December 1 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Dancing with Daddy

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Dancing with Daddy

Written by Anitra Rowe Schulte | Illustrated by Ziyue Chen

 

Elsie was shopping for the perfect dress to wear to her first father-daughter dance. Should she choose the pink one that will make her look like a princess or the red one that’s the same color as her daddy’s soccer jersey? As her mom held them up, Elsie reached from her wheelchair and “grabbed the red dress and pulled it close. This one,” she thinks. “It’s perfect for dancing with Daddy.” She gets a matching bow headband and heads home as snowflakes flurried around them. Elsie was worried the dance would be cancelled.

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2021, text copyright Anitra Rowe Schulte, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At home, Elsie’s sisters, Daphne and Rosalie, raced to meet Elsie at the door while Daddy asked her if she picked out a good one. Elsie replied by touching the “special” picture square in her PODD communication book. After dinner – noodle bowls for Daphne and Rosalie and a push of food through a feeding tube for Elsie – the sisters went to Elsie’s room to see her dress and talk about the dance. Soon it was time for bed, and “Daddy read Elsie’s favorite bedtime book,” the Nutcracker. “As the dancer in the story twirled, Elsie’s heart did pirouettes. I can’t wait to see my dress spin,” Elsie thought.

That night Elsie dreamed about the dance, but the snow kept falling. In the morning, Elsie stared out the window with disappointment. She saw snow edging her window panes and heard the sound of snow shovels. She just knew the dance would be cancelled. Then her mom came in and told her “‘the dance is a go!'” All day the sisters practiced dancing and twirling and dipping Elsie’s wheelchair “until she found her groove.”

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2021, text copyright Anitra Rowe Schulte, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At last the time came to get ready and leave for the dance. Daddy complimented all of his daughters on their dresses as they made their way to the dance hall. That’s when Elsie realized she didn’t have her bow. While crossing the parking lot, Elsie’s wheels got stuck in a snowbank, but Daddy pushed it through. Once inside, the other girls all reminded her of the dancer in her favorite book. She wished she had her bow and put her hand up to touch her hair. Reminded, her dad pulled the headband from his pocket and set it in place. Then he spun her around; “her ruffles took flight.”

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2021, text copyright Anitra Rowe Schulte, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Inside the gym, the music boomed, and everyone was dancing. When a “tender tune began to play, Daphne and Rosalie took a break. Elsie’s daddy picked her up. “Elsie pressed her forehead against Daddy’s, and together they danced. He swung her high and held her tight. It was just like her dream, “except better.” Afterward, Elsie tasted the frosting from her piece of cake, then she touched the “dance” picture in her book. Elsie and Daddy returned to the dance floor and “joined Daphne and Rosalie under the lights and dance and danced into the night.”

An Author’s Note at the front of the book introduces readers to Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, its prevalence, affects, and the tools people with WHS use to eat, communicate, and get around.

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Image copyright Ziyue Chen, 2021, text copyright Anitra Rowe Schulte, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Inspired by her own daughters, one of whom has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome like Elise, Anitra Rowe Schulte’s story glows with family love, support, and encouragement. As Elise gets ready for a father-daughter dance, readers will get caught up in her excitement and universal concerns, such as choosing the “perfect” dress and whether a much-anticipated event will be cancelled because of adverse weather. Schulte’s evocative storytelling beautifully incorporates both emotion and factual information through the use of realistic, uplifting dialogue and intermittent lyrical lines that echo the movement and music of dance. Children also see that while Elsie may be nonverbal, her thoughts are like their own, just expressed differently.

Ziyue Chen’s lovely illustrations shine with sisterly camaraderie and family devotion. As the story opens and Elise chooses the red dress over the pink one by pulling it close, kids can read in her face and body language how important the dress, the dance, and surprising her dad are to her. Likewise, readers will share Elise’s excitement and her worries and celebrate the fun she has at the dance. Particularly moving are two mirrored illustrations: the first, a gorgeous image, lit by golden orbs and tiny stars, of Elise dreaming of the dance to come, and the second a tender two-page spread later on when her dream comes true. 

In her illustrations of Elise, Chen realistically depicts the facial features of children with WHS as well as the wheelchair, orthotics, feeding mechanism, and PODD books used by many. Children who use tools similar to Elise will be excited to see themselves represented in these pages, and others will be interested to learn about them and to meet Elise.

A joyous and heartfelt story of a loving and supportive family and which celebrates the common hopes and dreams of all children, Dancing with Daddy is highly recommended for home libraries and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542007191

About Anitra Rowe Schulte

Anitra Rowe Schulte has worked as a journalist for The Kansas City Star and the Sun-Times News Group, as a staff writer for Chicago Public Schools, and as a publicist. She is the mother of three beautiful girls, one of whom has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome and is the inspiration for Elsie in this book. She lives in the Chicago area, and this is her first picture book. Learn more about her at www.anitraroweschulte.com and follow her at @anitraschulte on Twitter.

