August 15 – National Tell a Joke Day

celebrate-picture-books-knock-knock-cover

About the Holiday

Is there anything better than a big belly laugh? Hearing or seeing something that tickles your funny bone can be one of the best parts of a day. Did you know that the first recorded joke dates back to 1900 BC? It seems those early Sumerians were a pretty rowdy bunch. And not only them, humor has been a part of every culture from their earliest days. And why not? Laughter makes us feel better psychologically and even has the power to heal. Celebrate today by sharing your favorite jokes!

Knock Knock

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Guy Francis

 

Bear’s eyes are droopy, and he’s all tucked in under his puffy quilt. With his teddy bear clasped in his hand, he’s just about to turn out the light when: “KNOCK KNOCK.” Dutifully, Bear rouses himself and goes to answer it. “Who’s there?” he says. The answer comes back: “Justin.” “Justin who?” Bear opens the door and Fox rushes in with an armload of firewood. “Justin the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-knock-knock-Justin

Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Fox is just piling the logs in the fireplace when there’s another “KNOCK KNOCK” at the door. Startled, Bear asks the requisite question and learns that Ken has also come calling. But as soon as the door is opened a crack, three wisecracking blue jays fly in carrying streamers. While Fox seems happy to see them, Bear is not so keen.

A moment later another “KNOCK KNOCK” brings one more visitor, who’s lugging a huge pot of stew in his two oven-mitted paws. Bear can hardly keep his eyes open, but when he hears a raucous “KNOCK KNOCK,” he can’t help but ask yet again, “Who’s there?” It’s “Olive.” “Olive who?” The door bursts open to a chorus of “Olive us!” Waiting to enter is a whole gang of friends who are carrying balloons, hot chocolate, cupcakes, and even some knitting. But there’s still room for more, and another “KNOCK KNOCK” brings a “Good grief” from Bear and a familiar face at the window with a playful take on an old wolfish ultimatum.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-knock-knock-Firewood

Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

The party’s going full swing, but all Bear can do is “yawwwwnnn” from the comfort of his armchair and remind his guests that he really needs some…. “KNOCK KNOCK, KNOCK KNOCK, KNOCK KNOCK.” “WHO’S THERE?” Bear roars. He swings the door wide and finds Al, who has a very special message for this very special party given just for Bear. Then the animals tuck Bear in tight, whisper sweet goodnights, and leave him to his winter slumber. And when he wakes up? Harry is ready to play! KNOCK KNOCK!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-knock-knock-Fox

Image copyright Guy Francis, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Tammi Sauer’s clever story told through knock-knock jokes will have young readers rolling with laughter as poor bear grows wearier and wearier but continues to answer the KNOCK KNOCK summons. Each knock-knock joke ingeniously moves the story along while introducing a crew of Bear’s friends, who, it turns out, has planned a special send-off for their pal’s hibernation. Kids will love chiming in on the famous line the big bad wolf used on the three little pigs and noticing that the little chipmunk is reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears to tuck his friend in. Over- tired Bear’s tirade quickly melts into a warm embrace for all his friends when he realizes why they’ve come. The revelation of Bear’s name when springtime rolls around offers one more laugh at the end of the story and allows Bear to get in on the fun.

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With each knock on the door, Guy Francis ramps up the hilarity as Bear reacts with startled, wide-eyed surprise to each guest, who enters with a twinkle of sly acknowledgment of his or her joke. The animals seem right at home as they build a fire in the fireplace, cook on the stove, decorate the living room—and even Bear himself. Kids will laugh out loud at Bear’s flustered expressions and his cavernous yawn as the party preparations continue around him. When Bear is finally ready to put his big paw down, only to realize that all the commotion is really for him, his toothy grin says it all. The sweet looks and big hugs all around as well as a brand-new, comfy quilt float Bear off to dreamland for the winter. When spring comes, a refreshed Harry, looking not quite so grizzled comes knocking on the woodland animals’ Hobbit-style homes to repay the visit.

Knock Knock will knock kids’ socks off, and you can bet the book will go into much-loved rotation and begin a love of this funny joke form. The book would make a terrific gift and addition to home bookshelves as well as a lighthearted choice for funny classroom story times.

