February 26 – National Tell a Fairy Tale Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the long tradition of oral and written stories that have captivated both children and adults since earliest times. While many of the fairy tales we love began as lessons in good manners or avoiding danger, they have remained popular and a part of our culture that we pass down to children through the generations. These tales stand up to traditional treatments as well as variations that turn the familiar plots on their heads.

Twinderella, A Fractioned Fairy Tale

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz | Illustrated by Deborah Marcero

 

You, of course, know the story of Cinderella, but did you know that she had a twin named Tinderella? Here’s how the whole story goes…. When the two girls were given their long list of chores by their wicked stepmother, “Tinderella split each task / exactly down the middle. / Twelve to fix? / That’s six and six. / She’d solve it like a riddle.” And, thus, Cinderella and Tinderella went to work on fixing the household’s clocks.

The girls also split the mopping, shopping, baking, mending, and “the mean stepsister tending.” Left with only leftovers to eat at the end of the day, the two even shared half a piece of bread and half the scraps before collapsing into their half of the bed. In their  dreams, Cinderella kept her eye on marriage while Tinderella calculated what having twice the room would be.

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Image Copyright Deborah Marcero, 2017, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Then one day, the sisters saw an open invitation by the prince to a ball where he hoped to find his princess. Cinderella was excited that her dream could come true, but her stepmother told them they had to stay home to clean. “So Cinderella grabbed a broom, / but as she started sweeping, / she felt her dreams all turn to dust / and couldn’t keep from weeping.” But suddenly their fairy godmother appeared, and with her magic wand she created two beautiful gowns, two pairs of slippers, and lots of other bling. Tinderella split all of this between them, and as they each climbed into their half of a fabulous car, they listened to the fairy godmother’s warning to be back by midnight.

As soon as the prince saw Cinderella and Tinderella, he was enchanted. “No other girl stood half a chance—he danced with them all night.” Taking turns with the Prince, the girls danced the night away until they heard the clock begin to chime. They ran away from the ball, leaving the saddened prince—and a shoe—behind. He tried the shoe on all the girls in the village until he found that it fit Cinderella and Tinderella.

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Image Copyright Deborah Marcero, 2017, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

The prince didn’t know what to do and told the girls they had to choose. But Tinderella had a brilliant idea. She summoned their fairy godmother and asked if she could make the prince a twin. Before she did, though, Cinderella reminded the prince that he’d have to share his kingdom and all its wealth. “Prince Charming crossed his heart and swore / to split things even steven. / ‘I’d gladly give up all my stuff. / It’s love that I believe in.’”

With that the fairy godmother waved her wand and Whoosh! an exact double of the prince appeared. It turned out that he was just as much a whiz at math as Tinderella, and within moments he had neatly “divvied up the royal wealth” and won Tinderella’s heart. While Cinderella and Prince Charming ruled the kingdom, Tinderella and her prince ruled the math world. Later, Cinderella had a baby boy. And Tinderella? Well, “against all odds” she “delivered quads,” and everyone lived “happ’ly ever half-ter.”

An included poster allows kids and teachers to extend the math learning with entertaining activities on the back.

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Image Copyright Deborah Marcero, 2017, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Fans of Corey Rosen Schwartz and her fractured fairy tales know all about her awesome storytelling and rhyming abilities. In Twinderella, A Fractioned Fairy Tale, she uses her multiple talents to give a favorite fairy tale a double dose of magic while engaging kids in a bit of math fun. Her always-clever verses shine with evocative vocabulary that gives the two girls distinct personalities while also ingeniously introducing the concept of one half and division. Schwartz doesn’t stop at a purely mathematical definition of these ideas, though. When Tinderella suggests making a double of the prince, Cinderella ensures Prince Charming is up to splitting his kingdom, in this way passing on her well-earned sense of empathy and sharing to readers. The sweet ending offers quadruple the delight of the original tale and prompts readers to dip into the story again to see how the girls’ fancy dress accessories and the princes’ kingdom along with other items in the story could be divided into fourths.

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Deborah Marcero’s mixed media illustrations are as charming as the prince himself. As red-haired Cinderella and Tinderella go about their copious chores, thumbnail portraits of the girls splitting the work demonstrate the idea of one half. A larger image of the girls baking reveals the opportunities for math learning in this everyday activity. A pie chart that Tinderella draws on a chalkboard is clearly labeled and corresponds to the clocks on the table, introducing kids to this graphing system and allowing them to make connections. Similarly, the concept of area is portrayed as Tinderella dreams of a bigger bed. A careful look on every page will reward readers with many chances for counting and dividing at various levels depending on the age of the reader. Marcero’s color palette is fresh and vibrant while infusing the pages with a royal ambience that hints at the girls’ enriched future.

