May 11 – It’s Reading Is Fun Week

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About the Holiday

What’s your definition of fun? Is it going new places? Meeting new people? Laughing with friends? Getting in on the latest trend – or setting one of your own? If it’s one – or all – of these, you’ve just described reading! This week is dedicated to discovering the enjoyment that delving into a great book can bring at any age! To celebrate, stock up on books old and new – like today’s book that’s all about FUN – and have fun reading!

Thanks go to Disney-Hyperion and Big Honcho Media for sharing a copy of The Bruce Swap with me for review consideration. All opinions on on the book are my own.

The Bruce Swap

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

To say that Bruce doesn’t like fun may be an understatement—a big understatement. Just look at the yard surrounding his log cabin at “13 Go Away Lane” in the woods. It’s littered with signs: No Diving, No Fishing, No Skating, No Standing, No Picnicking, No Loitering, No Talking, No Running, No Bird Watching, No Hiking, No Climbing, No Whistling, No Camping, No Trespassing…and the one Bruce is just installing: No Playing. So when a letter comes for Bruce from his cousin Kevin promising a very FUN visit, you can imagine what Bruce would say. Unfortunately, Bruce never read this letter because the goose who retrieved it from the mailbox ate it all up.

Around this same time, Bruce got a little fed up with all the requests for fun his “kids” peppered him with—things like “Can we make a Roman sculpture with Greek yogurt?” and “Can we fly this hang glider made out of your sheets?” After Bruce said “No” and “No” as well as “No” to an all-sweets menu, Thistle, Rupert, and Nibbs wished for a Bruce who was “more cheerful,” “more adventurous,” and “had more pizzazz” before they went to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-wishes

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Early the next morning before anyone was up, Bruce decided to go fishing by himself. He left a note, hopped on his motorbike, and was off. The note made a delicious breakfast for one of the geese, and so no one knew that Bruce was gone…or that “Kevin was coming.” Later that morning, as everyone sat around the table hoping they were going to do something fun that day, Kevin arrived.

With just one look, the mice and the geese could see that their nighttime wishes had come true. Even though they didn’t know quite what had happened, they were ready for fun. “And Kevin was VERY fun.” There was the candy, and the order for twenty-six pizzas, and the pogo stick jumping in the living room. Kevin was loud—REALLY LOUD. He also turned the cabin into a swimming pool. The outdoor fun was no less chaotic.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-Kevin

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Then “Kevin’s fun friends” arrived. This was just too much “fun Bruce” to take. Rupert, Nibbs, Thistle, and the geese sat on the lawn and cried. “They all wished for regular Bruce to come back.” And Kevin? He and his friends were still looking for more fun. Besides, there was all that mess to contend with – and Kevin and his friends thought “messes are not fun.” They clamored back into their van and drove away just as Bruce was coming back from his fishing trip.

When he got home and saw his wailing family, his heart softened and he decided that “maybe…just maybe…he should try having FUN.” But when Bruce told the mice and geese, they were shocked, they screamed, and they backed away. “Do you want to have fun or not?” Bruce asked, perplexed. “No! No! No! No! No!” his family shouted. So Bruce gathered them all up and went inside to find “what FUN had done to his house.” Bruce’s unibrow rose. Bruce’s unibrow lowered and settled into its usual grumpy position above his sad eyes and deep frown. The Bruce the mice and geese loved was back. They hugged Bruce until there was a knock on the door…. Pizza delivery!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bruce-swap-Kevin's-friends

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2021, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ryan T. Higgins’ latest “Mother Bruce” adventure answers the question the mice and geese have been asking since they met Bruce: “What’s wrong with a little fun?” Here, Higgins exposes the truth about too much fun in hilarious scenes – from the ravenous geese gobbling up letters, to the activities Thistle, Nibbs, and Rupert wish Bruce would sanction, to Kevin and his friends’ wild romp.

On the way to learning the wisdom of that old adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” readers will soak up the snappy dialog, wry narration, and Bruce’s brief and surprising change of heart. There are lots of places for kids to join in on reading, especially when Kevin invites everyone to use a shouting voice, when the mice and geese are wailing, and when Bruce adds another yard sign at the beginning of the book and Kevin cleverly changes them at the end.

Higgins’ dynamic illustrations are loaded with humor and action, and lingering over the pages reveals details that expand on the rich environment Higgins has created for his beloved characters. And don’t forget to peek under the book’s jacket for a delicious surprise!

Funny, smart, and a joy to read aloud, The Bruce Swap is a must for all fans of the “Mother Bruce” series – old and new – at home and in the classroom as well as for public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney-Hyperion, 20201 | ISBN 978-1368028561

You can connect with Ryan T. Higgins on Twitter.

Reading Is Fun Month Activity

CPB - Pizza Day Toppings

Create Your Pizza Game

 

Play this fun game to build your pizza ingredient by ingredient before the others! For 2 – 8 players.

