August 14 – National Lazy Day

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About the Holiday

Lazy Day may be the easiest day of the year! Today you have carte blanche to do absolutely nothing. Don’t feel like changing out of your pajamas? Don’t! Feel like lounging in front of the TV all day – or taking a nice long nap? Do it! We all need down time, maybe this year more than most. So grab some snacks (ready-made, of course), find your comfort spot, and relax!

The Little Blue Cottage

Written by Kelly Jordan | Illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

 

All year long the little blue cottage waited at the edge of the bay for the little girl to come visit again, and every summer she did. Then the house “whistled and hummed and filled with light.” Up in her room, sitting on the window seat and gazing out at the of the large, porthole-shaped window, the girl “whispered, ‘you are my favorite place.'”

From the end of the dock, the little girl watched sailboats skim over the waves and dolphins leap above them. In the sky seagulls and pelicans circled, looking for food. When evening came, the girl and her mother and father sat in the creaky rocking chairs and watched the moon rise and the stars twinkle. Waves were the little girl’s lullabies.

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Image copyright Jessica Courtney-Tickle, 2020, text copyright Kelly Jordan, 2020. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Fall came too soon, and as the family drove away, the little girl waved goodbye to the blue cottage. All winter long, “the little cottage shivered through snow, ice, and rain.” But with the warm sun, the girl and her family returned. Then “the little cottage smelled like bacon, pancakes, and popcorn. The little girl smelled like syrup, sunscreen, and sea.”

As summers came and went, the girl grew. She took to the outdoors and the sea, swimming with the fish and waterskiing on top of the waves. On hot nights she caught fireflies. When summer storms battered the little cottage, it “stood strong” as the girl stayed snug and safe inside. And so it was that the girl and the little blue cottage “grew up together.”

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Image copyright Jessica Courtney-Tickle, 2020, text copyright Kelly Jordan, 2020. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

One year, the girl didn’t return with the summer. That year turned into many more, and the blue cottage became weather-beaten and gray, but it never gave up hope that the girl would come back. Then it happened. The cottage heard a beep-beep and the crunch of gravel. The girl – now, though, a mother herself – had returned with her own family. In her old room, she sat at the round window and whispered, “‘I missed you while I was away.'”

Once again the cottage became filled with light and the sounds and smells of summers long ago. The girl painted the cottage blue and “it was just like always.” And at night they fell asleep to the waves’ lullaby.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-blue-cottage-summer

Image copyright Jessica Courtney-Tickle, 2020, text copyright Kelly Jordan, 2020. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Infused with the deep-seated impressions of childhood, Kelly Jordan’s lyrical The Little Blue Cottage speaks of tradition, growing up, and the steadfast continuity of life. While the story beautifully depicts a seaside setting, readers will be reminded of their own special place or tradition – the one that will grow with them, coloring their hopes and dreams just as the blue cottage does for the little girl. Throughout the story, children follow two storylines: that of the family and that of the cottage. This dual storyline reinforces Jordan’s reminder of the cyclical nature of life and assures them that memories are never lost but always in reach to sustain them.

Jessica Courtney-Tickle’s airy and enchanting illustrations shine with sun-dappled loveliness and delicate renderings of the vegetation and sea creatures that make the seaside unique. Courtney-Tickle’s rich colors give each scene depth and movement. The storm scene is especially compelling From panel to panel and page to page, children can see changes taking place, and pointing these out while reading will give kids and adults an opportunity to talk about the transformations in the book as well as in their own lives. As the girl – now a mother – sits on the end of the dock with her smiling face tipped toward the sun, children will happily bask in the story as well as their own dreams for the future.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2020 | ISBN 978-1624149238

Discover more about Kelly Jordan and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jessica Courtney-Tickle, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Lazy Day Activity

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Carefree Sloth Coloring Page

If there’s any animal that represents carefree relaxation, it’s the sloth. On this laziest of days, grab some crayons or colored pencils (or maybe just one or even none at all!) and enjoy this printable coloring page.