About Ziyue Chen

Ziyue Chen is the Deaf illustrator of a number of children’s books, including Mela and the Elephant by Dow Phumiruk, How Women Won the Vote by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and Rocket-Bye Baby: A Spaceflight Lullaby by Danna Smith. She lives with her loved ones in Singapore. Find out more at www.ziyuechen.com or follow her @ziyuechen on Instagram.

To see Ziyue Chen bring her illustrations to life on the page, watch these videos.

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You can find Dancing with Daddy at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 16 – It’s National Blueberry Month

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About the Holiday

Farmers’ Markets are bursting with fresh produce during the summer months, and that is especially true for blueberries, those little round morsels of sweetness. The United States Department of Agriculture recognized July as National Blueberry Month in 2003, and it’s been delicious eating ever since! Blueberries are the perfect accompaniment to muffins, pancakes, bread, fruit salads, and of course they’re delectable just on their own! So visit a farmers’ market today and pick up a peck.

Blueberry Cake

By Sarah Dillard

 

A little bear comes into the kitchen and tugs at his mother’s apron strings. When she turns her head, her cub asks shyly, “Blueberry cake?” Mama looks thoughtfully at her little one and sends him outside with a bucket. The cub dashes through the back yard and into the forest. Playfully, he wears the bucket like a hat and then does cartwheels until he comes to the edge of the woods. Peeking through the trees, the cub exclaims, “Oh!”

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

What meets his eye is a wide-open field, a sea of blueberries. The little one sits down in the middle of a patch of delicious berries and begins filling the bucket with a concentrated, “Blueberries.” But it’s just so hard not to take a taste. Maybe just a handful. “Blueberries!” he exclaims. Then something else catches the little bear’s attention. It’s a butterfly – a monarch wanting to play chase. The cub runs after the butterfly, swinging the bucket and spilling the blueberries little by little along the way.

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

The game brings the cub to another field – this one dotted with black-eyed Susans and queen Anne’s lace. They’re so pretty that the cub can’t help but pick some. Into the bucket they go. At home, the little bear holds the bucket out for Mama and asks, “Blueberry cake?” Mama looks at the offering and asks, “Blueberries?” The cub offers the flowers, but Mama still wonders where the blueberries are. The little bear inspects the bucket and quietly says, “No blueberries.” Mama crosses her arms and delivers the bad news: “No blueberry cake.”

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

That night in bed, the cub dreams of what might have been and just as the sun begins rising over the horizon, he’s ready to try again. The cub dashes back to the blueberry field and fills the bucket until it’s brimming with delicious berries. The sun is still dawning when he gets home and puts the bucket on the kitchen counter and returns to his room. When Mama gets up, she’s surprised to find the blueberries. When the little bear comes downstairs again, he skips into the kitchen, his eyes alight, and he exclaims, “Blueberry cake!” The flowers, arranged in the bucket, decorate the middle of the table, and Mama lays out a placemat and plate for her little cub. He eagerly watches his mama cut a slice of cake and serve it. He gazes at the cake, and has just one thing to say: “Applesauce?”

A recipe for blueberry cake that’s easy enough for “little cubs and other small people” to make with some help “from a mama or papa bear” follows the story.

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

With just six words, a darling cub, and a loving mother, Sarah Dillard creates a story that will charm kids. Dillard’s sunny illustrations are infused with poignant moments of childhood that are fanciful, disappointing, surprising, humorous, and always full of love. An expressive reading of the simple dialogue brings out all the feeling of the gentle ups and downs of the story and can also serve as a lesson in recognizing emotions for young readers. Kids will also have a blast joining in and reading along.

Ages 3 – 8

Aladdin, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534451346

Discover more about Sarah Dillard, her books, and her art on her website.

National Blueberry Month Activity

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A Bounty of Blueberries Maze

 

Can you help pick blueberries to make some delicious treats in this printable puzzle?

A Bounty of Blueberries Maze | A Bounty of Blueberries Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-cake-cover

You can find Blueberry Cake at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 3 – It’s National Family Month

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About the Holiday

Observed during the five weeks between Mothers Day and Fathers Day, National Family Month was established by KidsPeace, a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping children and families since 1882. Leading into the school vacation season, the holiday encourages families to spend more time working, playing, talking, and just hanging out together. This year, of course, we’ve gotten to know and appreciate our families in a whole new way. This Family Month and all throughout the summer, celebrate your close bonds. You can read more about the qualities of strong families in this publication about the holiday from childwelfare.gov. During this month of Father’s Day, one wonderful way for kids to celebrate their dads is to share today’s book. 

