July 17 – National Yellow Pig Day

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham picture book review

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday isn’t really about the color yellow or about pigs—it’s about math! Who knew? Well, plenty of people, actually! Mathematicians, college professors, and students spend the day celebrating the number 17 with special problems and yellow pig cakes, songs, parades, and more. The holiday was established in the 1960 when two Princeton University students, David Kelly and Michael Spivak began obsessing over the number 17. And the yellow pig? One story say it’s a reference to David Kelly’s collection of yellow pigs while another goes that the two concocted the idea of a yellow pig with 17 toes, teeth, eyelashes, etc. To celebrate, study up on the prime number 17 and have some more math fun!

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős

Written by Deborah Heiligman | Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

 

In Budapest, Hungary a boy is born who loves math. His name is Paul Erdős and he lives with his mother, who loves him “to infinity” just as Paul loves her. When she goes back to work as a math teacher, she leaves Paul with Fräulein, his nanny. Fräulein loves rules and tries to get Paul to sit still, eat all his lunch, take a nap—to obey. But Paul hates rules.

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Image copyright LeUyen Pham, 2013, text copyright Deborah Heiligman, 2013. Courtesy of usmacmillan.com.

At three years of age he teaches himself to count the days until his mother will be home with him 100 percent of the time. Knowing the number makes Paul feel better as his head is constantly full of numbers and what they can do. One day when he is four years old, he meets a woman and asks her two questions—what year she was born and at what time. When the woman tells him, it only takes him a moment to reveal how many seconds she has been alive.

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Image copyright LeUyen Pham, 2013, text copyright Deborah Heiligman, 2013. Courtesy of usmacmillan.com.

He continues to play with numbers, learning more and more about the various types. He decides he will be a mathematician when he grows up. When Paul is old enough to go to school, he once again encounters rules he can’t abide. His mother decides he will be schooled at home, and even though this means more time with Fräulein, Paul considers it the better option.

There’s just one thing – while Paul thinks about numbers, Fräulein and his mother do everything for him. At meals they cut his meat and butter his bread; they dress him, and tie his shoes. When he becomes a teenager, he goes to high school and meets other kids who love math. He and his friends spend all their time doing math and by the time Paul is 20 he is famous around the world for his math equations.

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Image copyright LeUyen Pham, 2013, text copyright Deborah Heiligman, 2013. Courtesy of usmacmillan.com.

There’s just one problem – even as an adult, Paul is so focused on numbers and math that he still doesn’t know how to do basic things for himself. When he is 21 he’s invited to go to England to work. At his first dinner there he stares at his bread and he stares at his meat. What is he supposed to do? With a little experimentation, he figures it out, but he also figures out that he sees the world in a different way.

He doesn’t want a normal life with a family and a house and a regular job. He designs for himself a very unusual lifestyle. Everything he owns fits into two suitcases, and with a little money in his pocket he flies from city to city to do math. He knows so many mathematicians that wherever he goes they invite Paul to stay with them. These families take care of Paul just as his mother and Fräulein had! They do his laundry, cook his meals, and pay his bills.

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Image copyright LeUyen Pham, 2013, text copyright Deborah Heiligman, 2013. Courtesy of usmacmillan.com.

But even so, everyone loves “Uncle Paul!” He brings people together and shares his knowledge. His work in mathematics has given the world better computers, better search engines, and better codes for our spies to use. He was so admired that even now people represent their relationship with Paul by giving it a number – the “Erdős number.” Paul was a unique person who counted numbers and people as his best friends and experienced the world in a way that added up to a very special life.

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Image copyright LeUyen Pham, 2013, text copyright Deborah Heiligman, 2013. Courtesy of usmacmillan.com.

Reading Deborah Heiligman’s The Boy Who Loved Math is a liberating experience. Her biography reveals not just what Paul Erdős did, but the quirky genius he was. It also honors all the people around the world who embraced his personality, allowing Erdős to focus on the work he was born to do. Heiligman’s engaging patter, full of interesting anecdotes, humor, and personality, is storytelling at its best and provides an absorbing look at a very unique life.

