May 27 – It’s National Pet Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-cover

About the Holiday

Pets give us unconditional love, provide companionship, and add entertainment and fun to our lives. This month is set aside to focus on our pets. To celebrate spend extra time with your furry friend, make sure they have everything they need to stay healthy, and give them a little extra treat. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting a dog, cat, bird, or small animal from your local animal shelter. You’ll both benefit!

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read

Written by Curtis Manley | Illustrated by Kate Berube

 

One summer Nick, Verne, and Stevenson did everything together. Nick is a little boy and Verne and Stevenson are two very different cats. Nick and Verne loved to spend time near the water—Stevenson tolerated it. Nick and Verne slept happily in a tent under the stars—Stevenson barely shut his eyes. While Nick rode his bike Verne eagerly sat in the front basket—Stevenson hunkered down in a box on the back. But when Nick sat down to read, both cats had similar ideas of fun—like lying on top of the book—and Nick could hardly read a sentence.

“So Nick decided to teach them how to read. He made flash cards and started with easy words” like “ball,” but Verne and Stevenson just wanted to play with the ball. While the three had a picnic on the lawn, Nick brought out his flashcards and “pointed to the word food. The cats ignored him.” When the cats snoozed Nick woke them with a sign. “‘This is no time for an N-A-P!’” he said. Neither cat responded well, so Nick tried a new tactic. He made word-shaped flash cards. Verne took a nibble of “F-I-S-H,” but Stevenson hid under the bed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-food-flash-cards
Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Nick began to see that Verne liked stories about cats and fish. “Verne loved fish. He followed along as Nick read, learning the sounds of the letters.” He even read by himself, discovering new stories, especially 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But Stevenson? When Nick spelled words for him, he merely ran under the porch, hissing. By this time Verne was reading so many books that he got his own library card and Nick needed help carrying all of his books home. Nick and Verne had fun acting out their favorite stories, but they missed Stevenson.

One day “Verne discovered a treasure under the bed—a great stack of Stevenson’s pirate drawings. “‘Wow!’” Nick whispered. “‘Stevenson drew a story.’” Nick and Verne put the pages together and began to write words to go with them. When the story was finished, Nick, Verne, and Stevenson “squeezed under the porch, gave Stevenson an eye patch, and read The Tale of One-Eyed Stevenson and the Pirate Gold. Stevenson listened and followed along. He didn’t run away. Or hiss. Not even once.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-library
Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Suddenly, Stevenson couldn’t get enough of books.  Even before Nick woke up, Stevenson could be found with his nose in Treasure Island or another adventure book, and whenever Nick and Verne played pirates, Stevenson joined in. He helped bring down “scurvy mutineers” and found buried treasure. Now the three readers do everything together. They “hunt for dinosaurs in the lost world behind the garden…race around the yard in eighty seconds…and journey to the center of the basement.” And while they all like to read on their own, they also like it when someone reads to them. “Hmmm…,” Nick thinks, maybe next he could teach his cats to talk. “‘Meow,’ says Stevenson.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-grumpy-stevenson
Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Curtis Manley’s adorable tribute to reading and learning to read, using cats with very different personalities, is inspired. Just as some people respond more to the words while others are attracted by the pictures, Verne and Stevenson have their own relationships with books. The names of the cats and their preferred reading material are also reminders that books are personal, and disinterest in one type of story does not reflect disinterest in all stories. Manley’s text makes for a joyful read-aloud as his language and phrasing is evocative, lyrical, and imaginative.

In perfect accompaniment, Kate Berube brings this creative story to life, illustrating the tender relationship between Nick and his pets as well as emphasizing the humor and distinct personalities inherent in orange-striped Verne and smoky-gray Stevenson that influence their journeys to literacy. Depictions of the various books Verne and Stevenson are drawn to highlight the literary references in the trio’s further play. Readers will want to stop and peruse the page of library shelves, where such books as “Harry Picaroon and the Swashbuckler’s Stone”, “Harold and the Purple Canon”, “Millions of Rats”, and “Where the Wild Pirates Are” wait to be checked out in the Pirates section.

Kids will eagerly want to adopt The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, and it will snuggle in nicely on children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481435697

Discover “the facts, fictions, poems, and numbers” of Curtis Manley on his website!

View a gallery of Kate Berube‘s art on her website!

National Pet Month Activity

A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

You can find The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

January 6 – National Cuddle Up Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-baby-cover

About the Holiday

As the icy temperatures of January settles in, one of the best ways to stay warm is to cuddle up with someone special or a favorite pet. Not only does snuggling take the chill off, it gives you those warm fuzzies inside that make you feel loved. Cuddling also has health benefits as it releases oxytocin, a natural pain reliever that can reduce heart disease and lower blood pressure, stress, and anxiety. Children especially benefit from snuggling that builds strong relationships with parents and other caregivers. So share cuddles—and books—today and all winter long!