My Dad

Written by Susan Quinn | Illustrated by Marina Ruiz

 

A little boy confides that his dad has blasted off to another galaxy, “been a secret agent, or won a Grand Prix race.” He’s not one of those jet-setting dads, either. But, the little boy boasts “my Dad is FANTASTIC!” What makes him so fantastic? Well, he’s a wonderful baker and makes “the best cookies” and cake. His dad is also likes to work outside. The boy says, “He gives me rides around the garden, / he grows vegetables all in a row. / And it’s fun to pull up carrots, / shouting, “Ready! Set! GO!'” Even grocery shopping is not “BORING” when they go together and pretend they’re in the jungle “looking for tasty food to eat.”

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Image copyright Marina Ruiz, 2021, text copyright Susan Quinn, 2021. Courtesy of words & pictures, Quarto Knows.

The boy says his dad is always there to teach him things, to cheer him on, and to cheer him up when he’s had a bad day. They go on outings together and play until they stop to quietly enjoy the sunset. On rainy fall days, they splash in puddles under a rainbow canopy, and in the winter they play in the snow. With Dad, bath time is time for adventures on the high seas.

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Image copyright Marina Ruiz, 2021, text copyright Susan Quinn, 2021. Courtesy of words & pictures, Quarto Knows.

At bedtime Dad reads stories as they cuddle up together. “Then,” the boy says, “we count twinkling stars, before Dad says ‘night, night!'” With a final kiss, Dad tucks his son in tight, and the little boy smiles, thinking “he’s the best a dad can be. / And every day is special / when it’s just my Dad and me.”

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Image copyright Marina Ruiz, 2021, text copyright Susan Quinn, 2021. Courtesy of words & pictures, Quarto Knows.

Susan Quinn’s sweet and earnest ode to the love between a son and his father is all the more touching for the simple, conversational style of her rhyming verses. From the first page, the little boy’s pride and affection for his dad is evident as each spread describes a specific way in which Dad makes every day special or attends to his son’s needs. The unique bond fathers form with their children through working together, physical play, imagination, snuggle time, and just being there for them are all represented with heartwarming, childlike enthusiasm. As a busy day winds down, the quiet assurance of a father’s love will move readers – both children and adults. 

Marina Ruiz’s soft, textured, multi-media illustrations welcome readers into the comforting home and routine of a little boy and his dad as they spend treasured time together. From home to the soccer field to beach picnics to the grocery store transformed by imagination, Ruiz’s gorgeous color palette and collage-style images highlight what makes this father-son relationship so special. Plenty of smiles, adoring looks, and shared snuggles will charm readers.

My Dad will be a favorite choice for fathers to read to their kids and mothers or other caregivers to share when Dad’s away. The book would make a much-appreciated gift for Father’s Day or other gift-giving occasions and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7 

words & pictures, Quarto Knows, 2021 | ISBN 978-0711255340

Discover more about Susan Quinn and her books on her website.

To learn more about Marina Ruiz, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Family Month Activity

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I Love Dad Building Blocks

 

This craft will stack up to be a favorite with kids! With wooden blocks and a little chalkboard paint, it’s easy for kids to make these unique building blocks that show dad just how they feel about him. They’re also great for gifts, decorating, party favors, or when you just have a little time to play!

Supplies

  • Wooden blocks in various sizes, available from craft stores
  • Chalkboard paint in various colors
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk in various colors

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden blocks with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. Write words or draw pictures on the blocks
  3. Have fun!

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You can find My Dad at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 1 – Global Day of Parents

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About the Holiday

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly instituted Global Day of Parents to honor and support parents and their importance to the health, welfare, education, and nurturing of their children. This past year, especially, has seen parents stepping up to help their children with school work, protect them from illness, soothe their fears, and help them adjust to necessary changes. Today’s holiday provides an opportunity to appreciate all parents for their “selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship.” To learn more about the holiday, visit the United Nations website.

Hair Twins

Written by Raakhee Mirchandani | Illustrated by Holly Hatam

 

A Sikh father and his young daughter have a favorite routine every morning. Before school and work, Papa combs out his daughter’s long hair and brushes it “like he does his own, splitting it down the middle, like a river separating two enchanted forests.” Papa then smooths the tangles with coconut oil. Next, he styles it, sometimes making two braids that remind her of the braid her dadi, her grandmother, “wears to parties.”

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Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Raakhee Mirchandani, 2021. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

As her father combs out his own long hair, his daughter helps out by handing him a rubber band and a brush for his beard. Sometimes the little girl wears her hair in a bun at the top of her head, just “like the joora” her father wears every day.” She calls this their “twin look.” Back at home after school, the girl shakes out her hair as they dance together, and before they go to the park to meet friends, her father covers his bun with his patka and ties his turban around his head.

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Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Raakhee Mirchandani, 2021. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Today, Papa styles the girl’s hair into one long braid. She imagines it’s a “unicorn tail” and she’s ready to run like unicorns with her friends and “the grown-ups who love them” when they get to the park. Each week the group pretends to be something new but no matter if they wear “braids [or] buns, Mohawks [or] mullets, spiked [or] shaved,” they all play together. As they run, the girl smells coconut and, without looking, knows her father is behind her and feels comfort in her “hair twin.”

