May 24 – National Escargot Day

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About the Holiday

National Escargot Day celebrates this popular dish that’s enjoyed by people around the world, but is perhaps most notably associated with France, as Escargot is French for edible snails. Archaeological evidence suggests that edible snails were the first animals to be farmed by people, and the world’s oldest surviving cookbook, aged from the 1st to 2nd century BCE, contains a recipe for snails. Take part in the holiday by enjoying this world-class appetizer or by learning more about snails and the science of Heliculture. 

A Book for Escargot

Written by Dashka Slater | Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

 

“Bonjour!” Escargot—that most adorable snail (he’ll tell you so himself)—is back! He can see that you’re reading and doesn’t want to disturb you, even though he knows that “It can be distracting to have a very beautiful French snail staring at you while you read.” In fact, Escargot is on his way through the library to check out a French cookbook right now. Along the way, he’d like to talk about all things literary. First, Escargot would like to know your favorite book. “Is it Goldytentacles and the Three Snails? Harry Gastropodder and the Chamber of Salads?” Or maybe it’s another snail classic.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2020. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Escargot loves books, but there’s one thing that is so sad it makes him cry. Go ahead—you can wipe the tears from his eyes with your sleeve. What is so sad? None of the books have a snail hero. All the books about snails that he’s seen “make a joke about slow snail or shy snail. I am not laughing at this joke,” he says.

Escargot thinks that you—yes you, the reader—can write a story about an extraordinary snail that has daring adventures. He’ll even help you with the first sentence and how to illustrate such a magnifique character. Of course, every good story hero needs a problem. Perhaps you, as a writer, think: but Escargot, “‘you are so handsome, suave, and smart. What problem could you possibly have?’” And yet, Escargot does have a problem. He is bored with salads. And so, he is off to find a new recipe.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2020. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

But not so fast. Every story worth its salt also needs an obstacle. And can there be any greater obstacle than Escargot looking down (far down) upon the object of his quest: The Art of French Cooking? To show what an intrepid snail he really is, Escargot sets his antennae to horizontal and leaps. He flies! Sort of.

At last the “resolution of the story” is at hand (so to speak). Escargot opens the cookbook ready to discover a new delicious recipe. But what is this?! This is not a recipe Escargot wants a chef to see. And he certainly doesn’t want that chef to see him. Can you help hide Escargot? As this only slightly rattled snail hides out, you can finish your story. Escargot even gives you an ending sentence that you can finish with a little panache.

Now, where is that French cookbook? Perhaps Escargot was hungrier than he thought. The pages are looking kind of chewed, and Escargot’s cheeks appear a little puffed. But it is all good, and just as in any delectable story—Escargot’s and yours—ends “with a kiss! Mwah!

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2020. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Like meeting up with a best friend after a long absence, Escargot and his second adventure will swell your heart. All the charm and endearing airs of Dashka Slater’s little French snail that made readers fall in love with him in Escargot still inspire his first-person monologue aimed directly at readers. Along the journey to finding a French cookbook, Escargot invites kids not only to write a story that has never been told before—the tale of a snail who overcomes the odds—or at least the odd obstacle—and becomes a hero—but to interact at certain points to help him out.

Slater’s clever takes on her audience’s favorite books will have kids giggling and retitling their own bookshelves while subtle allusions to the original story are enchanting and build giddy suspense for this book’s resolution. As a writing tool for teachers and homeschoolers, Escargot’s prompts and encouragement go a long way in helping children understand the basic structure of a story, how to use evocative vocabulary, and how to incorporate necessary elements. As Escargot once again comes out victorious, all readers will exclaim Oh là là! with a big Mwah!

Light, airy, and punctuated with the cutest snail around, Sydney Hanson’s illustrations are a joy. How magnifique it is to once again open the cover to those full-moon eyes, looong antennae, petite smile and very French shirt and scarf. Kids will love following Escargot’s silvery trail over snail bestsellers, through a palette of paint, and on to a pile of hilariously titled animal stories, which, much to Escargot’s disappointment, do not extend the superhero theme to snails. For future illustrators, Hanson demonstrates an easy way for kids to replicate Escargot and his escapade for their own stories. Each of Hanson’s pages is darling from Escargot’s flying feat of daring to his agility with the long-sought French cookbook to his solution to the unfortunate recipe.

Lovely and lovable through and through, A Book for Escargot will be a favorite. The book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections. And on’t miss the original, Escargot. While each story stands alone, these two books go together like butter and…well…you know!

Ages 4 – 6

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2020 | ISBN 978-0374312862

Discover more about Dashka Slater and her books on her website.

