October 29 – It’s Field Trip Month

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About the Holiday

As the leaves start turning red and yellow and the air becomes crisp and cool, thoughts turn to…field trips? Sure! Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy a bit of travel. For kids a field trip is a fun day away from the classroom, and for adults a little get-away can be refreshing and rejuvenating. With fall festivals, apple-picking, leaf-peeping, and other fun autumn activities, it should be easy to plan a family or group field trip.

It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus!

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Claire Messer

 

It’s a special day for Busy Bus. He’s going on his first field trip! The kids stream out of  school, smiling and waving. Once they’re all on board and have found a seat, Ben, the driver, pulls out onto the road. “Busy Bus can’t wait. He and the children are going to meet a fire truck!” On their way to the fire station, they pass a pharmacy, a bakery, and a café. There are lots of people out driving and walking along downtown.

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

When they get to the fire station, the captain greets them and introduces them to Engine 4. The huge truck rolls out of the station with a roar. “‘Engine 4 is a fire-fighting beast,’ says the captain. ‘It saves people and their things.’” Then the fire fighters show the kids all around Engine 4. They get to sit inside and even pretend to drive. They get to try on a fire fighter’s uniform and wear their special hard hats. “The children love Engine 4.”

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Standing next to Engine 4 Busy Bus feels small. The captain takes the kids around the side of Engine 4 and slides open a door. Inside, there are dials and knobs, extra coats, boots, and hats, traffic cones, an axe, and the enormous hose. The captain pulls out the hose while another fire fighter lets the kids hold a hose while it sprays water—Whoosh—right at Busy Bus. Busy Bus wishes he “could put out fires.” Next, the captain and the fire fighters lift a ladder off of Engine 4. They extend the ladder up, up, up to show how they reach the highest parts of tall buildings. Busy Bus watches. “I wish I had a ladder, he thinks.”

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

The captain reminds the kids that Engine 4 needs to tell people when it’s rushing to a fire. She tells them to cover their ears as she sets the siren blaring—Wee-ooo, wee-ooo. “Busy Bus’s wipers sag.” He can’t do anything a firetruck can do. Busy Bus wonders if the kids will still like him.

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

But just then, Busy Bus hears the captain explaining that even though Engine 4 is “amazing…it can’t do everything.” Busy Bus perks up to listen. The captain says that Engine 4 “doesn’t have a stop arm so children can get on and off safely.” Busy Bus sticks out his stop arm proudly. Engine 4 doesn’t have seats for kids, and it can’t take them to school or on field trips, either. As the children file back on to Busy Bus, he smiles and gives a loud HONK!. “‘Hooray for Busy Bus!’ cheer the children.” Busy Bus can’t wait for their next field trip.

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Image copyright Claire Messer, 2019, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Jody Jensen Shaffer’s sweet Busy Bus is both an endearing companion to children just beginning to navigate school and a mirror for their new experiences and the feelings that often come with them. In Busy Bus’s latest adventure, he meets another vehicle that seems to have more “skills” and “talents” than he does. He begins to compare himself to Engine 4 and judge himself by what he doesn’t have. He wonders if the kids will still like him. When the captain points out all the features that Engine 4 doesn’t have but that Busy Bus does, he realizes that he has much to offer too. Shaffer’s multilayered story will excite little ones who love vehicles of all kinds while reassuring them that they each have their own unique talents and place in the world.

With her bold, vibrant illustrations, Claire Messer invites readers into a firehouse and up close to a fire engine to see the workings and equipment that goes into fighting fires. Little ones will be enthralled by the detailed images and the interaction of the fire fighters with the class. Messer captures the excitement of the children as well as Busy Bus’s flagging spirit as Engine 4 racks up attribute after attribute. As Busy Bus overhears the captain praising the abilities of a school bus and is cheered by the children, readers will applaud all the characteristics that make each person (and vehicle) unique.

A story rich in language and meaning, It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus! would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library collections. The book is an excellent follow-up to It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!

