May 8 – National Teacher Day

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About the Holiday

As the school year winds down, we take this week and today in particular to honor and thank the teachers that make a difference in our lives. Teachers open the world to their students by instilling a love of learning through their enthusiasm, caring, and creativity.  Before you move on to a new class next year, don’t forget to tell your teacher or teachers how much they’ve meant to you.

Because I Had a Teacher

Written by Kobi Yamada | Illustrated by Natalie Russell

 

A little bear has lots to say about his or her teacher. It may come as no surprise that this teacher has instilled in the bear a love of learning. But it goes beyond that. The little one reveals that “because I had a teacher, I discovered that I could do much more than I thought I could.” 

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Copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

He also realizes that if one thing is harder than the rest, that’s okay too. Because of having such a wonderful teacher, the child is ready for any challenges that come and understands that there are “lots of ways of being smart.” Mistakes are not a big deal either, since they happen when you’re trying to get things right. And those things that are the hardest? They bring the little bear the most satisfaction to achieve.

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Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

“Because I had a teacher,” the little bear says, “I know how good it feels when someone is happy to see me.” Not only that, but the child knows a friend is always near and that there is always someone who can help out. The bear’s teacher has introduced vast new worlds to explore and has fostered the little learner’s imagination. In fact, the bear feels that nothing is impossible. Then the little bear gives the best compliment of all: “Because I had you, I learned to believe in me.”

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Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

Kobi Yamada’s heartwarming love letter from student to teacher is a touching tribute to one of the most important relationships in life. One of the wonderful aspects of the story is its fluidity, which allows for multiple interpretations on the student and teacher dynamic. The lyrical prose is appropriate for a traditional teacher/student pair, but the bond could also easily be between a parent and child, a grandparent and grandchild, or any caregiver and their small charge. The book could also be read the other way around with the endearing sentiments coming from an adult to a child, as children often teach adults much about life as well.

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Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

Natalie Russell’s softly hued illustrations masterfully do double duty as well. Quiet in their yellow background, line drawings, and adorable bears, Russell’s soy-ink drawings are also full of action and excitement. The teacher is just as engaged in the learning as the student—doing experiments, climbing trees, launching boats, and helping to paint masterpieces—making their relationship balanced and one of equal sharing. Gender neutrality is found throughout the book, making it appropriate for all children and adults.

Because I Had a Teacher would make a much-loved gift for any teacher, parent, or caregiver. It would also be a cozy read-together for bedtime or any story time.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Compendium, Inc., 2017 | ISBN  978-1943200085

To learn more about Kobi Yamada visit the Compendium, Inc. website.

View a portfolio of illustration work and sketches by Natalie Russell on her website.

World Teacher’s Day Activity

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Thank You, Teacher! Certificate

 

If you have a favorite teacher, here’s a printable Thank You, Teacher Certificate for you to color, fill out, and give to them today or any day.

Picture Book Review

April 21 – National Kindergarten Day

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About the Holiday

As the school year winds down, all of those soon-to-be preschool graduates are looking forward to going to kindergarten in the fall. Becoming a “big kid” with new friends to make, new responsibilities, and lots of new things to learn is exciting. National Kindergarten Day celebrates that feeling and wishes all young learners the best start to their school career.

My Good Morning

Written by Kim Crockett Corson | Illustrated by Jelena Brezovec

 

A little girl wakes up before the sun to start her day. She’s ready and rarin’ to go so why aren’t Mommy and Daddy? Slippers on, she runs to wash her hands “without a hitch” even though—Oops!—the soap is so slippery! Next she brushes her teeth, which is a cinch once there’s more toothpaste in her mouth than in her hair and on the mirror. She’s even got the potty thing down.

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Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

Then, says the girl it’s “Onto the bed, where I jump up and down. / Whee! There’s no time to waste as I flop around. / Mommy wrestles me into my clothes. / Daddy slide socks and shoes over my toes.” She ties her own shoes over mismatched socks, and her coat, though askew, is buttoned bottom to top. Before school she has just enough time to slurp down some milk. Her kitty laps up the splashes and drips.

