March 14 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Just a Worm

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Just a Worm

By Marie Boyd

Worm is inching along on a beautiful summer day singing a happy little ditty: “La la la la… Slop, slip, wiggle. / I’m taking a little twirl. / Dop, dip, squiggle. / I’m off to see the world.” And so he was! But on his way he passed two kids who just didn’t see worm the way he saw himself and made him wonder…. Worm bolstered his self-confidence, telling himself that there were a lot of things he could do. 

Just then he wiggled up to a row of brilliant purple flowers, where caterpillars, a chrysalis, and a butterfly were hanging out. Just out of curiosity, worm asked one of the caterpillars what she could do, and—Wow!—when he learned about making a chrysalis and metamorphosis, and becoming a butterfly, he was impressed. And maybe a bit intimidated.

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Copyright Marie Boyd, 2023, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Butterfly also seemed to have multiple talents as did Spider and Dragonfly, who informed worm that he’d never be able to fly because he was “‘just a worm.'” Worm seemed resigned to his fate when he came upon ladybug and asked what she could do. Ladybug said, “‘I protect plants by eating insects, like aphids.'” This reminded worm that he did have a talent. “‘I eat dead animals and plants and keep the garden clean,'” he said with growing confidence.

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Copyright Marie Boyd, 2023, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

By the time worm meets bee, he’s ready to advocate for his own contribution to the garden. Then when snail crawls by and tells worm about the slime that protects him, worm realizes he’s found a friend he can relate to because worm makes slime too! Snail thinks that’s pretty cool, and worm agrees! In fact, worm understands that he can do a lot of things and that many of them benefit the garden. He even lists them all for snail, and as he looks around at the beautiful flowers and luscious berries, he takes some credit for growing “all of this” and proudly states “I’m a WORM!”

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Copyright Marie Boyd, 2023, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Marie Boyd’s clever story combines salient information about a variety of insects with worm’s confidence-boosting journey from feeling inferior to the other garden dwellers to realizing his own role and importance in the plants’ growth and vibrancy. From page to page, readers can sense worm’s developing appreciation for his talents, and when he shakes off his misgivings and gives ladybug a small list of his accomplishments, kids will be right there to cheer him on. Readers may be surprised to discover just how much worms do contribute to a healthy garden ecosystem even as they come to understand that there is no such thing as “just a worm” in nature. Worm’s personal growth will also resonate with children, who are trying out new things and beginning to find their place in the world. 

Boyd’s beautiful and original illustrations, created with intricate paper quilling are wonderfully detailed, textured, and expressive of the uniqueness and interconnectivity of nature. She also weaves in metaphorical clouds, which at worm’s lowest point, turn grey and black as they build overhead. But with his newfound confidence, they dissipate to be replaced with white, fluffy clouds that also blow away to reveal a clear, blue sky.

A multilayered story that delivers two important life lessons in a unique and charming way, Just a Worm will become a quick favorite for home, school, and public library story times. The book would be especially fun to pair with home gardening or planting activities for classrooms, libraries, and extracurricular organizations.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, 2023 | ISBN 978-0063212565

About Marie Boyd

Marie Boyd is a law professor, author, illustrator, and self-taught quilling artist. Her author and illustrator debut, Just a Worm (Greenwillow Books 2023), follows worm through the garden as he learns about his neighbors and how he helps keep the garden healthy. Originally from Salt Lake City, Marie lives in Columbia, South Carolina with her husband and two young children. You can find her at marieboyd.com and on Instagram.

Just a Worm Book Birthday Activity

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Make a Quilled Snail

Author/illustrator Marie Boyd built worm’s gorgeous garden world with quilled paper, and now you can make worm’s friend snail for yourself with this tutorial on her website!