You can connect with Sydney Hanson on Instagram.

Enjoy this A Book for Escargot book trailer!

National Escargot Day Activity

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Super Snail Coloring Page

 

What do you think this snail is thinking about? Being brave? Fast? Creative? Magical? Make Escargot happy and write and illustrate a story about this super snail. Print out the coloring page and write your story on the printable journal template.

Super Snail Coloring Page | Journal Template

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You can find A Book for Escargot at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 31 – It’s National Umbrella Month

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About the Holiday

The rainy season is coming—do you know where your umbrella is? March, with its unpredictable weather has been designated National Umbrella Month to commemorate those useful objects that keep us dry in the rain and shaded from the sun’s rays. Invented in China over 4,000 years ago, the umbrella underwent many changes before becoming the pocket-sized helper it is today. To celebrate this month, check on the condition of your umbrella or treat yourself to a new one!

Thanks to Lerner Books for sharing a digital copy of Sunday Rain with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Sunday Rain

Written by Rosie J. Pova | Illustrated by Amariah Rauscher

 

When Elliot heard the wind Whoosh by and a tree branch tap against his window, he stopped reading and went to the window to look outside. “A leaf few by, swinging down and side to side. Then another and another.” Elliot watched craggy lightening break through the clouds and heard a crash of thunder. Elliot went back to his book, back to the princess, the dragon, and the raging sea.

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Image copyright Amariah Rauscher, 2021, text copyright Rosie J. Pova, 2021. Courtesy of Lerner Books.

In a bit Elliot heard laughter. He went to the window again “and glued his nose to the glass.” On the sidewalk outside his house, kids from the neighborhood were “skipping, springing, and splashing in oodles of puddles.” When one of the kids looked his way, Elliot stepped away. Then he heard his mother calling. She had pulled his rainboots from a box she was unpacking. She encouraged him to go out and “make some friends.”

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Image copyright Amariah Rauscher, 2021, text copyright Rosie J. Pova, 2021. Courtesy of Lerner Books.

Elliot took his toy boat and went outside. It “smelled like wet grass and flowers and the pages of a new book.” Two kids were playing at the next stoop. Elliot let out a roar and stomped in a puddle. “‘My boat is filling up with water,’ he said to no one in particular.” Suddenly he had two helpers to row them all to the safety of the nearby island. But the dragon had landed on the mast and was pushing the boat backward. All three kids pulled on the dragon’s tail to dislodge it.

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Image copyright Amariah Rauscher, 2021, text copyright Rosie J. Pova, 2021. Courtesy of Lerner Books.

Safely on the island, the three were joined by a little girl wearing a gold crown and flying a dragon kite. They built a sandcastle, listened to shells, and Elliot caught raindrops falling from the trees on his tongue. As the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds, Elliot and his two new friends headed back across the ocean to the city. Back home, it was time for supper with “freshly baked bread and stew and warmth.” Before turning out the light, Elliot finished his book. “The princess befriended the dragon and saved the kingdom. He snuggled down into his covers, hugging his book and listened to the hoot of an owl as he “drifted off to sleep.”

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Image copyright Amariah Rauscher, 2021, text copyright Rosie J. Pova, 2021. Courtesy of Lerner Books.

A quiet aura of nostalgia wafts through Rosie A. Pova’s fresh story of imagination and making new friends after a move. No angst or worry, fear or longing ripples Pova’s gentle nudge for readers to step a little bit outside their comfort zone to meet new experiences head on. The rainstorm, soon spent, creates two inviting environments: Elliot’s cozy bedroom and a playground of “oodles of puddles” where Elliot feels comfortably at home. Pova’s neat transition from reality to imaginative play is seamless and authentically childlike.

Her lyrical phrasing and close observations shine, giving the story a tenderness adults and kids will want to share again and again. Coming in for supper (a word that conjures images of old-fashioned family dinners), Elliot is embraced by the warmth of good food and family love. As he drifts off to sleep, all is well in Elliot’s story and his heart.

Amariah Rauscher’s lovely illustrations perfectly reflect the welcome and hope of Pova’s story. As the storm begins, Elliot looks up from his book with an expression of curiosity. Returning to his book after peeking out the window at the storm, the same blue-gray of the sky colors the ocean on which he and the intrepid princess battle the dragon. Readers first meet the neighborhood kids the way Elliot does—through his bedroom window. A nice touch that puts them in his shoes.

