June 29 – It’s National Oceans Month

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About the Holiday

During National Oceans Month, we celebrate the wondrous diversity of sea life. A majority of the earth’s surface is covered in water and yet we know only a fraction of what the oceans have to show us. With new technology scientists are diving deeper and deeper and discovering some of the most unique creatures in the world. The holiday also gives us an opportunity to pledge our help to preserving the fragile ecosystems that exist in and near the world’s oceans from climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction. To join in on this month’s holiday, visit a beach or aquarium, learn more about the animals and resources of the sea, and consider donating to or volunteering with an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. To learn more about the world’s oceans, including information on ocean health, life, science, and trivia; find education resources, podcasts, videos, and more, visit the National Ocean Service website.

Down Under the Pier

Written by Nell Cross Beckerman | Illustrated by Rachell Sumpter

 

A group of kids are having fun on the pier. They ride the Ferris wheel and the roller coaster and “gobble clouds of cotton candy” as they walk in the sunshine. On the carousel they vie for the one goat to sit on. “Up on the pier,” they tell readers, “we feed the machines, roll Skee-Balls, whack moles, and trade our tickets for toys.” When their money runs out, “is the fun all done?” Not at all. For these kids, it’s just begun.

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Image copyright Rachell Sumpter, 2020, text copyright Nell Cross Beckerman, 2020. Courtesy of Cameron Books.

They pad downstairs and kick off their flip-flops. “Down under the pier, it’s dark and cool. We inhale sea spray and squish slimy sand through toes.” They listen to the waves crash and when the water recedes, they “find creatures clinging. Mussels, barnacles, sea stars, and anemones festoon a forest of pilings.” Gently they touch these creatures, let crabs tickle their palms.

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Image copyright Rachell Sumpter, 2020, text copyright Nell Cross Beckerman, 2020. Courtesy of Cameron Books.

“Sanderlings scamper, their stick legs a blur” as they lead the children in a race down the beach. Here they find long strands of kelp, strong enough for a game of tug-of-war, wild enough to make a seaweed monster costume. Down under the pier they “collect seashell souvenirs” and watch the changing rainbow colors of the setting sun in the quiet twilight away from the blinking lights, clanging bells, and ringing voices on the pier. “Fun is free,” they know, “and the world is ours.”

Through an Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, readers learn that a portion of the proceeds from Under the Pier are donated to Heal the Bay Aquarium, an educational nonprofit located under the Santa Monica Pier, where visitors can see and touch one hundred local sea creatures. An illustrated guide to seven sea creatures found in an intertidal community follows the story.

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Image copyright Rachell Sumpter, 2020, text copyright Nell Cross Beckerman, 2020. Courtesy of Cameron Books.

Lyrical, entrancing, and full of the wonder of childhood, Nell Cross Beckerman’s story will transport readers to a languid summer day where a group of friends spend the afternoon reveling in the rides, games, and treats of the pier and then continue their fun under the pier, where nature provides as many delights as the carnival above. Through her detailed and evocative language, readers can hear the thrill of the crowds, taste the cotton candy, and run with the kids to be the first to claim the goat on the carousel.

But it is when the kids “slip down the stairs” to the sand below that Beckerman’s descriptions truly shine with the deep and lasting impressions of new discovery. The children’s mindful awe of the sea creatures they find when the tide goes out and their creative games played out with relished spontaneity reflect this one trip to the beach but also all moments of free play that this group of friends—and readers—will experience and remember as they grow up.

Rachell Sumpter’s glorious artwork blends realism and that feeling of magic that expands a child’s world. Her gorgeous soft pinks, yellows, greens, and blues, embroidered with lacy white accents, swirl with the kids on the carousel and beckon them downstairs. Here, with the page turn, the colors burst into vibrancy as the sea tickles their toes and sea creatures climb the pilings and blanket the rocks and sand. Frothy waves and pearled outlines create a dazzling backdrop to the children’s fun. As they wrap themselves in nature-made costumes and art, the fiery sun sets on a perfect day.

A mesmerizing escapade children will want to join in on, Down Under the Pier is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections. The book would pair well with lessons on marine science and United States geography, giving it cross-curricular appeal.

Ages 4 – 8

Cameron Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1944903862

Discover more about Nell Cross Beckerman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rachell Sumpter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Oceans Month Activity

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Kinetic Sand

 

Sand is so much fun to play with at the beach that you just wish you could bring it home. Now you can! With this easy recipe you can create your own kinetic sand to form or let run through your fingers. It makes a great anti-stress reliever too!

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack. Or just let it drip and ooze through your fingers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-down-under-the-pier-cover

You can find Under the Pier at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

April 22 – Earth Day and Interview with Author Shana Keller

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About the Holiday

Celebrating 50 years of raising awareness of threats to the environment and spurring global action to combat them, Earth Day is the world’s largest civic-focused event. The initiative began on April 22, 1970, when 20 million Americans (10% of the population) demonstrated against the industrialization, pollution, and pesticides that were damaging people and the environment. In response, in July President Nixon and the US Congress created the Environmental Protections Agency and enacted laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act among others. This year’s theme is Climate Action, and the day will be commemorated with a global digital mobilization encompassing conversations, video teach-ins, special performances, calls to action, and more. To learn how you can participate or access resources in your area, visit the official Earth Day website.

