September 6 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Friendship Month was established by the Oddfellows (shortened from The Grand United Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society (GUOOFS)), an international fraternity that dates back to 1730s England with the hope of encouraging people to make friends. Now dedicated to philanthropy and charity, the Oddfellows still promote Friendship Month each September to urge people to spend more time with their friends, get in touch with those they haven’t seen or talked to in a while, and, especially, to reach out to others who are alone or need a friend. As school gets underway, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to meet new people and form friendships – some of which may last a lifetime.

I’d like to thank Carolrhoda Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Big Bear and Little Fish

Written by Sandra Nickel | Illustrated by Il Sung Na

 

At the fair, Bear approached the basketball game booth, where the grand prize was a huge teddy bear. It was almost as big as Bear, herself. But Bear took away the consolation prize: a goldfish. “It was small. It was very small. It was so small it lived in a bowl.” Bear peered into the bowl, but when Fish woke up and said “‘Hello, Bear. Is this my new home?'”, Bear only nodded, afraid her big voice would scare little Fish.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

When lunchtime came, Bear made herself a sandwich with syrup that was as gold as she was. Bear didn’t know what to feed Fish, who was orange and probably liked “carrot muffins … or tangerines and pumpkins.” After lunch, Bear always measured herself. Today, she was over nine feet big! Bear didn’t know how she could measure Fish, so she left home for her regular afternoon walk, wishing – and not for the first time – that Fish was a teddy bear.”

While walking, Bear contemplated how inconvenient Fish might find the outdoors. Things could fall into her bowl and get caught in her tail. If she had a teddy bear Bear thought again, she wouldn’t have to worry about such things as tails. Bear began to regret ever bring Fish home from the fair. When Bear got home again, Fish greeted her with a “‘Hello” and a comment on how much she liked their porch.

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In response, Bear gave Fish the bad news that she couldn’t stay. When Fish asked why, Bear laid out her reasons: Fish was orange and ate orange foods; Fish had a tail that made it impossible for her to go on walks with Bear; and finally that Fish was too small. Fish was undaunted. She pointed out that Bear was orange too, and when Bear inspected her belly, she agreed that it “was an orangey sort of gold” kind of “like a carrot muffin.” Fish then added that Bear had a tail, and when Bear looked over her shoulder, she saw a tiny tuft. As to the assertion that she is “small,” Fish was surprised. 

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Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

“Am I?” she asked then welcomed being measured. She stretched herself out, and Bear measured her: three inches long. Fish was happy with this result; she wasn’t so small after all. “‘I am not one inch. I am not two inches. I am three inches,'” she said proudly. Still, Bear couldn’t get over the idea that Fish was so tiny she had to live in a bowl. 

But Fish was philosophical. “‘Don’t you live in a bowl too?'” she asked. Bear had never thought of it that way before, and as she looked around at the big, blue sky, she suddenly felt small too. Fish reassured her and offered another perspective on physical size compared to how big one could feel inside. Bear considered this and then decided she’d like to take another walk – this time accompanied by Fish. And so they set off in search of a very big carrot muffin.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-bear-and-little-fish-sandwich

Image copyright Il Sung Na, 2022, text copyright Sandra Nickel, 2022. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

In her seemingly odd “fellows” friendship story, Sandra Nickel presents a multi-layered look at what it means to be a true friend. She cleverly offers readers a variety of lenses for them to engage in perspective, from the character’s viewpoints to their own. Bear, alone at home and on her walks, focuses only on herself. At the fair, she wants to win a teddy bear that is a twin to herself but for which she would not need to be responsible in any real sense.

Fish, however, immediately wants to interact with Bear. She talks to him and asks questions. At first, it may seem that Bear will simply ignore Fish, but the idea of her has begun to make Bear think and even worry (here, Nickel creates a complex mix of emotions that invites discussion). Equally thought-provoking are Fish’s counter arguments when Bear tells her she can’t stay. While promoting how similar they are, Fish prompts Bear to reevaluate her view of herself and the world she lives in. Once Bear realizes that she, too, can be considered small and that the full measure of a person (or Fish or Bear) is found inside oneself, she embraces Fish – responsibilities, friendship, muffins, and all.

