May 5 – It’s National Bike Month

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About the Holiday

Established in 1956 and sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, National Bike Month celebrates all the fun and benefits of cycling. In years past, communities around the country have celebrated with special events, tours, and safety lessons. The month also hosts Bike to School and Bike to Work days to encourage people to leave their cars at home, get fresh air and exercise, and have fun at the same time. Getting a new bike is a major milestone in many kids’ (and adults’) lives. Sometimes it takes some pretty creative thinking to get one – as you’ll see in today’s book.

Thanks to Kids Can Press for providing a digital copy of Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m thrilled to be teaming with Kids Can Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle

Written by Cathy Ballou Mealey | Illustrated by Kelly Collier

 

Sloth was snoozing on a branch when Squirrel woke him with an exclamation. Opening one eye Sloth saw squirrel nearly salivating over a tandem bike rolling past. Squirrel wanted to go fast too and was determined to get a bike. He leaped from the tree, bound down the hill, and circled another tree three times before Sloth had even set his toes on the ground.

When they got to the bike shop, Spokes, Squirrel was disappointed to discover that bikes “‘cost a lot of money.’” But then Sloth noticed the Help Wanted sign on the wall of the pickle packing plant next to the shop. They went inside and got an interview with Mr. Peacock. Squirrel showed his self-confidence. “‘I work fast. Really fast. I can bury a million, maybe a jillion acorns in an hour,” he boasted. Mr. Peacock looked at Sloth dubiously. Squirrel said that Sloth was “‘really, really… reliable.’”

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Image copyright Kelly Collier, 2021, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2021. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

That was good enough for Mr. Peacock. He gave them special overalls, gloves, goggles, and hairnets to wear and set them up with barrels full of pickles and jars to be packed. But the job was slipperier than they thought. Soon, pickles, jars, and even Squirrel and Sloth were flying through the air and crashing back to the floor to slip around some more. When Mr. Peacock came to check on them, only six jars were full.

Squirrel appealed to Mr. Peacock’s sympathy. “‘We just need more pickle packing practice.’” Mr. Peacock gave them a second chance. This time Squirrel took over the packing duties while “Sloth s-l-o-w-l-y stuck on sticky labels” while hanging from pipe on the ceiling. When Mr. Peacock checked on them a second time, he was pleased as punch to find towers of packed and labeled pickle jars waiting for him.

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Image copyright Kelly Collier, 2021, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2021. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

But when he took a closer look, he discovered that every label was upside down. Sloth and Squirrel were tossed out on their ear with six-jars-worth of payment and more than 600 jars of pickles. Squirrel wanted to save the money for a bike, but Sloth used his half to buy them ice pops from a truck. Squirrel began licking his pop lickety-split, but “Sloth slurped s-l-o-w-l-y.” Lickety-splat.

Squirrel offered to share his with his friend, but then Sloth stuck his stick in a pickle and created… “a salty, sweet and sour sensation.” Customers lined up to try this new treat, and after they’d peddled their pickle pops, Squirrel and Sloth were peddling away on their new bike. And if you think Sloth wasn’t keen on going so fast, you’ll just have to see!

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Image copyright Kelly Collier, 2021, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2021. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Cathy Ballou Mealey’s tongue-twistingly funny story of odd-couple friends working to buy a bike will keep kids giggling from start to finish. Her creative story based on the literal and figurative definition of “pickle” seamlessly blends unique characters and events while hilariously incorporating the traits of squirrels, sloths, and even pickles to ramp up the suspense and humor. Plenty of clever alliteration as well as Squirrel’s rapid-fire dialogue make this a read aloud kids are going to want to hear again and again. Woven throughout Mealey’s story are messages of friendship, ingenuity, perseverance, creative-thinking, and industriousness.

In her pickle brine-hued illustrations Kelly Collier accentuates the humor of the story with comical visual elements that begin on the first page, where a bear and a bunny, near doppelgangers for Sloth and Squirrel go whizzing by on their bike. Once inside the pickle factory, kids will love pointing out all of the pickle-inspired décor, from the wallpaper to Mr. Peacock’s university degree to his old-style telephone. Collier’s slapstick images will have kids laughing out loud, and her illustrations of Sloth engaging in sloth-like behavior while attaching labels hints at the upcoming and pitch-perfect plot twist without giving it away. Pickle puns and a pack of pleased customers celebrate Sloth and Squirrel’s new venture and a little turtle’s dare leads to a surprising finish.

Quick to become an often-asked-for favorite of both kids and adults, Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle is a book to buy for home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1525302381

Discover more about Cathy Ballou Mealey and her books on her website.

You can connect with Kelly Collier on Instagram | Twitter.

Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Kids Can Press in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle written by Cathy Ballou Mealey | illustrated by Kelly Collier

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite kind of pickle for extra entry

This giveaway is open from May 5 to May 11 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 12. 

