October 7 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-cover

About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future. From business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment, Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the holiday was expanded to a month in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. learn more about the holiday, find resources for classrooms and homeschooling, videos, and more to use not only this month but throughout the year, visit the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-abuelita

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-kitchen

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-mamá

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Ańo Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-new-years-eve

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Albert Whitman & Company in a giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela, written by Alexandra Alessandri | illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks 
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Reply with a holiday tradition for extra entry. Each response gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from October 7 through October 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 14.

Prizing provided by Albert Whitman

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

Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-are-all-family-word-search

We Are All Family English/Spanish Word Search

 

Find the names of family members in both English and Spanish in this printable heart- shaped word search puzzle.

We Are All Family Word Search PuzzleWe Are All Family Word Search Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-cover

You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 2 – Name Your Car Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-cover

About the Holiday

We love our cars! Sometimes it seems we spend more time with them than with our own family – and maybe some of us do! What do you call such a reliable partner? A friend, of course! Our friends have names, so why shouldn’t our cars? That’s the idea behind today’s whimsical holiday. To celebrate, give your car the perfect moniker. All names are open, well… 

Thanks to Blue Slip Media and Aladdin for sending me a copy of All Except Axle for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m revved up to be offering a giveaway of the book as well! See details below.

All Except Axle

Written by Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley

 

At the car assembly plant, all the new cars were happily getting buffed before they rolled off the conveyor belt and raced into their slot on the lot. That is… “all except one. Axle.” From the parking lot, the cars drove up the ramps and onto the big transport trucks for the next part of their adventure. But one car lagged behind, watching from a distance – Axle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-factory

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

The transport trucks vroomed onto the highway, but…. They were one short. “Earlene, and her passengers…were waiting for Axle.” Axle idled nearby. “‘I think I’m out of alignment,'” he told Earlene. “‘I think you’re stalling,'” Earlene said. The other cars were encouraging, but Earlene got Axle moving with a loud HONNKK!

Finally zooming down the highway, the other cars loved feeling the wind and “[leaning] into the twists and turns.” But Axle felt carsick. When the reached the dealership, the other cars eagerly explored the lot and showroom. All except Axle, who “hurried back up Earlene’s ramp and pleaded with her to go back to the plant. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-afraid

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

With a Vroom they were off – but not to the plant. Soon, Earlene veered into a truck stop, where, she said, Axle could practice. Axle made right turns, left turns, and U-turns around the cement columns and followed Earlene around and around the lot. Then they left the truck stop and headed out to the flatlands, the foothills, where “the slope grew steeper and steeper,” and even into the mountains. From high on the top of a mountain, Axle stopped to enjoy the view.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-truck

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Earlene was zipping back down the curvy mountain road with Axle far behind. Then Axle smelled something burning and watches as Earlene “rockets up a runaway truck ramp.” When Earlene finally stopped, they saw the flat tire. Earlene needed a tow truck and Axle was her only hope. He turned around and climbed the mountain road again. It was a strain on his engine, but when he reached the top, Axle kept on going all the way back to the truck stop.

There he found a tow truck and led it straight back to Earlene. “‘Nice job, kid,’ the tow truck said” then offered Axle a ride back into town. But Axle replied, “‘No thanks, I can drive!'” and he zoomed ahead to lead Earlene and the tow truck back to the city. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-city

Image copyright Lisa Manuzak Wiley, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Car, truck, and vehicle fans will love Sue Lowell Gallion’s story that boosts little ones’ self-confidence with reassurance and a sweet hero who just needs a little more practice to discover the courage under his hood. With plenty of puns to tickle readers, Gallion’s story reflects the feelings of kids hesitant to make changes or leave their comfort zone. Axle’s reactions mirror many behaviors anxious or hesitant children display, allowing adults and kids an opportunity to talk about emotions. Her well-paced story also lets readers to ride along with Axle as he tries out and improves his skills. When Earlene needs help, Axle may feel a moment of nervousness, but with his new-found belief in himself, he takes to those once-scary roads and saves the day.

