December 1 – Eat a Red Apple Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is steeped in the history of the apple industry in America, beginning with the work of John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, who planted apple trees on his travels across the country in the early 1800s. Due to the popularity of apples and their ease of transportation, a variety of apples were being developed during the mid-to-late 1800s. While the “Ben Davis” apple was at the top of the list in 1880 for its resilience in tough growing climates and long shelf life, it wasn’t the tastiest of apples. As transportation from farm to store became easier and shorter, the Red Delicious emerged as the favorite. It held that position into the 1980s, comprising 75% of all apples grown in Washington state—one of the largest apple producers in the world. While other apple varieties have taken a bite out of the popularity of the Red Delicious, it is still the iconic apple—and the star of today’s holiday!

Little Elliot, Fall Friends

By Mike Curato

 

Little Elliot the elephant and his best friend Mouse loved the lights, action, and feel of the big city. Sometimes though “the city was too dirty, too loud, and too busy.” Mouse decided they needed a vacation, so they took a bus ride to the country. As they left the buildings and traffic of the city behind for the autumn leaves, rolling hills, and fresh air of the countryside, Elliot and Mouse felt refreshed.

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Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

When the bus dropped them off, Elliot exclaimed, “‘Wow…the country is even bigger than the city!’” They ran up a hill and relaxed under a tree feeling “the breeze and the sunshine and the soft grass.” Soon, they began to get hungry. Down in an orchard below, they found some juicy red apples to eat. Taking a bite, Elliot thought, “‘The country is delicious!’” Mouse thought the piles of fallen leaves were pretty fun too.

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Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The two played hide-and-seek in the woods, in a pumpkin patch, and in a corn field, where tall brown stalks still stood. Elliot thought the corn field was the perfect hiding spot, but as the sun began to go down and no Mouse appeared to find him, he wondered where Mouse was. “Suddenly, Elliot smelled something delicious.” He followed the aroma out of the corn stalks and to a farm house, where he found a an apple pie cooling on a windowsill.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-playing-hide-and-seek

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Elliot came closer, close enough to peek in the window. Just then Mouse jumped out from behind the pie. “‘I found you!’” he said. Elliot was excited to see his friend. It seemed that Mouse had been busy. When he couldn’t find Elliot, he knew just what to do. He made friends with the farm animals, and then they made a pie because Mouse knew that Elliot would follow his nose and come out of his hiding place. “‘Nobody knows me better,’ said Elliot.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-in-the-corn-field

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

Later, the pig, cow, horse, dog, and chicken gathered with Elliot and Mouse around the big picnic table “for a fall feast.” With apple cider served in mason jars, Mouse gave a toast: “‘To new friends!’” and Elliot added “‘And to new treats!’” They fell asleep on the soft hay in the barn, naming the stars that twinkled in the dark sky.

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Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

Mike Curato’s Little Elliot books enchant little ones, and it’s easy to see why as Elliot and Mouse’s adventure into the countryside offers young readers all the comfort and camaraderie that best friends provide each other. The quietly simple and tender story is highlighted by Curato’s spectacular illustrations that combine the clear precision and details of photography with the playful softness of a favorite stuffed toy. Here and there clever designs in the images reflect the sunny tone and foreshadow the special treat Mouse uses to reunite with his best friend. The final nighttime spreads will fill children with wonder.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-pie

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

Little Elliot, Fall Friends is a sweet, sophisticated book that fans of the series will want to add to their collection and new readers will embrace, while also eager to discover the other Little Elliot books: Big City, Big Family, and Big Fun. It’s a “can’t miss” for any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627796408

Discover more about Mike Curato and his books plus downloadable Little Elliot activity sheets on his website.

