April 1 – Reading is Funny Day

celebrate-picturebooks-picture-book-review-narwhal's-otter-friend-coverAbout the Holiday

Nothing’s better than hearing the giggles and guffaws of a child reading a funny book! And thanks to today’s holiday, that sound can echo through homes, classrooms, libraries, and other places all day long. It’s easy to celebrate too. Just head out to your library or local bookstore and find some funny books to share. You can even raid your own bookshelves for some old favorites. Or do a bit of both and enjoy the newest in a much-loved series—like today’s book.

Narwhal’s Otter Friend (A Narwhal and Jelly Book)

By Ben Clanton

 

Narwhal and Jelly are back with new adventures in this fourth book of Ben Clanton’s beloved series. As the action begins, Narwhal and Jelly are swimming along when they meet Otty, an otter who’s excited to recognize Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea. Otty is no ordinary otter. It turns out she has “partied with penguins…and surfed with seals.” Otty “even met a mermaid once.” And one day she played with all three together.

Well, Narwhal thinks these escapes sound “Fantastic!” “Tubular!” and “Mer-aculous!” Jelly, though, is more skeptical, so when Narwhal suggests having an adventure with Otty, he’s shocked. Especially when the list of gear they’re going to bring along includes waffles.

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Copyright Ben Clanton, 2019, courtesy of Tundra Books.

The action takes a break for some “Otterly Aww-some Facts” about this favorite sea and river cutie, and Jelly sneaks in some pretty cool facts about jellyfish as well. During the break, Jelly’s feelings have turned into a black cloud of jealousy. He determines that he will also find a new friend and invites Turtle to eat waffles with him. Turtle is already committed to her friend Shelly’s “Birthday Shellebration,” though, so Jelly keeps looking. Shark and Octopus have plans to play ball, and Mr. Blowfish is too busy talking on his “shell phone” to speak to Jelly.

Jelly’s beginning to despair of ever finding a new friend when he spots Crab grumping on the bottom of the ocean. Jelly floats down there and tries to cheer Crab up with a joke, but his response is: “Scram, Smelly.” Jelly tells him that even the rock lying nearby would make a better friend, and that’s when he has an idea. Jelly decides that Rocky is going to be “one rock-solid friend.”

What’s a Narwhal and Jelly book without the adventures of Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick? Fortunately, you don’t have to find out as Jelly and Rocky come up with a new episode: Strawberry Sidekick vs. The dEVILed EGG. Just as they’re finishing this egg-citing story, Narwhal and Otter swim up. Seems they’ve been looking all over for Jelly. When they hear about all the fun Jelly and Rocky have been having, they greet Rocky enthusiastically, and Otty thinks he’s “one rocking rock!” Jelly asks them what they’ve been doing.

Narwhal and Otty reveal their plans to take an adventure into space and have a party on the moon. Afterward, they’re going to “surf down a rainbow,” and then probably do something with waffles. Jelly would love to do all of those things. But Narwhal tells him there’s something important missing before they can begin. Can you guess what that is?

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Copyright Ben Clanton, 2019, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Narwhal’s Otter Friend is the book that fans of this ocean duo knew they needed. Full of emotion, suspense, adorableness, puns, and—of course—waffles, the fourth Narwhal and Jelly book introduces readers to the sweetest otter in the ocean. Kids will love her spunk and imagination while also understanding Jelly’s bout of jealousy. And although they may wonder if maaaybee Narwhal has found a better friend, they know deep in their heart that these two stick together through everything and that the ocean is big enough for three…four…and even more friends.

Ages 6 – 9

Tundra Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-0735262485

To learn more about Ben Clanton, his books, and his art and to find awesome printable activities visit his website.

Reading Is Funny Day Activity

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Comical Card Games

 

Not only is it Reading is Funny Day but it’s April Fools Day too! Here are some funny printable reading and joke-based card games for you to enjoy with your friends or family! They’re courtesy of the American Library Association, and you can find more fun activities to download on their website!

Cut the cards apart, shuffle them, and lay them in rows face side down to play a memory game. Just start with one and try to find its funny mate. If the cards don’t match put them back and try again until you’ve paired up all the questions with their answers.

Talking Turnip Playing Cards | Loony Library Playing Cards

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You can find Narwhal’s Otter Friend at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

March 20 – Spring Equinox and Q&A with Author Marsha Diane Arnold

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate the first day of spring! This year the vernal equinox is accompanied by a full moon—and not only a full moon, but a supermoon!. The last time the spring equinox and a full moon occurred on the same day was on March 20, 1981, and the next time this happens it will be 2030! What makes the equinox so special? On this date, day and night are equally long around the globe. With longer days and warmer weather, thoughts turn to gardening, and whether you enjoy fruit and vegetable gardening or planting flowers—like Badger in today’s book—the first day of spring is a time for blossoming in so many ways.

