September 30 – It’s National Mushroom Month

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About the Holiday

Whether you say “Yes, please!” to mushrooms on pizza, in salads, and in soups, stews, and other dishes or just like to stop and admire them in your yard or on a walk, National Mushroom Month is for you! The holiday was first created by the U.S. Mushroom Council as part of the Mushroom Promotion, Research & Consumer Information Act of 1990 that was instituted to raise awareness and an appreciation for mushrooms, both non-edible and nutritious edible varieties. President George H.W. Bush signed the Act into law on November 28, 1990, and the holiday was first celebrated in 1993. Celebrate your love of mushrooms today and all through the year with your favorite mushroom dish—and today’s book!

Mushroom Rain

Written by Laura K. Zimmermann | Illustrated by Jamie Green

 

You know how it is with mushrooms—they appear suddenly on the path you take every day, on trees, in the middle of lawns, and each with their own shape and color. Mushrooms are surprising, beautiful, and mysterious. In her evocative, lyrical text, Laura K. Zimmermann takes readers into the forests, meadows, and even up into sky to learn about these plants that can oftentimes seem otherworldly. 

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Image copyright Jamie Green, 2022, text copyright Laura K. Zimmermann, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Under a starlit sky, Zimmermann gives children a peek into a darkened woods where “delicate umbrellas open, red octopus arms rise from the ground, cupped nests with eggs appear,” and another cluster of mushrooms glow “a spooky green.” These fungi don’t just look unusual, they are “bizarre blooms with strange scents,” and Zimmermann describes them—”some like bubble gum, coconut, maple syrup…”— so readers can imagine the aromas that mix in the night air. Can you smell them?

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Image copyright Jamie Green, 2022, text copyright Laura K. Zimmermann, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

You’ve seen mushrooms with notches and nibbles, scratches and scars, and even meandering trails on their stems and tops. “Many are tattered and torn by hungry visitors chomping, scraping, gnawing, and burrowing” into the soft flesh. And while some are consumed where they grow, others are taken away by a variety of mushroom hunters—”harvested and stored” for another day.

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Image copyright Jamie Green, 2022, text copyright Laura K. Zimmermann, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Then, just as suddenly as they appeared, mushrooms disappear. But are they gone completely? Zimmermann leads children underground to explore the vast network of roots beneath a forest floor. She floats them on breezes that send spores far and wide. And she sweeps them into the sky to soar with other spores into the clouds, where they’ll discover that an astonishing phenomenon occurs to begin mushrooms growing once again.

Following the text, extensive illustrated back matter reveals more about mushrooms: where they live, who eats them, how spores grow into mushrooms, how they help seed rainclouds, and how they are different from plants. Zimmermann also defines each part of a mushroom, describes the biggest mushroom-producing fungus and the largest living organism in the world, and shows kids how to use a mushroom to make a spore print.

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Image copyright Jamie Green, 2022, text copyright Laura K. Zimmermann, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

While Laura K. Zimmermann is taking children on a verbal sensory tour through the darkened world where mushrooms thrive, Jamie Green provides a feast for the eyes with her glorious illustrations of these odd colorful fungi jutting from the ground, posing, and  jockeying for position. Some stand close together, as endearing as a parent and child, or like a large family at a photo shoot while others reach upwards like roaring campfires. Turn the page and readers find themselves in the midst of a glowing alien landscape staring up into the dark night sky along mushrooms frilled and gilled while also aware of the small creatures on the forest floor having dinner or a snack. Green then takes kids underground and into the air, to show how spores find ingenious ways to grow and break the soil once again.

Arresting in both its beauty and enlightening facts that will excite readers’ curiosity, Mushroom Rain is a glowing invitation into the mysterious world of mushrooms and will spur readers to learn more about these delights of nature. The book, along with its extensive back matter and the materials found on Laura K. Zimmermann’s website (link below), would make a superb addition to any lessons on nature, the environment, and ecosystems for schools and homeschoolers, and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534111509

Discover more about Laura K. Zimmermann, her book, and her other writing for children on her website. You’ll also find lots of mushroom-related activities, crafts, posters, puzzles, and more to enjoy with Mushroom Rain. There’s also a Teacher’s Guide for educators.

To learn more about Jamie Green, her books, and her art, visit her website.

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You can find Mushroom Rain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 27 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Even though we’re saying goodbye to Read a New Book Month, families don’t have to stop seeking out new books at their local bookstore or library. In fact, fall and the lead-in to the holidays is one of the busiest times of the year for publishers as they release wonderful books that share traditions and take readers through the winter in thoughtful, funny, and always surprising ways. Maybe that’s why December is also tagged as Read a New Book Month! Really, there’s never a time when you don’t want to celebrate new books—like today’s!

Thanks go to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a digital copy of Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Debby Rahmalia

 

Gracie always loves when Bubbe comes to visit, but this time Bubbe was too sad to do the things she and Gracie usually did together because her husband had died. She didn’t feel like doing yoga or making jokes. “She hardly even smiled.” Gracie missed all the things she used to do with Zayde too—talks about science and sharing inside jokes.

