September 1 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

The beginning of a new school year is a terrific time to celebrate Read a New Book Month—especially for kids. Whether their reading tastes have broadened, their reading level has changed, or they’ve discovered new and fascinating topics to explore over the summer months, there are new books just waiting for them! The books may be recently published—like today’s book—or just new to your child, there are countless fictional stories and nonfiction books ready to inspire learning, to laugh or cry with, and to share with friends. This month visit your local bookstore and library and stock up on books for your kids and everyone in the family! 

The Boy and the Mountain

Written by Mario Bellini | Illustrated by Marianna Coppo

 

“There once was a boy who always looked at a mountain.” It was the first thing he looked at in the morning and the last thing he said good night to before going to bed. The boy loved to draw, and one day he “decided to draw the mountain.” His first attempt didn’t look anything like the mountain he saw out his window. When he looked closer, he realized “the mountain was covered with trees,” so he added trees. 

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Image copyright Marianna Coppo, 2022, text copyright Mario Bellini, 2022. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Still, his picture wasn’t quite right. Next, he noticed the sky and clouds around the mountain and drew those, but his picture “still didn’t look the same as the real thing.” He tried drawing the mountain at different times of day and in different weather, but “he was never happy with what he had drawn.” 

One day, the boy decided to get a closer look. He took his dog and headed out. One the way, he met a goat and drew a picture of it in his sketchbook. The goat decided to come along. When a flock of birds flew by, the boy drew those too. One bird left the flock to follow the boy and his dog and the goat. When they stopped at a stream for a drink of water, the boy drew that too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-mountain-trees

Image copyright Marianna Coppo, 2022, text copyright Mario Bellini, 2022. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

It was fall, and the ground was covered in leaves. The boy “wanted to draw them all,” but even though he drew many of them, there was no way they would all fit on the page. He continued on up and up into the forest and beyond. Along the way, he picked up other followers, including a frog, a bear, and a beaver. When he had left the trees behind, there was very little to draw “until he looked more closely” and saw a tiny white flower poking up between some rocks. He drew it.

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Image copyright Marianna Coppo, 2022, text copyright Mario Bellini, 2022. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

At last he came to the mountain’s peak. He sat down and flipped through his sketchbook, but he still wasn’t satisfied with his drawings. It was then that he became aware of the goat, the bear, the frog, the bird, the beaver, and a snail who had joined him. “‘Ohhh … hello!'” he said. They played until it was time to go home. The bear gave the boy a ride home on his shoulders. Once home, the boy promised that he would see them all again soon. That night before going to sleep, the boy drew the mountain again with his new perspective. This time his drawing was complete—and the boy was completely satisfied with it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-mountain-goat

Image copyright Marianna Coppo, 2022, text copyright Mario Bellini, 2022. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Mario Bellini’s thoughtful and well-paced adventure gently guides readers to consider not only their perspective on big and small topics of life but where and how they fit into the wider world. Just as children observe the world from their vantage points of home, school, and activities, the boy in the story looks at the mountain and tries to make sense of it by drawing it. Then, like kids slowly adding bits of what the world has to offer to their lives, the boy includes trees, clouds, and different times of day to his drawing. But he thinks there must be something more, and, now braver and more knowledgeable, he ventures out to get a better look. 

Along the way he sees more of the world and interacts with what he encounters in the way that means the most to him. Some of these experiences turn out well, and others don’t, but he persists. When it appears that he’s finally come to the end of his journey, he sits down (alone, or so he thinks) and ponders his single-subject, disjointed pictures. When he finally notices all of the animals who have joined him on his trek and embraces them as friends, the boy discovers an interconnectedness that has been missing for him all along. At last, with his final drawing, the boy is able to be satisfied with his knowledge, understanding, and place in his world.

