January 27 – National Chocolate Cake Day

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About the Holiday

Cake

Written by Sue Hendra | Illustrated by Paul Linnet

 

Cake had received an invitation to a party. “He’d never been to a party before, so he didn’t know what to expect.” He wanted to look his best, though, so he tried on different outfits and asked Fish what he thought. Fish didn’t think the pink parasol, the pirate get up, or the superhero costume were quite right. Fish suggested Cake wear a hat, so Cake went off to the shops in town to find one.

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Image copyright Paul Linnet, 2019, text copyright Sue Hendra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Cake tried on a fedora and a fez, a hat with streamers and a hat with a feather, he even tried on a hat with a full fruit salad on top, but none of these were what he wanted. A shop assistant approached and asked if he could help. Hearing that Cake was going to a party, the shop assistant brought out a hat that he said Cake would look “irresistible” in. Cake couldn’t wait to show Fish.

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Image copyright Paul Linnet, 2019, text copyright Sue Hendra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

At home, Cake put on his new purchase and surprised Fish with the big reveal. Fish took in the drippy icing hat sporting four lit candles and the blue ribbon and exclaimed, “‘You’ve cracked it!’” Cake jumped on his bike and rode to the party. As he rang the doorbell, Cake felt nervous, but everyone welcomed him with cheers and smiles. “‘A party isn’t a party without CAKE!’ they said.” Cake had a great time watching the dancing and games from his place on the table, but when the singing started he got a bad feeling about things. “Suddenly, there was a gust of wind, and everything went black.”

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Image copyright Paul Linnet, 2019, text copyright Sue Hendra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Just then Cake felt a shaky hand grab his, and voice yelled, “‘Quick!’” Cake found himself running through the backyard and over the fence with a slice of pizza, cookies, ice cream, and other treats. They all went to Cake’s house and had a lovely tea party. Meanwhile, back at the party, Piñata rang the bell, hoping he wasn’t too late.

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Image copyright Paul Linnet, 2019, text copyright Sue Hendra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

If your kids enjoy a slice of dark humor, Sue Hendra’s droll party story is a gift they’ll love to open again and again. With clever turns of phrase and by juxtaposing Cake’s naïveté and readers’ birthday party experiences, Hendra invites kids to be active participants in Cake’s adventure. As Cake prepares for his first party, little ones will giggle as he tries on various outfits—sly riffs on popular cake decorations. Cake’s hat reveal provides a laugh-out-loud moment and increases readers’ suspense for what’s to come as Cake attends the party. Hendra’s food flight will delight kids, and the surprise ending gives them one more laugh—and a chance to devise their own story of Piñata’s escape.

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Image copyright Paul Linnet, 2019, text copyright Sue Hendra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Paul Linnet sprinkles his pages with festive party colors, cake-shaped spotlights, and vibrant layers that are the icing to Hendra’s story. With his wide eyes and innocent expression, Cake is a sweetie that will charm little readers. The clueless revelry that Cake and Fish display over the chosen party hat is hilarious, endearing and even a little poignant. Cake’s impromptu tea party for his new foodie friends shows readers there’s a way to party for everyone—as Piñata is sure (hopefully!) to find out too.

For silly story time fun frosted with sweetness and spiced with suspense, Cake is a delectable addition to home, school, and public library book shelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534425507

You can connect with Sue Hendra on Twitter

You can connect with Paul Linnet on Twitter

National Chocolate Cake Day Activity

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Piece of Cake! Maze

 

Help the kids navigate their way through the party while picking up all five cakes so they can get slices of their own in this printable puzzle.

Piece of Cake! Maze Puzzle  | Piece of Cake! Maze Solution 

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You can find Cake at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

January 24 – Global Belly Laugh Day

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About the Holiday

If there’s one thing that unites us all, it’s laughter. A good belly laugh is good for your soul and your health! Today’s holiday encourages and celebrates smiles, laughs, and all the things that bring us joy. It’s also a day to think about and thank those who share their funny stories, fun times, and laughter with us. So celebrate by spending a happy day with friends, telling jokes, watching a funny movie, and reading hilarious books like today’s, which combines a belly and lots of laughs––a perfect match for the holiday!