Lisa Manuzak Wiley’s bold and vibrant illustrations will appeal to kids – and especially vehicle-lovers – with detailed images of cars on a factory line, loaded into transport trucks, and heading out on the open road. Her vehicles are both realistic and whimsical, and their expressive headlight eyes clearly reflect Axle’s trepidation and the other cars’ excitement for their adventure. Children will enjoy pointing out and counting the different cars from page to page.

For children who need a little encouragement on the road of life, All Except Axle is an engaging and reassuring story that’s sure to capture their imagination.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534440227

Discover more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books on her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axle-storytime-kit

You can find an All about Axle Storytime Kit with a puzzle, puppets, a coloring page, discussion questions, and a coping strategies worksheet on Sue’s website here.

To learn more about Lisa Manuzak Wiley, her books, and her art, visit her website.

All Except Axle Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Blue Slip Media and Aladdin in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of All Except Axle, written by Sue Lowell Gallion | illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with a name for your car for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from October 2 to October 8 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 9. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Aladdin

Name Your Car Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truck-racing-game-wood

Racing for Friendship Game

Here’s a racing game that kids will love! With poster board, paper, and chalk or other art supplies, kids can place their track in a city, the country, the desert, or even in outer space! Once the scene is ready, get out your own toy cars or trucks to play with or use the printable truck game pieces included below. Use a traditional playing die or the included printable 8-sided playing die. The first player to the finish line wins—or shake it up a bit and make the last person to the line the winner.

The track can be laid out on the floor and taped in place or created on poster board or paper with the supplies below:

Supplies

  • Poster board or tri-fold display board. I used a 12-inch by 4-foot section of a tri-fold board in my example. This allows you to fold up the board for easier storing.
  • White paper
  • Chalk, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Toy trucks or cars
  • Printable Truck Game Pieces (optional)
  • Printable 8-sided Playing Die

Directions

  1. Cut 30 4- or 5-inch by 1½-inch strips from the white paper
  2. Have kids lay out a track on the board using the white paper strips (each strip is one space) leaving room in between the rows for scenery
  3. Glue or tape the strips in place
  4. Draw scenery around the track OR cut trees, buildings, landmarks, or other scenery from paper and color. Glue or tape to board. 
  5. Print and assemble 8-sided playing die with tape (optional)
  6. Give each player a toy truck or car. Alternately, print and cut out included Truck Game Pieces. (To make them sturdier, print on heavy paper or glue them to cardboard)
  7. Choose a player to go first
  8. Players take turns rolling the die and moving the appropriate number of spaces
  9. The first (or last) player to the finish line is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-except-axel-cover

You can find All Except Axle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 2 – Kat and Juju Book Tour Stop

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-cover

About the Holiday

Today I’m happy to be participating in the Kat and Juju book tour! The months of summer vacation often provide an opportunity for growth, change, and the kind of self-discovery that comes without the constraints of a regular schedule and school assignments. This can be especially true for hesitant children or those who prefer more studied steps into new experiences. Today’s book may spark discussion and ideas for integrating internal feelings and external opportunities when they come along.

Thanks to Two Lions Publishing and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sharing Kat and Juju with me for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Kat and Juju

By Kataneh Vahdani

 

Kat had her own special way of doing things. While other kids scribbled outside the lines, she preferred to stay inside them. “She found wonder in places no one else thought to look.” And her confidants were decidedly of the strong, silent, and leafy type. She was too timid to talk to the other kids, who always seemed to be laughing and talking and playing. She did feel lonely sometimes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-drawing

Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Kat’s birthday was coming up, and she was looking forward to the moment when “her very best friend would arrive,” just as “had happened to all the other kids.” She wasn’t disappointed. At her door on her birthday was Juju—a huge, red, dapper bird who’d brought her a bouquet of flowers and a definitely different perspective on things. She loved him immediately. Juju was fearless and encouraged her to be brave. “Sometimes,” he said  as he hopped from foot to foot and spun on the floor, “you’ve just got to LET GO and do a HAPPY DANCE.” Kat thought it looked like fun, but she just couldn’t get herself to do it.

