January 5 – National Bird Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates all our feathered friends from the birds in our backyards to the chickens and turkeys that provide us with food to the penguins of Antarctica. They include wild birds and those in captivity, either as pets or in zoos or other aviaries. National Bird Day was established to promote an awareness of issues concerning the safety, health, and protection of the world’s birds. To celebrate put out birdseed and suet for winter birds or learn a little more about the birds in your area.

Trevor

Written by Jim Averbeck | Illustrated by Amy Hevron

 

“Trevor stretched his wings the width of his safe, boring cage.” Even though he knew the door would open easily, he never ventured out because everything he needed was right within reach. Today, instead of being tempted to eat his one remaining striped seed—his favorite kind—he sang a lonesome song. Outside his window, Trevor suddenly saw a lemon bump his windowsill. He took it for a fellow canary and asked it to join in singing with him. “The lemon said nothing.”

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Thinking that the canary was shy, Trevor picked up his cherished seed, opened the cage door, and flew outside. He placed the seed near the lemon, but the lemon stayed quiet. It didn’t take the hint that Trevor liked gifts too, either. Trevor jumped up and down on the branch, trying to get some reaction, but he only caused the seed to fall to the ground and the lemon to drop and be caught on a branch below.

Trevor was angry at the lemon and turned his back on it. He “saw the vast, frightening world stretched out before him. He felt very lonely.” Trevor looked back at the lemon and made a bargain. If the lemon was sorry for being rude, he said, it should say nothing. The lemon obliged, and Trevor forgave it. Trevor built a nest for himself and the lemon, and the two spent a cozy summer together. Below, the striped seed began to grow.

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Every morning they sang together. “Trevor sang the notes. The lemon sang the silences.” Trevor was happy snuggling with the lemon and decided he was never leaving the nest. One day, a storm blew up. It shook the branch and then, in a strong gust of wind, the lemon flew out of the nest. On its way down, it hit the sunflower and knocked out its seeds. The lemon soon rolled out of sight.

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Trevor flew into the storm to look for his friend, but he couldn’t find the lemon anywhere. “Trevor cowered among the scattered seeds and wept.” Suddenly, though, a group of colorful birds appeared, wondering if the seeds were Trevor’s and whether  he would share them. He agreed, knowing that the lemon “would have wanted it that way.” In the fall, Trevor and his new friends flew south to spend the winter there. They sang together on their journey. Trevor was happy, “but he never forgot his first shy friend…who gave him everything, and asked for nothing.”

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jim Averbeck’s gentle nudge for children who are hesitant to venture out of their comfort zone tenderly shows how taking a chance and sharing one’s talents or favorite things can lead to positive and rewarding experiences and new friendships. Through Trevor’s friendship with the silent lemon, Averbeck highlights Trevor’s natural kindness, a quality that leads him to find his inner strength and sociability. Cleverly weaving together the ideas of “leaving the nest” and “sowing seeds of friendship,” Averbeck creates a moving storyline that will hearten quieter children and inspire them to reach out in ways that are comfortable and meaningful to them.

Amy Hevron endears little Trevor to readers with her soft acrylics-on-wood illustrations full of sweet hugs and selfless acts that bring this adorable bird his first, best friend. The close-up focus of these images serves to also emphasize Trevor’s loneliness and trepidation when he later turns away from the lemon and overlooks a vast forest. The appearance of a diverse group of birds attracted by Trevor’s seeds will cheer readers, especially as Trevor joins them on their flight south. The last page offers a just-right surprise that gives kids and adults another opportunity to talk about the nature of friendship.

A tribute to formative friendships and self-discovery, Trevor makes an uplifting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250148285

Discover more about Jim Averbeck and his books on his website.

To learn more about Amy Hevron, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Bird Day Activity

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Cheery Canary Centerpiece

 

Brighten up your winter table with this cute birdy centerpiece! Kids will have fun making their own birds and nest with a couple of lemons and a few easy-to-find supplies.