Gracie tried different things to make Bubbe happy again. She asked if she’d like to sing while Gracie played the guitar, if she’d like to come to her soccer game, or help her draw a picture. But each time, Bubbe just said “‘No thank you, Bubala.'” This answer got Gracie thinking. “She knew bubbe meant ‘grandma’ in Yiddish. And zayde meant ‘grandpa.'” But she didn’t know what bubala meant. When Gracie asked Bubbe, she explained that “‘it means “little grandmother. …But you call someone you love “bubala.”‘”

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Image copyright Debby Rahmalia, 2022, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2022. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Then Bubbe sighed and told Gracie how much she and Zayde “‘loved using Yiddish words together.'” Gracie wanted to learn Yiddish words too, and asked Bubbe to teach her. They went into the kitchen, and while Bubbe cut up an apple, she taught Gracie the word nosh. “‘It means “eat a snack.”‘” As Gracie noshed on her apple, she thought she saw Bubbe smile just a little.

That night Bubbe taught Gracie how to say “good night” in Yiddish, and the next day when Gracie came home from school she wanted to walk around the neighborhood like they used to, but Bubbe said she didn’t feel like it. Gracie persisted, pulling on her hand and telling her how beautiful it was outside. Bubbe had to admit that it was sheyn. Gracie was excited to understand this Yiddish word for “beautiful” because Zayde often called her sheyna meidala or “pretty girl.” Bubbe conceded and put on her sneakers.

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Image copyright Debby Rahmalia, 2022, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2022. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Once outside, Bubbe even started jogging a little and taught Gracie another Yiddish word when Gracie asked her to slow down. As the week went on, Gracie and Bubbe began talking about their memories of Zayde. Bubbe even decided to go to Gracie’s next soccer game. At the game Bubbe smiled and even cheered when Gracie scored a goal, and back home they laughed together when Bubbe told Gracie her socks were “‘… so farshtunken, my nose might explode!'”

“‘Bubbe! You’re laughing!'” Gracie cried. And Bubbe had to agree and told Gracie it was for a very special reason. “‘Because you give me naches. That means ‘joy.'”

Back matter includes a short Author’s Note about the Yiddish language as well as a glossary of Yiddish words that includes and expands on the words found in the story, their meaning in English, and a pronunciation for each of them.

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Image copyright Debby Rahmalia, 2022, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2022. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Jane Sutton’s poignant story will touch readers’ hearts on many levels, from a child and grandmother overcoming grief to the passing on of family heritage to the way children bring a healing kind of joy through their exuberance, empathy, and love. Sutton’s storytelling hits all the right notes as she depicts Bubbe’s transition from mourning to joy over superbly paced scenes and seamlessly introduces Yiddish words through Gracie and Bubbe’s authentic conversations while also demonstrating the family’s strong bond of love and trust. Dialogue rich, the story makes a perfect read aloud that will excite kids about learning the Yiddish words along with Gracie and prompt families to talk about their own history.

In her vibrant illustrations, Debby Rahmalia lets young readers see through Gracie’s viewpoint how Bubbe’s sadness affects her and how much she wants to help her grandmother find happiness again. As Gracie does yoga while Bubbe stands by and shares a silent dinner with her usually talkative grandmother, Gracie’s expressions register concern and disappointment. In Gracie’s attempts to enlist Bubbe in doing their usual activities, Rahmalia portrays not only Gracie’s strong connection with Bubbe, but also a realistic look at how loss can affect emotions and physical energy. When Gracie hits on learning Yiddish as a way to interact with Bubbe, Rahmalia effectively shows how Bubbe’s smile, enthusiasm, and laughter return as she and Gracie share the language and memories of Zayde.

Touching, reassuring, and joyful, Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile comforts and restores while celebrating family love and generational ties. The book would be a meaningful addition to home bookshelves for all families and one school and public librarians will want in their picture book or family issues collection.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2022 | ISBN 978-0807510230

You can discover more about Jane Sutton and her books on her website and connect with her on Instagram.

You can view a portfolio of work by Debby Rahmalia here and connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile Matching Puzzle

 

Gracie loved learning Yiddish words from Bubbe! With this puzzle you can learn the Yiddish words from the book too. Just print the puzzle and match each word with its definition to get started using these words yourself!

Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile Matching Puzzle

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You can find Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 23 – It’s National Sewing Month

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About the Holiday

Sewing is one of the most popular hobbies around and has historically been one of the most important industries in this country and around the world. National Sewing Month was established in 1982 to encourage people to learn more about this craft and to try their hand at picking up a needle or sitting down at a sewing machine. To celebrate read up on the history of sewing and the textile industry and consider taking a sewing class or learning on your own. Sewing can be a fun and rewarding activity for adults and children. Who knows? It may even become a career that can send you to the Oscars, as you’ll see in today’s book!

Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head

Written by Jeanne Walker Harvey | Illustrated by Diana Toledano

 

As a child, living in a dry, barren mining town, Edith felt like she didn’t belong. She dreamed of living “in a place full of people and sounds and dazzling lights.” She liked hosting pretend tea parties with colorful china and sweet treats for her stuffed animals and imaginary guests. She also dressed up her pet cat, dog, rabbit, horned toad, and two mules in scarves, clothes, and fancy hats that she made just for them.

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

“Edith’s greatest treasure was her bag of fabric scraps,” which she added to by going door to door collecting cloth whenever she and her family visited Searchlight, Nevada, a few miles away. With these scraps she made furniture, rugs, and tablecloths for her dollhouse and clothes for her little dolls. But her favorite thing to do was make costumes for her two friends, who liked to perform and make up plays for their families and friends. Edith preferred staying behind the curtain, self-conscious about her straight hair and gasses.

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Every night, Edith wished on the stars that she could move away and transform her life. Her chance came when her mother enrolled her in high school in Los Angeles. Here, Edith set about trying to figure out what kind of career she would pursue. She tried piano and gymnastics, but finally found her passion at the movie theater. Watching actors on the screen, Edith was able to escape “feeling shy at school.”

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

While Edith initially chose to become a teacher, after a few years “the allure of movies drew her back.” Without any formal art training, she found “a job as a sketch artist in a costume department of a movie studio.” When her boss discovered her lack of training, instead of firing her, he began teaching her how to draw costumes himself.

It took time and many rejections of her designs until Edith was finally entrusted with making costumes. But these weren’t for actors. “Instead, she dressed up animals. They were not easy clients.” But Edith was determined and soon she had a shot at dressing dancers as candy, but her designs, while creative, melted, cracked, and . . . flopped. But Edith got another chance.

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

She worked hard for many years, gained experience, and was finally asked to “design costumes for famous movie stars.” Edith came to work on hundreds of movies, transforming actors into their characters and becoming famous herself. Then one night at the Oscars, Edith sat listening to the presenter announce the name of the winner for Best Costume Design. She was thrilled to hear her name, and “she climbed the stairs to the stage to accept her award” wearing a gown she’d designed herself.

Back matter includes an extended biography of Edith’s life, teaching, and work in Hollywood and includes photographs of Edith at work at her easel and dressing Dorothy Lamour in 1938 as well as a sketch for a costume worn by Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief.

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Jeanne Walker Harvey’s biography of Edith Head highlights this famous behind-the-scenes creator’s early life and dreams, her perseverance, and the self-confidence that spurred her on despite setbacks. Young readers will be interested to see how Edith’s childhood love for imaginary play, creating clothes for her pets and toys, and collecting cloth ultimately led to her career as a movie costume designer even though she pursued other jobs before recognizing her true passion. As she becomes involved in the movie industry, Edith’s receptiveness to learning and to learning from her mistakes provides a valuable lesson for all children. 

Diana Toledano’s charming illustrations show Edith at her creative and courageous best as she holds a tea party for her toys, dresses her bevy of unusual pets, and strikes out into the desert to play. Depictions of the small town of Searchlight, Nevada, Edith’s enchanting dollhouse, and a Los Angeles street orient readers to the time period, while the ornate movie theater and black-and-white film Edith watches show how the movies offered Edith escape from her shyness. Toledano’s textured images follow Edith as she practices, fails, practices some more, and finally achieves her goals. The final illustrations showing Edith at the Academy Awards ceremony, walking the red carpet and winning an Oscar shows kids that dreams really can come true.

An inspirational biography of a woman who broke barriers in Hollywood, Dressing Up the Stars will appeal to kids who are interested in the movies and all creative endeavors and encourage them to pursue their true passions.

Ages 3 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534451056

Discover more about Jeanne Walker Harvey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Diana Toledana, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Sewing Month Activity

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Dressing Up the Stars Activity Kit

 

With this Dressing Up the Stars Activity Kit, kids can create their own costumes for Edith’s pets, a paper doll, and a character dressed as candy! They can even write the acceptance speech they’d give if they won an Oscar for their work on a movie!

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You can find Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 20 – It’s a Book Birthday Party for Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book!

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About the Holiday

Today, I’m celebrating the book birthday of Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! with two holidays – Read a New Book Month and Friendship Month. I also have amazing interviews with author Jamie Michalak and illustrator Sabine Timm that really dive into the creation of this unique book. So, come on in!

Thanks go to Hippo Park and Deborah Sloan for sharing a copy of Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book!

Written by Jamie Michalak | Illustrated by Sabine Timm

 

Kids first meet the sweet lemon (yes, an adorably sweet lemon) at the center of this story peeking out from a cutout in the cover. The narrator, having revealed that “there’ a party in this book,” now invites Lemon to find it: “Come on, Lemon! Let’s go look.” So, a little uncertainly, Lemon knocks at a red door with a mouse door knocker. Once inside, Lemon, readers, and the narrator meet a jaunty cast of characters—suspender shorts atop three pillows, a paint-tube mouse on a bed, a curious sock on the top of a bunkbed, and a little pink-and-green house on more pillows.

