May 24 – National Brother’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today we take time to celebrate brothers! Whether you grew up with a brother (or a few) or have a friend you love like a brother, today’s holiday gives you a terrific reason to get in touch, relive some old memories, and make new ones! This year, as we’re spending more time working and playing with family, today’s book is certainly a home run!

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team

Written by Audrey Vernick | Illustrated by Steven Salerno

When the weather warms and kids’ thoughts turn to sports, the afternoon air rings with the sounds of slamming doors as players race from home to the baseball diamond. Back in the 1920s and ‘30s, the same door slammed not once or twice, not three or four times, not even eight or nine! The door shut behind 12 brothers! Anthony, Joe, Paul, Alfred, Charlie, Jimmy, Bobby, Billy, Freddie, Eddie, Bubbie, and Louie Acerra. These 12 boys also had 4 sisters—but this is a story about baseball, and back then girls didn’t play ball.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

It could be said that “baseball set the rhythm of their lives.” Neighbors couldn’t remember a time when Acerra boys weren’t throwing or hitting a ball or running the bases at the local park. And there was an Acerra on the high school baseball team for 22 years in a row!

In 1938 the nine oldest brothers formed a semi-pro team and competed against other New Jersey teams and teams from New York and Connecticut. Their dad was their coach. The brothers all had different skills—Anthony could hit homeruns, and even hit a couple into the Atlantic Ocean from a seaside park; Charlie was a slow runner; and Jimmy had a knuckleball that was unhittable and uncatchable.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

But playing had its dangers too. In one game Alfred was going to bunt, but the ball bounced badly off the bat and hit him in the face. He was rushed to the hospital, but the accident caused him to lose an eye. Everyone thought he would never play again. But after he healed, his brothers helped him recover his skills and his courage.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

During World War II six of the brothers joined the war effort and spent years apart. Far from home they dreamed of the days when they played together on warm afternoons. When the war ended all the Acerra boys came home to their very happy mother. The brothers got back to what they loved doing best. Now Anthony was their coach, and from 1946 to 1952 they won the Long Branch City Twilight Baseball League championship four times—much to the pleasure of the crowds that came out to watch the Acerras play.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

As time went on the Acerras got jobs, married, and had families of their own. In 1952 the brothers played their last game as a team, having made history as the longest-playing, all-brother baseball team ever. Even though the Acerras played many, years ago, people have not forgotten them. In 1997 they were honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame. The surviving seven brothers made the trip along with one sister and more than a hundred relatives. Now Jimmy Acerra’s uniform and glove are on display alongside exhibits about Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Willie Mays. If you visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, you can see them too!

Interesting and personal author’s and artist’s notes follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-brothers
Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

Baseball fans will love Audrey Vernick’s exciting, true story of this most unusual team. Her focus on the close relationship of the Acerra brothers elevates the tale from merely a sports story to one that reveals deep affection and support during difficult times. The different personalities of the brothers shine through in Vernick’s easy, conversational tone, and the inclusion of the Acerra brothers’ induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame shows that this story lives on for all generations.

Steven Salerno’s evocative illustrations will transport readers into a past where neighborhood leagues enjoyed the same level of loyalty as the majors. Capturing the brushed style, colors, and portraiture of pictures of the period, Salerno shows kids not only what it meant to be a baseball player in the 1930s and 40s, but what it meant to be a family.

Ages 4 – 9

Clarion Books, 2012 | ISBN 978-0547385570

Discover more about Audrey Vernick and her book on her website.

To learn more about Steven Salerno, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Brother’s Day Activity

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Best Brother Award Certificate

Today is all about your brother and how great you think he is! Print and fill out this Best Brother Award Certificate and give it to your brother—or brothers!

You can find Brothers at Bat at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 23 – It’s National Tennis Month

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About the Holiday

When the weather turns warm, thoughts turn to love. Not romantic love, but tennis! Tennis can’t be matched for thrilling one-on-one competition, exercise, and fun. While this year the world’s great tennis tournaments may be cancelled, outdoor tennis courts may be open, allowing you to reap the benefits of this favorite sport. Even though tournament viewing is limited this summer, you can always immerse yourself in a stirring biography of the game’s great players––starting with today’s book that’s all about love––of tennis and family!

