November 20 – Get Ready for Christmas

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-cover

About the Holiday

There’s nothing better to get kids in the spirit of Christmas than by sharing holiday stories both old and new. Packed with all the excitement and anticipation of the season, Christmas books offer humor, tradition, inspiration, and new perspectives on this favorite holiday. Stuff your stockings with pre-Christmas reads, and don’t forget that books make the perfect present for all ages!

Thank you to Flyaway Books for sending me a copy of The Worst Christmas Ever for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

The Worst Christmas Ever

Written by Kathleen Long Bostrom | Illustrated by Guy Porfirio

 

One spring day Matthew and Lucy’s dad came home from work and announced that the family would be moving to California. Lucy was excited, but her big brother was less than enthusiastic. Their mom thought it would be an adventure. That night in bed, Matthew’s dog Jasper licked his tears away. Before they knew it, spring had turned to fall and the moving van was being loaded up. “Matthew watched his life being packed away.”

In California everything was different, from school to church to nature—where the leaves stayed green and flowers bloomed even in the winter. He missed the fun he and Jasper used to have playing in the autumn leaves. Soon, even though it didn’t feel like it, it was almost Christmas and time to get the tree. Mom thought that would get them all in the spirit of the holiday.

But “Matthew muttered, ‘No snow. Worst Christmas ever. It’ll take a miracle to make it feel like Christmas.’” Lucy wanted to know what a miracle was. Matthew told her but was sure they wouldn’t find one there. “‘Oh, yes, I will!’ said Lucy. ‘I’ll find the miracle!’” At the Christmas tree lot—which was a far cry from the tree farm Matthew loved—there were plenty of trees to choose from, but they felt “prickly and dry,” and some were colored pink, purple, or blue with fake snow. Lucy wanted a pink one, but Dad stuck with green.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-tree-shopping

Image copyright Guy Porfirio, 2019, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2019. Courtesy of Flyaway Books.

Back home, Lucy dived under her bed. She was looking for a miracle, she said. Matthew was skeptical, but “he smiled, just a little.” On the Sunday before Christmas, the pastor at church asked for a volunteer family to play the holy family in the outdoor nativity. Dad raised his hand and “Lucy jumped up and down” and offered her doll Gabriela to play baby Jesus. Matthew tried to hide behind the hymn book.

Three days before Christmas Eve, while Matthew and Jasper were at the park, Jasper chased after a squirrel and then seemed to vanish. Matthew rushed home, sobbing. Although the family searched for hours, they couldn’t find Jasper. The next day they handed out flyers and called the shelters, but no one had seen him. On Christmas Eve, Matthew couldn’t get excited about decorating the tree, and Lucy’s constant singing of “Away in a Manger” didn’t help either.

As he participated in the Christmas Eve service, Matthew’s “heart ached for Jasper, lost somewhere in that terribly silent night.” During the last song, Matthew and his family slipped out, put on their costumes and walked to the stable on the church lawn. Lucy put her doll in the manger. As the congregation sang carols in the misty night, Matthew thought he could almost feel the snow he’d left behind.

Suddenly, Lucy shouted, “‘Look!’” The pile of hay was moving! Lucy thought Gabriela had come to life. “‘It’s the Christmas miracle!’” she said. Matthew “lifted the wriggling blanket in the manger and gasped.” It was Jasper, who’d been sleeping deep in the hay. “‘It is a miracle! You found your way…home,’” Matthew exclaimed. And with that he looked around and realized that this was home and this was the “‘best Christmas ever’” because it “had come, right in the middle of Matthew’s feeling lost in the world. Just as it had come that first Christmas, long ago. Ready or not.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-singing

Image copyright Guy Porfirio, 2019, text copyright Kathleen Long Bostrom, 2019. Courtesy of Flyaway Books.

Kathleen Long Bostrom’s emotional Christmas story captures feelings of loss and sadness children feel when life changes or unexpected misfortunes occur. Framed by Christmas, a time of magic, good memories, and miracles, Bostrom’s story offers hope for new perspectives and rediscovered happiness. Through Matthew and his younger sister, Lucy, Bostrom creates realistic portraits of children that will resonate with readers. Her detailed storytelling, rich with dialogue and sprinkled with humor, will charm kids. Matthew’s friendship with Jasper is a highlight, and Jasper’s running off sets up suspense and the joyful ending. The story has particular resonance this year when beloved traditions may change, families may not gather as usual, and the holidays may take on a different feel. Reading the book with children can help them discuss their feelings and find new ways to share the Christmas spirit.