Ages 0 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534440814

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Claire Messer, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Field Trip Month Activity

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Follow the Open Road Maze

 

These kids are ready to go on a field trip, but first they have to get in the correct car! Help them find their way in this printable Follow the Open Road Maze.

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You can find It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 17 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Established by the Oddfellows, an organization dedicated to philanthropy and charity, about ten years ago, Friendship Month encourages people to spend more time with their friends, get in touch with those they haven’t seen or talked to in a while, and especially to reach out to others who are alone or need a friend. As school gets underway, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to meet new people and form friendships – some of which may last a lifetime.

I received a copy of Two Tough Trucks from Scholastic for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Scholastic in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Two Tough Trucks

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez | Illustrated by Hilary Leung

 

One morning, two trucks are ready “for their first day of class.” But Rig’s “riding the brakes” while Mack’s “hitting the gas.” In their classroom, their teacher Miss Rhodes pairs these two up for a practice run on the track. First up is the circuit, with twists and a hairpin turn. Rig feels shaky, but Mack’s “a speedy red blur.” Mack picks up speed going into the turn and keeps on going, but Rig hits the brakes and skids off the course.

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Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Next comes learning to downshift while climbing a hill. Mack breezes up as Rig carefully inches along. First to the top, Mack gloats, “‘I knew I was fast.’” And although Rig tried his best he “finished dead last.” Mack thought Rig was just dragging him down. For Rig, Mack just seemed liked a braggart. As he vroomed, Mack fumed and left Rig “in the dust.”

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Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

The students moved on to practicing backing up. As they moved around traffic cones,  “they veered and corrected, / they turned and reversed. / Rig had good instincts, but Mack was… the worst.” Rig aced the course, but Mack? He was ready to quit until Rig steered him right. “Vroom! Zoom! / They backtracked and bumped. / A Mack making progress, / a Rig feeling pumped!”

Mack was surprised that Rig had helped him, but for Rig it was just the right thing to do. They headed back to the track and took it by storm. These two trucks were “now the fastest of friends.”

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Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Like life’s road itself, this original story of two trucks with distinct personalities and different strengths has lots of twists and turns and takes little ones on a multilayered journey of discovery. While Mack is rarin’ to go on his first day of truck school, Rig is more hesitant. When these two are teamed up for the day, Mack’s fast and daring approach to the track seems to be the right one as he nails the sharp curve and is the first to reach the peak of the hill, leaving Rig far behind. These early successes cause him to honk his own horn and complain about Rig.

But then in a clever literal and metaphorical reversal, Rig’s thoughtful restraint makes backing up his forte. In Mack’s reaction to being last, Schwartz and Gomez gently ramp up life lessons about perseverance and losing gracefully. In addition, Rig goes on to demonstrate another winning trait in his generosity to teach Mack the finer points of driving in reverse. Mack’s acceptance of Rig’s kindness shows that the experience has taught him to be humble. Kudos to Miss Rhodes for creating a track that leads to strong bonds and friendship.

A book by Schwartz and Gomez always charms with smart rhyming and jaunty rhythms and Two Tough Trucks is no exception. Ingenious puns, evocative and active vocabulary, and plenty of “vrooms” and “zooms” for kids to chime in on make this book a lively read aloud.

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Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Hilary Leung’s textured and boldly colored pages will thrill little readers as Mack and Rig take center stage on the dusty, western track. Mack’s confidence shows in his straight, crisp lines and grinning grill while Rig’s wariness takes the form of wobbly tires, bent frame, furrowed brow, and grimacing grill. Fittingly, the Truck School building is shaped like a parking garage, complete with a spiral ramp that takes students to the second and third story. Cacti, roadrunners, and craggy rock formations dot the sun-drenched desert track where Mack, Rig, and the rest of the students strut their stuff.

A joy to read out loud and offering so much repeat readability, Two Tough Trucks is highly recommended for home bookshelves, preschool and kindergarten classrooms, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338236545

Discover more about Corey Rosen Schwartz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rebecca J. Gomez and her books, visit her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Hilary Leung and learn more about his work, visit her website.