Prizing provided by Kids Can Press.

Giveaway open to U.S. and Canadian addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Bike Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pickle-maze

Pack a Peck of Pickles! Puzzle

 

The pickle jar has toppled over! Can you pick up the pickles in the maze to pack them in the jar again?

Pack a Peck of Pickles Puzzle | Pack a Peck of Pickles Puzzle Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sloth-and-squirrel-in-a-pickle-cover

You can find Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 3 – It’s Children’s Book Week

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy program in the United States. The history of the holiday goes back to 1913, when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, toured the country to promote a higher standard in children’s books and proposed a Children’s Book Week. He then enlisted the help of Frederic G. Melcher, editor of Publishers Weekly who believed that “a great nation is a reading nation,” and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library to help spread the word. This year Children’s Book Week will be held twice: May 3 – 9 and November 8 – 14. Each week with host different programs under the slogan “Reading is a Superpower.” You can find resources to help your child take part in the Superpower Challenge, a list of cross-curricular activities that allow kids to explore their passions in depth, here. To learn more about this special holiday for readers visit Every Child a Reader.

About the Bear and Friends Series

In the newest addition to the Highlights Puzzle Readers – books that use an innovative approach to engage emergent and new readers in strengthening their skills and fluency – Jody Jensen Shaffer and Clair Rossiter charm the youngest readers with a sweet group of friends: Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel. Released at the same time, Where Is Bear? and A House for Mouse get kids excited about learning to read on their own with a combination of a story and a search-and-find letter puzzle. A bonus matching and vocabulary puzzle follows the story and will entice children to turn to page 1 again and reread the story.

A note for parents and other caregivers tells more about this book series that has been developed in collaboration with reading experts, how the puzzle-and-story structure of the books improve learning, and the skills children learn, including shape and letter recognition, letter-sound relationships, logic, and flexible thinking, and more.

Bear and Friends: Where Is Bear? (Highlights Puzzle Mystery)

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Clair Rossiter

 

On a sunny day, Bear visits his friends, Mouse and Squirrel, in the woods. They are excited to see him. “Look! Look! It is Bear,” says Mouse. Squirrel lets readers in on two important facts about Bear: “Bear is big. Bear is fun.” They can’t wait to play together. Bear takes the lead, and whatever Bear can do, Squirrel and Mouse can do too. They swing and run and jump. 

But then Bear decides he’s going to play hide-and-seek. “Where is Bear?” Mouse asks the reader. “Is Bear here?” Squirrel and Mouse check behind trees, in a cave, and behind a big rock. They’re still looking for Bear as they cross over a stream on a fallen log. Mouse and Squirrel may not spot Bear or just miss him as he moves from place to place, but young readers will love finding him on each page and trying to guess why he’s picking flowers, acorns, and apples. Suddenly, Mouse points and exclaims. “Look! Look!” Then Squirrel says, “I see Bear.” But what is Bear doing? Kids will be as delighted as Mouse and Squirrel with Bear’s special surprise.

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Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Throughout Jody Jensen Shaffer’s sweet story, kids will also be on the lookout for the letter B, which is cleverly hidden in the texture of a tree trunk, made from blades of grass, constructed with rock, in the folds of mushrooms, incorporated into Bear’s picnic basket, and many other places. The puzzle presents an age-appropriate challenge that will encourage kids to search for the letters again and again. Many of these hiding places reoccur, prompting children to look for and recognize patterns in the illustrations, just as the story’s words and sentences have patterns.

The introduction of a ball and a bowl on the final page gives kids an opportunity to explore the B sound further and to return to the story to find more examples of words that begin with B (like Bear, branch, and boots as well as bandana, boulder, and bite for older readers) or include the letter b (as in the umbrella Mouse carries). Shaffer’s short, inviting sentences also introduce declarative, exclamatory, and interrogative sentences as well as their punctuation. Plenty of repeated words will build confidence and enthusiasm in even the most reluctant reader. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-bear-play

Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Clair Rossiter’s enchanting, upbeat illustrations masterfully combine learning and fun as she maintains a focus on what Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel are doing as well as their facial expressions to give new readers visual clues to the words and sentences they are learning. Rossiter’s vivid color palette allows kids to show their knowledge of colors, including red, blue, green, brown, white, pink, purple, and orange. The forest scenery provides even more high-interest images for kids to explore.

