September 22 – It’s the Autumn Equinox

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-we-sleep-cover

About the Holiday

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, fall has arrived! If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, welcome to spring! Today, daytime and nighttime will be equal, ushering in a changing of the seasons. For some that means cooler weather, shorter days, and a slowing down in nature which leads to our being able to see the brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges in the leaves of certain trees. The phenomenon featured in today’s book. For others nature is just awakening, with all the beauty warm weather and new growth bring. Wherever you live, enjoy the activities and events the change in season brings!

Before We Sleep

Written by Giorgio Volpe | Illustrated by Paolo Proietti

 

“As the season turned, the forest was dressed in new colors of rich amber, burned orange, and chestnut brown.” Little Red, the fox couldn’t wait to play hide-and-seek with his friend Hazel the dormouse because he would be so much harder to find. Little Red and Hazel also enjoyed jumping in the crisp, rustling leaves. “‘The leaves are laughing with us,’ said Hazel joyfully.” But there was one thing about autumn that Little Red did not like. He knew that soon winter would come and he would be lonely.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-we-sleep-berries

Image copyright Paolo Proietti, 2021, text copyright Giorgio Volpe, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Hazel was already getting ready to hibernate in her warm burrow. Little Red thought maybe this year Hazel would take a shorter sleep, but Hazel reminded her friend that, although she would like to keep him company, she couldn’t. Little Red thought of ways the earth could stay warm and nurturing, but his ideas, he knew, were just wishes. In fact, Hazel was already growing tired. She promised Little Red that come spring she would be back to play with him again.

Little Red wanted just a few more minutes with his friend and asked if he could tell her a story. Little Red curled up next to her cozy burrow, and Hazel nestled into his soft tail to listen. “But before a word of the story was spoken . . . the two friends had fallen fast asleep, together.”

Note: Only first-person pronouns are used in this story, making the characters gender-neutral.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-we-sleep-asleep

Image copyright Paolo Proietti, 2021, text copyright Giorgio Volpe, 2021. Courtesy of Red Comet Press.

Tranquil and soothing, Giorgio Volpe’s autumn friendship story floats on beautiful, evocative language that stirs memories of the fun fall offers while also reassuring readers that no matter what changes take place, love between friends always remains. Volpe’s story also touches on how friendships are built despite—or because of—individual differences. The sweet and comforting ending makes Before We Sleep not only a perfect fall read but a cozy bedtime story as well.

Paolo Proietti’s lush illustrations of a woodland dressed for autumn fuse realistic images of nature with delightful whimsy that mirrors the wistful tone of Volpe’s story and will charm readers. Proietti’s rich illustrations of fiery Little Red, adorable Hazel, and the plants, berries, nuts, and wildlife of the forest are set against lovely muted gray, blue, and sage backgrounds and invite readers to visit again and again.

A quiet and enchanting story for cozy fall days and dozy nights, Before We Sleep is highly recommended as a gift for family or friends and as an addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Red Comet Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1636550046

To download a Before We Sleep Activity Kit and find video resources, visit Red Comet Press.

You can connect with Giorgio Volpe on Facebook.

You can connect with Paolo Proietti on Instagram.

Autumn Equinox Activity

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-fall-leaves-matching-puzzle

Falling for Fall Matching Puzzle

 

These kids are having fun in the leaves. Can you find the matching leaves in this printable puzzle?

Falling for Fall Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-before-we-sleep-cover

You can find Before We Sleep at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 7 – Buy a New Book Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-thief-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2012 to promote an appreciation for the influence books have made on culture and civilization as a whole. While watching shows and movies is fun, there’s nothing like ensconcing yourself with a good book and letting your imagination soar or learning new facts with the words in your hand.  To celebrate today and Read a New Book Month all through September, visit your local bookstore to see what’s on the shelves, call up and request a title or two, or order online to buy great reads for everyone in the family. And don’t forget to add today’s reviewed book to the list!

The Leaf Thief

Written by Alice Hemming | Illustrated by Nicola Slater

 

Squirrel loved autumn, when he could lounge on a branch under his colorful leafy canopy and count the patterns: “Red, gold, orange… red, gold, orange… red, gold…” Suddenly, Squirrel realized one of his leaves was missing. He began a frantic search. He looked under Ant’s rock and in Bird’s house. Then he spied Mouse floating in a puddle in a boat that looked just like his leaf.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-thief-bird

Image copyright Nicola Slater, 2021, text copyright Alice Hemming, 2021. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Bird tried to explain that it was “‘perfectly normal to lose a leaf or two at this time of year.’” Squirrel seemed to understand. But the next morning, Squirrel was shocked to discover that more of his leaves had been stolen—probably by Woodpecker, who was making a big blanket from them right outside his knothole. But Woodpecker protested that they were his and he’d “spent AGES collecting them.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-thief-mouse

