August 1 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-big-cover

About the Holiday

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-big-waking-up

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-big-eating-breakfast

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!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-big-backpack

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-big-bear-and-squirrel

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

celebrate-picture-books-empty-School-Bus-Coloring-Page

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-big-cover

You can find So Big at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 18 – Break the Monotony Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-cover

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-map

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-andes

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-making-balloon

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-george-in-kitchen

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reading-is-super-maze

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?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-cover

You can find Somewhere Else at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 6 – It’s International Assistance Dog Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jessica-and-rescue-cover

About the Holiday

International Assistance Dog Week was established by Marci Davis, the author of Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook, host of PetLifeRadio.com’s internet radio show “Working Like Dogs, and a paraplegic, to honor these loyal companions that through training and constant love transform the lives of those with disabilities. The holiday also promotes awareness and educates the public about service dogs and recognizes those who raise and train them from puppyhood. To commemorate today’s holiday, learn more about assistance dogs and the heroic deeds they perform. To learn about events in your area, visit the International Assistance Dog Week website.

Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship

Written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes | Illustrated by Scott Magoon

 

When the puppy, Rescue, a Seeing Eye dog in training, heard his trainer say “‘You aren’t meant to be a Seeing Eye dog,’” he worried. His family had always been Seeing Eye dogs, and he didn’t know what else he could do. But his trainer did. “‘The service dog team is better for you,’ his trainer said. ‘Service dogs work beside their partners, instead of in front of them.’” Rescue hoped he would make a good service dog. “He didn’t want to let anyone down.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jessica-and-rescue-Rescue-training

Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

In the nearby city, a girl named Jessica had been hurt. Her right leg seemed to be healing, but “the doctors had to remove part of her left leg so she could be healthy again.” The doctors told her that she would have to use a wheelchair or prosthetic leg for the rest of her life. Jessica worried about how she would walk and do things by herself. “She didn’t want to let anyone down.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jessica-and-rescue-hospital

Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Meanwhile Rescue was learning all of the skills he’d need as a service dog. He learned how to fetch things and open doors. Jessica was also learning new skills. She practiced using a wheelchair, getting out of bed, putting on her prosthetic leg, and walking. Even though she made progress every day, Jessica felt frustrated about the things she could no longer do.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jessica-and-rescue-service-dog

Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

One day, a visitor brought her service dog to meet Jessica. Jessica was so impressed by everything the dog could do, that she filled out an application to receive a dog of her own as soon as her visitor left. After Jessica left the hospital, she “got some very exciting news. Rescue got exciting news too.”

At last, the day arrived for Jessica and Rescue to meet. They liked each other immediately. After Rescue showed Jessica all the things he could do, they went back to the city to begin working together. Rescue brought her things she needed, he barked when Jessica needed someone, he could even push the walk button at street crosswalks.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jessica-and-rescue-meeting

Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Even though Rescue was a strong worker, Jessica knew he was also a dog who liked to have fun. “She made sure that Rescue had playtime every day.” Then one day, Jessica’s “doctor told her that her right leg would have to be removed too. She would need to wear two prosthetic legs.” Jessica was very sad, but Rescue knew just what to do to help her. As Jessica slept, Rescue cuddled up next to her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jessica-and-rescue-park

Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Once again, Jessica and Rescue went into training together. “They did chores together, played together, and snuggled together.” Both Jessica and Rescue felt happy. “‘You changed my life, Rescue,’” Jessica told her companion. “‘I couldn’t have done this without you.’” Rescue was proud of them both.

An Author’s Note from Jessica Kensky and her husband Patrick Downes, both injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, follows the text and provides more information about the story, their Service Dog, Rescue, and the NEADS organization.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jessica-and-rescue-bridge

Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Based on Jessica Kensky’s real-life partnership with Rescue, Rescue & Jessica offers children a thoughtful and honest portrayal of loss, hope, and recovery. Jessica’s story will touch young readers while answering questions that many have as they interact with and see similar partnerships of Service Dogs and children or adults with physical disabilities. The Boston Marathon bombing is never mentioned in the story, leaving it up to adult readers to explain the details depending on the age and sensitivities of the listener. The addition of Rescue’s point of view gives readers a window into the intelligence and loyalty of these valiant animals. While not shying away from the difficulties that Jessica faced, each page is infused with courage and the resiliency of the human spirit.