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

The scene sets Lemon and crew wondering… “Is this a mouse party? A pants, sock, and house party?” And the answer? “No! This is a game where we can’t touch the floor.” Ah! So the narrator says, “Lemon, keep looking. Try the next door.” Lemon tries another house, but there’s no party there either—just some fashionable cats and fruit.

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

Hmmm… Lemon is getting a little discouraged. But the narrator gives Lemon a nudge, saying “This book is not done.” Although Lemon meets a group of friends at the beach, they’re not partying, just hanging out together. Lemon meets some pigeons and enters a kitchen, where a bear, a bunny, and a little toast dog made of bread are baking up treats. But there’s no party! Finally, “…Lemon’s back home. Does the book end right here, with her sad and alone?”

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

But then Lemon has an idea! An idea that needs readers’ help to succeed! Lemon (and readers) are going to host the party for everyone they’ve met! There’s going to be cake and candy, decorations and games. “This is a big and a small, / have a ball party. / Hooray for new friends at the / come one and all party!” And what about readers? Everyone shouts, “Come on in!”

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image copyright Sabine Timm, 2022, text copyright Jamie Malachek, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

Kids can’t help but get excited about joining Lemon in searching for the party promised on the cover. Jamie Michalak’s enthusiastic, inclusive storytelling speaks directly to them from the very first words as she exclaims “What?! There’s a party in this book?” As Lemon goes from door to door and page to page, readers follow, carried along on Michalak’s buoyant rhythm and rhymes that surprise—coming at the ends of lines but also sometimes in the middle, which keeps each page fresh and fun. 

When Lemon returns home after not finding the party and hits upon the idea of being the one to host it, the promise that “there’s a party inside” is fulfilled in an unexpected way. An interactive page gets readers involved in the party preparations and will make them feel both included and empowered to invite others to their own party—or just to make new friends. 

Sabine Timm’s illustrations, created with found objects, burst with childlike imagination and endearing personalities. Each page is a showstopper that kids and adults will want to explore together to soak up all the details. And you don’t have to stop there! Each character—from Lemon to the yarn cat and clothespin rabbit to the paintbrush dog and soccer-loving log boy (see Sabine’s answer to question 2 in her interview below)—offers up an opportunity for readers to have fun creating their backstories, imagining what they’re doing when Lemon first encounters them, and guessing what their favorite part of the party is. But wait! The party isn’t over yet! The front and back endpapers, full of tiny objects from the story, give families a super search-and-find game to do together.

Full of humor, whimsy, imagination, and the joys of inclusive friendship. Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! will quickly become a family favorite to read again and again. The book would make a terrific gift and one you’ll want in your home, school, or public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Hippo Park, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662640001

Meet Jamie Michalak

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Jamie Michalak is a children’s book writer, who loves toast, dogs, and toast shaped like dogs. She is the author of Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! illustrated by Sabine Timm. Jamie’s other titles include the multiple starred reviewed Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites, co-written with Debbi Michiko Florence and illustrated by Yuko Kato-Jones; Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter, illustrated by Kelly Murphy; the Frank and Bean early reader series, illustrated by Bob Kolar, and the Joe and Sparky early readers series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. She lives with her family in Rhode Island.

You can connect with Jamie Michalak on her website | Instagram | Twitter

This story feels so fresh—whimsical, comical, and surprising.  I’d love to have you talk about how your story came to be and your writing process for it.

Thank you! Long ago, I jotted down the title and idea for this story—an interactive picture book with a different party on every page that the reader was invited to join. But I never wrote it. Several years later, my agent, Victoria Wells Arms, told me that editor Jill Davis was looking for a manuscript for artist Sabine Timm. So I checked out Sabine’s irresistible art on Instagram.

I instantly fell in love with her characters and wanted to write a story that included as many of them as possible. That’s when my old idea for COME ON IN; THERE’S A PARTY IN THIS BOOK! came to mind. I wrote the story and threw a party for Sabine’s characters—cats wearing boots and fruits dressed in suits, pigeons named Fred, and dogs made of bread. As it turns out, this party was just waiting for the right guests to get it started!

The idea of anthropomorphizing everyday objects is so interesting, especially as it’s a practice universal to adults and kids. As a storyteller, do you think this is just part of human nature or do we learn it in childhood?

That’s a fascinating question! I’m not sure. But I do love how children and children book creators are always turning inanimate objects into characters. A hot dog and baked bean can be new friends who form a band called The Chili Dogs. Or the salt and pepper shakers might face off in a talent competition before dinner arrives. Life is more interesting when you use your imagination.

The story lends itself so well to the “search and find” fun of Sabine’s illustrations. Was this also part of your intention as you crafted the story?