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse

Written by Mac Barnett | Illustrated by Jon Klassen

 

Early one morning a mouse came face to face with a wolf, “and he was quickly gobbled up.” The mouse was very elegant in his speech and proclaimed, “‘Oh woe!’… ‘Oh me! Here I am, caught in the belly of the beast. I fear this is the end.’” Imagine his surprise when he heard a not-so-elegant voice tell him to “‘Be quiet!’” because the mouse was disturbing his sleep. The mouse demanded to know who was there.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Suddenly, the wolf’s belly was illuminated by the flame of a candle, and the mouse saw a duck sitting up in bed. “‘Oh,’” he said. The duck was a bit perturbed by the mouse’s low-key response, especially since he had been wakened in the middle of the night. Now, though, it was the duck’s turn to be surprised as the mouse told him that it was not the  middle of the night outside, but only morning. The duck admitted that he wished “this belly had a window or two,” and then graciously offered to make breakfast.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The mouse declared the breakfast “‘delicious,’” and inquired where the duck found jam and a tablecloth. He may also have been curious about the dishware, the bread, and even the table, chairs, and framed picture, but he was satisfied with the duck’s answer that “‘you’d be surprised what you find inside of a wolf.’” As the duck continued to talk about his home, the mouse was astonished to learn that the duck lived there. “‘I live well!’” the duck said and went on to explain: “‘I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten.’”

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Making lunch was a joint effort, and when the mouse asked if the duck missed living outside, he emphatically stated, “‘I do not!’” It seemed that when he was outside, the duck was full of the fear of being eaten. Inside, he was free of that worry. The mouse considered the wisdom of this notion and asked if he could live there too. The duck agreed and then played a record and danced a celebratory jig.

All this commotion was making the wolf feel sick. He attributed his aches and pains to something he ate. The duck was no doctor, but he was clever. He shouted up from the depths of the wolf’s belly and gave him “the cure.” According to the duck, ingesting “‘a hunk of good cheese…a flagon of wine…and some beeswax candles’” would do the trick and make him better.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

That night the mouse and the duck ate like kings and toasted the wolf’s good health. But the wolf was not feeling robust. In fact, he felt worse. A passing hunter heard the wolf groaning. He raised his gun and pulled the trigger, but he missed. Realizing what the blast meant, the duck yelled for the wolf to “‘run for our lives!’” In trying to escape, however, the wolf got tangled in the roots of an old tree.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The duck and the mouse determined that that very night they would “‘ride to defend [their] home.’” When they were ready, the wolf opened his mouth, and the mouse and duck—armed with a hockey stick, protected with sauce pan and colander helmets, and yelling “‘Charge!’”—flew out and chased the hunter. “‘Oh woe!’” he cried. “‘Oh death! These woods are full of evil and wraiths!’” He ran and ran until he left the forest, and he never returned.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The wolf was humbled by the sacrifice the mouse and the duck had made for him and offered to grant any request. “You can guess what they asked for.” And while they continue to dance the never-ending night away, “the wolf howls at the moon. ‘Oh woe! Oh woe!’ Every night he howls at the moon.”

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Remember when the Big Bad Wolf gobbled up Granny and Little Red Riding Hood and they survived in his belly until the huntsman cut them out? How was that possible? Mac Barnett reveals the inner workings of this conundrum in this laugh-out-loud fable. The archaic, melodramatic dialog will have readers giggling and participating aloud, as they have to agree with the ingenious duck’s “when life gives you lemons…” philosophy. It’s a good attitude to adopt as we all “get swallowed up” at some point. The trick is learning how to turn misfortune into fortune—or at least a fortunate happenstance. The suitably silly, non-sentimental circumstances will delight kids who relish a bit of the macabre—and, really, who doesn’t?

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2017, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jon Klassen brings his signature deadpan style to this funny story, enhancing the humor with his matter-of-fact drawings that let the scenes speak eloquently and humorously for themselves. As the recently gobbled-up mouse sits gazing forlornly into the wolf’s cavernous belly, readers will experience a tickle of suspense imagining what else lies within. When kids see the stash of good stuff the duck has amassed, their little eyes will grow wide with delight. This amusingly dark tale is fittingly lit with candlelight, the errant blast of the hunter’s gun, and the full moon that hears the wolf’s lament. 

Put the The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse on your bookshelf and it won’t stay idle long. For quirky, comical home, classroom, and library story times this book can’t be eat…I mean beat.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763677541

Discover more about Mac Barnett and his books on his website.

You’ll find a gallery of illustration work by Jon Klassen on tumblr.

You know you want to gobble up this The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse book trailer! 

Global Belly Laugh Day Activity

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Made You Laugh! Word Search Puzzle

 

Humor and laughing are such a part of our lives that there are lots of words for this universal emotion. Can you find all the words for laughter in this printable puzzle?

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

Picture Book Review

January 23 – Measure Your Feet Day

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About the Holiday

While we may not really consider that when our feet are happy, we’er happy, we all know that when our feet are unhappy, so are we. Today’s holiday has its roots in ancient Icelandic springtime celebrations but has developed into a day when we take extra care of our feet. This pampering can take many forms, including a nice warm soak, a pedicure, or making sure that our shoes fit well and give our feet the support they need. To celebrate today, give your feet a little extra attention.

Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore

Written by Susan Wood | Illustrated by Steliyana Doneva

 

A day at the beach includes a bit of animal tracking as a brother and sister and their puppy romp and play as ocean creatures go about their day. Near the ocean’s edge, they find “wading feet, / sandpiper hops, / water curls and sprays. / Crawling feet, / click-clack crab scuttles on its way.”

