July 28 – Beatrix Potter Day

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About the Holiday

On this date in 1866, one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors was born – Beatrix Potter. Her twenty-three books about Peter Rabbit and his friends have enchanted children for generations, and the tale of how The Tale of Peter Rabbit came to be is as full of twists and turns as any good story – as you’ll see in today’s book. To celebrate today, why not go to your bookstore, library, or maybe even your own bookshelf at home and enjoy spending some time in the garden with Peter.

Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall | Illustrated by Ilaria Urbinati

 

At home in London, young Beatrix Potter loved drawing and painting pictures of her pet rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer and other woodland creatures. Beatrix and her brother didn’t go to school but were taught at home under a strict daily timeline. “Then came summer and … freedom! During the summer, Beatrix’s whole household—pets included—moved to a country house where there were ducks, chickens, cows, and a garden.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

When Beatrix’s brother grew a little older, however, he went away to a boarding school while Beatrix had to stay home. “But Beatrix wanted to do something important, something that mattered. She often helped her father with his hobby, photography.” She visited artists’ studios and museums. She learned about art and how to make her drawings better.

She made more pictures of Benjamin Bouncer and sent them to publishers. One publisher put her drawings on the front of greeting cards, and Beatrix began making money from her work. But Beatrix was also interested in the science of nature. She even wrote a paper about mushrooms and hoped to have it printed in a scientific journal, but it was rejected. Beatrix was disappointed but went back to drawing.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Then one day, to cheer up a sick child, Beatrix wrote and illustrated a story about Peter Rabbit. Later, she submitted it to publishers. When they told her they weren’t interested, she had books printed herself. She sold every copy—the second batch too. Finally, a publisher agreed to print her books. Beatrix went on to write more and more stories. At last she had fulfilled her dreams of creating something important. She was also an excellent marketer and self-promoter, and “soon people all over the world knew about Peter Rabbit, and they knew about Beatrix Potter too.”

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

As Beatrix grew older, she couldn’t draw in the way she had, but that didn’t mean she left the countryside behind. She wanted to protect the farmland she loved. She helped farms and families, paying for needed veterinary care for animals when the farmers couldn’t afford it and for a nurse when the flu hit. Beatrix Potter’s life was made up of so many things that mattered. Not only did she give the world the beloved Peter Rabbit and his friends, but through donations of farms and acreage she “made sure the land would be cared for, protected, and cherished. Forever.”

An Author’s Note about how she came to write this book and more information on Beatrix Potter’s legacy follows the story.

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Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Linda Elovitz Marshall’s delightful and surprising biography of Beatrix Potter delves into the depths of her desire to make a difference with her life. A woman far ahead of her time, Beatrix Potter remains an inspiration for each new generation of readers not only for her well-loved stories but for her community work and foresight. Marshall’s thorough and well-paced story will captivate today’s children, who have the same hopes as Beatrix to influence the world with their talents and opinions. Marshall’s descriptions of Beatrix’s later largesse swell the heart and readers’ admiration for this exceptional woman.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-saving-the-countryside-artwork

Image copyright Ilaria Urbinati, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Linda Marshall’s words are set among Ilaria Urbinati’s exquisite illustrations that take children inside Beatrix Potter’s world at home in London and out to the countryside she adored. Her delicate and detailed renderings of young Beatrix drawing with her pet Benjamin Bunny by her side, the farm where she spent summers, her scientific explorations, and her later successes immerse readers in the late 1800s to mid-1900s, allowing them to experience the environments that created one of the world’s most beloved authors. Urbinati’s glorious panoramas of the lake district farms that Beatrix saved are breathtaking and inspiring in their beauty.

For fans of Peter Rabbit and any lover of children’s literature, Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit is a must. Stirring on so many levels, the book will inspire multiple readings as well as the discovery or rediscovery of Beatrix Potter’s tales. Perfect for home, school, and public library collections for story times and to enhance language arts lessons and even nature science studies.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1499809602

Discover more about Linda Elovitz Marshall and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ilaria Urbinati, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

As all readers know, Peter Rabbit loved vegetable gardens. With this fun game you and your family can grow your own gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

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You can find Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 3 – World Read Aloud Day and Interview with Andy Harkness

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by global non-profit LitWorld and Scholastic, World Read Aloud Day encourages reading aloud to children not only today but every day. Reading aloud to children from birth is one of the best ways to promote language development, improve literacy, and enjoy bonding time together. Millions of people celebrate today’s holiday all across the United States and in more than one hundred countries around the world. Typically, special events are held in schools, libraries, bookstores, homes, and communities, and authors and illustrators hold readings and visit classrooms. This year, you can find virtual read alouds, live events on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube, printable games, and book lists as well stickers, bookmarks, posters, and a reading crown to decorate, when you visit LitWorld.

Thanks go to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sending me a copy of Wolfboy for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own. I’m also thrilled to be teaming with Bloomsbury in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Wolfboy

By Andy Harkness

 

The full moon hung in the sky like a golden, frosted cupcake. Down below in the darkened forest Wolfboy was on the prowl. “He was HUNGRY. ‘Rabbits, rabbits! Where are you?’ he howled.” But he could find no rabbits. He “sploshed” into the creek, but no rabbits answered his calls. Not only was he “HUNGRY,” now he was also “HUFFY.” He climbed to the top of a very tall oak tree and scoured the ground far and wide. No rabbits. In addition to being “HUNGRY” and “HUFFY,” Wolfboy had become “DROOLY. He needed rabbits.”

