. This can be done in so many ways. Spending more time talking with someone lets them know you care. Sharing your talent for baking, art, music, gardening, home repair, or any skill with a friend, family member, or coworker brings joy to them and you. Even just giving a smile to those you meet can brighten someone’s day. Making someone else feel good will make life more beautiful for you too!

The Color Collector

Written by Nicholas Solis | Illustrated by Renia Metallinou

 

A boy notices a new girl, Violet, at school. He knows what it’s like to be the new kid, so he waves to her as she sits on a bench alone, reading. She gives him a small smile—he thinks—but doesn’t say anything. He knew that Violet lived near him because they always “walked home the same way,” although he “was on one side, she on the other.” She was “always quiet. Always alone.”

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It was always the same until one day when the wind blew a red candy wrapper Violet’s way and the boy watched her pick it up and put it in her backpack. When she looked up, Violet saw the boy watching. “She looked at me,” he says. “She waved. Then her eyes went down and she turned the corner.” Now, the boy noticed how many things Violet picked up along the way home. “Bright blue cookie wrappers. Yellow pieces of paper. Green bottle caps. Red fall leaves. All disappearing into the gray backpack.”

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

One day the boy crosses the street and asks Violet what she does with the things she picks up. Violet invites him to come see. They come to a brownstone and up a few flights of stairs, Violet takes him inside her home and opens the door to her room. “Here in her room, the sun comes to shine,” the boy says. “It reaches in and makes her glow. It makes her collection glow as well.”

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

What the boy sees—on the walls, the ceiling, the door—is “her sky, her beach, her village” recreated from the wrappers, paper, leaves, caps, and other bits she’s found. “We came here for a better life,” Violet tells the boy. “I miss home, though. I miss the sounds and smells. And I miss the colors.” The boy tells her the mural is beautiful. Then Violet tells him stories about her village, the people there, and the ocean. The boy and Violet “sit and talk. Then laugh. Then talk some more.” The boy sees that Violet is not so sad or alone anymore, and he’s glad to be her friend. When he leaves, he and Violet wave goodbye and “smile the same.” One the way home, the wind blows a red leaf his way. He picks it up and puts it in his backpack.

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Poignant and honest, Nicholas Solis’s multilayered story touches on friendship, loneliness, new experiences, immigration, creativity, and how acts of welcome, empathy, and kindness can change perspectives and bring joy to life. Told from the boy’s point of view in short, straightforward observations, the story captures readers’ emotions and curiosity as they walk with him and Violet, waiting to see why the reason for her collection. As days and maybe weeks or months pass before the boy speaks to Violet, readers on “both sides of the street” (those who are hesitant to talk and share as well as those who would like to get to know someone better) learn that friendship takes time, patience, trust, and sincere interest. 

Renia Metallinou adds visual eloquence to the story with his gray- and dun-hued illustrations, which pick up increasing hints of color as Violet and the boy grow closer to Violet’s house and finally explode with vibrancy when she opens the door to her room. The first clue of the importance of color to the “new girl” is in her name, and to punctuate this fact, Metallinou gives Violet purple hairbands for her braids. As Violet walks home on a parallel track to the boy, purple tints the pots and flowers decorating the sidewalk, a woman’s purse, and her dog’s collar as if to show that Violet is already assimilating and contributing to her new community.

After she picks up the red wrapper, red flowers, and accents dot the next page, and after the boy describes the blue, yellow, and green items she finds, the trees gain red and yellow leaves, container gardens overflow with greenery, an orange cat watches a trio of red-bellied birds, and blue curtains hang in a downstairs room. But it’s when Violet opens her bedroom door that the real magic happens.

Readers are treated to one more two-page spread of suspense, heightened by the boy’s look of wonder and Violet’s proud gaze. Surrounded by light, Violet smiles. Her gray-and-white-striped shirt turns green and yellow, her brown skin glows with joy. Then readers turn the page and, like the boy, step into a sun-drenched coastal village with candy-colored buildings, lush foliage, a sparkling sea, and a woman – perhaps Violet’s grandmother – looking toward the horizon, maybe looking for Violet herself. Metallinou has made Violet’s mural a masterpiece of art, life, longing, and love. As Violet’s stories pour forth, she and the boy discover how to let their true colors show.