Supplies

  • Lemons (one for each bird)
  • Googly eyes
  • Toothpicks
  • Yellow tissue paper
  • Yellow felt, fleece, or paper
  • Brown paper sandwich bag
  • Parchment paper or other light paper
  • Strong glue
  • Tape
  • Directions

To Make the Bird

  1. Insert the toothpick into the lemon to make the beak
  2. Glue on the eyes 
  3. Cut a length of tissue paper about 2 inches by 4 inches
  4. Fold the paper in narrow widths accordion style
  5. Pinch one end together and fan out the paper to make the tail
  6. Flatten the pinched end and glue it to the lower back of the lemon
  7. Crumple a bit of tissue paper and glue to the top of the lemon
  8. Cut small wings from the felt, fleece, or paper
  9. Glue the wings to the sides of the lemon

To Make the Nest

  1. Cut the bag open along one side and along the bottom
  2. Roll up the bag and form it into a circle, taping the ends together. (To make a larger nest tape two bags together)
  3. To make the nesting material, cut narrow strips from the parchment or light paper
  4. Fill the ring with the nesting material

Set the bird or birds in the nest

Enjoy!

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You can find Trevor at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 17 – It’s National Write a Business Plan Month

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About the Holiday

Do you own a business or have dreams of opening your own shop or service company? An important step toward success is to write a clear business plan, and that’s what this month is all about! Established to help businesses plan efficiently, stay organized, and run smoothly whether they’re big or small, today’s holiday can inspire you to reach for and achieve the work life you’ve always wanted. Even job seekers benefit from writing a business plan of sorts to clarify what they’re looking for in the perfect job.

Duck Gets a Job

By Sonny Ross

 

Duck needed a job. All of his friends talked about their super office jobs in the city and encouraged him to get one too. Duck scoured the want ads in the newspaper. There were lots of jobs in tech, finance, and business. He imagined himself working with spreadsheets like his friends did. The jobs “seemed boring, but he applied anyway. And he got an interview!”

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Duck agonized over what he’d wear. He tried on an outfit that made him look cool, one that was very professional, and one that was his natural, casual look. He decided to go with the professional style. Next, Duck thought about how he would get to the office. “Flying would make him tired and sweaty, but public transportation is tricky for ducks.” In the end he walked… and he got lost. Once in the city, he hailed a taxi, and while he rode to the interview “he gave himself a pep talk.”

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Talking to the interviewer made Duck very nervous, but, still, he was offered a job. Sitting in his little cubicle with “spreadsheets full of facts and figures” in front of him, Duck realized that this job “did not interest him at all.” Duck decided to quit. Duck had always dreamed of being an artist, so he looked at job ads for the Creative Quack Magazine and found one he thought he’d like. “For his interview, he dressed in his natural look and put samples of his best work in a portfolio.”

He prepared for his trip into the city, and when he got to the office he didn’t feel at all nervous. He showed the art director his portfolio feeling confident about his work. The art director loved his work and offered him a job. Now Duck loves his job, and he’s especially glad “that he had decided to follow his dreams.”

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

The strength of Sonny Ross’s affirming story comes in its straightforward approach to recognizing when an action is not right for you and feeling free to change course. While Duck is looking for the perfect job, the story is appropriate for any activity that children embark on as they find their place in the world. Ross peppers his story with clues that will alert readers to Duck’s true feelings about the two jobs—internal thoughts, clothing styles, and confidence level to name a few—feelings that they too can rely on to guide them in the choices they make.

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Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Ross’s matte mixed-media illustrations are fresh and stylish in a palette of blues, reds, and golds. Kids experimenting with their own look will appreciate Duck’s dilemma in choosing between cool, professional, and natural clothing styles. They’ll also empathize with his previous attempts at using public transportation and his travails in getting to the first interview on time. When Duck decides that a “spreadsheet job” isn’t for him, the page backgrounds lighten, his road to the interview is smooth, and his happiness is evident. A clever contrasting juxtaposition comes in the depictions of Duck’s two very different interviews. While the businessman sits at his desk peering down on tiny Duck who can barely see over the desk and is nearly swallowed up in his chair, the art director kneels down to Duck’s level to shake his wing in congratulations on getting the job.