An Author’s Note reveals the personal origins of the story.

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Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Raakhee Mirchandani, 2021. Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Raakhee Mirchandani’s lyrical story celebrates family, love, and joy in shared and passed-down traditions. The little girl’s strong bond with her father is sweetly revealed as he styles her hair in braids or a bun and then winds his own long hair into a joora, covers it with a patka, and then wraps his turban for the day’s activities. The girl’s straightforward explanations about her and her father’s hair leads into the fun they have together, and story’s first-person point of view creates a personal bond with readers as well as her enthusiasm shines through on every page. 

Holly Hatam’s bright and cheerful illustrations are expressive and creative, beautifully playing on Mirchandani’s metaphors. The father and daughter relationship is the highlight of the book, and Hatam let’s readers in on their moments of laughing, dancing, and playing together. Hatam’s neighborhood and park scenes embrace diversity while also extending the idea of family connections through parent-and-child pairs who, like the girl and her father wear similar hairstyles.

A unique and poignant story about Sikh families and traditions, Hair Twins enchants as a universal story full of the love of family relationships and traditions for all children. The book is a highly recommended addition to school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-0316495301

Discover more about Raakhee Mirchandani and her books on her website.

To learn more about Holly Hatam, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Global Day of Parents Activity

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Hair Twins Activity Kit

 

You can download a coloring page, a Storytime Kit with puzzles and games, and a collection of Father’s Day cards from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers here.

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You can find Hair Twins at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 21 – National Adoption Day

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About the Holiday

National Adoption Day is a national collective initiative to raise awareness of the more than 125,000 children in foster care who are waiting to find permanent families. Sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, The Alliance for Children’s Rights, and Children’s Action Network, National Adoption Day was instituted in 2000, and since then has made the wishes of nearly 75,000 children come true. To learn more, visit the National Adoption Day website.

Thanks to Two Lions for sending me a copy of A Crazy-Much Love for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

A Crazy-Much Love

Written by Joy Jordan-Lake | Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

 

A mom and her daughter walk along, gazing at each other. “You are the one, precious child—did you know?” she says, starting the story the little girl knows by heart but wants to hear as much as the mother wants to tell it. Long before the little one had joined their family, her mom and dad dreamed about her and prepared for her, waiting and waiting. “It was you,” her mom says, that they loved before they even saw or hugged or held her.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The future mom and dad “counted the hours and struck off the days” until they could bring their baby home and let her know she was “safe and warm and so crazy-much loved.” Finally, the day came and they traveled by plane and train, never stopping, until they held their child in their arms and told her that they’d love her “forever and ever and far beyond that.” And the baby responded with a look like she “felt it right down to [her] toes.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At home, the little girl’s new extended family was waiting to welcome her—even the dog, who licked her toes and made her laugh. That’s when they knew, her mom tells her, that “our crazy-much love for you would grow and grow more and spill out the windows and bust down the doors.” And there were all those “firsts” that filled their hearts: first bath, first steps, first word, and first sentence, in which she echoed back all the love she had received—”“I love you much!’”

As she grew, there were more firsts to come: riding her bike and going to school. These milestones brought her parents such joy for how “crazy-well [she] had grown.” And now, when they all snuggle together, the little girl asks the questions she already knows the answers to but loves to hear them always. “‘How much is the crazy-much love?’” and “‘How long does it last, the crazy-much love?’” They all shout the answers as one, while Mom and Dad hold their daughter tight so that she knows she is “the greatest of crazy-much gifts.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That heart-swelling love parents have for their child or children bursts from every page of Joy Jordan-Lake’s shimmering ode to adopted children. While there are mentions of waiting for a phone call and long travel, and the parents are shown looking at photographs (these are shown from the back and could also represent ultrasound images), the feelings of anticipation and joy this mom and dad express are familiar to all parents. Jordan-Lake’s long, lyrical sentences echo the excited rush of emotions that bubble up inside at unexpected moments.

The repeated phrase “It was you”—changing to “It is you” on the final page—will raise a lump in parents’ throats as it embodies that totality of history, the present, the future, and the endless awe that parents hold in their hearts for their one child or for each of their children individually. Hearing these words while cuddled on a lap or snuggled up in bed, children will absorb the tender outpouring of love and embrace their place in the family and the world.

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Sonia Sánchez fills her eye-catching pages with motion and light, mirroring the effervescent love between parents and child that is returned to them as well. Star lights twinkle above the baby’s crib, a brilliant sun sends the plane carrying the couple on its way around the world, and feelings, depicted with colorful floating circles and hearts, flow from mother, father, and child and fill the air. This family’s special bond is celebrated with smiles, laughter, hugs, and snuggles on every page, reinforcing their “crazy-much love.”