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2019, text copyright Susan Wood, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Seagulls and pelicans looking for a snack leave webbed prints on the sandy shore while underwater “wriggling feet, / on five orange legs, sea star makes its way.” A turtle on her way to dig her nest mingles her distinctive track with familiar five-toed footprints that run back and forth from the water to a tall sand castle. But the most surprising feet are “buried feet, / children laugh, / Daddy’s toes poke through.” At last, as the sun sets, tired feet head home.

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2019, text copyright Susan Wood, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Back matter includes a short discussion about ecology and prompts children to become “ecology detectives” at home, observing the tracks of creatures who live nearby, or on a hike to the forest, beach, or park. Photographs and descriptions of the sea creatures mentioned in the text teaches children more about these animals and how they move.

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2019, text copyright Susan Wood, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Susan Wood’s short, dynamic rhyming verses are a perfect way to entice young scientists to keep their eyes on the ground and observe tracks that can tell them about the creatures that traverse their backyard, playground, beach, park, or woods. Wood’s evocative vocabulary mirrors the action of the ocean as it “curls and sprays” and the animals who hop, scuttle, and wriggle to find food and shelter. Readers will also enjoy following the family who has come to spend the day at the beach with their lively dog in tow.

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Steliyana Doneva takes kids to the seashore in her lovely illustrations in which the aqua sea froths and bubbles, inviting swimmers, and the peach-hued sand preserves footprints, turtle eggs, and a growing sand castle—all overseen by a stalwart lighthouse. Kids get an up-close look at sandpipers, crabs, seagulls, pelicans, sea stars, barnacles, a turtle, and other fish as well as ocean and dune grasses. At the end of the day as the family heads home, Doneva’s beautiful sunset offers a perfect moment of quiet cuddle time during which readers can happily match the footprints on the final spread to the animals they’ve learned about in the story.

A terrific take-along for trips to the beach or a primer for outdoor jaunts, Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? makes for a fun and educational addition to home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-158536409

Discover more about Susan Wood and her books on her website.

Measure Your Feet Day Activity

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Whose Shoes? Matching Puzzle

 

These kids are getting out and enjoying nature! Can you help them find the right shoes so they can start their adventures in this printable puzzle?

Whose Shoes? Matching Puzzle

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You can find Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 22 – Celebration of Life Day COVER REVEAL of Finding Beauty and Interview with Talitha Shipman

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About the Holiday

I’m excited to be sharing the cover of Finding Beauty on Celebrate Life Day. The holiday is all about honoring what makes each of our children and grandchildren truly unique. It’s also a wonderful day to think about all the beautiful things in the world that make you celebrate life. Reading Finding Beauty, coming from Beaming Books in October 2020, with your children will inspire them to discover their own exceptional character. 

Finding Beauty

By Talitha Shipman

 

You are beautiful from the top of your head to the tip of your toes—but beauty is far more than something you can have. It’s also something you have to find. In other people. In nature. In acts of kindness. In math, and art, and music, and sports.

In this beautiful inspirational book for girls, author-illustrator Talitha Shipman turns the concept of beauty inside out, transforming girls into beauty-seeking adventurers charging out into the world with confidence and ambition to find beauty and make beauty wherever they go.

Ages 4 – 8 

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506463797

Finding Beauty releases on October 20, 2020. The book is now available for preorder.

When a book is this stirring, you just can’t wait to see it! But before I reveal the cover of Finding Beauty, I talk with author and illustrator Talitha Shipman.

A Talk with Talitha Shipman

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Talitha Shipman is a picture book author and illustrator born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her favorite subjects to paint are wild kids and wild animals. Nature inspires Talitha’s painting, and she hopes her work encourages curiosity and creativity in children of all ages.

Talitha has worked with publishers large and small. Her books include the Sidney Taylor Honor recipient Everybody Says Shalom by Leslie Kimmelman (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2015); an American Farm Bureau Recommended Read, Applesauce Day by Lisa Amstutz (Albert Whitman, 2017); a 2019 IPPY Silver Medalist, First Snow by Nancy Viau (Albert Whitman, 2018); and On Your Way written by John Coy and published by Beaming Books. Finding Beauty is Talitha’s first author/illustrator adventure.

Talitha lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with her husband and their three-year-old wild child, Coral.

You can connect with Talitha Shipman on her website.

Welcome, Talitha! I’m so thrilled to be hosting the cover reveal of your latest book and to get this opportunity to chat with you about your inspiration and what what you hope children will take away from Finding Beauty.

The message in Finding Beauty is so important for children and, really, adults too. What inspired you to write this story?

