October 8 – World Octopus Day

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About the Holiday

With fossils dating back 300 million years, the octopus is one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating creatures. It’s also one of the smartest—as it has more than 500 million neurons firing information through its brain and arms, allowing them to learn from experience and solve problems. Octopuses are adaptable and are found in all the world’s oceans. While most prefer warmer waters and living along the ocean floor, some species swim in shallower, cooler waters. Octopuses have an excellent sense of touch and sense of vision—some even see in color. They fool predators by hiding or camouflaging themselves and can escape capture by shooting an inky substance at their pursuers. To celebrate today’s holiday, plan a visit to an aquarium or other sea life center!

All I Want is an Octopus

Written by Tracy Gunaratnam | Illustrated by Valentina Fontana

 

Throughout the city, a little boy sees pets of all kinds going here and there with their humans. He knows kids with dogs and cats, hamsters and turtles, mice and even a horse. “But all he wants is an… octopus!” His dad tells him an octopus “‘belongs in the sea.’” His son’s response? “‘But DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD! My octopus would wash your car. / He’d paint the house and play guitar.’” His dad thinks about it and is pretty impressed. As he sprinkles food into their fish tank, he says he’ll leave it up to Mom.

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Image copyright Tracy Gunaratnam, 2021, text copyright Valentina Fontana, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

But when the boy asks his mom, she tells him the idea is silly and to get ready for bed. Her son’s response? “‘But MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!’” Then he tells her how helpful the octopus would be, and she’s just as impressed as Dad had been. She tells him to go ask his Gran. Gran doesn’t need any convincing at all. In fact, she thinks an octopus will “‘roller skate and jump in puddles… /…Play mini golf and give wonderful cuddles.’”

The boy is star struck—even he didn’t think of these. But while his Gran thinks having an octopus would be a great bet, she’s already invited another pet. Who could it be? Ding Dong! Open the door and you will see!

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Image copyright Tracy Gunaratnam, 2021, text copyright Valentina Fontana, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

Silly in the best way and with dialogue kids are going to love to chime in on, Tracy Gunaratnam’s funny rhyming story is perfect for lively family, classroom, or library story times. All I Want is an Octopus would make a captivating lead-in and prompt for classroom writer’s workshops on pets and family negotiations. At home, kids would have fun imagining what other jobs around the house an octopus could do as well as talking about an unusual pet they’d like to have.

Valentina Fontana’s adorable guitar-playing, hair-styling, mini golf-playing pink octopus will have kids wanting one of their own. Her fresh, vibrant illustrations, rendered in a lovely color palette, also hold clues that kids will have fun deciphering as to why each of the various other pets are a perfect match for its owner. The book Gran is reading also hints at the surprise ending, and the final spread will bring a smile to all kids with big dreams.

A light-hearted read aloud that kids and adults will enjoy sharing at story time or bedtime, All I Want is an Octopus makes a terrific gift and sure favorite on home, school, and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Maverick Arts, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867796

You can connect with Valentina Fontana on Instagram.

World Octopus Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-octopus-craft

Cute Sock Octopus Craft

 

Who wouldn’t like to have a cute octopus for a pet? With this fast and easy craft you can make your own little cephalopod to hang out on your bed, your shelves, or on your desk!

Supplies

  • Child’s medium or large size sock, in any color
  • Polyfill, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Ribbon
  • 2 Small buttons
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue or strong glue

Directions

  1. Fill the toe of the sock with a handful of polyfiber fill
  2. Tie the ribbon tightly around the sock underneath the fiber fill to separate the head from the legs
  3. Tie the ribbon into a bow tie
  4. With the scissor cut up both sides of the sock almost to the ribbon
  5. Cut these two sections in half almost to the ribbon
  6. Cut the four sections in half almost to the ribbon
  7. Glue the eyes to the lower part of the head
  8. To display, set the octopus down and arrange the legs in a circle around the head

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You can find All I Want is an Octopus at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 9 – It’s Family Meals Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday got its start in 2015 and was designed as a way to support families in enjoying more meals made with fresh ingredients together. Over the years National Family Meals Month™ has gained recognition and grown into a social movement that promotes family bonding and education. Studies show that children who eat meals as a family are happier, less likely to get into trouble, and do better in school. To learn more about the Family Meals Movement and how you can celebrate this month and all year around, visit the Family Meals Movement website.

