July 15 – National I Love Horses Day

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About the Holiday

Horses have been companion and work animals for people around the world since earliest times. Their beauty, strength, and swiftness are inspiring and are just a few of the reasons that horses are much-loved by kids and adults alike. Today’s holiday celebrates this special feeling people have for horses. To honor today’s holiday, read a book or watch a movie about horses or consider donating to the cause of protecting horses. There are many homeless horses who need permanent homes, too. If you have the land and means, you may even think about adopting a horse in need.

Pony in the City

By Wendy Wahman

 

At the Pony Paddock, Otis met many children and he loved them all. He gobbled up the peppermints Dinah brought him, enjoyed having his mane brushed by Daniel, and “sprang to a gallop when Mel sang out, ‘Giddy-giddy-giddyup, Otis!’” While the kids got to see where Otis lived, Otis wondered about their lives. He “wanted to know… ‘do they gallop and kick? Do they nicker and neigh? Do they ever walk on all fours?’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pony-in-the-city-children-ride

Copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

The other horses in the paddock—Mosey, Whinny, and Derby—just shook their manes, stamped their hooves, and snorted when Otis started asking his questions. But Otis couldn’t stop thinking about how things were on the other side of the fence. Did kids “graze on grass and daisies?” Were their “manes brushed and braided?” And how did they sleep? Did they wear cozy blankets and stand in stalls?

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Copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day, “saddled with questions,” Otis broke through his enclosure and headed into the city to find some children. He passed an apple orchard where he nibbled a snack, clip-clopped around a fountain, and said hello to some squirrels. He even walked by a group of horses dancing around and around to music. Suddenly, he saw them! The pasture was full of children! Everywhere, they were climbing and swinging and playing.

Otis hid behind trees and watched the kids “galloping and kicking. Nickering and neighing.” He even saw some “walking on all fours.” Otis followed a brother and sister home and was impressed with the sizes of the barns on the street. As he watched them eat their veggies at a table decorated with daisies, he realized they ate just like he did. Through the window of another barn, he saw a little girl having her mane brushed and braided, and a pair of baby twins standing in their stalls clutched their blankets and giggled to see Otis peeking at them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pony-in-the-city-in-the-park

Copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy of wendywahman.com.

Otis was getting tired; it was time to go back to Pony Paddock. He clippity-clopped down the street and turned the corner. Then he turned another corner. All the barns looked the same. He trotted down sidewalk after sidewalk, getting hungrier and farther away from home. Cars honked at Otis, headlights blinded him, doormen chased him away, and statues of lions and warriors frightened him. Finally, Otis was so exhausted that he lay down under a blanket of newspapers and fell asleep.

In the morning Otis heard “Clippity, clippity.” Could it be Mosey? He heard “Cloppity, cloppity.” Did Derby or Whinny come looking for him? No! It was Dinah, David, and Mel in their cleats on the way to soccer. They were so surprised to find their friend in the big city. “The children led Otis home with a song: ‘Giddy-giddy-giddyup, Otis!’” When they reached Pony Paddock, the three fed him, brushed him and tucked him in. But did Mosey, Derby, and Whinny let Otis sleep? No! They had so many questions…, and Otis answered them all “one by one. And then some.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pony-in-the-city-otis-can't-sleep

Copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Wendy Wahman’s truly clever view of children through a pony’s eyes is sure to delight readers. As Otis thinks and wonders about the children who come to ride him, he only has his own experiences to use as reference. When he ventures out into the city, he discovers that he’s right. Wahman’s imaginative interpretation of a playground, meals, haircare, cribs, and even soccer cleats creates “Ah-ha!” moments of amusement while also spurring readers to insight about bigger issues of diversity and inclusion. With a deft wit, Wahman includes plenty of verbal and visual jokes, and puns.

Wahman’s art is always distinctive, and here her smart, sophisticated, and kid-pleasing illustrations are a treat. From the title page—where, while Otis passes a hat shop, his reflection dons a red chapeaux—to the dynamic playground scene, where all types of equestrian behavior are on display to the two-page-spread, lovey blue cityscapes that map out Otis’s route,  Wahman’s collage-style images create a vibrant world.

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Copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy of wendywahman.com

Little details enrich the story and add humor that kids will love to point out: crime scene tape crisscrosses the fence where Otis broke through, a child uses a tree for hiding at the park, just as Otis does, and the babies have horse-themed mobiles above their cribs. Readers will also enjoy following the adorable families of cats and chickens from page to page.

