September 6 – National Read a Book Day and Interview with Blake Liliane Hellman & Steven Henry

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About the Holiday

Avid readers, rejoice! Today is your day! Just as its name implies, National Read a Book Day celebrates one of the best ways to spend our spare time: reading! If there’s a book you’ve been wanting to read, find some quiet time during lunch, after dinner, or before turning out the light to snuggle in with a cup of tea and that great book. Kids will enjoy some extra reading time as well. Make it a family event! Not only is reading together fun, it’s an important way to help children develop skills that will benefit them far into the future. 

Get to Know Blake Liliane Hellman and Steven Henry

Today, I’m celebrating National Read a Book Day by talking with Welcome to Morningtown author Blake Liliane Hellman and illustrator Steven Henry. This husband-and-wife team combine their talents for art and writing to create adorable picture books with characters and storylines kids love.  

First up, I’m chatting with Blake about how Welcome to Morningtown came to be and how her visual arts background influences her storytelling. 

Welcome to Morningtown is composed of only 119 words and yet readers get the feeling of a joyful day bursting with possibility and promise while the story also reflects the common routines of a morning for little ones. The story includes a wonderful feeling of camaraderie and inclusion, plus it ends on a humorous note. That’s a masterful use of words and rhythm! Can you describe how you approached the story, chose your words, and structured the cadence of the story? Did the story start out this short or was there a whittling process involved?

This book started out as a phrase Steve would use to wake up his little one in the morning. We knew we wanted to make it into a children’s book but we weren’t sure what it was going to be about. We had long discussions on the world of Morningtown—the setting, the season, the homes, and the creatures who lived there. We even designed maps for fun. There were many iterations. The text was much wordier at first, but I always knew it was going to be a prosaic style of book rather than a classical narrative. I’m a fan of Mary Lyn Ray (STARS, A LUCKY AUTHOR HAS A DOG) who uses words in a lyrical and economical way, without depending on rhyme. Similarly, I curated my word choices so Steve’s illustrations could shine.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Your background is in journalism, English, and filmmaking. You’re also an abstract painter. How did you become interested in writing picture books? How does your experience in all of these disciplines help you write your stories?

My background in filmmaking helped me learn how to tell stories visually. Years of crafting song lyrics taught me to express myself concisely and poetically. Journalism gave me a great foundation in writing, and painting abstractly taught me to get used to making mistakes—that mistakes are just the path to success. As a writer, you’re going to make a lot of bad stuff. If you accept that, you won’t give up. If you don’t give up, you get better.

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Diamond (acrylic on canvas) by Blake Liliane Hellman, 2015

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Iris (acrylic and mixed media on canvas) by Blake Liliane Hellman, 2015

As an artist, do you have a vision for your stories’ illustrations? In addition to working with Steven on Welcome to Morningtown  and the forthcoming GoodnightSleepyville (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020) and Something Smells! (Atheneum, 2018), you have a third picture book, Cuddle Monkey, coming out from Atheneum in 2020, illustrated by Chad Otis. Were you able to work closely with Chad on the adorable illustrations for this book?

As a filmmaker and visual designer, I absolutely have a vision for my stories when I’m writing them. It might be unusual for the writer to have a say in the illustrations, but I’ve been lucky in this. Both Steven Henry, my husband, and our good friend Chad Otis, (CUDDLE MONKEY, OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL) have design agency backgrounds and are used to collaborating, so designing picture books with them is a no brainer—and a delight. I don’t think I would have been able to sell my earlier manuscripts without the artwork because to my mind, in a picture book manuscript, half of the story just isn’t there! But as I establish myself as a writer, I’m learning that a professional picture book manuscript should be precise and uncluttered. It should speak for itself without relying on illustration notes.

What do you find to be the best part of being a children’s author?

I get to create fantastical, funny, heartfelt worlds and share them with kids and parents. When you see someone enjoying your work, it validates your imagination.

Steven, you also bring a varied background in design and illustration to your picture book career. Early on you worked as a window display artist for Tower Records and Macy’s Department Store. What are the challenges of this kind of work? What elements are important for capturing the attention of passersby and enticing them into the store? Is there a correlation to creating a book’s cover?

In both retail display and illustration, I’ve always tried to set up a visual hierarchy that leads the eye and gives the viewer the most important information first. To do this, first I figure out my visual storytelling goal (or goals). Once I understand what I’m trying to “say”, then I’ll ask myself what the reader should see first. Are any other elements distracting from this? Whenever possible I try to keep things simple in an engaging way. 