Ages 3 – 6

Scholastic Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1338116946

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Guy Francis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Tell a Joke Day Activity

Fox_in_Suit

Animated Animals Coloring Pages

 

These animals have heard some funny jokes, but they need a bit of color! Grab your crayons, markers, or pencils and have fun!

Happy Hedgehog | Laughing Fox | Smiling Sheep

celebrate-picture-books-knock-knock-cover

You can find Knock Knock at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 21 – It’s National Oceans Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-barnacle-is-bored-cover

About the Holiday

This month, as kids get out of school and families head for the beach, we celebrate the amazing diversity of life in the ocean. A majority of the earth’s surface is covered in water and yet we know only a fraction of what the sea has to teach us. With new technology scientists are diving deeper and deeper and discovering never-before-seen (or even imagined) creatures. To join in on this month’s holiday, explore the beach, visit an aquarium, or learn more about the animals and resources of the sea. 

Barnacle is Bored

By Jonathan Fenske

 

Even before Barnacle’s story truly begins he’s just hanging around the dock sighing. The trouble is Barnacle is “Bored. Bored. Bored.” Every day is the same old routine. When the tide is high, Barnacle is “wet and cold,” and when it goes out, he’s “dry and hot.” The sun rises; the sun sets. The waves “roll under” him or give him a good dousing of the briny deep, but no matter what’s going on Barnacle is stuck in place.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-barnacle-is-bored-under-dock

Copyright Jonathan Fenske, 2016, courtesy of jonathanfenske.com.

If only he were like the little polka dotted fish swimming by. Barnacle imagines what exciting days he must have. “I bet he dives with the dolphins” and “soars with the sailfish,” Barnacle muses. He dreams of the fun the fish has with flounder, finbacks, plankton, and…that eel doesn’t look like it wants to play with polka dot fish. Oh, no! Barnacle can’t look.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-barnacle-is-bored-polka-dot-fish

Copyright Jonathan Fenske, 2016, courtesy of jonathanfenske.com.

Yikes! Barnacle grimaces as eel swims away, full and satisfied. He retreats into his shell to reconsider and decides, “I am not bored.” But polka dot fish floating around inside eel? Yeah, he’s bored.

Jonathan Fenske takes the proverbial (shell)fish story to new, minimalistic lengths in his laugh-out-loud Barnacle is Bored. Fenske’s use of repetitive phrasing and funny alliteration highlights Barnacle’s tedium as well as his conviction that the sea is greener on the other side of the dock. When reality comes calling close to home, though, Barnacle—and young readers—discover that sometimes excitement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-barnacle-is-bored-here-I-sit

Copyright Jonathan Fenske, 2016, courtesy of jonathanfenske.com.

Fenske’s jaded Barnacle is an adorable dreamer even as he grumbles about his sticky situation. His expressive eyes and tiny tentacles that sway with the tides will make little ones giggle. With a soothing palette of ocean colors, Fenske creates fresh, crisp backdrops that emphasize both Barnacle’s feelings of monotony and his vivid imagination.

Barnacle is Bored is a perfect summertime treat that will elicit waves of requests for repeat readings. A great choice to take to the beach and on vacation, the book will not spend its time stuck on the shelf.

Ages 3 – 5

Scholastic Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0545865043

Discover a gallery of books and illustration by Jonathan Fenske on his website!

National Oceans Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-painted-pails

Playful Plastic Pail

 

With a colorful plastic pail, some paint, and a little sealant, you can make a pail for the beach or sandbox that is as unique as you are!

Supplies

  • Plastic Pail
  • Paint that will adhere to plastic
  • Sealant for plastics
  • Paint brushes

Directions

  1. Create your design
  2. Paint your pail, let dry
  3. When the paint is dry, spray with sealant. Apply sealant in a well-ventilated place
  4. Let sealant dry
  5. Enjoy your pail!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-barnacle-is-bored-cover

You can find Barnacle is Bored at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

June 8 – It’s National Best Friends Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleepy-bird-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the best friend—or friends—in our life. Whether you’ve known your best friend forever or have recently formed a strong bond, you know you can always rely on them to be there for a laugh or a shoulder to cry on. To celebrate today’s holiday, get together with your best friend and do something fun, relive old memories, and make some new ones!

