August 11 – It’s Elvis Week

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About the Holiday

Each year during the week in August surrounding the date of Elvis Presley’s death, fans gather in Memphis and at Graceland, his home that is now a monument to The King to celebrate his music, movies, and legacy. Events include concerts, workshops, dances, the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, and more. The annual Candlelight Vigil, which attracts tens of thousands of fans, is held from the evening of August 15 to the morning of the 16th. Participants carry a candle as they walk up the driveway to the Meditation Garden, listening to his music and taking in memorials created by fans. To learn more about Elvis Week, visit the Graceland website.

Elvis Is King

Written by Jonah Winter | Illustrated by Red Nose Studio 

 

Elvis is King by Jonah Winter and Chris Sickels’ Red Nose Studio is an eye-popping wonder for fans of The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll wanting to share their love for Elvis with their kids. In short, lyrical chapters with dramatic titles that are cleverly reminiscent of the sensational headlines Elvis generated throughout his life (and even after), Winter peels back Elvis’s rags-to-riches story, encapsulating the depth of poverty, talent, and ambition that fueled his life. It’s all here—his birth “in a humble shack / on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, / the side where the poorest of the poor people live…;” his reason for being: singing; and the county fair talent show, where ten-year-old Elvis got his first taste of adoration and a “Fifth Prize!” award.

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Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Kids walk into the hardware store with Elvis’s barefoot mama, who “with pennies she saved…/ buys her eleven-year-old birthday boy / the most important gift he will ever receive. / It will be the key to his salvation.” Elvis plays that guitar everywhere, “All. The. Time.” There’s the moment Elvis overheard gospel singing coming from the African American Church and “The First Cheeseburger Ever Eaten by Elvis.” And that question: Why peanut butter and banana sandwiches? The answer’s here too.

When the family moves to Memphis, it’s up to teenage Elvis to make the money by “working nights as a ticket taker at a movie theater.” Then, suddenly during those years, Elvis finds the “Weird Teenage Elvis” inside him. He dyes his blond hair black and waxes it into a wave. At a thrift shop he buys green pants, a pink shirt, and a checkered jacket. Then at the high school talent show, he “KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD with his song.” And not only that “something happens, something big, when he’s up there: / He is no longer shy! / He can be whatever he wants to be—let loose, go crazy!”

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Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Along the way he falls in love, graduates from high school, and soaks up the sounds of the blues on Beale Street. For his mama’s birthday, he goes to Sun Studios, where anyone can record themselves singing. “(It also makes *real* records of big-time singers— / and Sly Elvis knows this.)” Elvis has his first recorded song for just $3.98. A bit later he gets the call he’s been hoping for from Sun Studios and discovers his signature sound and moves. The song—”That’s All Right”—plays on the radio, and where’s Elvis? Hiding out. Will people like it? Five thousand requests and fifteen replays in one night say Yes!

And when Elvis walks on stage for the first time to sing his song, he’s met with an “AVALANCHE of screaming—in a good way!” Goggle-eyed girls just want to be near him, and it’s the same no matter where he travels. This “Good-Lookin’ Heartthrob Elvis” is soon to lose his “One True Love, / his little darlin’, Dixie Locke. He uses that feeling, though, in a song—”Heartbreak Hotel” that “rises to number 1 on the pop charts.” So “What Is This Crazy Music, Anyway?” It’s not exactly country and it’s not exactly rhythm and blues. “It’s… / ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, baby. / And Elvis is its KING…!”

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Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Jonah Winter’s biography is in every way a loving tribute to Elvis Presley that also winks at his larger-than-life persona and the world’s obsession with him. Well-chosen adjectives presented in initial caps and attached to Elvis’s name, give titles to the phases of Elvis’s life and present an evocative way to show what and where he grew from and left behind on his rise to fame. Sprinkled with southern vernacular and touched with the cadence of a slow, considered southern drawl, Winter’s ingenious verses mirror song lyrics and echo themes that not only make up the country and blues standards that influenced Elvis’s music but that applied to his life. 