A joy to read aloud, Twinderella, A Fractioned Fairy Tale is an enchanting story that doubles as inspired math learning. The book would be a favorite addition to any home, classroom, and public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399176333

You’ll discover more about Corey Rosen Schwartz and her books plus Twinderella activities to download on her website.

To learn more about Deborah Marcero, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Tell a Fairy Tale Day Activity

CPB - Fairy Tale box

Treasure Box of Imagination

 

Fairy tales are treasure troves of imagination and dreams. With this craft, kids can make a treasure box to save the ideas and tidbits that spark their own imaginations.

Supplies

  • 1 small wooden box, available at craft stores
  • Gold acrylic craft paint
  • Craft gems
  • Paint brush
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint your wooden box with the gold paint
  2. Let the box dry
  3. Decorate your Treasure Box of Imagination with gems

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You can find Twinderella: A Fractioned Fairy Tale at these booksellers

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

 

January 20 – Penguin Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

Who can resist those little black-and-white waddlers from a frozen realm? Today’s holiday gives us a chance to enjoy and learn more about one of the world’s favorite animals. To celebrate, research penguins or visit an aquarium, and, of course, read a great penguin book!

Little Penguins

Written by Cynthia Rylant | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

A tiny penguin stands at the window star-struck by the snowflakes floating gently down. Four more penguins join her to see this marvelous sight. There are so “many snowflakes.” Gathered around the window in their igloo home, the penguins are excited that “Winter is coming!” They rush to collect their cold-weather supplies. Out of the basket they pull mittens—a pair for each, red, blue, green, yellow, sage—“and matching scarves.”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Cynthia Rylant. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

With abandon the penguins raid the bureau, scattering socks like colorful confetti. Warm, dry boots get to leave their cubbies after a looong nap. Bundled up, the penguins tumble out into the winter wonderland. They sled and slide on the deep snow. In places they find the snow is top-of-their-boots deeper, and then suddenly waist-high, “very deep.”

Uh-Oh! Suddenly the landscape is blank-page white! Four of the little penguins look in all directions. “Where’s Mama?” No need to fret—Mama’s coming, skimming down the hill on her belly with the fifth tiny penguin. But the sky is darkening and it’s time to head for home. “In the door and off, off, off, off, off!”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

On go the jammies then warm cookies and filled “sippies” satisfy the tummy. Finally, it’s time to snuggle tight under colored blankets and watch the flurries fly because “Winter is here.”

Cynthia Rylant captures the exhilaration kids feel upon the first snow of winter in her delightful concept book. The flurry of activity to dig out the accoutrements of winter provide little readers the perfect opportunity to learn or—in the case of a bit older kids—to show their knowledge of cold-weather apparel, colors, counting skills, and more. Rylant’s gifted way with even the simplest words turns the question-and-answer format of Little Penguins into a lyrical frolic little ones will love.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

In Christian Robinson’s cozy igloo, the eager brightness of the little penguins is highlighted against the mottled textures of sage walls and reflected in the gleaming gray-blue floor. The little home with its fish weather vane and tall chimney sits at the edge of an icy peninsula, perfectly placed for winter play. The five penguins joyfully don their mittens, wave their scarves and toss socks to and fro in their hurry to get dressed and get outside to enjoy the fat, fluffy snowflakes.

Once there, the penguins become tiny dots on the vast, white hill as they sink waist deep, in the snow, glide on their bellies, and welcome Mama, who’s joined the fun. As the penguins remove their snow gear back home, Robinson cleverly stripes the two-page spread in the favorite colors of the individual penguins, creating a striking counterbalance to the snug kitchen to come. An old-fashioned stove, retro accents, and fish, whale, and boat décor wrap up the comfy charm of this superb book for young readers.

With its sweet characters and beautiful illustrations, Little Penguins would be a happy and often-asked-for addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 2 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553507706 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1984830586 (Board Book, 2019)

To learn more about Cynthia Rylant and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of illustration art by Christian Robinson on his website!

