January 10 – Houseplant Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

Missing the green leaves and colorful flowers of spring and summer? Maybe it’s time to recreate the sights of warmer days inside with houseplants! Placed in a sunny window, some plants will continue blooming all winter long, making you feel happier. Houseplants also provide health benefits as they produce oxygen, release moisture into that dry winter air, and improve air quality. Add a few herb plants and even cooking will take on new life. Whether you add just one plant or create an indoor garden, today’s the perfect day to get started.

Nobody Hugs a Cactus

By Carter Goodrich

 

Hank, a little cactus, sat in his window and looked out with pleasure on the “empty…hot, dry, peaceful, and quiet” desert. Sometimes, though, visitors came by—like Rosie the Tumbleweed, who cheerfully greeted Hank and commented on the beautiful day. “Hank ignored her. He just wanted to be left alone.” Hank was happy when Rosie passed by without stopping.

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Copyright Carter Goodrich, 2019, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

But then a tortoise ambled by to say hello. Hank shouted for him to get off his property. As he was yelling a jackrabbit bounded by. “‘Hiya, Prickles,’ she shouted,” and Hank turned his fury on her. It wasn’t long before a coyote appeared. Hank shooed him away, but not before the coyote commented, “‘You are as prickly on the inside as you are on the outside.’”

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Copyright Carter Goodrich, 2019, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

When a passing cowboy was told to get off the grass, he countered that there was no grass and added that it seemed “‘somebody needed a hug. Too bad nobody hugs a cactus,’” he added. A lizard on the wall was quickly dispatched with a warning that Hank did not want a hug. That was just fine with the lizard, who didn’t want to give him one anyway.

By now, nighttime had fallen, and an owl landed on the roof of Hank’s house. Hank gazed at the owl, and the owl gazed back. Begrudgingly, Hank offered to give the owl a hug. But the owl flew off, and “for the first time, Hank began feeling a little lonely.” The next morning, Hank felt a little sad and had begun reconsidering that hug.

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Copyright Carter Goodrich, 2019, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Just then the wind picked up, and a Styrofoam cup flying by stuck to Hank’s face. Rosie tumbled by and knocked it off before rolling on. Hank thought about Rosie’s kindness and felt bad about all the times he’d been mean to her. He decided he wanted to make amends. Over several days he grew a beautiful flower, and when Rosie passed by again, he called out and offered it to her with a big smile. “Rosie was so surprised, she jumped up and gave Hank a big hug. It felt so nice Hank didn’t want to let go.” Which was a good thing, because they were stuck together. But they don’t mind; they like being stuck together better than being alone.

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Copyright Carter Goodrich, 2019, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Well-known for his talent for creating charming characters who steal your heart, Carter Goodrich takes on the cantankerous among us—or those cranky days—and shows that kindness does soften even the prickliest of shields. Carter’s diminutive grouch may be discourteous but he’s also adorable, hinting at the softie that lies below the prickles and turning those dissuasive phrases hurled at his neighbors into lines that will elicit giggles from kids and adults. Carter’s thin-limbed and elongated jackrabbit and cowboy are also stylishly humorous. The tortoise that sits in front of Hank’s house hiding in his shell throughout the story serves dual purposes, showing how rejection makes others feel while also demonstrating what it looks like to be truly isolated and alone. Hank’s slow change of heart rings true and the act of selflessness that brings him and Rosie together makes for another funny scene and a satisfying ending.

A story that is sure to be embraced for crabby days and cheerful days, Nobody Hugs a Cactus would be a favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | ISBN 978-1534400900

To learn more about Carter Goodrich and his books, film work, and art, visit his website.

Houseplant Appreciation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flip-flop-craft

Flip-Flop Plant Holder

 

Flip-flops aren’t only for your feet—or for summer! With this easy craft you can make a whimsical way to hang succulents and other light plants on walls or even windows!

Supplies

  • Child’s flip-flops with elastic heel straps
  • Buttons or charms
  • Small plastic solid-bottom pot
  • Small plant
  • Dirt
  • Hot glue gun
  • Heavy duty mounting strips
  • Small shovel or spoon

Directions

  1. Place the flip-flop toe down on your work surface. With the hot glue gun, attach the buttons to the plastic toe straps of the flip-flops.
  2. Add dirt to the pot
  3. Add plant to the pot
  4. Slip the pot into the elastic strap and gently push down so it is also supported by the plastic toe straps
  5. To hang, use appropriate-weight mountable strips.
  6. To make an interesting and attractive arrangement, use various sizes of flip-flops

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Picture Book Review

November 19 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

Familiar stories are part of the glue that keep families together. This month, when homes can be full of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for the Thanksgiving holiday, is a perfect time to share those stories once again with the youngest members in mind. Whether the events and anecdotes happened last week or long ago, each story brings family members closer and provides a bridge from generation to generation. 