I received a copy of Fly, Firefly! from Sleeping Bear Press for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Fly, Firefly!

Written by Shana Keller | Illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki

 

As the wind curled through the forest on a breezy night, a little firefly was blown out to sea. “WHOOSH! Now he was farther than he meant to be.” Floating on the current, “he saw the sparkles that flashed and glowed.” He dove in search of the twinkling lights, but deep water was not the place for him.

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2020, text copyright Shana Keller, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

A woman and her niece, strolling along the beach, saw him sinking. The woman scooped him up and gently placed him in her niece’s hand. “‘Little firefly,’ Marjie said. / ‘It’s not flies that you see! / That’s bioluminescence swirling / and twirling through the great sea!’” Marjie carried her treasure up the beach to the edge of the woods, where hundreds of glittering friends and family were waiting to welcome him back, and she set him free.

Following the story, Shana Keller includes a discussion about Rachel Carson—scientist and author of Silent Spring and other books whose experience inspired this story­­—and a description of fireflies and bioluminescence.

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2020, text copyright Shana Keller, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Shana Keller’s glowing and lyrical story about one misdirected firefly that sparks an act of compassion and discovery will inspire children to learn more about both fireflies and the bioluminescent sea creatures that attracted him. The fact that the story is based on an actual event in the life of Rachel Carson will also appeal to readers, who may enjoy sharing one of their favorite marvels of summer with this influential environmentalist and author. Told in the first person, the story directly invites children to observe nature around them and lend a hand in protecting it.

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Image copyright Ramona Kaulitzki, 2020, text copyright Shana Keller, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ramona Kaulitzki’s illustrations are as beautiful as a summer sunset. Under the pink and lavender sky, dots of light flit among the bushes and low-standing trees. Children first meet the firefly at the center of the story as he’s tumbling head over tail in the wind toward the rippling ocean. As the firefly mistakenly dives into the waves, kids will empathize with his plight and be cheered when Marjie and her aunt rescue him. Kaulitzki’s gorgeous underwater images highlight the diversity of marine creatures found close to shore as well as those that glitter with bioluminescence. The brilliant glow of the firefly on the dusky pages glimmers like a precious jewel and serves as a beacon of the hope and promise of nature.

A unique book for kids who love nature and to inspire studies of bioluminescence, Fly, Firefly! would be a shining addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110335

Discover more about Shana Keller and her books as well as extensive teacher and homeschool resources and readalouds of her books on her website.

To learn more about Ramona Kaulitzki, her books, and her art and find free coloring pages to download in her shop, visit her website.

Meet Shana Keller

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Shana Keller grew up a middle child in Middle America wondering exactly how clouds stayed in the air. She’s traveled all over the country and some parts of Europe with her family and moved too many times to count. She’s settled in Pittsburgh for now, a city built just for kids and one that she finds secretly inspiring. One of her favorite quotes is from Benjamin Banneker. “Every day is an adventure in learning.” That said, she graduated from the University of Miami, Florida, with a degree in Communications, from UCLA’s screenwriting program, and took a course in songwriting from Berklee College of Music. Her goal is to never stop learning.

I’m excited to talk with Shana today about her books, her inspirations, and her extensive travels. My writing partner Jakki’s sons Steve and Jack also loved Fly, Firefly! and had some questions for Shana.

Steve asked: We like to capture fireflies. Did you capture fireflies as a kid?

I did! My brother and sister and I would compete to see if we could get one of them to land on us.

Jack wondered: Did you watch real fireflies to write your story?

I was so lucky and grateful to live close to where Rachel Carson lived in Pennsylvania while I wrote this story, and to have a pond in our yard. We had frogs, fish, birds, and a good number of fireflies. I watched them every night in the summer when the weather was warm. There was so much wildlife in our backyard! We had chipmunks, groundhogs, wild turkeys, voles, and woodpeckers.

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Our back yard in Pittsburgh. On the bottom right is the pond. Our cat loved to sleep on the picnic table up the small hill. Can you see it behind the little tree? Back there is where the groundhog moseyed around.

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One of the koi fish in our pond surrounded (and protected) by lily pads.

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A groundhog just past the picnic table in our (former) backyard.

CBP Shana Keller Toad Image

A picture of our frog in the same pond as the koi. Lots of critters lived in it and used it for water.

We don’t live in Pittsburgh anymore and I really miss that yard. Sadly, I haven’t seen any fireflies in my new neighborhood in North Carolina.

Jack and Steve said: We’ve brought frogs back to a pond. Have you ever rescued an animal?

Yes! In the traditional sense, our last dog Abby, was a pound puppy. (Though she has passed, I included a photo.) She always stayed up with me while I wrote, no matter how late it was. I still miss her, so it was the neatest surprise for me to see a beagle in the illustrations for Ticktock Banneker’s Clock. Abby was part beagle.

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Abby running in the snow. She always looked like a deer or rabbit the way she bounded and jumped!

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Jazzy standing outside on our deck.