Scholastic sent me a copy of Sleepy Bird to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be partnering with Scholastic in a giveaway of Sleepy Bird. See details below.

Sleepy Bird

By Jeremy Tankard

 

Night has fallen and it’s time to go to sleep, but Bird is not tired yet. “His wings wanted to glap. His legs wanted to run. All of him wanted to play.” In fact, Bird thought it was “party time!” He went off in search of Fox, who was just settling in. He was disturbed by all the noise Bird was making and offered a hug of blankie to help Bird get sleepy. But Bird just said, “‘Blankie shmankie.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleepy-bird-party-time

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2018, courtesy of Scholastic.

Next, Bird sought out Beaver and tried to interest him in a game of tag. Instead, Beaver said he’d read Bird a bedtime story. Bird thought bedtime and stories were for babies and ran to find Rabbit. When Rabbit handed Bird a stuffed cat to snuggle with, Bird was incensed. By the time Bird found Raccoon, he was getting a bit demanding. “‘Raccoon,’ said Bird, ‘you’ll play with me, right?’” But Raccoon was just about to sing a lullaby and go to sleep. Incredulous, Bird pointed out that Raccoon is nocturnal before he “flounced over to Sheep’s place.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleey-bird-sheep

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2018, courtesy of Scholastic.

When Sheep suggested counting sheep, Bird fumed that counting only one sheep would not make him sleepy. By this time, Bird was irritated, annoyed, and cross. He decided “he would just walk forever.” Pretty soon he plopped down on the grass and with tears in his eyes cried that he was not tired and would not go to sleep.

Bird’s cries reached his friends, who hurried over to help. While Beaver read a story, Fox and Rabbit tucked him in with a blanket and stuffed kitty. Then Raccoon sang and Sheep counted. Bird protested that he still wasn’t sleepy even as his eyes began to close. Birds’ friends were happy they could help him sleep. They lay down close by and were soon sleeping too. But what about Bird? His eyes popped open and he popped up, chirping and ready to play.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleepy-bird-crying

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2018, courtesy of Scholastic.

Jeremy Tankard’s latest book in his Bird series hits hilariously home as Bird refuses to succumb to sleep, becoming crankier and crankier until he can’t keep his eyes open any longer. When Bird jumps up refreshed and ready to play again, kids will laugh and adults will smile at the truth of it all. Bird’s friends are true buddies, willing to put up with some pretty super-silly-ous attitude from their endearing little pal.

As in Tankard’s other Bird books, eye-popping, boldly colorful backgrounds set Bird and his friends in a magical forest habitat that highlights the thickly outlined characters. Bird, with his wide eyes, spindly legs, and eagerness to play, is adorable even—and maybe especially—as he admonishes his friends before beginning to droop himself. Little readers will love watching the rising crescent moon that illuminates this sleepless night as much as Bird’s bright and shiny personality.

A feather in any child’s picture book collection, Sleepy Bird is a must addition for readers who love the series and a terrific introduction to this little blue, spiky-coifed character that will have kids wanting to go back for more.

Ages 3 – 5

Scholastic, 2018 | ISBN 978-1338157857

To learn more about Jeremy Tankard, his books, and his art, visit his website.

You’ll never get tired of watching the Sleepy Bird book trailer!

Sleepy Bird Giveaway

I’m thrilled to partner with Scholastic in this giveaway of

  • One copy of Sleepy Bird by Jeremy Tankard

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, June 8 – 14. Already a follower? Thanks! Just  Retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on June 15.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Scholastic.

National Best Friends Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-friends-magnets (2)

Glass Stone Magnets or Picture Hanger

 

Creativity is meant to be shared! Here’s an easy craft that you can make for yourself or to give to your best friends whether they live close by or far away. You can use clip art, your own art, or other images of favorite characters, that remind you of inside jokes, or that represent shared experiences to make these magnets personal.