One More Hug

Written by Megan Alexander | Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

 

As the story opens, a mom looks back at a special night when while tucking her little one into bed he was frightened by a tree at the window and asked for “‘One more hug, Mama.’” One day, a broken toy brought tears and a request: “‘one more kiss, Mama.’” Mama remembers the first day of school and standing at the bus stop. She squeezed her little boy tight as the bus approached. When the bus stopped and the “doors opened with a loud SCREEEECH,” the boy “whispered, ‘One more squeeze, Mama.’”

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

As her boy grew older, the tree that had once frightened him became a favorite to climb, the toys were replaced with a bicycle, and any reservations about the bus were long gone. But now there were new experiences, and her son asked for one more hug before going out on stage, “one more kiss after [he] slipped on the ice. One more song before bedtime.”

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Years went by and climbing the backyard tree led to climbing a rock wall. The boy taught his little brother how to ride his bike while he “joined the track team, and ran all the way to school.” At last came the day when the boy was all grown up and drove away with a backward glance and a wave goodbye. Then his mother wondered if her son knew how proud she was of him and how much she loved him. She hoped he knew that he would always be her boy and that she “would always be there for [him].” And then came the day when her son surprised his mama with a visit, and they both got “one more hug.”

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

In her heart-swelling story, Megan Alexander, a national correspondent for Inside Edition, has written a love letter to children that perfectly expresses the emotions parents feel for their children as they grow from babyhood to adulthood. Based on her own experiences with her two young sons, Alexander’s story is a warm embrace of reassurance that lets little ones and those beginning to chart their own course know that parental love and support is always with them. Her focus is particularly on raising sons who understand that it’s okay to have fears and share their feelings with those they love.

Alexander’s lyrical storytelling with repeated phrasing builds a bridge between ages as the boy grows up while also cementing the bond between mother and son. As much as this story is for children, adults will feel a lump in their throat as the boy moves away and his mother wonders if he knows how much she loves him. Alexander’s honest depiction of that universal hope gives the story a multilayered depth that gives children insight into their parents’ feelings—another kind of bond that will resonate with repeated readings as the child grows older.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2019, text copyright Megan Alexandra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Hiroe Nakata’s lovely watercolor and ink illustrations shimmer with the rapport between mother and son. Nakata uses alternating wide-angle images and close-up views to emphasize the tender moments that “one more” hug or kiss provide. Snapshots of familiar, yet fresh-feeling activities undertaken during different seasons show the boy growing and becoming stronger and wiser at pivotal stages of his life. The mother expresses joy, sympathy, understanding, and always an abiding love. The final spreads where the now-adult son comes home with arms open for his mama, shows clearly that he, indeed, knows how much she loves him.

The family theme is carried out in animal pairs that populate Nakata’s beautiful nature settings. Among these, a snail and her baby crawl near the boy’s newspaper hat, a mother and baby squirrel scamper up the tree next to the bus stop, and ants parade into their hole carrying food for the nest. Children will enjoy finding these animals on nearly every page, and they will fall in love with the family’s adorable dog, who also grows up throughout the story.

A story parents or caregivers and their children will love to snuggle up with, One More Hug makes a wonderful gift and addition to home, school, and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534429710

Discover more about Megan Alexander, her work, and a song she wrote that was inspired by the story, von her website.

Family Stories Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-coupons

Free Hug Coupons

 

Everyone needs a hug now and then! With these printable Free Hug Coupons you can be sure that all of your favorite people get a sweet hug when they need it most.

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You can find One More Hug at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 30 – Share a Hug Day

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About the Holiday

There’s something about a hug that’s restorative. Today’s holiday was established for people to share this spontaneous and heartfelt gesture with others who look as if they could use some extra encouragement or with family and friends to remind them how much they mean to you. Celebrate the day by giving out plenty of hugs—whether they’re bear-sized or, as today’s book shows, teeny-tiny dinosaur-sized.

Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug

Written by Jonathan Stutzman | Illustrated by Jay Fleck

 

Tiny T. Rex notices right off that his friend Pointy looks pretty sad. He asks Pointy if he’s okay, and Pointy tells him he’s too sad to play. The little dino wants to give his friend a hug, but his arms are so short that a hug seems almost impossible. Even though he grows, Tiny tells readers, his arms never do. But that’s not going to stop him. After all, he says, “Pointy needs me.”

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Image copyright Jay Fleck, 2019, text copyright Jonathan Stutzman, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

He asks his dad for advice, but his solution seems too logical. “Rexes are thinkers, not huggers,” Tiny’s dad explains while offering a mathematical equation to solve the problem. Math is not Pointy’s forte, though, so the little rex seeks out his Auntie Junip. He finds her practicing yoga and making cucumber juice—at the same time. Auntie Junip suggests balance is the answer.

Tiny goes to find his mom. While she is encouraging and complimentary, she can’t tell her son how he can hug with his tiny arms. His brother and sister tell him he must practice, and he takes this advice to heart. He begins a regimen to become stronger and develop his hugging ability. He practices on books, flowers, balls, an ice cream cone (messy!), and a cactus (sticky!).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-t-rex-and-the-impossible-hug-math

Image copyright Jay Fleck, 2019, text copyright Jonathan Stutzman, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

At last, he thinks he’s ready. With just one more hug under his belt, he’ll be ready to cheer up Pointy. But it’s not a tree trunk he’s hugging—it’s the leg of a pterodactyl! And now he’s soaring way up in the sky. “From up here, everything looks tiny, like me. I could hug anything I wanted,” he says. Then as suddenly as he was flying, he’s falling… with no hope of finding Pointy for that hug. Unless… he lands right on top of him.

Tiny tells Pointy all about his search for the perfect hug and explains that even though his “hugs are still tiny”… he will do his best “because you are my very best friend.” He embraces Pointy as hard as he can—and that itty-bitty hug turned out to be the “biggest hug ever.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-t-rex-and-the-impossible-hug-pointy

Image copyright Jay Fleck, 2019, text copyright Jonathan Stutzman, 2019. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Tiny dinosaurs are adorable, but Jonathan Stutzman’s tiny dinosaur with lots of love to give will melt your heart. Stutzman’s T. Rex sweetie is as earnest as any little one and wants only to help his friend feel better. As the little dino seeks advice from the adults in his life, readers will giggle at their world views that don’t quite hit the mark. When his brother and sister offer a way forward, though, kids will recognize that with practice, self-confidence, and self-reliance anyone can accomplish their goals—and that helping a friend is one of the best ways to use your talents, big or small.

Jay Fleck’s tiny T. Rex with his nubbin arms and sincere expression will endear him to children and adults alike. His diminutive size is evident as he stands atop his father’s head, walks along the chalk tray of a chalk board, and gets lost in a side-table drawer. As the little T. Rex determines to practice his way to the hug he so wants to give, Fleck humorously shows that there are flubs and fails along the way to a winner—just as there are in any endeavor. During Tiny’s first attempts at the game of ping-pong his siblings are playing, he suffers whiffs, plunks, and even a bonk on the head before giving the ball a solid Wham! Hugging an ice cream cone leaves him dripping with chocolate and strawberry ice cream, and he comes away from squeezing a cactus completely covered in prickles. When Tiny finally gives Pointy the hug he needs, you can bet that readers will be smiling as wide as Tiny and Pointy.

Kindness, friendship, and droll humor go (tiny) arm-in-(tiny)-arm in Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug, a charming, original story that will be a favorite on home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Chronicle Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1452170336

Discover more about Jonathan Stutzman and his books on his website.

To learn more about Jay Fleck, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Share a Hug Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-coupons

Free Hug Coupons

 

Everyone needs a hug now and then! With these printable Free Hug Coupons you can be sure that all of your favorite people get a sweet hug when they need it most.

Free Hug Coupons

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-t-rex-and-the-impossible-hug-cover

You can find Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug at these booksellers

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Picture Book Review

February 14 – Valentine’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate love! Love for family, friends, and our special valentines. Begun as a religious feast day, Valentine’s Day became a day of romance with the bloom of courtly love during 14th century. During the 18th century in England those in love began showing their affections by giving flowers and candy and making valentine’s cards. Now, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar and a favorite of adults and kids alike.