Image copyright Nicola Slater, 2021, text copyright Alice Hemming, 2021. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Bird tried to remind Squirrel that the same thing had happened last year, and Squirrel agreed to try and relax. But the next morning, Squirrel woke up to a “DISASTER!” and when he saw Bird’s house festooned with leafy decorations, he accused her of being the thief. Bird patiently told Squirrel she was not the thief but offered to show him who was. Squirrel was rarin’ to meet them “‘because,” as he said, “I’ve got a few things I’d like to say to them!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-thief-woodpecker

Image copyright Nicola Slater, 2021, text copyright Alice Hemming, 2021. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Bird took Squirrel to the little porch around her house where the wind whipped the little ladder, swirled leaves, and even blew away Mouse’s sailor’s hat. Then Bird calmly, but sternly, related the facts about fall and reassured Squirrel that the leaves would be back in the spring. Squirrel was relieved. “Of course! No Leaf Thief at all. Silly me,’” he said. “I’m going to sleep well tonight!’” But the next morning the grass was gone! Who had stolen it?!

Backmatter includes an engaging discussion about the changes that take place for trees and other parts of nature during autumn.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-thief-discover

Image copyright Nicola Slater, 2021, text copyright Alice Hemming, 2021. Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Alice Hemming’s clever autumn story about a proprietary squirrel and his beloved leaves is packed with personality, humor, and heart. As long-term memory challenged Squirrel tries to grapple with the changing season, Bird serves as a patient and reassuring friend, undaunted by Squirrel’s mistaken accusations. When Bird’s unflappability is finally pushed to the edge, her curt repeated recitation of the facts brings a laugh. The pitch-perfect ending plays beautifully off the rest of the story and will have kids wanting to read it all again.

Nicola Slater’s witty illustrations capture Squirrel’s bluster, Bird’s forbearance, Woodpecker’s jauntiness, and Mouse’s creativity with emotion and fresh perspectives. Her vibrant colors and nods to today’s decorating whims as well as her character’s lively expressions create an atmosphere that is at once warm, inventive, and inviting. Leaves—and feathers—may get ruffled, but this little community of friends will stick together through all the seasons.

Beguiling, funny, and with a pinch of breezy education, The Leaf Thief is a story kids will want to jump into again and again. As today’s holiday suggests, the book is one to buy for home, classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2021 | ISBN 978-1728235202

Discover more about Alice Hemming and her books on her website.

You can connect with Nicola Slater on Twitter.

Buy a Book Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaf-mobile-craft

Autumn Leaf Mobile

 

You can bring the beauty of autumn leaves into your home with this fun-to-make mobile. Use tissue paper, construction paper, or even real leaves to make this mobile, that makes a great pattern and counting activity to do with young children too. 

Supplies

  • Paper Plate
  • Scissors
  • Tissue Paper/Crepe Paper
  • Tape
  • String/ Yarn

Directions

  1. Cut out the center circle of the paper plate and use the outside ring as the top of your mobile
  2. Have children pick out colors. We did a fall theme, but you can really let the kids be creative here. 
  3. Cut out tissue paper or crepe paper into leaf shapes. Adults will have to cut out the bulk of leaves. My six year old was able to cut the leaf shapes out, but was tired after 5. I used about 60-70 leaves.
  4. Have children organize leaves into patterns.
  5. Tape leaves together so they overlap. 
  6. Tape chain to paper plate ring
  7. Tie String or yarn to the top of the mobile

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-leaf-thief-cover

You can find The Leaf Thief at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 29 – Celebrating Rain Day with Shelley Johannes

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-Shelley-Johannes-headshot

Shelley Johannes is the author-illustrator of the Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker chapter-book series. A former architectural designer, she has a fondness for tracing paper, process, and accidental discoveries. She and her family live in Michigan with two feathered friends, Max and Alex, who make every day sunny and birdy. More Than Sunny is her debut picture book.

You can connect with Shelley on Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Hi Shelley! I love how you describe all sorts of weather days in your new picture book More than Sunny, so I just couldn’t pass up a chance to share Rain Day with you! Rainy days have their own special fun, and you certainly celebrate that in your book! Of course, when the sun comes out, rainy days also bring rainbows – those beautiful symbols of optimism, something we can all use every day and which shines on every page of More than Sunny. Can you talk about what inspired the story?