Both an entertaining story and a lesson for kids on trusting their gut and staying true to themselves, Duck Gets a Job is a confidence-boosting tale for any home or classroom bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Templar Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763698966

Discover more about Sonny Ross, his books, and his art on his website.

National Write a Business Plan Month Activity

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Dream Job Application

 

Before you can know your customers, you need to know yourself and find your perfect job. Here’s a printable Dream Job Application to get you thinking about what job you’d like to have!

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Duck Gets a Job is available at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 19 – National Talk Like a Pirate Day

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About the Holiday

Ahoy mateys! Welcome to what may arrrguably be the most fun holiday of the year. You might think that this most treasured of days got its start shipboard on the bounding main, but it actually began in the walled confines of a racquetball court, where a group of guys were doing…well what a group of guys do to encourage each other—toss around pirate phrases. They decided the idea was too good to keep on the court, so they designated September 19th as Talk Like a Pirate Day. They then alerted humorist Dave Barry, who spread word of this day far and wide. Now it’s a favorite of young and old alike. So get out there and do some talkin’ ye scalliwags!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Kindergarrrten Bus to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Kindergarrrten Bus

Written by Mike Ornstein | Illustrated by Kevin M. Barry

 

As the little tykes climb the plank into the kindergarten school bus, they’re met by a most unusual driver. He has a hook hand, a peg leg, a curly beard, a broad-brimmed hat with a parrot perched on the edge, and he greets the first little boy like this: “Ahoy, boy! What? It be ye first day of kindergarrrten? Well, don’t worry, laddie—it be me first day as a bus driverrr!” The pirate shows the kids to their seats and lays down the rules. Any infractions…. Well, Polly will tell ya: “Raaaaa, mutiny!”

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The kids don’t seem too sure of this turn of events. They miss their family, their pets, their toys, and it’s all a little scary. But the pirate will have no “blubberin’ on me bus” because pirates are “rrrough” and tough. “And we ain’t got time for that fluffy stuff!” So the bus takes off, and the driver sings a little ditty as they go.

But the route turns as bumpy as a churning sea with potholes that rattle Polly so much that she flies out the window…I mean “winderrr.” The pirate calls after his parrot, “Waaaa arrrgh waaaa arrrgh!” Then the bus comes to a screeching halt amid a pirate melt-down. “I can’t drive me bus without me sweet snuggly Polly! I can’t do it, I tells ya! I can’t! I can’t I can’t!”

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Everyone piles out, and the kids try to reassure the poor driver—and they kind of remind him of all the things he told them. Turns out that ol’ pirate “was only hornswogglin’” and that he considers himself “nothin’ but a scared, blubberin’ boob of a buccaneer.” The kids are empathetic and reassuring, and pretty soon the pirate is feeling better about things.

Back on the bus, the little ditty now has more than a note of encouragement to it. As they pull up at the X where “the treasure of all treasures” awaits the kids, the pirate gives one more lesson before letting all those little “scoundrels walk the plank—errr, I mean, exit the bus.” But why? one little boy wants to know. Why is a pirate driving a school bus? Well, that be somethin’ ye just have to see for yourself!

An afterword from the author discussing tips for talking with kids about fears and worries follows the story.

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Could Mike Ornstein actually be a pirate? I’m thinking yes! His ease with Pirate-ese makes this dialogue-rich story a comical treasure that will have kids “Harrr, harrr, harrr-ing” at every twist and turn in the book—and lucky for them, there’s a whole loot of those. Scrumptious words like “blubberin’, hornswogglin’, landlubbers,” and “blue-footed booby bird” as well as a liberal sprinkling of rrrrs make this book a joyful read- aloud that kids will clamor to participate in. Nuggets of reassurance about “rrrespect,” admitting fears and worries, and enjoying school are pure gold.

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Kevin M. Barry’s wide-eyed, rakish kids and scallywag of a bus driver are the perfect companions on this hilarious journey to the first day of kindergarten. The school bus—a wooden jalopy with porthole windows, a ship’s wheel steering wheel, and a teddy bear jolly roger—comes to a tipping point when the pirate’s beloved Polly flies the coop. As the pirate dramatically looks to the skies and admits his false bravado, the kids—skeptical, astonished, and empathetic—look on. While one curly-haired little girl reassures the pirate, the other kids channel their own bravery and get ready to have a fun day at school. Readers will love the expressive faces, small details (a fish-skeleton belt buckle, a girl’s “I Got This” t-shirt), and, of course, ruffled Polly.