Serena: The Littlest Sister

Written by Karlin Gray | Illustrated by Monica Ahanonu

 

On that day when “Serena stood in Arthur Ashe Stadium and kissed the trophy,” her fans, sisters, and parents cheered. How had that day come about? It started thirteen years earlier when Serena, then four years old, joined her older sisters on the tennis court where their dad coached them. As he showed Serena how to swing, her sisters celebrated when she hit one and ran after the ones she didn’t. Mostly, the equipment they used was old and donated. Sometimes the balls had even lost their bounce, but “their father explained that it was good practice for Wimbledon—a Grand Slam tournament where the balls bounced lower because the tennis court was made of grass.”

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Image copyright Monica Ahanonu, 2019, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

When they weren’t on a real tennis court, the girls played a pretend game of tennis on the sidewalk. Serena loved when she won these games “because, well, Serena loved being the star.” As they grew, their father never allowed them “to use the word can’t.” Their mom told them, “‘Whatever you become, you become in your head first.’ So the girls dreamed of what they could become.” While the other sisters became a nurse, a lawyer, and a singer, Venus and Serena became top tennis players.

Venus was taking the tennis world by storm with her hard hitting, speed, and 100-miles-per-hour serve. Serena wanted to play in tournaments too, but her father said she wasn’t ready. But one day, Serena noticed an application for a tournament Venus was playing in. Serena filled it out and sent it in. At the tournament, Serena snuck off to play on one court while her parents watched Venus on another. Serena ran her opponent ragged and won the match.

Serena thought her father might be angry, but instead he was proud and began teaching her how to play against her next opponent. “Serena won all her matches, moving up and up until…she faced her big sister in the final match.” During the match, Serena asked Venus to let her win one game, but Venus ignored her plea. Later at home, though, Venus traded her gold trophy for Serena’s silver one. “Serena cherished that trophy.” Serena idolized Venus and did everything she did until her father reminded her that she was her own person. Some people didn’t think Serena would have the success Venus did, but her oldest sister told her, “‘You’ll have your day. And it’s gonna be even bigger.’”

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Image copyright Monica Ahanonu, 2019, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

After several years of winning, Serena, Venus, and her family moved to Florida for training. On those courts the girls stood out for their skin color, their beaded braids—and “their powerful strokes.” When Venus was fourteen, she was allowed to enter professional tournaments. She won her first match. When Serena turned pro, she didn’t win. The two teamed up as doubles partners, and by the time she was sixteen, Serena had grown in both height and confidence. She had her own style of play too.

The sisters continued to play as a doubles team, and in 1999 they won the French Open Doubles competition. Venus was eighteen and Serena was seventeen. That same year, the sisters entered the US Open, the tournament Serena had long dreamed of winning. Surprisingly, Venus was knocked out early, but Serena kept winning her matches. In the finals she met the player who had beaten Venus. Serena served eight aces and “her fierce forehand earned her point after point.” Serena won the match and became “the first black woman to win a Grand Slam singles tournament in more than forty years.” At the awards ceremony, Serena thanked her dad, her mom, and her sisters for all of their support. The crowd cheered as cameras flashed. “And one of the many headlines of the day read, Little Sister, BIG HIT!”

An Afterword highlights other victories Serena and Venus have enjoyed during their careers, follow-ups on their sisters, and quotations from each of the five sisters.

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Image copyright Monica Ahanonu, 2019, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Karlin Gray’s masterful biography of Serena Williams shows young readers the determination, confidence, and strong familial bond that followed Serena through her life and made her one of tennis’s most influential women players. The family’s remarkable life and focus on what one can achieve will inspire all kids, no matter what their dream is. Choosing seminal events in Serena’s and Venus’s life, Gray follows Serena’s reputation on the court as she loses and wins matches, building suspense until that day when she accomplishes her goal and wins the US Open. Her inclusion of articles and comments that cast doubt on Serena’s future success, demonstrates that even the greats face opposition and naysaying, and Serena’s sister’s advice to ignore it is sound.

