April 5 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

In 1987 National Garden Week sprouted on the calendar to celebrate the beginning of spring and the growing season. But a week just isn’t enough to enjoy all the fun and excitement (and delicious food and glorious flowers) of gardening. In 2002, the National Gardening Association extended the holiday to encompass the full month of April. 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!

Little Yellow Truck

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Kevin Zimmer

 

At his lumberyard, Riley had four trucks: “a red dump truck, a green flatbed truck, a blue concrete mixer, and a little yellow pickup truck.” One day he announced that together he and his trucks were going to turn a plot of land he’d bought into a children’s park. Little Yellow was excited to be included. Riley and his helpers drove all the trucks to the area. First, they cleaned up all the trash and put the bags in Big Red. “Little Yellow watched.”

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2019, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When Big Red drove away, Big Blue rolled up, and as his bowl turned he “pumped out concrete” to make a sidewalk that meandered through the land and over the hills, a floor for a picnic shelter and a spot for a fountain: “Squish Squash Slurp Burp.” Next, Big Green drove up with his load of lumber, and Riley and his helpers built the picnic shelter and a fence: “Bang Clang Smack Whack!” Riley thought it was “‘Fabulous!’”

As Big Green sped away with Riley, Little Yellow wondered…and waited. “He flicked his lights on and off.” He didn’t want to be forgotten. He wanted to do an important job. Then Big Green and Riley were back. Throughout the day, Big Green transported the swings, slides, merry-go-round, tables, and benches. Little Yellow stayed silent. “The important job was finished and he had done nothing.” Riley proclaimed it “‘Fabulous!’” But the park wasn’t finished yet, he said.

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2019, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Riley walked over to Little Yellow and took the wheel. As they drove down the road, Little Yellow recognized they were going the way back to the lumberyard. Maybe he wasn’t going to be part of the job after all. But then they stopped at Ray’s Garden Shop and the workers began loading Little Yellow up with “plants and shrubs and flowers. There were bags of soil and grass seed and fertilizer.”

As they drove through town, people smiled and waved. One girl even said, “‘Look! It’s a garden in a truck!” Back at the park, Riley and his helpers scattered the grass seed and planted the bushes and flowers. Birds, butterflies, and bees flew over to check them out. There was even a little shower burst to water them. When at last everything was just right, Big Red, Big Green, Big Blue, and Little Yellow all hooted and honked their horns, and kids came running from all over. Little Yellow “even gave an extra-long Toot Toot Tootle Toot” because “the children’s park was open for business. And he was part of it!”

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Image copyright Kevin Zimmer, 2019, text copyright Eve Bunting, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

For every little one who feels like they stand on the sidelines while all the “important jobs” are done, Eve Bunting’s sweet story shows that they play a big role in what happens at home, at school, and elsewhere. As Little Yellow watches while all the bigger trucks get to help out, his doubts will be familiar to readers. The suspense grows as job after job is completed without Little Yellow’s input, and young readers will cheer when his patience is rewarded. Little truck lovers will enjoy seeing their favorites at work and chiming in on the alliterative and rhyming words that accompany each action.

Kevin Zimmer’s happy-to-help trucks will thrill kids who love vehicles of all kinds with their realistic details and anthropomorphic personalities. Zimmer’s vivid colors are as cheery as a day at the park, and little ones will love pointing out and talking about the different jobs and what they entail as well as their favorite playground equipment. A diverse group of children, including a boy in a wheelchair, run and play in the new park.

An engaging story to reassure kids that they make a big difference even if they are small, Little Yellow Truck makes a fun read aloud for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364077

To learn more about Kevin Zimmer, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Garden Month Activity

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Colorful Garden Coloring Pages

 

Your plants and flowers may not have bloomed—or even sprouted—yet, but you can still enjoy a colorful garden with these printable pages!