Supplies

  • To get you started, here are two printable Best Friends Templates! Template 1Template 2
  • Poster board
  • Large, 1 ½-inch clear glass stones (also called decorative fillers), available in craft stores
  • Markers or colored pencils OR find images online to print out
  • Medium to large circular flexible magnets, available in craft stores
  • Super glue 
  • Toothpicks
  • Scissors

Directions

  • Place the glass stone on the poster board and trace around it
  • Draw your design in the circle on the poster board
  • Cut out the circle
  • With the toothpick, apply glue around the very edge of the design side of the circle
  • Attach the circle to the flat side of the stone, let dry
  • Trim the cardboard circle if needed
  • Attach the magnet to the back of the cardboard with glue

Picture Book Review

April 9 – International Unicorn Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-cover

About the Holiday

If you ask a child—maybe even an adult—to name a magical creature, chances are they’ll say, “a unicorn!” Unicorns have been part of legend since ancient times, undergoing changes from an image of fierceness and power to a representation of strength and true love to today’s more glittery superstar. To celebrate, learn more about the history of these mystical animals and check out your favorite unicorns of book, TV, and toy fame!

Thelma the Unicorn

By Aaron Blabey

 

“Thelma felt a little sad. / In fact, she felt forlorn. / You see, she wished with all her heart / to be a unicorn.” Thelma was a little pony—brown and short and overlooked. Her best friend Otis told her, “‘You’re perfect as you are,’” but when Thelma compared herself to the sleek white mare on the farm, she said, “‘I’m not.’” Then she saw a carrot left over from dinner and had an idea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-wishing

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

She tied the carrot to her forehead and told Otis, “‘I’ll say that I’m a unicorn! / It might just work… / who knows?’” At this very moment a truck driver passing by caught sight of Thelma and careened off the side of the road. “As Thelma watched the swerving truck, / it very nearly hit her. / Would you believe that truck was filled / with nice pink paint and glitter?”

In the blink of an eye Thelma was doused in sparkles and had become what she always dreamed of. She was a unicorn and “special now!” Crowds lined up at the farm gate to see the pink unicorn. The media descended with their cameras and video recorders, and Thelma quickly became a world-wide phenomenon. Everywhere she went fans screamed her name, took pictures, waved signs, and wanted to be near her. She even got her hoofprint on the Walk of Fame.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-becomes-unicorn

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Thelma sailed to foreign ports on a ship named The Fairy Princess, attended by stewards who fulfilled her every wish. “But soon she found that so much fame / was kind of tricky, too….” Her fans mobbed her with crushing zeal; chased after her wherever she went, screamed, cried, laughed, and pointed whenever they saw her; and hounded her day and night for her autograph. “It NEVER EVER stopped.”

When Thelma asked “the screaming crowd” not to chase her anymore, they said “‘We’ll chase you all we want….We’re fans, so it’s allowed.’” Then there were  the people who “were not her fans at all. / No, some were really mean. / And some just did the meanest things / she’d really ever seen.” Some threw eggs while she roller skated for charity and others held up signs reading “I don’t like unicorns” where she was sure to see them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-adoring-crowds

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Back in her fancy hotel room, all alone and bedraggled, soaked in egg, and with her “horn” losing its luster, Thelma looked at a photo of Otis. “…she felt quite sad, / this famous little pony. / She said, ‘I thought that I’d feel great… / but all I feel is lonely.’” Right then, she decided to make a change. She washed off all the pink paint and sparkles and removed her horn.

She left and “walked right past the crowd. / They didn’t even notice / She thought how nice that it would be…to see her lovely Otis.” Back at the farm, Thelma happily stood underneath a tree with Otis, When he asked her about her trip, she simply said, “‘Oh, it was fun, but I’d rather be just me.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-being-chased

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Aaron Blabey’s cautionary tale of a pony who is granted her wish to be “more” than she is, deftly reveals the pitfalls of abandoning your true nature for what appears to be the perks of celebrity with a splash of humor and some no-nonsense honesty. Through Blabey’s smoothly flowing rhymes, readers see that being special is not based on a sparkly appearance that pleases false friends. Instead, each person is remarkable for their unique personalities and talents that true friends will appreciate.

