January 13 – Skeptics Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re attuned to holidays like I am, you may be thinking, “Wasn’t Skeptics Day October 13?”, or even, “I thought Skeptics Day is celebrated on November 4.” And it seems from my research that you’d be right—on both counts, which might lead you to be, well… skeptical about the validity of today’s holiday. But perhaps that was the point the founder or founders of this holiday were trying to make. Instead of simply accepting what you’re told, a skeptic questions what they hear or read and looks for facts to back it up. Kids are born skeptics, always asking “Why?” “When?” “Where?” “Who?” and “How?” To celebrate today, why not spend some time with your kids learning more about a subject you’re interested in.

There Must Be More Than That!

By Shinsuke Yoshitake

 

A little girl stands at the sliding glass doors looking out at the pouring rain. She’s disappointed because her father had said the day would be sunny. She thinks to herself, “…you can’t always trust grown-ups.” Then her big brother comes along and tells her all about the apocalyptic events that may possibly doom the earth and their futures. Things like running out of food, wars, even alien invasions. He heard it from a friend, who heard it from an adult. His sister is shocked and afraid.

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Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

With a heavy heart, she goes to her grandma’s room and reveals what her brother has told her. “Ah, I see…,” Grandma responds. She reassures her granddaughter that no one really knows what will happen and that along with the bad, good things happen too. “Grown-ups act like they can predict the future… but they’re not always right,” she says. And when there’s a choice to be made, they often provide only two things to pick from, when there are actually many more and it’s okay to choose from those.

The little girl realizes that more choices means more possible futures, and she tells her brother so. She already has lots of ideas about the cool things the future might bring—like “a future where it’s okay to spend the day in pajamas…. A future where someone always catches the strawberry you drop…. A future where your room has a zero-gravity switch.” Her brother thinks the strawberry idea sounds great.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-future

Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The little girl is jazzed to think about other futures. She thinks about alternatives to throwing away old shoes, hiding uneaten carrots, and even keeping her mom from getting mad if she gets paint on her clothes. “I’m a slow runner,” she confesses, “but does that mean I’ll never come in first place? No! I might be ‘first place’ in a funny-face contest!”

Her thoughts begin to branch out, and she decides that between polar opposites like “‘love it or hate it,’” “‘good or bad,’” “‘friend or enemy,’” there may be many more emotions to choose from. In fact, the little girl is so excited by her new perspective that she tells her grandma that she wants to make a career out of “thinking up different futures.” Her grandma thinks that’s marvelous, but gently tells her that she probably won’t be around to see them. But the little girl is determined and imagines several scenarios that mean a brighter and longer life for her grandmother. Grandma laughs and agrees that “there must be more for me than that!”

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Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Cheered, the little girl goes to the kitchen to find out what’s for dinner. Although they’re just having leftovers, Mom offers to make her an egg. “Boiled or fried?” she asks. Exasperated, the girl tells her mom about all the other ways an egg can be cooked, used, and played with. They can be scrambled or rolled, painted or stickered, and put in a shoe, a book, or a belly button. They can even be stacked on top of each other or used to make a tall tower. Her mother gets the idea and says she can have her egg made any way she wants. “Hmmm,” the little girl ponders. What do you think she chooses?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-must-be-more-than-that-choices

Copyright Shinsuke Yoshitake, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Shinsuke Yoshitake’s profound observations, expressed in kid-friendly, sometimes even silly examples, emboldens children to look beyond the choices they’re given by others and create the present and future they desire. Yoshitake touches on serious subjects that children hear discussed by adults, on the news, and in school that can lead to a frightening sense of no control but flips the narrative to show kids that they do have the power to influence events and change them for the better. The choices Yoshitake poses—love or hate, good or bad, friend or enemy—will get kids thinking about other such pairs they’re presented with every day and the nuanced scales between them that more correctly represent their feelings. After showing the little girl giving her grandma a pep talk and convincing her mom that there are a myriad things to do with eggs, Yoshitake ends the story on a comic note so attuned to kids’ enthusiasm for new ideas.

Yoshitake accompanies his story with laugh-out-loud illustrations of a little girl who cycles through emotions from anger to doomed to thoughtful to determined and finally to joyful after her brother reveals bad news about the future. Kids will be fully onboard for the fantastical future the girl envisions and the whimsical ways Yoshitake depicts the multitude of options that are available with just a little more thought. A two-page spread with twenty-three different types of eggs will set kids giggling and no doubt wanting to try them all. Likewise, the book’s cover hints at what’s inside with a display of many things a simple piece of cloth can become.

There Must Be More Than That! is a smart, sophisticated, and lighthearted way to shift a child’s perspective and empower them to shed the burdens of the world and create the life they want—on both a small and large scale. The book is sure to be a favorite on home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452183220

Skeptics Day Activity

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Find the Differences Puzzles

 

Are you someone who looks at things skeptically? Do you want to learn the facts before you believe what you see or hear? If so, you’ll enjoy these printable puzzles and see for yourself whether they are the same or different.