As always Chris Sickels’ Red Nose Studio artwork is nothing short of astounding. Each illustration is composed as a 3-D set handcrafted from polymer clay, wood, wire, fabric, and found objects. The intricate details and moving emotions, demonstrated in a look, by a gesture, and through perspective, give the illustrations a realism that goes beyond a photographic depiction to illuminate the heart of Elvis Presley’s story. Readers will want to linger over every page to absorb the cultural landscape and life-affirming moments that created The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

A joy to read aloud, Elvis Is King is an inspirational story for anyone with a dream, big or small. The personal, yet universal, story and phenomenal art make the book a stirring addition for home, school, and public libraries. 

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2019 | ISBN 978-0399554704

Discover more about Jonah Winter and his books on his website.

To learn more about the work of Chris Sickels and Red Nose Studio, visit his website.

Elvis Week Activity

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Elvis Coloring Page

 

Elvis wowed audiences and movie goers with his moves and flair. This printable coloring page shows Elvis in of his well-known dance poses. In honor of Elvis Week, why not share Elvis is King, this page, and some of Elvis’s songs or movies with your kids?

Elvis Coloring Page 

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You can find Elvis Is King at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 31 – National Mutt Day

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About the Holiday

National Mutt Day, also known as Mixed Breed Dog Day, was established in 2005 by animal welfare advocate Colleen Paige, and our collective love of dogs has expanded this holiday from one day to two! National Mutt Day is now celebrated on July 31 and December 2. The purpose of these days is to raise awareness of the plight of mixed breed dogs abandoned and/or in shelters around the country. Approximately 80% of dogs in shelters are mixed breeds, and they often lose out on finding permanent homes to purebred dogs who are adopted much more quickly. Mixed breed dogs tend to be healthier, behave better, and often have sweeter temperaments than their purebred cousins, making them wonderful family pets. If you are considering adding a pet to your family, consider a mixed breed. You’ll be happy you did!

Wolf Camp

By Andrea Zuill

 

Homer is a regular dog—except when he’s feeling wolfish. He loves the lure of the hunt, and likes to pounce on stuffed Mr. Moose unawares. He thinks this is because it’s been proven by science that “all dogs have a bit of wolf in them.” When Homer takes to daydreaming, his mind wanders to the joys of living as “a real wolf,” running with the pack on the open plains. Then one day in addition to his kibble, a flier for Wolf Camp pours from the dog food bag.

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2016, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The flier seems to offer everything Homer wants. “Have you ever felt like howling at the moon? Come join us!” it reads. Homer knows he has to go, so he makes sure his people see the notice—whether they are in the bathtub, in bed, relaxing, or just walking through the house. Finally his people relent, and on the designated day he boards the Wolf Camp bus and is off on an adventure.

Once at camp, Homer is “greeted by Fang and Grrr,” the counselors. Then he meets his fellow campers, big Rex and tiny Pixie. Fang gives a safety speech that includes staying together, refraining from chasing dangerous animals, and other rules. Their first lesson is “marking.” Could Homer help it if he was a little too close to Fang’s feet during practice? Next comes howling. Grrr and Fang sing out a chilling “Ahh-whooooo…” Pixie pipes up with a small “Yeeiiiiiip”; Rex gives an indeterminate  “Wahwawawawa…”; and Homer offers his best “Phooooooof…”

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2016, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

When they learn to track, Rex can’t contain his excitement and shouts out “Look! A bunny!” “Shhhhhhh…,” Homer and Pixie remind him. At last the campers are shown how to hunt, even if Fang and Grrr do run ahead and with grrrs, snarls, growls, and a cloud of dust acquire dinner by themselves. The meal has “an interesting flavor,” which prompts Homer to write a letter home: “Dear People, How are you? I am fine. The food here is yucky and has hair on it.” He asks his family to send his favorite bacon-flavored doggie snacks as well as flea medicine “because there are a lot of bugs and they are gross.” He even includes a real “smashed bug” in the corner of the paper.

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2016, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Living and sleeping in the wild have their challenges, but day-by-day the dogs adjust, becoming experts at marking rocks, howling “Ahh-Whoooo,” and hunting. And while taking down a moose may still be daunting, chasing squirrels is easy. The end of the week comes quickly and as Homer receives his “Honorary Wolf” certificate, he feels sad to be leaving his new friends. They howl “one more time as a pack,” and then it’s time to ride the bus back home.

While it’s good to be home with his people, his soft bed and electric blanket, and his familiar toys, Homer feels different. As nighttime falls he goes to the window and sings out a chilling “Ahh-whoooo-Ahh-Ahh-Whooowhooo….”