Pony in the City is a cute, endearing ride of a story that will enchant children. The book would make a perfect gift, especially for horse lovers, and would be a favorite on home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454922322

You can view a portfolio of books and art by Wendy Wahman on her website!

Gallop on over to watch this Pony in the City book trailer!

National Horse Protection Day Activity

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Just Horsing Around! Word Search Puzzle

 

There are over 200 breeds of horses in the world! You’ll find the names of twenty-five of them in this printable Just Horsing Around! Word Search Puzzle.

Just Horsing Around! Word Search PuzzleJust Horsing Around! Word Search Solution

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You can find Pony in the City at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pancake-game-four-edited

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!

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You can find Welcome to Morningtown at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 11 – All American Pet Photo Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday probably needs no special promotion since the purpose of the day—sharing pictures of our singular pets with others—is something all of us pet owners do every day. Our pets are just so cute and funny and clever. Like just this morning, my cat… but I digress. To celebrate today, capture your pet doing something extraordinary—or ordinary, it doesn’t really matter—and share them for your family, friends, and the world to see!

Dogs and their People

By Anne Lambelet

 

When the day is fine, a girl likes “to take the long way home from school” and watch people and their dogs. Some people have both babies and puppies, while others share their advanced age with their loyal hound. “Some dogs and their people look alike, and others could not be more different, but however they look, each person “seems to have found their perfect match.”

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Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

Take Cordelia Vanderlay, the painter, and her dog Fluffernutter Vanderlay, who loves to make prints of her paws. Or Jennette and Lisette, who are twins, but very different. While Jennette likes to wear sleek black attire, her sister loves things that are frilly. And their dogs—a smooth dark greyhound and a fluffy, groomed standard poodle—are perfect mirrors of their owners. And of course there’s “Lord Banberry and his schnauzer, O’Grady,” who both sport the same impressive, well-trimmed, downturned mustachios.

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Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

A young hot-dog lover, accompanied by his wiener-dog dachshund, buys an after-school treat from Freddie McDarrow and his smiling pup. Yes, “watching dogs and their people is fun,” the girl says, “because I can always tell they are best friends.” But she’s always happiest to come home to her best friend…can you guess who?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dogs-and-their-people-groomer

Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

Anne Lambelet’s story charms as she introduces dog-and-owner pairs who look alike, act alike, or are polar opposites but still besties. As author and illustrator, Lambelet perfectly melds the joy of people- and pet-watching with a Victorian elegance that sets her story in an enchanting universe. Readers will get a kick out of Lambelet’s flowery names—both human and pet—that add to the ambience and seem as perfect as the friendships.

Lambelet’s unique mixed-media style of illustration, which highlights each owner and their dog—often with simple props surrounded by airy white space, but also in several two-page spreads that give kids a glimpse into the girl’s city—brings texture, interesting perspectives, and movement to the pages. Her lovely, muted color palette is as refreshing as the glow of autumn, and her fashionable city dwellers and their equally well-turned-out pooches could easily have just stepped out of a fashion magazine. Lambelet’s surprise ending will delight readers and gives the other side a sweet, heart-felt nod.

A jaunty trip through the joys of pet-and-people friendships, Dogs and their People will be a much-asked-for favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves and would be a fun spark for or take along on a people- and pet-watching walk.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146893

Discover more about Anne Lambelet, her books, and her art on her website.

All American Pet Photo Day Activity

CPB - Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

 

Each of the puppies has a friend. Can you match them up based on one trait? There may be multiple right answers! Why do you think the dogs you chose go together in this printable puzzle?

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

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You can find Dogs and Their People at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 10 – Don’t Step on a Bee Day

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About the Holiday

The bee population is in decline around the world due to habitat disruption and destruction, pesticide use, and colony collapse disorder. Bees (and other pollinators) are crucial to the world’s food supply. Today’s holiday is a reminder to protect bees and help preserve their habitats. By planting flowers and herbs that attract bees and providing safe nesting places for them, you can be part of the solution.

Bee & Me

By Alison Jay

 

As you open the cover of Alison Jay’s glorious, wordless Bee & Me, don’t be surprised if your heart skips a little faster when you find yourself in a city that’s familiar but also magical. From a high vantage point, you look down on a main thoroughfare where a café, a music store, a hat shop, an optometrist, a barber, and a shoe shop line the busy street; stylized cars, buses, and trucks pass by; and people—tiny from this distance—walk a dog, ride a unicycle, carry bags, and try to keep up with two running children. Elevated trains traverse their arched track and helicopters and planes dot the sky.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Turn the page and you’re looking into a four-story apartment house. On the first floor a woman does battle with a fly as her husband types at his green typewriter; on the third floor a boy tries to coax a pigeon to eat out of his hand; and in the fourth-floor apartment, a woman sits at her easel, painting. And what about the second floor? That’s where the story gets started.