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Copyright Andy Harkness, 2021, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Perhaps they were hiding in the bog, but there he only saw three crocodiles swimming his way. It made Wolfboy feel “GROWLY.” He made a daring leap into Moonberry Meadow. Surely, the rabbits were here. But no. Wolfboy could hardly contain himself. “he was HUNGRY and HUFFY and DROOLY and GROWLY and FUSSY.” He stomped and thrashed and leaped and menaced. He was done with rabbits, and he let the world (and those skittish rabbits) know it.

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Copyright Andy Harkness, 2021, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But then he heard a rustle and a snap. He focused his attention and saw some tell-tail signs. “Wolfboy crouched low” just as a warren-full of little bunnies emerged into the clearing. Wolfboy showed his teeth. His roar shook the forest. “‘Rabbits, where have you been? You’re late for our feast!’” But the rabbits just giggled and brought out the moonberry pie they’d made him. In a frenzy Wolfboy “CRUNCHED and MUNCHED and GOBBLED and GULPED!” When the pie was gone, Wolfboy explained that he had just been so, well… HUNGRY. But now he felt better and there was one huge happy rabbit hug for dessert.

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Copyright Andy Harkness, 2021, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Andy Harkness’s cumulative tale will get kids, who well-know that ravenously hungry feeling, up and growling along as Wolfboy goes from Hungry to Happy with all the personality-changing gastronomical feelings in between. Harness’s dialogue-rich storytelling is a delight, ripe for dramatic read alouds. The forest setting, with its creek, bog, oak, and ravine, inspires evocative vocabulary that enhances the suspense. What could this sharp-toothed, famished Wolfboy want with the rabbits? There could only be one thing… or could there? The endearing ending reaffirms that those Hangry wolves in our homes need only a little (or a big) treat to return to their true puppy natures.

Visually stunning, Harkness’s illustrations, built with clay and then photographed, immerse readers in extraordinary textured, intricate, and shadowy landscapes that beg close study. Neon blue Wolfboy, with his furrowed unibrow, rows of chicklet teeth, and long arms that waggle in hilariously menacing poses will have kids laughing out loud. And where are those rabbits? On every page! The little animal cracker-sized bunnies pop up in the most surprising places, and you can bet that you’ll hear plenty of “there’s one!” “I see two!” and “Let’s count them!” as you turn the pages.

For kids who love raucous, laugh-out-loud story times, those who appreciate exceptional art and the wonders of claymation, and readers who prefer their beasts to be big softies, Wolfboy is a must for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1547604425

Discover more about Andy Harkness, his books, movie work, and art on his website.

Meet Andy Harkness

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review–Andy Harkness author photo

Andy Harkness is an award-winning art director who has worked on Moana, Frozen, and Wreck-it-Ralph, among other movies. After twenty-five years at Disney, he recently moved to Sony Pictures Animation. Andy’s first book, Bug Zoo, was published by Disney as an Artist Showcase Book in 2016. He lives in California with his family. You can connect with Andy on His Website | Instagram | Twitter  

I’m thrilled to be talking with Andy Harkness about his inspiration for Wolfboy, his process in creating the incredible illustrations, one of his biggest challenges, and more!

I think everyone can empathize with ravenously hungry Wolfboy! Where did the idea for your story come from?

I have always loved scary stories. In particular, werewolf stories. It’s the transformation that intrigues me. In 2005, I took a first pass at a story but it really didn’t go anywhere until my wife and I had children. We noticed an incredible transformation when they were hungry. Our little angels became little monsters. And the story of Wolfboy was born!

The shape of Wolfboy is so perfectly funny and menacing. Did his look undergo many revisions? How did you decide on the final design?

He went through so many revisions! Initially, he had a red striped shirt and blue jeans. Then he was a very detailed brooding character with huge hands and feet. When I was working on the rough design for the cover, I quickly drew him in blue. I wasn’t trying to design him at that moment but suddenly, there he was. He looked fierce but really funny. His final design is almost exactly like that quick sketch. One thing he always had was big pointy ears. I wanted him to be a very recognizable shape when he was small on the page.

CPB – Andy Harkness_Question 2

Which brings us to your stunning pages, which are all entirely made from clay. Can you take readers through your process of making the pages? How long did it take you to carve all the settings and characters? 

I start with a loose drawing that is projected onto a piece of glass, or is taped beneath the glass.

Andy Harkness_Question 3

Using super sculpey polymer clay, I sculpt as much as possible by hand and use a few tools for the smallest details. When the sculpt is done, it is positioned near a window to get interesting natural light and shadow on the surface. 

CPB - Andy Harkness_Question 3 process

Then it’s photographed and the colors painted in layers in photoshop. The trick is to do as little touch up to the clay as possible.  My fingerprints are literally all over this book!  Each sculpt was redone at least two times.  The first attempt was really for working out the problems so that the second attempt went smoothly.  From start to finish, the sculpts that are in the book were done over the course of a year.  Some took a day or two, others weeks, one took a whole year! I usually worked on several at the same time.

Andy Harkness_Question 3 process

Readers might be interested in this behind-the-scenes video I made showing how I created the shadowy tree illustration near the beginning of the book.

The colors and shadowing you achieve is amazing and really immerses readers in the suspense of the story and their own hunt for rabbits on each page. Do you have a favorite spread? Was there one that was the most difficult?