Kids Reading Puzzle (easier) | Kid’s Bedroom Puzzle and Solution | Girl Selling Flowers Puzzle and Solution

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You can find There Must Be More Than That! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 23 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

All families have stories—some funny, some poignant—about family members, friends, and events from the past and even just last week or yesterday! Today’s holiday encourages people to share their stories and is celebrated this month when families typically get together for Thanksgiving. Although our Thanksgiving gatherings will be different this year, sharing stories can still be a part of the day. Oral storytelling, which has been part of people’s lives and culture since ancient times, is a wonderful way to stay connected to your own family heritage and build bonds that last forever.

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale

Written by Karen Rostoker-Gruber | Illustrated by Kristina Swarner

 

“Farmer Earl, his wife, Marge, and too many children to mention lived in an itty-bitty house….” Their house was so small they hardly had room to turn around. Fed up, Farmer Earl decided to go see the wise woman nearby and ask her advice. The wise woman listened to the farmer’s tale of woe and told him, “Put all of your ducks in your house.”

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Image copyright Kristina Swarner, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman.

Farmer Earl wasn’t sure how that would help, but back home, he and Marge rounded up all of their ducks and slipped them one-by-one through the window. “The ducks flapped. / The ducks quacked. / The ducks waddled. / The ducks quacked.” They sat on the mantle and in the fireplace. They laid eggs on the floor and their feathers floated everywhere. For the family, “There was no room to sit, / no room to pace, / no room to rest, / no extra space.” Farmer Earl thought it was way too crowded and went back to see the wise woman.

When she heard how the farmer’s house was still too small for his family, she looked up from her knitting and told him, “‘Put all of your horses in your house.’” This didn’t seem to help at all. There were horses showering in the bathtub and ducks bathing in the toilet; horses eating the toilet paper and ducks in the sink. One duck even started nibbling Farmer Earl’s hat. Now there really “was no room to sit, / no room to pace, / no room to rest, / no extra space.”

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Image copyright Kristina Swarner, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman.

This time when the farmer visited the wise woman, she gave him advice he didn’t want to hear, but when he got home, he did it anyway. It “proved to be a disaster.” Clothes, socks, and even the curtains were gnawed, the beds were rumpled, and food lay scattered all over the kitchen floor. He hurried back to the wise woman and shouted, “‘I’ve had enough!’” Sipping her tea, the wise woman listened to the farmer’s complaints, and then gave one more bit of advice – to return all of the animals to their place on the farm.

“‘How is that going to help?’ wondered Farmer Earl,” but once the animals were back where they belonged and the farmer came home to “no ducks snacking… / no ducks quacking…. / no horses chomping… / no horses stomping…. / no goats licking… / no goats kicking…,” he found there really was room for all!

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Image copyright Kristina Swarner, 2020, text copyright Karen Rostoker-Gruber, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman.

Based on an old Yiddish folktale, Karen Rostoker-Gerber’s story is a hilarious reminder of the importance of perspective in life. Repeated words and phrases build on each other and invite kids to join in the fun as the animals wreck havoc throughout the tiny farmhouse. Farmer Earl’s reliance on the wise woman’s suggestions sets up suspenseful scenes with delightfully funny outcomes that readers will eagerly anticipate. When the animals are all back outside and Farmer Earl realizes the house is big enough for them all, kids will appreciate the cleverness of the wise woman and may look at their own difficult situations in a new way.

Kristina Swarner’s vivid and textured folk-art style illustrations perfectly reflect the plot and humor of the story. As a rooster wakens the family and multiple faces and pets can be seen in each of the farmhouse windows, readers are enticed to count, from page to page, just how many people live in this “itty-bitty” home. Lively images of the house filling up with animals will have kids laughing out loud and wanting to take stock of all the mayhem they’re causing. Astute readers may notice that while Farmer Earl considers his house too small, his children play happily in the space they have, revealing that contentment is the secret to a happy home.

An excellent choice for a rousing story time with a philosophical message, A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale would be a welcome addition to home, school, and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807556924

Discover more about Karen Rostoker-Gerber and her books on her website.

You can read an interview with Karen here.

To learn more about Kristina Swarner, her books, and her art, visit her website.

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming up with Karen Rostoker-Gerber in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale, written by Karen Rostoker-Gerber| illustrated by Kristina Swarner

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Reply with your favorite farm animal for an extra entry. Each reply earns one extra entry.

This giveaway is open from November 23 to November 30 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 1. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. 

Family Stories Week Activity

CPB - Animal Matching Cards

Animal Match-Up Game

 

During Family Stories Month it’s fun to play games together while learning more about each other. Play this fun matching game to find pairs of animals and talk about your favorite animals, pet stories, and the animals you’d like to see up close!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print two sheets of the Animal Matching Cards for each player
  2. Color the cards (optional)
  3. Cut the cards apart
  4. Scramble the cards and lay them out face-side down
  5. Choosing one card at a time, turn one face up and then another.
  6. If the two cards match leave them face up
  7. If the two cards do not match lay them face down and try again.
  8. As you find matching pairs, leave the cards face up until all the pairs have been found.
  9. If playing against other players, the first to match all their animal cards is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crowded-farmhouse-folktale-cover

You can find A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review