Supplies

Directions

Object of the Game: to fill a pizza slice with 5 delicious ingredients

  1. Print a Pizza Crust Game Board and Ingredients Cards
  2. Each player picks a slice on the board to fill
  3. Roll the dice to choose who goes first. Play
  4. The first player rolls the dice and places an ingredient on their slice according to the numbers below
  5. Play passes to the right
  6. The player who fills their slice with all 5 ingredients first, wins

Alternative for older kids: Print a game board for each player. The first player to complete the whole pizza is the winner

Each number on the playing die corresponds to one ingredient or other instruction, as noted below:

1: Sauce (red x)

2: Cheese

3: Green peppers (green squares)

4: Garlic (white half moons)

5: Pepperoni

6: Remove one ingredient from your pizza and pass the playing die to the next player

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You can find The Bruce Swap at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 3 – It’s Children’s Book Week

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy program in the United States. The history of the holiday goes back to 1913, when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, toured the country to promote a higher standard in children’s books and proposed a Children’s Book Week. He then enlisted the help of Frederic G. Melcher, editor of Publishers Weekly who believed that “a great nation is a reading nation,” and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library to help spread the word. This year Children’s Book Week will be held twice: May 3 – 9 and November 8 – 14. Each week with host different programs under the slogan “Reading is a Superpower.” You can find resources to help your child take part in the Superpower Challenge, a list of cross-curricular activities that allow kids to explore their passions in depth, here. To learn more about this special holiday for readers visit Every Child a Reader.

About the Bear and Friends Series

In the newest addition to the Highlights Puzzle Readers – books that use an innovative approach to engage emergent and new readers in strengthening their skills and fluency – Jody Jensen Shaffer and Clair Rossiter charm the youngest readers with a sweet group of friends: Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel. Released at the same time, Where Is Bear? and A House for Mouse get kids excited about learning to read on their own with a combination of a story and a search-and-find letter puzzle. A bonus matching and vocabulary puzzle follows the story and will entice children to turn to page 1 again and reread the story.

A note for parents and other caregivers tells more about this book series that has been developed in collaboration with reading experts, how the puzzle-and-story structure of the books improve learning, and the skills children learn, including shape and letter recognition, letter-sound relationships, logic, and flexible thinking, and more.

Bear and Friends: Where Is Bear? (Highlights Puzzle Mystery)

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Clair Rossiter

 

On a sunny day, Bear visits his friends, Mouse and Squirrel, in the woods. They are excited to see him. “Look! Look! It is Bear,” says Mouse. Squirrel lets readers in on two important facts about Bear: “Bear is big. Bear is fun.” They can’t wait to play together. Bear takes the lead, and whatever Bear can do, Squirrel and Mouse can do too. They swing and run and jump. 

But then Bear decides he’s going to play hide-and-seek. “Where is Bear?” Mouse asks the reader. “Is Bear here?” Squirrel and Mouse check behind trees, in a cave, and behind a big rock. They’re still looking for Bear as they cross over a stream on a fallen log. Mouse and Squirrel may not spot Bear or just miss him as he moves from place to place, but young readers will love finding him on each page and trying to guess why he’s picking flowers, acorns, and apples. Suddenly, Mouse points and exclaims. “Look! Look!” Then Squirrel says, “I see Bear.” But what is Bear doing? Kids will be as delighted as Mouse and Squirrel with Bear’s special surprise.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-bear-big

Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Throughout Jody Jensen Shaffer’s sweet story, kids will also be on the lookout for the letter B, which is cleverly hidden in the texture of a tree trunk, made from blades of grass, constructed with rock, in the folds of mushrooms, incorporated into Bear’s picnic basket, and many other places. The puzzle presents an age-appropriate challenge that will encourage kids to search for the letters again and again. Many of these hiding places reoccur, prompting children to look for and recognize patterns in the illustrations, just as the story’s words and sentences have patterns.

The introduction of a ball and a bowl on the final page gives kids an opportunity to explore the B sound further and to return to the story to find more examples of words that begin with B (like Bear, branch, and boots as well as bandana, boulder, and bite for older readers) or include the letter b (as in the umbrella Mouse carries). Shaffer’s short, inviting sentences also introduce declarative, exclamatory, and interrogative sentences as well as their punctuation. Plenty of repeated words will build confidence and enthusiasm in even the most reluctant reader. 

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Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Clair Rossiter’s enchanting, upbeat illustrations masterfully combine learning and fun as she maintains a focus on what Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel are doing as well as their facial expressions to give new readers visual clues to the words and sentences they are learning. Rossiter’s vivid color palette allows kids to show their knowledge of colors, including red, blue, green, brown, white, pink, purple, and orange. The forest scenery provides even more high-interest images for kids to explore.