I received a copy of Badger’s Perfect Garden from Sleeping Bear Press to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of two terrific prizes. See details below.

Badger’s Perfect Garden

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki

 

On a spring morning, Red Squirrel watched as Badger brought out all of his jars of the seeds he had collected and kept safe all winter. He was planning on planting a perfect garden. Red Squirrel noticed that all the seeds looked different. Badger explained that they were “‘all kinds. Green and brown. Flat and round, Bumpy and smooth. Whirly-curly and straight as my whiskers.’”

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Red Squirrel wanted to help plant them. As Badger carefully studied his garden plan, Weasel showed up with his rake and Dormouse gathered string. Everyone helped Badger weed and rake his garden plot until it was smooth. Then they set up stakes on each side and ran string between them to make perfect rows. After that Weasel poked holes in the dirt for the seeds. Badger directed where each seed should go so that each type stayed together. That evening the friends had a party with muffins and mulberry juice, and Badger “imagined the plants that would grow in perfect rows in his perfect garden.”

The next morning, just in time, it began to rain. But the next day the rain turned heavy, and the day after that it became a deluge. Badger ran out into the storm to try to save his garden, but the strings collapsed and the soil washed away. Badger sniffled as he thought of his ruined garden. His friends tried to cheer him up by telling him they’d help gather new seeds in the summer, but Badger despaired of not having his perfect garden this year.

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To ward off the sadness, Badger kept busy reading, cleaning, exercising, and sleeping. One summer day, he heard a knock on his door. It was Red Squirrel, Weasel, and Dormouse. They grabbed Badger’s hand and pulled him outside to a glorious field of wildflowers. Badger gazed at it in wonder. “‘Those can’t be my seeds,’ said Badger, rubbing his eyes. They’re all mixed up.’” But they were! The wild garden  was a “jumble-tumble of shapes and sizes. They made him feel jumbly and tumbly, too.” Badger thought it was “the most perfect garden of all,” and the friends raced into it for a perfect summer celebration.

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Marsha Diane Arnold fills Badger’s Perfect Garden with sprightly, lyrical language that makes the story a delight to read. Little gardeners will relish the descriptions of Badger’s seeds and enjoy the precision of planting day. As the rains come, kids will empathize with Badger’s disappointment, knowing how it feels when plans don’t work out quite right. But the riotous results will spark their own happy, “jumbly-tumbly” excitement for Badger, his friends, and even their own endeavors. in the beauty of the wild, carefree, mixed-up garden can see the joy that can be found in new experiences outside one’s comfort zone.

Ramona Kaulitzki’s charming illustrations are a perfect mix of the whimsical and the realistic and will captivate readers. With soft colors and flowing textures, Kaulitzki depicts early spring with its light green grasses and mellow, cloud-filled skies. When stormy days come, the sky turns purple and rain whips through Badger’s garden, leaving things topsy-turvy and Badger’s plans uprooted. Late summer brings a series of show-stopping two-page spreads, where flowers of all kinds and colors mix with vegetable plants to attract bees and butterflies and, of course, provide the perfect spot for a summer party.

Beautiful through and through, Badger’s Perfect Garden plants the seeds of gentle encouragement, heartening friendship, and cheerful celebration. The book would be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110007

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ramona Kaulitzki, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Q & A with Marsha Diane Arnold

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Called a “born storyteller” by the media, Marsha Diane Arnold’s award-winning picture books have sold over one million copies and been called, “whimsical,” “inspiring,” and “uplifting.” Marsha was raised on a Kansas farm, lived most of her life in Sonoma County, California, a place Luther Burbank called “the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned,” and now lives with her husband, near her family, in Alva, Florida. Nothing makes her happier than standing in her backyard in the midst of dragonflies, listening to cardinals sing.

I’m so glad to be chatting with you, Marsha, about her newest book, Badger’s Perfect Garden! This story seems to have a close personal connection for you. Can you talk a little bit about what inspired you to write this book?

Having a father who was a farmer and gardener and a mother who was a perfectionist, must have had something to do with it! I grew up surrounded by nature, animals, and gardens. Growing up with so many animals around me, I talked with them all the time and I felt they talked back, so anthropomorphism comes easily to me. Illustrations of animal characters are so often enchanting, drawing young children into a book. They can create a strong emotional connection for children to learn from and remember.

Can you tell me more about what it was like growing up on a farm? What kind of farming did your family do?