The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup

Written by Hunter Liguore | Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

 

A little girl stands at the stove watching her Nanni stir a big metal pot. She asks her Nanni what’s in the pot and learns that there are seeds inside. How can that be? She wonders. They are the “‘seeds that grew up to vegetables,’” Nanni tells her and then reveals that “‘there are also gardeners in the pot.’” That seems impossible the girl thinks. How can that be? So her grandmother tells her about the gardeners that raised the vegetables, the soil and rain, and the sun, the moon, and the stars that are also in the pot.

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

The little girl is catching on. She sees them all too and can hear the buzz of the bees that “pollinate the flowers, that grow up to be vegetables, planted by the gardeners, with their gentle hands.” She stands on tiptoe to see what else is in the pot. It swirls with the farm workers who “make footprints in the rich soil, carrying boxes full of vegetables to the, delivery trucks, boats, and trains.”

You might think that’s all the pot can hold, but there’s more. There are the merchants who “work in teams to bring the baskets of farm vegetables to the market” and the onlookers, “‘curious to see what they bought.’” The little girl thinks that must be everything, but Nanni takes another look and discovers a bus inside the pot. “‘A BUS, Nan! How can there be a bus inside the pot?’”

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

This is the bus Nanni took to the market. And what’s more, the bus driver, all the passengers, and everything they passed in all the neighborhoods they drove through on their way to the market are inside the pot too. “‘Wow, Nan!’” the girl exclaims. Could there be anything else? Nanni thinks and then a beaming smile crosses her face. Her granddaughter catches her excitement and asks “‘What, Nanni? What else did you see inside the pot?’”

“‘Love,’” Nan answers. The love of all the grandmothers and mothers who passed the recipe down through the generations just so she could make the soup for her own granddaughter. The little girl wants to learn the recipe too. But Nan tells her she must be able to remember everything that goes into the pot. I do know, the girl assures her. “‘The whole world.’”

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

Little ones will listen wide-eyed to Hunter Liguore’s whimsical tale that gently educates while building page upon page to a tender climax with plenty of humor along the way. The sweet and playful relationship between the girl and her Nanni will charm children and the idea of how the world is connected will resonate with kids beyond the soup pot and inform their view of the world. Liguore’s dialogue-rich text that reflects the cadences of real conversations with kids makes the story a perfect read aloud.

Juxtaposing illustrations with a retro vibe next to lovely fanciful drawings, Vikki Zhang mirrors the intergenerational theme of the story while more than satisfying readers curiosity about all of the quirky ingredients in Nanni’s soup. Kids are first invited into Nanni’s kitchen, a wonder that combines both old world and modern touches. In three clever illustrations, Zhang imagines the gardeners and a café inhabiting stylized cooking pots, and other “ingredients,” such as farm workers, modes of transportation, and nearby neighborhoods are presented in intricately detailed fantastical watercolors that kids and adults will want to linger over. A final image of Nan and the little girl’s heritage told through photographs, fine china, and jewelry is a loving look at all of the Nan’s, mothers, and daughters who have left a lasting legacy in their recipe.

A beautiful and fun book for adults—and especially grandparents—to share with children, The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup would make a meaningful gift and a welcome addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Yeehoo Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1953458063

Discover more about Hunter Liguore and her books on her website. You can find a Teaching Guide and Lesson Plan Activity Kit for teachers, homeschoolers, or just to enjoy at home on Hunter’s site here.

To learn more about Vikki Zhang, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Family Meals Month Activity

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Souper Maze!

 

You can’t eat soup without a spoon! Can you help the spoon get through the maze to the bowl in this printable puzzle?

Souper Maze Puzzle  | Souper Maze Solution!

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You can find The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 18 – It’s Happiness Happens Month

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About the Holiday

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

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

Clovis Keeps His Cool

Written by Katelyn Aronson | Illustrated by Eve Farb

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645672135

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

You can connect with Eve Farb on Instagram.