Monica Ahanonu’s textured, collage-style illustrations leap off the page with vibrant images full of action and the girls’ personalities. As the girls race onto a court for practice, their eager expressions show their love of the game and being together. Even as a four-year-old Serena has the steely eyed gaze of a champion as she watches the bouncing ball and lines up for her swing. Ahanonu’s use of various perspectives and shadowing create dynamic scenes on the court, and tennis lovers will be thrilled at the many illustrations of Venus and Serena playing their sport. The bond between the sisters is evident in images of Serena interacting with one or more of her sisters. Those who remember Serena’s win at the 1999 US Open will recognize her joyous win.

Perfectly aimed at young readers who are the same age as Serena and Venus when they began developing their skills and sport, Serena: The Littlest Sister is an inspirational biography of a present-day role model that is sure to spark an “I can” attitude. Adults who have followed the Williams sisters’ rise to tennis stardom will be equally enthralled with this beautiful biography. The book would make a stirring addition to home, classroom, and library collections.

Ages 8 – 11

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146947

Discover more about Karlin Gray and her books on her website.

To learn more about Monica Ahanonu and her work, visit her website.

National Tennis Month Activity

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Tennis Love Word Search Puzzle

 

If you’re a tennis ace, you’ll enjoy finding the tennis-related words in this printable word search puzzle.

Tennis Love Word Search Puzzle | Tennis Love Word Search Solution

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You can find Serena: The Littlest Sister at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

May 22 – It’s National Family Month

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About the Holiday

In the weeks between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day we celebrate National Family Month. The holiday was established by KidsPeace to encourage families to spend more time together. It also gives us the opportunity to honor everything that makes a group of people a family. Common experiences, shared memories, and unconditional love create that unique feeling in the heart that defines family. This year, the bonds of family have taken on a whole new meaning. To celebrate, gather your family together, talk about some things you’ve learned about each other, what you love about each family member, and, of course, have some fun!

I received a copy of Otis P. Oliver Protests for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Otis P. Oliver Protests

by Keri Claiborne Boyle and Illustrated by Daniel Duncan

By Jakki Licare

Otis has no interest in taking a bath now or anytime in the future. In fact, he believes no one should have to take a bath, but with three big sisters no one really listens to him. Otis has to take four baths every single week,  “…especially when he’s excessively grubby. And since worm farms aren’t going to build themselves, Otis is usually excessively grubby.”

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Image copyright Daniel Duncan, 2020, text copyright Keri Claiborne Boyle, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Otis’s family insists he should take a bath. So Otis decides that if he wants people to listen to him, he needs the right look and the right speech. At the playground Otis calls out to his friends that they must unite together for “bath-time rights.” Together they march through the streets until they all plop down on Otis’s front lawn. They will not move until they have been heard. 

Otis’s oldest sister passes him a note from their mom who is wondering what is going on. Otis responds: “No More Baths! Love Otis (P.S. What’s for dinner? I don’t like mystery meatloaf.)” Otis’s middle older sister brings out another note from their mom who doesn’t understand why he doesn’t want to take a bath. She also reassures him that it is lasagna night. Otis explains that he hates how his pajamas cling to him after his bath. Otis’s youngest older sister delivers a new note. Their mother tells him he doesn’t have to wear pajamas if he doesn’t want to. After consulting his group he finally agrees to his mother’s terms.

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Image copyright Daniel Duncan, 2020, text copyright Keri Claiborne Boyle, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

After Otis’s friends head home, the family dog brings Otis another note. “My lil grub worm, So glad we reached a compromise. Now get in the tub before you’re grounded for life! Hugs and kisses, Mom. (P.S. No dessert on school nights.)” Otis hurries in to take his bath, but before he jumps in he writes his mom one last note. He tells her that he is all set to take his bath, but he won’t be using soap. But if he was allowed to have dessert tonight, then he would be happy to negotiate.

