September 15 – International Dot Day

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About the Holiday

Usually, I match books to existing holidays. Today, though, I have the pleasure of posting a review of a book that established a holiday. On September 15, 2009 teacher Terry Shay introduced his class to Peter H. Reynold’s The Dot. From that one event grew a national and then an international celebration of creativity and the freedom to make art with your heart. All around the world, school children and adults are inspired on this day to make their mark and celebrate creativity, courage, and collaboration.

The Dot

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

At the end of art class, Vashti looked at her paper. It was still as blank as it was at the beginning of art class. Her teacher came over and took a peek. She saw right away that Vashti had drawn “‘a polar bear in a snowstorm.’” Vashti wasn’t fooled by the joke. “‘I just CAN’T draw,’” she said. But her teacher had a suggestion. “‘Just make a mark and see where it takes you.’”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti jabbed at the paper with a marker, making a dot right in the center. Her teacher studied her drawing carefully then told Vashti to sign it. That, at least, was something Vashti could do. She signed her name and gave the paper to her teacher. At the next week’s art class, Vashti was stunned to see her dot framed and hanging above the teacher’s desk. She looked at the tiny mark and decided that she could do better than that.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti opened her watercolor set and began. She “painted and painted. A red dot. A purple dot. A yellow dot. A blue dot.” Then she discovered that blue mixed with yellow made a green dot. Vashti went to the easel and began painting lots of little dots in all sorts of colors. She realized if she could make little dots, she could make big dots. She knelt down on the floor with a big piece of paper and a big brush and created a huge dot.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Then on an enormous canvas Vashti “made a dot by not making a dot.” At the school art show, Vashti’s dot paintings covered two walls and were quite a hit. Coming around the corner a little boy spied Vashti. He came close and told her, “‘You’re a really great artist. I wish I could draw.’” Vashti was encouraging, but the little boy said he couldn’t even “‘draw a straight line with a ruler.’”

Vashti wanted to see. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper. With a quivering pencil, he drew a line and handed the paper back to her. Vashti studied the wavy line for a minute, and then gave the paper back. “‘Please…sign it,’” she said.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynold’s classic story of a little girl who believes she can’t draw is inspirational for anyone at any age who listens too closely to that voice in their head that stops them from letting go and doing. Whether it’s painting, writing, changing the décor of one’s house, updating a wardrobe, getting healthy, or even taking a class, the project often seems insurmountable. But what if you could start with a YouTube video, one step, a pair of earrings, a pillow, a word, or…a dot? Reynolds says you can! With his straightforward storytelling, Reynolds gives readers permission to play, experiment, and feel free.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Reynold’s familiar line drawings that sketch out adorable Vashti and her wise teacher are punctuated by the colorful dots that Vashti draws in profusion. Even Vashti, herself, is surrounded by circular auras of color throughout the story, reflecting her talent and creative spirit. The final scene of the art show gallery is a revelation, showing readers that one’s work or life work adds up to an impressive display of the self.

Through and through The Dot is charming, moving, and encouraging. It is a must addition to home libraries, public libraries, and classrooms.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2003 | 978-0763619619

Discover more about International Dot Day, download an Educator’s Guide, and see a gallery of projects on thedotclub.org.

You’ll learn more about Peter H, Reynolds, his books, and his art as well as find lots of inspiration and creative tips on his website!

International Dot Day Activity

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Decorate the Dots Coloring Page

 

How would you color these dots? Grab your favorite paints, markers, or crayons and let your imagination fly with this printable Decorate the Dots Coloring Page.

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You can find The Dot at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 8 – World Fencing Day

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About the Holiday

In its second year as a recognized holiday, World Fencing Day promotes this action-packed Olympic sport and encourages kids and adults to get involved. Fencing is enjoyed worldwide and is a popular sport offered in schools and at community venues. To celebrate the day, Olympic and world champion fencers hold demonstrations at malls, public squares, beaches, and other places, and fencing clubs offer free trials to would-be fencers. To celebrate, check out a demonstration held near you and try your hand at this fun and rewarding sport!

Two Lions sent me a copy of Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight to check out. All opinions are my own.

Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight

Written by Pam Calvert | Illustrated by Liana Hee

 

Princess Brianna Bright’s dreams of dancing ballet always seemed to go poof! whenever she actually tried to do the steps. “When practicing, she pranced and piquéd and pivoted…right into the palace pool. Ploink!” On the day when she tipped over her father’s throne with a grand jeté, the king suggested that maybe dancing wasn’t her talent.”

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

As Brianna sadly took off her ballet shoes, even her puppy Pixie was sympathetic. But Brianna was determined to find her true talent. During the week she tried ice-skating and baking, but those really weren’t for her either. Then on Saturday she saw two knights fencing, and “Brianna’s stomach fluttered.” Here was something that she could do, she thought, but the king and queen took one look at the pointy swords and worried.

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

So Brianna continued her search. Skateboarding in the castle resulted in a frosting fiasco, and while playing soccer she caused a team pileup. Brianna feared she’d never find her talent. “Then she heard the click. And the clack. And the clickety, clackity, clack” that sends “her tiny heart swelling with anticipation.” One of the knights had left a fencing blade on the ground, and Brianna picked it up. She liked the way it felt in her hand.

All day she watched the knights parry and feint and shout, “‘en garde!’” That night she crept into the forest to practice on her own. But fencing wasn’t as easy as it looked. Brianna “tumbled and stumbled and bumbled.” After a few weeks of bumps and bruises, Brianna told Pixie that she didn’t think she had a talent.

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

One night, Brianna and Pixie heard a suspicious sound outside the castle. She looked out her window just in time to see two thieves running off with some of the royal gems. Quickly, she grabbed her fencing blade and leaped in front of them. As “she parried and pirouetted…tiptoed and touchéd…dodged and dégagéd” she used the fencing blade for balance, executing each move just right. With a final feint and lunge, Brianna rescued the jewels. The king and queen and the knights were proud of their little princess, and Brianna was happiest of all because instead of having just one talent, she had discovered  she had two. She was no longer just the princess or even just Brianna. “She was Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight.”

A dictionary of ballet and fencing moves follows the story.

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Kids searching for their special talent will find much to admire in Pam Calvert’s Princess Brianna. Despite bumps and bruises, missteps and mishaps, Brianna shows patience and perseverance as she tries a variety of activities. While some of Brianna’s slapstick blunders may raise a giggle, readers will also empathize with her grit as well as her sadness when the activities don’t work out. Declarations from Brianna, such as “I’ll find a new talent!” and especially the repeated “I’ll do it!” give young readers mantras that they can embrace. Highlighted ballet and fencing terms within the story will spark an interest in these two graceful and athletic pursuits.

Liana Hee’s Brianna shows excitement, wistfulness, good humor, and triumph in her expressive doe eyes. Vivid full-page illustrations depict Brianna’s mishaps with a comedic flair and her ballet and fencing moves with the kind of precision that makes these disciplines both beautiful and “cool” to watch. Brianna’s tiny pink poodle Pixie is a cutie as she keeps her princess company through it all—even the suspenseful late-night duel with the jewel thieves. Brianna’s celebration when she discovers her two talents is infectious and will encourage readers to search for their own.

Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight is a reassuring read for children trying out various activities in that search for the one that excites and inspires them. Brianna’s persistence and self-confidence makes this a book to keep on hand at home and in the classroom for encouraging story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503951013

Discover more about Pam Calvert and her books on her website.

To learn more about Liana Hee and her art, visit her on tumblr.

World Fencing Day Activity

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Fencing is Fantastic Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

The sport of fencing uses its own unique vocabulary to describe the equipment and actions of the participants. Can you find all of the fencing terms in the puzzle?

Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search Puzzle (20 words) | Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search Solution (20 words)

Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search (15 words, no diagonals) | Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search (15 words, no diagonals) Solution

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You can find Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 22 – It’s American Artist Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

From the earliest days of the exploration and settlement of America, artists have been creating works that reveal the beauty, complexity, and meaning of this country and her people. Over the years American artists have developed innovative styles and delved into universal subjects in new ways. This month we celebrate these artists of the past and present who, through their work, make us see the world in fresh ways.

Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story

Written by Lindsey McDivitt | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

“Gwen followed her brothers and sisters everywhere, like a small fawn follows its herd.” Even though an illness in babyhood had left her hands and one foot weak and her speech slurred, Gwen grew up confident that she could do anything. Born in 1906, Gwen, as a child with disabilities, would normally have stayed home instead of attending school. But her mother had been a teacher, so she sent her to school and “pushed her to learn.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2018, text copyright Lindsey McDivitt, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The other kids giggled and whispered behind her back, and while she wanted to hide, she instead “gathered up knowledge like a bird builds a nest.” Her teachers thought she would never be able to write. To strengthen her hands, her mother encouraged her to draw, keeping a drawer full of supplies within reach. As Gwen sketched, her grip grew firmer.”

While making friends was difficult, Gwen found companionship in nature. She loved to spend time outdoors watching the unfurling ferns and frogs that “lapped up bugs with long, quick tongues.” From nature, Gwen learned, “‘all things are vital to the universe…all are equal…and at one…different.’”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2018, text copyright Lindsey McDivitt, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

A move to Detroit when she was twelve introduced Gwen to the buildings and people of a big city. In high school, Gwen, now stronger, took mechanical drawing and shop class. Later, in art school, Gwen was introduced to linoleum, in which she carved intricate images for printmaking. Gwen’s dream was to be an artist, but she also knew she needed to earn money to pay expenses.

She started a business making objects from hammered metal. Word of her art spread quickly. It was bought by leading Detroit families, and Gwen was invited to exhibit her art at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. When World War II broke out, Gwen went to work building bombers. She even designed tools for building the planes. Contributing to the war effort was important, but Gwen still “longed to create art.” She bought a printing press and opened “Presscraft Papers stationery company.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2018, text copyright Lindsey McDivitt, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Gwen began to miss the nature she loved so much, so she packed up and moved back to Michigan. There, “she walked deep into the wetlands” and began carving linoleum blocks, recreating nature as she saw it. “She wanted others to see nature as she did, to recognize the value of plants, trees, and animals.” She made prints from her linoleum blocks and created greeting cards on her press. Her beautiful artwork reminded people of nature’s bounty at a time when the environment was threatened with pollution. People came from all over to her shop in the Michigan woods to buy her art that spoke to them: “‘Love this earth, / Love it’s waters… / Care enough to keep it clear.’”

An Author’s Note reveals more about Gwen Frostic’s life and provides a sketching craft for readers.

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2018, text copyright Lindsey McDivitt, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Lindsey McDivitt’s superb biography of Gwen Frostic—an artist, inspiration, and pioneer for career women and the disabled—introduces children to a woman who, through persistence and confidence, lived life on her own terms. McDivitt’s lyrical prose infuses the story with the poetry of nature that Gwen internalized and translated into the art that people continue to admire and seek out. McDivitt’s thorough storytelling and excellent pacing allow for a full understanding of Gwen Frostic’s achievements. Young readers will be fascinated by the life work of this talented and determined artist.

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Eileen Ryan Ewen captures Gwen Frostic’s strength of character, can-do attitude, and love of nature in her stunning artwork. Full-page illustrations follow Gwen from her beloved Michigan woodlands to Detroit to art school and through her life as an artist and business woman. Images of Gwen carving a linoleum block, sketching designs for new tools as she sits next to a fighter plane and the woman installing rivets, working an old printing press, and greeting visitors at her shop broaden readers’ understanding of the times and Gwen’s work.

An exceptional picture book that provides encouragement and inspiration, Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story is a must for classroom libraries and would make a positive impact on young readers as part of their home library.

Ages 6 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585364053

Discover more about Lindsey McDivitt and her books on her website.

To learn more about Eileen Ryan Ewen, her art, and her books, visit her website.

American Artist Appreciation Month

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Nature Coloring Pages

 

If you love nature like Gwen Frostic did, you’ll enjoy these printable Nature Coloring Pages.

Meadow Coloring PageOcean Coloring Page

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You can find Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 21 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

There’s no mistaking that it’s that time of year again! The stores are stocked with notebooks, backpacks, lunchboxes, pens, pencils, glue sticks…. Well…you know! Summer school vacation is winding down—for some kids it may already be a memory—and the promise of another year is on the horizon. There are a lot of ways to get kids ready to go back to school. Reading books that reflect all the feels is one of the best!