Penguin Awareness Day Activity

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Spicy Cool Penguins

 

Don’t throw away those empty spice bottles—instead make these cute penguins with their colorful hats who are just waiting to play!

Supplies

  • Empty glass or plastic spice bottle with cap
  • Black paint
  • White paint OR White fleece or felt
  • Black paper
  • Yellow foam or heavy paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Styrofoam ball (optional)
  • Glue
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Paint the inside of the glass or plastic bottle with the black paint, let dry
  2. From the white fleece, cut an oval for the penguin’s belly and glue it on. Alternatively, paint a white oval on the jar to make a belly. Fleece may be a better option for younger children, as the paint can scratch off glass and plastic surfaces.
  3. Glue googly eyes near the top of the jar, but below the cap
  4. Cut a triangle of yellow foam or paper for the beak and glue it on
  5. Cut two tear shapes for the wings from the black paper. Glue the top of the shape to the body of the penguin, overlapping the belly a little. Fold the tips up
  6. Give your penguins Styrofoam ball snowballs to play with!

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You can find Little Penguins at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 4 – It’s National Knit a Sweater Month

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About the Holiday

If you’re a reader or writer, you’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, in which writers dedicate themselves to writing 50,000 words—or a novel-length manuscript—this month. While these folks are weaving stories, knitters around the world are involved in their own super challenge. Inspired by NaNoWriMo, knitters are getting out their needles and yarn to create a 50,000-stitch—or sweater-size—garment. November, with its cooler, but not frigid, weather is a perfect time to make a new wooly wonder for the winter. Whether you keep your creation for yourself or give it away as a gift, the satisfaction of having completed the challenge will keep your heart warm all  year. For more information and to find like-minded artists, join the group at Ravelry.

Where Is My Pink Sweater?

By Nicola Slater

 

One morning when Rudy woke up, his beloved pink sweater was gone. Sure, “it was a bit too small and showed his belly button. But it was his favorite.” He went to look for it in his tall wardrobe, but all he found was “TEN tumbling cats.” They provided a clue that went like this: “Follow the trail / follow the string / to find your favorite / wooly thing!” Rudy looked down and saw a long strand of pink yarn running along the floor and down the stairs.

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Copyright Nicola Slater, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Downstairs, Rudy spied “NINE jiving llamas in fancy-pants pajamas.” They were so busy eating and sipping and dancing under the disco ball, that they never even saw Rudy. But Rudy noticed the string of yarn and followed it. In the kitchen, “EIGHT prima pigerinas” were pirouetting and having tea. They poured Rudy a cup, and while he was enjoying it, he heard a creak.

He took a quick peek in the basement and saw “SEVEN ski-dogs slaloming on the stairs.” They were all wearing something pink, but not his sweater. Back upstairs in the bathroom, Rudy called out to the “SIX soapy blackbirds.” They answered with same clue the cats had given him, so he followed the string out the window…and into a wading pool, where no one wore a sweater bathing suit. The string continued into the sewer, around a worm, past a little bug, and through the house of “FOUR muttering mice” who offered him cheese and a bit of advice. It led him to a croc-cupied outhouse “but no sweater.”

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Copyright Nicola Slater, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Here the string ended. Rudy was sad that he hadn’t found his favorite sweater. He couldn’t imagine who would have wanted it. He was pondering this question when out of the bushes popped “Trudy! His number ONE sister.” She was wearing his sweater and it fit just right. It was true that “Rudy loved his sweater, but he loved Trudy more.” And just then he knew he was ready for the pink surprise his friends had brought. 

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Copyright Nicola Slater, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Nicola Slater’s charming mystery for the littlest readers entices them to follow the pink string to solve this adorable whodunit. Along the way they discover a decreasing number of suspects behind flaps and cut outs on Slater’s vibrant and action-packed pages. Adults will enjoy the nods to mystery tropes, including a fantastical wardrobe, a creaky basement door, and a steamy bathroom, while kids will just love all the lively shenanigans going on in Rudy’s house and neighborhood.

Slater’s lyrical storytelling includes jaunty alliteration, humor, and well-paced, gentle suspense that will keep readers guessing while they practice their counting. The sweet solution to the mystery is family- and sibling-relationship affirming. Rudy’s love for his little sister and hers for Rudy shine and will make readers both young and older smile.