Carefree Sloth Coloring Page

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You can find The Little Blue Cottage at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 29 – It’s National Oceans Month

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About the Holiday

During National Oceans Month, we celebrate the wondrous diversity of sea life. A majority of the earth’s surface is covered in water and yet we know only a fraction of what the oceans have to show us. With new technology scientists are diving deeper and deeper and discovering some of the most unique creatures in the world. The holiday also gives us an opportunity to pledge our help to preserving the fragile ecosystems that exist in and near the world’s oceans from climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction. To join in on this month’s holiday, visit a beach or aquarium, learn more about the animals and resources of the sea, and consider donating to or volunteering with an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. To learn more about the world’s oceans, including information on ocean health, life, science, and trivia; find education resources, podcasts, videos, and more, visit the National Ocean Service website.

Down Under the Pier

Written by Nell Cross Beckerman | Illustrated by Rachell Sumpter

 

A group of kids are having fun on the pier. They ride the Ferris wheel and the roller coaster and “gobble clouds of cotton candy” as they walk in the sunshine. On the carousel they vie for the one goat to sit on. “Up on the pier,” they tell readers, “we feed the machines, roll Skee-Balls, whack moles, and trade our tickets for toys.” When their money runs out, “is the fun all done?” Not at all. For these kids, it’s just begun.

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Image copyright Rachell Sumpter, 2020, text copyright Nell Cross Beckerman, 2020. Courtesy of Cameron Books.

They pad downstairs and kick off their flip-flops. “Down under the pier, it’s dark and cool. We inhale sea spray and squish slimy sand through toes.” They listen to the waves crash and when the water recedes, they “find creatures clinging. Mussels, barnacles, sea stars, and anemones festoon a forest of pilings.” Gently they touch these creatures, let crabs tickle their palms.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-down-under-the-pier-seaweed

Image copyright Rachell Sumpter, 2020, text copyright Nell Cross Beckerman, 2020. Courtesy of Cameron Books.

“Sanderlings scamper, their stick legs a blur” as they lead the children in a race down the beach. Here they find long strands of kelp, strong enough for a game of tug-of-war, wild enough to make a seaweed monster costume. Down under the pier they “collect seashell souvenirs” and watch the changing rainbow colors of the setting sun in the quiet twilight away from the blinking lights, clanging bells, and ringing voices on the pier. “Fun is free,” they know, “and the world is ours.”

Through an Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, readers learn that a portion of the proceeds from Under the Pier are donated to Heal the Bay Aquarium, an educational nonprofit located under the Santa Monica Pier, where visitors can see and touch one hundred local sea creatures. An illustrated guide to seven sea creatures found in an intertidal community follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-down-under-the-pier-shells

Image copyright Rachell Sumpter, 2020, text copyright Nell Cross Beckerman, 2020. Courtesy of Cameron Books.

Lyrical, entrancing, and full of the wonder of childhood, Nell Cross Beckerman’s story will transport readers to a languid summer day where a group of friends spend the afternoon reveling in the rides, games, and treats of the pier and then continue their fun under the pier, where nature provides as many delights as the carnival above. Through her detailed and evocative language, readers can hear the thrill of the crowds, taste the cotton candy, and run with the kids to be the first to claim the goat on the carousel.

But it is when the kids “slip down the stairs” to the sand below that Beckerman’s descriptions truly shine with the deep and lasting impressions of new discovery. The children’s mindful awe of the sea creatures they find when the tide goes out and their creative games played out with relished spontaneity reflect this one trip to the beach but also all moments of free play that this group of friends—and readers—will experience and remember as they grow up.

Rachell Sumpter’s glorious artwork blends realism and that feeling of magic that expands a child’s world. Her gorgeous soft pinks, yellows, greens, and blues, embroidered with lacy white accents, swirl with the kids on the carousel and beckon them downstairs. Here, with the page turn, the colors burst into vibrancy as the sea tickles their toes and sea creatures climb the pilings and blanket the rocks and sand. Frothy waves and pearled outlines create a dazzling backdrop to the children’s fun. As they wrap themselves in nature-made costumes and art, the fiery sun sets on a perfect day.

A mesmerizing escapade children will want to join in on, Down Under the Pier is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections. The book would pair well with lessons on marine science and United States geography, giving it cross-curricular appeal.