It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!

By Lindsay Ward

 

Jack and his favorite toy, Dexter T. Rexter are stomping and chomping and singing when Jack’s mom calls him for breakfast. While Jack is off enjoying his meal, Dexter is excited to tell you that he’s excited about tomorrow. What’s tomorrow? Show-and-Tell day! It seems that Dexter has been preparing for weeks so he’ll make a good impression. Why all the fuss? Dexter says that “Every toy dreams of being taken to Show and Tell. If things go well, I’ll get super-special-keep-forever status.”

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

All this pressure, is making Dexter a little nervous, though. His eyes are twitching, he has “fidgety claws” and a “cowardly tail position” and he feels it right in the pit of his stomach. He’s worried that no one will like him. Maybe a costume is just the thing. He tries on a bunny costume, an astronaut suit, and an Elvis getup. But none are really Dexter, even though the Elvis cape sparkles.

How about a spicy dance routine or reciting “the state capitals backwards” or a funny impression? No? No? and NO? Dexter is beside himself. “This is NOT good. I don’t have any skills! I can’t dance. I can’t recite. I can’t SHOW or Tell!” And then the worst fear hits Dexter: “What if Jack doesn’t think I’m cool enough for Show and Tell anymore?” Dexter thinks of all the other—possibly cooler—toys in Jack’s toy box.

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Suddenly, Dexter doesn’t feel too well. It’s a “Total Freakout!” As Dexter is calming himself down, he hears a small voice—yours—reassuring him. He considers your suggestion. “Go as myself? That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.” Still…. There is one thing he’s good at…. The next day Jack and Dexter T. Rexter stomp and chomp and sing their way through the best Show and Tell ever.

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Lindsay Ward’s endearing Dexter T. Rexter, is back with another conundrum that sends his emotions into overdrive, causing him needless worry. Through her humorous interactive story, Ward lets young readers reassure Dexter that he’s smart enough, talented enough, and that people like him just the way he is as they also internalize this important lesson. Kids will giggle and laugh out loud as Dexter tries on silly costumes, shimmies and shakes to a hot musical beat, and tries an impression that falls flat, but as Dexter’s self-defeating doubts result in a stomachache and full on freakout, they’ll understand that empathy and kindness are what Dexter needs most.

Ward’s bold, mixed-media illustrations highlight Dexter’s emotions, his attempts to “improve” himself, and the joy he feels when playing with his best friend, Jack. Jack’s classroom is a welcome depiction of diversity, including one student in a wheelchair. Dynamic typography guides the kind of dramatic reading that would elicit all the humor and feeling from this multilayered story.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503901377

Discover more about Lindsay Ward, her books, and her art on her website.

Check out this It’s Show and Tell, Dexter! book trailer!

It’s Show and Tell, Dexter! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions Publishing in this giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of It’s Show and Tell, Dexter! by Lindsay Ward

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, August 21 – 27. Already a follower? Thanks! Just  Retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on August 28.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Two Lions Publishing.

Back to School Activity

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Back to School Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

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

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

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You can find It’s Show and Tell, Dexter! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 20 – It’s Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

August is one of those transitional months—hot and humid, but with a touch of fall in the evening and early morning air. It’s also the month when most kids go back to school or are preparing for another year of learning. August is also a wonderful month to spend extra time with family. There are lots of things you can do with kids from planning special events at home to taking a family trip to a local or nearby park, zoo, or aquarium. This time spent together makes memories for a lifetime!

Zonderkidz sent me a copy of Fiona the Hippo to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Zonderkidz in a Fabulous Fiona! Giveaway that’s perfect for Family Fun Month! See details below.

Fiona the Hippo

By Richard Cowdrey

 

When a baby hippopotamus was born on a winter night at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, all the other animals were excited. They were surprised that she was part of their family so soon and were eager to see her. In fact, the whole world was excited to see her as word got out on news outlets and the Internet about Fiona—the baby hippo who had “arrived earlier than expected.” As she slept in a room just for her and was cared for by the zookeepers, the other animals peeked in. They thought she was cute and tiny, and Ostrich added, “kind of slimy!”

