September 13 – National Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by The Young Chefs Academy, today’s holiday encourages kids and teens to become more involved in planning and cooking meals. When children and teens have more of a stake in what they’re eating, they become more experimental in food choices, more knowledgeable about food issues, and more invested in eating healthy. Being part of the preparation of meals can even contribute to better understanding in science and math as they measure and weigh ingredients, cut fruit and veggies, and serve portions. To celebrate today, have your kids participate in cooking and/or baking. They may just find another activity to love!

Fangsgiving

By Ethan Long

 

The monsters were all gathering for their Thanksgiving feast. It was a real neighborhood affair. Virginia the werewolf brought the sweet potato casserole, Sandy the witch had made stuffing, and Mumford the mummy supplied the cranberry sauce. Vladimir the vampire always roasted the turkey because “he knew how to cook it just right.”

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Copyright Ethan Long, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Just as he was basting the bird, he heard an unfamiliar HONK! HONK! It was his Uncle Gus, Aunt Bessy, and the twins Joey and Shmoey. Even their dog Spike had come along for the ride. “Vladdy” was thrilled to see his family and brought them inside to meet his friends. Sandy was excited to show Aunt Bessy the “mashed potatoes…with garlic,” but Bessy just hisssssed and “whipped up another batch. This time with eyeballs and earwax.”

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Copyright Ethan Long, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

When Uncle Gus saw Vladimir roasting the turkey over an open fire, he had a better idea. Gus hooked it up to an electric machine and gave it a good jolt. And thanks to Joey and Shmoey, Fran Frankenstein’s pumpkin pie “turned into lump-kin pie” with the addition of maggot meatballs. Although Vladimir loved his family, he didn’t love what they were doing to the annual feast. They even had to close the window and sit in the dark because Vlad’s family was sensitive to the rising sun.

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Copyright Ethan Long, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

“Maybe the food will taste better if we can’t see it!” someone said. But then they all heard a crunching sound. They turned on the light to discover that “Spike had devoured everything!” Vladimir exploded. His family looked at him with sad eyes. They couldn’t understand how they had “ruined Thanksgiving.” After all, they were family. Seeing their hurt expressions, Vladimir realized they were right. It was time for a dinner re-do. Everyone cooked all day, creatively using whatever ingredients they had left. And if the turkey looked a bit corn(dog)y, it was still delicious. “So on that fourth Friday in November” Vladimir’s family and friends all gave thanks for such delicious food “to die for.”

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Copyright Ethan Long, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mixing the frightfully funny ghastliness of Halloween with the family-embracing gratitude of Thanksgiving, Ethan Long cooks up a hilarious “Ewww-inspiring” story for sweet little monsters everywhere. As the neighborhood Thanksgiving feast goes awry with the arrival of Vladimir’s family, readers will revel in images of kid-pleasingly repulsive additions to traditional treats. As Vladimir, his friends, and family learn to cooperate in making a meal everyone can enjoy, readers learn that the holidays (and any day) really are more about family, friends, and feelings than about food or other fleeting things. 

A laugh-out-loud complement to the autumn holidays and beyond, Fangsgiving would be a fun addition to home and classroom bookshelves, especially if paired with fun cooking, drawing, or writing activities.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681198255

To learn more about Ethan Long, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day Activity

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Vampire Goodie Box

 

Would you like your gift of homemade or store-bought cookies, candy, or other treats to have a little bite to it? Deliver them in this vampire box you can make yourself!

Supplies

  • Recycled pasta box (or any box with a cellophane window in it)
  • Black Paint
  • Silver Paint
  • Black felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet or heavy stock paper
  • Red felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet or heavy stock paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Black paper, heavy stock or construction paper
  • Fabric glue
  • Regular glue or double stick tape
  • Hot glue gun (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Paint the entire box silver, leaving the window unpainted, let dry
  2. With the black paint create the pointy hairstyle, with the point descending about 1 inch from the top of the box and the curves ending about 1 ½ – 1 ¾ inches from the side of the box (see picture).
  3. Paint around the sides and back of the box in line with the ends of the curves
  4. From the black paper make eyebrows—these can be pointy or rounded
  5. From the index card make the nose and teeth
  6. I painted the nose darker silver by combining silver and a little black paint
  7. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the eyebrows and nose to the box
  8. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the teeth to the window, fitting them slightly up into the rim of the window.
  9. Attach the googly eyes

To make the cape

  1. Holding the black felt or paper horizontally, cut a piece about 4/5 as tall as the box
  2. Holding the red felt or paper horizontally, cut a piece of red felt so that there will be a ½-inch border of black along the top and sides
  3. With the fabric glue attach the red felt to the black felt. Use craft glue on paper. Let dry
  4. With the hot glue gun, fabric glue, craft glue, or double stick tape, attach the felt or paper to the back of the box
  5. Fold the felt or paper around the sides of the box and attach along the bottom edge with tape or glue
  6. Fold the top of the felt or paper back to make the collar
  7. Attach the bottom portion of the collar to the box near the front edge with the tape or glue.