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 5.52.46 PM

Scott Magoon’s realistic, digitally created illustrations will rivet children to the story with clear depictions of Rescue’s training and Jessica’s stay at the hospital. As Jessica suffers grief and worry, she is surrounded by darkness, but even here, spots of light are given in images of her parents’ vigil at her hospital bedside, a physical therapist’s encouragement, and the comfort Rescue provides on a starlit night. As Jessica learns to walk again with her prosthetic leg, black storm clouds give way to gray showers seen outside the therapy room window and the city—her home and ultimate destination is seen across the river in the distance.

A sunburst accompanies Jessica’s first experience with a Service Dog, and as she and Rescue become partners, the gray-tone images acquire a bit of green grass that blossoms into spring and then full-fledged summer when Jessica resumes some of her past activities with her family. The final two-page spread of Jessica, with Rescue by her side, leaving gray skies behind and walking across a bridge toward home and the glowing promise of a sunny day is moving and triumphant.

A poignant and uplifting story, Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship is highly recommended for any young reader and a must for pubic and school or classroom libraries.

Candlewick, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763696047

To learn more about Scott Magoon, his books, and his art, visit his website.

International Assistance Dog Week Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Biscuits

 

These homemade dog biscuits are fun to make and a special treat for your dog at home, a neighbor’s pet, or dogs waiting for forever homes at your local shelter. Why not get together with your friends and make a batch? Then share them with your pets or dogs who need a little extra love.

Children should get help from an adult when using the oven.

Supplies

  • 1 large bowl
  • Large spoon or whisk
  • Cookie cutters – shaped like traditional dog bones or any favorite shape

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Add buckwheat flour to bowl
  3. Add powdered milk to bowl
  4. Add salt to bowl
  5. Stir to mix dry ingredients
  6. Add water
  7. Add melted margarine or butter
  8. Add egg
  9. Stir until liquid is absorbed
  10. Knead for a few minutes to form a dough
  11. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, one Tablespoon at a time
  12. Place the dough on a board
  13. Roll dough to ½ inch thickness
  14. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  15. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  16. Biscuits will be hard when cool.

Makes about 40 biscuits.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jessica-and-rescue-cover

You can find Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 3 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month and Interview with Author Jody Jensen Shaffer

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-cover

About the Holiday

Launched in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers and managed by Every Child a Reader, Get Caught Reading Month hopes to instill a love of reading in every child and encourages people of all ages to read more. Celebrities, authors, illustrators, and others participate by sharing pictures of themselves reading an old favorite or new book on social media. Special materials are available for and programs held in schools, libraries, bookstores, and community venues all month long. Why not join in by finding a new book to lovelike today’s book?! For more information and to find resources, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

Penguin Random House sent me a copy of A Chip Off the Old Block to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m partnering with Penguin Random House in a giving away a copy of A Chip Off the Old Block. See details below.

A Chip Off the Old Block

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

Rocky had an impressive family. There was Aunt Etna, Uncle Gibraltar, and his Great-Grandma Half Dome. His cousins were pretty well-known too. In fact, “tons of his relatives were rock stars.” Rocky loved hearing his parents’ stories about his family. Rocky wanted to be important too, but his parents thought he was too little. He may have been “just a chip off the old block” like his dad said, “but inside, Rocky was a boulder!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-aunt-etna

Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Rocky made a plan, and in the morning he hopped on a pickup truck headed for Arizona to join his cousin The Wave. As soon as he got there, though, a gust of wind blew him away. He landed hard and “noticed that a piece of him had broken off.” Undeterred, he caught a flight with an eagle out to Wyoming and another cousin, The Tower. Rocky was almost settled in when a rainstorm washed him over the side.

At the bottom of the long slide down, Rocky hitched a ride on a car bound for Texas. There, he thought he could watch over the sauropod tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park. But it didn’t take long for an armadillo to dig him out and send him back on the road again. this time he was determined to go to South Dakota. When he arrived, tinier than when he’d begun his trip, he decided that he’d make a terrific souvenir of his cousin Rushmore.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-the-wave

Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Just then he heard the news. The park was closing because a crack had been discovered in Abraham Lincoln’s nose. “Rocky was crushed.” His dreams of being important would never come true now. But looking up at his cousin, he realized that maybe he could help. A passing lizard gave him a ride to the top, and Rocky jumped. He tumbled down, down and right into the crack in Lincoln’s nose. “He was a perfect fit! I did it! I did something important! I saved Abraham Lincoln!” Rocky exaulted, excited and proud.