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What drew you to focus on illustrating picture books?

I started drawing superheroes and dinosaurs in grade school. My first-grade teacher noticed my doodles in class and, rather than scolding me for not working on my lessons, asked me if I’d like to draw dinosaurs on the chalkboard for the class at the end of the day. I don’t remember how I got the nerve up to do it, but I got up in front of the room and drew a big Tyrannosaurus, explaining how tall he was and who he fought with. I became a minor classroom celebrity for a couple of days, but that, along with encouragement from my parents, was enough to keep me inspired to draw. 

My parents got rid of our TV in the 70’s, so we spent many hours at the library and brought stacks of books home. Seuss, Sendak, and Scarry were—and still are—big heroes. As a teenager I became more interested in drawing comic book art, but I eventually returned to my picture book roots in 2004 with Ella The Elegant Elephant.  

The characters in Welcome to Morningtown are cuter than cute, and the whole book is like a warm hug. How do you achieve this look and feeling? Why do you think such sweet illustrations are important for little readers? I’m also thinking in particular of the final spread of the busy town that glows with friendship and happiness. Can you talk a bit about some of the elements adults can point out as they share the book with their kids?

When I’m designing characters, I try to make combinations of pen marks on paper that remind me of the kinds of books I loved as a kid and continue to resonate with me emotionally. In order to get to a point where I can communicate certain feelings visually, the boring secret has been practice. I really do believe the adage that, if you spend 10,000 hours doing something, you’ll become an expert. 

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Ladybug concept for Welcome to Morningtown by Steven Henry.

I still use a simple mechanical pencil to do most of my line work. I also try to stay well within my skill set when I’m working on a book. I try to save things like experimentation and pushing boundaries for the concept work that precedes actual book production. Usually, but I’m not always successful—haha.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As I mentioned earlier, I pay close attention to the visual hierarchy of an illustration to make sure the most important things stand out. But I also like to include little details that the reader may not catch the first time around, or I include a visual storyline that’s not necessarily a part of the text. In Welcome to Morningtown, there’s no mention of a bear family, for instance; but the illustrated exploits of the little bear and his family provide a gently funny counterpoint to the text. Whenever I can, I like to tell a parallel or separate story with the pictures, so parents and young readers should definitely keep their eyes open—and maybe even check the pictures more than once!

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Multiple readings of Welcome to Morningtown are definitely a must! As a husband and wife team collaborating on picture books, could you both tell readers about your process for completing a book that inspires such enthusiasm? Does the story come first and then the illustrations or do you work on the whole project together?

We’re always thinking of new ideas for books, usually they start with a title or concept, a funny thing we see while on a walk or overhear on the street. There’s a lot of silly wordplay at our house.

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Steve working on the picture book dummy for Welcome to Morningtown.

I throw a lot of ideas at Steve and not all of them stick. He’s particular. And for good reason. It takes a lot of work and commitment to illustrate a book. When we decide, we roll up our sleeves and get to work. Part of our process is to make a ‘dummy,’ which is a roughly laid out version of the book that we create with a program called InDesign. It has the text laid out alongside rough sketches. This step helps clarify the pacing and can validate or invalidate the story structure. It provides opportunities for improvement. We do a lot of iterating before giving it to our agent.

Blake, you work as an interactive and user experience designer and, Steven, you used to work for Smashing Ideas, which also provides these kinds of serves to clients. Can you briefly describe this work for readers? Can you talk a bit about your work for kids in this area? How do these techniques influence your work with picture books?

I’m a UX Designer and Steve is a Design Manager and we use user experience design principles, including white boarding, prototyping, and wire framing to make picture books! It sounds funny, but it’s actually a great way to work. The only thing we don’t do is user testing because it’s hard to find people who are willing to be honest with you about your picture book. (Unless it’s my mom, she’s very honest.)

Conversely, we’ve found that the process of making picture books helps us in our office environments. Making a picture book forces one to be very organized. There’s a lot to cover in just thirty-two pages! If you can master this kind of efficiency, you can apply it most anywhere.

I’ve had several comments from adults wishing they could live in Morningtown. What can readers look forward to in your upcoming companion book Sleepyville (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, date)?