Thank you, Kathy! And thank you so much for having me here today. Optimism is always in season, but metaphorical sunshine definitely feels even more precious these days.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Matthew-Johannes-headshot

Matthew Johannes

More Than Sunny was inspired by my son Matthew and a first-grade weather project. I’d viewed his daily weather chart—the kind with columns for sunny, cloudy, rainy, windy, snowy—as a mundane task to check off our list, but on the first day, he looked outside and enthusiastically declared, “It’s sunny and birdy today!” When he called the next day “windy and squirrelly”, I knew it had to become a book someday. He turned a routine assignment into something fresh and exciting, and made me pay attention to the beauty I’d forgotten to see. That’s always book-worthy.

In More than Sunny, you describe days with nuances that delight in everything a day can possess. Using your story structure, what would your favorite day have been as a child? How about now as an adult?

I love this question! As a kid, I loved rainy days, and any excuse to curl up with my dog and our special Rainy Day Art Book. So maybe I’d say . . . Dreary and Doggy were my favorite kind of days back then. Rain is so relaxing.

As an adult, it’s a tough call between Springy and Birdy (because May is the most cheerful month, and we are huge bird nerds around here) and Autumn and Squirrelly (because the crisp, colorfulness of fall makes me happy, and we’re huge squirrel nerds too!).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-May-and-titmouse

Before writing children’s books, you worked as an architect. Can you talk about that a little? Do you think being an architect influences your writing and art in any way? If so, how?

There was a time I felt bad about my winding path to making books. I felt bad that I didn’t have the guts to go after my dreams sooner. But these days, I’m so grateful for each part of my life and how it shaped me into the person I am today. My years in architecture helped me find my voice and gain the courage to use it. I also learned so much about my love for creative process and collaboration, and the type of people who inspire me. The desire to create, and to make something meaningful, is the motivational underpinning of both fields, so the transition to books felt very natural. The process of designing a building and building a story are surprisingly similar.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Shelley-Johannes-rainy-and-wormy-draft

A rainy and wormy day from More than Sunny by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

There’s also a direct connection in the way I work. I fell in love with tracing paper and felt-tip pens in my early days in architecture, and I’ve only fallen more in love as time passes. I’ve always loved how a loose sketch or a stray line can capture an idea on paper, and that wonder continues to bring me joy in new ways.

Your son Nolan narrates your wonderful book trailer and his pride and love for you and the More than Sunny really shine through. How great is it to share your writing journey with your kids?

Aw, thank you! We loved making that trailer together! And it was so special to capture his sweet voice just before it shifts into a grown-up one. It’s been so wonderful to share each step of the journey with my kids. I first realized I wanted to make picture books while reading to them as toddlers. They’ve been there for all the ups and downs and in-betweens of the creative process ever since, and enjoyed LOTS of celebratory pizza along the way! So much of each them—and they joy they bring into my life— is woven into everything I make. They inspire so many book moments, and are my most treasured critics and art buddies. I hope being part of this process empowers them to go after all the things they dream of doing, too!

What was your favorite place to read (or write or draw) as a child? What is your favorite place now and why?

As a kid, I loved to read and draw in the quiet privacy of my room, because it was personal and I was shy. These days, I like to mix things up. I write best in a crowded place, with headphones on and music blaring, because it’s easier for me to concentrate when I’m surrounded by stimuli and happy hustle-and-bustle. I also enjoy writing on the go as ideas randomly come to me, and use my Notes app like it’s another piece of my brain. I read anywhere and everywhere, and love listening to audiobooks while riding my bike around my neighborhood!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Shelley-Johannes-art-supplies

Though I doodle in sketchbooks all over my house, my studio is still my favorite place to make art. Having a place that’s dedicated to being creative, and filled with my favorite things, makes getting into the zone a bit easier.   

What is your favorite season and seasonal activity?

I’m torn between Fall and Spring. It’s hard to beat a cider mill on a crisp Autumn day, especially here in Michigan. Fresh donuts. Crisp apples. Bubbling steam running through the colorful trees. It’s pretty perfect. But then this Spring, we found a nature trail at a local park where wild birds fly down and eat out of your hands, and now we’re addicted to the wonder of that experience too.

Will you be doing any book events this summer that you’d like to tell readers about?

It’ll be a fairly quiet summer (see the answer to the next question!), but I’m doing a virtual event with wonderful Belmont Books on August 26th at 6:30pm ET, and I’d love for everyone to join us! We also had an amazing virtual launch event for More Than Sunny as part of Literati Bookstore’s At Home with Literati series. Jarrett Lerner and I talked about creative process, seeing the world with fresh eyes, and the making of the book. You can watch our conversation here anytime:

What’s up next for you?

This week I am starting the final artwork for my second picture book! I can’t wait to start experimenting with materials and see where it leads me!