Where’s Baby?

By Anne Hunter

 

Papa Fox is looking for Baby and asks Mama if she’s seen her. Mama hasn’t but says she “must be somewhere” and so starts the search. “Ba-by!” Papa calls into their den, but there’s no answer. Papa decides to look outside. When he turns around, Mama spies Baby hiding right behind Papa; she smiles and waves and Baby waves back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-baby-Papa-looking

Copyright Anne Hunter, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Papa comes to a stand of tall trees and shouts, “Ba-by! Are you up in the tree?” This time he gets a response, but it’s from an owl, who is “up in the tree, but…not your baby.” Something black-and-white and potentially stinky is hiding in a log, but it’s not Baby. Next, Papa comes to a big hill. It’s so big that Papa can’t see over it, so he yells out, hoping his little one will hear him. Of course, Baby does hear him—but from much closer than over the hill. What is waiting for Papa if he climbs all the way to the top? A bear with very sharp teeth that frightens even Papa Fox.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-baby-owl

Copyright Anne Hunter, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Since Baby isn’t high up, Papa tries down in the ground (where it’s his turn to frighten a little mouse) and in the lake (where he finds an extremely long fish). In the pasture, Papa spies a bull named Davy, but not his Baby. Papa goes back to Mama and states that he “can’t find Baby anywhere.” Mama suggests that Papa look behind him and, lo-and-behold, there’s Baby! “Where on earth have you been?” Papa says. “I’ve looked for you everywhere!” To which Baby has only one answer: “Can we do that again?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-baby-log

Copyright Anne Hunter, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Little ones will love Anne Hunter’s hide-and-seek game in a book that perfectly captures the cadence and suspense of the real thing while adding a sprinkling of giggly humor to each page. Hunter’s soft-hued blue-and-grey illustrations, rendered in pen and colored pencil, are the perfect backdrop for little orange Baby, who pops up in corners, in a family portrait, from behind boulders and tree stumps, in the grass, and, of course, behind Papa.

Young readers will be proud to best Papa while pointing and shouting, “there’s Baby!” Kids will also have fun naming the other animals Papa encounters on his search, an adventure that also offers adults the opportunity to teach spatial relation words, such as up, inside, outside, under, over, down, around, in front of, and behind. And you can bet that when the story ends little ones will—just like Baby—want to do it again.

Although I used the pronouns her and she in this review, gender pronouns are not used in the text, making this a universal story for all kids.

Sure to be a hit with little ones and a terrific take-along book for fun outings or for times when waiting is expected, Where’s Baby? would make an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public libraries for cuddly or active story times that are sure to lead into real games of hide-and-seek.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0735264984

To learn more about Anne Hunter, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Cuddle Up Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snuggle-buddy-craft

Snuggle Buddy Craft

 

It’s easy to make your own snuggle buddy with a few pieces of fleece, some fiber fill, and a needle and thread or fabric glue. The great thing about creating your own friend is you can personalize your pal anyway you want!

Supplies

  • 1 8-inch by 11-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the body (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project). A larger piece of fleece can be used to make a larger buddy
  • 1 5-inch by 8-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the hair (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project)
  • 1 small piece of fleece or other material for a pocket, clothes, or blanket
  • Small scraps of fleece or other material for the face
  • Fiber Fill
  • Thread and sewing needle OR fabric glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Fold the large piece of fleece in half lengthwise and sew along the open side and along the bottom. Alternatively, if using a larger size piece of fleece, fold upward and sew or glue the two sides closed.
  2. Turn the form inside out

To Make the Hair

  1. Cut a piece of fleece as wide as your buddy and about 7 – 8 inches long
  2. Fold the fleece lengthwise
  3. Insert both ends of the fleece into the opening at the top of the body
  4. Sew or glue the opening shut, securing the hair
  5. Cut strips about ¼-inch wide from the top of the hair to close to where the hair is sown into the body

To Make a Pocket or Clothes

  1. Cut a piece of fleece in the shape of a pocket, shirt, pants, diaper, or blanket
  2. Sew or glue the pocket or clothes to the buddy

To Make the Face

  1. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in whatever way you would like your buddy to look. 
  2. Sew or glue the face to the buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-baby-cover

You can find Where’s Baby? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 9 – Cow Appreciation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-jump-cover

About the Holiday

While today’s holiday started out as a clever ruse to entice people to eat more chicken, it also gives us an opportunity to think about the world’s bovine citizens. These gentle animals deserve healthy and humane treatment as they provide our diets with needed protein as well as delicious treats. Cows appear in untold numbers of stories and songs for little ones, making them a favorite of young readers everywhere!