Marianna Coppo’s delightful rounded illustrations lend a quiet elegance to the story while allowing readers to view the boy’s drawings for themselves and then join him on his journey to see the mountain up close. Kids will enjoy noticing the animals that begin to populate the boy’s sphere, even while he is unaware that they are following him. The boy’s drawings of the river, the leaf-strewn forest floor, and the hidden mountain peak give kids and adults an opportunity to talk about times when things go wrong, when life seems overcrowded or overwhelming, and when goals seem elusive. Coppo also helps kids see that surprises can be found in the most unlikely of places as well as when you least expect them. 

A multi-layered story that invites thought, observation, conversation, and discovery (of both the self and the world), The Boy and the Mountain would be a favorite read for quiet story times or as a prelude to any new experience at home or in school. The book is highly recommended for home bookshelves as well as classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-0735270251

You can connect with Marianna Coppo on Instagram and Twitter.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Take a Bookworm Trek! Maze

 

These two friends love reading! Can you help them through the maze to meet the bookworm? 

Take a Bookworm Trek! Maze Puzzle | Take a Bookworm Trek! Maze Solution

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You can find The Boy and the Mountain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 20 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

Starting Kindergarten is a major milestone in any child’s life and ushers in exciting growth in knowledge, friendships, and experiences. But children don’t all perceive and process the world in the same way. Being sensitive to individual differences and talking about issues as they arise are just two of the ways that kids can making navigating school or any new experience easier. Sharing picture books like today’s book can help too! 

Thanks to Harry N. Abrams for sending me a copy of Puppy Bus for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Puppy Bus

By Drew Brockington

 

As a boy’s parents unload the moving truck, he heads up the steps of the school bus with an anxious backward glance. once on the bus, his nerves take over and his mind races with all the new things he will encounter: “The teachers will be different. I’ll have to make new friends. I won’t even know where the bathroom is.” But in a minute, he gets a friendly lick of reassurance. Wait, what? That’s right, a big, slobbery lick of friendship. His seatmate even offers the boy his paw to shake. 

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Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

It’s just about this moment that the boy realizes he’s made a mistake. “I’m on the wrong bus!” he shouts with an attendant “AUGHHH!!!” Well, it’s too late to do anything about it now. The boy gets off at Leroy’s Puppy School with all the other students and decides to find an adult to talk to. He finds the principal’s office only to find that the principal is also a dog. “Woof! Woof! Bark! Bark!” The principal does his best to help, but there’s a definite communication problem.

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Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The boy’s just wondering what he’s going to do now, when one of his fellow classmates gets a chomp on his shirt and drags him toward a doggie door leading to a classroom. Once everyone’s inside, the lessons begin. As the collie leads the class in learning how to roll over, the boy thinks, “Everything about this school is strange and different.” Math class doesn’t really add up. The bowlfuls of dry food are gross. And remember how the boy was worried about wondering where the bathroom was? Well, that’s not the worst of it! In the stall, he finds a fire hydrant next to the toilet paper roll. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-classroom

Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

It all makes the boy miss his old school and friends even more. But then his puppy seatmate from the bus comes over to give him a cuddle, and the pup that sits next to him in math joins in, along with a couple of other “soft and fuzzy” students. Just then the recess bell rings, and they’re all off to have fun playing catch, digging in the dirt, running around and jumping, and just general piling on. The day ends with a song and a story, and by the time the boy gets on the bus home, he’s even speaking a little dog: “Arf! Arf!”

He gets home enthusiastic about his new school and the friends he’s made. He’s even excited to go back tomorrow. His parents are thrilled with his change of heart and send him off the next morning with big smiles and waves. There’s just one thing… could he be on the wrong bus again?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-recess

Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Funny and relatable, Drew Brockington’s Puppy Bus is sure to reassure and delight all kids, whether they’re starting a new school or just a new grade. Being nervous about making new friends, meeting a new teacher, and navigating a school building is a universal emotion, even though it can often feel singularly personal. Brockington exposes the doubts kids have in a way that will make them laugh while discovering that friendships made and extended can make all the difference. His comical twist ending reminds kids that change is part of life and adapting is a valuable skill to have.