Ages 4 – 8

Cameron Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1944903862

Discover more about Nell Cross Beckerman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rachell Sumpter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Oceans Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kinetic-sand-craft

Kinetic Sand

 

Sand is so much fun to play with at the beach that you just wish you could bring it home. Now you can! With this easy recipe you can create your own kinetic sand to form or let run through your fingers. It makes a great anti-stress reliever too!

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack. Or just let it drip and ooze through your fingers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-down-under-the-pier-cover

You can find Under the Pier at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 27 – National Sunglasses Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday has been long in the making. Tinted glasses have been around since judges in ancient China used them to disguise their emotions. Modern sunglasses were first sold in 1929 by Sam Foster on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and Bausch and Lomb was commissioned in the 1930s by the Army Air Corps to create glasses to ease the high-altitude glare pilots faced. In 1936 Polaroid filters were first used to protect eyes from  damaging UV rays in Ray Ban sunglasses.Since the 1970s movies have helped escalate the popularity of many styles of sunglasses as fans strive to look like their favorite actors and actresses. Today, grab your sunglasses or shop for new ones because—you know why…sing it with me… “The future’s so bright, I gotta have shades!”

Chu’s Day at the Beach

Written by Neil Gaiman | Illustrated by Adam Rex

 

As readers of this series know, “when Chu sneezed, big things happened.” With this tantalizing and slightly-ominous-in-a-way-kids-love statement, Chu’s latest adventure begins. Turning the page kids discover that Chu and his family have headed out to the beach. Chu is having a great time: the octopus selling ice-cream gives him an extra scoop of vanilla, and Chu meets a crab in a rock pool; even Chu’s mom is enjoying a book under the umbrella and his dad is wading in the ocean.

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Image copyright Adam Rex, 2015, text copyright Neil Gaiman, 2015. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Chu takes his sunglasses off to better enjoy the bright, sunny day, but suddenly Chu’s nose tickles. The tickle grows until it fills his whole head and he can’t hold it in anymore—“AAH- AAAAH- AAAAAH- CHOoOoOoOO!” Chu looks out to sea. “‘Uh-oh,’” he says. Everyone on the beach comes down to the water’s edge to look at the huge suspended wave Chu has sneezed up.

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Image copyright Adam Rex, 2015, text copyright Neil Gaiman, 2015. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Like standing in front of an aquarium exhibit, the beachgoers find themselves eye-to-eye with sea creatures who are suddenly encased in the wall of water. The fish, turtles, whales, and merpandas are sad—“‘With the sea broken, I cannot go home,’” one whale explains. The ice-cream vender tells Chu to sneeze again and put the sea “‘back the way it was.’” But try as he might, Chu can’t sneeze. A seagull tickles Chu’s nose with a wing feather and the octopus offers Chu a fizzy drink with bubbles that go up his nose, but nothing elicits a sneeze.

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Image copyright Adam Rex, 2015, text copyright Neil Gaiman, 2015. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

All seems lost until Tiny the snail reveals that sometimes he sneezes when he looks at the sun. Chu removes his sunglasses and gazes into the light. “AAAAACHOOOOO!” “‘There, said Chu. Everything is back just as it was before.’” The sea creatures are happy that they get to return to their homes, the ice-cream seller is so pleased that she scoops up another cone for Chu, and Chu? He declares that it was the best day at the beach ever.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chu's-day-at-the-beach-sneeze

Image copyright Adam Rex, 2015, text copyright Neil Gaiman, 2015. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

With his singular style Neil Gaiman conjures up a story for kids that combines just the right amount of sweetness and absurdity to keep the giggles going from the first page to the last. We all experience those uncontrollable mishaps and “oh no!” moments where a little help and empathy is appreciated. And what child wouldn’t love to stop the ocean, even if only for a moment? Gaiman’s repeated sneezes will have kids “Aah-chooing” along, and an animated reading of the chorus “AAH. AAAAH. AAAAAH. NO.” is sure to bring laughs and requests for “Again! Again!”