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Image copyright Daniel Duncan, 2020, text copyright Keri Claiborne Boyle, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Otis P. Oliver is a smart, charismatic little boy who will walk right off the page and demand admission into your heart. Children will sympathize with his problem of not wanting to take a bath and will cheer him on as he takes on the parental establishment. The notes passed between mother and son through Otis’s sisters add to the hilarity. Each note has a post script discussing what’s for dinner which will make young readers giggle.

Keri Claiborne Boyle’s detailed attention to her characters makes each page a pleasure to read. Each sister’s distinct personality comes through as she stomps or rolls her eyes or pirouettes off the page. Boyle uses the rule of three to trick the readers into thinking that the negotiations are over after the third sister delivers her note. However, Boyle then sends a fourth note out with the dog, proving that Otis’s mom is a master negotiator. Otis still has one trick up his sleeve, though, as he points out the loophole that he never agreed to use soap.

Daniel Duncan’s colorful pencil-lined characters are amplified by his detailed attention to each character’s personality. Otis P. is charming as he wears his father’s oversized coat with dirt patches on his cheeks and knees and wavy stink lines steaming off of him. The illustrated details of fishnet stockings for the oldest sister, bubble gum blowing for the middle older sister, and ipod-carrying and tutu-wearing youngest sister perfectly compliment Boyle’s text and make each sister’s personality pop. Children and adults will giggle at the  hilarious signs that Duncan adds to Otis’s sit in: “I feel bath wrath” & “Occupy Dirt.”  The entire family dynamic is perfectly illustrated through a simple picture of the family’s stairway. The three sisters each have their pictures hung perfectly in descending order while Otis’s picture is propped on the second step at the same level as the family dog.

Ages  6 – 9 years old

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110434

Discover more about Keri Claiborne Boyle and her books on her website

To learn more about Daniel Duncan, his books, and his art, visit him on The Drawn Chorus Collective website.

Budding politicians, bath-averse children, and everyone in between should have this book on their shelves. Otis P. Oliver Protests is the perfect book for kids and adults to share giggles and talks about compromises either at home or in the classroom. A top pick for public libraries too.

National Family Month Activity 

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Recycled  Bathtub Catapult Battleship 

If your kiddo isn’t interested in taking a bath like Otis P. Oliver then you should give this craft a try! Blast the bubbles away as you sail your battleship in the tub.

Supplies

  • Applesauce or yogurt cup
  • Skewer
  • Plastic spoon
  • Popsicle stick
  • 10-15 pennies
  • Rubber band
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • Crayons (are best since they are waterproof)
  • Tape

These supplies are just suggestions. Play around with different recycled materials and see what works!

Directions

To Make the Mast

  1. Cut the bottom of the popsicle stick off so the end is flat

  2. Take the cut-off part of the popsicle stick and hot glue the flat side to the popsicle stick, one inch down from the top. This will help hold the rubber band in place

  3. Hot glue the popsicle stick to the center of your yogurt or applesauce cup.

To Make the Catapult

  1. Cut off the pointy ends of skewer

  2. Hot glue the handle of the plastic spoon to the skewer

  3. Hold the catapult at an angle and hot glue the skewer next to the popsicle stick

To Make the Flag

  1. On paper draw a triangle and color in.

  2. Cut out triangle and tape to popsicle stick as a flag

To Finish

  1. Place pennies in front of popsicle stick to balance it out for floating (mine needed 12 pennies to keep it from tipping over backwards)

  2. Attach rubber band around popsicle stick and skewer

  3.  Float in bathtub and attack those bubbles!

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You can find Otis P. Oliver Protests at these bookstores

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

May 14 – National Dance Like a Chicken Day

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About the Holiday

You know what this holiday is all about! You can hear the tune taking over your brain, can’t you? And your elbows – they’re bending and bouncing just a little bit, aren’t they? Then jump up, gather the kids, and… Na na na na na na na. / Na na na na na na na. / Na na na na an na NA. / clap, clap, clap, clap….

A Little Chicken

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Dan Taylor

 

“Dot was a little chicken…who, let’s face it, was a little chicken.” There weren’t many things Dot wasn’t afraid of, including garden gnomes. Even though “Dot tried to be brave,” even the simplest things and the gentlest creatures frightened her. One day, though, while she was adding making their coop more secure, Dot knocked one of her siblings off the nest. All she could do was watch it roll away.