Thanks for this wonderful chat and for sharing so many insights. I wish you all the best with More than Sunny and am really looking forward to your next book!

National Rain Day Review

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-cover

About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate rainy days—but not just any rainy days. Rain Day commemorates an odds-busting record that began in 1874 in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania when one resident remarked to William Allison, the pharmacist at JT Rogers & Co drug store, that it always rained on his birthday—July 29. After that, Allison began keeping an annual record, and all eyes have been on Waynesburg to see if the remarkable run—115 years out of 147—continues. Now weather reporters around the country keep track of this remarkable statistic and broadcast “yes” or “no” to their audiences. As for the people of Waynesburg, they celebrate their notoriety with a huge festival that includes live musical entertainment, arts and crafts and food booths, kids’ games, and, of course, an umbrella-decorating contest. To learn more visit the Rain Day Website. And don’t forget to watch the skies!

More than Sunny

By Shelley Johannes

 

A girl knocks on her brother’s door and, before he’s even fully awake, she bursts in and announces with exuberance that this spring day is “sunny.” Yawning and rubbing his eyes, her brother adds “and early.” But his big sis pulls him outside to show him all the birds at the feeder and birdhouse. It’s not only sunny, she tells him “it’s sunny and birdy!” They head down to the pond, where the siblings have different ideas of what the day’s like. Little brother finds the day “sunny…and mucky!” But his sister, with feathers in her “wings,” states, “I say it’s sunny and ducky!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-birdy

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

On another day, these two compatible siblings head outside to discover what summer brings besides heat. The sunny day takes them to a field, a tree, and a dock, where they explore, relax, and use their imaginations. But not all summer days are sunny, and that’s okay because being inside when it’s “stormy” these kids make it cozy. And when the storm tapers off a bit, they grab their raincoats and big umbrella and go outdoors, where the girl exclaims, “it’s rainy and wormy!” and her brother inspects the mud and greets a small worm, “Hello squirmy.” The rainy day brings lots of fun with Mom and their dog too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-mucky

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

But summer days turn into autumn days with wind and squirrels and piles of leaves to jump in. The kids read and make paper snowflakes, waiting for winter to come. And, finally, the flakes fall. They taste so good. “Can we? Can we?” the siblings ask, eager to be out in the snow. “But I’m warm and socksy,” says Mom. But her kids, tiptoeing and playing, lure her out with “Let’s be snowy and foxy!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-fall

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

They take a walk in the woods and, while sledding, see Daddy coming home. “Are you ready and sleddy?!” they ask, but there’s shoveling to be done. That’s all right; there are other ways to have fun in the snow. Tired out and chilly, the family goes inside for bedtime. Now there’s a knock at the sister’s door. Yawning and rubbing her eyes, she goes to see who it is. It’s her brother, and he has something magical to show her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-snowflakes

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Shelley Johannes’s exuberant call to play and explore is a perfect jumping off place for kids to look at and interact with their surroundings with new eyes, imagination, and creativity. Hopping from season to season, Johannes touches on moments of freedom and wonder and those happy discoveries so formative in childhood. Her playful rhymes and bouncy rhythm echo kids’ delighted banter, and her sprightly adjectives invite readers to come up with their own descriptions of their day.

Johannes’s bright, energetic, and cheery illustrations dazzle with lively depictions of the siblings playing outside in all weather. Her smile-inducing portrayals of the siblings mirror real kids and each page is loaded with details readers will love lingering over. Mom and Dad make warm cameos to create a book the whole family will enjoy.

More than Sunny is a generously sized picture book that kids and adults will find themselves joyfully sharing throughout the year. For teachers and homeschoolers, Johannes’s storytelling provides a spark for writing prompts, grammar lessons, and observational skills. Sure to become a quick favorite, More than Sunny is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Harry N. Abrams, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419741814

Discover more about Shelley Johannes and her books on her website.

You can download More than Sunny activities from the Abrams website!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-cover

You can find More Than Sunny at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 23 – Hot Enough for Ya? Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-and-then-comes-summer-cover

About the Holiday

So here we are in the dog days of summer with their sweltering heat and soggy humidity. It’s so hot that even the simplest activities leave you drenched and drained. It’s the same every year, so what can you say? Well, today’s holiday gives a wry wink at that summer conversation starter, “Hot enough for ya?” Somehow this folksy phrase always brings a smile and shared commiseration. During these sweltering days enjoy some cooling treats with your kids – how about an ice-cream, a dip in the pool, lake, or ocean, or even that old favorite: running through the sprinkler? No matter where you find refreshment today, don’t forget to ask: “Hot enough for ya?”