An enchanting read aloud board book for little readers and especially for family story times, Where Is My Pink Sweater? would make a wonderful gift and a favorite addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 5

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419736797

To see a portfolio of work by Nicola Slater visit Good Illustration

National Knit a Sweater Month Activity

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Design Your Own Sweater

 

If you could design your own sweater, what would it look like? Would it have stripes? Polka dots? A picture of a puppy, kitten, train, truck, or the logo of your favorite sports team? Use this printable Design Your Own Sweater template and have a bit of fashionable fun!

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You can find Where Is My Pink Sweater? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

October 17 – Get Ready for Halloween

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About the Holiday

Halloween is almost here! Enjoy the thrills and chills all month long with fun Halloween-themed books like this one. Yu may even want to keep them on the shelf to celebrate all YEAR long – just like the boy in today’s book! 

Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween

By Mike Petrik

 

On Halloween night all the kids looked forward to visiting the Loomis’s barn, where “the biggest, creepiest, jump-scariest haunted house in the neighborhood” took place. Everyone in the family helped out as witches, spirits, and vampires and in making lots of thunder, fog, and eerie sounds. Sammy, especially, wanted to make “sure to give the trick-or-treaters a fang-tastically fun time.”

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Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

On the morning after Halloween, the whole family gathered for pumpkin pancakes to relive the thrill of the night before. This year, Sammy could hardly concentrate on his pancakes because he already had so many ideas for the haunted house next year. Sammy’s older siblings, Luke and Molly, thought Sammy was too young to think of cool ideas, but his dad told Sammy to “give it a whirl.”

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Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

After a couple of weeks, Sammy began testing his ideas on the family. There were a few missteps – especially the jack-o’-lantern turkey and spiders and bats décor at Thanksgiving. And a Zombie Christmas really wasn’t what the rest of the family had in mind. As the winter wore on, Sammy perfected his scares. Molly’s sleepover was bone-chilling when Sammy made a skeleton skateboard through the living room.

Instead of a marshmallow egg Easter, Sammy conjured up a Happy Hallow-Easter egg hunt. But when the family’s Fourth of July barbecue was “rained out” by the sprinkler hiding in the tree, Sammy’s dad put his foot down. “‘Your ideas are wonderfully creepy,’ said Dad, ‘but Halloween has taken over everything.” He put the kibosh on all further haunting until everyone was onboard.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sammy's-spooktacular-halloween-haunted-house

Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

Sammy was feeling pretty down until Molly and Luke told him they thought his tricks were real treats and offered to help him create more. Under Sammy’s direction, they came up with amazing new hauntings. When the barn was finally decorated,  “Mom and Dad were spellbound.” Dad said, “‘We admire how you’ve stuck with it all year long,’” and Mom added, “‘So we’re naming you Halloween Spirit this year.’”

On Halloween night, Sammy welcomed all the neighbors with a spooky “‘HAPPY HALLOWEEN!’” and a “‘beware what lurks in the dark. Muah ha ha!’” The trick-or-treaters were shivering as they passed a skateboarding skeleton, an electrified Frankenstein, roiling fog, bubbling cauldrons, and bats, spiders, and ghosts galore. For Sammy, it was the best Halloween ever—and he was already planning for next year.

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Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

Young Halloween lovers—i.e. all kids—will find Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween frightfully funny and, no doubt, inspirational too. From the list of Sammy’s haunted house elements titled “Scares! Spooks!” on the front cover to the experimental tricks to the other holiday mash-ups, Sammy’s imaginative ideas will enthrall kids. Engineers-in-the-making will eagerly await each page turn as they mull over the possible ways to recreate Sammy’s devices. While Sammy learns that a bit of moderation in his year-long quest for the best Halloween ever may be in order, Mike Petrik’s inclusion of helpful siblings and supportive parents is heartening and will please readers—especially youngest family members.

Petrik’s pages are electrified with bold, vibrant colors and Sammy’s thrilling Halloween haunts that move, shiver, and shake. A house full of fog, ghosts that rappel into Dad’s cereal, a turkey carved like a jack-o’-lantern, and a crew of zombie snowmen are just some of the delights awaiting readers. Images of Luke and Molly assisting Sammy and Mom and Dad’s happy faces as they reward Sammy for his hard work will bring a smile. The final two-page spread of the family’s haunted barn is a showstopper that kids will want to explore.

A terrific book to inspire Halloween fun and sibling harmony, Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween would be a super (natural) selection for home and school libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503901797

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

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Spooky Haunted Graveyard

 

With a few items found in a backyard or park and a few from home, kids can make a spooky haunted graveyard to decorate their room or add to the family’s Halloween décor.