When Elliot takes his boat outside, readers can see—and almost feel—his momentary hesitation before he takes that first stomp and goes about making friends. When Elliot’s little boat turns into a sailboat for three, the dragon and princess from Elliot’s book show up to play too. But is the princess another new friend or just in Elliot’s imagination? Ask your young reader and see what they say! Rauscher’s children are sweet little charmers, full of fun and all the possibilities in the world.

As Elliot’s mom says, “Sunday rains are the best!” Rosie J. Pova and Amariah Rauscher’s Sunday Rain will quickly become a family or classroom favorite for cozy, imaginative story times and is highly recommended as a gift or addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Lantana Publishing, 2021 | ISBN 978-1911373971

Discover more about Rosie J. Pova and her books on her website.

To learn more about Amariah Rauscher, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Umbrella Day Activity

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Find the Matching Umbrellas

 

These umbrellas and raincoats were mixed up in the wind! Can you find the matching pairs? Look carefully! How will you match them up?

Rainy Day Mix Up Umbrellas Matching Puzzle

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You can find Sunday Rain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

February 15 – It’s Library Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

For bibliophiles, this may be the best month of the year! Not only does your local library have shelves stacked with books, magazines, movies, and music of every kind, it offers comfy chairs, fascinating lectures, kids programs, and more! While this year most libraries have been closed for in-person visits or offered shorter hours, the librarians and staff have worked hard to offer curbside service and devise ways to provide the same types of programming and services patrons love and need. This month be sure to take part in some of the activities librarians have planned for you! 

Where Is Our Library? A Story of Patience & Fortitude

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Stevie Lewis

 

At the stroke of midnight lions Patience and Fortitude woke from their slumber, left their pedestals, and crept into the New York Public Library for their nightly story time. But when they walked through the doors of the Children’s Room to find that all of the books were gone. They ran down the street, hiding in the shadows, to a street blazing with lights. “Fortitude yelled, ‘See the lights? Look up there! / That’s where the books have been taken.’ But when they arrived in the heart of Times Square, / He realized that he’d been mistaken.”

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Image copyright Stevie Lewis, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co.

Fortitude was embarrassed by his mistake, but then Patience had an idea. They entered Central Park, passing by fountains, the zoo, and a carousel, through a tunnel, and around a pond. Then Fortitude spied a statue with a mad hatter, a rabbit, a Cheshire cat, and a little girl. While the hatter just offered a riddle, Alice pointed them in the direction of a man with a duck, where they might find an answer.

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Image copyright Stevie Lewis, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co.

They met Hans Christian Andersen, awake from his stony nap, and told him about the missing books. He gave the lions a list of other libraries to check. They loped through the city rom Harlem and Washington Heights to the Upper East Side and Lower Manhattan. “They scoured each library, scanned every stack, / And pored through each awesome collection. / They found some new books, but they wanted theirs back! / Where was their old children’s section?”

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Image copyright Stevie Lewis, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co.

In the Chatham Square Library, a dragon kite hanging from the ceiling suggested a new perspective, so they took to the High Line and looked here and there, but the sun was beginning to dawn. “Their library lost. Their quest was now ending. / They hurried back home feeling blue.” But when they got close to their home—in fact right across the street—they saw two new signs: “Children’s and Teen Center! Opens Today! and “Newly Renovated Children’s Center.” Thrilled, Patience and Fortitude went inside and happily found books to read. The next morning, the lions thought about their nighttime jaunt and “were thrilled with their city-wide tour, / For finding new worlds is a treat.”

Facts about Patience and Fortitude and the New York Public Library as well as information on the statues, the libraries, and the new Children’s and Teen Center of the New York Public Library follow the text.

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Image copyright Stevie Lewis, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co.

Kids who have been sad to see their children’s rooms close for in-person visits this year will empathize with Patience and Fortitude when they wake up expecting to enjoy their nightly story time only to find no books on the shelves. Readers will love joining the two New York Public Library lions as Josh Funk takes them on a rhyming jaunt through the city from Times Square to Central Park to the High Line park. They visit many of the city’s libraries and finally find themselves inside the new Children’s and Teen Center. Readers will have fun imagining the statues of Hans Christian Andersen and the characters from Alice in Wonderland coming to life and talking with the lions.

Stevie Lewis invites kids on this literary tour of New York with her beautiful illustrations. Gorgeously lit, Lewis’s after-dark images reflect the excitement of the city that never sleeps. Readers get to see the seals in the zoo, the famous carousel, the big chess board, and the duck pond as Patience and Fortitude wend their way through Central Park. As the lions visit several libraries, children will enjoy comparing their décor with that of their library’s Children’s Room. Kids will be wowed at the stately architecture of New York that Lewis reproduces faithfully throughout the pages. In Times Square and on the library shelves, kids will have fun pointing out familiar plays and favorite picture books.