In the companion book to this one, Sleepyville is a cozy seaside village just a hop, skip and jump from Morningtown. It’s bustling with animals who are getting ready for bedtime. Keep your eye out for a library in a giant tree, a candy shop, and camping worms.

 What’s up next for both of you?

We have a few book ideas we’re developing—one of which Steve has written. I’m currently shopping a manuscript on my own about a rambunctious river.

Since my blog is holiday themed, can’t let you get away without asking what your favorite holiday is and why?

My favorite is the Fourth of July. There’s a current of excitement that runs through the air on the Fourth of July. All the explosions, smoke, and fire—the bursts of colors in the night sky—break the routine of other days. But I’d be happy with just black snakes and sparklers. I especially love the smell of fireworks, which conjures hot summer pavement, watermelon picnics, and swimming pools.

I love the sensory details in this last sentence, Blake! I can almost feel my bare feet sizzling and taste that cool watermelon!

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BLAKE LILIANE HELLMAN is a picture book author and senior UX designer. She and her husband Steven Henry live in Seattle and collaborate on books such as Welcome to Morningtown, Goodnight, Sleepyville, and Something Smells!, which was nominated for the Washington State Book Award. Take a peek into their world by viewing her Instagram page and Facebook page.

STEVEN HENRY (né D’Amico) is the illustrator of many picture books, including the award-winning Ella the Elegant Elephant Series, It’s Raining Bats & Frogs, and Herbert’s First Halloween. He currently serves as an art director at Committee for Children, a nonprofit organization promoting social and emotional learning.

You can take a peek into Blake and Steven Henry’s world on

Instagram | Facebook

You can connect with Steve on

His Website | Twitter

National Read a Book Day Review

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Welcome to Morningtown

Written by Blake Liliane Hellman | Illustrated by Steven Henry

 

It’s the crack of dawn in Morningtown and “everyone is waking.” A little cub rubs his eyes and sees his dad standing at the foot of his bed, fishing pole in hand, tackle box at the ready. The little tyke yawns and stretches along with the birds in the tree outside his room. Down at the pond, the frogs are “hopping, flopping, splashing awake while the turtles and a beaver enjoying the first cup of the day look on. All over Morningtown the animals, the insects, and even the fish are leaving their beds, brushing their teeth, washing up, and getting dressed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-waking-up

Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Next comes breakfast! “Some crunch, some nibble, some sip their morning feast.” Then in houses all around town the windows are opened and the shutters thrown wide. What will the day bring? Perhaps a banjo lesson, a new friend, and chance to help out. The cub dries the breakfast dishes while his mom washes. “Every day’s a surprise, and as the sun rises… busy bees buzz, fun bunnies bounce, and eager beavers slide into the day.” Yes, it’s a busy day in Morningtown. “Everyone is up…except one.” It’s a good thing Mom likes to go fishing too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-stretching

Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Blake Liliane Hellman’s lyrical look at morning and all the promise it holds is an enchanting, cheerful way to start the day for little ones—and their adults. As the bear family wakes up in their stone home, the rest of Morningtown’s residents are also rising and greeting the day with all of those little details that go into getting ready to meet the world. Hellman’s evocative verbs, jaunty rhythms, and humorous ending make Welcome to Morningtown a joy to read aloud.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-dawn

Accompanying Hellman’s story are Steven Henry’s beyond adorable forest creatures who populate this peaceful hamlet. The sky glows golden and then softens into a clear, light blue as the animals leave their beds. One snoozing butterfly catches a few more winks on her soft dandelion bed, a tiny turtle enjoys another minute on Mom’s back, and Mr. Mole climbs emerges from his “secret” bed underground while three chirping birds wake a little mountain goat on his snowy ledge. Smiles abound, and readers will find themselves smiling too as they follow the little cub as he gets ready to go fishing with Dad. Henry’s clever details and charming perspectives create a rich and, as the title invites, welcoming community that little ones will want to visit again and again.

