June 11 – Making Life Beautiful Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established by Apriori Beauty in 2015 to recognize all those people who make life more fun, meaningful, joyful—more beautiful—for someone else. This can be done in so many ways. Spending more time talking with someone lets them know you care. Sharing your talent for baking, art, music, gardening, home repair, or any skill with a friend, family member, or coworker brings joy to them and you. Even just giving a smile to those you meet can brighten someone’s day. Making someone else feel good will make life more beautiful for you too!

The Color Collector

Written by Nicholas Solis | Illustrated by Renia Metallinou

 

A boy notices a new girl, Violet, at school. He knows what it’s like to be the new kid, so he waves to her as she sits on a bench alone, reading. She gives him a small smile—he thinks—but doesn’t say anything. He knew that Violet lived near him because they always “walked home the same way,” although he “was on one side, she on the other.” She was “always quiet. Always alone.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-walking

Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It was always the same until one day when the wind blew a red candy wrapper Violet’s way and the boy watched her pick it up and put it in her backpack. When she looked up, Violet saw the boy watching. “She looked at me,” he says. “She waved. Then her eyes went down and she turned the corner.” Now, the boy noticed how many things Violet picked up along the way home. “Bright blue cookie wrappers. Yellow pieces of paper. Green bottle caps. Red fall leaves. All disappearing into the gray backpack.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-paper

Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

One day the boy crosses the street and asks Violet what she does with the things she picks up. Violet invites him to come see. They come to a brownstone and up a few flights of stairs, Violet takes him inside her home and opens the door to her room. “Here in her room, the sun comes to shine,” the boy says. “It reaches in and makes her glow. It makes her collection glow as well.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-colorful-items

Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

What the boy sees—on the walls, the ceiling, the door—is “her sky, her beach, her village” recreated from the wrappers, paper, leaves, caps, and other bits she’s found. “We came here for a better life,” Violet tells the boy. “I miss home, though. I miss the sounds and smells. And I miss the colors.” The boy tells her the mural is beautiful. Then Violet tells him stories about her village, the people there, and the ocean. The boy and Violet “sit and talk. Then laugh. Then talk some more.” The boy sees that Violet is not so sad or alone anymore, and he’s glad to be her friend. When he leaves, he and Violet wave goodbye and “smile the same.” One the way home, the wind blows a red leaf his way. He picks it up and puts it in his backpack.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-light

Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Poignant and honest, Nicholas Solis’s multilayered story touches on friendship, loneliness, new experiences, immigration, creativity, and how acts of welcome, empathy, and kindness can change perspectives and bring joy to life. Told from the boy’s point of view in short, straightforward observations, the story captures readers’ emotions and curiosity as they walk with him and Violet, waiting to see why the reason for her collection. As days and maybe weeks or months pass before the boy speaks to Violet, readers on “both sides of the street” (those who are hesitant to talk and share as well as those who would like to get to know someone better) learn that friendship takes time, patience, trust, and sincere interest. 

Renia Metallinou adds visual eloquence to the story with his gray- and dun-hued illustrations, which pick up increasing hints of color as Violet and the boy grow closer to Violet’s house and finally explode with vibrancy when she opens the door to her room. The first clue of the importance of color to the “new girl” is in her name, and to punctuate this fact, Metallinou gives Violet purple hairbands for her braids. As Violet walks home on a parallel track to the boy, purple tints the pots and flowers decorating the sidewalk, a woman’s purse, and her dog’s collar as if to show that Violet is already assimilating and contributing to her new community.

After she picks up the red wrapper, red flowers, and accents dot the next page, and after the boy describes the blue, yellow, and green items she finds, the trees gain red and yellow leaves, container gardens overflow with greenery, an orange cat watches a trio of red-bellied birds, and blue curtains hang in a downstairs room. But it’s when Violet opens her bedroom door that the real magic happens.

Readers are treated to one more two-page spread of suspense, heightened by the boy’s look of wonder and Violet’s proud gaze. Surrounded by light, Violet smiles. Her gray-and-white-striped shirt turns green and yellow, her brown skin glows with joy. Then readers turn the page and, like the boy, step into a sun-drenched coastal village with candy-colored buildings, lush foliage, a sparkling sea, and a woman – perhaps Violet’s grandmother – looking toward the horizon, maybe looking for Violet herself. Metallinou has made Violet’s mural a masterpiece of art, life, longing, and love. As Violet’s stories pour forth, she and the boy discover how to let their true colors show.

A beautiful and evocative story about the power of friendship, empathy, and kindness, The Color Collector provides a unique and highly effective way for kids and adults to talk about feelings of loneliness, homesickness, making new friends, opening up to others, and many other feelings kids experience. The book could spark meaningful art projects for classrooms and homeschoolers and would be an excellent addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111059

Discover more about Nicholas Solis and his books on his website.