Down below, visitors and park employees cheered. Reporters relayed the news, and photographers took pictures. The park was saved, and it was “all thanks to Rocky, the little pebble that wouldn’t be taken for granite.”

A guide to igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks, illustrated descriptions of some of the world’s most majestic rock formations, and an Author’s Note about Mount Rushmore follow the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-mount-rushmore

Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

There’s so much to love about Jody Jensen Shaffer’s A Chip Off the Old Block! Part adventure, part educational travelogue, and completely inspirational—with lots of funny wordplay to boot—Shaffer’s story will charm kids. Little Rocky is a sweetie of a go-getter who has big dreams and sets out to achieve them. He overcomes obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments and adjusts to changes with optimism while never losing heart and building up his self-confidence. Kids will cheer when Rocky finally finds the place where he can make the most monumental difference.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-rocky

Daniel Miyares’ gorgeous illustrations depict the splendor of Rocky’s magnificent cousins and the landscape they dominate while cleverly tracing his journey from state to state, carried along by a truck and a car, in a backpack, and with the help of some animal friends. Rocky is full of personality and childlike expressions that will endear him to readers. Miyares’ full-color, full-bleed pages will get kids excited to learn more about geology and each rock formation, and will no doubt inspire some vacation wish lists.

A Chip Off the Old Block is a smart and witty book that will excite a child’s imagination. It would be a terrific addition to home bookshelves and should be included in classroom libraries to accompany STEM, STEAM, and English Language Arts lessons and well as fun story times.

Ages 5 – 8

Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2018 | ISBN 978-0399173882

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and find teachers’ resources and activities on her website.

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books and his art, visit his website.

Meet Jody Jensen Shaffer

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Jody-Jensen-Shaffer-author-photo

I’m excited to talk with Jody Jensen Shaffer today about what she loves about writing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, her favorite childhood memories, and her rescue dog, Sophie.

What was the spark for A Chip off the Old Block?

Hi Kathy! Thanks for having me on your blog. The spark for A Chip off the Old Block was the phrase, “Rocky loved his rock star relatives.” It came to me as I was brainstorming picture book ideas, and it felt like the first line of a story. I loved the word play of the line, so I created a story around it. I just had to discover who Rocky was and what his story would be.

A Chip off the Old Block combines terrific storytelling with science and history. What would you like for readers to take away from the book? How have children reacted to Chip?

Thanks! It was lots of fun to write. I hope readers take away from the book the idea that you’re never too small to matter and to never give up on your dreams. Bonus points if they learn a little about rocks, US landmarks, maps, and natural formations! I’ve been really happy with how Chip has been received by children and adults! One class even did a Google maps tour of the places Rocky visits in his travels.

You write across the spectrum of children’s literature from poetry to nonfiction to fiction. Can you briefly describe what you like about each?

I love writing poetry because of the challenge of the form. It’s like putting a puzzle together, and the pieces are brevity, beauty, meaning, and joy.

I love writing fiction because I can choose any characters I want, put them in any situations I want, and have fun with the language, voice, and story.

I love writing nonfiction because I love learning new things! And my interest in science comes to me naturally because of my dad’s influence. He was a college professor of biological sciences (and a great wordsmith).

You’ve said that you loved being a kid. What’s one of your favorite memories? How does being able to tap into that feeling of childhood influence your work?

I have so many great memories of my childhood: fishing with my family at local ponds, riding bikes to the swimming pool, visiting my dad’s lab at the college, even working our huge garden with my siblings (before we were allowed to ride our bikes to the swimming pool). I feel so blessed to have had the parents I had and the childhood they gave me. It’s easy to recall feelings of being loved and valued. I hope to send that same message to my readers through my writing.

You say you can remember the exact moment you learned to read. Can you talk about that a little?

It’s a very brief memory. I was reading an early chapter book and laboriously sounding out each syllable, index finger on page, when it occurred to me that if I just read “lighter,” the words might come to me more easily. I relaxed, I guess, and the words came. It was like a light switch turned on. From then on, I read fluently.

What’s the best part about being a children’s author? Do you have an anecdote from an author event that you’d like to share?

