July 20 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

Starting Kindergarten is a major milestone in any child’s life and ushers in exciting growth in knowledge, friendships, and experiences. But children don’t all perceive and process the world in the same way. Being sensitive to individual differences and talking about issues as they arise are just two of the ways that kids can making navigating school or any new experience easier. Sharing picture books like today’s book can help too! 

Thanks to Harry N. Abrams for sending me a copy of Puppy Bus for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Puppy Bus

By Drew Brockington

 

As a boy’s parents unload the moving truck, he heads up the steps of the school bus with an anxious backward glance. once on the bus, his nerves take over and his mind races with all the new things he will encounter: “The teachers will be different. I’ll have to make new friends. I won’t even know where the bathroom is.” But in a minute, he gets a friendly lick of reassurance. Wait, what? That’s right, a big, slobbery lick of friendship. His seatmate even offers the boy his paw to shake. 

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Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

It’s just about this moment that the boy realizes he’s made a mistake. “I’m on the wrong bus!” he shouts with an attendant “AUGHHH!!!” Well, it’s too late to do anything about it now. The boy gets off at Leroy’s Puppy School with all the other students and decides to find an adult to talk to. He finds the principal’s office only to find that the principal is also a dog. “Woof! Woof! Bark! Bark!” The principal does his best to help, but there’s a definite communication problem.

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Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The boy’s just wondering what he’s going to do now, when one of his fellow classmates gets a chomp on his shirt and drags him toward a doggie door leading to a classroom. Once everyone’s inside, the lessons begin. As the collie leads the class in learning how to roll over, the boy thinks, “Everything about this school is strange and different.” Math class doesn’t really add up. The bowlfuls of dry food are gross. And remember how the boy was worried about wondering where the bathroom was? Well, that’s not the worst of it! In the stall, he finds a fire hydrant next to the toilet paper roll. 

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Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

It all makes the boy miss his old school and friends even more. But then his puppy seatmate from the bus comes over to give him a cuddle, and the pup that sits next to him in math joins in, along with a couple of other “soft and fuzzy” students. Just then the recess bell rings, and they’re all off to have fun playing catch, digging in the dirt, running around and jumping, and just general piling on. The day ends with a song and a story, and by the time the boy gets on the bus home, he’s even speaking a little dog: “Arf! Arf!”

He gets home enthusiastic about his new school and the friends he’s made. He’s even excited to go back tomorrow. His parents are thrilled with his change of heart and send him off the next morning with big smiles and waves. There’s just one thing… could he be on the wrong bus again?

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Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Funny and relatable, Drew Brockington’s Puppy Bus is sure to reassure and delight all kids, whether they’re starting a new school or just a new grade. Being nervous about making new friends, meeting a new teacher, and navigating a school building is a universal emotion, even though it can often feel singularly personal. Brockington exposes the doubts kids have in a way that will make them laugh while discovering that friendships made and extended can make all the difference. His comical twist ending reminds kids that change is part of life and adapting is a valuable skill to have.

Brockington’s hilarious cartoon illustrations—well-known to his CatSronauts fans—depict the boy’s full range of emotions from panicky to uncertain to grossed out to perplexed. When he’s at his lowest point of the day, a group of canine classmates take notice and do what they do best—become enthusiastic and comforting best friends. As the boy and his new friends romp on the playground, kids get the message that reaching out to someone new or hesitant (or, conversely, accepting an invitation to join in) has benefits for all.

A terrific story to share as school starts up again or for any time a child is beginning a new activity or encountering change, Puppy Bus will be a favorite on home, classroom, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8 

Harry N. Abrams, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419751912

To learn more about Drew Brockington, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Small Box School Bus 

 

With a small tea box, some paint, and the printable template, kids can have fun making a model school bus (or Puppy Bus!) to play with or display. Make your bus as detailed or simple as you’d like!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print 2 copies of the School Bus Template
  2. Carefully take the tea box apart at the seams, invert it, and glue or tape it back together

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To Make the Passenger Side of the Bus

  1. Cut the Door from the template
  2. Glue the door to the box near the front
  3. Cut out and trim the row of windows from the template
  4. Glue the windows near the top of the box
  5. Cut out and trim two of the solid black lines from the template
  6. Glue the stripes onto the side of the box below the windows
  7. Cut out two tires from the template and glue them to the box

To Make the Front of the Bus

  1. Cut out two of the red and orange paired lights
  2. Glue one on each side of the box near the top with the red light on the outside
  3. Add a School Bus sign between the lights
  4. Cut out the windshield in the lower corner of the template and glue it in place
  5. Cut and trim grill and glue it beneath the windshield
  6. Cut and glue white circles for headlights on either side of the grill
  7. Cut, trim, and glue the wide black strip to the bottom as the bumper.

