September 6 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Friendship Month was established by the Oddfellows (shortened from The Grand United Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society (GUOOFS)), an international fraternity that dates back to 1730s England with the hope of encouraging people to make friends. Now dedicated to philanthropy and charity, the Oddfellows still promote Friendship Month each September to urge people to spend more time with their friends, get in touch with those they haven’t seen or talked to in a while, and, especially, to reach out to others who are alone or need a friend. As school gets underway, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to meet new people and form friendships – some of which may last a lifetime.

I’d like to thank Carolrhoda Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Big Bear and Little Fish

Written by Sandra Nickel | Illustrated by Il Sung Na

 

At the fair, Bear approached the basketball game booth, where the grand prize was a huge teddy bear. It was almost as big as Bear, herself. But Bear took away the consolation prize: a goldfish. “It was small. It was very small. It was so small it lived in a bowl.” Bear peered into the bowl, but when Fish woke up and said “‘Hello, Bear. Is this my new home?'”, Bear only nodded, afraid her big voice would scare little Fish.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

When lunchtime came, Bear made herself a sandwich with syrup that was as gold as she was. Bear didn’t know what to feed Fish, who was orange and probably liked “carrot muffins … or tangerines and pumpkins.” After lunch, Bear always measured herself. Today, she was over nine feet big! Bear didn’t know how she could measure Fish, so she left home for her regular afternoon walk, wishing – and not for the first time – that Fish was a teddy bear.”

While walking, Bear contemplated how inconvenient Fish might find the outdoors. Things could fall into her bowl and get caught in her tail. If she had a teddy bear Bear thought again, she wouldn’t have to worry about such things as tails. Bear began to regret ever bring Fish home from the fair. When Bear got home again, Fish greeted her with a “‘Hello” and a comment on how much she liked their porch.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In response, Bear gave Fish the bad news that she couldn’t stay. When Fish asked why, Bear laid out her reasons: Fish was orange and ate orange foods; Fish had a tail that made it impossible for her to go on walks with Bear; and finally that Fish was too small. Fish was undaunted. She pointed out that Bear was orange too, and when Bear inspected her belly, she agreed that it “was an orangey sort of gold” kind of “like a carrot muffin.” Fish then added that Bear had a tail, and when Bear looked over her shoulder, she saw a tiny tuft. As to the assertion that she is “small,” Fish was surprised. 

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

“Am I?” she asked then welcomed being measured. She stretched herself out, and Bear measured her: three inches long. Fish was happy with this result; she wasn’t so small after all. “‘I am not one inch. I am not two inches. I am three inches,'” she said proudly. Still, Bear couldn’t get over the idea that Fish was so tiny she had to live in a bowl. 

But Fish was philosophical. “‘Don’t you live in a bowl too?'” she asked. Bear had never thought of it that way before, and as she looked around at the big, blue sky, she suddenly felt small too. Fish reassured her and offered another perspective on physical size compared to how big one could feel inside. Bear considered this and then decided she’d like to take another walk – this time accompanied by Fish. And so they set off in search of a very big carrot muffin.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-sandwich

Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In her seemingly odd “fellows” friendship story, Sandra Nickel presents a multi-layered look at what it means to be a true friend. She cleverly offers readers a variety of lenses for them to engage in perspective, from the character’s viewpoints to their own. Bear, alone at home and on her walks, focuses only on herself. At the fair, she wants to win a teddy bear that is a twin to herself but for which she would not need to be responsible in any real sense.

Fish, however, immediately wants to interact with Bear. She talks to him and asks questions. At first, it may seem that Bear will simply ignore Fish, but the idea of her has begun to make Bear think and even worry (here, Nickel creates a complex mix of emotions that invites discussion). Equally thought-provoking are Fish’s counter arguments when Bear tells her she can’t stay. While promoting how similar they are, Fish prompts Bear to reevaluate her view of herself and the world she lives in. Once Bear realizes that she, too, can be considered small and that the full measure of a person (or Fish or Bear) is found inside oneself, she embraces Fish – responsibilities, friendship, muffins, and all.