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Image copyright Dan Taylor, 2019, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Or was there something else she could do? She plucked up her courage and ran after it. The egg was just within reach when it bounced away and took two hops across lily pads into the middle of the pond. Dot swung over the egg on a tall strand of grass and was just about to grab it when it was catapulted into a tall tree.

Dot climbed the tree and inched out onto a long branch. “She was this close when…” the branch broke and the egg broke away too—”into the deep…dark…woods.” She took one look and…decided “this was no time to be a little chicken.” She ran down the path in pursuit of her little brother or sister and finally caught that egg just as it began to crack. These days, while Dot is still afraid of many things, her little sister and the other chickens think she’s a hero—just “a big hero” who’s “just a little chicken.”

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Image copyright Dan Taylor, 2019, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Tammi Sauer’s upbeat story of a timid chicken who overcomes her fears in order to save her sibling is suspenseful, fast-paced, and sprinkled with humor. The story will have even the most cautious little ones cheering Dot on her quest and finding their own brave along the way. Dot’s sense of responsibility sparks the action and serves as a second gentle lesson in this well-conceived story. The ending, which embraces Dot’s wary nature while also revealing her heroic accomplishment, is a welcome message for hesitant children who are courageous in their own way.

Dan Taylor’s sweet Dot, with her oversized glasses and bright red overalls, will charm children looking for a hero who’s just their size. As Dot sets in motion her unhatched sibling and the story while installing a huge security camera and monitor in the coop, kids will alternately gasp and giggle at the suspenseful and humorous details on each page. The other chickens are delightfully supportive of Dot, which lends a sense of inclusiveness as they all rush out to cheer her heroic catch. Dot scrambles over a green meadow, hangs perilously over a lily pad covered pond, scurries up a tall tree, and flaps her way through a dark forest populated with a wolf, bears, and—most frightening of all—three garden gnomes.

A story of finding one’s courage at eggs-actly the right moment, A Little Chicken would be a heartening addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454929000

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

To learn more about Dan Taylor, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Chicken Dance Day Activity

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Egg Carton Chickens and a Basket Full of Games

 

With twelve little chickens you can come up with lots of games to play! This fun craft and game activity is eggs-actly what you need to start hatching some real fun!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • White craft paint
  • Markers: red, yellow, black for the face; any colors you’d like for wings and eggs
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Construction or craft paper in white and a color of your choice

Directions

  1. Cut the notched flap off the egg carton and set aside
  2. Cut the top off the egg carton
  3. Cut apart all the egg cups and trim slightly so they sit flat
  4. Paint the egg cups with the white paint, let dry
  5. Add the face, comb and wings to the chicken with the markers. Make six chickens with one color wings and six chickens with another color wings.
  6. From the egg carton flap cut thirteen small egg-shaped playing pieces
  7. With the markers, decorate twelve of the eggs in pairs—each egg in the pair with the same design
  8. Color one egg yellow and add a beak, eyes, and wings to make it a chick

Games to Play

Tic-Tac-Toe (2 players)

  1. On a 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper draw a regular tic-tac-toe board or make it fancy – like the picket fence-inspired board in the picture
  2. To make the fence-inspired board on a colored background, cut 2 9-inch-long x 3/4-inch wide strips of white paper, cutting a pointed tip at one or both ends. Cut 2 white  8-inch x 3/4-inch strips of paper with a pointed tip at one or both ends. Glue the strips to the background.
  3. Each player chooses a set of chickens with the same colored wings
  4. Play the game as you usually do

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Find the Matching Eggs (2 or more players)

  1. Have one player hide one egg under each chicken
  2. Shuffle the eggs around and form them into three lines of 4 chickens each
  3. Another player lifts one chicken at a time to find matching eggs. If the eggs don’t match, put both chickens back and start again

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Where’s the Chick?