Kindergarrrten Bus is a rip-roarin’ yarn with a heart of gold that will get kids and grown-ups laughing and talking about feelings, fears, and the fact that everyone gets scared sometimes. A go-to book for fun story times and moments when a little more encouragement is needed, Kindergarrrten Bus would be a favorite on home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363988

To learn more about Kevin M. Barry, his books, and his art on his website.

Kindergarrrten Bus Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Kindergarrrten Bus written by Mike Ornstein | illustrated by Kevin M. Barry

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, September 19 – 25. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on September 26.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

Talk Like a Pirate Day Activity

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Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze

 

Join the crew of scallywags to pick up supplies on your way to finding a treasure chest full of gold in this printable maze.

Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze Puzzle | Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze Solution

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You can find Kindergarrrten Bus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 15 – International Dot Day

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About the Holiday

Usually, I match books to existing holidays. Today, though, I have the pleasure of posting a review of a book that established a holiday. On September 15, 2009 teacher Terry Shay introduced his class to Peter H. Reynold’s The Dot. From that one event grew a national and then an international celebration of creativity and the freedom to make art with your heart. All around the world, school children and adults are inspired on this day to make their mark and celebrate creativity, courage, and collaboration.

The Dot

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

At the end of art class, Vashti looked at her paper. It was still as blank as it was at the beginning of art class. Her teacher came over and took a peek. She saw right away that Vashti had drawn “‘a polar bear in a snowstorm.’” Vashti wasn’t fooled by the joke. “‘I just CAN’T draw,’” she said. But her teacher had a suggestion. “‘Just make a mark and see where it takes you.’”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti jabbed at the paper with a marker, making a dot right in the center. Her teacher studied her drawing carefully then told Vashti to sign it. That, at least, was something Vashti could do. She signed her name and gave the paper to her teacher. At the next week’s art class, Vashti was stunned to see her dot framed and hanging above the teacher’s desk. She looked at the tiny mark and decided that she could do better than that.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti opened her watercolor set and began. She “painted and painted. A red dot. A purple dot. A yellow dot. A blue dot.” Then she discovered that blue mixed with yellow made a green dot. Vashti went to the easel and began painting lots of little dots in all sorts of colors. She realized if she could make little dots, she could make big dots. She knelt down on the floor with a big piece of paper and a big brush and created a huge dot.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Then on an enormous canvas Vashti “made a dot by not making a dot.” At the school art show, Vashti’s dot paintings covered two walls and were quite a hit. Coming around the corner a little boy spied Vashti. He came close and told her, “‘You’re a really great artist. I wish I could draw.’” Vashti was encouraging, but the little boy said he couldn’t even “‘draw a straight line with a ruler.’”

Vashti wanted to see. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper. With a quivering pencil, he drew a line and handed the paper back to her. Vashti studied the wavy line for a minute, and then gave the paper back. “‘Please…sign it,’” she said.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynold’s classic story of a little girl who believes she can’t draw is inspirational for anyone at any age who listens too closely to that voice in their head that stops them from letting go and doing. Whether it’s painting, writing, changing the décor of one’s house, updating a wardrobe, getting healthy, or even taking a class, the project often seems insurmountable. But what if you could start with a YouTube video, one step, a pair of earrings, a pillow, a word, or…a dot? Reynolds says you can! With his straightforward storytelling, Reynolds gives readers permission to play, experiment, and feel free.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Reynold’s familiar line drawings that sketch out adorable Vashti and her wise teacher are punctuated by the colorful dots that Vashti draws in profusion. Even Vashti, herself, is surrounded by circular auras of color throughout the story, reflecting her talent and creative spirit. The final scene of the art show gallery is a revelation, showing readers that one’s work or life work adds up to an impressive display of the self.