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-drawing

Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Then one day. Kat and Juju found a lost baby bird. Kat could relate to the fear in its eyes. With Juju’s help, she overcame her initial doubts about her ability to take care of it. She wrapped the birdie up, fed it, and, when it was stronger, took it on adventures—adventures that even took Kat out of her comfort zone. The birdie loved them, and pretty soon so did Kat.

It didn’t take long for the birdie to feel “brave enough to fly on its own.” Kat was so excited for her little friend that she forgot all of her inhibitions and broke out into a happy dance. The other kids suddenly saw Kat in a whole new way. Now, Kat still does things her own special way, but she has friends to do them with.

A good conversation-starter on the value of trying new things while staying true to yourself, Kat and Juju makes a fun read on the journey and would be an inspiring choice for home, school, and public library collections.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-birthday

Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

In her thoughtful story, Kataneh Vahdani explores the emotions of a girl who has a hard time letting go of her fears and inhibitions to reach outside of her comfort zone. When Juju—a buoyant, larger-than-life bird—enters Kat’s life, he brings spontaneity and courage closer, but it’s not until the little birdie needs her that Kat participates in Juju’s silly fun and daring adventures. Over time, Kat discovers she likes these escapades too, and when the little bird is ready to fly, so is she. It’s a truism that we will often do things for a friend or our children that we might not do for ourselves.

Kat is a sweet companion for readers on their own road to discovering the bravery inside themselves, and Vahdani’s storytelling gives adults and children a starting point for discussion. She provides metaphorical examples—coloring inside the lines, a special birthday present that gives her a new start, learning to fly—as well as honestly depicted nagging internal doubts to help readers articulate and share their feelings. Vahdani also includes an important reminder that branching out doesn’t mean losing one’s unique qualities, instead it allows them to grow.

Kataneh Vahdani’s textured gray-scale and red and blue digital illustrations, punctuated with the little yellow fluff of a birdie, puts the focus on Kat and Juju, who sport red clothing and feathers. Kat’s wide-eyed, expressive face reflects her emotions clearly and Juju is a sweetie with smiling eyes who’s always ready with a hug or a bit of encouragement or reassurance.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542043281

Kataneh Vahdani is a children’s book author and illustrator. Kat and Juju is her first picture book series. She is currently directing her original feature animation movie. Kataneh has been a professor for over seventeen years and she also rescues fallen baby birds. Together with her students, they have raised more than thirteen fallen injured baby birds and set them free once they were ready to fly away. Sometimes in her classes, birds fly from the head of one student to the other.

Visit Kataneh on Instagram: @KatandJuju

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kat-and-juju-cover

You can find Kat and Juju at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 8 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-cover

About the Holiday

The Get Caught Reading campaign was initiated in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers with the idea to promote literacy and language development through reading to children and encouraging them to read on their own. As part of the campaign, posters of celebrities, dignitaries, and even fictional characters enjoying a book are available for schools, libraries, and other organizations to hang where kids will see them. The excitement of reading also takes over social media all month long, which this year is more important than ever. To celebrate this holiday, make sure you stock up on new and favorite books or download ebooks or audiobooks from your library and get caught reading! Learn more by visiting the Get Caught Reading website and the Every Child a Reader website.

I received a copy of Two Tough Trucks from Orchard Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Two Tough Trucks

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez | Illustrated by Hilary Leung

 

One morning, two trucks are ready “for their first day of class.” But Rig’s “riding the brakes” while Mack’s “hitting the gas.” In their classroom, their teacher Miss Rhodes pairs these two up for a practice run on the track. First up is the circuit, with twists and a hairpin turn. Rig feels shaky, but Mack’s “a speedy red blur.” Mack picks up speed going into the turn and keeps on going, but Rig hits the brakes and skids off the course.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-meeting

Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Next comes learning to downshift while climbing a hill. Mack breezes up as Rig carefully inches along. First to the top, Mack gloats, “‘I knew I was fast.’” And although Rig tried his best he “finished dead last.” Mack thought Rig was just dragging him down. For Rig, Mack just seemed liked a braggart. As he vroomed, Mack fumed and left Rig “in the dust.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-sharp-curve

Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

The students moved on to practicing backing up. As they moved around traffic cones,  “they veered and corrected, / they turned and reversed. / Rig had good instincts, but Mack was… the worst.” Rig aced the course, but Mack? He was ready to quit until Rig steered him right. “Vroom! Zoom! / They backtracked and bumped. / A Mack making progress, / a Rig feeling pumped!”