Supplies

  • Ten to twelve small to medium stones that have a triangular or rounded shape and can stand on their own (or close enough to be glued down)
  • Shallow cardboard box or plastic container
  • Small sticks or branches for the tree
  • A small amount of dirt, small dry leaves, moss, etc.
  • Poly fill for the fog (optional)
  • White craft paint
  • Small bit of clay
  • Paint brush
  • Black marker
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

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Directions

To Make the Ghosts

  1. Paint 5 or 6 stones with the white paint, let dry
  2. Add eyes and mouth with the black marker

To Make the Tombstones

  1. Add RIP, names, and dates to 5 or 6 stones with the black marker

To Make the Tree

  1. Use one or two small branches or twigs to make the tree
  2. Stick them into the clay for stability

To Make the Graveyard

  1. Draw a fence inside and outside on the rim of the box (optional)
  2. Scatter the tombstones around the box and glue in place
  3. Scatter the ghosts near the tombstones and around the graveyard, and glue them in place
  4. Stick the small branches or twigs in the clay

To Make the Ground

  1. Scatter dirt, leaves, moss, around the tombstones and ghosts
  2. Add wispy bits of poly fill around the ghosts and tombstones and in the tree (optional)

Display your haunted graveyard!

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You can find Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

August 27 – It’s Happiness Happens Month

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About the Holiday

It’s all up to you to make his month-long holiday happen. It offers an opportunity for each person to ask: What makes me happy? As the summer comes to a close and the hustle-bustle of school and extracurricular activities starts up again, be sure to include those things that truly bring you and your children joy. Spending more time with siblings and friends may be at the top of the list—just like in today’s book!

Twins

By Mike Ciccotello

A little boy and a giraffe love being twins. In fact, they are so alike, the boy says, that “sometimes our friends can’t tell us apart.” Having a twin means there’s always someone to play games—“and piano duets”—with. While it’s true that twins like many of the same things, the way they do activities is way different. Take the little boy and his giraffe twin, for instance. The boy’s tricycle is short, while his twin’s is looong, and the snowman the boy makes has three sections while the giraffe’s snowman has six—and antlers.

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Copyright Mike Ciccotello, 2019, courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

As you might imagine, salad is high on the list of favorite foods. Other faves include dancing, reading, and drawing. But who does these best? That question sometimes causes squabbles. And when there’s, say, only one tool to share or a big issue like “who is stronger,” sometimes that “disagreement…might last all afternoon, and turn into a big, rotten fight.”

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Copyright Mike Ciccotello, 2019, courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

But after a little alone time, the boy and his twin and the giraffe and his twin “can never stay mad for very long.” Then they end up compromising because they know that they “work best together.” Yes, “it’s great being a twin, knowing there’s someone who’s just like you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-review-twins-activities

Copyright Mike Ciccotello, 2019, courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

Mike Ciccotello’s sweet tribute to twins, whether they’re siblings, best friends, or even pet-and-people pairs will have kids giggling at the juxtapositions of the little boy and his extra-tall twin as they play and work together. The two are exuberant partners, smiling, laughing, and making knowing eye contact, as they dress the same, share the same activities, and talk in their bunk beds before going to sleep. When the inevitable quarrels come, readers will recognize the mixed emotions that ultimately bring these two best friends back together. Ciccotello’s emphasis on resolving disputes, compromise, and staying mindful of all the benefits to having a twin or “near twin” gives the story deeper resonance for building bonds between siblings and friends.

Ciccotello’s vibrant illustrations are clever and cheerful, touching on kid-favorite year-round events and everyday routines. They also give a sly wink to the idea that twins are always identical and highlight the individuality of not only these twins but each reader too. The wide-open pages and spotlighted vignettes allow the youngest readers to focus on the relationship between the boy and the giraffe and offer opportunities for adults and kids to talk about that special bond.

A funny book with a lot of heart, Twins would be an endearing addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 6

Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0374312121

To learn more about Mike Ciccotello and his work, visit his website.