It wasn’t, but you’re right! I discovered all of the seek-and-find elements, just like readers will, when I first saw Sabine’s illustrations. There are so many whimsical details that I spot new ones with every read.

Every page is so creatively put together, but do you have a favorite spread in the book?

The cats wearing boots spread is one of my favorites from any picture book ever. How did Sabine create a cat from a small ball of yarn and sassy plastic doll boots? I mean … the BEST!

What would you like kids to take away from the story?

Everyone is invited to this book’s party—and that’s what makes the last spreads, starring all of the characters, the most joyful of all. I hope that readers take away that parties are more fun when no one is left out.

Do you have any special events or other marketing planned that you’d like to tell readers about?

Here’s a video “Welcome to Sabine Timm’s Studio” that introduces readers to Sabine Timm and Lemon. Then Sabine gives a tutorial on how they can make a character of their own. a link to a video “Welcome to Sabine Timm’s Studio – the illustrator of COME ON IN.”

And here’s a short bit of animation showing closeups of the objects that make up the book cover.

What’s up next for you?

I’m excited about several books coming out next year. The first is a picture book about a tiny treasure hunt set in a Parisian bookshop: DAKOTA CRUMB AND THE SECRET BOOKSHOP illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Candlewick Press). It’s the follow-up to DAKOTA CRUMB: TINY TREASURE HUNTER about an Indiana Jones-ish mouse. The third Frank and Bean early reader, FRANK AND BEAN: THE STINKY FEET MONSTER, illustrated by Bob Kolar (Candlewick Press), is a hilarious take on Bigfoot. And two Chicken Soup for the Soul for Kids books—THE SUNSHINE GARDEN, illustrated by Jenna Nahyun Chung, and PLAYDATE (WITH BEAR TOO?), illustrated by Katie Mazeika—will be released from Charlesbridge.

Thanks, Jamie, for taking time to chat with me todat! Finding new book of yours is always a reason to celebrate! 

Meet Sabine Timm

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Sabine Timm calls herself an artist, creator, beach-trash collector, flea-market lover, and photographer. She draws, paints, assembles and shares her work nonstop on Instagram. She lives in Dusseldorf Germany, but has fans from around the globe.

You can connect with Sabine Timm on Facebook | Instagram

Hi Sabine! I’m so thrilled to have a chance to talk with you about your incredible illustrations! As your 168K Instagram followers would, I’m sure, agree, your adorable creations are not only awe-inspiring but always bring a smile. Can you tell readers how you got started doing this kind of art?

It’s hard to say when I started making art like this. I always had a big interest in playing with found objects. When I was a child, I collected various things from nature. Shreds, sticks, seeds, buttons I’ve found on the streets etc.

I always loved the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen and I was very much inspired by the hidden life of things in his stories. Many years later when I became a mother myself we had holidays at the sea and me and my son made a beach walk. We found a lot of funny things…a broken flip-flop, a red-checked French-fries bag, sandblasted wood sticks, small rope pieces, bottle caps, shells, feathers, and stuff like this.

Together we started playing, and we made characters from this found trash. We transformed trash to treasures…through our eyes and visions the things got a second life. I was deeply fascinated by these experiences, and I continued in arranging and photographing characters like this.

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

When you look at an object, do you immediately see its potential to become something else? I’m thinking of the sofa you made from crackers that appeared on your Instagram page recently.

When I work with found or everyday objects there two options. Sometimes the objects themselves are attractive (colour, shape, size) and while looking at these things I get an inspiration. For example, the Swedish bread that became an upholstered sofa.

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

The other option is that I have the plan of creating a special character and I go around in my home or in my studio and look around for something that works.

I always try to look at the things around me with the eyes of a child. Forgetting about function and use, I enjoy playing and arranging.

For example the little tree trunk character from the book….I found the miniature soccer shoes at the flea market and I came back to my studio where I had a box with collected objects from nature. I immediately had the idea of a little tree trunk boy who loves playing soccer!

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Come On In! is your debut picture book. What were your first impressions when you read Jamie’s manuscript?

I was totally thrilled!!! All my characters united in such a wonderful story! When I read the lovely text for the first time I could hardly believe that Jamie has never been in my studio.

She pictured everything so detailed and gripping. Jamie wrote a charming story of cohesion and team spirit. I love the rhymes and the imaginative language.

I’m so happy to have in Jamie an author who empathizes so much with my characters. Come on In! invites everyone to have a great time together, and I was inspired from the first moment! 

Your scenes in Come On In! are beyond adorable. Can you share a little bit about your process in creating them?

So let’s go into my studio . . .

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Here I will show you something about my working process. In the very first beginnings of this book, I started with sketches and scribbles to get an idea of the story and the characters.

When I want to build and arrange a scene, I usually start with the characters! When they “come to life“ I start playing and letting them interact with each other. I take a lot of test photos to see how it works.

Next step is building the background or finding the location. In the case of a cardboard background I recycle used boxes and cut them into the right size. I cut out windows and build doors and in the end I paint. 