Mack was surprised that Rig had helped him, but for Rig it was just the right thing to do. They headed back to the track and took it by storm. These two trucks were “now the fastest of friends.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-blundering-mack

Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Like life’s road itself, this original story of two trucks with distinct personalities and different strengths has many twists and turns and takes little ones on a multilayered journey of discovery. While Mack is rarin’ to go on his first day of truck school, Rig is more hesitant. When these two are teamed up for the day, Mack’s fast and daring approach to the track seems to be the right one as he nails the sharp curve and is the first to reach the peak of the hill, leaving Rig far behind. These early successes cause him to honk his own horn and complain about Rig.

But then in a clever literal and metaphorical reversal, Rig’s thoughtful restraint makes backing up his forte. In Mack’s reaction to being last, Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca Gomez gently ramp up life lessons about perseverance and losing gracefully. Rig then goes on to demonstrate another winning trait in his generosity to teach Mack the finer points of driving in reverse. Mack’s acceptance of Rig’s kindness shows that the experience has taught him to be humble. Kudos to Miss Rhodes for creating a track that leads to strong bonds and friendship.

A book by Schwartz and Gomez always charms with smart rhyming and jaunty rhythms and Two Tough Trucks is no exception. Ingenious puns, evocative and active vocabulary, and plenty of “vrooms” and “zooms” for kids to chime in on make this book a lively read aloud.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-sunset

Image copyright Hilary Leung, 2019, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2019. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Hilary Leung’s textured and boldly colored pages will thrill little readers as Mack and Rig take center stage on the dusty, western track. Mack’s confidence shows in his straight, crisp lines and grinning grill while Rig’s wariness takes the form of wobbly tires, bent frame, furrowed brow, and grimacing grill. Fittingly, the Truck School building is shaped like a parking garage, complete with a spiral ramp that takes students to the second and third story. Cacti, roadrunners, and craggy rock formations dot the sun-drenched desert track where Mack, Rig, and the rest of the students strut their stuff.

A joy to read out loud and a story kids will want to hear again and again, Two Tough Trucks is highly recommended for home bookshelves, preschool and kindergarten classrooms, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338236545

Discover more about Corey Rosen Schwartz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Rebecca J. Gomez and her books, visit her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Hilary Leung and learn more about his work, visit her website.

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-truck-racing-game-wood

Racing for Friendship Game

 

Here’s a racing game that kids will love! With poster board, paper, and chalk or other art supplies, kids can place their track in a city, the country, the desert, or even in outer space! Once the scene is ready, get out your own toy cars or trucks to play with or use the printable truck game pieces included below. Use a traditional playing die or the included printable 8-sided playing die. The first player to the finish line wins—or shake it up a bit and make the last person to the line the winner.

The track can be laid out on the floor and taped in place or created on poster board or paper with the supplies below:

Supplies

  • Poster board or tri-fold display board. I used a 12-inch by 4-foot section of a tri-fold board in my example. This allows you to fold up the board for easier storing.
  • White paper
  • Chalk, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Toy trucks or cars
  • Printable Truck Game Pieces (optional)
  • Printable 8-sided Playing Die

Directions

  1. Cut 30 4- or 5-inch by 1½-inch strips from the white paper
  2. Have kids lay out a track on the board using the white paper strips (each strip is one space) leaving room in between the rows for scenery
  3. Glue or tape the strips in place
  4. Draw scenery around the track OR cut trees, buildings, landmarks, or other scenery from paper and color. Glue or tape to board. 
  5. Print and assemble 8-sided playing die with tape (optional)
  6. Give each player a toy truck or car. Alternately, print and cut out included Truck Game Pieces. (To make them sturdier, print on heavy paper or glue them to cardboard)
  7. Choose a player to go first
  8. Players take turns rolling the die and moving the appropriate number of spaces
  9. The first (or last) player to the finish line is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-cover