To start a little one’s day with enthusiasm for what lies ahead, put them to bed looking forward to tomorrow, or share cuddly down time, the charming Welcome to Morningtown is as sweet as it gets and would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681198736

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You can find Welcome to Morningtown at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 29 – It’s National Fishing Month

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About the Holiday

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

Back Roads, Country Toads

Written by Devin Scillian | Illustrated by Tim Bowers

 

Best toady friends, Hank and Buckaroo, were just hanging out in “their favorite drainpipe near Cooper’s General Store” sipping the last drops from a discarded bottle of strawberry soda when they overheard Mr. Cooper and his friends talking about going fly-fishing. Hank and Buckaroo thought FLY-fishing sounded awesome and wanted to go along. They spied the perfect place to catch a ride: the fishermen’s open lunch basket. With a KERPLOP! they jumped in.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Soon they were on their way to what Buckaroo said would be “‘the greatest day of their lives.’” “‘Toadally,’” agreed Hank. While they rode to the fishing stream, Hank and Buckaroo sang “When You Fish Upon a Star,” and as soon as the truck stopped they jumped out and hid in a nearby bush. But Emmitt the raccoon was already there. Hank and Buckaroo were reveling in the glory that was going to be that day’s “‘fly cafeteria’” and “‘down-home big-time fly barbecue’” when Emmitt gave them the bad news. Hank didn’t believe it. He thought “‘fishing WITH flies’” instead of “‘fishing FOR flies’” sounded ridiculous.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

And just then a nice juicy fly sailed by. Hank leaped and released his long tongue, but Emmitt pulled him back just before he grabbed onto the fake fly. The three watched as the fishermen caught fish after fish with the imitation flies. Hank and Buckaroo couldn’t imagine what Mr. Cooper and the rest of the fishermen would want with “‘those smelly fish.’” Emmitt disagreed—he loved smelly fish. To prove his point, he ran up and snatched one from the fishermen’s bucket.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Seeing the fish, Hank had a brainstorm and asked to “‘borrow’” Emmitt’s fish. He placed it on a rock in the sun and went back to their hiding place in the bushes. Emmitt and Buckaroo were confused. But “before long, a swarm of flies hovered over the fish.” When there was a large cloud of flies, “Hank croaked, ‘Let’s go fishing!’” Their tongues snapped in the air, reeling in dozens of flies. When they were filled to the brim, they gave the fish back to Emmitt and happily made plans to go fly-fishing again the next Saturday.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Devin Scillian’s clever, pun-filled fish story has everything needed to hook young readers and deliver a funny story time. With the lure of all the flies they can eat, Hank and Buckaroo take action to have the best day of their lives and discover a new hobby. When they meet up with Emmitt the raccoon and learn that their initial idea was a bit off the mark, Hank shows persistence and innovative thinking to make their fishing dreams come true. Demonstrating acceptance of each other’s different tastes and some creative cooperation, the camaraderie among Hank, Buckaroo, and Emmitt serves as a good example for readers. The close bond between Hank and Buckaroo—and their hilarious dialog—will endear them to kids, leaving them wanting more from this “toadally” charming duo.

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Tim Bowers’ energetic toads, with their wide smiles, eager eyes, and spirited personalities are obvious best friends from the first page. Bowers’ vibrant, action-packed illustrations are laugh-out-loud funny as Buckaroo and Hank grow giddy at the thought of all those flies they’re going to catch, flick their loooong tongues, and hobble down the road with overstuffed bellies. Emmitt may chuckle at the toads’ misinterpretation of “fly-fishing,” but he’s a true and trusting friend to rescue Hank from a fisherman’s line and lend his filched treat to attract their lunch. In the background, images of the two fishermen and their young protégés casting their lines and reeling in bucket-loads of fish add depth, interest, and visual clues for readers.

A comical, well-developed tale that will captivate kids, Back Roads, Country Toads is a winner for group story times or one-on-one fun at home, in the classroom, or for public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-153411039

Discover more about Devin Scillian, his books, music, and journalism on his website.

To learn more about Tim Bowers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Fishing Month Activity

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Tackle the Tackle Box Board Game

 

A good fisherman always needs a well-stocked tackle box. Play the Tackle the Tackle Box Game to earn lures, bobbers, hooks and more to fill your box. The first player to complete their set is the winner! For more fun, you can color the tackle box items any way you like. There are even three extra cards for you to draw your own tackle box items!

Supplies

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Directions

  1. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one Tackle the Tackle Box Game Board for every player
  2. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one set of Tackle the Tackle Box Game Cards for every player
  3. Each player can color their set of playing cards (optional)
  4. Three spaces are left blank for kids to design their own lures, bait, and flies too (optional)
  5. Cut the cards apart
  6. Gather all the cards and set in separate piles
  7. Roll the die to determine who goes first, highest roll goes first
  8. The first player rolls the die, and adds the item that corresponds to the number on the die. The list is below.
  9. Play continues with each player rolling the die and collecting cards
  10. If the player rolls a number for a card that he or she already has, the die passes to the next player
  11. The first player to fix their tackle box is the winner!