Guy Porfirio’s vivid illustrations shine with realistic action and are especially effective in depicting Matthew’s and Lucy’s emotions and different reactions to moving, a warm-weather Christmas, and looking for the Christmas miracle. Matthew’s close relationship with his dog is sweetly portrayed, and his sadness is evident even as he goes about the traditional Christmas Eve activities. Alert readers may notice the hint of Jasper’s black-and-white tail mixed in with the hay as the family walks across the church lawn to take their places in the stable, letting them experience the giddy excitement of Christmas Eve discovery and also rejoice with Matthew when Jasper is found.

A poignant story that inspires children to look for the promise of Christmas in surprising places and all year long, The Worst Christmas Ever would be a favorite seasonal read aloud that would be asked for throughout the year as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Flyaway Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1947888098

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

You can connect with Guy Porfirio on Twitter.

Get Ready for Christmas Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-craft-cover

Mini Accordion Book

 

With this craft you can make a little book for your own writing, pictures, or stickers. With a holiday-themed cover, you can use it as an advent calendar or holiday wish list. This little book would also make a fun gift to make for your friends.

Supplies

  • 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper – single or double sided
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or a page of the child’s own writing or drawing
  • Cardboard
  • Stickers, pictures
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mini-book-pages

Directions

  1. Draw a 3-inch border around the edge of the 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper. This will make a 6-inch square in the center of the paper
  2. Draw a line from the top of the paper to meet the left edge of the 6-inch square. The line will be 3 inches from the left side of the paper.
  3. Draw a 3-inch line from the top center of the 6-inch square to the center of the square

IMG_7695

To Cut the Paper

  1. Beginning with the line at the top of the piece of paper, cut down the left edge of the 6-inch square.
  2. Cut across the bottom of the square.
  3. Cut up the right side of the square
  4. Cut across the top of the square to the line in the center.
  5. Cut down the 3-inch center line to the middle of the square

To Fold the Pages

  1. Draw light or dotted lines every 3 inches along the strip of paper
  2. Starting at the top of the strip, fold the paper on the lines accordion style.
  3. Make the first fold by folding the first 3-inch section down towards you.
  4. Fold the second 3-inch section back away from you
  5. Continue folding the 3-inch sections down and back until the strip is entirely folded

To Make the Cover

  1. Cut two 3 ½ -inch squares from the cardboard
  2. Cut two 4 ½-inch squares of from the decorative paper, wrapping paper, or child’s writing or drawing
  3. Cover the cardboard with the paper, folding the excess paper over the edges and securing with glue

To Assemble the Book

  1. With the strip of paper completely folded, glue one cover to the top 3-inch square
  2. Glue the second cover to the end 3-inch square

Fill the book with writing, drawings, stickers, whatever!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-worst-christmas-ever-cover

You can find The Worst Christmas Ever at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

July 13 – Go West Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-southwest-sunrise-cover

About the Holiday

On this date in 1865, Horace Greeley, a writer and editor of the New-York Daily Tribune, is purported to have stated, “Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.” He was, supposedly, reacting to the adverse living conditions he found in his own city and echoing the sentiments of many, who did pack up their family and all of their possessions and begin the long, arduous trek across the country to find a better life. Those intrepid souls expanded our nation, and the idea to “go west” is now synonymous with a certain determination, bravery, and sense of adventure.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing Southwest Sunrise with me for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own. 

Southwest Sunrise

Written by Nikki Grimes | Illustrated by Wendell Minor

 

Jayden mopes all the way from New York to New Mexico, upset about moving from his beloved city to “a place of shadows.” Shadows and drabness are all he sees when he gets off the plane. In the morning, though, he wakes up “to a knife of sunlight slicing through” his room. Here, his window doesn’t have bars, and the view is of a “mountain striped in rainbow.” Jayden is surprised; he didn’t know that was there.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-southwest-sunrise-moving

Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

A string of chili peppers brightens the kitchen. Jayden isn’t optimistic that he’ll see any other colors in his new desert surroundings. His mom gives him a field guide to New Mexico at breakfast, and as he pages through it he doesn’t really think he’ll find any of the colorful flowers inside. But then, as he looks around, he spies the burgundy wine-cup and yellow bells that “wake up the desert with their silent ring.” He finds more flowers from the book that add red and purple to the landscape.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-southwest-sunrise-firewheel-flowers

Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Jayden walks on, farther away from his new house. The unfamiliar silence is broken by “the mad chatter of winged gossips passing secrets” from one piñon tree to another. He watches the long-tailed magpies swoop through the “deep waves of turquoise overhead” and wonders why he never saw so much sky in New York. Still, he misses looking up and seeing the grandeur of the skyscrapers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-southwest-sunrise-magpies

Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Looking down again, Jayden finds a striped lizard that seems happy to run along his hand, tickle his fingers. Instead of seashells, he finds bones and an abandoned turtle shell. “What stories do they have to tell?” he wonders. He continues his walk and, upon turning the corner, finds himself in the shadow of a different kind of skyscraper—rugged, red, and rocky. On the air, Jayden hears his mom calling. He picks some flowers the colors of sunset to take home to her. He waves as he nears the house and sees her standing on the porch and flashes her “the first smile she’s seen since New York.” He thinks that maybe New Mexico can be Home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-southwest-sunrise-mom

Image copyright Wendell Minor, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Nikki Grimes’ lyrical story is in plot a tale about moving from one part of the country to another, but in spirit it is a invitation for children and adults alike to open their heart to new experiences, to find the beauty in the unfamiliar and the joy in the unexpected. As Jayden journeys from New York to New Mexico and then around his new environment, Grimes explores honest emotions—the disappointment and anger change can bring, the preconceived ideas about the unknown that can color feelings and actions, and even that moment when a person can reject or accept the new circumstance or opportunity. As a poet, Grimes excels at the perfectly chosen detail and sublime description. Here, her words put readers in the spotlight of New Mexico’s laser sun, let them feel the skittering feet of a lizard, meet a haughty raven, and bask in the rainbow of colors Jayden never expected he’d see. His final smile and resolve to give his new city a chance fulfills the new dawning inherent in the title and is uplifting encouragement for all.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-southwest-sunrise-flowers

Slouched down in his airplane seat, baseball cap pulled low over his eyes, Wendell Minor’s Jayden is a picture of despondency. But things begin to look brighter when, in the morning, he notices the mountains and colors he missed the night before. Minor’s sun-washed illustrations allow readers to discover the beauty of the New Mexico desert along with Jayden. His new home is light and open, with a timbered ceiling and windows free of the bars he’s used to. Minor’s use of perspective allows children to view sweeping vistas of the desert landscape as well as images of some of the creatures found there. Putting the raven front and center gives kids an idea of the size and attitude of this striking bird. Fiery reds and oranges, vivid yellows, pinks, and purples, and glorious blues punctuate the sandy backdrop as Jayden’s thoughtful expressions depict his growing appreciation for his new home.

An exquisite book for any child, whether they are moving to a new home, exploring new experiences, or keen observers of their surroundings, Southwest Sunrise would be a joyful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547600823

Discover more about Nikki Grimes  and her books as well as educator guides and resources on her website.

To learn more about Wendell Minor, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Go West Day Activity

Screen Shot 2020-07-11 at 9.36.56 PM

Beautiful Desert Coloring Pages

 

The desert has plants, animals, and landmarks seen nowhere else. Grab your crayons or pencils and give these two printable scenes some of its unique color.

Curious Rabbit Desert Scene | Western Sun Desert Scene

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-southwest-sunrise-cover

You can find Southwest Sunrise at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 14 – International Book Giving Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birdsong-cover

About the Holiday

International Book Giving Day was established by Amy Broadmoore and her son and is now celebrated in more than 44 countries. The idea behind the holiday is for people to buy, share, and donate books so that all children can have access to books and know the pleasure and educational benefits of reading. To learn more about today’s holiday, visit the International Book Giving Day website.  You’ll also discover the names of literacy organizations in your country, find tips on ways to get involved, and find bookmarks and bookplates to download. Today, of course, is also Valentine’s Day, and along with the hugs, candy, cards, and fun, giving a book is a wonderful way to show your child how much you love them.