An enchanting tour through New York City for book lovers, Where Is Our Library is a charming sequel to Josh Funk’s and Stevie Lewis’s Lost in the Library and will excite kids to visit their own libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Co., 2020 | ISBN 978-1250241405

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books on his website.

To learn more about Stevie Lewis, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Library Lovers Month Activity

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Kids in the Library Find the Differences Puzzle

 

While your library may always look the same, it’s different every time you visit. New materials have been put on the shelves and books, movies, and magazines that were there last time have been checked out. Can you find the differences in these two pictures of kids in the library? Then have fun coloring it!

Kids in the Library Puzzle

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You can find Where Is Our Library? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 14 – International Book Giving Day

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About the Holiday

It’s been a terrific month of celebrating the joys of reading at home, in the classroom, and at the library! Every book read to and with a child enriches their life and helps to foster a life-long love of learning. Whether your child likes books that are fiction or nonfiction, stories or poetry, funny or poignant, there are a vast array of new and old books to teach them about the world and get them excited about being part of it. There really is a book for every child—as you’ll see in today’s review!

Thanks to Macmillan for sending me a copy of Everybody’s Favorite Book for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Everybody’s Favorite Book

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Claire Almon

 

You are quite lucky, the narrator greets you, to be holding the world’s most favorite book. What makes it everybody’s favorite? Well, “lots of great books have cool heroes.” But these are heroes with just one talent—“like spacemen! Or ninjas! Or cowgirls!” In this book, though, the hero multitasks! What is he? “A space ninja cow!” and “his name is Bob.”

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Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Of course, a hero needs a villain to vanquish, and Bob is lucky because instead of a one-dimensional bad guy, he gets to pit himself against a fierce mash up of a robot, a dragon, and a pirate. What’s this horrible marauder’s name?. Are you ready? It’s Corky! So Bob and Corky fight. It’s thrilling…it’s dangerous…it’s stopped? Ah, the narrator sees now— “everybody doesn’t like violent books” and since this is Everybody’s Favorite Book, the story needs to be a bit more… Well, let’s see if Princess Glittersprinkles can help!

Yes! A tea party would be splendid. Bob and Corky and the princess sit down to a lovely spread with the adorable but really, really, really, really BIG guinea pig, Snuggy. But, wait! We’re forgetting about babies. Baby’s love books too, right? Now might be a good time to offer a bit of ABC fun. “A is for Apple. B is for Bob.” By the way…where is Bob? Is that a suspicious bulge in Snuggy’s cheeks? 

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Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Finding Bob’s going to require spies, especially cool ones. Now, while they’re out spying, let’s give it up for those teachers and librarians who love big, educational words like “Gallimaufry, Codswallop, and Frippery.” Sure, the narrator knows the definitions, but the book will be more fun and educational if you read them for yourself. Oh, dear! Are those words too educational? Then maybe a poop jok…wait a minute! Do you see a suspicious bump in Snuggy’s belly? No, me either.

If this really is Everybody’s Favorite Book, it seems that “we are still missing so many things that everybody likes. Things like wizards! And a fairy tale!” And so many other characters and things to do…. Hey! Why is everyone fighting? There’s plenty of room for everybody, but right now “this is nobody’s favorite book.” What’s needed is a hero. “Oh wait! There’s Bob,” launching from Snuggy’s HUGE burp just in time! “Maybe he has an idea.” Bob suggests a “sweet ending.” This is more like it! All the hugs and smiles and cooperation is so sweet. Sweet, Snuggy. Not sweets! Oh dear….

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Image copyright Claire Almon, 2018, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2018. Courtesy of Imprint at Macmillan Publishing.

Mike Allegra will have kids laughing out loud with every page turn in his riotously clever genre mash-up. Allegra’s well-meaning narrator offers up droll juxtapositions of characters and situations while riffing on favorite books and movies, fads and fantasies with some crafts, coloring, and craziness to boot. The fast pace, abrupt interruptions, and zigzagging storyline keep kids guessing and eager to find out what comes next. As the action devolves into a free-for-all, the promise of a book for everybody is fulfilled with inclusive hugs and teamwork.

Claire Almon’s cartoon-inspired illustrations are bold, dynamic, and full of action with plenty of humor thrown in. Ingenious details, comically used tropes, and familiar styles of graphics from kids favorite TV shows and movies give young readers a feeling of shared experiences and culture that underline the theme of friendship. Readers will love following Bob’s journey to escape from Snuggy’s belly, and cutaways and character involvement from page to page keeps everybody reacting to the narrator’s directions until the big finale.