Brockington’s hilarious cartoon illustrations—well-known to his CatSronauts fans—depict the boy’s full range of emotions from panicky to uncertain to grossed out to perplexed. When he’s at his lowest point of the day, a group of canine classmates take notice and do what they do best—become enthusiastic and comforting best friends. As the boy and his new friends romp on the playground, kids get the message that reaching out to someone new or hesitant (or, conversely, accepting an invitation to join in) has benefits for all.

A terrific story to share as school starts up again or for any time a child is beginning a new activity or encountering change, Puppy Bus will be a favorite on home, classroom, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8 

Harry N. Abrams, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419751912

To learn more about Drew Brockington, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Small Box School Bus 

 

With a small tea box, some paint, and the printable template, kids can have fun making a model school bus (or Puppy Bus!) to play with or display. Make your bus as detailed or simple as you’d like!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print 2 copies of the School Bus Template
  2. Carefully take the tea box apart at the seams, invert it, and glue or tape it back together

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To Make the Passenger Side of the Bus

  1. Cut the Door from the template
  2. Glue the door to the box near the front
  3. Cut out and trim the row of windows from the template
  4. Glue the windows near the top of the box
  5. Cut out and trim two of the solid black lines from the template
  6. Glue the stripes onto the side of the box below the windows
  7. Cut out two tires from the template and glue them to the box

To Make the Front of the Bus

  1. Cut out two of the red and orange paired lights
  2. Glue one on each side of the box near the top with the red light on the outside
  3. Add a School Bus sign between the lights
  4. Cut out the windshield in the lower corner of the template and glue it in place
  5. Cut and trim grill and glue it beneath the windshield
  6. Cut and glue white circles for headlights on either side of the grill
  7. Cut, trim, and glue the wide black strip to the bottom as the bumper.

To Make the Driver’s Side of the Bus

  1. Cut and trim the row of windows from the template
  2. Glue the windows near the top of the box
  3. Cut out and trim two of the solid black lines from the template
  4. Glue the stripes onto the side of the box below the windows
  5. Cut out two tires from the template and glue them to the box
  6. Cut out and glue the Stop sign over the two stripes near the front of the bus

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-bus-craft

To Make the Back of the Bus

  1. Cut out two of the red and orange paired lights
  2. Glue one on each side of the box near the top with the red light on the outside
  3. Add a School Bus sign between the lights
  4. Cut out the two small rounded corner windows
  5. Glue them underneath the lights close to the edge of the box
  6. Cut out and glue the bigger rounded corner window between the smaller windows
  7. Cut out and glue the yellow, red, and white lights underneath the small windows with the yellow light on the outside
  8. Cut out and glue the black rounded corner window centered beneath the lights
  9. Cut and trim the wide black stripe and glue it near the bottom of the box for the bumper

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-cover

You can find Puppy Bus at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 12 – Cow Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

The brainstorm of the Chik-Fil-A Company as a clever advertising ploy to herd customers toward eating chicken, Cow Appreciation Day, also gives us an opportunity to really think about the importance of cattle. They have sustained humankind throughout history and even played an integral part in the defeat of small pox. Cows, with their gentle demeanor and soft, brown eyes, also appear as beloved characters in picture books, poems, and songs, making them one of children’s favorites. Today’s book continues that tradition in witty fashion.

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sharing a copy of Where’s My Cow? with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Where’s My Cow?

Written by Susan Blackaby | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

In a seaside pasture, a flock of egrets and a herd of cows lived in perfect symbiosis. When the sun rose each morning, the birds would fly off toward the ocean. All but one little egret who preferred his perch atop his cow. “So much hubbub made him woozy. And the beach seemed so far.” As the cow went about her day, she and the little egret talked about all the places the cow had been and all that she had seen. She’d heard ukulele music and watched kites in the sky. She’d even tasted a toasted marshmallow. At night, the egret dreamed of the ocean while “snuggled into the cow’s neck.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-my-cow-morning

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2022, text copyright Susan Blackaby, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

One morning, the little egret announced that he “‘might try flying.'” His cow was encouraging, reminding his trepidatious friend that she would be right there when he got back (which, the egret promised would be very soon). The egret took off and was soaring along, exhilarated by the view when he caught sight of the cows moving down below. Suddenly anxious, he wondered, “‘Where’s my cow?'” The egret swooned, then “spluttered”, then fell with a thud in front of his cow.

