August 23 – National Sponge Cake Day

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing like a light and airy cake embellished with fruit, whipped cream, or chocolate to put a fine finishing touch on a summer day, and that’s why the world celebrates the sponge cake today. What makes the sponge cake distinctive is that it is made without yeast or leavening agent, instead relying on whipped egg whites to give it its delectable texture. The recipe dates back to 18th century Italy and a special commission by a wealthy member of the Pallavicini family of Genoa. It is perhaps better known as a treat enjoyed by Victorian Britons with their tea. Today, sponge cake is a favorite everywhere, and it might just taste better when its baked and eaten together with friends—as you’ll see in today’s book!

Sonny Says Sorry!

Written by Caryl Hart | Illustrated by Zachariah OHora

While playing hide and seek in the park, Sonny finds a box wrapped with a bow. Intrigued, he inspects it and finds a tag that reads “For Honey.” Sonny is suddenly overcome by curiosity about what is inside. He smells a delicious aroma just as Boo and Meemo find him. Sonny shows them the box.

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2022, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then, despite Meemo’s protesting “Woof! Woof!”, Sonny opens the box. Meemo tries to remind Sonny and Boo that the box is for Honey, but they “peek inside” anyway. “Inside the box is a huge chocolate cake, covered in juicy, red strawberries!” There are chocolate drops on top too. “Woof!” says Meemo more emphatically as Sonny and Boo eat two strawberries. Then, after looking around, Sonny sneaks a chocolate drop. And Boo takes one too.

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2022, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sonny and Boo’s nibbling expands to gobbling. Just then Honey shows up. “Found you!” she says. But then she finds something else: “. . . Sonny’s chocolaty hands. . . . Boo’s chocolaty face. Then Honey sees the open box . . .” and she “starts to cry.”  Now Sonny and Boo feel terrible too. Even though they both try to make it up to Honey in their own way, and “Sonny says Sorry!”, Honey keeps crying. Then Sonny has another idea. Back home, “Sonny, Honey, and Boo bake a new cake . . .” to enjoy “TOGETHER!”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2022, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The sequel to Sonny Says Mine!, Caryl Hart’s Sonny Says Sorry! addresses that itchy curiosity that can often lead kids to break barriers and disappoint and upset their friends and others. In her quickly paced story, Hart lets readers be part of the group as Sonny, Boo, and Meemo gather around Honey’s enticing box and think for themselves whether they would join Sonny and Boo or side with Meemo. As Sonny and Boo’s eating escalates, so does the suspense. When Honey discovers her decimated cake, Hart needs only four words and a stream of tears to show little ones how devastated she feels. Sonny and Boo are similarly affected, and readers will see how decisions like the one Sonny made hurts everyone involved. Sonny’s sincere apology is a good start at making things right. His idea to include everyone in replacing the cake shows true, enduring friendship.

Zachariah OHora’s distinctive and familiar illustrations will endear these four friends to little readers. Blocks of vibrant colors help kids focus on the action and the characters’ expressive faces. When, on the second page, Sonny discovers a box on the picnic blanket next to his hiding place, the tag “For: Honey” is prominently displayed, giving kids and adults a hint of what might be coming up and what’s at stake. When Boo and Meemo arrive, Meemo’s barking and wagging tale provide readers with another opportunity to predict what he will do. As the story progresses, Meemo’s facial expressions become more and more disapproving, a balancing counterpoint to Sonny and Boo’s delight. OHora also does an excellent job of clearly showing Sonny and Boo’s remorse as well as their heartfelt apologies.

Sonny Says Sorry! is a smart and effective way to introduce young readers to the important concept of respecting others’ belongings and feelings as well as of making amends when a mistake is made. Straightforward and accessible language teamed with evocative illustrations create a poignant story that will make an emotional impact with children in the target audience. Sonny Says, Sorry! would be a go-to book on home and classroom bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections. 

Pair Sonny Says Sorry! with Sonny Says Mine!, a story about sharing to talk with your kids or students about these seminal topics of childhood. You can read my review of Sonny Says Mine! here.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1547609031

Discover more about Caryl Hart and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zachariah OHora, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Sponge Cake Day Activity

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Yummy Cake Coloring Pages

Cakes are fun to decorate and delicious to eat! These two coloring pages let you enjoy a bit of both!

Tall Cake to Decorate Coloring Page | Cat Eating Cake Coloring Page

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You can find Sonny Says Sorry at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 15 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

There’s a true art in putting together a delicious meal from seemingly disparate parts, and this month’s holiday honors those with a talent for combining tastes, flavors, and textures. With fresh ingredients available from farm stores, farmers markets, grocery stores, and maybe even your own garden, July is a great month for celebrating the culinary arts. This month, spend time with your kids in the kitchen. It’s a terrific way for them to learn cooking skills and even practice practical math while creating experimental or favorite recipes. And, of course, be sure to remember to make a few treats! Today’s book should get you off to a delicious start!

Thanks to Oni Press for sharing a digital copy of This Is a Birthday Cake with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

This is a Birthday Cake

Written by Andrew Cangelose | Illustrated by Josh Shipley

 

Andrew Cangelose’s two-layered story about making a cake and the history of cake is by turns hilarious and informative. First, kids meet Shelly, a turtle and the forest’s official baker, and Bucky, a rabbit and baker-in-training. Shelly explains that she is “teaching Bucky how to make a birthday cake.” Bucky is rarin’ to go because as soon as the cake is baked, “the party will start.”