Loaded with personality, charm, and the kinds of learning opportunities kids love, Bear and Friends: Where Is Bear? and A House for Mouse will be favorite go-to books for young readers that can grow with them as they increase their reading and other concept skills. The Bear and Friends series is highly recommended for home, classroom, homeschool, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Highlights Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1644723388 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1644723418 (Paperback)

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Clair Rossiter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-bear-cover

You can find Bear and Friends: Where Is Bear? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-house-for-mouse-cover

Bear and Friends: A House for Mouse (Highlights Puzzle Mystery)

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Clair Rossiter

 

As the story opens, Mouse is looking through a house magazine. “Mouse wants a house,” Bear says. Squirrel tells readers, “Mouse wants a good house.” Bear finds a house for Mouse right away in a cave in a hill. It is so big that Bear can even fit inside. “You can live here,” Bear says. But Mouse says, “No, thank you. It is too big!” Squirrel thinks a leafy nest up in a tree would make the perfect house. But once up on the branch, Mouse says, “No, thank you. It is way up.”

The friends look up, down, under, and all around – even at some houses on the water – but none of them are quite right for Mouse. Hmmm…. Mouse and Squirrel lie on one end of a log that’s balanced on a rock to think, while Bear rests his foot on the other end. “Where is a house for Mouse?” Bear wonders as he steps down hard on the log, sending Mouse and Squirrel flying. They land right in front of the perfect house – and it’s for sale! “It is a good house,” Bear declares. Mouse packs up a wagon with boxes and in no time is moved into the cozy home at the base of a tree.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-house-for-mouse-map

Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Kids will enjoy helping Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel find a new house for Mouse while they also look for the letter M hidden in some pretty creative places. Trees, furniture, fencing, home decor, and other natural homes all sport the letter M for eagle-eyed readers to find. As the friends search up, down, under, and in, children also learn these spatial relationships. They’re also introduced to the idea of “far away” and “near,” as the tree Mouse eventually moves into is seen with a “For Sale” sign from afar early in the story and increasingly close as the story goes on.

The matching puzzle at the end of the story invites kids to match mug, map, and mouse to their pictures, while enticing them to find these objects throughout the pages as well as others, such as magazine, mat, mushroom, and scuba mask.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-house-for-mouse-cave

Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Just as in Where is Bear?, Jody Jensen Shaffer charms new readers with a question that will pique any child’s interest: Where will Mouse live? In this story Shaffer introduces slightly longer sentences while again incorporating a mix of statements, exclamations, and questions and repeated phrasing.

Children will look forward to spending more time with Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel in the familiar setting, enhanced with new sights that give kids and adults an opportunity to talk about the variety of animal homes found in nature. Clair Rossiter uses the same appealing color palette and decks out Bear, Squirrel, and Mouse in their favorite outfits that makes sharing another reading adventure as comforting as coming home.

Ages 4 – 7

Highlights Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1644723425 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1644723418 (Paperback)

Children’s Book Week Activity

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Bookmarks and Activities

 

One of the highlights of Children’s Book Week are the bookmarks created by illustrators and author/illustrators. This year’s bookmarks and attached activities were designed by Angela Dominguez, Paola Escobar, Ebony Glenn, Oliver Jeffers, and Aram Kim. To download one or all five bookmarks as well as their accompanying activity sheet, visit the Every Child a Reader website.

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You can find Bear and Friends: A House for Mouse at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 8 – Opera Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-cover

About the Holiday

Opera has been a favorite art form since its beginnings in Italy in the 1500s. Combining magnificent voices, soaring arias, grand costumes, and dramatic storylines, operas continue to thrill audiences and gain new fans. To celebrate Opera Day today or at a time in the future, enjoy a performance in your area or find one on YouTube and gather your family and friends for an opera party.

I received a copy of Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Rebecca Gerlings

 

Fernando had many loves in his life—including chocolate, cheese, gumdrops, and popcorn—but what he loved most was “feasting on Mozart, Puccini, and Strauss, / and lending a paw at the Old Opera House.” Delores loved nothing more than being in the spotlight, and now she was getting the chance to leave her place in the chorus to “take center stage and be Diva Delores.” She warmed up in her dressing room with “Me-me-me-me!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-dress

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Fernando wanted to give Delores the benefit of all of his years of experience, but she wasn’t having it. A mouse was not a suitable helper for someone as great as she, she thought. At the rehearsal the next day, Delores was a flop, hitting wrong notes, missing her entrance, and the last song? Well…. From the back Fernando called out that he could help. He wrote cues on little cards “and—presto!—Delores knew just what to do.” You’d think Delores would be thankful, but instead she complained that a mouse’s help was just not proper for a diva, and she shooed Fernando away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-fernando

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

The day before her big performance, Delores found that her dress didn’t fit. Again, Fernando rushed to her rescue, but what thanks did he get? Delores grumbled and fussed. “Then grabbing a bottle / of stinky perfume, / she spritzed poor Fernando / right out of the room!” Fernando went home, wanting to quit. But as he looked at his pictures of Mozart, Puccini, and Strauss, he knew that without him the show would fail and that he couldn’t quit now.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-manners

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

First, he went to Delores and laid down the rules: “For starters, I’d like to hear / thank you and please / when I help fix your dress / or bring crackers and cheese.” Delores was startled and quickly said good night. At home she wondered: had she been rude? The next day, Delores was nervous. She tried calming herself with candy and tea. She even looked for Fernando, but he was nowhere to be found.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-wig

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Standing on stage in the glare of the spotlights, “as the orchestra played, / Delores felt faint. / First she swooned… / then she swayed.” When she opened her mouth, no notes, no sound, no song came out. Then inside her wig she saw Fernando, who squeaked “‘You can do it.’” And then Delores did sing “with a voice rich and sweet.” When she forgot some words to her song, Fernando reminded her by tra-la-la-ing along.