The egret confessed he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to find his cow if he left, but the cow suggested he just look for her ears. With such assurance, the egret took off again, and this time he made it to the beach, where he picked up a shell. When he got back to the herd, though, all of the cows’ ears looked the same. Feeling panicky, he flew back and forth thinking “Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?” At last egret found her and explained the situation. Next time, the cow said, she’d flick her tail.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-my-cow-stick

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2022, text copyright Susan Blackaby, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The next morning, egret made the trip to the beach again and found a ribbon from the tail of a kite. Upon returning, though, all the cows were flicking their tail, and he was filled with the same dread: “Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?” By the time he found her, “the egret felt wobbly and weepy.” They agreed that the next day, the egret would shout and his cow would shout back. Then the egret showed his cow the ribbon he’d found. She thought it was lovely.

After the next day’s adventure, the egret found a gnarled stick, but when he shouted for his cow to look, all the cows answered back. Some trial and error later, the egret and the cow reunited and agreed that they needed a better system. The the egret had an idea. From the shell and the ribbon and the stick, he fashioned a flag that couldn’t be missed. Now, the little egret never has to worry “Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?” because she’s always right there, next to the flag and all the egret’s gifts.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-my-cow-ribbon

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2022, text copyright Susan Blackaby, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Highly original and filled with heart, Susan Blackaby’s funny and reassuring story gently reminds young readers that their parents, grandparents, caregivers, and whoever they rely on are always there to guide them home. Blackaby perfectly captures the emotions of both children and adults navigating separation or new experiences—from the little egret’s initial fear of flying out with the flock to his growing confidence to his ingenious solution to their problem. The cow’s enthusiastic encouragement and continued support of the egret’s ideas shows kids that leaving their comfort zone can be a positive and exciting adventure. Blackaby’s storytelling shines with lovely imagery and humorous, realistic dialogue, and her clever frame, revealing one of nature’s most complimentary relationships, will charm readers of all ages.

Sweet, supportive, and trusting, Scott Brundage’s egret and cow are enchanting hosts for Blackaby’s story. From the first spread, where little egret perches on cow’s neck as the rest of the flock flies towards the rising sun, readers see that these two have a special relationship. Turn the page, and egret has decided that he will try flying. His courage and fear are clearly evident, as is the cow’s steadfast encouragement and reassurance. As the young egret discovers the fun of flying and is excited to bring back souvenirs from his travels, his eager posture and happy expressions show kids the benefits of independence and self-confidence.

Sure to be a reassuring story and discussion-starter for kids experiencing separation anxiety or venturing into new experiences as well as an often-asked-for read-aloud for story time, Where’s My Cow? is highly recommended for all home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534111073

To learn more about Scott Brundage, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

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

Moo Cow Mug

 

Milk, hot chocolate, or tea will taste so much better in a Moo Cow Mug you make yourself! 

Supplies

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

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Directions

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-my-cow-cover

You can find Where’s My Cow? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 30 – International Asteroid Day

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About the Holiday

If you love learning everything you can about space, then International Asteroid Day is for you! This United Nations-sanctioned global awareness campaign was co-founded by astrophysicist and famed musician Dr. Brian May of the rock group Queen, Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart, filmmaker Grig Richters, and B612 Foundation President Danica Remy to raise awareness about the importance of asteroids, their role in the formation of our solar system, their impact on space resources, and the importance of defending our planet from future impacts. Today’s date was chosen to commemorate the Tunguska impact over Siberia, Russian Federation, on June 30, 1908 – Earth’s largest asteroid impact in recorded history. Every year, the holiday is celebrated with Asteroid Day LIVE– a live broadcast with asteroid content and commentary from astronauts, experts and celebrities as well as independently organized events at planetariums, museums, universities, and other venues. For more information and to enjoy the day’s events with astronauts from around the world, astronomers, astrophysicists, and other notable scientific leaders, visit the Asteroid Day website.