My father was most proud of being a dairy farmer, but he, his father before him, and his five brothers also grew wheat and corn. I often stayed with my grandmother during the day; I loved being on the farm. Grandmother had to feed 8 children, Grandpa Henry, and herself, so she had a huge vegetable garden and did home canning. But her heart was with her flower gardens. There was spirea, yards and yards of bearded iris, a line of lilacs from the house to the outhouse, petunias, Bachelor buttons, hollyhocks, and more. Badger and Grandmother would have been fast friends.

As a child, what was your favorite part of farming or the farm? What do you appreciate more now as an adult?

I most loved being around the farm animals, although I was a bit frightened of those protective hens when I had to collect the eggs, and I enjoyed helping my father with the calves. One of our neighbors had a pet raccoon that I have fond memories of “hanging out” with, often in my friend’s tree house. (Remember, it was a long time ago and there were no wild animal rehabilitation centers near us.)

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Marsha having fun with her dog.

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Marsha hanging out with a calf on her family’s farm.

I think I always appreciated the freedom of big spaces and gardens to play in and trees and barns (don’t tell) to climb on, but now I realize even more how very lucky I was.

Have you continued the family farming tradition?

I had a spectacular garden in Sonoma County, California. Mostly I grew flowers and a small plot of fruit trees. My favorite part of creating the gardens was designing them, using the land as my canvas. I collected over 50 heirloom roses, selecting plants for their fragrance and color. I loved the stories that came with them, like, “This one was collected from an old farm house in Windsor.” I had over 30 sweet pea varieties. There’s nothing better than a home filled with the fragrance of sweet peas. Most of my fruits were “antique” varieties. There was a Spitzenburg, reputed to have been Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple, and a Calville Blanc, traced back to 1598 France. The fruit from my trees was unique and absolutely delicious. The stories behind them were delicious too.

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Roses from Marsha’s flower garden.

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A beautiful bouquet of sweet peas.

How have your experiences with nature influenced your writing for children?

When a child grows up surrounded by nature, he or she grows to understand it and respect it. I learned to see the small things in nature, like my father before me. His neighbors said he knew the name of every wildflower or “weed” in the county. When you pay attention to something in that way, you come to love it and it becomes part of you. So, nature is what I write about, from my first book Heart of a Tiger, about a small kitten who had a dream to give himself a name like that of the Magnificent Bengal Tiger, to Galápagos Girl, about the unique animals of the Galápagos Islands, to the jumble tumble beauty of Badger’s Perfect Garden.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-badgers-perfect-garden-swirl

Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2019, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

What is your favorite wildflower and why?

Wild rose! At our California home, there was a wild rose growing in our gully. Every spring I would walk down the hill to see if it was still blooming. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I looked carefully for it each year, telling myself that if it was still in bloom, in the shade of our oak forest, alone and straggly, I would still be well. I’m sure it’s blooming still.

Thank you for sharing so much about your passion for nature and what joy living fully within it can bring. I wish you all the best with Badger’s Perfect Garden and all of your wonderful books!

You can connect with Marsha Diane Arnold on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Badger’s Perfect Garden Giveaways

I’m excited to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of two awesome prizes!

There will be one winner of:

  • One (1) copy of Badger’s Perfect Garden written by Marsha Diane Arnold | illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki

And a second winner of:

  • One 15-minute Zoom Author Classroom Visit. This classroom visit is open only to educators and school media specialists.

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

This giveaway is open from March 20 through March 26 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner for each prize will be chosen on March 27.

Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

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

Spring Equinox Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flower-garden-game

Plant a Flower Garden Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully blossom first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden or garden rows with flowers. Depending on the ages of the players, the game can be adjusted to fill all of the rows, some or all rows, or just one.           

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one or more sets of Flower Playing Cards for each player, depending on how  (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Cut the flowers into their individual playing cards
  4. Print one Flower Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the flower rolled in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” flowers until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with flowers or one row has been filled with all six flowers.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their flowers wins!

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You can find Badger’s Perfect Garden at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

Picture Book Review

 

March 19 – National Let’s Laugh Day

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing better than a good laugh! Today people are encouraged to share jokes and funny stories and to find the humorous side of events. Laughing every day can make you feel better, and it’s good for your health. So, pick out a funny show to watch and, of course, lots of funny books! There are so many out there to discover—like today’s upcoming holiday offering!

Two Lions sent me a copy of Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m eggcited to be teaming with Two Lions in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter

Written by Wendi Silvano | Illustrated by Lee Harper

 

On a perfect spring morning, Turkey read a sign alerting park-goers to an Easter egg hunt on Saturday. Those who found a “special” egg would “win an eggstraspecial prize.” Turkey thought it was “‘gobble, gobble great,’” but there was just one problem—only kids were allowed at the hunt. Sheep wondered if they could sneak in undetected. The rest of the animals thought this was a good idea and volunteered Turkey to “‘go in disguise and snoop out one of those eggs.’”