The audience loved them. They cheered for Delores; they cheered for Fernando. Later, Delores admitted she could not have done it alone. Then she apologized to Fernando and asked for a fresh start on their friendship. “Of course!” he agreed, and now they bring down the house night after night as “the Opera House team!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-cheering

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Laura Sassi’s clever and original story about teamwork and sharing the spotlight hits all the right notes in showing how accepting help can elevate anyone’s performance and lead to a new friendship. After playing second fiddle in the chorus, Delores finally gets her chance to shine, but her vanity exceeds her experience. When a tiny mouse offers help from his deep well of knowledge, Delores takes one look at Fernando’s diminutive size and rejects him and his advice. Through her perfect rhymes and musical rhythm, Sassi engages readers in how to graciously learn from another’s experience and encourages the Fernandos out there to keep trying, even when their initial offerings of assistance are rebuffed.

Rebecca Gerlings lends charm and humorous touches to Sassi’s tale, and the promise of the enticing cotton-candy fluff of a wig, introduced in the first pages and teased throughout the story, is comically and satisfyingly fulfilled in the end as Fernando directs Delores to a winning performance from within. Along the way, readers are treated to an octopus piano player, multiple meltdowns as Delores dispatches Fernando from her orbit, and demonstrations of persistence as the little mouse stands up for himself, good manners, and the honor of his beloved opera. 

A smart, fresh, and fun read aloud, Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse has multiple applications for discussing friendship, modesty, respect, and collaboration. The book would make a delightful addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922001

Discover more about Laura Sassi and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rebecca Gerlings, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Opera Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-laura-sassi-with-opera-glasses-craft

Sparkly Opera Glasses by Laura Sassi

 

Make a pair of these fancy glasses, then pretend you are at the opera while reading Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse.

Supplies for each pair of opera glasses

  • Two recycled toilet tissue tubes one large craft stick
  • Markers tacky glue
  • Two paper clips assorted fancy embellishments (We used feathers, sparkly gems and snippets of shimmery ribbon, but use whatever you have around the house. Be creative!)

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Directions

  1. Decorate the tissue tubes using markers.
  2. Glue the tubes side by side, as shown. Be sure to insert the craft stick in between so your opera glasses have a handle. Slip a paper clip at each end over the sealed part for extra  pressure while drying.
  3. Use tacky glue to affix whatever fancy embellishments you choose. The more the better!
  4. When dry, elegantly hold your opera glasses up to your eyes and pretend you are watching Diva Delores and Fernando at the opera!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-cover

You can find Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 22 – It’s National Hot Tea Month

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing cozier during the month of January than enjoying a steaming cup of your favorite, flavorful tea as the temperature dips and the snow swirls. To celebrate this month’s holiday, why not try a new kind of tea, or you could even try a virtual tea party! Many teas have health benefits and can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. This drink has been around for thousands of years and is enjoyed the world over. So boil up some water, grab the honey or sugar, add a splash of milk if you like, and enjoy!

Tea with Oliver

By Mika Song

 

Oliver the cat sits at his kitchen table, holding a conversation with himself. It’s something he does “a lot.” He’d like to have a cup of tea, but wonders who will join him. Philbert, the little mouse under the couch calls up that he would be happy to drink tea with Oliver, but Oliver doesn’t hear him and Philbert is “too shy to come out.” Meanwhile, Oliver is having a tea party with his teddy bear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-paper-airplane

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

“Philbert decides to write Oliver a letter. ‘Dear Oliver, Let’s have tea,’” it reads. Philbert secretly hopes they have cookies too. Now, though, Oliver is cleaning the floor, and Philbert’s letter gets swept back under the couch. While he sweeps, Oliver sings about his lonesomeness, and Philbert tries another tactic. He folds his note into an airplane and shoots it into the air. Instead of floating into Oliver’s field of view, however, it hits him in the back. “Eek! A flea!” Oliver cries. He dances around, scratching and itching and completely misses the note.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-cups-break

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

Philbert is just imagining what to do next when someone knocks on the door. When Oliver opens it, his wild cousin Lester leaps in playing his banjo. Oliver invites him for tea. “I’m throwing a party,” Lester says, “but I guess there could be tea.” Philbert’s ears perk up. He wants to go to this tea party. Feeling brave, Philbert decides to deliver his note to Oliver personally.