Today’s social media-savvy children will recognize Blabey’s screaming crowds and overzealous fans and will come to understand, with Thelma, that being “in the pink” can be short-lived and that glitter soon fades.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-carrot-horn

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Blabey’s distinctive illustrations portray Thelma’s transformation from “regular pony” to celebrity unicorn and back again with flair and all the bling that goes along with superstardom. The crowds are giddy, awed, obsessive, and adoring until the backlash starts, which Blabey portrays with candid examples. His final spreads in which Thelma goes unrecognized by her fans and is then lovingly welcomed back by Otis beautifully sum up the theme of the story.

Aaron Blabey’s light touch coupled with his encouragement to be true to yourself makes Thelma the Unicorn a great choice for  home and classroom libraries.

Ages  3 – 7

Scholastic Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1338158427

Scholastic Press sent me a free copy of Thelma the Unicorn to check out. All opinions are my own.

Discover more about Aaron Blabey, his books, and his art on his website

International Unicorn Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-unicorn-coloring-page

Magical Unicorn Coloring Page

 

Grab your crayons—and your glitter—and make this printable Magical Unicorn Coloring Page sparkle!

Picture Book Review

December 28 – Christmas Bird Count

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grumpy-bird-cover

About the Holiday

Concerned with declining bird populations, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman suggested a new holiday tradition—a Christmas Bird Census that would count birds instead of hunting them. The first census took place on December 25, 1900. On that day, twenty-seven birders, centered mostly in northeastern North America, counted 90 species of birds. The tradition has grown tremendously from those humble beginnings. Today, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave all types of weather to conduct the count, which helps conservationists and scientific organizations create strategies for protecting the health and habitats of bird populations. The Christmas Bird Count is now held from December 14 through January 5. To learn more or to get involved yourself, visit the Audubon website. 

Grumpy Bird

By Jeremy Tankard

 

Bird woke up on the wrong side of the nest. “He was too grumpy to eat” and “too grumpy to play.” In fact, he was so grumpy he couldn’t even lift himself into the air. “‘Looks like I’m walking today,’ Bird said.” His steps took him past Sheep who was grazing in a field. When Sheep found out that Bird was walking, she offered to come along.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grumpy-bird-waking-up

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2007, courtesy of jeremytankard.com.

The two soon came to where Rabbit was nibbling grass. Rabbit was curious about what Bird was doing. “‘I’m walking,’ said Bird. ‘It’s no fun.’” Even this less-than-enthusiastic response enticed Rabbit, though, and he joined in. Raccoon was just scampering down a tree truck when he spied the little parade. He called out to Bird to see what was going on. “‘I’m walking,’ snapped Bird, ‘What does it look like?’” Well, Raccoon said, “‘It looks like fun,’” and he joined the group.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grumpy-bird-rabbit

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2007, courtesy of jeremytankard.com.

Next, they came upon Beaver gathering sticks. His inquiry into Bird’s actions was met with a bit of pique: “‘Let me give you a hint,’ said Bird. ‘You do it by putting one foot in front of the other.’” Beaver caught on right away, and since he loved walking, he came too. When the animals passed Fox and the usual question was asked, Bird lost his temper. “‘WHY DOES EVERYONE KEEP ASKING ME WHAT I’M DOING?’ Bird shouted. ‘I’m walking, okay?’” That sounded okay to Fox, so she bounded along too.

“Bird walked,” and so did the other animals. When Bird stopped, the animals stopped. And when “Bird stood on one leg,” so did everyone else. Bird tried jumping, and the other animals jumped too. Bird began to have a change of heart. He thought this game was pretty fun. It was so fun, in fact, that “Bird forgot all about being grumpy” and invited his friends to “fly back to [his] nest for a snack. And they did.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grumpy-bird-fox

Copyright Jeremy Tankard, 2007, courtesy of jeremytankard.com.