Quilled Snail Craft

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You can find Just a Worm at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 3 – Book Tour Launch for Love Made Me More

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I’d like to thank Two Lions and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Love Made Me More for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Love Made Me More

Written by Colleen Rowan Kosinski | Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

 

An origami crane reveals how it came to be after its origins as “just a piece of paper—orange with white and blue spots” and the day when “a boy folds me many times, giving me a head, tail, and wings” under the watchful eye of his grandmother. The crane becomes an instant favorite, and for the crane, the boy is “My Boy.” The young child places the crane on his nightstand, so that he sees it right before going to sleep and again as soon as he wakes up.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2022, text copyright Colleen Rowan Kosinski, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Over the years, the origami crane shares in his play, his dreams, and his wishes and it comforts him in his grief of losing a loved one and when shadows scare him. But as the boy grows older, finds new friends and interests, and becomes braver, he talks less and less to the origami crane. And while the crane still sits on his nightstand, the paper has grown dusty.

Then “one day,” the origami crane says,”My Boy places a photograph in front of me. I peek around and see a picture of a girl with an orange, white, and blue shirt. My colors. I fume.” The crane is jealous that “now she is the last thing he sees” at night and the first in the morning. But more years pass, and a day comes when the boy reaches for the origami crane once more. The crane is hopeful that they will play together again as in the past, but instead the boy unfolds it and “scrawls tickling words” on the paper before refolding it.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2022, text copyright Colleen Rowan Kosinski, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The origami crane has not been forgotten during all of these years. In fact, the crane’s stature has only grown, now offered to the girl with a love-affirming question hidden inside. “‘Yes, I will marry you,’ she says.” The crane embraces her as “My Girl too” as the boy refolds it. Soon, the origami crane finds itself in the center of a flock floating above a crib where a baby, wrapped in an orange, white, and blue blanket sleeps. “My colors,” the crane thinks happily.

The crane is proud that his flock is “the last thing Our Baby sees each night and the first thing he sees each morning” and that “he loves us.” As the baby grows into boyhood and learns how to make an origami crane himself—with his father’s crane close by—the origami crane realizes that what has made it so much more than “just a piece of paper” is all the love it has been shown and has been a part of.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2022, text copyright Colleen Rowan Kosinski, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Colleen Rowan Kosinski’s unique story, told from the perspective of an origami crane that has been molded by a boy from a simple piece of paper to become a beloved keepsake, reveals the endurance and transformative power of love. Infused with feelings of belonging and purpose, the story flows through the changes a lifetime brings not only for the boy but for the origami crane. Just as the boy finds friends, meets a girlfriend, gets married, and has a baby, the crane slowly learns to integrate other people and, finally, a flock of origami cranes into its sphere, changes often told with honest emotions and a sense of the years passing by.

When the boy proposes to the girl with the help of the crane and it now accepts his fiancé as “My Girl too,” the crane seems to gain a sense of new life and autonomy when the boy refolds the paper. Instead of defining itself as “his Origami Crane” it now asserts itself as “Origami Crane.” The idea of the importance of being seen, embraced, and given love over an entire lifetime is woven throughout the story and becomes the central theme as the crane realizes that the baby loves it too. Readers take away the knowledge that it is love freely given—and accepted—that makes all the difference in a person’s self-esteem and the way their life evolves.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2022, courtesy of Two Lions.

Sonja Sánchez’s vibrant and lively illustrations glow with the magic and comfort that the origami crane brings to the boy’s life as a child. Using angled images, strong lines that suggest the creasing that defines the origami crane, and warm earth tones, Sánchez centers her illustrations on the crane. Pages full of movement and color paint a picture of the boy’s childhood spent playing, wishing, and dreaming with the crane always by his side give way to a spread shrouded in brown, where the boy and his friends appear only as silhouettes and the orange crane, pushed to the side of the desk and dwarfed by the boy’s new interests in a computer, guitar, and other objects, is the only bright spot in the brown and darkened room.

Time passes and within two page turns, the boy, grown into a young man, once again has the crane in hand. Its former glow of magic is back as the boy unfolds, writes on, and refolds the paper. A baby comes along and, like his father, sails into imagination and play with the crane, finally learning how to fold his own crane as he grows into boyhood.