It seems Lester’s party is at Oliver’s house, and before Philbert can deliver his letter, the guests start arriving. The guests are too boisterous and bouncy to want tea, and Philbert, wanting to stay out of the way, flattens himself against the floor. “I don’t like this party one bit,” he tells himself. Oliver tries to serve tea to some other guests, but they’re dancing and too busy for tea. From far below, Philbert shouts, “Me! I want tea!” But Oliver doesn’t hear him. Then one guest bumps into Oliver, and his tray of teacups goes flying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-lying-on-floor

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

“The party ends as quickly as it began” as Lester and the other guests depart, leaving Oliver to clean up the shards of china. Oliver lays on the floor, despairing that he’ll “never have tea with anyone now.” He rolls over to see Philbert under the couch. Philbert introduces himself and hands Oliver his letter. Mistaking it for a tissue, Oliver blows his nose in Philbert’s note.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-blowing-nose

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

Philbert alerts Oliver to his error, and contritely Oliver opens the note and reads it. He’s surprised and excited to find that Philbert wants to have tea with him, but then  remembers that he has no more cups. Now it’s Philbert’s turn to be excited – and surprising.”Yes you do!” He runs away and returns pulling a soft cushion holding two of Oliver’s tea cups. “I saved these for you!” Philbert exclaims. “Hooray!” Oliver cheers. “And the new friends sat down to a nice cup of tea.” With cookies.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-tea-party

Copyright Mika Song, 2017, courtesy of mikasongdraws.com.

Mika Song’s sweet story will have little ones giggling as one thing after another goes just a little bit wrong. Many will empathize with Philbert’s predicament as he tries to attract Oliver’s attention and will cheer along with Oliver when he saves two of Oliver’s beloved tea cups and the day. Song’s straightforward tale offers gentle lessons on the true nature of friendship as Philbert watches out for Oliver when others don’t, and the two discover they have a lot in common despite the traditional differences between cats and mice.

Through her delicate ink and watercolor illustrations, Song brings out the adorable natures of Oliver and Philbert, the subtly humorous and slapstick events of the afternoon, the moments of disappointment, and Philbert’s happy surprise that lead to the friend’s cozy tea party. 

Tea with Oliver will charm young readers and would be a cute, often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public libraries. 

Ages 4 – 8 

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062429483

Discover more about Mika Song and her books on her website.

National Hot Tea Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-bag-buddy

Tea Bag Buddy

 

It’s fun to have a tea party with a friend, and this little tea bag buddy is ready to hang out with you!

Supplies

  • Tea bags
  • Poly-fill
  • Permanent markers
  • Needle

Directions

  1. Gently open a tea bag, unfold it, and discard the tea
  2. Remove the string with the tag and set aside
  3. Fill the tea bag with a bit of poly-fill
  4. Thread the string of the tag through the needle
  5. Fold the tea bag back up
  6. Fold the ends of the bag under and sew them closed with the tag string, leaving the tag dangling
  7. With the permanent markers, draw a face on the front of the tea bag

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-with-oliver-cover

You can find Tea with Oliver at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 22 – Get Ready for Winter

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snoozapalooza-cover

About the Holiday

As the weather turns colder and activities move indoors, reading becomes a cozy way to spend time together for all ages. Whether your kids like books that are funny, poignant, suspenseful, or meant to teach about a new or favorite subject, there are books, authors, and illustrators to be discovered or to love again. So settle in for a winter of wonder – starting with today’s book!

Thanks goes to Familius for sending me a copy of Snoozapalooza for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Snoozapalooza

Written by Kimberlee Gard | Illustrated by Vivian Mineker

 

A snowfall has begun, ushering in a long nap for some woodland creatures. Mouse is the first to hide “in a den that’s cozy and small. / Snuggling into a wee-sized heap, / 1 begins snoring and drifts off to sleep.” Soon, little Mouse is joined by even smaller Snail. Pulled into her shell next to Mouse, “they doze and they dream, tucked out of sight, / A snoozapalooza all day and all night.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snoozapalooza-snail

Image copyright Vivian Mineker, 2020, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Also looking for a place to snuggle in for the winter, Mole tunnels under and right up into the cozy den and promptly finds a spot on the other side of Mouse. Next to discover this cuddly winter bed is chipmunk, and then hedgehog accidentally tumbles in head first when she “whirls by, slip-sliding on ice.” Who can pass by an enticing hole without looking in? Certainly not Rabbit! “Snuggling into a rising heap, / Now 6 are snoring—they’re all sound asleep.”