To learn more about Renia Metallinou, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-initial-bookend

Initial Bookend or Decoration

 

Today’s holiday is all about making someone feel special. With this easy craft, kids can make a gift for a family member, friend, or teacher that shows them why they think the person makes the world more beautiful. And don’t forget to make one for yourself too!

Supplies

  • Wooden letter block of the recipient’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 on the letter that you think best describe the person you’re giving it to
  3. Wrap and give your letter!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-cover

You can find The Color Collector at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 28 – National Road Trip Day Book Tour Stop for Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tabitha-and-fritz-trade-places-cover

About the Holiday

In 2019 Pilot Flying J, the country’s largest travel center operator, established National Road Trip Day to mark the start of the summer travel period from Memorial Day weekend through the beginning of September. The holiday makes a perfect time to celebrate the launch of Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places, a story about the joys (and sometimes foibles) of traveling, about making new friends, and, of course, about coming home. Whether you’re traveling to see family or friends you haven’t seen in awhile or setting your sights on new adventures; traveling by car, plane, train, or boat, remember to pack a few great books to take along – like today’s book!

Thanks to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m thrilled to be teaming with them in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places

Written by Katie Frawley | Illustrated by Laurie Stansfield

 

Scrolling through his phone in his rain forest abode, Fritz comes upon an ad that seems to be the answer to his wanderlust and need to escape the constant attentions of his herd. The ad from Tabitha, a self-described “pampered suburban cat” on Lair-BNB.com promises “First-class comfort! Five-star service! Fancy, frilly fun!” Fritz thinks it sounds perfect for a well-deserved birthday getaway. He answers the ad, and Tabitha responds right away. She can’t wait to exchange her pad for a “rain forest adventure” and tells Fritz to keep in touch.

The two pack up and take flights to their vacation destinations. Fritz sends a message to Tabitha that he was well received by one little human in particular and enjoyed splashing in the big watering hole. He also includes a warning about Rocky the snake who “does not play well with others.” For her part, Tabitha is relishing her time in the forest with Fritz’s herd. She’s even met some big cat family members, has discovered a bee hive makes a swell scratching post, found a perfect swatting toy hanging from a tree, and loves the outdoor litterbox with its holes and mounds already dug. She also knows just the human Fritz has met and warns him about Claudia’s penchant for playing beauty parlor.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tabitha-and-fritz-trade-places-pool

Image copyright Laurie Stansfield, 2021, text copyright Katie Frawley, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Fritz and Tabatha’s next messages gush about the local cuisine. Tabitha is gorging on mice salad, mice hors d’oeuvres, and mice pizza while Fritz’s herd looks on in horror, and Fritz is cooking up a storm with Claudia in Tabatha’s kitchen. But the next day brings confusion and disappointment when a trip to the museum with Claudia and a dust bath go awry for Fritz, and Tabitha has a run-in with a hippo and finally meets the dreaded Rocky. She does remember, however, to wish Fritz a happy birthday and hopes he enjoys the party Claudia is preparing.

Disappointment turned to disaster, Fritz tells Tabitha, when there was a mix-up in whose birthday they were celebrating. He fondly remembers the birthday surprise his herd gave him last year. He signs off “Singing the blues, Fritz.” Tabitha too is feeling out of her depth and wishes she was back home with Claudia.

Fritz gets the message loud and clear and is all-in on getting back to familiar and beloved  territory. They pack up, make travel plans, and with a hug from Claudia for Fritz and a squeeze from the littlest member of the herd for Tabitha they hit the airport. Contentedly back at home, Fritz and Tabitha keep in touch—happy to have made a friend. In fact, these two like-minded travelers have sent each other thank-you gifts, and Tabitha even floats the idea of taking a trip together!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tabitha-and-fritz-trade-places-party

Image copyright Laurie Stansfield, 2021, text copyright Katie Frawley, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Katie Frawley’s clever travelogue—told entirely through phone messages exchanged by Fritz and Tabitha on Lair-bnb—will delight kids. As Fritz and Tabitha regale each other with their adventures, kids will find plenty to giggle about as the shine of the new and exciting gives way to a renewed appreciation of home. Mix-ups and misunderstandings lead to laughs as well as sympathy for these sweet, out-of-their-elements characters. Puns sprinkled throughout the text add to the lighthearted fun, and the story is neatly packed with themes of friendships made and nurtured.

Laurie Stansfield matches irresistibly cute and funny illustrations to Frawley’s text while adding enticing details that will keep kids lingering over the pages with each new reading. As Fritz and Tabitha write about their days, Stansfield’s vibrant images depict the humorous reality of their misinterpretations. Interspersed wordless two-page spreads juxtapose similar situations experienced by Tabitha and Fritz , such as eating, meeting a hippopotamus, and sleeping arrangements.