Two Tough Trucks Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Scholastic, Inc. in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Two Tough Trucks, written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez | illustrated by Hilary Leung

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

Bonus: Reply with your child’s favorite truck or vehicle for an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from September 17 through September 23 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 24.

Giveaways open to US and Canadian addresses only | Prizing provided by Scholastic, Inc.

Friendship Month Activity

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Racing for Friendship Game

Here’s a racing game that kids will love making and playing with friends or family! With poster board, paper, and chalk or other art supplies, kids can place their track in, a city, the country, the desert, or even in outer space! Then get out your own toy cars and trucks to play with or use the printable truck tokens included below. Use a traditional playing die or the included printable 8-sided playing die. The first player to the finish line wins—or shake it up a bit and make the last person to the line the winner.

Supplies

  • Black poster board, thick poster board, or tri-fold display board. I used a 12-inch by 4-foot section of a tri-fold board in my example. This allows you to fold up the board for easier storing.
  • White paper
  • Chalk, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Toy trucks or cars
  • Printable Truck Tokens (optional)
  • Printable 8-sided Playing Die

Directions

  1. Cut about 30 4- or 5-inch by 1½-inch strips from the white paper
  2. Have kids lay out a track on the board using the white paper strips (each strip is one space) leaving room in between the rows for scenery
  3. Glue or tape the strips in place
  4. Cut trees, buildings, landmarks, or other scenery from paper and color. Glue or tape to board. Alternately, draw scenery on the board with chalk
  5. Print and assemble 8-sided playing die with tape (optional)
  6. Gather one toy truck or car for each player. Alternately, print and cut out included Truck Tokens. (To make them sturdier, print on heavy paper or glue them to cardboard)
  7. Choose a player to go first
  8. Players take turns rolling the die and moving the appropriate number of spaces
  9. The first (or last) player to the finish line is the winner

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You can find Two Tough Trucks at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 6 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

It’s the day you and your child have been waiting for! Preschool is in the rearview mirror and kindergarten is full-steam ahead! As you and your child do the shopping for backpacks, new clothes, and other necessary items and excitement grows, there could also be a little nudge of worry or nervousness just below the surface. Today’s holiday can be a reminder for adults to talk with their kids about starting school or entering a new class to see how they’re feeling about the changes ahead. Sharing picture books about school, making friends, and having a new kind of independence can help ease the transition. Today’s book is a great place to start!

I received a copy of Butterflies on the First Day of School from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Butterflies on the First Day of School

Written by Annie Silvestro | Illustrated by Dream Chen

 

Rosie had been looking forward to school for ages. She’d already picked out her backpack and practiced all the skills she’d need on that first day. “But the night before her first day, Rosie couldn’t sleep.” The next morning, she couldn’t eat her breakfast, her stomach hurt, and she worried her baby sister would be lonely without her. At last, her dad told her it was time to go. As he took a picture of her, she said that she didn’t feel well. “‘You just have butterflies in your belly,’ said her mother, hugging her tight.” Rosie was going to ask about those butterflies, but just then the bus pulled up.

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Image copyright Dream Chen, 2019 text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Rosie felt nervous as the bus rumbled on. Then a girl sat next to her and introduced herself as Violet. Rosie introduced herself. “As she spoke, a butterfly flew from her mouth.” When Rosie revealed she had the same teacher as Violet, two more butterflies flew out. “Violet didn’t seem to notice.” In the classroom, everyone gathered on the rug, and Mrs. Mancini asked the kids to tell a little bit about themselves. In turn, each one said something. Rosie waited nervously. Then suddenly it was her turn. She stood up and words tumbled out. As she spoke, “three butterflies flitted into the air.” Later, Rosie painted two pictures of flowers—one for her and one for Violet—and played with the other kids. Sometimes a butterfly would flutter out. “But by recess, she could barely feel them anymore.”