Oh No, Astro!

Written by Matt Roeser | Illustrated by Brad Woodard

Astro was not a typical asteroid. Instead of zooming around crashing into obstacles, he believed in “personal outer space” and had for millions of years. One day when Astro spies an approaching satellite, he greets him cordially and lays down the rules: “please keep your distance” and “stay in your orbit.” But the satellite ignores him and comes closer and closer until…

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Image copyright Brad Woodard, 2016, text copyright Matt Roeser, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

 

“‘Good gravity! You’ve struck me!” Astro exclaims. He’s just about to “point out to the satellite that it had done considerable damage to one of his favorite craters” when he discovers that he is spinning out of his orbit and out of control. How humiliating! The usually unflappable space rock suddenly finds himself hurtling past Mars. At the same time young astronomer, Nova, is “enjoying a quiet night of stargazing” through her telescope. She catches sight of Astro as he zips past an astronaut, rushes past the Moon, and finds himself on an inevitable collision course with Earth.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-oh-no-astro-good-gravity

Image copyright Brad Woodard, 2016, text copyright Matt Roeser, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

As he enters Earth’s atmosphere he begins to break apart, shedding bits of the past, as the universe watches. He lands on Earth with a SMASH! Reeling from the impact Astro slowly opens one eye and then the other. He finds that he’s smaller but in one piece. Standing by is Nova, waiting to welcome him to his new home. “‘My stars,’” he mutters. “‘Dare I say that was…FUN?!’”

And as Astro gazes at the night sky from a fresh perspective with Nova by his side, he asks, “‘What on Earth shall we do next?!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-oh-no-astro-hurtling

Image copyright Brad Woodard, 2016, text copyright Matt Roeser, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

For anyone stuck in the rut of their own orbit, Matt Roeser’s story of the unwitting space traveler is a humorous invitation to explore the universe around them. Roeser’s language—from calling asteroids “rambunctious” and the satellite a “celestial wanderer” to exclamations of “good gravity!” and “Pluto’s revenge!”—is an inspired treat. Kids and adults will laugh at Astro’s attempts to handle his undesirable predicament with dignity. Complacent Astro with his dry-as-space-dust wit and sparkling puns makes a stellar guide on this journey to more self-discovery and life enjoyment.

In the hands of Brad Woodard, deep space is a very cute and cool place! Rendered in flat tones of black, aqua, yellow, red, and white, Woodard’s illustrations give Oh No, Astro! a retro feel for a space-savvy audience. The oblivious satellite floats through Astro’s orbit with wide eyes and a sweet grin, while angular Astro with his stick arms, expressive face, and boldly displayed “No loitering” banner would be a welcome alien intruder in any back yard. Inquisitive and inclusive Nova, in her ponytails and Saturn-patterned dress, is the perfect companion to greet him. The night sky abounds with constellations, but Astro is the real star.

In the final pages, Astro leads readers in a “A Selection of Space Facts” from the  very Manual of the Cosmos, 2nd edition that he used to sort things out in his own life. A short list of suggested reading is also included.

Kids would love to find Oh No, Astro! on their bookshelf for story times of cosmic fun!

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481439763

Visit Matt Roeser’s Website to discover his gallery of book jacket designs!

You can learn more about design and illustration work by Brad Woodard at Brave the Woods!

International Asteroid Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-name-that-asteroid-word-search-puzzle

Name That Asteroid! Word Search

Can you find the names of 20 asteroids floating around in this printable puzzle?

Name That Asteroid! Word Search Puzzle | Name That Asteroid Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-oh-no-astro-cover

You can find Oh No, Astro! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

January 11 – National Shop for Travel Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to look ahead and plan for their next vacation or quick get-away. Whether you’re thinking of visiting a warmer area for some beach time or colder climate for skiing and sledding, meeting up with friends or family for a fun weekend, or dreaming of an overseas adventure, you can start looking into transportation, accommodations, and the attractions you’d like to visit today. And while you wait for a better time to make the trip, you and your kids can do some armchair traveling through books – like today’s humorous story about new experiences and new friends made.