Love Made Me More is a singular story to share with children to reaffirm their special bond with a favorite toy or memento, but more: to remind and reassure them of the power of enduring love, expressed in so many ways, to transform people, experiences, and life itself. The book would be a unique, uplifting, and affecting addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542006200

About the Author

Colleen Rowan Kosinski is the author of A Home Again and the author-illustrator of Lilla’s Sunflowers and A Promise Stitched in Time. She received her BA from Rutgers University in visual art, is an alumna of Philadelphia’s Moore College of Art and Design, and spent many years as a successful freelance fine artist. Colleen calls New Jersey her home and resides there with her family. To learn more, and to watch a tutorial on making an origami paper crane, visit www.colleenrowankosinski.com. You can connect with Colleen on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

About the Illustrator

Sonia Sánchez is the illustrator of a number of picture books, including Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, A Crazy-Much Love by Joy Jordan-Lake, and The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier. Her books have been nominated for the Eisner Award and named a CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her kids, and a sleepyhead cat in Barcelona, Spain. You can connect with Sonia on Instagram.

Love Made Me More Tour Launch Activity

Make an Origami Crane

 

Follow along with this tutorial from Origami Tsunami to make your own Origami Crane to love!

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You can find Love Made Me More at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 25 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Herbert on the Slide

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Thanks to Hippo Park Books and Deborah Sloan for sending me a copy of Herbert on the Slide for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Herbert on the Slide (A Hippo Park Pals Book)

By Rilla Alexander

 

“Herbert loved everything about the slide.” Rilla Alexander’s first sentence speaks directly to the hearts of little ones who fully understand its simple, lovely truth. As Herbert climbs to the top, his teddy bear and truck in tow; settles in on his high perch; launches his “test run” with first Teddy and then truck—”clanky-clank-clank”—and finally counts down to his turn, kids will follow along, entranced by Herbert’s adventure and memories of their own.

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Copyright Rilla Alexander, 2022, courtesy of Hippo Park.

Of course, a slide is never just a slide, and Herbert goes “…again! And again! … sliding down, down, down…into his imagination!” One time, on his belly, “Herbert and Teddy are diving into a deep, purple sea!” Next time, “Herbert is a truck climbing up, up, up a mountain. Chug-chug-chug!” But Herbert isn’t the only one at the playground. His little sister is ready for her turn—and so is mouse and frog and turtle. There’s just one thing to do. “Line up and you can start all over again!”

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Copyright Rilla Alexander, 2022, courtesy of Hippo Park.

Rilla Alexandra’s endearing story for little ones, matched page-by-page by her adorable, “awww”-inspiring art is snuggle-up story time reading at its best. Perfectly reflective of a child’s playfulness and imagination, Herbert on the Slide is not only a story that will captivate them time and time again but a wonderful entry into the world of literature.

A subtle subplot involves Herbert’s younger sister, Fiona (soon to be the star of her own Hippo Park Pals book, Fiona in the Sandbox, coming February 7, 2023). She is at first unidentified and only seen in the distance, heading to the sandbox with her pail, a detail sure to pique kids’ interest. She’s later heard telling Herbert—who, mesmerized by an imagined chase and its successful conclusion, is resting on the bottom of the slide—that it’s her turn. Turning the page, kids see that she’s sitting atop the slide with a line of other wanna-be sliders waiting behind her. Alexander’s encouragement for Herbert to get in line and start again is a gentle and reassuring life lesson.

Sweet smiles and a sunny ambiance welcome readers on every clean, slide-focused page. Each scene is colored with the texture of crayons in bright shades and with the “messy” enthusiasm of children’s art.

A Special Note: The book’s small size (5 1/4-inches by 4 3/4-inches) makes it a perfect take-along, easily slipped into a backpack, diaper bag, or even a pocket for picnics, snack time, or just reading-time fun at the playground, park, beach, farmers market, or anywhere waiting may be required.

Cute as a button and perfectly reflecting the excitement and imagination of children’s free play, Herbert on the Slide is a must for any baby’s or preschooler’s home bookshelf as well as for school and public library collections. The book would be a favorite story time read aloud for daycare, preschool, and kindergarten classrooms as well as for public libraries’ preschool programs. It would also make a much-loved gift for baby showers, new siblings, birthdays, and the holidays. 

Ages 2 – 5

Hippo Park Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662640117

Discover more about Rilla Alexander, her books, and her art on her website.