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Image copyright Dream Chen, 2019 text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

While everyone was playing tag on the playground, Rosie noticed one girl standing alone by a tree. Rosie went over and asked if she wanted to play. As they introduced themselves, Isabella’s butterflies “soared into the sky.” At the end of the day when Rosie got off the school bus, she ran to her mom and told her how much fun she’d had. Her mom hugged her and told her that she wanted to hear all about it as “the words floated out on a shimmering butterfly’s wings.”

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Image copyright Dream Chen, 2019 text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Annie Silvestro’s sweet story of a little girl on her first day of school is a sensitive and insightful portrayal of the nervousness that can accompany any new experience. Acknowledging those “butterflies” that can emerge to dampen even the most ardent enthusiasm, Silvestro gives adults and children a positive way to discuss and manage these feelings. Her reassuring imagery will captivate the reader’s imagination while showing them that accepting and offering friendship and participating in classroom or other activities are effective ways to release apprehension and embrace opportunities. Silvestro’s last line is a tug at the heart, and little ones may be surprised but also comforted to learn that they are not alone in their feelings.

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Dream Chen’s delightful and vibrant illustrations glow with warmth and the camaraderie of a kindergarten class, while also highlighting Rosie’s uncertainty and her growing confidence as the butterflies she feels flutter away. Alert readers will notice another classmate who’s also experiencing butterflies on the bus and in the classroom. In Chen’s busy classroom gives adults and kids an opportunity to discuss common things they will likely see in their own room, including a rug for gathering on, a bulletin board, an easel, books, toys, and games. Rosie’s butterflies are beautiful and varied, suggesting that these feelings are a natural part of life and as you watch them flutter away, you can be proud of being brave and seizing opportunities.

Butterflies on the First Day of School is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections not only for first-day-of-school jitters but for any new activity or experience that sets the butterflies fluttering.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454921196

Discover more about Annie Silvestro and her books on her website.

To learn more about Dream Chen, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Butterflies on the First Day of School Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Butterflies on the First Day of School, written by Annie Silvestro | illustrated by Dream Chen

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from August 6 through August 12 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on August 13.

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Colorful Clothespin Butterfly Craft

 

With this easy Colorful Clothespin Butterfly Craft, you can make and display your own butterfly that will always remind you of the opportunities you’ve taken.

Supplies

  • Wooden pin clothespin
  • Tissue paper in a choice of colors
  • Craft paint in a choice of colors
  • Black craft paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Toothpick
  • Scissors
  • Fishing line, thread, or string for hanging (optional)
  • Adhesive magnet for hanging (optional)

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the clothespin, let dry
  2. When dry add accent dots or lines and eyes. I used a toothpick with the point cut off to make the dots on the purple butterfly. I used the pointy end of a toothpick to make the eyes and the lines on the pink butterfly.

To Make the Wings

  1. For the top wings, cut a 6 ½ -inch circle from tissue paper
  2. For the bottom wings, cut a 5 ¼ – inch circle from tissue paper
  3. With the head of the clothespin facing down, insert the larger circle into the split in the clothespin so that half of the circle shows on either side.
  4. Gently pull the circle down tightly into the split, pulling it as far in as possible—about half way
  5. Next insert the smaller circle into the split and repeat the above step.
  6. Gently fan out the wings if necessary

If hanging the butterfly, attach fishing line, threat, or string

If making a magnet, attach the adhesive magnet to the back of the butterfly.

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You can find Butterflies on the First Day of School at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 1 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

So Big!

By Mike Wohnoutka

 

With six words and cover-to-cover cuteness, Mike Wohnoutka takes kids on a journey from home to school, making stops along the way to experience many of the emotions of that very first day. Little Bear wakes up with a smile on his face. On the calendar hanging by his bed, the day is circled with a big red star, and this bear knows he’s not so little anymore. In fact he’s “so big.” How big? “So-o-o…big” that he can dress himself, reach the cereal box on the counter, and make his own breakfast.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

He’s “So, so, big” that he can pack up his backpack, tie his shoes, and walk to the bus stop all by himself. He waits proudly next to a little elephant who looks a bit uncertain and a tiny squirrel who’s in awe of the much bigger Bear. But then the bus pulls up, and it is “SO big.” Now it’s Bear who looks a little uncertain as he climbs in and in awe of the much bigger elephants, rhino, and giraffe he sits near.