I received a copy of Birdsong from Greystone Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Birdsong

By Julie Flett

 

On a rainy, gloomy day a little girl, Katherena, and her mother pack up their last belongings for a move from their house in a seaside city to the country. Katherena thinks about all the friends and relatives she’ll miss. She thinks about how she’ll miss her “bedroom window and the tree outside. ‘Goodbye, tree friend,” she whispers. They drive past fields and over mountains, stopping to watch a coyote cross the road.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birdsong-driving

Copyright Julie Flett, 2019, courtesy of Greystone Books.

Their new home crowns a hill that overlooks a field now dotted with snowdrops. Two trees stand nearby. Inside, Katherena climbs the creaky stairs to her room. She places books, a toy whale, and her drawing supplies on the shelf next to the window and above a small desk “for drawing.” Now, though, her hands are cold and she doesn’t feel like drawing. That night she and her mom “bundle up together under the covers in [their] new home in the country, far from the sea.”

Summer comes and Katherena sits under a tree listening to the “peeps and whistles and ribbits and chirps” and watching her neighbor Agnes working in her yard. Katherena’s mother encourages her to go over and meet her. Katherena takes their dog Ôhô, which “means owl in Cree,” and says hello to Agnes. Agnes has heard a lot about Katherena from her mother––especially that she likes to draw. Agnes makes things out of clay, and as she shows Katherena around, Katherena admires the objects she’s made. “They look like the branches and birds and flowers.” After her visit, Katherena is excited to go home and draw.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birdsong-creaky-stairs

Copyright Julie Flett, 2019, courtesy of Greystone Books.

Throughout the fall, Katherena visits Agnes again and again, helping her with her garden. The weather is turning “cold and windy and creaky. Agnes says she’s getting creaky too.” One day Agnes shows Katherena a round pot she is working on. She talks about the phases of the moon, and Katherena tells her about Cree seasons and that “this month is called pimihâwipîsim—the migrating moon.”

In the winter Ôhô enjoys his first snow, tobogganing with Katherena until they’re both soaked through. Later, Katherena warms up near the fireplace and helps her mother make salmon stew for Agnes. Agnes’s daughter has come to help her mother during the winter. In exchange for the stew, Agnes gives Katherena snowdrop bulbs to plant next fall. Katherena thinks “they look like tiny moons,” which gives her ideas for more drawings.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birdsong-new-home

Copyright Julie Flett, 2019, courtesy of Greystone Books.

Spring finds Agnes weaker, and Katherena sits on the end of her bed as they listen to the birds singing in the trees and “the tickle of the branches against her window.” When the snowdrops begin to bloom, Katherena wishes Agnes could see them. Suddenly, she has an idea. She gets her drawings from home and with Agnes’s daughter’s help, she papers the walls of Agnes’s room with her drawings of birds, trees, flowers, and other things from nature. Gazing at the walls, “Agnes says it’s like a poem for her heart.”

For the rest of the day, Katherena and Agnes “talk about making things” and sit together in happy silence “until it’s time to say goodbye.” Katherena’s heart is heavy, but she feels fortunate to know Agnes. Later that night, ayîkipîsim, the frog moon, is full.” Her mom and she snuggle up together under the soft blankets. Her hands are warm, and she falls asleep thinking about her friend.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birdsong-meeting-agnus

Copyright Julie Flett, 2019, courtesy of Greystone Books.

Quiet and deep, Julie Flett’s story of a little girl who moves from the city home she knows and loves to a house in the country, where she meets a kindred spirit touches the heart. Generosity, friendship, and acceptance flow through each page as Katherena learns to embrace her new home, a mentoring friend, and the seasons of life. Our connection to the natural world is beautifully represented in Katherena’s drawings, Agnes’s pottery, and the pair’s gardening. Their intergenerational relationship, forged through proximity and similar talents is profound in its calm comfort and heartening love as they teach each other new ways of understanding life—Agnes from her long years of experience and Katherena through her heritage and the lovely Cree words and ideas she shares with her friend.

Simple, earthy details—a coyote on the road, mulch and worms in the garden bed, salmon stew, snowdrops in a field, the phases of the moon—root the story in the common and surprising moments in life that unite us all. Katherena’s mother and Agnes’s daughter provide comforting emotional and physical support while hinting at another cyclical aspect of life.

Flett’s textured illustrations, in soft, muted earth tones, capture the mood, the emotions, and the seasons with a fresh yet traditional feeling that reveals and reflects the story’s themes. The two-page spreads that introduce Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring again are minimalistic beauties that give readers a moment of reflection before moving on—much like transitional weeks between seasons.

