June 15 – Fly a Kite Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-out-there-cover

About the Holiday

When Fly a Kite Day and Global Wind Day occur on the same day, you know it’s time to get outside and send a kite soaring. A terrific activity to do with kids – especially in this time of social distancing, kite flying is not only fun but it teaches concepts about the wind, flight, and distance. And if you make your own kite, kids get a lesson in design and engineering with some practice with tools thrown in too. So celebrate today with the kite of your choice and keep the fun going all summer long. 

Bear Out There

By Jacob Grant

 

While Bear had tea, Spider was showing him the kite he had made. “He was very excited to fly it out in the yard.” Spider loved everything about the outdoors—the sun, the gentle breeze, the plants, and even the bugs. Bear loved everything about staying indoors. He was looking forward to cleaning up his house and having another cup of tea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-out-there-new-kite

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But then Spider’s kite took off on its own and because Bear was a good friend, he said he would help look for it. But he reminded Spider: “…you know I do not like the forest.” In fact, Bear did not like anything about the forest—the “filthy ground…the itchy plants…the pesky bugs.” Spider, on the other hand, thought a search through the forest would be fun.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-out-there-heading-out

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As they walked, Bear grumbled and complained about the fragrant weeds, the noisy owls, and all the other “unpleasant” things all around them. They had still not found the kite when it started to rain. Now, not even Spider was having a good time, and Bear was more miserable than before. “‘Surely this search cannot get any worse!’ he said. But it could.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-out-there-waterfall

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Bear gave up. He was ready to go home and have a cup of tea in his comfy chair. But then he saw Spider sitting on a rock. Rain drops splashed off his tiny button hat and he looked bedraggled and disappointed. Bear relented. “‘Maybe we could look just a little farther,’” he said. Spider was happy just to be with Bear.

The rain lessened and Bear and Spider looked up at the clearing sky. There, stuck in the branch of a tree, was Spider’s kite. Back home, they soaked in a hot bath, patched the rips in Spider’s kite, made one for Bear, and, of course, had tea—which they enjoyed while flying their kites from Bear’s comfy chair out in the yard.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-out-there-kite-found

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Jacob Grant’s seemingly odd-couple friendship between a big black bear and an itty-bitty spider is as charming and comforting as it gets. While Spider loves the outdoors, Bear is a homebody; but when his friend needs help, Bear puts his own feelings aside to help. It doesn’t take long—only one page, in fact—for Bear to give up the tidy day he had planned for a tromp through the woods in search of Spider’s lost kite. As the hunt grows long and conditions worsen, Bear begins to grumble until he finally gives up. Again, though, one glance at disappointed Spider spurs him on to continue the search. And for Spider, just having Bear by his side makes things all right.

The dynamics between Bear and Spider are pitch perfect, mirroring the love and trust between parents and kids, best friends, teachers and students, and other adult-child pairs. A story isn’t a real story without change, and here, too, Grant offers an inspiring truism. The final scene in which Bear and Spider both enjoy flying kites while sipping tea and lounging in Bear’s chair shows the joy of sharing and embracing another’s favorite activity.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-out-there-

Copyright Jacob Grant, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Grant’s gentle, soft-hued illustrations are full of meaning and humor, of the forest’s allure that Bear doesn’t see, and of Spider’s feelings that he does. Although Bear is a neat-freak—scrubbing, dusting, and sweeping—he’s careful to leave Spider’s resting spots intact. In the woods, Bear grumbles about the smells, the noise, and the general unpleasantness while readers see a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a topsy-turvy turn of events in an owl’s nest, and a scenic panorama complete with waterfall and butterflies. Coming back to their home with its inviting pink teapot and orange chairs is the perfect antidote to any busy or stressful day.

Bear Out There is an endearing read and would be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves for its sweet depiction of what true friendship between adults and kids or among children is all about. Readers won’t want to miss Jacob Grant’s first Bear and Spider adventure, Bear’s Scare.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681197456

To learn more about Jacob Grant, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Fly a Kite Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kite-maze

Soaring Kite Maze

 

The dips and rises your pencil takes through this maze is a little like the way a kite flies through the sky! Print your Soaring Kite Maze and enjoy!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-out-there-cover

You can find Bear Out There at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound 

Picture Book Review

July 29 – Rain Day

a-book-for-benny-cover-celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review

About the Holiday

Is it hot enough for you? Do you start to melt the minute you step outside? Are you wishing for a little rain to cool things off? Well, today may be your lucky day! Today, we celebrate that rain that feeds farmer’s crops, brings our lawns back (just a little), and gives us a good reason to stay at home curled up with a good book. Why is July 29th designated as Rain Day? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania it has rained on this date 114 years of the last 142. So watch the skies and get your umbrella ready. A trip to the library or bookstore is a great idea too!