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2019, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Turkey figured he wouldn’t get caught if he were disguised as a rabbit, and on Saturday he donned two wooden buck teeth, tall leaf ears, and a huge wooly tail. As he hopped through the park, Cow kept watch and stayed in communication with headsets. Finally, Turkey saw a special egg. He was on the move and almost there when Cow whispered, “‘Alert! Alert! Child approaching!’” Turkey stopped in his hops. The girl grabbed the special egg, reminding the “bunny” that the hunt was for kids only.

Busted, Turkey changed his costume. This time he was a daffodil in a basket. He zipped here and there and was just about to nab a special egg near a bench when the woman sitting there tried to nab him for her Easter bouquet. Another girl picked up the special egg and went on her way.

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2019, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Suddenly, Rooster saw a special egg at the top of the slide. But how to get Turkey up there? In a flash he was transformed into a bee. Turning a tree into a Turkey catapult, the animals flung Turkey toward the slide. He landed with a plop. With a whee he whooshed down the slide, and with a “splat” at the bottom he lost the egg to a little boy.

Turkey looked up to find Farmer Jake standing over him. “‘Buzz your way back to the barn!’” he said. The animals gathered and came up with another plan. “‘I’m no eggspert,’” Rooster suggested. “‘But maybe to get a special egg you have to be one.’” They constructed an egg-shaped basket for Turkey to hide in. Then they rolled it right into the middle of the hunt – where he was mistaken for a special egg before he could even find one. When Max brought his giant egg to the prize table, Farmer Jake and Edna burst out laughing. Then they let both Max and his “eggstraspecial egg” choose a prize. As the animals carried off their jelly bean pizza, they knew it would be the most “eggcellent Easter” ever.

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2019, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

As Turkey’s fans know, he’s a master of disguises—sort of. With a yummy Easter prize only an eggstraspecial egg away, Turkey and his friends dream up some pretty inventive costumes to put him in the middle of the Easter egg hunt. With her gobble, gobble great dialogue peppered with puns, Wendi Silvano sets in motion a buddy comedy of errors that will keep kids laughing from beginning to end.

If you’ve ever wondered what the modern farm animal looks like when exercising, you’ll find out in Lee Harper’s hilarious illustrations that open the book. These easily segue into hilarious illustrations of the farm animals as spies and then into hilarious illustrations of the animals outfitting Turkey as a rabbit—you get the pattern! As each costume grows more and more complex, readers will wonder how Turkey will fare this time and (almost) be happy those special eggs get snatched away so the fun can continue. The final two-page spread showing the animals enjoying their Easter pizza will delight kids—and maybe inspire a new holiday tradition.

With plenty of pluck and eggcitement, Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter will crack kids up. The book is a must for fans of the series—which includes Turkey Trouble, Turkey Claus, and Turkey Trick or Treat— and a great place to start for those new to Turkey’s shenanigans.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542040372

Discover more about Wendi Silvano and her books on her website.

To learn more about Lee Harper, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Take a peep at this eggceptional Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter book trailer!

Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter written by Wendi Silvano | illustrated by Lee Harper

This giveaway is open from March 19 through March 25 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 26.

It takes just these two steps to enter:

  • Like a Giveaway Post
  • Follow me @celebratepicturebooks 
  • Bonus: Comment with your favorite kind of Easter treat for an extra entry! (Each comment gives you one more entry)

Prizing provided by Two Lions

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

National Let’s Laugh Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-silly-balloons

Silly Balloons

 

You can have lots of silly fun with balloons! Try some of these ideas—they’re sure to make you laugh!

Goofy Faces

Blow up a balloon and draw a funny face on it. Rub the balloon on your shirt or a blanket and stick it to the wall, your shirt, or even your mom or dad!

Crazy Hair

Rub a blown-up balloon on your shirt or a blanket (fleece works well) then hold it near your hair and watch it go a little crazy!

Bend Water

This bit of balloon magic will amaze you! Rub a blown-up balloon on a blanket (fleece works well). Turn on a faucet to a thin stream of water. Hold the balloon near the stream of water and watch it bend toward the balloon. 

Volleyballoon

This is a fun game for two or more people played like volleyball—but with balloons! All you need is a balloon and a line on the floor. Players form teams and bat the balloon back and forth over the line, keeping it in the air.as long as possible. A team wins a point when the opposing team can’t return the balloon.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turkey's-eggcellent-easter-cover

You can find Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture

 

March 13 – National Good Samaritan Day

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About the Holiday

A Good Samaritan is a person who sees someone in need of help or kindness and generously offers assistance or a smile. For today’s holiday, people are encouraged to notice those moments when someone could use a hand and go to their aid. You never know when a small gesture can have far-reaching effects. Children are particularly good at noticing those who need help or cheering up. You can foster their natural kindness by supporting their ideas and actions for helping their community.