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Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

Bundled up for the cold, the little girl strides out the door, but just at the edge she trips over the rug. Not to worry, she says. “I pick myself up, / then I wave and smile.” And so what if “getting me into the car seat / takes a while.” At school she climbs the stairs without any help. She puts her backpack on the shelf and her coat on the hook—well, almost.

In the classroom, the little girl says hi to her friends and then with “so many puzzles and toys, / I’m ready to play! / I hug Daddy good-bye, / I’m going to have a great day!”

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Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

In Kim Crockett Corson’s “can-do” book for young readers, a little girl is exuberant and positive as she gets ready for school. Kids will love the girl’s infectious personality that turns every experience into a self-confidence boosting success. The cheery rhymes echo the little girl’s attitude, making My Good Morning a perfect book to share with readers who are beginning to make their way in the world.

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Copyright Jelena Brezovec, 2017, courtesy of jelenabrezovec.com

Jelena Brezovec’s colorful illustrations offer both humor and encouragement as she juxtaposes the little girl’s view of her accomplishments with the small mishaps that accompany them. The girl’s parents are in turn smiling, frazzled, watchful, and ultimately proud. Brezovec’s portrayal of an interracial couple is welcome, and the curly-haired little girl will become a fast friend to little readers.

Ages 4 – 6

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373423

Discover a gallery of illustration work by Jelena Brezovec on her website!

All or Nothing Day Activity

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Today is a Good Day Coloring Page

 

You can make every day a good day just by remembering the good things (even one good thing) that happened. Color and hang this printable Today is a Good Day Coloring Page. It will make you smile!

Picture Book Review

April 13 – National Make Lunch Count Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage American workers to get away from their desk and eat lunch out with friends and coworkers. Taking a break from the office and spending lunchtime having a little fun or over a stimulating conversation can rejuvenate you for the rest of the day. Many people have also embraced the holiday as a way to remind themselves and others to eat healthy and make what they make (or order) nutritious and beneficial. To celebrate, make lunch an adventure today. You might even decide to try something new—like the little girls in today’s book!

The Sandwich Swap

Written by Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio | Illustrated by Tricia Tusa 

 

Salma and Lily were best friends. At school they did everything together in the classroom and on the playground. They also ate lunch together every day. They loved all the same things—until it came to what was packed in their lunchboxes. Lily always had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and Salma always had a hummus and pita sandwich.

While Lily never said so, she thought Salma’s sandwich looked yucky, and Salma kept quiet about her opinion that Lily’s sandwich seemed gross. But one day, Lily did say what she’d been thinking. Salma couldn’t believe her ears. She frowned and “looked down at the thin, soft bread. She thought of her beautiful smiling mother as she carefully cut Salma’s sandwich into two neat halves that morning.” First she felt hurt; then she felt mad.

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Image copyright Tricia Tusa, 2010, text copyright Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Salma let Lily know just how gross and icky-smelling she thought Lily’s sandwich was. “Lily looked surprised. She sniffed the thick, squishy bread, and she thought of her dad in his silly apron whistling” as he cut her sandwich into triangles. After that the two girls did not play or draw together. And the next day, they ate at separate tables. The story of Salma and Lily’s argument had spread, and the other kids chose sides. In the cafeteria, they lobbed insults, calling each other “jelly heads” and “chick pea brains.”

Pretty soon there were shouts of “you’re weird” and “you dress dumb.” It wasn’t long before someone yelled “Food Fight!” and peanut butter, hummus, and all types of sandwiches flew through the air. “They stuck to the walls. They stuck to the ceiling. They stuck to the lunch lady.” Before anyone knew it, pudding cups and applesauce and carrot sticks were soaring through the air.

