August 20 – It’s Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

August is one of those transitional months—hot and humid, but with a touch of fall in the evening and early morning air. It’s also the month when most kids go back to school or are preparing for another year of learning. August is also a wonderful month to spend extra time with family. There are lots of things you can do with kids from planning special events at home to taking a family trip to a local or nearby park, zoo, or aquarium. This time spent together makes memories for a lifetime!

Zonderkidz sent me a copy of Fiona the Hippo to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Zonderkidz in a Fabulous Fiona! Giveaway that’s perfect for Family Fun Month! See details below.

Fiona the Hippo

By Richard Cowdrey

 

When a baby hippopotamus was born on a winter night at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, all the other animals were excited. They were surprised that she was part of their family so soon and were eager to see her. In fact, the whole world was excited to see her as word got out on news outlets and the Internet about Fiona—the baby hippo who had “arrived earlier than expected.” As she slept in a room just for her and was cared for by the zookeepers, the other animals peeked in. They thought she was cute and tiny, and Ostrich added, “kind of slimy!”

The zookeepers fed Fiona from a bottle and pretty soon she was big enough to learn how to walk. “And when she was ready, she let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said, ‘I’ve got this!’ And wobble-wobble-plop! She tried over and over, until she did.” Little Fiona grew quickly, and soon it was time for swimming lessons. With a little practice and a little help, Fiona became confident, until one day, she said “‘I’ve got this!’” and splashed right into the pool.

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Copyright Richard Cowdrey, 2018, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

While Fiona was growing and learning, she made the other animals proud. They couldn’t wait until she could “come out to play.” But Fiona was still busy growing and discovering new things. People who watched Fiona’s progress online sent fan mail. Soon, she had piles of letters and gifts congratulating her. They said “‘You are amazing! We love you, little baby hippo!’”

One day, Fiona looked out the window from her special enclosure and saw her mama and daddy swimming nearby. She wanted to be with them. The zookeepers agreed that Fiona was big enough and strong enough to be in the pool with her parents. As “she swam with her mama for the first time,” she “let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said, ‘I’ve got this!’”

She loved swimming with her mama and daddy, but she also wished for some friends to play with. The other zoo animals were thrilled to hear this. At last they would get their chance to have fun with Fiona too. Ostrich and turtle, elephant and otter, penguin and bear, and all the rest dove right in for “the biggest pool party the zoo had ever seen!” That night, Fiona snuggled with her mama and daddy and dreamed of all the adventures to come, telling herself, “‘I’ve got this!’”

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Copyright Richard Cowdrey, 2018, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With enthusiasm and humor, Richard Cowdrey tells the story of Fiona, a hippo born prematurely who overcame the odds of survival to become a favorite of people everywhere. By following Fiona’s progress and telling the story from her point of view, Cowdrey reaches out and embraces young readers, reassuring them that, like Fiona, they’ve “got this!”—no matter what new skill, adventure, or activity they face. Readers will eagerly read along with Fiona’s signature expression. The attentiveness of the other zoo animals also reminds kids that they aren’t alone, but have family and friends who love them.

Children will be charmed by Cowdrey’s realistic illustrations of the adorable Fiona. Images of her swaddled in a blanket by the zookeepers, wiggling her ears and smiling confidently as she learns skill after skill, and reuniting with her parents and other zoo animals are enchanting. Humorous pictures of Fiona snugged into a life vest, swimming tube, and pool noodles will make kids giggle with recognition. Animal lovers will want to linger over each page to enjoy the beautiful depictions of a wide range of their favorites.

A photograph of the real Fiona on the back cover will make readers smile, and an Author’s Note on the back of the book jacket relates the facts of Fiona’s birth, growth, and well-deserved fame.

An inspiring tale of perseverance, self-confidence, and friendship, Fiona the Hippo is an aww-inspiring delight that will capture young readers’ hearts at home and would spark excitement for science and social learning in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310766391 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0310766360 (Board Book)

Discover more about Richard Cowdrey, his books, and his art on his website.