And Then Comes Summer

Written by Tom Brenner | Illustrated by Jaime Kim

 

Summer days are like no other days during the year. Full of light and the kind of weather that entices you to stay outdoors, the months of June, July, and August hold promises of beauty and fun. Every day and every place welcome summer in their own way and invite new adventures. “When the days stretch out like a slow yawn, and leaves and grasses sparkle with dew, and the cheerful faces of Johnny-jump-ups jump up…THEN throw on flip-flops and breathe the sweet air.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-and-then-comes-summer-flip-flops

Copyright Jaime Kim, 2017, courtesy of jaimekim.com

In those flip-flops you’ll run past buzzing bumblebees, flying warblers, and Dad mowing the lawn to your bike. Pump up the tires, raise the seat, put on your helmet, and take off! When the sun stays up past bedtime “and crickets crick-crick in the evening air, and bugs as big as thumbs bang against windows…” then it’s time to play games until night falls.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-and-then-comes-summer-fireworks

Copyright Jaime Kim, 2017, courtesy of jaimekim.com

When every day is a play day and you’re out running and jumping or at the beach, and you hear that “familiar jingle,” you know the ice-cream truck is on its way. Then race your friends “to be the first in line” to choose your favorite icy-cold treat. “When the dog days of summer roll around, and it’s so hot you’re practically panting, and not even the sprinklers provide relief…THEN it’s time to head to the lake.” On the way, watch the world go by through your open window. Feel the breeze and enjoy the smells, sounds, and sights of the trip.

As you approach the familiar vacation spot where “the silver lake winks through the trees, and old friends run to greet you…” then it’s time for swimming and tents and roasted marshmallows while you tell stories and “plan tomorrow’s adventures.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-and-then-comes-summer-swimming

Image copyright Jaime Kim, 2017, text copyright Tom Brenner, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Tom Brenner’s tribute to the wonders of summer reflects that free and easy feeling that vacation months bring to kids. The little moments that become favorite memories are all here, recorded in Brenner’s lyrical and evocative pages. The rhythm and repetition play out like the best summer days—some, nuggets of individual joy and others, building to the excitement of eagerly anticipated vacations.

Jaime Kim transports kids to backyards, main streets, lemonade stands, and finally a shimmering lake in her sun-drenched illustrations of kids enjoying the freedom of summer. Readers can almost hear the shouts, sprinkler spray, running feet, fireworks, and crackling campfire as they turn the pages to join Kim’s enthusiastic kids in their summertime romps.

And Then Comes Summer is a joyous book to share with kids during summer or any time of the year.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763660710 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1536217377 (Paperback)

Discover a portfolio of illustration work by Jaime Kim on her website!

Hot Enough for Ya Day? Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flip-flop-craft

Flip-Flop Flower Pots

 

Have you outgrown your flip-flops from last year? You can turn them into fun plant holders with just a few buttons and mounting squares! Paint the pots with your own designs to make your hangings even more unique!

Supplies 

  • Small flip-flops with elastic heel backings
  • Decorative buttons
  • Glue or needle and thread
  • Small plastic flower pots
  • Paint for decorating the pot (optional)
  • Flower or plant
  • Dirt
  • Mounting Squares

Directions

  1. Plant the flower or plant in the flower pot 
  2. Decorate the straps of the flip-flops with the buttons. You can glue them on or sew them on with a needle and thread
  3. Place the flower pot into the flip-flop, letting it rest on the toe separator and securing it with the elastic backing
  4. Attach mounting squares to the back of the flip-flop to hang.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-and-then-comes-summer-cover

You can find And Then Comes Summer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 12 – National Simplicity Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday honors transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, who was born on this date in 1817 and who, along with his many other talents and interests, advocated for a simplified life. As summer heats up with a full calendar of activities, vacations, work, day trips, and more, take today “off” and just enjoy the simple pleasures around you. This is great advice throughout the year, too. Dedicating some time to fully appreciate the small things can be rejuvenating! 

More than Sunny

By Shelley Johannes

 

A girl knocks on her brother’s door and, before he’s even fully awake, she bursts in and announces with exuberance that this spring day is “sunny.” Yawning and rubbing his eyes, her brother adds “and early.” But his big sis pulls him outside to show him all the birds at the feeder and birdhouse. It’s not only sunny, she tells him “it’s sunny and birdy!” They head down to the pond, where the siblings have different ideas of what the day’s like. Little brother finds the day “sunny…and mucky!” But his sister, with feathers in her “wings,” states, “I say it’s sunny and ducky!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-birdy