A bee, attracted by flowered curtains, has just flown into a little girl’s window as she’s reading a book about flowers. The little buzzy guy flies right up to her face, causing her to toss the book aside and run away in fright. She procures her weapon and raises the fly swatter into position but reconsiders when she sees the bee’s scared face and little legs waving in his own defense. The girl decides to trap him under a drinking glass, but when the bee weakens and then faints, she reads up on bee culture and offers him a spoonful of sugar water, which he slurps up eagerly. The girl goes to the window and releases the bee under the interested gaze of the little boy upstairs.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

That night a storm rages and the rain continues the next day. At her window, the girl finds the bee soaked through. She brings him in, feeds him another spoonful of sugar water, and then, while he sits on a playing die on her vanity, she dries him with her hairdryer and a toothbrush. Happy and fluffy, the bee decides to stay. He and the little girl become fast friends and begin doing everything together. They play checkers, dance, have tea parties, and go places with the bee riding in the girl’s doll carriage or bicycle basket. Nourished with cups of sugar water and popsicles, the bee begins to grow and grow, becoming as tall as the girl, and then taller. They play at the park on the slide and the swing, and the bee even learns how to ride the girl’s bike.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But on a stroll downtown, the bee sees a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a florist’s window. He presses his face to the glass, and the little girl, noticing, buys him a flower. At home, the bee thinks of a meadow of flowers, and his sad face tells the little girl all she needs to know. She gets out a map and shows her friend where there’s open green space. The girl climbs on the bee’s back and they soar from the window, unseen by anyone except the little boy on the third floor.

They fly out of the city, over the river, and into farmland where they find a field of flowers. Carefully, they gather seeds in their bags and on the way back home scatter them across the city. The last seeds in the girl’s bag go into her new window box. Fall has come and the bee and the girl hug and then say goodbye as the bee flies away from her window.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

With winter, an invitation comes from the boy upstairs in the form of a yellow-and-brown striped scarf dangled out of his window, and the two build a snow bee outside their apartment building. In the spring, they walk together through the rain under a polka dot umbrella, and summer sees the seeds in the girl’s window box begin to sprout. In fact the whole city has begun to sprout, with colorful gardens blooming on rooftops, along the edges of sidewalks and streets, and in yards sprinkled here and there.

The purple, yellow, blue, pink, and white flowers attract butterflies and bees, and the people on the street stop now to enjoy the beauty around them. And the girl’s BeeFF? He, of course, comes back to visit and play.

A Bee Aware! Author’s Note about the importance of bees, the kinds of flower and herb plants that attract bees, and how to create and help bees find places to nest follows the story.

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Copyright Alison Jay, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

While following the story, which is played out with perfect pacing, humor, and sensitivity, readers can glimpse surprising, delightful, and funny details on every page that tell them more about the people who live in the little girl’s apartment house and the buildings nearby. Alison Jay cleverly uses these snippets of life to show the passage of time and the subplot of what is happening for the little boy who lives upstairs. The girl’s kindness and attention to the needs of the bee, whom she once feared, reminds readers of the benefits of education and opening your heart.

A superb story that encompasses awareness of nature, urban sprawl, the power of friendship, and the change one person can make on another and the world at large all wrapped in stunning art that invites multiple readings, Bee & Me is perfect for cuddly story times with little ones and impactful read alouds with older kids. The book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 8

Old Barn Books, Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763690106

You can learn more about Alison Jay and her books, and view a portfolio of her art on Children’sIllustrators.com

Don’t Step on a Bee Day Activity

CPB---Busy-Buzzy-Bee-Maze

Busy Buzzy Bee Maze

 

Can you help the little bee find her way through this printable Busy Buzzy Bee Maze? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Bee & Me at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 18 – National Go Fishing Day

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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 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.”

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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

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Directions

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

To Make the Fish

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

To Make the Fishing Pole

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

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

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You can find Go Fish! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 10 – It’s National Home Ownership Month

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About the Holiday

Owning a home is a major goal for many people, and while home ownership provides security for individuals and families, it’s also good for cities and towns, offering stability, economic benefits, and community cohesion. To that end, today’s holiday was established in 2002 to help people negotiate the sometimes confusing elements of finding and purchasing a home. A home is so much more than just a building, and each person has their own idea about what makes a home perfect. Sometimes you can’t really put your finger on it—it’s just a feeling. And if—as in today’s book—you’re lucky enough to share your home with an unseen guest, that makes it all the better!