Cows Can’t Jump

Written by Dave Reisman | Illustrated by Jason A. Maas

 

In this early literacy/beginning reader picture book, Dave Reisman introduces kids to nineteen animals and the way they can move. The repeated refrain, which begins with “cows can’t jump, but they can swim,” leads to young readers meeting a gorilla who can’t swim but who can swing, a galloping giraffe, a slithering snake, a stampeding bull, and many other favorite animals reacting to the previous interloper in humorous ways. Reisman presents active, evocative, and high-interest verbs that will capture the attention and imagination of young readers and help with their vocabulary development.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-jump-slither

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

The short, simple sentences will have even the youngest child joining in on the repeated phrases, and with repeat readings, they’ll begin to remember how each animal moves and be able to happily read along. The underlying theme of the story—that each animal is unique—will resonate with adult readers and their little ones.

Jason A. Maas’s bright, textured paintings put the focus on each animal and their movements. Page turns are cleverly designed so that the animals meet under startling and funny circumstances. The cartoon-inspired drawings will delight kids and elicit plenty of giggles as each animal responds to the newcomer with wide eyes and quick getaways, until…the lizard leaps onto a branch that is already occupied and discovers that “sloths can’t leap…but they can sleep.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-jump-stampede

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

Cows Can’t Jump will be released in a bilingual English/Spanish edition: Las vacas no pueden saltar in August, 2019.

Ages 2 – 7

Jumping Cow Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0980143300 (Paperback) | ISBN 978-0998001005 (Stubby and Stout Board Book)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-quack-cover

Cows Can’t Quack

Written by Dave Reisman | Illustrated by Jason A. Maas

 

Following the same format as Cows Can’t Jump, Dave Reisman brings together a gaggle of animals all making their own unique sounds. Here twenty-two animals from the farm, forest, ocean, and air show off their vocal stylings with funny results. As the moose grunts, the donkey hee-haws, the hippo brays, the goose cackles, and the day ends with a puppy snoring, little ones will be eager to learn more about these creatures.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-quack

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

Just as in Cows Can’t Jump, Reisman enchants with verbs that invite kids to participate in the reading with their own interpretations of the sounds. Children will also enthusiastically read along on the repeated phrasing. While each animal speaks in its own language, children are reminded of the diversity and richness of the world’s languages.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-moo

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

Once again Jason A. Maas’s animals, with their rakish charm and humorous responses that cause feathers to fly, a baby penguin to hatch, and a donkey to kick up his heels, will have little ones laughing along with their language learning.

Ages 3 – 7

Jumping Cow Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0980143348 | ISBN 978-0998001012 (Stubby and Stout Board Book)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-cover

Cows Can’t Spin Silk

Written by Dave Reisman | Illustrated by Jason A. Maas

 

Little ones will be happy to see their cow friend from Cows Can’t Jump and Cows Can’t Quack in this third book in the Cows Can’t… Series. This time, she looks on astonished as a silk worm drops down into the barn doorway on a long, silky thread. Cows may not be able to “spin silk…but they can make milk.” The woodpeckers in the nearby tree look astonished at this talent, but in the next moment they return to what they do best: “hammer holes.” The surprised alligator can’t do that, but he “can dig gator-ponds.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-silk

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

The alligator in their midst sends the rest of the animals scurrying—from the spider that weaves a web to the chickens that “lay eggs” to the ants that “build bridges.” Joining the animals are some other talented insects—caterpillars that “construct cocoons, wasps that “craft paper,” and bees that create honey”—and a few sea creatures like squid that “can squirt ink,” oysters that “can produce pearls,” and octopuses that “can erect barricades.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-milk

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

The inclusion of some more unusual animals and their impressive talents in Cows Can’t Spin Silk offer adults and kids an opportunity to discover more about the animal kingdom and what each animal can do. In addition to presenting new vocabulary, and a read aloud treat, the book can encourage families to get outdoors to see if they can find evidence of any of the animal creations mentioned in the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-bridges

Copyright 2019, Jumping Cow Press.

Readers familiar with Jason A. Maas’s illustrations for the series will be delighted with the gentle suspense that carries the story as the alligators, skunks, chipmunks, beavers, bears and fourteen other animals use their smarts to create homes, defend themselves, make tools, and display other skills.

Connecting this story to the idea that each person has their own special talent or talents extends the educational language and literacy learning of the book to personal discussions and explorations adults can share with their kids.

Ages 3 – 7

Jumping Cow Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0998001029 (Paperback ) | ISBN 978-0998001036 (Stubby and Stout Board Book)

Recommended by early literacy organizations, such as the Parent-Child Home program, the Cows Can’t Series offers little learners and beginning readers familiar, reassuring, and fun encouragement as they begin learning the structures of language and developing confidence in their own skills. The books would be welcome additions to home, classroom, and public library collections for read aloud story times or for beginning readers.