A beautiful and evocative story about the power of friendship, empathy, and kindness, The Color Collector provides a unique and highly effective way for kids and adults to talk about feelings of loneliness, homesickness, making new friends, opening up to others, and many other feelings kids experience. The book could spark meaningful art projects for classrooms and homeschoolers and would be an excellent addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111059

Discover more about Nicholas Solis and his books on his website.

To learn more about Renia Metallinou, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

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Initial Bookend or Decoration

 

Today’s holiday is all about making someone feel special. With this easy craft, kids can make a gift for a family member, friend, or teacher that shows them why they think the person makes the world more beautiful. And don’t forget to make one for yourself too!

Supplies

  • Wooden letter block of the recipient’s first initial or both initials
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden letter with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. With the chalk, write words on the letter that you think best describe the person you’re giving it to
  3. Wrap and give your letter!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-cover

You can find The Color Collector at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 21 – World Meditation Day

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About the Holiday

While we may not know exactly when World Meditation Day was established, their is evidence that the practice of meditation has been observed since 5000 BCE and talked and written about since 1500 BCE. In today’s hustle-bustle world (and has life ever really been leisurely?) taking some time each day to center yourself and get in touch with your feelings – and even yourself – can make for a more peaceful, less stressful, and more positively productive day. Meditation can also lead to more creativity, better health, and more happiness. There are many ways to learn how to meditate, from classes to YouTube videos to books. To celebrate today, take a few minutes to learn more about how mindfulness and meditation can help you and your child or children. 

Thank you to Henry Holt and Company and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with them in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story

Written by Julia Alvarez | Illustrated by Raúl Colón

 

Mari, a butterfly, lived in a field of wildflowers, spending “her days flitting from flower to flower to flower, touching down only for seconds before she was off again. She went so quickly that she took no notice of which flowers she visited. For Mari “everything was a blur in her hurry to gulp down nectar and pollinate the whole field.” If she did stop for a moment, it was only to do her wing exercises or think about what came next.

At night she was proud of everything she had accomplished that day, but she could never fall asleep as all the things she had to do tomorrow crowded in on her. Mari felt that there was “no time to enjoy just being a butterfly.” When Mari asked her parents, the Posas, how to be a happy butterfly, they had not had the time to teach their children, either. Instead, Papa Posa told her that her “instincts will guide you.”

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, 2020, text copyright Julia Alvarez, 2020. Courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan Publishing.

One day, as her feet sank into a flower’s pollen, the heady fragrance brought back memories of when she was still wrapped in her cozy chrysalis. She wished she could find that peaceful feeling again. Then she heard a voice that “sounded as if it were coming from deep inside her” and saw a bud just beginning to open. To Mari’s questions, the bud just hummed “‘Ommmmm.’” But Mari didn’t have time to figure out what the bud was trying to say.

She apologized and rattled off her long to-do list. Then she realized she might sound rude, so she asked the bud what its name was. It told her that for now she could call him Bud, “But that will soon change. What’s important is feeling happy just being who I am,” Bud explained. Again, Mari remembered the time in her chrysalis and wondered if that was the feeling of being herself.”

Bud seemed to read her thoughts and said, “‘of course, back then… you were just following your instincts.’” And “‘those instincts led you to become a beautiful winged creature who doesn’t yet feel like a butterfly.’” Mari knew Bud was right. She was always so busy that she didn’t feel like anything at all. But, Bud told her, “‘you already are a butterfly.’” Then he told her that she could capture that feeling of happiness and sense of self anytime she wanted. Mari didn’t believe it.

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, 2020, text copyright Julia Alvarez, 2020. Courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan Publishing.

Bud taught her how to breathe in and out while she imagined her happy time in her chrysalis. He showed her how to put aside all of the busy-ness of her life and just enjoy that moment. Mari tried it. She felt peaceful and calm, and something else. Suddenly, she was aware of all the different flowers, scents, and sounds there were. Bud gave her a chant to say while she breathed in and out.

Mari joined in, “and for the first time ever, from the tip of her tiny feet to the tippy top of her curly antennae, Mari felt like a butterfly.” Mari slowly fanned her wings and rose into the air. When she looked down to thank Bud, she didn’t see him. Instead, “a beautiful flower was blooming.” Mari dipped her toe into the flower’s “pollen to carry with her everywhere.”

