July 12 – National Simplicity Day

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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!”

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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

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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!

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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 2 – It’s National Poetry Month

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About the Holiday

National Poetry Month was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to highlight the achievements of poets, past and present; to promote the reading and writing of poetry in schools and by individuals; and to encourage people to discover the joys poetry can bring all year round. Poetry Month is now celebrated in April in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, with other countries holding their own events during other times of the year.

Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence

Written by Jacqueline Jules | Illustrated by Iris Deppe

 

Playing—organized sports or spontaneous games—offers so much more than momentary entertainment. In her extensive collection of poems, Jacqueline Jules celebrates the life lessons that a wide variety of activities have to teach children of all ages. She begins her book with Tag Your Dreams, an invitation to chase and capture those dreams that inspire, encouraging kids to “Chase them / till you’re breathless. / Dreams / have strong legs, / but so do you….”

In Clapping Hands, a girl in a wheelchair approaches Bianca, a girl she hopes to make friends with. Blanca welcomes her with a smile. A “good sign.” The girl says, “My legs can’t run at recess, / but my hands can clap rhymes / my abuela taught me and reach / the new girl from Guatemala.” These new friends sit under a cherry tree playing Cho-co-la-te. “Our hands fly / fast and strong / together.”

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Image copyright Iris Deppe, 2020, text copyright Jacqueline Jules, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Strings is a moving ode to the importance and comfort of belonging. As a child flies a kite, they contemplate: “Without a string, / a kite blows away / into the clouds, / having no one who cares how far it flies…. And sometimes, a kite / wishes to be cut free, / to fly wherever it wants. / But without a string, a kite is alone in the sky / with no one on the ground / watching and cheering.”

Family and how this special relationship teaches children to love amid poignant separations or memorable “firsts” is the theme of two poems: Kick Scooters, in which a child and Dad make the most of their time together riding scooters even though “It’s not easy to have things / in common / every other weekend” and The River Trail, in which a child remembers the wonders they saw while hiking with their grandparents for the first time and says, “I learned to love when I was five.”

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Image copyright Iris Deppe, 2020, text copyright Jacqueline Jules, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Children turn disappointments into triumphs in Umbrella Dance—where a rainy day may have dampened beach plans but not a little girl’s spirit—and #64 Soccer Tryouts—in which a girl overcomes last year’s omission from the team with practice on her speed, technique, and shyness. When she sees the coach add her to the team roster, she “…raced off the field, / arms raised, grinning. / All goals reached.”

The persistence needed and learned in baseball, tae kwon do, basketball, volleyball, football, and hockey is also explored in poems about each of these sports, while inclusion, new perspectives, self-confidence, patience, resolve, appreciation, and the joys of one’s native language take center stage in poems about four square, cartwheels, kickball, swimming, bowling, and jump rope. Even more subjects and themes fill out this stirring collection of thirty-one poems. The sentiments in Olympic Skater sum up the inspiration found on each page nicely: “Did you see / how he rose / after that fall? / In one sweeping / circular motion / as if the question / of getting up / never existed at all.”

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Image copyright Iris Deppe, 2020, text copyright Jacqueline Jules, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Jacqueline Jules’ lyrical, unrhymed verses flow with the rhythms of life, revealing honest feelings, moments of discovery, times of reflection, wishes, and victories big and small. With a fine eye and ear for the glimmer of hope, the harbored emotion, or that one second when everything changes, Jules creates images that kids will recognize and embrace. The breadth of subject matter and universal experiences found here create a collection that will appeal to all children.

Iris Deppe’s bright, expressive illustrations depict Jules’ verses through kids whose happiness, doubts, confidence, concentration, and perseverance are clearly shown as they partake in their favorite sport or activity. The diversity of children in gender, race, and abilities reflects the readers’ world. The smiles that shine from each page will cheer readers as they soak up the message that they hold the key to a positive outlook and can create the change they want for themselves and others.

A stirring poetry collection that will be a favorite for dipping into throughout the year, Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence is highly recommended for all readers. It would be an inspirational addition for home story times as well as for homeschool, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807567265

Discover more about Jacqueline Jules, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about Iris Deppe, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Poetry Month Activity

CPB - Plant Poem

Grow a Poem Craft

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece! This craft can make an imaginative accompaniment to homeschool Language Arts, writing, and vocabulary lessons.