To Make the Driver’s Side of the Bus

  1. Cut and trim the row of windows from the template
  2. Glue the windows near the top of the box
  3. Cut out and trim two of the solid black lines from the template
  4. Glue the stripes onto the side of the box below the windows
  5. Cut out two tires from the template and glue them to the box
  6. Cut out and glue the Stop sign over the two stripes near the front of the bus

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To Make the Back of the Bus

  1. Cut out two of the red and orange paired lights
  2. Glue one on each side of the box near the top with the red light on the outside
  3. Add a School Bus sign between the lights
  4. Cut out the two small rounded corner windows
  5. Glue them underneath the lights close to the edge of the box
  6. Cut out and glue the bigger rounded corner window between the smaller windows
  7. Cut out and glue the yellow, red, and white lights underneath the small windows with the yellow light on the outside
  8. Cut out and glue the black rounded corner window centered beneath the lights
  9. Cut and trim the wide black stripe and glue it near the bottom of the box for the bumper

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You can find Puppy Bus at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 16 – Celebrating Back-to-School Month with Tammi Sauer

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Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is the full-time author of many popular picture books, including Quiet Wyatt, illustrated by Arthur Howard, and Nugget and Fang and Nugget and Fang Go to School, both illustrated by Michael Slack. Getting kids excited about reading and writing is her passion. Her other passion is tropical tea. Tammi and her family live in Edmond, Oklahoma, with one dog, two geckos, and a tank full of random fish.

You can connect with Tammi on her website | Facebook | Twitter

Hi Tammi! I’m really happy you could help me celebrate kids going back to school with your best-of-friends, Nugget and Fang! This minnow and shark don’t seem like they’d be natural friends, but they make really supportive besties. Many of your books explore friendships and themes of being out of your comfort zone – and always with a liberal sprinkling of humor that really appeals to kids. How has a previous job or jobs influenced your writing and the kinds of books you write?

I am a former pre-k teacher and library media specialist. Both of those positions exposed me to hundreds of picture books. How lovely is it that the more you read, the better you write? Plus, being in the classroom and the library helped me to see what books really resonated with kids.

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My role as Mom has also been a big benefit to me as a writer. I used to read stacks and stacks of picture books to my kids. My son, Mason, was a tough audience—especially when he was four. After every book I read, he would either give it a double thumbs up or say, “Wow, that’s a dud.” I always keep four-year-old Mason in mind as I write. I want to create something that little Mason would have readily endorsed.

How great is it for a picture book writer to have a seasoned and discerning critic in residence?! Thanks so much, Tammi for sharing your experience with readers—and for all of your double-thumbs-up books!

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Nugget & Fang Go to School

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Michael Slack

 

When most fish and sea creature saw Fang, they swam or scuttled off in fear. But the mini minnows knew Fang was just a softie – and a vegetarian – because he once had saved them and his best friend Nugget from a fisherman’s net. In fact the mini minnows liked Fang so much, they thought he should go to school with them at Mini Minnows Elementary School. Nugget thought this was a great idea too.

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Image copyright Michael Slack, 2019, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2019. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

Fang was excited until the first day of school arrived. He felt seasick and thought his skin was turning blue. “‘Your skin is always blue,’ said Nugget. ‘You’ll be fine.'” When the first bell rang, Nugget had to drag Fang in by the fin as Fang rattled off questions: “‘What if I lose a tooth? Or two? Or twenty? What if I sit on a jellyfish?'” He was afraid of swallowing someone while yawning, and getting swallowed by a whale himself. As the teacher, a hermit crab, introduced herself, Fang still worried. “‘She looks crabby,’ whispered Fang.'”

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Image copyright Michael Slack, 2019, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2019. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

Nugget tried to reassure his friend. “‘You’ll be fine,'” he said, but things did not go well in reading, math, or science. Music, art and The Brief History of Minnows were also disasters. Fang thought the day couldn’t get any worse, but it did. At the end of the day, the teacher invited each student to the front of the class to share something special. After the horrible day he’d had, Fang did not want to do it. After students had shared their hobbies, talents, or special things from home, it was Fang’s turn. He stood in front of the class nervously trying to think of something to share. Then he noticed Nugget, who was smiling, nodding, and holding the lunchbox the mini minnows had given him that read “Fang, Our Hero!”

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Image copyright Michael Slack, 2019, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2019. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

Suddenly, Fang did feel fine. And he knew just what to say. With a big toothy grin, Fang announced, “‘I have the best friend in the whole underwater world!'” Everyone was so impressed that the teacher even gave Fang a gold star. Now Fang didn’t want to leave school, but Nugget grabbed him by the fin and led him home anyway.

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Image copyright Michael Slack, 2019, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2019. Courtesy of Clarion Books.

Tammi Sauer dives deep into the ways true friends help and support each other in her story that takes on first-day-of-school jitters and shows that even awkward days turn out fine with a bit of encouragement. Little readers will appreciate Sauer’s straightforward storytelling that focuses on children’s common fears when beginning school or any new extracurricular activity with a light touch and plenty of punny humor to get them giggling. To calm those fears, Sauer shows that reassurance and kindness come from many places, including best friends, new friends, and teachers. 

Fans of Nugget and Fang will be happy to reunite with Michael Slack’s rainbow-hued minnows and blue Fang. As Nugget and Fang approach the school, Fang’s fears swirl around him, replicating the way thoughts whirl through a worried mind. Slack’s uncluttered illustrations make it easy for kids to understand Fang’s predicaments as well as the comical touches. Slack uses the ocean environment for plenty of clever interpretations of a classroom setting. The science food chain poster in Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever—or Snack Time? gets a history update in this version, adding to Fang’s embarrassment. Just as in the first book of this series, readers will cheer on Fang and Nugget’s unusual but strong friendship. 