Following the story, Julia Alvarez has included an Author’s Note with photographs—Growing Your Own Wings—about her volunteer work with the Mariposa DR Foundation in the Dominican Republic and how it, as well as the experiences of her own granddaughters, inspired Already a Butterfly. She then talks directly to the reader, revealing how to sit for meditation, how to breathe, and then how, with self-care and kindness, to clear your mind to find peace and contentment.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-already-a-butterfly-family

Image copyright Raúl Colón, 2020, text copyright Julia Alvarez, 2020. Courtesy of Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan Publishing.

Julia Alvarez gifts children and adults with an uplifting story that will inspire them to find their true selves amid all the outer and inner noise of nonstop activities, chores, assignments, work, expectations, and all the other obstacles to peaceful, contemplative thought. The gentle mindfulness and meditative exercises that Bud teaches Mari are easy for children to remember and help them discover and stay focused on who they really are as well as who and what they want to become. At various times, Alvarez’s graceful taps along at the pace of Mari’s (and readers’) busy, busy lifestyle then slows to mirror the languid restfulness we all crave. In certain sentences, readers (especially adults) will recognize a gentle ribbing about our penchant for multi-tasking, as when Mari, seemingly taking a break, is actually doing wing exercises or mentally reviewing her schedule (or probably both). The overarching message to listen to your instincts is sage advice for finding happiness in all stages of life and is echoed in Alvarez’s final, poignant sentence.

Raúl Colón’s softly textured mixed media illustrations burst with the beauty of nature in vibrant, glowing colors that remind readers that we are all part of one Earth and should take the time to appreciate our place in it. His seamless melding of human and butterfly creates a stirring image for children to carry with them as they begin to fly free. As Bud talks with Mari and teaches her the art of meditation, Colón’s images help children to stop along the way to appreciate all they have already accomplished as well as the surroundings that nurture them. Bud’s transformation into a beautiful flower shows readers of all ages that we are all on a journey to becoming who we who are truly meant to be.

A stunning, inspirational, and concretely helpful story about believing in yourself, mindfulness, and finding contentment, Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story is a must for children of all ages and will become a go-to book on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves to sustain tranquil thought and self-affirming growth.

Ages 5 – 9 and up

Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-1627799324

Discover more about Julia Alvarez and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Raúl Colón, his books, and his art on his professional website.

Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Macmillan Publishing and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story written by Julia Alvarez | illustrated by Raúl Colón

To enter:

This giveaway is open from May 21 to May 27 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 28. 

Prizing provided by Macmillan Publishing and Blue Slip Media.

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

World Meditation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mind-jar

Mindfulness Jar

 

You can capture the beauty of a glittering snowfall in this easy craft—that also makes a special gift for a friend!

Supplies

  • Small to medium mason jar or other decorative jar with a tight lid
  • White glitter glue,
  • Light blue glitter glue,
  • Fine white and/or blue glitter
  • Large white and/or blue glitter
  • Warm water

Directions

1.For every 1/2 cup of warm water add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue glitter glue
  • 2 teaspoons fine glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon large glitter

2. Close lid tight

3. Shake

4. As glue dissolves, the liquid will become clearer and the glitter will remain suspended in it

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-already-a-butterfly-cover

You can find Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 4 – National Teacher Day

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About the Holiday

This school year has been like no other – for students and teachers. Switching from in-person, in-the-classroom learning to virtual learning and zoom classes to hybrid models has been a head-spinning experience for all. Yet our teachers have adapted, designing new lesson plans and devising creative ways to engage their students online. This week (National Teacher Appreciation Week) and today in particular, we honor and thank the teachers that make a difference in our and our children’s lives. Teachers open the world to their students by instilling a love of learning through their enthusiasm, caring, and creativity. Before you move on to a new class next year, don’t forget to tell your teacher or teachers how much they’ve meant to you. You can find 51 ways to thank your teacher on Waterford.org and a Teacher Appreciation Week toolkit, complete with virtual and printable thank-you cards and certificates and other ideas to download on the National PTA website.