Planting the Garden | Colorful Flowers

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You can find Little Yellow Truck at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 5 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Starting off with Read across America Day on March 2nd, the month celebrates reading, its joys, and benefits. When you read with your child or children every day you’re helping them develop the language and literacy skills that will promote future success in school and beyond. Even if your child isn’t talking yet, they’re listening and learning about their language as you read to them. Older kids also love being read to, and setting aside time to read together builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is officially marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities that bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids. 

I received a copy of Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! from Abrams Appleseed to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Abrams in an Instagram giveaway of the book. See details below.

Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day!

Written by Anne Marie Pace | Illustrated by Christopher Lee

 

It’s nine o’clock in the morning and a family’s packed up a picnic lunch, clambered into their minivan, and headed out on the open road. “But halfway there…THUMP-BUMPTY…SPLAT! / What’s going on? Our tire’s flat!” No worries, they think—there’s always the spare. But when they look, they discover that tire’s flat too. They check a list of roadside helpers and pick Sunny’s Towing. They make the call and begin to wait.

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Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

At nine thirty the little boy hears a truck approaching. Is it Sunny? No—it’s a hauler carrying lumber. At ten o’clock the little girl spots another vehicle while her brother munches his sandwich. “Is that her truck? / Just a pickup. Out of luck.” By ten thirty the road is getting busy with construction workers making repairs and other cars traveling here and there. Over the hills black smoke from a fire billows into the sky while Dad enjoys a bite of his lunch.

Mom calls Sunny, who says that she’s so busy it might be noon before she gets to them. In a moment firetrucks and police cars with their sirens blaring speed by. As time passes, they see more trucks—“Tractor trailers, rough and rumbly. / Concrete mixers, tough and tumbly. / Dump trucks filled with piles of muck. But no tow truck. We are stuck.” It’s a good time to have a snack the girl thinks.

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Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

It’s getting close to noon and the family counts down the minutes. Suddenly, they see Sunny approaching. She tows them to her garage, where the tire is changed lickity-split. Finally, the family is ready to enjoy their picnic, but when they look in the cooler all the food has disappeared! Sunny has an idea. She shows the family where the best ice cream is sold, and, with cones in hand, they enjoy a perfect picnic in the park.

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Image copyright Christopher Lee, 2019, text copyright Anne Marie Pace, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

With perky rhymes, Anne Marie Pace takes readers on a picnic that doesn’t quite come off as planned. As the family waits by the side of the road for the tow truck to arrive, the little girl and boy enthusiastically point out other vehicles passing by and take in the excitement of the construction work going on beside them. Pace’s verses shine with cleverly paired words, realistic dialog, names of various kinds of cars and trucks, and dynamic verbs that will captivate kids. Readers will love the humor sprinkled throughout that leads to the “Oh, no!” moment when the family discovers they’ve already eaten their picnic. Sunny—with an appropriately sunny personality—saves the day with her delightful desert idea.

Christopher Lee lends a charming retro feel to his vivid illustrations with funky home decor, old-fashioned ads, and stylized cars and trucks. The family’s emotions are clearly evident—from their smiles as they pack their picnic to the shock of having a flat tire and finding the spare flat as well to their cheerful patience. Images of the various trucks, emergency vehicles, and other cars will thrill vehicle enthusiasts, and the two-page spread of Sunny’s garage, loaded with action and tools, will spark discussion. Humor and details abound on each page, prompting kids to linger, laugh, and learn.

A sweet story that incorporates a love for vehicles, a family outing, and a fresh lesson on patience, Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! will be a favorite story time read and a fun addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419731914

Discover more about Anne Marie Pace and her books on her website.

To learn more about Christopher Lee, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Abrams Appleseed in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! written by Anne Marie Pace | illustrated by Christoper Lee

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

A winner will be chosen on March 12.

It takes just these two steps to enter:

Prizing provided by Abrams

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

National Reading Month Activity

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Tow Truck to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle

Four cars need help! Can you show the tow truck drivers the way to the right cars in this printable puzzle?