LeUyen Pham’s illustrations perfectly complement the text, exposing Erdős’s chafing under rules, his delight in math, and his development from youth to old age. Each fascinating page cleverly represents the way Erdős saw the world as numbers, equations, and geometric shapes appear on buildings, domes, and even in the very air! The text too is infused with numerals and mathematical symbols (“Paul loved Mama to ∞, too!), making this a prime book for any math lover!

Ages 5 – 9

Roaring Brook Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-1596433076

Discover more about Deborah Heiligman and her books on her website.

To learn more about LeUyen Pham, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Mathematics Awareness Month Activity

CPB - Math Mystery Phrase

Totally Cool Mystery Phrase! Puzzle

 

What plus what equals an equation that can’t be beat? You and numbers, of course! Complete this Printable Totally Cool Mystery Phrase! puzzle to discover a coded sentence! Here’s the Solution!

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham picture book review

You can find The Boy Who Loved Math at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 12 – New Conversations Day

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About the Holiday

This brand-new holiday extols the virtues of a really good conversation. Too often our exchanges with others fall into the realm of small talk where the weather, the score of the latest game, or a cursory “how are you?” is as deep as it gets. But there are so many more interesting topics to discuss that would lead to better connections with and understanding of family, friends, and acquaintances. Take the opportunity of today’s holiday to get together with your friends and talk about the funniest thing that ever happened to you, the best meal you ever had, or your favorite work of art. Of course a perfect topic of conversation is your favorite book or character and why! You’ll find out a lot about your friends as well as about yourself!

The Blue Songbird

By Vern Kousky

 

There once was a little blue songbird who loved to listen to her sisters singing in the morning, but when she tried to join in, the notes always fell flat. Sadly, she told her mother that she thought there were no songs for her, but her mother gently told her, “‘not just any notes will do. You must go and find a special song that only you can sing.’” So the little songbird began a journey to “find her special song.”

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

When she was far from home, she met a great crane and asked if he knew of any song made especially for her. The crane said he couldn’t help her, but pointed her in the direction of the mountains, where a wise bird lived. When she reached the pine forest on the other side of the mountains, the songbird explained to Mr. Wise Old Bird his quest for a song. But the owl could only ask, “‘Whoooo? Whoooo?’” so the songbird went on her way.

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

She stopped here and there to talk to a buzzard, a group of pigeons, and a family of penguins, but “no bird ever had the answer.” Then one snowy day the songbird saw “a bird who looked a little bit mean and more than a little hungry. Even so the songbird bravely chirped: ‘Please don’t eat me, Mr. Scary Bird. I was just wondering if you’ve ever heard of a very special thing—a song that only I can sing.’” The crow did know of such a thing and told the songbird about an island filled with enchanting music.

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

The songbird grew weary searching for the island, and then one day he saw a glow on the horizon and knew she had found it. She could hear the faint strains of beautiful music, and she flew faster and faster to get there. When she neared the island, though, she knew this place. It was home. “The songbird’s heart fell.” After all that time and all the conversations with other birds, “her quest had failed.”

When she saw her mother, however, her mood brightened. She wanted to tell her mother all about her travels and the other birds she’d met. When she opened her beak to tell her stories, though, “what came out was not words at all…but a song!” She sang about Crane and Owl and Crow, “of cities and of stormy seas and mountains capped with snow.” She told of warm days and cold days and most of all “of the love the songbird felt for her family and her home.”

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

Vern Kousky gently nudges little ones out of the nest to begin exploring the world on their own, to test their wings, meet others, and discover their talents. Along the way young readers learn that they can trust their instincts, be brave, and that perseverance pays off. Kousky’s lyrical story also reassures children that home is always waiting and that no matter where they go or what they do, family will always welcome them.

Kousky’s tiny blue smudge of a bird is adorable as she cuddles with her mother to reveal her doubts and then demonstrates hopeful pluck as she talks with much larger birds on her way to self-discovery. Kousky’s settings delight with muted hues of blues, yellows, and reds and angled mountains, skyscrapers, and glaciers that point the little songbird—as well as readers—skyward. The image of the little songbird’s mother welcoming her home with outstretched wings is heartwarming, and the songbird’s elation at having found her song will fill readers with joy.

A joyful story for inspiring self-confidence, interactions with others, and personal growth, The Blue Songbird is a beautiful book for home and classroom libraries that will be asked for again and again.