I Wish You Knew/Ojalá Supieras

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Magdalena Mora

 

As a little girl approaches her school building, she tells the reader, “Our school wraps around a hundred-year-old oak tree.” The students mark the passage of time by the changes in the leaves. The school has a garden with cabbages, tomatoes, and sunflowers that the girl’s father helped her class plant. “One day,” the girl says, her father told her “that because he wasn’t born here like me, he must return to his native country.”

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Image copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Before he left he hugged her and said, “Te quiero mucho, Estrella…my little star.” He promises to come back one day “to see the sunflowers bloom. Until then, Estrella skips between the tall flowers and “think[s] of his smile.” In her thoughts she addresses her teacher: “I wish you knew that when I forget my homework or sit alone at lunch or cry over little things, it’s because I miss him.” And it is not only these things that have changed. Everything at home, for her mother and her brother, too, is different.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-garden

Image copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

As Estrella’s teacher enters the classroom one day, she says she is also proud that her school surrounds the old oak tree. Her favorite place is in her classroom, where her students are busy and curious. She also loves to watch them play on the playground. The students may not realize it, but the teacher sees when they are sad and understands when they are without their homework. She wishes they knew that “they are not alone.”

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Image from Ojalá Supieras, copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

The teacher starts a new tradition, a “sharing circle called I Wish You Knew.” There the kids can tell their classmates how they are feeling, what they’re thinking about, and other “secrets” they are ready to share. Estrella’s teacher lets her students know she’s there if they need help. One student reveals that they are “hungry a lot.” Another student’s mom is in the military and another explains that he lives in a shelter.

But not all of the children’s sharing is sad. Estrella likes to talk about all the things her dad taught her and what they did together. And while she waits to be together with her father again, she and her friends plant more sunflower seeds and “wait for them to bloom.”

I Wish You Knew is also available in a Spanish Version with the title Ojalá Supieras.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-spanish-version-hungry

Image copyright Ojalá Supieras, Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

In her moving story Jackie Azúa Kramer embraces the many children affected by hardships, whose parents are absent for a variety of reasons, or who live with difficult family situations. Through Estrella, whose father has been deported, Kramer dives deep into the hearts of children grappling with strong feelings, hunger, homelessness, and otherwise disrupted home lives while still trying to succeed in school. Using “I wish you knew” from a variety of points of view, Kramer first draws children into Estrella’s confession as she directly addresses the reader. With the tenor of a confidant, Estella gives readers a tour of the favorite parts of her school. It is here, among the sunflowers that she feels comfortable talking about her father. During lunch, Estrella wishes her teacher knew what had happened at home.

The perspective then shifts to the teacher who shows her favorite parts of the school while revealing that, while she may not know the exact situation, she does recognize when something is wrong and hopes her students understand she is there to empathize and help. These two storylines merge when the teacher establishes the sharing circle and three students share their wishes straightforwardly, addressing the reader as much as their teacher and creating a poignant reading experience for all. Echoing the resilience of children, Kramer ends her story with a message of hope.

Magdalena Mora uses warm earth tones in her evocative mixed-media illustrations, mirroring the ideas of growth and renewal found in Kramer’s story. Estrella’s school building is a green-and-glass structure that looks out on the old oak tree, a symbol of steadfastness and strength for the students and teachers alike. The events and situations the children share are rendered in gray, giving them a feeling of distance from the children’s school day. Mora’s stylized sunflowers grow in profusion, framing the students and teacher on various pages and appearing in the background on others, an ever-present reminder that friendship and understanding are nearby and that better days lie ahead.

A moving story of empathy, sharing, and kindness, I Wish You Knew is a must for classrooms and is highly recommended for home and public library collections to help children and adults initiate difficult discussions about emotions and events or experiences affecting their lives.

Ages 4 – 7 

Roaring Brook Press | ISBN 978-1250226303 (I Wish You Knew) | ISBN 978-1250814784 (Ojalá Supieras)

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Magdalena Mora, her books, and her art on her website.

I Wish You Knew Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Jackie Azúa Kramer in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of I Wish You Knew written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | illustrated by Magdalena Mora

To enter:

This giveaway is open from May 4 to May 10 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 11. 

Prizing provided by Jackie Azúa Kramer.

