January 5 – National Bird Day

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About the Holiday

Coming at the end of the annual Christmas Bird Count conducted in conjunction with the Audubon Society, National Bird Day turns the focus on the special behavioral and physical needs of birds and works to ensure that all birds—whether kept as pets or living on farms or in their natural environments—are treated compassionately. The day also raises awareness of the dangers that threaten many species of birds with extinction. Now that winter has set in making food scarce for wild birds, ensure that feeders are kept full. If you don’t already have a bird feeder, consider hanging one in your yard. The birds that come to visit will enchant you all winter long. 

Little Bird Visits the Big City

By Domenico Granata

 

When Little Bird gazed out at the little city in the distance, he couldn’t help but compare it to his little forest. The houses he saw in the city had roofs, and he said that one day he would like a house with a roof. His mother reminded him that the branches and leaves were his roof and that in the woods they could find everything they needed. “But Little Bird was still curious to see what was out there.”

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Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

One day Little Bird announced that he was going to fly to the city to see what he could find. His mother told him to be careful and suggested he take along some friends. “But Little Bird wanted to have an adventure of his own….” With a feeling of freedom, he soared over the trees to the edge of the city. He was proud of his accomplishment, but a bit weary. He searched for a tree to rest in, but there were few trees and all of the branches had been pruned back.

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Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

As Little Bird explored the city, he had no words for the many things he saw, and so many things—like cars and bicycles and dogs on leashes—made little sense to him. He was even confused by all of the children running around. After a near miss with a big red ball, Little Bird found that he was hungry. Fortunately, the park was full of seeds, but as he gobbled them down, he noticed that other birds “glared at him angrily when he came too close to their seeds.” Little Bird did encounter one friendly face when a boy was excited to discover him perched on a bench. After he’d left with his mother, Little Bird “wished he had a friend here with him now.”

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Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

As nighttime fell, Little Bird began to feel alone and he missed his cozy nest. Just then, he became aware of something moving behind him. He turned and saw a pile of leaves walking his way. “He was scared out of his wits,” but a voice assured him there was nothing to be frightened of. With a shake and a laugh, the leaves fell away to reveal Little Bird’s forest friends.

After Little Bird recovered from his shock, the three friends flew “back home to their cozy little forest.” Perhaps when they were older, Little Bird thought, they could take another trip—one even farther than the little city—but one they would take together.

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Copyright Domenico Granata, 2020, courtesy of Minedition.

Domenico Granata’s sweet story of a little bird who wants to prove his independence by exploring a far-off city by himself only to feel homesick for his friends and familiar comforts reassures children that no matter where they go, home and friends are always close by. As little ones head off to daycare or preschool and older children begin navigating the world of extracurricular activities, sleepovers, and other activities, Granata’s story resonates with the kinds of experiences—surprising, disappointing, and confusing as well as friendly and empowering—that everyone encounters on their way to growth and knowledge. His heartening ending lets kids know that the journey to independence can be taken one step at a time and with friends.

Granata’s bright illustrations that make evocative use of simple shapes to convey his story will charm readers. Soft, rounded birds, leaves, and a winter-clad boy denote friendship while the unfamiliar city offers angular trees and buildings. Readers will giggle at images of Little Bird’s friends hiding as a pile of leaves and his shocked reaction to seeing them. Early hints to the presence of the little boy help kids realize that friends can be found in any new experience.

An original story for those who are ready to strike out on their own as well as for those who are still thinking about it, Little Bird Visits the Big City would make a thoughtful storytime read at home and in the classroom, and a terrific addition to public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

minedition, 2020 | ISBN 978-9888342037

National Bird Day Activity

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Pinecone Bird Feeder

 

Pinecone bird feeders are quick to make and great for your backyard fliers. The combination of peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening and a quality seed mixture provide birds with the fat and nutrition they need to stay warm and healthy during the winter.

Supplies

  • Pinecones
  • Peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard
  • Birdseed
  • String
  • Knife or wooden spreader
  • Spoon

Directions

  1. Tie a long length of string around the middle of the pinecone
  2. Spread the peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard on the pinecone
  3. Sprinkle a thick coating of birdseed on the pinecone, pressing it into the covering so it will stick
  4. Tie the pinecone feeder onto a tree branch or other structure
  5. Watch the birds enjoy their meal!