A Crazy-Much Love is a book all parents or caregivers will want to share with their child or children. It makes a fabulous gift for new parents and will be a favorite on home, school, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542043267

Joy Jordan-Lake is the author of multiple books for adults, including A Tangled Mercy, a Goodreads Hot Reads Selection and Kindle bestseller, and Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the Christy Award in 2009 for Best First Novel. A Crazy-Much Love is her debut picture book. She holds a PhD in English and has taught literature and writing at several universities. She is a mother to two biological children and one child adopted from China, and her experiences inspired this book. She lives outside Nashville with her family, including two fluffy dogs. You can learn more about Joy Jordan-Lake at www.joyjordanlake.com.

Sonia Sánchez is an award-winning Spanish illustrator. Her debut picture book, Here I Am, written by Patti Kim, received two starred reviews and was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Painter. Her artwork has been selected for the prestigious Society of Illustrators Original Art Show twice, and her books have been named a CBC NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her son, and a sleepyhead cat in a blue house near the Mediterranean Sea. 

National Adoption Day Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

Jar Full of Love

 

Do you wish there was a way to remind your child or children how much you love them and how your love grows even when you’re not with them? With this jar just a quick glimpse shows them what is in your heart.

Supplies

  • A clear, plastic jar with a lid
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Whenever you feel that tug of love for your child, add a heart to their jar. In no time it will start filling up, just as your heart is full of them. Here are some ideas for when to add a heart or two:

  • Add the same number of hearts as your child’s age
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your child (write those traits on the hearts)
  • Give a new heart whenever your child does something nice for someone
  • Add hearts for milestones and accomplishments
  • Encourage your child to pass the love along! Tell them they can give a heart from the jar to other family members or friends

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crazy-much-love-cover

You can find A Crazy-Much Love at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop| IndieBound

 

November 5 – It’s Polar Bear Week and Interview with Paul Schmid

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About the Holiday

November means colder weather, snow, and – most importantly – ice. Ice means the fall polar bear migration to Churchill, Manitoba. Here, polar bears gather to wait for the sea ice to form on Hudson Bay so they can return to hunting seals. Polar Bear Week, sponsored by Polar Bears International, focuses on sea ice, the effects of climate change, and what we can do to ensure the polar bears’ survival. This year, people are encouraged to get involved from home. To learn more about the week’s activities and how you can help, visit Polar Bears International.

Thank you to Phaidon Press for sending me a copy of Little Bear Dreams for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Little Bear Dreams

By Paul Schmid

 

A baby polar bear rides atop Mom’s back, catching snowflakes on a little pink tongue. As the snowflakes change to twinkling stars in the dark night sky, a question hangs in the air—“Of what do little bears dream?” Perhaps it’s the frothy sweetness of “hot chocolate” or the delicious spiciness of “cold pizza.”

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

As the day brightens once more, maybe the baby imagines all kinds of things that lie beyond those “straight horizons” or giggles at wearing tickly, “curly moustaches.” There are so many things to discover, both big and small, short and tall, and blue—lots of blue in the frozen north. But night has come around again and it’s time for sleep. So, curl up with “soft, snowy beds. Warm fur…and frosty nights” and drift off to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-bear-dreams-moustaches

Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Paul Schmid’s snuggly story about an adorable polar bear pair rendered with soft curves, quiet blues, and sweet surprises is, simply, love in a book. The gentle text lulls little ones toward sleep while reminding them of the wonders of life. Images of opposites—hot and cold, straight and curly, big and small, and others—are full of charm and wit and give little readers lots to talk about or an invitation to fill in their own details.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Schmid’s beautiful use of line, shape, and color expresses the loving relationship between baby and adult as the little one peeks from behind Mom, hides underneath her during a game of hide-and-seek, and nuzzles noses in a little bear kiss. Marshmallow-plump bunnies wait silently to play, and pudgy little polar bear twists to try and spy a stubby tail. Gorgeous perspectives show the magnitude of the night sky and the mother bear’s protective power. The moving image of the pair curled into a ball for sleep underneath a full moon and then risen to replace it as a little one’s shining light is the perfect ending to this story so rich in cuddles, caring, and comfort.

An excellent book for baby shower, birthday, and holiday gifts as well as an endearing addition to home libraries, Little Bear Dreams is a book you will find yourself reaching for again and again. It’s a sweet book for preschool classrooms and a must for public libraries.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877242

To learn more about Paul Schmid, his books, and his art, visit his website

Meet Paul Schmid

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I’m thrilled to be chatting with Paul Schmid today about his the inspirations of winter, following where ideas lead, and the role of that curly moustache in Little Bear Dreams.

Readers are always interested in the creative process that goes into a book. Can you talk us through how Little Bear Dreams came to be?