There are so many great things about writing for children, and I feel really blessed to be able to do it, but if I have to choose the best thing, I’d say it’s being able to play with words for a living. In terms of an anecdote, I was Skyping with a class for World Read Aloud Day recently, and a little guy stepped up to the screen and told me how much he liked one of my less well-known books. I felt his sincerity, and I appreciated him telling me.

In 2017, your book Prudence the Part-Time Cow was chosen to represent Missouri in the National Book Festival in Washington DC that is hosted by the Library of Congress. Can you talk about this honor a little? How was Prudence chosen and what did it mean for you as an author and for the book?

I was super excited to learn that the Missouri Center for the Book chose Prudence for that honor! At the National Book Festival, each state chooses a book to represent it. All the states’ books are displayed together in one room for festival-goers. I didn’t attend the event, but several people who did told me Prudence sold out several times!

You’re a dog lover and have a rescue dog named Sophie. I’d love to hear more about her!

How much time do you have? Just kidding. She’s part long-haired dachshund, part chihuahua, we think. Very friendly, a good walking companion, pretty, and a real cuddler. She sleeps under the sheets with us.

What’s up next for you?

In July 2018, just in time for back-to-school, Beach Lane will publish It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus! about a school bus’s first day of school. In 2019, Grosset & Dunlap will release my bobble-head biography, Who Is Jackie Chan? I’ve got more projects coming that have yet to be announced, so I better stop there. I’ll continue to publish poetry in great children’s magazines, too.

What’s your favorite holiday? Do you have an anecdote from any holiday you’d like to share?

I really like Earth Day and Arbor Day. I love helping take care of the earth.

Thanks, Jody! It’s been so great chatting with you! I wish you all the best with A Chip Off the Old Block and all of your books and projects!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-chip-off-the-old-block-cover

You can find A Chip Off the Old Block at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Penguin Random House

(Leaving a review is one of the best ways to support authors and illustrators!)

You can connect with Jody Jensen Shaffer on

Her website | Twitter

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reading-bug-book-plate

Catch the Reading Bug Bookmark and Bookplate

 

If you love to read, show it with these printable Reading Bug book bling!

I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

Picture Book Review

April 21 – National Kindergarten Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-good-morning-cover

About the Holiday

As the school year winds down, all of those soon-to-be preschool graduates are looking forward to going to kindergarten in the fall. Becoming a “big kid” with new friends to make, new responsibilities, and lots of new things to learn is exciting. National Kindergarten Day celebrates that feeling and wishes all young learners the best start to their school career.

My Good Morning

Written by Kim Crockett Corson | Illustrated by Jelena Brezovec

 

A little girl wakes up before the sun to start her day. She’s ready and rarin’ to go so why aren’t Mommy and Daddy? Slippers on, she runs to wash her hands “without a hitch” even though—Oops!—the soap is so slippery! Next she brushes her teeth, which is a cinch once there’s more toothpaste in her mouth than in her hair and on the mirror. She’s even got the potty thing down.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-good-morning-washing-hands

Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

Then, says the girl it’s “Onto the bed, where I jump up and down. / Whee! There’s no time to waste as I flop around. / Mommy wrestles me into my clothes. / Daddy slide socks and shoes over my toes.” She ties her own shoes over mismatched socks, and her coat, though askew, is buttoned bottom to top. Before school she has just enough time to slurp down some milk. Her kitty laps up the splashes and drips.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-good-morning-getting-dressed

Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

Bundled up for the cold, the little girl strides out the door, but just at the edge she trips over the rug. Not to worry, she says. “I pick myself up, / then I wave and smile.” And so what if “getting me into the car seat / takes a while.” At school she climbs the stairs without any help. She puts her backpack on the shelf and her coat on the hook—well, almost.

In the classroom, the little girl says hi to her friends and then with “so many puzzles and toys, / I’m ready to play! / I hug Daddy good-bye, / I’m going to have a great day!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-good-morning-coat-on-hook

Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

In Kim Crockett Corson’s “can-do” book for young readers, a little girl is exuberant and positive as she gets ready for school. Kids will love the girl’s infectious personality that turns every experience into a self-confidence boosting success. The cheery rhymes echo the little girl’s attitude, making My Good Morning a perfect book to share with readers who are beginning to make their way in the world.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-good-morning-waking-up

Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

Jelena Brezovec’s colorful illustrations offer both humor and encouragement as she juxtaposes the little girl’s view of her accomplishments with the small mishaps that accompany them. The girl’s parents are in turn smiling, frazzled, watchful, and ultimately proud. Brezovec’s portrayal of an interracial couple is welcome, and the curly-haired little girl will become a fast friend to little readers.