But wait! A narrator breaks in on the very next page to reveal that “cake was first used to celebrate birthdays in the Roman Empire two thousand years ago,” but “only became widely popular about two hundred years ago during the Industrial Revolution.” Bucky isn’t too keen on the delay this history lesson has caused, and even less patient with Ms. Shelly’s directive to “visualize out beautiful cake in our minds.”

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Image copyright Josh Shipley, 2022, text copyright Andrew Cangelose, 2022. Courtesy of Oni Press.

But wait! The narrator has another interesting point to make, during which Bucky takes to sticking birthday candles up his nose and in his ears. Finally, Shelly says it’s time to get the recipe and all of the ingredients. Bucky, it seems, is already those steps ahead of Ms. Shelly and hot-foots it out the door, giving her a podcast-worthy “Byeeeee!”

As Bucky speeds into the forest, the recipe tightly gripped in his hand, he imagines his success and the accolades that will follow. At home, Shelly is slowly and methodically making the batter. Bucky takes a moment to reflect on the results of his soon-to-be triumph: “another party just to celebrate [his] accomplishment” and the sad fact that he will most likely be asked to be the new official forest baker.

But what about the ingredients, Bucky? The narrator begins to outline the necessary elements to a good cake. Hmmm… seems Bucky has forgotten to bring these along. No worries, though. Garbage, the ground hog tells Bucky that dirt is delicious: “a little sweet. A little sour. A lot of worms.” Bucky adds it to his pot. Still, he needs a sweetener and a liquid as the narrator describes.

Now, with her cake in the oven, Shelly is relaxing with a hot cup of tea with honey, while Bucky is hightailing it away from a swarm of angry bees. A champion-spitting frog is happy to help out with the liquid. At last, it’s time for the mixing. Ignoring the narrator’s warning about overmixing, Bucky goes at it like a tornado. With no oven to bake his cake in, Bucky comes up with an… ingenious?… solution.

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Image copyright Josh Shipley, 2022, text copyright Andrew Cangelose, 2022. Courtesy of Oni Press.

What’s a birthday cake without decoration, though? To get things moving along quicker, Bucky elicits the help of his forest friends, and in no time, it’s finished. What about Shelly? She’s still carefully drizzling colorful icing on the layers. It’s a good thing Bucky’s cake is ready. The forest animals line up for big pieces, excited to party.

But while Bucky’s congratulating himself and extolling his speed, the animals are coming to a grim realization. It doesn’t take long for Bucky to understand that maybe his cake is a disaster. Fortunately, Shelly is on her way with another cake. The animals watch her coming closer, and closer, and closer… until ta da! “The birthday cake has arrived!”

With two cakes on offer, Shelly wonders about the voracious response to hers, and Bucky reveals his unique recipe. He even admits that he went to fast and that he needs to slow down when he’s excited. Shelly is understanding and promises they can try again tomorrow—if only they can get home before morning.

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Image copyright Josh Shipley, 2022, text copyright Andrew Cangelose, 2022. Courtesy of Oni Press.

Wonderfully paced and with funny, realistic dialogue, Andrew Cangelose’s fourth book in his This is a Taco series will have kids and adults laughing out loud as they read it together. Suspense builds as Bucky runs out to bake his own cake with only the recipe to follow. Wanting to discover what substitutions he makes for each ingredient will have readers whipping through the pages as fast as Bucky stirs the batter. And his self-confidence throughout adds another layer of amusing storytelling. Cangelose’s intermittent inclusions of information on the history of cake and a typical recipe is a genius device that not only informs but amplifies Shelly’s slow, careful process that drives Bucky crazy. Bucky’s admission that he worked too fast and Shelly’s patient and understanding response to his failed cake serve up just the right message, sweetened with love.

Josh Shipley’s hilarious illustrations perfectly convey Bucky’s impatience as well as his confidence in his baking prowess. As Bucky’s forest friends help him create his cake, their roles are all the more comical for Shipley’s understated depictions. Clever juxtapositions and well-loved cartoon tropes add to the fun. As the animals—all except one—reject (and eject) the cake, kids will laugh but also empathize with Bucky’s now-sheepish and disappointed expression.

A masterful collaboration between story and art, This Is a Birthday Cake is a humorous and heartfelt must for fans of the series and newbies alike. The book will become a quick favorite on home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Oni Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1637150450

You can connect with Andrew Cangelose  and Josh Shipley on Twitter.

You can read my review of This Is a Flying Rat here.

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

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Don’t Whisk Losing Your Page Bookmark

 

The author’s of your favorite books have cooked up such fantastic stories that you don’t want to risk missing a word! To make sure that doesn’t happen, use this culinary-themed bookmark!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print your bookmark
  2. Glue it to the poster board
  3. Cut out the bookmark
  4. Slip it into the book you’re reading now!

