July 12 – National Simplicity Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday honors transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, who was born on this date in 1817 and who, along with his many other talents and interests, advocated for a simplified life. As summer heats up with a full calendar of activities, vacations, work, day trips, and more, take today “off” and just enjoy the simple pleasures around you. This is great advice throughout the year, too. Dedicating some time to fully appreciate the small things can be rejuvenating! 

More than Sunny

By Shelley Johannes

 

A girl knocks on her brother’s door and, before he’s even fully awake, she bursts in and announces with exuberance that this spring day is “sunny.” Yawning and rubbing his eyes, her brother adds “and early.” But his big sis pulls him outside to show him all the birds at the feeder and birdhouse. It’s not only sunny, she tells him “it’s sunny and birdy!” They head down to the pond, where the siblings have different ideas of what the day’s like. Little brother finds the day “sunny…and mucky!” But his sister, with feathers in her “wings,” states, “I say it’s sunny and ducky!”

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Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

On another day, these two compatible siblings head outside to discover what summer brings besides heat. The sunny day takes them to a field, a tree, and a dock, where they explore, relax, and use their imaginations. But not all summer days are sunny, and that’s okay because being inside when it’s “stormy” these kids make it cozy. And when the storm tapers off a bit, they grab their raincoats and big umbrella and go outdoors, where the girl exclaims, “it’s rainy and wormy!” and her brother inspects the mud and greets a small worm, “Hello squirmy.” The rainy day brings lots of fun with Mom and their dog too.

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Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

But summer days turn into autumn days with wind and squirrels and piles of leaves to jump in. The kids read and make paper snowflakes, waiting for winter to come. And, finally, the flakes fall. They taste so good. “Can we? Can we?” the siblings ask, eager to be out in the snow. “But I’m warm and socksy,” says Mom. But her kids, tiptoeing and playing, lure her out with “Let’s be snowy and foxy!”

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Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

They take a walk in the woods and, while sledding, see Daddy coming home. “Are you ready and sleddy?!” they ask, but there’s shoveling to be done. That’s all right; there are other ways to have fun in the snow. Tired out and chilly, the family goes inside for bedtime. Now there’s a knock at the sister’s door. Yawning and rubbing her eyes, she goes to see who it is. It’s her brother, and he has something magical to show her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-snowflakes

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Shelley Johannes’s exuberant call to play and explore is a perfect jumping off place for kids to look at and interact with their surroundings with new eyes, imagination, and creativity. Hopping from season to season, Johannes touches on moments of freedom and wonder and those happy discoveries so formative in childhood. Her playful rhymes and bouncy rhythm echo kids’ delighted banter, and her sprightly adjectives invite readers to come up with their own descriptions of their day.

Johannes’s bright, energetic, and cheery illustrations dazzle with lively depictions of the siblings playing outside in all weather. Her smile-inducing portrayals of the siblings mirror real kids and each page is loaded with details readers will love lingering over. Mom and Dad make warm cameos to create a book the whole family will enjoy.

More than Sunny is a generously sized picture book that kids and adults will find themselves joyfully sharing throughout the year. For teachers and homeschoolers, Johannes’s storytelling provides a spark for writing prompts, grammar lessons, and observational skills. Sure to become a quick favorite, More than Sunny is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Harry N. Abrams, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419741814

Discover more about Shelley Johannes and her books on her website.

Take a look at the More than Sunny book trailer!

National Simplicity Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fluffy-cloud-craft

Fluffy Clouds Craft

 

One of the best simple pleasures is looking up at the clouds and imagining what shapes you see. Bring those fluffy, white clouds into your room with this craft!

Supplies

  • White girls’ dress bobby socks in various sizes
  • Fiber fill, 20-ounce bag
  • Fishing line, different lengths
  • Needle
  • Clear adhesive mountable hooks or clips

Directions

  1. Stuff the socks with fiber fill, pushing it far into the sock and adding more here and there to make various lumps and give it a rounded, cloud-like shape
  2. When the sock is full, tuck the end of the sock in to close it
  3. Cut lengths of fishing line. The lengths will depend on how and where you will hang the clouds
  4. With the needle or by hand, feed one end of the fishing line into the top of the sock and out to attach the line for hanging.
  5. Knot the fishing line
  6. Attach the mountable hooks or clips to the ceiling
  7. Hang your clouds!

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You can find More Than Sunny at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 2 – It’s National Poetry Month

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About the Holiday

National Poetry Month was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to highlight the achievements of poets, past and present; to promote the reading and writing of poetry in schools and by individuals; and to encourage people to discover the joys poetry can bring all year round. Poetry Month is now celebrated in April in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, with other countries holding their own events during other times of the year.

Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence

Written by Jacqueline Jules | Illustrated by Iris Deppe

 

Playing—organized sports or spontaneous games—offers so much more than momentary entertainment. In her extensive collection of poems, Jacqueline Jules celebrates the life lessons that a wide variety of activities have to teach children of all ages. She begins her book with Tag Your Dreams, an invitation to chase and capture those dreams that inspire, encouraging kids to “Chase them / till you’re breathless. / Dreams / have strong legs, / but so do you….”

In Clapping Hands, a girl in a wheelchair approaches Bianca, a girl she hopes to make friends with. Blanca welcomes her with a smile. A “good sign.” The girl says, “My legs can’t run at recess, / but my hands can clap rhymes / my abuela taught me and reach / the new girl from Guatemala.” These new friends sit under a cherry tree playing Cho-co-la-te. “Our hands fly / fast and strong / together.”