Loaded with personality, charm, and the kinds of learning opportunities kids love, Bear and Friends: Where Is Bear? and A House for Mouse will be favorite go-to books for young readers that can grow with them as they increase their reading and other concept skills. The Bear and Friends series is highly recommended for home, classroom, homeschool, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Highlights Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1644723388 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1644723418 (Paperback)

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Clair Rossiter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-bear-cover

You can find Bear and Friends: Where Is Bear? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-house-for-mouse-cover

Bear and Friends: A House for Mouse (Highlights Puzzle Mystery)

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Clair Rossiter

 

As the story opens, Mouse is looking through a house magazine. “Mouse wants a house,” Bear says. Squirrel tells readers, “Mouse wants a good house.” Bear finds a house for Mouse right away in a cave in a hill. It is so big that Bear can even fit inside. “You can live here,” Bear says. But Mouse says, “No, thank you. It is too big!” Squirrel thinks a leafy nest up in a tree would make the perfect house. But once up on the branch, Mouse says, “No, thank you. It is way up.”

The friends look up, down, under, and all around – even at some houses on the water – but none of them are quite right for Mouse. Hmmm…. Mouse and Squirrel lie on one end of a log that’s balanced on a rock to think, while Bear rests his foot on the other end. “Where is a house for Mouse?” Bear wonders as he steps down hard on the log, sending Mouse and Squirrel flying. They land right in front of the perfect house – and it’s for sale! “It is a good house,” Bear declares. Mouse packs up a wagon with boxes and in no time is moved into the cozy home at the base of a tree.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-house-for-mouse-map

Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Kids will enjoy helping Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel find a new house for Mouse while they also look for the letter M hidden in some pretty creative places. Trees, furniture, fencing, home decor, and other natural homes all sport the letter M for eagle-eyed readers to find. As the friends search up, down, under, and in, children also learn these spatial relationships. They’re also introduced to the idea of “far away” and “near,” as the tree Mouse eventually moves into is seen with a “For Sale” sign from afar early in the story and increasingly close as the story goes on.

The matching puzzle at the end of the story invites kids to match mug, map, and mouse to their pictures, while enticing them to find these objects throughout the pages as well as others, such as magazine, mat, mushroom, and scuba mask.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-house-for-mouse-cave

Image copyright Clair Rossiter, 2021, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2021. Courtesy of Highlights Press.

Just as in Where is Bear?, Jody Jensen Shaffer charms new readers with a question that will pique any child’s interest: Where will Mouse live? In this story Shaffer introduces slightly longer sentences while again incorporating a mix of statements, exclamations, and questions and repeated phrasing.

Children will look forward to spending more time with Bear, Mouse, and Squirrel in the familiar setting, enhanced with new sights that give kids and adults an opportunity to talk about the variety of animal homes found in nature. Clair Rossiter uses the same appealing color palette and decks out Bear, Squirrel, and Mouse in their favorite outfits that makes sharing another reading adventure as comforting as coming home.

Ages 4 – 7

Highlights Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1644723425 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1644723418 (Paperback)

Children’s Book Week Activity

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Bookmarks and Activities

 

One of the highlights of Children’s Book Week are the bookmarks created by illustrators and author/illustrators. This year’s bookmarks and attached activities were designed by Angela Dominguez, Paola Escobar, Ebony Glenn, Oliver Jeffers, and Aram Kim. To download one or all five bookmarks as well as their accompanying activity sheet, visit the Every Child a Reader website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-house-for-mouse-cover

You can find Bear and Friends: A House for Mouse at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 21 – It’s Squirrel Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Squirrels elicit emotions on both sides of the spectrum. On one hand you can’t help but say “Awww!” when you see their tiny little paws and crafty antics. On the other hand their voracious appetites at bird feeders and penchant for darting into traffic is more likely to make you say “Arrgghhh!” This month is set aside, however, for enjoying the squirrels in your yard, park, or city. And really, don’t they make life just a little more fun?

Girl Versus Squirrel

Written by Hayley Barrett | Illustrated by Renée Andriani

 

Pearl built three birdhouses and put them in and near the tree in her backyard. One was shaped like a house, one was a tube, and the other was a tea cup atop a tall stand. After filling the house with suet, the tube with seeds, and the teacup with peanuts, Pearl settled in with her binoculars to wait. Soon cardinals, flickers, finches, and chickadees swooped in. But none of them wet for the peanuts.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-girl-versus-squirrel-bird-feeders

Image copyright Renée Andriani, 2020, text copyright Hayley Barrett, 2020. Courtesy of Margaret Ferguson Books, Holiday House.

Happily sitting next to the teacup was a squirrel with a peanut in its paws. Pearl scared the squirrel away and then went to work to win this contest of wits. She used her hockey stick to raise the teacup’s stand higher and “watched, breathless with anticipated success, but was soon disappointed” as the squirrel easily climbed to the top. Pearl added a mop to make the pole even higher.

But still the squirrel had no trouble getting to the top. “The squirrel stared at Pearl and seized an especially plump peanut.” Just then the “pole began to teeter and totter until…It toppled to the ground,” breaking the handle off the teacup. As the squirrel dashed up a nearby oak tree, Pearl shouted, “‘You’re a bird-feeder-crashing, teacup-smashing, peanut-poaching pest!’” A pest Pearl was not about to lose out to.