The Princess and the Café on the Moat

Written by Margie Markarian | Illustrated by Chloe Douglass

 

There once was a little princess who lived in a very busy castle. Every morning knights brought news of “enemies defeated, dragons seized, and citizens rescued.” Upstairs, ladies-in-waiting were given their duties for “silks to sew, invitations to ink, and chandeliers to shine.” The princess wanted a special job too, but her voice was never heard above the din, so she went in search of something to occupy her time.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When she met the court jester, he told her he was too busy learning a routine for the evening’s guests to teach her how to juggle. The wandering minstrel who was playing his mandolin told her, “‘Your fingers are too delicate to pluck these wiry strings.’” And the wise wizard banished her from the tower because his potions were too dangerous. Even the royal baker thought her kitchen was no place for a princess. “The princess’s kind heart and eager spirit were not easily discouraged.” As she wandered past the front gate, she wondered if there were people beyond it who could use her help. Just then the drawbridge descended, and when the guard turned away for a moment, the princess crept by him and ran outside.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Right outside the castle, she met a “sad old man holding a scrolled parchment.” She approached him and asked why he was so sad. He told her that he had a letter from his far-away son, but because of his weak eyesight, he couldn’t read it. “‘I have time to read your letter and sit awhile,’ said the princess, happy to have found a task so quickly.” Next, she met a worried widow with five children coming down the path. The princess asked why they looked so tired.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The woman told her that she had no one to watch her children as she traveled the long way to the village market. The princess happily offered to watch the woman’s children. Soon, “a brave squire limped by the palace where the princess, the old man, and the widow’s children were telling stories and playing games.” When the princess asked the squire what pained him, he told her “‘I gashed by knee in a skirmish many miles ago but have not stopped to tend to it.’” The princess quickly cleaned and bandaged the squire’s knee so he could continue on to the castle.

Back at the castle, though, everything was in an uproar as the king and queen and staff hunted everywhere for the princess. Through a window the king suddenly heard laughter and singing. When the king looked out, he saw that the sound was coming from the princess. Everyone in the castle paraded out through the drawbridge to join the princess and her friends.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The princess ran to her mother and father and told them about all the things she had done for the old man, the widow, and the squire. The king and queen “were proud to have such a kindhearted daughter.” The king suggested that they “all celebrate together with treats and refreshments.” From that day on in the afternoon, the drawbridge was dropped and tables and chairs set up. Then the “princess welcomed townspeople and travelers from far and wide to her café on the moat.”

Here, the court jester practiced his juggling, the minstrel shared his music, the wizard made drinks, and the baker created delicious treats. The old man and the widow with her children often came by to meet new friends and relax. And the brave squire enjoyed refreshments while he guarded the castle. The café on the moat welcomed everyone, and “indeed, they all lived happily and busily ever after.”

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

An Afterword about fairy tales and a kindness activity for children follow the story.

Margie Markarian’s sweet story is an enchanting fairy tale for today’s socially conscious and active kids. Instead of needing rescue, this princess looks for opportunities to help others. When she’s turned away inside the castle, she leaves the comfort of home and reaches out to her community, an idea that children will embrace. Through her cheerful storytelling, Markarian also shows readers that in their talents and kind hearts they already have what it takes to make a difference to others. As the princess opens her café on the moat, children will see that the adults also find ways to support her efforts. Markarian’s language is charmingly “medieval,” making the story fun to read aloud while inspiring listeners.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Chloe Douglass’s adorable princess is a terrific role model for young readers. Her eagerness to help and positive spirit are evident in her smiles and persistent requests for a job to do. When she ventures out of the castle, she displays obvious empathy for the people she meets, and children will recognize her joy at being able to brighten the townspeople’s day. Despite their busy days, the king and queen are happy and supportive of their daughter. Children will love the bright and detailed images of the castle and town, where the crest of love rules.

The Princess and the Café on the Moat is a charming flip on the traditional fairy tale—one that children will want to hear again and again. It would make a great spring gift and an enriching addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363971

To discover more about Margie Markarian and her picture book and to find fun activities, visit her website. 

Read an interview with Margie Markarian.

Learn more about Chloe Douglass, her books, and her art on her website.

National Good Samaritan Day Activity

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The Princess and the Café on the Moat Activities

 

The Princess likes to help people relax and have fun together! You can help her too with these four activity pages!