The zookeepers fed Fiona from a bottle and pretty soon she was big enough to learn how to walk. “And when she was ready, she let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said, ‘I’ve got this!’ And wobble-wobble-plop! She tried over and over, until she did.” Little Fiona grew quickly, and soon it was time for swimming lessons. With a little practice and a little help, Fiona became confident, until one day, she said “‘I’ve got this!’” and splashed right into the pool.

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Copyright Richard Cowdrey, 2018, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

While Fiona was growing and learning, she made the other animals proud. They couldn’t wait until she could “come out to play.” But Fiona was still busy growing and discovering new things. People who watched Fiona’s progress online sent fan mail. Soon, she had piles of letters and gifts congratulating her. They said “‘You are amazing! We love you, little baby hippo!’”

One day, Fiona looked out the window from her special enclosure and saw her mama and daddy swimming nearby. She wanted to be with them. The zookeepers agreed that Fiona was big enough and strong enough to be in the pool with her parents. As “she swam with her mama for the first time,” she “let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said, ‘I’ve got this!’”

She loved swimming with her mama and daddy, but she also wished for some friends to play with. The other zoo animals were thrilled to hear this. At last they would get their chance to have fun with Fiona too. Ostrich and turtle, elephant and otter, penguin and bear, and all the rest dove right in for “the biggest pool party the zoo had ever seen!” That night, Fiona snuggled with her mama and daddy and dreamed of all the adventures to come, telling herself, “‘I’ve got this!’”

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Copyright Richard Cowdrey, 2018, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With enthusiasm and humor, Richard Cowdrey tells the story of Fiona, a hippo born prematurely who overcame the odds of survival to become a favorite of people everywhere. By following Fiona’s progress and telling the story from her point of view, Cowdrey reaches out and embraces young readers, reassuring them that, like Fiona, they’ve “got this!”—no matter what new skill, adventure, or activity they face. Readers will eagerly read along with Fiona’s signature expression. The attentiveness of the other zoo animals also reminds kids that they aren’t alone, but have family and friends who love them.

Children will be charmed by Cowdrey’s realistic illustrations of the adorable Fiona. Images of her swaddled in a blanket by the zookeepers, wiggling her ears and smiling confidently as she learns skill after skill, and reuniting with her parents and other zoo animals are enchanting. Humorous pictures of Fiona snugged into a life vest, swimming tube, and pool noodles will make kids giggle with recognition. Animal lovers will want to linger over each page to enjoy the beautiful depictions of a wide range of their favorites.

A photograph of the real Fiona on the back cover will make readers smile, and an Author’s Note on the back of the book jacket relates the facts of Fiona’s birth, growth, and well-deserved fame.

An inspiring tale of perseverance, self-confidence, and friendship, Fiona the Hippo is an aww-inspiring delight that will capture young readers’ hearts at home and would spark excitement for science and social learning in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310766391 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0310766360 (Board Book)

Discover more about Richard Cowdrey, his books, and his art on his website.

Fabulous Fiona! Giveaway

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Fiona-the-Hippo_Fabulous-Fiona-Prize

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Zonderkidz in this fabulous giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Fiona the Hippo, by Richard Cowdrey
  • Plus a $50 Visa gift card to take your family out on the town.

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, August 20-26. 

A winner will be chosen on August 27.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing and samples provided by Zonderkidz.

About Fiona the Hippo

Fiona the Hippo, by New York Times bestselling artist Richard Cowdrey of Bad Dog, Marley fame, tells the story of Fiona, the adorable internet sensation from the Cincinnati Zoo who captured hearts around the world with her inspiring story and plucky personality.

Born prematurely, at only 29 pounds, Fiona was not expected to live. But her spunk and determination helped her thrive and become a happy, healthy hippopotamus. With every challenge she faced, Fiona let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said “I’ve got this.” And she did! Through this whimsical and inspiring tale of perseverance and friendship, inspired by the real adventure of this heroic hippo, kids join Fiona and her lovable animal friends at the zoo as she is introduced to the world.

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-author-richard-cowdrey-headshot

About the Author

Richard Cowdrey’s favorite things to draw and paint are the common things seen everywhere in nature. He especially enjoys capturing the expressions, eyes, and gestures of both humans and animals. Drawing and painting Fiona was challenging as the hippopotamus is a very unique yet beautiful creature! Richard’s bestselling children’s books include Legend of the Candy CaneBad DogMarley, and A Very Marley Christmas.