Skunk doesn’t announce herself, but tiptoes in and adds herself to the warm pile. All 7 “doze and they dream, tucked out of sight, / A snoozapalooza all day and all night.” Three more forest animals join in this seasonal sleepover and doze and dream until… there is a “Zzzz sounding ROAR…Rattling clear ‘cross the floor…Rumbling right out the door.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snoozapalooza-skunk

Image copyright Vivian Mineker, 2020, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

As other woodland animals come out to greet the tender green buds and soft grass of spring, they quiver with fright at this horrible noise. Bravely, they go in search of its origin. When they find the den, they wonder how they can stop this “10-animal snore.” Little Wren has an idea and begins to tweet. Soon, the other animals—10 in all—join in singing “‘Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!’” Slowly, Mouse “stretches and yawns” and is joined by his other friends. They’re happy to see spring, but their long nap was so restful that they promise to all come back next year.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snoozapalooza-hedgehog

Image copyright Vivian Mineker, 2020, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Kimberlee Gard’s soothing and humorous story is a dream of a counting book as one-by-one ten woodland animals pile up in a cozy den for their long winter’s sleep. Her lyrical repeating phrases are sweetly lulling while also infused with the giggly fun of a sleepover. As each new animal enters the den and promptly falls asleep, kids will love reading along with the now-familiar two last sentences, especially that word that tickles the tongue: “snoozapalooza.”

Kids will eagerly await who comes next, and Gard delights with the clever ways each animal joins in the growing heap (another tantalizing word not often heard). When spring comes, readers will enjoy counting up to ten again when birds and animals band together to wake the snoozers. The hibernator’s final vow to return next winter adds a warm theme of friendship to this original tale.

Vivian Mineker’s soft-hued illustrations are adorable, downy accompaniments to Gard’s storytelling. As each animal finds shelter in the den, Mineker plays with their sleeping positions as they all snuggle close for maximum warmth. Kids will laugh to find who’s being used as a pillow next and how all of these animals can stack up in such as small space. Each page invites children to count and count again to make sure they’re keeping up with all the new sleepers. Distinctive colors for each animal help younger readers find them all. A two-page spread lets kids see and count all the members of the wake-up crew, while the next page spread allows them to count all of the new friends made in this charming story.

A clever and enchanting book, Snoozapalooza will engage kids on many levels. Not only is it a fun and funny counting book, but it teaches the names of twenty woodland animals and would be a cuddly story to share at bedtime. Snoozapalooza would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641702553

You can find more books from Familius that joyfully reflect the habits of happy families, including reading, talking, laughing, eating, working, loving, healing, learning, and playing together as well as the Familius blog The Habit Hub here.

Discover more about Kimberlee Gard and her books on her website.

To learn more about Vivian Mineker, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Winter Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-buddy-craft

Everyone needs a blanket sometimes to feel cozy and warm! With this craft you can make a blanket for yourself, a stuffed animal, or even a fleecy bed for a pet! Children from ages 5 or 6 and up will enjoy helping to tie the tabs. For younger children, using fabric glue to attach the two pieces of fleece or cutting just one piece of fleece allows them to join in the craft fun.

Supplies

  • 2 pieces of fleece, solid, patterned, or a mix of both
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Fluff or pillow (optional for pet bed)
  • Fabric glue (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-buddy-craft

Directions

  1. Lay out one piece of fleece and measure a size that will make a comfortable blanket for a child or a stuffed animal or is large enough for a pet bed
  2. Add 3 inches to that measurement on each side for the tie tabs
  3. Cut the fleece
  4. Lay out the second piece of fleece and cut it to the same size as the first piece
  5. With both pieces of fleece together cut three-inch long by ½ – ¾-inch wide tabs all along each side. (If using fabric glue omit this step.)
  6. At the corners, four tabs will be cut off on each piece of fleece

To Make a Blanket

  • Tie the top and bottom tabs together on all sides

To Make a Pet Bed

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cat-bed-craft

  1. Tie the tabs together on three sides
  2. Add the fluff or pillow insert
  3. Tie the tabs on the final side

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snoozapalooza-cover

You can find Snoozapalooza at these booksellers

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

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

February 8 – Opera Day

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About the Holiday

Opera has been a favorite art form since its beginnings in Italy in the 1500s. Combining magnificent voices, soaring arias, grand costumes, and dramatic storylines, operas continue to thrill audiences and gain new fans. To celebrate Opera Day today or at a time in the future, enjoy a performance in your area or find one on YouTube and gather your family and friends for an opera party.