Ages 4 –  8

Running Press Kids, 2017 | ISBN 978-0762460663

To learn more about Vern Kousky, his books, and his art, visit his website.

New Conversations Day Activity

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Family Conversation Starters

 

Because children have such fertile imaginations, great conversations can start from just one intriguing question. Put these printable conversation starters on the dinner table and let the fun and serious talk begin!

Conversation Starters Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6

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You can find The Blue Songbird at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 10 – Cow Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

The brainstorm of the Chik-Fil-A Company as a clever advertising ploy to herd customers to the chicken side of things, Cow Appreciation Day, also gives us an opportunity to really think about the importance of cattle to the world as a food source and source of material from earliest times. Cows have also long been beloved characters in children’s books, inspiring laughs, empathy, and imagination – as in today’s book!

The Cow Who Climbed a Tree

By Gemma Merino

 

Tina is a very unique cow. Unlike her sisters who are only interested in “fresh and juicy grass,” Tina is very curious and always inventing new ideas. Her sisters proclaim her notions “‘Impossible! Ridiculous! And Nonsense!’” One day while exploring the woods, Tina decides to climb a tree. Branch by branch she swings herself to the top. Up there among the owls and squirrels Tina discovers a dragon—a friendly one, and a vegetarian to boot!

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Copyright Gemma Merino, 2016, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

“All afternoon they talked about wonderful dreams and incredible stories.” Tina is excited to tell her sisters, but when she gets home they aren’t impressed. The whole idea of cows climbing trees and dragons is “‘Impossible! Ridiculous! And Nonsense!’” The next morning Tina never shows up for breakfast. Her sisters find a note that reads “Gone flying with the Dragon of the Woods.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-cow-who-climbed-a-tree-dragon

Copyright Gemma Merino, 2016, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Her sisters decided this nonsense has to stop, so they head out to find her. As they leave behind their familiar farmland and enter the forest, they can’t believe how beautiful it is. Suddenly a pig wearing a backpack dashes past them and shimmies up a tree. Even though they consider this “impossible,” one sister follows the pig. The others join her. From a treetop branch the three find that “the world beyond the fields was extraordinary.”

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Copyright Gemma Merino, 2016, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Still, Tina is nowhere to be found. The sisters look left, right, down, and up. Up! “It was impossible. It was ridiculous. It was nonsense. But it was true! Tina was flying!” She and other animals are taking flying lessons from the dragon, and while they don’t have wings, they soar just fine with a little help. From her lofty place, Tina asks her sisters to join her, and they say something she has never heard before: “Yes, why not?” They float, drift, and glide in the sunlit sky, and ever afterward find that nothing is “impossible, ridiculous, or nonsense.” Now all four sisters can’t wait to see what else is possible.

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Copyright Gemma Merino, 2016, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Gemma Merino’s mooving tribute to people who live and dream large will inspire young children to reach for the treetops and beyond. The plucky heroine who doesn’t cower under her sisters’ reproach is a confident and likable role model, happy to include her sisters when they finally see the light. Merino’s sweet, soft-hued illustrations humorously depict the dichotomy between the sisters’ grass-focused existence and Tina’s vivid imagination. The cows’ home has sage green walls, furniture, and floors.

The pictures on the walls, the flowerpot on the windowsill, and the planter are all full of various types of vegetation, and the jars in the pantry contain such ingredients as Pickled Leaves, Meadow Mix, Dried Petals, and Herbal Tea. But Tina’s imagination and the forest she loves to visit are infused with reds, ambers, blues, and teals; even the greens are more brilliant. For anyone contemplating the unknown, The Cow Who Climbed a Tree is rousing fun!

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0807512982

To learn more about Gemma Merino and her books visit her website!

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

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Moo Cow Mug

Milk—regular or chocolate!—will taste so much better in a Moo Cow Mug  you make yourself! 

Supplies

  • White ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Black permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Pink permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Brown permanent marker or paint for ceramics

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Directions

  1. With the pink marker or paint, draw an oval shape for the nose near the bottom of the mug. Let dry.
  2. With the brown marker or paint, draw two angled nostrils inside the pink oval and color them in. Let dry.
  3. Color in the nose with the pink marker or paint.
  4. With the black marker, color the top tip of the handle where it meets the mug to make the tail.
  5. With the black marker or paint, draw two wavy lines on either side of the face starting at the top, angling toward the middle and returning to the bottom of the mug. Leave white space between the lines.
  6. Draw circles for eyes within the black lines. Add black pupils at the bottom of the eyes.
  7. Color inside the black lines and around the eyes to make the face markings.
  8. With the black marker or paint, make two or three splotches on the back of the mug.
  9. Let the mug dry and follow the directions for the markers or paint to set the color.
  10. Pour yourself a mug of milk and enjoy!