My daughter is my greatest inspiration for Finding Beauty. I’ve been turning over the concept of how we perceive beauty for a long time, though. This book is me trying to express something that often feels overwhelming for me to put into words, but I’m trying my best! In the past few years, there has been an admirable effort to widen what we call beautiful among women. You see much more diversity in advertising and even clothing catalogs, but I wanted to go further, to shift my thinking outward instead of inward. As women, we still are bombarded by messages that you have to work towards this unattainable standard of beauty to be fulfilled. It can result in focusing on ourselves rather than the world around us, but what if we could train ourselves to see that outside beauty more often? Would we be less likely to fall into those traps that culture lays for us? Would we develop a notion of beauty that didn’t depend on our looks? I hope this book can ask some of those questions for my daughter and other young girls. 

As the author and the illustrator of the book, which came first, the story or the imagery?

For me, words usually come first. The central idea of this story hit me early in the morning. Most of my book ideas come to me right when I wake up! But some of the visual elements in the book—floating dandelion seeds and what I’m calling “beauty sparkles”, a visual representation of an abstract idea—came pretty soon after the initial concept landed in my mind. 

Could you talk about your illustration process in bring the story to life? 

I tend to work in very rough sketches first to get ideas out of my head and onto the paper. They are not pretty, but they help me get started. I do many sketches to figure out a character’s design. I do a lot of research too. For this book, I observed friends’ kids and my own daughter to develop character designs. After I finish rough drawings, I refine my ideas into tighter sketches that I use as a base for my final illustrations.

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With this book, I’m doing something a little different and adding traditional watercolor to my illustrations. For years I’ve painted digitally, so this is a big step for me, going back to traditional techniques. I’m melding hand-painted elements with digital painting; it’s the best of both worlds because you get the spontaneous nature of watercolor, but you can always go back and fix things in photoshop. 

The cover for Finding Beauty is so expressive and full of joy. How was this particular image chosen? 

Early on, when I was first pitching the manuscript, I did an illustration of a girl painting a mural. The editor at Beaming loved it, so we knew we were going to use a modified version of that illustration. I did three sketches with the girl in various poses.

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She was painting in a couple of examples, but in one sketch, she was skipping along looking over her shoulder at the beauty sparkles and some floral elements. The editor loved the movement in this piece, so we went with that instead of the painting concept. There are still some subtle elements of the mural present, and the mural shows up in an interior spread as well. 

As an artist, I imagine you see beauty everywhere. What is something that you find beautiful that might surprise readers?

I must be part crow because I love anything sparkly! Sparkly concrete is fantastic. If you’ve never noticed it before, start paying attention to sidewalks. Some sidewalks have crunched up minerals mixed in, probably quartz, that makes them glitter in the sun. I tend to find most of my inspiration in nature. I love walking in the woods in winter. It can seem dreary, but if you start paying attention to details, you see that the forest isn’t dead. There are little plants huddled under the fallen leaves, and there are buds on branches just waiting for spring to come.

Thanks for sharing how Finding Beauty and especially the cover came to be! I’m sure that readers are looking forward to October when this book finds its way to bookstores. I know I am!

And now I’m thrilled to reveal…

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On Your Way Giveaway

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I’m excited to partner with Beaming Books in a Twitter giveaway of 

  • Five (5) copies of On Your Way, written by John Coy | illustrated by Talitha Shipman. This sweet book follows the milestones of a child and the endearing and enduring pride and love every parent feels as they watch their child grow up.

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Follow Beaming Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with something you find beautiful for an extra entry (each reply gives you one more entry).

This giveaway is open from January 22 through January 28 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Winners will be chosen on January 29. 

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

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You can preorder Finding Beauty at these booksellers

AmazonBooks-a-Million | IndieBound

January 21 – National Hugging Day and Interview with Vikki VanSickle

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About the Holiday

Hugs are good medicine! Giving and receiving hugs releases oxytocin, a hormone that provides a wide-range of health benefits. Getting a hug can reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and lower one’s risk of heart disease. Established to encourage people to show more emotion in public, National Hugging Day gives people the opportunity to give—or ask for—a nice, big hug!

I received a copy of Teddy Bear of the Year from Tundra Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m delighted to be partnering with Tundra Books in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Teddy Bear of the Year

Written by Vikki VanSickle | Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

 

Ollie loved his job as Amena’s teddy bear. During the week his shift ran from three in the afternoon to after breakfast the next day. “On weekends and in the summer he was on call twenty-four hours a day.” Every day, Ollie looked forward to the moment when Amena came home and told him all about her adventures. “At night, when he snuggled in next to Amena, he would think about her stories and smile.”

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Vikki VanSickle, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

One night as Amena slept, Ollie saw a “shining silver sailboat” outside her window. The captain (Snuggles, aka The Snug) called to him and told him he was there to bring Ollie to the Teddy Bear’s Picnic. The picnic, Snuggles explained, was put on each summer by the Teddy Bears’ Association “to celebrate the year in teddy-care.” Ollie was excited but wondered about how Amena might feel if she woke up and he wasn’t there.