Little Bear Dreams started in a somewhat dreamlike way. I just began playing with the dramatic, graceful shapes of winter landscapes without knowing where I was going with it. I love winter, and since childhood have been fascinated by its stark simplicity and seeming contradiction of severity and softness.

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This was the start of it all. Roughly sketched musings on a bear in her environment.

As dreams will do, the book evolved as it progressed. It took hundreds of sketches to bring this book to life. At one early point it was called “Black and White and Blue.” The more I sketched my characters, though, the more they began to assert their personality. We all eventually settled into a gentle, loving mother bear and her rather impish and imaginative little bear.

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Sketches, sketches, sketches!

Ideas for stories can come from anywhere, but what for you makes an idea stick so that you develop it further?

DH Lawrence wrote: “If you try to nail anything down in the novel, either it kills the novel, or the novel gets up and walks away with the nail.”

I follow ideas perpetually. “Follow” being the operational word here. Many times I’ve tried to force an idea, and it generally ends up looking so. 

I follow until an idea becomes something or peters into nothing. Some ideas I’ve been following for years and haven’t arrived anywhere wonderful—yet. Some ideas drag me after them at a speed which shocks me. I guess the key is to always be receptive. Ideas will rudely wake me at 2 a.m., obliging me to creep into my studio and sketch or write.

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There are so many ways to convey an idea! I jokingly call the first few months of developing a book “The Period of Ten Thousand Decisions.” Here are explorations on just one spread from Little Bear Dreams: “Blue water.”

Little Bear Dreams began as an indulgence to play with simplicity in color and shape, visual and verbal rhythms and contrasts, but evolved also into a story of love and connection. Of gentleness and playfulness.

The idea is the boss. Not me. I just obey.

Your illustration style is very distinctive, and your adorable characters immediately inspire readers to feel empathy for them. Can you talk a little about the role of different shapes, line, white space, and even the use of small features in your illustrations?

I have a compulsion to express as much as possible in the simplest manner possible. It is a great pleasure to me to strip an illustration or sentence of all that gets in the way of advancing the story or mood or character of the book.

CPB - Paul Schmid Interview - more sketches for Little Bear Dreams

Although my illustrations seem simple, I’ve found simplicity a very complicated feat to achieve. With no busyness, what is there must be perfect. For me that requires a lot of drawing and redrawing.

But it must connect with a reader! Children live real, dramatic, joyous, painful, confused, confident, knowing, learning lives. I feel my job as a storyteller for children is to reflect and connect with the vitality of life they dwell in.

So when I draw a character in a situation or emotion I feel that emotion myself as I draw. The great illustrator Howard Pyle was quoted as saying: “Project your mind into your subject until you actually live in it.” 

In 2010 you were chosen as one of four illustrators to attend a fellowship with Maurice Sendak. What is the most memorable thing that he told you? What is your favorite memory from that experience?

Maurice was to me a shining example of emotional courage and depth and intelligence. I’ve never met anyone more brilliant and intuitive. He was unafraid of his feelings, of complexity, of embracing sadness and joy. 

For all he was a superstar, he was also amazingly generous and one of the most caring, attentive listeners I’ve ever known.

It is how he was as a person that has inspired me rather than any one thing he said.

My favorite memory of Maurice was a visit I paid to him about a year after the Fellowship. We took a walk and for hours discussed how elusive happiness is for an artist, the difficulty in waking our muses, the impossibility of not continuing to always create and express ourselves, the challenge and imperative of being truthful to kids, loss, death, life, beauty. The whole of our love for life and creating. 

As a speaker at  the 2015 Words, Writers, and West Seattle” series of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, you talked about several of your books, including Oliver and His Alligator, which involves a surprising turn of events, and mention that kids love being shocked. In Little Bear Dreams, the baby polar dreams of things she would naturally see in her environment juxtaposed with things like cold pizza and curly mustaches. Can you discuss the benefits for young children of unexpected moments that cause surprise or giggles?

Kids are still putting the puzzle pieces together on their perceptions of “What is this thing called life?” Incongruities help reinforce our understanding of reality. As a little girl my own daughter enjoyed pointing out when something was not right. It is a source of humor for children and adults.

As I write I imagine a parent reading the book with their child and discussing it together. “Do polar bears eat pizza?” “No, that’s silly!” I endeavor to create those moments for a parent and child. My books such as A Pet for Petunia and Oliver and his Alligator are full of such opportunities. Surprise, along with the comfort of seeing true familiar things is the balance I sought for Little Bear Dreams.

Putting the child in the position of knowing something the book affects not to know is great fun for a young reader too.

As I watched the Word, Writers, and West Seattle event, I was thrilled to see you present The Story of Ferdinand as one of your childhood favorites. That book was also one of my favorites—the first one I remember truly loving. For me, as a quiet child, it was the story that was so validating, and for you, you said that even as a child you appreciated the perfection of the illustrations. Could you talk a bit about that relationship between a child and a book that is a beloved “first” in some way. Is that an idea you are aware of when creating a book?