Although both travelers are happy to cut their trips short, the goodbye scenes demonstrate that despite some rocky moments, both Fritz and Tabitha have made good friends on the other side of the world. A late airport scene of a busy terminal in which both Fritz and Tabitha appear among the many animal travelers can be a fun jumping off point to talk about when and how this “almost meeting” occurred as well as about airports and travel in general.

Original, charming, and packed with lots of laughs and feeling, Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places will become a favorite summer (and anytime) read. The fast-paced, multi-layered story and clever illustrations make this a perfect story time read for home, classrooms, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542008549

Katie Frawley grew up on a diet of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Madeline. She went on to earn a bachelor’s in English from the University of Florida and a master’s in literature from Florida Atlantic University. These days, Katie lives in South Florida with her husband, four children, and a handsome mutt named Nantucket. When she’s not reading or writing, Katie can be found building pillow forts, testing recipes with her teensy sous-chefs, or shooing iguanas from her garden. You can connect with Katie on her website | Instagram | Twitter

Laurie Stansfield grew up in Oxford, England, but packed her bags and moved west to study illustration at the University of the West of England. She now works as a freelance illustrator. She is the illustrator of Poems Out Loud!, published by Penguin UK, and has more books forthcoming. Laurie lives with her husband in Bristol, United Kingdom. You can connect with Laurie on her website | Instagram | Twitter

One Question with Katie Frawley

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-katie-frawley-headshot

I’m excited to start a summer series of One-Question Interviews with authors and illustrators with Katie Frawley and her debut picture book that’s sure to become a favorite for summer reading and whenever kids want to take a flight of fancy!

What is a favorite summer memory from your childhood?

Every summer from the age of about 8 to 18, I rode my bicycle across the state of Iowa with my family, some great friends, and about 10,000 other people. This event is called RAGBRAI, and it is an absolute hoot! The people are wonderful, the food is fantastic, and the memories definitely last a lifetime. I’m sure both Tabitha AND Fritz would enjoy the ride. Perhaps they should lace up their biking shoes and hit the road!

What an amazing experience! A biking tour sounds like a perfect trip for Fritz and Tabitha’s first adventure together! I wish you and Laurie Stansfield all the best with your book and definitely hope to see more about their friendship.

Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Two Lions and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places written by Katie Frawley | illustrated by Laurie Stansfield

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite travel destination for extra entry

This giveaway is open from May 28 to June 4 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on June 5. 

Prizing provided by Two Lions and Blue Slip Media

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Road Trip Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-suitcase-tumble-matching-puzzle

Suitcase Tumble Matching Puzzle

 

These suitcases are well-traveled! Can you find the matching luggage in this printable puzzle?

Suitcase Tumble Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tabitha-and-fritz-trade-places-cover

You can find Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 31 – It’s National Umbrella Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunday-rain-cover

About the Holiday

The rainy season is coming—do you know where your umbrella is? March, with its unpredictable weather has been designated National Umbrella Month to commemorate those useful objects that keep us dry in the rain and shaded from the sun’s rays. Invented in China over 4,000 years ago, the umbrella underwent many changes before becoming the pocket-sized helper it is today. To celebrate this month, check on the condition of your umbrella or treat yourself to a new one!

Thanks to Lerner Books for sharing a digital copy of Sunday Rain with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Sunday Rain

Written by Rosie J. Pova | Illustrated by Amariah Rauscher

 

When Elliot heard the wind Whoosh by and a tree branch tap against his window, he stopped reading and went to the window to look outside. “A leaf few by, swinging down and side to side. Then another and another.” Elliot watched craggy lightening break through the clouds and heard a crash of thunder. Elliot went back to his book, back to the princess, the dragon, and the raging sea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunday-rain-wind

Image copyright Amariah Rauscher, 2021, text copyright Rosie J. Pova, 2021. Courtesy of Lerner Books.

In a bit Elliot heard laughter. He went to the window again “and glued his nose to the glass.” On the sidewalk outside his house, kids from the neighborhood were “skipping, springing, and splashing in oodles of puddles.” When one of the kids looked his way, Elliot stepped away. Then he heard his mother calling. She had pulled his rainboots from a box she was unpacking. She encouraged him to go out and “make some friends.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunday-rain-thunder

Image copyright Amariah Rauscher, 2021, text copyright Rosie J. Pova, 2021. Courtesy of Lerner Books.

Elliot took his toy boat and went outside. It “smelled like wet grass and flowers and the pages of a new book.” Two kids were playing at the next stoop. Elliot let out a roar and stomped in a puddle. “‘My boat is filling up with water,’ he said to no one in particular.” Suddenly he had two helpers to row them all to the safety of the nearby island. But the dragon had landed on the mast and was pushing the boat backward. All three kids pulled on the dragon’s tail to dislodge it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunday-rain-dragon

Image copyright Amariah Rauscher, 2021, text copyright Rosie J. Pova, 2021. Courtesy of Lerner Books.