Eat a Red Apple Day Activity

CPB - Cinnamon Apples (2)

Cinnamon Apples Recipe

 

Cinnamon apples are a delicious side dish to any meal! This tasty recipe is fun for kids and adults to make together.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of apples, Macintosh or Granny Smith apples are good choices
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

CPB - Cinnamon Apples ingredients (2)

Directions

  1. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon
  2. Peel and core 2 large apples
  3. Thinly slice apples
  4. Combine apples and cinnamon sugar/brown sugar mixture
  5. Stir until well combined
  6. Drizzle with lemon juice and stir again
  7. Cook apples on the stove at medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until desired texture

Picture Book Review

November 24 – National Day of Listening

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About the Holiday

The day after Thanksgiving was chosen by StoryCorps for family and friends to tell and record their unique and collective stories for themselves and future generations. The mission of StoryCorps is to “preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” StoryCorps even provides an online archive of individual and family stories that enrich our culture for anyone to listen to. Whether you share your stories with others or record them for your own family, remember that every story counts and should be heard. To learn more about StoryCorps, hear fascinating stories, or upload your own, visit StoryCorps.

Wee Sister Strange

Written by Holly Grant | Illustrated by K. G. Campbell

 

“They say there’s a girl / Who lives by the woods / In a crooked old house / With no garden but gloom.” Because she has no parents or even a name of her own, the townspeople “call her Wee Sister Strange.” During daylight she stays to herself, but as evening approaches she climbs out of the window and goes into the dangerous woods. She delights in the darkness, and “drinks up the moon / like a cat drinking cream.”

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She talks with the owls and rides a “fierce bear” through “groves golden-leafed.” But when the wild wolves catch her scent, she climbs into high branches as they “prowl down below.” From her high perch she scans the wide world and “peels back the clouds… / As through keyholes one peeks.”

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She’s searching for something she just cannot find, so she “dives into the bog. Here, way down below, she continues to look amid the odd creatures, and she checks “every snail / As a mermaid counts pearls.” But even here she does not see what she’s looking for. She climbs out on the bank into thorny, twisting vines and in the distance sees a bright light.

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She tiptoes closer and finds a little stone house “with one window aglow.” She peeks in through the pane and sees “you in your bed / With this book ‘neath your nose.” She listens where the window is open a crack and hears a murmur: “‘They say there’s a girl / Who lives by the woods…’” The girl’s eyes light up bright; her search is now ended. She’s found what she sought: “A wee bedtime story!”

“Her ears gobble the rhymes! / They sop up the poem-crumbs!” Sister grows sleepy and next to the house, she blankets herself with golden leaves as her eyes close and she starts to dream.

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Holly Grant’s Wee Sister Strange is a magical story of such mystery and beauty that it opens a world of unbounded imagination as the plot plays out. Combining just the right balance of realism and fantasy, Grant’s wonder-full tale allows each reader the freedom to interpret her poem in their own way.  When Sister at last finds the house and hears her own story echoed back to her, her restless yearning is satisfied, suggesting that our life stories are what make us knowable to ourselves and others. As the little girl of color and her mother share the bedtime story of the girl in the woods, Sister’s given name helps us understand that we are all sisters (or brothers) through our collective stories. Grant’s gorgeous language and original metaphors are further causes for celebrating this glowing, dreamy modern fable.

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

In K. G. Campbell’s luminescent watercolor-and-colored-pencil illustrations, Wee Sister Strange is as delicate and glowing as the autumn leaves, as buoyant as the bog creatures, and as human as the little girl in the house. On her nightly hunts, she traverses landscapes that are recognizable yet are also the terrain of dreams. Children will find much to discuss in the similarities and differences in the two girls’ homes as well as the identity of  Wee Sister Strange. Campbell’s paintings beautifully convey the cyclical nature of this tale that offers the comfort of knowing that our stories unite us while keeping the wolves at bay.

Embodying the mystical elements that children love best in a bedtime story, Wee Sister Strange is an inventive marvel that should find a home on any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2017 | ISBN 978-0553508796

To learn more about K. G. Campbell, his books, and his art, visit his website

National Day of Listening Activity

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Tell Your Story Page

 

Everyone has their own story to tell! Use this printable Tell Your Story Page to write an original story or a story from your life. Then tell your story at bedtime!