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Image copyright Renée Andriani, 2020, text copyright Hayley Barrett, 2020. Courtesy of Margaret Ferguson Books, Holiday House.

While Pearl fixed her teacup, she devised a plan. She gathered supplies and started creating. Soon, a “network of obstacles emerged, each more squirrel-challenging than the last.” The squirrel may have been fast and determined, but the course ensured that “teacup triumph will require nerves of squirrely steel,” Pearl fixed her binoculars on the squirrel and waited.

It didn’t take long before the squirrel was headed in the right direction. He scampered over the rope, spun around the big spool, leaped to the swing, and scrambled through the rest of the course. Until… “CRUNCH!” Pearl was astounded. Then she saw the squirrel head for a nest in the oak tree with three baby kits in it. That’s when Pearl realized the squirrel was a mother. “‘I proclaim your victory,’ cheered Pearl, ‘ and I salute you, fearless, fluffy sister!’” Immediately, Pearl wanted to help this family grow and learn. Now her backyard is a birds’… and squirrels’… and contraption-lovers’ paradise.

“Some Squirrely Facts” about our favorite nature nemesis follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-girl-versus-squirrel-obstacle-course

Image copyright Renée Andriani, 2020, text copyright Hayley Barrett, 2020. Courtesy of Margaret Ferguson Books, Holiday House.

For anyone who has done battle with a squirrel at their birdfeeder, Hayley Barrett’s story is a delight. Her nimble alliterative phrasing and fun-to-read action verbs will make any story time a joy. Add in Pearl’s can-do attitude and the squirrel’s unstoppable energy and you have the makings of an epic battle—one that readers are sure to want to replicate in their own yards. Barrett nails the experimental nature of children’s building projects, a detail that kids will appreciate and that will endear Pearl to them.  Barrett’s nod to girl power provides a strong, uplifting ending. Factual information about birds, bird food and squirrel behavior is interwoven organically throughout the story. That and the fascinating back matter make this a terrific book to pair with classroom lessons.

Renée Andriani’s vibrant, action-packed illustrations will wow kids and have them on the edge of their seats for each page turn. Realistic depictions of the cardinals, finches, chickadees, and flickers that swarm Pearl’s bird feeders will entice readers to learn more about these birds. When Pearl raises her teacup feeder higher and higher, Andriani presents clear images of how Pearl tapes the stand, stick, and mop together as well as the crashing result when the squirrel hops on. As Pearl gathers items from her garage and begins building her obstacle course, readers will be in suspense, waiting to see the final result.

Presented in a wild, two-page spread, Andriani’s portrayal of Pearl’s obstacle course rewards readers with bold, expressive typography and images of the squirrel making her way from station to station with style. The final two-page spread of Pearl’s backyard, is a riot of color as feeders, birds, and mama and baby squirrels nosh to their hearts’ content. Kids will want to linger to catch every detail.

Imaginative, humorous, and educational, Girl Versus Squirrel will become a favorite and will inspire kids to create their own obstacle course. The book would also be a high-interest accompaniment to STEM lessons in the classroom and at home. It would make a terrific addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Margaret Ferguson Books, Holiday House, 2020 | ISBN 978-0823442515

Discover more about Hayley Barrett and her books on her website.

To learn more about Renée Andriani, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Squirrel Awareness Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squirrel-community-coloring-page

Squirrely Activity Pages

 

You can join a girl who’s watching squirrels, find a whole squirrel community to color, see a squirrel enjoying a snack, and follow the numbers to discover… with these printable Squirrely Activity Pages

Girl Watching Squirrel Coloring Page | Squirrel Community Coloring PageDot-to-Dot Coloring Page | Squirrel with Nut Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-girl-versus-squirrel-cover

You can find Girl Versus Squirrel at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 3 – National Grab Some Nuts Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate cashews, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and all the other nuts that flavor dishes and provide healthy snacks. Nuts are nutritious, providing a good source of vitamins, protein, fiber, and important minerals. Eating nuts on a regular basis can also help keep your heart healthy. So, grab a handful of your favorite nuts today and have a feast!