The Snug told him that for her time would stand still until Ollie returned. With one more cuddle for Amena, Ollie stepped aboard the sailboat. The Snug was impressed by Ollie’s knowledge of his “ABCs: Always Be Cuddling.” Soon, they arrived in the woods, where strings of lights glowed and a stage was set up. When they got closer, “Ollie saw teddies of all shapes and sizes.”

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Vikki VanSickle, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Ollie met some of Snuggles’ friends, ate delicious sweets, played games, and even sang “bearaoke.” At last, Pinkie, the president of the Teddy Bears’ Association, took to the stage to begin the awards ceremony. Boo Bear won a star for comforting her boy through a long hospital stay. Fang received a star for accompanying “his girl, Tina, on her first sleepover party.” And Snuggles was given a star for his years of service to a family of six children and his many adventures.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Vikki VanSickle, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

As Pinkie pinned stars on each of the teddy bears, Ollie “tried to think of a single thing that he had done that deserved a star, but nothing came to mind.” He felt that “he was just an ordinary bear.” But then he hear Pinkie announcing the Teddy Bear of the Year Award and…his name! Ollie couldn’t believe it. “‘I haven’t done anything special at all!’” he said.

But then Pinkie showed him how he’d helped Amena when she fell off her bike and “turned a bad day into a good day” by using the ABCs of teddy-care. The ability to do this is very special Pinkie told him. “‘Even the smallest actions—a cuddle, a kind word, a hug—have great impact’” and help their children feel strong. Pinkie pinned the star on Ollie’s chest and then all the teddy bears celebrated. When the picnic ended, The Snug sailed Ollie home. As Ollie snuggled in next to Amena, he whispered to her all about his adventures, and Amena smiled.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Vikki VanSickle, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Vikki VanSickle’s well-conceived teddy bear world will captivate readers with its sweet combination of magic and reality. Details such as Ollie’s shift schedule and his excitement to hear Amena’s stories when she got home hit just the right note, mirroring both a young child’s imagination and their experience, especially if they have siblings. VanSickle’s message about the importance of kindness and providing comfort is woven naturally into the storyline, increasing its impact and allowing readers to see that simple acts of friendship are just as valuable, and often more so, than large, dramatic acts. Her Teddy Bear Picnic is sprinkled with humor and the kind of fun that makes it a party any child would love to attend.

Sydney Hanson’s illustrations are as soft and fuzzy as Ollie and as warmly glowing as a comforting nightlight. As Amena and Ollie snuggle side by side, the wispy bedroom curtains sway gently then frame the magical sailboat that arrives to take Ollie to the Teddy Bear’s Association picnic. From afar, the get-together in the woods twinkles with shimmering light. As Ollie and readers get closer, they meet a wide variety of teddy bears, from a pirate bear to a lavender koala riding a lavender-and-brown horse to teeny-tiny bears in a rainbow of colors. Kids will recognize the picnic activities from birthday parties and school events, and as all of the teddies gather around the stage, their anticipation for the awards will grow just as Ollie’s do. As readers watch scenes from Amena’s bad day along with Ollie, they see a specific example of how friendship can make anyone feel better.  

Cuddly and endearing, Teddy Bear of the Year will be a favorite for snuggly bedtimes with little ones (and their teddies, of course). The book would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0735263925

Discover more about Vikki VanSickle and her books on her website.

A Chat with Vikki VanSickle

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Welcome back, Vikki! The last time we chatted your mythical and funny If I Had a
Gryphon had just been released. Since then If I Had a Gryphon has been named as a Best Book for Children and won multiple other honors, has been released as a paperback and a board book, and has even been recorded as a rap by some creative students. You’ve also published a award-winning middle grade novel, The Winnowing. Can you catch readers up on these successes and what else you’ve been doing?

Isn’t it bananas how much can happen in four years? I’ve been very fortunate, as you kindly pointed out, to receive such accolades for my books. A highlight was certainly winning the Red Maple Award for The Winnowing at the 2018 Festival of Trees. There’s nothing like bursting into tears in front of your peers and a few hundred readers! I’ve also had a lot of smaller, personal moments with readers who have shared their own artwork or story ideas with me, which I consider a great privilege. In addition to writing and presenting to kids, I am the director of marketing and publicity for the young readers program at Penguin Random House Canada, which means I get to work on amazing kids’ books all day, every day.

Teddy Bear of the Year is super sweet and a great reminder that kind acts are recognized and appreciated. What inspired you to write this story?

Small acts of kindness has always been a big theme for me and it shows up in a lot of my work. In my first novel, Words That Start With B, I wanted to address the idea of bravery with a lower-case b—meaning actions that might not appear typically brave or even noteworthy but made all the difference in the world to someone. This idea has manifested in many ways in all of my work. I am less interested in narratives about saving the world at large, and more interested in what little things we can do every day to change the lives of people around us.