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

When the bus drops him in front of the school, Bear looks up and up at the enormous building. It’s “SO BIG!” While the little elephant he met at the bus stop heads through the open doors, Bear sits on the steps and sheds a few tears, feeling “not so big.” But then the squirrel approaches and looks up, up, up, up at the enormous building and bursts into a flood of tears at the “TOO big” school. Bear notices his distress and even though he’s a little intimidated himself, he reaches out his hand to Squirrel and they enter the school together.

The hallway seems okay—it’s “not so big…,” and when their teacher welcomes them to their room, they see that the desks and the other kids are “just right!”

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Copyright Mike Wohnoutka, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mike Wohnoutka’s bright, honest look at the first day of school through a child’s eyes and from their perspective is encouraging in every way. As Bear gets ready for his first day of school, his independence will spark confidence in readers. Squirrel’s reaction to meeting Bear and Elephant at the bus stop, and Bear’s feelings on seeing the bus and the school building encourage kids and adults to discuss the emotions involved in the first day of school and other new experiences. Bear’s kindness to Squirrel will help readers develop a sense of camaraderie between the themselves and their new classmates while also fostering an early appreciation for empathy and friendship during this transformative time.

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Wohnoutka’s minimal text takes on various meanings with a touch of italics or the juxtaposition of Bear and Squirrel to their surroundings, allowing for further conversation about internal feelings and physical size. His clever uses of these simple phrases combined with illustrations that put the characters in proportional proximity to kitchen counters, a child’s backpack, the school bus, larger and smaller children, the school building, and more also provide adults with clear visual portrayals of relative size that can encourage math talk and exploration at home or in the classroom.

So Big!—a story that offers so much for kids just starting school or other activities—is highly recommended for children taking new forays into the world. The book makes for a sweet and satisfying go-to story for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1547600793

Discover more about Mike Wohnoutka, his books, and his art on his website.

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Let’s Ride the Bus! Coloring Page

 

Riding the school bus is fun! With this coloring page you can fill the bus with your friends—and don’t forget to add yourself! Then grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and color it in!

Let’s Ride the Bus! Coloring Page

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You can find So Big at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 8 – Gingerbread Decorating Day

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About the Holiday

Originating in the Middle East the art of gingerbread making made its way to Europe in the 10th century. It was quickly embraced for its delicious combination of spices as well as for its soothing medicinal qualities. It was during the 13th century that gingerbread began to be decorated and displayed. The gingerbread man we know today was first introduced in 1875 in a story published in St. Nicholas magazine. To celebrate, mix up a batch of gingerbread cookies and get out the icing and sprinkles!

The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas

Written by Laura Murray | Illustrated by Mike Lowery

 

One wintry morning, the Gingerbread Man heard the teacher calling. It was time to wake up and start a very special day. All the kids listened as the teacher told them, “It’s the season of giving, / and we can give, too! / Our gifts could be things / that we make, say, or do.” Individually, paired up, or in groups, the kids went to work on their gifts. Some made cards, some baked cookies, and one trio practiced singing a holiday song.

The Gingerbread Man wanted to join in too. He thought hard about what he would make and then went to work. As the kids headed out the door of their classroom and into town, the little cookie excitedly said, “I’ll deliver this present / as fast as I can. / With a jolly Ho-Ho from the / Gingerbread Man!” All through town the kids delivered their gifts. A few children sang a song to a police woman, the garbage men got a plate of cookies, and a special card went to the librarian. The kids also visited the dentist, the grocer, and the vet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gingerbread-man-loose-at-christmas-into-town

Image copyright Mike Lowery, 2015, text copyright Laura Murray, 2015. Courtesy of lauramurraybooks.com.