Thanks to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places

Written by Katie Frawley | Illustrated by Laurie Stansfield

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542008549

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

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

One Question with Katie Frawley

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I’m excited to do a one-question interview with Katie Frawley about her debut picture book that’s sure to become a favorite whenever kids want to take a flight of fancy!

What is a favorite summer memory from your childhood?

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

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

National Shop for Travel Day Activity

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Suitcase Tumble Matching Puzzle

 

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

Suitcase Tumble Matching Puzzle

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You can find Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 4 – It’s Picture Book Month

About the Holiday

November is all about picture books thanks to Picture Book Month founder author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and co-founders author/illustrators Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Wendy Martin, and author Tara Lazar. This month-long international literacy initiative celebrates print picture books and all that they offer to young (and even older) readers. With gorgeous artwork and compelling stories, picture books open the world to children in surprising ways. They entertain, explain, excite, and help children learn empathy and understanding. If you want to learn more about the holiday and read engaging daily posts about why picture books are important by your favorite authors, illustrators, and others in the children’s publishing industry, visit picturebookmonth.com

Don’t Get Your Tutu in a Twist

Written by Jenny Moore | Illustrated by Barbara Bakos

 

Miss Gorilla is hanging the final practice session reminders for her class’s dance recital that night when she comes upon Mrs. Sloth, snoozing in her hammock hung right on the Dance Show billboard. But Ms. Gorilla doesn’t try to rouse her. Instead, she encourages her to dream and rest, wanting her to be at her “dancing best.”

At four o’clock, when the dancers assemble at the theater, Miss Gorilla gives each of them some pointers to make their routines shine. First up is Mr. Elephant who’s having a bit of trouble with the costume and the steps. Miss Gorilla calmly tells him “Don’t get your tutu in a twist, Mr. Elephant, / don’t get your tutu in a knot. / Arms out wide, then turn and glide, / with a graceful jump and a tippy-toe trot.” Next, Mrs. Pelican is all aflutter what with trying to tap and smile, keep her wings up and get her dance right.

Image copyright Barbara Bakos, 2021, text copyright Jenny Moore, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

Mr. Polar Bear can’t seem to keep his top hat in place and whirl and twirl at the same time. Miss Gorilla reminds him to “just listen to the beat as you move your feet…” during his soft shoe routine. Miss Gorilla’s glad to see that Mrs. Sloth made it to rehearsal, but now she’s sleeping again! Miss Gorilla gets her tap shoes on her, but that only lasts a moment. Mrs. Sloth keeps sleeping here and sleeping there. She’s even brought the curtain down—but not in a good way; she’s crashed into the stage lights, which lie broken on the floor. Miss Gorilla picks her up and carries her off to find Mr. Crocodile and give him his pep talk. But the minute she’s turned her back, Mr. Crocodile is chewing the curtains and Mrs. Sloth is sleeping in the seats.

Image copyright Barbara Bakos, 2021, text copyright Jenny Moore, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

At last it’s time for the big show and the theater is packed. Miss Gorilla encourages her dancers once more—“It’s time to shine –you’ll all be fine, / lights up, drum roll… let’s go!” But the dancers? They don’t look too confident. When Mrs. Pelican goes first her knees knock together and stage fright has her stuck. Next, Mr. Polar Bear takes the stage, but he’s forgotten to listen to the beat, he trips over Mrs. Sloth, who’s dozing on the floor, and knocks Mr. Elephant into the orchestra pit. Mortified, Miss Gorilla, shouts, “Don’t squash the orchestra! No, Mr. Elephant, tippy-toe trot, not splat!” And then what horror does she see? “Don’t eat the audience! No, Mr. Crocodile, / didn’t I mention that?”

