August 19 – National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day

About the Holiday

While some celebrate Sandcastle Day on the first Saturday of August and others take part in National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day on August 19, any sunny summer day is perfect for going to the beach and letting your artistic abilities take over! In expert hands, sand and water become elaborate  multistory castles and sculptures of animals, ships, mermaids, and nearly anything one can imagine. 

Sandcastle

By Einat Tsarfati

 

A girl finds an empty spot near the water’s edge and begins to build a sandcastle. This is no ordinary castle, though. It’s “a real castle with domes and turrets and a crocodile moat. And large windows with an ocean view.” Indeed, it is a spectacular castle, representing all the world’s architecture and decorated with seashells. Winding staircases lead to outside viewing spots, and its sculptural features are astounding. The girl stands on tippy-toe on a tall tower to place a pebble just on the tip of a taller tower.

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Inside chandeliers hang in the great hall and above the double staircase on either side. The girl pauses her construction for a moment to gaze out of the five-paned bay window at the rolling sea. But she is not alone. A king peaks out of a doorway, watching her. Soon more kings and queens from across the globe had discovered the girl’s castle and came to visit, bringing along their children and pets and plenty of luggage.

They took in their surroundings, marveling at the girl’s craftsmanship. “‘It’s one hundred percent sand,’ murmured a king with a curly mustache. ‘And you can hear the ocean!’ added a queen with a fancy pearl necklace.” From the great hall they fanned out into the castle to enjoy its many rooms—the music room and the aquarium room; the camping room, complete with trees and a tent; the ice-skating rink and the carousel; the natural history room and the archaeology room with its brontosaurus skeleton. There was a library and a room with many safes for the royal jewelry. Visitors could play tennis, dance, and spend time feeding the swan in the pond room. Of course, there were bedrooms, and bathroom, and dining rooms galore.

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

The first night there was a “grand party in the ballroom. Dollops of ice cream were served all night long. It was awesome.” But in the morning the kings and queens saw things quite differently. The almond strudel, the pizza, the soups, the sandwiches, and all the cakes were full of sand. The next day, the Triathlon of Knights Tournament of badminton, cards, and Twister was “completely ruined. ‘Aargh! There is sand in my suit of  armor!’ sobbed the bravest knight in the kingdom.” It was so bad that he couldn’t even pick up a card from the pile. Royal toes grew itchy. Royal treasure chests became welded shut. And one old queen thought it was “even worse than a single pea underneath [her] mattress.

They all came to the girl to bitterly complain. There wasn’t much the girl could do. After all, the castle was made of sand. She decided to make a sand ball and then another and another until there were enough for a huge sand ball fight. Then, suddenly, the castle sprung a leak, and the kings and queens, their kids, and their luggage floated away on furniture, towers, and pedestals. Everything was washed away, so the girl “built a sandcastle.”

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Einat Tsarfati’s Sandcastle is a feast for the eyes, loaded with humor, marvels, and whimsy on every page. From the crowded beach to the luxurious interior of the sandcastle, kids will have a blast scouring the detailed drawings for their favorite feature. As the royal visitors’ initial awe dissolves into whiny complaining, Tsarfati’s droll storytelling will elicit plenty of laughs (and maybe even a bit of recognition). The girl’s clever solution to her guests’ dissatisfaction may surprise readers, but with a turn of the page, Tsarfati promises to begin the imaginative journey all over again.

Highly recommended for funny and immersive story times, Sandcastle wows with ingenuity and will inspire kids’ imaginations. Sure to be an often-asked-for favorite on home, school, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Candlewick, 2020 | ISBN 978-1536211436

Discover more about Einat Tsarfati, her books, and her art on her website.

National Sandcastle and Sculpture Day Activity

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Sandcastle Coloring Page

 

No matter whether you live near a beach or in the city, if the day is sunny or rainy, you can make a sandcastle with this printable coloring page.

Sandcastle Coloring Page

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You can find Sandcastle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 29 – International Tiger Day

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About the Holiday

First observed in 2010 in response to the severely declining wild tiger population, International Tiger Day promotes awareness of these beautiful, distinctive animals. In the last century 97% of wild tigers have disappeared, with only 3,000 still in existence. Many factors have led to this devastating loss, including habitat destruction, climate change, and poaching. Environmental and other groups, such as the World Wildlife Federation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the Smithsonian Institution, have come together to protect and preserve wild tigers.