Nugget & Fang Go To School will quickly become a favorite for kids just beginning their school journey, starting a new grade, or going back to in-person learning after a virtual year. The book would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Clarion Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328548269

To learn more about Tammi Sauer and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of work by Michael Slack on his website!

You can find Nugget & Fang: Go to School at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

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Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever—Or Snack Time?

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Michael Slack

 

Deep in the ocean two friends do everything together and life is almost perfect as they swim over ship wrecks, under reefs, and all around. Nugget and Fang are as close as two friend can be—there’s just one thing: Nugget is a minnow while Fang is a shark. Neither of them consider their friendship unusual—until Nugget goes to school. There during Reading, Nugget hears the story of The Three Little Minnows and the Big, Bad Shark. “‘Ha!’” says Nugget. “‘Impossible!’”

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Image copyright Michael Slack, 2013, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2013. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

During Math class the students solve a word problem: “What if there were ten minnows and a shark came along and ate four of them? How many minnows are left?” Nugget is scandalized. “‘A shark would never do that!’” he says. During Science period when Nugget learns the facts of the Marine Food Chain, he protests that sharks aren’t scary and announces that his best friend is a shark. “Have you lost your gills?” one classmate asks as another snarks, “Hello—sharks eat minnows!” Nugget can’t believe it.

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Image copyright Michael Slack, Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Back home Nugget gives Fang the bad news. “‘Sounds fishy to me,’” says Fang. Nugget assures him it’s true before swimming far away. “Fang’s heart sank.” As Nugget stayed away, Fang determined to get his best friend back. He tried dressing like a mermaid, inviting Nugget for dinner, and even performing a song and dance routine, but nothing could sway Nugget. Fang was so upset that he didn’t didn’t notice when a fishing net floated toward the sea floor, capturing Nugget and the other minnows.

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Image copyright Michael Slack, 2013, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2013. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

When Fang realizes what has happened, he doesn’t know what to do. Then he has an idea. With his big sharp teeth he chomps and chews and tears the net to pieces, allowing Nugget and the minnows to swim to safety. They all stare at Fang wide-eyed. He knows just what they’re going to say. But Nugget has a new math problem for him: “‘There were ten minnows, and a very special shark came along. How many friends are there altogether?’” Now eleven friends live happily deep in the ocean, and everyone—especially Fang—are all smiles.

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Image copyright Michael Slack, 2013, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2013. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Tammi Sauer’s tribute to true friendship reveals the danger when “facts” take precedence over what you know in your heart to be true. Her reminder to listen to your inner voice is approached with humor and the honest types of doubts that can niggle and cloud judgement. Throughout the story, her language is accessible and kid-conversational, including puns that will elicit laughs. Sauer’s use of a math word problem to both highlight contrary thinking and provide a solution underscores the value of education as well as making new—and keeping old—friendships.

In Michael Slack’s vibrant illustrations, tiny Nugget and imposing Fang make a happy, nonchalant pair. They play together through vivid reefs unaware of marine animal stereotypes. When Nugget gets “schooled,” his astounded expressions and those of his classmates humorously depict their conundrum. The ocean setting gives Slack an opportunity for lots of visual jokes and innovation. Kids will laugh at Fang’s attempts at reconciliation with Nugget, and cheer when he becomes a hero.

Ages 4 – 9

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013 ISBN 978-0544481718 | Lap Board Book, 2018 ISBN 978-1328768391

To learn more about Tammi Sauer and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of work by Michael Slack on his website!

You can find Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever – Or Snack Time? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Back to School Month Activity

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Shark Organizer Jar

 

Are some of your favorite school supplies scattered here and there? Would you like to be able to get a good chomp on them? Then here’s a craft you can really sink your teeth into! This shark organizer jar is easy and fun to make and a fin-tastic way to keep your stuff tidy!

Supplies

  • Wide-mouth plastic jar, like a peanut-butter jar
  • Gray craft paint
  • White craft paint
  • Black craft paint
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Find a point in the middle of the jar on opposite sides of the jar
  2. Mid-way between these points on the other sides of the jar, find a point about 1 1/2 inches above the first points
  3. From the first point draw an angled line up to the higher point and down again to the lower point to make the shark’s upper jaw
  4. Repeat Direction Number 3 to make the shark’s lower jaw
  5. With the gray paint fill in the jar below these lines to make the shark’s head
  6. Along the jawline, paint jagged teeth with the white paint
  7. Add black dots for eyes on either side of the shark’s head
  8. Let dry

Picture Book Review

August 5 – Back to School Month Blog Tour Stop for Turkey Goes to School

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About the Holiday

Although we may not know what going back to school will look like this year, we can be sure that the excitement kids feel for seeing their friends and teachers, celebrating special themes and occasions, and reading new books together will be as strong as ever. Sharing today’s featured book – the latest in a favorite series – will make sure kids can look forward to a farm-tastic first day. 