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2016, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Andrea Zuill’s funny story of a regular dog who dreams of being more by embracing his bolder heritage will delight dog owners and dog lovers alike. Endearing Homer, with his wagging tail, sweet smile, and unflagging perseverance, is an enthusiastic hero who inspires readers to never give up in the face of obstacles. Humorous dialogue and commentary by Homer, Rex, and Pixie as they perform their camp lessons are presented in speech and thought bubbles and will make kids giggle. Zuill’s nod to “people” camp makes Wolf Camp an accessible story that will resonate with any child facing a new situation, learning new skills, or being away from home for the first time.

Zuill’s vivid, cartoon-inspired illustrations are loaded with personality and expression. Kids will root for earnest Homer, shaggy Rex, and scrawny Pixie, and, while needle-nosed Fang and Grrr initially seem intimidating, they are counselors who have their camp charges’ best interests at heart.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553509120 | ISBN 978-1984851659 (Paperback, 2018)

To learn more about Andrea Zuill and Wolf Camp, as well as view a portfolio of her illustrations, visit her website!

National Mutt Day Activity

CPB - Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

 

Each of the puppies has a friend. Can you match them up based on one trait? There may be multiple right answers! Why do you think the dogs you chose go together in this printable puzzle?

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

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You can find Wolf Camp at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review

January 15 – National Hat Day

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About the Holiday

Hats are always stylish, and during this time of year they can be a necessity for keeping warm! No matter if you make your own hat or buy it in a shop, whether you like stocking hats, felt hats, hats with earflaps, or hats that just hide a bad hairdo, this is the perfect season to indulge your fashion fancies!

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love

Written by Michelle Edwards | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

One of the first gifts Sophia received when she was a baby was a knitted hat from her neighbor Mrs. Goldman. Now that Sophia is more grown up, she helps Mrs. Goldman make pom-poms for the hats she knits for other babies, friends, and neighbors. “‘Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,’ says Mrs. Goldman, kissing the top of Sophia’s head. ‘This is your keppie, and a mitzvah is a good deed.’”

One day in late autumn Sophia and Mrs. Goldman walk Mrs. Goldman’s dog Fifi. While Fifi is kept warm in a dinosaur sweater and Sophia is cozy in the fuzzy kitten hat and mittens that Mrs. Goldman made them, Mrs. Goldman’s head and ears are unprotected in the icy wind. When Sophia asks her friend why she doesn’t have a hat, Mrs. Goldman tells her “‘I gave it to Mrs. Chen.’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Sophia begins to worry about Mrs. Goldman. Who will knit a hat for her? “Not Mrs. Goldman. She’s too busy knitting for everyone else.’” Last year Mrs. Goldman had tried to teach Sophia to knit, but it was too hard and took too long, so she decided to stick with making pom-poms. But Sophia thinks maybe it’s time to try again. She goes to her knitting bag and pulls out the hat they had started together. “The stiches are straight and even. The soft wool smells like Mrs. Goldman’s chicken soup.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Holding the needles, Sophia thinks about what she was taught. Even though she drops stitches, she continues to knit. “She wants to make Mrs. Goldman the most special hat in the world.” The next day snow falls on Mrs. Goldman’s head as they walk Fifi. Sophia frets, and at home she begins knitting morning, noon, and night to finish her hat. Winter has set in and one day when the pair walk Fifi, “Mrs. Goldman wraps Mr. Goldman’s scarf around her head like she’s a mummy.” But the wind grabs it and rips it away. Sophia catches it, but shivers at the thought of how cold Mrs. Goldman must be.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

At home Sophia knits in a frenzy, adding row after row of stitches until the hat is finished. When Sophia looks at it, though, she finds holes where they shouldn’t be and lumpy and bumpy areas. She thinks what she has made looks more like a monster than a hat. Sophia takes out the box containing all the hats Mrs. Goldman has made for her, but they are much too small for Mrs. Goldman to wear. While Sophia’s mama and papa have hats made by Mrs. Goldman, she knows she can’t give those away.