The Princess and the Café Coloring Page |Castle Matching PageStory Sequencing Page Write a Fairy Tale Page

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You can find The Princess and the Café on the Moat at these booksellers

Amazon | An Unlikely Story | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

February 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

It’s Random Acts of Kindness Day and the beginning of Random Acts of Kindness Week. Today offers a terrific time to begin or reconfirm your commitment to doing nice things for those around you. When you become a RAKtivist (Random Acts of Kindness Activist), you can change people’s lives. Simple gestures of kindness make anyone feel better and create a bond that bring a community closer. If you see someone having a bad day, give them a smile. Is someone struggling with a box, a bag, or keeping their stuff in their locker? Give them a hand. Does someone always eat lunch alone? Offer to sit with them and have a conversation. You’re also encouraged to give others a card to brighten their day. You’ll find some to print out at the end of this post!

There are as many ways to be a RAKtivist as there are people on the planet. You can  learn more about this uplifting holiday and find free resources—including downloadable teachers’ lesson plans for K-8 grades, posters, a calendar full of ideas on how to incorporate kindness into your life, kindness quotes, and more—on the Random Acts of Kindness Website!

Be Kind

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jen Hill

 

At school during snack time when Tanisha spilled grape juice on her new dress, the class burst out laughing. One student remembered that their mom always taught them to be kind and tried to make Tanisha feel better by saying, “Purple is my favorite color.” The student thought Tanisha would smile, but she just ran away. All during art class, Tanisha’s classmate thought about what they should have done instead, wondering, “What does it mean to be kind anyway?”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

They think, “Maybe it’s giving.” Like baking treats for someone who lives alone, or giving away old clothes to someone who can use them. Helping out might also show kindness. For instance, “putting dirty dishes in the sink” or taking care of a pet. Paying attention to others could be another way to show you care. Like noticing someone’s new shoes, offering to be the new girl’s partner in class, or even just listening to someone’s stories—even if you’ve heard them before. Sometimes being kind is easy, but there are other times when it can be challenging or even scary—“like sticking up for someone when other kids aren’t kind.”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The child decides that maybe all they can do for Tanisha is to sit near her and paint her a picture of purple and green—of pretty violets. They hope that small acts like these will join with other people’s and that they will expand, fanning out from school into the community, across the country, around the world, and back. “So we can be kind. Again. And again. And again.”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Miller’s tender prose is perfect for planting the seeds of kindness and opening discussions about what it means to be caring and compassionate. With more and more children speaking up and creating change, Miller’s gentle and affirming story shows readers that it’s often the little things that count the most. Some of the examples she gives are acts that many children may do already, confirming their innate sensitivity, while others may spark new ideas and expand readers’ definition of kindness.

Jen Hill’s soft-hued illustrations beautifully depict the emotional tug at the heart that Tanisha’s spilled grape juice sets in motion for the protagonist and young readers. As one caring child wonders what kindness really is, Hill clearly portrays diverse children helping out at home, at school, and in their community locally and—as the kindness spreads—around the world. Hill draws the caring student with gender neutral clothing and hair, allowing all children to relate to the story’s main character. 

Be Kind is a lovely perceptive and sensitive book that would be an asset to any home or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1626723214

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jen Hill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Kindness Week Activity

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Say Something Nice! Cards

 

Do you want to give someone a nice surprise? Print out these cards and give one to a friend, to someone you’d like to know, or to anyone who looks like they need a pick-me-up! If you’d like to make your own cards, print out the blank template and write and/or draw your own message! You can also print these on adhesive paper and make your own stickers.

Say Something Nice! Cards | Say Something Nice! Cards Blank Template

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You can find Be Kind at these booksellers

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

 

Picture book review

February 16 – National Do a Grouch a Favor Day

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About the Holiday

It’s probably safe to say that everyone knows a grouch. And if we’re being honest, it’s probably safe to say that we’ve all been a grouch at one time or another. Some days (weeks?) are just like that. Today’s holiday aims to make life just a little better for those who are having a grouchy day. If you know someone who’s grumpy or complainy try giving them a smile or a little special treat. Even doing something goofy or surprising might make them laugh in spite of the doldrums. Perhaps there’s something going on in their life that they’d like to talk about. Spending a little time listening as a friend, may help brighten their day too. Sometimes, though, no matter how much we try to help, all the grouch really wants is for us to…

BE QUIET!