Fabulous Fiona! Giveaway

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Fiona-the-Hippo_Fabulous-Fiona-Prize

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Zonderkidz in this fabulous giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Fiona the Hippo, by Richard Cowdrey
  • Plus a $50 Visa gift card to take your family out on the town.

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, August 20-26. 

A winner will be chosen on August 27.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing and samples provided by Zonderkidz.

About Fiona the Hippo

Fiona the Hippo, by New York Times bestselling artist Richard Cowdrey of Bad Dog, Marley fame, tells the story of Fiona, the adorable internet sensation from the Cincinnati Zoo who captured hearts around the world with her inspiring story and plucky personality.

Born prematurely, at only 29 pounds, Fiona was not expected to live. But her spunk and determination helped her thrive and become a happy, healthy hippopotamus. With every challenge she faced, Fiona let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said “I’ve got this.” And she did! Through this whimsical and inspiring tale of perseverance and friendship, inspired by the real adventure of this heroic hippo, kids join Fiona and her lovable animal friends at the zoo as she is introduced to the world.

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About the Author

Richard Cowdrey’s favorite things to draw and paint are the common things seen everywhere in nature. He especially enjoys capturing the expressions, eyes, and gestures of both humans and animals. Drawing and painting Fiona was challenging as the hippopotamus is a very unique yet beautiful creature! Richard’s bestselling children’s books include Legend of the Candy CaneBad DogMarley, and A Very Marley Christmas.

Family Fun Month Activity

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Playful Zoo Friends! Maze

 

These baby animals want to play together! Can you help the hippo round up his friends in this printable Zoo Friends Maze?

Playful Zoo Friends! Maze Puzzle | Playful Zoo Friends! Maze Solution

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You can find Fiona the Hippo at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 8 – National Argyle Day

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About the Holiday

The argyle pattern that is so familiar today comes from the tartan of Clan Campbell, which originated in Argyll in western Scotland. The pattern was used by Clan Campbell for kilts and plaids, but has distinguished socks of various clans in Scotland since the 17th century. The argyle pattern became popular in Britain and the United States following World War I when the Duke of Windsor adopted it for his golf clothing. Today, argyle can be found on clothing, furniture, fabrics, and decorated items of all kinds.

Argyle Fox

By Marie Letourneau  

 

Argyle Fox lived in a tree in the middle of the forest. Badger, Beaver, and Groundhog lived nearby. One spring day when the wind whipped “down the mountainside and through the trees,” little Argyle told his mother that he was going out to play cards. His mother was skeptical, telling him his cards might blow away. Argyle found a spot on an old tree stump and, when the wind died down, he built a tall house of cards. Just as it had grown to be the “tallest tower in the whole world,” however, the wind came and sent it flying.

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

“No fair!,” cried Argyle, and he went home to search his closet for something else to do. Way back behind the soccer ball, boat, and hats, Argyle found his old spider costume. He tried it on and discovered it still fit. He returned to the forest and between two trees wove the elaborate web of “the world’s scariest spider.” The squirrels warned Argyle that playing spider in the wind could be dangerous, but Argyle laughed and continued to play. “‘Beware!’ Argyle replied with a hiss. ‘Beware, or I will capture you in my web!’”

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

But the wind whooshed through the trees, and Argyle ended up tangled and upside down in his own web. Playing pirate by the creek sounded like a better idea anyway. Argyle planted his jolly roger on a stump spanning the river and “set sail,” but the beavers said, “‘You can’t play pirate in the wind, Argyle Fox.’” Argyle looked at the beavers. “‘Arrg,’” he said. “‘I’ll make you walk the plank.’” Just then the wind picked up his newspaper pirate hat and sailed away with it. “‘Argyle stomped off toward the meadow’” with his soccer ball.