Ages 4 – 6

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373423

Discover a gallery of illustration work by Jelena Brezovec on her website!

All or Nothing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-today-is-a-good-day-coloring-page

Today is a Good Day Coloring Page

 

You can make every day a good day just by remembering the good things (even one good thing) that happened. Color and hang this printable Today is a Good Day Coloring Page. It will make you smile!

Picture Book Review

April 12 – Walk on Your Wild Side Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to have courage and do that thing inside them that might be a little different or way out there, but actually defines them. Without people who have explored those other possibilities, the world would be missing out on some amazing art, inventions, innovations, music, and, of course, books! To celebrate, unleash your inner you or go a little wild. Who knows? It might become a regular thing that makes you happy!

The Catawampus Cat

Written by Jason Carter Eaton | Illustrated by Gus Gordon

 

On a regular Tuesday morning, the catawampus cat came into town “slightly askew.” Everyone was busy, so no one saw him until Mr. Grouse, the grocer, noticed his unusual walk and “tried to straighten him out.” His wife Lydia, who for twenty years had been chilly to her husband, asked what was wrong with the cat, and they both tilted their heads to study him. There, under the vegetable stand, they saw Lydia’s wedding ring lost twenty years before, and suddenly Mr. Grouse noticed that Lydia looked just as she did when they first met. “They kissed and on walked the catawampus cat, still askew…”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-house

Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

The bored barber, “Bob Long, who was giving a woman a long bob,” saw the catawampus cat from his window and was so startled he snipped, and clipped the woman’s bangs at an angle. She loved it, and the catawampus cat continued on. He passed Tom who was painting the Mayor’s house in the usual way until he tilted his head to get a better look and scribbled a diagonal stripe down the front of the house. “‘Brilliant!’ Exclaimed Mayor Meyer. ‘A work of art!’”

The town daredevil made a world record after spotting the cat. The town librarian had a life-changing revelation after seeing the cat. And little Bushy Brows Billiam, suddenly understood his lesson better by looking at things a bit differently.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-library-full

Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

All through town, people began tilting their head and even walking at a slant. Architects began building homes, apartments, and stores that leaned, and car makers designed “off-kilter” vehicles. The effect on the town and the people was amazing. They found favorite possessions they thought lost forever, “and rediscovered old friends they thought they’d never know again.” The first Tuesday of the year was designated “Catawampus Cat Day.” Confetti was flung at an angle, a band played off-key, and the crowd was entirely catawampus.

“‘Well? What do you think of it?’” Mayer Meyer excitedly asked the catawampus cat. “‘We’re all different now, just like you.’” The catawampus cat gazed at him thoughtfully, then stretched, “straightened himself out…and walked out of town, once again uniquely catawampus.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-school

Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

In his delightfully inventive story, Jason Carter Eaton rejoices in all those people (and cats) who walk their own way through life. He encourages young readers to embrace their uniqueness, telling them it’s a good thing to view the world with a different perspective. Even as the catawampus cat inspires the townspeople, Eaton strikes a humorous cautionary note about the nature of fads. He also happily reminds readers that the truly innovative will always find a way to be different.

Gus Gordon’s adorably confident cat sets off his chain reaction of “uniqueness” in detailed mixed-media illustrations that provide lots of opportunities for kids to discover new (and old—sometimes even antique) perspectives as they watch the catawampus cat walk through this diverse town in his own particular way. Surprising and funny details drawn in along the way will also have readers lingering and giggling over each page. Cat lovers will recognize some endearing cat-titudes in the catawampus cat that make feline friends so loveable. The endpapers provide a map of the catawampus cat’s route through this very lucky town.

Smile- and laugh-inducing from cover to cover, The Catawampus Cat would be a favorite and often-asked-for choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0553509717

To learn more about Gus Gordon, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Walk on Your Wild Side Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-bead-cat-craft

A Little Ball of Kitten Love

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

January 18 – It’s International Quality of Life Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-car-cowboy-hay-bales

About the Holiday

Enjoying a good quality of life means being happy where you live and in your relationships, your job, and your situation in general. Finding the right balance can be hard, but with perseverance and support from friends and family, you can discover and attain the best lifestyle for you.