For book lovers of all stripes, Everybody’s Favorite Book will be a much-asked for addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves. The book makes a terrific gift for all those readers on your list.

Ages 3 – 7 

Imprint, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250132765

Discover more about Mike Allegra, his books, and other projects on his website.

To learn more about Claire Almon, her books, and her art, visit her tumblr.

International Book Giving Day Activity

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Book Love! Word Search

 

What kind of book would you like to be given – or to give? Is your favorite in this printable puzzle? Search and find out!

Book Love! Word Search Puzzle | Book Love! Word Search Solution

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You can find Everybody’s Favorite Book at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 16 – Appreciate a Dragon Day

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About the Holiday

Appreciate a Dragon Day was established in 2004 by author Danita K. Paul to celebrate the publication of her novel DragonSpell, the first book in her Dragon Keepers Chronicles series. The holiday now encourages all readers to get involved with reading through fun activities—dragon-themed, of course! Teachers, librarians, and all those who love reading can find lots of suggestions for creative ideas that encompass art, crafts, displays, drama, and many other mediums on Danita K. Paul’s website. So, round up your favorite dragon books and breathe some fire into your reading today!

The Book Dragon

Written by Kell Andrews | Illustrated by Éva Chatelain

 

In Lesser Scrump, reading was a chore. To teach the alphabet, the schoolmaster, Mr. Percival, drew on tree trunks with bits of charcoal, scratched on slate with a rock, or drew in the dirt of the schoolyard. One day, Rosehilda said that “‘reading would be more fun if the letters and words were written as stories.’” She even suggested writing them with ink on papers that could be put together. The students were shocked and “Mr. Percival sent Rosehilda home with a stern note scratched onto a leaf.”

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When Rosehilda got home she asked her grandfather what all the fuss was about. He told her about the Book Dragon, who instead of hoarding gold, collected books. Rosehilda had never heard of a book, and her grandfather explained that it was “letters and words written on papers that are attached together.” He pointed out the window to Scrump Mountain and told Rosehilda that the Book Dragon lived deep inside and stole any book brought into the village.  

The next day at school, Rosehilda declared that the school needed books and that she was not afraid of the Book Dragon. Mr. Percival explained that after the dragon snatched a book, she terrorized the villagers the next night, and he sent her home again with another note etched into a candle stub. On the way home, Rosehilda met a peddler who had a book in her pile of wares. She gave it to Rosehilda in exchange for the candle stub.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

That night Rosehilda read a story about a brave knight who defeated a dragon and won its hoard of gold. “For the first time, reading wasn’t tiresome. It was amazing!” In the morning, the book was gone. Rosehilda’s grandfather told her that they and all the villagers would have to lock their windows that night. Rosehilda felt guilty. “She vowed to challenge the dragon and win her book back.”

She went to the top of Scrump Mountain and peered into the dragon’s cave. The Book Dragon was lying atop an immense pile of books. She looked surprised to see Rosehilda standing there. Rosehilda summoned her courage and demanded that the dragon return her book. The Book Dragon apologized and explained that because she was too big to live in the village, books were the only friends she had.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Rosehilda scolded the dragon for stealing so many books. The dragon said she only meant to borrow them, but when she tried to return them, the windows were locked and people screamed when she knocked. The dragon agreed to give Rosehilda her book back, but Rosehilda had a hard time finding it among so many books.

While searching for it, Rosehilda and the Book Dragon began stacking the books “by subject and author.” At the end of the day, they had plenty of piles and more books to sort, and Rosehilda hadn’t found her book. The Book Dragon suggested she borrow a different one. She read late into the night, and the next day she went back to the dragon’s cave to help sort books. She left with another book. This went on all week.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Finally, all the books were sorted and Rosehilda found her book. She was excited that she wouldn’t have to come back, but the Book Dragon looked sad and suggested that she “borrow another book…and come back tomorrow.” That gave Rosehilda an idea. The next day at school, Mr. Percival and the other students were horrified to see the dragon outside their window, but Rosehilda explained that she was just returning their books. Now the Book Dragon oversees the “Official Village Library of Lesser Scrump,” and everyone reads as much as they want!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-book-dragon-book-found

Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Kell Andrew’s clever story will delight book lovers of all scales with its mix of fantasy, mystery, courage, and friendship. Fearless Rosehilda is a plucky role model for all kids, and the Book Dragon’s desire for company will melt readers’ hearts faster than a breath of fire. Andrew’s storytelling reflects the best of fairy tale lore for a modern audience, with touches of humor, mistaken motives, and a creative resolution.