Through and through The Dot is charming, moving, and encouraging. It is a must addition to home libraries, public libraries, and classrooms.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2003 | 978-0763619619

Discover more about International Dot Day, download an Educator’s Guide, and see a gallery of projects on thedotclub.org.

You’ll learn more about Peter H, Reynolds, his books, and his art as well as find lots of inspiration and creative tips on his website!

International Dot Day Activity

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Decorate the Dots Coloring Page

 

How would you color these dots? Grab your favorite paints, markers, or crayons and let your imagination fly with this printable Decorate the Dots Coloring Page.

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You can find The Dot at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 21 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

There’s no mistaking that it’s that time of year again! The stores are stocked with notebooks, backpacks, lunchboxes, pens, pencils, glue sticks…. Well…you know! Summer school vacation is winding down—for some kids it may already be a memory—and the promise of another year is on the horizon. There are a lot of ways to get kids ready to go back to school. Reading books that reflect all the feels is one of the best!

It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!

By Lindsay Ward

 

Jack and his favorite toy, Dexter T. Rexter are stomping and chomping and singing when Jack’s mom calls him for breakfast. While Jack is off enjoying his meal, Dexter is excited to tell you that he’s excited about tomorrow. What’s tomorrow? Show-and-Tell day! It seems that Dexter has been preparing for weeks so he’ll make a good impression. Why all the fuss? Dexter says that “Every toy dreams of being taken to Show and Tell. If things go well, I’ll get super-special-keep-forever status.”

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

All this pressure, is making Dexter a little nervous, though. His eyes are twitching, he has “fidgety claws” and a “cowardly tail position” and he feels it right in the pit of his stomach. He’s worried that no one will like him. Maybe a costume is just the thing. He tries on a bunny costume, an astronaut suit, and an Elvis getup. But none are really Dexter, even though the Elvis cape sparkles.

How about a spicy dance routine or reciting “the state capitals backwards” or a funny impression? No? No? and NO? Dexter is beside himself. “This is NOT good. I don’t have any skills! I can’t dance. I can’t recite. I can’t SHOW or Tell!” And then the worst fear hits Dexter: “What if Jack doesn’t think I’m cool enough for Show and Tell anymore?” Dexter thinks of all the other—possibly cooler—toys in Jack’s toy box.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-its-show-and-tell-dexter-nervous

Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Suddenly, Dexter doesn’t feel too well. It’s a “Total Freakout!” As Dexter is calming himself down, he hears a small voice—yours—reassuring him. He considers your suggestion. “Go as myself? That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.” Still…. There is one thing he’s good at…. The next day Jack and Dexter T. Rexter stomp and chomp and sing their way through the best Show and Tell ever.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-its-show-and-tell-dexter-nervous

Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Lindsay Ward’s endearing Dexter T. Rexter, is back with another conundrum that sends his emotions into overdrive, causing him needless worry. Through her humorous interactive story, Ward lets young readers reassure Dexter that he’s smart enough, talented enough, and that people like him just the way he is as they also internalize this important lesson. Kids will giggle and laugh out loud as Dexter tries on silly costumes, shimmies and shakes to a hot musical beat, and tries an impression that falls flat, but as Dexter’s self-defeating doubts result in a stomachache and full on freakout, they’ll understand that empathy and kindness are what Dexter needs most.

Ward’s bold, mixed-media illustrations highlight Dexter’s emotions, his attempts to “improve” himself, and the joy he feels when playing with his best friend, Jack. Jack’s classroom is a welcome depiction of diversity, including one student in a wheelchair. Dynamic typography guides the kind of dramatic reading that would elicit all the humor and feeling from this multilayered story.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503901377

Discover more about Lindsay Ward, her books, and her art on her website.

Check out this It’s Show and Tell, Dexter! book trailer!

It’s Show and Tell, Dexter! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions Publishing in this giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of It’s Show and Tell, Dexter! by Lindsay Ward

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, August 21 – 27. Already a follower? Thanks! Just  Retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on August 28.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Two Lions Publishing.

Back to School Activity

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Back to School Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

There are twenty school-related words in this happy word search puzzle. Can you find them all?