Today, one of our cats is also a rescue. Her name is Jasmine, but we call her Jazzy. And yes, in the literal sense I have rescued a handful of animals! My most memorable one was when I was about ten or eleven years old and I rescued a squirrel from my aunt’s swimming pool.

The little squirrel had tried to jump from one tall tree to the next and missed. He fell into their round pool. The water was too low, and the ledge was too high for him to climb out. I didn’t want him to drown, so I looked around the yard and grabbed a tree branch to see if he would climb onto it. He didn’t. Then, I ran into the shed and grabbed the biggest (which was also the heaviest) shovel I could find. The squirrel swam away from me even faster than before! I chased after him wielding the long shovel and tried not to rip the lining of the pool. Round and round we went until he finally slowed down long enough, I was able to scoop him out.

I’ve also stopped to scoot turtles along if I see them in the middle of the street. This one (photos are of the same turtle) was the littlest and also brightest green turtle I have ever seen in nature.  

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A little turtle crossing the street.

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A picture of the same little green turtle after I moved him. It looked like he was headed toward a pond. I helped him cross the street so he could get there.

Hi, Shana! What fantastic stories about your love of nature and your pets! Thanks so much for sharing all of these beautiful pictures with us. I can see that nature has really been a life-long inspiration. What sparked your idea to write this particular story?

A few years ago, I read a letter Rachel Carson wrote to her friend Dorothy Freeman in a book called Always, Rachel. In her letter, Rachel and her niece, Marjorie (nicknamed Marjie), came across a firefly while at her summer home in Southport, Maine. Around midnight, Rachel and Marjie headed down to the shore to secure Marjie’s son’s raft.

On the shore, they turned their flashlights off and saw a sea filled with “diamonds and emeralds.” The sparkling was bioluminescence, a (likely) form of marine plankton called Dinoflagellates. Rachel joked with her niece how one gem “took to the air!” Of course, it was a firefly! Well, further in the letter, Rachel tells her friend that she had already thought of a children’s story based on her experience. That sentence is what sparked the idea! 

What kind of research did you do in writing Fly, Firefly! and the back matter about bioluminescence that follows the story? What was the most surprising thing you learned about fireflies?

With this story, I headed to the library first to learn as much about the area Rachel was located in (Maine), and the insects and bioluminescence there. Once I sorted through all of my facts, I reached out to an entomologist here in North Carolina, the director of the Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale, Pennsylvania, and a marine biologist who studied at the very same Marine Biology Lab Rachel did.

I also read Rachel’s books to get a sense of her voice and style. It filters through in her letters, but her books definitely have a poetic aura about them.

The most inspiring thing I learned was the importance and prominence bugs have in our world. We take them for granted. We call many of them pests. But the truth is, they are an important part of our ecological system. As I discovered with fireflies, when you have them, it is a good indication that your ecosystem is in great health.

What inspired you to write Fly, Firefly! in verse?

While I was researching, I discovered Rachel Carson had a love of poetry. Though this is not pertaining (that I know of) to the children’s story she discusses; in another letter written to her, she was quoted by her friend Dorothy (regarding Rachel’s poetic aims), as having said, “I just want it to be simple and clean and strong and sharp as a sword—for it has work to do!”

I did my best to honor her vision in that way, so I kept it lyrical, simple, and clean!

In your bio, you describe how you’ve traveled and lived all over the country and in parts of Europe. What took you to all of these places? Can you name a favorite place in the US? In Europe? Why are those places special to you?

People always assume I was a military brat when I’m asked about the places I’ve lived. Family and school took me/us to Oklahoma (my birth state), Kansas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas. Adventure and jobs took me/us to Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, Germany, & North Carolina.

My mom simply said she had wanderlust and gypsy blood. I definitely got my love of travel from her. Although now, with my kids in school we have settled down. At least until they graduate. J

My absolute favorite place in the United States is Big Bend national park. My mom and I camped there the year before I left for college. It’s right on the border of Texas and Mexico in a NO-FLY zone which means zero light pollution. Seeing the vast Milky Way at night is something I will carry with me forever. I wish every kid could see the sky that I saw.

My favorite place in Europe was in Berlin. It was the bombed Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church left as it was after the war and converted into a museum. When I first saw this monument of destruction but also of hope, it impacted me in a strong way. My photo from over ten years ago is on the left and does not do it justice. The photo on the right is what it originally looked like. It is definitely worth a Google search to see more pictures of it and compare the before and after.

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My photo of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Notice the top tower is broken.

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An online photo of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. See how big it was before the bombing?

You’ve also recently released Bread for Words: A Frederick Douglass Story from Sleeping Bear Press that relates how Douglass, born into slavery, taught himself to read and write despite overwhelming challenges. Your powerful telling of this story is written in first person. Why was writing Douglass’s story in first person important to you?

I was first introduced to Douglass’s autobiographies in college. I thought this was way too long of a wait to learn about someone who was the most photographed person in 19th century America and considered one of the greatest orators in our nation.

Frederick struggled for years in a hostile environment while he learned to read and write. To honor his accomplishment, one he was clearly proud of, I wanted to present this story in the same format he had and give children direct access to his own words.