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You can find This Is a Birthday Cake at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 22 – National Bao Day

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About the Holiday

National Bao Day, established as an annual holiday in 2017, was founded by Wow Bao to celebrate the anniversary of the launch of their first restaurant in Chicago on August 22 and to honor the ancient Chinese tradition of bao. To celebrate today, order dinner from your favorite Chinese restaurant or make this delicious meal at home.

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao

Written by Kat Zhang | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

Amy can do lots of things well. She can even multitask. But when it comes to making the perfect bao—the thing she wants to do most of all—she has no luck. “Sometimes they come out too small. Sometimes they come out too big.” Sometimes the filling is oozing from the top; sometimes the bao is empty; and then there are the times when the whole bao crumbles before she can even eat it. Everyone else in the family can make a perfect bao. “Their bao are soft and fluffy and so, so delicious.”

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Today, Amy has decided, is the day she will do it. “She’s going to make the world’s most perfect bao.” Her dad helps her mix up the dough. Then they knead it and pound it and leave it to rise. Soon the little lump of dough fills the bowl. Amy’s dad squashes it, rolls it, and cuts little rounds while Amy’s mom makes the filling on the stove.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Now it’s time to make the bao. Amy’s mom, dad, and grandma gather at the table and start filling the dough. Amy fills a round too, but turns out a little lumpy, so she tries again. This one is too full and no matter how much she pinches the top, it just doesn’t close right. Her dad, mom, and grandma are all making perfect bao. They try giving her advice, but it doesn’t help. Amy feels dejected. Then she has an idea. She looks at her hands, she looks at the grown-ups’ hands. She looks at the dough. “She whispers her idea into her grandma’s ear.” In a moment she has two “Amy-size pieces” of dough in her hands. She rolls out the dough, fills it just right, and “pinch, pinch, pinches it shut.” Amy holds up her “perfect bao!”

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Amy makes perfect bao after perfect bao. Now it’s time to steam them. Inside the bamboo steamer are all of Amy’s bao—the good and the bad. When they’re done, the family sits down to munch. Amy eats two of her perfect bao. Then she eats one of her lesser attempts and discovers that it tastes just as good as the perfect ones. The next day she takes her bao to school to share at lunchtime, and her classmates think they are just perfect.

Amy’s family recipe for bao follows the story.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

In her charming culinary tale, Kat Zhang introduces a little girl who dreams of perfection. In Zhang’s straightforward storytelling, kids will recognize their own desires to reach perfect heights—whether in art, music, sports, or other activity. Kids will be captivated by the step-by-step process in making bao—especially if their own family has joined the bread-making phenomena of recent months. As Amy begins assembling her bao, only to have them turn our lumpy or empty once again, suspense builds. Amy’s realization of problem and solution is an empowering lesson for children struggling to achieve their own goals while her discovery that both perfect and imperfect bao are just as delicious is a reminder that perfection isn’t everything.

Charlene Chua’s Amy Wu is a powerhouse of enthusiasm and personality who tackles tasks with everything she’s got, and she has her heart set on making the perfect bao. Chua depicts Amy’s imagined perfect bun floating above her, surrounded by light and celebrated by a dragon and a fenghuang, humorously portraying the lofty goal Amy, like many kids attempting to achieve a goal, has given herself. As Amy sets her plan in motion on the appointed day, Chua realistically illustrates each step. Readers will empathize with images of Amy struggling to fill and close her bao, and a clever close-up illustration of Amy with her family behind her reflects the way people, advice, and even one’s own thoughts can intrude. When Amy realizes that the size of her hands in relation to the amount of dough is the problem, savvy readers may think back to the first spread, where Amy has similar problems with a toothpaste tube and her shoelaces. 

An empowering story, Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao inspires children to keep striving to achieve their goals while including comforting reassurance for the journey along the way. The book would be a welcome addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534411333

Discover more about Kat Zhang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Charlene Chua, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Bao Day Activity

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Amy Wu’s Family Bao Recipe

 

Try your hand at making perfect – or not so perfect – bao. Either way, you know they’ll taste delicious! You can find Amy Wu’s family recipe at Simon & Schuster.

Amy Wu’s Family Bao Recipe

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You can find Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 17 – It’s National Camping Month

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About the Holiday

For some, camping is the best way to spend a vacation. This month’s holiday celebrates that love of adventure and encourages people to spend some time in the great outdoors. Of course, there’s giddy excitement for kids in just setting up a tent in the backyard too, so camping close to home this year can be just as fun as pitching a tent in a national park. There’s just one requirement wherever you camp – don’t forget the marshmallows!

Tundra Books sent me a copy of Now? Not Yet! for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Now? Not Yet!

By Gina Perry

 

Geared up for camping, Moe and Peanut head down the path that leads into the woods. They’re still within sight of home (only a few steps away, in fact) when Peanut asks, “‘Can we go swimming now?’” But Moe, with his stout walking stick wants to hike a bit first and answers, “‘Not yet.’” Turn the page and Peanut has spied a glimpse of blue water. Now must be the time for swimming, but Moe has his binoculars trained on an owl, so “‘not yet.’”

When they stop for a snack, Peanut unpacks his swim fins, beach ball, floating ring, and bunny toy on the way to finding his apple and banana, while Moe neatly nibbles trail mix from a baggie. A little farther on, Peanut’s so antsy to swim that he’s doing handstands in his swim fins, but the time’s not right now either because Moe thinks they’re lost.