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You can find Little Bird Visits the Big City at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 23 – Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day

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About the Holiday

For generations the cliff swallows of San Juan Capistrano, California have been famous for their annual autumn migration that takes place near the Day of San Juan, celebrated on October 23. This swirling, soaring cloud of birds inspires those lucky enough to witness it with its power and beauty. The swallows are headed for their winter home 6,000 miles south in Goya, Corrientes, Argentina. Their return around St. Joseph’s Day on March 19th is typically celebrated with a parade and festivities.

Jacob’s Fantastic Flight

By Philip Waechter

 

You may find this hard to believe, but Jacob could fly. The first time Jacob flew, he soared right out of this stroller. Jacob skipped the whole crawling stage and the first step thing. “He just few off instead.” Although at first his parents were concerned, “they soon got used to him flying and figured, ‘So be it—he’s our son, and he’s perfect just the way he is!’” One winter his parents decided to take a vacation to the Mediterranean. His mom and dad booked airplane tickets, but Jacob was going to fly there himself.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Jacob filled his backpack, waved goodbye to his parents and took off. Along the way, Jacob counted animals down below. He even shared his sandwiches with a group of squirrels. It was then that he saw “eighty-three birds on their way to Africa.” Jacob decided to go with them. Their route took them over mountains and valleys, past lakes and fields of wheat and wildflowers.

Jacob loved dipping, swooping, and soaring through urban obstacle courses, taking breaks in the birds’ favorite rest stops, and having “lots of pleasant conversations.” It was a wonderful trip. But then one of their flock was captured in Mr. Mortar’s net. Mr. Mortar was a birdcatcher, and his home was filled with the birds he’d caught just so he could hear their chirping.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

When Jacob and the birds stopped for lunch, they immediately noticed that Hubert was missing. It didn’t take long for them to find out where he was. Jacob knew just what to do. With some feathers from his friends and a beak made from paper in his backpack, Jacob fashioned a costume and then flew in front of Mr. Mortar’s window where he was sure to see him.

Jacob was just the “rare specimen” Mr. Mortar had been looking for. He rushed out with his net, leaving the front door wide open. The flock swarmed in and removed not just Hubert but all of the caged birds. They met up in the woods at a cool pond. Birds from all over soon heard of how “the birdcatcher had finally be bamboozled” and flew in to celebrate. It was time for Jacob to meet up with his parents, so he waved goodbye.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Except for little Hubert who wanted to take a vacation too. Jacob found his parents on a golden beach. They hugged and kissed and then spent the time “the way a vacation is supposed to be.” When it was time to leave, Jacob went home with his parents on the plane—and Hubert got the window seat.

Quirky in the very best way, Jacob’s Fantastic Flight soars with themes of individuality and independence, friendship and family. Philip Waechter’s buoyant storytelling shines with acceptance born from love and understanding by both Jacob’s parents and the birds, and Jacob’s parents’ trust in their son’s abilities and judgement is a highlight. As a natural flyer, Jacob is part of two worlds, and children will recognize his joy in joining and learning from the flock of birds, just as they experience when discovering their own world.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Perfectly paced, Waechter’s story benefits from the bird’s and Jacob’s quickly devised plan to rescue Hubert. Today’s kids are incredibly smart, and they’ll happily see themselves in this turn of events too. Jacob’s reunion with his parents is sweet and uplifting; every vacation should be like theirs. As Jacob accompanies his parents on the plane, kids will feel that reassurance that no matter where they roam, they will always find open hearts and arms at home.

Waechter’s delicate line drawings enhance the sense of freedom and lightheartedness inherent in his story. Jacob is first introduced as a regular kid, surrounded by toys, snacks, and posters that any child might have. It is only on the second page that readers notice his singular talent. Images of Jacob flying from his stroller in front of his astonished parents and then helping out by picking apples from the top of a tree show how quickly his parents accepted his ability.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Spreads of Jacob flying with the flock over a field and a city are lovely, and what child wouldn’t love to sit on a park statue with the happy birds? Mr. Mortar (an inspired name), hiding in the bushes with his net while dressed in green and sporting a leafy hat, reminds kids that there are always obstacles to watch out for. The two-page spread of the celebratory bird party will awe readers, and with the verve of all kids on vacation or in the car, readers will love counting the birds and squirrels Jacob meets on his way.

Supportive and uplifting, Jacob’s Fantastic Flight will inspire children to take wing and is a must-have for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Blue Dot Kids Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1733121262

If you and your kids love birds, you can download this  Crazy About Birds Citizen Science Resource Guide from Blue Dot Press to learn how you can get involved in helping birds!