By Jakki Licare

A Tiger Like Me

Written by Michael Engler | Illustrated Joelle Tourloias | Translated by Laura Watkinson

 

A little boy dressed in a tiger costume wakes up for the day with a great big roar. “Because I am a tiger, a wide-awake tiger!” His mother tries to clean his beautiful fur, but tigers don’t like to be clean. He uses his tiger speed and reflexes to race out of the bathroom. With a grumbling stomach, the little boy sits at the table and gobbles up his breakfast. “I crunch and munch just like a tiger.” And now he is ready for the adventures of the day. 

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Image copyright Joëlle Tourlonias, 2020, text copyright Michael Engler, 2020, translation copyright Laura Watkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

He finds a sneaky hiding spot where he can surprise his mom, but then he gets stuck. Apparently, it isn’t a hideout, but a trap. Luckily, Mother Tiger hears her cub’s struggles and rescues him. The little boy heads outside to enjoy the snow on the ground. “Snow sprays out from under my quick tiger paws. Icicles rattle with my big tiger roars!” The little boy pounces around in the snow, enjoying every moment.

Hungry again the little boy returns to the kitchen where he is sure to find “…some tiger prey…” With his quick reflexes he pounces onto the chair and finds a delicious tiger cake. After painting his face like a tiger he sneaks up on his father. With a growl he leaps up on his father. His dad becomes a hunter who wants to capture him, but the little tiger is too quick. “Because I am tiger, a wild and wary tiger!”

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Image copyright Joëlle Tourlonias, 2020, text copyright Michael Engler, 2020, translation copyright Laura Watkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

The little boy is sent to his room. Using his furniture and sheets, he constructs a tiger den. It is the perfect place for a tiger to lay low. That night the family gather together to make tiger crafts with paint, crayons, watercolors, glue, and paper. Afterward, as the little boy is getting ready for bed, he absolutely refuses to brush his teeth. Even though the sun has set, the little boy is still not ready for bed. He waits until his parents come up and sneaks into their den. They snuggle together until the little boy falls asleep. He dreams about how he loves his life as a tiger.

End pages show a waking/sleeping boy in a tiger costume sleeping on his blankets with a blue-gray forest in the background. A small stanza compliments the artwork describing the waking/sleeping tiger-boy.

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Image copyright Joëlle Tourlonias, 2020, text copyright Michael Engler, 2020, translation copyright Laura Watkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

This sweet story will entrance young readers as they get to prowl through the day with this human-tiger protagonist. Michael Engler’s beautiful wording transforms the everyday tasks of brushing teeth to playing outside into exciting adventures. My son enjoyed pointing out how his own routine was similar to the protagonist’s. Engler does a great job of capturing the wide range of emotions that a child can experience in a single day. From hungry to scared to playful, the boy goes through the gamut of feelings. The repetition on every page makes it fun for young readers to chime in: “Because I am a tiger….” The sweet tone and calming end makes it a terrific book to read before nap time or bedtime. 

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Image copyright Joëlle Tourlonias, 2020, text copyright Michael Engler, 2020, translation copyright Laura Watkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Joelle Tourloias’s illustrations really capture the imagination and action of our tiger-boy protagonist. The speckles and blotches splattering the page when the boy pounces on his father really exemplifies the chaos of that moment while, the soft, almost hidden jungles in the background help blur the line between imagination and reality. My son especially loved finding the stuffed animals that are hidden on every page. The expressions of the family are perfectly rendered and really show the flux of emotions from moment to moment. Tourloias also does a fantastic job of capturing special family moments, such as the smiles of the parents and their son as they paint together on the floor and  their peaceful looks as they cuddle together at the end.

With its emotionally rich storytelling, repetitive phrasing, and hidden pictures, A Tiger Like Me is the perfect book to add to your home, classroom, or library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2019 | ISBN-13 978-1542044561

Discover more about Michael Engler and his books on his website.

To learn more about Joelle Tourlonias, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Tiger Day Activity

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Celebrate Tigers Maze

 

Even tigers like to celebrate! Can you help this tiger through the maze so he can enjoy a slice of cake (or maybe the whole thing!)?

Celebrate Tigers Maze

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You can find A Tiger Like Me at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local, independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 24 – Bubble Kisses Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

Bubble Kisses

Presented by Vanessa Williams | Illustrated by Tara Nicole Whitaker

 

A little girl is playing pirates in her room with her special pet goldfish, Sal. As she holds up Sal’s bowl during the classroom pet show, the little girl admits that Sal can’t “bark like a dog, scratch like a cat, or jump like a frog” the way the other kids’ pets can. And Sal can’t do things that wild animals can do either. But Sal does have one amazing talent that makes the girl love her so much. She explains that Sal “gives me bubble kisses, bubble kisses as she swims by in the water. She never misses with her bubble kisses. And I’m so glad I got her.”