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You can find The Cow Who Climbed a Tree at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 5 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

There’s a real art to putting together a delicious meal from a bunch of seemingly disparate parts, and this month’s holiday honors those with a talent for combining tastes, flavors, and textures. While we celebrate food and those who make it, though, we might also take a moment to think about the utensils that help us cook and eat. Without the proper kitchen tools and tableware, those perfectly planned dishes just would not be the same. To make your Culinary Arts Month a little more cutting edge, why not research the history of cutlery and—of course—enjoy a dip into today’s adorable book!

Spoon

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal | Illustrated by Scott Magoon

 

Spoon comes from a large, diverse family. He enjoys visiting his Aunt Silver, who is “very fancy and proper” and says things like “‘Good-bye, darling!’” and “‘Ta-ta!’” He also likes to hear the story of how his great-grandmother “fell in love with a dish and ran off to a distant land.” But one day Spoon’s mother noticed that he was looking “‘a bit bent out of shape.’”

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Copyright Scott Magoon, 2009, courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Spoon confessed that he thought his friends had it better than he did. Spoon thought Knife was lucky because he got to cut and spread, and his mother had to agree that Knife was “pretty spiffy.” “‘And Fork, Fork is so lucky!’” Spoon exclaimed. Fork got to go all sorts of places, like hot barbecues, leafy salads, and spongy cakes. She even got to twirl spaghetti like a lasso. And then there were Chopsticks. They were so “cool and exotic.” Again Spoon’s mom had to concede that Fork and Chopsticks were rather special.

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Copyright Scott Magoon, 2009, courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

But Spoon may have been interested to know what his friends thought about him. Just then, Knife was telling his dad that Spoon was so lucky because he got to have fun and be silly, like when people used him to drum on a pot. Fork thought it was really neat that Spoon got “‘to measure stuff. No one ever does that with me,’” she said. And Chopsticks? They wished that something they could do things alone.

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Copyright Scott Magoon, 2009, courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

That night as Spoon’s mom tucked him into bed, she said, “‘You know, Spoon—I wonder if you realize just how lucky you are.’” She reminded him of the fun he had “diving headfirst into a bowl of ice cream,’” how he made a musical clink against the side of a bowl, and how cozy it was to “‘relax in a hot cup of tea.’” His mom’s words cheered him and kept him awake thinking of all the things he could do. He popped out of bed and told his mom and dad that he couldn’t sleep. For which they had the perfect snuggley solution….

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Copyright Scott Magoon, 2009, courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

This classic tale from Amy Krause Rosenthal is the perfect recipe for those times when kids feel others have it better, show more talent, or are luckier than they are. Written with a combination of wistfulness and humor, the story acknowledges the doubt everyone feels as some time or another while also presenting food for thought about ones place in the world, individual talents, and the simple pleasures of life that leads to self-realization and higher self-esteem for the story’s young audience.

From the Silverware family portrait to the dancing chopsticks to the final, sweet image of Dad, Mom, and little Spoon snuggling together on their sugar packet pillows, Scott Magoon’s clever take on the lives of tableware will charm kids and adults alike.  Endearing touches—like the utensils’ thread-thin arms and legs and the drawer-divider bedrooms—will capture the imagination of little readers, reinforcing the story’s gentle message each time them dive into their favorite meal.

Ages 2 – 6

Disney Hyperion, 2009 |ISBN 978-1423106852

To learn more about Amy Krause Rosenthal’s books for children and adults, her videos, and foundation, visit her official website.

Discover more about Scott Magoon, his books, and his art on his website.

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-spoon-flowers

Spoon Flowers Craft

 

Plastic spoons aren’t just for enjoying yummy treats, they make cute flowers too! With this easy and quick craft, you can give everyone you love a bouquet!