Lily and Salma gazed at each other across the mess and “felt ashamed by what they saw.” After they helped clean it all up and were sent to the principal’s office, they felt even worse. The next day, Lily and Salma once again sat across from each other during lunch. At last Lily said, “‘Would you like to try a bite of my peanut butter and jelly?” Salma said that she would and offered Lily a nibble of her hummus sandwich. Lily agreed.

On the count of three, Lily and Salma tried each other’s sandwiches. “Yummy! Mmmmm!” they both said, and then they traded sandwiches. After lunch they met with the principal again to tell her an idea they’d had. And on a sunny day, the school held a picnic where everyone shared their favorite lunch from their native country.

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Image copyright Tricia Tusa, 2010, text copyright Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

The school lunchroom with its unique dynamics is a perfect setting for Queen Rania Al Abdullah and Kelly DiPuccio’s story that highlights the kinds of prejudice children can encounter whether for food choices or other differences. The inclusion of Salma’s and Lily’s thoughts about their parents is a poignant reminder of how profound and complex children’s emotions are. The humor and honesty in the girls’ relationship, thoughts, and argument as well as the food fight will resonate with readers. Salma’s and Lily’s decision to renew their friendship and try each other’s lunches and to share their revelation with their classmates leads to the kind of growth we all want for our kids.

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Tricia Tusa’s delicate and soft-hued mixed-media illustrations portray the joys of being best friends as Lily and Salma draw, swing, jump rope, and eat lunch together in beautiful two-page spreads. When their true feelings about each other’s sandwiches comes out, the girls are clearly reflective and then hurt and angry as they scowl nose to nose. The food fight is a double-spread free-for-all that will make kids laugh as the lunch lady seems to take the brunt of the flying food. The final gate-fold scene of the multicultural picnic is heartwarming.

The Sandwich Swap is a terrific read at home and in the classroom, especially near the beginning of the school year. The book is also a wonderful prelude to a classroom or school-wide multicultural day or food fair.

Ages 3 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2010 | ISBN 978-1423124849

Learn more about Queen Rania Al Abdulla of Jordan and her global advocacy on her website.

Discover more about Kelly DiPucchio and her books on her website.

Get to know Tricia Tusa and view a portfolio of her books and art on her website.

Make Lunch Count Day

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Personalized Lunch Container

 

Take your lunch to school or work in style with this quick and easy craft! All you need is a plastic sandwich or food container, some permanent markers, and your creativity!

Picture Book Review

October 28 – Make a Difference Day

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About the Holiday

Make a Difference Day was instituted in 1992 on February 29 – leap day – to encourage individuals and groups to find a way to help others. The idea took off and has become one of the largest single-day celebration of service nationwide. Thousands of people across the country use this day for projects big and small that change the world for the better. To celebrate today consider how you might make a positive change. As today’s book shows, just being a caring friend can go a long way in making someone’s life better.

Bonaparte Falls Apart

Written by Margery Cuyler | Illustrated by Will Terry

 

Something was happening to Bonaparte. Whenever “he rode his bike or played catch or visited the doctor’s office”—basically all the time—his bones broke apart. “Sometimes his bones rolled away, and it took him forever to find them.” He wondered what would happen when school started. He was worried that everyone would make fun of him.

Bonaparte’s friend Franky Stein thought that by gluing and screwing his bones into place, Bonaparte would stick together. But when they tried it, Bonaparte found that he couldn’t move at all. Blacky Widow, Bonaparte’s spider buddy, figured she could tie his bones together with her web, but after she had spun and spun her threads around him, Bonaparte was just left hanging and tangled up.

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Image copyright Will Terry, 2017, courtesy of Crown Books for Young Readers.

Mummicula thought he had the perfect solution and wrapped Bonaparte round and round until he was completely wrapped up—completely. Bonaparte couldn’t see anything, so “Mummicula had to undo all his hard work.” While the summer passed, Bonaparte grew more and more worried. One day he thought about it so much “that his head fell off.”