Éva Chatelain bridges the medieval and the familiar in her bright illustrations that draw on the rich yellows, reds, and greens of leather-bound books, piles of gold, fiery emotions, and woodland villages. Chatelain introduces brave Rosehilda as she challenges her teacher and buys a book,  but she also reveals the trepidation Rosehilda overcomes to confront the Book Dragon, showing readers that even the most courageous people can feel fear too. As Rosehilda reads her treasured book, kids’ suspense will quicken to see the silhouette of the dragon outside her window. The stacks of books that Rosehilda and the Book Dragon build are cunning references to library stacks, and the final images of a happy town and a happy (dragon) librarian will charm readers.

An enchanting story for book buffs, dragon devotees, and fairy tale fans, The Book Dragon would be a favorite addition to story times and home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454926856

Discover more about Kell Andrews and her books on her website.

To learn more about Éva Chatelain, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Appreciate a Dragon Day Activity

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Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

 

In this group of darling dragons, each dragon has a twin. Can you help them find each other in this printable puzzle?

Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

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You can find The Book Dragon at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 10 – National Dewey Decimal System Day

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About the Holiday

Today, library lovers and readers of all kinds honor Melvil Dewey who was born on this date in 1851 and at the age of twenty-one revolutionized the way libraries organized their collections with an elegant numerical system that gave each book their own place on the shelf. Dewey went on to make more changes within libraries from whom they served to who ran them even to the amount of noise that was allowed inside—Shhh! To celebrate today, show your local librarians and library staff how much you appreciate them by sending them a thank you email or leaving an encouraging comment on their social media. To learn more about Melvil Dewey, kids will also want to check out today’s book.

The Efficient, Inventive (Often Annoying) Melvil Dewey

Written by Alexis O’Neill | Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

 

Melvil Dewey is one organized kid! He spends his free time labeling his mother’s pantry and then the basement. He records all of his pertinent personal information and balances his finances in a ledger. And when he has enough money he heads to the bookstore—on foot—ten miles away. “Melvil loves books.” What do you imagine he buys there? If you guessed Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language—unabridged version—you’re right!

At night before going to sleep, Melvil wonders what he’ll do with his life. He wants to do something valuable, something meaningful. But what? A fire at Hungerford Collegiate Institute in Adams, New York, where Melvil goes to school, gives him a new perspective. While rescuing books, smoke inhalation causes damage to his lungs. The doctors say he won’t live a year, but he proves them wrong. Now, however, he wants to word “efficiently. He wants to make the biggest difference in the world in the least amount of time.”

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Image copyright Edwin Fotheringham, 2020, text copyright Alexis O’Neill, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Noticing the large number of immigrants entering the country, Melvil decides he want to help them learn English and get an education as quickly as possible. Books would do that. After all, Melvil believes that steam power and electricity pale in importance to reading. First, though, Melvil needs to go to college. He chooses Amherst College and spends copious amounts of time at the library. “He even gets a job there.” But he notices that the library is woefully underused. Melvil can understand it. Instead of grouped by subject, the books—all 30,000 of them—are organized by shelf number, which requires frequent rearranging as new books are added.

Melvil loved libraries, but only rich institutions and wealthy people could afford to have them. Melvile believes in free public libraries for everyone. But as Melvil studies the problems of libraries, he discovers that no two libraries organize their books the same way. And some don’t even seem to bother with orgnainzation—they just stack the “books from floor to ceiling.” In addition to books and libraries, Melvil loves decimals. He ponders and muses, and then, suddenly, he has it! “He gets the idea of using numbers and decimals to organize library books.”

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Image copyright Edwin Fotheringham, 2020, text copyright Alexis O’Neill, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

After extensive research, “Melvil assigns numbers to ten broad classes of knowledge. He divides these into divisions and the divisions into sections and subclasses. When displayed on the spine of the books and the books neatly tucked away on shelves, finding what you want becomes “totally efficient!” The trustees at Columbia College in New York invite Melvil to become their head librarian. Once installed, Melvil begins to think bigger. He wants to open a whole school dedicated to training librarians, and… he thinks women would be perfect for this profession. Their qualifications in his eyes? “…clear heads, strong hands, and great hearts. (Also, they will work for less money than men.)” But Columbia College’s trustees are aghast. Women are not welcome on their campus. Melvil is not to be dissuaded.

He secretly opens his school in a storeroom across the street from Columbia with twenty students, seventeen of which are women. He rushes through his lessons for best efficiency, then back at his job tinkers with the rules of the library. He instates a strict quiet policy—even going to far as to put rubber tips on chair and table legs and rubber wheels on book carts. Librarians and staff are given slippers to wear. And, of course, there is NO talking.