When I just have to find a nice location, I pack all my utensils and my camera. I never go out before checking the weather forecast (no rain and wind, please)!

For example, the scenery with the pigeons is arranged on my studio rooftop even though I had built a nice cardboard roof, but it didn’t work as I imagined. I changed my plans and placed all the pigeons on the real rooftop…this was an authentic and perfect place for a crazy party with sunflower seed snacks and drinks and music! Adding these kind of items is like the icing on the cake!

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Did you have a favorite part of the story to create an assemblage for? What made it stand out for you?

It’s hard to make a decision…each assemblage is unique and special.

Creating the characters of fruits and bread was a great fun. Working with edible materials is particularly appealing to me—it is easy to get and you can eat it up when the work is done. (I have to say…sometimes I can’t eat them when they are looking at me so sweetly.)

For the kitchen scene, I was so happy that I could use my lovely vintage furnishings I’d collected for my photo arrangements years before.

I found the perfect buns and cakes to assemble the characters—Mr. Bear looked like a fantastic pastry chef and little bunny girl in her crunchy dress was so photogenic! Very same with the fruits-in-suits scene—in the beginning there is just a bag with fruits and vegetables, and after a few hours you have a gallery of fruity friends!

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

 

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

What are you hoping to inspire in readers with your illustrations?

I hope I can inspire the readers to realise that the best thing in life is coming together, having a good time, respecting each other, and celebrating the uniqueness of each being.

Lemon takes the initiative, and I hope she will empower the readers to do the same.

What would you like for children to take away from your illustrations in this book?

Children are so creative, and I would like for my illustrations to encourage them to play with anything they find around at home, in nature. or wherever. They don’t need to buy new and expensive Playmobil or Lego figures…just a lemon can become a friend.

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Image courtesy of Sabine Timm

Thanks, Sabine, for sharing so much of your creative process and all of these images! I’m sure readers are excited to read the book—and to stretch their creativity! I wish you all the best with Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book!

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You can find Come On In: There’s a Party in this Book! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 16 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Sure, this month-long holiday is called Read a New Book Month, but what if you’re just itching to draw in a book? Sometimes those empty margins and chapter-opening pages seem to call out for embellishment. That’s where today’s book comes in! Every page (yes, every page!) invites kids to get out their colored pencils, markers, and crayons to add their own creative flair to make it truly their own.

Thanks to Cicada Books for sharing a digital copy of Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination

By Jurg Lindenberger

 

A child’s imagination is boundless – and so is their desire to find lots of different ways to express it. In Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination, Jurg Lindenberger gives kids a ticket to travel to wacky worlds where they get to do all sorts of things, like stock the shelves of silly stores, wind their way through the maze that is Megaburb, design cozy outfits for staying warm while skiing in Frostonika, and create delicious drinks to sip while lounging on the beach of LazyIsle.

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Copyright Jurg Lindenberger, 2022, courtesy of Cicada Books.

All along the way, from packing a suitcase and navigating Catwick Airport to getting onboard the pencil plane and touching down in Vectoland, Fruitnveg Megaburb, Frostonika, LazyIsle, Olde-Forest, and Crystal Castles, whimsical friends greet readers with enthusiastic smiles and humorous comments.

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Copyright Jurg Lindenberger, 2022, courtesy of Cicada Books.

A friendly narrator also keeps up a running conversation with kids that prompts them to add people, things, and even themselves to the pages. There are mazes, search-and-find and find-the-differences puzzles, a color-by-number scene, and many other ways for kids to stretch their creativity while being entertained to boot. 

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Copyright Jurg Lindenberger, 2022, courtesy of Cicada Books.

Jurg Lindenberger knows what will get kids giggling and drawing, and his easy comical flair makes every page fun (with even a little geometry thrown in). Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination is a perfect stowaway for trips by train, plane, or automobile to make those miles fly by as well as an engaging way to keep kids busy on rainy days or at the kitchen table and family room during relaxing time. 

Ages 4 – 11

Cicada Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1800660106

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Head in the Clouds Biplane

 

If you love airplanes and flying, you’ll have fun making your own plane from recycled materials! Use your creativity to decorate your plane while you imagine yourself flying through the clouds on a beautiful day. Younger children will have fun sharing this activity with an adult or older sibling too!