You can find Two Tough Trucks at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-tough-trucks-get-lost-cover

Vroom and zoom with Mack and Rig in Two Tough Trucks Get Lost!, a new  adventure coming on September 1! You can preorder it here

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

 

August 6 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-on-the-first-day-of-school-cover

About the Holiday

It’s the day you and your child have been waiting for! Preschool is in the rearview mirror and kindergarten is full-steam ahead! As you and your child do the shopping for backpacks, new clothes, and other necessary items and excitement grows, there could also be a little nudge of worry or nervousness just below the surface. Today’s holiday can be a reminder for adults to talk with their kids about starting school or entering a new class to see how they’re feeling about the changes ahead. Sharing picture books about school, making friends, and having a new kind of independence can help ease the transition. Today’s book is a great place to start!

I received a copy of Butterflies on the First Day of School from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Butterflies on the First Day of School

Written by Annie Silvestro | Illustrated by Dream Chen

Rosie had been looking forward to school for ages. She’d already picked out her backpack and practiced all the skills she’d need on that first day. “But the night before her first day, Rosie couldn’t sleep.” The next morning, she couldn’t eat her breakfast, her stomach hurt, and she worried her baby sister would be lonely without her. At last, her dad told her it was time to go. As he took a picture of her, she said that she didn’t feel well. “‘You just have butterflies in your belly,’ said her mother, hugging her tight.” Rosie was going to ask about those butterflies, but just then the bus pulled up.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-on-the-first-day-of-school-backpack

Image copyright Dream Chen, 2019 text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Rosie felt nervous as the bus rumbled on. Then a girl sat next to her and introduced herself as Violet. Rosie introduced herself. “As she spoke, a butterfly flew from her mouth.” When Rosie revealed she had the same teacher as Violet, two more butterflies flew out. “Violet didn’t seem to notice.” In the classroom, everyone gathered on the rug, and Mrs. Mancini asked the kids to tell a little bit about themselves. In turn, each one said something. Rosie waited nervously. Then suddenly it was her turn. She stood up and words tumbled out. As she spoke, “three butterflies flitted into the air.” Later, Rosie painted two pictures of flowers—one for her and one for Violet—and played with the other kids. Sometimes a butterfly would flutter out. “But by recess, she could barely feel them anymore.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-on-the-first-day-of-school-can't-sleep

Image copyright Dream Chen, 2019 text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

While everyone was playing tag on the playground, Rosie noticed one girl standing alone by a tree. Rosie went over and asked if she wanted to play. As they introduced themselves, Isabella’s butterflies “soared into the sky.” At the end of the day when Rosie got off the school bus, she ran to her mom and told her how much fun she’d had. Her mom hugged her and told her that she wanted to hear all about it as “the words floated out on a shimmering butterfly’s wings.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-on-the-first-day-of-school-breakfast

Image copyright Dream Chen, 2019 text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Annie Silvestro’s sweet story of a little girl on her first day of school is a sensitive and insightful portrayal of the nervousness that can accompany any new experience. Acknowledging those “butterflies” that can emerge to dampen even the most ardent enthusiasm, Silvestro gives adults and children a positive way to discuss and manage these feelings. Her reassuring imagery will captivate the reader’s imagination while showing them that accepting and offering friendship and participating in classroom or other activities are effective ways to release apprehension and embrace opportunities. Silvestro’s last line is a tug at the heart, and little ones may be surprised but also comforted to learn that they are not alone in their feelings.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-on-the-first-day-of-school-breakfast

Dream Chen’s delightful and vibrant illustrations glow with warmth and the camaraderie of a kindergarten class, while also highlighting Rosie’s uncertainty and her growing confidence as the butterflies she feels flutter away. Alert readers will notice another classmate who’s also experiencing butterflies on the bus and in the classroom. In Chen’s busy classroom gives adults and kids an opportunity to discuss common things they will likely see in their own room, including a rug for gathering on, a bulletin board, an easel, books, toys, and games. Rosie’s butterflies are beautiful and varied, suggesting that these feelings are a natural part of life and as you watch them flutter away, you can be proud of being brave and seizing opportunities.