A story that children and adults will take into their hearts, Birdsong belongs on all home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

Greystone Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1771644730

To learn more about Julie Flett, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Book Giving Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-international-book-giving-day-book-plate

Image by Sanne Dufft for International Book Giving Day 2020.

International Book Giving Day Bookmark and Bookplate

 

Celebrate today’s holiday with these book accessories that you can add along with any book you give a child.

International Book Giving Day Bookmark| International Book Giving Day Bookplate

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birdsong-cover

You can find Birdsong at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 21 – It’s National Moving Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-Cover

About the Holiday

Summertime is a natural choice for those moving to a new city, town, or even country. If there are children in the family, the school break provides time for everyone to get to know their new neighborhood before starting school in the fall. Warm, more predictable weather also helps make a move go more smoothly. There are also a lot of online and personal services to answer your moving questions. To welcome newcomers to your neighborhood, introduce yourself and perhaps put together a basket of items to help them acclimate themselves to their new home.

Bruce’s Big Move

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Oh no! Is that a For Sale sign outside Bruce’s home? You know, the hillside abode with the yard littered with toys, games, and an old hat? What’s going on? Well, let’s turn the page and find out!

If you don’t know already, “Bruce was a bear who lived with four geese because he was their mother (just go with it and check out Mother Bruce). He also shared space with three mice “because they would not leave” (maybe, but weren’t they kind of invited? For the answer to that you’ll want to check into Hotel Bruce). Mice, it seems make themselves very much at home—in every square inch of every room. You wouldn’t believe the mess! (Or what a generous Mom Bruce is!). 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bruce's-big-move-playroom

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

As you might imagine “Bruce’s house was crowded, chaotic, and loud,” and it all made Bruce very grumpy. Bruce thought and pondered over how he could get rid of those mice. He tried plan after plan, but none of them were successful. Those crafty mice just turned everything on it’s head. For instance, when Bruce told them to get “Out,” they appreciated his concern that they “get some fresh air.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bruce's-big-move-motorcycle

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017. Courtesy of Disney Hyperion.

There was only one thing to do. Bruce packed up his belongings, settled his four kids in the sidecar, and moved away. “Finding a new house for a mother bear and his four geese can be difficult.” The tree-top nest was too shaky, the submerged shipwreck was too wet, and the new construction by turtle builders was too behind schedule. Eventually, Bruce found the perfect home on the edge of a lake and surrounded by meadows. It even came with plenty of friendly neighbors (well, no house is perfect-perfect).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bruce's-big-move-cabin

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

The greatest thing about this house, though? No mice! Bruce felt so happy, he smiled. Yeah, really…didn’t you see it? The geese, though, were not so happy. They stood around with sad eyes and dejected postures. “Bruce tried cheering them up . . . .” He flew a kite, took them to the beach, and took them to art class. Even Bruce’s biggest smile . . . um . . . grimace?. . . no, smile—definitely a smile . . . could distract his kids from missing the mice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bruce's-big-move-new-house

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017. Courtesy of Disney Hyperion.

But then “the moving van arrived” with some very familiar-looking movers. In fact, these little guys were ready to move in! So, the geese were happy, and the mice were happy. But Bruce? Not so much. The housewarming party was a fantastic success. All the woodland animals came, and “Bruce’s house was once again crowded, chaotic, and loud.” And even though “Bruce didn’t like it one bit,” he had to admit “it felt like home.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bruce's-big-move-tea

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Ryan T. Higgins’ is the perfect dad/mom/writer/drawer for the curmudgeonly charming Bruce, nudging his creation into a new and hilarious situation in this third installment of his beloved Bruce books. As Bruce tries to gain one moment of peace, kids will giggle and laugh out loud at the antics of the pesky mice who cannonball into Bruce’s bubble bath, soak in his cup of tea, and turn his house into a shambles of stuff. When Bruce finally packs up and moves out, readers can’t really begrudge Bruce his quiet time, but they’ll cheer to see those wily mice back on the scene.