Supplies

  • Colorful plastic spoons
  • Heavy stock paper or construction paper in various colors, including green for leaves
  • Multi-surface glue or hot glue gun

Directions

  1. Cut petals from the heavy stock paper or construction paper
  2. Glue the petals to the bowl of the spoon
  3. Cut leaves from the green paper (optional)
  4. Glue leaves to the handle of the spoon (optional)

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You can find Spoon at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 25 – It’s Pride Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of June the LGBT community celebrates diversity, cultural accomplishments and influence, and the strides that have been made politically and socially. The month also highlights that there is still far to go before the LGBT community achieves full equal rights and acceptance. Around the world, the rainbow flag, designed in 1978 by American artist, gay rights activist, and U.S. Army veteran Gilbert Baker, flies proudly over a variety of events, including parades, marches, concerts, book readings, parties, and workshops.

Julián Is a Mermaid

By Jessica Love

 

Julián and his abuela are riding the subway, when three women dressed as mermaids enter their car. The women’s shimmery aqua dresses, complete with flowing tail, capture the young boy’s attention because “Julián LOVES mermaids.” As they move down the track, one of the mermaids combs through her long hair; another, her head adorned with a filmy, seaweed-red pouf decorated with jewels fixes her tail; and the third waves at Julián, who smiles back.

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

In Julián’s imagination the aqua dresses become a wave engulfing him in the frothy sea. He frees himself from his shorts and tank top while his tightly curled hair, loosens and floats upward. A ray with a rainbow of fish, jelly fish, eels, and an octopus following it its wake surround Julián, and when they’ve all passed by, he’s magically grown a pink tail with a golden fin. He swims, flips, and whirls in the water and then meets a fantastical fish who presents him with a shiny necklace.

The daydream vanishes as Julián hears his abuela say, “‘Vámonos, mijo. This is our stop.’” The three mermaids wave goodbye at the door of the subway car as Julián and his abuela walk down the platform. On the way home, they pass three girls playing in the spray of a fire hydrant.  “‘Abuela, did you see the mermaids?’” Julián asks. Without looking down, his abuela says, “‘I saw them, mijo.’”

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

On their doorstep, Julián tells his abuela that he too is a mermaid. The older woman takes this in without expression. Inside, as Julián’s abuela takes a bath, Julien sets off to make his imagination a reality. He frees himself from his shorts and t-shirt, harvests fronds from his abuela’s palm tree and flowers from her vase for a headdress, applies her lipstick in the vanity mirror, and ties the sheer, delicate curtain from her window around his waist for a tail.

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Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

With the costume complete, Julián is reay to swim just as his abuela steps into the room. She takes one unreadable look at Julián, says “‘Oh’” and “‘Uh-oh’” and leaves the room. Julián folds his arms, looks uncertainly at his “tail,” and checks out his face in the mirror. In a moment his abuela is back, dressed and ready to go out. She holds out her hand to Julián and presents him with a pearl necklace.

She takes Julián’s hand and leads him outside and down the sidewalk. Julián holds his abuela’s arm and walks beside her with his head held high. They meet up with a crowd of men, women, and children dressed as mermaids and other sea life. At first Julián holds back, but Abuela holds out her hand. “‘Like you, mijo. Let’s join them,’” she says. And as they join the parade—Julián revels in his freedom while he dances right behind the three aqua mermaids.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-julian-is-a-mermaid-walking-to-parade

Copyright Jessica Love, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jessica Love’s joyful story will raise a lump in your throat. Perfectly constructed with a minimum of text and facial expressions that reveal so many nuances of wonder, awareness, and acceptance, Julián Is a Mermaid offers young readers and adults a rich tapestry for discussing emotions, memories, and experiences related to growing up, identity, and finding ones place. Love’s gorgeous color palette brings the beauty of the sea and the creativity of the imagination fully to life.

Julián’s abuela is a marvel of understated strength. Her seemingly strict gaze on Julián provides a bit of humor and the suspenseful turning point in the story, but as her eyes soften—just a little—when she takes Julián to the parade, readers will know that not only does she accept, but she truly understands. Julián knows this too, which is dynamically demonstrated when Abuela appears as the generous fish in his daydream. With so many people around the world striving for their voices to be heard, Julián is a Mermaid is an important gem to cherish and share.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763690458

National Pride Month Activity

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Mermaid Coloring Page

 

Everyone loves mermaids! Grab your crayons or pencils and even some glitter and enjoy this printable Mermaid Coloring Page!