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Image copyright Iris Deppe, 2020, text copyright Jacqueline Jules, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Strings is a moving ode to the importance and comfort of belonging. As a child flies a kite, they contemplate: “Without a string, / a kite blows away / into the clouds, / having no one who cares how far it flies…. And sometimes, a kite / wishes to be cut free, / to fly wherever it wants. / But without a string, a kite is alone in the sky / with no one on the ground / watching and cheering.”

Family and how this special relationship teaches children to love amid poignant separations or memorable “firsts” is the theme of two poems: Kick Scooters, in which a child and Dad make the most of their time together riding scooters even though “It’s not easy to have things / in common / every other weekend” and The River Trail, in which a child remembers the wonders they saw while hiking with their grandparents for the first time and says, “I learned to love when I was five.”

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Image copyright Iris Deppe, 2020, text copyright Jacqueline Jules, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Children turn disappointments into triumphs in Umbrella Dance—where a rainy day may have dampened beach plans but not a little girl’s spirit—and #64 Soccer Tryouts—in which a girl overcomes last year’s omission from the team with practice on her speed, technique, and shyness. When she sees the coach add her to the team roster, she “…raced off the field, / arms raised, grinning. / All goals reached.”

The persistence needed and learned in baseball, tae kwon do, basketball, volleyball, football, and hockey is also explored in poems about each of these sports, while inclusion, new perspectives, self-confidence, patience, resolve, appreciation, and the joys of one’s native language take center stage in poems about four square, cartwheels, kickball, swimming, bowling, and jump rope. Even more subjects and themes fill out this stirring collection of thirty-one poems. The sentiments in Olympic Skater sum up the inspiration found on each page nicely: “Did you see / how he rose / after that fall? / In one sweeping / circular motion / as if the question / of getting up / never existed at all.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tag-your-dreams-on-the-playground

Image copyright Iris Deppe, 2020, text copyright Jacqueline Jules, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Jacqueline Jules’ lyrical, unrhymed verses flow with the rhythms of life, revealing honest feelings, moments of discovery, times of reflection, wishes, and victories big and small. With a fine eye and ear for the glimmer of hope, the harbored emotion, or that one second when everything changes, Jules creates images that kids will recognize and embrace. The breadth of subject matter and universal experiences found here create a collection that will appeal to all children.

Iris Deppe’s bright, expressive illustrations depict Jules’ verses through kids whose happiness, doubts, confidence, concentration, and perseverance are clearly shown as they partake in their favorite sport or activity. The diversity of children in gender, race, and abilities reflects the readers’ world. The smiles that shine from each page will cheer readers as they soak up the message that they hold the key to a positive outlook and can create the change they want for themselves and others.

A stirring poetry collection that will be a favorite for dipping into throughout the year, Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence is highly recommended for all readers. It would be an inspirational addition for home story times as well as for homeschool, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807567265

Discover more about Jacqueline Jules, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about Iris Deppe, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Poetry Month Activity

CPB - Plant Poem

Grow a Poem Craft

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece! This craft can make an imaginative accompaniment to homeschool Language Arts, writing, and vocabulary lessons.

Options: This craft can be adapted to use whatever items you have at home. Instead of a dowel, kids can use a stick, yard stick or ruler, small branch, or even a strip of paper taped to the wall for the stem. The flower pot can be made from a can, jar, box, or other container.

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template, available here and on the blog post
  • Printable Flower Template, available here and on the blog post
  • Wooden dowel, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper if leaves will be preprinted
  • Colored paper if flowers will be preprinted
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaves and flowers (you can also write the poem after you have strung the leaves and flowers)
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Gently arrange the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

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You can find Tag Your Dreams 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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-castle

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?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-cutting-cards

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-little-fox

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

CPB - Windsock

Catch the Wind! Windsock Craft

 

You can feel the wind in your hair and see it blowing through the trees, but can you actually catch it? You can with this easy-to-make windsock!

Supplies

  • 1 large yogurt container (32 oz) or 1-pound deli salad container
  • 1 long-sleeve T-shirt
  • Strong glue
  • Dowel, 5/8 diameter x 48-inches long or longer
  • String
  • Rubber band
  • sewing seam ripper or cuticle scissors
  • X-acto knife
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Remove the sleeve from a long-sleeve t-shirt with the seam ripper or cuticle scissors
  2. Cut the shoulder off the sleeve by cutting straight across from the underarm seam
  3. Cut 2 inches from the bottom of the yogurt container OR cut the bottom out of the deli container with the x-acto knife or scissors
  4. With the x-acto knife or scissors, make a hole a little smaller than the diameter of the dowel about 1 inch from the rim of the container
  5. Slide the container into the large opening of the sleeve
  6. Fold about a ¾ -inch edge over the rim of the container and attach all along the rim with strong glue
  7. Put the rubber band around the outside edge of the opening
  8. Tie the bottom of the sleeve’s cuff together with the string
  9. To attach the dowel: Option 1: leaving the t-shirt in place, push the dowel and material through the hole in the container. The t-shirt material will hold the dowel in place (I used this option).  Option 2: cut a small hole in the t-shirt at the location of the hole in the container. Push the dowel through this hole and the hole in the container. Secure with strong glue
  10. Stick your windsock in the ground in an open area where it can catch the wind. As the wind changes direction, you can turn your windsock so the opening faces the wind.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-argyle-fox-cover

You can find Argyle Fox at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review