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-cover      celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ojalá-supieras-cover

You can find I Wish You Knew at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

You can find Ojalá Supieras here

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order I Wish You Knew from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Order Ojalá Supieras here

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 1 – April Fools Day Interview with Pug & Pig and Sue Lowell Gallion & Joyce Wan

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About the Holiday

What would April Fools Day be without having fun with friends? Just April 1st. Sounds boring, huh? So to celebrate, we have a surprise! A couple of your favorite literary friends, the adorable Pug & Pig, have dropped by for a chat about life together and their new book Pug & Pig and Friends coming on August 3. And, oh yeah! They’ve even brought along their friends—author Sue Lowell Gallion and illustrator Joyce Wan who also join in the fun! No joke! If, after spending time with Pug & Pig, you’d like to discover astounding facts about the origins of April Fools Day and learn some outrageous pranks played throughout history, visit History.com

A Sneak Peek at . . . 

Pug & Pig and Friends

Written by Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by Joyce Wan

 

Pug and Pig and their friends Robin and Squirrel love digging in the garden and zooming around the backyard together. But there’s another “friend” in the backyard who isn’t quite so friendly. That’s Cat. What does Cat love doing? Cat loves sneaking up on Pug and scaring him! Pug does not think this is funny. And he does not like it at all. But when a thunderstorm comes and Cat gets scared up a tree, Pig, Robin, and Squirrel can’t get him to climb down. Only Pug can help. But will he?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pug-&-pig-and-friends-playing

Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Pug & Pig and Friends is the third book in the Pug & Pig series that includes Pug Meets Pig and Pug & Pig, Trick or Treat. The book will be released August 3, 2021.

Ages Baby – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534463004

Now let’s have some fun with the stars of the series and their creators!

Meet Pug

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Pig-Meets-Pug-pug

Pug made his publishing debut in Pug Meets Pig, published by Beach Lane Books in 2016. Before meeting Pig, Pug was a very happy pup. He had his own yard, his own bowl, and even his own cozy bed! That is, until Pig moved in and started eating from Pug’s bowl, interrupting Pug’s routine, and, worst of all, sleeping in Pug’s bed. The world wondered: could Pug and Pig ever learn to live together as friends? The answer was Yes! Since then Pug & Pig had a wonderful adventure together in Pug & Pig, Trick-or-Treat and are excited to share their new story Pug & Pig and Friends. You can connect with Pug here and here.

Welcome to Celebrate Picture Books, Pug! It’s quite a treat to talk with you today! I’m sure readers would love to know – What’s the best thing about being a pug?

Being everybody’s favorite. Oh, and the naps.

What is your favorite holiday and what do you like best about it?

Halloween. Answering the door with Pig, trick-or-treating with Pig, and eating all the tasty tidbits with Pig,

Eating all of those Halloween treats is fun! What is your favorite?

Lolli-pups

You’ve known Pig for a long time. What do you like best about her?

Once you get past her attention-hogging tendencies, she is fun-loving and radiates positivity. There’s never a dull moment when Pig is around.

I can imagine! So, tell me, what is it about Pig that makes her such a great friend?

She makes a great snuggle buddy during nap time.

What part of the day do you like best?

Nap time, with meal time being a very close second.

Today is April Fools Day, a holiday when people play tricks on each other. Have you ever played a trick on Pig?

I don’t like surprises or tricks as much as Pig does, but I covered myself with mud one time and pretended to be Pig’s shadow. Whatever Pig did, I followed. We had a really good laugh about it later.

That sounds like so much fun! I bet you can’t wait to unleash your newest book! And no bones about it – I’m sure kids are eager to read it! What’s that? Ohhh… Almost nap time…! Let me talk with Pig a little and then you can snuggle into your little house in the yard. Thanks for spending time with me!

Meet Pig

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Pig-Meets-Pug-pig

Pig first trotted onto the literary scene in Pug Meets Pig. Even though she might have been a little bit oinksious about Pug’s initial reaction, Pig and Pug have grown to be best of friends. Pig is always ready to try something new and her welcoming smile is an ever-present part of her sty-le. For Pig there’s nothing better than sharing a new adventure with Pug, and she’s excited for the summer launch of Pug & Pig and Friends. You can connect with Pig here and here.