I received a copy of Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Rebecca Gerlings

 

Fernando had many loves in his life—including chocolate, cheese, gumdrops, and popcorn—but what he loved most was “feasting on Mozart, Puccini, and Strauss, / and lending a paw at the Old Opera House.” Delores loved nothing more than being in the spotlight, and now she was getting the chance to leave her place in the chorus to “take center stage and be Diva Delores.” She warmed up in her dressing room with “Me-me-me-me!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-dress

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Fernando wanted to give Delores the benefit of all of his years of experience, but she wasn’t having it. A mouse was not a suitable helper for someone as great as she, she thought. At the rehearsal the next day, Delores was a flop, hitting wrong notes, missing her entrance, and the last song? Well…. From the back Fernando called out that he could help. He wrote cues on little cards “and—presto!—Delores knew just what to do.” You’d think Delores would be thankful, but instead she complained that a mouse’s help was just not proper for a diva, and she shooed Fernando away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-fernando

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

The day before her big performance, Delores found that her dress didn’t fit. Again, Fernando rushed to her rescue, but what thanks did he get? Delores grumbled and fussed. “Then grabbing a bottle / of stinky perfume, / she spritzed poor Fernando / right out of the room!” Fernando went home, wanting to quit. But as he looked at his pictures of Mozart, Puccini, and Strauss, he knew that without him the show would fail and that he couldn’t quit now.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-manners

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

First, he went to Delores and laid down the rules: “For starters, I’d like to hear / thank you and please / when I help fix your dress / or bring crackers and cheese.” Delores was startled and quickly said good night. At home she wondered: had she been rude? The next day, Delores was nervous. She tried calming herself with candy and tea. She even looked for Fernando, but he was nowhere to be found.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-wig

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Standing on stage in the glare of the spotlights, “as the orchestra played, / Delores felt faint. / First she swooned… / then she swayed.” When she opened her mouth, no notes, no sound, no song came out. Then inside her wig she saw Fernando, who squeaked “‘You can do it.’” And then Delores did sing “with a voice rich and sweet.” When she forgot some words to her song, Fernando reminded her by tra-la-la-ing along.

The audience loved them. They cheered for Delores; they cheered for Fernando. Later, Delores admitted she could not have done it alone. Then she apologized to Fernando and asked for a fresh start on their friendship. “Of course!” he agreed, and now they bring down the house night after night as “the Opera House team!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-cheering

Image copyright Rebecca Gerlings, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Laura Sassi’s clever and original story about teamwork and sharing the spotlight hits all the right notes in showing how accepting help can elevate anyone’s performance and lead to a new friendship. After playing second fiddle in the chorus, Delores finally gets her chance to shine, but her vanity exceeds her experience. When a tiny mouse offers help from his deep well of knowledge, Delores takes one look at Fernando’s diminutive size and rejects him and his advice. Through her perfect rhymes and musical rhythm, Sassi engages readers in how to graciously learn from another’s experience and encourages the Fernandos out there to keep trying, even when their initial offerings of assistance are rebuffed.

Rebecca Gerlings lends charm and humorous touches to Sassi’s tale, and the promise of the enticing cotton-candy fluff of a wig, introduced in the first pages and teased throughout the story, is comically and satisfyingly fulfilled in the end as Fernando directs Delores to a winning performance from within. Along the way, readers are treated to an octopus piano player, multiple meltdowns as Delores dispatches Fernando from her orbit, and demonstrations of persistence as the little mouse stands up for himself, good manners, and the honor of his beloved opera. 

A smart, fresh, and fun read aloud, Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse has multiple applications for discussing friendship, modesty, respect, and collaboration. The book would make a delightful addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922001

Discover more about Laura Sassi and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rebecca Gerlings, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse Giveaway

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

  • One (1) copy of Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, written by Laura Sassi | illustrated by Rebecca Gerlings

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite kind of music for extra entry

This giveaway is open from February 10 – February 17 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on February 18. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books.

Opera Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-laura-sassi-with-opera-glasses-craft

Sparkly Opera Glasses by Laura Sassi

 

Make a pair of these fancy glasses, then pretend you are at the opera while reading Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse.

Supplies for each pair of opera glasses

  • Two recycled toilet tissue tubes one large craft stick
  • Markers tacky glue
  • Two paper clips assorted fancy embellishments (We used feathers, sparkly gems and snippets of shimmery ribbon, but use whatever you have around the house. Be creative!)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-laura-sassi's-opera-glasses-craft

Directions

  1. Decorate the tissue tubes using markers.
  2. Glue the tubes side by side, as shown. Be sure to insert the craft stick in between so your opera glasses have a handle. Slip a paper clip at each end over the sealed part for extra  pressure while drying.
  3. Use tacky glue to affix whatever fancy embellishments you choose. The more the better!
  4. When dry, elegantly hold your opera glasses up to your eyes and pretend you are watching Diva Delores and Fernando at the opera!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-diva-delores-and-the-opera-house-mouse-cover

You can find Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 24 – Global Belly Laugh Day

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About the Holiday

If there’s one thing that unites us all, it’s laughter. A good belly laugh is good for your soul and your health! Today’s holiday encourages and celebrates smiles, laughs, and all the things that bring us joy. It’s also a day to think about and thank those who share their funny stories, fun times, and laughter with us. So celebrate by spending a happy day with friends, telling jokes, watching a funny movie, and reading hilarious books like today’s, which combines a belly and lots of laughs––a perfect match for the holiday!