Jeremy Tankard’s adorable Bird who has the grouchies will keep kids giggling and laughing as his crankiness grows. The repeated phrasing allows enthusiastic listeners to join in, and a dramatic reading will enhance the humor. The animals’ good-natured responses to Bird’s grumpiness reminds kids that everyone has bad days, and that a little bit of silliness goes a long way toward making friends smile again. The fanciful ending, stated so simply, provides a bit of magic that suggests anything is possible—especially among good friends.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grumpy-bird-single

Tankard’s illustrations are as multi-layered as his story, with sophisticated backgrounds that swirl with vibrant color, texture, bubbles, and sketched-in details. Silhouetted woods, sun-drenched fields, and riots of flowers give shape to Bird’s walking path while also highlighting the thickly outlined characters. As the appropriately blue Bird marches along on spindly legs, kids will be amused by his narrowed eyes and furrowed brow. Even his beak seems clenched. When he finally takes note of his fellow walking companions, his eyes turn questioning then attentive and finally cheerful.

Grumpy Bird would be a much-asked-for addition to any child’s bookshelf, especially on those days when a little more encouragement is needed.

Ages 3 and up

Scholastic Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0545871822 (Board Book edition); 978-0439851473 (Hardcover edition, 2007)

Discover a portfolio of books and art by Jeremy Tankard on his website

Christmas Bird Count Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beautiful-birds-word-search

Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle

 

It’s fun to watch for different kinds of birds when you take a walk or in your own backyard. Can you find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

December 13 – National Day of the Horse

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to commemorate the importance of the horse to the history, culture, and economy of the United States. The domesticated horse that we know today was first introduced by Spanish Explorers. As the country grew, horses became indispensable for transportation, farm and ranch work, and communications. The more than nine million horses that now reside in America depend on people for adequate food, water, shelter, and protection. On this holiday, consider donating to a horse rescue shelter near you.

Thelma the Unicorn

By Aaron Blabey

 

“Thelma felt a little sad. / In fact, she felt forlorn. / You see, she wished with all her heart / to be a unicorn.” Thelma was a little pony—brown and short and overlooked. Her best friend Otis told her, “‘You’re perfect as you are,’” but when Thelma compared herself to the sleek white mare on the farm, she said, “‘I’m not.’” Suddenly, she saw a carrot left over from dinner and had an idea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-wishing

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

She tied the carrot to her nose and told Otis, “‘I’ll say that I’m a unicorn! / It might just work… / who knows?’” At this very moment a truck driver passing by caught sight of this spectacle and careened off the side of the road. “As Thelma watched the swerving truck, / it very nearly hit her. / Would you believe that truck was filled / with nice pink paint and glitter?”

In the blink of an eye Thelma was doused in sparkles and had become what she always dreamed of. She was a unicorn and “special now!” Crowds lined up at the farm gate to see the pink unicorn. The media descended with their cameras and video recorders, and Thelma quickly became a world-wide phenomenon. Everywhere she went fans screamed her name, took pictures, waved signs, and wanted to be near her. She even got her hoofprint on the Walk of Fame.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-becomes-unicorn

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Thelma sailed to foreign ports on a ship named The Fairy Princess, attended by stewards who fulfilled her every wish. “But soon she found that so much fame / was kind of tricky, too….” Her fans mobbed her with crushing zeal, chased after her wherever she went, screamed, cried, laughed, and pointed whenever they saw her, and hounded her day and night for her autograph. “It NEVER EVER stopped.”

When Thelma asked “the screaming crowd” not to chase her anymore, they said “‘We’ll chase you all we want….We’re fans, so it’s allowed.’” Then there were there were the people who “were not her fans at all. / No, some were really mean. / And some just did the meanest things / she’d really ever seen.” Some threw eggs while she roller skated for charity and others held up signs reading “I don’t like unicorns” where she was sure to see them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-adoring-crowds

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Back in her fancy hotel room, all alone and bedraggled, soaked in egg, and with her “horn” losing its luster, Thelma looked at a photo of Otis. “…she felt quite sad, / this famous little pony. / She said, ‘I thought that I’d feel great… / but all I feel is lonely.’” She decided to make a change. She washed off all the pink paint and sparkles and “ditched her magic horn.”