Great question and thank you! I am inspired by old black and white horror movies and really wanted to bring that dramatic lighting into the book. My favorite spread is when Wolfboy leaps over the steep ravine. I think the symmetry and how it’s lit from beneath make it feel like a stage. Very theatrical. The hardest spread by far was the “creaky old oak” spread. That sculpt was redone 6 times before I was happy. And the reflection in the water is sculpted as well. I worked on that one on and off for about a year.

You’re currently working as the Art Director on Vivo, coming from Sony Animation Pictures later this year and you’ve previously worked for Disney. In these positions you’ve helped create many kid-favorite blockbusters, such as Moana, Frozen, Tangled, and Wreck-it-Ralph among many others. Can you briefly describe for kids (and maybe future animation artists) the steps as an animated feature is conceptualized, designed, and ultimately put together? What was one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced on a movie you’ve worked on? One of the best surprises? 

It starts with a great idea. Early concept paintings are done to get everyone excited about the project. As the story develops, a visual style and color palette is created to support it. A character designer develops the characters while working closely with the production designer to make sure the shape language is consistent with the backgrounds. Then a literal army of talented modelers, riggers, animators, special effects artists, layout artists and lighters begin to build the world we see on screen. It’s an incredible undertaking actually.  If it’s done right, it’s like a finely tuned orchestra. 

The biggest challenge I’ve ever faced was designing Motu Nui, Moana’s home island. Everything was researched and done with the utmost respect for the culture. We had South Pacific advisors with us the whole time. Every plant and tree was what would have been there 3000 years ago. A botanist helped us make sure of that. From the positioning of the village in the valley, to the various fales (homes and other structures), everything was as accurate as we could make it. Armed with all that knowledge, I sculpted that island in clay.  That fragile sculpt is sitting in the Disney Archives today. The head of layout, head of environments, head of modeling, and myself won a VFX award for Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature.  

The biggest surprise happened on my current show, VIVO. I had the opportunity to collaborate with one of my heroes, Sir Roger Deakins, on the lighting and color for the movie. Still can’t believe it!

In addition to writing and illustrating Wolfboy, you’ve also illustrated Bug Zoo and The Ballad of Nessie. What do you like best about being a writer and illustrator for kids?

I think for me it really boils down to hearing that a kid loves one of my books so much the cover has fallen off. It’s how I felt about certain books as a kid. They sparked magic in my mind and I hope to give that back now through my own books.

What’s up next for you?

Well first up, I hope to do another Wolfboy book!  After that I have several more children’s book ideas bouncing around in my head.  

I will probably be working on a few more animated films, but one day I really hope to focus solely on writing and illustrating children’s books.

Thanks so much for this wonderful chat! Your work is amazing, and I’m sure readers are thrilled to learn more about it. I wish you all the best with Wolfboy – I really hope there will be a second Wolfboy adventure!

World Read Aloud Day Activity

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I Love Reading Bookmarks

 

If you love to read then you know that sometimes you want to mark a favorite page or remember where you left off. With these special World Read Aloud Day bookmarks, you can do it in style! 

World Read Aloud Day Bookmarks to Color | Colorful World Read Aloud Day Bookmarks

You can find Wolfboy at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 1 – National Siblings Day

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About the Holiday

National Siblings Day gives people a chance to honor the special bond they have with their brothers and/or sisters. Whether you come from a big family or small, are the oldest, youngest, or somewhere in between, your siblings have had a big influence on your life. Today, take a little time to text or call and do a little reminiscing. At home, engage in some special sibling-bonding fun!

Elsie

Written by Nadine Robert | Illustrated by Maja Kastelic

 

Elsie Filpot had six siblings—“Francis, Florian, the twins Flavie and Franzi, Fernand, [and] Felice.” They loved to go fishing on sunny Sundays. On this Sunday, each brother and sister gathered something for the trip. But little Elsie didn’t feel like going. She had “better things to do.” But her siblings shouted, “‘YOU ARE COMING ALONG, ELSIE!’” So Elsie tagged along.

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Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Outside, each one wanted to take the path through the woods they’d used before. Franzi remembered that the “trail is so pretty.” Francis liked the “wild rose bushes along the way,” and Felice added: “they smell so nice.’” But Elsie wanted to “walk along the brook. It’s faster,’” she said. Her siblings said, “‘DON’T DO IT, ELSIE! FOLLOW US.’” So Elsie followed them down to the river where their little stick fishing rod holders still stood.

Elsie’s sisters and brothers were eager to get started. Felice needed help casting her line, and Francis offered to help. Florian and Fernand had already dipped their lines in the water when Elsie said, “‘I am going to put this little buttercup on my hook.’” Her siblings told her that would never work, but she baited her line anyway. It was lunchtime before they knew it, so they set out a picnic with sandwiches and cake. Elsie wasn’t hungry and said she was going to feed her sandwich to the ducks. When her siblings heard this, they said, “‘DON’T DO IT, ELSIE! THEY WON’T EAT IT.’’ But the ducks did nibble the bit she gave them.

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Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

After lunch Elsie’s sisters and brothers were so full and sleepy that they took a nap. Elsie watched their rods as she continued fishing with her buttercup lure. In time, even Elsie fell asleep. When her siblings woke up, they rushed to check their lines. One was bobbing—Elsie’s! Fernand tried to wake her, but she just wanted “‘five more minutes…just five minutes. Pleeeease!’” When she heard she’d caught a fish, though, she jumped up to go see.