Il Sung Na plays with perspective and color to subtly guide readers through the stages of this endearing friendship. As Bear walks home from the fair, dejectedly carrying Fish in her bowl, the hilly landscape is washed in shades of blue and the twiggy, leafy, mushroomy vegetation replicates an ocean bottom. This evocative effect continues throughout the book, prompting kids to find other similarities between Bear and Fish and their environments. Readers will also enjoy pointing out examples and comparisons of big and small.

An endearing and thought-provoking story that boosts self-confidence while promoting friendship, empathy, and new perspectives, Big Bear and Little Fish will become a quick favorite on home bookshelves, a go-to book for classrooms, and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Carolrhoda Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1728417172

Discover more about Sandra Nickel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Il Sung Na, her books, and her art on her website.

Dive in to this book trailer for Big Bear and Little Fish!

Friendship Month Activity

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Measuring Stick Craft

 

Bear and Fish loved getting measured. If you’re looking for a unique way to measure how big you are, here’s a craft for you! This nature-inspired measuring stick can keep track of your big and small growth spurts whenever you sprout up. You can even add leaves to record thoughts, favorite things, and other ideas as you age! 

Supplies

  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Dark and light green foam sheets or 45 – 50 small wooden leaves, available at craft stores
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch-long tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf

For Measuring Growth: Write the inch 1 through 45 or higher on each leaf with the black marker, alternating colors

For Recording Ideas: You can write favorite ideas, hobbies, or hopes on the leaves too and measure your growth that way!

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

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To get a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish personalized by Sandra Nickel

Visit Watermark Books to request a signed and personalized copy. When ordering, simply note your desired dedication in the Comments section. Sandra will sign on September 24, 2022, so be sure to order in plenty of time.

You can also find Big Bear and Little Fish at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 4 – It’s National Hot Tea Month

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About the Holiday

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

Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party

Written by Yumi Heo | Illustrated by Naoko Stoop

 

One day when the heat of the day had past, yet it wasn’t quite evening, “the moon and the sun had a tea party.” They got to talking, and Moon mentioned that moms and dads down below always got their kids ready for bed. Sun disagreed, telling Moon that they got “their children ready for school.” Moon countered that children needed to sleep. At this, Sun flared, saying they needed to go to school.

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Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

They continued to argue over whether the streets of the world were busy or empty, whether birds flew in the sky or dozed in their nests, and even about their reflections in the river. The disagreements became so heated that Cloud heard them as he drifted along. Cloud asked what the matter was. When he heard, he told them they were both right said, “‘You must each stay up past your bedtime, and you will see.’”

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Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The next morning, Moon hid behind Cloud and peered out at a busy world. She discovered that Sun had been right. She saw “Moms and dads pouring cereal and putting on coats, dogs chasing their tails, and trees standing guard in green uniforms.” That evening instead of setting, Sun hid behind Cloud and discovered that Moon had been correct. Sun watched “Moms and dads tucking in blankets and reading stories, dogs sweetly dreaming, and trees standing guard in gray pajamas.” Sun was amazed. The next day, Sun and Moon reflected on what they had seen, “and in the world below, everything shone in their light.”

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Image copyright Naoko Stoop, 2020, text copyright Yumi Heo, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Yumi Heo, who passed away in 2016, created the perfect pairing of characters and theme in her clever story as nothing, many would have you believe, is so assured as the dichotomy of Day and Night. As Moon and Sun argue over what people and nature do on earth, Heo invites readers—who already know that both Sun and Moon are right—to actively participate in their perspective-changing discoveries. By presenting, first, the compelling evidence that informs Sun and Moon’s opinions of the world and, second, the revelations Cloud makes possible, Heo gives kids insight into how understanding, empathy, and an appreciation for others develops. Enlightenment, however, doesn’t come without an openness to accepting alternate viewpoints, and here is where Heo’s multi-layered story shines. After Sun and Moon allow Cloud to show them the other side, they do not reject the truth of what they see, but find common ground. Heo ends her story with hope and growth as during their respective shifts the next day, Sun and Moon continue to contemplate each other’s perspective.