She left and “walked right past the crowd. / They didn’t even notice / She thought how nice that it would be…to see her lovely Otis.” As Thelma stood underneath a tree with Otis, “he asked about her trip.” “‘Oh, it was fun,’” she answered him, “‘But I’d rather be just me.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-being-chased

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Aaron Blabey’s cautionary tale of a pony who is granted her wish to be “more” than she is, deftly reveals the pitfalls of abandoning your true nature for what appears to be the perks of celebrity with a splash of humor and some no-nonsense honesty. Through Blabey’s smoothly flowing rhymes, readers see that being special is not based on a sparkly appearance that pleases false friends. Instead, each person is remarkable for their unique personalities and talents that true friends will appreciate.

Today’s social media-savvy children will recognize Blabey’s screaming crowds and overzealous fans and will come to understand, with Thelma, that being “in the pink” can be short-lived and glitter soon fades.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-carrot-horn

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Blabey’s distinctive illustrations portray Thelma’s transformation from “regular pony” to celebrity unicorn and back again with flair and all the bling that goes along with superstardom. The crowds are giddy, awed, obsessive, and adoring until the backlash starts, which Blabey portrays with candid examples. His final spreads in which Thelma goes unrecognized by her fans and is then lovingly welcomed back by Otis beautifully sum up the theme of the story.

Thelma the Unicorn provides readers and adults a wonderful opportunity to discuss the allure of changing oneself in order to fit in as well as the social media atmosphere that can be so influential in a child’s life. Blabey’s light touch coupled with his honesty makes Thelma the Unicorn a great choice for  home and classroom libraries.

Ages  3 – 7

Scholastic Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1338158427

Scholastic Press sent me a free copy of Thelma the Unicorn to check out. All opinions are my own.

Discover more about Aaron Blabey, his books, and his art on his website

National Day of the Horse Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-horse-candy-stick-cover

Whoa! Candy Stick Cover

 

There’s no neigh-saying that this isn’t a cute way to give your favorite candy stick a bit of flair!  With a bit of felt and a few other supplies you can make this horse craft. Alternately, this craft can be used with a cardboard tube or wooden dowel.

Supplies

  • Large or small candy stick, cardboard tube or wooden dowel
  • Felt in whatever color you’d like for your horse
  • Felt in a another color for the mane
  • Black felt for the nostrils
  • Thin ribbon or leather lacing
  • Small googly eyes
  • Fabric glue or hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers

Directions

  1. Cut a piece of felt wide enough to wrap around the stick overlapping a little to glue together. It should be long enough to cover about 1 ½ inches of a small candy stick, about 2 ½ inches of a large candy stick, or about 3 to 4 inches of a cardboard tube or wooden dowel.
  2. Wrap the felt around the stick overlapping the edge about ¼ inch and leaving about ½ inch above the top of the stick.
  3. Glue the felt together along the overlapping edge to make a tube that fits the stick tightly

To make the ears

  1. Push down on the center of the back side of the felt that rises above the top of the stick
  2. Apply a drop of glue
  3. Push the center of the front edge of the felt into the glue
  4. The ears will stick up on the sides of the head

To make the horse’s nose and mouth

  1. Remove the felt head from the stick
  2. Pinch the end together
  3. Starting about ½ inch from the bottom, round the corners of the felt tube with the scissors

To make the nostrils

  1. Cut small circles from the black felt
  2. Glue them to the bottom of the horse’s nose
  3. Glue the googly eyes on the horse’s face

To make the mane

  1. Cut a strip of felt as long as the face by 1 inch wide for a large candy stick; about ¾ inch wide for a small candy stick
  2. Fold the felt in half lengthwise
  3. Glue the edges of the felt together, leaving the top unglued
  4. Snip fringe along the length of the felt
  5. Cut a small curve in the bottom of one end of the length of felt so it will fit over the top of the horse’s head
  6. Glue the rest of the length of felt down the back of the horse’s head

To add the reins

  1. Cut a length of narrow ribbon or leather lacing about 6 inches long
  2. Glue the center of the ribbon or lacing to the horse’s face above the nostrils at the level of the trimmed mouth around to the mane
  3. Tie the ends of the ribbon or lacing together

Picture Book Review

November 29 – It’s National Gratitude Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-cover

About the Holiday

National Gratitude Month was established to encourage people to embrace gratitude every day. When we focus on the good influences in our lives, we’re happier, healthier and less stressed. While during this season our thoughts turn to giving to others and the fun of getting a little something too, it’s good to be mindful of and grateful for the things we already have. More is not always better—as today’s book humorously demonstrates.