Il Sung Na plays with perspective and color to subtly guide readers through the stages of this endearing friendship. As Bear walks home from the fair, dejectedly carrying Fish in her bowl, the hilly landscape is washed in shades of blue and the twiggy, leafy, mushroomy vegetation replicates an ocean bottom. This evocative effect continues throughout the book, prompting kids to find other similarities between Bear and Fish and their environments. Readers will also enjoy pointing out examples and comparisons of big and small.

An endearing and thought-provoking story that boosts self-confidence while promoting friendship, empathy, and new perspectives, Big Bear and Little Fish will become a quick favorite on home bookshelves, a go-to book for classrooms, and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Carolrhoda Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1728417172

Discover more about Sandra Nickel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Il Sung Na, her books, and her art on her website.

Dive in to this book trailer for Big Bear and Little Fish!

Friendship Month Activity

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Measuring Stick Craft

 

Bear and Fish loved getting measured. If you’re looking for a unique way to measure how big you are, here’s a craft for you! This nature-inspired measuring stick can keep track of your big and small growth spurts whenever you sprout up. You can even add leaves to record thoughts, favorite things, and other ideas as you age! 

Supplies

  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Dark and light green foam sheets or 45 – 50 small wooden leaves, available at craft stores
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch-long tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf

For Measuring Growth: Write the inch 1 through 45 or higher on each leaf with the black marker, alternating colors

For Recording Ideas: You can write favorite ideas, hobbies, or hopes on the leaves too and measure your growth that way!

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

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To get a copy of Big Bear and Little Fish personalized by Sandra Nickel

Visit Watermark Books to request a signed and personalized copy. When ordering, simply note your desired dedication in the Comments section. Sandra will sign on September 24, 2022, so be sure to order in plenty of time.

You can also find Big Bear and Little Fish at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 23 – National Sponge Cake Day

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing like a light and airy cake embellished with fruit, whipped cream, or chocolate to put a fine finishing touch on a summer day, and that’s why the world celebrates the sponge cake today. What makes the sponge cake distinctive is that it is made without yeast or leavening agent, instead relying on whipped egg whites to give it its delectable texture. The recipe dates back to 18th century Italy and a special commission by a wealthy member of the Pallavicini family of Genoa. It is perhaps better known as a treat enjoyed by Victorian Britons with their tea. Today, sponge cake is a favorite everywhere, and it might just taste better when its baked and eaten together with friends—as you’ll see in today’s book!

Sonny Says Sorry!

Written by Caryl Hart | Illustrated by Zachariah OHora

While playing hide and seek in the park, Sonny finds a box wrapped with a bow. Intrigued, he inspects it and finds a tag that reads “For Honey.” Sonny is suddenly overcome by curiosity about what is inside. He smells a delicious aroma just as Boo and Meemo find him. Sonny shows them the box.

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2022, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then, despite Meemo’s protesting “Woof! Woof!”, Sonny opens the box. Meemo tries to remind Sonny and Boo that the box is for Honey, but they “peek inside” anyway. “Inside the box is a huge chocolate cake, covered in juicy, red strawberries!” There are chocolate drops on top too. “Woof!” says Meemo more emphatically as Sonny and Boo eat two strawberries. Then, after looking around, Sonny sneaks a chocolate drop. And Boo takes one too.