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Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Each of Elsie’s siblings gave advice on how to bring the fish out of the water. Francis declared that it was “‘a big one!’” Elsie went down into the water with the fishnet, but her brothers and sisters told her that “‘was useless.’” But was it? Everyone was amazed when little Elsie brought up the big fish. The sun was beginning to set, so the Filpot bunnies got ready to go home. Franzi, Flavie, Felice, and Francis carried the fish; Florian grabbed the picnic basket; and Fernand gathered up the rods. And Elsie? She carried her pink umbrella and led the way along the brook. Which her siblings thought was “…AN EXCELLENT IDEA!’”

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Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Charming and sunny, Nadine Robert’s Elsie combines the feel and rhythms of a traditional classic with the camaraderie and humor that makes for a family favorite today. As each brother and sister chimes in on the plans and execution of their Sunday fishing trip, Robert’s bouncy dialogue is a joy to read aloud and leads to littlest sister Elsie’s contributions and her siblings’ insistent response. On successive readings, children will love joining in on these lines. With the whimsy of little ones, Elsie goes in her own direction, and, to the delight of readers, comes up with the day’s big catch. While the older siblings initially take charge, Robert depicts the family dynamics with love. Elsie’s siblings don’t stop her from doing what she wants and when she does catch a fish with a buttercup and a net, they enthusiastically congratulate her, help her bring it in, and then follow her lead home.

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Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Maja Kastelic’s tempera and watercolor illustrations are as delightful as a lazy warm summer day. From the Filpot’s enchanting home, decorated with dried flowers and cozy touches, to the rolling green hills that lead to the river and are populated with birds, squirrels, deer, and even a hapless mole who pops out of the ground at an inopportune place, Kastelic gives children plenty of “look at that!” moments on each page. She also adds bits of humor—as in the parade of ants that appears as soon as the picnic basket is opened and the bunnies snooze. Children will want to linger over the pages to match the dialogue to the speakers and to keep up with Elsie as she does her own thing. As the sun goes down and stars fill the midnight blue sky, the story may come to an end, but only until you flip to the beginning to read it again.

Lovely in every way, Elsie will become a quick favorite for kids and adults to share. With lots of opportunities for dramatic readings, the book is perfect for bedtime or energetic story times. Elsie makes an excellent gift and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1419740725

Discover more about Nadine Robert and her books on her website.

To learn more about Maja Kastelic, her books, and her art on her website.

National Siblings Day Activity

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A little bit of candy makes any day sweeter! With this Sweet Bunny Candy Jar, you can give a child, a friend, or even yourself a special treat that will make you hoppy!

Supplies

  • Printable Hat Rim and Bunny Ears Template
  • Baby food jar (or any small jar)
  • White fleece, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches (paper, felt, or other material works too)
  • 1 piece of purple foam or paper (Or any color you’d like to make the hat) 
  • Small piece of pink foam, felt, or paper for nose
  • Googly eyes (I used oval)
  • Medium pom-pom or cotton ball
  • Craft paint, purple (or whatever color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Fabric glue or other glue
  • Black ultra-fine or fine tip permanent marker
  • Scissors
  • Large nail (optional)
  • Hammer (optional)

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Directions

  1. Remove label from baby food jar
  2. Clean and dry jar and lid
  3. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam
  4. Cut out the rim of the hat and remove the center
  5. Trace the ears template onto the white fleece and cut out

To Make the Body and Face

  1. Cut a 2-inch wide by 7-inch long strip of white fleece
  2. Glue the strip of fleece to the jar under the threaded lip and leaving about ½ inch of glass showing at the bottom
  3. Glue on the googly eyes
  4. Cut a little nose from the pink foam and glue to the face
  5. Make the mouth with the permanent marker on a little piece of fleece, cut out and glue under the nose

To Make the Hat

  1. Paint the lid with the purple paint. Let dry.
  2. With the nail or ice pick and hammer, make a hole on either side of the lid to insert the ears. You can make the hole a little bigger with a phillips head screwdriver
  3. Flip the lid over and hammer the edges of the hole flat
  4. Attach the hat rim to the lid

Option: Instead of making holes in the jar lid, gather and glue together the wide ends of the ears, let dry. Glue ears to lid. If using paper, fold wide end and glue to lid.

To Insert the Ears

  1. Pinch the end of one ear together and push it through one hole in the lid.
  2. Pull it through the hole a bit to form the ear
  3. Repeat with the other ear

Finish the Bunny

  1. Add the foam rim to the lid
  2. Glue the pom-pom to the back of the jar for the tail
  3. Add M&Ms, jelly beans, or other small candy

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You can find Elsie at these booksellers

Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Powell’s 

Picture Book Review

 

September 18 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Do you have friends you haven’t seen or talked to in a while? Is there someone new at work or school who could use a friend to show them the ropes or grab lunch with? If so, this month’s holiday gives you the opportunity to reach out and say hi. Instituted a decade ago by the Oddfellows organization in the UK, Friendship Month is a super time to show kindness to those you know and those you don’t—yet!  

Superbuns! Kindness Is Her Superpower

By Diane Kredensor

 

Superbuns had everything she needed to be super kind: “listening ears, big caring eyes, [a] warm happy smile,” and a “huge heart.” While other people appreciated her kindness, her big sister Blossom was dismissive. To her, her little sister was just “Buns.” She didn’t possess any “real” superpowers like super strength, super speed, or the ability to leap over tall buildings. Still, Superbuns went around the neighborhood putting out the trash cans for an elderly lady, helping a younger bunny fly his kite, and offering an umbrella to someone just in the nick of time.

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Copyright Diane Kredensor, 2019, courtesy of Aladdin.