 

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Can you describe a little about your process in writing Bread for Words?

I read Douglass’s autobiographies of course, but I also studied his speeches. I was able to take a trip to Baltimore and meet with Urban Ranger and docent, Bradley Alston thanks to the folks at Baltimore National Heritage Area. His insight and knowledge not just of Frederick Douglass but of the Baltimore Douglass grew up in was incredible. Touring the Frederick Douglass–Isaac Myers Maritime Park and museum (a place I highly recommend) with Bradley Alston rounded out my research. I’ve included a few photos from that trip!

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A recreation of Frederick Douglass arriving in Baltimore. (Photo taken at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum.)

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A recreation of the letters Frederick Douglass saw carved into the wood. (Photo taken at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum.)

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This is me learning what it was like to caulk a ship, a job Douglass had. They took long rope, dipped it into tar and used the hammer and tool to wedge it in for a watertight seal. (Photo taken by Bradley at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum.)

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What Baltimore Harbor looks like today.

Did you always want to write for children? How did you get started?

I didn’t expect to, not at first. I always thought I would write screenplays. I got started when my oldest daughter came home with a small paragraph from school about a man named Benjamin Banneker. It was during Black History Month, and I was amazed that I had never heard of this scientist and astronomer. Curious, I began to research him. When I discovered he built a strike clock using only a pocket watch and a pocketknife, that was the story I shared with my daughter, and that’s when the idea to put it in picture book format took place. I haven’t stopped writing picture books since.

You’re really enthusiastic about connecting with readers. What’s your favorite part of book events and meeting kids? Do you have an anecdote from any event you’d like to share?

Yes! In fact, before all the quarantines, I had such a special moment with a group of fourth graders on the day I shared Bread for Words with them. A student referred to the picture that’s on the back of the cover and said, “See how Frederick wants to be with his friend?” The kids interpreted that image as Frederick waiting for his friend to finish with his tutoring so that they could play and hunt and eat together. But also waiting, so that his friend could teach him.

It seems so obvious now that they mentioned it, but my original interpretation was one of exclusion, not simply waiting. To them, all Fred had to do (which Fred actually did) was ask his friend for help. One of the 4th grade boys even said, “I’m glad he had a friend that could help him.” I agreed and said, “It’s amazing how all the kid’s helped each other, isn’t it?!” And there was the real ‘lesson’ which another student pointed out and said, “We have to help each other if we can.” That kind of interaction is my favorite part about school and library visits!

It does make me wonder how other students will interpret this image.

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Bread for Words – back cover. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

What’s up next for you?

Hopefully more picture books! I’m working on a WWI story, as well as a picture book that highlights the effects of light pollution on migratory birds. I also just finished a very cool Coast Guard story that I can’t wait to share with my editor.

Thank you, so much, Shana for this wonderful talk and your generous pictures! I wish you all the best with all of your books and am really looking forward to reading them as I’m sure kids are too!

You can connect with Shana Keller on

Her website | Twitter | Instagram

Earth Day Activity

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Firefly Flight Maze

 

This little firefly wants to join her friends in the forest. Can you help her through the maze to find them in this printable maze?

Firefly Flight Maze Puzzle| Firefly Flight Mage Solution

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You can find Fly, Firefly! at these booksellers

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

June 12 – It’s National Oceans Month

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About the Holiday

During National Oceans Month, we celebrate the wondrous diversity of sea life. A majority of the earth’s surface is covered in water and yet we know only a fraction of what the oceans have to show us. With new technology scientists are diving deeper and deeper and discovering some of the most unique creatures in the world. The holiday also gives us an opportunity to pledge our help to preserving the fragile ecosystems that exist in and near the world’s oceans from climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction. To join in on this month’s holiday, visit a beach or aquarium, learn more about the animals and resources of the sea, and consider donating to or volunteering with an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans.

Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore

Written by Susan Wood | Illustrated by Steliyana Doneva

 

A day at the beach includes a bit of animal tracking as a brother and sister and their puppy romp and play as ocean creatures go about their day. Near the ocean’s edge, they find “wading feet, / sandpiper hops, / water curls and sprays. / Crawling feet, / click-clack crab scuttles on its way.”

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2019, text copyright Susan Wood, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Seagulls and pelicans looking for a snack leave webbed prints on the sandy shore while underwater “wriggling feet, / on five orange legs, sea star makes its way.” A turtle on her way to dig her nest mingles her distinctive track with familiar five-toed footprints that run back and forth from the water to a tall sand castle. But the most surprising feet are “buried feet, / children laugh, / Daddy’s toes poke through.” At last, as the sun sets, tired feet head home.

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2019, text copyright Susan Wood, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Back matter includes a short discussion about ecology and prompts children to become “ecology detectives” at home, observing the tracks of creatures who live nearby, or on a hike to the forest, beach, or park. Photographs and descriptions of the sea creatures mentioned in the text teaches children more about these animals and how they move.

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2019, text copyright Susan Wood, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Susan Wood’s short, dynamic rhyming verses are a perfect way to entice young scientists to keep their eyes on the ground and observe tracks that can tell them about the creatures that traverse their backyard, playground, beach, park, or woods. Wood’s evocative vocabulary mirrors the action of the ocean as it “curls and sprays” and the animals who hop, scuttle, and wriggle to find food and shelter. Readers will also enjoy following the family who has come to spend the day at the beach with their lively dog in tow.