When you’re a kid, so many goals seem huge and out of reach to you. Especially in an increasingly loud and bombastic society it’s easy to feel small or helpless or insignificant. But every major feat consists of a series of smaller actions and decisions and it’s the smaller, everyday things that can change a person’s entire outlook.

Ollie and the other teddy bears in your book reminded me of my own childhood teddy bear, Brownie, who is still with me even after much fur loss and a long-ago surgery to remove the music box that made him a little less cuddly than I wanted. Is there an Ollie in your life? Can you tell readers a little about this special friend?celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Vikki-VanSickle-and-Teddy-Bear-Gang

Vikki and her Teddy Bear Gang

I had a number of cherished stuffed animals that held major roles in my imaginary play and nighttime rituals. I was constantly worried that one would feel ignored or less loved, and therefore took great pains to treat them equally, including rotating which stuffed animal I slept with each night. But one toy did stand out above the rest, and that was a stuffed rabbit named Bunny. I’ve had Bunny as long as I can remember. He’s in pretty rough shape, but currently lives a quiet life of retirement in my closet.

Sydney Hanson’s soft illustrations are so dreamy and I love how all the different teddy bears mirror different kids and what they like. What was your reaction when you first saw her sweet interpretation of your story? Do you have a favorite spread?

I was so thrilled with Sydney’s sweet, fuzzy illustrations. A bedtime story is only as cozy as the art, and I think she really nailed it. I really enjoy the group scenes, especially the spread when Ollie arrives at the picnic for the first time and gets a glimpse of the snacks table. I love how all of the bears, even the unnamed ones, have their own personalities and storylines you can follow throughout the book.

Two of my favorite parts of your story are the Teddy Bear ABCs—which is inspirational for everyone, especially on National Hugging Day—and the idea of Teddy Bear Magic.  What ideas about friendship would you like young readers to take away from your story?

I love that those things resonated with you! The working title of the book was Teddy Bear Magic, which Ollie and the reader first associate with the magic of the flying sailboat and the stoppage of time, but eventually come to realize that the bigger magic is how kindness, comfort, and support can transform someone’s experience. I hope readers recognize that by being kind you have the magical ability to transform someone’s day.

The ABCs of Teddy Care—aka “Always Be Cuddling”—is a reference to the phrase “Always Be Closing,” a business philosophy made famous by the movie (and play) Glengarry Glen Ross. I modeled the Teddy Bear’s Picnic depicted in the book on contemporary office parties, and I got a kick out of taking such a cold corporate mantra and turning it into something warm and fuzzy.

I always enjoy watching your appearances on Your Morning, the Canadian breakfast-time show. You’re such a natural on camera and a fantastic advocate for children’s books. Can you talk about the segments you do and how you became involved with them? Where can people see past segments and when is your next one?

Thanks so much! I’m very much enjoying it. I read a lot and curating lists is something I have always loved doing. It must be my bookselling roots! I had visited CTV Your Morning as an author and chatted with the book producer about themed segments for major book-buying moments, such as back to school, summer reading, and the holidays. The first few segments were popular and so we’ve continued to find other themes—such as building your baby’s library and kids’ books that address mental health and wellness, which aired on January 20th of this year—that would resonate with their audience outside those traditional moments. You can find past clips at theloop.ca, and I also post them on my own website at www.vikkivansickle.com.

From the long events and presentations list on your website, I can tell you love meeting your readers! Do you have an anecdote from any event that you’d like to share?

I really love meeting readers! It’s important for me to stay connected to the audience, especially since I no longer work in a bookstore and I have less “kid contact.” One of my favorite anecdotes happened at an IF I HAD A GRYPHON event with second grade students. I noticed one boy in the front frowning the whole time—which was unusual, not to mention disconcerting— and when it came time for questions his arm shot up and he asked, “Do you know how many species of dragon there are?” I told him that no, I did not know, and he broke into a smile and responded, “Nobody knows. That was a trick question.” I realized he had spent the whole presentation waiting to ask me that question, wondering if I would trip up or give him false information. You can never lie to kids—they smell it a mile away—and it’s important to treat every question seriously. If you don’t respect your audience, why should they respect you?

Before you go, I’m sure readers would love to know if you have any events coming up and what’s up next for you.

I am hosting a whole bunch of Teddy Bear’s Picnics, which you can see posted below. Attendees are invited to bring their own teddy and together we will read the story, have some snacks, and hold our own Teddy Bear Service Awards complete with diplomas for the teddies and stickers and colouring sheets for the kids. I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone’s beloved toys! Tundra also created an amazing downloadable Teddy Bear of the Year event kit so anyone can hold a similar event. You can find that kit on the Tundra website.