You can also find a detailed Teacher’s Guide on the Blue Dot Press website that will get students at school and at home excited to learn about close reading and interact with the story to discuss themes, cause-and-effect relationships, character, illustration, and do some writing of their own.

Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day Activity

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Jacob’s Fantastic Flight Coloring Page

 

Celebrate birds with this beautiful printable coloring page perfect for kids and adults!

Jacob’s Fantastic Flight Coloring Page

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You can find Jacob’s Fantastic Flight at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 9 – It’s Potty Training Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Toilet training is a major milestone for kids – and their parents and caregivers. The end of diapers means more independence and leaving babyhood behind. But getting to that big day can be difficult and stressful. Potty Training Awareness Month celebrates this accomplishment with kids while also offering support for the adults involved. With patience, love, and a humor, adults can make potty training a confidence booster – as you’ll see in today’s book. For some tips on making potty training easier, visit Baby+Co.

Sloth Went

Written by Adam Lehrhaupt | Illustrated by Benson Shum

 

Today was the day. Sloth “was excited. And nervous.” He was a little worried about if something happened but also if nothing happened. Sloth’s mom was encouraging, though. She said, “‘You’ll make it,” and promised him a surprise afterward. Sloth was interested in the surprise, so he agreed to go. He clung to the tree waiting to go while a caterpillar descended, crawled over his back, and continued on its way.

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Image copyright Benson Shum, 2020, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sloth was feeling tired and a little dejected when Butterfly flitted by to see how things were going. “‘I don’t think I’m gonna make it,’” Sloth grumbled. Butterfly told him that was okay “‘as long as you keep trying.’” Sloth clung tighter to his tree and gave it all he had while a snail descended above him, crawled over his leg, and kept on going.

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Image copyright Benson Shum, 2020, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Frog dropped by to wish Sloth well, but Sloth gave a pessimistic report. Hearing this, Frog had some advice that spurred him to keep trying. Sloth looked around from his lofty perch and saw a perfect spot under a nearby tree. He clambered down and raced over. He waggled his stubby tail, then sat down “to take care of business.” He pondered, he pushed, he strained. Then he smiled. He’d done it! He covered it up with a happy dance and climbed back up his own tree. “He couldn’t wait to tell everyone,” and when he reached the top, they were all waiting to celebrate his good news with cheers and hugs and a special surprise treat.

Back matter explains the fascinating facts about sloth digestion, poop, and the dangerous path they take to “take care of business.”

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Image copyright Benson Shum, 2020, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Adam Lehrhaupt’s humorous and unique look at potty training based on the intriguing facts of sloth behavior reflects the feelings and fears that can accompany this major milestone for little ones. Lehrhaupt’s subtle language, emphasizing the words “go” and “make it,” create a story as much about meeting challenges and adventure head on as it is about potty training. Butterfly, Frog, and Mother Sloth’s encouragement to keep trying and to listen to yourself is good advice anywhere along life’s path and especially as little ones become more independent.

Benson Shum’s adorable sloth makes a sweet companion on a child’s adventure to diaper-less living. His facial expressions clearly demonstrate his nervousness about his “big day as well as the boost that his friends’ support provides. Kids will giggle appreciatively as little Sloth grimaces and strains to do what will come naturally. When he finally succeeds in going, little ones will want to join him in his victory dance—a desire that should have them asking for and using the potty in no time. Shum’s vibrant colors and close-up images will captivate kids, who will ask for this book over and over again.

A funny and encouraging addition to potty-training books that gives little ones an endearing companion on their journey of independence, Sloth Went would make a top pick for home and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547602452

Discover more about Adam Lehrhaupt and his books on his website.

To learn more about Benson Shum, his books, and his art on his website.

Potty Training Awareness Month Activity

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Potty Buddy

 

Sometimes a little encouragement from a friend can help kids try something new. This easy-to-make, kind-of-silly Potty Buddy can be designed by the trainee to be just the friend they want along as they make that first step toward independence.

Supplies

  • Toilet paper tube
  • Toddler size sock or cloth
  • Several feet of yarn
  • Googly eyes (optional)
  • Scrap of foam, colored paper, or cloth
  • Glue

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Directions

  1. Pull a toddler-size sock over the paper towel tube and fold down the top to make a collar. Alternately, wrap cloth around the toilet paper tube and glue in place.
  2. Glue googly eyes on the tube
  3. Cut a small triangle or other shape for a nose from the foam or colored paper
  4. Loop the yarn about 20 times in a 5 – 6 inch length
  5. Tie the yarn in the middle
  6. Fold and glue into the top opening of the tube for hair.