What’s so special about these bubble kisses? They’re more than a little magical! In fact, they transform the little girl into a mermaid and her bedroom into an underwater world where other mermaids, fish, sea turtles, porpoises and other sea creatures greet her with excitement. Watching the mermaids swim and play together, the girl is so happy that she’s included because “from people’s lives such things are missing as bub-bub-bub-bub-bubble-kisses.”

A sign points the way to a concert, and the five mermaids lead the little girl and Sal to a pirate ship sitting atop a blue whale. Music floats on the waves, and as they grow closer they see mermaid couples and even some merkids dancing. The little girl holds Sal’s fins as they twirl around too before entering the pirate ship, where the concert is taking place. A beautiful mermaid is singing, backed up by two of the five mermaids as well as porpoises and sea turtles on saxophone, a seal on the drums, two angelfish on trumpets, and one cool porpoise playing the bass.

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Image copyright Tara Nicole Whitaker, 2020, text copyright Vanessa Williams, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

As the band plays on, the star, her backup singers, and the other mermaids hold the little girl’s hands and Sal’s fins and swim in a circle of friendship. But the little girl and Sal are growing tired. They drift off to sleep in a big bubble as the singer sits nearby watching over them. Then they’re back home. Sal snoozes in her pirate ship-decorated bowl, and the little girl takes one more peek at her friend before dozing off in her cozy bed, reminded once again how lucky she is because “from people’s lives such things are missing as bub-bub-bub-bubble-kisses. With the funny, lovely Sal.”

Bubble Kisses is both a story and a jazzy, toe-tapping song that will have little ones singing and dancing along with every reading. Included with the book is a CD of Vanessa Williams singing Bubble Kisses plus a link to a digital download of the song.

Vanessa Williams’ delightful story is full of enchantment, imagination, and the love children have for their pets. Little readers will be charmed as one bubble kiss magically transforms the little girl into a mermaid and she and Sal begin an adventure together. Repeated phrases make it easy for kids to join in during story times or while singing, and the effervescent “Bub-bub-bub-bub-bubble kisses” will have kids giggling and asking for more.

Tara Nicole Whitaker’s violet-and-blue-hued digital illustrations are as sweet as cotton candy and transport readers into a world of imagination based on the little girl’s favorite activity: playing pirates in her sea-themed bedroom. Kids will have fun matching the décor and toys in the girl’s room to her underwater escapade. The diverse group of mermaids who invite the little girl to the concert are enthusiastic and welcoming. Whitaker’s pirate ship makes a fun venue for the fanciful concert, and the singer’s tender attention as the little girl and Sal drift off to sleep will remind readers that they too are watched over with love.

Ages 3 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1454938347

Discover more about Vanessa Williams and her multifaceted career, visit her website.

To learn more about Tara Nicole Whitaker, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Dive into this Bubble Kisses book trailer!

Vanessa Willams presents Bubble Kisses (40 second trailer) from Sterling Publishing on Vimeo.

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You can find Bubble Kisses at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

 

 

June 18 – National Splurge Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was instituted in 1994 by Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith, a self-proclaimed “eventologist” who has created more than 1,900 of these quirky holidays we celebrate, as a way to encourage people to spend a little extra and help the economy. While this year splurging monetarily may not be possible, there are lots of other ways to enjoy an extra treat or experience a larger-than-life moment. And if your child’s wishes run to wild, mythical pets, then today is the day to indulge them—with today’s book, of course!

By Jakki Licare

You Don’t Want a Dragon!

Written by Ame Dyckman | Illustrated by Liz Climo

 

“NOW you’ve done it! I TOLD YOU not to wish for a dragon!” warns the narrator to the little boy who has just wished for a pet dragon at a fountain. The little boy can’t imagine anything better, but the narrator chides him. Doesn’t he remember what happened when he wished for unicorns last time?

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Image copyright Liz Climo, 2020, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2020. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

The unicorn had been destructive and even held a crazy unicorn party. Plus, the unicorn left a lot of smelly cupcake surprises around the house. The narrator continues to warn him, but the boy is having too much fun flying on his dragon. The narrator concedes that it might be fun at first, but cautions him that it won’t be worth it in the end because dragons love to chase things and never stop drooling!