Happiness Happens Month Activity

CPB - Happiness typography

Happiness Is…Game

 

Happiness is all around you! Grab one or more friends to play a game that reveals what things make you happy. Here are two ways to play:

  1. Like the “Geography” game: the first player names something that makes them happy, the next player must think of something that starts with the last letter of the word the previous player said. The game continues with each player continuing the pattern. Players drop out as they cannot think of a word. The last player left is the winner.
  2. Using a time limit (depending on age): players must think of something that makes them happy. Players drop out if they cannot think of a word within the time limit. The last player left is the winner.

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You can find Twins at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 12 – National Middle Child Day

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About the Holiday

Elizabeth Walker, feeling that middle children were often overlooked, established National Middle Children’s Day in the 1980s. The holiday was initially celebrated on the second Saturday in August, but became associated with the 12th and so it stuck. The name was later shortened to National Middle Child Day. To commemorate the day, let all the middle kids you know how terrific they are.

Bunny in the Middle

Written by Anika A. Denise | Illustrated by Christopher Denise

 

Being right between the oldest and the youngest means that “there’s someone bigger who helps you and someone smaller who needs you.” When you’re that middle child, you learn when to stand your ground, when to relent, and “how to solve sticky situations.”

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, 2019, text copyright Anika Denise, 2019. Courtesy of Henry Holt and Co.

There are times when you’re the leader and times when you’re the follower. But there are also those times when you can strike out on your own—even if you are wearing hand-me-downs and just left your siblings in a room you share. But being in the middle has its perks, too. You grow up just a little more quickly, making you “not too small for the big stuff,” while you’re still little enough to enjoy “the small stuff.” 

But what’s the very best thing about being in the middle? Always being surrounded by love!

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, 2019, text copyright Anika Denise, 2019. Courtesy of Henry Holt and Co.

Anika and Christopher Denise created Bunny in the Middle as a loving tribute to their middle child, and their love glows on each page with storytelling that embraces the reader like a snuggled heart-to-heart in a comfy chair and art that is beyond adorable. Anika’s sweet insights remind middle kids of the advantages of their position and the benefits they reap from their older and younger siblings.

Christopher’s three bunnies charmingly display recognizable personalities of their birth order as the oldest takes up more than her third of the reading chair, helps her sister with her math homework, and is the head cupcake baker to her sister’s recipe-reading assistant. The middle bunny helps her tiny brother onto the swing, relents with rolled eyes to his crying entreaty to wear her chef’s hat, and gazes skeptically into the mirror at her reflection in a too-big, hand-me-down dress. Meanwhile, their little brother meditates on his toes, plays with the flour sifter on the floor, and concentrates on running his train around the track (and his younger sister).

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, 2019, text copyright Anika Denise, 2019. Courtesy of Henry Holt and Co.

Interspersed with these experiences, are images of the middle bunny displaying her confident, sensitive nature as she connects directly with the reader (probably a middle child like herself), licks a spoonful of icing, is blissfully alone to spy a butterfly at the pond and play with her toys, and is bravely the first in line to enter school. The final two spreads are as cozy as it gets as the three siblings share a book in bed before drifting off to cuddled-up sleep.

An enchantment for quiet and heartening story times at home with a middle child alone or with the whole gang as well as uplifting reassurance for preschool and kindergarten classrooms, where at any given time a student might feel like a middle kid. Bunny in the Middle would be a touching addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1250120366

Discover more about Anika Denise and her books on her website.

To learn more about Christopher Denise, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Middle Child Day Activity

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Triple the Fishy Fun!

 

These fishy siblings have three times the fun swimming together. Grab your crayons or pencils and give them and their world some color with this printable page.

Triple the Fishy Fun Coloring Page

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You can find Bunny in the Middle at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

June 16 – Father’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today is all about celebrating dads and telling them how much you love them. It’s a great day to think of all the things dads do for their kids and their families and to share a thank-you, a hug, and of course a book! Reading together is one of the best ways for dads and their kids to bond not only today, but every day!

It’s Great Being a Dad

Written by Dan Bar-el | Illustrated by Gina Perry

 

A lovely pink unicorn with a sparkling rainbow horn clip-clops over a grassy hill, a golden castle and a candy forest in the background. The playful animal believes it’s “great being a unicorn. Who wouldn’t want to be a unicorn?” What makes them so special? Well…as she says, “We’re terrific at prancing and we’re very pretty and, best of all, we have an adorable horn just above our eyebrows.” It’s hard to argue with those reasons!