To learn more about Jumping Cow Press and find  printable activities, visit their website. And watch for the newest title in the Cows Can’t… Series: Cows Can’t Blow Bubbles, coming in August 2019.

Discover more about Jason A. Maas, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 5.06.04 PM

Cows Can’t Jump Word Search

 

Each animal in Cows Can’t Jump has a special way of moving. Can you find seventeen words that describe how different animals get around in this printable puzzle?

Cows Can’t Jump Word Search Puzzle | Cows Can’t Jump Word Search Solution

You can find the Cows Can’t Series at these booksellers

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-spin-silk-cover

Cows Can’t Spin Silk

Amazon 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-quack-cover

Cows Can’t Quack

Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cows-can't-jump-cover

Cows Can’t Jump

Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Picture Book Review

 

March 7 – It’s International Mirth Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-cat-who-ran-away-and-learned-his-abc's-the-hard-way-cover

About the Holiday

Invented by Allen Klein, aka Mr. Jollytologist, International Mirth Month encourages us to find humor during stressful situations. And while there are plenty of those, there are also lots of way to laugh and relieve the strain that’s often part of everyday life. Laughter makes us feel better and is even recognized as a healing tool. So celebrate this month by getting together with friends and family for some fun watching funny movies or TV shows, and reading funny books. After all, running away from your problems doesn’t help…or does it? Find out in today’s book!

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way)

By Patrick McDonnell

 

Little red cat opens one eye from his nap and is astonished to see the door hanging open. Quickly, he scurries out and down the walkway, very pleased with himself. Until he meets an Alligator—an alligator who has his enormous jaws open. Ahhh!. The cat runs past him, and the alligator gives chase. They don’t see the Bear—half way up a tree. But the bear sees them and joins the chase.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-cat-who-ran-away-and-learned-his-abc's-the-hard-way-b-c

Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Soon, they find themselves hurtling past chicken’s coop, from which Chicken scrambles out clucking loudly. They all run on until…Yikes! Danger! Is that a Dragon napping there? Eeek! It is! The dragon is up—which is so alarming that there’s now an Egg! Wait! Fire! Run from the flames! Do you have your sun Glasses?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-cat-who-ran-away-and-learned-his-abc's-the-hard-way-j

Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The crew keeps running while cat thinks of Home, slip on the Icy pond, swing through the Jungle, and trespass on castle grounds where the King and princess see them from a turret window. The princess points and shows her dad Lost cat poster on the castle wall. But by now the cat, the alligator, the bear, the chicken, the dragon, and the egg are traversing Mountain peaks until the dragon shouts, Nnnnnnnn Oooooooo! as everyone else goes Over a cliff. Thankfully they all packed their Parachute.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-cat-who-ran-away-and-learned-his-abc's-the-hard-way-n-o

Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Dropped into unknown territory this ragtag group has lots of Questions, and, of course, by now they need to use the Restroom. At last, the Sun is setting, and everyone is very Tired. But what is that shining in the darkness? It’s the king and princess to the rescue on a Unicorn! Unbelievable! And they have Valentines for each of them! This leads to lots of hugging to show what valued friends they’ve all become.

It’s time for everyone to head for home, so they Wave goodbye, and the king gives little red cat a scroll. When red cat unrolls the paper, he finds a map with a spot marked with an X. Now he knows just where to go to Yawn—and catch some Zzzzzzzzzzzs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-cat-who-ran-away-and-learned-his-abc's-the-hard-way-cover-v

Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2017, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

A key in the back of the book provides the words for each letter.

Readers will laugh all the way through Patrick McDonnell’s wordless alphabet book as little red cat skedaddles when the door is open and has himself a letter-perfect adventure.  McDonnell offers a fully developed tale with clear clues to the words that define each letter while also leaving plenty of opportunities for kids to find other words that also apply. McDonnell’s cartoon animals are fierce only in their expressive cuteness and the adorable princess and her kindly dad provide just the magical ending this buoyant escapade deserves.

A marvelous way for children to interact with the alphabet and language, The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) will grow with kids as they increase their vocabulary and develop their sense of humor, making it a must for classroom and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0316502467

Discover more about Patrick McDonnell, his books, and his comic strip MUTTS on his website.

Run on over to watch this The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away book trailer!

International Mirth Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-made-you-laugh-word-search

Made You Laugh! Word Search Puzzle

 

No matter whether you chuckle, guffaw, or giggle, laughter really is the best medicine! Find all of the synonyms for laugh in this printable Made You Laugh! Word Search Puzzle!

Made You Laugh! Word Search PuzzleMade You Laugh! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review