Tow Truck to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle

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You can find Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 22 – Celebration of Life Day and Interview with Author Alison Goldberg

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is all about celebrating the children and grandchildren in our lives and what makes each one truly unique. When you watch your own children or those in your care grow and develop their own personalities, talents, and dreams, you realize that each one is an individual with a bright future ahead of them. Take the opportunity of this special holiday to encourage your children, support them, and—most of all—tell them how much you love them every day.

I Love You for Miles and Miles

Written by Alison Goldberg | Illustrated by Mike Yamada

 

Love—like air—is one of those things that everyone needs. People wonder about it, write about it, and talk about it. But, like air, love can’t been seen—how do you measure it? How do you weigh it? How do you let kids see it? I Love You for Miles and Miles shows you! Opening the cover, you read “My love for you is / Longer than the longest train / Linking engine to caboose, / Winding for miles and miles.”

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Image copyright Mike Yamada, 2017, text copyright Alison Goldberg, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

If love is long, can it be wide? Sure! How wide? “It is wider than the widest big rig” on the highway. When you hug your child with all your might, they know that your love for them is continuous and “stronger than the strongest excavator / Scooping heap after heap….” Such strong love runs “deeper than the deepest drill / digging down, down, down, uncovering mysteries.”

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Image copyright Mike Yamada, 2017, text copyright Alison Goldberg, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Since love burrows deep, it makes sense that it can soar as well. How high? Look up at cranes on a construction site and imagine a love that goes beyond higher, a love that “reaches toward the sun.” While some days may hold hardships, you can assure your child that your love always remains “smoother than the smoothest sailboat” navigating the waves and changing winds.

When your child needs a hug, a kiss, or some special attention now, you can reassure them that you will be there “faster than the fastest fire truck / Hurrying faster, faster, / Rushing to you, anywhere you are.” If your child wonders if love can handle anything that comes along, remind them of the tractor, “planting crop after crop, / Helping through mud and muck.”

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Image copyright Mike Yamada, 2017, text copyright Alison Goldberg, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The obstacles that life throws our way are manageable, you can tell your child, because like the biggest dump truck, you can help remove them and fly “above all the rain” like an airplane. And at the end of the day, your love guides them “home, day or night” with the steadiness of a tugboat.

And for the days and years ahead, when your child sees that long, long train, they will understand when you say that is “my love for you… / Riding from station to station, / Traveling with you always.”

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Image copyright Mike Yamada, 2017, text copyright Alison Goldberg, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In her sweet tribute to a parent’s or caregiver’s love, Alison Goldberg gives concrete shape and weight to that feeling of love which can be so hard to describe. Little ones awed by the size and power of vehicles and machines, will readily recognize and understand the comparisons and be excited to share their own abundant love. Goldberg’s short verses are composed of words most young readers know, and by using comparative and superlative forms of the adjectives, she fosters a deeper comprehension of how love transcends even the biggest, longest, strongest, or toughest things a child can imagine. The first-person perspective allows not only the adults reading to express their love but also the children listening to say, “yes, I feel this way too.”

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Image copyright Mike Yamada, 2017, text copyright Alison Goldberg, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Mike Yamada’s stunning two-page spread illustrations, full of vivid color and dramatic perspectives, will delight little readers. A cub and adult are at the controls of each vehicle, the little one driving or guiding when possible, or being helped if needed. Young readers will love lingering over each page to view all of the realistic elements on every vehicle or machine. The sweet, happy looks between adult and cub reinforce the strong bond between them. Gender-neutral clothing and first-person point of view makes this a universal book.

I Love You for Miles and Miles is an adorable and meaningful book for adults and children to share and would make a great addition to home and classroom libraries. Besides fun at bedtime, it would make a terrific take-along book for car trips or waiting times, and the theme can easily be extended to an “I-Spy” type of activity while out driving or walking around the neighborhood and beyond.