When an icy wind blew up and it started to snow, the teacher gathered all the kids and hurried back to school. But the Gingerbread Man hadn’t delivered his gift yet. He yelled for the class to stop, but they didn’t hear him. He decided to deliver it himself and dashed past the barber, the bookseller, the doctor, the florist, and the bank teller giving them all a happy wave on the way. The snowy sidewalks took their toll on the Gingerbread Man, though, and by the time he found the bake shop, his “feet were all mushy and crumbled.”

Inside, the warm, delicious-smelling shop, the Gingerbread Man held up his card. “I’ve come to say thanks / for your sweet recipe. / without it, / my class would’ve / never made me.” The baker was so touched that she gave the Gingerbread Man a kiss and then noticed his feet. She knew just what he needed. She sat him on the side of a bowl and let him dip his feet into the dark chocolate icing. When she took him out, he was wearing boots! He smiled and told the baker, “I’ll run in my boots, / as fast as I can. / Thank you so much, from the / Gingerbread Man!”

He dashed back to school just in time to join the class in presenting a last, surprise gift—a poem they had all written just for their teacher: “You are a gift / that we get every day. / You help us to learn / in our own special way.” They told her she was “funny and kind,” encouraging, and “clever,” and when they were finished with their special thank-you, their teacher gave them all “a warmhearted hug and a very big grin.”

The book also includes a poster of fun activities to extend the fun.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-gingerbread-man-loose-at-christmas-town

Image copyright Mike Lowery, 2015, text copyright Laura Murray, 2015. Courtesy of lauramurraybooks.com.

Fans of Laura Murray’s sweet Gingerbread Man series will be delighted with this holiday treat. With jaunty, pitch-perfect rhymes and a message about the joys of giving thanks for and to all the members of a community, Murray’s story resonates long past the holiday season. Murray’s adorable cookie creation will make kids smile with his plucky attitude as he “hobbles” on mushy legs through the slushy streets to deliver his gift and giddy enthusiasm on succeeding in surprising the teacher. The story offers a wonderful opportunity to talk with kids about truly valuable gifts and ways they can show their love for others.

As cute as ever, Mike Lowery’s Gingerbread Man is a pint-sized dynamo spreading happiness and thoughtfulness wherever he dashes. Kids will love following the class as they fan out into town delivering baked treats, songs, and cards to the adults who make their lives better. Smiles and hugs abound, making this one of the merriest Merry Christmas books around. Little ones will love pointing out the tiny Gingerbread Man on the pages, talking about familiar shops and businesses in the town, and giggling over humorous details like the bat hanging from the vet’s examining table.

A thoroughly charming way to celebrate Christmas and sure to spark random acts of giving in young readers, The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas will be a favorite on home bookshelves for years to come.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015 | ISBN 978-0399168666

Discover more about Laura Murray and her books on her website and find lots of Gingerbread Man-related activities too!

To learn more about Mike Lowery, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Gingerbread Decorating Day Activity

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Dashing Home! Maze

 

Help the Gingerbread Man find his way home the fastest way in this printable puzzle!

Dashing Home! Maze | Dashing Home! Maze Solution

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You can find The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 5 – International Ninja Day

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About the Holiday

International Ninja Day may have started out as an marketing idea by Ninja Burger in 2003, but the day has grown to embrace all manner of Ninja fun. If you love the stealthy cunning of these masters of martial arts warfare, then today’s for you! To celebrate, watch a favorite ninja movie or TV show, put a bit of charity into the day and perform an act of kindness while remaining “invisible,” or share a great book about ninjas with your kids. Here’s a terrific one to enjoy all year round!

The Secrets of Ninja School

By Deb Pilutti

 

Ruby, a little red-haired girl, is excited to be attending Master Willow’s School for Ninjas. The school, located in a huge house on the outskirts of town, is open only one weekend each summer. Master Willow called his students “‘saplings,’” and each child attended his school eager to learn how to appear invisible, jump skillfully, show patience, and be brave. “But most of all, they came to Master Willow’s School for Ninjas to discover their very own secret skill.”