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

There he met Badger. “‘I’m the star of the soccer team,’” Argyle told him. “‘I will now kick the winning goal.’” Badger didn’t think this was a good idea in the wind, but Argyle replied, “‘You’d better watch out or I will tackle you!’” Argyle kicked the ball as hard as he could. The wind caught it and threw it into the branches of a tall tree.

Argyle scampered off to the hill where he built a cardboard-box castle. Brandishing his sword, Argyle cried out to Groundhog, “‘I am a brave knight, ready to fight the terrible, ferocious, fire-breathing dragon!’” Groundhog cautioned Argyle about the wind, but Argyle only challenged Groundhog to a duel. Before the duel could begin, though, the wind picked up Argyle’s castle and carried it far away.

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

Argyle picked up all of his things and went home. He told his mother that he would never play in the wind again. Perhaps, said Mama Fox, you will think of something you can do in the wind. Argyle doubted it, but he thought and thought. He looked at all of his toys and suddenly had an idea. “He cut, tied, knitted, painted, and taped. Finally, it was finished!” Argyle went out to the meadow and waited. “His heart pounded with excitement Would it work? Would he FINALLY be able to play in the wind?”

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

At last the wind came by and Argyle let go of his creation. “Huzzah!‘ cried Argyle. ‘A kite is the most prefect thing to play in the wind.’” Argyle’s mother was proud of him for thinking up a kite all on his own. Argyle was so happy with his kite, that he made one for each of his friends, and they all flew their kites in the meadow together.

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

Marie Letourneau’s story of a little fox who just wants to play and is thwarted at every turn is a multi-layered tale of life’s ups and downs where big ideas sometimes get carried away on ill winds. Such times can bring disappointment or, as Argyle finds, an opportunity for discovery and accomplishment. As little Argyle tries game after game in the disruptive wind, disregarding the warnings and advice of his older neighbors, he learns through his own experience. His frustrations are vented in language appropriate to each character he plays and will make kids giggle. When Argyle goes home, listens to the gentle encouragement of his mother, and comes up with his own solution, he experiences the excitement and satisfaction of self-reliance and ingenuity.

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Copyright Marie Letourneau, 2017, courtesy of marieletourneau.com.

Letourneau’s delicately beautiful illustrations in soft blue, green, and orange hues will charm readers as adorable Argyle tries building a house of cards, building a web, playing pirate, kicking the soccer ball, and playing knight in lovely, detailed scenes that kids will like to explore. When Argyle goes back home, children will be intrigued to see how pieces of each of his toys become a part of his kite and may very well want to read the story again to find all the ingredients to that perfect windy-day plaything.

In addition to being a cute adventure to share with young readers at home or in the classroom, Argyle Fox is a terrific lead-in to discussions about self-reliance, self-confidence, creativity, and trial-and-error as well as the possible consequences of this important method of learning.

Ages 3 – 7

Tanglewood, 2017 | ISBN 978-1939100092

Learn more about Tanglewood Books on their website.

Discover more about Marie Letourneau, her books, and her art, and find fun activities to download on her website.

National Argyle Day Activity

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Argyle Pattern Template

 

Argyle patterns come in all colors and make whatever they decorate look festive! Design your own argyle pattern with this printable Argyle Pattern Template.

Picture Book Review

April 24 – It’s Car Care Month

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About the Holiday

So, after a long winter of standing around in freezing temperatures, slipping on icy pavement, and not getting quite as much exercise as usual, your car could use some tender loving care. April is the perfect time to schedule a maintenance checkup, give your auto a bath, and take ‘er out on the open road for a nice, long run. You never know, your car may have dreams too—just like the cute coupe in today’s story.

Mosey on down below to find an chance to win a copy of Cowboy Car!