XO, OX: A Love Story

Written by Adam Rex | Illustrated by Scott Campbell

 

Ox has finally gotten up the courage to write to his heart’s desire. He sits on the edge of his bed, lap desk upon his knees scribbling away. “Dear Gazelle, For some time now I have wanted to write a letter to tell you how much I admire you.” He goes on to praise her gracefulness and remarks that even when she is “running from tigers you are like a ballerina who is running from tigers.” He ends with a declaration of love and XO, OX.

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Gazelle, lounging on her daybed and admiring herself in a mirror nonchalantly hands her response to her assistant. “Dear Ox, Thank you for your letter. I hope you understand that I have many admirers and cannot reply to each one personally.” She says “Au revoir” with the gift of a signed photograph and moves on to the next letter in the overflowing box of fan mail.

The ever-optimistic Ox writes back while sitting on a park bench and enjoying a cup of steaming coffee. Gazelle’s picture is propped against a guitar, and little friends gather nearby. In his letter, Ox reveals that he does understand about the many other admirers and that makes it all the more meaningful that she responded to his letter personally. He signs off “XO, OX.” In return, Gazelle shoots off her standard letter and encloses another signed photo.

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Ox is overjoyed to receive a second letter. The “coincidence” of the exact wording to the preceding letter only reinforces his opinion that Gazelle is “very smart” and has “a tidy mind.” He urges her to reject the idea that he only loves her because she is pretty. He also loves that she is smart. Gazelle receives Ox’s letter (sealed with a big, red heart) while floating on a raft in the pool, a tall, cool drink floating nearby on its own poof. Her response is a departure from the usual, but only because she is insulted that anyone would think her “repetitive.” While she admits to many faults, this is not one of them. It seems she couldn’t be much clearer when she ends her letter with, “There is no need to write me again.”

Ox reads and rereads Gazelle’s note. Ignoring the last line, he focuses on the “ridiculous” thought that she has many faults. Ox assures her that she only has “one or two.” Gazelle takes offense and from her vanity table tells Ox that his “clumsy brain” has led him away from the usual response to her self-deprecation, which is that she has no faults. She then can’t help but mention the faults of other animals, such as being “too large and too stout” and having “strong smells about them and clumsy brains.”

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Ox does not have such a “clumsy brain” and humbly accepts Gazelle’s criticism. In fact he states that he is glad to know what his faults are and tells Gazelle “you make me want to be the best Ox I can be.” His love for her—“the unflattering light of my life”—is undimmed, and he is looking forward to her next letter. Gazelle puts an end to it once and for all. She writes that there will be no next letter, clarifying that “this letter doesn’t count.”

HaHa, thinks Ox when he reads this. He quickly pens a note telling Gazelle how much he loves her sense of humor. Gazelle is brutal. She orders Ox to stop and tells him he is wasting his time. She lays out her reasons: “I could never love a clumsy thing. I could never love a smelly thing.” She goes on to list all of the aforementioned faults and adds that she could never love someone “so thick and ungraceful and awful and unlovely. And unlovable.”

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

You might think Ox would be devastated, but in this tirade he finds one of Gazelle’s faults—and he tells her that her ability to reveal it to him only makes him love her more. He closes with his usual XO, OX and includes a photograph of himself. Gazelle is incredulous. She rips the picture into bits, but then gazes at the pieces again and smiles. “Dear Ox,” she scribbles as she sits on the edge of her bed, lap desk upon her knees and with the taped-together photograph of her beau looking on.

There’s something for every age in Adam Rex’s XO, OX: A Love Story. Little ones will find the snooty Gazelle and humble Ox funny in their persistent writing and reactions to each letter. Older kids will understand the dynamics at work and will get the sly wordplay, the twist on whom exactly is “thick, ungraceful, and awful”, and the idea that perhaps the lady doth protest too much. And adults will never make it through without out loud guffaws on almost every page. Wondering how Ox will respond to each of Gazelle’s letters is such delicious suspense, and his kindness in the face of her derision will tug at readers’ hearts.

Scott Campbell’s softy colored line drawings offer hilarious touches to fill out the details of the homes and lives of these smitten pen pals. In a stroke of genius, Gazelle’s personal assistant is a sunglasses-wearing mole, suggesting Gazelle’s own perception of her dazzling brilliance. Clever contrasts in the lifestyles of barrel-bodied Ox, who writes at a rustic desk and relaxes by a pond, and lithe Gazelle, who writes from her elegant vanity and lounges in her pool, demonstrate that their similarities may outweigh their differences. The touching ending that brings the relationship between Ox and Gazelle full circle as he sends her a photograph and she responds is satisfying and sweet.