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Steliyana Doneva takes kids to the seashore in her lovely illustrations in which the aqua sea froths and bubbles, inviting swimmers, and the peach-hued sand preserves footprints, turtle eggs, and a growing sand castle—all overseen by a stalwart lighthouse. Kids get an up-close look at sandpipers, crabs, seagulls, pelicans, sea stars, barnacles, a turtle, and other fish as well as ocean and dune grasses. At the end of the day as the family heads home, Doneva’s beautiful sunset offers a perfect moment of quiet cuddle time during which readers can happily match the footprints on the final spread to the animals they’ve learned about in the story.

A terrific take-along for trips to the beach or a primer for outdoor jaunts, Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? makes for a fun and educational addition to home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-158536409

Discover more about Susan Wood and her books on her website.

National Oceans Month Activity

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Personalized Painted Pail

 

A trip to the beach isn’t complete without a pail! It’s perfect for collecting shells, seaweed and sea glass or to use when making a sand castle. But why should all the cool stuff be on the inside? With this craft you can decorate your pail to show your unique personality!

Supplies

  • Plastic or metal pail
  • Craft paint in various colors
  • Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating, for multi-surface use
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint designs on the pail
  2. When paint is dry spray with acrylic coating to set paint
  3. Let dry

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sandy-feet-whose-feet-cover

You can find Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 9 – It’s National Inventors Month

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the creative minds who devise new products, better ways of performing tasks, faster methods of communication, and all kinds of innovative ways to interact with our world. Established in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine, this month’s holiday encourages people to embrace their creativity and go that extra step toward producing their invention. If you’re a tinkerer, who knows—your product or service could make the world a better place!

Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe

Written by Katey Howes | Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti

 

Every Friday, Magnolia Mudd’s favorite adult—her uncle Jamie—visited and spent time inventing with her. He always encouraged Magnolia to think big. One day, Magnolia and Uncle Jamie created their “greatest invention—the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe,” which ran on Mudd Power. Later, after just one experimental launching, Magnolia discovered that she had to build it all over again. When she called her uncle and told him they’d have to repair it next Friday, though, he said she would have to wait. Instead, he was bringing Miss Emily over because they “had ‘something to talk about.’”

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Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Magnolia didn’t want her time with Uncle Jamie taken up by Miss Emily. As far as Magnolia was concerned Uncle Jamie and Miss Emily had nothing in common, so on Friday when they told her they were getting married, Magnolia was surprised. When Miss Emily asked Magnolia to be their flower girl and showed her the fancy dress she’d wear, Magnolia thought, “no way!” Later, Uncle Jamie said maybe they could find a different way for her to be involved in the wedding.

Magnolia researched all the different things she could do, and experimented with some of them. She read that in India women decorate their hands with henna tattoos. She devised a henna tattoo-painting machine, but it went a little haywire. In Sweden, she learned, guests scared off trolls by bringing bouquets of stink weed. Magnolia built a troll trap, but only caught herself. And in a German tradition, guests throw plates at the couple’s door for good luck, but when Magnolia retooled her “Fantastic Frisbee Flinger,” she only caused a mess of broken pottery.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-magnolia-mudd-and-the-super-jumptastic-launcher-deluxe-friday

Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Magnolia resigned herself to being “doomed to ruffles and roses.” She was just wishing she could launch the rose petals instead of scattering them when she had an idea. She showed Miss Emily her brainstorm for a bouquet-launcher that worked on Mudd Power. Miss Emily loved it. Together they began to invent. On the day of the wedding, they revealed their “new-and-improved Dual-Directional Super-Jumptastic Flower Launcher Deluxe (with Confetti Blaster),” and as Magnolia and Miss Emily jumped on the launch pad together, Magnolia realized that with Aunt Emily in the family, there was “way more Mudd Power” for inventing.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-magnolia-mudd-and-the-super-jumptastic-launcher-deluxe-miss-emily

Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Katey Howes’ humorous and clever story is as dual-purpose as Magnolia’s super launcher deluxe. Young readers will love seeing Magnolia’s gizmos that fire rockets, squirt paint, capture trolls, fling plates, and toss the bouquet (maybe a little too far!) while learning about some wedding traditions around the world. The heart of Howes’ story, however, lies in the ideas of family, relationships, communication, and acceptance. Readers will understand that Magnolia’s initial dislike of Miss Emily has more to do with her fear of a changing relationship with Uncle Jamie than with Emily’s dangly earrings or preference for sushi over pizza.