If only the beach was as full of interesting creatures as Adam Rex portrays in his vivacious illustrations! Crossing the dunes Chu and his family encounter an intriguing array of animals stretched out on towels—from a tiny cricket to a pangolin to a hunky frog with his clever insect-snack-strip-adorned umbrella and more. Ice-cream vendors no doubt wish they had the eight arms of Rex’s frozen-treat seller, and there’s even an ostrich with his head in the sand. Chu’s tidal wave teems with surprised sea creatures, some stuck mid-way between their ocean world and the dry outside. Chu remains as cute as ever, inviting kids to join him on his latest adventure.

Chu’s Day at the Beach makes for fun summer reading and would be a favorite on home bookshelves. Check out Chu’s Day, and Chu’s First Day of School too!

Ages 2 – 7

HarperCollins, 2015 | ISBN 978-0062223999 (Hardcover) | HarperFestival (Board Book, 2016) | ISBN 978-0062381248

Discover more about Neil Gaiman, his books for children, and all of his work on his website.

To learn more about Adam Rex, his books, and his art on his website.

National Sunglasses Day Activity

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Perfect Sunglasses Matching Puzzle

 

The summer sun is so bright that these friends need sunglasses before they go out to play! Can you follow the paths to match each child with the perfect pair? Get the printable Perfect Sunglasses Matching Puzzle and have fun!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chu's-day-at-the-beach

You can find Chu’s Day at the Beach at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

May 27 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

Pets give us unconditional love, provide companionship, and add entertainment and fun to our lives. This month is set aside to focus on our pets. To celebrate spend extra time with your furry friend, make sure they have everything they need to stay healthy, and give them a little extra treat. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting a dog, cat, bird, or small animal from your local animal shelter. You’ll both benefit!

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read

Written by Curtis Manley | Illustrated by Kate Berube

 

One summer Nick, Verne, and Stevenson did everything together. Nick is a little boy and Verne and Stevenson are two very different cats. Nick and Verne loved to spend time near the water—Stevenson tolerated it. Nick and Verne slept happily in a tent under the stars—Stevenson barely shut his eyes. While Nick rode his bike Verne eagerly sat in the front basket—Stevenson hunkered down in a box on the back. But when Nick sat down to read, both cats had similar ideas of fun—like lying on top of the book—and Nick could hardly read a sentence.

“So Nick decided to teach them how to read. He made flash cards and started with easy words” like “ball,” but Verne and Stevenson just wanted to play with the ball. While the three had a picnic on the lawn, Nick brought out his flashcards and “pointed to the word food. The cats ignored him.” When the cats snoozed Nick woke them with a sign. “‘This is no time for an N-A-P!’” he said. Neither cat responded well, so Nick tried a new tactic. He made word-shaped flash cards. Verne took a nibble of “F-I-S-H,” but Stevenson hid under the bed.

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Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Nick began to see that Verne liked stories about cats and fish. “Verne loved fish. He followed along as Nick read, learning the sounds of the letters.” He even read by himself, discovering new stories, especially 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But Stevenson? When Nick spelled words for him, he merely ran under the porch, hissing. By this time Verne was reading so many books that he got his own library card and Nick needed help carrying all of his books home. Nick and Verne had fun acting out their favorite stories, but they missed Stevenson.

One day “Verne discovered a treasure under the bed—a great stack of Stevenson’s pirate drawings. “‘Wow!’” Nick whispered. “‘Stevenson drew a story.’” Nick and Verne put the pages together and began to write words to go with them. When the story was finished, Nick, Verne, and Stevenson “squeezed under the porch, gave Stevenson an eye patch, and read The Tale of One-Eyed Stevenson and the Pirate Gold. Stevenson listened and followed along. He didn’t run away. Or hiss. Not even once.”