I received a copy of The Squirrels Who Squabbled from Scholastic, Inc. for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

The Squirrels Who Squabbled

Written by Rachel Bright | Illustrated by Jim Field

 

In the middle of autumn, “a flighty young squirrel, / Who everyone knew as / ‘Spontaneous Cyril’” discovered he hadn’t prepared for the winter. In fact, “he hadn’t a mouthful of food ANYWHERE.” Then he spied a closed pinecone in a tree across the way. But as Cyril planned how to nab this very last treat, “‘Plan-Ahead Bruce’ had his sights on the prize.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-squirrels-who-squabbled-swinging

Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

Although Bruce had amassed a tower of nuts, seeds, berries, and mushrooms to get him through the winter, he decided he must have that last pinecone too. So while Cyril took off running up the tree trunk on one side, Bruce scrambled up around the other side. Their scrabbling shook the tree and dislodged the pinecone from its nook. “Both squirrels gave chase at a lightning pace. / This was the start of a wild, nutty race.” They called out: “it’s mine!”. . . “No, it’s not!” . . . “Yes, it is!” and other such talk as they rushed after the pinecone.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-squirrels-who-squabbled-pinecone

Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

“It BOINGED over bushes. . . and flew through the air. / It BINGED on the nose of a slumbering bear! / It BOUNCED over boulders then came to a . . . / STOP.” There, high on a cliff, it balanced a moment then fell into the rushing river below. Bruce and Cyril dived in after it. Each were thiiiis close to grabbing it when a bird nab it instead and flew far away. Meanwhile, the logs they were rafting on drifted over a waterfall. As they plunged did they think: “They’d squandered their chances / to team up and share. / Would their nutty young homes / simply end in despair?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-squirrels-who-squabbled-cliff

Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

As they passed by a tree, Cyril clung to a branch and reached out his hand to rescue Bruce. Soaked and exhausted they crawled to dry land. “Then Bruce looked at Cyril and… exploded in giggles!” He thought they’d been silly and that he was greedy to boot. He vowed that he’d change and that their skirmish would cease. He said, “‘We should celebrate—seeing / we’re both in one piece!’” And Bruce kept his word. From then on he shared his bounty with Cyril and all the animals of the forest because he’d learned that sharing with friends was the best thing of all.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-squirrels-who-squabbled-waterfall

Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

Kids will eat up Rachel Bright’s funny friendship story that bounces along at the pace of a flick of a squirrel’s tail. Her set-up to the action of the story is nifty with humorous and telling nicknames for the two squirrels and spreads that deftly depict their opposing lifestyle philosophies. Cyril and Bruce’s race through the forest, plunge over the waterfall, and daring rescue provide plenty of material for dramatic readings of Bright’s spectacular rhymes and rhythm. Her delectable vocabulary serves up comical squabbles, gripping suspense, and a heartwarming ending. Readers will eagerly join in on the rousing onomatopoeic rhymes. Bright’s message of camaraderie and what’s most important in life is always welcome and is well delivered. The story offers many opportunities for creative extension ideas.

Jim Field’s striking images of the forest in autumn—rendered in gold, red, orange and green with touches of rose—are fresh and peaceful. The sun-dappled vistas soon become an ironic counterbalance for the hilarious antics of Cyril and Bruce. The two rakish squirrels leap and bound through the forest, their speed portrayed with blurred backgrounds and their wrangling for the last pinecone pictured in tangled and grasping arms and legs. Cyril and Bruce’s  plummet over the waterfall is a vertical showstopper as is an illustration of the black bear among the birch trees. Get ready for repeat readings of the page where the pinecone ricochets from tree to rocks to the bear’s nose and lots of giggles when Bruce and Cyril make up. The final two-page spread of Bruce and Cyril’s feast shows friendship at its best.

Without a doubt, The Squirrels Who Squabbled is a book to add to home, classroom, and school libraries. It will be an often-asked-for favorite for story times all year ‘round.

Ages 3 – 7

Scholastic Inc., 2019 | ISBN 978-1338538038

Discover more about Rachel Bright and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jim Field, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Grab Some Nuts Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squirrel-maze-puzzle

Pinecone Bird feeder

 

These two squirrels are after all the nuts they can find! Can you help one squirrel pick up nuts while scampering through the maze to her friend in this printable puzzle?

A Feast of Nuts! Maze Puzzle| A Feast of Nuts! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-squirrels-who-squabbled-cover

You can find The Squirrels Who Squabbled at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshhop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 22 – National Nut Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-squirrels-who-squabbled-cover

Today we celebrate cashews, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and all the other nuts that flavor dishes and provide healthy snacks. Nuts are nutritious, providing a good source of vitamins, protein, fiber, and important minerals. Eating nuts on a regular basis can also help keep your heart healthy. So, crack open some nuts today and have a feast!