Butterflies on the First Day of School is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections not only for first-day-of-school jitters but for any new activity or experience that sets the butterflies fluttering.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454921196

Discover more about Annie Silvestro and her books on her website.

To learn more about Dream Chen, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterfly-craft-vivid-filter-2

Colorful Clothespin Butterfly Craft

With this easy Colorful Clothespin Butterfly Craft, you can make and display your own butterfly that will always remind you of the opportunities you’ve taken.

Supplies

  • Wooden pin clothespin
  • Tissue paper in a choice of colors
  • Craft paint in a choice of colors
  • Black craft paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Toothpick
  • Scissors
  • Fishing line, thread, or string for hanging (optional)
  • Adhesive magnet for hanging (optional)

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the clothespin, let dry
  2. When dry add accent dots or lines and eyes. I used a toothpick with the point cut off to make the dots on the purple butterfly. I used the pointy end of a toothpick to make the eyes and the lines on the pink butterfly.

To Make the Wings

  1. For the top wings, cut a 6 ½ -inch circle from tissue paper
  2. For the bottom wings, cut a 5 ¼ – inch circle from tissue paper
  3. With the head of the clothespin facing down, insert the larger circle into the split in the clothespin so that half of the circle shows on either side.
  4. Gently pull the circle down tightly into the split, pulling it as far in as possible—about half way
  5. Next insert the smaller circle into the split and repeat the above step.
  6. Gently fan out the wings if necessary

If hanging the butterfly, attach fishing line, threat, or string

If making a magnet, attach the adhesive magnet to the back of the butterfly.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-butterflies-on-the-first-day-of-school-cover

You can find Butterflies on the First Day of School at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 18 – Break the Monotony Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-cover

About the Holiday

Are you stuck in a rut? Are you so entrenched that you can’t imagine breaking your comfortable routine? Then maybe it’s time for a change. And that’s what today’s holiday is all about. It doesn’t take much to break the monotony—just a simple change-up will do. So today, instead of having your usual latte, order a chai. They’re delicious! Instead of following the same boring route to work or school, zip down a different road. You never know what you will see! And Instead of binge-watching that show, try a new one.  I know! But you can go back to it tomorrow. Of course, one of the best ways to break the monotony is by reading books—they’ll take you to all sorts of places, you’ll meet new, exciting people, and you’ll get involved in events you never thought possible! 

Somewhere Else

By Gus Gordon

 

There are birds that fly north and those that fly south. There are birds that take the bus and those that don’t care how they travel just so long as they go somewhere. And then there’s George Laurent. “George never went anywhere.” He told himself that he liked his home and his garden and, especially, the pastries he baked in his oven better than anything or anywhere else.

It wasn’t like he never saw anyone. His “friends were always dropping by on their way to somewhere else” to enjoy his delicious treats. And they often invited George to fly away with them. When Penelope Thornwhistle was reminded of the Andes while eating one of his éclairs, she asked George to go there with her. But George had potentially award-winning brownies in the oven. When Walter Greenburg tasted George’s apple strudel and thought about Paris, he was ready to take George to see the city of lights, but George had ironing to do. And a trip to the Alaskan tundra with a flock of other ducks had to be postponed because of yoga class.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-map

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

As time went on, everyone stopped asking George to share their adventures. They knew he was too busy anyway. When winter came, “George found himself alone.” At least until Pascal Lombard came knocking, looking for a place to spend the snowy months. When the bear wondered why George wasn’t sunning himself on some Caribbean beach, George said he was learning Flamenco songs on his guitar, catching up on the TV series Lost in Space, and typing out his memoirs.