Supplies

  • Travel-size toothpaste box
  • 3 6-inch x 1/2-inch craft sticks
  • 2  2 1/2-inch x 7/8-inch mini craft sticks
  • 5 Round toothpicks, with points cut off
  • Paint in whatever colors you like for your design
  • 4 small buttons
  • 2 mini buttons
  • Paint brushes
  • Strong glue or glue gun

Directions

  1. Empty toothpaste box
  2. Paint toothpaste box and decorate it
  3. Paint the craft sticks and 5 toothpicks
  4. Paint one small craft stick to be the propeller
  5. Let all objects dry

To assemble the biplane

  1. For the Bottom Wing – Glue one 6-inch-long craft stick to the bottom of the plane about 1 inch from the end of the box that is the front of the plane
  2. For the Top Wing – Glue the other 6-inch-long craft stick to the top of the plane about 1 inch from the front of the plane
  3. For the Tail – Glue one mini craft stick to the bottom of the box about ¾ inches from the end that is the back of the plane
  4. For the Vertical Rudder – Cut the end from one of the painted 6-inch-long craft sticks, glue this to the back of the box, placing it perpendicular against the edge and half-way between each side

To assemble the front wheels

  1. Cut 4 painted toothpicks to a length of ¾-inches long
  2. Cut one painted toothpick to a length of 1-inch long
  3. Glue 2 of the 3/4-inch toothpicks to the back of 1 button, the ends of the toothpicks on the button should be touching and the other end apart so the toothpicks form a V
  4. Repeat the above step for the other wheel
  5. Let the glue dry
  6. Glue the 1-inch long toothpick between the wheels at the center of each wheel to keep them together and give them stability. Let dry

To make the back wheel

  1. Cut two ¼-inch lengths of painted toothpick and glue them together. Let dry
  2. Glue two mini buttons together to form the back wheel. Let dry
  3. Glue the ¼-inch toothpicks to the mini buttons. Let dry
  4. Glue these to the bottom of the plane in the center of the box directly in front of and touching the tail

Display your biplane!

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You can find Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 14 – Live Creative Day

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About the Holiday

National Live Creative Day was established to encourage people to embrace their innovative side. There are so many ways to be creative from the arts to science to sports to how you express yourself. Kids seem to know this inherently as they go about exploring and interacting with all the new things they see, hear, and do every day. Introducing kids to all kinds of hobbies, subjects, and professions expands their definition of creativity and their outlook on the future. Encouraging them to use their particular talents, helps them build confidence and find their place in the world. Reading today’s book with them is a great way to start! To celebrate today, take time to share your talents with others. You may be surprised at how creative you really are!

Thanks go to Beach Lane Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Annette Feels Free with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid

Written by Katie Mazeika

 

It was early 1900 and teenage Annette Kellerman was making a splash at Australia’s Melbourne Aquarium. She “was a real-life mermaid swimming and dancing with the fish…” to entertain visitors. The newspapers wrote about her, and people flocked to watch. Annette had always loved the freedom she felt while dancing, but when she was six, her legs became too weak for her to dance or to run or even to walk without braces. Sitting at home, Annette was no longer the happy little girl she had been.

Then one day, her father took Annette to swim in Lavender Bay. “She laughed and danced in the waves, kicking her legs. Splash, splash!” Annette swam so much that “she became the strongest swimmer in New South Wales” and no longer needed her leg braces. In addition to performing, Annette raced and soon she had broken all of Australia’s long-distance swimming records. She then moved to London and thrilled audiences there.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ANNETTE-FEELS-FREE-aquarium

Copyright Katie Mazeika, 2022, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Annette and her father then traveled throughout Europe and America, where Annette performed her water dancing and raced against other swimmers—men included—and won. But there was one thing that was holding her back from even greater success—her swim costume. “Because she was a woman, she still had to perform and compete in a full skirt and pantaloons.” Why, she thought, did she have to wear something different and so cumbersome?

Annette decided to sew her own swim costume. Her new one-piece suit with short legs was so liberating. She felt as she had as a girl first learning to swim and dance in Lavender Bay. But not everyone saw her swimsuit in the same light. When she wore it to the beach in Boston, the crowd was shocked, and she was even arrested for “not wearing enough clothing!” Arguing her case in front of a judge, Annette showed the court the difference in men’s and women’s swimwear and stated that she should have the same freedom as men. The judge agreed, but with a caveat: she had to remain covered up all the way to the water’s edge. Her new swimwear became a hit with other women, who even called it the Annette Kellerman.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ANNETTE-FEELS-FREE-dancing

Copyright Katie Mazeika, 2022, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Annette’s career continued to take her all over the world and even made her a movie star! She trained other women in “ornamental swimming”, which later became known as “synchronized swimming.” Now called “artistic swimming”, Annette Kellerman’s revolutionary style is a recognized sport at the Summer Olympics.

Back Matter includes an expanded biography of Annette Kellerman, complete with photographs, and an Author’s Note about Katie Mazeika’s own experiences with a physical disability and how these life-changing occurrences shape who someone is and the careers they pursue.

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Copyright Katie Mazeika, 2022, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

A comprehensive and compelling biography of a woman who broke barriers while advocating for women and changing fashion mores forever, Annette Feels Free is historical storytelling at its best. Katie Mazeika clearly links Annette’s early disability, her perseverance, and her recovery to her recognition of her unique talent. Mazeika’s conversational narrative draws readers into Annette’s emotions and passion for swimming. Historical points of interest—women’s swim costumes, hot cocoa sipped mid-swim across the English Channel, Annette’s success in court, and her continued influence on swimming, for example—will amaze children and spark a desire to investigate more about Annette Kellerman and her times.