Picture Book Review

November 2 – It’s National Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

November has been designated as a time for reflecting on our lives and being grateful for our family, friends, opportunities, and the things we have. Often—as today’s book emphasizes—it’s good to look closely at the Now and not worry so much about the future in order to truly appreciate our particular gifts and the positive things in our lives. To celebrate Gratitude Month, take time to count your blessings and thank those who are important in you life.

Now

By Antoinette Portis

 

A girl, barefoot and with her arms raised high, runs through a field, feeling the exhilaration of the wind on her face. “This is my favorite breeze,” she says. She finds an apple-red maple leaf, which, at this moment, is her favorite. At the beach, she has dug hole after hole, but her favorite is the one she is making right now.

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Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In the mud that has splattered her ankles, she finds a pink, wriggly worm that tickles her palms when she picks it up. As the girl stretches out on a hill to watch the clouds float by, she decides that her favorite is “the one I am watching.” The best rain is one that creates a river in the street for her paper boat—the one that was her favorite until it sailed into the grate

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-tree

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The most marvelous tree has sturdy branches for the girl to swing from, and a delicate, bell-shaped flower produces her “favorite smell.” There are many birds to feed at the park, but the one she likes the best is the one that comes close enough to eat out of her hand. Her favorite song is the one that swells inside her heart and bursts out with joy, and the most delicious gulp and bite are those that quench her thirst and calm her hunger.

Her favorite tooth leaves a gap in her smile “because it’s the one that is missing.” She and her squeezed-tight cat may differ on the best hug, but they probably agree that their favorite moon is the crescent outside the window tonight. But what is her favorite “Now?” It is this moment, because she is having it with you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-boat

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Antoinette Portis lends her unique perspective to this uplifting book that encourages kids—and, as readers see in the final image, adults—to live in the moment and become fully conscious of the present object, feeling, experience, or sensation. As the little girl’s favorites build on each other, readers become aware of a growing appreciation for all the small joys that make up a day. The theme of the book is revealed on the first page as the girl welcomes the refreshing breeze. The simply drawn, unencumbered illustrations mirror the simple pleasures that she finds everywhere. But look closer and there is more profound meaning in each.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-elephants

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The veins in the maple leaf become the girl’s smile as she holds it to her face; her song radiates from her in a golden sun-shaped swirl; and the girl’s clothing changes through a year’s worth of experiences as it also matches the color of her feeling or activity, allowing her to become one with it. As readers reach the end of Now, they see two hands holding a book open to an image of an elephant and her calf, animals known for their strong family ties. This illustration leads into and strengthens the final page, where the girl and her mother sit reading that book together. The text and picture work in tandem to embrace the reader while letting both children and adults interpret the previous images in their own way.

Now is a beautiful, quiet book that reminds children and adults to slow down and truly enjoy the fleeting moments of life. It is a wonderful book to share and will open discussions of “favorite things” for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626721371

To learn more about Antoinette Portis and her books, visit her website.

National Gratitude Month Activity

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Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game

 

Things to be thankful for are all around you! What do you see? Find an entire alphabet of favorite things with this printable Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game Page!

Picture Book Review

October 13 – World Egg Day

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About the Holiday

What an amazing thing the egg is! Today’s holiday celebrates its role in feeding families the world over. From ancient times people have relied on the protein and other nutrients in this compact package to stay healthy at an affordable price or from their own farm. World Egg Day was declared at the International Egg Commission Conference in Vienna in 1996 to recognize and promote the benefits of eggs.

Egg

By Kevin Henkes

 

As this sophisticated paneled picture book opens, four eggs await their fate. One is pink, one is yellow, one is blue, and one is green. On the next page three of the eggs begin their journey with a crack, crack, crack; but the last one? The green one? It remains a smooth egg. With a “surprise!” a pink baby bird hatches from the pink egg. The yellow egg breaks open and a yellow bird chirps “surprise.” When the blue egg breaks a blue baby bird pops free with one more “surprise!” But the last egg? The green one? It remains an intact egg.