With his flair for gleeful chaos and flawlessly expressive faces. Higgin’s creates a family atmosphere any reader can relate to. Bruce may look grumpy, but as he gazes into the sweet, innocent eyes of his geese and takes full measure of those high-spirited mice, astute readers know that behind that frown lies a soft heart. Kids will love watching Bruce and the geese ride his old-fashioned motorcycle, meeting a new cast of characters, and basking in Bruce’s pearly-white smile. When the story and art come full circle in the tender ending, readers will be happy to have Bruce in their neighborhood.

Bruce’s Big Move is an enchanting and funny story on its own and a very worthy addition to the series. Whether you’re already a Bruce fan or just becoming one, the book is a fantastic addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1368003544

Get movin’ and watch this Bruce’s Big Move book trailer!

National Moving Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-foam-travel-suitcase

Travel Memories Portfolio

 

If you’re moving or traveling this summer, use this handy, easy-to-make portfolio to keep postcards, pictures, and other memorabilia from your traveling or sightseeing trips.

Supplies

  • 12-inch x 18-inch foam sheet in brown or your favorite color (or use a manila folder)
  • Stiff decorative scrapbook paper or single-color paper
  • Stickers, buttons, or scrapbooking decorations 
  • Foam or craft glue

Directions

To Make the Travel Bag

  1. Fold the foam sheet in half
  2. Glue along each edge, leave the top open
  3. Decorate the bag with the stickers 

To Make the Handles

  1. Cut two 1-inch x 10-inch strips from the scrapbook or other paper
  2. Three inches from the right end of the each strip, make a triangular fold
  3. Three inches from the left end of each strip, make a triangular fold
  4. Glue one handle on each side at the top of the bag

Picture Book Review

January 12 – It’s International Creativity Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-neville-cover

About the Holiday

Are you an artist, a writer, a decorator, a chef? How about a floral arranger, a woodworker, a fashion designer, or a gardener? Inside almost every heart lies a desire to create. Whether you use your ingenuity in your job or as an escape from the routine, this month celebrates all that is innovative. Sometimes this comes not in something you can see or touch but in a new thought or novel way of solving a problem—as seen in today’s book!

Neville

Written by Norton Juster | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

A little boy stands on the sidewalk alongside his belongings and watches the moving van drive out of sight. “Now it was quiet, and there he was, where he really didn’t want to be.” It wasn’t as if anyone had consulted him about moving. He did not look forward to the next day at school with a new teacher and no friends. The boy sat dejectedly on his new front steps. His mom came out and sat with him. “‘Maybe you’d like to take a little walk down the block. You might even meet someone,’” she said.

The boy grumbled but got up and headed down the street, skeptical of meeting new friends that easily. As he walked, he looked around without much interest. “But then he stopped. He turned around slowly, put his head back, took a deep breath, and called out, NEVILLE….” When nothing happened, he tried it again, louder. “NEVILLE.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-neville-new-house

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2011, text copyright Norton Juster, 2011. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Suddenly, a boy about his age was standing next to him saying he should yell louder. He did, but the newcomer still didn’t think it was loud enough. He joined in and the two shouted, “but not very together.” A little girl appeared to tell them that no one could understand the overlapping words. Then “she raised her arms, counted to three and brought them down like a conductor. They all shouted at exactly the same time.”

Pretty soon kids were coming from all over the neighborhood. Many already knew the name and were shouting it before they even reached the group. They didn’t all yell together, but it was fun trying anyway. During a break in the yelling, one child said, “‘Hey, I don’t know anyone named Neville who lives around here. Is he new?’” The boy spoke up, “‘I guess so. Everyone has to be new sometimes, don’t they?’” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-neville-group-of-kids

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2011, text copyright Norton Juster, 2011. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The other kids wondered if Neville was a friend of the boy’s. He admitted that he was probably his best friend. One little girl thought the boy had to be pretty special if Neville liked him so much. And just like that everyone wanted to know more about Neville. They asked the boy question after question. “‘I like Neville already!’” someone cried out.” The group even broke up as some kids went to find Neville on the next block. By this time, adults were taking notice too. It was getting time to go home, and one by one the kids left, but only after a promise that they could continue looking for Neville tomorrow. The boy promised to be there, and everyone walked and skipped away happily.

As he watched them go, the boy listened to their conversations. Their voices floated toward him, saying “I hope we find Neville…. Even if we don’t, I like his friend a lot…. Maybe better!… Hey, what was his name?… Oh, we’ll have to ask hi tomorrow.” He started back to his new house, waving to one of the kids he’d met on his way.