Family Fun Month Activity

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Playful Zoo Friends! Maze

 

These baby animals want to play together! Can you help the hippo round up his friends in this printable Zoo Friends Maze?

Playful Zoo Friends! Maze Puzzle | Playful Zoo Friends! Maze Solution

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You can find Fiona the Hippo at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 19 – Get to Know Your Customers Day

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About the Holiday

There was a time when long-established businesses and mom-and-pop shops provided most of the goods and services people needed. These days consumers are likely to shop online or use the big-box stores for most of their needs. But small shops, local farmers markets, and neighborhood providers have much to offer customers in terms of personalized service, a friendly atmosphere, and a peaceful, unhurried shopping experience. Today’s holiday was established for business owners and their employees to really take the time to get to know their customers so they can better serve them. It’s also a day for employees to consider their own job satisfaction. Only by truly loving the work you do, can you enjoy your job and make each day pleasurable for yourself and your customers. To celebrate today’s holiday, chat a bit with your customers. Get to know them and how you can better help them. If your heart isn’t really in your work, today offers a good opportunity to consider other options.

Duck Gets a Job

By Sonny Ross

 

Duck needed a job. All of his friends talked about their super office jobs in the city and encouraged him to get one too. Duck scoured the want ads in the newspaper. There were lots of jobs in tech, finance, and business. He imagined himself working with spreadsheets like his friends did. The jobs “seemed boring, but he applied anyway. And he got an interview!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-gets-a-job-friends

Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Duck agonized over what he’d wear. He tried on an outfit that made him look cool, one that was very professional, and one that was his natural, casual look. He decided to go with the professional style. Next, Duck thought about how he would get to the office. “Flying would make him tired and sweaty, but public transportation is tricky for ducks.” In the end he walked… and he got lost. Once in the city, he hailed a taxi, and while he rode to the interview “he gave himself a pep talk.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-gets-a-job-taxi

Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Talking to the interviewer made Duck very nervous, but, still, he was offered a job. Sitting in his little cubicle with “spreadsheets full of facts and figures” in front of him, Duck realized that this job “did not interest him at all.” Duck decided to quit. Duck had always dreamed of being an artist, so he looked at job ads for the Creative Quack Magazine and found one he thought he’d like. “For his interview, he dressed in his natural look and put samples of his best work in a portfolio.”

He prepared for his trip into the city, and when he got to the office he didn’t feel at all nervous. He showed the art director his portfolio feeling confident about his work. The art director loved his work and offered him a job. Now Duck loves his job, and he’s especially glad “that he had decided to follow his dreams.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-gets-a-job-creative-job

Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

The strength of Sonny Ross’s affirming story comes in its straightforward approach to recognizing when an action is not right for you and feeling free to change course. While Duck is looking for the perfect job, the story is appropriate for any activity that children embark on as they find their place in the world. Ross peppers his story with clues that will alert readers to Duck’s true feelings about the two jobs—internal thoughts, clothing styles, and confidence level to name a few—feelings that they too can rely on to guide them in the choices they make.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-duck-gets-a-job-style

Copyright Sonny Ross, 2018, courtesy of Templar Books.

Ross’s matte mixed-media illustrations are fresh and stylish in a palette of blues, reds, and golds. Kids experimenting with their own look will appreciate Duck’s dilemma in choosing between cool, professional, and natural clothing styles. They’ll also empathize with his previous attempts at using public transportation and his travails in getting to the first interview on time. When Duck decides that a “spreadsheet job” isn’t for him, the page backgrounds lighten, his road to the interview is smooth, and his happiness is evident. A clever contrasting juxtaposition comes in the depictions of Duck’s two very different interviews. While the businessman sits at his desk peering down on tiny Duck who can barely see over the desk and is nearly swallowed up in his chair, the art director kneels down to Duck’s level to shake his wing in congratulations on getting the job.

Both an entertaining story and a lesson for kids on trusting their gut and staying true to themselves, Duck Gets a Job is a confidence-boosting tale for any home or classroom bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Templar Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763698966

Discover more about Sonny Ross, his books, and his art on his website.