XO, OX: A Love Story would be a funny, fantastic addition to anyone’s home library—one that can provide laughs or balm for feeling hearts. 

Ages 4 and up

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626722880

Discover the world of Adam Rex, including his art, picture books, and books for older kids, on his website!

View a gallery of illustration by Scott Campbell on his website!

Valentine’s Day Activity

cpb - monster love maze

Monster Love! Maze

 

Help the Love Monster collect all the valentines in this printable puzzle.

 Monster Love! Maze | Monster Love Maze Solution 

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You can find XO, OX: A Love Story at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review

January 30 – It’s Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate all things creative! There are so many ways to be creative, from the arts to how you organize and manage your life at home and at work. Sometimes, special events, unusual problems, or particular people inspire—or necessitate—creative thinking. Today’s sweet story is one example! 

Mr. Goat’s Valentine

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Kevin Zimmer

 

When Mr. Goat read in the newspaper that it was Valentine’s Day, he jumped up, grabbed his phone and favorite hat, and headed out, determined to show his first love how much she meant to him. On the way he stopped off at Miss Nanny Goat’s weed stall and bought a “mixed bouquet” of “crabgrass, pigweeds, and ragweed” beautifully arranged in a “nice, rusty can.” Mr. Goat knew his first love liked ragweed salad, and Miss Nanny Goat assured him that she would like the can too. Mr. Goat agreed. There was nothing like a rusty can with a pinch of salt.

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The aroma from Mr. Pygmy-Little Goat’s stand enticed Mr. Goat to stop and look over his treats. The sample rotten egg looked so yummy—black and oozing on the plate—that Mr. Goat bought four. They have been “rotted for two years” and are “guaranteed foul and disgusting,” Mr. Pygmy-Little Goat boasted as he placed the four eggs carefully into a red, heart-shaped box and tied it up with a red ribbon. Not only would the eggs make the perfect dinner, the red bow would be a delicious dessert.

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mr. Goat walked on, passing up the fruit and vegetable stand with its fresh oranges, apples, and pears, but made time to talk to Miss Skunk when she approached him with her Eau de Skunk perfume cart. As she spritzed Mr. Goat with a sample of her special perfume, she reminded him that a Valentine’s card would be just right for his first love.

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mr. Goat continued on with just the faintest alluring reek and thought about what Miss Skunk had said. He didn’t have a card, but, he decided he could “‘compose a song and serenade her.’” It didn’t take long for Mr. Goat to write his ditty. He hurried on to his first love’s house. Standing at the door, he “burst into song. When I was a little kid / It didn’t matter what I did. / If I climbed too high and fell / You’d kiss the hurt and make it well. / You have loved me from the start / I love you with all my heart!”

Suddenly, the door opened, and Mr. Goat’s first love smiled at him. Mr. Goat handed her the bouquet and red box and exclaimed, “‘Happy Valentine’s Day, Mother!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-goats-valentine-eggs

Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2018, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Eve Bunting’s exceptional flair for engaging children is on full display in her funny, ewww-ful tribute to Valentine’s Day. The hearts of little ones swell with love around this holiday, and Bunting taps into their enthusiasm to get just the right gift for Mom. Readers will laugh at what might seem unusual gifts while also appreciating Mr. Goat’s thoughtfulness. Young children may wonder who Mr. Goat’s “first love” is as he shops from stall to stall, but as he makes up his song, most will figure it out and be happy to be in on the twist ending.

Kevin Zimmer’s cheery digital art showcases the sweet emotions that Mr. Goat has for his first love. His eyes grow wide at the delectable weed bouquet and rotten eggs, he contemplates the perfect words for his song, and smiles adorably when his mom opens the door. The less-than-fresh take on the idea of a Farmers Market will delight kids familiar with these types of stands. The other goats out shopping on this Valentine’s Day are equally as cute as Mr. Goat and provide camaraderie among this community that likes things a little bit rotten. As the door opens in the final spread, revealing Mr. Goat’s first love, children will be happy to know that the love between parent and child continues even when a “kid” is no longer a kid.

Mr. Goat’s Valentine is a sweet, original story for Valentine’s Day and throughout the year that is perfect for humorous home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585369447

Learn more about Kevin Zimmer and his art on his website.