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2022, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sonny and Boo’s nibbling expands to gobbling. Just then Honey shows up. “Found you!” she says. But then she finds something else: “. . . Sonny’s chocolaty hands. . . . Boo’s chocolaty face. Then Honey sees the open box . . .” and she “starts to cry.”  Now Sonny and Boo feel terrible too. Even though they both try to make it up to Honey in their own way, and “Sonny says Sorry!”, Honey keeps crying. Then Sonny has another idea. Back home, “Sonny, Honey, and Boo bake a new cake . . .” to enjoy “TOGETHER!”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2022, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The sequel to Sonny Says Mine!, Caryl Hart’s Sonny Says Sorry! addresses that itchy curiosity that can often lead kids to break barriers and disappoint and upset their friends and others. In her quickly paced story, Hart lets readers be part of the group as Sonny, Boo, and Meemo gather around Honey’s enticing box and think for themselves whether they would join Sonny and Boo or side with Meemo. As Sonny and Boo’s eating escalates, so does the suspense. When Honey discovers her decimated cake, Hart needs only four words and a stream of tears to show little ones how devastated she feels. Sonny and Boo are similarly affected, and readers will see how decisions like the one Sonny made hurts everyone involved. Sonny’s sincere apology is a good start at making things right. His idea to include everyone in replacing the cake shows true, enduring friendship.

Zachariah OHora’s distinctive and familiar illustrations will endear these four friends to little readers. Blocks of vibrant colors help kids focus on the action and the characters’ expressive faces. When, on the second page, Sonny discovers a box on the picnic blanket next to his hiding place, the tag “For: Honey” is prominently displayed, giving kids and adults a hint of what might be coming up and what’s at stake. When Boo and Meemo arrive, Meemo’s barking and wagging tale provide readers with another opportunity to predict what he will do. As the story progresses, Meemo’s facial expressions become more and more disapproving, a balancing counterpoint to Sonny and Boo’s delight. OHora also does an excellent job of clearly showing Sonny and Boo’s remorse as well as their heartfelt apologies.

Sonny Says Sorry! is a smart and effective way to introduce young readers to the important concept of respecting others’ belongings and feelings as well as of making amends when a mistake is made. Straightforward and accessible language teamed with evocative illustrations create a poignant story that will make an emotional impact with children in the target audience. Sonny Says, Sorry! would be a go-to book on home and classroom bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections. 

Pair Sonny Says Sorry! with Sonny Says Mine!, a story about sharing to talk with your kids or students about these seminal topics of childhood. You can read my review of Sonny Says Mine! here.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1547609031

Discover more about Caryl Hart and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zachariah OHora, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Sponge Cake Day Activity

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Yummy Cake Coloring Pages

Cakes are fun to decorate and delicious to eat! These two coloring pages let you enjoy a bit of both!

Tall Cake to Decorate Coloring Page | Cat Eating Cake Coloring Page

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You can find Sonny Says Sorry at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 7 – National Letter Writing Day

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About the Holiday

Many young wishers know all about writing letters in December, so it should come as no surprise that a letter-writing day be included in this month’s calendar. Today’s holiday celebrates all forms of personal communication written by hand and remembers correspondences from the past that have given us such insight into our favorite poets, novelists, historical figures, and more. Sure, email might be faster, but there’s a certain luxury in taking the time to write your thoughts on paper as well as an palpable excitement in holding a heartfelt letter in your hands. Today’s book also reminds us that letters can often change minds, hearts, and actions.

Dear Mr. Dickens

Written by Nancy Churnin | Illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe

 

Like most people at the time, Eliza Davis looked forward to every new story Charles Dickens published in his weekly magazine, All the Year Round. And when he began publishing books, she eagerly read those too. “What made Charles Dickens a hero in Eliza’s eyes is that he used the power of his pen to help others.” After people read about the harsh conditions children faced at workhouses, they demanded change. And when they “were moved to tears by tales of families struggling in desperate, dirty conditions, they gave what they could to charities. As did Eliza.” 

But while reading Oliver Twist, there was one aspect of the story that distressed Eliza. As a follower of the Jewish faith, she was disturbed by Dickens’ portrayal of Fagin as an “‘old shriveled Jew'” who taught Oliver how to steal. Fagin was “described…as dishonest, selfish, cruel, and ugly.” And each time she read “the Jew,…the word hurt like a hammer on Eliza’s heart.” Prejudice against Jews in England was already bad, and Eliza felt Dickens’ stories would made conditions worse.