Blossom was a self-proclaimed know-it-all. She knew lots of facts, which she was happy to spout while she and Buns walked over to Grammy’s house with a freshly baked carrot cobbler. On the way, Superbuns complimented a little bunny’s smile, fed a fish who was enjoying a little sun on a windowsill, and helped a busy rabbit flip pancakes through an open window. She even made balloon animals for two bunnies. “Blossom thought all this kindness was slowing them down” and she didn’t want to deliver a cold cobbler to Grammy.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-superbuns-real-superpowers

Copyright Diane Kredensor, 2019, courtesy of Aladdin.

But Superbuns just couldn’t help herself. When Blossom (and the cobbler) was about to be splashed by a biker riding through a puddle, and when she needed help opening the grocery store door (because everyone knows you can’t eat cobbler without cold milk), Superbuns was there. In fact, Miss Fox was also entering the store, and Superbuns held the door for her too. Seeing this, Blossom had a tizzy. She screamed, slipped, and lost control of the cobbler.

Flat on her back, Blossom shouted for Buns to run. She knew “all about foxes. First she’ll gobble up the cobbler. Then she’ll gobble up us,” she cried. Miss Fox gazed at the dish of cobbler that had fallen into her hands and then at Superbuns who was cheerfully waving at her. “Here you go,” Miss Fox said, handing the cobbler to Buns.

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Copyright Diane Kredensor, 2019, courtesy of Aladdin.

Turned out little Miss Fox wasn’t interested in gobbling up the cobbler or the bunnies. She just needed directions home because she was lost. Blossom couldn’t believe it. “Lost?” she asked. She grabbed Miss Fox by the hand and pulled her down the sidewalk with Superbuns and the cobbler in tow. Blossom, it seemed, knew “EVERYTHING about being lost.” She knew the most commonly lost items, where Bun’s lost homework had eventually been found, about the city of Atlantis and the colony of Roanoke, grammar and spelling facts about the word lost, and, of course, just how to get to Foxtrot Trail where Miss Fox lived.

When they finally stood outside Miss Fox’s house, Miss Fox gave Blossom a big hug and said, “Thanks for helping me not be lost, Superblossom.” Blossom smiled. “And just like that, Blossom learned she didn’t know everything about everything.” She even decided that kindness “was kind of… super.”

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Copyright Diane Kredensor, 2019, courtesy of Aladdin.

Diane Kredensor’s bouncy story of an irrepressible spirit will have readers convinced that kindness is indeed a superpower in a hop, skip, and a jump. As big sister Blossom leads the way through town nattering on about all the facts she knows and her opinion on kindness, Buns trails in her wake with her red cape fluttering and her eyes open for ways she can help. Kids will laugh at Blossom’s know-it-all persona and breathless recitations from her vast store of knowledge, but they’ll smile and “aww” as Superbuns springs into action all along their route. When they encounter Miss Fox, Blossom slips up in more ways than one and learns that you can’t always read a book by its cover or know everything about everything. As Blossom accepts a grateful hug from Miss Fox, kids will join Blossom in understanding that while knowing facts may be useful, knowing love is super.

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With her buck teeth, wide eyes, slightly goofy-but-always-ready grin, and superhero outfit, Superbuns is an endearing friend that kids will fall in love with. Kredensor, an Emmy award-winning director and producer of, creator of, and contributor to children’s programming across the network spectrum, fills her pages with all the charm of a favorite cartoon combined with the immersive details of animation. Her well-paced storytelling leading to the pratfall that changes Blossom’s perspective will keep readers rapt until the sweet ending.

Sure to be a hit during any story time, Superbuns! Kindness Is Her Superpower would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1481490689

To learn more about Diane Kredensor, her books, her animation work, and more, visit her website

Friendship Month Activity

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Give Me Your Hand! Interchangeable Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. The interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become friends with one another. 

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures

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You can find Superbuns! Kindness Is Her Superpower at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 11 – National Pet Day

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About the Holiday

Pets are often our best friends—they love us unconditionally, are always there for us, and make us laugh. Today we celebrate pets—whether they’re as small as a goldfish or as large as a horse. National Pet Day also raises awareness of the number of animals available for adoption and encourages people to donate to animal shelters or consider taking a dog, cat, bird, or other pet into their family. If you already have a pet, observe the day by giving them an extra pat, offering a special treat, or spending more time with them.

I received a copy of My Funny Bunny from Abrams Books for Young Readers for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Abrams in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

My Funny Bunny

By Christine Roussey

 

A boy has been dreaming of having a dwarf rabbit as a pet “since forever.” Finally, on his sixth birthday, his uncle hands him a box with holes in it, and the boy just knows it’s the pet of his dreams—a “mini dwarf rabbit as big as a kiwi…. A rabbit that I would love with all my heart.” But when he opens the box, it is not a tiny rabbit that he sees but “a big potato with patchy, yucky fur and whiskers that looked like wires.”

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Copyright Christine Roussey, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

The boy is beyond disappointed and runs to his room to yell and cry it out. He throws a temper tantrum and tells the rabbit he ruined his birthday and that he’ll never love him. But then something unexpected happens. While the boy is crying, the bunny jumps out of the box and comes to cuddle up next to him. His soft fur and tickly whiskers make the boy feel better.

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Copyright Christine Roussey, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

The boy gives him a carrot and they share some smiles. Then the two fix the castle that was broken during the tantrum, and the boy began to have a different perspective on his rabbit: “Funny Bunny might look a lot like a potato, but he made me laugh. I was starting to like him.” The child confides in his bunny that his anger sometimes comes on like a storm. The funny bunny says nothing but having him there makes the boy happy.