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Teddy Bear of the Year Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Tundra Books in Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Teddy Bear of the Year, written by Vikki VanSickle| illustrated by Sydney Hanson

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your or your child’s favorite teddy bear or toy for an extra entry (each reply gives you one more entry).

This giveaway is open from January 21 through January 27 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on January 28. 

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

National Hugging Day Activity

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Teddy Bear of the Year Activity Kit

 

You can hold your own Teddy Bear Picnic with this fun activity kit that includes a puzzle, a coloring sheet, a headband, and even a Teddy Bear of the Year certificate for your special friend. You’ll also find ideas for hosting your own Teddy Bear Service Awards!

Teddy Bear of the Year Activity Kit

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You can find Teddy Bear of the Year at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 20 – Penguin Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

Who can resist those little black-and-white waddlers from a frozen realm? Today’s holiday gives us a chance to enjoy and learn more about one of the world’s favorite animals. To celebrate, research penguins or visit an aquarium, and, of course, read a great penguin book!

Little Penguins

Written by Cynthia Rylant | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

A tiny penguin stands at the window star-struck by the snowflakes floating gently down. Four more penguins join her to see this marvelous sight. There are so “many snowflakes.” Gathered around the window in their igloo home, the penguins are excited that “Winter is coming!” They rush to collect their cold-weather supplies. Out of the basket they pull mittens—a pair for each, red, blue, green, yellow, sage—“and matching scarves.”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Cynthia Rylant. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

With abandon the penguins raid the bureau, scattering socks like colorful confetti. Warm, dry boots get to leave their cubbies after a looong nap. Bundled up, the penguins tumble out into the winter wonderland. They sled and slide on the deep snow. In places they find the snow is top-of-their-boots deeper, and then suddenly waist-high, “very deep.”

Uh-Oh! Suddenly the landscape is blank-page white! Four of the little penguins look in all directions. “Where’s Mama?” No need to fret—Mama’s coming, skimming down the hill on her belly with the fifth tiny penguin. But the sky is darkening and it’s time to head for home. “In the door and off, off, off, off, off!”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

On go the jammies then warm cookies and filled “sippies” satisfy the tummy. Finally, it’s time to snuggle tight under colored blankets and watch the flurries fly because “Winter is here.”

Cynthia Rylant captures the exhilaration kids feel upon the first snow of winter in her delightful concept book. The flurry of activity to dig out the accoutrements of winter provide little readers the perfect opportunity to learn or—in the case of a bit older kids—to show their knowledge of cold-weather apparel, colors, counting skills, and more. Rylant’s gifted way with even the simplest words turns the question-and-answer format of Little Penguins into a lyrical frolic little ones will love.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

In Christian Robinson’s cozy igloo, the eager brightness of the little penguins is highlighted against the mottled textures of sage walls and reflected in the gleaming gray-blue floor. The little home with its fish weather vane and tall chimney sits at the edge of an icy peninsula, perfectly placed for winter play. The five penguins joyfully don their mittens, wave their scarves and toss socks to and fro in their hurry to get dressed and get outside to enjoy the fat, fluffy snowflakes.

Once there, the penguins become tiny dots on the vast, white hill as they sink waist deep, in the snow, glide on their bellies, and welcome Mama, who’s joined the fun. As the penguins remove their snow gear back home, Robinson cleverly stripes the two-page spread in the favorite colors of the individual penguins, creating a striking counterbalance to the snug kitchen to come. An old-fashioned stove, retro accents, and fish, whale, and boat décor wrap up the comfy charm of this superb book for young readers.

With its sweet characters and beautiful illustrations, Little Penguins would be a happy and often-asked-for addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 2 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553507706 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1984830586 (Board Book, 2019)

To learn more about Cynthia Rylant and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of illustration art by Christian Robinson on his website!

Penguin Awareness Day Activity

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Spicy Cool Penguins

 

Don’t throw away those empty spice bottles—instead make these cute penguins with their colorful hats who are just waiting to play!

Supplies

  • Empty glass or plastic spice bottle with cap
  • Black paint
  • White paint OR White fleece or felt
  • Black paper
  • Yellow foam or heavy paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Styrofoam ball (optional)
  • Glue
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Paint the inside of the glass or plastic bottle with the black paint, let dry
  2. From the white fleece, cut an oval for the penguin’s belly and glue it on. Alternatively, paint a white oval on the jar to make a belly. Fleece may be a better option for younger children, as the paint can scratch off glass and plastic surfaces.
  3. Glue googly eyes near the top of the jar, but below the cap
  4. Cut a triangle of yellow foam or paper for the beak and glue it on
  5. Cut two tear shapes for the wings from the black paper. Glue the top of the shape to the body of the penguin, overlapping the belly a little. Fold the tips up
  6. Give your penguins Styrofoam ball snowballs to play with!