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The pink bird strides away from her former home with a quick “good-bye.” The yellow bird takes to the sky with a cheery “good-bye.” And the blue bird skips off  with a joyful cheep “good-bye.” But the last egg? The green one? It still remains a silent egg. All alone now, the green egg waits. It waits and waits and waits through a full sixteen-day calendar.

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Finished with her walk, the pink bird is back to check on the green egg. She hails the yellow chick, who is also returning, and calls out to the blue bird, who runs in to see what’s up. They discuss this anomalous egg and come up with a plan. They lay their ears against the shell and “listen.” Then they begin tapping away. “Peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck.” This egg has one tough exterior! They peck and peck until, finally, they hear a “crack.”

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The egg splits to reveal an eye-popping “surprise!” The last egg? The green one? It doesn’t hold a green chick, but a green crocodile! The birds fly away from the dangerous snout. Now the baby croc is “alone” and “sad.” The little birds see how “lonely” the crocodile is and slowly, one-by-one they return. They fly closer and closer until they are all sitting atop the crocodile’s back.

The crocodile takes his new friends on a ride down to the water’s edge. He wades in and follows where the pink bird directs. Then these new friends sit quietly and watch the sun set. The orange sun sinks lower and lower toward the horizon, changing shape and beginning the journey all over again.

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Copyright Kevin Henkes, 2017, courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Kevin Henkes’ adorable read-aloud is as complex as the egg itself. On the surface it is a comforting and touching tale of friendship, but crack it open and the story takes on deeper meaning. Themes of patience, working together, diversity, acceptance, and even ideas of expectations and preconceived danger are waiting to be explored during repeat readings. The graphic-novel nature of the illustrations allow readers to form bonds with the four eggs as a ready-made group, increasing kids’  curiosity and interest in that fourth egg that just won’t hatch.

Pastel colors differentiate each bird as do simple gestures that little ones will recognize as personality traits. In the final pages, the lines separating the panels disappear as the four friends gather to watch the sun go down, and their life together begins.

Ages 3 – 8

Greenwillow Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062408723

You can meet Kevin Henkes, learn about his books, and discover resources, videos, and more on his website.

World Egg Day Activity

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Egg Carton Chickens and a Basket Full of Games

 

With twelve little chickens you can come up with lots of games to play! This fun craft and game activity is eggs-actly what you need to start hatching some real fun!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • White craft paint
  • Markers: red, yellow, black for the face; any colors you’d like for wings and eggs
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Construction or craft paper in white and a color of your choice

Directions

  1. Cut the notched flap off the egg carton and set aside
  2. Cut the top off the egg carton
  3. Cut apart all the egg cups and trim slightly so they sit flat
  4. Paint the egg cups with the white paint, let dry
  5. Add the face, comb and wings to the chicken with the markers. Make six chickens with one color wings and six chickens with another color wings.
  6. From the egg carton flap cut thirteen small egg-shaped playing pieces
  7. With the markers, decorate twelve of the eggs in pairs—each egg in the pair with the same design
  8. Color one egg yellow and add a beak, eyes, and wings to make it a chick

Games to Play

Tic-Tac-Toe (2 players)

  1. On a 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper draw a regular tic-tac-toe board or make it fancy – like the picket fence-inspired board in the picture
  2. To make the fence-inspired board on a colored background, cut 2 9-inch-long x 3/4-inch wide strips of white paper, cutting a pointed tip at one or both ends. Cut 2 white  8-inch x 3/4-inch strips of paper with a pointed tip at one or both ends. Glue the strips to the background.
  3. Each player chooses a set of chickens with the same colored wings
  4. Play the game as you usually do

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Find the Matching Eggs (2 or more players)

  1. Have one player hide one egg under each chicken
  2. Shuffle the eggs around and form them into three lines of 4 chickens each
  3. Another player lifts one chicken at a time to find matching eggs. If the eggs don’t match, put both chickens back and start again

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Where’s the Chick?