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Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Suddenly, Stevenson couldn’t get enough of books.  Even before Nick woke up, Stevenson could be found with his nose in Treasure Island or another adventure book, and whenever Nick and Verne played pirates, Stevenson joined in. He helped bring down “scurvy mutineers” and found buried treasure. Now the three readers do everything together. They “hunt for dinosaurs in the lost world behind the garden…race around the yard in eighty seconds…and journey to the center of the basement.” And while they all like to read on their own, they also like it when someone reads to them. “Hmmm…,” Nick thinks, maybe next he could teach his cats to talk. “‘Meow,’ says Stevenson.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-grumpy-stevenson
Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Curtis Manley’s adorable tribute to reading and learning to read, using cats with very different personalities, is inspired. Just as some people respond more to the words while others are attracted by the pictures, Verne and Stevenson have their own relationships with books. The names of the cats and their preferred reading material are also reminders that books are personal, and disinterest in one type of story does not reflect disinterest in all stories. Manley’s text makes for a joyful read-aloud as his language and phrasing is evocative, lyrical, and imaginative.

In perfect accompaniment, Kate Berube brings this creative story to life, illustrating the tender relationship between Nick and his pets as well as emphasizing the humor and distinct personalities inherent in orange-striped Verne and smoky-gray Stevenson that influence their journeys to literacy. Depictions of the various books Verne and Stevenson are drawn to highlight the literary references in the trio’s further play. Readers will want to stop and peruse the page of library shelves, where such books as “Harry Picaroon and the Swashbuckler’s Stone”, “Harold and the Purple Canon”, “Millions of Rats”, and “Where the Wild Pirates Are” wait to be checked out in the Pirates section.

Kids will eagerly want to adopt The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, and it will snuggle in nicely on children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481435697

Discover “the facts, fictions, poems, and numbers” of Curtis Manley on his website!

View a gallery of Kate Berube‘s art on her website!

National Pet Month Activity

A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

You can find The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

April 25 – National Zucchini Bread Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday seems to anticipate the prolific zucchini and yellow squash yields of summer gardens. Of course, they’re delicious too—giving a snap of flavor to side dishes, salads, pastas, and even breads—but, really, how do you keep up with the harvest? Today’s holiday offers a suggestion. And today’s book offers a humorous and creative way to share the bounty. Even if we can’t get together in person right now, we can always enjoy a great book and the scrumptious recipe at the end of this post!

Zora’s Zucchini

Written by Katherine Pryor | Illustrated by Anna Raff

 

Summer vacation was only three days old, but already Zora was bored. She was tired of riding her bike aimlessly around the neighborhood. But this time when she rode through town, she noticed a Free Zucchini sign in the window of the hardware store. She liked that the plant’s name began with a Z like her name, so she loaded up her basket and went home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-zora's-zucchini-window

Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

Zora showed her dad her new plants. As she carefully dug in the garden and settled them in, her dad said “‘That’s going to be a lot of zucchini.’” “‘We’ll eat it!’ Zora promised.” All June and July, Zora tended her garden, cheering “every time she saw a yellow-orange zucchini blossom.” When Zora saw her first zucchini, she picked it and ran inside to show her family. Soon, they were enjoying zucchini for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was zucchini bread, zucchini soup, and grilled zucchini. “By the first day of August, Zora’s garden was a jungle of prickly, tickly, bushy, blossomy plants,” and each one “was covered in zucchini. There was no way her family could eat it all.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-zora's-zucchini-lots-of-zucchini

Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

When Zora peeked into her neighbor’s yard, she noticed there was no zucchini in her garden—but plenty of tomatoes. She asked Mrs. Thompson if she’d like to trade. Mrs. Thompson was delighted to swap a bushel of tomatoes for a bushel of zucchini. But Zora’s zucchini kept on coming. “‘This is crazy,’ Zora said.” She filled her bicycle basket and rode through the neighborhood, giving them all away. But the day after that, more zucchini was ripe for picking. Then Zora had an idea and got her family involved. “Her brother painted the signs. Her parents printed the fliers. Zora and her sister posted them all over the neighborhood.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-zora's-zucchini-mrs-thompson

Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

On Saturday, Zora stood next to her homemade stand that sported a sign that read: “Take a Veggie, Leave a Veggie” with an added entreaty that said “Or at least please take some zucchini.” As sun rose in the sky, though, no one had visited her stand. But then Mrs. Rivera came by with a bowl of raspberries, Mr. Peterson brought potatoes, and others traded carrots, green beans, and peppers as well as apricots, plums, and cherries. “Zora traded and traded until all her zucchini was gone.”