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You can find Julián is a Mermaid at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 11 – National Making Life Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

Today isn’t so much about physical beauty as it is about making 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!

I was sent a copy of The Secrets of Ninja School to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be hosting a giveaway of the book! See details below.

The Secrets of Ninja School

By Deb Pilutti

 

Ruby, a little red-haired girl, is excited to be attending Master Willow’s School for Ninjas. The school, located in a huge house on the outskirts of town, is open only one weekend each summer. Master Willow called his students “‘saplings,’” and each child attended his school eager to learn how to appear invisible, jump skillfully, show patience, and be brave. “But most of all, they came to Master Willow’s School for Ninjas to discover their very own secret skill.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secrets-of-ninja-school-driving-from-town

Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

While the other saplings learned quickly, Ruby could not get the hang of sneaking invisibly, jumping with skill, being patient, or feeling brave. Most disappointing, Ruby could not discover her own secret skill. She went to see Master Willow, who told her that through practice she would improve and find her skill. Ruby did practice and did improve, but her special skill still eluded her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secrets-of-ninja-school-driving-to-school

Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

At bedtime, Ruby felt homesick. The other kids told her that saplings did not miss home, but, still, she told them how her father read stories to her when she couldn’t sleep, how her mother lit a nightlight and kissed her nose when she was afraid of the dark, and that her grandmother would bring out her craft box and “they would spend hours making the most magnificent creations” when she was worried.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Not a sound broke the silence. But then Ruby heard “a sniff and a gasp and a wail. Before she knew it all the other saplings were crying.” Ruby knew just what to do. She “sneaked down the hallway” invisibly, jumped over the cat with skill, and “snipped and stitched and stuffed” patiently. She even bravely explained why she was out of bed when Master Willow caught her.

Back in the dormitory, Ruby turned on a lamp, “gave each of the saplings a stuffed dragon and told them stories of bravery and daring.” Master Willow watched and listened with a smile on his face. When Ruby handed him a stuffed dragon too, he told her that her skills were no longer a secret. “‘You are a wonderful storyteller, a fine dragon maker, and a very good friend.’” Ruby was happy, but she “kept practicing, because being brave isn’t always easy. Even for a ninja.”

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Deb Pilutti’s uplifting story takes an honest look, through a fun Ninja lens, at the worries some children have when they compare their skills and talents to others and even against their own expectations. While Ruby struggles to pick up Ninja skills, readers will see that Ruby has other talents, such as perseverance, creativity, and the courage to ask for help. Ruby may feel—like all kids do at times—that she’s different from the others, but she discovers that emotions are universal, allowing her to appreciate and share her gifts for empathy, kindness, and friendship.

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Pilutti’s bright illustrations will endear Ruby to readers as she excitedly goes off the ninja school, keeps practicing despite some mishaps, and sees dragons in clouds and shadows. Images of the saplings jumping, throwing, and meditating will delight little home ninjas-in-training, and the fully stocked Ninja Craft Area where Ruby creates her stuffed dragons will cheer young crafters.

You can make Ruby’s Dragon Softie too!

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Clear instructions and patterns for an adorable dragon that kids can make at home are included at the end of the story.

Ages 4 – 8

Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2018 | ISBN 978-1627796491

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art and to find fun book-related activities, visit her website.

The Secrets of Ninja School Giveaway

I’m excited to be giving away:

  • One (1) copy of The Secrets of Ninja School and one (1) Green Dragon Softie

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, June 11 – 17. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

Winners will be chosen on June 18.

Giveaways open to US addresses only 

National Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

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Happiness Cards to Share

 

You can easily make someone’s day brighter by saying something nice! Share these printable Happiness Cards with friends, family, teachers, and others and watch them smile!