Herbert on the Slide Book Birthday Activity

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Herbert on the Slide Coloring Pages

 

You can find three fun coloring pages from Herbert on the Slide to print on the Hippo Park homepage at Astra Publishing House or here.

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You can find Herbert on the Slide at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 21 – My Name Is Not Ed Tug Book Tour Stop

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I’d like to thank The Children’s Book Review and Amy Nielander for sharing a digital copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug with me and offering a small stipend to write a review. All opinions on the book are my own. As part of the tour I’m also excited to be participating in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

My Name Is Not Ed Tug

By Amy Nielander

 

From the Publisher

A sweet, whimsical story about the meaningfulness behind a person’s name and the power of accepting people just as they are.

Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug has a very special name that is all his own. But his teacher thinks it’s too long and hard to say. One day she shortens it to. . . Ed.

But he loves his name just the way it is. So he comes up with a plan—if he can teach everyone his name, maybe they’ll love it too!

Sweet and whimsical, My Name Is Not Ed Tug empowers readers to own their identities and proudly celebrate who they are.

My Review

Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug knew where he came from and just where he fit into his family. After all, “he was named after his Grandpa Edimor,” who helped him learn how to spell his name with a tall tower of blocks; “his Great Uncle Whitimor,” who taught him how to play the accordion; his Aunt Mili,” who ran a butterfly farm; “and his Granny Gimmus,” who filled his tummy with warm, homemade soup.” Anyone hearing his name might think it was gibberish, but Edimorwhitimormiligimmus thought “it was perfect.”

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

School, of course, was a challenge since the other kids had a hard time spelling or even remembering his name. And his teacher, Ms. Mell, found that her mouth grew “quite tired” just trying to pronounce it. But one Monday, Ms. Mell announced that a new student, Ty, would be joining their class. Mrs. Mell had made name tags for each student to make it easier for Ty to remember their names, and she slapped one on Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s shirt. When he looked, Edimorwhitimormiligimmus saw that the tag simply read “Ed.” He gazed at the tag with sadness. “Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug was shocked. He was perplexed. He felt like his heart had been stung by a giant bee. Twice.”

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

After school, Edimorwhitimormiligimmus went straight to his room and stayed there, thinking. When he emerged, he had a plan (and a very perfectly sized name tag taped to his sweater). The next day, he approached Ty, who was playing with puzzle blocks. He stood proudly, displaying his sweater, and introduced himself—his whole self. He slowly said each part of his name and, miraculously, Ty repeated it. Edimorwhitimormiligimmus “was so happy his curls bounced.” Then as he and Ty constructed a tall bridge with the blocks, he explained how he and his Grandpa Edimor “love to build things together”—and had even invented those blocks.

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

At lunch he did the same thing with the kids at his table, and they also repeated his name. To explain how important his Uncle Whitimor was to him, Edimorwhitimormiligimmus, he played his uncle’s favorite song on the accordion. When the class went out for recess, he told more kids about his Aunt Mili and pointed out, and they too learned his name.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Mell was out sick, and Edimorwhitimormiligimmus saw an opportunity to be kind and explain about his name. He and Ty delivered a steaming pot of Granny Gimmus’s soup to her doorstep and told her all about cooking with his granny. “The delicious soup warmed her heart.” Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s plan worked. Now everyone, including Ms. Mell, knew—and used—Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s full name.

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

The experience prompted Edimorwhitimormiligimmus to come up with a new plan, a project to ensure all of his friends knew their names were just as perfect for them as Edimorwhitimormiligimmus was for him. And he and his classmates got started with the gift they made for Tyvantennyson to give him at his birthday party.

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Amy Nielander’s heartwarming and affirming story will captivate kids from the first recitation of “Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug”—a name that initially elicits giggles but soon rolls smoothly off the tongue. As they learn how each piece of Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s name reflects not only the family member he’s named for but also the special things they do together, readers will empathize with the pride he feels in his name and his disappointment when they can’t get it right.