But Zora’s Garden Swap stand had done much more than share fruits and vegetables. As she looked around at all of the people laughing, talking, and nibbling, she realized that “her zucchini garden had brought so many people together.” She couldn’t wait for next year’s garden!

Back matter includes a note about gardening and the amount of food from a prolific garden that can go to waste. It also includes ideas for donating, preserving, and sharing excess harvests.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-zora's-zucchini-garden-swap

Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

Katherine Pryor’s easy-going storytelling and gentle humor will charm kids with its realistic portrayals of the excitement that every growth spurt, bud, and blossom in a garden creates. As the zucchini keeps coming, Zora’s family’s willingness to keep trying new recipes is heartening, and their help in making her Garden Swap Stand a success shows welcome family unity and support. Zora’s outreach, first to one neighbor, then to individuals throughout her neighborhood, and finally through her stand, encourages creative problem-solving. As Zora realizes that her garden has brought many people together, readers will also embrace the ideas of camaraderie and sharing and see that they too can foster such friendship in their school and community. For today’s food-savvy and socially conscious kids, Pryor’s addressing the issue of food waste and ways to share our bounty with others will appeal to and resonate with children.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-zora's-zucchini-biking

Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

Anna Raff’s cheery illustrations sparkle with the enthusiasm of children who go all in on a new interest. Kids will love seeing the zucchini plants grow from tiny seedlings to leafy giants that produce a flood of zucchini. Raff clearly shows Zora’s disbelief in her inexhaustible supply of squash and puzzlement as to what to do with it all, letting readers join in on her ever-growing problem. As Zora tries one solution after another and then hits on an idea, suspense grows, helped along with Raff’s visual clues in the signs and fliers her family makes. When the neighbors come together, smiling and chatting, at Zora’s stand, readers can see what a close-knit community can accomplish.

Sure to inspire a child’s interest in gardening and community sharing, Zora’s Zucchini, an award-winning book, is a fantastic addition to home, classroom, and public library shelves. The book also makes a fun pairing with picnics and visits to farmers markets and food festivals.

Ages 4 – 10

Eaters to Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0983661573 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0998436616 (Paperback, 2017)

Discover more about Katherine Pryor and her books on her website.

To learn more about Anna Raff, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Zucchini Bread Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-creme-de-la-crumb-cinnamon-swirl-zucchini-bread

Cinnamon Swirl Zucchini Bread from Creme de la Crumb

 

If you have zucchini to spare, you’ll love this delicious zucchini bread from Creme de la Crumb that’s sweet and moist and flavored with the homey taste of cinnamon! To find this scrumptious recipe and lots more, visit Creme de la Crumb!

Creme de la Crumb’s Cinnamon Swirl Zucchini Bread

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You can find Zora’s Zucchini at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 31 – Web Designer Day

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About the Holiday

With Memorial Day just past, it’s officially summer. Soon kids will be getting out of school and enjoying the beach and/or camp. A favorite summer past time is computer camp, which is a perfect mashup of fun and learning. Today’s holiday celebrates all of the inventive web designers who create clear, workable, and enjoyable sites where we can shop, get the latest news, watch videos, play games, and so much more. Our computers, phones, and tablets are so interwoven with our daily routine that we can’t even imagine life without them anymore. All that designing and coding takes specialized knowledge, education, and skill. If you know a web designer, thank them for their hard work—and if you know a child (or perhaps even yourself) who would like a career in coding or web design, get them started with a class or two—and today’s book!

How to Code a Sandcastle

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

It’s the last day of Pearl’s summer vacation, and she’s hit the beach with her parents. Her goal is to build a sandcastle. It’s not like she hasn’t tried on other beach days, but there was always something that destroyed it. There was the frisbee that landed on top of it, then a surfer glided right into it, and another girl’s dog, Ada Puglace, thought it needed a moat. But today, Pearl brought her robot, Pascal, to build her sandcastle.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

As Pearl explains, “He’ll do whatever I tell him—as long as I tell him in code. It’s not a secret code—it’s special instructions that computers understand.” Pearl points out the perfect spot on the beach for her sandcastle and tells Pascal to build it. But Pascal doesn’t move. Pearl realizes that she must break down the one big request into smaller problems for Pascal to solve. Easy-Peasy, Pearl thinks.