Pig the Elf

By Aaron Blabey

 

Trevor wrote Santa Claus a very pleasant note asking for something nice for Christmas. He even ended it with a declaration of love. His note sits on the table propped against a glass of milk next to a plate of gingerbread cookies and another of carrots in the living room decorated for Christmas Eve. Everyone’s feeling festive—especially Pig who giggles “with glee— / ‘The presents! The presents! / For ME! ME! ME! ME!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-christmas-eve

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

His list stretches on like a long country road and contains items galore, like “a motorcycle, a rocket, a drum set, a pony, a skateboard, a cotton candy maker….” After all, “Santa takes orders,” right? Pig can’t wait for Santa’s arrival. He picks up poor Trevor and shouts “‘When will he get here? / Oh, WHEN? / TELL ME WHEN?!’” But when Trevor mentions sleeping, Pig isn’t having it. “‘I’m sitting up late! / I’ll be here when he comes! / I declare by the stockings / and gingerbread crumbs!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-pig's-list

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

So as Trevor climbs the stairs to go to bed, Pig hides behind the tall tree. Finally, at three thirty-three he hears a sound. Pig peeks around and sees Santa with a bag full of toys. He leaves Trevor and Pig presents in tidy little stacks and then turns his attention to his snack. But as he’s drinking his milk, Pig pops out, yelling “‘HEY!’” He complains about the few packages left on the floor, reminding Santa that he asked for much more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-pig-peeking

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

But Santa has other presents to deliver, so he heads back up the chimney. Just as Santa’s about to disappear, Pig takes a big bite of his pants and doesn’t let go even as Santa climbs out of the chimney and runs pell-mell over the roof to his sleigh. Pig begs, “‘Don’t be a cheapskate! / I want all my stuff! / The pile that you left me / Is just not enough!’”

Santa quickly jumps in, and the reindeer take off at top speed. Pig’s grasp is no match for the zooming sleigh, and he plunges through the night sky toward the center of town. In a miraculous turn of events, though, Pig “survived that big drop, / and was saved by a tree…with an angel on top.”

The back cover endpapers display part of Pig’s list with amusing asides and a changing number of desired skateboards.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-santa-running

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Aaron Blabey knows that Pig the Pug just can’t resist the allure of presents and has written a funny, over-the-top story of what can happen when someone’s list is all get and no give. Blabey’s rollicking rhymes and free-wheeling dialog will make kids giggle at Pig’s insatiable appetite and unbridled impatience. Fairly popping out of his red hooded sleeper, Pig is a boisterous foil to the real Santa. As Pig hangs on to Santa for dear life, kids of a certain age will laugh out loud. When Pig falls directly atop the town Christmas tree, readers may be cheered to find that he can indeed be a little angel.

For fans of Pig the Pug, kids who like slapstick humor, and adult readers who enjoyed the antics of Alvin the Chipmunk, Pig the Elf is a fun holiday read.

Ages 3 – 5

Scholastic Press sent me a free copy of Pig the Elf to check out. All opinions are my own.

Scholastic Press, 2017 |ISBN 978-1338221220

Discover more about Aaron Blabey and his books on his website.

National Gratitude Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thank-you-card-template

Personalized Thank You Card

 

Often the best gift you can give someone is a “Thank You!” With this printable Thank You card, you can let someone know how much you appreciate them by drawing and writing a special message.

You can even get creative! Write a story, draw a picture, make a cartoon, or use a little glitter! You can also attach this to something you bake or make. Why not give the important people in your life a personalized thank you? It’s guaranteed to be appreciated!

Picture Book Review