But Pascal reminded George that he didn’t have a guitar or a television and that he hadn’t yet done anything worthy of a memoir. It was then that George made his confession: he didn’t know how to fly. When all the other ducks had learned to fly, he said, he had been too busy with something else. “He had been making excuses not to fly ever since.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-andes

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Well, Pascal was ready to remedy the situation. Fortunately, he had an “uncanny knack for solving tricky problems.” They tried reading books, taking wing on a kite, and using a crane. But nothing worked. “It turned out Pascal Lombard didn’t have much of a knack for solving tricky problems after all.” Both George and Pascal felt disappointed as they read by the fire, until George happened to peek at Pascal’s newspaper and see an announcement for a hot air balloon ride in Paris.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-making-balloon

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

George was intrigued. And Pascal said, “‘I am remarkably good with my hands! We can build it!’” So they set to work, but it was harder than they thought, and “it took all winter (it turned out Pascal Lombard wasn’t actually very good with his hands).” Finally, though, they were flying! They flew their red patchwork balloon for months, seeing the Eiffel Tower, floating over the Arctic Circle, soaring through Madagascar, and experiencing places that were “more exciting than they had ever imagined.” But still, they missed George’s homemade pie. So they flew home, enjoyed tea and pie, and planned next year’s “anywhere somewhere else” adventure.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-flying-in-balloon

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gus Gordon’s tenderhearted and funny story about missed opportunities that can lead to more missed opportunities, excuses, and sometimes isolation tackles a common predicament not often seen in children’s books. George’s amusing tales of loads of laundry, Flamenco lessons, and yoga classes as well as his real talent for baking will endear George to readers, making his admission a moment for true empathy and encouragement. More silliness ensues as Pascal tries to help out, and kids will cheer when the two finally get off the ground.

Gordon’s reassurance that there’s no shame in making mistakes or not knowing something is also found in Pascal’s bravado and subsequent asides to the contrary. As George and Pascal work together to teach George to fly, kids see that help can be as close as a good friend—and as fun. A welcome undertone to the story is the idea that it’s also okay to be yourself: the first page abounds with very unique birds flying here and there; for Penelope an éclair reminds her of the Andes and for Walter, strudel reminds him of Paris—and who’s to say they’re wrong?; and when George and Pascal miss home and homemade goodies, they return to their favorite place.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-george-in-kitchen

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gordon’s illustrations are a treat too. Full of visual humor and word play, the mixed-media, collage-style images bring together snippets of old advertising, photography, and traditional mediums and invite readers to linger to catch all the humor included. The page on which George finally makes his confession is worthy of special note. Here, in contrast to the other pages, the background is white, a saddened George is simply sketched with a blue outline, and the stack of firewood he was carrying lies haphazardly at his feet. The image gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about feelings of embarrassment, doubt, or uncertainty.

Somewhere Else is an original story with heart, humor, and an uplifting lesson that would make a sweet and meaningful addition to classroom and home libraries.

Age 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626723498

Discover more about Gus Gordon and his books on his website.

Break the Monotony Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reading-is-super-maze

Reading is Super! Maze

 

One of the best ways to add excitement to life is through reading! These kids are waiting for some books to read. Can you help the super-reader bring his friends new books in this printable Reading is Super Maze?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-cover

You can find Somewhere Else at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 9 – It’s National Reading Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-cover

About the Holiday

Hosting Read across America Day, March is the perfect month to celebrate reading! Reading is one of life’s great joys! Reading with children every day is one of the best ways to develop language and literacy skills that 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. You can get kids enthusiastic about reading by setting up a bookcase specially for them and letting them choose the books they want to read. To celebrate this month, why not go on a book hunt and bring home some new books to enjoy together?

Somewhere Else

By Gus Gordon

 

There are birds that fly north and those that fly south. There are birds that take the bus and those that don’t care how they travel just so long as they go somewhere. And then there’s George Laurent. “George never went anywhere.” He told himself that he liked his home and his garden and, especially, the pastries he baked in his oven better than anything or anywhere else.