Image copyright Barbara Bakos, 2021, text copyright Jenny Moore, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

Poor Miss Gorilla admonishes herself. She should have listened to those who told her teaching these students was hopeless. But suddenly she hears… could it be… the sound of applause? She peeks around the curtain to find Mrs. Sloth—her eyes still shut—gracefully gliding with new moves and a “three-toed tip tap groove.” The audience roars for more, and “Mrs. SUPER Sloth” obliges with leaps and twirls, handstands and whirls. But where has she learned all of these steps, Miss Gorilla wonders. Then she realizes and exclaims, Mrs. Sloth “a natural star, it seems… you’ve been dancing in your dreams!”

Image copyright Barbara Bakos, 2021, text copyright Jenny Moore, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts.

Jenny Moore doesn’t tiptoe around the backstage nerves and missteps of a dance recital in her comical story. As Mrs. Gorilla tries to calm the dancer’s jitters and refine their steps, kids will be eager to see how the performance plays out—and, especially, will Mrs. Sloth wake up in time? Moore’s energetic rhymes and rhythms that pulsate with the motivational, slightly frantic beats of teachers or parents trying to get their young charges shipshape for a performance invite dramatic readings that will get kids laughing. Readers will enjoy spotting Mrs. Sloth deeply asleep in various spots at the theater. Encouragement and inspiration to do your best and follow your dreams underlies Moore’s funny story.

Barbara Bakos’s vibrant illustrations of Mr. Elephant, Mrs. Pelican, Mr. Crocodile, Mr. Polar Bear, and Mrs. Sloth are packed with humor as the animals try to rein in their nervousness and put on a good show. Bakos accentuates the mishaps with shocked and worried faces, less-than-graceful steps, and costumes that just don’t stay put. But when it seems that things can’t get any worse, kids will be surprised to see Mrs. Sloth—the most unlikely of prima ballerinas—save the show with her dreamy moves.

A lighthearted and funny book that will reassure dancers and any child taking part in a recital, performance, or presentation as well as entertain kids who just love to laugh, Don’t Get Your Tutu in a Twist is a terrific choice for animated story times at home, school, or public libraries.

Ages 4 – 9

Maverick Arts, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867802

Discover more about Jenny Moore and her books on her website.

To learn more about Barbara Bakos, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Books to Love, Books to Read Book Bag

 

True book lovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. With this easy craft you can turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

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Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

You can find Don’t Get Your Tutu in a Twist at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 29 – National Frankenstein Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who in 1818 at the age of 18, penned one of the most influential books of all time. Considered the first modern science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus incorporates elements of horror, psychology, love, abandonment, and acceptance. These themes and Shelley’s enthralling storytelling created a book that is always current. In fact, the monster she envisioned continues to inspire writers to create stories of all types from humorous to the truly frightening – or a combination of the two, as you’ll see in today’s book!

That Monster on the Block

Written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt | Illustrated by Luke Flowers

 

Someone was finally moving into Vampire’s old house. Monster, who lived next door wondered who it might be. He hoped it might be an ogre who would invite him “to swim in his mucky, murky swamp.” Or maybe it would be a “greedy goblin with piles of gold to jump into.” Perhaps it would be a dastardly dragon who would throw greasy barbecues. As Monster practiced how he would say hello to his new neighbor, he watched the movers carrying a trampoline, a unicycle, and lots of trunks.

At last his new neighbor emerged. He was wearing “big floppy shoes” and had “wild orange hair” and “a round, red nose. It was…a clown?” Monster couldn’t believe it. He immediately called the neighbors. “‘Unnnnnhhh, unnnnnhhh, unnnnnhhh,’” said Zombie when he heard the news. Mummy shrieked, and Yeti roared. They all agreed that the neighborhood would never be the same again. None of the neighbors welcomed Clown to their block, so he went around to each house to introduce himself. But no one answered the door. Clown left notes and surprises at each house and went back home. When monster found his gift gummy worms, he threw them in the trash. Clown, meanwhile, sat on his porch “and waited. And waited and sat. No one came around.”