Fill with your favorite treat!

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You can find Fangsgiving at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review

 

September 12 – National Day of Encouragement

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was conceived by the Encouragement Foundation at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas as a day to prompt people to perform deliberate acts of encouragement to cheer and inspire others. On September 12, 2007 Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe signed a proclamation for a “State Day of Encouragement.” President George W. Bush later established September 12 a National Day of Encouragement. To celebrate, say a kind word, mail a card, make a call, or send a text to anyone who needs a little more encouragement to complete a goal, deal with a problem, or just to have a good day.

Hanukkah Hamster

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by André Ceolin

 

The city was decorated with twinkling lights for the holidays, and busy shoppers bustled in and out of stores, delivered there by Edgar and his cab. After one shift, Edgar was so tired he took a nap in the back seat. He was awakened when “Ohhhf! Something scrambled onto his chest. Ayyee! Something hairy brushed his face.” Edgar opened one eye to see… a hamster! He picked it up and gazed at its tiny eyes and ears and feet.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Edgar wondered which of his many customers may have lost the little hamster as he called in to the cab company’s lost and found department. Edgar took the little hamster home and shredded some paper to make him a bed. Then he went to his menorah, said the Hanukkah blessing, and lit two candles. All the next day as he drove people in his cab, Edgar wondered if someone had claimed the hamster, but no one did.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

That night after lighting three candles, Edgar made a chopped salad dinner for himself and a tiny one for the hamster. As he watched the little animal nibble on a chickpea, Edgar asked, “‘Okay if I call you Chickpea?’” No one had claimed Chickpea the next day either, so Edgar went to the pet store and bought hamster food. At home, he lit four candles and gave Chickpea some food. As Chickpea ate, “Edgar took pictures on his phone and shared them with his family in Israel.”

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On the fifth night of Hanukkah, Edgar made Chickpea “a slide out of a cardboard tube. Chickpea whooshed down. Wheeee! His nose twitched.” As the week of Hanukkah went on, Edgar was fearful that someone might call about their missing hamster. He spent the evenings telling Chickpea about Tel Aviv until the little one fell asleep.

The next day, Edgar took a customer to a neighborhood on the edge of town. There he saw a woman who looked familiar. With her was her son. “Edgar felt a punch in his heart.” But he rolled down the window and asked the boy if he’d lost a hamster. The woman answered that she had bought the hamster for her classroom and thought he had escaped at home. “Edgar showed them pictures on his phone” of Chickpea eating salad, sliding through the tube and drifting off to sleep.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the woman saw Edgar’s menorah in one of the pictures, Edgar told them how he and Chickpea were celebrating Hanukkah together since the rest of his family lived in Israel. When Edgar began to tell them that he could return the hamster tomorrow morning, “the boy touched his mother’s arm, and the two of them exchanged glances.” The woman told Edgar that she thought Chickpea belonged with him. Then she wished him a wonderful holiday. That night, “Edgar said the blessing and lit all the candles on the menorah.” Then, while he enjoyed a doughnut, Chickpea ran and ran on his new wheel.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Immersed in the special yearning for family and togetherness the holidays bring, Michelle Markel’s touching story glows with kindness and empathy. The growing friendship between Edgar and Chickpea will tug at readers’ hearts just as it does for Edgar, who so hopes to keep the little hamster but also knows there may be someone in the city missing him. As the days pass, and Edgar, alone for Hanukkah, shares his traditions with the hamster, readers also become participants in the holiday. Children will be riveted to the increasing suspense, and the pitch-perfect solution is joyful and satisfying. Realistic dialogue and honestly portrayed emotions provides depth to this moving story.