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

On another day, these two compatible siblings head outside to discover what summer brings besides heat. The sunny day takes them to a field, a tree, and a dock, where they explore, relax, and use their imaginations. But not all summer days are sunny, and that’s okay because being inside when it’s “stormy” these kids make it cozy. And when the storm tapers off a bit, they grab their raincoats and big umbrella and go outdoors, where the girl exclaims, “it’s rainy and wormy!” and her brother inspects the mud and greets a small worm, “Hello squirmy.” The rainy day brings lots of fun with Mom and their dog too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-mucky

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

But summer days turn into autumn days with wind and squirrels and piles of leaves to jump in. The kids read and make paper snowflakes, waiting for winter to come. And, finally, the flakes fall. They taste so good. “Can we? Can we?” the siblings ask, eager to be out in the snow. “But I’m warm and socksy,” says Mom. But her kids, tiptoeing and playing, lure her out with “Let’s be snowy and foxy!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-fall

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

They take a walk in the woods and, while sledding, see Daddy coming home. “Are you ready and sleddy?!” they ask, but there’s shoveling to be done. That’s all right; there are other ways to have fun in the snow. Tired out and chilly, the family goes inside for bedtime. Now there’s a knock at the sister’s door. Yawning and rubbing her eyes, she goes to see who it is. It’s her brother, and he has something magical to show her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-snowflakes

Copyright by Shelley Johannes, 2021, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Shelley Johannes’s exuberant call to play and explore is a perfect jumping off place for kids to look at and interact with their surroundings with new eyes, imagination, and creativity. Hopping from season to season, Johannes touches on moments of freedom and wonder and those happy discoveries so formative in childhood. Her playful rhymes and bouncy rhythm echo kids’ delighted banter, and her sprightly adjectives invite readers to come up with their own descriptions of their day.

Johannes’s bright, energetic, and cheery illustrations dazzle with lively depictions of the siblings playing outside in all weather. Her smile-inducing portrayals of the siblings mirror real kids and each page is loaded with details readers will love lingering over. Mom and Dad make warm cameos to create a book the whole family will enjoy.

More than Sunny is a generously sized picture book that kids and adults will find themselves joyfully sharing throughout the year. For teachers and homeschoolers, Johannes’s storytelling provides a spark for writing prompts, grammar lessons, and observational skills. Sure to become a quick favorite, More than Sunny is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Harry N. Abrams, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419741814

Discover more about Shelley Johannes and her books on her website.

Take a look at the More than Sunny book trailer!

National Simplicity Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fluffy-cloud-craft

Fluffy Clouds Craft

 

One of the best simple pleasures is looking up at the clouds and imagining what shapes you see. Bring those fluffy, white clouds into your room with this craft!

Supplies

  • White girls’ dress bobby socks in various sizes
  • Fiber fill, 20-ounce bag
  • Fishing line, different lengths
  • Needle
  • Clear adhesive mountable hooks or clips

Directions

  1. Stuff the socks with fiber fill, pushing it far into the sock and adding more here and there to make various lumps and give it a rounded, cloud-like shape
  2. When the sock is full, tuck the end of the sock in to close it
  3. Cut lengths of fishing line. The lengths will depend on how and where you will hang the clouds
  4. With the needle or by hand, feed one end of the fishing line into the top of the sock and out to attach the line for hanging.
  5. Knot the fishing line
  6. Attach the mountable hooks or clips to the ceiling
  7. Hang your clouds!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-than-sunny-cover

You can find More Than Sunny at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 6 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

Expanded from National Garden Week in 2002, National Garden Month, encourages both avid gardeners and those new to this rewarding activity to turn over some dirt, plant seeds, and prepare to tend the little sprouts on their way through the season. A perfect activity for the whole family—even the youngest loves playing in the dirt and planting seeds!—gardening is a wonderful way to teach kids about the growth cycle, pollinators, nutrition, patience, and more! If it’s warm enough to start planting where you live, engage your kids in preparing and planting your garden. If it’s still a little chilly, gather the whole family and plan this year’s garden!

In the Garden

By Emma Giuliani

 

In her stunningly illustrated interactive guide through the seasons, Emma Giuliani introduces Plum and her little brother, Robin, and invites readers to join them as they tend to their garden and all the plants, animals, and birds that call it home. Plum and Robin begin at winter’s end. “This morning it’s cold. It’s not yet spring, but, in the garden, Plum and her brother Robin see the first catkins appearing on the branches of the willows and hazels. The blossoming mimosa makes the gardeners impatient for spring to come.” As Robin counts the long, drooping catkins, Plum rakes a layer of compost over the ground. On the facing page, readers get a close-up view of the fuzzy catkins, can peek inside a bud, burrow underground with earthworms just waking from hibernation, and view a few early bloomers. They also learn about what makes up the earth’s soil and get a recipe for compost.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-shed