When Magnolia balks at being a flower girl, the adults allow her to be herself and work with her to find a job that makes everyone happy. As Magnolia gets to know Emily better, she takes a chance in suggesting a bouquet launcher and is rewarded when Emily (literally) jumps in with both feet (the fact that Miss Emily works at an art gallery hints at her ability to think creatively too). The final image of Magnolia, Uncle Jamie, and Aunt Emily hard at work in their lab reminds kids of the adage, “the more, the merrier”—or in this case, “the more Mudd power, the merrier.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-magnolia-mudd-and-the-super-jumptastic-launcher-deluxe-thinking

Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Valerio Fabbretti’s bright, cartoon-style artwork is ideally suited to bring out the humor and emotions in Howes’ action-packed story. Magnolia’s and Uncle Jamie’s love of science is on display in both Jamie’s office and Magnolia’s room, where diagrams, chemical equations, test tubes and beakers, and retrofitted home appliances create an eclectic décor. Kids will laugh as Magnolia’s inventions go awry, and cheer when Magnolia and Miss Emily discover the perfect wedding job for Magnolia and complete it together. 

An entertaining and endearing story, Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe is an inventive book to launch fun story times as well as discussions on individuality, inclusion, change, and family.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454921745

Discover more about Katey Howes and her books on her website.

To learn more about Valerio Fabbretti, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Inventors Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sparkle-test-tubes-II

Sparkle Test Tubes

 

Kids love inventing and experimenting, and these sparkle test tubes give children a fun way to be creative while making a cool way to relax and on those hectic days.

Supplies

  • Plastic test tubes with tight-fitting screw cap, available at craft or science supply stores. Having two or three will allow for more experimentation
  • Glitter glue
  • Hot water
  • Fine glitter
  • Chunky glitter
  • Small glass beads (optional)
  • Neon food coloring (optional)
  • Test tube stand (optional)
  • Whisk
  • Mixing bowl
  • Teaspoon

Directions

  1. Fill a test tube 1/3 full of hot water and pour the water into the mixing bowl
  2. Add 1 – 2 teaspoons of glitter glue (the more glitter glue that is added the thicker the liquid will be and the more the objects will be suspended in the liquid. To allow the objects to flow more freely when the test tube is shaken, add less glue
  3. Whisk the water and glitter glue together
  4. Add chunky glitter, glass beads, or try other small objects
  5. Pour into test tube
  6. Add more water to within a ½ – 1 inch of the top to allow for shaking
  7. Experiment with amount of glitter glue, glitter, and colors

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You can find Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe at these booksellers

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

 

 

Picture book review

 

 

April 1 – Reading is Funny Day

celebrate-picturebooks-picture-book-review-narwhal's-otter-friend-coverAbout the Holiday

Nothing’s better than hearing the giggles and guffaws of a child reading a funny book! And thanks to today’s holiday, that sound can echo through homes, classrooms, libraries, and other places all day long. It’s easy to celebrate too. Just head out to your library or local bookstore and find some funny books to share. You can even raid your own bookshelves for some old favorites. Or do a bit of both and enjoy the newest in a much-loved series—like today’s book.

Narwhal’s Otter Friend (A Narwhal and Jelly Book)

By Ben Clanton

 

Narwhal and Jelly are back with new adventures in this fourth book of Ben Clanton’s beloved series. As the action begins, Narwhal and Jelly are swimming along when they meet Otty, an otter who’s excited to recognize Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea. Otty is no ordinary otter. It turns out she has “partied with penguins…and surfed with seals.” Otty “even met a mermaid once.” And one day she played with all three together.

Well, Narwhal thinks these escapes sound “Fantastic!” “Tubular!” and “Mer-aculous!” Jelly, though, is more skeptical, so when Narwhal suggests having an adventure with Otty, he’s shocked. Especially when the list of gear they’re going to bring along includes waffles.

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Copyright Ben Clanton, 2019, courtesy of Tundra Books.

The action takes a break for some “Otterly Aww-some Facts” about this favorite sea and river cutie, and Jelly sneaks in some pretty cool facts about jellyfish as well. During the break, Jelly’s feelings have turned into a black cloud of jealousy. He determines that he will also find a new friend and invites Turtle to eat waffles with him. Turtle is already committed to her friend Shelly’s “Birthday Shellebration,” though, so Jelly keeps looking. Shark and Octopus have plans to play ball, and Mr. Blowfish is too busy talking on his “shell phone” to speak to Jelly.

Jelly’s beginning to despair of ever finding a new friend when he spots Crab grumping on the bottom of the ocean. Jelly floats down there and tries to cheer Crab up with a joke, but his response is: “Scram, Smelly.” Jelly tells him that even the rock lying nearby would make a better friend, and that’s when he has an idea. Jelly decides that Rocky is going to be “one rock-solid friend.”

What’s a Narwhal and Jelly book without the adventures of Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick? Fortunately, you don’t have to find out as Jelly and Rocky come up with a new episode: Strawberry Sidekick vs. The dEVILed EGG. Just as they’re finishing this egg-citing story, Narwhal and Otter swim up. Seems they’ve been looking all over for Jelly. When they hear about all the fun Jelly and Rocky have been having, they greet Rocky enthusiastically, and Otty thinks he’s “one rocking rock!” Jelly asks them what they’ve been doing.