Each number of dots on the die corresponds to these cards:

1: FISH LURES

2: HOOKS

3: WORMS

4: FISHING LINE

5: FLIES

6: BOBBERS

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You can find Back Roads, Country Toads at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 12 – National Simplicity Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday honors transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, who was born on this date in 1817 and along with his many other talents and interests advocated for a simplified life. As summer heats up with a full calendar of camps, activities, vacations, work, day trips, and more, take today “off” and just enjoy the simple pleasures around you.

I received a copy of Welcome to Morningtown from Bloomsbury Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m also excited to be partnering with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Welcome to Morningtown

Written by Blake Liliane Hellman | Illustrated by Steven Henry

 

It’s the crack of dawn in Morningtown and “everyone is waking.” A little cub rubs his eyes and sees his dad standing at the foot of his bed, fishing pole in hand, tackle box at the ready. The little tyke yawns and stretches along with the birds in the tree outside his room. Down at the pond, the frogs are “hopping, flopping, splashing awake while the turtles and a beaver enjoying the first cup of the day look on. All over Morningtown the animals, the insects, and even the fish are leaving their beds, brushing their teeth, washing up, and getting dressed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-waking-up

Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Next comes breakfast! “Some crunch, some nibble, some sip their morning feast.” Then in houses all around town the windows are opened and the shutters thrown wide. What will the day bring? Perhaps a banjo lesson, a new friend, and chance to help out. The cub dries the breakfast dishes while his mom washes. “Every day’s a surprise, and as the sun rises… busy bees buzz, fun bunnies bounce, and eager beavers slide into the day.” Yes, it’s a busy day in Morningtown. “Everyone is up…except one.” It’s a good thing Mom likes to go fishing too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-stretching

Image copyright Steven Henry, 2019, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Blake Liliane Hellman’s lyrical look at morning and all the promise it holds is an enchanting, cheerful way to start the day for little ones—and their adults. As the bear family wakes up in their stone home, the rest of Morningtown’s residents are also rising and greeting the day with all of those little details that go into getting ready to meet the world. Hellman’s evocative verbs, jaunty rhythms, and humorous ending make Welcome to Morningtown a joy to read aloud.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-dawn

Accompanying Hellman’s story are Steven Henry’s beyond adorable forest creatures who populate this peaceful hamlet. The sky glows golden and then softens into a clear, light blue as the animals leave their beds. One snoozing butterfly catches a few more winks on her soft dandelion bed, a tiny turtle enjoys another minute on Mom’s back, and Mr. Mole climbs emerges from his “secret” bed underground while three chirping birds wake a little mountain goat on his snowy ledge. Smiles abound, and readers will find themselves smiling too as they follow the little cub as he gets ready to go fishing with Dad. Henry’s clever details and charming perspectives create a rich and, as the title invites, welcoming community that little ones will want to visit again and again.

To start a little one’s day with enthusiasm for what lies ahead, put them to bed looking forward to tomorrow, or share cuddly down time, the charming Welcome to Morningtown is as sweet as it gets and would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681198736

To learn more about Steven Henry, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Welcome to Morningtown Giveaway

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

  • One (1) copy of Welcome to Morningtown by Blake Liliane Hellman | illustrated by Steven Henry

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

Bonus: Reply with your or your child’s favorite breakfast for an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from July 12 through July 18 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on July 19.

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

National Simplicity Day Activity

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Pancake Flip-Out

 

Pancakes are served in a stack because they’re so delicious each one doesn’t last long! This game gives you the chance to see how many pancakes you can flip onto a plate! You can play this game several ways:

To Play Pancake Toss

  1. Give each player the same number of pancakes and see how many they can toss onto the plate during their turn
  2. Make a target with the plate in the middle and draw 3 concentric circles around it. Hitting the target can earn you 20 points. Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point, the second circle is worth 10 points, and the third is worth 5 points. Rotate through the players as many times as you like and add up the points at the end. The player with the most points wins!
  3. Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try throwing them with a spatula!
  4. Make up your own rules—and have fun!