Safely on the island, the three were joined by a little girl wearing a gold crown and flying a dragon kite. They built a sandcastle, listened to shells, and Elliot caught raindrops falling from the trees on his tongue. As the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds, Elliot and his two new friends headed back across the ocean to the city. Back home, it was time for supper with “freshly baked bread and stew and warmth.” Before turning out the light, Elliot finished his book. “The princess befriended the dragon and saved the kingdom. He snuggled down into his covers, hugging his book and listened to the hoot of an owl as he “drifted off to sleep.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunday-rain-cat

Image copyright Amariah Rauscher, 2021, text copyright Rosie J. Pova, 2021. Courtesy of Lerner Books.

A quiet aura of nostalgia wafts through Rosie A. Pova’s fresh story of imagination and making new friends after a move. No angst or worry, fear or longing ripples Pova’s gentle nudge for readers to step a little bit outside their comfort zone to meet new experiences head on. The rainstorm, soon spent, creates two inviting environments: Elliot’s cozy bedroom and a playground of “oodles of puddles” where Elliot feels comfortably at home. Pova’s neat transition from reality to imaginative play is seamless and authentically childlike.

Her lyrical phrasing and close observations shine, giving the story a tenderness adults and kids will want to share again and again. Coming in for supper (a word that conjures images of old-fashioned family dinners), Elliot is embraced by the warmth of good food and family love. As he drifts off to sleep, all is well in Elliot’s story and his heart.

Amariah Rauscher’s lovely illustrations perfectly reflect the welcome and hope of Pova’s story. As the storm begins, Elliot looks up from his book with an expression of curiosity. Returning to his book after peeking out the window at the storm, the same blue-gray of the sky colors the ocean on which he and the intrepid princess battle the dragon. Readers first meet the neighborhood kids the way Elliot does—through his bedroom window. A nice touch that puts them in his shoes.

When Elliot takes his boat outside, readers can see—and almost feel—his momentary hesitation before he takes that first stomp and goes about making friends. When Elliot’s little boat turns into a sailboat for three, the dragon and princess from Elliot’s book show up to play too. But is the princess another new friend or just in Elliot’s imagination? Ask your young reader and see what they say! Rauscher’s children are sweet little charmers, full of fun and all the possibilities in the world.

As Elliot’s mom says, “Sunday rains are the best!” Rosie J. Pova and Amariah Rauscher’s Sunday Rain will quickly become a family or classroom favorite for cozy, imaginative story times and is highly recommended as a gift or addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Lantana Publishing, 2021 | ISBN 978-1911373971

Discover more about Rosie J. Pova and her books on her website.

To learn more about Amariah Rauscher, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Umbrella Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-umbrella-match-up-puzzle

Find the Matching Umbrellas

 

These umbrellas and raincoats were mixed up in the wind! Can you find the matching pairs? Look carefully! How will you match them up?

Rainy Day Mix Up Umbrellas Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunday-rain-cover

You can find Sunday Rain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 17 – It’s National Introverts Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-meesha-makes-friends-cover

About the Holiday

Introverts, this is your week to shy-ne. National Introvert’s Week was founded by author Matthew Pollard to celebrate the achievements of introverts and combat the stigma and stereotypes associated with being on the shy side. Oftentimes extroverted people are considered more powerful, popular, and successful in society. Introvert’s Week is meant to offer a counternarrative to this belief. In actuality, introverts and extroverts alike can be perfect friends, role models and achievers. Celebrate National Introvert Week by recognizing the introverts in your life, learning about role models who identify as introverted, and reading lots of books. Meesha Makes Friends provides a sweet story of how an introvert makes friends in her own, unique style.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing a copy of Meesha Makes Friends with us for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Meesha Makes Friends

By Tom Percival

 

Meesha loves to make her own pictures, music and imaginary creatures. There is just one thing that she can’t figure out how to make—friends! She is a shy kid, and often has trouble connecting with other kids her age. “For Meesha, making friends was so difficult that she wondered if she would ever be able to do it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-meesha-makes-friends-difficult

Copyright Tom Percival, 2021, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Luckily, Meesha has a solution. She gets out her creating materials and makes a whole crew of friends. Meesha happily totes her new pals around with her. She is pleased to find that they are easy to talk to and transport. However, her creations are not exactly perfect: “Admittedly, Meesha’s new friends weren’t very good at tennis…or soccer…or catch. / But Meesha felt comfortable with them, and that was what mattered.”