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Image copyright Bethany Stancliffe, 2021, text copyright Nancy Churnin, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

She decided to write a letter to Charles Dickens, but she worried about his reaction. In her letter she said that his “portrayal of Fagin encouraged ‘a vile prejudice.’ She asked him to ‘atone for a great wrong.'” As she posted her letter, she wondered if she would get a response. About two weeks later, Eliza did receive an answer to her letter. In it Dickens replied that Fagin was based on real criminals and that there there were “other bad people in the book who are not Jewish.” He took exception to her request to atone by saying that “any Jewish people who thought him unfair or unkind…were not ‘sensible’ or ‘just’ or ‘good tempered.'”

Eliza was disheartened as she read the letter, and she sat down and composed another letter in response. Thinking of Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol, Eliza reminded him of his past love for the novel Ivanhoe, which included positive, noble Jewish characters. She mentioned his present novel, in which while “some of his non-Jewish characters were criminals, all his Jewish characters were criminals.” Then she stated that future readers would “judge him by how he judged others.”

This time Eliza did not receive an answer. She knew that Dickens was working on a new novel, and when it began to appear serialized in monthly installments, she hurried to buy them, wondering if there would be other Jewish characters and how they would be depicted. When, as she read Our Mutual Friend, she realized Dickens had included another Jewish character, she trembled, wondering what they would be like. 

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Image copyright Bethany Stancliffe, 2021, text copyright Nancy Churnin, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Eliza was elated to see that Mr. Riah – named after the Hebrew word for friend, re’a – was “generous and loyal” and that a young girl he helps remarks about the Jews, “‘I think there cannot be kinder people in the world.'” She immediately sat down to pen another letter to Charles Dickens. This one thanking him for his great compliment to her and the Jewish people. He wrote back with much pleasure and revealed that in the future he wanted his work to reflect his true friendship with Jewish people.

To show his sincerity, he published essays condemning prejudice and in the reprint of Oliver Twist, he replaced mentions of “the Jew” with Fagin’s name so as to “make it clear that Fagin didn’t represent all Jewish people.” Eliza sent Charles Dickens one more letter – this time with the gift of an English-Hebrew Bible – praising his ability to right a wrong, and Dickens responded with one more letter thanking Eliza for speaking up.

An extensive Author’s Note reveals more about the history of prejudice against Jewish people in England from the 1200s until 1846, when attitudes began to change and a repressive law was repealed. Nancy Churnin also includes more details about Eliza Davis the communications between her and Charles Dickens, and Dickens’ daughter upon his death. Source Notes and acknowledgments are also included.

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Image copyright Bethany Stancliffe, 2021, text copyright Nancy Churnin, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Nancy Churnin’s compelling story about the facts surrounding the correspondence between Eliza Davis and Charles Dickens shines a spotlight on a little-known, but important series of events in the life and inspiration behind Dickens’ growth and responsiveness as a writer. Eliza Davis, who acted on her convictions with confidence and courage, makes an inspiring role model for children who may want to voice their opinions on wrongs they see, read, or hear about.

Churnin’s introduction of A Christmas Carol, a novel that most children and adults know, allows readers to understand the important and influential connection between a person’s thoughts, words, and writing and their actions. It also provides a deeper resonance to Eliza Davis’s reminder to Dickens of his past, present, and future and to Dickens own change of heart from his first reply to Eliza to his portrayal of the Jewish character in Our Mutual Friend and his other actions.

Bethany Stancliffe takes readers back to the the 1800s in her rich illustrations full of details of the period. Kids will be interested to see how authors published their work at the time. Her faithful depictions of Eliza Davis and Charles Dickens informs readers on the influence that a young person had on such an established and lauded author. Eliza’s pleasure in Dickens’ stories and her pain on encountering the prejudicial portrayal of Jewish characters is clear, which makes her dilemma all the more meaningful. The final spread, in which Eliza Davis and Charles Dickens, facing each other, are connected by the letters they exchanged.