To Play With Dice

  1. Choose a number of pancakes that each player must add to their plate—say, maybe, a baker’s dozen.
  2. Take turns rolling the dice and adding the number of pancakes rolled to the plate. The first player to reach the agreed-upon number is the winner.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print enough copies of the Pancakes and Breakfast Plates for the game you choose and cut them out. Playing pieces can be printed on card stock or on paper. 
  2. If printing on paper, you can glue the pancakes and plate to poster board, cardboard, or foam to give the pancakes more weight for throwing and the plate more support
  3. Once dry, the game pieces are ready for fun!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-to-morningtown-cover

You can find Welcome to Morningtown at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 18 – National Go Fishing Day

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-go-fish!-cover

About the Holiday

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

Go Fish!

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Zoe Waring

 

Goose has packed his tackle box, backpack, and umbrella, and with his fishing pole slung over his shoulder he heads down the road to meet his friends at the pond. It’s time to “go fish!” While Raccoon, Bunny, Cat, Beaver, and Mouse have all cast their lines from the dock, Goose has gotten tangled in his. It’s okay, though, really, because when the others pull up their lines, they sadly see “No fish.”

celebrte-picture-books-picture-book-review-go-fish-piercelebrte-picture-books-picture-book-review-go-fish-pier

Image copyright Zoe Waring, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Goose has managed to straighten things out and is trying to bait his hook as his friends enthusiastically try once again. But, alas, there are still “no fish.” Oh dear! Goose has dropped the jar of worms, and they’re all wriggling away. By this time the others doubtfully “go fish,” and their suspicions are confirmed when they pull up “no fish” but lots of other intriguing items.

Suddenly, though, the crew sees a shadowy fish swimming near the dock. Goose is finally ready, so his friends let him try his luck. His hook and bobber sail over the water right to where the shadow is. Did he catch it? The line gets tight, and everyone helps Goose reel it in while chanting “Fish! Fish! Fish!” Their catch breaks the surface of the water, and…”Whoa.”

celebrte-picture-books-picture-book-review-go-fish-lake

Image copyright Zoe Waring, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

This is no ordinary fish! It’s ENORMOUS! The friends scramble down the dock as fast as they can to the safety of the grassy hill. They sit dejectedly, their stomachs rumbling. Goose is reading the newspaper that Beaver caught earlier when something catches his eye. It’s an ad for pizza! He calls. He orders. They have a pizza party! Peering over the dock is the enormous fish. The friends notice his sad expression. “Oh! Fish?” They wonder what to do. Goose knows! Like a fishing expert, he hooks a slice of pizza and sends it sailing toward their new friend Fish. A few bites later, it’s time for everyone to splash in the cool, blue pond.

celebrte-picture-books-picture-book-review-go-fish-no-fish

Image copyright Zoe Waring, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

With only ten words and a pondful of charm, Tammi Sauer and Zoe Waring have created a book that will have kids laughing and happily shouting along “Go fish!” “No fish!” with a minimum of prompting on the first read through and no help necessary on subsequent go ‘rounds—of which there will be many, many. Goose, with his tangled line and lost worms, makes an endearing comic foil to Waring’s sweet, more experienced Beaver, Cat, Bunny, Raccoon, and Mouse.

Strategic placement of the words “go” and “fish carry the story through the excitement of a day of fishing, the disappointment of empty hooks, renewed and dashed hopes, a passel of silly catches, and one distinctive fish. An unexpected “whoa” ushers in a rhyme scheme that little ones will love as well as a pizza-perfect ending for all. Waring’s bright backgrounds showcase her adorable characters and their easy-to-read expressions. Readers will have fun following the fates of the “catches of the day” to see how they play into this fabulous fish story.

Fans of Tammi Sauer and Zoe Waring’s Truck, Truck, Goose! as well as readers new to Goose’s adventures will be hooked on Go Fish! from the first page, making this book a definite catch for home and classroom libraries.

Ages Preschool and up

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062421555    

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zoe Waring, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Go Fishing Day Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-go-fishing-game-4

Go Fishing Game

 

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

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-go-fishing-game-1

Directions

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

To Make the Fish

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

To Make the Fishing Pole

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

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

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-go-fish!-cover

You can find Go Fish! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 19 – It’s National Fishing Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-skyfishing-cover

About the Holiday

During National Fishing Month individuals and families are encouraged to try their hand at this fun outdoor sport. Whether you catch and release or eat what you catch, casting your line, seeing the bobber wobble, and feeling that exciting tug on the fishing pole makes for a fun day.