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You can find Sloth Went at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 15 – Bike Anywhere Week

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About the Holiday

May is National Bike Month and today’s date was usually set aside for riders to replace their usual method of commuting to work with pedaling instead. This year, though, Bike to Work Week has been moved to September 17 – 27 and Bike to Work Day will occur on September 22. In it’s place we have Bike Anywhere Week! Biking is a great activity for getting much-needed exercise and enjoying the warm weather.  So. bring out your bikes, pump up the tires, and take to a street or trail near you!

Bikes for Sale

Written by Carter Higgins | Illustrated by Zachariah OHora

 

“They were new once. And then they weren’t.” The yellow bike with the lemonade stand attached to the front belonged to Maurice. He rode through town to the grocery store, into the 3rd Street park where he picked lemons, and out to a spot mid-way between the grocery store and the park snack bar. Everywhere he went, he found customers for his twenty-five-cent cups of “squeezy drops of sunshine”—cup included. After a while, Maurice moved on to another spot even though there were still people who wanted his thirst-quenching lemonade.

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2019, text copyright Carter Higgins, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The red bike with the basket on the back that was perfect for collecting sticks belonged to Lotta. “She rode it to the woods, through the ditch on 5th street that had the best mud, and to the fort.” Wherever she rode, Lotta was always on the lookout for more sticks. She built up her fort with sticks and gave some away. She thought sticks were “the best thing to collect.” After a while, she would ride on even though there were still people who wanted a stick.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bikes-for-sale-Lotta

Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2019, text copyright Carter Higgins, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

They rode all over—sometimes leaving sticks and lemon peels in their wake—until for Maurice “…what looked like a small stick was really a smashup,” leaving him without his lemonade bicycle, and for Lotta “…what looked like some petals was really some peels,” leading to a catastrophic crash. They both took up walking—which left the lemonade buyers and the stick collectors out of luck.

“Meanwhile…. To someone new, the rust sparkled. The deflated tires still held hope. Sid could read the stories the bikes had to tell. Then one day, Maurice happened by a corner store with a sign that read: Bikes For Sale: Abandoned & Discarded, Found & Restored. Come See Sid. At the same time, Lotta read the sign on the other side of the corner. “And then they went to see Sid.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bikes-for-sale-Sid's-shop

Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2019, text copyright Carter Higgins, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Now “Lotta rode her bike to the woods,” into the 3rd Street park, and “through the ditch on 5th Street…” and “Maurice rode his bike to the grocery store,” to the 3rd Street park, and into the woods on their new bicycle for two. “They had new adventures,” and even the lemons and sticks took on a new sheen. And Maurice and Lotta each discovered a new friend. “And that’s how friendships begin. They are new once. And then, they aren’t.”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2019, text copyright Carter Higgins, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

In her overlapping story about Maurice and Lotta and their beloved bikes, Carter Higgins creates a layered celebration of what makes life—and particularly childhood—so rich. In her sparse, lyrical prose, Higgins explores the ideas of freedom, independence, self-assurance, loss, renewal, and friendship. Lotta and Maurice are industrious and joyful as they ply their trades around town and then zip off to discover new environs. When they both lose their bikes, they don’t complain or give up but wait for a new opportunity—and are open to it when it comes. Once solo contractors, Maurice and Lotta embrace their tandem lifestyle, which makes even their lemons and sticks shine brighter and gives them a permanence they didn’t have before.

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Zachariah OHora’s wide-eyed Maurice and smiley Lotta happily tool around on their bikes, gathering supplies and handing out their wares around town and in a park centered around a lake complete with swan boats. OHora’s colorful palette is as fresh as a sunny summer day and invites kids along for the ride through the city, into the ditch, past the dog walker, the construction workers, and the recipients of Lotta’s sticks who find fun and creative ways to use them. An aerial view of Lotta and Maurice as they pass each other on the path that will, literally and metaphorically, deprive them of their bikes and unite them in the end is a clever touch that will have children guessing what comes next. The final two-page spread of the finished fort—which now serves as Lotta and Maurice’s new lemonade and stick stand—paired with Carter Higgins’ touching truism about friendship makes a moving ending that will tug at readers’ hearts.