When he reached his front door, he took a long look at his house. “‘Not so bad,’ he had to admit.” He ate dinner and got ready for bed. His mom tucked him in and whispered, “‘Good night, Neville, pleasant dreams…. ‘Good night, Mom,’ he whispered back, an in a moment he was asleep.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-neville-special

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2011, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With perfect pitch and a timeless charm, Norton Juster presents a clever “new-kid-on-the-block” story that will enchant readers. The boy’s feelings on moving day are honestly portrayed and sprinkled with humor, and as he trudges down the street in search of new friends, children will be rooting for him. The boy’s creative method of attracting attention offers camaraderie and suspense in equal measure. The inclusive questions and comments from the neighborhood kids are touching, reassuring readers that Neville will fit in just fine.

As the story opens, G. Brian Karas presents Neville’s house and neighborhood in gray-scale tones. Only his belongings and the family car have color. At the encouragement of his mother, Neville walks off down the piano keyboard of a sidewalk toward a horizon of nothingness. The first attempts at calling “Neville” are gray and blue, but suddenly another child comes by, and the grass begins to turn green and the name becomes purple-and-blue plaid. When the little girl enters the scene, Neville (both the name and the boy) shine brighter and the atmosphere turns spring-like.

When kids from all over join up, they bring with them a riot of color in their unique clothing and the voices. The image showing the kids on the grass, peppering Neville with questions is heartening, and as the children head home, the scene pans out to show the diverse neighborhood in full color. Even Neville’s house is painted and has a flower basket hanging out front. His bed is cozy, moonbeams shine through the window, and sweet dreams are close at hand.

Neville is a terrific book for kids experiencing a move to a new home or school, joining a new group, or who love a clever and humorous story. It would make a fun read-aloud for home or the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2011 | ISBN 978-0375867651

Creativity Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-name-organizer-jar

Personalized Organizing Jar

 

With your own creativity you can make a personalized organizer jar that looks cool on your desk while keeping things tidy.

Supplies

  • Wide-mouth plastic jar, like a peanut butter jar
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-name-organizer-jar

Directions

  1. With the chalkboard paint, paint a shape to write your name in
  2. With the acrylic paint, make a border around the chalkboard shape or get more creative—make a roaring dinosaur, for example!
  3. When the paint dries, add your name with the chalk
  4. Add your favorite pens, pencils, markers, bookmarks, stickers, and other supplies

Picture Book Review

 

October 19 – Evaluate Your Life Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-Cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to take stock of their lives and decide if they are on their chosen path. With so much going on, days, weeks, months—even years—can fly by, and before you know it, you’re somewhere you don’t want to be. Stopping along the way once in a while to reevaluate all the parts of your life—education, job, home, finances, and social connections—can help you see where improvements can be made so you can accomplish your goals. Sometimes, though, making changes reveals that you were on the right track all along—as today’s book shows.

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of Bruce’s Big Move to check out, and is partnering with me for a giveaway! All opinions are my own.

Bruce’s Big Move

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Oh no! Is that a For Sale sign outside Bruce’s home? You know, the hillside abode with the yard littered with toys, games, and an old hat? What’s going on? Well, let’s turn the page and find out!

If you don’t know already, “Bruce was a bear who lived with four geese because he was their mother (just go with it and check out Mother Bruce). He also shared space with three mice “because they would not leave” (maybe, but weren’t they kind of invited? For the answer to that you’ll want to check into Hotel Bruce). Mice, it seems make themselves very much at home—in every square inch of every room. You wouldn’t believe the mess! (Or what a generous Mom Bruce is!). 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-messy-house
Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

As you might imagine “Bruce’s house was crowded, chaotic, and loud,” and it all made Bruce very grumpy. Bruce thought and pondered over how he could get rid of those mice. He tried plan after plan, but none of them were successful. Those crafty mice just turned everything on it’s head. For instance, when Bruce told them to get “Out,” they appreciated his concern that they “get some fresh air.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-tea-cup

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

There was only one thing to do. Bruce packed up his belongings, settled his four kids in the sidecar, and moved away. “Finding a new house for a mother bear and his four geese can be difficult.” The tree-top nest was too shaky, the submerged shipwreck was too wet, and the new construction by turtle builders was too behind schedule. Eventually, Bruce found the perfect home on the edge of a lake and surrounded by meadows. It even came with plenty of friendly neighbors (well, no house is perfect-perfect).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-moving-away

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

The greatest thing about this house, though? No mice! Bruce felt so happy, he smiled. Yeah, really…didn’t you see it? The geese, though, were not so happy. They stood around with sad eyes and dejected postures. “Bruce tried cheering them up . . . .” He flew a kite, took them to the beach, and took them to art class. Even Bruce’s biggest smile . . . um . . . grimace?. . . no, smile—definitely a smile . . . could distract his kids from missing the mice.