Sophia imagines all the hats she makes with her neighbor and how Mrs. Goldman always tells her that her pom-poms add beauty, and that “‘that’s a mitzvah too.’” Sophia’s heart swells. She finds red yarn—Mrs. Goldman’s favorite color—and her pom-pom making supplies and goes to work. When she is finished and the pom-poms are attached, “Mrs. Goldman’s hat is the most special hat in the world.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Sophia runs next door and surprises Mrs. Goldman with her gift. Mrs. Goldman hugs Sophia and tears come to her eyes. “‘Don’t you like it?’” Sophia asks, but she needn’t worry. “‘I more than like it, I love it,’ declares Mrs. Goldman. ‘Gorgeous. Like Mr. Goldman’s rosebushes. And you know how I love his roses.’” With a kiss for Sophia, Mrs. Goldman begins counting the twenty pom-poms on her hat—“each one made with love.” Mrs. Goldman slips the hat on her head. Now when she and Sophia take Fifi for a walk, Fifi wears her dinosaur sweater, Sophia wears her kitty hat and mittens, and “Mrs. Goldman wears her Sophia hat. Her keppie is toasty warm. And that’s a mitzvah.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Michelle Edwards’ heartwarming story of a little girl who sees that her friend is in need and determines to help draws on children’s natural generosity and shows readers that their efforts are recognized and appreciated. Edward’s gentle and well-paced storytelling allows readers to understand the events and thoughts that bring Sophia to once again attempt knitting. Sophia’s solution to use the pom-poms she knows she makes well (and with love) to cover the holes demonstrates not only the ingenious creativity of kids, but also the idea that love can fill the voids in life.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016,  courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Brian Karas imbues the story of Sophia and Mrs. Goldman with a magical wonder that floats from page to page like the fluffy snowflakes that are the catalyst for Sophia’s mitzvah. A combination of full-page illustrations and snapshot images show days spent with Mrs. Goldman as well as the moments, hours, and days that adorable Sophia spends knitting her special hat. Sophia, tongue sticking out in determination, wields her knitting needs; she ponders her holey hat while imagining a frightened Fifi; and scraps of red yarn dot the floor and even sit atop Sophia’s head as she creates pom-pom after pom-pom. When Mrs. Goldman pulls the hat over her own head, kids will feel cheered, while adults may feel a small lump in their throat.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love is a gem. Its tender portrayal of kindness, love, and close personal relationships makes it an outstanding choice for any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497106

Discover more about Michelle Edwards and her books, plus activities, recipes, and information on knitting on her website!

Enter a gallery of books, sketches, blog essays, and more by G. Brian Karas on his website!

National Hat Day Activity

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Winter Hat Match Puzzle

 

These kids have all lost their hats! Can you follow the paths in this printable Winter Hat Match Puzzle to reunite each child with the right hat?celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-hat-for-mrs.-goldman-cover

You can find A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 13 – World Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement, a coalition of nations, World Kindness Day is an international celebration that encourages people around the world to be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude. To celebrate, people are asked to perform acts of kindness—big or small. Events include, the Big Hug, handing out Kindness Cards, and flash mobs showing and promoting kindness. The day spotlights good deeds—both individual and community—and focuses on “the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.” It doesn’t take cost anything to celebrate today with a simple “hi,” a smile, or an offer of help or support to someone in need. Don’t limit your care and concern to just one day, either. Promoters of the holiday hope that kindness becomes infectious, inspiring good relationships every day of the year.

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness

By Kerascoët

 

With smiles on their faces a family carries boxes from the moving van into their new home. The next morning the teacher introduces brown-skinned Vanessa to her new class, and she takes a seat in one of the two empty desks—the one separated from a straight-haired girl in a yellow dress by the other empty desk. During the lesson, Vanessa keeps her head down shyly as other kids raise their hands and answer questions. At recess, Vanessa sits alone on the bleachers while her classmates dribble basketballs, shoot baskets, and talk and laugh together.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

When the bell rings the kids pour out of the building, forming pairs and groups to walk home or play. Vanessa starts her route home by herself. At the crosswalk, a blond boy wearing a scowl approaches Vanessa and stops to talk. But he doesn’t offer friendly chit-chat. He sneers and taunts and points at her accusingly. Then with a huff, he turns and goes back the way he came.

The girl in the yellow dress has stopped with her friends by a tree. Instead of watching the squirrel scampering up the trunk, though, she sees and overhears the altercation between the boy and Vanessa. She looks as Vanessa stands a bit shell-shocked and then hurries across the road with tears in her eyes. Vanessa’s classmate is shocked too by what she’s seen. She feels sad and even sadder as Vanessa runs away and into her new home.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The girl returns to her friends and tells them what happened. They all react with surprise and sadness. All the way home, as her mom and dad cook dinner and her siblings watch TV, at bedtime and late into the night, the girl thinks about Vanessa. Vanessa has a sleepless night too.