When Meesha attends a birthday party, she is nervous to join in with the other children. Overwhelmed, she finds a quiet spot to do what she likes best—creating creatures, her ownfriends. A boy named Josh comes to watch and asks if Meesha will teach him how to make them. At first this makes Meesha a little worried. She wonders if Josh will not be gentle enough with her friends. But she takes a deep breath and decides to give it a try.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-meesha-makes-friends-Josh

Copyright Tom Percival, 2021, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

And, as a matter of fact, “Josh didn’t get it all wrong, and he didn’t ruin anything either.” Josh and Meesha soon build a whole town for all of their creatures to live in together. When Josh suggests that they show their new creations to the rest of the kids at the party, Meesha is once again hesitant. But, with some bravery and encouragement, Meesha and Josh share their creations with the rest of the group. And, to Meesha’s excitement, everyone loves them! “For the first time ever Meesha knew exactly what to say and what to do.” And with that, Meesha makes new friends.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-meesha-makes-friends-playing-together

Copyright Tom Percival, 2021, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

“Making friends is one of those things that looks really easy but can sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world!” Tom Percival says it best in his kind note to readers at the end Meesha Makes Friends. Author and illustrator of the Big Bright Feelings picture book series, Percival produces yet another beautiful read for children to explore and engage in conversations about feelings. Meesha Makes Friends teaches young readers how to communicate, make friends and interact in their own unique ways. At the end of the story, Percival provides helpful tips on how to make friends for readers who may identify with Meesha’s struggles.

Tom Percival described himself in an interview as a quiet, creative and thoughtful child. Through his Big Bright Feelings series, he hopes to help kids explore different emotions and why we feel the way we do. Intricately drawn details and expressions allow readers to easily understand and empathize with the emotional states of the characters. Percival thoughtfully plays with the color pallet of his illustrations to perhaps allude to sensory sensitivities and provide a vibrant view of Meesha’s perception of the world. A diverse cast of characters of different races and abilities makes this book an accessible read for all. Truly a book driven by thoughtfulness, kindness, creativity, and compassion.  

For parents, teachers, and other caregivers who are looking for a sensitive, relatable, and truly helpful way to talk to kids about shyness, making friends, and socializing, Meesha Makes Friends is a must addition to home, school, and public library collections. Be sure to look for the other books in the Big Bright Feelings series: Perfectly Norman, Ruby Finds a Worry, and Ravi’s Roar.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1547605194

To learn more about Tom Percival, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Introverts Week Activity

free-kids-crafts-animal-mixup-activity

Image courtesy of Free Kids Crafts

Mixed-up Creatures

 

You can make creations like Meesha’s with this Flower/Animal Mix-Up Activity! 

Materials

Instructions

Print these pages, cut up the parts, and glue or tape together pieces on a blank piece of paper to make the quirkiest creatures you can!
 
You’ll find many more craft and activity ideas at Free Kids Crafts and Making Friends!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-meesha-makes-friends-cover

You can find Meesha Makes Friends at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 1 – National Reading Month Book Tour Launch for Agnes’s Place

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-agnes's-place-cover

About the Holiday

National Reading Month is a book-lover’s delight! With thirty-one whole days where taking extra time to read is not only allowed but encouraged can send one hurrying out to the bookstore or library to stock up! Kids love being read to, and setting aside time to read together every day builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is officially marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities that bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids. This year look for virtual events and make a plan with your kids to find new and old favorites books to share. 

Thanks to Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Agnes’s Place for review consideration. All opinions are my own.  I’m happy to be teaming with Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Agnes’s Place

Written by Marit Larsen | Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie | Translated by Kari Dickson

 

In a city of “so many buildings,” Agnes lives on a neat little street where the trolley passes by and a café and corner grocery welcome their customers. In her apartment building, Agnes “knows she is at home before she even opens her eyes in the morning. She knows who is baking, who is playing, and who is saying shush.” When she opens her window, the birds come for the seeds she feeds them because “she knows that the birds are hungry and that she is the only one who remembers.” Agnes knows about all of the residents of her building and especially “what it is like to be the only child in a place full of adults who never have time.”

One day when she looked out her window at the rain coming down, she noticed a girl standing next to her favorite puddle with a tall pile of boxes and belongings. Agnes wondered if she was moving in. She watched through the peephole in her door as the girl and adults carried boxes and bags up the stairs to the fifth floor. Excited, Agnes drew a large picture of the swings outside the building, and she wrote an invitation—“HERE”—with an arrow. Then, when things were quiet, she went upstairs and slid it through the letter box, where it came to rest under a chest of drawers. Agnes skipped down the stairs. “She felt her heart pounding in her cheeks and ears.” But, later, she sat on the swing alone, which felt lonelier than playing on the swings by herself.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-agnes's-place-tenants

Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2021, text copyright Marit Larsen, 2021. Translation by Kari Dickson, 2021. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing.

When Agnes woke up the next day, she felt that everything was the same… but completely different. When she went to the window to feed the birds, they flew past her and up toward the new girl’s window. Later, Agnes practiced new tricks on the swing. After that, she played with her toys while she watched the new girl on the swing. Her home “was somehow a new place now,” and all she could think about was the new girl: did she hear and see the same things Agnes did?