Cowboy Car

Written by Jeanie Franz Ransom | Illustrated by Ovi Nedelcu

 

“Ever since he was knee-high to his daddy’s hubcaps, Little Car wanted to be a cowboy.” He watched cowboy movies on the TV in his city garage and loved everything about cowboy life. Little Car lived in the city, squeezed in between lanes and lanes of cars and unable to see the sky for the soaring skyscrapers. He dreamed of sleeping under the stars and roaming the wide open plains. But everyone told Little Car, “‘Cars Can’t Be Cowboys.’”

Little Car’s dad wanted him to be a city taxi, like him; his mom hoped he’d be “a family car and settle down in a garage close to home.” Neither of those futures, however, offered the excitement of “herding cattle by day” and the camaraderie of “circling up around the campfire at night,” so when Little Car grew up he headed out West. First, he needed to look the part, but where would he find a hat big enough? He pulled up at a cowboy supply depot, and there on the roof sat the perfect 50-gallon hat!

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Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

With the hat settled firmly on his roof, Little Car drove on to the Circle R. Ranch. There he met Dusty, who listened to Little Car’s dream of being a cowboy and gave him a bit of bad news: “‘Cars can’t be cowboys. They can’t ride horses!’” Little Car was disappointed, and so was Dusty—the ranch really needed extra help. Little Car wanted to prove his mettle, so Dusty agreed to let him try a few cowboy tests. The next morning, Little Car “zoomed around the barrels in no time. He was used to making quick turns around tight corners in the city.” He was also strong enough to carry heavy loads and move bales of hay. He could even round up li’l doggies in the dark in the beam of his headlights.

The next day Dusty promised to take Little Car to the rodeo. When they got there, though, Little Car was told he couldn’t participate because he didn’t ride a horse. Still, he was excited to watch Dusty ride Double Trouble, the biggest, meanest bull on the circuit. With Dusty hanging on tight, Double Trouble bucked and snorted and leaped. In a minute Dusty was thrown to the ground, and Double Trouble was headed straight toward him.

“With tires squealing, horn honking, and the radio blasting, Little Car got everyone’s attention—including the bulls.” He zipped right and left, “swerved, stopped, backed up, and drove around and around until the bull’s snorts turned into snores.” Afterward, a news reporter wanted to know if he was a cowboy at the Circle R. Ranch. “‘He sure is,’ Dusty said. ‘In fact, he’s my pardner!’”

Watching the report on the garage TV, Little Car’s mom and dad proudly exclaimed, “‘That’s our cowboy!’” And “Little Car drove off into the sunset, home on the range at last.”

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Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Li’l pardners enamored of the cowboy life will be charmed by Little Car and his dreams to leave the big city for the freedom of cowboy life. With clever turns of phrase and a sprinkling of puns, Jeanie Franz Ransom takes readers on an endearing ride through the ups and downs, disappointments and successes of navigating life on one’s own. When Little Car uses his city experience, smarts, and courage to save Dusty and earn a spot at the ranch, despite not being able to ride a horse, kids will see that they too can overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals.

Children will love adorable Little Car as he snuggles next to his mom and taxicab dad in the garage. With wide headlight eyes and a grill with an ever-present grin, Little Car makes his way out West, where kids will giggle at the 50-gallon hat atop an old general store, whoop as Little Car completes his cowboy tests, and cheer when he outwits Double Trouble to save the day. As Little Car drives off into the sunset, readers will know that he—and they—have a bright future ahead.

Car and cowboy or cowgirl enthusiasts, as well as kids new to school and other activities will find a friend in Little Car and ask to hear his story again and again. Cowboy Car would make a sweet addition to story time and bedtime reading.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1503950979

Discover more about Jeanie Franz Ransom and her books on her website!

You’ll find a portfolio of books and illustration work by Ovi Nedelcu on his website!

Car Care Month Activity

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Follow the Open Road Maze

 

These four kids are ready to head out and enjoy the day! Match each child to the right car in this printable Follow the Open Road Maze to get them on their way!

Picture Book Review