In the morning, the girl gets dressed for school and heads to the table for breakfast. It’s while she’s drinking her orange juice that it hits her—what she can do. She grabs her lunch box and races out the door. She approaches a house and knocks on the door. Vanessa opens the door a crack and looks out. The little girl in her yellow dress talks to Vanessa and takes her hand. They walk down the sidewalk as other kids emerge from their own houses. A boy hails them and takes Vanessa’s other hand. Another boy joins the group and then a girl in pigtails. As more kids gather on the way to school, they come running to join Vanessa’s group.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The boy from the day before looks on with surprise. Soon the small group has become a wave as kids from all classes join in, streaming around the boy and passing him by. His face reddens and he sulks as the wave, led by Vanessa and her new friend enter the school building. In class, Vanessa takes her seat while the straight-haired girl moves to the desk next to her.

Backmatter includes advice for children on what they can do to help someone who is being bullied and helpful vocabulary to use when sharing the book with children.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Kerascoët’s perfectly constructed wordless picture book powerfully demonstrates the feeling of being overlooked and ignored, the emotional toll of being bullied, and how an act of bullying affects even those not directly involved. There is so much right about the details in this book from the empty desk between Vanessa and her soon-to-be friend on her first day of school to the suspense of  what the girl in the yellow dress says to her friends after witnessing the bullying and their reaction to the facial expressions on all of the characters faces.

Kerascoët’s use of color sets the tone as the background illustrations of the classroom and neighborhood is washed in a pale blue, putting the spotlight on the diverse classmates in their colorful clothes. A compelling double-spread center image gives vent to Vanessa and her classmate’s feelings through a stormy night with roiling black clouds and a torrent of rain. The two girls are connected by their lighted widows—the only bright spots in the darkened neighborhood. Turn the page and that glow is shining into the window from the sunny day. The homes are now lemon colored, with Vanessa’s house a standout pink.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

As the little girl talks to Vanessa and holds her hand, you will feel tears spring to your eyes, and the gathering children with their smiles and waves will swell your heart. In the sense of motion caused by the children rushing to join Vanessa’s group, the bully is now the one overlooked, and as the small groups become a crowd all walking in the same direction, the bully—facing the other way and at the bottom of the page—is far outnumbered. As the wave of kids enter school, the bully appears in the bottom corner, red faced and frowning. The possibility the empty desk poses at the beginning of the story is fulfilled when the girl in the yellow dress moves there to sit next to Vanessa.

The wordless quality of this book allows for readers to volunteer what they think is happening and what is being said. It also allows for deep discussions of similar experiences and can lead into an expanded lesson on kindness, empathy, and how to handle bullying.

I Walk with Vanessa is a moving portrait of how a simple act of friendship multiplies and changes lives and is a must for home, classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2018 | ISBN 978-1524769550

To learn more about the husband and wife team Kerascoët and their work, visit their website.

National Kindness Day Activity

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Kindness Cards to Share

 

On World Kindness Day people are encouraged to give out Kindness Cards to friends, family, and especially those who look as if they need cheering up. Here are some printable cards for you to use!

Kindness Cards to Share

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You can find I Walk with Vanessa at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 10 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

The Thanksgiving holiday—with all of it’s shopping, decorating, cooking, and hosting of family and friends—offers lots of opportunities for adults and kids to share their funny, sad, and even embarrassing stories with each other. Learning about others’ triumphs and foibles is a wonderful way to build bonds, and when multiple generations get together it’s also a great time to pass down family traditions. Today’s holiday encourages people to engage in the art of oral storytelling as a way to stay connected to their family heritage. To celebrate elicit your child’s help in the holiday preparations—and get talking!

Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

 

In a cozy home, preparations are being made for Thanksgiving. A little boy is eager to help out and is excited for the day. As his mom bustles around the kitchen, he urges, “Mama, fetch the cooking pot. / Fetch our turkey-cooking pot. / Big and old and black and squat. / Mama, fetch the cooking pot.” With the fat turkey snugged into the pot, the little boy knows just what comes next.