The first problem Pearl gives Pascal is: “find a place to build.” First Pascal travels out to sea, but Pearl tells him they must build on land. So Pascal rolls out into the parking lot. Hmmm…that’s not right either. Pearl decides she must be “very specific with my instructions.” When she tells Pascal to “find a flat spot on sand that isn’t too close to the water,” he marks an X on a perfect sandy spot. Great!

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

The second problem Pearl gives Pascal is to “gather up sand.” She’s learned to be very particular in her instructions, so she gives her robot a three-step process: “Fill the pail with sand, dump the sand on our spot, pat the sand down.” This works just right, so Pearl continues telling Pascal the directions, until she grows tired of speaking.

There must be a better way, Pearl thinks. How about a loop? Pearl directs Pascal to “loop through this sequence,” and just like that Pascal is off and rolling and Pearl gets to relax. A while later, Pearl discovers that Pascal had built a pyramid-high pile of sand, so Pearl tells him to stop. Next, they will “shape and decorate the castle.” Pearl comes back with pretty seashells to add to the castle, while Pascal brings back the lifeguard—in his chair. Pearl orders Pascal to bring back something smaller. When he comes back with a crab, she tells him it must be something that doesn’t move, and when he shows up with a baby’s pacifier, Pearl knows she must do a better job of explaining.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

She decides to give him “if—then—else” instructions. With these detailed directions, Pascal returns with a shell and some seaweed. Finally, it’s time to shape the castle. They use their buckets and hands to build a beautiful castle that even has a turret. The shells, rocks, and seaweed are the perfect finishing touches. With the castle finally finished, Pearl runs off to get her toys.

But when she gets back, Pearl discovers that the rising tide has washed their sandcastle out to sea. And to make matters worse, Ada Puglace is back to add another moat. Hmmm… a moat? Pearl thinks. That’s what she needed the first time. Pearl really wants to rebuild, but it took her half a day to make the first one. Then she realizes that the code is already written. All she has to do is use it again. In no time a new sandcastle stands gleaming on the beach.

There’s just one more problem to solve. Quickly, Pearl gives Pascal a new looped sequence to dig the moat. Now it’s time to play—or “code an entire kingdom!”

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

A Foreward written by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, introduces readers to this organization that is “working to close the gender gap in technology” and get girls of all ages excited about coding and future opportunities in science and technology. 

Pearl and Pascal’s Guide to Coding with brief discussions of Code, Sequence, Loops, and If-Then-Else follows the text.

With his infectious enthusiasm and talent to reach kids in new and innovative ways, Josh Funk, a computer programmer by day and super writer by night, is a perfect guide to the joys of coding for young learners. Taking kids out to the beach for a bit of sandcastle building—an endeavor that is often fraught with dangers—is a terrific way to show the procedures and power of coding. Pearl’s initial missteps in programming Pascal provide laugh-out-loud moments while also demonstrating that computer programs work with precise instructions. Her inexperience but quick learning will give readers confidence in their own abilities to code and where to look for problems if their program does not run as smoothly as they’d like. When high tide washes Pearl and Pascal’s sandcastle out to sea, readers may groan in empathy, but the opportunity to do it all again—only bigger and better—will make them cheer.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Sara Palacios’s golden beach is a wide-open and inviting platform to introduce the world of computer programming to young readers. Sunny and enthusiastic, Pearl, in her heart-shaped sunglasses, is persistent and smart in figuring out just how to make Pascal do what she wants. Pascal is a round, rolling cutie, perpetually happy to perform its duties. Series of panels and speech bubbles depict each instruction Pearl gives Pascal, clearly showing readers how coding and a computer’s response to its instructions work. Sequence loops are cleverly portrayed with typeface that creates a circle around Pearl’s floating ring and later around the trench that will surround the castle and become the moat. The final image of Pearl and Pascal celebrating their successful day together is powerful encouragement that a new day of girls and women in technology and science is on the horizon.