While Nielander’s clever story revolves around one child’s name, there are many other important lessons for both kids and adults woven throughout. Children will understand that their names, personalities, heritage, talents, and dreams are perfect for them just the way they are. For adults, Ms. Mell’s dismissive mangling and shortening of Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s name to “make it easier for all of us” reminds us that every child deserves to be really seen and accepted for who and everything they are.

Nielander’s illustrations are full of warmth and love, charm and humor as she introduces the unique talents of each member of Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s inclusive and close-knit family. As Edimorwhitimormiligimmus puts his plan to teach each classmate and Ms. Mell his name into action, the children’s sweet faces and palpable excitement are infectious and will draw readers into this universal hug of a story. The surprise reveal of Ty’s full name and the collective gift the class makes him—with the promise of the same for each child—will delight readers and is sure to spur them to create name signs for themselves.

An engaging, multi-layered story about acceptance, self-esteem, family, and friendship, My Name is Not Ed Tug is a story kids will want to hear again and again. The book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

West Margin Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1513134871

Discover more about Amy Nielander, her books, and her art on her website.

Take a peek at the book trailer for My Name Is Not Ed Tug!

About Amy Nielander

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Amy Nielander is a designer and award-winning children’s book author and illustrator who loves to create playful stories for kids. Growing up, she had her name frequently misspelled by others. My Name Is Not Ed Tug is inspired by this experience and by her time volunteering in her children’s classrooms. Amy lives near Detroit, Michigan. You can connect with Amy on: her Website | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn | Pinterest

My Name Is Not Ed Tug Book Giveaway

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Click the image below (or click here and scroll down) for a chance to win a signed copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug, the Potato-Noodle-Feel-Better Soup recipe featured in the story, and a Name Journal! Three winners will be chosen:

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

  • A signed copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug
  • A Potato-Noodle-Feel-Better Soup recipe (soup is featured in the story). The digital download includes an “Ingredient Checklist coloring page” for kids.
  • A Name Journal: A 3.5″ x 5″ pocket-sized journal with 32 blank pages (100% recycled paper).

Two (2) winners receive:

  • A signed copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug

To Enter just click the image below, scroll down, and follow the directions!

My Name Is Not Ed Tug, by Amy Nielander | Awareness Tour

And there’s so much more! Don’t miss any of the excitement  of the…

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Read an Interview with Amy Nielander at Crafty Moms Share

You can read other reviews of My Name is Not Ed Tug at these wonderful sites

Check out these upcoming posts too!

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You can find My Name Is Not Ed Tug at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & NobleBookshop 

 

 

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 6 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Friendship Month was established by the Oddfellows (shortened from The Grand United Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society (GUOOFS)), an international fraternity that dates back to 1730s England with the hope of encouraging people to make friends. Now dedicated to philanthropy and charity, the Oddfellows still promote Friendship Month each September to urge people to spend more time with their friends, get in touch with those they haven’t seen or talked to in a while, and, especially, to reach out to others who are alone or need a friend. As school gets underway, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to meet new people and form friendships – some of which may last a lifetime.

I’d like to thank Carolrhoda Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Big Bear and Little Fish

Written by Sandra Nickel | Illustrated by Il Sung Na

 

At the fair, Bear approached the basketball game booth, where the grand prize was a huge teddy bear. It was almost as big as Bear, herself. But Bear took away the consolation prize: a goldfish. “It was small. It was very small. It was so small it lived in a bowl.” Bear peered into the bowl, but when Fish woke up and said “‘Hello, Bear. Is this my new home?'”, Bear only nodded, afraid her big voice would scare little Fish.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

When lunchtime came, Bear made herself a sandwich with syrup that was as gold as she was. Bear didn’t know what to feed Fish, who was orange and probably liked “carrot muffins … or tangerines and pumpkins.” After lunch, Bear always measured herself. Today, she was over nine feet big! Bear didn’t know how she could measure Fish, so she left home for her regular afternoon walk, wishing – and not for the first time – that Fish was a teddy bear.”