  1. Use as many chickens and eggs as you want (fewer for younger children, more for older)
  2. One player hides the chick under one of the chickens and eggs under the others.
  3. Another player has three chances to find the chick

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I’m sure you can also design your own games for your adorable chickens to play! With more chickens you can even make a checkers set or replicate another of your favorite board games!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-little-chicken-cover

You can find A Little Chicken at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

You can support your local independent bookstore, by ordering from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 28 – National Superhero Day

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate superheroes—both fictional and real—who make the world a better place. While fictional superheroes have uncommon strength, endless courage, and powers that defy nature, it doesn’t take super abilities to make a difference. Especially now, nurses, doctors, first-responders, teachers, and workers at grocery stores, pharmacies, factories, and so many other places are on the front lines of the pandemic response with the commitment and dedication of superheroes. Moms, dads, grandparents, caregivers, and kids all over the world are also stepping up whenever and however they’re needed. Celebrate today by thanking the superheroes in your life.

I received a copy of Superheroes Don’t Babysit for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

By Jakki Licare

Superheroes Don’t Babysit

Written by Amber Hendricks | Illustrated by Kyle Reed

 

Has this ever happened to you? “You’ll be saving the city from the evil Emperor Zog when…your dad asks for a favor.” That is what happened to the little girl in this story. All she wanted to do was to play superheroes when she was asked to watch her little brother. Of course, she doesn’t want to because she has important world-saving plans for her day. “Plans that don’t include little brothers.” And who has ever heard of a superhero babysitting anyway?

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Image copyright Kyle Reed, 2020, text copyright Amber Hendricks, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

After receiving “the look” from her father, though, she agrees to watch her brother. Of course, immediately after her father leaves, her brother is starving! She consults “the list of Dad-approved snacks (because superheroes follow the rules)” and makes him a healthy “plate of cheese and crackers.”

But her brother has already pulled out all the ingredients for an ice cream sundae and is determined to have one. She just knows “he’ll want to measure and pour, squirt and scoop,” and he does. Resigned, the girl helps him and feels proud for assisting a fellow citizen. That is until she sees how messy the kitchen has become! Just before she begins to wipe everything down, she notices something smells awful. She investigates, looking just where you would look, you know: “the normal places—the trash can, the bathroom, your socks—before realizing the smell is coming from” her brother!

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Image copyright Kyle Reed, 2020, text copyright Amber Hendricks, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

She gears herself up for the dangerous battle. Diapers are challenging even for superheroes, but she manages to get one on him (with the help of some extra tape). Her revelry is short-lived, though, because her brother decides to play with her action figures and breaks one! Then he cries and she feels like crying too. She might even feel like yelling “‘I wish you weren’t my brother!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-superheroes-don't-babysit-sundae

Image copyright Kyle Reed, 2020, text copyright Amber Hendricks, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

But, instead, she closes her eyes and slowly counts to ten. By the time she gets to ten, her brother apologizes and hugs her. He offers her his favorite teddy bear as a replacement, and “that icky feeling inside” melts away. So when he asks her “to read him his favorite story,” she does—“six times.” He falls asleep and even drools a little on her. It doesn’t bother her, though, because “EVERY SUPERHERO NEEDS A SIDEKICK.”

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Image copyright Kyle Reed, 2020, text copyright Amber Hendricks, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Amber Hendrick’s use of the 2nd person point of view gives this story a fresh spin and will pull young readers immediately in. Young readers will relate to the main character’s problems of making messes and having her favorite toy broken. Hendrick’s humor will make readers giggle as they watch the girl outfit herself in safety gear just to change a diaper. The fact that the girl wants to yell and rant at her brother and chooses not to is a wonderful teaching opportunity. Adults can point out how boy’s sister takes a moment and counts to ten before reacting. It’s a terrific lesson for readers of any age.

Kyle Reed’s bright primary-colored illustrations make this a superhero theme that’s out of this world. The paneled frames of the father-daughter face off and the girl’s measured count to ten are a nice nod to comic books. Throughout the story, the sister and brother’s facial expressions clearly show readers their feelings as sibling rivalry gives way to their loving bond. When the two siblings make up, the black-and-white pixelated photos that Reed adds in the background are a nice touch to show the connections of family.