Sir Simon: Super Scarer

By Cale Atkinson

 

Be careful as you open the book because if you’ve never seen a ghost, you’re about to—“Boo!” It’s ok if you were scared, the ghost says as he displays his business card, which reads “Sir Simon / Super Scarer / Ghostest with the mostest.” This professional scarer has “haunted and scared all sorts of things” from a whole forest and an unimpressed bear to a boat and a bus stop to a pizza, a ukulele, and a potato.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Finally, though, Sir Simon is “being transferred to a house.” While Simon is happy about having a haunted house all to himself, he’s not so thrilled about all the Ghost chores a house requires. What kinds of chores? Well, all of those eerie sounds and creepy circumstances don’t happen by themselves. They’re all Simon “stomping in the attic” with an old shoe on each hand, “flushing the toilet” in the middle of the night, “hiding and moving stuff around,” and “standing creepy in the window wearing old-timey clothes.” And it’s only after these chores and more that Simon can do what he really likes to do.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

It seems in his afterlife Simon likes to dabble in the arts, learn French, and even write a thriller. Once Simon is ensconced in his new digs, he hears that grandparents are going to be moving in. He’s happy with this news because on “the pyramid of haunting,” old people are at the top since they sleep a lot, require fewer chores, and are oblivious to ghostly presences. But just as Simon is welcoming his new family home, he discovers that it includes a kid. A kid who sees him right away. A kid who has a lot of questions and a lot of comments. A kid who wants to be a Ghost too.

Simon is more than a bit miffed at this turn of events. It means more chores and less free time. Unless… Simon suddenly thinks Chester “would make a top-notch Ghost.” He takes Chester up to the attic, where he just can’t help looking through all of Simon’s stuff—much to Simon’s consternation. Simon gets Chester all suited up in the appropriate Ghost garb, gives him a list of “activities,” and sends him on his way. First up is making scary animal noises.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

As Simon happily types away on his novel, he hears Chester’s “Moo. Mooooooo. MOOOOOOOOO!” Incensed, Simon finds Chester at the heating vent and lets him know that “spooky and cow do not go together.” In fact, Chester does not seem to have a scary gene in his body. After trying and failing at every chore on the list, Chester is so exhausted he falls asleep with a thud.

Simon puts Chester to bed and then looks around his room. He sees that he and Chester actually have a lot in common—from the ukulele to drawing and writing to moving a lot. But does Simon feel bad for tricking Chester into doing his chores? No! Well… yes. The next morning Simon comes to offer his help with Chester’s chores, but they’re not as easy as they look. Simon has to admit that while “Chester isn’t the best at being a Ghost,” he’s “not so hot at being a human.” But there is something that they are both good at and that’s being friends.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sir-simon-super-scarer-chores

Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Cale Atkinson’s unique take on the ghostly life—or afterlife—is laugh-out-loud funny as Sir Simon Spookington goes about his spectral chores with pride tinged with exasperation at the time they take away from his preferred creative pursuits. When he discovers that a kid has moved into his house—and, what’s more, wants to be a ghost too—Atkinson’s apparition with attitude turns prickly with the disruption Chester causes and perfectionist when Chester’s haunting doesn’t live up to his standards. Simon’s strict chore schedule, his haunting pyramid, and his wisecracking responses to Chester are droll and hilarious, and Chester’s attempts at ghosting are silliness at their best.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Readers will fall in love with Simon from the moment they open the cover to find twenty-four snapshots of the little ghost doing his chores. Atkinson’s free-wheeling creativity makes each page a showstopper as this haunted house is packed full of clever details and allusions to favorite scary and adventure movies and books in every nook and cranny. Atkinson also uses juxtaposition to great effect in images of  Simon floating through his chores with a frown and furrowed brow followed by those of a happy and relaxed Simon as he paints, writes, and does cross-stitch as well as in two cutaways of the house—one at night while Chester does Simon’s chores and one during the day as Simon attempts to do Chester’s. The final spread of Simon and Chester hanging out as friends is endearing and heartwarming.