I received a copy of The Squirrels Who Squabbled from Scholastic, Inc. for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Scholastic, Inc. in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

The Squirrels Who Squabbled

Written by Rachel Bright | Illustrated by Jim Field

 

In the middle of autumn, “a flighty young squirrel, / Who everyone knew as / ‘Spontaneous Cyril’” discovered he hadn’t prepared for the winter. In fact, “he hadn’t a mouthful of food ANYWHERE.” Then he spied a closed pinecone in a tree across the way. But as Cyril planned how to nab this very last treat, “‘Plan-Ahead Bruce’ had his sights on the prize.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-squirrels-who-squabbled-swinging

Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

Although Bruce had amassed a tower of nuts, seeds, berries, and mushrooms to get him through the winter, he decided he must have that last pinecone too. So while Cyril took off running up the tree trunk on one side, Bruce scrambled up around the other side. Their scrabbling shook the tree and dislodged the pinecone from its nook. “Both squirrels gave chase at a lightning pace. / This was the start of a wild, nutty race.” They called out: “it’s mine!”. . . “No, it’s not!” . . . “Yes, it is!” and other such talk as they rushed after the pinecone.

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

“It BOINGED over bushes. . . and flew through the air. / It BINGED on the nose of a slumbering bear! / It BOUNCED over boulders then came to a . . . / STOP.” There, high on a cliff, it balanced a moment then fell into the rushing river below. Bruce and Cyril dived in after it. Each were thiiiis close to grabbing it when a bird nab it instead and flew far away. Meanwhile, the logs they were rafting on drifted over a waterfall. As they plunged did they think: “They’d squandered their chances / to team up and share. / Would their nutty young homes / simply end in despair?”

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

As they passed by a tree, Cyril clung to a branch and reached out his hand to rescue Bruce. Soaked and exhausted they crawled to dry land. “Then Bruce looked at Cyril and… exploded in giggles!” He thought they’d been silly and that he was greedy to boot. He vowed that he’d change and that their skirmish would cease. He said, “‘We should celebrate—seeing / we’re both in one piece!’” And Bruce kept his word. From then on he shared his bounty with Cyril and all the animals of the forest because he’d learned that sharing with friends was the best thing of all.

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

Kids will eat up Rachel Bright’s funny friendship story that bounces along at the pace of a flick of a squirrel’s tail. Her set-up to the action of the story is nifty with humorous and telling nicknames for the two squirrels and spreads that deftly depict their opposing lifestyle philosophies. Cyril and Bruce’s race through the forest, plunge over the waterfall, and daring rescue provide plenty of material for dramatic readings of Bright’s spectacular rhymes and rhythm. Her delectable vocabulary serves up comical squabbles, gripping suspense, and a heartwarming ending. Readers will eagerly join in on the rousing onomatopoeic rhymes. Bright’s message of camaraderie and what’s most important in life is always welcome and is well delivered. The story offers many opportunities for creative extension ideas.

Jim Field’s striking images of the forest in autumn—rendered in gold, red, orange and green with touches of rose—are fresh and peaceful. The sun-dappled vistas soon become an ironic counterbalance for the hilarious antics of Cyril and Bruce. The two rakish squirrels leap and bound through the forest, their speed portrayed with blurred backgrounds and their wrangling for the last pinecone pictured in tangled and grasping arms and legs. Cyril and Bruce’s  plummet over the waterfall is a vertical showstopper as is an illustration of the black bear among the birch trees. Get ready for repeat readings of the page where the pinecone ricochets from tree to rocks to the bear’s nose and lots of giggles when Bruce and Cyril make up. The final two-page spread of Bruce and Cyril’s feast shows friendship at its best.

Without a doubt, The Squirrels Who Squabbled is a book to add to home, classroom, and school libraries. It will be an often-asked-for favorite for story times all year ‘round.

Ages 3 – 7

Scholastic Inc., 2019 | ISBN 978-1338538038

Discover more about Rachel Bright and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jim Field, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Nut Day Activity

CPB - Bird Feeder I (2)

Pinecone Bird feeder

 

Making a pinecone bird feeder is a quick, fun way to nourish your backyard friends! Here are some simple directions for making your own!

Supplies

  • Large pinecone
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Birdseed
  • String
  • Knife or popsicle stick
  • Spoon
  • 2 Bowls

Directions

  1. Tie a length of string around one of the top layers of pinecone leaves and knot it to make a loop for hanging.
  2. Spoon about 1/3 cup of vegetable shorting into a bowl
  3. With the knife spread the shortening over the leaves of the pinecone, covering it completely.
  4. Pour birdseed into a bowl
  5. Roll the pinecone in the bowl of birdseed, patting seed into the crevices and around the sides.
  6. Hang your pinecone bird feeder on a branch or pole and watch the birds enjoy it!