An important story about a beloved author and the woman who influenced his work and life, Dear Mr. Dickens will spark conversations on issues of prejudice, standing up for ones beliefs, personal change, courage to address wrongs, and many other topics. The book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807515303

Discover more about Nancy Churnin and her books on her website.

To learn more about Bethany Stancliffe, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Letter Writing Day Activity

picture-book-reviews-quill-pen-craft

Fashion a Quill Pen

 

Writing a proper letter is more fun with a fancy pen! you can fashion your own quill pen or liven up a ballpoint pen or a marker with this craft!

Supplies

  • Medium to large size feather with quill, available at craft stores (optional)
  • Ballpoint pen or marker (optional)
  • Clay, oven-bake or air-dry, in various colors if desired
  • Wire, beads, paint, and/or markers for decorating     
  • Scissors
  • Baking pan for oven-bake clay

Directions

  1. Roll clay 2 ½ inches to 4 inches long 
  2. Push the quill end of the feather into the clay OR cover the ballpoint pen or marker in clay
  3. Add bits of clay or roll sections of the clay between your fingers to give the clay shape
  4. To make the twisted shape pen, twist the length of clay around itself before adding the feather
  5. Shape the end or cut it with scissors to make the pointed writing nib
  6. If using air-dry clay: Add beads and/or wire and let clay dry around feather
  7. If using oven-bake clay: Add beads and other layers of clay before baking then carefully remove feather. Bake clay according to package directions
  8. Add wire and other decorations after clay has baked and cooled
  9. Reinsert feather into clay

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You can find Dear Mr. Dickens at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 23 – International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

People have holidays celebrating their favorite treats—like Popcorn Day, Cherry Pie Day, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Day—so dogs should have a food holiday of their own, right? Well, today is it! Today we remember that our best furry friends like to be rewarded with a special treat or just shown a little extra love with a tasty morsel. Before anyone thought about what dogs ate, dog “treats” included some pretty awful stuff—moldy bread and rotten leftovers included—but an American manufacturer named James Spratt was struck by an idea when he saw stray, hungry dogs gobbling up ship’s biscuits on one of his travels in Liverpool, England in the 1800s. While in London, he created the first dog biscuit, which was soft and made of fresh ingredients like meat and vegetables. The first commercial dog biscuit was developed in 1908 by the F. H. Bennett Biscuit Co. It was hard and made with meat products, milk, and important minerals.

Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog

By Lisa Papp

 

Madeline gives her dog, Star, a hug at his first birthday party. While they have cake, Madeline’s mom asks if Star is ready for his test the next day. Madeline assures her he is because they have been practicing meeting people, like the postman, “sitting still when a bike goes by,” and even “meeting other dogs.” Madeline tells Star that he’s “going to make the best therapy dog ever.” The next day Madeline takes Star to the Walker Oaks Retirement Village, where he’ll meet three people. Mrs. Dimple greets them with her therapy dog, Bonnie, who helped Madeline when she was learning to read.

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Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Inside, Mr. Finch tells Madeline that he’ll be grading Star on his visits. First, Mr. Finch watches Star walk around the room, stop, and begin walking again on command. Even when Star sees other therapy dogs, he doesn’t stop to play. “Next, Mr. Finch pets Star, especially touching his ears and tail. Star doesn’t mind.” Star also sits still when a wheelchair rolls by. Finally, Star is supposed to stay where he is when Madeline and her mom walk away, but instead he walks across the room to a woman in a wheelchair and lays his paw on her knee. Mr. Finch writes something down, but he is smiling.

For Star’s next test, he’s taken into a room with a group of people. While Madeline is nervous, Star “walks right up and smiles.” One woman calls Star sweet, a man kisses Star right on his nose because he reminds the man of a dog he had when he was young, and another woman tells Star about her garden and reads him a letter. “Everyone seems happy,” but there’s one man sitting alone near the window.