Ages 2 – 6

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374304430

Discover more about Alison Goldberg and her work on her website

Learn more about Mike Yamada and view a gallery of his artwork on his website.

Enjoy this I Love You for Miles and Miles book trailer!

Celebration of Life Day Activity

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Tugboat Bathtub Toy Craft

 

Tugboats are always there when a ship needs help or guidance—just like a parent or caregiver. With a few recycled materials, adults and children can have fun making this Tugboat Bathtub Toy that you’ll love to play with in the tub or pool.

Supplies

  • Printable Windows and Life Ring Template
  • Printable Deck Template
  • Container from a grocery store rotisserie chicken
  • One 16-ounce cream cheese container with lid (or other such container)
  • Paper towel tube
  • Cardboard (can use a cereal box)
  • Foam sheet in whatever color you would like the deck to be. (optional, see To Make the Deck options)
  • Two colors of paint in whatever colors you would like your cabin and deck (if painting it) to be
  • Paint brush
  • Glue gun
  • Tape

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Directions

To Make the Deck

  1. Trace the deck template on the cardboard, cut out and trim if necessary.
  2. Trace the deck template on the foam sheet, cut out and trim if necessary. The foam sheet gives waterproofing to the cardboard deck.

To Make the Boat

  1. Wash and dry rotisserie chicken container. The curved part of the container will be the front of the boat.
  2. Set the cardboard into the rim of the rotisserie chicken container. If needed glue with hot glue gun.
  3. Set the foam sheet on top of the cardboard

To Make the Cabin

  1. Print and cut out the windows, life ring, and deck template
  2. Wash and dry cream cheese container
  3. Paint the cream cheese container in the color chosen, let dry
  4. Put the lid on the cream cheese container to make the roof of the cabin
  5. Glue or tape the windows to one curved side of the cream cheese container
  6. Glue or tape the life ring to the opposite side of the cream cheese container
  7. With the glue gun attach the bottom of the cream cheese container to the deck, a little forward of half-way

To Make the Steam Pipe

  1. Cut a 5-inch section from the paper towel tube
  2. Paint alternating stripes of the deck color and the cabin color, let dry
  3. With the glue gun, attach the steam pipe to the deck close behind, but not touching, the cabin

Enjoy floating your tugboat in the bathtub or pool!

Meet Alison Goldberg

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Today, I’m excited to be talking with Alison Goldberg about how her children inspired her book, her collaborative blog M is for Movement, and what kind of vehicle she would most like to be.

What inspired you to write I Love You for Miles and Miles?

When my children were in preschool, they adored trucks and trains. In addition to setting up long and windy train tracks in our living room each day, we planned many family outings with vehicles in mind: train rides, a tractor parade, a visit to a friend’s construction business.  My son was so obsessed with trucks that the teachers from an older classroom at his preschool invited him to present to their class as a “guest expert” on the topic.

At bedtime, the “How much do you love me?” game turned into a comparison of our love to the size, strength, length, and other characteristics of all things that go. After many nights of coming up with these examples for my own children, I thought this could be a fun take on a love book. 

What was your favorite picture book when you were a child?

One of my favorite picture books as a child was Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse by Leo Lionni. I’ve always been a rock collector and the magic in this story depends on Alexander finding a purple pebble. The collage is gorgeous—I love multimedia art. Rereading it as an adult, I’m still drawn to the story’s theme of empathy.

Before writing for children, your work centered on economic justice. You’ve lived on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana and the eastern region of Ghana, Can you talk a little about your work?

For several years I worked for non-profit organizations focused on social and economic justice. In the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, I learned from strong community leaders who expanded out-of-school-time opportunities for kids. In Ghana, I met remarkable organizers who built community infrastructure, improving access to clean water, nutrition, and schools. And in a variety of communities in the United States, I’ve been inspired by amazing activists who are challenging inequality through a variety of strategies. 