One of the most gratifying results of creating books for kids is getting a note from a parent telling me it is their child’s favorite book; that they have to sleep with it under their pillow, or they’ve memorized the whole book. I love knowing I made something that touched a child so deeply.

I believe this profound connection is because a child reads so much more intensely than an adult. They seek in books information and affirmation of what they are feeling or thinking. They find adventure and discover possibility. Reading for kids is not just a distraction, it is an important part of their world.

Oh, and because of this I have a small personal conviction that the only reviewers of kid’s books should be kids. Ha!

What’s up next for you?

I am always working on new manuscripts! I’m having a great time this week with a particularly fun story I am sketching up. Not a bad way to spend my days.

A new endeavor I am also enjoying is designing images for greeting cards. One company, Great Arrow Graphics, has picked up about a dozen or so of my designs which are available in select stores or on line here: https://www.greatarrow.com/cards/cardlist/did/494

I have also set up a shop at society6, where you can buy quality prints of images from my books and some other fun stuff I’ve illustrated.

The shop lives here: https://society6.com/paulschmid

New designs are always on the way.

What’s your favorite holiday? Do you have an anecdote from any holiday that you’d like to share?

I find Winter Solstice particularly appealing, since for me it represents the paradox of life. Solstice marks the end of the shortening days, the return of light and warmth, of renewal. At the same time it also means the beginning of Winter, of coldness, hardship and patience. This is not a conflict to me but a lovely insight. Up cannot exist without down, it is its opposite that makes a thing itself be. 

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Paul hiking with Mount Rainier in the distance.

So at the moment of Winter Solstice we are able to feel simultaneously both joy and sadness, hope and fear. That is a concept I find strangely satisfying.

Thanks, Paul, for such an insightful talk! I wish you all the best with Little Bear Dreams and all of your books!

National Polar Bear Week Activity

CPB - Polar Bear scarf

CPB - Polar Bear Banner

Polar Bear Scarf or Banner

 

Polar bears aren’t cold in the winter—and neither should you be! Here are directions and printable templates for making a cute scarf to keep you warm, or—if you’d rather—a banner to warm up your room.

Supplies

  • Printable Polar Bear and Igloo Template
  • 1 Strip of blue fleece 4 ½ feet long x 7 inches wide for the scarf
  • 1 Piece of blue scrapbooking paper for a banner
  • Pieces of white, black, blue, and purple fleece or scrapbooking paper to make the polar bear, igloo, snowflakes, and ice floes.
  • String or twine for banner
  • Scissors
  • Fabric or paper glue

Directions for Scarf

To make the fringe at each end of the scarf:

  1. Make 7 cuts about 4 inches long
  2. Tie a knot at the top of each fringe section

To make the pieces for the scarf or banner:

  1. Trace the polar bear and igloo sections from the Printable Template onto white fleece and cut out
  2. Trace the two ice floes onto blue fleece and cut out
  3. Trace the door of the igloo onto blue fleece and cut out
  4. Trace the polar bear’s scarf onto purple (or any color) fleece and cut out
  5. Cut out round snowflakes
  6. Cut out a small circle from black fleece for the Polar Bear’s nose

On one end of the scarf:

  1. Glue the smaller ice floe on one end of the scarf
  2. Tie the bear’s scarf around its neck before gluing the bear to the scarf
  3. Glue the polar bear onto the scarf with its feet on the ice floe
  4. Glue on the polar bear’s nose
  5. Make a small dot for the polar bear’s eye with a marker
  6. Glue snowflakes above polar bear

On the other end of the scarf:

  1. Glue the bigger ice floe to the scarf
  2. Glue the three pieces of the large igloo to the scarf, leaving a little space between sections
  3. Glue the small white door of the igloo on top of the last two igloo sections
  4. Glue the small blue door onto the white door
  5. Glue snowflakes above the igloo

Directions for Banner

  1. Cut a point at the bottom of your banner
  2. Follow the directions above to trace the pieces of the polar bear and igloo from the printable template onto scrapbooking paper
  3. Follow the directions above to glue the pieces of the polar bear and igloo to your banner
  4. Attach string or twine to back of banner to make a hanger

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You can find Little Bear Dreams at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 8 – National Family Month

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About the Holiday

Established by KidsPeace, a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping children and families since 1882, National Family Month is observed during the five-week period between Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June. It coincides with the usual end of the school year, and raises awareness of the important role mothers and fathers play as a support system for their children. To observe the holiday spend time talking with your kids about topics of importance to them and plan activities  for fun and to help them achieve their goals.