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2019, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Poor Peanut, he falls and comes up covered in pinecones and prickly pine needles, which unfortunately get transferred to Moe. Phew! They’ve found their campsite by the lake, and Peanut begs on his knees to go swimming. “‘Now?’ said Peanut. ‘Not yet,’ said Moe. ‘It’s time to make camp.’” This camp-making is kind of fun, Peanut thinks as he hangs the tent poles between two trees and plays limbo, uses a tent pole to draw a picture of Moe in the dirt, and then toddles on tent-pole stilts. Certainly the campsite must be ready by now. Why can’t they just go swimming? Moe says they “need to set up the tent.”

Peanut is starting to lose his patience, and Moe is starting to lose his patience plus he’s being attacked by mosquitoes. There’s just so much to do before swimming. The backpacks need unpacking, the campfire needs to be built, and… “‘where are the tent poles?’” Peanut has a breakdown—“Now! Now! Now!” And Moe has a breakdown—“NOT YET!”

Moe walks off to cool down while Peanut looks around the toy-strewn campsite sadly. He knows what he has to do. He sets up the tent, hangs up the towels and sets out the teapot and mugs, gathers firewood, and misses Moe. But Moe isn’t far away. He peeks over the tent and stealthily puts on Peanut’s swim mask. “NOW!” he announces while running and leaping into the lake. Peanut cannonballs in after him. They play and splash and finally dry off. Warm and cozy in their PJs next to a crackling fire, they happily eat beans from a can. The sky grows dark and Peanut figures it’s time for bed. But “‘Not yet,’” Moe says. They have one s’more thing to do.

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2019, courtesy of Tundra Books.

In their second story, Moe and Peanut are heading out on an adventure, and like many kids, Peanut is focused on one thing, and one thing only, about the trip—swimming. Meanwhile, Moe is the keeper of all things practical and logistical. As we all know from our own kids or memories, a minute can feel like an hour, an hour like several, and a day like for…ev…er. Gina Perry taps into that feeling with verve and humor drawing out the trip to the campsite with such adult preoccupations as bird watching, map watching, splinter pulling, and the rigors of actually setting up camp. And it’s not that Peanut means to be a bother, he’s just brimming with excitement for fun, fun, fun!

Perry moves these two forces along at a brisk pace with her well-timed traded choruses of “Now?” and “Not yet.” When the clash comes in a two-page spread where each loses their cool in nearly mirror images, both kids and adults will laugh at the truth of it all. As Moe walks off and Peanut takes up the work of setting up camp, adults will understand that their kids are watching, learning, and empathetic, and kids will feel empowered to take control of their feelings and help out. The final pages showing Moe and Peanut swimming and enjoying the campfire offer reconciliation and that fun, fun, fun, Peanut (and Moe) were looking for.

Perry’s art is always bright and inviting and full of clever details. Kids will love Peanut’s antics, toy-laden backpack, and talent with tent poles, while adults will sympathize with Moe who suffers the slings and arrows of mosquitoes, sunburn, and passed-off splinters. The front endpaper depicts Moe and Peanut’s hike from home, through the woods, and to the campsite; the back endpaper portrays Peanut’s drawing of the same hike.

A funny, sweet-natured story that adults and kids will love to share, Now? Not Yet! is an endearing summer read and a must to join Too Much? Not Enough! on home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1101919521

To learn more about Gina Perry, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Gina Perry

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I’m so thrilled to be chatting with Gina Perry about her inspirations for Moe and Peanut, this duo’s inclusion in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, her early work in the scrapbooking market, and so much more!

Both Moe and Peanut are so sweet-natured. They just have different priorities sometimes. What or who inspired these characters and their particular adventures at home (Too Much! Not Enough!) and while camping (Now? Not Yet!)?

I think that is a lovely way to sum up Moe and Peanut. Their base personalities formed long ago from a lot of playing in my sketchbook. Moe is rooted in myself and other adults who do love play, but in a structured way. Peanut is rooted in all the little energetic kids I knew before having my own children, particularly my niece and nephew.  Their specific adventures are definitely inspired by my own kids. Indoor messes on rainy days, bubble faces, block towers—I had plenty of inspiration for that while raising my son and daughter. And I dedicated NOW? NOT YET! to Piper because of her super-charged love of play and swimming.

Are you a Moe, a Peanut or a little of both? In what way?

I am far more like Moe because I don’t leave home without the map, enjoy looking at birds, and also get a red face when dealing with mosquitos and stress. But the Peanut side of me also loves lakes and drawing in the dirt. I think because I was the youngest and my sisters were four and eight years older, I really remember feeling like a pesky little sister when I was the age of my readers.

In Now? Not Yet! Moe and Peanut go camping. Do you like camping? If so, are you a glamper or a traditional camper? What’s your favorite part of camping?

Camping confession: I have never slept outside! I found bear droppings in our backyard last month so I’m not sure I’ll check the box on backyard camping anytime soon, either. I do love going for day hikes and fondly remember lots of family vacations at rustic cabins on lakes in New Hampshire and Maine. I’ve definitely experienced all parts of Peanut and Moe’s adventure—note how we end the story before bedtime! My favorite part when I’m on a hike is spotting animals. I’m still waiting to see a moose in real life, but I snuck one in the book as an homage to a childhood dream.