In her mixed-media illustrations, beautifully textured with a plywood base, Naoko Stoop brings to light Moon and Sun’s opposing views of the world and, in their facial expressions, demonstrates how quickly arguments and stalemates can occur. Stoop’s daytime scenes depict a diverse city community in spreads that readers will love to linger over to find kids and adults engaged in activities that reflect their own lives. As Sun and Moon describe their own mutually exclusive experiences, Stoop cleverly focuses on one busy corner where a bookshop and a bakery—two bastions of diversity—sit side-by-side. Stoop’s color palette is muted and lovely, with cheery views of daytime and cozy images of nighttime, making this a distinctive book to share at bedtime or for quiet, thoughtful daytime story times.

Thoughtful, contemplative, and comforting with a timely message of awareness, acceptance, and reconciliation, Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for classroom and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2020 | ISBN 978-0385390330

To learn more about Naoko Stoop, her books, and her art visit her website.

National Hot Tea Month Activity

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Tea Bag Buddy

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

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You can find Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 11 – Making Life Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to celebrate all of those people who make life more fun, meaningful, joyful—more beautiful—for someone else. This can be done in so many ways, from spending more time talking with someone to using your talents to make something you know a friend, family member, or coworker would love, to just giving a smile to those you meet during the day. Making someone else feel good will make life more beautiful for you too!

Ray

By Marianna Coppo

 

At the bottom of the staircase there’s a closet. This is where Ray lives. Ray is a lightbulb. Before taking up residence in the closet, Ray lived in the family room (which was fun) and in the bathroom (which was not so much). Now, though he hung above a collection of stuff—like winter hats and scarves, books, cleaning supplies, an elephant-shaped watering can, some old toys, and a spider—that gave him something to count when he was bored. Sometimes, the child made a fort in the closet and hid out reading books.

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Copyright Marianna Coppo, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

But there’s a downside: “The closet, the thing, and even Tom the spider often disappear. Ray does not like this.” These times were even more boring; even Ray’s sleep was “dreamless.” Then one day, Ray felt a twist. Then he was moving and seeing the world pass upside down. When the car stops, he finds himself outside in a place he’s never seen before. “Ray can’t tell where it begins or where it ends,” and there are way too many things to count.

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Copyright Marianna Coppo, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

When the man and the child go to sleep now, Ray stays awake. He makes a wish on a shooting star just before he falls asleep, just before dawn. “When he wakes up, right there in front of him, shines the biggest light bulb in the world.” Seeing the sun gives Ray a whole new perspective on the world. Soon, the man and the boy and Ray are heading back home. The same closet awaits. But for Ray, it will never be dark or boring again.

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Copyright Marianna Coppo, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

To read Marianna Coppo’s Ray for the first time is to feel all the wonder of new discovery, imagination, and creativity. When reading Ray for the second time (which kids will beg to do after Ray’s new perspective is revealed), the story unfolds with new enlightenment that invites readers to linger on each page. Ray, with his bright eyes, rosy cheeks, little smile, and filament that creates a tuft of hair is an endearing character that kids will love.

Coppo’s story is a sweet metaphor for discovering the wonders of the wider world and the value of engaging kids in stimulating experiences. It also reminds us that too often we can be “in the dark” and that looking at things differently results in new perspectives and more appreciation. Coppo’s clever illustrations invite interaction and close observation as the items in the closet transform into so much more after Ray’s return from the camping trip. Ray’s vision of himself has also changed: in his dreams he is now the sun shining on his little world.

A unique story that encourages the exploration and introspection that sparks imagination and self-esteem, Ray would be a favorite for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0735265776

Discover more about Marianna Coppo, her books, and her art on her website.

Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

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Share Your Bright Idea! Page

 

Do you sometimes have a lightbulb moment when an idea seems just right? Use this printable Share Your Bright Idea! Page to write about or draw your idea!

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You can find Ray at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop| IndieBound

Picture Book Review