Thanks to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Turkey Goes to School for review consideration. I’m eggs-cited to be teaming with them in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Turkey Goes to School

Written by Wendi Silvano | Illustrated by Lee Harper

 

Max and Millie were excited about the first day of school. “So were the animals on Farmer Jake’s farm—especially since the first week’s theme was ‘Farm Days.’” Could an invitation to visit the school be far behind? Turkey imagined all the fun they would have. To make sure everything went smoothly, Turkey engaged the other animals in extensive practice of all the skills he thought they’d need. They read, wrote, counted, and even played recess games.

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2021, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

But when the bus pulled up in front of the farm gate, Millie delivered the bad news: “‘Critters aren’t allowed at school.’” Turkey just couldn’t take “no” for an answer, so he gathered up his friends and hitched a ride in the back of a passing pickup truck. When they got to school, the animals decided Turkey should sneak in to class. Turkey had an idea that just might work. Strapped onto Pig’s back in a makeshift backpack, Turkey was ready to go, but Max spied something amiss and told them to go home. But Turkey couldn’t take “no” for an answer. Peeking in the window, Turkey saw that story time had begun, and thought of another great disguise. This time he was able to “‘book it inside,’” but when a little girl pointed him out, the teacher said, “‘I’m page-ing the principal.’”

Back outside, Turkey had another brainstorm. Recess was coming up, so Turkey crossed his wings, folded down his feathers, pulled in his head and feet, and with some help from his friends landed in the middle of the playground. “‘Cool—jumbo soccer!’ cried a boy.” Too bad for Turkey, Millie was the referee. “‘I call a fowl!’” she cried.

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2021, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The other animals were getting into the spirit of Turkey’s subterfuge, and Cow came up with a plan for Turkey to masquerade as a “‘lunch lady in the calf-eteria.’” Side-by-side with the real lunch lady, Turkey was fitting right in, until… he wasn’t. Outside once more, Turkey huddled with the other animals next to a scarecrow advertising Farm Days. Rooster just couldn’t understand why they weren’t “front and center” during Farm Days. That gave Turkey another idea. This time, Turkey put on a disguise that just could not miss. He even got help from the principal.

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2021, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

With her endorsement, what could the teacher say but “yes.” Millie and Max cheered as their animals trooped in with instruments, ready to sing a song with the class. And what better song to sing than Old MacDonald… I mean “‘Farmer Jake, he had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.’” (And you can guess which animal came first!) At the end of the song, Millie asked the teacher if they could sing some more. The teacher thought about it, and since it was Farm Days, after all, they were allowed to stay for a “Farm-tastic first—and last—day at school.”

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Image copyright Lee Harper, 2021, text copyright Wendi Silvano, 2021. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Turkey is back in Wendi Silvano and Lee Harper’s fifth adventure featuring the animals from Farmer Jake’s farm. All Turkey wants is a chance to go to school with Max and Millie, and he’ll go to any length to make it happen. As Silvano sets up funny obstacles that Turkey continues to overcome by taking advantage of opportunities and through clever school-based disguises, kids will find plenty of laugh-out-loud moments to celebrate Turkey’s ingenious initiative. Stuffed with witty puns that readers will be repeating throughout a school day, Silvano’s storytelling is fresh and dialogue-rich. Each animal gets a chance to shine in this smart and inventive celebration of teamwork.

Laying on lots of slapstick and exaggerated imagery, Lee Harper brings the beloved gang from Farmer Jake’s farm back for another madcap romp. In Harper’s hands, the animals are nothing less than high-spirited kids in sheep’s (Pig’s, Horse’s, Cow’s, Chicken’s and, of course, Turkey’s) clothing. Readers will love poring over the bright, action-packed pages to pick up all of the comical details, visual puns, and allusions to the trappings of school. Kids will cheer along with Turkey’s ultimate triumph and the rockin’ sing-along that makes this a school day for the books.

Whether your kids are already fans of the Turkey Trouble series—which includes Turkey Trouble, Turkey Clause, Turkey Trick-or-Treat, and Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter—or meeting these friends for the first time, Turkey Goes to School will captivate them and make them laugh. A perfect book to share for the first day of school and all the others along the way, Turkey Goes to School is sure to be a much-asked-for favorite and must addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542023641

Discover more about Wendi Silvano and her books on her website.

To learn more about Lee Harper, his books, and his art, visit his website.

A Quick Chat with Wendi Silvano

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Wendi Silvano was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has lived in Oregon, Colorado, and Peru. The author of the Turkey Trouble series, she has a BA in early childhood education and taught preschool and elementary school for eleven years. She is the mother of five children and the owner of an assortment of odd pets that are not nearly as clever as Turkey. She now writes from her home in Colorado, where she enjoys hiking, reading, and playing the piano. Visit her online at www.wendisilvano.com.

Hi Wendy! It’s so wonderful to see Turkey and his friends back… off the farm, I suppose we can say! They’re eager to make school-time memories, but we still have a little bit of summer left, so I was wondering, Do you have a favorite summer memory?