The dragon smiles sneakily next to a lit grill holding a roll of toilet paper while the narrator informs us “and what the stories never mention is . . .WHERE charcoal comes from. Don’t mention this at your next barbecue. Trust me.” The little boy works endlessly to keep the dragon under control and to clean up after it. The narrator tells the boy he’s doing a good job, but he’s in for some big trouble. Dragons grow and grow and grow and  become enormous! 

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Image copyright Liz Climo, 2020, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2020. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

“You just don’t have the space for a dragon. In your heart, yes. But in your house . . . no.” The narrator advises the little boy to go back to the water fountain and wish the dragon away. The boy does as he’s told with a bit of regret. As he’s returning home, he discovers a Pet Adoption Day event going on and finds an adorable hamster. The narrator and the boy both agree that the hamster will be the perfect pet.

The little boy brings his hamster home and places him into a cage. He’s cleaning up the mess left from the dragon and unicorns, when the narrator points out that the lid isn’t on the cage! The hamster escapes and comes across a smelly cupcake surprise left by the unicorn. The narrator warns the hamster not to eat it, but it is too late. The hamster turns into a large unicorn-hamster and wishes for a unicorn-hamster party! 

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Image copyright Liz Climo, 2020, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2020. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

In this laugh-out-loud sequel, Ame Dyckman’s narrator is trying once again to convince our young protagonist to wish away another mythical pet. Dyckman does recap the first book, but I do recommend that readers check out You Don’t Want a Unicorn first so you can really enjoy the jokes.  Dyckman’s conversational style of narration brings the story to a new level of hilarity. The narrator not only admits that flying a dragon is fun, but dramatically concedes “FINE! It’s AWESOME, too, okay?!”  If your young readers are like my children they will appreciate the potty humor that the ending joke is hinged around. Yep, the cupcakes in this book are not for eating! The best part about the book, however, is the nice message of the importance of adopting animals. Dyckman’s main character has finally realized that while unicorns and dragons may be amazing creatures, they are not ideal pets. There are many animals needing homes who are tamable and loveable!

Liz Climo’s soft-colored illustrations of the boy’s adventures really highlight the fun. When Climo’s characters’ reactions are paired with Dyckman’s on-point narrations, the result is a hilarious adventure. The boy’s surprised expression at the charcoal on the barbecue and the dragon’s sneaky smile while holding the toilet paper will ensure giggles from readers of all ages. Climo is a champion at using the white space to the story’s advantage. The white space surrounding the dragon’s drool, for example, emphasizes the fact the boy is physically stuck in the drool! When the dragon grows to an enormous size, Climo cleverly uses the entire page to show that even the book can barely contain this dragon. 

A fun adventure that both kids and adults will enjoy reading over and over, You Don’t Want a Dragon! is a great choice for enchanted or mythical story times as well as for placing on a non-magical bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8 

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0316535809

Discover more about Ame Dyckman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Liz Climo, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Splurge Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fiery-dragon-craft

Fiery Dragon Craft

Watch out this project is hot! Create realistic looking fire to add to your own personalized dragon with the printable template and some simple supplies!

Supplies

  • Printable Dragon Coloring Sheet
  • Markers/colored pencils/ crayons
  • Cotton Balls
  • Red and Yellow Paint (I used craft acrylic paint)
  • Paintbrush
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Take your cotton balls and pull them apart. 

  2. Paint your stringy cotton balls red. The cotton ball will stick to your paint brush if you use strokes so use a dabbing a motion.  Younger children will need an adult to hold the cotton balls down.

  3. Let the red paint dry and then add in some yellow. Dont forget to dab. Let them dry

  4. Print out and color in your dragon

  5. When your paint is dried, glue down the stringy cotton balls so it is coming out of the dragon’s mouth.

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You can find You Don’t Want a Dragon! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 14 – National Children’s Day

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About the Holiday

On National Children’s Day, parents, grandparents, and other family members and caregivers are encouraged to spend the day with their children, celebrating each child’s unique qualities, listening to them, and recommitting the family to core values of love and acceptance. To celebrate today, talk to your children about their dreams and how the family as a whole can help them achieve their goals. Then have some fun with an activity that’s meaningful to all. 