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Rupert, a scholarly little mouse is so excited to be writing a book in which he will be the starring character. It’s going to be great—a wordless book that is “very artistic.” But just as he gets started his friend Nibbs, pops over and wonders what Rupert is doing. Rupert tells him, “Shhh. Be QUIET. This book does not have words.” When Nibbs hears this, he wants to help, but there’s supposed to be no talking and he’s talking. In fact, he’s “talking about talking.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Rupert wants to throw his friend out of the book, but Nibbs begs and pleads to be included. He’ll even be “extra wordless” if he can just stay. Rupert is beside himself. “I said BE QUIET. This book is wordless!” Just then their friend Thistle drops by wondering what all the shouting is about. Nibbs tells him in some detail what’s going on and why he can’t talk about it.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Thistle thinks a wordless book sounds perfect and also wants to be included. Nibbs says sure, but says they won’t tell Rupert because they’re not supposed to be talking. Rupert, though, is keeping count of all these words, and there are too many of them. Thistle rubs his hands in glee: it’s going to be such fun. But Rupert takes him to task. His book is going “to be more than FUN. It will be visually stimulating.” Nibbs isn’t sure what that means, so Thistle explains that it means they’re going to “poke our readers in the eyeballs with pictures.”

After a bit of strong-man silliness, Nibbs and Thistle buckle down to find “strong-but-silent types.” Nibbs suggests a very familiar bear, but Thistle thinks he looks too grumpy. Rupert thinks a cute kitten would be a good addition, but those claws? And those teeth? On second thought perhaps a cucumber would be better. With just a squiggly smile and some googly eyes, the cucumber makes a great vegetarian character. Thistle tries to explain about vegetarians, and Rupert is in a fury over all this nonsense clogging up his “brilliant piece of wordless literature.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Oh! Well, if “serious” is what Rupert wants, how about a portrait of Vincent van Mouse? Too esoteric? Then maybe the three mice should be converted into three potatoes. Rupert yells that he doesn’t even like potatoes. Action is what’s needed, says Thistle. A silent superhero, like “Captain Quiet the Vocabulary Vigilante. Bam! Pow! Kaboom!” No, no, no! Rupert is hopping mad. “No superheroes and no onomatopoeia either.” Say what? “I’m-a-gonna-pee-a?” asks Nibbs “What’s that mean?” Thistle thinks Rupert “should have gone to the bathroom before the book started.”

Really, Thistle and Nibbs just want to help. What about mimes? Nibbs comes up with a great routine, flapping arms and all. Thistle tries to guess what he is, and Rupert can’t understand how they don’t know what “quiet” means. Oh!, say Nibbs and Thistle. Like that saying about the tree in the forest. Is that what quiet is? With a chain saw and a nearby tree, they try it. But Rupert is screaming so much they can’t hear if it makes a sound or not.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Poor Rupert! All he wants is for them to “be quiet for just one page!” He can’t hold his frustration in any longer. He goes on a tirade of words. Nibbs quietly interrupts him. “WHAT?!” yells Rupert. “Shhh. Be Quiet. This book does not have words,” Nibbs reminds him just as the book ends. Now that the book is finished, Thistle and Nibbs think it came out pretty good and hope they can do another one.

Ryan T. Higgins’ laugh-out-loud book about best intentions gone awry is a definite day brightener. Kids and adults will recognize the zany truth of control lost to the unexpected or the oblivious. While we may often feel Rupert’s frustration in real-life situations, Higgins reminds us that it’s good to step back and see the humor in it all. Higgins’ action-packed illustrations and rakish mice ramp up the fun. Kids will enjoy seeing a glimpse of their favorite grumpy bear, Bruce, and discovering what the three mice have been up to since they transformed Bruce’s home into a hotel.

Clever wordplay, realistic dialogue, and sweet characters make BE QUIET! a perfect read-aloud book that kids will want to hear again and again. It would be a funny and fun addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 6

Disney-Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1484731628

Discover more about Ryan T. Higgins and his books on his website!

Do a Grouch a Favor Day Activity

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Smile If You’re Grouchy! Word Search Puzzle

 

Do you feel grouchy, grumpy, cantankerous? Then maybe a smile would help! Find all twenty words in this printable Smile if You’re Grouchy! puzzle. You’ll be smiling when you do!

Smile if You’re Grouchy! Word Search PuzzleSmile if You’re Grouchy! Word Search Solution

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You can find BE QUIET! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 14 – Valentine’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate love! Love for family, friends, and our special valentines. Begun as a religious feast day, Valentine’s Day became a day of romance with the bloom of courtly love during 14th century. During the 18th century in England those in love began showing their affections by giving flowers and candy and making valentine’s cards. Now, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar and a favorite of adults and kids alike.

XO, OX: A Love Story

Written by Adam Rex | Illustrated by Scott Campbell

 

Ox has finally gotten up the courage to write to his heart’s desire. He sits on the edge of his bed, lap desk upon his knees scribbling away. “Dear Gazelle, For some time now I have wanted to write a letter to tell you how much I admire you.” He goes on to praise her gracefulness and remarks that even when she is “running from tigers you are like a ballerina who is running from tigers.” He ends with a declaration of love and XO, OX.