Cowboy Car

Written by Jeanie Franz Ransom | Illustrated by Ovi Nedelcu

 

“Ever since he was knee-high to his daddy’s hubcaps, Little Car wanted to be a cowboy.” He watched cowboy movies on the TV in his city garage and loved everything about cowboy life. Little Car lived in the city, squeezed in between lanes and lanes of cars and unable to see the sky for the soaring skyscrapers. He dreamed of sleeping under the stars and roaming the wide open plains. But everyone told Little Car, “‘Cars Can’t Be Cowboys.’”

Little Car’s dad wanted him to be a city taxi, like him; his mom hoped he’d be “a family car and settle down in a garage close to home.” Neither of those futures, however, offered the excitement of “herding cattle by day” and the camaraderie of “circling up around the campfire at night,” so when Little Car grew up he headed out West. First, he needed to look the part, but where would he find a hat big enough? He pulled up at a cowboy supply depot, and there on the roof sat the perfect 50-gallon hat!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-car-cowboy-hay-bales

Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

With the hat settled firmly on his roof, Little Car drove on to the Circle R. Ranch. There he met Dusty, who listened to Little Car’s dream of being a cowboy and gave him a bit of bad news: “‘Cars can’t be cowboys. They can’t ride horses!’” Little Car was disappointed, and so was Dusty—the ranch really needed extra help. Little Car wanted to prove his mettle, so Dusty agreed to let him try a few cowboy tests. The next morning, Little Car “zoomed around the barrels in no time. He was used to making quick turns around tight corners in the city.” He was also strong enough to carry heavy loads and move bales of hay. He could even round up li’l doggies in the dark in the beam of his headlights.

The next day Dusty promised to take Little Car to the rodeo. When they got there, though, Little Car was told he couldn’t participate because he didn’t ride a horse. Still, he was excited to watch Dusty ride Double Trouble, the biggest, meanest bull on the circuit. With Dusty hanging on tight, Double Trouble bucked and snorted and leaped. In a minute Dusty was thrown to the ground, and Double Trouble was headed straight toward him.

“With tires squealing, horn honking, and the radio blasting, Little Car got everyone’s attention—including the bulls.” He zipped right and left, “swerved, stopped, backed up, and drove around and around until the bull’s snorts turned into snores.” Afterward, a news reporter wanted to know if he was a cowboy at the Circle R. Ranch. “‘He sure is,’ Dusty said. ‘In fact, he’s my pardner!’”

Watching the report on the garage TV, Little Car’s mom and dad proudly exclaimed, “‘That’s our cowboy!’” And “Little Car drove off into the sunset, home on the range at last.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-car-cowboy-hay-bales

Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Li’l pardners enamored of the cowboy life will be charmed by Little Car and his dreams to leave the big city for the freedom of cowboy life. With clever turns of phrase and a sprinkling of puns, Jeanie Franz Ransom takes readers on an endearing ride through the ups and downs, disappointments and successes of navigating life on one’s own. When Little Car uses his city experience, smarts, and courage to save Dusty and earn a spot at the ranch, despite not being able to ride a horse, kids will see that they too can overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals.

Children will love adorable Little Car as he snuggles next to his mom and taxicab dad in the garage. With wide headlight eyes and a grill with an ever-present grin, Little Car makes his way out West, where kids will giggle at the 50-gallon hat atop an old general store, whoop as Little Car completes his cowboy tests, and cheer when he outwits Double Trouble to save the day. As Little Car drives off into the sunset, readers will know that he—and they—have a bright future ahead.

Car and cowboy or cowgirl enthusiasts, as well as kids new to school and other activities will find a friend in Little Car and ask to hear his story again and again. Cowboy Car would make a sweet addition to story time and bedtime reading.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1503950979

Discover more about Jeanie Franz Ransom and her books on her website!

You’ll find a portfolio of books and illustration work by Ovi Nedelcu on his website!

International Quality of Life Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-follow-the-open-road-mazeFollow the Open Road Maze

 

 

These four kids are ready to head out and enjoy the day! Match each child to the right car in this printable Follow the Open Road Maze to get them on their way!

Picture Book Review