Narwhal and Otty reveal their plans to take an adventure into space and have a party on the moon. Afterward, they’re going to “surf down a rainbow,” and then probably do something with waffles. Jelly would love to do all of those things. But Narwhal tells him there’s something important missing before they can begin. Can you guess what that is?

celebrate-picturebooks-picture-book-review-narwhal's-otter-friend-otter-facts

Copyright Ben Clanton, 2019, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Narwhal’s Otter Friend is the book that fans of this ocean duo knew they needed. Full of emotion, suspense, adorableness, puns, and—of course—waffles, the fourth Narwhal and Jelly book introduces readers to the sweetest otter in the ocean. Kids will love her spunk and imagination while also understanding Jelly’s bout of jealousy. And although they may wonder if maaaybee Narwhal has found a better friend, they know deep in their heart that these two stick together through everything and that the ocean is big enough for three…four…and even more friends.

Ages 6 – 9

Tundra Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-0735262485

To learn more about Ben Clanton, his books, and his art and to find awesome printable activities visit his website.

Reading Is Funny Day Activity

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Comical Card Games

 

Not only is it Reading is Funny Day but it’s April Fools Day too! Here are some funny printable reading and joke-based card games for you to enjoy with your friends or family! They’re courtesy of the American Library Association, and you can find more fun activities to download on their website!

Cut the cards apart, shuffle them, and lay them in rows face side down to play a memory game. Just start with one and try to find its funny mate. If the cards don’t match put them back and try again until you’ve paired up all the questions with their answers.

Talking Turnip Playing Cards | Loony Library Playing Cards

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You can find Narwhal’s Otter Friend at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

March 3 – World Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

In December of 2013 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 3rd as World Wildlife Day to promote awareness of our environment and the dangers to it. Every year a different theme is chosen to spotlight an area of the world, a particular species, or a group of activists. This year’s theme is “life below water for people and planet” and focuses on marine species, the importance of marine wildlife, and the issues affecting the health and survival of the ocean and ocean creatures. The day also celebrates successful conservation and sustainability initiatives. To learn more about the day, special events, and how you and your kids can get involved today and throughout the year, visit the World Wildlife Day website.

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Angela Dominguez | Translated by Adriana Dominguez

 

On the day when baby Valentina joined Mamá, Papá, and eleven brothers and sisters, even the sea lions, blue-footed boobies, and iguanas seemed to welcome her to the “island formed by fire.” Valentina loved growing up on the Galápagos Island of Floreana. She explored the lava rocks, where Sally Lightfoot crabs scuttled back and forth. She swam with dolphins and manta rays, and even played with penguins.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

“Valentina watched pink flamingoes wading near mangroves. Blue butterflies fluttering on the breeze. Red-and-green iguanas sneezing salt like tiny geysers.” The crashing waves, albatross, and finches created a symphony as Valentina stopped to rest on a grassy cliff overlooking the ocean. The lava lizards, blue-footed boobies, and twirling sea lions provided young Valentina with a variety of dance partners.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Galápagos-Girl-iguana

Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

At home, Valentina’s family shared their home with two giant tortoises—Carlitos and Isabella. One day Papá told Valentina their story as they fed the tortoises plums that had fallen from their backyard trees. Papá had gotten Carlitos and Isabella from a friend when he first moved to Floreana. Although it was nearly impossible to imagine now that the tortoises were grown, at the time they were so small that they fit into Papá’s pockets.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Galápagos-Girl-tortoises

Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

There was also a sad note to Papá’s story. He said that while giant tortoises still lived on other Galápagos islands, pirates and whalers had wiped out the population on Floreana. Papá went on to tell Valentina that many Galápagos animals were in danger. They were “threatened by other animals that don’t belong here. Threatened by people who don’t understand how to care for our islands.” Valentina promised that she would always protect them.

When she was older, Valentina left the island to go to school. She didn’t want to leave her beautiful home, but Mamá told her that she was “ready to learn about the world beyond.” And Papá reminded her that “like our islands, you have a heart full of fire.” On school vacations, Valentina always came back to study the wildlife on the Galápagos islands. She had not forgotten her promise to keep them safe.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

After she graduated with a degree in biology, Valentina returned to the islands as a nature guide to teach visitors about the beauty and uniqueness of the Galápagos. Some visitors were even lucky enough to meet Carlitos and Isabella when the plums dropped from the trees and the two old tortoises returned from exploring Floreana to eat them. Because of Valentina’s commitment to the Galápagos, her visitors also made a promise to always remember and protect them.

Extensive backmatter includes an Author’s Note about Valentina Cruz, the tortoises Carlitos and Isabella, and the history of tortoises on Floreana. There is also information on the Galápagos as well as fun facts about all of the animals in the story. A bibliography of sources invites readers to learn more.

Each two-page spread presents the text in English and translated into Spanish by Adriana Dominguez.

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Image copyright Angela Dominguez, 2018, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2018. Courtesy of Lee & Low Books.

Marsha Diane Arnold’s lyrical and buoyant passages sing with the carefree joy Valentina felt as a girl exploring her beloved Galápagos and which brought her back home as a biologist to protect them. After seeing Valentina playing and swimming with the native animals and feeding Carlitos and Isabella, readers will also feel Valentina’s sadness at the dangers they face and want to make a positive difference to the environment and the world around them. Arnold’s dialogue-rich storytelling highlights the personal nature of the subject and will draw children into Valentina’s world.celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Galápagos-Girl-blue-footed-booby

Saturated with glorious color, each of Angela Dominguez’s illustrations is a celebration of the splendor of the Galápagos. Playful sea lions, high-stepping blue-footed boobies, scampering crabs, and even a sneezing iguana will captivate young readers and inspire them to learn more about these creatures and the islands. Images of Valentina camping out to study the animals during school breaks will excite environmentally conscious kids, and pictures of Carlitos and Isabella happily munching on plums will generate smiles and “awwws.”