But then “the moving van arrived” with some very familiar-looking movers. In fact, these little guys were ready to move in! So, the geese were happy, and the mice were happy. But Bruce? Not so much. The housewarming party was a fantastic success. All the woodland animals came, and “Bruce’s house was once again crowded, chaotic, and loud.” And even though “Bruce didn’t like it one bit,” he had to admit “it felt like home.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-moving-in

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Ryan T. Higgins’ is the perfect dad/mom/writer/drawer for the curmudgeonly charming Bruce, nudging his creation into a new and hilarious situation in this third installment of his beloved Bruce books. As Bruce tries to gain one moment of peace, kids will giggle and laugh out loud at the antics of the pesky mice who cannonball into Bruce’s bubble bath, soak in his cup of tea, and turn his house into a shambles of stuff. When Bruce finally packs up and moves out, readers can’t really begrudge Bruce his quiet time, but they’ll cheer to see those wily mice back on the scene.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bruces-Big-Move-new-house

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

With his flair for gleeful chaos and flawlessly expressive faces. Higgin’s creates a family atmosphere any reader can relate to. Bruce may look grumpy, but as he gazes into the sweet, innocent eyes of his geese and takes full measure of those high-spirited mice, astute readers know that behind that frown lies a soft heart. Kids will love watching Bruce and the geese ride his old-fashioned motorcycle, meeting a new cast of characters, and basking in Bruce’s pearly-white smile. When the story and art come full circle in the tender ending, readers will be happy to have Bruce in their neighborhood.

Bruce’s Big Move is an enchanting and funny story on its own and a very worthy addition to the series. Whether you’re already a Bruce fan or just becoming one, the book is a fantastic addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Disney-Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1368003544

Get movin’ and watch this Bruce’s Big Move book trailer!

Connect with Disney-Hyperion:

Visit Books.Disney.com

Follow Disney-Hyperion on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

#BrucesBigMove #FollowBruce

About the Author

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Ryan-T-Higgins

Ryan T. Higgins (ryanthiggins.com) is an author and illustrator who likes the outdoors and cheese sandwiches. He is NOT a grumpy old black bear, but he DOES like making books about one—starting with the best-selling Mother Bruce, which received the E. B. White Read-Aloud Award and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor. He lives in Maine with his wife and kids… and too many pets.

Evaluate Your Life Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-suitcase-craft

Put Your Life Together Pack

 

Sometimes life feels a little like a jigsaw puzzle—there are so many pieces that have to fit together! With this handy travel bag, you can keep track of all the things you’d like to do and see how they work together to help you achieve your goals.

Supplies

  • 12-inch x 18-inch foam sheet in brown or your favorite color (or use a manila folder)
  • Stiff decorative scrapbook or single-color paper
  • Stickers (optional)
  • Cardboard jigsaw puzzle, available at craft stores
  • Foam or craft glue
  • Markers or pen

Directions

To Make the Travel Bag

  1. Fold the foam sheet in half
  2. Glue along each edge, leave the top open

To Make the Handles

  1. Cut two 1-inch x 10-inch strips from the scrapbook or other paper
  2. Three inches from the right end of the each strip, make a triangular fold
  3. Three inches from the left end of each strip, make a triangular fold
  4. Glue one handle on each side at the top of the bag
  5. Decorate the bag with the stickers (optional)

To Make the Puzzle

  1. On each puzzle piece write
  • Things that are important to you
  • Things you’d like to do better
  • Things you’d like to try for the first time
  • Things that may be hard to do
  • Things you need to do every day
  • Your hopes and dreams

     2. Take the puzzle apart

     3. As you accomplish the goal on the pieces fit them together

     4. Soon you’ll see your life coming together just the way you want it to

Keep your puzzle pieces in your travel bag

 

Picture Book Review