Your artistic style is so distinctive—I immediately recognize an illustration as yours before I see your name on it. Can you talk a little about how you developed your style? What changes did Peanut and Moe go through as you worked on Too Much! Not Enough!?

That is a lovely compliment – thank you! I’ve been through lots of experimenting with my illustration style. I think always being willing to try new approaches and following lots of other illustrators and artists has helped me land where I am now. I really enjoy creating very simple but distinct characters and then letting the colors take over. The basic character design for Peanut and Moe was pretty solid early on (and many years before they were published!) but I do appreciate that I had time and confidence to try some bolder color choices that I think made their story shine.

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My editor smartly suggested that we up the level of mess from my dummy. The addition of all those block, glitter, and car elements really improved the book, and the narrow color palette made it still feel friendly even at its messiest. In their first book, I wanted to maintain a cheerful, bold color palette despite the rainy day. In their second book I worried how I would continue that color story in the outdoors. I chose to keep their environment in bright, but natural colors and played up that first color palette in their gear and clothing. I loved designing their evening attire!

This year Too Much! Not Enough! was selected for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Can you tell readers about this program and how your book was chosen? What does it mean for Moe and Peanut?

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Moe and Peanut do the dishes in Too Much? Not Enough!

I am so thrilled that TOO MUCH! was chosen for this amazing book gifting program that delivers a new book each month for a child from birth to school age. Imagination Library now has programs across the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Ireland and has mailed over 120 million books at no cost to families. Their Blue Ribbon Committees review and select titles based on their themes and concepts and aligned to one of five age groups. The website does an amazing job describing the program and how books are chosen and I hope all new or expecting parents look into this opportunity for their child. It means that this year, Peanut and Moe will be heading to thousands of young children (2-3 years of age) across Canada. Having so many new readers meet Moe and Peanut is exciting!

Before you concentrated on writing and illustrating books for children, you worked in animation and as an art director for the scrapbooking market. I’ve always wondered how some patterns of paper come to be. What is the process behind creating scrapbook paper and how certain subjects, colors, and designs are chosen.

When I started at that first scrapbooking company they were transitioning from a stencil-based business. The scrapbooking market was booming back then and it was a great opportunity for me to learn a totally new area and get experience as an illustrator. There was a lot of trial and error in figuring out how to make appealing and usable patterns that could be mixed and matched. We tracked fashion and illustration trends by going to trade shows and even shopping trips. Some collections were fashion based, others revolved around the events you would put in a scrapbook – birthdays, weddings, holidays, etc. It was a collaborative process involving designers, art directors, and the sales teams. My favorite job was finding new illustrators to work with, giving them a brief, then seeing the magic they sent back.

I saw on your blog that this year you participated in World Read Aloud Day by having Skype calls with students in New York, Connecticut, Texas, Florida, and Ukraine! That’s a lot of kids to reach! They must be thrilled! Can you talk a little about what you like about Skype calls, what you do during the calls, and how the kids react?

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A class listens to Gina Perry on World Read Aloud Day.

World Read Aloud Day is amazing. I encourage all authors to participate. I spend so much time working alone (especially in the winter!), that it’s a real gift to open up Skype and connect to a classroom full of enthusiastic readers. It’s usually a 20-minute call and most authors follow this formula: read one of your books, take questions from students, then share a few favorite books by other authors. But the variation is in the kids! How do they react to my book and what interesting questions do they have? Kids are so creative and often think of things I haven’t or share personal connections to a character or even to my story about being an illustrator and author.

What’s up next for you?

I have been squirreling away on some fun new projects that I can’t say too much about at the moment. I will say that one book was very much inspired by my school visits and drawing with kids. Another is inspired by welcoming a new puppy into our home this year.

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

I don’t know how you can compete with Halloween. The candy, creative costumes, spooky decorations, all-are-welcome and low-pressure vibe really make it a winner. And did I mention candy?

Thanks, Gina for joining me today! Happy Book Birthday to Moe and Peanut and Now? Not Yet! I wish you all the best with this series and all of your books and can’t wait to see what comes next!

You can connect with Gina Perry on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram | PinterestTwitter

National Camping Month Activity

CPB - campfire craft 2

A Fun In-Home Campfire

 

Kids and their friends and family can enjoy the cozy fun of a campfire in their own family room with this craft that’s easy to make from recycled materials. While the supplies might make the campfire artificial, kids will love it if the marshmallows are the real thing!

Supplies

  • Three or four paper or cardboard tubes
  • Cylindrical bread crumbs or oatmeal container
  • Tissue paper in red, orange, and yellow
  • Brown craft paint
  • Brown marker
  • Brown construction paper or white paper
  • Strong glue or hot glue gun
  • Chopsticks (one for each person)
  • Marshmallows

CPB - campfire craft container

Directions

To Make the Logs

  1. Cover the ends of the tubes with circles of brown construction paper or white paper and glue into place
  2. Paint the tubes and the ends if needed, let dry
  3. Paint the sides of the cylindrical container with the brown paint, let dry
  4. With the marker draw tree rings on the ends of the tubes. Decorate the sides with wavy lines, adding a few knot holes and swirls.