Every day, Agnes waited by the swings until it was time to go in. The new girl discovered Agnes’s puddle by herself. She did a lot of fun things, and if she saw Agnes at the market, Agnes couldn’t tell because she walked right by. When Agnes went to get Emilia’s newspaper from the mailbox to deliver as she did every day, she found the box empty. And when she went to visit Emilia, she found Emilia already doing the crossword puzzle.

Agnes ventured: “‘it is a bit strange, isn’t it, that you can just move into a place without asking everyone who lives there if they think it’s okay?’” Emilia said, “‘Well, now—we’ve all been new at one time or another. Even me.’” Then Emilia offered her a waffle, but Agnes thought “a waffle is not much comfort when you are five and have no secrets left to share.”

But coming downstairs, Agnes was suddenly face to face with the new girl. They were the same size and “both just as quiet.” Agnes’s sweater matched the new girl’s hat, and when Anna opened her hands the marbles inside glowed as if “she had the whole universe in the palm of her hand.” They laughed together as the marbles flowed down the stairs like waves. Then Anna grabbed Agnes’s hand and led her upstairs to the roof, where Agnes had never been before but which Anna had transformed with birdhouses and little lights, and they had a picnic of waffles and hot chocolate. “It turned out that Anna had her own secrets. And they were wild and wonderful.”

Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage children to read from a wide range of cultural perspectives. Agnes’s Place was originally published in Norway.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-agnes's-place-birds

Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2021, text copyright Marit Larsen, 2021. Translation by Kari Dickson, 2021. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing.

Marit Larsen has written a complex and thought-provoking story about making new friends and the nature of friendship, about loneliness, a sense of loss, and feelings of discovery. As the only child in the apartment building, Agnes has been left to make her own way and find her own entertainment and routines—her secrets. She is excited to see a new girl moving in and immediately invites her to play. But when her picture goes unseen and Agnes’s secrets are one-by-one discovered and, in some cases, “taken” by Anna, Larsen introduces the idea of how mixed signals, disappointments, and unfulfilled expectations can affect one’s own sense of self and place in the world.

Of course, Anna doesn’t know about Agnes and can’t know that the puddle, the swings, the birds, and Emilia’s newspaper have been “hers,” and in one illustration Anna can be seen as lonely too. When Agnes and Anna finally meet up and they realize that they are alike in many ways, they quickly become friends, and together they can their world more “wild and wonderful.” The events in the story give readers and adults excellent opportunities to discuss commonly felt emotions surrounding friendships and new experiences and what someone could and/or would do in similar situations.

In her gorgeous matte illustrations rendered in soothing hues, Jenny Løvlie creates a charming neighborhood and apartment building, in which cutaways show Agnes’s neighbors baking, reading, and tinkering in their own apartments. Through snapshot images Løvlie shows the disconnect between Agnes and Anna, and clearly shows how Agnes’s initial excitement at making a friend turns to sadness and uncertainty when her invitation goes unanswered and her comforting daily routine is seemingly usurped.

The moment when Agnes and Anna meet, however, is infused with acceptance, understanding, and promise. The final two spreads in which Anna and Agnes climb to the roof and have a picnic are stunning for their color and the magic they inspire. Kids and adults will want to linger over each page to soak up all of the details that are so true to home life as well as the whimsical antics of a pair of mice. Readers will also love to point out all of the cats and other animals that appear throughout the pages.

A heartfelt and lovely story about new friendships and growing up set in a vibrant apartment community, Agnes’s Place would be a captivating addition to home, school, and public libraries for thoughtful story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542026758

Marit Larsen is a Norwegian songwriter and musician. Agnes’s Place, her debut picture book, was first published in Norway and will also be published in Denmark and Italy. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. You can learn more about the author at www.maritlarsen.com and on Instagram: larsenmarit

Jenny Løvlie is a Norwegian illustrator. Her previous picture book, The Girls, written by Lauren Ace, was the winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. She currently lives in Cardiff, Wales. You can connect with Jenny Løvlie at www.lovlieillustration.com and on Instagram: lovlieillustration.

Kari Dickson is a literary translator from Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2020 she won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for best children’s translation for Brown, written by Håkon Øvreås and illustrated by Øyvind Torseter. She holds a BA in Scandinavian studies and an MA in translation.

Agnes’s Place Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Agnes’s Place written by Marit Larsen | illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite childhood book for extra entry

This giveaway is open from March 1 to March 7 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 8. 

Prizing provided by Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-agnes's-place-cover

You can find Agnes’s Place at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 9 – It’s Creative Romance Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-cover

About the Holiday

February, the month of love, is a perfect time to think up creative ways to surprise that special person in your life with a romantic gesture, exciting date night, or fun adventure that will add spice and fun to your relationship. With a little imagination you can find unique ways to show all the love that’s in your heart. 