One summer, my kids and I were camping with some family friends. My son David and his friend Sean (who were about 7) were exploring near our campsite. They were hanging out under a very tall pine tree and goofing off a bit. They must have worried some chipmunks who were up in the tree. All of sudden, the chipmunks started bombing them with pinecones from the tree! We were all watching and laughing our heads off.

Of course, being boys, they didn’t just move to another spot to calm the chipmunks, but rather started trying to throw the pinecones back up at the chipmunks. They didn’t get them anywhere near high enough and the chipmunks won the battle in the end. As a children’s writer, my imagination immediately pictured that pair of chipmunks up high in the tree catching sight of the intruders,  planning their attack, carrying it out and eventually celebrating their victory. (Come to think of it… maybe I should write a story about that!).

I’d say readers will be pining for that picture book! What a hilarious experience! Animals truly are incredible. Thanks so much for sharing that story with us!

Back to School Month Activity

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Smile! It’s a Back to School Fun Word Search Puzzle

 

There are twenty school-related words in this happy word search puzzle. Can you find them all?

Back to School Fun! Word Search PuzzleBack to School Fun! Word Search Solution

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You can find Turkey Goes to School at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 6 – It’s Teacher Appreciation Week

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About the Holiday

Every May as schools begin to wind down for the year, students, parents, and school systems across the country celebrate the role teachers play in providing quality education from preschool through college and beyond. Established in 1984 by the National PTA, this week-long holiday also inspires a wide range of businesses to honor teachers with freebies and discounts. As Teacher Appreciation Week comes to a close, don’t forget to thank your teacher! To learn more about Teacher Appreciation Week and how you can show your gratitude this week and all through the year, visit the PTA website.

Thank you to HarperCollins for providing a digital copy of Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us

Written by Paris Rosenthal | Illustrated by Holly Hatam

 

As the school year winds down, kids in schools everywhere are beginning to wonder, How do I tell my teacher how much I love them? And parents, grandparents, or other caregivers are thinking, How can I truly express my gratitude for all the care, concern, understanding, education, and inspiration my child’s or children’s teachers show every day? The answer comes in Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us, a beautiful picture book letter to school teachers, music teachers, coaches, instructors, and anyone who helps kids discover who they are and encourage them to become their best selves.

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Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Paris Rosenthal, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Paris Rosenthal begins each two-page spread with “Dear Teacher,” and then focuses on one action, inspiration, or lesson that teachers of all kinds use to engage their students. Some of these show appreciation for lessons that carry kids into the future, such as encouraging them to “dream big,” explore many paths, “think outside the box,” and be a team player. For this last lesson, Holly Hatam depicts a child throwing the basketball to her teammate in a wheelchair as the coach stands on the sidelines, saying “Pass the ball.” The letter reads, “Dear Teacher, You taught me to pass the ball, even when I think I have the shot.”

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Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Paris Rosenthal, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Other letters reveal a moment that sparks concrete, at-the-moment feelings of self-confidence that can make all the difference. In one spread, a music teacher conducts a small orchestra in which all the children except one are wearing black and playing string or wind instruments. The standout is dressed in yellow and plays the triangle. The accompanying text reads, “Dear Teacher, You make me feel like I matter. no matter what.”

Other letters express their appreciation to their teacher for always “lifting me up,” “being there wherever I land,” and most especially for “sending me on my way!” The book ends with a final tribute to that steadfast teacher you’d like to thank: “You are a gift that keeps on giving and this book is my gift to you.” Inside the front cover there is an opportunity for the child to inscribe the book to their teacher: “TO ______ who I admire. FROM ______ who you inspire.”

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Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Paris Rosenthal, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

With charm, sincerity, and enthusiasm Paris Rosenthal gives children the words to express their thoughts in ways that are sweet, conversational, and sound like kids and which will touch teachers’ hearts. The various types of teachers portrayed in Holly Hatam’s illustrations make this a wonderfully universal gift for any teacher, coach or instructor in your child’s life.

Holly Hatam’s vibrant and enchanting illustrations show children engaged in a wide variety of activities in clever and meaningful ways that reflect realistic experiences inside and outside of the classroom, on the court, at the gym and the pool, and while kids are playing together and using what their teachers have taught them. Hatam’s diverse children are happy, curious, proud, creative, and ready to face the future with confidence all because of the support and help their teachers give.

Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us would make a poignant, joyful, and much-appreciated gift for any teacher. The book would also be a terrific addition to home and public library bookshelves for families to share feelings of gratitude for teachers throughout the year.

Ages 4 – 8 

HarperCollins, 2021 | ISBN 978-0063012745

Discover more about Paris Rosenthal and her books on her website.

You can connect with Holly Hatam on Twitter.

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You can find Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

May 4 – National Teacher Day

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About the Holiday

This school year has been like no other – for students and teachers. Switching from in-person, in-the-classroom learning to virtual learning and zoom classes to hybrid models has been a head-spinning experience for all. Yet our teachers have adapted, designing new lesson plans and devising creative ways to engage their students online. This week (National Teacher Appreciation Week) and today in particular, we honor and thank the teachers that make a difference in our and our children’s 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. You can find 51 ways to thank your teacher on Waterford.org and a Teacher Appreciation Week toolkit, complete with virtual and printable thank-you cards and certificates and other ideas to download on the National PTA website.