  1. Use as many chickens and eggs as you want (fewer for younger children, more for older)
  2. One player hides the chick under one of the chickens and eggs under the others.
  3. Another player has three chances to find the chick

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I’m sure you can also design your own games for your adorable chickens to play! With more chickens you can even make a checkers set or replicate another of your favorite board games!

Picture Book Review

September 13 – National Quiet Day

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About the Holiday

We’re surrounded by noise every day. Cars whoosh by on the street, TVs drone on, and voices fill the air in the office and at school. Sometimes it seems as if you don’t hear the constant din, but you do. Quiet Day was established to give people an opportunity to experience the benefits found in silence. Not only did the founders envision a day in which you sought out quiet places, they suggest that you don’t speak at all for the day. Reconnecting with yourself and your thoughts can make you feel more relaxed and give you new perspectives that can stimulate creativity and better communications.

Charlotte and the Quiet Place

Written by Deborah Sosin | Illustrated by Sara Woolley

 

Charlotte is a girl who likes quiet, but she lives in a noisy world. Everywhere she goes, it seems, it’s impossible to escape from sounds that disturb her peace. At home the hallway creaks where “the floorboards groan,” the living room is like an arcade where the “TV bellows and blares,” and the kitchen is filled with Otto’s barks for his dinner. Even in Charlotte’s bedroom, “which is supposed to be a quiet place, the old steam radiator hisses, whistles, and whines. Where can Charlotte find a quiet place?”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, courtesy of sarawoolley.com

When Charlotte goes to school, things are no better. In the classroom kids are boisterous and bells ring; the lunchroom echoes with clattering trays and scuffing chairs; and the playground blares with big voices and stomping feet and also with little squeaks and rattle of the swings. “Even in the library, which is supposed to be a quiet place, the children giggle, yammer, and yell. Where can Charlotte find a quiet place?”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, courtesy of sarawoolley.com

The outside world resounds with the din of jackhammers, horns, sirens, shouts, cars, music, and the “screeches, rumbles, and roars” of the subway. “Even in the park, which is supposed to be a quiet place, the leaf blower buzzes, blusters, and hums.” Charlotte puts her hands to her ears. “‘Nooo!’” she cries, “‘I have to find a quiet place!’”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

On Saturday Charlotte takes her dog for a walk in the park. Suddenly, Otto spies a squirrel and takes off running, wrenching his leash out of Charlotte’s hand. She chases after him down a hill, over a bridge, and into the middle of a grove of trees. Out of breath, Charlotte and Otto sit beneath a tree. Gasping, Charlotte’s “belly rises up and down, up and down. Her breath goes in and out, in and out. Hooooo ahhhhh. Hooo ahhh.”

Slowly, Charlotte’s breath comes easier and “her mind slows down.” In this state, she discovers another, even quieter place. It is a place deep inside where her breath is soft and her “thoughts are hushed and low.” It is “a place as quiet as the small silence on the very last page of her favorite book, the silence right after ‘The End.’”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

In a little while, Charlotte and Otto leave the grove, but now whenever home or school or the neighborhood is too loud, Charlotte remembers where she can find a quiet place. She simply closes her eyes and pays attention to that place deep in her belly and deep in her mind—“that quiet place inside.”

For so many children the world is a blaring, clattering place where their thoughts are drowned out by the noises around them. Deborah Sosin’s award-winning Charlotte and the Quiet Place validates these feelings and offers children a way to discover inner peace wherever they are. As a tonic to today’s hyper-stimulated environment, kids and adults alike will benefit from the method of mindful reflection Sosin presents. Sosin’s combination of evocative verbs and repetition makes the story fresh and an excellent read-aloud while also mirroring the sounds that are a part of our everyday life.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-charlotte-and-the-quiet-place-noisy-neighborhood

Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

Sara Woolley’s beautiful watercolor illustrations vividly depict not only Charlotte’s world but the sounds that disturb her peace. Amid the fully realized home, school, and neighborhood environments, complete with realistic details kids will recognize, sharp cracks of equipment, blaring bells and whistles, high-pitched voices, and other noises spark the page. Portrayals of Charlotte, her hands over her ears and her eyes sad, express her distress in a way kids will understand. When Charlotte finds the grove of trees in which she first experiences inner peace, Woolley’s color palette turns softer, with peaceful tones of green, blue, and yellow where, previously, “louder” purples, reds, and golds predominated.