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

While the other saplings learned quickly, Ruby could not get the hang of sneaking invisibly, jumping with skill, being patient, or feeling brave. Most disappointing, Ruby could not discover her own secret skill. She went to see Master Willow, who told her that through practice she would improve and find her skill. Ruby did practice and did improve, but her special skill still eluded her.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

At bedtime, Ruby felt homesick. The other kids told her that saplings did not miss home, but, still, she told them how her father read stories to her when she couldn’t sleep, how her mother lit a nightlight and kissed her nose when she was afraid of the dark, and that her grandmother would bring out her craft box and “they would spend hours making the most magnificent creations” when she was worried.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Not a sound broke the silence. But then Ruby heard “a sniff and a gasp and a wail. Before she knew it all the other saplings were crying.” Ruby knew just what to do. She “sneaked down the hallway” invisibly, jumped over the cat with skill, and “snipped and stitched and stuffed” patiently. She even bravely explained why she was out of bed when Master Willow caught her.

Back in the dormitory, Ruby turned on a lamp, “gave each of the saplings a stuffed dragon and told them stories of bravery and daring.” Master Willow watched and listened with a smile on his face. When Ruby handed him a stuffed dragon too, he told her that her skills were no longer a secret. “‘You are a wonderful storyteller, a fine dragon maker, and a very good friend.’” Ruby was happy, but she “kept practicing, because being brave isn’t always easy. Even for a ninja.”

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Deb Pilutti’s uplifting story takes an honest look, through a fun Ninja lens, at the worries some children have when they compare their skills and talents to others and even against their own expectations. While Ruby struggles to pick up Ninja skills, readers will see that Ruby has other talents, such as perseverance, creativity, and the courage to ask for help. Ruby may feel—like all kids do at times—that she’s different from the others, but she discovers that emotions are universal, allowing her to appreciate and share her gifts for empathy, kindness, and friendship.

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Pilutti’s bright illustrations will endear Ruby to readers as she excitedly goes off the ninja school, keeps practicing despite some mishaps, and sees dragons in clouds and shadows. Images of the saplings jumping, throwing, and meditating will delight little home ninjas-in-training, and the fully stocked Ninja Craft Area where Ruby creates her stuffed dragons will cheer young crafters.

You can make Ruby’s Dragon Softie too!

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Clear instructions and patterns for an adorable dragon that kids can make at home are included at the end of the story.

Ages 4 – 8

Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2018 | ISBN 978-1627796491

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art and to find fun book-related activities, visit her website.

International Ninja Day Activity

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Stealthy Ninja Maze

 

One little Ninja has gotten separated from her group. Can you help her find her way back in this printable maze?

Stealthy Ninja Maze | Stealthy Ninja Maze Solution

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You can find The Secrets of Ninja School at these Booksellers

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Macmillan | Powell’s

November 13 – World Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement, a coalition of nations, World Kindness Day is an international celebration that encourages people around the world to be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude. To celebrate, people are asked to perform acts of kindness—big or small. Events include, the Big Hug, handing out Kindness Cards, and flash mobs showing and promoting kindness. The day spotlights good deeds—both individual and community—and focuses on “the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.” It doesn’t take cost anything to celebrate today with a simple “hi,” a smile, or an offer of help or support to someone in need. Don’t limit your care and concern to just one day, either. Promoters of the holiday hope that kindness becomes infectious, inspiring good relationships every day of the year.

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness

By Kerascoët

 

With smiles on their faces a family carries boxes from the moving van into their new home. The next morning the teacher introduces brown-skinned Vanessa to her new class, and she takes a seat in one of the two empty desks—the one separated from a straight-haired girl in a yellow dress by the other empty desk. During the lesson, Vanessa keeps her head down shyly as other kids raise their hands and answer questions. At recess, Vanessa sits alone on the bleachers while her classmates dribble basketballs, shoot baskets, and talk and laugh together.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

When the bell rings the kids pour out of the building, forming pairs and groups to walk home or play. Vanessa starts her route home by herself. At the crosswalk, a blond boy wearing a scowl approaches Vanessa and stops to talk. But he doesn’t offer friendly chit-chat. He sneers and taunts and points at her accusingly. Then with a huff, he turns and goes back the way he came.