A Book for Benny

Written by Judith Koppens | Illustrated by Marja Meijer

 

It’s a rainy day and Sam is cozy on the couch reading…well, she would be if her dog, Benny, wasn’t pulling at her arm, wanting to play. “‘I’m not going to play with you. I’m reading.’” Sam tells Benny. She tries to show him how much fun reading is, but Benny doesn’t seem interested in the book Sam has. Maybe, Sam thinks, Benny would like a different book. “‘Come, Benny. We’ll go to the library. We’ll pick out a nice book just for you,’” Sam says. She grabs her raincoat from the hook, and Benny finds his leash.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-book-for-benny-couch

Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

They reach the library and hurry in through the revolving door to get out of the rain. Just then they hear a voice coming from the front desk. “‘I’m sorry, young lady, but dogs are not allowed in here!’” When Sam explains, the woman thinks that a book just for Benny sounds fun, but she still can’t allow Benny to stay. Sam takes Benny outside and returns to the shelves to look for the perfect book.

She finds one about knights and takes it to the big wall of windows to get Benny’s approval. She shows Benny the pictures. “Benny looks up at Sam, but then he pees against the tree.” Perhaps a circus book would be more appealing; after all, “Benny loves to do tricks with the ball.’” But when Benny sees this book, he simply turns his back on Sam.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-book-for-benny-in-rain

Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

Sam searches through the bins of books. “‘Yes, this is the one!’ Sam suddenly cries.” She runs to the window and finds “the best picture to show Benny. Benny looks at the book and starts to wag his tail. He barks and licks the window…again and again” even though it’s dirty. Sam rushes to the desk to check out Benny’s book. When the woman picks it up, she “reads the title out loud. ‘I Love Sausages: 101 Recipes.’”

The librarian is surprised, but Sam tells her that this is the book Benny likes best. Back home, Sam settles in on the couch once more and begins reading again. “And Benny?” He stretches out, closes his eyes, and “has lovely dreams about his book.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-book-for-benny-showing-books

Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

Judith Koppens’ endearing story about a little girl who wants to share her love of reading with her pet will enchant animal lovers and may inspire some child/furry friend reading time at home. Benny’s humorous displays of disapproval and approval will have kids giggling, and the book that Benny ultimately chooses will be appreciated with a laugh by dog owners. Benny’s choice also demonstrates that everyone finds different books appealing, and that sometimes it takes a little trial and error and alternate thinking to find just the right fit for reluctant readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-book-for-benny-at-library

Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

Marja Meijer’s cartoon-style illustrations are just right for this lighthearted tribute to a love of reading. Sam’s home is warm and cozy with pictures and photos of the most valued family member on the wall, a comfy couch, and a fuzzy rug. The blue watercolor world outside plinks with raindrops and splashes with puddles, while inside the library, the colorful stacks of shelved books offers refuge that is recognizable to all book lovers. Benny’s slobbery assent to the book Sam chooses will have readers wondering about the title, and the cover reveal will make them laugh. As Sam and Benny settle in to read, the clearing skies show that happiness really is a good book.

Dialogue driven,  A Book for Benny makes a great read aloud for home or classroom storytimes.

Ages 4 – 6

Clavis Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373522

Discover more about Judith Koppens, her books, illustrations, and other creative endeavors on her website.

To learn more about Marja Meijer and her art, visit her website.

Rain Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainy-day-match-up-puzzle

Rainy Day Match-Up Puzzle

 

On a rainy day you need just the right raincoat and umbrella to stay dry! These matching umbrellas and raincoats have gotten separated. Can you find the matching pairs? How do you match them up? 

Rainy Day Match-Up Puzzle

a-book-for-benny-cover-celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review

You can find A Book for Benny at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 16 – Nothing Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-cover

About the Holiday

Newspaper columnist Harold Coffin established Nothing Day in 1973 to satirize the proliferation of daily holidays. His purpose was to give people a day to do absolutely nothing. Sounds good to me! Still, does celebrating this holiday constitute doing something? This may be the most baffling holiday on the calendar! Why not find something—or nothing—to do with today’s book?