For kids who love superheroes or are superhero siblings themselves, Superheroes Don’t Babysit would be a fun and thoughtful addition to family storytimes.

Ages 4 – 7

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506458762

Discover more about Amber Hendricks and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kyle Reed and see a portfolio of his work, visit his website.

National Superhero Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-superhero-mask-craft

Superhero Mask Craft

 

You can be a superhero too by making your own SUPERHEROES DON’T BABYSIT mask

Supplies

  • Printable Superhero Mask Template
  • Paper Plate
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Paint or Colored Pencils
  • String or elastic or ribbon

Directions

  1. Print out template.

  2. Cut out template and eye holes.

  3. Trace template onto paper plate. Don’t forget to trace the eye holes too!

  4. Cut out masks and eyeholes.

  5. Cut a slit towards the top left of the mask for string. Then, make another slit on the top right side.  

  6. Paint or Color your mask

  7. Tie string, elastic or ribbon through slits

  8. Go and save the world!

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You can find Superheroes Don’t Babysit for preorder at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 1 – National Siblings Day

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About the Holiday

National Siblings Day gives people a chance to honor the special bond they have with their brothers and/or sisters. Whether you come from a big family or small, are the oldest, youngest, or somewhere in between, your siblings have had a big influence on your life. Today, take a little time to text or call and do a little reminiscing. At home, engage in some special sibling-bonding fun!

Elsie

Written by Nadine Robert | Illustrated by Maja Kastelic

 

Elsie Filpot had six siblings—“Francis, Florian, the twins Flavie and Franzi, Fernand, [and] Felice.” They loved to go fishing on sunny Sundays. On this Sunday, each brother and sister gathered something for the trip. But little Elsie didn’t feel like going. She had “better things to do.” But her siblings shouted, “‘YOU ARE COMING ALONG, ELSIE!’” So Elsie tagged along.

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Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Outside, each one wanted to take the path through the woods they’d used before. Franzi remembered that the “trail is so pretty.” Francis liked the “wild rose bushes along the way,” and Felice added: “they smell so nice.’” But Elsie wanted to “walk along the brook. It’s faster,’” she said. Her siblings said, “‘DON’T DO IT, ELSIE! FOLLOW US.’” So Elsie followed them down to the river where their little stick fishing rod holders still stood.

Elsie’s sisters and brothers were eager to get started. Felice needed help casting her line, and Francis offered to help. Florian and Fernand had already dipped their lines in the water when Elsie said, “‘I am going to put this little buttercup on my hook.’” Her siblings told her that would never work, but she baited her line anyway. It was lunchtime before they knew it, so they set out a picnic with sandwiches and cake. Elsie wasn’t hungry and said she was going to feed her sandwich to the ducks. When her siblings heard this, they said, “‘DON’T DO IT, ELSIE! THEY WON’T EAT IT.’’ But the ducks did nibble the bit she gave them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-elsie-kitchen

Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

After lunch Elsie’s sisters and brothers were so full and sleepy that they took a nap. Elsie watched their rods as she continued fishing with her buttercup lure. In time, even Elsie fell asleep. When her siblings woke up, they rushed to check their lines. One was bobbing—Elsie’s! Fernand tried to wake her, but she just wanted “‘five more minutes…just five minutes. Pleeeease!’” When she heard she’d caught a fish, though, she jumped up to go see.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-elsie-river

Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Each of Elsie’s siblings gave advice on how to bring the fish out of the water. Francis declared that it was “‘a big one!’” Elsie went down into the water with the fishnet, but her brothers and sisters told her that “‘was useless.’” But was it? Everyone was amazed when little Elsie brought up the big fish. The sun was beginning to set, so the Filpot bunnies got ready to go home. Franzi, Flavie, Felice, and Francis carried the fish; Florian grabbed the picnic basket; and Fernand gathered up the rods. And Elsie? She carried her pink umbrella and led the way along the brook. Which her siblings thought was “…AN EXCELLENT IDEA!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-elsie-lunch

Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Charming and sunny, Nadine Robert’s Elsie combines the feel and rhythms of a traditional classic with the camaraderie and humor that makes for a family favorite today. As each brother and sister chimes in on the plans and execution of their Sunday fishing trip, Robert’s bouncy dialogue is a joy to read aloud and leads to littlest sister Elsie’s contributions and her siblings’ insistent response. On successive readings, children will love joining in on these lines. With the whimsy of little ones, Elsie goes in her own direction, and, to the delight of readers, comes up with the day’s big catch. While the older siblings initially take charge, Robert depicts the family dynamics with love. Elsie’s siblings don’t stop her from doing what she wants and when she does catch a fish with a buttercup and a net, they enthusiastically congratulate her, help her bring it in, and then follow her lead home.