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You can find The Squirrels Who Squabbled at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 7 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month and Interview with Author Cathy Ballou Mealey

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About the Holiday

Reading is great all the time, but this month we celebrate actually being seen with a book in hand laughing at a funny line, shivering over a suspenseful scene or maybe even tearing up over an unexpected plot twist. Throughout the month, authors, illustrators, actors and actresses, athletes, business people, teachers, and students all upload pictures of themselves reading to encourage others to discover the joys of this fun and important pastime. To learn more about the holiday and find resources to download or order, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

I received a copy of When a Tree Grows from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

When a Tree Grows

Written by Cathy Ballou Mealey | Illustrated by Kasia Nowowiejska

 

We all know that age-old question “When a tree falls in a forest does it make a sound?” Inexplicably, this riddle seems to forget all about the adorable woodland animals—many of which we meet in this hilarious book that poses many thought-provoking conundrums of its own. For instance: “When a tree grows in the forest, two things can happen. It becomes a scratching post for Moose’s itchy antlers, and the tree sways gently side to side. OR… CRASH-BOOM! Moose pushes a little too hard, the tree falls on a cave, and the bear inside wakes up.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-a-tree-grows-scratchcelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-a-tree-grows-scratch

Image copyright Kasia Nowowiejska, 2019, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But how does Bear react? He can stay inside… OR come out to see what all the ruckus is about. And when he comes outside? Well, the domino effect could take over the forest… OR not. Alert readers will notice that Bear’s not the only one affected by the falling tree. Squirrel loses his home, but does he find the perfect replacement when a Nifty Nuts truck loaded with acorns gets entangled in this roller-coaster ride of a story… OR not?

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Image copyright Kasia Nowowiejska, 2019, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

As readers follow the action, they’ll wonder—will Squirrel discover a lifetime supply of nuts? Fame and fortune? An empty spot in his heart? And when (if?) “Scribble-Scratch! He writes a letter to Moose,” will Moose eat it or read it? The answers to these forest-related questions lead to a fantastic welcome-home feast with party hats and decorations and, of course, lots and lots of acorns that Squirrel will either gobble all up… OR….

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Image copyright Kasia Nowowiejska, 2019, text copyright Cathy Ballou Mealey, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Nuttiness abounds in this funny story that will have kids on the edge of their seats and excitedly chiming in as each situation plays out, leading to more and more consequences for Squirrel. Cathy Ballou Mealey’s action-packed storytelling, punctuated with onomatopoeia, makes each page a joy to read aloud. Underlying all of the shenanigans is a sweet friendship story that will tug at readers’ hearts as the gently suspenseful circumstances seem to take Squirrel farther and farther away from the forest. Kids will cheer along with Moose, Bear, and a bevy of other cute animals as they celebrate Squirrel’s homecoming and enthusiastically approve of what Squirrel does with his windfall to guarantee that all the friends can stick together forever.

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Kasia Nowowiejska populates this most friendly of forests with adorable, wide-eyed animals whose expressions perfectly reflect their dilemmas without giving away the secret answers. Kids will laugh out loud to see Moose nervously clinging half-way up a tree as Bear growls, applaud squirrel’s aim with a slingshot, and wish they could join in the party when Squirrel comes home. Nowowiejska’s beautiful earth-tone color palette provides depth and texture to the lush foliage while highlighting each animal’s choices in clever and original ways that kids will love. The onomatopoeic phrases are spotlighted with vibrant, bold lettering, ensuring that readers will add their own spin to this fun element of the story.

No “OR…”s about it, When a Tree Grows will be a hit for lively, animated story times and would be an often-requested addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 and up 

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454921202

Discover more about Cathy Ballou Mealey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kasia Nowowiejska, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Cathy Ballou Mealey

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Cathy Ballou Mealey lives with her family north of Boston, where she delights in watching silly squirrel antics and is waiting patiently for a moose to appear. Her favorite nut is the hazelnut and her favorite cupcake is cardamom crème.

Thank you for inviting me to the fabulous Celebrate Picture Books! I am delighted to join your celebration of Get Caught Reading Week by talking about writing inspiration and what we might learn from our hobbies and jobs, and also sharing a story starter for a favorite fall holiday!

I’m delighted that we get to talk about all of these things—and more! So let’s get started at the beginning of your journey with When a Tree Grows!

What was the spark of inspiration that led to When a Tree Grows?

When A Tree Grows was inspired by a distant creaky Crash! that I heard in the woods while hiking with my family. Was it a falling tree? An animal? I wondered: What if that crash had scared a bear or frightened a deer?

Building on that “OR” question, I framed a wacky story with two different possible outcomes, one rather expected and one funny, unexpected outcome. Readers will find that “OR” spotlighted on the bottom corner of each recto page with a clever curled paper art effect.

You must have had fun coming up with the alternate scenarios in your book. Can you share any that didn’t make the cut?

An early draft had a sweet city scene between Squirrel and a pigeon, but it didn’t make the final cut. It was tender and poignant, but needed a funnier alternative outcome to move the storyline along. In the end, I am happy that only Squirrel, Moose and Bear share the spotlight!

I love Kasia Nowowiejska’s illustrations that combine adorable, expressive animals with silly antics. Do you have a favorite spread? Did anything in the illustrations surprise you? 