But Clown was naturally happy, so he perked up his dreary house, played a happy tune,  and erected a tent. “Monster called a neighborhood meeting. ‘This is out of control!’” he shouted. But Zombie was busy delighting some neighbors with the brain cake Clown had left him, and Mummy was having fun scaring up laughs with the mummy in the box she’d gotten. Yeti was enjoying tricking others into smelling her trick flowers and then spritzing them with water.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-that-monster-on-the-block-Interior

Image copyright Luke Flowers, 2020, text copyright Sue Ganz-Schmitt, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

No one was listening to Monster, so he decided to do something about the interloper himself. At midnight, he rattled chains and banged on a garbage can lid. But Clown didn’t hear it. He was out doing good deeds to help his new neighbors. In the morning Monster was awakened by circus music. He immediately picked up the phone, but no one answered his calls. “‘It’s time for me to have a word with that bozo!’” he said. He stomped over, but on the way he couldn’t help but find the music catchy, the smell of popcorn enticing, and Clown’s invitation to cartwheeling class at his circus school at least a little intriguing.

Inside the tent, he discovered all of his friends having doing circus tricks. When he learned that Clown was “zero percent creepy” and lots of fun, he decided to him a chance. He enjoyed the day so much that Monster even invited him to tea on Sunday. As Monster poured out the tea and passed around sludgeberry swirl scones, a moving van rolled up the block. Out popped a…well, you’ll have to welcome them yourself, just like all the other neighbors!

Sue Ganz-Schmitt turns somersaults with the usual tropes involving diversity in her story as it honestly portrays truisms about prejudice and how both injustice on one hand and understanding on the other spreads through a community. While Monster’s reaction to immediately alert the neighbors and hold a meeting seems to get a big response, readers will see that by the time the meeting takes place, most of the neighbors welcome the newcomer and the positive changes he’s brought. Ganz-Schmitt’s well-paced and superb storytelling is loaded with personality, puns, and the perfect light touch that will have readers taking her story and lesson into their hearts.

Luke Flowers does wonders with larger-than-life characters, and his depictions of Monster, Clown, and all the neighbors are pitch-perfect. Flowers sets up his visual delights early with the image of Vampire’s old house, which is gray and foreboding with detailing that subtly turns the stone structure into a bat. Later Clown converts these same details into clown faces that will charm kids. Just as in the circus, Clown makes a surprise entrance, one that little readers will guess at with glee. Snapshots of Monster calling up his neighbors appear to show that Mummy, Zombie, and Yeti are on board with his dismay, but Ganz-Schmitt’s monster-sound reactions are cleverly noncommittal. Add in the neighbors’ obvious delight with the gifts Clown leaves (a full-page jack-in-the-box image will bring shrieks of laughter), and readers will happily be in on the vibe at the meeting-turned-party.

Contrasting illustrations of Monster trying to bully Clown into leaving and Clown helping out around the neighborhood give kids and adults opportunities to talk about important issues that arise at school and in the news. While images of Monster having fun at circus school show his changing attitude toward Clown, when his displeasure seems to rise again with the entry of another unexpected neighbor, readers will see that this time he has a different and more welcoming reaction. (Added note: Make sure to inspect each page carefully for added visual humor.)

A clever story that delivers important messages about preconceptions, discrimination and acceptance with humor and respect for the intelligence and awareness of children, That Monster on the Block is a must for home, school, and public library story times all through the year.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542005333

Discover more about Sue Ganz-Schmitt and her books and find That Monster on the Block coloring pages on her website.

To learn more about Luke Flowers, his books, and his art on his website.

Scare up some fun with this book trailer!

 

Frankenstein Friday Activity

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Rock Jack-O-Lantern

 

Rocks make perfect jack-o’-lanterns or pumpkins to decorate your home at Halloween or all through the fall! 

Supplies

  • Round, smooth rock ( or rocks in a variety of sizes)
  • Orange craft paint, and other colors for a multi-hued pumpkin patch
  • Black permanent marker or black craft paint
  • Short sturdy twig (one for each rock)
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue
  • Paintbrush

Directions

  1. Clean and dry the rock
  2. Paint the rock, let dry
  3. Draw or paint a jack-o’-lantern face on the rock, let dry
  4. Glue the short twig to the top  of the rock pumpkin

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You can find That Monster on the Block at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review