As Franky Stein picked it up and returned it to its rightful spot, he and the others all vowed to find a way to solve the problem before school started. They tried lots of remedies: Mummicula thought a staple gun might work; Blacky Widow liked the idea of using clay, and Franky Stein got out his hammer and nails. But nothing did the trick “until…a dog ran by with a bone in his mouth.”

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Image copyright Will Terry, 2017, courtesy of Crown Books for Young Readers.

Mummicula suggested that someone who loved bones so much would be a perfect companion for Bonaparte. They brought the dog to Bonaparte, and Bonaparte was immediately smitten. “‘What a fetching dog!’” he exclaimed. Then Franky told him the plan: “‘You can teach him to retrieve your bones.’” Bonaparte loved this idea—and his crew. “‘You are my bone-a-fide friends!’” he said.

Bonaparte spent the last two weeks before school started teaching Mandible to fetch the bones he lost. As he waited at the bus stop that first day, Bonaparte was still a little nervous, but as his arm and the ball flew out into home-run territory, the kids cheered. At lunch, losing his teeth just made him a “jaw-dropping sensation, and in science class he made for a “rib-tickling wonder” of a skeletal exhibit. At last, Bonaparte realized that he “could hang loose without anyone making fun of him, and this made him very happy.”

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Image copyright Will Terry, 2017, courtesy of Crown Books for Young Readers.

Margery Cuyler’s monstrously cute story of a little skeleton who just can’t keep it together will have kids giggling along with every “clack clack” of Bonaparte’s errant bones. But Cuyler presents more profound issues as well. Readers will understand and sympathize with Bonaparte’s worrying over being different and made fun of because of his unusual plight. Through Bonaparte’s caring, tight-knit group, children will see that by supporting a friend through tough times, they can help find solutions and make a positive difference. Cuyler’s charming story is true to children’s natures and ideas and offers a “bone-anza” of puns that will delight kids.

Will Terry knows a thing or two about monsters—adorable monsters, that is. As Bonaparte’s hands drop off, legs and arms go flying, and head rolls under the bed, his expressive eyes seem to take it all in stride. He also accepts his friends’ attempts to keep him together with patience and an endearing smile. Franky Stein, Mummicula and Blacky Widow are also sweetly earnest in their attempts to help. Kids will love the hilarious illustrations of Bonaparte and Mandible at school and linger over the last two-page spread where young zombies, pirates, vampires, witches, and other students play on the jungle gym.

Bonaparte Falls Apart is a unique book about friendship and school for any time of the year, and would be a favorite of little monster lovers for home and the classroom.

Ages 3 – 7

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN  978-1101937686

Discover more about Margery Cuyler and her many books for children on her website.

You’ll find a gallery of books and artwork by Will Terry on his website.

Make a Difference Day

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Friendship Hot Chocolate Jar

 

Being a good friend is one of the best ways to make a difference, and with this gift you can show your friends how much they mean to you!

Supplies

  • Mason jar or other wide-mouth jar
  • Large canister of hot chocolate mix
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Chocolate chips, milk chocolate or semi-sweet
  • A scrap of material large enough to cover the lid of the jar
  • Paper
  • String or ribbon
  • Marker
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Measure 1 cup hot chocolate mix and pour it into the jar
  2. Sprinkle in a layer of marshmallows
  3. Pour in another 1 cup of hot chocolate mix
  4. Add another layer of marshmallows
  5. Continue layering until you reach the top of the jar. The hot chocolate mix and marshmallows may become mixed together.
  6. Top with a layer of chocolate chips
  7. Put on the lid and tighten
  8. Cut a circle from the material 1-inch diameter larger around than the size of the jar lid
  9. Secure the material around the lid with ribbon or string or, if using a mason jar, place it between the sections of the lid.
  10. Make a tag for your gift with the paper
  11. Give your gift and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate with your friend!

Picture Book Review

August 23 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

A lot can happen over the summer.  Going on vacation can give new perspectives; a growth spurt means new clothes and shoes; and a little more maturity can cause unfamiliar feelings. It’s all enough to make a student’s heart race when crossing the classroom threshold on that first day. Sometimes, though, when looking around at all of the known and new faces, that little flutter of the heart can be…love.