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

With the arrival of spring, Plum is in her little greenhouse, planting vegetable seeds and spritzing the soil with water to keep it moist while Robin repots some plants who have spent the winter in the greenhouse. Outside, Plum aerates the garden bed with a pitchfork, careful of any tiny creatures below. Children can open the door to Plum’s well-stocked shed to see all the tools tidily stored there and lift the flaps to look inside a bulb and help a hyacinth, a daffodil, and a tulip grow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-shed

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

At last the warm weather of spring has arrived. The cherry trees are blossoming, and Plum and Robin are setting stakes and planting bean seeds. Next, they provide protection for the tender strawberry plants that are beginning to bloom. Young gardeners will enjoy opening a bean seed to learn what’s inside and then following its growing process. The bees are visiting the cherry blossoms, pollinating the flowers and making honey. What does a bee see as it hovers around the flower? Pull down the flap to see for yourself and learn all the parts of a flower. What other plants are flowering now? Open the flap to see!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-spring

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Summer begins and “what a joy to be in the garden in June! The gentle breeze, the smell of cut grass, and the tangy taste of strawberries and cherries make the gardeners smile.” While Plum waters the tomato plants, “Robin looks for ripe strawberries under the leaves.” Join him! Robin is also picking cherries before the birds eat them. How do those bright red, round fruits grow? Lift the flap to learn and see how they develop from flower to fruit. Plum is getting help with the aphids on the bean plants from industrious—and hungry—ladybugs. “Dragonfly larvae are transforming into graceful flying insects….Their presence is a sign of a healthy garden.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-spring

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

It’s high summer and the garden is glorious. Bean pods hang from the vines, and Plum contemplates whether they are ready to pick. She may leave some “husks dry out on the plant before picking them.” Dried completely indoors, they can be stored and eaten during the fall and winter. Take a look inside a pod to see the seven red beans there. Flowers greet you too: an orange marigold with petals like a pinwheel, a brilliant pink and purple fuchsia, and a perky mignon dahlia. Robin took cuttings of these plants and potted them to grow some more. Learn how you can do that with your plants too!

The summer heat is waning and the days are growing shorter. Fall is here. The catkins of early spring have become hazelnuts that are ready to be harvested. Even the squirrel approves! Plum and Robin teach you how to store them—and when to pick the winter squash and keep them for months as well. Can you count the number of seeds inside the winter squash? Plum’s beautiful trellised pear tree is bearing sweet fruit. Yum! But look out—a crafty rabbit is after the last leafy vegetables in the garden. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-fall

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The air is chilly again and winter is on the horizon. “Plum and Robin have donned their warmest clothes and gone out to collect the dead leaves. Some leaves will feed the compost, others will become mulch to protect plants over the winter. The hedgehogs can use the rest of the leaves in making their homes.” Do you see the pile of crunchy leaves? Lift them gently…shhh! A hedgehog is snoozing underneath. Robin and Plum have built an insect hotel to keep the bugs cozy during the winter and have filled the greenhouse again. For the colorful birds who stay awhile or all winter, Robin and Plum put out a bird feeder and fill it with locally produced seeds.

After putting all of their tools back in the shed, Plum and Robin head indoors to plan next year’s garden and “watch eagerly for the very first signs of spring.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-open-winter

Copyright Emma Giuliani, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

If your family tends a garden or is thinking of starting one, Emma Guiliani’s superb book is a must. At 16 inches tall, In the Garden provides fascinating facts about plants, insects, and animals; helpful tips on when and how to plant a variety of fruit, vegetables, and flowers, information on natural ways to ward off pests; and how to recognize when fruit and vegetables are ready for picking and how to store them. Through copious flaps, children get inside views of flowers, seeds, buds, and vegetables to learn the names of each part and how they contribute to the growth of the plant. Along the way, young and adult gardeners discover how early gardening can begin, directions on how to create and use compost, when bushes can be planted, information on pollination; and how to winter over the garden for the coming spring.

Giuliani’s crisp, lush illustrations are marvels, combining intricate paper cuts that replicate the shapes of delicate bulbs and buds, flowers and seeds, smooth and serrated leaves, the long bean pod, and even Plum’s garden shed with a window in the door. Her extraordinarily beautiful color palette immerses readers in the garden experience; you can almost smell the rich earth, hear the bees buzzing at the blossoms, and feel the air changing season to season.

A brilliant resource and a joy to peruse, In the Garden is a book that adults and children—both gardeners or nature lovers—will share throughout the seasons and from year to year. The book is most highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 7 – 12

Princeton Architectural Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1616898939

You can connect with Emma Giuliani on Instagram.