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Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing

A nurse introduces him as Mr. Humphrey, and Madeline asks him if he’d like to pet Star. Mr. Humphrey says nothing. Mr. Finch writes something down. Then Madeline, her mom, and Star leave. Madeline’s mom says that Star did well on his second test, but Madeline wonders about Mr. Humphrey. “‘Some people need time,’ Mom says” and reminds Madeline of how patient Bonnie was with her. At home, Madeline thinks about things that Mr. Humphrey might like. That night, Madeline practiced reading with Star before bedtime.

The next time they visit Walker Oaks, they have to ride the elevator. At first Star doesn’t want to get in, but Bonnie nudges him and they walk in. When they get out, they see that someone has dropped a plate of cookies, but Star doesn’t react. Mr. Finch takes notes. When they see Mr. Humphrey, Madeline approaches him and introduces Star and asks if he’d like to pet him, but he stays silent. A little later Madeline asks if he’d like to look at her magic cards, but he still says nothing. Then Mrs. Dimple called her over and talked to her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-mr-finch

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing

 Afterward, Madeline thought that maybe Mr. Humphrey wasn’t ready to smile. She asked Mr. Finch if she and Star could see Mr. Humphrey again. This time, Madeline sat in a chair next to Mr. Humphrey with Star close by. In a little while, she took a book from her bag and whispers to Mr. Humphrey that she didn’t always like to read. Seeing Madeline with a book, Bonnie loped over and sat next to Star. Madeline began to softly read her book out loud.

Near the end of the story, Madeline saw Star move close to Mr. Humphrey and rest his chin on his knee. Mr. Humphrey put his hand on Star’s nose. Finally, Mr. Humphrey looked at Madeline. “‘My wife loved books,’” he said. “‘How about another story?’” While Madeline was choosing another book, Mr. Finch came over and handed her “a tag for Star. I AM A THERAPY DOG, it says.” Madeline “fastened his new tag onto his collar, right above his heart.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-mr-humphrey

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2020, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing

Lisa Papp’s immersive storytelling will delight children as they follow Madeline through her practice sessions with Star and see her grow in confidence as she visits the retirement home and devises her own solution to engaging Mr. Humphrey. Kids will empathize with Madeline’s kindness as well as her nervousness over Star’s performance and will cheer each time he does well. Young readers will be fascinated to learn about all of the practice and testing a dog undergoes to become a recognized therapy dog.

Papp’s beautiful pencil, watercolor, and digital illustrations, rendered in soft hues invite kids to Star’s first birthday party and into the Walker Oaks Retirement Village, where the surroundings, the residents, and the staff are depicted in sensitive and realistic scenes. Madeline’s thoughtfulness and consideration for Star and the residents—and especially her concern for Mr. Humphrey—are clearly visible and mirror the natural empathy of children. 

Infused with love, empathy, and heart, Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog will charm readers as a stand-alone story or to spark additional research into therapy dogs and other animals. The book will quickly become a favorite read aloud and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Peachtree Publishing, 2020 | ISBN 978-1682631492

Discover more about Lisa Papp, her books, and her art on her website.

You can find an extensive Activity Kit to download on the Peachtree Publishing website.

International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Biscuits

 

These homemade dog biscuits are fun to make and a special treat for your dog at home, a neighbor’s pet, or dogs waiting for forever homes at your local shelter. 

*Children should have adult supervision when using the oven.

Supplies

  • 1 large bowl
  • Large spoon or whisk
  • Cookie cutters – shaped like traditional dog bones or any favorite shape

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Add buckwheat flour to bowl
  3. Add powdered milk to bowl
  4. Add salt to bowl
  5. Stir to mix dry ingredients
  6. Add water
  7. Add melted margarine or butter
  8. Add egg
  9. Stir until liquid is absorbed
  10. Knead for a few minutes to form a dough
  11. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, one Tablespoon at a time
  12. Place the dough on a board
  13. Roll dough to ½ inch thickness
  14. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  15. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  16. Biscuits will be hard when cool.