While walking, Bear contemplated how inconvenient Fish might find the outdoors. Things could fall into her bowl and get caught in her tail. If she had a teddy bear Bear thought again, she wouldn’t have to worry about such things as tails. Bear began to regret ever bring Fish home from the fair. When Bear got home again, Fish greeted her with a “‘Hello” and a comment on how much she liked their porch.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In response, Bear gave Fish the bad news that she couldn’t stay. When Fish asked why, Bear laid out her reasons: Fish was orange and ate orange foods; Fish had a tail that made it impossible for her to go on walks with Bear; and finally that Fish was too small. Fish was undaunted. She pointed out that Bear was orange too, and when Bear inspected her belly, she agreed that it “was an orangey sort of gold” kind of “like a carrot muffin.” Fish then added that Bear had a tail, and when Bear looked over her shoulder, she saw a tiny tuft. As to the assertion that she is “small,” Fish was surprised. 

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

“Am I?” she asked then welcomed being measured. She stretched herself out, and Bear measured her: three inches long. Fish was happy with this result; she wasn’t so small after all. “‘I am not one inch. I am not two inches. I am three inches,'” she said proudly. Still, Bear couldn’t get over the idea that Fish was so tiny she had to live in a bowl. 

But Fish was philosophical. “‘Don’t you live in a bowl too?'” she asked. Bear had never thought of it that way before, and as she looked around at the big, blue sky, she suddenly felt small too. Fish reassured her and offered another perspective on physical size compared to how big one could feel inside. Bear considered this and then decided she’d like to take another walk – this time accompanied by Fish. And so they set off in search of a very big carrot muffin.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In her seemingly odd “fellows” friendship story, Sandra Nickel presents a multi-layered look at what it means to be a true friend. She cleverly offers readers a variety of lenses for them to engage in perspective, from the character’s viewpoints to their own. Bear, alone at home and on her walks, focuses only on herself. At the fair, she wants to win a teddy bear that is a twin to herself but for which she would not need to be responsible in any real sense.

Fish, however, immediately wants to interact with Bear. She talks to him and asks questions. At first, it may seem that Bear will simply ignore Fish, but the idea of her has begun to make Bear think and even worry (here, Nickel creates a complex mix of emotions that invites discussion). Equally thought-provoking are Fish’s counter arguments when Bear tells her she can’t stay. While promoting how similar they are, Fish prompts Bear to reevaluate her view of herself and the world she lives in. Once Bear realizes that she, too, can be considered small and that the full measure of a person (or Fish or Bear) is found inside oneself, she embraces Fish – responsibilities, friendship, muffins, and all.

Il Sung Na plays with perspective and color to subtly guide readers through the stages of this endearing friendship. As Bear walks home from the fair, dejectedly carrying Fish in her bowl, the hilly landscape is washed in shades of blue and the twiggy, leafy, mushroomy vegetation replicates an ocean bottom. This evocative effect continues throughout the book, prompting kids to find other similarities between Bear and Fish and their environments. Readers will also enjoy pointing out examples and comparisons of big and small.

An endearing and thought-provoking story that boosts self-confidence while promoting friendship, empathy, and new perspectives, Big Bear and Little Fish will become a quick favorite on home bookshelves, a go-to book for classrooms, and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Carolrhoda Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1728417172

Discover more about Sandra Nickel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Il Sung Na, her books, and her art on her website.

Dive in to this book trailer for Big Bear and Little Fish!

Friendship Month Activity

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Measuring Stick Craft

 

Bear and Fish loved getting measured. If you’re looking for a unique way to measure how big you are, here’s a craft for you! This nature-inspired measuring stick can keep track of your big and small growth spurts whenever you sprout up. You can even add leaves to record thoughts, favorite things, and other ideas as you age! 

Supplies

  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Dark and light green foam sheets or 45 – 50 small wooden leaves, available at craft stores
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch-long tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf

For Measuring Growth: Write the inch 1 through 45 or higher on each leaf with the black marker, alternating colors

For Recording Ideas: You can write favorite ideas, hobbies, or hopes on the leaves too and measure your growth that way!

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

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To get a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish personalized by Sandra Nickel

Visit Watermark Books to request a signed and personalized copy. When ordering, simply note your desired dedication in the Comments section. Sandra will sign on September 24, 2022, so be sure to order in plenty of time.