Creativity Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-entangled-hearts-matching-puzzle

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

 

These friends are collecting valentines! Can you help them follow the paths to find more in this printable puzzle?

Entangled Hearts Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-goat's-valentine-cover

You can find Mr. Goat’s Valentine at these booksellers

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

EnPicture Book Review

January 23 – National Reading Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrated in schools across the country, National Reading Day was established to encourage students in PreK through 3rd grade to develop a love of reading, which is the basis for becoming a lifelong learner. Schools, libraries, organizations, bookstores, and parents provide activities to connect young readers with books they’ll love.

Sterling Children’s Books sent me a copy of Mirabel’s Missing Valentines to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines

Written by Janet Lawler | Illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller

 

Mirabel had always been very shy, and as Valentine’s Day approached she was nervous about giving cards away at school. Still, “despite her nerves, the night before, she crafted works of art.” When she was finished, she signed them and drew a heart. In the morning, though, she was reluctant to go to school. Finally, though she left the house and ran to school. In her hurry, she didn’t notice that her bag was getting lighter and lighter.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirabelle's-missing-valentines-trembled

Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Mirabel rushed past a lonely lady who was checking her mailbox—and then checking it again just in case. But as Mirabel hurried down the road, the lady turned and saw a valentine lying next to her. “She smiled and thought, How nice!” As she turned a corner, “construction workers sweating / as they dug around a pole / laughed to find a sweet surprise / half-buried in the hole.”

A baby found a valentine that had floated into their stroller, and for a jogger who’d just stepped in gun, the sparkly card on the ground made her day better. Others, too, found valentines that made them smile. Suddenly, though, the neighbors all heard a cry: “‘I’ve lost my valentines!’” Mirabel had discovered a hole in her bag and that all of her cards were gone. Everyone realized what had happened. They rushed to find Mirabel and return the valentines. “‘Your cards have made us smile! / Thanks for sharing them with us, / if only for a while,’” they told her.

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Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Seeing all of their happy faces cheered Mirabel and made her feel braver. She waved goodbye to her new friends and followed the other students into school. Later, she joined in her class party and was excited to share the valentines she’d made. On the way home from school, Mirabel didn’t notice the jogger, dad, construction workers, and others slip valentines into her bag as she passed by. But when she got home, she discovered that her bag was overflowing with love.

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Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Janet Lawler’s endearing story of a little mouse who is nervous about Valentine’s Day will resonate with little ones and adult readers as well. Sharing one’s feelings and talents—as Mirabel does with her homemade cards—can be daunting, but Lawler shows that friendship shared is often returned in kind. Little ones will find much to admire in Mirabel’s bravery to go to school even though she is apprehensive about what the day will bring. The reminder that children occupy a special place in the heart of many people, including family, friends, teachers, librarians, and others that they interact with, will cheer them and inspire them to reach out and accept the love offered on Valentine’s Day and every other day.

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Image copyright Olivia Chin Mueller, 2018, text copyright Janet Lawler, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Olivia Chin Mueller’s Mirabel is an adorable friend for little readers. As she cowers under a blanket, contemplating going to school, kids will send her encouraging thoughts and be happy to see her change her mind and hurry along to join her classmates. As the valentines begin to fly out of Mirabel’s bag, readers will wonder who will find each card and will look forward to each page turn. The smiles on the faces of those treated to the surprise gift are heartening as readers see what a positive impact little Mirabel has on those around her. As Mirabel hands out her valentines to her classmates, hearts abound, demonstrating along with the students’ smiles and surprised expressions the warm feelings of friendship that are contained not only in each unique card but in Mirabel’s kind spirit. The final image of Mirabel clasping her bag full of valentines is endearing.

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454927396

Discover more about Janet Lawler and her books on her website.

To learn more about Olivia Chin Mueller, her books, and her art on her website.

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Mirabel’s Missing Valentines by Janet Lawler | illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, January 23 – 29. Already a follower? Thanks! Just Retweet for a chance to win. 

A winner will be chosen on January 30.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books.

National Reading Day Activity

cpb - monster love maze

Monster Love! Maze

 

Help the love monster gobble up all the Valentine’s Day candy snacks in this printable maze!

Monster Love! Maze | Monster Love Maze Solution

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You can find Mirabele’s Missing Valentines at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 22 – Celebration of Life Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is all about celebrating the children and grandchildren in our lives and what makes each one truly unique. When you watch your own children or those in your care grow and develop their own personalities, talents, and dreams, you realize that each one is an individual with a bright future ahead of them. Today, honor each child’s exceptional character! Ask your children what they want from life, what their opinions are, and what is important to them. Then incorporate some of those things into your daily life. Take the opportunity also to encourage your children, support them, and—most of all—tell them how much you love them every day.