I Wish You Knew/Ojalá Supieras

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Magdalena Mora

 

As a little girl approaches her school building, she tells the reader, “Our school wraps around a hundred-year-old oak tree.” The students mark the passage of time by the changes in the leaves. The school has a garden with cabbages, tomatoes, and sunflowers that the girl’s father helped her class plant. “One day,” the girl says, her father told her “that because he wasn’t born here like me, he must return to his native country.”

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Image copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Before he left he hugged her and said, “Te quiero mucho, Estrella…my little star.” He promises to come back one day “to see the sunflowers bloom. Until then, Estrella skips between the tall flowers and “think[s] of his smile.” In her thoughts she addresses her teacher: “I wish you knew that when I forget my homework or sit alone at lunch or cry over little things, it’s because I miss him.” And it is not only these things that have changed. Everything at home, for her mother and her brother, too, is different.

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Image copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

As Estrella’s teacher enters the classroom one day, she says she is also proud that her school surrounds the old oak tree. Her favorite place is in her classroom, where her students are busy and curious. She also loves to watch them play on the playground. The students may not realize it, but the teacher sees when they are sad and understands when they are without their homework. She wishes they knew that “they are not alone.”

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Image from Ojalá Supieras, copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

The teacher starts a new tradition, a “sharing circle called I Wish You Knew.” There the kids can tell their classmates how they are feeling, what they’re thinking about, and other “secrets” they are ready to share. Estrella’s teacher lets her students know she’s there if they need help. One student reveals that they are “hungry a lot.” Another student’s mom is in the military and another explains that he lives in a shelter.

But not all of the children’s sharing is sad. Estrella likes to talk about all the things her dad taught her and what they did together. And while she waits to be together with her father again, she and her friends plant more sunflower seeds and “wait for them to bloom.”

I Wish You Knew is also available in a Spanish Version with the title Ojalá Supieras.

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Image copyright Ojalá Supieras, Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

In her moving story Jackie Azúa Kramer embraces the many children affected by hardships, whose parents are absent for a variety of reasons, or who live with difficult family situations. Through Estrella, whose father has been deported, Kramer dives deep into the hearts of children grappling with strong feelings, hunger, homelessness, and otherwise disrupted home lives while still trying to succeed in school. Using “I wish you knew” from a variety of points of view, Kramer first draws children into Estrella’s confession as she directly addresses the reader. With the tenor of a confidant, Estella gives readers a tour of the favorite parts of her school. It is here, among the sunflowers that she feels comfortable talking about her father. During lunch, Estrella wishes her teacher knew what had happened at home.

The perspective then shifts to the teacher who shows her favorite parts of the school while revealing that, while she may not know the exact situation, she does recognize when something is wrong and hopes her students understand she is there to empathize and help. These two storylines merge when the teacher establishes the sharing circle and three students share their wishes straightforwardly, addressing the reader as much as their teacher and creating a poignant reading experience for all. Echoing the resilience of children, Kramer ends her story with a message of hope.

Magdalena Mora uses warm earth tones in her evocative mixed-media illustrations, mirroring the ideas of growth and renewal found in Kramer’s story. Estrella’s school building is a green-and-glass structure that looks out on the old oak tree, a symbol of steadfastness and strength for the students and teachers alike. The events and situations the children share are rendered in gray, giving them a feeling of distance from the children’s school day. Mora’s stylized sunflowers grow in profusion, framing the students and teacher on various pages and appearing in the background on others, an ever-present reminder that friendship and understanding are nearby and that better days lie ahead.

A moving story of empathy, sharing, and kindness, I Wish You Knew is a must for classrooms and is highly recommended for home and public library collections to help children and adults initiate difficult discussions about emotions and events or experiences affecting their lives.

Ages 4 – 7 

Roaring Brook Press | ISBN 978-1250226303 (I Wish You Knew) | ISBN 978-1250814784 (Ojalá Supieras)

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Magdalena Mora, her books, and her art on her website.

I Wish You Knew Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Jackie Azúa Kramer in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of I Wish You Knew written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | illustrated by Magdalena Mora

To enter:

This giveaway is open from May 4 to May 10 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 11. 

Prizing provided by Jackie Azúa Kramer.

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-cover      celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ojalá-supieras-cover

You can find I Wish You Knew at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

You can find Ojalá Supieras here

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order I Wish You Knew from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Order Ojalá Supieras here

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 17 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

For kids, going back to school means new art projects and using their creativity and ingenuity. For many it also means getting to know a new class pet or sharing their school day at home with a beloved furry or feathered friend. In today’s book the two are combined in a sweet and funny beginning reader – the third book in the kid-favorite Tip and Tucker series.