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Gazelle, lounging on her daybed and admiring herself in a mirror nonchalantly hands her response to her assistant. “Dear Ox, Thank you for your letter. I hope you understand that I have many admirers and cannot reply to each one personally.” She says “Au revoir” with the gift of a signed photograph and moves on to the next letter in the overflowing box of fan mail.

The ever-optimistic Ox writes back while sitting on a park bench and enjoying a cup of steaming coffee. Gazelle’s picture is propped against a guitar, and little friends gather nearby. In his letter, Ox reveals that he does understand about the many other admirers and that makes it all the more meaningful that she responded to his letter personally. He signs off “XO, OX.” In return, Gazelle shoots off her standard letter and encloses another signed photo.

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Ox is overjoyed to receive a second letter. The “coincidence” of the exact wording to the preceding letter only reinforces his opinion that Gazelle is “very smart” and has “a tidy mind.” He urges her to reject the idea that he only loves her because she is pretty. He also loves that she is smart. Gazelle receives Ox’s letter (sealed with a big, red heart) while floating on a raft in the pool, a tall, cool drink floating nearby on its own poof. Her response is a departure from the usual, but only because she is insulted that anyone would think her “repetitive.” While she admits to many faults, this is not one of them. It seems she couldn’t be much clearer when she ends her letter with, “There is no need to write me again.”

Ox reads and rereads Gazelle’s note. Ignoring the last line, he focuses on the “ridiculous” thought that she has many faults. Ox assures her that she only has “one or two.” Gazelle takes offense and from her vanity table tells Ox that his “clumsy brain” has led him away from the usual response to her self-deprecation, which is that she has no faults. She then can’t help but mention the faults of other animals, such as being “too large and too stout” and having “strong smells about them and clumsy brains.”

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Ox does not have such a “clumsy brain” and humbly accepts Gazelle’s criticism. In fact he states that he is glad to know what his faults are and tells Gazelle “you make me want to be the best Ox I can be.” His love for her—“the unflattering light of my life”—is undimmed, and he is looking forward to her next letter. Gazelle puts an end to it once and for all. She writes that there will be no next letter, clarifying that “this letter doesn’t count.”

HaHa, thinks Ox when he reads this. He quickly pens a note telling Gazelle how much he loves her sense of humor. Gazelle is brutal. She orders Ox to stop and tells him he is wasting his time. She lays out her reasons: “I could never love a clumsy thing. I could never love a smelly thing.” She goes on to list all of the aforementioned faults and adds that she could never love someone “so thick and ungraceful and awful and unlovely. And unlovable.”

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

You might think Ox would be devastated, but in this tirade he finds one of Gazelle’s faults—and he tells her that her ability to reveal it to him only makes him love her more. He closes with his usual XO, OX and includes a photograph of himself. Gazelle is incredulous. She rips the picture into bits, but then gazes at the pieces again and smiles. “Dear Ox,” she scribbles as she sits on the edge of her bed, lap desk upon her knees and with the taped-together photograph of her beau looking on.

There’s something for every age in Adam Rex’s XO, OX: A Love Story. Little ones will find the snooty Gazelle and humble Ox funny in their persistent writing and reactions to each letter. Older kids will understand the dynamics at work and will get the sly wordplay, the twist on whom exactly is “thick, ungraceful, and awful”, and the idea that perhaps the lady doth protest too much. And adults will never make it through without out loud guffaws on almost every page. Wondering how Ox will respond to each of Gazelle’s letters is such delicious suspense, and his kindness in the face of her derision will tug at readers’ hearts.

Scott Campbell’s softy colored line drawings offer hilarious touches to fill out the details of the homes and lives of these smitten pen pals. In a stroke of genius, Gazelle’s personal assistant is a sunglasses-wearing mole, suggesting Gazelle’s own perception of her dazzling brilliance. Clever contrasts in the lifestyles of barrel-bodied Ox, who writes at a rustic desk and relaxes by a pond, and lithe Gazelle, who writes from her elegant vanity and lounges in her pool, demonstrate that their similarities may outweigh their differences. The touching ending that brings the relationship between Ox and Gazelle full circle as he sends her a photograph and she responds is satisfying and sweet.

XO, OX: A Love Story would be a funny, fantastic addition to anyone’s home library—one that can provide laughs or balm for feeling hearts. 

Ages 4 and up

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626722880

Discover the world of Adam Rex, including his art, picture books, and books for older kids, on his website!

View a gallery of illustration by Scott Campbell on his website!

Valentine’s Day Activity

cpb - monster love maze

Monster Love! Maze

 

Help the Love Monster collect all the valentines in this printable puzzle.

 Monster Love! Maze | Monster Love Maze Solution 

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You can find XO, OX: A Love Story at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review