The Day I Became a Bird

Written by Ingrid Chabbert | Illustrated by Raúl Nieto Guridi

 

On the first day of school a little boy sees Sylvia and falls instantly in love. At home he draws picture after picture of her. Although the boy only has eyes for Sylvia, she doesn’t see him. Instead, the boy says, “Sylvia is a bird lover. She can’t bear to see them living in cages. She quietly observes them in the wild and gently cares for them when they are injured.”

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Image copyright Raúl Nieto Guridi, 2016, text copyright Ingrid Chabbert, 2016. Courtesy of Kids Can Press

Everything she does and wears is somehow associated with birds. Even “her voice sounds like birdsong.” The boy has lost all interest in his toys, the sports he plays, and all of his old pursuits. He thinks differently about birds now, too. One day he decides “to dress as a bird.” He constructs a costume with glistening feathers “like the ones you see in the forest in summer.” When he puts it on he feels handsome. In the costume he dreams of flying with Sylvia to the top of the Rocky Mountains or a pyramid.

In school he doesn’t care if the other kids stare and giggle. And even though it’s hard to walk, play soccer, and climb trees, he doesn’t want to remove his costume. He is a bird. One afternoon, the boy says, “I come face to face with Sylvia. And finally our eyes meet.” Sylvia approaches and takes off the boy’s costume. “My heart is beating a hundred miles an hour,” he relates. “In the sky, I see a flock of birds take flight.” Sylvia gives him a long hug.

Standing completely still, the boy doesn’t know how to react. He knows he’s not a bird anymore, but still, he feels as if he’s flying.

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Image copyright Raúl Nieto Guridi, 2016, text copyright Ingrid Chabbert, 2016. Courtesy of Kids Can Press

Ingrid Chabbert’s enchanting revelation of first love encompasses in its spare text all the obsessive but ultimately freeing power of this universal emotion. While in the midst of his “normal” life, the boy’s world is suddenly transformed when he spies Sylvia. Leaving his toys behind, he chooses Sylvia’s bird’s eye view. Likewise, when Sylvia sees the narrator, she allows her birds to take wing and considers boys—or at least one boy—in a whole new light. Chabbert’s use of first-person narration reinforces the intimate nature of love and the idea that when love is right, being “captured” is a most liberating experience.

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Image copyright Raúl Nieto Guridi, 2016, courtesy of Kids Can Press

The themes of Chabbert’s story are so movingly rendered by Raúl Nieto Guridi’s simple, monochromatic line drawings. Although the boy states that “one morning” he decided to dress as a bird, from the first day when the boy falls in love with Sylvia—gazing at her wistfully while her eyes are instead trained at the sky or cast down at her chalk drawings—his costume begins to take shape. As it comes together, its wire skeleton resembles a bird cage, suggesting so many ways in which we may feel trapped by our emotions, our things, even changes in life.

When the boy dons the costume and begins to navigate the world in an unfamiliar way, readers will understand that he is no longer the boy he was, but neither is he a real bird. It is this unique creature that Sylvia responds to when, through holes in the costume where feathers are missing, she sees not the bird, but the boy. So it is that into everyone’s life there come people—or perhaps one particular person—with whom all costumes and cages are discarded, and we soar.

The Day I Became a Bird is a quiet beauty that gets to the core of what it means to give your heart to someone else. It would make a wonderful and touching addition to home libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1771386210

Watch this The Day I Became a Bird book trailer!

Back to School Month Activity

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Let’s Study Together! Coloring Page

 

Going back to school means getting back with friends! Grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and enjoy this Let’s Study Together! Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

August 9 – Book Lovers Day

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About the Holiday

Simply stated this is a day when those who love to read can indulge their passion. With so many amazing books available—both new and old—no one could fault you if you call in sick and spend the day reading!