He hauls a basket of kindling to the stove, remind his daddy that he needs to make the fire “blazing hot.” But Thanksgiving dinner isn’t just about the turkey, so the boy ties on an apron to help his sister make the bread. “Sister, knead the rising dough. / Punch it down, then watch it grow. / Line your loaves up in a row.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Big brother also has a job to do to make sure the dinner comes out perfectly tasty. His younger sibling watches carefully as the older boy brushes the turkey with juices, basting the delicious-smelling bird until it’s golden. Grandpa and Grandma also get their instructions from their precocious grandson. With the recipe for the cranberries memorized, the little boy guides his grandfather through the process and has a particular wish for Grandma’s pie: “Grandma, bake your pumpkin pie. / Whip the topping light and high. / High enough to touch the sky. / Grandma, bake the pie.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With all the yummy aromas wafting through the kitchen, it’s getting hard for the little one to wait: “Baste. Boil. Bake a treat / When do we sit down to eat?” But it’s not quite time. As more family members arrive, they are also pressed into service. Auntie’s job is to fix the potatoes. How? The little tyke knows they should be mashed “just like Grandma taught you how” and topped “with butter from our cow.” Uncle’s here too with the cider jug ready to fill all the proffered mugs.

One family member’s job may be the hardest. Who is that? The baby! As the boy gently rocks the cradle, he whispers, “Baby, be a sleeping mouse. / Such a peaceful, sleeping mouse. / Snug and happy in our house. / Baby, be a mouse.” The house is alive with all the rushing around and excited voices, and while the little boy is looking forward to eating, he also knows that with “food and loved ones, we are blessed.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With the dinner well underway, it’s time to turn attention to the table decorations. Homemade Pilgrim hats are just the thing for clever placemats. Finally, the food is cooked, the candles on the table are lit and it’s time for one last thing. The boy stands on his chair “to raise a hearty shout. / A happy, hungry, hearty shout. / ‘COME AND GET IT! /  DINNER’S OUT!’”

But the adults are so slow! The boy sits in his chair eyeing all the scrumptious food to come as Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle, and even his sister and brother mill about, seeming to never find their proper place. At last everyone has gathered around the table, grace has been said, and it’s time to “share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Through her child’s-eye view of an old-fashioned Thanksgiving day, Pat Zietlow Miller captures the excitement and endearing impatience of children on this special family holiday. Young readers will recognize the little boy’s tone of urgency as he exhorts his family members to do their particular jobs to make the meal a success. This ready identification makes Zietlow’s story always up-to-date while connecting children with the past. Little ones, who love to be involved in holiday preparations, will love to hear this gentle, rhyming tale that flows as smoothly as the well-organized kitchen portrayed.

Jill McElmurry’s homey illustrations glow with golden hues that invite readers into the old-fashioned kitchen to take part in one family’s happy Thanksgiving dinner. Clothing, hairstyles, a cast-iron stove, and an old hand-pump faucet set the story in yesteryear, but the smiles, plump crispy turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and convivial hustle-bustle tell readers that this is a story as current as today. Children will love lingering over the details on each page and trying to guess who is going to show up for dinner next.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2015 | ISBN 978-0307981820

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jill McElmurry and her books for kids, visit her website.

Homemade Bread Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-recipe box

My Family’s Recipe Box, Label, and Cards

 

Holidays are a perfect time for kids to learn traditional or favorite family recipes. With this easy craft and printable label and recipe cards, children can create their own unique recipe box.

Supplies

  • A tea bag box, such as Tetley Tea or another appropriately sized box with a lid that overlaps the front edge
  • Printable Recipe Box Label | Printable Recipe Cards
  • Washi tape
  • Heavy stock printing paper
  • Adhesive printing paper (optional)
  • Glue (optional)

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celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-recipe-cards

Directions

  1. Cover the box in washi tape
  2. Print the label on adhesive printing paper or regular paper
  3. Stick label to box or attach with glue
  4. Print recipe cards on heavy stock paper
  5. Write down favorite recipes and store them in your recipe box

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You can find Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 14 – National Live Creative Day

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About the Holiday

Do you love that you think differently? That when you look at a leaf, you see a poem or that when you hear the wind, you imagine a painting? And don’t you love those days when you can just let your creative mind take over and you can make something new—no matter what it is? Well, today is one of those days! National Live Creative Day was established to encourage people to embrace their innovative side. There are so many ways to be creative from the arts, to science and math, to what you make for dinner. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “creative type,” enjoy looking at things at work and home in a different way. One of the best ways to celebrate the day is to spend time with a child. Kids are naturally creative and are just waiting for ways to express it!