It’s so nice to meet you, Pig! In your stories, you’re always so happy. What’s the best thing about being a pig?

Being a pig is delightful in every way. I am a pig for all seasons. I do wish I was taller, and I’d like to get out of the yard more. Maybe in another book?

Did you say, “another book?” That would be fantastic! Just listen to all those kids saying, “Yes, please!” I bet they’re also wondering what your favorite holiday is and what you like best about it.

I like to find something to celebrate in every single day. But my birthday would have to be my favorite. I love to look around and see friends and family all together for one happy reason—a party! With treats!

From Pug & Pig, Trick-or-Treat, readers know you love treats, but what’s your favorite Halloween treat?

I am very fond of candy corn (I’m a pig, after all!). I also like miniature Snickers bars. I might peek in Pug’s treat basket when mine is empty, but don’t tell him. . . .

Ok, I got it: Shhhh…. What do you like best about Pug?

Pug is in charge of security at our place. He’s always on the alert for any change in our routine. I can relax and go with the flow. We make a good team.

You certainly do! What makes Pug a great friend?

Pug’s bark is definitely worse than his bite. (With that underbite, I’m not sure he could bite too well. He’s a champion chewer, though.) Underneath that tough guy exterior, he’s a sweetheart.

What part of the day do you like best?

I’m definitely a morning pig.

Today is April Fool’s Day, a day for pranks and shenanigans. Do you like playing tricks on your friends?

Of course! I like to keep my friends on their toes/hooves/paws/claws!

I can see why Pug and all of the neighborhood animals love you! Thanks so much for trotting over to chat with me today! I understand it’s nap time, so I’ll let you meet up with Pug and talk awhile with Sue and Joyce. 

A Chat with Sue Lowell Gallion

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Sue-Lowell-Gallion_2021_credit Isbell Creative

As the daughter of a printer, Sue Lowell Gallion has a life-long love of type, paper, and the aroma of ink. She is the author of the Pug & Pig series and the picture book All Except Axle as well as a nonfiction board book, Our World: A First Book of Geography, and three books in the Tip and Tucker early reader series. Sue lives in Leawood, Kansas, with a black lab mix who provides her with daily inspiration. To learn more and download free activities for all of her books, visit suegallion.com. You can also connect with Sue on Instagram and Twitter.

Hi Sue! I’m so happy to be talking with you about your next Pug & Pig book with Joyce! Since we’re celebrating April Fool’s Day today, I have to ask: Have you ever played an April Fool’s joke on anyone? Can you tell readers more about it?

I grew up in a family and neighborhood of practical jokers. One of the most memorable was when the neighborhood set up a Used Christmas Trees lot on the driveway of a family that was out of town for the holidays. In fact, some jokes are better done on days other than April Fool’s Day! People are less suspicious.

Would Pug and Pig ever play tricks on each other?

Yes, their relationship has grown to this point. But at first, Pug probably would be annoyed.

I’m sure readers are eager to find Pug & Pig and Friends on bookstore shelves. Can you give readers a sneak peek of your and Joyce’s upcoming book?

I’ve been pondering Pug’s relationship with Cat since the first book, Pug Meets Pig. It took a lot for Pug to welcome Pig into his world, and his relationship with Cat was tricky to begin with. Expanding the circle of characters gave me lots to work with. I want each Pug and Pig book to have unexpected twists and explore feelings and friendships in a different way.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pug-&-pig-and-friends-cat

Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

A thunderstorm in Pug & Pig and Friends is another layer. I was terrified of thunderstorms as a kid (and I grew up in Kansas City, right in the middle of Tornado Alley). I hope it’s a conversation starter or reassurance for kids who aren’t fans of storms, either.

Pug and Pig make such perfect companions. Where did the idea for this sweet series come from?

A friend in my water aerobics group told us about her daughter and family adopting a rescue pig. The family already had a pug, and the two animals didn’t end up getting along. I was intrigued with how the words “pug” and “pig” rolled off my tongue together. These two animals somewhat resemble each other, with their snouts and curly tails. And the joy of fiction is that you can make the story unfold (and end!) however you want!

In Pug Meets Pig, you mix humor and disappointment in such a poignant way. How do you balance those emotions in a story for little readers?