Happiness Happens Month Activity

CPB - Happiness typography

Happiness Is…Game

 

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

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

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

You can find Clovis Keeps His Cool at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 12 – World Elephant Day

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About the Holiday

This year World Elephant Day celebrates its 10th anniversary. The holiday was launched to raise awareness of the dangers the Asian and African elephant populations face. Poaching, habitat destruction, human-elephant conflict, and mistreatment in captivity all threaten these gentle, intelligent creatures. World Elephant Day encourages people to enjoy seeing elephants in safe, non-exploitive environments and to get involved in their protection and survival. To learn more about elephants, discover how you can be elephant ethical, and commemorate today’s holiday with virtual events led by elephant specialists, artists, zoos, and other organizations, visit the World Elephant Day website.

Thanks to Familius for sending me a copy of She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch

Written by June Smalls | Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara

 

The elephant matriarch is the queen of the family group. “She is usually the oldest, but not always. It is her job to guide and teach her subjects to give them the best opportunities for survival.” Her family group consists of blood relatives—daughters and granddaughters—living together. When groups get too big, some elephants break off and form their own group. The matriarch leads the other elephants to food and water, and when water is scarce “she guides them on journeys to watering holes remembered from long ago.”

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Like a loving grandmother, the matriarch teaches younger elephants how to take care of their little ones. Everyone in the family group helps rear the young. “The clumsy babies are sometimes caught in mud or water and the older elephants will work together to push, pull, or dig to rescue them.”

Sometimes, groups of elephants that once lived together will meet. They remember each other and spend time “foraging for food together. These meetings are like a family reunion.” When danger from another animal lurks, the elephants watch and learn how the matriarch defends them. They also huddle together and surround the smaller elephants for protection. “If nature, or predators, or poachers take her friends, she will comfort and care for the orphans.”

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Little ones grow and play under the watchful eye of the matriarch and, just like human children, “elephants are not born with all the skills they need.” The matriarch helps teach her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren how to use their trunks for heavy work like moving logs and for delicate finessing, such as having the “ability to gently pluck a leaf from a tree.”

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

The matriarch also thinks about the future when she won’t be able to lead the group anymore. She passes on her knowledge and skills to the elephants in her lineage, “so that when she is gone another matriarch will lead her family.” When the matriarch does die, the elephants mourn their loss in ways similar to humans. “Elephants have been observed burying their dead with grasses and branches,” and they will return to the spot months later to “touch the bones of their lost family member.” A new matriarch emerges to lead the family group. This is “usually the oldest daughter of the matriarch,” and her call “to her daughters and their daughters” can be heard for miles and miles – sometimes up to 110 square miles – as this new queen begins her reign.

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Image copyright Yumi Shimokawara, 2020, text copyright June Smalls, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

June Smalls’ tribute to the matriarchal society of elephants and, through her lyrical storytelling, to strong women in every family and community is both poignant and powerful. The main story reveals the role of the matriarch in leading and teaching her daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters over a lifetime, which can span seventy years. Smalls’ stirring text illuminates the similarities between elephants and humans in everyday needs, behavior, memory, familial care, and even in death. In addition to the story, each page spread includes fascinating, and often touching, facts about how a family group forages for enormous amounts of food, finds crucial water supplies, protects each other, rears their young, and sustains each other in the passing of the matriarch. Smalls’ book ends with an inspirational entreaty to young girls to awaken to their future role as leaders.

Yumi Shimokawara’s stunning realistic illustrations of an elephant matriarch leading and teaching her family group in the wild will thrill readers. On each page spread, young readers follow their elephant peer as she (or he, as male elephants stay with the family group until about age thirteen) plucks leaves from a sun-drenched tree, splashes in a watering hole, walks in the shade of two adults on a long, hot journey, is protected from predators, and plays games with sticks and other babies in the group. Shimokawara’s delicate color palette and beautifully composed images depict the intelligence and gentle manner of these animals in lively and tender moments that children will want to view again and again.

An exquisite combination of inspiration and education, She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch will captivate children as a spark for further learning about these majestic animals, the environment, and nature conservation as well as encouragement to bravely take their place in the world with grace, love, and strength. The book is a must for all home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641702324

Discover more about June Smalls and her books on her website.

You can find more books from Familius that joyfully reflect the habits of happy families, including reading, talking, laughing, eating, working, loving, healing, learning, and playing together as well as the Familius blog The Habit Hub here.