Douglas, You’re a Genius!

By Ged Adamson

 

While Nancy and Douglas were playing ball in the backyard, the ball rolled through a hole in the fence. A pile of leaves on the other side prevented Nancy and Douglas from seeing where the ball went. But just as they were about to pronounce the ball “a goner,” it rolled back at them. “Nancy and Douglas called into the hole. ‘Thank you!’ But there was no response.” Even a whistle and a bark only brought silence.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Douglas really wanted to know who was on the other side of the fence, so he and Nancy got out their train set and built a track into the hole. They sent the train engine chugging down the track with a note that said, “Hello! We are Nancy and Douglas J” While they waited and waited they made music on pots and pans, danced to a record on the record player, and built a house of cards.

Finally the train made a return trip with another note that said, “¡Hola! ¡Queremos conocerte!” Neither Nancy nor Douglas knew what the words meant, but they increased the pair’s curiosity. The fence was much too tall to climb, but Nancy had a plan. Her plan included her rubber band collection, a trampoline, a helmet, a camera, and… a bouncing, flying Douglas who would take a picture of their neighbor. Douglas thought the plan was dangerous, but Nancy said, “‘Nonsense. You’ll be fine!’” Douglas ran and launched himself into the air and into… a tree.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Douglas said he had a plan, but Nancy was already ready with another of her own. This one was explosive. Douglas grumbled, but Nancy chastised him for having no sense of adventure. The contraption was set in motion and “Douglas moved astonishingly fast, but unfortunately, not in an upward direction.” A little dazed and droopy, Douglas asked if they could try his plan, but first Nancy wanted him to try pole vaulting, kite flying, and many more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-douglas-you're-a-genius-train

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

At last, Douglas shouted, “It’s my turn!!” Nancy conceded, and Douglas started digging. He dug and dug until his plan was finished. There, up against the fence was a mountain of dirt—a mountain they could climb! “‘Douglas, you’re a genius!’” Nancy exclaimed. When they got to the top, they saw the most surprising thing. The neighbor’s yard was littered with discarded contraptions, and there, standing on an equally tall mound of dirt was a boy and his dog. “Hello!” Nancy said. “¡Hola!” the boy said. “Woof!” said Douglas. “¡Guau!” said the boy’s dog.

“The new friends got busy right away on a new plan.” This one was the most elaborate yet. And all the kids in the neighborhood agreed that “it was the most genius plan of all.”

A glossary of the Spanish words and phrases used in the story precedes the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-douglas-you're-a-genius-waiting

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Ged Adamson’s contraption-filled celebration of curiosity, creativity, and diversity reunites readers with Nancy and her sweet pooch, Douglas in a story that suspense, laughs, and a surprising ending. Douglas’s ingenious solution to their dilemma is a truly unexpected, rib-tickling delight, and the discovery that Douglas has an equally intelligent new friend will enchant readers.  Nancy’s eagerness to share her ideas and acknowledgement of Douglas’s success will resonate with kids. These interactions also provide good talking points about cooperation and listening to others. The relationship between Nancy and Douglas is sweet and heartwarming. Extending that friendship to their neighbors and the community is an exciting development in their story—and hopefully future stories. The addition of Spanish characters to the series is a welcome inclusion, and the dual-language plan the kids devise will inspire readers to learn new words.

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Adamson’s Nancy and Douglas are as enthusiastic and adorable as ever. As they work to overcome the formidable fence, Adamson’s use of perspective and action will spark plenty of giggles. Nancy’s graphed-out Rube Goldberg-style contraptions will enthrall young engineers and fans of slapstick humor, and snapshots of Douglas warily trying them all will trigger laugh-out-loud moments.

For old and new fans of Douglas and Nancy, Douglas, You’re a Genius! is a no-brainer for inclusion on home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2018 | ISBN 978-1524765309

To learn more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Live Creative Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-contraption-crazy-maze

Contraption Crazy! Maze

 

Can you follow the marble through the crazy track in this printable maze?