Charlotte and the Quiet Place is a very welcomed book for those times when peace seems elusive and will give comfort to children who prefer quiet places and have more introverted natures. The book would make a wonderful addition to all children’s book shelves as well as to school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Parallax Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1941529027

Visit Charlotte and the Quiet Place on her own webstite! You’ll find resources, images and videos, news about events, and more!

Discover more about Deborah Sosin, her writing for children and adults, writing workshops, mindfulness services, and more on her website!

View a gallery of artwork for books, comics,  and other illustration work by Sara Woolley on her website!

Quiet Day Activity

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Share a Smile Cards

 

If you’re taking a quiet day, but still want to communicate with others, print these Share a Smile Cards and give them to your friends, family, and others. Why not slip one into your dad’s pocket or your mom’s purse, put one in your friend’s backpack, or sneak one onto your teacher’s desk? You can even leave one somewhere for a stranger to find! Have fun sharing your smiles, and see how much better you and the others around you feel!

Click here to print your Share a Smile Cards.

June 26 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Just as it sounds, this holiday celebrates all the benefits of owning cat. With so many beautiful breeds of cat to choose from, there’s a perfect pet waiting for you! If you’ve been considering adding a cat or kitten to your family, why not visit an animal shelter and give one – or even two – cats a purr-fect home?

The White Cat and the Monk

Retold by Jo Ellen Bogart | Illustrated by Sydney Smith

 

In the nighttime a white cat approaches a monastery. He slips through a window and pads along a darkened corridor and down stone steps. He creeps behind a barrel, a vase, and a pitcher standing in a row and adds his shadow to the black mosaic on the floor. He leaps the last few steps and hurries along to the doorway that is leaking a bit of light.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, text copyright Jo Ellen Bogart. Courtesy of Groundwood Books.

He slips his paw under the door. This a secret signal alerts the occupant of the room, who opens the door to this playful feline. “I, monk and scholar, share my room with my white cat, Pangur,” the old man explains. He lifts Pangur into his arms and strokes him before releasing him to pursue his “special trade.” The monk also returns to his trade—studying ancient manuscripts to understand their meaning.

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The  monk is a dedicated scholar, revealing, “Far more than any fame, I enjoy the peaceful pursuit of knowledge. I treasure the wealth to be found in my books.” Pangur is a dedicated scholar of another kind, studying “the hole that leads to the mouse’s home.” In that moment both man and cat become hunters—one for meaning and the other for prey.

The two do not disturb each other for each is content in his pursuit. Pangur at last “finds his mouse” as the monk finds “light in the darkness.”

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, text copyright Jo Ellen Bogart. Courtesy of Groundwood Books.

Jo Ellen Bogart’s quiet and graceful retelling of Pangur Bán, a beloved Irish poem from the 9th century is a welcome respite in this age of multitasking and mega-activity. With sparse, but compelling and lyrical language, Bogart uncovers the companionable relationship between the monk and his cat as each follows their heart together.

The fine textured pages of Sydney Smith’s illustrations recall the beauty of parchment as the smooth gray-and-gold line drawings of the monastery’s architecture and characters give way to the vibrant colors of ancient manuscripts and the natural environment. The contentment and friendship of the monk and the cat are sweetly drawn in the characters’ mirrored actions as well as in the depictions of a long-held affection between man and beast in the panels of the manuscript the monk studies. As the monk states, “Ours is a happy tale.”

Reassuring and reaffirming, The White Cat and the Monk honors the individual challenges and quests that make us who we are and would be a wonderful addition to regular quiet-time reading.