World Elephant Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hand-print-elephants-craft

Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for families to do together. Using siblings’ hands or the hands of a child and an adult to make the elephants can make a meaningful and comforting picture to hang in a child’s room or gift for mom, dad, or other family members.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers make the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s or adult’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye.
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint or crayon.
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features if desired.

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You can buy She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch on the Familius website.

 

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure statement here.

Picture Book Review

June 25 – It’s National Insect Week

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About the Holiday

Insects are endlessly fascinating, and this week celebrates their diversity, purpose, and beauty. This week was established by the Royal Entomological Society to encourage people to learn more about insects, from those close to home to the exotic species around the world. This year the theme is Entomology at Home and people are invited to participate by learning about local species of insects and enjoying the resources on the National Insect Week website. There’s a photography contest, learning videos for all ages, access to Instar the Magazine for Young Entomologists, and so much more, including a mention of “the most bizarre use” of an insect ever imagined. To discover all of the resources and fun, visit the National Insect Week website.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing a copy of A Way with Wild Things for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

A Way with Wild Things

Written by Larissa Theule | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

Poppy Ann Fields made friends with lots of bugs. She appreciated all of their natural talents—the way the cicadas formed a symphony, the way the ants marched in perfect lines, the way the shy roly poly said hello, and the “magnificent art” the spider wove. She could spend all day outside among these friends, “but when people came around, Poppy preferred to disappear into the background.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-way-with-wild-things-bugs

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

At parties she dressed to blend in with the wallpaper or the brightly flowered rug. She could disappear into the framed landscape on the wall or behind the tree in the corner. To celebrate Grandma Phyllis’s 100th birthday, there was a big party. Poppy watched from behind the flowers and bushes. She watched as people strolled about, meeting and hugging, dancing and running. “They looked like colorful leaves falling into each other then drifting apart.”

A shimmering dragonfly drifted on the breeze and landed on the cake. “Her whole heart glad, Poppy clapped her hands.” She came over to look and that’s when Uncle Dan spotted her. His voice boomed, “‘Poppy Ann Fields, you wallflower, you. So that’s where you’ve been hiding this time.’” Everyone turned to look at Poppy. She froze. The dragonfly took off… “and landed in her hand.” No one could believe it; they smiled and stared in wonder. Then they moved in to get a closer look.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-way-with-wild-things-party

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Poppy wished she could run away. She didn’t know where to look, so she gazed at the dragonfly. “She knew the dragonfly had come here for her.” She listened to the cicadas’ music wafting through the air and took a breath. Then she spoke, telling everyone the dragonfly’s scientific name. Grandma Phyllis clasped her hands and gave Poppy a hug. “‘You wildflower, you,’” she whispered. In her heart Poppy knew Grandma Phyllis was right. She was not a wallflower, but “a wildflower.”

An illustrated glossary of Poppy’s bug friends, along with their scientific name and a brief description follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-way-with-wild-things-birthday

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Larissa Theule’s quietly comforting story is balm for those thoughtful, introverted children who interact with the world through observation, contemplation, and gentle interactions. With the soul of a poet, Poppy listens to, watches, and connects with nature, feeling its rhythms and wonder with her whole heart. Theule’s carefully chosen verbs and play on the idea of nature embrace Poppy’s personality. Poppy “preferred” to observe large, noisy gatherings from the sidelines while she “became” things that most people find lovely: landscapes, trees, rain, a group of animals.

When Uncle Dan’s loud voice turns everyone’s attention to Poppy, Theule’s simply stated “she was scared down to her toes” validates the feelings of kids who’d rather not be in the spotlight and gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about these emotions. The party-goers’ enthusiasm to hear what Poppy has to say and Grandma Phyllis’s loving and apt nickname for her granddaughter will reassure introverted readers that they are seen and appreciated for their unique strengths.

Sara Palacios festival of flowers—found outside, in Poppy’s home décor, and on party-goers’ clothing—surrounds Poppy and reveals that she is a part of and does fit in everywhere. One of the joys of A Way with Wild Things is finding Poppy on each page and appreciating Palacio’s creative genius in how she uses camouflage similar to nature. Her vivid, textured illustrations are joyous and full of love for nature, for life, and especially for Poppy who tenderly takes it all in and makes it uniquely hers.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1681190396

Discover more about Larissa Theule and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Insect Week Activity

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Dragonfly Decoration

 

Your kids can bring the beauty of nature inside with this easy-to-make dragonfly craft.