Ralph Tells a Story

By Abby Hanlon

 

“‘Stories are everywhere!’” Ralph’s teacher sang to her class, but Ralph wasn’t so sure. He didn’t see stories anywhere. It seemed the other kids could make up stories from everything that happened to them, and Ralph’s teacher loved these stories. But when it came time to write, Ralph just stared at his paper or at the ceiling; he could never think of anything. He tried distractions like going to the bathroom or the water fountain, but it didn’t work.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-thinking

Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of abbyhanlon.com.

One day Ralph asked his friend Daisy for help. She was surprised that Ralph couldn’t write a story because she had written a bunch about him. One was about the time she combed his hair and another was about when he painted his fingernails black with a marker. In fact she was just stapling all these stories together into a book. Ralph wanted to use the stapler too, but Daisy said he needed a story first.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-classroom

Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of Two Lions.

So Ralph “looked for stories out the window, in the aquarium, in [his] desk…and even on the floor.” Lying on the floor reminded Ralph of a time at the park when an inchworm crawled on his knee. Just then his teacher saw him and asked what his story was about. Ralph said the first thing he thought: “Um…um…I saw an inchworm.” His teacher thought that sounded marvelous. But really, Ralph thought, there was no story to tell.

And when Ralph sat down to write it, he immediately got stuck. He asked Daisy to help, but she was too busy writing her own story. Suddenly, the teacher called everyone up to the rug, and she picked Ralph to read his story first. Ralph got up and, clutching his paper to his chest, said, “‘I was at the park and an inchworm crawled on my knee.’” He looked out at the quiet faces gazing up at him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-on-floor

Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of abbyhanlon.com.

Ralph looked at Daisy. She said, “‘Wow! Really? Did it feel squishy, Ralphie? Did you take it home?’” Then everyone started asking questions, and Ralph remembered that something had happened with the inchworm. He began to tell about the day. He had picked up the inchworm and named him Nick. He had “built Nick a house but he just inched away.” Ralph followed Nick and never noticed the baby following him until the baby picked up Nick and put him in his diaper.

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Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Ralph asked the baby to give Nick back, but he didn’t. Then Ralph saw Nick escaping from the diaper by crawling up the baby’s belly. He grabbed Nick and ran, and they spent the day playing together. At the end “everybody clapped and cheered” and they wanted to see Ralph’s picture.

Now Ralph is a great writer. He’s written one hundred funny stories and has even drawn covers for some of his favorites. Do you need help writing? Take a few tips from Ralph! 

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Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of abbyhanlon.com.

Abby Hanlon’s story of a would-be storyteller with writer’s block is as cute as they come. Ralph’s angst at not finding the stories that his classmates seem to pop out so easily will be recognized by anyone who is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to their endeavors. With gentle humor, Hanlon shows readers that putting oneself out there often turns out okay. Ralph’s inchworm story will keep kids riveted to and giggling over Nick’s fate. Through Daisy, Hanlon also reveals how a good friend can help encourage the kinds of self-confidence that lead to success. Ralph’s writing tips are lighthearted and helpful in getting kids to relax, appreciate their own real-life stories, and open their imaginations.

Hanlon’s soft-hued illustrations of a group of adorable, rakish kids draw readers in to Ralph’s creative classroom. Once there, children will want to linger over all the details included. Comics-style dialog bubbles hold humorous asides as well as Ralph’s developing inchworm story. The titles of Ralph’s many stories many inspire kids to make up tales to go with them.

Ralph Tells a Story would be a fantastic classroom book to share during a story-writing unit and a fun addition to home bookshelves for anyone who needs a little encouragement or who loves a funny story.

Ages 5 – 8

Two Lions, 2012 | ISBN 978-0761461807

Book Lovers Day Activity

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Bookworm Bookmark

 

If you love books then you will love this printable Bookworm Bookmark! Just print it out and cut a slit at the mouth. This little worm will happily save your page for you.

Picture Book Review