Kids feel deeply and those feelings are important. Experiences may seem small from an adult perspective, but they aren’t small to a child. The themes of handling change and growing in empathy are intriguing to me as a story creator. I also love funny moments in books and sharing giggles with kids over a story and the illustrations! Sometimes it’s easier for all of us to absorb or process emotions and ideas that way, too.

In your Pug & Pig stories, you show how friends don’t always like the same things but can still find ways to enjoy time together or cooperate. Why do you think this is such an important idea? What do you want kids to take away from your stories?

I hope the takeaway is that all of us experience the world differently and we don’t always feel the same way as others. Those differences need to be understood and respected, and friendship involves supporting each other in our differences. I want to continually grow in trying to understand others’ perspectives, and in giving others grace. And a sense of humor always helps! Joyce’s illustrations in Pug Meets Pig where Pig is stuck in the new doggy door really show that combination of humor and understanding. It’s one of my favorite spreads.

Do you identify more with Pug or Pig?

I probably am closer to Pig’s personality. I’m pretty sensitive at times. Pug was partly based on the personality of my dog, Tucker, but there’s plenty of Pug in me, too.

Thanks, Sue! I’ve loved learning more about your series and its two stars, Pug and Pig! I wish you all the best with Pug & Pig and Friends!

A Chat with Joyce Wan

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-joyce-wan-headshot-2019-credit City Headshots

Joyce Wan is the author and illustrator of several books for children, including Pug Meets Pig, Pug & Pig Trick-or Treat, Sleepyheads,You Are My Cupcake, We Belong Together, and The Whale in My Swimming Pool. Joyce lives with her husband and daughter in New Jersey. Visit her at wanart.com. You can connect with Joyce on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter.

Hi Joyce! It’s so wonderful to chat with you about your newest Pug & Pig book with Sue! These two characters are so endearing, you just can’t help but fall in love with them. In this latest story there’s a little bit of shenanigans going on, so since we’re celebrating April Fools Day today, I have to ask if have you ever played pranks on anyone? 

Yes, mostly on my siblings, like using trick birthday candles that don’t blow out and wrapping a Christmas gift in an empty cereal box.

Your illustrations of Pug and Pig are adorable. It’s hard to imagine them looking any different than as these little bundles of cuteness. Did they undergo transformations as you developed your drawings for Pug Meets Pig? If so, can you talk about that a little?

My drawings usually require a few iterations before I get to a final design. I often work backwards, drawing things as they look with a lot of details and then stripping away lines, making things rounder, and simplifying as much as possible.

The upcoming Pug & Pig and Friends is the third book in the series. As the illustrator, what do you look forward to as you revisit the characters and setting with each new book?

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Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

I love revisiting characters and settings. The look and feel of the characters, and the world they inhabit have already been established (that part of the process can often feel daunting) so I get to dive back in and pick up where we left off. It’s like visiting and spending time with old friends.

I love your gentle color palette. Even though there are conflicts in the story, the calming colors give you the feeling that things will work out. Is that idea in your mind when you choose colors for these books?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pug-&-pig-and-friends-squirrel

Image copyright Joyce Wan, 2021, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2021. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Sue created such sweet and heartwarming characters and stories. I wanted to carry this through into the pictures, picking colors that evoke a cozy and comforting feeling, books that feel like a warm hug.

Would you say you identify more with Pug or Pig?

I have more of a happy-go-lucky, fun-loving personality like Pig but I do enjoy and appreciate my alone time like Pug—even more so with everyone home these days!

Thanks, Joyce! I know readers can’t wait to see Pug and Pig in their new adventure!

Readers, while you wait for Pug & Pig and Friends, enjoy Pug & Pig’s other adventures! You can find activities and coloring pages to enjoy on Sue Lowell Gallion’s website and on Joyce Wan’s website while you read Pug Meets Pig and Pug & Pig, Trick-or-Treat. Visit their page at Beach Lane Books, too!

April Fools Day Activity

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Snoozing Together!

 

Enjoy this coloring page of Pug & Pig snuggling up for nap time!

Pug & Pig Snoozing Together Coloring Page

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You can preorder signed and personalized copies of Pug & Pig and Friends at Rainy Day Books!

 

You can also preorder Pug & Pig and Friends at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review