Sir Simon: Super Scarer is a must for fans of ghost stories, funny stories, and friendship stories and will be enjoyed by adults as much as by kids. This book will be asked for again and again, making it a spooktacular addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8 

Tundra, 2018 | ISBN 978-1101919095

To learn more about Cale Atkinson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Home Ownership Month Activity

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Pop Up Houses Play Set

 

You can own your own home with this printable Pop Up Play Set thanks to Education.com. It has a house for you and one for a friend! Give your houses some color, plant the trees and move in! Print on heavy paper to make the figures sturdier.

Pop Up Houses Play Set

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You can find Sir Simon Super Scarer at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 6 – National Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

Getting outside is one of the joys of summer, but with all the fun games to play and not-so-fun-but-necessary chores to do inside, sometimes a day, a week, or even the whole summer can go by without your ever really getting to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and outdoor activities As schools close, leaving more time for leisure pursuits, make sure to take the opportunity of this month-long holiday to plan some time to explore the great outdoors through hiking, biking, swimming, camping, and just plain playing. 

Bear Out There

By Jacob Grant

 

While Bear had tea, Spider was showing him the kite he had made. “He was very excited to fly it out in the yard.” Spider loved everything about the outdoors—the sun, the gentle breeze, the plants, and even the bugs. Bear loved everything about staying indoors. He was looking forward to cleaning up his house and having another cup of tea.

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Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But then Spider’s kite took off on its own and because Bear was a good friend, he said he would help look for it. But he reminded Spider: “…you know I do not like the forest.” In fact, Bear did not like anything about the forest—the “filthy ground…the itchy plants…the pesky bugs.” Spider, on the other hand, thought a search through the forest would be fun.

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Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As they walked, Bear grumbled and complained about the fragrant weeds, the noisy owls, and all the other “unpleasant” things all around them. They had still not found the kite when it started to rain. Now, not even Spider was having a good time, and Bear was more miserable than before. “‘Surely this search cannot get any worse!’ he said. But it could.”

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Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Bear gave up. He was ready to go home and have a cup of tea in his comfy chair. But then he saw Spider sitting on a rock. Rain drops splashed off his tiny button hat and he looked bedraggled and disappointed. Bear relented. “‘Maybe we could look just a little farther,’” he said. Spider was happy just to be with Bear.

The rain lessened and Bear and Spider looked up at the clearing sky. There, stuck in the branch of a tree, was Spider’s kite. Back home, they soaked in a hot bath, patched the rips in Spider’s kite, made one for Bear, and, of course, had tea—which they enjoyed while flying their kites from Bear’s comfy chair out in the yard.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-out-there-kite-found

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Jacob Grant’s seemingly odd-couple friendship between a big black bear and an itty-bitty spider is as charming and comforting as it gets. While Spider loves the outdoors, Bear is a homebody; but when his friend needs help, Bear puts his own feelings aside to help. It doesn’t take long—only one page, in fact—for Bear to give up the tidy day he had planned for a tromp through the woods in search of Spider’s lost kite. As the hunt grows long and conditions worsen, Bear begins to grumble until he finally gives up. Again, though, one glance at disappointed Spider spurs him on to continue the search. And for Spider, just having Bear by his side makes things all right.

The dynamics between Bear and Spider are pitch perfect, mirroring the love and trust between parents and kids, best friends, teachers and students, and other adult-child pairs. A story isn’t a real story without change, and here, too, Grant offers an inspiring truism. The final scene in which Bear and Spider both enjoy flying kites while sipping tea and lounging in Bear’s chair shows the joy of sharing and embracing another’s favorite activity.

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Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Grant’s gentle, soft-hued illustrations are full of meaning and humor, of the forest’s allure that Bear doesn’t see, and of Spider’s feelings that he does. Although Bear is a neat-freak—scrubbing, dusting, and sweeping—he’s careful to leave Spider’s resting spots intact. In the woods, Bear grumbles about the smells, the noise, and the general unpleasantness while readers see a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a topsy-turvy turn of events in an owl’s nest, and a scenic panorama complete with waterfall and butterflies. Coming back to their home with its inviting pink teapot and orange chairs is the perfect antidote to any busy or stressful day.

Bear Out There is an endearing read and would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves for its sweet depiction of what true friendship between adults and kids or among children is all about. Readers won’t want to miss Jacob Grant’s first Bear and Spider adventure, Bear’s Scare.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681197456

To learn more about Jacob Grant, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Great Outdoors Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-go-scooter-maze

Let’s Go! Maze

 

These four friends want to ride their scooters together. Can you help the girls find their way along the path to the boys?

Let’s Go! Maze | Let’s Go! Maze Solution

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You can find Bear Out There at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review