To Make the Fire

  1. Cut 9 squares from the tissue paper (3 in each color, about 8 to 6-inch square)
  2. Layer the colors and gather them together at one tip. Fold over and hold them together with a rubber band.
  3. To Assemble the Campfire
  4. Stack the tube logs
  5. Put the tissue paper fire in the middle of the logs

To “Roast” Marshmallows

  1. Stick marshmallows on chopsticks for “roasting” and eating!

You can keep your logs and fire in the cylindrical log until the next time!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-not-yet-cover

You can find Now? Not Yet! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 18 – National Awkward Moments Day

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About the Holiday

We’ve all had them—those moments when we trip over our own feet, forget a name, wave to someone we don’t know—those moments when we wish we could disappear. Times like that are…well…awkward. So why do they get their own holiday? Well,  moments like that happen to everyone, they’re just part of being human. Today, celebrate those small embarrassments and even enjoy a laugh with the endearingly over-eager caterpillar in today’s book.

By Jakki Licare

The VERY Impatient Caterpillar

By Ross Burach

 

The Impatient Caterpillar is wondering why all the caterpillars are climbing up the tree. His friend tells him that they are going up to metamorphosize, but Impatient Caterpillar doesn’t know what that means. “Meta-WHAT-now?” he asks. His friend explains they are turning into butterflies. Caterpillar had no idea he could do that! He cannot wait to become a butterfly. 

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Image copyright Ross Burach, 2019, courtesy of Scholastic.

Hanging upside down side-by-side at the top of the tree, Impatient Caterpillar wants to know what comes next. His friend explains that they now need to build a chrysalis, and, in the blink of an eye, he’s completely encased in his chrysalis. Impatient Caterpillar is incredulous. “WHAAAT? How did you DO that? Is it a spin? Or more of a twirl?” Impatient Caterpillar struggles to build his chrysalis, but once he is encased, he wonders what he has to do next. His friend replies, “Just be patient and let nature take its course.” 

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Image copyright Ross Burach, 2019, courtesy of Scholastic.

Impatient Caterpillar is full of questions. Mainly, “Am I a butterfly yet?” All the other chrysalises tell them to be quiet because, after all, they are trying to metamorphosize. When Impatient Caterpillar learns that it takes two weeks to turn into a butterfly, he freaks out. What if he has to go bathroom? He looks at his watch, calls for a comic book, tries to order a pizza, and plays with a paddle ball. Looking at the calendar, he realizes that it’s still Day 1 and decides that he is going to break free. 

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Image copyright Ross Burach, 2019, courtesy of Scholastic.

He bursts out of his chrysalis and is convinced that he is a butterfly. Unfortunately, he is now only a rather dilapidated and awkward-looking caterpillar. He jumps off of the branch to fly and splats to the ground. He decides to try to metamorphosize again. Back in his chrysalis, Impatient Caterpillar gives himself a lot of pep talks, trying to convince himself that he can do this time. A squirrel watches curiously as he hears Impatient Caterpillar talking to himself.

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Image copyright Ross Burach, 2019, courtesy of Scholastic.

At last the Impatient Caterpillar seems to be getting the hang of it. He practices deep breathing and speaks positively to himself until on Day 7 he finally finds his inner chill. And at the end of the week…he emerges as a beautiful butterfly! He professes a new appreciation for patience. But…wait!…where is everybody going? His friend tells him they’re migrating. “Right. Right.,” this newly patient butterfly says. He takes off, ready for the long flight. Just one question: “ARE WE THERE YET?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-very-impatient-caterpillar-inside

Image copyright Ross Burach, 2019, courtesy of Scholastic.

 Ross Burach’s fun and silly story is told completely in dialogue with bright bold graphics. The VERY Impatient Caterpillar merges the importance of positive thinking and patience with the science of metamorphosis. The story gives great context clues as to what metamorphosis, a chrysalis, and migration are. This allows teachers and parents to open up conversations afterwards as to the definitions of these words. Children can point out dialogue like “Transform into butterflies” for metamorphosis or the visual of a chrysalis after the caterpillars climb the tree.

Not only does this story have a wonderful science element to it, but it also touches on the necessity of believing in yourself. The second time Impatient Caterpillar tries to metamorphosize, he doesn’t fully believe that he can be patient enough. Then, he starts talking positively to himself. “I can be patient,” he tells himself.  He takes deep breaths in and out to calm himself down. Burach even illustrates the Impatient Caterpillar meditating in his chrysalis. When the Impatient Caterpillar realizes he’s made it to day 7 he exclaims, “I’m doing it!” These are terrific elements to point out to children and discuss how we can encourage ourselves.

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As many children can relate, Burach’s lovable main character struggles with patience. The wonderful illustrations of the Impatient Caterpillar inside his chrysalis show him wide eyed, sweating, flipping calendar pages and staring at his watch. The flood of black around the chrysalis also emphasizes how alone the Impatient Caterpillar must feel. When the Impatient Caterpillar prematurely emerges from his chrysalis, Bruach physically shows the problems with impatience. Caterpillar is steaming, his antennae are warped, and he’s crazy-eyed. Burach’s perfect ending showing Impatient Caterpillar struggling on his migration journey shows that patience is something that has to be constantly practiced.