National Garden Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flower-garden-game

Plant a Flower Garden Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully blossom first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden or garden rows with flowers. Depending on the ages of the players, the game can be adjusted to fill all of the rows, some or all rows, or just one.           

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one or more sets of Flower Playing Cards for each player, depending on how  (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Cut the flowers into their individual playing cards
  4. Print one Flower Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the flower rolled in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” flowers until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with flowers or one row has been filled with all six flowers.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their flowers wins!

To play a printable Vegetable Garden Board Game, click here.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-garden-cover

You can find In the Garden at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Princeton Architectural Press

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound 

March 20 – It’s the Spring Equinox

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-cover

About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate the first day of spring! What makes the equinox so special? On this date, day and night are equally long around the globe. With longer days and warmer weather, thoughts turn to nature and renewal. For many this means gardening for ourselves and for the returning bees and butterflies. Today’s book takes a look at one of nature’s most inspiring creatures – the monarch butterfly. 

When Spring Comes

Written by Kevin Henkes | Illustrated by Laura Dronzek

 

This beautiful tribute to spring is as surprising as new buds pushing through the earth or tiny hatching eggs. Using repeated phrasing, lyrically expressed facts, and poetic rhythms, When Spring Comes echoes the anticipation that sunnier days bring after a long winter. The book opens with a simple, evocative sentence: “Before Spring comes the trees look like black sticks against the sky.” Children will immediately agree—they see trees in this way out their windows and draw them like this in art class.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-robins

Image copyright Laura Dronzek, 2019, text copyright Kevin Henkes, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The following sentence is equally as true: “But if you wait Spring will bring leaves and blossoms.” The book’s contrasting lines that explore conditions “before Spring comes” and “If you wait” gradually reveal more and more of springtime’s wonder, like the melting snows that usher in rainy days: “Spring comes with sun and it comes with rain and more rain and more rain. Do you like mud? Do you like puddles? I hope you like umbrellas.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-spring

Image copyright Laura Dronzek, 2019, text copyright Kevin Henkes, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

As Spring wakes more fully, it takes on a personality of its own: “Spring will call out the pussy willows and new kittens too. Spring can come quickly or slowly. It changes its mind a lot. But when Spring is finally here to stay, you will know it…There will be buds and bees and boots and bubbles.”  And there is much more to discover about this season of rebirth as well as the future within these pages.

When Spring visits it brings many wonderful smells, sounds, activities, and creatures, all of which are gorgeously depicted in Laura Dronzek’s radiant illustrations. The early gardens, blooming cherry trees, frolicking kittens, and profusions of flowers are as bright and welcome as the springtime sun. As the sweet-faced boy and girl in the book play, they are surrounded by birds, bunnies, dogs and kittens, and even ponder a little worm poking its head from the garden. Brilliant blues, pinks, greens meld with lush browns to create a joyful celebration of the newness of the season.

When Spring Comes is not only a book about a particular season or even for a particular age. The book is a wonderfully gentile and uplifting way to introduce or discuss the idea of waiting for good things to happen. Everyone, even the smallest child, has “winter days” when life doesn’t look so bright. But if you wait, spring comes with new life and surprises. 

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062331397 (Hardcover, 2016) | ISBN 978-0062741677 (Paperback, 2019) | ISBN 978-0062741660 (Board Book, 2018)

Discover more about Kevin Henkes and his books on his website.

Spring Equinox Activity

CPB - Paper Flowers

Paper Flowers

 

These paper flowers will brighten any room and come in a rainbow of colors. Make a bouquet for yourself or share them with a special friend.

Supplies

  • Tissue paper in many colors
  • Green paper
  • Green wire for stems
  • Scissors
  • Tape or glue
  • Pliers

CPB - Paper Flowers II

Directions

To make the stem

  1. Bend a 1 ½ -inch loop in the top of the wire
  2. Squeeze the wire together so it will fit tightly over the tissue paper

To make a flower

  1. Cut 6 or more 7-inch squares from tissue paper, mixing colors (you can make various sizes of flowers by making the squares larger or smaller and adding more squares)
  2. Gather all the squares together and fold them together accordion-style in 1-inch folds
  3. Slide the folded tissue paper under the wire loop, and tighten the wire
  4. Gently fan the tissue paper out on each side
  5. Beginning on one side, gently pull each sheet of tissue paper up toward the center
  6. Repeat step 5 on the other side

To make leaves

  1. Cut leaves from green paper, leaving a stem to wrap around the wire flower stem
  2. Fold the leaf stem around the wire and tape or glue

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-cover

You can find When Spring Comes at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review