Tip and Tucker Paw Painters

Written by Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by André Ceolin

 

It’s art week in Mr. Lopez’s class, and the kids are choosing between painting with marbles and building with boxes—or doing both. The colors of paint available are listed on the whiteboard in English and Spanish. Emma picks up her marble as Tucker, one of the class’s hamsters, peeks over the top of his cage at all those boxes.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2020, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Jayden has chosen to paint with marbles too. “He drops it in the green paint. ‘Now drop it on the paper,’ says Mr. Lopez.” Jayden puts a sheet of paper in his box and drops the green-painted marble on top. He “tilts the box up and down.” A squiggly line snakes around Jayden’s paper. “‘Everyone can be an artist,’ says Mr. Lopez.”

Emma and Pim are making a rocket with the boxes. It’s a special rocket to go in Tip and Tucker’s cage. Tucker climbs up the outside of the rocket while Tip scurries inside. They watch the class go to recess. Tucker wants Tip to join him at the top of the rocket, but when he gets there, “the rocket tips. The hamsters tumble.” They “BUMP! THUMP!” onto the tabletop.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2020, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tucker inspects a cup of paint, and when he looks up his whiskers are blue. Tip topples a cup of purple paint. “Now Tip’s paws are purple!” Both Tip and Tucker run away, leaving “paw prints here. There. Everywhere!” When the class returns from recess, they find a big mess, but no hamsters. “‘Follow the paw prints,’ says Pim.” The paw prints lead Carlos to his nibbled painting and Mr. Lopez to his nibbled lunch bag.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2020, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But what, the kids wonder, is that crunching sound coming from inside the bag? Tip and Tucker wonder what that noise is that’s coming from outside the bag. Tucker “peeks out of the bag. Tip peeks too.” The class goes to work cleaning their room—and Tip and Tucker. While the hamsters settle in for a nap, Mr. Lopez hangs the students’ marble paintings, including one decorated with tiny paw prints. Then the class goes to lunch. In the quiet room, Tip wakes up Tucker and points to the wall. “Sleepy Tucker looks. ‘We are artists too!’ Tip says.”

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2020, text copyright Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tip and Tucker, back at school in their third adventure, are as cute and mischievous as ever. Children who are beginning to read independently will be charmed by Ann Ingalls’ and Sue Lowell Gallion’s tiny duo who make a big mess while the class is away in this high-interest and humorous story that also introduces an easy, satisfying art project to do in school or at home. For beginning readers, the authors’ short sentences, dialogue, and repeated words and phrases build confidence while instilling an appreciation for the fun of reading. As clues are dropped and suspense increases, fans of the series will eagerly read each page to discover what their favorite class pets get up to this time. Their funny discovery and the responses of the children are endearing, and the addition of Tip and Tucker’s work of art on the classroom wall reinforces the story’s themes of creativity and inclusion.

Readers will enthusiastically welcome back André Ceolin’s adorable Tip and Tucker and be happy to rejoin Mr. Lopez’s class with their friends Pim, Jayden, Emma, Carlos, and the others. Little Tucker with his blue whiskers and Tip with his purple paws will melt kids’ hearts, and their willy-nilly dash around the classroom is sure to bring on the giggles. Ceolin clearly depicts the concepts presented in the text on each page so that beginning readers can make the association between perhaps unknown words and their meaning. Images of the children’s happy faces as they create their art projects and cooperate in cleaning up contrast with their shock upon seeing their messy classroom and nibbled papers and their concern for Tip and Tucker. Tip and Tucker also display feelings of curiosity, joy, and surprise. These portrayals help kids explore their emotions and learn how to navigate new experiences.

Sure to captivate new and beginning readers, Tip and Tucker Paw Painters is one to add to your home, classroom, or public library collection. Check out the other I Am a Reader: Tip and Tucker books as well as an interview with Ann Ingalls and Sue Lowell Gallion here:

Tip and Tucker Road Trip | Tip and Tucker Hide and Squeak | Interview

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110991 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1534111004 (Paperback)

Discover more about Ann Ingalls and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books, visit her website.

You can learn more about André Ceolin and find a portfolio of his work on his website.

Back to School Month Activity

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Marble Painting with Tip and Tucker Paw Painters Activity Sheet

 

You can make a marble painting just like the kids in Mr. Lopez’s class with these printable directions from Sleeping Bear Press. And… you can even get as messy as Tip and Tucker!

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Get your activity sheet here: Tip and Tucker Paw Painters Activity Sheet

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You can find Tip and Tucker Paw Painters at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

August 6 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

Starting Kindergarten is a major milestone in any child’s life and ushers in exciting growth in knowledge, friendships, and experiences. But children don’t all perceive and process the world in the same way. Being sensitive to individual differences and talking about issues as they arise are just two of the ways that kids can making navigating school or any new experience easier. Sharing picture books like today’s book can help too! 

Thanks go out to Blue Slip Media and Two Lions for sending me a copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. 

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten

Written by Laura Purdie Salas | Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

Clover Kitty had just the life she liked. She was able to sit quietly by herself “knitting mittens. Nibbling kibble. Catnapping on a warm floor.” Sometimes she thought about having a friend, “but mostly, life was purrrrrfect.” One day, though, her mother reminded her that it was the first day of kittygarten. Images of mayhem and messes popped into Clover Kitty’s mind. She was not ready for that.