An emotional charmer, Bikes for Sale is a can’t-miss addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 7

Chronicle Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1452159324

Discover more about Carter Higgins and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zachariah OHora, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Bike Anywhere Week Activity

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Come Bike with Me! Coloring Page

 

Here’s a bike just for you! Draw yourself riding it and fill in where you go. Will it be to the park, through town, or somewhere else? Print this page and have some fun!

Come Bike with Me! Coloring Page

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You can find Bikes for Sale at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-MillionBook

To support your local independent bookstore, order here

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

August 1 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

It’s the day you and your child have been looking forward to: Kindergarten and being a big kid! But starting school can also be a little intimidating. Today’s holiday gives kids and adults a chance to talk with their kids about starting school and the changes ahead. Sharing picture books that reflect a variety of views of this momentous occasion can help ease the transition. Today’s book is a great place to start!

So Big!

By Mike Wohnoutka

 

With six words and cover-to-cover cuteness, Mike Wohnoutka takes kids on a journey from home to school, making stops along the way to experience many of the emotions of that very first day. Little Bear wakes up with a smile on his face. On the calendar hanging by his bed, the day is circled with a big red star, and this bear knows he’s not so little anymore. In fact he’s “so big.” How big? “So-o-o…big” that he can dress himself, reach the cereal box on the counter, and make his own breakfast.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

He’s “So, so, big” that he can pack up his backpack, tie his shoes, and walk to the bus stop all by himself. He waits proudly next to a little elephant who looks a bit uncertain and a tiny squirrel who’s in awe of the much bigger Bear. But then the bus pulls up, and it is “SO big.” Now it’s Bear who looks a little uncertain as he climbs in and in awe of the much bigger elephants, rhino, and giraffe he sits near.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

When the bus drops him in front of the school, Bear looks up and up at the enormous building. It’s “SO BIG!” While the little elephant he met at the bus stop heads through the open doors, Bear sits on the steps and sheds a few tears, feeling “not so big.” But then the squirrel approaches and looks up, up, up, up at the enormous building and bursts into a flood of tears at the “TOO big” school. Bear notices his distress and even though he’s a little intimidated himself, he reaches out his hand to Squirrel and they enter the school together.

The hallway seems okay—it’s “not so big…,” and when their teacher welcomes them to their room, they see that the desks and the other kids are “just right!”

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mike Wohnoutka’s bright, honest look at the first day of school through a child’s eyes and from their perspective is encouraging in every way. As Bear gets ready for his first day of school, his independence will spark confidence in readers. Squirrel’s reaction to meeting Bear and Elephant at the bus stop, and Bear’s feelings on seeing the bus and the school building encourage kids and adults to discuss the emotions involved in the first day of school and other new experiences. Bear’s kindness to Squirrel will help readers develop a sense of camaraderie between the themselves and their new classmates while also fostering an early appreciation for empathy and friendship during this transformative time.

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Wohnoutka’s minimal text takes on various meanings with a touch of italics or the juxtaposition of Bear and Squirrel to their surroundings, allowing for further conversation about internal feelings and physical size. His clever uses of these simple phrases combined with illustrations that put the characters in proportional proximity to kitchen counters, a child’s backpack, the school bus, larger and smaller children, the school building, and more also provide adults with clear visual portrayals of relative size that can encourage math talk and exploration at home or in the classroom.

So Big!—a story that offers so much for kids just starting school or other activities—is highly recommended for children taking new forays into the world. The book makes for a sweet and satisfying go-to story for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1547600793

Discover more about Mike Wohnoutka, his books, and his art on his website.

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Let’s Ride the Bus! Coloring Page

 

Riding the school bus is fun! With this coloring page you can fill the bus with your friends—and don’t forget to add yourself! Then grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and color it in!

Let’s Ride the Bus! Coloring Page

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You can find So Big at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 18 – Break the Monotony Day

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About the Holiday

Are you stuck in a rut? Are you so entrenched that you can’t imagine breaking your comfortable routine? Then maybe it’s time for a change. And that’s what today’s holiday is all about. It doesn’t take much to break the monotony—just a simple change-up will do. So today, instead of having your usual latte, order a chai. They’re delicious! Instead of following the same boring route to work or school, zip down a different road. You never know what you will see! And Instead of binge-watching that show, try a new one.  I know! But you can go back to it tomorrow. Of course, one of the best ways to break the monotony is by reading books—they’ll take you to all sorts of places, you’ll meet new, exciting people, and you’ll get involved in events you never thought possible! 