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse

Written by Mac Barnett | Illustrated by Jon Klassen

 

Early one morning a mouse came face to face with a wolf, “and he was quickly gobbled up.” The mouse was very elegant in his speech and proclaimed, “‘Oh woe!’… ‘Oh me! Here I am, caught in the belly of the beast. I fear this is the end.’” Imagine his surprise when he heard a not-so-elegant voice tell him to “‘Be quiet!’” because the mouse was disturbing his sleep. The mouse demanded to know who was there.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-mouse-meets-wolf

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Suddenly, the wolf’s belly was illuminated by the flame of a candle, and the mouse saw a duck sitting up in bed. “‘Oh,’” he said. The duck was a bit perturbed by the mouse’s low-key response, especially since he had been wakened in the middle of the night. Now, though, it was the duck’s turn to be surprised as the mouse told him that it was not the  middle of the night outside, but only morning. The duck admitted that he wished “this belly had a window or two,” and then graciously offered to make breakfast.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-breakfast

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The mouse declared the breakfast “‘delicious,’” and inquired where the duck found jam and a tablecloth. He may also have been curious about the dishware, the bread, and even the table, chairs, and framed picture, but he was satisfied with the duck’s answer that “‘you’d be surprised what you find inside of a wolf.’” As the duck continued to talk about his home, the mouse was astonished to learn that the duck lived there. “‘I live well!’” the duck said and went on to explain: “‘I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten.’”

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-lunch

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Making lunch was a joint effort, and when the mouse asked if the duck missed living outside, he emphatically stated, “‘I do not!’” It seemed that when he was outside, the duck was full of the fear of being eaten. Inside, he was free of that worry. The mouse considered the wisdom of this notion and asked if he could live there too. The duck agreed and then played a record and danced a celebratory jig.

All this commotion was making the wolf feel sick. He attributed his aches and pains to something he ate. The duck was no doctor, but he was clever. He shouted up from the depths of the wolf’s belly and gave him “the cure.” According to the duck, ingesting “‘a hunk of good cheese…a flagon of wine…and some beeswax candles’” would do the trick and make him better.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-duck-outside

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

That night the mouse and the duck ate like kings and toasted the wolf’s good health. But the wolf was not feeling robust. In fact, he felt worse. A passing hunter heard the wolf groaning. He raised his gun and pulled the trigger, but he missed. Realizing what the blast meant, the duck yelled for the wolf to “‘run for our lives!’” In trying to escape, however, the wolf got tangled in the roots of an old tree.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-dinner

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The duck and the mouse determined that that very night they would “‘ride to defend [their] home.’” When they were ready, the wolf opened his mouth, and the mouse and duck—armed with a hockey stick, protected with sauce pan and colander helmets, and yelling “‘Charge!’”—flew out and chased the hunter. “‘Oh woe!’” he cried. “‘Oh death! These woods are full of evil and wraiths!’” He ran and ran until he left the forest, and he never returned.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-hunter

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The wolf was humbled by the sacrifice the mouse and the duck had made for him and offered to grant any request. “You can guess what they asked for.” And while they continue to dance the never-ending night away, “the wolf howls at the moon. ‘Oh woe! Oh woe!’ Every night he howls at the moon.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-charge

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Remember when the Big Bad Wolf gobbled up Granny and Little Red Riding Hood and they survived in his belly until the huntsman cut them out? How was that possible? Mac Barnett reveals the inner workings of this conundrum in this laugh-out-loud fable. The archaic, melodramatic dialog will have readers giggling and participating aloud, as they have to agree with the ingenious duck’s “when life gives you lemons…” philosophy. It’s a good attitude to adopt as we all “get swallowed up” at some point. The trick is learning how to turn misfortune into fortune—or at least a fortunate happenstance. The suitably silly, non-sentimental circumstances will delight kids who relish a bit of the macabre—and, really, who doesn’t?

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-the-wolf-the-duck-and-the-mouse-hunter-runs

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jon Klassen brings his signature deadpan style to this funny story, enhancing the humor with his matter-of-fact drawings that let the scenes speak eloquently and humorously for themselves. As the recently gobbled-up mouse sits gazing forlornly into the wolf’s cavernous belly, readers will experience a tickle of suspense imagining what else lies within. When kids see the stash of good stuff the duck has amassed, their little eyes will grow wide with delight. This amusingly dark tale is fittingly lit with candlelight, the errant blast of the hunter’s gun, and the full moon that hears the wolf’s lament. 

Put the The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse on your bookshelf and it won’t stay idle long. For quirky, comical home, classroom, and library story times this book can’t be eat…I mean beat.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763677541

Discover more about Mac Barnett and his books on his website.

You’ll find a gallery of illustration work by Jon Klassen on tumblr.

You know you want to gobble up this The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse book trailer! 

Global Belly Laugh Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-made-you-laugh-word-search

Made You Laugh! Word Search Puzzle

 

Humor and laughing are such a part of our lives that there are lots of words for this universal emotion. Can you find all the words for laughter in this printable puzzle?

Made You Laugh! Word Search PuzzleMade You Laugh! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review