I’d like to thank Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing Bear Meets Bear with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Bear Meets Bear

By Jacob Grant

 

Bear was waiting for the teapot he and Spider had ordered to arrive. It was exciting to think of getting something new delivered. At last the doorbell rang. When Bear opened the door, he found Panda, a delivery person he’d never seen before. She asked him to sign for his package, but Bear was smitten. “His heart beat fast…. He wanted to say something clever, or funny, or anything at all,” but he couldn’t.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-delivery

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The delivery woman asked for his signature again, and finally he was able to sign the sheet. He watched Panda peddle away on her delivery bike. Spider thought Bear’s predicament was quite funny. Bear rushed to his computer and ordered another teapot. Bear waited and waited. He watched out the window, hoping to see Panda’s delivery bike roll up.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-waiting

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Bear was just considering ordering another tea pot when he saw Panda coming up the walk. But when she handed him the box and asked him to sign, Bear just stood silently again. “Spider felt sorry for his friend.” Bear ordered another teapot and another and another. Never could he summon the courage to talk to Panda, even though Spider encouraged him. Standing among all of the boxes of teapots, Spider told him he should “invite her to tea” or “at least remember to breathe” when Panda came to the door.

Bear agreed. He would order one more teapot and talk to Panda when it arrived. Bear waited with anticipation. But when the doorbell rang, it wasn’t Panda standing there, but a “gruff raccoon.” “Bear’s heart hurt.” He bemoaned the missed opportunities and regretted all the teapots. Spider wanted to help. He wrote a note and headed out to find Panda. He went from door to door asking if anyone had seen her. Finally, he found her at Duck’s house.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-sad

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The next day Panda was excited to see Panda on his doorstep. She thanked him for his invitation to a tea party. Bear felt himself freeze, but then he told her he would be just a minute. He cleaned up the scattered teapots and welcomed her in. Soon Bear and Panda were chatting and laughing like old friends.

After Panda said goodbye, Bear thanked Spider and said that Panda was very nice but that they would “not be meeting for tea again.” It turned out that Panda didn’t like tea! Bear was nonplussed, but thought it was “all rather funny.” The next time he and Panda met, Bear served lemonade. And what about all those teapots? Bear held a yard sale!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-tea-party

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2020, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Fans of Jacob Grant’s Bear and Spider series know that Bear is often hesitant to put himself out there, to try something new, or even, sometimes, to leave the house. It might be because his feelings are so strong or he doubts himself  – or a little of both. Fortunately, Bear has his good friend Spider who supports him and gives him a nudge when he needs it. When Bear meets Panda and is smitten, he, like many people, can’t find the exact right words among all those feelings; a simple “hello” doesn’t seem like enough. Grant understands. Enter Spider, who offers a gentle dose of honesty and provides always-polite Bear with an opportunity to shine. When Bear discovers that Panda doesn’t like tea, Grant also shows readers that conditions don’t have to be perfect to make a new friend and that a little humor goes a long way toward smoothing things over.

Grant’s tranquil color palette and simple shapes make it easy for readers to immerse themselves in Bear’s feelings, empathizing with his all-too-human predicament while enjoying the comical collection of all those tea pots. When Bear watches out the window day after day, willing Panda to return only to be filled with fear and anxiety when she does, Grant perfectly captures that “oh no, now what?” emotion as Bear’s paws fly to his face and his eyes widen. Likewise, Bear’s regrets are palpable as, surrounded by boxes, he buries his head in the chair. Throughout, Spider is there, weaving his web, strumming his banjo, and watching out for Bear. Wordless images of Bear and Panda enjoying lemonade together and Bear’s yard sale let kids know it has all turned out all right.

A charming, poignant, and reassuring addition to the Bear and Spider series, Bear Meets Bear,  a story about overcoming emotions that hold us back, is highly recommended for home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547604241

Discover more about Jacob Grant, his books, and his art on his website.

Creative Romance Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ceramic-mug-craft

Create a Mug

 

If you’re kids are looking for a gift to make for a family member or a friend for Valentine’s Day or any time, a personalized mug makes a creative way to share a little love every time it’s used. 

Supplies

  • Plain ceramic mug
  • Bakeable markers or paint

Directions

  1. Design and color your mug
  2. Follow directions on the markers or paint to properly bake on your decoration and make it permanent.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-meets-bear-cover

You can find Bear Meets Bear at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 19 – New Friends Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-will-you-be-friends-with-me-cover

About the Holiday

Friendships and making new friends are so important to our happiness that this national holiday is actually celebrated three times a year—on January 19th, July 19th, and October 19th. Making friends is one of the first skills little ones learn as they begin, as babies and toddlers, to join playgroups, music groups, daycare, and other social activities. Sharing books with stories about friendship, that model good examples of talking and playing with others, and which depict an appreciation for people’s differences is a wonderful way to expand a child’s social and emotional development. Sharing life with good friends a joy to be cherished. Start your little one off on the journey with today’s book!