The boy even wants to be friends. He apologizes “for being so mean” and thanks “him for forgiving [him].” And that’s how the little boy and the “funny bunny…became friends for life” on his sixth birthday.  

A photo of Hector, Christine Roussey’s own “funny bunny” graces the inside back cover and will delight readers.

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Copyright Christine Roussey, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Christine Roussey’s honest look at disappointments and the resulting reactions some children display offers a fresh and humor-tinted way for adults and children to discuss these strong emotions. The funny-looking bunny presents not only an example of how something unexpected can turn out to be just what is needed but also the role pets—with their quiet acceptance and unconditional love—can play in soothing an upset child. Roussey’s child is self-aware, giving adults and children the words for describing the emotions that can sometimes be overwhelming and frightening.

Roussey’s stylish illustrations replicate a child’s drawings and begin with depictions of the dwarf bunny the child has been dreaming of. A turn of the page brings readers face to face with reality—one that will send into giggles. The boy’s tantrum takes the form of gray and colored squiggles that frame the page and usher from his mouth, blowing the bunny’s ears. As the tantrum plays itself out, the boy’s confession is portrayed with child-like stormy clouds, lightning, rain, and a wave that carries them away. Their bond of friendship is built as they play in the boy’s treehouse, give hugs, and spend time together.

An excellent book to share when discussing emotions and how to deal with them, My Funny Bunny would be a valuable addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419736186

To learn more about Christine Roussey, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Pet Day Activity

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Story Buddy Puppet

 

Hop to it! Children and adults can tell stories or talk about your hopes, dreams, and even fears with this Story Buddy Puppet!

Supplies

  • Printable Bunny Template
  • Paper sandwich bag
  • Colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Print out the Bunny Template
  2. Color the Bunny Template
  3. Cut out the bunny’s features
  4. Glue the bunny’s features to the sandwich bag

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You can find My Funny Bunny at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 20 – It’s Tomato and Winter Squash Month

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About the Holiday

The cold months of the year call for warm, hearty meals, and what better way to satisfy the desire for comfort food than to incorporate some of the most flavorful vegetables around? Tomatoes are a staple in many dishes, while the many varieties of winter squash (including acorn, butternut, spaghetti, kabocha, and delicate) are versatile and can add new taste sensations to any dinner. So as the temperature dips, scout out these vegetables and savor their rich flavors!

Rabbit Stew

By Wendy Wahman

 

“Rusty and Rojo toiled and tilled in their vegetable garden all summer long.” But now the crops have ripened, and the two foxes are ready to enjoy the bounty of their hard work—so are their neighbors, the Rabbits. As Mommy Rabbit and the bunnies nibble away in a corner of the garden, Rusty gently squeezes the tomatoes and finds them “plump, yet firm.” “Perfectly so,” Rojo agrees as he lifts Daddy Rabbit from the carrot patch. “At last,” Rusty and Rojo exclaim, “the time is ripe for our prizewinning Rabbit Stew!”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

While Rojo picks “lean, green runner beans,” the Rabbits look on worriedly. Daddy tries to hide, but Rusty spies him in the wheelbarrow full of purple kale. Then, when the family dives back into their cozy “hole sweet hole,” they find that their convenient carrot snacks are being abruptly snatched away—only to be added to the pot of “splendid Rabbit Stew.”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

Next come raisins and celery “and roly-poly blueberries.” But what about those white and gray bits of fluff? Will they end up in the foxes’ buckets too? Of course “juicy red tomatoes, fresh sprigs of parsley, and sweet yellow peppers” are also musts for the foxes’ “finest-ever Rabbit Stew.” With the pot overflowing with colorful veggies, only one more thing is needed—“one…big…round…white…bowl…for our favorite Rabbit, Stew—and his family too!”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

With her fertile imagination and a clever play on words, Wendy Wahman offers up a delightful story that will have readers guessing until the very end. Along with the mystery and the yummy descriptions of each ingredient, Wahman presents a counting game for readers. As Rusty and Rojo pick their vegetables, children can count the ten runner beans on the trellis, nine purple kale leaves in the wheelbarrow, eight carrots from the burrow, and all of the other ingredients on down to one. But do Rusty and Rojo need one big white rabbit or something else? Kids will love the twist at the end and cheer to see Daddy Stew, Mommy Strudel, and their little bunnies—Dumpling, Biscuit, and Ragu—dining on the special meal grown and created just for them.

Everyone’s garden should look as deliciously vibrant as Wahman’s riotous patch of vegetables! The vivid colors jump off the page while providing texture and nuance to the illustrations. They also give kids another concept to learn and talk about. Little details, such as the tiny caterpillar and the yellow butterfly that follow the bunnies from page to page, as well as the fancy burrow lined with photos of friends and family will enchant readers. 

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy o f Wendy Wahman.

Welcome themes of friendship, diversity, and inclusiveness can also be found within the illustrations and the story.

Rabbit Stew is a bright, humorously sly story that would be a wonderful addition to any child’s library. The book also makes a perfect companion for trips to the farmers market, on picnics, or to spur interest in home gardening. The attention to the details of what rabbits can safely eat, as well as the number and color concepts provided in the illustrations, makes Rabbit Stew a great choice for school story times and spring lessons.

Ages 3 – 7

Boyds Mills Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1629795836

You can download a fun Rabbit Stew Activity Sheets from Boyds Mills Press!