Makes about 40 biscuits.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-therapy-dog-cover

You can find Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 31 – Universal Hour of Peace Day

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About the Holiday

Created by Dr. Barbara Condron at the School of Metaphysics, the Universal Hour of Peace encourages people worldwide to live conflict free for one hour – from 11:30 p.m. December 31 to 12:30 January 1 – and enter the new year in a spirit of love and hope. The holiday was first celebrated on October 24, 1995 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and the autumnal equinox. In 1996 the holiday was moved to January 1st and took place at noon GMT. It now spans the transition from the outgoing year to the new year. Where can you find peace? You’ll find many ideas in today’s book.

Peace is an Offering

Written by Annette LeBox | Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Peace comes in many forms, as simple as “an offering” of “a muffin or a peach. / A birthday invitation. / A trip to the beach.” Peace is being thankful for the wonders of nature, a parent’s love, the coolness of rain or morning dew, even a steaming “bowl of hot stew.” Peace is those times when we are together, in a hug, with sweet words, or cuddling to hear a story. Peace comes in reassurance to the questions that might worry: “Will you wait when I’m slow? / Will you calm by fears? / Will you sing to the sun / to dry my tears?”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Where is peace found? In so many places! In a picture or a “belly laugh.” And even when tragedy strikes or “in your darkest hour,” peace can be found, for “peace is a joining, not a pulling apart. It’s the courage to bear a wounded heart.” Peace is finding safety and a “freedom from fear.” It’s found when you “offer a cookie…comfort a friend…sing a quiet song.” When you’re open to catching “a falling star” then peace will “walk beside you / wherever you are.”

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Image copyright Stephanie Graegin, 2015, text copyright Annette LeBox. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Annette LeBox builds beautiful phrase upon beautiful phrase until midway through her inspiring story when she takes readers gently by the heart and shows them the way forward through any event that disrupts inner peace. LeBox reveals that capturing or recapturing those simple joys that make up a fulfilling life—and more importantly offering that kindness, help, and inclusion to others—brings hope, healing, and happiness not only to others but to yourself as well.

Stephanie Graegin excels in pairing text with quietly powerful images of togetherness and the tranquility such closeness brings. As diverse groups of friends, siblings, and families go about their day at school, eat out, navigate puddles and long walks, and enjoy time playing and laughing with each other, readers will be moved by Graegin’s tender details and will enjoy following and pointing out the characters who return from page to page. Images of loss (a mother hugs her two children close as they sit on a park bench overlooking a cityscape and little boy gazes at a picture of his dog) offer poignant opportunities for adult and kids to discuss life changes and events in the news that affect us all. Illustrations of uplifting ideas and gestures that children can use to express their vision of kindness and peace will inspire young readers.

A stirring and heartfelt look at the ways children and adults can share peace, comfort, and encouragement, Peace is an Offering is superb book to add to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0803740914

Discover more about Annette LeBox and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stephanie Graegin, her books, and her art on her website.

Universal Hour of Power Day Activity

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Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

A peaceful feeling inside can make your spirits soar like balloons in the air. Decorate the balloons in this printable page in your favorite colors (maybe even add a bit of glitter!) and hang it where seeing it will make you happy.

Soaring with Peace Coloring Page

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You can find Peace is an Offering at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 19 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

As September winds down, I’m happy to feature another new book for this month’s special holiday. Searching for and sharing new books—whether they are recently published or just new to you—is not only a fun way to spend a day together with kids, but an experience that pays big benefits now and in the future. Make a plan to add a few new books to your home library or visit your local library today!

Thanks go to Bloomsbury Children’s Book for sending me a copy of Time to Roar for review consideration. All opinion on the book are mine.

Time to Roar: A Story about Raising Your Voice

Written by Olivia A. Cole | Illustrated by Jessica Gibson

For Sasha, the meadow in the middle of the forest was where she felt most at peace, where she could “enjoy the feeling of being a bear.” Before dawn, she would lie in the meadow, where “…the smell of green was like a song she knew by heart.” But one morning, Sasha watched as noisy “yellow beasts” began tearing up the meadow with their silver teeth. A squirrel predicted that soon nothing would be left of their home.