Happy Dreamer

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

A child floats on a golden, sparkling swirl of their own creation. “I am a happy dreamer,” they say. “I’m really good at dreaming. Daydreams, big dreams, little dreams, creative dreams.” In fact, this child is a “dreamer maximus!” There are times when they’re told to ignore that voice inside…to “sit still” and pay attention. But the music inside is persistent and persuasive, inviting the child to move, to play along and let it out.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Sometimes dreams require quiet. Then the child says, “I make time to stay still and hear myself think—to let go and see what takes shape.” Can you see it too? There are dreams so big, the child reveals, that sometimes “I’m a shout-at-the-top-of-my-lungs dreamer (even if I’m just a loud-inside-my-head dreamer!)”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

There are times when dreams come in colors that paint a surprising path, and sometimes there are so many dreams firing at once that they cause “creative chaos.” When you ask make me clean up, the child says, I will, but “cleaning up hides my treasures” and “there is less of ME to show.” When that happens, the child explains, “…I feel alone. BOXED IN.” But there is always an escape, a way to recover the “happy dreams.”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

You know what? the child says, “I’m really good at being me. A dreamer—surprising, caring, funny, gentle, smart.” Falling or failing don’t hurt because dreamers always bounce back and keep going. Do you know what kind of dreamer you are? There are so many kinds! What makes you happy? Exploring, working hard, being with family or friends, being alone? Maybe laughing, acting, being wild, being strong. Are you civic-minded, peaceful, thoughtful?

What’s “the best way to be a happy dreamer? Just be YOU.”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Peter H. Reynolds is always inspirational, finding just the right words to include all readers while speaking directly and intimately to each reader individually. In Happy Dreamer, Reynolds taps into the ways ideas and talents come knocking, whispering, or shouting to be heard and set free. His lyrical language is engaging for even the youngest readers and meaningful for adults as well—on both a personal level and for those who are parents, caregivers, or teachers.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2017, courtesy of Orchard Books.

From the first image in which the child floats on the glowing swirl of dreams, readers will follow the child as they play music, discover shapes in the clouds, swing to lofty heights, shout to the world, paint a rainbow path, create fireworks and treasures, and break free from the restraints of the world that sometimes tamp down dreams. A double gate-fold filled with dreamers will delight readers as they search for just the type of dreamer they are. Written in the first-person and with gender neutral clothing and hairstyle, Happy Dreamer is a universal story.

Empowering, encouraging, and accepting, Happy Dreamer is a superb choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, 2017 | ISBN 978-0545865012

Discover more about Peter Reynolds, his books, and his art on his website.

National Children’s Day Activity

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Imagine you are applying for your dream job. What would it be? Why are you the right candidate? Have fun with this portfolio or briefcase craft and printable Dream Job Application and start on the road to your happy future!

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

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You can find Happy Dreamer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 11 – Making Life Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to celebrate all of those people who make life more fun, meaningful, joyful—more beautiful—for someone else. This can be done in so many ways, from spending more time talking with someone to using your talents to make something you know a friend, family member, or coworker would love, to just giving a smile to those you meet during the day. Making someone else feel good will make life more beautiful for you too!

Ray

By Marianna Coppo

 

At the bottom of the staircase there’s a closet. This is where Ray lives. Ray is a lightbulb. Before taking up residence in the closet, Ray lived in the family room (which was fun) and in the bathroom (which was not so much). Now, though he hung above a collection of stuff—like winter hats and scarves, books, cleaning supplies, an elephant-shaped watering can, some old toys, and a spider—that gave him something to count when he was bored. Sometimes, the child made a fort in the closet and hid out reading books.

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Copyright Marianna Coppo, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

But there’s a downside: “The closet, the thing, and even Tom the spider often disappear. Ray does not like this.” These times were even more boring; even Ray’s sleep was “dreamless.” Then one day, Ray felt a twist. Then he was moving and seeing the world pass upside down. When the car stops, he finds himself outside in a place he’s never seen before. “Ray can’t tell where it begins or where it ends,” and there are way too many things to count.

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Copyright Marianna Coppo, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

When the man and the child go to sleep now, Ray stays awake. He makes a wish on a shooting star just before he falls asleep, just before dawn. “When he wakes up, right there in front of him, shines the biggest light bulb in the world.” Seeing the sun gives Ray a whole new perspective on the world. Soon, the man and the boy and Ray are heading back home. The same closet awaits. But for Ray, it will never be dark or boring again.

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Copyright Marianna Coppo, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

To read Marianna Coppo’s Ray for the first time is to feel all the wonder of new discovery, imagination, and creativity. When reading Ray for the second time (which kids will beg to do after Ray’s new perspective is revealed), the story unfolds with new enlightenment that invites readers to linger on each page. Ray, with his bright eyes, rosy cheeks, little smile, and filament that creates a tuft of hair is an endearing character that kids will love.