Discover more about Wendy Wahman, her art, and her books on her website!

You’ll dig this Rabbit Stew book trailer!

National Garden Month Activity

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Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game, copyright Celebrate Picture Books, 2017

Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

Meet Author/Illustrator Wendy Wahman

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Today, I’m really happy to be chatting with Wendy Wahman about her art, her books, her inspirations, and a really sweet school visit she had recently.

Your bio mentions that you worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer until 2009. Can you describe your work there?

I worked in the art department doing maps, graphics, info-graphics and illustrations for every section of the newspaper. Ninety percent of the work was on deadline, so I learned to think and draw fast.

Our poor beloved P-I. It was 146 years old when Hearst closed it down. About 150 of us went down with the ship. Best job I ever had. I miss the variety and culture and importance — and honesty — of journalism. I miss my P-I family, very much.

How did you get started illustrating and writing books for children?

I was really just snooping around for illustration work. I had an idea for a book on dog body language I wanted to do, but imagined ‘a real writer’ should write it. I sent out some of the dog body-language art samples and heard back from four major publishers. Laura Godwin at Henry Holt called me, and was so passionate about dogs and kids—and my art. She asked to see a dummy. What dummy, right? I had no dummy, just an idea and some art samples. I took two weeks off from the P-I and put together a dummy. Laura helped me tremendously, as did my brilliant writer husband, Joe Wahman.    

Don’t Lick the Dog is a how-to primer on being safe with dogs. We followed with the companion book, A Cat Like That. We never did do my dog body-language book. It’s sitting here patient as can be. “Good dog, book.”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, Don’t Lick the Dog. Courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

 

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, A Cat Like That. Courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

Your art is so varied—from humorous to infographics to striking, serious editorial work. You also work with crisp, clean lines and beautiful textures. Can you talk about your process and inspirations?

Thank you so much, Kathy. Well. I sit and think and read a lot. Mostly I just look and try to distract myself from thinking too hard. I like to thumb through my Thesaurus. When I’m stuck, I try to remember to move away. This can be physically—exercise or a walk; mentally—read or look through books; or emotionally—play with my dogs or call somebody. I say, try, because too often I sit rooted, thinking, thinking. Better to get up and move.

What was the inspiration for Rabbit Stew?

I feed my dogs a homemade stew of meat & veggies. Long ago, I was stirring up an enormous batch of dog food, when “rabbit stew” fluttered to mind. Rabbit Stew is also a counting book, counting down veggies from ten to one. It’s also a color book. It was a challenge to find ingredients safe for rabbits, in different colors and not give it away. Like, rabbits love dandelions and they’re very good for them, but I only know a couple of people who would knowingly toss dandelions into the pot. No potatoes; they are toxic to bunnies, and cabbage isn’t good for them either. 

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A happy fan enjoys reading “Rabbit Stew” with lunch! Photo courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

You give presentations at schools and libraries. Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share?

I did a school visit recently in southern California and got to take my mom to a presentation for 4th graders. I introduced her to the students, and they gave her a loud round of applause! Even more tender, when I was signing books (and the other stuff kids want signed), they asked if my mother would also give them an autograph. Is that the sweetest or what? Children can be so inspiring, healing, and wise. 

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Wendy reads “Don’t Lick the Dog” to enthusiastic kindergarteners in Kennewick, WA. Photograph courtesy of Wendy Wahman

You also teach bookmaking to kids. That sounds fun and fascinating! Can you tell me a little bit about these classes?

I’m so glad you asked about these little books, Kathy. I love making them and sharing the process. Anyone can make one. I’ve taught them to kindergarteners through seniors. I call them “Insight Books,” because what comes out can be surprising, revealing, and often cathartic. Random lines inspire images and ideas. Some people write, others write and draw. Sometimes we collage. Even if you do nothing at all put look, the lines may stimulate ideas. These book are fun to make with a partner too. 

What’s up next for you?

I’m very excited about my next book, Pony in the City (Sterling Publishers). Kevan Atteberry’s book, Swamp Gas, releases the same day, Sept. 9th, and we’re talking about having a co- launch party.

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman. Proofs of “Pony in the City” (Sterling, releasing Sept. 9 this year) courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

I’m working on Nanny Paws (Two Lions), a book inspired by my little white poodle, LaRoo, and the children next door. Here’s a picture of LaRoo and my other dog Jody with my friend Vikki Kaufman‘s poodles. Vikki is a breeder of beautiful silver and blue standard poodles. Vikki took the picture, can you tell?  Her dogs are staring straight at her. Poor LaRoo. She is a shy girl and just wants to get away from the masses.

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Wendy with LeRoo and Jody and Vikki’s TinTin, Nickel and Eureka.

I’m also working on a dummy for a beautiful story written by Joe, “One Bird” (www.joewahman.com). I’m doing the art for both Nanny Paws and Joe’s story in a new/old style for me: pencil and watercolor.

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Image from “One Bird,” written by Joe Wahman, illustrated by Wendy Wahman. Courtesy of Wendy Wahman

Do you have a favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving.

Do you have an anecdote from a holiday you would like to share

If you come over for Thanksgiving, prepare yourself for a vegetarian feast. We don’t eat animals here — but we do make them big, round, splendid bowls of stew.

Thanks so much, Wendy! It’s been a lot of fun! I wish you all the best with all of your books!