Ages 4 and up (this book will be enjoyed by both children and adults)

Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1554987801

You’ll find a gallery of artwork by Sydney Smith on his tumblr!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cat-toy

Fishing for Playtime Cat Toy

 

Cats love to chase after bouncing, sliding objects, and they love fish. While this toy may not taste as good as fish, it sure smells better and doesn’t require worms or hooks to attain!

Supplies

  • Old or new child’s sock
  • Fiber Fill
  • Yarn or string
  • Fabric paint or markers
  • Small bell (optional)
  • Catnip (optional)

Directions

  1. Paint or draw fins and eyes on the sock
  2. Fill the sock with fiber fill
  3. Add a teaspoon of catnip (optional)
  4. Add a small bell (optional)
  5. Use the yarn or string to close the opening with a strong knot
  6. Leave a long section of yarn or string to pull or dangle the toy

Picture Book Review

June 12 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Cats make wonderful pets! They can be cuddly or completely independent, but their playful personalities make for lots of laughs and love. If you own a cat, spend some extra time with your pet and ensure that all of your feline friend’s health needs are being met and are up-to-date. If you think you might like to adopt a cat into your family, visit your local animal shelter for cats and kittens who are looking for a forever home.

Lily’s Cat Mask

By Julie Fortenberry

 

Lily was starting school so her dad took her shopping. “Lily wasn’t sure she wanted to get new things for school, but her father said it would be fun.” After buying some clothes and meeting a woman they knew who gushed at how much Lily had grown, Lily was tired and wanted to go home. “But then she saw the cat mask.” It was the only one on the shelf, and Lily’s dad surprised her by buying it for her.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Lily put it on immediately and wore it on the way home. She wore it to tea parties with her toys, to family parties “when she wanted to be invisible. And when she wanted to be noticed.” When she wore it to her doctor’s appointment, the doctor spoke in meows. One day she lost her mask. Her dad made her a rabbit costume, and while that was fun for a while, Lily was happy to finally find her cat mask.

Lily wore her cat mask for many occasions. She wore it when she didn’t want to talk—like when she met her new teacher. “She liked to hide her face when she felt mean and couldn’t get nice.” She even blew out her birthday candles and made a wish wearing the mask. When school started, Lily was only allowed to wear her mask on the playground, but once in a while she put it on, hoping no one would notice. Then it was sometimes put in the teacher’s desk drawer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-making-a-wish

Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

One day, the teacher made a very exciting announcement. The class was going to have a costume party, and everyone could wear a mask or dress up however they wanted. On the day of the party, there were characters, animals, and bugs of all kinds. But then Lily looked across the room and saw the best costume of all—another cat! During recess the new friends played on the swings and meowed happily together.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Julie Fortenberry’s story of a quiet, hesitant child who discovers a unique way of interacting with the world around her offers openhearted acceptance and understanding for children who are observant and thoughtful integrators. The reaction of Lily’s father, teacher, doctor, and family members to her cat mask is uplifting and provides excellent modeling. The straightforward storytelling highlights Lily’s sweet personality as well as the empathetic responses her costume elicits.

Fotenberry’s illustrations of adorable Lily and her experiences at home, at school, at the doctor’s office, and at the mall are full of joy. The colors are fresh and vibrant, but also calm and peaceful, mirroring Lily’s feelings when wearing her cat mask. The images demonstrate and validate Lily’s preference to watch and participate in events from her own distance.

Lily’s Cat Mask provides the opportunity for much discussion with children, especially about meeting people, Lily’s birthday wish, where Lily sits and plays at parties and at school, and when Lily makes a friend. The book is highly recommended for classroom and school libraries and would make a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0425287996

Discover more about Julie Fortenberry and view a gallery of her books and artwork on her website!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-The-Cat's-Meow-Word-Search

The Cat’s Meow Word Search

 

There are so many beautiful types of cats! Can you find the names of twenty-one breeds in this printable The Cat’s Meow Word Search puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review