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Image copyright Jessica Gibson, 2020, text copyright Olivia A. Cole, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sasha was ready to charge down the hill and confront the machines. But the squirrel advised caution and suggested all the animals have a meeting. Sasha relented. As the squirrel called the animals, they came out of hiding and listed to the squirrel talk about the danger that had come. Sasha was again ready to stop them with her mighty roar, but the bluebird thought she could persuade them with her song. As he flew over the machines, however their noise drowned out his song’s sweetness.

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Image copyright Jessica Gibson, 2020, text copyright Olivia A. Cole, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Rabbit had another idea of how he could distract them, but her attempt went unnoticed too. The deer thought he could lead the machines away from their home, but his appearance made no difference either. In fear, all the animals rushed to hide. “‘It’s the only way we will survive!’” they exclaimed. But Sasha did not hide. “Inside her, anger welled up, sparkling. Maybe it was stronger than yellow beasts.” She thought about all the tactics the other animals had taken. “She knew what had to be done…. Sometimes a bear had to raise her voice.” She ran to the edge of the meadow and ROARED until the echo of her roars shook the yellow machines. This time when the ground shook it was with the rumble of the machines fleeing the meadow.

When the meadow was quiet again, the other animals came out of hiding. They sadly acknowledged that their attempts had not worked, but Sasha consoled them, telling them that there were times when quieter approaches to a problem were needed. But there were also times that required a “ROAR.”

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Image copyright Jessica Gibson, 2020, text copyright Olivia A. Cole, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Olivia A. Cole’s straightforward and powerful story about directly speaking up to oppose dangerous events or people is a very welcome book not only for this time, but for all times and all ages. In an age where young people and even children are leading the charge to procure a peaceful, fair, and unpolluted future, Time to Roar offers encouragement and support for those who courageously “see something and say something,” a lesson they have grown up hearing. A striking feature of Cole’s story is her inclusion of the alternate philosophies and tactics many people advocate to combat threats and her forthright depiction of how and why these approaches often don’t work. Children struggling with bullies or what to do about issues they disagree with at school or in other groups as well as those who want to make a difference in their town, their country, or for the world at large will find much to inspire and empower them in Cole’s well-paced and well-told story.

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Jessica Gibson’s compelling digital illustrations pack persuasive power as Sasha determines to rid the meadow of the bulldozers sent to destroy it. With the turn of one page, the soft colors of an idyllic dawn meadow give way to a harsh glare further spoiled with plumes of smoke and blinding headlights. Black silhouettes of squirrels, rabbits, birds, and dear dash out of the way, visual metaphors for the loss the construction will wreck on the forest. Sasha’s anger and the concern of the other animals shows clearly on their faces, and while the bluebird, rabbit, and deer are well-intentioned, Gibson’s depictions of their attempts to turn back the bulldozers shows the futility of these responses against the enormity of their foe. Gibson’s portrayal of Sasha roaring to shake the earth and the status quo will spur confidence and buoy readers’ hearts.

An empowering story to inspire children to raise their voice, Time to Roar would be an excellent addition to home libraries. The book would also pair well with social studies and history lessons about appeasement and the effects of protest—or the lack of it, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1547603701

Discover more about Olivia A. Cole and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jessica Gibson, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Wooden Spoon Microphone

A microphone can help anyone be heard. With this easy craft your child can turn a wooden cooking spoon into a fun microphone for all those times when they have something important to say.

Supplies

  • Long-handled wooden spoon
  • Black craft paint
  • Silver craft paint
  • Black permanent marker

Directions

  1. Paint the handle of the spoon black, let dry
  2. Paint the head of the spoon silver, let dry
  3. After the paint is dry, make rows of small dots on the head of the spoon

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You can find Time to Roar at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review