Before she knew it, however, “Clover found herself cowering in Ms. Snappytail’s classroom” amid loud noises, blaring colors, and the glaring sun. Then she felt a tap on the shoulder. She flinched at the touch. A kitty introduced himself as Oliver and smiled at her. Just then Ms. Snappytail flicked the lights on and off and rang a bell to get the class’s attention. Clover closed her eyes and covered her ears. She cringed at having to sit in a crowded circle to hear a story.

“At recess, Oliver came over and asked softly, ‘Do. you want to seesaw with me?'” But before she could answer, Clover was swept up in a “squealing tornado” of kitties playing tag. Her “heart sank.” Lunchtime was just as chaotic, and when Oliver offered her a box of juice, she clawed at it until it sprang a leak. All Clover wanted was a nap.

When nap time came, though, she could only smell Ms. Snappytail’s perfume, and the scratchiness of her mat kept her awake. “School felt nine lives long. Maybe ten.” When the class had to line up and parade through the hallways with costumes on, Clover finally broke down in a tantrum and ran out the door. By the time she got home, she was soaked from a passing rain shower.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Her mother dried Clover off and snuggled with her on the sofa until she fell asleep. The next day, Clover felt sick and Mama let her stay home from school. In the afternoon, Oliver stopped by to say that the class missed her. Mama assured him that Clover would be back the next day, but on Wednesday Clover said she still felt sick. 

After school, Oliver visited again, but when Mama let him in to say hi to Clover, she was nowhere to be found. When Oliver left, Clover felt relieved, but “a hollow twinge twanged in her chest.” Thursday came and Clover was feeling better, but not well enough to go back to school. She sat on the seesaw in her back yard and thought that maybe it would be fun to play with a friend.

On Friday, Clover was ready to return to kittygarten. But today she brought along some “survival gear.” For the glaring lights, she wore sunglasses; to muffle the noise, she brought earmuffs; and to enjoy circle time and nap time, she had her own rug. During the day, she took turns between playing and having alone time. At lunch she concentrated on her meal, and at nap time she slept close – but not too close – to Oliver.

While the day “wasn’t purrrrrect,” Clover came home with stories for Mama. She went to school all the next week and found that kittygarten got easier every day, especially with the help of her new friend Oliver. Kittygarten can still be like riding the seesaw, but now there are definitely more ups than downs.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Linda Purdie Salas perfectly captures the emotions and fears of a sensory-sensitive child through Clover’s thoughts, actions, and experiences. Her descriptive language (that also includes kid-favorite puns) and direct vocabulary serve two important purposes. First, they allow children for whom light, sound, touch, and other sensory experiences are intensified to see themselves portrayed with understanding. Second, they give other kids a glimpse into how their sensory-sensitive friends and classmates perceive the world around them. Through Oliver, Salas models the gentle and caring behavior that makes a day easier and inclusive for sensory-sensitive kids.

Salas’s depiction of Clover’s grabbing the juice box, crying during nap time, and tantrum that precipitates her flight from school provide readers with examples of the feeling of a loss of control that many sensory-sensitive or hesitant kids experience in certain situations. Clover’s return to kindergarten with gear that will help her navigate her day, gives all children an opportunity to discuss issues that may bother them as well as how they might help make their classroom or other area a welcoming and pleasant place where everyone can reap the benefits of friendship and learning.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Hiroe Nakata’s watercolor illustrations introduce readers to Clover’s world and how she perceives it through clear visual cues. Upon opening the cover, children are invited into Clover’s bedroom, which is rendered in pastel pinks, yellows, and blues. She is happy to be knitting with just a favorite toy for companionship. When Clover gets to her classroom, however, Nakata uses a brighter color palette and harsh tones of yellow to represent how Cover experiences sunlight and the typical colors found in elementary school classrooms. This first portrayal of Clover’s classroom also portrays tumbling blocks, a struggle between two kids over a toy, a messy art table, and even a bulletin board packed with topsy-turvy numbers.

Clover sits in the center of the room, tightly curled, demonstrating her wish for calm and quiet. Subsequent pages give readers many opportunities to point out things that add to the chaos for someone who is sensory-sensitive. For example, the teacher wears a bell on her tail and kittens rush at her on the playground and in the lunch room, invading her personal space. In contrast, Clover’s room contains strings of pompoms or felt hangings instead of bells or chimes and her clothes are hung neatly in her closet. As Clover returns to school, kids will be interested to point out the glasses, mittens, and other items from home that help.

An important book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections, Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten promotes mindful consideration of the images, sounds, smells, and activities that can become overwhelming not only for sensory-sensitive people but for us all. With a charming protagonist and caring friend, the story will inspire better understanding and kindness that benefits children in the classroom and beyond.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542042468

Discover more about Laura Purdie Salas and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Hiroe Nakata and view a portfolio of her books on the MB Artists website.

Take a look at the Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten book trailer!

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Activity Sheets

You can find six free printable Clover Kitty Activity Sheets that are fun ways to celebrate school, friendship, and learning on Laura Purdie Salas’s website here:

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Activity Sheets

You can order a signed and personalized copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten from Red Balloon Bookshop!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clover-kitty-goes-to-kittygarten-cover

You can find Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review