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Image copyright Edwin Fotheringham, 2020, text copyright Alexis O’Neill, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Melvil’s flood of ideas, constant changes, and insistent personality upsets people, but he barrels on. He becomes the State Librarian for New York, “organizes the New York State Library Association… provides books for the blind…and launches a traveling library system.” He even helps establish the Children’s Library Association, among other work. People were still divided in their opinions of Melvil, but one thing they all could agree on was that he fulfilled the wishes he had as a boy to “make a difference in the world.”

Extensive back matter includes an Author’s Note with an honest assessment of his successes and faults that in itself can prompt discussions of the legacy people leave behind, a timeline of his life, a discussion on other reforms he championed, a quick overview of how Dewey’s classification system works, and a list of selected sources.

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Image copyright Edwin Fotheringham, 2020, text copyright Alexis O’Neill, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

No fusty, dusty story of the Dewey Decimal System this! Alexis O’Neill’s present-tense storytelling sweeps readers up in a whirlwind of the ideas, dreams, quirks, and persuasive, even steamrolling personality of Melvil Dewey. (And if you wonder about that unusual spelling, the answer is here too.)  Her wry delivery masterfully straddles the divide between the numerous contributions he made to the library system and the anger his convictions and obsessions often caused. She invites kids into Dewey’s mind and actions as ideas spark, flame, and fuel innovation. The details O’Neill includes about the times, the pre-Dewey system of library organization, and Dewey’s hand in expanding the reach of libraries as well as his often abrasive personality gives adults and children plenty to unpack, discuss, and research.

Edwin Fotheringham matches O’Neill’s robust storytelling with action-packed illustrations that seem to sprint across the pages as quickly as notions raced through Melvil Dewey’s mind. Striking images—such as a speeding train hurtling into a tunnel made from an overturned book and later smashing through a mountain of books; the moment when Dewey is struck with the decimal-system answer to his problem; and a class lecture given at 180 words per minute—reveal the whirlwind pace of Dewey’s life. A two-page spread in which two profiles of Dewey—one smiling and one scowling—meet in the middle demonstrate the dual nature of this complex man and the contrasting reactions to his beliefs. Fotheringham brings the shotgun quality of Dewey’s thoughts to life with bold, emphatic typography that highlights concepts important to him while hinting at the conviction he had in his own ideas and solutions. 

The Efficient, Inventive (Often Annoying) Melvil Dewey is a compelling biography which can be read to inform children of all ages about a man who wished to make an impact on the world and succeeded in ways that nearly all people recognize. The book can also be used to stimulate important discussions about difficult and current issues with older children when used with the back matter and further research. The book will be fascinating and eye-opening for library lovers unfamiliar with the early history of libraries. It well deserves a place on school and public library shelves.

Ages 7 – 10 and up

Calkins Creek, 2020 | ISBN 978-1684371983

Discover more about Alexis O’Neill and her books on her website.

To learn more about Edwin Fotheringham, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Dewey Decimal System Day Activity

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Book Love! Word Search

 

There are all kinds of books for every reader. Find your favorite along with twenty favorite genres in this printable puzzle.

Book Love! Word Search Puzzle | Book Love! Word Search Solution

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You can find he Efficient, Inventive (Often Annoying) Melvil Dewey at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 2 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

You’ve heard the saying “Too Many Books, Too Little Time,” right? Well, this truism has spawned not only one, but two Read a New Book Month celebrations! Both December and September have been designated as times to make special plans to search out and read new books. These can be books that are newly published or books that are new to you. And if you find yourself putting a few old favorites in the pile, that’s okay too! It’s also a great time to think about adding books to those gift lists!

The B on Your Thumb: 60 Poems to Boost Reading and Spelling

Written by Colette Hiller | Illustrated by Tor Freeman

 

One of the joys of books for little ones is sitting with a parent, teacher, or other caregiver and listening to the story play out with wonder, silliness, sadness, and a whole world of feelings. Hearing the words and sentences, it all makes sense. But when kids start reading, start really looking at the words, well…all of those vowel combinations, silent letters, words that sound the same but look completely different, words that look completely different but sound the same… it can get confusing!

And that’s where Colette Hiller and Tor Freeman’s book of poetry comes in handy. Sixty poems covering the topics of spelling and pronunciation are broken out into four categories—Sounds, Silent Letters and Secrets, Spellings, and Words that Sound the Same—that make understanding the written English language easier and more fun to learn. With this ditty, Hiller welcomes kids in to this delightful book: “Some letters sound as they are meant to. / Other letters change. / They sometimes make surprising noises. / English can be strange!”