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From the tiny white lights lining main street to the first glimpse of the little hamster to Edgar’s cozy apartment with his menorah in the window, André Ceolin’s richly colored illustrations invite readers into Edgar’s life with his new friend, Chickpea. Chickpea is adorable as it nibbles on salad, poses for pictures, and curls up in its shredded paper bed. Images of Edgar lighting the menorah are luminous, and the Edgar and Chickpea’s smiles will spark happiness in readers’ hearts.

The portrayals of friendship, generosity, empathy, and family make Hanukkah Hamster a poignant story for all children to share not only at the holidays but all year around. The book would make a wonderful gift and much loved addition to home and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363995

Discover more about Michelle Markel and her books on her website.

To learn more about André Ceolin, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Day of Encouragement Activity

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Random Acts of Encouragement Cards to Share

 

Today’s a day to spread a little encouragement to friends, neighbors, teachers, and anyone who looks as if they could use some cheering up.

Random Acts of Encouragement Cards 1Random Acts of Encouragement Cards 2

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You can find Hanukkah Hamster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 12 – World Elephant Day

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About the Holiday

World Elephant Day was launched on August 12, 2012 to raise awareness to 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 and today’s holiday, visit the World Elephant Day website.

Mela and the Elephant

Written by Dow Phumiruk | Illustrated by Ziyue Chen

 

When Mela headed out to explore the banks of the Ping River, her little brother wanted to go too, but Mela would only take him if he had something to give her in return. When he said he had nothing, Mela told him, “‘Then you stay home.’” When she reached the river, she jumped into her uncle’s boat to try and catch the big fish that swam in the sparkly water. She tossed out her net and nabbed the fish in her net, but he swam on, carrying Mela downstream. Soon, Mela found herself deep in the jungle.

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When “the boat caught against a tangle of tree roots, Mela stepped out onto a large rock.” She looked around and realized she was a long way from home.  A crocodile happened by and Mela asked him if he could tow her boat back home. “‘What will you give me for my help?’” the crocodile asked. Mela told him he could have her fish, and the crocodile agreed. But as soon as Mela gave him the fish, he grabbed it and swam away.

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mela had just begun to walk in the direction of home when “a leopard slinked into sight.” Mela asked her if she knew how to get to the village. She did, but would only show Mela if she gave her something. Mela thought, then took off her sweater and gave it to the leopard, saying, “‘It will keep your cubs warm on cool nights.’” The leopard “snatched it up and leaped away.”

Mela continued on and was soon walking down a narrow path, where three monkeys swung from vines in the trees. Again Mela asked for help finding her way home. “‘What will you give us if we help you?’ one chattered. Mela held out her backpack.” It would be helpful for carrying fruit, she told them. As soon as the largest monkey grabbed the backpack, the three disappeared into the forest.

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mela began to cry. She had no idea how to get home, and night was coming. Just then “she heard the rustling and snapping of branches.” She looked up to see an elephant approaching. The elephant asked Mela if she were lost. When Mela said, yes, the elephant offered to give her a ride. Mela told him that she had nothing to give him. But the elephant said, “‘It would make my heart happy to help you. I don’t need anything else in return.’”

Then he allowed Mela to climb up his trunk and onto his back and they started off. When they reached the village, Mela thanked the elephant and he gave her a last hug with his trunk. The next day when Mela’s brother asked to accompany her to the riverbank, she remembered what the elephant had taught her and agreed to take him. And “from then on, she offered many kindnesses to others, asking nothing in return.”

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In her lovely story, Dow Phumiruk reminds children that the heartfelt rewards of kindness are more precious than material gain. Such inner happiness often radiates to others, creating strong bonds and long-lasting happiness. It’s interesting to note that Mela is actually inherently thoughtful, offering each potential rescuer an object that is useful to them. But this inner generosity is lost when she interacts with her brother and brushes off his friendship. Through her experiences in the jungle, however, she comes to empathize with her brother. Back at home, she embraces and includes him, and shares the lesson she’s learned with others as well.

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2018, text copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

As Mela wanders deeper and deeper into Ziyue Chen’s lush jungle of Thailand, readers will understand that while she may be lost, she is also finding her way on her path in life. The animals that approach her initially look friendly and helpful, but as soon as they have their payment, they turn their back on Mela and desert her. The elephant, on the other hand, has kindly eyes and a gentle manner. The final scene in which Mela takes her little brother by the hand as they begin an adventure together demonstrates her change of heart and growth along life’s road.

An Author’s Note includes information about the history, geography, and customs of Thailand, where there story is set, introducing readers to the diverse culture of the country.