It wasn’t like he never saw anyone. His “friends were always dropping by on their way to somewhere else” to enjoy his delicious treats. And they often invited George to fly away with them. When Penelope Thornwhistle was reminded of the Andes while eating one of his éclairs, she asked George to go with there with her. But George had potentially award-winning brownies in the oven. When Walter Greenburg tasted George’s apple strudel and thought about Paris, he was ready to take George to see the city of lights, but George had ironing to do. And a trip to the Alaskan tundra with a flock of other ducks had to be postponed because of yoga class.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-map

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

As time went on, everyone stopped asking George to share their adventures. They knew he was too busy anyway. When winter came, “George found himself alone.” At least until Pascal Lombard, came knocking, looking for a place to spend the snowy months. When the bear wondered why George wasn’t sunning himself on some Caribbean beach, George said he was learning Flamenco songs on his guitar, catching up on the TV series Lost in Space, and typing out his memoirs.

But Pascal reminded George that he didn’t have a guitar or a television and that he hadn’t yet done anything worthy of a memoir. It was then that George made his confession: he didn’t know how to fly. When all the other ducks had learned to fly, he said, he had been too busy with something else. “He had been making excuses not to fly, ever since.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-andes

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Well, Pascal was ready to remedy the situation. Fortunately, he had an “uncanny knack for solving tricky problems.” They tried reading books, taking wing on a kite, and using a crane. But nothing worked. “It turned out Pascal Lombard didn’t have much of a knack for solving tricky problems after all.” Both George and Pascal felt disappointed as they read by the fire, until George happened to peek at Pascal’s newspaper and see an announcement for a hot air balloon ride in Paris.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-making-balloon

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

George was intrigued. And Pascal said, “‘I am remarkably good with my hands! We can build it!’” So they set to work, but it was harder than they thought, and “it took all winter (it turned out Pascal Lombard wasn’t actually very good with his hands).” Finally, though, they were flying! They flew their red patchwork balloon for months, seeing the Eiffel Tower, floating over the Arctic Circle, soaring through Madagascar, and experiencing places that were “more exciting than they had ever imagined.” But still, they missed George’s homemade pie. So they flew home, enjoyed tea and pie, and planned next year’s “anywhere somewhere else” adventure.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-flying-in-balloon

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gus Gordon’s tenderhearted and funny story about missed opportunities that can lead to more missed opportunities, excuses, and sometimes isolation tackles a common predicament not often seen in children’s books. George’s amusing tales of loads of laundry, Flamenco lessons, and yoga classes as well as his real talent for baking will endear George to readers, making his admission a moment for true empathy and encouragement. More silliness ensues as Pascal tries to help out, and kids will cheer when the two finally get off the ground.

Gordon’s reassurance that there’s no shame in making mistakes or not knowing something is also found in Pascal’s bravado and subsequent asides to the contrary. As George and Pascal work together to teach George to fly, kids see that help can be as close as a good friend—and as fun. A welcome undertone to the story is the idea that it’s also okay to be yourself: the first page abounds with very unique birds flying here and there; for Penelope an éclair reminds her of the Andes and for Walter, strudel reminds him of Paris—and who’s to say they’re wrong?; and when George and Pascal miss home and homemade goodies, they return to their favorite place.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-george-in-kitchen

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gordon’s illustrations are a treat too. Full of visual humor and word play, the mixed-media, collage-style images bring together snippets of old advertising, photography, and traditional mediums and invite readers to linger to catch all the humor included. The page on which George finally makes his confession is worthy of special note. Here, in contrast to the other pages, the background is white, a saddened George is simply sketched with a blue outline, and the stack of firewood he was carrying lies haphazardly at his feet. The image gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about feelings of embarrassment, doubt, or uncertainty.

Somewhere Else is an original story with heart, humor, and an uplifting lesson that would make a sweet and meaningful addition to classroom and home libraries.

Age 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626723498

Discover more about Gus Gordon and his books on his website.

National Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reading-is-super-maze

Reading is Super! Maze

 

A boy wants to bring books to his friends so they can all read together. Can you help him get through this printable Reading is Super Maze to reach his friends?

Picture Book Review