September 17 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Established by the Oddfellows, an organization dedicated to philanthropy and charity, about ten years ago, Friendship Month encourages people to spend more time with their friends, get in touch with those they haven’t seen or talked to in a while, and especially to reach out to others who are alone or need a friend. As school gets underway, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to meet new people and form friendships – some of which may last a lifetime.

I received a copy of Two Tough Trucks from Scholastic for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Scholastic in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Two Tough Trucks

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A joy to read out loud and offering so much repeat readability, Two Tough Trucks is highly recommended for home bookshelves, preschool and kindergarten classrooms, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338236545

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

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

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

Two Tough Trucks Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Scholastic, Inc. in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Two Tough Trucks, written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez | illustrated by Hilary Leung

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

Bonus: Reply with your child’s favorite truck or vehicle for an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from September 17 through September 23 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 24.

Giveaways open to US and Canadian addresses only | Prizing provided by Scholastic, Inc.

Friendship Month Activity

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Racing for Friendship Game

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

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You can find Two Tough Trucks at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 6 – National Fried Chicken Day

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About the Holiday

Fried chicken with its crispy outside and tender, juicy inside is the star of American Southern home style cooking. The tradition, brought to America by Scottish immigrants, is a favorite for summer picnics and has spawned many an on-the-go restaurant. There’s only one way to celebrate this holiday…well, maybe two—sink your teeth into some delicious fried chicken and devour today’s book!

Hensel and Gretel Ninja Chicks

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez | Illustrated by Dan Santat

 

The times, they are a’menacing. A fox is prowling and has already chicken napped Hensel and Gretel’s ma, shaking up their pa. Hensel and Gretel know just what to do—they enroll at the 3 Pigs Dojo and “they trained in the art of ninjutsu / and practiced their wing throws and blocks. / They learned how to creep / without making a peep / so they wouldn’t fall prey to that fox.” Their training proves advantageous as the day soon comes when Hensel and Gretel have to put their training into practice.

One day they return home to find that their pa has also been nabbed by the fox. While they may be chickens the sisters definitely aren’t chicken so they go in search of their pop. They drop crumbs on their trail to lead them back home, but the forest grows “twisted and tangled” and they soon discover that the breadcrumbs are gone. Bravely, they trek through the woods until they see a light. “It came from a cottage of corn bread! / ‘Let’s eat!’ Hensel clucked with delight. / She nibbled away till she heard someone say, / ‘My dear, come on in for a bite.’”

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Image copyright Dan Santat, 2016, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2016. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Caught off guard, Hensel enters the house but quickly realizes her mistake when she sees a pan in the oven. In the corner she finds her pa locked away in a crate. The fox grabs her and adds her to the crate with her dad. While she is fattening up, the fox tells her, he’ll eat another hen from his stock. That hen turns out to be Hensel and Gretel’s mom! Meanwhile, Gretel has squeezed her way through the chimney “with ninja-like silence and speed.” She frees her ma and with “one feathered sweep” blocks the fox’s advance.

The fox fights back, but Mama comes to Gretel’s rescue with a well-aimed wok just as Hensel and Papa break free. But the crate doesn’t stay empty for long: “With one wicked spin, / Hensel kicked the fox in! / ‘You’re done with your chick-frying spree!’” Back home Hensel and Gretel are congratulated, and “from then on they made it their mission / to rescue, protect and defend. / They’d work night and day / to liberate prey / till bird-napping came to an end.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hensel-and-gretel-ninja-chicks-dojo

Image copyright Dan Santat, 2016, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2016. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Ninja pandemonium is back! This time the martial arts are served up chicken style in Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez’s take on Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel story. All the intrigue and suspense of the original is here, but blazingly spiced and fried up with delicious puns, sizzling verbs, and some of the most riotous rhymes you’ll ever read.

Dan Santat again lends his agile artwork to the springs, spins, and stealth of the world of the dojo. Feathers fly; the fox leaps, chops, and winces; and Hensel and Gretel perform some serious Kiya! Santat’s forest is gloomy and forbidding, the air shimmers with the force of well-placed kicks, and the large close-up images put readers in the middle of the action.

Everyone from small-fries to hens and roosters will flip over Hensel and Gretel Ninja Chicks. It’s a must addition to any child’s library.

Ages 4 – 9

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0399176265 | ISBN 978-1338203868 (Paperback, 2017)

Watch Hensel and Gretel kick some tail feathers in the trailer for their book!

To discover more books by Corey Rosen Schwartz as well as fun activities and how to be a Book Ninja, visit her website.

Activities, tips, books, and more by Rebecca J. Gomez can be found on her website.

A gallery of art, list of books, and more information about Dan Santat is available on his website.

National Fried Chicken Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-craft

Turn Over a New Chicken

 

A long-handled wooden turner makes a plucky decoration for your room or kitchen! With a few simple additions, you’ll have a cute companion you’ll want to crow about!

Supplies

  • Printable Comb and Scarf Template
  • Long-handled wooded turner, available in kitchen supply stores
  • Red felt
  • Yellow bakable clay
  • Fabric, 12 inches square
  • A small piece of white felt or fleece (optional)
  • White paint (or any color you would like)
  • Black marker
  • Fabric glue
  • Glue gun
  • Paint brush

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden turner, let dry
  2. Cut the scarf from the piece of fabric
  3. Make a beak from the yellow clay and bake it according to package directions

To make the comb

  1. Cut out the comb from the red felt
  2. Fold the felt in half and glue the end together with the fabric glue
  3. Cut short strips from the folded top of the felt, about ½-inch to ¾ -inch in length
  4. Round the corners of the strips slightly

To make the scarf

  1. Fold the fabric in half
  2. With the long, straight edge of the scarf template along the fold, cut out the scarf
  3. With the fabric glue, glue the two sides of the scarf together so that you have two “right” sides
  4. Let dry

To assemble the chicken

  1. Pinch the bottom of the comb together so that the strips open and the felt pleats a little
  2. With the glue gun attach the comb to the back of the painted turner, keeping the bottom pinched together
  3. Attach the beak to the front of the turner
  4. Draw eyes on the chicken with the black marker
  5. Tie the scarf around the neck of the handle, hold in place with a drop of glue in the back if necessary
  6. To make tail feathers in a turner with a hole in the handle, pinch together a small folded piece of white felt or fleece and push it through the hole in the handle of the turner.
  7. Cut or arrange to look like feathers

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hensel-and-gretel-ninja-chicks-cover

You can find Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks at these booksellers

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