Happiness Cards to Share Page 1 | Happiness Cards to Share Page 2

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You can find The Secrets of Ninja School at these Booksellers

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Macmillan | Powell’s

May 30 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Get Caught Reading Month was established in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers to encourage people of all ages to read more. Authors, illustrators, celebrities, athletes, and others participate by sharing pictures of themselves reading an old favorite or new book on social media. Schools, libraries, bookstores, and community venues hold special programs throughout the month. For more information and to find resources, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

Albie Newton

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Ester Garay

 

Albie Newton was something of a prodigy. As a tyke, he retrofitted his stroller into a racecar, tried counting to infinity, and “learned to speak a language almost every week: / English, Spanish, Hindi, Klingon, Gibberish, then Greek.” When he moves to a new town and a new school, his classmates are excited to meet him. Albie is also revved up to start making friends, and he has a plan he thinks the other kids will love.

But as they all settle in to work, “the students noticed Albie was a whiz. / Albie wrote a sonnet while they took a spelling quiz.” During art class, the kids were likewise astounded (and a little dismayed) when, while they scribbled, drew swirls, and made handprints, Albie painted like Van Gogh. When free time rolled around, and some kids played dress up, Albie “sifted through the trash,” to build a science lab, leaving a mess for Arjun to clean up.

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Image copyright Ester Garay, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Then things began to disappear. “Hamilton the hamster tried to run but had no wheel. / Albie needed extra sprockets made of stainless steel.” While Sona and Shirley created paper masks, the glue went missing, and Albie “didn’t even ask.” The wings from Dave’s propeller plane were suddenly broken off, and reading time became impossible when “booming pandemonium descended on the school.” Albie, though, intent on his invention, didn’t notice the trouble he was causing or the crowd of angry kids rushing to complain.

Before they could reach Albie, though, Shirley stopped them, saying “‘maybe Albie didn’t know. Let’s look at what he made.’ Curious, the children headed straight to where he played.” When they say all the inventions Albie had made, they stopped and stared. Albie had made the class a gift—a spaceship, and with the push of a button, an amazing time machine!

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Image copyright Ester Garay, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With his inimitable style, Josh Funk creates a rambunctious tale of invention and creativity, but one that also has a deeper message about the way some kids see the world and communicate with peers and others. In the first pages, readers are introduced to the precocious Albie, who from birth has demonstrated a talent for learning and doing. When he enters a new school, however, his single focus doesn’t translate into the kinds of social interactions his classmates are used to. Albie gathers materials for his present unaware of the mayhem he’s causing, just as the other kids are unaware of Albie’s real goal. Only Shirley is sensitive to the idea that Albie may not be causing havoc on purpose but for a purpose. Her calming defense of Albie allows the other kids to see Albie in a new light and appreciate his gift—and his gifts.

While Funk’s rhyming verses are focusing on Albie and his actions, Ester Garay’s bright illustrations depict the other kids’ reactions to his talents and also his disruptions. A first hint at how Albie fits in with his new class comes as the kids welcome him with cheer and smiles. Instead of facing them to accept the welcome, Albie is faced away from them, happily imagining the gift he will make for them.

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Image copyright Ester Garay, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Throughout the day, Shirley follows Albie, and as she watches and wonders, her facial expressions demonstrate dismay at some of Albie’s antics but also a growing understanding and acceptance. Garay captures the close camaraderie of a preschool or kindergarten classroom, and her close-up view of Albie toiling away on his invention will have readers eager to see the result. The reveal of Albie’s spaceship time machine and the final spread of the kids frolicking on a distant planet with the likes of Freda Kahlo, William Shakespeare, Amelia Earhart, and a helpful dino, are sure to produce some oohs and ahhhs.

Albie Newton is a doubly impactful story that would be a welcome addition to home and, most especially, classroom bookshelves. It can be read as a boisterous story of innovation for lively story times, but it also provides adults and children an opportunity to discuss the ideas of social interaction and various personalities. Most children know someone like Albie who as naturally quiet, on the spectrum, or singularly focused on one area or another, communicates and socializes differently than others. Reading Albie Newton can help kids better understand different behaviors and, like Shirley, become more sensitive to all their classmates and friends.

Ages 5 – 9

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922582

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books as well as find fun activities and lots of resources on his website.

To learn more about Ester Garay, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Check out the Albie Newton book trailer!

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Initial Bookends

 

You can keep your books neat and tidy on the shelf with this easy-to-make bookend that displays your talents and personality!

Supplies

  • Wooden letter block in the child’s first initial or both initials
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden letter with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. With the chalk, write words that your think best describe you on the letter
  3. Display your letter on your bookshelf!