Contraption Crazy! MazeContraption Crazy! Maze Solution

Want to make a Douglas of your own? Click here!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-douglas-you're-a-genius-cover

You can find Douglas, You’re a Genius! At these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 10 – National Eye Exam Month

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About the Holiday

Founded in 1989 by Sears Optical, National Eye Exam Month encourages people to think about their eye health. As kids get ready to go back to school, an eye exam is an important thing to add to the list of preparations. Seeing clearly is crucial to success in class and extracurricular activities. If you and your children have not had an eye exam this year, consider calling your ophthalmologist this month.

Douglas, You Need Glasses!

By Ged Adamson

 

Something may be amiss with Douglas. When Nancy and her playful pooch go out to chase squirrels, Douglas takes after a falling leaf while the squirrel escapes up a tree. It’s not the first time this has happened, either. You see, Douglas is a bit nearsighted. Sometimes he mistakes the stair post for Nancy, and his difficulty gets in the way of things (well, mostly Douglas gets in the way of things).

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Image and text copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

He also misses important signs—like the one that would have prevented him from tracking wet cement all over the skate park, where there are NO DOGS allowed—and he’s always causing something of a ruckus. Sometimes he even enters the wrong house! But when a game of fetch nearly creates a buuzzzz of disaster, Nancy decides something must be done.

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Image and text copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She takes Douglas to the eye doctor where he reads a most dog-friendly eye chart and discovers that he needs glasses. He peruses the shelves of Dog Glasses and puts some on. Each one makes him feel different. In one pair he’s a rock star; in another a scholar; and in yet another a hippy. He tries them all until he finds the perfect pair!

On the way home he sees the world in a whole new way. “‘Wow! Everything looks amazing!’” Douglas says. And it is!

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Image and text copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Ged Adamson’s funny look at a dog with an all-too-human malady will make kids laugh from the first page to the last. Earnest Douglas, going about his doggy days under a bit of a skewed perspective, is so endearing that readers will immediately take him to heart even as they giggle at his exploits.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-douglas-you-need-glasses-chasing-squirrel

Image and text copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Adamson’s vibrant multi-hued trees, colorfully clothed kids, and vivid backgrounds with stylish, sketched-in details give the book a fresh, jaunty appeal for a lively, fun story time. Kids facing the prospect of wearing glasses will also find much to give them reassurance and confidence in this book. Douglas, You Need Glasses! is a great addition to any child’s bookshelf!

Ages 3 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, Random House Kids, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553522433

Visit Ged Adamson’s Website to learn more about him and his books!

National Eye Exam Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spool-puppy-craft

Spool Puppy

 

No matter where you go and whether you have a real dog or not, you can take this little guy along with you. And just as you would pick out your favorite from an animal shelter, you can make this puppy look any way you’d like!

Supplies

  • Printable Ears and Nose Template
  • 2-inch round wooden spool, available at craft stores
  • 1 skein of yarn in the color you choose. Yardage needed will depend on the thickness of the yarn.
  • Felt
  • Thin gauge wire
  • Craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Fabric or strong glue
  • Dowel or pencil to wrap wire around to make glasses

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spool-puppy-craft

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel the color you want your dog to be, let dry
  2. Trace the ears on the felt and cut out (or draw your own ears)
  3. Trace the nose on the felt and cut out
  4. When the spool is dry glue the ears to the body of the spool, allowing the ears to stick up from the top of the spool
  5. Wind the yarn around the spool back and forth until the dog’s body is the size you’d like
  6. Glue the yarn in place with fabric or strong glue

To make the face

  1. Glue the nose over the hole on one end of the spool
  2. Draw the mouth and tongue under the nose with a marker
  3. You will draw the eyes on after the glasses are in place

To make the glasses

  1. Wind the wire around a ½-inch dowel, thick pencil, or rounded handle to make two circles.
  2. Leave about two inches on either side of the circles for the ear pieces of the glasses.
  3. Adjust the size of the circles to fit the spool as glasses.
  4. Put the glasses on the face of the spool, tucking the ear pieces into the yarn on each side
  5. Draw eyes in the center of the glasses

To make the tail

  1. Cut a small square of felt and stuff the edges into the hole on the other end of the spool
  2. You can make the tail as long as you like

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-douglas-you-need-glasses

You can find Douglas, You Need Glasses! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review