Back to School Fun! Word Search PuzzleBack to School Fun! Word Search Solution

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You can find It’s Show and Tell, Dexter! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 11 – National Making Life Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

Today isn’t so much about physical beauty as it is about making 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!

I was sent a copy of The Secrets of Ninja School to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be hosting a giveaway of the book! See details below.

The Secrets of Ninja School

By Deb Pilutti

 

Ruby, a little red-haired girl, is excited to be attending Master Willow’s School for Ninjas. The school, located in a huge house on the outskirts of town, is open only one weekend each summer. Master Willow called his students “‘saplings,’” and each child attended his school eager to learn how to appear invisible, jump skillfully, show patience, and be brave. “But most of all, they came to Master Willow’s School for Ninjas to discover their very own secret skill.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secrets-of-ninja-school-driving-from-town

Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

While the other saplings learned quickly, Ruby could not get the hang of sneaking invisibly, jumping with skill, being patient, or feeling brave. Most disappointing, Ruby could not discover her own secret skill. She went to see Master Willow, who told her that through practice she would improve and find her skill. Ruby did practice and did improve, but her special skill still eluded her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secrets-of-ninja-school-driving-to-school

Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

At bedtime, Ruby felt homesick. The other kids told her that saplings did not miss home, but, still, she told them how her father read stories to her when she couldn’t sleep, how her mother lit a nightlight and kissed her nose when she was afraid of the dark, and that her grandmother would bring out her craft box and “they would spend hours making the most magnificent creations” when she was worried.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Not a sound broke the silence. But then Ruby heard “a sniff and a gasp and a wail. Before she knew it all the other saplings were crying.” Ruby knew just what to do. She “sneaked down the hallway” invisibly, jumped over the cat with skill, and “snipped and stitched and stuffed” patiently. She even bravely explained why she was out of bed when Master Willow caught her.

Back in the dormitory, Ruby turned on a lamp, “gave each of the saplings a stuffed dragon and told them stories of bravery and daring.” Master Willow watched and listened with a smile on his face. When Ruby handed him a stuffed dragon too, he told her that her skills were no longer a secret. “‘You are a wonderful storyteller, a fine dragon maker, and a very good friend.’” Ruby was happy, but she “kept practicing, because being brave isn’t always easy. Even for a ninja.”

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Deb Pilutti’s uplifting story takes an honest look, through a fun Ninja lens, at the worries some children have when they compare their skills and talents to others and even against their own expectations. While Ruby struggles to pick up Ninja skills, readers will see that Ruby has other talents, such as perseverance, creativity, and the courage to ask for help. Ruby may feel—like all kids do at times—that she’s different from the others, but she discovers that emotions are universal, allowing her to appreciate and share her gifts for empathy, kindness, and friendship.

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Pilutti’s bright illustrations will endear Ruby to readers as she excitedly goes off the ninja school, keeps practicing despite some mishaps, and sees dragons in clouds and shadows. Images of the saplings jumping, throwing, and meditating will delight little home ninjas-in-training, and the fully stocked Ninja Craft Area where Ruby creates her stuffed dragons will cheer young crafters.

You can make Ruby’s Dragon Softie too!

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Clear instructions and patterns for an adorable dragon that kids can make at home are included at the end of the story.

Ages 4 – 8

Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2018 | ISBN 978-1627796491

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art and to find fun book-related activities, visit her website.

The Secrets of Ninja School Giveaway

I’m excited to be giving away:

  • One (1) copy of The Secrets of Ninja School and one (1) Green Dragon Softie

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, June 11 – 17. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

Winners will be chosen on June 18.

Giveaways open to US addresses only 

National Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

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Happiness Cards to Share

 

You can easily make someone’s day brighter by saying something nice! Share these printable Happiness Cards with friends, family, teachers, and others and watch them smile!

Happiness Cards to Share Page 1 | Happiness Cards to Share Page 2

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You can find The Secrets of Ninja School at these Booksellers

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Macmillan | Powell’s

May 20 – It’s National Egg Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of May we celebrate the humble egg. In that small oval package lie protein and other nutrients that provide low-cost, healthy meals for people across the world. Eggs are also used as delicate canvases for beautiful art, colorful objects for hide-and-seek-games, and as characters in children’s books—the most famous of which is the star of today’s book!