Options: This craft can be adapted to use whatever items you have at home. Instead of a dowel, kids can use a stick, yard stick or ruler, small branch, or even a strip of paper taped to the wall for the stem. The flower pot can be made from a can, jar, box, or other container.

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template, available here and on the blog post
  • Printable Flower Template, available here and on the blog post
  • Wooden dowel, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper if leaves will be preprinted
  • Colored paper if flowers will be preprinted
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaves and flowers (you can also write the poem after you have strung the leaves and flowers)
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Gently arrange the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

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You can find Tag Your Dreams at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 16 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Read a New Book Month is a fantastic time to scour your local bookstore and library for books that have recently been published or books that are new to you. Finding a book that you’ve never read before is exciting at any age, and discovering a new book about a favorite topic or in a favorite series is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Today’s book shows how books can spark an interest that can lead to a new hobby or even a future career.

Lola Dutch When I Grow Up

By Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright

 

Lola Dutch is a little girl whose mind swirls with all the possible things she could be when she grows up, and she wants to decide right now. Bear thinks it would be nice to talk about it over tea, but Lola’s in a hurry. “‘Quick, to the den!’” she says. Bear’s den is spectacular! It’s lined floor to ceiling with books on all topics, a comfy couch and an armchair beckon, and a fireplace keeps it nice and toasty. Today, Lola spies a book about opera and settles in.

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Image copyright Kenneth and Sarah Wright, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

After reading, Lola is convinced the stage is for her. In fact, it’s time to rehearse right now—as in full dress rehearsal. So, “Gator built the set. Pig composed the orchestrations. Crane designed the costumes.” And Bear brought the bouquet of roses for Lola’s final bow. At the end of the performance, Bear thinks Lola slayed it. But looking around at all of the intricate, moving props, Lola has decided that maybe she’d like to be an inventor. “Lola’s imagination soared” as she thought of all the aspects of being an inventor.

But then Lola wonders if perhaps she is “supposed to be something else when [she] grew up.” Suddenly, the fragrant flowers and buzzing bees catches her attention, and she thinks that being a botanist would be awesome. Prepping the soil, planting seeds, and caring for seedlings to “‘make the earth laugh with flowers’” is just what Lola wants to do. As Lola trims a topiary, Bear remarks, “‘Lola Dutch, you’ve grown so much.’”

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Image copyright Kenneth and Sarah Wright, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

And yet, Lola’s not finished growing. She ponders whether she should be a judge, an Egyptologist, a pastry chef, a chemist, and a whole host of other professions. The choices are endless, and Lola just can’t make up her mind. Bear has some sage advice. He asks her what she wants to be right then. Lola confides that she’s happy being a kid and learning about the world, and Bear encourages her to be just that. This sounds wonderful to Lola because, as she says, “‘I have a few more things I’d like to be tomorrow.’”

A surprise awaits readers on the the book jacket. On an extended flap at the back of the book are paper dolls of Lola Dutch and Pig as well as Lola’s voluminous opera gown. Turning the jacket to its reverse side, kids find an opulent, full-color stage, complete with airship, a topiary carousel, landmarks from Ancient Egypt, and Bear waiting to watch the performance. A glance at the copyright page reveals the creators in history who influence Lola’s imagination.

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Image copyright Kenneth and Sarah Wright, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Welcome to childhood—that time when imagination and reality mesh, allowing kids to be and do anything they can think of. Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright tap into that energy and enthusiasm as Lola contemplates all the things she could be when she grows up. All she needs to do to find plenty of brilliant career choices is to look around her surroundings. Acting? Check. Inventing? Yep. Botony, cooking, or chemistry? Yes, yes, or yes. But does she have to rush into it? There’s so much more to explore. The Wright’s brisk compilation of professions and the subsets that make them so interesting will entice any child to follow Lola’s example and make their own discoveries. 

Sarah Jane’s vibrant pencil, gouache, and watercolor illustrations shimmer with charm, and exuberance, reflecting that buoyant feeling of confidence and possibility of children interacting with their world. Fans of the first Lola Dutch book will love meeting up with Bear, Pig, Gator, and Crane once more and looking forward to the now—and the future—with such good friends.

Lola Dutch When I Grow Up is an inspiring sequel to Lola Dutch and will be a favorite and often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681195544

To learn more about Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright, their books, and other ventures, visit their website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Kids who know just what they’d like to do when they grow up or those who are still exploring the options will enjoy filling out this printable Dream Job Application. After making the easy briefcase, kids will be ready to take the world by storm!