You can also find Big Bear and Little Fish at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 7 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

In February we show our love with valentines, candy, and flowers. How can we continue to prove our love through the month of March? With books! National Reading Month is the perfect time to say “I love you,” by buying your family members and/or friends a special book they’ll cherish. Reading with your kids also gives you time to relax, giggle, talk, and enjoy some precious moments together. Why not start with today’s book, which is all about family love! 

I’d like to thank Tammi Sauer for sharing a copy of Lovebird Lou with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Lovebird Lou

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

 

“Lou came from a long line of lovebirds.” His relatives all loved sharing the love, and Lou loved being a lovebird “until his flock visited the other side of the island.” There he saw pelicans who could fly in figure eights, flamingos who could stand on one leg, and nightingales who sang beautiful songs. Lou looked at his ordinary family and decided he wanted to be a pelican.

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2022, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Not wanting to quash his dreams, his mom said, “‘Okay, cupcake.'” Lou took off from the branch and flew through the air, doing intricate patterns just like the pelicans. His family members were all supportive. “‘We love you, Lou!'” they shouted, and when Lou bonked into a tree, his mom and dad caught him before he fell.

Lou thought maybe he’d make a better flamingo, so he joined the big pink birds in the shallow water and adopted the pose while his family cheered him on. “‘We love you, Lou!'” they all squawked. He was doing great until he lost his footing and splashed down. His parents were right there to dry him off and encourage his next dream to become a nightingale.

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2022, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

When Lou joined the ethereal chorus, he opened his beak and… well… his family members were his only fans. Back with his parents, Lou was disappointed that he couldn’t be a pelican, flamingo, or nightingale. “‘Maybe I’ll just be a rock.'” Lou said. His parents were all in and they even found a perfect place for him to sit and made him a “#1 Rock” sign to accompany him.

All day, Lou excelled at sitting in his spot until darkness and then rain fell. Lou was downhearted, wet, and scared. Lou knew the pelicans, flamingos, and nightingales couldn’t help him. He hurried his tail feathers back to his lovebird family, who welcomed him with lots of reassurances and “‘We love you, Lou!'” “‘I love you too!’ said Lou.”

The pelicans, flamingos, and nightingales thought that was so sweet. In fact, the next day they all shared their love in their own way too. As for Lou, he now understood that “lovebirds were good at the most important thing of all.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lovebird-lou-flamingos

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2022, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Tammi Sauer’s sweet story shows kids that every family has their own traditions and talents that are just right for them. When Lou is dazzled by the pelicans, flamingos, and nightingales – who all seem more exciting than his one-note family – and wants to emulate them, his parents’ hilarious support of his endeavors are spot on and will make both kids and adults laugh with recognition. Sauer’s quick pace, silly endearments, and frequent choruses of “‘We love you, Lou!'” will have kids wanting to hear the story over and over to chime in on each expression of love.

Stephanie Laberis’s vibrant lovebirds – first introduced in pairs of cuddly closeness and with Lou sandwiched between mom and dad – are charming and, in one funny image, look comically clueless as they watch the other birds demonstrate their special abilities. Little Lou is adorable as he tries his best to keep up with the other birds, tumbling with the pelicans, balancing with the much bigger flamingos, and scaring the nightingales with his raucous squawk. Despite his setbacks, Lou is always ready to try again, which makes both his dejected and his hopeful expressions touching. And hearts will be full when Lou – and the other birds – learn that all-important lesson about love.

A humorous and moving book about family togetherness, Lovebird Lou will be a well-loved addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Union Square Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1454941880

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stephanie Laberis, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Reading Month Activity

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Lovebirds Coloring Page

 

Get cozy with your loved ones and color these adorable lovebirds!

Lovebirds Coloring Page

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You can find Lovebird Lou at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 2 – I AM TODAY Blog Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to be a stop on the blog tour for I Am Today by Matt Forrest Esenwine and Patricia Pessoa. This season of giving is the perfect time to share this gorgeous book that reflects the desire of children to give their thoughts, talents, and actions to causes that are meaningful to them. If you’d like to follow I Am Today’s blog tour, see the graphic below for further dates and blogs.