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You can find Wendy’s books at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Boyds Mills Press

You can connect with Wendy on:

BēhanceFacebook | LinkedIn | PinterestTwitter

Visit Wendy’s shops:

Cafe Press: http://www.cafepress.com/profile/109591016

RedBubble:  http://www.redbubble.com/people/wendywahman/portfolio

Zazzle: http://www.zazzle.com/wendoodles/products

Wendoodles coloring book: http://www.amazon.ca/Wendoodles-Wendy-E-Wahman/dp/1517403456

Picture Book Review

September 23 – International Rabbit Day

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About the Holiday

With their little pink noses, long ears, and soft fur, rabbits make your heart melt. Today’s holiday was established to promote the protection and care of rabbits—both domestic and wild. Found in almost all types of environments—with more than one half of their total population living in North America—rabbits need protection from habitat destruction and predators. They are also a popular gift in spring, and families are encouraged to learn all about their needs and behaviors to determine if a rabbit is the best fit for the household. Because of their sweet, innocent nature, bunnies are often featured in children’s books. To celebrate the holiday, read a few of your favorites—including today’s book!

The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit

By Keiko Kaichi

 

Once King of the Plains, Old Lion had given up his place in the herd to his sons and now lived a quiet life alone. One day while napping, he felt a tickle in his mane and smelled a tantalizing aroma nearby. Old Lion discovered a tiny baby rabbit sleeping peacefully in the soft fur of his mane. “‘Hey,’ Old Lion thought, ‘this little one won’t fill my belly. But if I let him eat enough, he’ll grow up to be big and delicious!’” So Old Lion gathered as much grass as he could and fed the baby rabbit well, all the while feeling hunger growing in his stomach.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

To pass the time between feedings, Old Lion told Little Rabbit about his younger days on the savanna. “Little Rabbit crinkled up his nose with joy when he listened to Old Lion’s stories.” When other animals saw Old Lion and Little Rabbit together, they couldn’t believe it. As Old Lion talked to Little Rabbit, he remembered his big family and the joy of having children around him. He wondered how they were doing. But he knew that he couldn’t go back once he had “lost the fight to be the leader of the herd. Sometimes his old scars still ached him, especially during the cold nights.”

Now that Little Rabbit was growing bigger, he sometimes hopped far into the field, exploring just for fun. Then Old Lion worried that he might not come back, fearful that all his time and hard work would be wasted. He would call after Little Rabbit, reminding him to come back, and Little Rabbit always did.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

They spent their days watching the other animals, Little Rabbit perched on top of the lion’s head in order to see better. As time went by, Old Lion began to wish he could be satisfied with a diet of plants and wondered about the unfamiliar feeling in his heart. “Could it be that he was starting to care about this little creature who trusted him so blindly? Such a thing made no sense. Still, he had to admit that something warm stirred in him when he saw Little Rabbit each morning.”

One day as Little Rabbit played among the weeds while Old Lion rested, Hyena came calling. When he saw the little bunny, he immediately asked to share in the delicious meal as he often did. Old Lion was taken off guard and stammered that Little Rabbit was not nearly big enough to make a meal of. Hyena protested and pounced. Old Lion found his former quick reflexes and “with one gulp he snatched up Little Rabbit into his jaws.”

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

With a bit of regret but admiration for his old friend, Hyena turned and skulked away. When they were alone, Old Lion opened his mouth wide and let Little Rabbit climb out. He saw that his tiny friend had suffered a cut on his paw and bandaged it carefully. Then he placed Little Rabbit on his head and began to walk in the direction of the wind. “He could no longer deny that he loved Little Rabbit.”

Old Lion walked and walked to the edge of the savanna, where bushes and tall grasses blossomed. He set Little Rabbit down gently and nudged him forward. “You’ll be safe” there, Old Lion told him. “You’ll find other rabbits there—maybe even your family.” Little Rabbit gazed at Old Lion sadly, but the lion reassured him that it was time to go home. Old Lion watched Little Rabbit bound away and “felt a tickle on his face as a tear ran down his cheek.” Then he turned and walked back to where his throne waited.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

Keiko Kaichi’s books masterfully tug at readers’ heartstrings with poignant stories populated with adorable characters that immediately inspire love and empathy. In The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit, the lion’s history is revealed naturally and at a pace that makes his transformation believable and all the more emotional. Just as do children within a family, Little Rabbit alters Old Lion’s life simply through trust and dependence. Children will respond to the growing love between Old Lion and Little Rabbit. They will also find the solution to the mystery established at the beginning both surprising and satisfying. Adult readers cannot be faulted for feeling a small lump in their throat when Old Lion unselfishly protects Little Rabbit from Hyena and then takes him to safety.

Kaichi’s acrylic and pencil drawings are both evocative of the golden savanna and filled with tender sentiments. Old Lion may once have been a fierce predator, but he is now a contemplative and caring elder statesman while Little Rabbit is a wee nubbin of cuteness. As he sits next to the much bigger lion, his tiny paw touching Old Lion’s arm, or collects a bouquet of weeds under Old Lion’s watchful gaze, Little Rabbit swells readers hearts.

Superb in every way, The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit would make a wonderful choice for home bookshelves as well as for public and school libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

minedition, 2017 | ISBN 978-9888341245

International Rabbit Day Activity

Adorable Bunnies Coloring Pages

 

Bunnies are such loveable little creatures that you just can’t help but say “Awwww!” when you see one. Here are two printable Adorable Bunnies Coloring Pages for you to enjoy!

Bunny Coloring Page | Three Bunnies Coloring Page 

Picture Book Review