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Image copyright Maja Kastelic, 2020, text copyright Nadine Robert, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Maja Kastelic’s tempera and watercolor illustrations are as delightful as a lazy warm summer day. From the Filpot’s enchanting home, decorated with dried flowers and cozy touches, to the rolling green hills that lead to the river and are populated with birds, squirrels, deer, and even a hapless mole who pops out of the ground at an inopportune place, Kastelic gives children plenty of “look at that!” moments on each page. She also adds bits of humor—as in the parade of ants that appears as soon as the picnic basket is opened and the bunnies snooze. Children will want to linger over the pages to match the dialogue to the speakers and to keep up with Elsie as she does her own thing. As the sun goes down and stars fill the midnight blue sky, the story may come to an end, but only until you flip to the beginning to read it again.

Lovely in every way, Elsie will become a quick favorite for kids and adults to share. With lots of opportunities for dramatic readings, the book is perfect for bedtime or energetic story times. Elsie makes an excellent gift and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1419740725

Discover more about Nadine Robert and her books on her website.

To learn more about Maja Kastelic, her books, and her art on her website.

National Siblings Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sweet-bunny-candy-jar

A little bit of candy makes any day sweeter! With this Sweet Bunny Candy Jar, you can give a child, a friend, or even yourself a special treat that will make you hoppy!

Supplies

  • Printable Hat Rim and Bunny Ears Template
  • Baby food jar (or any small jar)
  • White fleece, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches (paper, felt, or other material works too)
  • 1 piece of purple foam or paper (Or any color you’d like to make the hat) 
  • Small piece of pink foam, felt, or paper for nose
  • Googly eyes (I used oval)
  • Medium pom-pom or cotton ball
  • Craft paint, purple (or whatever color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Fabric glue or other glue
  • Black ultra-fine or fine tip permanent marker
  • Scissors
  • Large nail (optional)
  • Hammer (optional)

IMG-2614

Directions

  1. Remove label from baby food jar
  2. Clean and dry jar and lid
  3. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam
  4. Cut out the rim of the hat and remove the center
  5. Trace the ears template onto the white fleece and cut out

To Make the Body and Face

  1. Cut a 2-inch wide by 7-inch long strip of white fleece
  2. Glue the strip of fleece to the jar under the threaded lip and leaving about ½ inch of glass showing at the bottom
  3. Glue on the googly eyes
  4. Cut a little nose from the pink foam and glue to the face
  5. Make the mouth with the permanent marker on a little piece of fleece, cut out and glue under the nose

To Make the Hat

  1. Paint the lid with the purple paint. Let dry.
  2. With the nail or ice pick and hammer, make a hole on either side of the lid to insert the ears. You can make the hole a little bigger with a phillips head screwdriver
  3. Flip the lid over and hammer the edges of the hole flat
  4. Attach the hat rim to the lid

Option: Instead of making holes in the jar lid, gather and glue together the wide ends of the ears, let dry. Glue ears to lid. If using paper, fold wide end and glue to lid.

To Insert the Ears

  1. Pinch the end of one ear together and push it through one hole in the lid.
  2. Pull it through the hole a bit to form the ear
  3. Repeat with the other ear

Finish the Bunny

  1. Add the foam rim to the lid
  2. Glue the pom-pom to the back of the jar for the tail
  3. Add M&Ms, jelly beans, or other small candy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-elsie-cover

You can find Elsie at these booksellers

Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Powell’s 

Picture Book Review

 

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinderella-half-the-chores

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinderella-prince-charming

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