I agree! Kasia is from Poland, and I loved the European flair in her forest sketches. Seeing the warthog was a complete, delightful surprise. Warthogs are not animals we would typically see in a North American woodland, and that leads to great discussions with young readers.

You have degrees in psychobiology and classical civilization. Can you describe these a bit and how they are connected? Does your study of psychobiology help inform the character development in your stories?

Psychobiology is the study of the brain, behavior and cognitive processes. I found it fascinating to research why and how we think, feel and do the things we do! I learned how to be a good observer, listener, and follower of the empirical method. I also studied classical civilization because I loved Latin, and the professors were extremely gifted storytellers. They brought ancient texts to life through dramatic readings and captivating extemporaneous performances. Exactly how these field of study inform my present work is unclear, but a liberal arts education really does cultivate curious minds!

In your bio, you also say that you were a crossing guard, hash-slinger, gift-wrapper, and pet sitter. This sounds like perfect prep for becoming a picture book author! Have any of these jobs inspired a story? Do you have a funny or surprising experience you’d like to share?

Writers DO find a way to wring fictional purpose out of anything, don’t we? I have found that one common theme across many of my stories is work. In When A Tree Grows, Squirrel gets a job in the Nifty Nuts factory as a quality control inspector. That’s one job I have not done! But working as a department store gift-wrapper was a job where quality mattered. Customers could buy a specialty paper/ribbon combination or choose the free “store wrap” which was red with tiny white checkered squares. The squares had to line up perfectly, no matter how lumpy or bumpy the item was, or the boss would make us re-wrap it. Wrap a floor lamp? Rocking chair? I like to imagine one of my co-wrappers invented printed gift bags out of desperation.

In previous interviews, you’ve described how you wrote your first picture book to enter the Cheerios “spoonful of stories” contest. But did you always like to write? What kinds of writing did you do? What inspired you to try the picture book form?

As a kid I loved to write and illustrate greeting cards, so my earliest efforts were short and to the point, just like picture books. I also wrote scripts for Muppet-like puppet shows, assigning the best roles to myself, of course. When school assignments piled up and writing lost its luster, I stopped scribbling for pleasure. Decades later, having children led to reading many picture books and to many boxes of Cheerios. So those factors definitely helped re-ignite my passion for writing and picture books specifically.

When a Tree Grows was released on April 2. What have you found to be the best part of being a published author? If you’ve held any book events, can you describe the reactions of kids to your story?

Of course seeing Tree on bookstore shelves and in readers’ hands is delightful. Hearing people laugh at the funny spots is a thrill! I like to ask a helper to wave a big sign that says “OR” to dramatize the page turns during readings. And kids love to see Squirrel scooping coins out of the fountain to buy a bus ticket home – so naughty!

What’s up next for you?

Next up for me is a still-secret, super funny picture book with an amazing publisher in Canada. A sloth and a squirrel team up for a special mission. Look for an announcement soon, and a book sometime in 2021!

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

Halloween – because it is in the fall, my favorite season. It also happens to be my birthday! Costumes, candy, glowing pumpkins, being outside after dark – all these elements make magical memories for kids. And on top of all that I got a cake, candles, and presents too? Pretty great.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

What a great idea! Let’s imagine re-casting When A Tree Grows as a Halloween story.

When an Owl hoots in the forest on Halloween, two things could happen.

Warthog blows out the candle in her pumpkin. Trick or treat is over.

OR…

Eek! Warthog is startled and tosses her candy into the air.

When Warthog tosses her candy into the air, two things could happen.

What do YOU think should happen next?

Oh my! Let’s see…

Bat neatly snatches all the candy out of the air with her trick-or-treat bag.

OR…

A candy corn ricochets off a tree and bonks bat, sending her wildly off course.

Readers? What do YOU think? Add your ideas in the comments section below!

Well, this was tons of fun, Cathy! I’m so glad we had a chance to chat! I wish you all the best with When a Tree Grows!

You can connect with Cathy Ballou Mealey on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moose-headband-craft-when-a-tree-grows

Moose starts a whole string of events in today’s book! What will you get up to in your own moose antlers?

Supplies

  • Stiff brown paper
  • Brown hair band
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Tape

Directions

  1. Trace your hands with fingers spread on the brown paper. Leave a 1 – 2 inch tab on the end of the wrist for wrapping around the head band
  2. Cut out the hand prints
  3. Place one hand print on the right side of the headband with the thumb of the hand pointing up.
  4. Wrap the tab around the headband and secure with tape
  5. Place the second hand print on the left side of the headband with the thumb pointing up.
  6. Wrap the tab around the headband and secure with tape.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-a-tree-grows-cover

You can find When a Tree Grows at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review