Made for Me

Written by Zack Bush | Illustrated by Gregorio De Lauretis

 

A man sits in a hospital corridor in the baby ward, squeezing his baseball cap in his hands. Soon, he opens the door and an ear-to-ear smile lights up his face. He says, “On the day you were born, I beamed with pride. / My eyes filled with tears, I joyfully cried.” With just one look at his child, he knew that his life was changed forever. With enthusiasm he took to his new role as a dad—feeding, diapering, rocking, and, of course, making his baby giggle.

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Images copyright Gregorio De Lauretis, 2018, text copyright Zack Bush, 2018. Courtesy of Familius.

This dad loved each tiny toe, every finger, each grin and knew: “Of all the children that ever could be, / you are the one made just for me.” Soon his baby was crawling and exploring, babbling and “always so curious.” When his child fell or was scared, he was always there, and he looked forward to each new morning that would bring new adventures.

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Images copyright Gregorio De Lauretis, 2018, text copyright Zack Bush, 2018. Courtesy of Familius.

In the blink of an eye, his little one was walking and talking and enjoying the park. They turned boxes into cars and mounds of sand into castles. There were lots of new “firsts”—first haircut, first big bed, first pitch, first swing—and Dad says, “From the day you were born, so cute and so clever, / you’re one-of-a-kind, and I’ll love you forever!” Now his child’s growing up, more and more every day. It’s time for preschool, and hand-in-hand Dad leads the way with this loving reminder: “Of all the children that ever could be, / you are the one made just for me.”

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Images copyright Gregorio De Lauretis, 2018, text copyright Zack Bush, 2018. Courtesy of Familius.

Lyrical and emotionally pitch-perfect, Zack Bush’s tribute to a father’s love for his child or children from the very first moment will tug at the heart. Bush’s story is one dads will want to read with their kids over and over as they grow up to share those moments of pride, joy, play, discovery, and comfort that have built their own strong father and child bond. The repeated phrase reinforces the unique relationship each adult reader has with their child, creating a poignant experience with every reading that will resonate far longer.

With his bulky size, beefy arms, and ever-present grin, Gregorio De Lauretis’s new dad will endear himself to readers from the first page. The newborn, taking a bottle or swaddled up tight, looks like a tiny (and happy) peanut in the crook of one of those arms, and giggles abound as Dad tickles toes and a chubby little belly. Adults will recognize many firsts and daily routines that give them an opportunity to expand on the story to include their own favorite memories of their child.

Sweet, relatable, and heartwarming, Made for Me would make a perfect Father’s Day gift for new and soon-to-be dads as well as for those of older children. It would be a favorite read aloud on home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Birth – 5

Familius, 2018 | ISBN 978-1945547690 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1641702003 (Board Book, 2019)

Family Month Activity

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Child’s Sensory Board

 

A sensory board provides many opportunities for experimentation and observation, stimulating a baby and young child to learn while having fun. You can make a sensory board for your child using household items and that have a variety of textures, sizes, shapes, and movement. When you create your own sensory board, you can personalize it for your child by adding their name, pictures of family members, and other special items.

While you play with your child, take time to talk about all of the objects on the board, what they do, and how they work. Count the objects. If you include words or your child’s name, spell them out loud and say them. There are so many ways to use a sensory board. Even if children can’t yet talk, they are listening and soaking in the rich learning you are providing!

**When making your board always ensure that you use items that are not a choking hazard or a danger to catch tiny fingers. Make sure that items are firmly attached to the board. Never leave a baby unattended while playing.**

Supplies

  • A board large enough to hold the items you want to attach. Boards that can be used include: those found at hardware stores or craft stores; large cutting boards; shelves; old table tops; etc.
  • Paint in various bright colors
  • Paint brushes
  • Scissors
  • Screws
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Velcro
  • Super glue

Sample items for your sensory board can be age appropriate and include:

  • Large swatches of various textured material. (I used fur, a scrubbing sheet, and a piece of carpeting)
  • Wooden or thick cardboard letters and numbers, painted in a variety of colors. Letters can be used to add a child’s name to the board.
  • Figures cut from sheets of foam or wooden figures found at craft stores in a variety of numbers that you can count with your child (I used sets of 1, 2, and 3 fish cut from foam to go along with the numbers 1, 2, and 3)
  • Mirror
  • Push button light
  • Chalk board to write on
  • Castor or other wheel
  • Door latches
  • Mop heads
  • Paint rollers
  • Cranks
  • Drawer handles
  • Hinges (I attached a tennis ball to a hinge that children can push back and forth)
  • Pulleys

Directions

  1. Assemble your items
  2. Paint wooden or cardboard items
  3. Arrange item on the board so that your baby or child can easily reach or manipulate each one
  4. Attach items with screws, nuts and bolts, or super glue
  5. Push button lights or other objects that take batteries can be attached with strong Velcro. Ensure items attached with Velcro are large and not a choking hazard.
  6. Set up board where you and your baby or child can enjoy playing with it together

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You can find Made for Me at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review