Get to Know Your Customers Day Activity

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Dream Job Application

 

Before you can know your customers, you need to know yourself and find your perfect job. Here’s a printable Dream Job Application to get you thinking about what job you’d like to have!

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Duck Gets a Job is available at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 12 – New Conversations Day

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About the Holiday

This brand-new holiday extols the virtues of a really good conversation. Too often our exchanges with others fall into the realm of small talk where the weather, the score of the latest game, or a cursory “how are you?” is as deep as it gets. But there are so many more interesting topics to discuss that would lead to better connections with and understanding of family, friends, and acquaintances. Take the opportunity of today’s holiday to get together with your friends and talk about the funniest thing that ever happened to you, the best meal you ever had, or your favorite work of art. Of course a perfect topic of conversation is your favorite book or character and why! You’ll find out a lot about your friends as well as about yourself!

The Blue Songbird

By Vern Kousky

 

There once was a little blue songbird who loved to listen to her sisters singing in the morning, but when she tried to join in, the notes always fell flat. Sadly, she told her mother that she thought there were no songs for her, but her mother gently told her, “‘not just any notes will do. You must go and find a special song that only you can sing.’” So the little songbird began a journey to “find her special song.”

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

When she was far from home, she met a great crane and asked if he knew of any song made especially for her. The crane said he couldn’t help her, but pointed her in the direction of the mountains, where a wise bird lived. When she reached the pine forest on the other side of the mountains, the songbird explained to Mr. Wise Old Bird his quest for a song. But the owl could only ask, “‘Whoooo? Whoooo?’” so the songbird went on her way.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-blue-songbird-crane

Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

She stopped here and there to talk to a buzzard, a group of pigeons, and a family of penguins, but “no bird ever had the answer.” Then one snowy day the songbird saw “a bird who looked a little bit mean and more than a little hungry. Even so the songbird bravely chirped: ‘Please don’t eat me, Mr. Scary Bird. I was just wondering if you’ve ever heard of a very special thing—a song that only I can sing.’” The crow did know of such a thing and told the songbird about an island filled with enchanting music.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-blue-songbird-penguins

Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

The songbird grew weary searching for the island, and then one day he saw a glow on the horizon and knew she had found it. She could hear the faint strains of beautiful music, and she flew faster and faster to get there. When she neared the island, though, she knew this place. It was home. “The songbird’s heart fell.” After all that time and all the conversations with other birds, “her quest had failed.”

When she saw her mother, however, her mood brightened. She wanted to tell her mother all about her travels and the other birds she’d met. When she opened her beak to tell her stories, though, “what came out was not words at all…but a song!” She sang about Crane and Owl and Crow, “of cities and of stormy seas and mountains capped with snow.” She told of warm days and cold days and most of all “of the love the songbird felt for her family and her home.”

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

Vern Kousky gently nudges little ones out of the nest to begin exploring the world on their own, to test their wings, meet others, and discover their talents. Along the way young readers learn that they can trust their instincts, be brave, and that perseverance pays off. Kousky’s lyrical story also reassures children that home is always waiting and that no matter where they go or what they do, family will always welcome them.

Kousky’s tiny blue smudge of a bird is adorable as she cuddles with her mother to reveal her doubts and then demonstrates hopeful pluck as she talks with much larger birds on her way to self-discovery. Kousky’s settings delight with muted hues of blues, yellows, and reds and angled mountains, skyscrapers, and glaciers that point the little songbird—as well as readers—skyward. The image of the little songbird’s mother welcoming her home with outstretched wings is heartwarming, and the songbird’s elation at having found her song will fill readers with joy.

A joyful story for inspiring self-confidence, interactions with others, and personal growth, The Blue Songbird is a beautiful book for home and classroom libraries that will be asked for again and again.

Ages 4 –  8

Running Press Kids, 2017 | ISBN 978-0762460663

To learn more about Vern Kousky, his books, and his art, visit his website.

New Conversations Day Activity

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Family Conversation Starters

 

Because children have such fertile imaginations, great conversations can start from just one intriguing question. Put these printable conversation starters on the dinner table and let the fun and serious talk begin!

Conversation Starters Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6

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You can find The Blue Songbird at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review