A fun read aloud for any story time, to encourage patience and mindfulness, and a welcome addition to science lessons for classrooms and homeschool, The VERY Impatient Caterpillar will take flight as a favorite on home, school, and public library bookshelves. 

Ages 4-8

Scholastic Press,  2019 | ISBN 978-1338289411 | ISBN 978-1338601138 (Spanish edition)

Discover more about Ross Burach and his books on his website.

National Awkward Moments Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-very-impatient-caterpillar-craft

Chrysalis to Butterfly

 

Make your own chrysalis and watch your butterflies emerge! Color your own butterflies and fold them into their own chrysalises. Once placed in the water, the butterflies will transform.

Supplies

  • Printable Butterfly Template
  • Paper
  • Markers/Crayons
  • Scissors
  • Shallow pan filled with water 

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Directions

  1. Print the butterfly template
  2. Color butterflies
  3. Cut butterflies out. Be sure to snip in between the wings
  4. Gently fold butterflies. Do not fold hard or crease them, otherwise they will not unfold
  5. Place in the shallow pan in water. Butterflies will open up on their own!
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-very-impatient-caterpillar-cover

You can find The VERY Impatient Caterpillar at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

P

 

December 31 – National No Interruptions Day

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About the Holiday

If you yearn for a nice long stretch of peace and quiet in which to work, think, or play without the barrage of sounds, images, and other interruptions that make up modern life, then today’s holiday is for you. So how do you go about celebrating? Turn off your phone, TV, and music, tell your friends and family you’re taking a “me” day, and find a spot where you can shut the door and just…ahhhh…. For those on the other side of that door who want attention or need help, the day may require a bit of patience. But they might find that they appreciate a little quiet time too—just like the little girl in today’s book.

Patience, Miyuki

Written by Roxane Marie Galliez | Illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh

 

“Blue earth, orange moon, Spring was all dressed up and ready for her first day of the year.” Up with the dawn, Miyuki was ready too. She rushed to her grandfather’s house eager to rouse him to watch the “last moonbeams of winter” and enjoy the first full day of spring. But Grandfather urged patience. He wanted to soak up the sunshine through his window. The day would still be there in an hour, he told her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-flowers

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

When her grandfather joined her, the two walked through the garden, greeting each tree, flower, and blade of grass. In the middle of the garden was a little flower still asleep. Miyuki called for it to wake up, but Grandfather said, “‘Be patient, Miyuki. This little flower is not ready to open. It is precious and delicate and needs the purest and finest water…’”

Determined to wake the little flower, Miyuki hurried away to the well. But when she raised the bucket, it was filled not with water, but with a frog. She pleaded with the well to give her water, but the well answered that she must wait for it to rain again. “But Miyuki did not want to wait.” Next, she tried approaching the clouds, but the ones full of water were too far away, a perfect little cloud did not want to give up its water, and the ones that did were too slow in filling up her little porcelain bucket.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-poppies

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The first day of Spring was half over and still Miyuki had not gathered water for the little flower. She walked and walked until she came to a waterfall. When Miyuki asked for its purest water, the waterfall told her she would have to wait for night, when the water lessened and she could cross over to the lake beyond. But Miyuki did not want to wait. As Miyuki walked on, she spied a house covered in flowers and a boy watering his garden. She approached and asked for some of his purest water. In exchange, he wanted to know who she was and to hear her story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-frog

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The boy filled her bucket and Miyuki ran home. On the way, though, she tripped and fell. Her bucket shattered and the water spilled out. By now it was nearly evening. Miyuki had missed almost the entire day, and she still had no water for her flower. Just then she heard the river’s song. The river asked her what she was doing so far from home at that hour. It offered to show her the way and give her some of its water. The trip lulled her to sleep, and when she reached home, Grandfather put her to bed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-cloud

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

When she woke, it was the second day of spring. Today, Grandfather was waiting for her in the garden. When Miyuki saw that the flower had not opened, “Two of the purest tears ran down her cheeks.” But Grandfather said, “‘Be patient, my little girl. Neither flowers no anyone in the world deserves to be watered by tears. Yesterday…you missed the first day of spring. Come, sit close to me, watch, and wait for once.’” Miyuki sat next to her grandfather and watched as he smelled a fragrant flower. Then he tipped a leaf and a few pure dewdrops fell onto the little flower. Slowly, the flower’s petals opened. It greeted Miyuki and apologized for being late, explaining, “‘I’ve been dreaming of Spring.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-bird-house

Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Roxane Marie Galliez’s gentle story encompasses two emotions that often spar within one mind: the desire to hurry, hurry, hurry and pack every moment with action or adventure and the longing to relax, observe, and really enjoy the peace of our own thoughts—or no thoughts at all. Miyuki wants to savor every moment of the first day of spring, but she spends the entire day rushing around to find water for the little flower who has her own time table. At last, lost and too tired to stay awake, Miyuki is put to bed by her grandfather only to wake the next morning ready to repeat her frantic pace. Only when Grandfather convinces her to sit and watch, can Miyuki appreciate the dawning sun, the fragrant flowers, and the fact that what she was searching for was right at hand all the time. In Miyuki, readers will recognize the strong feelings children often have when they want others to join in on their activities or viewpoints. Galliez reminds them that patience and paying attention to others’ needs can be a rewarding and a gift as well.