Have these experiences influenced your writing for children?

When my daughter was born, I sought out books that would help to educate her about the problems of inequality and injustice. I knew I wanted to start early conversations about the history of social movements and the potential we all have to create change. Picture books felt like an important part of framing this. I found a small number of powerful books that helped guide our discussions and also inspired me to write manuscripts along these lines. So from the start, my work on social and economic justice issues has been at the center of my motivation for writing for children. And while I Love You for Miles and Miles is not focused on these issues, a portion of the proceeds from the book will support the Campaign to End Childhood Hunger.

You began blogging about activism in children’s literature in 2012 and in 2017 established M is for Movement, a website that presents authors and illustrators blogging about a variety of social issues. Can you talk about this work briefly? What kinds of changes have you seen in the years since you began and today?

In 2012 when I first started writing for kids, blogging about books with activism themes was a way to dive into the literature and interview like-minded children’s book creators. I learned so much from these conversations, and though I wasn’t able to blog consistently, I always hoped that someday it could grow into something more.

Then in 2017, through conversations with Innosanto Nagara (A is for Activist), Janine Macbeth (Oh, Oh, Baby Boy!), and other collaborators, together we decided it was time to start a group blog on this topic. Certainly the events of the past year underscored why it’s so important for kids to learn about social justice issues and how they have agency to create change. M is for Movement launched in October. We’ve been grateful to connect with a number of other children’s book creators and librarians who are creating content, and hope that the blog will be a space for a variety of articles, interviews, and reviews. We recently did a roundup of some recommended 2017 activist kids’ books and it was powerful to see how many books with this theme were published. I don’t know if there’s been an increase in recent years or not, but my hope is that those who want to explore these topics in their writing will find a community of children’s book creators to help support that work.

If you were one of the vehicles in I Love You for Miles and Miles, which one would you be and why?

If I could choose to be one of the vehicles, I think I’d go with the crane (“My love for you is/Taller than the tallest crane/Rising up, up, up,/Reaching toward the sun.”). I enjoy rock climbing and mountaintop views so I’d be curious to see things from the perspective of a crane.

Do you have a favorite place you like to write?

I usually write at home, but once in a while I travel about a half hour away to a magical library in Concord, Massachusetts for a mini writing retreat. 

As a New England coastal resident, I couldn’t help but notice that you have an ocean theme to your website—a beautiful image of a whale on your Homepage and a collection of shells on your About page. Do you have a special affinity for the sea? If so, do you connect the sea to your work?

Thank you! I love the ocean, and in addition to rocks I’ve collected many shells and other found objects over the years. The ocean-related images are all connected to the middle grade novel I’m working on. Since I started that story I’ve photographed, drawn, and collaged my characters in a variety of materials.

 What’s up next for you?

More picture manuscripts and draft #4 of my middle grade novel.

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I can’t let you go without asking a couple of holiday-related questions, so…

What is your favorite holiday? 

A new favorite holiday of mine is Valentine’s Day. This is not only because I’m sharing my new picture book about a parent’s or grandparent’s love for a child, but also because my kids and I took part in an event last year that expanded my idea of the holiday. Students from a nearby school organized a Valentine’s Day “Love March” to take a public stand opposing discriminatory policies and express what love means to kids. They carried signs about inclusiveness, respect, kindness, and solidarity. I found this to be a meaningful way to celebrate the holiday and I hope to join their march again this year.

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Click here to get this adorable I Love You for Miles and Miles Valentine’s Day Card to share from Alison Goldberg’s website.

Thanks so much Alison! It’s been terrific getting to know more about you and your work. I wish you all the best with I Love You for Miles and Miles and your future projects!

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You can find I Love You for Miles and Miles at these booksellers

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

Signed copies of I Love You for Miles and Miles are available from Porter Square Books

You can connect with Alison on:

Her website | Twitter| M is for Movement 

 

Picture Book Review