Mazeika’s full-bleed illustrations in this slightly oversized book lend grandeur to the pages, bringing readers into the aquarium’s fish tank to watch spectators’ reactions as Annette becomes “the original mermaid”; depicting her early love of dancing and distress at her braced legs; and falling with her as she thrills London audiences with graceful dives. Children will be particularly fascinated by images of Annette swimming, diving, and dancing in the proscribed swimming costume for women that included a cap and dress trimmed in lace, pantaloons, tights, and ballet-flat type shoes tied to her ankles. Her self-confidence and indomitable spirit grace each spread and are sure to inspire readers. 

For young readers, Annette Kellerman’s long, prolific, and creative career has the power to inspire their own creative endeavors. Annette Feels Free offers multilevel opportunities for lessons in history, the arts, and even math and science (how much did that swim costume weigh, anyway?). The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1665903431

Katherine Mazeika is an author and illustrator with a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design. When she isn’t in the studio, she likes to spend time at the theater, in her garden, or getting lost in a good book. She lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids (Lillian and Jack), and two dogs.

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To learn more, and download a free curriculum guide, visit her website at katiemazeika.com. You can connect with Katie on Facebook: Katie Mazeika Illustration | Instagram: @kdmazart | Twitter: @kdmaz

Live Creative Day Activity

 

Video of Annette Kellerman’s “Ornamental Swimming”

 

Watch Annette Kellerman swim her water ballet in this rare footage from MermaidFX.

Million Dollar Mermaid Movie Scene

 

Now watch a thrilling scene from the movie Million Dollar Mermaid, the 1952 biopic about Annette Kellerman’s life starring Esther Williams, whose career was inspired by Kellerman.

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You can find Annette Feels Free at these booksellers at

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 8 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Read a New Book Month is a fantastic time to scour your local bookstore and library for books that have recently been published or books that are new to you. Finding a book that you’ve never read before is exciting at any age, and discovering a new book about a favorite topic is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Today’s board book is definitely one that will spark a love for reading and learning in children who are just discovering the wonder of books.

Thanks go to Danna Smith and Little Simon for sharing a digital copy of Wake Up Freight Train! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Wake Up, Freight Train!

Written by Danna Smith | Illustrated by Jon Andersen

 

For the townspeople it’s time for sleeping, but down at the train station, things are just getting underway as the freight train prepares for its nighttime run. First things first, however. It’s time to rouse the cars one by one. “Choo-choo! Wake up, steam engine, alone on your track. Let’s hook up the freight cars to the hitch on your back.”

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Image copyright Jon Andersen, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Second in line is the tender that carries the coal. Behind it are cars three, four, and five with supplies for building and heating. Car six is the hopper then …  “Cattle car coming! You’re filled with fresh hay, / hauling some heifers, moooooving this way.” The boxcar follows and finally, “it’s your turn, caboose! / Let’s hook you up fast. / The crew rides in you— / you’re the car that goes last.”

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Image copyright Jon Andersen, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Little Simon.

With all the cars hitched and the coal bin full, the train rolls out of the station. “Toot-toot goes the horn, / blink-blink go the lights, / clang-clang goes the bell, all through the night.” The train chugs over hills and across fields until, with the dawning sun, it arrives at its destination and “our freight train’s long journey has come to an end.”

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Image copyright Jon Andersen, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Little (and big) train lovers will adore Danna Smith’s rhyming tribute to freight trains that carry goods and animals across states, and sometimes across the country. Smith’s introduction to each type of car is infused with childlike wonder and that special conversational relationship young children have with the world around them. As readers greet each car, they not only learn information about the car’s load and role but hear internal rhymes, alliteration, and even a few puns—all building blocks for early literacy. Smith’s gentle rhythm, paired with the nighttime setting, also makes Wake Up, Freight Train! a perfect read aloud for bedtime.

Jon Andersen’s beautiful, soft blues and greens of a starlit night will put little ones in the mood to be carried into dreamland even as they discover how each different car looks and what it carries. The changing landscape behind each pair of train cars offer interest and continuity while also giving kids an opportunity to talk about how long this train is. Sleepy animals come out to watch as the cars are hitched together, reminding little readers that it might just be bedtime for them too, and the peek of pink on the horizon in the last spread reassures them that tomorrow will come soon.

Wake Up, Freight Train! delightfully captures young children’s fascination with trains and is sure to become a favorite for bedtime (or anytime). The book is highly recommended for home bookshelves; daycare, school, and public library collections; and as a gift for babies and preschoolers.

Ages 2 – 4

Little Simon, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534492516

Discover more about Danna Smith and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jon Andersen and view a portfolio of his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Freight Train Coloring Page

 

Who doesn’t love a train?! With this coloring sheet, kids can make their train as colorful as they want! They may even want to add a few animals and birds to the background!

Freight Train Coloring Page

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You can find Wake Up, Freight Train! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review