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña will excite kids to learn more not only about the Galápagos region but about their own local environment, and the call to action will spark an enthusiasm for protecting the earth’s animals. The book would make an inspiring addition to home bookshelves and an excellent way to begin classroom discussions on environmental issues and science lessons. The engaging Spanish translation will delight Spanish-speaking and bilingual families.

Ages 4 – 8

Lee & Low Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0892394135

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website.

Read an interview with Marsha Diane Arnold here.

To learn more about Angela Dominguez, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Wildlife Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animals-of-the-galapagos-match-up-puzzle

Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle

 

There are so many fascinating animals that live in the Galápagos! Can you match the picture of each animal to its description in this printable Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle? You can find and download the activity sheet from the Lee & Low Books website:

Animals of the Galápagos Match Up Puzzle

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You can find Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

January 11 – Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day

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About the Holiday

Melting snow or winter rains can cause plenty of opportunities to take part in today’s holiday! Jumping in puddles isn’t just for kids, either. Come on! You know you want to! So pull on those boots, find a puddle, and…jump!

Puddle

By Hyewon Yum

 

A little boy stands in the middle of the room with his arms folded firmly in front of him. “I hate rainy days!” he says. He flops onto a chair—half on, half off—and bemoans the weather. He “can’t go to the playground,” “can’t play soccer,” can’t ride his bike. His mom invites her grumpy boy to draw with her, but he’s so grumpy that he tells her he’s “never going to draw!” That’s okay, Mom says. She can draw without him.

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Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In a moment Mom sings out, “Ta-da! It’s an umbrella.” Intrigued just a little, the boy comes over to the desk and takes a peek. He recognizes his own blue umbrella. The little boy thinks something is missing, though, and asks if his mom can draw him holding it. Mom obliges and draws a yellow-slickered little boy holding the blue umbrella over his head.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-drawing

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

But there’s still something missing. The boy doesn’t want to stand there all alone. Where’s his mom? Where’s Billy? The boy’s mom isn’t so sure she can draw a dog, but Billy comes out just fine with a feathery tail and shaggy ears. Mom looks very stylish in her checkered raincoat and boots too. There’s just one problem—there’s no rain.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-dialoge

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The little boy picks up the crayon and draws blue slanting lines all around. “I’m really good at this,” he says. More and more rain fills the page, and Mom and her son hold their umbrellas in front of them as they trudge on. Pretty soon, Mom points to something in the path ahead. “It’s a puddle!” the boy exclaims. Before Mom can stop him, he’s ditched the umbrella and is running for the puddle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-what's-that

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

With one leap, he’s in the middle of it, stomping and splashing. Waves of water splatter everywhere, spraying Mom and Billy. “I told you not to go in there,” Mom says. “Now you’re all wet and I am too.” But her son reassures her that it’s okay; after all, it’s just a picture. Billy wants in on the fun and jumps in, bounding and shaking and showering water everywhere. Now it’s the little boy’s turn to be perturbed. “It’s just a picture,” his mom reminds him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-blue-umbrella

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The drawing makes the boy want to have some real fun. “Why not?” agrees his mom. So they put on their raincoats and rain boots and grab their umbrellas and head out. Even Billy has his own orange cape. What do they see on the sidewalk not far ahead? A puddle—with room for all!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-splashing

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Hyewon Yum’s clever story-within-a-story intrigues on many levels. With ingenuity, the mom pulls her son out of his gray-weather funk by offering an understated yet creative lure that can’t fail to reel him in. Once invested in the drawing, the boy sees the possibilities for real play and turns the once “nothing to do” day into an afternoon of fun. The dialog between mother and son that carries the story is natural and honest, propelling the plot from drawing to outside exploration.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-chair

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Yum’s engaging illustrations likewise hook readers as the more realistic images of the mom and son, living room, desk with drawing pad, and even the artist’s hand disappear from the pages as rain pelts the sketched mom, boy and Billy. Children will become so fully engrossed in the made-up story that it seems as if the trio are already out in the rain. When life then imitates art, readers will be wishing for their own puddles to jump in.

Puddle proves that the power of art and storytelling can change perceptions, create new realities, and make for a whole lot of fun! The book would be a terrific addition to home bookshelves and classrooms for story times, creative moments, and—of course—rainy days.

Ages 4 – 7

Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2017 | ISBN  978-0374316952

Discover more about Hyewon Yum, her books, and her art on her website.

Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-umbrella-matching-puzzle

Rainy Day Mix Up

 

These matching umbrellas and raincoats have gotten mixed up. Can you pair them up again to have fun in the rain in this printable Rainy Day Mix Up Puzzle? How will you match them?

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You can find Puddle at these booksellers 

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

Picture Book Review