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna

 

A little girl and her mom are “back again” at the cottage—even trudging up the walk in “the same rain”—while Dad is working back at home in the city. While Mom works at her computer, the girl destroys Martians, but she says, “Actually, I was just pressing the same button over and over.” She wishes that her dad were there.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-cabin

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Mom turns away from her writing and watches her daughter playing her video game. “Is this going to be another day of doing nothing?” she growls. Mom takes the device and hides it—“as usual”—and the little girl finds it—“as usual.” But this time she takes it outside. As the rain pelts down from gloomy skies it looked as if everything in the “garden was hiding from the sun.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-playing-video-games

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

In the pond at the bottom of the hill she finds a line of flat stones. She hops from one to another, crushing them like the Martians in her game. While jumping, though, her game falls out of her pocket and into the pond. The water is so icy cold that she can’t grab it before it sinks out of sight. Oh no! she thinks, “Without my game, I have nothing to do.” The rain strikes her “like rocks,” and she feels “like a small tree trapped outside in a hurricane.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day--jumping-on-rocks

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Just then she spies four giant snails slithering by. She asks them if there is anything to do around there, and they tell her yes. She gently feels one of the snail’s antennae. It is “as soft as jello” and makes her smile. She follows the snails and discovers a field filled with mushrooms. Their damp musky smell reminds her of her grandparents’ basement—her “cave of treasures.” She walks on and finds a spot in the earth where she digs her hand into the ground. She feels “thousands of seeds and pellets and kernals, grains and roots and berries touch “her fingers and hand.” When she looks up the sun is shining “through a giant strainer” and blinds her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-snails

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of beatricealemanga.com.

Her heart starts beating fast with energy. She takes off running and runs so quickly that she tumbles down the hill. She lands on her back with a flop, and when she opens her eyes, the world is topsy-turvy new. Energized, she climbs a tree and gazes out at the horizon, breaths deeply in the fresh air, drinks raindrops as they fall from a leaf, and notices bugs she’s never seen before. She talks to a bird, splashes in a puddle, and watches the world through stones as clear as glass.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-tumbling

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of beatricealemanga.com.

She hurries home and takes off her raincoat. When she glances in the mirror, for a moment she thinks she “sees her dad smiling at [her].” Her mom is still writing, but now she looks different to the little girl—“like one of the creatures outside.” Her mom notices how soaked she is and takes her to the kitchen to dry her off in a big, soft towel. The little girl feels like giving her mom a big hug. For a moment she wants to tell her about all the things she saw and did, but she doesn’t.

Instead, they enjoy their hot chocolate quietly together. “That’s it,” she says. “That’s all we did. On this magical do-nothing day.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-hot-chocolate

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

While the protagonist of A Magical Do-Nothing Day may never have looked at the world outside closely, Beatrice Alemagna certainly has. Alemagna’s exquisite illustrations portray the beauty of our environment—both indoors and out—and our connections to it with novel descriptions and stunning color and perspectives. As the girl ventures outside, video game clutched tightly, her face registers sadness and wariness. The Martians from the game crawl over and surround her, even when the game is off, seeming to fill any space that might be open to exploration, and, indeed, her first forays into the wild are taken game-style, hopping from platform to platform, rock to rock.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-mirror

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

When the gaming device sinks into frigid water (as cold and impersonal as the gaming experience itself?), the child quickly comes out of her shell with the help of snails that lead her to greater discovery. The story gives readers much to ponder in the relationships between the child and parents and the child’s newfound appreciation for the natural world.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day is a fantastic book to add to home and classroom libraries to spur children’s exploration—both in the natural world and within. While I used the feminine pronoun in my review, the story is told from the first person point of view and the child is drawn with gender neutral clothing and hairstyle, making this a book with universal appeal.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062657602

Discover more about Beatrice Alemanga, her books, and her art on her website.

Nothing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainy-day-with-mushroom-and-cricket-coloring-pageNothing To Do Coloring Pages

 

Rainy days are perfect “do-nothing” days. The next time you have an indoor day, grab your crayons or colored pencils and enjoy these printable coloring pages

Splashing in the Rain Coloring Page | Cricket Hiding from the Rain Coloring Page

Picture Book Review