Somewhere Else

By Gus Gordon

 

There are birds that fly north and those that fly south. There are birds that take the bus and those that don’t care how they travel just so long as they go somewhere. And then there’s George Laurent. “George never went anywhere.” He told himself that he liked his home and his garden and, especially, the pastries he baked in his oven better than anything or anywhere else.

It wasn’t like he never saw anyone. His “friends were always dropping by on their way to somewhere else” to enjoy his delicious treats. And they often invited George to fly away with them. When Penelope Thornwhistle was reminded of the Andes while eating one of his éclairs, she asked George to go there with her. But George had potentially award-winning brownies in the oven. When Walter Greenburg tasted George’s apple strudel and thought about Paris, he was ready to take George to see the city of lights, but George had ironing to do. And a trip to the Alaskan tundra with a flock of other ducks had to be postponed because of yoga class.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

As time went on, everyone stopped asking George to share their adventures. They knew he was too busy anyway. When winter came, “George found himself alone.” At least until Pascal Lombard came knocking, looking for a place to spend the snowy months. When the bear wondered why George wasn’t sunning himself on some Caribbean beach, George said he was learning Flamenco songs on his guitar, catching up on the TV series Lost in Space, and typing out his memoirs.

But Pascal reminded George that he didn’t have a guitar or a television and that he hadn’t yet done anything worthy of a memoir. It was then that George made his confession: he didn’t know how to fly. When all the other ducks had learned to fly, he said, he had been too busy with something else. “He had been making excuses not to fly ever since.”

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Well, Pascal was ready to remedy the situation. Fortunately, he had an “uncanny knack for solving tricky problems.” They tried reading books, taking wing on a kite, and using a crane. But nothing worked. “It turned out Pascal Lombard didn’t have much of a knack for solving tricky problems after all.” Both George and Pascal felt disappointed as they read by the fire, until George happened to peek at Pascal’s newspaper and see an announcement for a hot air balloon ride in Paris.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

George was intrigued. And Pascal said, “‘I am remarkably good with my hands! We can build it!’” So they set to work, but it was harder than they thought, and “it took all winter (it turned out Pascal Lombard wasn’t actually very good with his hands).” Finally, though, they were flying! They flew their red patchwork balloon for months, seeing the Eiffel Tower, floating over the Arctic Circle, soaring through Madagascar, and experiencing places that were “more exciting than they had ever imagined.” But still, they missed George’s homemade pie. So they flew home, enjoyed tea and pie, and planned next year’s “anywhere somewhere else” adventure.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-flying-in-balloon

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gus Gordon’s tenderhearted and funny story about missed opportunities that can lead to more missed opportunities, excuses, and sometimes isolation tackles a common predicament not often seen in children’s books. George’s amusing tales of loads of laundry, Flamenco lessons, and yoga classes as well as his real talent for baking will endear George to readers, making his admission a moment for true empathy and encouragement. More silliness ensues as Pascal tries to help out, and kids will cheer when the two finally get off the ground.

Gordon’s reassurance that there’s no shame in making mistakes or not knowing something is also found in Pascal’s bravado and subsequent asides to the contrary. As George and Pascal work together to teach George to fly, kids see that help can be as close as a good friend—and as fun. A welcome undertone to the story is the idea that it’s also okay to be yourself: the first page abounds with very unique birds flying here and there; for Penelope an éclair reminds her of the Andes and for Walter, strudel reminds him of Paris—and who’s to say they’re wrong?; and when George and Pascal miss home and homemade goodies, they return to their favorite place.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gordon’s illustrations are a treat too. Full of visual humor and word play, the mixed-media, collage-style images bring together snippets of old advertising, photography, and traditional mediums and invite readers to linger to catch all the humor included. The page on which George finally makes his confession is worthy of special note. Here, in contrast to the other pages, the background is white, a saddened George is simply sketched with a blue outline, and the stack of firewood he was carrying lies haphazardly at his feet. The image gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about feelings of embarrassment, doubt, or uncertainty.

Somewhere Else is an original story with heart, humor, and an uplifting lesson that would make a sweet and meaningful addition to classroom and home libraries.

Age 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626723498

Discover more about Gus Gordon and his books on his website.

Break the Monotony Day Activity

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Reading is Super! Maze

 

One of the best ways to add excitement to life is through reading! These kids are waiting for some books to read. Can you help the super-reader bring his friends new books in this printable Reading is Super Maze?

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You can find Somewhere Else at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review