Supplies

  • Wooden clothespin
  • Wax paper
  • Bright green craft paint
  • Bright blue craft paint
  • Green glitter
  • Blue glitter
  • Paint brush
  • Thread or fishing line (optional)
  • Adhesive magnet (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragonfly-craft

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the top part of the clothespin (to the point where the metal hinge crosses the wood) green
  2. Sprinkle green glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  3. Paint the bottom part of the clothespin blue
  4. Sprinkle blue glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  5. If the glitter doesn’t completely stick, apply a thin layer of glue with a toothpick and add more glitter

To Make the Wings

  1. Cut two 5-inch-by-3/4-inch strips from the wax paper
  2. Cut a curved edge at each end of the wax paper strips, cutting straight down from the top and curving around the bottom corner
  3. Cut curved notches in the center, top and bottom, of each wing to allow the wings to fit into the clothespin
  4. Open the clothespin and slip the wings in, curved edge down and allowing the top wing to overlap the bottom wing slightly

To Finish

Attach the thread or fishing line to the dragonfly to hang, or to make a refrigerator magnet, attach an adhesive magnetic strip to the back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-way-with-wild-things-cover

You can find A Way with Wild Things at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

April 29 – Get Ready for Mother’s Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-spot-a-mom-cover

About the Holiday

We all know our moms are one-of-a-kind. And we know how much they do for us every day. Next month we celebrate how much we love our moms on Mother’s Day, but with today’s book we’re paying tribute to all moms, everywhere, while having a little fun learning about the traits that make each mom a special super human. It’s a terrific book to share any day of the year, but especially for Mother’s Day.

How to Spot a Mom

Written by Donna Amey Bhatt | Illustrated by Aura Lewis

 

I think everyone will agree—“Moms are talented creatures.” But you may ask, “What is a mom?” Well, motherhood “can happen in lots of ways.” Besides being a biological mom, a mother can be an adopted mom, a foster mom, or a step mom to one or more children. And while moms can come in all types, they all have “the same job: to keep their children safe, and to guide them through their life.”

So before the various types of moms are introduced, let’s take a look at a few of the common features of a mom. A mom’s mind is “packed with ready-to-be-shared anecdotes and wisdom,” her heart is “bottomless and fierce,” she has a funny bone, and a gut “useful…for making decisions.” Of course, her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth get a regular workout too. Moms also have “super skills” like solving mysteries and problems, listening, refereeing, taking care of scrapes and illness, and multitasking.

With around two billion moms around the world, there are a lot of traditions that moms have and kids grow up with. You can learn some of these from the US, Brazil, the Netherlands, Niger, India, Finland, China, and Vietnam, as well as the native word for “mom.” And now, without further ado: The moms!

In an engaging and humorous paragraph paired with four common traits: Natural Habitat, Likes, Dislikes, and How to Spot, Donna Amey Bhatt describes sixteen types of moms. She begins with “the outdoorsy mom” who embraces adventures in all weather, “creepy crawlies,” and any opportunity to share the environment with her family. On the opposite spectrum is “the homebody,” whose “home is a cozy haven, perfect for snuggling on the couch with her family.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-spot-a-mom-homebody

Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2021, text copyright Donna Amey Lewis. Courtesy of Wide Eyes Edition, Quarto Knows.

Then there are two moms who complement each other: “the coach” and “the cheerleader,” who may have different ways to promote their kids, but only want the best for them and their success. Next up is “the trendy mom” who is “always up to date with the coolest looks and brands.” She can make even the most complex hairstyle a breeze and is known for doing everything in style.” The “practical mom” lives by the mantra “‘Always be prepared.’” When choosing clothes, instead of looking for the ultra-fashionable, she always asks, “‘does it have pockets?’” Her bag carries anything you might need, and “nothing phases her.”