Skyfishing (A Grand Tale with Grandpa)

Written by Gideon Sterer | Illustrated by Poly Bernatene

 

A young girl’s grandpa sold his cabin on the lake and is coming to live with her and her family. When they pulled in to pick him up, he was ready and waiting with every fishing pole he owned in one hand and his tackle box in the other. But once he saw his granddaughter’s apartment in the middle of the city, he “realized there was nowhere to fish.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-skyfishing-grandpa

Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

All during that fall and winter, the girl tried to engage her grandpa in new activities like building models and playing chess. But nothing was the same as fishing. Then in the spring, the little girl had an idea. She took her grandpa out on the fire escape with their fishing poles, and they cast their lines over the edge. At first nothing happened. But then Grandpa got a bite. He reeled it in… “Grandpa said he’d never seen one before, but there it was…A Flying Litterfish.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-skyfishing-fire-escape

Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

That green plastic bag on the end of the hook was just the beginning. After learning the rules—always return what you catch and “where there’s one fish, you can bet there will be more”—the two caught “Chimefish, and Signfish, Laundry Eels and even a Cold-air-square.” But all of those things were stationary and easy to catch. Down below, however, “the sidewalk flowed slowly”; it was a perfect place to practice trawling.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-skyfishing-sidewalk

Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

“Capfish were the first to bite. Then Songfish, Goldfish, and fish “from foreign shores.” As Grandpa and his granddaughter became more proficient, they reeled in “Furry Snappers” on leashes and “Hammerheads” drilling holes. Even a “Grillfish” was on the menu. Next, it was time to try their luck in the ocean of the street where larger and faster fish lived. Here, “Zoomfish, Mailfish, Glowfish, and more Yellow-stripers than [they] could count” waited.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-skyfishing-road

Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

There were also mammoth creatures like the “Stretchfish,” Waste-muncher,” and “Constructionfish,” but down below these—in the murky depths—lived the largest fish of all. Grandpa and his granddaughter studied just how to set their line, they lowered it slowly and were not surprised when they felt the tug of the…oh, no!…“Troublefish” with sirens blaring.

Quickly and quietly the two put their fishing poles away for another day. But summer vacation was just beginning, and it was time to join those city fish. “It was time to swim.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-skyfishing-subway

Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

Gideon Sterer’s debut picture book gently and creatively addresses the issue of grandparents transitioning from their own home into another living situation. As an outdoor-loving grandpa comes to live with his family in the city, his caring granddaughter discovers a way for him to continue his beloved pastime while they also form a strong bond. Sterer’s clever idea of dry-land fishing along with his witty names for the fish found in the concrete depths will enchant readers and entice them to devise species of their own. The sweet ending in which both Grandpa and Granddaughter are ready to explore the city and new experiences together is satisfying and uplifting.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-skyfishing-hobbies

Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

With perfect pacing and a growing sense of wonder, Poly Bernatene leads children from Grandpa’s sparkling blue lake to his granddaughter’s city apartment to the first glimpse of their fire escape trophy. Children will be charmed by the ingenuity of the plastic-bag fish dangling on the line and, like the little girl in the story, will be hooked on what comes next. As the waters rise and the people and objects down below slowly transition to fish and other humorous sea creatures, readers will love exploring the watery world and learn to look at their own neighborhoods in a whole new way.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1419719110

To learn more about Gideon Sterer and his books, visit his website.

Discover a gallery of artwork and books by Poly Bernatene for children, young adults, and adults on his website.

National Fishing Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tackle-the-tackle-box-game

Tackle the Tackle Box Board Game

 

A good fisherman always needs a well-stocked tackle box. Play the Tackle the Tackle Box Game to earn lures, bobbers, hooks and more to fill your box. The first player to complete their set is the winner! For more fun, you can color the tackle box items any way you like. There are even three extra cards for you to draw your own tackle box items!

Supplies

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tackle-the-tackle-box-game-cards

Directions

  1. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one Tackle the Tackle Box Game Board for every player
  2. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one set of Tackle the Tackle Box Game Cards for every player
  3. Each player can color a set of playing cards
  4. Cut the cards apart
  5. Gather all the cards and set in separate piles
  6. Roll the die to determine who goes first, highest roll goes first
  7. The first player rolls the die, and adds the item that corresponds to the number on the die. The list is below.
  8. Play continues with each player rolling the die and collecting cards
  9. If the player rolls a number for a card that he or she already has, the die passes to the next player
  10. The first player to fix their tackle box is the winner!