Coppo’s story is a sweet metaphor for discovering the wonders of the wider world and the value of engaging kids in stimulating experiences. It also reminds us that too often we can be “in the dark” and that looking at things differently results in new perspectives and more appreciation. Coppo’s clever illustrations invite interaction and close observation as the items in the closet transform into so much more after Ray’s return from the camping trip. Ray’s vision of himself has also changed: in his dreams he is now the sun shining on his little world.

A unique story that encourages the exploration and introspection that sparks imagination and self-esteem, Ray would be a favorite for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0735265776

Discover more about Marianna Coppo, her books, and her art on her website.

Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

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Share Your Bright Idea! Page

 

Do you sometimes have a lightbulb moment when an idea seems just right? Use this printable Share Your Bright Idea! Page to write about or draw your idea!

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You can find Ray at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop| IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

May 29 – It’s Gifts from the Garden Month

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About the Holiday

Many of us – and perhaps even more this year – spend the summer digging, planting, and tending our garden and yard. We look forward to all of the delicious vegetables and fruit our gardens provide and the hours of fun we have playing or lounging in the yard. But if you look closely, these areas offer up other gifts too. That profusion of dandelions may seem like bothersome weeds, but their sunny flowers and puffball seeds also create beauty and unforgettable childhood moments. Watching industrious insects reminds us of the wonder of nature below our feet or pollinating our crops. And – as today’s book shows – with some imagination and creativity that garden or yard can be transformed into a work of art. So, get outside and see what your gifts are sprouting in your backyard.

I received a copy of Leafy Critters from Blue Dot Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

By Jakki Licare

Leafy Critters

By Yvonne Lacet

This creative and imaginative earth art book by Yvonne Lacet an artist and photographer, whose work incorporates urban environments, landscapes, and nature play, will inspire children to look at nature in a whole new light. Yvonne Lacet uses petals, twigs, stems, and leaves to create “Leafy Critters.” Simple items from nature are arranged together to become different animals: foxes, polar bears, butterflies, mice, and more.

Not only is the artwork stunning but on many pages Lacet shows readers the before and after photos which makes it simple for kids to duplicate her animals. My kids enjoyed pointing out the different items in the before photos and discovering how Lacet used them in her completed artwork. A leaf, for example, transforms into a head or a wing.

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Copyright Yvonne Lacet, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Kids Press.

One of the extraordinary things about this book is not only that any child can find the natural materials needed in their backyard or local park, but the artistic eye Lacet uses to create the eighteen creatures presented. The piglet (pictured on the front cover) is simply six pink petals arranged together. Yvonne takes it a step further, though, and uses the portions of the petals that are near the pistil and have a darker pigment to add shading and detail that  transform into the pig’s hooves and snout.

The image of the polar bear also shows how contrasting colors can create a whole new scene. With the black paper background and white petals sprinkled over the page, we are suddenly transported into an arctic snowstorm at night! The great thing about Leafy Critters is that it makes young readers think outside the box. If you don’t have white petals on hand, then rice could make a great substitution. 

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Copyright Yvonne Lacet, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Kids Press.

My boys are often frustrated with art projects because they cannot create “realistic art.” Earth art, however, is an easy way for kids to explore colors and composition without the frustration of being limited by their skills. It only requires a little nature and a creative eye. So take Leafy Critters outside! You’ll be surprised to discover what creatures creep, crawl, swim, and lurk in your own backyard. 

A DIY page at the back gives kids tips on how to search for materials, gather them, and look at the colors, shapes, and sizes of leaves, petals, seeds, and more to spark their imaginations. Younger children will enjoy the creativity in each design on the pages while older children and even teens and adults will be inspired to create their own works of art.

Whether you are looking for a fun home art project or inspiration for your elementary art students, Leafy Critters will make a creative addition to your library.

Ages 3 and up

Blue Dot Kids Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1733121224

Discover more about Yvonne Lacet and her work on her website.

Gifts from the Garden Month Activity

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Natural Art Note Card

Send a special note to a loved one with your own leafy critter. This idea could be a great card for Father’s Day too! Just write in Dad after otter!

Supplies

  • Natural Materials (I used brown leaves, bark, clover flowers, and stems)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Marker
  • Paper

Directions

  1. Gather your natural materials outside

  2. Arrange your pieces together to make an otter shape

  3. Cut any pieces that need to be shaped or trimmed

  4. Glue your otter down

  5. Write “There’s no OTTER like you!”

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You can find Leafy Critters at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review