You’ll spot the “sporty mom” in her “Natural Habitat: The gym” or maybe in the park, running or cycling. Her week is filled with exercise, weight training, carido, and yoga. Her Likes? “Endorphins.” Dislikes? “standing still.” How do you spot the sporty mom? “Leggings, sneakers, and a smart watch make up her go-to outfit—she likes to have the option to lunge or sprint at any time!” And these days more moms may have become an “artsy mom.” She can see the potential in any object, she knits, sews, and “loves encouraging her kids to get creative….” Her Natural Habitat is “the local craft store.” She likes “up-cycling” and dislikes “buying gifts—why buy when you can make them by hand?” How do you spot the artsy mom? By her “paint-splashed clothes and…entire closet devoted to craft ‘essentials.’”

In these pages, readers will also find the chatty mom, the online mom, the boss mom, the zen mom, the last-minute mom, the organized mom, the rule-book mom, and the rebel mom. Of course, most moms combine many traits to shape their children and guide them to grow up to be the best they can be. And they deserve a huge thank you for “listening, bedtime stories, making toast, days out, days in, drying tears, sharing advice, hugs,” and so much more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-spot-a-mom-cheerleader

Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2021, text copyright Donna Amey Lewis. Courtesy of Wide Eyes Edition, Quarto Knows.

Donna Amey Bhatt’s funny and sweet tribute to moms is a charming “encyclopedia” that kids and their moms will love to cuddle up with and comb through together as they pick out and giggle over the traits that make their relationship special. The book can inspire kids to add their own descriptions of their mom and spark discussions about the hows and whys of particular parenting styles. This fun book will spur kids to recognize and appreciate everything their moms do for them.

Aura Lewis’s family-focused illustrations in this “spotting guide” are cozy, comforting, inclusive, and uplifting. Two-page spreads that contrast certain moms depict humorous similarities that also demonstrate the different approaches of each mom. For example, the “outdoorsy mom” stands in front of a mauve tent while her kids roast marshmallows over a campfire. On the facing page the “homebody mom” and her kids sit under a homemade indoor tent while drinking mugs of hot chocolate. The “coach” and the “cheerleader” both stand on the same sideline as their kids play baseball, and the “trendy mom” (and her daughter) and the “practical mom” adjust their glasses, but for different reasons. Readers will enjoy seeing the accessories and décor each mom carries and inspires.

Warm and witty, How to Spot a Mom would make a delightful gift for new moms, Mother’s Day or anytime you’d like to celebrate a mom in your life.

Ages 4 – 8

Wide Eyed Editions | ISBN 978-0711261044

Discover more about Donna Amey Bhatt and her books on her website.

To learn more about Aura Lewis, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-spot-a-mom-cover

You can find How to Spot a Mom at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 11 – Heritage Treasures Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maud-and-grand-maud-cover

About the Holiday

Heritage Treasures Day is an initiative established in the United Kingdom by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1994 to preserve important parts of human history. Since that time nearly eight billion pounds raised through the national lottery have been dispersed to support more than 40,000 projects. Multiple funds have been created to support various types of programs. For example, “Sharing Heritage” provides money for local heritage sites ranging from personal memories to the conservation of an area’s wildlife, while “Our Heritage” is used to preserve archaeological sites, endangered wildlife, and museum collections. Heritage Grants are given to large projects such as the preservation and restoration of Stonehenge. Today’s holiday celebrates these efforts and raises global awareness of the importance of protecting and passing on our shared history. To celebrate on a smaller scale, take an opportunity to talk about your family’s stories, history, and legacy with your kids.

Maud and Grand-Maud

Written by Sara O’Leary | Illustrated by Kenard Pak

 

On certain Saturdays Maud gets to sleep over at Grand-Maud’s house. She sleeps in a special nightgown that Grand-Maud made for her. “The nightgown goes all the way to the floor, and is made out of plaid flannel, and is softer than anything.” Grand-Maud even made herself one to match. Once dressed, they have breakfast for dinner eaten on trays in front of the TV, where they watch old black and white movies. Maud thinks everything was black and white when Grand-Maud was a child.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maud-and-grand-maud-dinner

Image copyrigh Kenard Pak, 2020, text copyright Sara O’Leary, 2020. Courtesy of Random House.

At bedtime, Maud snuggles into the extra twin bed in Grand-Maud’s room. In this bed Maud always has good dreams, and under the bed hides a wooden chest in which “there is always something new for Maud placed inside, even when Grand-Maud doesn’t know she will be visiting.” Sometimes the thing is something bought new for Maud to use or play with. Other times Grand-Maud has made something for Maud, like “…a pair of mittens, or some cookies to take home so the time between visits is sweeter.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maud-and-grand-maud-chest-treasures

Image copyrigh Kenard Pak, 2020, text copyright Sara O’Leary, 2020. Courtesy of Random House.