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Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

One of the first sounds a baby hears may be a gentle “sh.” Encountering this consonant combination on the page, though, can seem daunting. Ssss and Huh? Hiller gives a hand in pronouncing it though, with a little intro to the two letters on their own and then… “S and H go sh, / that is what they do. / The sh that’s in your shoulder, the sh that’s in your shoe.” She then goes on to add a few more lines with familiar “sh” words that will make kids “shout!”

With clever versus that will bring on many giggles and even more “Ah-ha” moments, Hiller and Freeman introduces kids to the sounds that vowel combinations “o-u,” “o-i,” “a-i,” “o-a,” “e-e,” and “o-o” make with a sad U that’s just struck “out,” and a cheering crowd that invites them to join in chanting “oggy, oggy, oggy, oi, oi,oi!” There’s also a train filled with rain, a goat in love with a toad, a treed cheetah, and of course the man in the moon.

Hiller doesn’t forget about those perfectly matched consonant couples either. She relates the story of how Q and U fell in love in a queue; goes shopping with Mrs. Owl for a new gown and crown; and takes on that “bossy E” who always takes over when together with A. There are many more poems about letter combinations in this section as well, and each one is loaded with examples of words that incorporate those letters.

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Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

In the chapter Silent Letters and Secrets, Hiller engages readers in the finer arts of the silent B in “doubt” and “thumb.” In the book’s title poem, she says, “Look, there’s a B / right there on your thumb, / but of course you shouldn’t mind… / For the B that you see / right there on your thumb / is not the stinging kind!” Silent K gets two poems of its own and silent W comes knocking in two more poems. She investigates that mysterious “h” in where, what, why, and when as well as the equally mysterious pair “g-h” in words like night and sight. Kids will also enjoy finding hidden words lurking in longer words.

Now, reading may be one thing, but spelling? At times that seems like something all together different. In the chapter Spellings, Hiller teaches kids some tricks of the trade. In her poem “Magical E,”  “Magical E / has magical might. / See how she turns / a kit to a kite…. / Abracadabra: / a cap is a cape! / She hops on a tub. / Now the tub is a tube. / Abracadabra… / A dud is a dude!” Readers discover rhymes that make it easier to remember unusual spellings in words such as “separate, important, and rhyme as well as that old favorite “I before E except after C” that includes a twist.

Colette Hiller finishes up with Words that Sound the Same. In “Two, Too, and To,” she explains the difference in those three little words that often trip us up and gives tips on remembering them. “Witch” and “which,” “here” and “here,” “whole” and “hole,” and “whether” and “weather” are also treated to poems of their own. 

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Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

In each poem, the subject letters are called out in a bright color that allows kids to make the connection between the combinations of letters and how they contribute to the structure of a word visually and in sound. Following the poems, Hiller includes detailed tips and fun exercises and activities that adults and kids can do together to enhance learning from poem to poem and when reading classroom assignments and books and other materials at home.

Colette Hiller nimbly navigates the dual desires to teach and entertain with her jaunty rhymes that are ingenious, witty, and clear examples of how words sound and are pronounced. When shared with children reading along, the poems reinforce how each word looks with their sometimes-confusing mix of letters. When education is this humorous and joyful, kids will beg to read “just one more” which, of course, means better literacy, success in school, and opportunities in the future.

Accompanying each poem are Tor Freeman’s whimsical and hilarious illustrations of adorable letters interacting with people taking showers, fleeing from a wily cheetah, waiting in a queue, and even flying a car in outer space. There are also chimpanzees eating cheese sandwiches, a cat doing calisthenics, and an ant learning a lesson in importance. And, of course, there are letters, letters, letters rowing a boat, deigning to give audience to a princess, dining in a haunted castle, and cavorting from page to page and poem to poem.

A rousing collection of poems that kids will love on their own and as inspirational learning tools in language arts lessons, The B on Your Thumb is highly recommended for homeschoolers and home bookshelves and a must for classroom and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711254602

You can download a Teacher’s Guide with pre- and post-reading discussion questions, a writing activity and a word play activity on the Quarto Knows website.

Discover more about Colette Hiller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tor Freeman, her books, and her art on her website.

National Read a New Book Day Activity

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I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Collection

 

When you buy a new book, you need new book bling to go with it! Here’s a printable book plate and bookmark, plus a want-to-read list to help you choose your next new book to buy! 

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Read List | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

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You can find The B on Your Thumb at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review