Coding a Sandcastle is a motivating combination of lighthearted fun and accessible education that will encourage girls—and boys—to get involved with computer coding just for their own enjoyment or as a future profession. It’s a must for school media and computer class libraries, and with this book on home bookshelves, kids won’t want to just play on the computer—they’ll be asking to program too.

Ages 4 – 8

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0425291986

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find lots of fun activities to do too on his website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Web Designer Day Activity

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Personalized Painted Pail

 

A trip to the beach or park isn’t complete without a pail to collect shells, seaweed, sea glass, pebbles, sticks, nuts, or other things in. But why should all the cool stuff be on the inside? With this craft you can decorate your pail to show your unique personality!

Supplies

  • Plastic or metal pail
  • Craft paint in various colors
  • Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating, for multi-surface use
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint designs on the pail
  2. When paint is dry spray with acrylic coating to set paint
  3. Let dry

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You can find How to Code a Sandcastle at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 19 – National Learn to Swim Day

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About the Holiday

As summer heats up and school ends, the pool and beach are natural draws for fun and relaxation. If children are going to be around water, it’s important that they learn how to swim. Today’s holiday is a great reminder to sign children up for swimming lessons if they don’t know how to swim and to go over the rules and skills if they do. Young children should never be left unattended by an adult around any water source. Memorial Day Weekend, the official start of summer, is just ahead! Have a fun and safe summer!

The Whale in My Swimming Pool

By Joyce Wan

 

A little boy runs pell-mell through the house to the pool. But when he gets to his little kiddie pool, “Whoa…” it’s already taken—I mean the whole thing—by a whale! The boy calls to his mom, who’s reading a book in a nearby chair, to tell her about the whale, but she’s more concerned about sunscreen. “Sunscreen? On a whale?” the little boy wonders.

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Copyright Joyce Wan, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillion.com.

He closes his eyes and counts to ten, hoping that by then the whale will have disappeared. But no. He tries pushing it out. But no. The boy can’t understand why the whale didn’t plop down in the neighbor’s much bigger and nicer pool. He throws a stick hoping to get the whale interested in a game of fetch, tries fishing for whale, and even tries bribing him away from his spot.

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Copyright Joyce Wan, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillion.com.

The boy has just about given up in frustration when he has an idea. He runs to get his floating ring and sunglasses and finds that sunning while held aloft on the whale’s spout is just dandy. In a while his mom calls him for naptime, and the boy slides down the whale’s back. He runs to his room only to find his bed—I mean the whole thing—by a bear (who snores)!

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Copyright Joyce Wan, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillion.com.

Joyce Wan’s adorable story is a summertime favorite that keeps little ones giggling as the little boy tries everything he can think of to budge the whale from his little pool. The boy’s attempts to move the whale echo what most kids might do to remove an obstacle, which builds a sense of camaraderie and empathy between reader and character. The boy’s ingenious solution to his problem will delight kids, and his naptime nemesis will elicit plenty of “Oh nos!” and “Not agains” from happy kids.

Wan’s bold colors, thickly outlined characters, and stylized pages will attract little ones with their high cuteness factor. Youngest readers will enjoy pointing out and naming items around the neighbor’s pool and in the boy’s bedroom, discovering the reason why the whale didn’t choose the nicer pool, and maybe even finding some foreshadowing in the boy’s floating ring.

A fun and funny book for summer or anytime, The Whale in My Swimming Pool would be a favorite addition to any child’s library.

Ages 2 – 6

Farrar Straus, and Giroux, 2017, Paperback ISBN 978-1338196672  | 2016, Board Book ISBN 978-0374301880 | 2015, Hardcover ISBN 978-0374300371 

Discover more about Joyce Wan, her books, and her art on her website.

National Learn to Swim Day Activity
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Cute Whales Coloring Pages

 

The sea is full of expert swimmers like the orca and narwhal in these printable coloring pages. Grab your crayons and give these seascapes some color!

Cute Orca Coloring Page | Cute Narwhal Coloring Page

Picture Book Review