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

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You can find Lola Dutch When I Grow Up at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

March 22 – National Goof Off Day

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About the Holiday

Just as the name sounds, today is a day to relax, let some things slide, and goof off! When the stresses and strains of everyday life get to be a little too much, letting go and having fun can put you in a better frame of mind and give you new perspectives. The holiday was established in 1976 by Monica Moeller Dufour of Davidson, Michigan. Now that you have permission to goof off and a whole twenty-four hours to do it in, plan some wacky events – or just snuggle in with a good book. There are no rules—so enjoy!

So Few of Me

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

Leo knew how to multitask. He could mop the floor and feed the bird at the same time (so…well… maybe the seed did miss the cage by a bit). But “no matter how hard he worked, there was always more to do.” Leo thought making a list would be a good idea. But once he started writing, the “list of things to do grew and grew.” For a moment, Leo wished there two of him. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2006, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

When Leo opened the door, he, himself, was standing on the other side. The new Leo was keen to get started on the list. Two Leos was helpful, but the new Leo noticed more things to be done, so “a third Leo joined the two.” Three was fine, but four was even better. They shopped, swept up, went to the library for more books, and made important phone calls.

If four could get so much done, just imagine how productive five would be. The Leos did imagine it, and a fifth Leo joined the group. The Leos could now wash the windows, make a birdhouse, water the flowers, do the laundry, and make some notes. Those notes became a more organized job chart when the sixth Leo appeared. “After meeting for hours, they decided they needed a seventh.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-few-of-me-nine-leos

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2006, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But it didn’t quite work out that way. “With seven Leos, there was seven times as much work!” Leo decided they needed one more just to stay afloat. These eight Leos mopped and baked, played soccer and carted laundry, organized and took notes that led to needing another Leo. Surely, these boys could get it all done. So one typed while another played soccer and another washed the cat. The fourth Leo swept while the fifth walked the dog and the sixth practiced violin. The seventh made important phone calls and the eighth checked the list while the ninth went grocery shopping.

Things were getting done and yet there was still more to do. So one more Leo was added, and each was “busier than the next.” At last, the ten Leos stopped for a minute to take stock. They reviewed the list and the progress they were making. They discovered that there was “no time to stop, no time to rest!” The first Leo, though, “was exhausted. He slipped away to take a nap.”

When Leo opened his eyes, he saw eighteen other eyes staring back at him. “‘What were you doing/’” The nine Leos demanded. When they heard that Leo had been dreaming, “they roared, ‘Dreaming is NOT on the list!’” But Leo only smiled, and “the Leos disappeared one by one.” Leo had a new thought. He wondered what would happen if he did less, but did his best. This solution made him happy, and with the list abandoned, Leo ran and played and became “just me, just one…with time to dream.’”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2006, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynolds’ books for young readers celebrate the wonders of childhood—those years that are so important in the development of the adult to come. Always encouraging of the interior voice of creativity and individuality, here Reynolds adds a tribute to time—the time needed to think, dream, contemplate, devise, and become.

With his usual flair, Reynolds uses watercolor, ink, and tea to show readers—both kids and adults—what all that over-scheduled running around looks like from the outside. As the Leos proliferate, the pages go from sparse to full to packed until one page isn’t enough, and the list and the Leo’s spill over into a double spread. When Leo wakes from his nap and realizes one is enough, the white space around him provides a sense of freedom and lightness. As the pages of the list fly out of Leo’s hands and he plops down in a grassy spot, the end papers reflect Leo’s liberation. Whereas the opening endpapers of college-rule notebook pages are full of chores, meetings, and exhortations to do more, the final  notebook-page endpapers are blank, giving readers a sense of Ahhhhh!

Adding So Few of Me to home or classroom bookshelves and reading often can be a good reminder that time relaxing is time well spent.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick, 2006 | ISBN 978-0763626235

Learn more about Peter H. Reynolds, his books, his art on his website

National Goof Off Day Activity

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Sweep Away Your Chores! Matching Game

 

Match the chores to get them done. See how quickly you can pair up these chores and get them finished so you can run off to play.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print two copies of the Chore Cards for each player
  2. Cut the Chore Cards apart’
  3. Lay them face down and scramble them
  4. Turn over one card and try to find its match by turning over another card
  5. If the cards match, put them aside
  6. If the cards do not match, lay them face down again and pick another card
  7. You win when all the cards have been matched

Picture Book Review