I Am Today

Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Patricia Pessoa

 

A child stands on the edge of the beach, letting the sea foam run over her bare toes. Below, a turtle wrapped in a strand of wire floats nearby, while in the background a factory belches smog into the air, and a pipe snakes over the dunes to the water, where it spills its industrial waste. As the child picks up the turtle and removes the wire, she states, “Grown-ups say I am the Future.” Then while releasing the freed turtle, she finishes her thought: “But I’d rather be the Now.” The child then makes her case, explaining that she’s ready to contribute in positive ways, having learned decency, fairness, and generosity from her family and other role models.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

The memory of the turtle she saved stays with her—her one small act inspiring her to do more. She determines “if I see something isn’t right, / I need to take a stand! / Why wait to offer kindness? / Why wait to lend a hand?” While trying to go to sleep, the little turtle and a whole sea of fish and other creatures swim in her mind. Suddenly, she has an idea and gets out of bed. She writes note after note and folds each paper into origami turtles. She then goes to her window and releases them on the wind.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

The next morning, despite the rain, a crowd of children has gathered at the child’s door—all are holding her note. They and their parents and other adults, many carrying signs urging protection for the sea animals, march down the sidewalk and past the polluting factory to the beach. Living in that moment, they think: “The past is far behind us, / the future, well beyond. / There’s never been / a better time to listen… / …learn… / …respond!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-am-today-origami

Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

At the beach the group fans out across the sand to pick up debris, and a turn of the page reveals a clean beach and a newspaper containing a front-page article on the factory’s waste pipe that has been closed. “Someday I’ll be the Future” the child says, “But right now… / …I am Today.”

Illustrated instructions on how to make an origami turtle follow the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-am-today-beach

Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

Children, having lived on our planet for only a few years, are all progress, moving forward, not looking back yet as each day they learn something new, develop another skill, break old barriers, and form unique opinions. So it’s no surprise that kids are concerned about what is happening today and how it will affect the future—their future and the world’s. In I Am Today, Matt Forrest Esenwine harnesses that power of wonder, confidence, and ambition that children possess and gives it a lyrical voice. Flowing with a rhythm as stirring as ocean swells, Esenwine’s story will resonate deeply within any child’s heart.

While Patricia Pessoa’s lovely illustrations depict a child concerned with protecting the ocean and its creatures, Esenwine’s text is universal and equally inspiring for any child and any cause. While recognizing the desire and ability of children and young people to bring about change, Esenwine also provides concrete ways that they can do so, from small gestures to larger actions, allowing all readers to feel included and important. I Am Today also presents a meaningful way for kids and adults to talk about causes that are important to them and ways that they can get involved.

With a warm, vivid color palette and fresh perspectives that allow readers to make some of their own deductions, Patricia Pessoa presents a lush landscape of a child’s family life, imagination, and ideas brought to fruition. Her images of the family’s picture wall and dinner time are full of heart and humor, and kids will enjoy lingering over the pages to catch all the action. Pessoa portrays the importance of saving the turtles and other sea creatures with clever imagery as the turtle appears in the bathroom mirror as the child brushes her teeth, swimming in the bathtub, and decorating the cup of water on her nightstand. Pessoa’s illustrations of the fish and other ocean creatures that fill the child’s mind are especially beautiful, as is the spread in which she sends her origami messengers out into the world.

I Am Today is an inspiring, uplifting, and motivational book that children will want to frequently revisit and one that families, classrooms, schools, and public libraries will want to add to their collections. The book’s beauty and message makes it a wonderful gift for any child on your list.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

POW! Kids Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1576879948

Discover more about Matt Forrest Esenwine, his books, and his poetry on his website.

You can connect with Patricia Pessoa on Instagram.

Check out these upcoming dates and discover how other bloggers are celebrating I Am Today

I Am Today Blog Tour Schedule

This year many books have been delayed from their original publishing date to a later time due to shipping and supply issues. The best way to support authors and their wonderful new books is to preorder titles from your favorite bookseller. I Am Today will be available January 23, 2022.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-am-today-cover

You can preorder I Am Today at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review