The girl in the yellow dress has stopped with her friends by a tree. Instead of watching the squirrel scampering up the trunk, though, she sees and overhears the altercation between the boy and Vanessa. She looks as Vanessa stands a bit shell-shocked and then hurries across the road with tears in her eyes. Vanessa’s classmate is shocked too by what she’s seen. She feels sad and even sadder as Vanessa runs away and into her new home.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The girl returns to her friends and tells them what happened. They all react with surprise and sadness. All the way home, as her mom and dad cook dinner and her siblings watch TV, at bedtime and late into the night, the girl thinks about Vanessa. Vanessa has a sleepless night too.

In the morning, the girl gets dressed for school and heads to the table for breakfast. It’s while she’s drinking her orange juice that it hits her—what she can do. She grabs her lunch box and races out the door. She approaches a house and knocks on the door. Vanessa opens the door a crack and looks out. The little girl in her yellow dress talks to Vanessa and takes her hand. They walk down the sidewalk as other kids emerge from their own houses. A boy hails them and takes Vanessa’s other hand. Another boy joins the group and then a girl in pigtails. As more kids gather on the way to school, they come running to join Vanessa’s group.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The boy from the day before looks on with surprise. Soon the small group has become a wave as kids from all classes join in, streaming around the boy and passing him by. His face reddens and he sulks as the wave, led by Vanessa and her new friend enter the school building. In class, Vanessa takes her seat while the straight-haired girl moves to the desk next to her.

Backmatter includes advice for children on what they can do to help someone who is being bullied and helpful vocabulary to use when sharing the book with children.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Kerascoët’s perfectly constructed wordless picture book powerfully demonstrates the feeling of being overlooked and ignored, the emotional toll of being bullied, and how an act of bullying affects even those not directly involved. There is so much right about the details in this book from the empty desk between Vanessa and her soon-to-be friend on her first day of school to the suspense of  what the girl in the yellow dress says to her friends after witnessing the bullying and their reaction to the facial expressions on all of the characters faces.

Kerascoët’s use of color sets the tone as the background illustrations of the classroom and neighborhood is washed in a pale blue, putting the spotlight on the diverse classmates in their colorful clothes. A compelling double-spread center image gives vent to Vanessa and her classmate’s feelings through a stormy night with roiling black clouds and a torrent of rain. The two girls are connected by their lighted widows—the only bright spots in the darkened neighborhood. Turn the page and that glow is shining into the window from the sunny day. The homes are now lemon colored, with Vanessa’s house a standout pink.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

As the little girl talks to Vanessa and holds her hand, you will feel tears spring to your eyes, and the gathering children with their smiles and waves will swell your heart. In the sense of motion caused by the children rushing to join Vanessa’s group, the bully is now the one overlooked, and as the small groups become a crowd all walking in the same direction, the bully—facing the other way and at the bottom of the page—is far outnumbered. As the wave of kids enter school, the bully appears in the bottom corner, red faced and frowning. The possibility the empty desk poses at the beginning of the story is fulfilled when the girl in the yellow dress moves there to sit next to Vanessa.

The wordless quality of this book allows for readers to volunteer what they think is happening and what is being said. It also allows for deep discussions of similar experiences and can lead into an expanded lesson on kindness, empathy, and how to handle bullying.

I Walk with Vanessa is a moving portrait of how a simple act of friendship multiplies and changes lives and is a must for home, classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2018 | ISBN 978-1524769550

To learn more about the husband and wife team Kerascoët and their work, visit their website.

National Kindness Day Activity

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Kindness Cards to Share

 

On World Kindness Day people are encouraged to give out Kindness Cards to friends, family, and especially those who look as if they need cheering up. Here are some printable cards for you to use!

Kindness Cards to Share

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You can find I Walk with Vanessa at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review