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)

By Dan Santat

 

If readers don’t quite remember what happened to Humpty Dumpty back in the day,  his unfortunate accident is captured on the title page. But this is not a story about falling (we all do that sometimes). Instead, as the subtitle reveals, it’s about the recovery. Here, Humpty Dumpty tells his story his way—what really happened on that fateful day and afterward.

Humpty takes readers back to the scene where it all happened: his “favorite spot high up on the wall.” He acknowledges that it’s a strange place for such a fragile being to be, but up there he felt closer to the birds. He goes on to say that he’s not really comfortable with all the fuss and the fancy “Great Fall” title. It was just a mistake; even if that mistake did change his life.

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Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

It turns out that despite what we’ve all learned, the king’s men were able to patch Humpty up. Well, at least partly. His shell was repaired, but inside? “There were some parts that couldn’t be healed with bandages and glue.” Where Humpty once loved his bunk bed above his desk, he now slept on a mat on the floor; he only bought items from the lowest grocery store shelves; and even though he passed the wall every day, he knew he could never climb the ladder to the top again.

Humpty resigned himself to watching the birds from the ground through a pair of binoculars. Then, one day, a paper airplane streaked across the sky and gave him an idea. Paper airplanes looked so easy to make, but Humpty found it hard. Day after day he struggled, suffering paper cuts and scratches. One day, though, he “got it just right.” In his hand was a beautiful paper bird.

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Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

Humpty took his bird plane outside and launched it into the air. “It flew like nothing could stop it.” Humpty felt happier than he had in ages, and even though watching his plane wasn’t the same as being on top of the wall among the birds, “it was close enough.” But then the unthinkable happened—the bird plane flew over the wall. Humpty was well aware that “unfortunately, accidents happen…they always do.”

For a minute Humpty Dumpty considered walking away. But then he remembered all the work he’d put into his plane, which led him to think about all the things he was missing out on. He looked up that tall, tall ladder and started to climb. The farther up he got, though, the more afraid he became. Without looking up or down, he continued climbing. “One step at a time.”

When he reached the top, he “was no longer afraid.” At that moment, as his shell began to crack and he felt lighter and more powerful. Humpty tells readers that he hopes they won’t remember him as “that egg who was famous for falling,” but as “the egg who got back up and learned how to fly.”

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Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

Dan Santat deftly works with preconceived notions and a well-known idiom to turn the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty into an inspirational “happily ever after” story. Just as fears can come to define a person, traditional interpretations of this tale classify Humpty as a chicken egg and specify his lack of repair as physical. But what if, as Santat envisions, Humpty is the egg of a bird that soars and that his hurts are more internal? Then readers can identify with this hero who doesn’t give in and who conquers his fear to come out of his shell and fly. Santat’s honest, straightforward storytelling will resonate with young readers and listeners. The gentle reassurance in After the Fall will encourage children to try again—one step at a time.

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Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

Santat’s luminous illustrations express wonder, humor, and touching moments in ways that not only enhance the story but make readers think about other issues as well.  Children will want to linger over the pages to catch all the references to Humpty’s bird watching hobby, take in the enormity of the wall that Humpty Dumpty confronts, and catch humorous takes on the original rhyme, including Santat’s King’s County Hospital. Adults and kids alike will enjoy poring over and discussing the wall of cereals, and as Humpty’s tiny hand reaches for the next rung on the ladder adults may feel a lump in their throats. When Humpty breaks free of his shell and emerges in the same form as the paper bird he created, readers may consider whether Humpty spent time only working on his toy or on himself as well.

After the Fall is a picture book that offers reassurance and invites deeper discussion. The book would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626726826

Learn more about Dan Santat, his books, and his art on his website.

National Egg Month Activity

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Chick This Out! Maze

 

This little rebel chicken has been separated from his family! Can you help him find his way back to the nest? 

Chick This Out! Maze | Chick This Out! Solution

Picture Books Review