Will You Be Friends with Me?

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Jo de Ruiter

 

As the story opens, two vignettes show a little brown boy greeting the dawn while a blond, bespectacled girl shows up to the breakfast table after everyone has finished. “I wake early,” the boy says. “You sleep late.” At the playground later, this same girl enjoys the swings with another girl. She observes, “My hair’s curly. / Yours is straight.” On a trip to the pool, this second girl meets a Black girl, who, wearing two types of floaties and a swimming cap, just dips her toe in the water as her new acquaintance jumps in, noting, “I say, ‘Now!’ / You say, ‘Wait?’” Then as they both dry off, she asks, “Will you be friends with me?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wake

Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

At school the early riser notices that his tablemate likes to use different art materials than he does. Is one better than the other, he wonders, but it doesn’t keep him from asking, “Will you be friends with me?” A picnic and snack time during soccer practice are two more places where pairs of kids meet each other and discover different ways of doing things that don’t deter—and probably prompt—the repeated refrain, “Will you be friends with me?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hair

Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

All of these children meet on a grassy hill to play a game of leapfrog, encouraging each other to soar as high as they can. As the early bird reads on a sunny porch and the night owl reads by flashlight under her covers, the boy reveals, “I like morning. / You like night. / We’re just different. / That’s all right!” And indeed it is as these new friends show readers how to play instead of squabble, share instead of judge, and embrace each other’s differences because they know—and readers discover—that “life is much more fun that way.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-swim

Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

Kathleen Long Bostrom’s delightful ode to making friends combines simplicity and intricacy in equal measure. Her endearing verses blend declarative sentences about various personality traits with questions kids commonly ask each other about their favorite things—questions that readers will enjoy answering as well. These pages give adults and kids an opportunity to talk about differences and similarities within their own family, classroom, sports team, and friends. The repeated phrase, “Will you be friends with me?,” is a joy to read aloud, and children will love chiming in each time. This simple, welcoming invitation is also one that kids can remember and use, whether they’re outgoing or more hesitant, whenever they meet someone they’d like to be friends with. The final line: “I’m glad you’re friends with me!” is a heartfelt sentiment everyone wants to hear and is just as appropriate for new friends as for old or even between adult reader and child.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends

Image copyright Jo de Ruiter, 2020, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2020. Courtesy of WorthyKids.

Jo de Ruiter’s adorable illustrations sparkle with the actions, expressions, and emotions of children navigating their world while discovering themselves and those around them. Her fresh color palette and kid-favorite places make each page one that readers will want to explore. Kids will enjoy following the fluid pairings of friends and their varying interactions. Diversity within the group of friends in race and ability—the boy who’s the early riser wears leg braces and uses forearm crutches—reflects readers’ experiences at school and in their community.

Playful, charming, and enriching, Will You Be Friends with Me? is an inspiring book for home story times, classroom reading, and public library collections. The book can also spark discussions about making friends at the beginning of a school year or during any new experience. The bouncy rhythm makes this a book little ones will want to hear again and again.

Ages Birth to 5

WorthyKids, 2020 | ISBN 978-1546033806

Discover more about Kathleen Long Bostrom and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jo de Ruiter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

New Friends Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friendship-bracelet-craft

Beaded Friendship Bracelet

 

Little ones love to make, wear, and share special bracelets. In this easy-to-make bracelet, each color of bead can represent friends and/or family. Fill it all at once or add beads with each new friend made.

Supplies

  • Wooden or plastic beads in various colors—one color for each friend or family member. You can use medium-size beads for the center and smaller beads for the rest of the bracelet, if desired
  • Elastic, embroidery thread, or string
  • Scissors
  • Plastic sewing needle with a large eye

Directions

  1. Determine the number of friends your child would like the bracelet to represent.
  2. Choose a different color of bead in both sizes for each friend.
  3. Determine the color pattern of the beads.
  4. Measure your child’s wrist and cut a length of elastic, embroidery thread, or string, leaving it long enough to tie onto the first and last beads (and make a loop clasp if using thread or string).
  5. Help your child thread the needle with the elastic, embroidery thread, or string.
  6. Thread the first bead onto the elastic, thread, or string, leaving about a half-inch at the end.
  7. Pull end of thread over bead and tie a knot with the end and the length of string.
  8. Approximate the center of your bracelet and thread several small beads in the chosen color pattern onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  9. Thread the medium beads onto the bracelet in the same color pattern.
  10. Follow with more small beads to finish the bracelet.
  11. Tie the last bead onto the elastic, thread, or string.
  12. To make a loop clasp on the end if using embroidery thread or string, loop the thread or string.

Children can make two or more bracelets to share with their friends.celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-will-you-be-friends-with-me-cover

You can find Will You Be Friends with Me? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review