Each number of dots on the die corresponds to these cards:

1: FISH LURES

2: HOOKS

3: WORMS

4: FISHING LINE

5: FLIES

6: BOBBERS

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-skyfishing-cover

You can find Skyfishing (A Grand Tale with Grandpa) at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 1 – It’s National Fishing Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooked-cover

About the Holiday

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

Hooked

Written by Tommy Greenwald | Illustrated by David McPhail

 

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooked-Joe-asks-dad

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooked-fishing-club

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

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooked-ice-fishing

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 4.24.01 PM

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1596439962

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

National Fishing Month Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-go-fishing-game-4

Go Fishing Game

 

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

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-go-fishing-game-1

Directions

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

To Make the Fish

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

To Make the Fishing Pole

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooked-cover

You can find Hooked at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 28 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-go-fish!-cover

About the Holiday

Little ones and kids of all ages benefit from being outdoors whether they’re playing, helping around the house, gardening, or traveling. Simple pleasures and even time to be “bored” spark the imagination and creativity and can help kids learn patience and self-sufficiency. To celebrate Great Outdoors Month, plan an outing with your kids. It may turn into an adventure you never expected—just as in today’s book!

Go Fish!

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Zoe Waring

 

Goose has packed his tackle box, backpack, and umbrella, and with his fishing pole slung over his shoulder he heads down the road to meet his friends at the pond. It’s time to “go fish!” While Raccoon, Bunny, Cat, Beaver, and Mouse have all cast their lines from the dock, Goose has gotten tangled in his. It’s okay, though, really, because when the others pull up their lines, they sadly see “No fish.”

Goose has managed to straighten things out and is trying to bait his hook as his friends enthusiastically try once again. But, alas, there are still “no fish.” Oh dear! Goose has dropped the jar of worms, and they’re all wriggling away. By this time the others doubtfully “go fish,” and their suspicions are confirmed when they pull up “no fish” but lots of other intriguing items.

Suddenly, though, the crew sees a shadowy fish swimming near the dock. Goose is finally ready, so his friends let him try his luck. His hook and bobber sail over the water right to where the shadow is. Did he catch it? The line gets tight, and everyone helps Goose reel it in while chanting “Fish! Fish! Fish!” Their catch breaks the surface of the water, and…”Whoa.”

This is no ordinary fish! The friends scramble down the dock as fast as they can to the safety of the grassy hill. They sit dejectedly, their stomachs rumbling. Goose is reading the newspaper Beaver caught earlier when something catches his eye. It’s an ad for pizza! He calls. He orders. They have a pizza party! Peering over the dock is the enormous fish. The friends notice his sad expression. “Oh! Fish?” They wonder what to do. Goose knows! Like a fishing expert, he hooks a slice of pizza and sends it sailing toward Fish. A few bites later, it’s time to splash in the cool, blue pond.

With only ten words and a pond-ful of charm, Tammi Sauer and Zoe Waring have created a book that will have kids laughing and happily shouting along “Go fish!” “No fish!” with a minimum of prompting on the first read through and no help necessary on subsequent go ‘rounds—of which there will be many, many. Goose, with his tangled line and lost worms, makes an endearing comic foil to Waring’s sweet, more experienced Beaver, Cat, Bunny, Raccoon, and Mouse.

Strategic placement of the words “go” and “fish carry the story through the excitement of a day of fishing, the disappointment of empty hooks, renewed and dashed hopes, a passel of silly catches, and one distinctive fish. An unexpected “whoa” ushers in a rhyme scheme that little ones will love as well as a pizza-perfect ending for all. Waring’s bright backgrounds showcase her adorable characters and their easy-to-read expressions. Readers will have fun following the fates of the “catches of the day” to see how they play into this fabulous fish story.

Fans of Tammi Sauer and Zoe Waring’s Truck, Truck, Goose! as well as readers new to Goose’s adventures will be hooked on Go Fish! from the first page, making this book a definite catch for home and classroom libraries.

Ages Preschool and up

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062421555    

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zoe Waring, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Great Outdoors Month Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-go-fishing-game-4

Go Fishing Game

 

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

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-go-fishing-game-1

Directions

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

To Make the Fish

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

To Make the Fishing Pole

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

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

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-go-fish!-cover

You can find Go Fish! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review