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You can find Little Penguins at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 17 – Kid Inventors’ Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates all those ingenious kids who have improved the world with their inventions. This date was chosen to commemorate another child inventor—Benjamin Franklin—who designed the first swim fins when he was just 12 years old! (Seriously, is there nothing this man didn’t or couldn’t do?) With their supple minds and can-do attitudes, kids have changed the ways things are done in the fields of medicine, technology, communications, and even food—as today’s book shows! To learn more about the day and find resources for young inventors, visit the K.I.D website.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut

Written by Pat Miller | Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

 

In 1844 at the tender age of 13, Hanson Gregory left the family farm and went to sea as a cabin boy on the schooner Isaac Achorn. He quickly became the cook’s assistant and also learned how to rig the sails and “steer a ship over trackless waves by sun and stars.” By the age of 19 Gregory had become the captain of the schooner Hardscrabble, and within a few more years was racing “his cargo from Maine to California as commander of a clipper, the fastest ship on any ocean.”

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Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

Hanson Gregory may have been one of the best captains to sail the seas—once awarded a medal for heroism for rescuing seven shipwrecked Spanish sailors even though his own ship and crew were endangered. But his greatest achievement was not attained because of his seafaring skills—it was his ingenuity in the galley that people remember.

On June 22, 1847 as a 16-year-old cook’s assistant, Hanson was rustling up the crew’s breakfast—coffee and fried cakes, the same as every morning. While the pot of lard bubbled on the stove, Gregory formed balls of sweetened dough and dropped them in. They sizzled and crisped—at least around the edges. The centers were raw, heavy with grease, and they dropped like cannonballs in the stomach. “Sailors called them Sinkers.” But this morning Gregory had an idea. He removed the lid from the pepper can and cut out the center of the balls. “Then he tossed the rings into the bubbling lard.”

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Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

The cook and the sailors took one look at this odd concoction and…ate them up! “The cakes were brown, and sweet, and fully cooked. Sighs of delight rose above the noisy sea. A new breakfast tradition was born.” Gregory told his mom about his invention, and she fried up large batches of these ‘holey cakes’ that became a sensation at a friend’s store and on the docks.

You might think this is a pretty interesting tale in itself, “but sailors like their stories bold” and so they “spun legends worthy of such a delicious treat.” One tale had Captain Gregory inventing the doughnut while he saved his ship from disaster. Another told how Gregory, distraught over the drowning of five sailors pulled to the ocean floor by their “sinker” breakfast, punched holes in every cake to make them look like life rings and vowed, “‘Never again!’”

Captain Gregory had a sense of humor about his accomplishment. During an interview he once stated that “he had invented ‘the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes.’” Gregory lived to be 89 and is buried “overlooking the sea where stormy weather can be spotted as readily as it once was from the quarterdeck of the Hardscrabble.”

An author’s note expanding on the story of Captain Gregory, the doughnut, doughnut shops, a timeline, and a selected bibliography follow the text.

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Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

Doughnuts have never been so evocative! In Pat Miller’s humorous, informative history of this favorite pastry treat, readers can smell the salt air, feel the ocean swell and roll under their feet, and even ache a little for those poor sailors forced to eat “sinkers.” Seamlessly interwoven into this foodography is a fascinating look at the early days of sail. Miller’s language is immediately stirring: the Ivanhoe bucks and plunges, the sea becomes a monster, and Captain Gregory spears a sinker on the wheel spoke. Kids will marvel at a 13-year-old going off to sea and becoming an inventor at 16.

Vincent X. Kirsch provides just the right touch to this captivating true story with his cartoon-inspired watercolor and cut paper artwork. Ingeniously incorporating Hanson Gregory’s innovation of removing the center of the fried cakes, Kirsch’s illustrations are “cored” to allow for text, while the extracted section appears on the facing page as a glimpse through a porthole. The maritime atmosphere—from ship to shore—of the mid-1800s is beautifully represented in the folk-style sketches, and the humor that is so intrinsic to this story is wonderfully embraced.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut will delight foodies and history buffs alike and would make a fun gift and a delectable addition to personal libraries for all ages.

Ages 5 – 12

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544319615

Vincent X. Kirsch’s website is full of illustrations from his books for children—take a look at his portfolio!

Spend some time with Pat Miller on her website that offers activities, tips, resources and many more books!

Kid Inventors’ Day Activity

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CD (Compact Doughnuts) Decoration

 

Are some of  your CDs a little passé? Not if you can turn them into cute décor like this doughnut hanging.

Supplies

  • Unused CDs
  • Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
  • Ribbon, any color and length you want
  • Fine-tip markers in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (optional)
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint a wavy edge around the CD, let dry
  2. Paint the center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted
  3. When the icing paint is dry, draw sprinkles on the icing with the markers
  4. With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
  5. Hang your decoration

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You can find The Hole Story of the Doughnut at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review