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But it seems there are some downsides to this whole unicorn thing. Grazing might be at the top of the list. That shiny horn just always seems to get in the way. There’s no way for teeth to touch the ground, and trying to grab a snack off a table just results in the table being stuck on the “adorable horn.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-great-being-a-dad

Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

How about Bigfoot? What’s it like for him? Let’s ask—here comes Bigfoot now! “It’s great being Bigfoot. I love being Bigfoot. Who wouldn’t want to be Bigfoot?” What’s so great about being…you know…? Well…he’s warm in his furry coat, he’s well camouflaged among the trees, and his super strength “can help unicorns get tables off their heads.” Sounds great! What could go wrong? Hmmm…. It seems those big feet get themselves into some sticky situations—like ending up with a tree trunk lodged around your leg.

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maybe being a Robot is better. Indeed! In fact, Robot says, “If I had feelings, I would love being a robot.” Pretty compelling stuff there. Robot is very flashy and has lots of memory and has an arm that can convert into a saw just in time to help “unicorns and Bigfoot with their wood problems.” So what’s not to like? Rain can really mess with the mo(tor)-jo.

Poor Loch Ness Monster! She’s not even going to try being positive. It kind of stinks being a monster—especially when you don’t feel like one. But maybe things aren’t all bad. Unicorn, Bigfoot, and Robot hitch a ride on Nessie’s back across the lake to the hospital. There they meet a “fairy queen ballerina doctor” who loves being a fairy queen ballerina doctor. Who wouldn’t?

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

This Jill-of-all-trades can prescribe medicine for the sick, “perform a happy dance” for the sad, and wave her magic wand “if you have trouble with your saw arm…or your head horn or your big foot.” Sounds perfect…until a “sneaky flying alligator pirate” swoops in and swipes the magic wand just as the fairy queen ballerina doctor is about the save the day. “Dad!”

Ha! Ha! Here’s a little guy who’s super excited to be a sneaky flying alligator pirate. “I’m sneaky, so you never see me coming. I can fly, so you can never catch me. And… And…that’s enough reasons. So what’s not to like about being a sneaky flying alligator pirate?” Ooof! “Dads, that’s what!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-great-being-a-dad

Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But how does Dad feel about being a dad? Let’s see: “It’s great being a dad. I love being a dad.” It does look pretty fun! Dad gets to remove pizza box “tables” from hobby horse unicorns; remove stepped-on drums from a brown-fuzzy-hoodied-and-hiking-booted Bigfoot; fix cardboard-saw arms; give medals to super swimmers; and “return magic wands to… to… ‘Fairy queen ballerina doctors. I told you a million times already.’ Right. What she said.” Plus Dad can help little brothers play nicely.

So you must be wondering… “what’s not to like about being a dad? Sudden makeovers, that’s what.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Dan Bar-el’s laugh-out-loud romp through an afternoon of play hits the perfect tone to entertain kids and adults as well. Bar-el’s wry delivery and repetition of the appealing—and not-so—traits of each fantasy character will have readers giggling and eagerly anticipating the next page. The revelation that the characters are kids with big imaginations offers multiple payouts in creativity, personalities, friendship, and family.

Gina Perry’s vibrant, whimsical illustrations riff on all the fantasy clichés to ramp up the humor in this vivacious story. When happily-ever-after turns into happily-never-after for each character, Perry amusingly depicts their dismay, but the next page finds them cheerfully adjusted to their new circumstance and weaving it into a revised storyline. As the story wraps up, readers will enjoy pointing out aspects of the kids’ interests and the parts of the backyard that spurred their imagination in earlier pages. The diverse group of friends is welcome, and good-natured Dad doesn’t really seem to mind his impromptu makeover.

It’s Great Being a Dad is a fantastically fun read-aloud that makes a wonderful gift for dad and would be an often-asked-for addition to home and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770496057

Discover more about Dan Bar-el and his books on his website!

You find a gallery of illustration work and books by Gina Perry on her website!

Father’s Day Activity

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I Love Dad Building Blocks

 

This craft will stack up to be a favorite with kids! With wooden blocks and a little chalkboard paint, it’s easy for kids to make these unique building blocks that show dad just how they feel about him. They’re also great for gifts, decorating, party favors, or when you just have a little time to play!

Supplies

  • Wooden blocks in various sizes, available from craft stores
  • Chalkboard paint in various colors
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk in various colors

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden blocks with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. Write words or draw pictures on the blocks
  3. Have fun!

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You can find It’s Great Being a Dad at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review