You Belong Here

Written by M.H. Clark | Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

 

“The stars belong in the deep night sky / and the moon belongs there too, / and the winds belong in each place they blow by / and I belong here with you.” This beautiful opening verse embraces readers and carries them on a journey to the sea, where whales and fish, waves and the shore, dunes and grasses all live in harmony the way they are meant to. In the forest, trees, animals, and birds have their own places, and, likewise, a child is reassured that “you belong where you love to be” and that at home they will always find the companionship of someone who loves them.

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Copyright Isabelle Aresenault, 2016, text copyright M.H. Clark, 2016. Courtesy of Compendium.

Just as frogs and turtles, otters and carp find homes in lakes, ponds, and streams where the water is right for them, and hares, foxes, and lizards belong on their own bits of land, “the crickets belong in the old stone wall / and the bees belong in the clover.” And what about the child snuggling in loving arms? “You are a dream that the world once dreamt / and now you are part of its song. / That’s why you are here, in the place where you’re meant, / for this is right where you belong.”

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Copyright Isabelle Aresenault, 2016, text copyright M.H. Clark, 2016. Courtesy of Compendium.

So, the pine trees and bears and each creature of the air, land, and sea “is perfectly home right there / in the place where it belongs to be.” And the child can know that wherever they go and whatever they choose to see, “I will always belong right here with you, / and you’ll always belong with me.”

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Copyright Isabelle Aresenault, 2016, text copyright M.H. Clark, 2016. Courtesy of Compendium.

M.H. Clark’s lyrical love letter to a child is a warm hug that clasps the little listener close to the adult reader’s heart. Clark’s gorgeous examples of perfect pairings in nature encompass not only animals that children will be familiar with but also the flowers and trees, rocks and caves, waterways and weather that are also woven into the formation and patterns of life, giving the story a feeling of the cyclical and constant that echoes love itself. The rhythm of the story floats like a dreamy lullaby, making this a wonderful book to share at bedtime for even the youngest children. It’s message is one that all children can appreciate no matter how old they are.

Isabelle Arsenault accompanies each verse with striking, softly hued illustrations that place whales, deer, otters, foxes, and all the other animals and their young in their particular environment. Her gorgeously blended images enhance the reader’s appreciation for the perfection of nature’s construction and reinforces the assurance that each child and adult belong together now and always. Interspersing the natural settings are views of various types of homes from city apartments to small towns to a secluded home in the woods. A whimsical spread in which a child’s hand can be seen placing wooden puzzle pieces of a hare, whale, bear, carp, and turtle into their appropriate slot adds another layer of understanding for young children and may cause them to think about their own place of belonging when playing on their own.

A touching gift for Valentine’s Day, baby showers, new babies, new siblings, and any child, You Belong Here belongs on every child’s home bookshelf as well as in classroom and public libraries.

Ages Birth and up

Compendium, 2016 | ISBN 978-1938298998

To learn more about Isabelle Arsenault, her books, and her art, visit her website

Celebration of Life Day Activity

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Spool Photo Holder

 

With this easy craft you can make a personalized photo holder for a child’s room that holds pictures of family and friends to show children who they “belong with.”

Supplies

  • Wooden spool with hole through the middle, top to bottom. (A spool without a hole also works if you make a hole in the top with a hammer and nail), 1½ -inch or larger, available at craft stores
  • Colorful twine or light-gauge yarn, 3 to 4 yards
  • Alternatively: you can buy a wooden spool of colorful twine at some craft and discount stores
  • 3 pieces of light-gauge wire 12 to 15-inches long
  • Clay or play dough
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Fill hole in spool with clay or play dough, pushing it well in to provide a base for the wire
  2. Wrap the twine or yarn around the spool to desired thickness
  3. Glue down the end of the twine to keep it from unraveling
  4. With the needle-nose pliers, roll down one end of the wire to create a small coil
  5. Repeat with two other lengths of wire
  6. Cut the three wires to different lengths to provide room for all three photographs
  7. Fit the three wires into the center hole on the top of the spool
  8. Push the wires into the clay until they are held securely
  9. Clip photographs into the coils
  10. Display your pictures!

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You can find You Belong Here at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review