Mela and the Elephant employs a mix of traditional storytelling with today’s focus on kindness, empathy, and generosity. The book would make an excellent addition to home and classroom libraries for story time and to prompt discussions about compassion and helpfulness.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1-58536-998-0

Discover more about Dow Phumiruk, her books, and her art on her website

To learn more about Ziyue Chen, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Elephant Day Craft

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Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for siblings to do together and can make a nice decoration for a child’s room or a 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 the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” A couple of examples are: the elephants standing trunk to trunk or trunk to tail 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mela-and-the-elephant-cover

You can find Mela and the Elephant at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

November 29 – It’s National Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

National Gratitude Month was established to encourage people to embrace gratitude every day. When we focus on the good influences in our lives, we’re happier, healthier and less stressed. While during this season our thoughts turn to giving to others and the fun of getting a little something too, it’s good to be mindful of and grateful for the things we already have. More is not always better—as today’s book humorously demonstrates.

Pig the Elf

By Aaron Blabey

 

Trevor wrote Santa Claus a very pleasant note asking for something nice for Christmas. He even ended it with a declaration of love. His note sits on the table propped against a glass of milk next to a plate of gingerbread cookies and another of carrots in the living room decorated for Christmas Eve. Everyone’s feeling festive—especially Pig who giggles “with glee— / ‘The presents! The presents! / For ME! ME! ME! ME!’”

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Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

His list stretches on like a long country road and contains items galore, like “a motorcycle, a rocket, a drum set, a pony, a skateboard, a cotton candy maker….” After all, “Santa takes orders,” right? Pig can’t wait for Santa’s arrival. He picks up poor Trevor and shouts “‘When will he get here? / Oh, WHEN? / TELL ME WHEN?!’” But when Trevor mentions sleeping, Pig isn’t having it. “‘I’m sitting up late! / I’ll be here when he comes! / I declare by the stockings / and gingerbread crumbs!’”

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Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

So as Trevor climbs the stairs to go to bed, Pig hides behind the tall tree. Finally, at three thirty-three he hears a sound. Pig peeks around and sees Santa with a bag full of toys. He leaves Trevor and Pig presents in tidy little stacks and then turns his attention to his snack. But as he’s drinking his milk, Pig pops out, yelling “‘HEY!’” He complains about the few packages left on the floor, reminding Santa that he asked for much more.

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Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

But Santa has other presents to deliver, so he heads back up the chimney. Just as Santa’s about to disappear, Pig takes a big bite of his pants and doesn’t let go even as Santa climbs out of the chimney and runs pell-mell over the roof to his sleigh. Pig begs, “‘Don’t be a cheapskate! / I want all my stuff! / The pile that you left me / Is just not enough!’”

Santa quickly jumps in, and the reindeer take off at top speed. Pig’s grasp is no match for the zooming sleigh, and he plunges through the night sky toward the center of town. In a miraculous turn of events, though, Pig “survived that big drop, / and was saved by a tree…with an angel on top.”

The back cover endpapers display part of Pig’s list with amusing asides and a changing number of desired skateboards.

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Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Aaron Blabey knows that Pig the Pug just can’t resist the allure of presents and has written a funny, over-the-top story of what can happen when someone’s list is all get and no give. Blabey’s rollicking rhymes and free-wheeling dialog will make kids giggle at Pig’s insatiable appetite and unbridled impatience. Fairly popping out of his red hooded sleeper, Pig is a boisterous foil to the real Santa. As Pig hangs on to Santa for dear life, kids of a certain age will laugh out loud. When Pig falls directly atop the town Christmas tree, readers may be cheered to find that he can indeed be a little angel.

For fans of Pig the Pug, kids who like slapstick humor, and adult readers who enjoyed the antics of Alvin the Chipmunk, Pig the Elf is a fun holiday read.

Ages 3 – 5

Scholastic Press sent me a free copy of Pig the Elf to check out. All opinions are my own.

Scholastic Press, 2017 |ISBN 978-1338221220

Discover more about Aaron Blabey and his books on his website.

National Gratitude Month Activity

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Personalized Thank You Card

 

Often the best gift you can give someone is a “Thank You!” With this printable Thank You card, you can let someone know how much you appreciate them by drawing and writing a special message.

You can even get creative! Write a story, draw a picture, make a cartoon, or use a little glitter! You can also attach this to something you bake or make. Why not give the important people in your life a personalized thank you? It’s guaranteed to be appreciated!

Picture Book Review