But the best times are when the chest holds “something from when Grand-Maud was a little girl herself.” Once Maud found a heart-shaped stone that Grand-Maud had carried in her pocket for a whole year. Now Maud carries it in hers. This time, Maud pulls out a book of fairy tales that Grand-Maud had written her name in. Maud was happy to see her own name in it.

That night, with the lights dimmed, Grand-Maud and Maud talked about the future. Maud said she wants to be a writer and have at least seven children. She imagines living in “‘…a very tall house so that the children can have bunk beds that go up and up and up.’” Grand-Maud says that later Maud will have her own granddaughter. The thought makes Maud smile. In her dream she lives in an apartment just like Grand-Maud’s and is standing at the doorstep to welcome Maud for a special visit.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maud-and-grand-maud-bunkbeds

Image copyrigh Kenard Pak, 2020, text copyright Sara O’Leary, 2020. Courtesy of Random House.

Sara O’Leary’s story about the connection between a grandmother and her granddaughter who share the same name is sweet and endearing. With homey details—a homemade nightgown, breakfast for dinner, and especially the wooden chest that always holds a surprise, O’Leary perfectly captures the comforting love and sense of adventure children feel when spending time with their grandparents. The old movies Maud and Grand-Maud watch together, the treasures Grand-Maud passes down to Maud, and the interest Grand-Maud shows in her granddaughter’s future all demonstrate simple but meaningful ways for older and younger generations to share their experiences and build understanding and strong bonds. O’Leary’s straightforward and lovely storytelling, highlighted with realistic dialogue, makes for rich and cuddly story times that can lead to discussions between kids and adults about their own family heritage. Her moving ending charms with a look toward a future of continued family ties.

Kenard Pak’s soft illustrations in warm browns, reds, and blues will enchant readers as they are invited into Grand-Maud’s cozy brownstone apartment to share a sleepover with Maud. Pak alternates between images of the close-knit grandmother and granddaughter, happy to be sitting side by side while sharing meals, memories, and talks of the future, with pages that give children a closer look at their breakfast supper, the enticing wooden chest and past items it has contained, and Maud’s imaginings, including the stories she’ll write, her future children’s bunkbeds, and that childlike idea that the world in the era of black-and-white movies was also black and white.

As snug and as full of love as a hug, Maud and Grand-Maud is a tender book for grandparents and grandkids to read together or for parents and children to cuddle up with whenever they’re missing Grandma. The book would make a favorite read to spark conversations about family history and family stories. Maud and Grand-Maud is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Random House / Penguin Random House Canada, 2020 | ISBN 978-0399554582

Discover more about Sara O’Leary and her books on her website

To learn more about Kenard Pak, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Heritage Treasures Day Activity

CPB - Cookie Jar Museum (2)

Create a Family Story Exhibit

 

Every item has a story. A fun and educational way for kids to learn family stories and interact with their own history is for family members to each create an exhibit of favorite or meaningful objects in your home. Tags can tell how each item was obtained, any funny or interesting story that is attached to it, and what it means to the owner. Displaying and talking about the exhibits can be a fun way to spend time together while seeing common objects in a whole new light.

Supplies

  • A number of household 
  • Paper or index cards
  • Marker, pen, or pencil
  • A table, shelf, or other area for display

Directions

  1. To get started help children gather a number of items from around the house to be the subjects of their exhibit. An exhibit can have a theme, such as Travel Souvenirs, or it can contain random items of your child’s choice, like toys, plants, tools, or artwork.
  2. Using the paper or cards, children can create labels for their exhibit items. Older children can write the labels themselves; younger children may need adult help.
  3. Spend a little time relating the story behind each object: where it came from, how long you’ve had it, and when and how it was used in the past. Include any funny or touching memories attached to the item. Or let your child’s imagination run free, and let them create histories for the objects.
  4. When the labels are finished, arrange the items on a table, shelf, or in a room, and let your child lead family members on a tour. You can even share the exhibit with family and friends on FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or other app.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maud-and-grand-maud-cover

You can find Maud and Grand-Maud at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review