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Seng Soun Ratanavanh’s striking illustrations combine dream-like scenes, surprising perspectives, and familiar elements of Japanese culture, including Kokeshi dolls, lucky cats, and origami, to draw readers into the story. Miyuki, smaller than a wren, tiny next to the well’s wooden bucket and the frog it catches, and able to ride in an origami swan boat, is a child of nature as is the boy who lives in a birdhouse and shares his gardening water. As Miyuki, with Grandfather’s hand on her shoulder, crouches down to wake the little flower, readers can see how small it is; that it is still new, growing, and learning. This touching image embodies the multi-layered themes of the story: the dual natures of children still new, growing, and learning with multigenerational support.

Lush and fantastical, yet rooted in mindfulness Patience, Miyuki is a visual feast that would quickly become a favorite for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616898434

Discover more about Roxane Marie Galliez and her books on her website.

To learn more about Seng Soun Ratanavanh and see a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

National No Interruptions Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-posterPlease Bee Quiet Poster

 

Sometimes you just need a little time to yourself. When that happens put this cute printable poster on your door and get bzzzzzzzzy on your own projects. 

Please Bee Quiet Poster

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-patience-miyuki-cover

You can find Patience, Miyuki at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

September 5 – National Be Late for Something Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunny's-tow-truck-saves-the-day-cover

About the Holiday

Established by the Procrastinator’s Club, this holiday encourages people to slow down and even allow themselves to be a little late to that meeting, class, lunch date, or whatever event is on your calendar. Got nothing scheduled for today? Then just take the opportunity to relax. Of course some causes of being late are due to unforeseen circumstances. Still, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the delay—as the family in today’s book shows!

I received a copy of Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! from Abrams Appleseed to check out. All opinions are my own. 

Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day!

Written by Anne Marie Pace | Illustrated by Christopher Lee

 

It’s nine o’clock in the morning and a family’s packed up a picnic lunch, clambered into their minivan, and headed out on the open road. “But halfway there…THUMP-BUMPTY…SPLAT! / What’s going on? Our tire’s flat!” No worries, they think—there’s always the spare. But when they look, they discover that tire’s flat too. They check a list of roadside helpers and pick Sunny’s Towing. They make the call and begin to wait.

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Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

At nine thirty the little boy hears a truck approaching. Is it Sunny? No—it’s a hauler carrying lumber. At ten o’clock the little girl spots another vehicle while her brother munches his sandwich. “Is that her truck? / Just a pickup. Out of luck.” By ten thirty the road is getting busy with construction workers making repairs and other cars traveling here and there. Over the hills black smoke from a fire billows into the sky while Dad enjoys a bite of his lunch.

Mom calls Sunny, who says that she’s so busy it might be noon before she gets to them. In a moment firetrucks and police cars with their sirens blaring speed by. As time passes, they see more trucks—“Tractor trailers, rough and rumbly. / Concrete mixers, tough and tumbly. / Dump trucks filled with piles of muck. But no tow truck. We are stuck.” It’s a good time to have a snack the girl thinks.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunny's-tow-truck-saves-the-day-construction-vehicles

Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

It’s getting close to noon and the family counts down the minutes. Suddenly, they see Sunny approaching. She tows them to her garage, where the tire is changed lickity-split. Finally, the family is ready to enjoy their picnic, but when they look in the cooler all the food has disappeared! Sunny has an idea. She shows the family where the best ice cream is sold, and, with cones in hand, they enjoy a perfect picnic in the park.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunny's-tow-truck-saves-the-day-trucks

Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

With perky rhymes, Anne Marie Pace takes readers on a picnic that doesn’t quite come off as planned. As the family waits by the side of the road for the tow truck to arrive, the little girl and boy enthusiastically point out other vehicles passing by and take in the excitement of the construction work going on beside them. Pace’s verses shine with cleverly paired words, realistic dialog, names of various kinds of cars and trucks, and dynamic verbs that will captivate kids. Readers will love the humor sprinkled throughout that leads to the “Oh, no!” moment when the family discovers they’ve already eaten their picnic. Sunny—with an appropriately sunny personality—saves the day with her delightful dessert idea.

Christopher Lee lends a charming retro feel to his vivid illustrations with funky home decor, old-fashioned ads, and stylized cars and trucks. The family’s emotions are clearly evident—from their smiles as they pack their picnic to the shock of having a flat tire and finding the spare flat as well to their cheerful patience. Images of the various trucks, emergency vehicles, and other cars will thrill vehicle enthusiasts, and the two-page spread of Sunny’s garage, loaded with action and tools, will spark discussion. Humor and details abound on each page, prompting kids to linger, laugh, and learn.

A sweet story that incorporates a love for vehicles, a family outing, and a fresh lesson on patience, Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! will be a favorite story time read and a fun addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419731914

Discover more about Anne Marie Pace and her books on her website.

To learn more about Christopher Lee, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Nationa Be Late for Something Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tow-truck-puzzle-2

Tow Truck to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle

 

These four cars are going to be late! Can you show the tow truck drivers the way to the right cars in this printable puzzle?

Tow Truck to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sunny's-tow-truck-saves-the-day-cover

You can find Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review