August 3 – It’s National Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

It may seem like summer vacation just began, but it’s already time to start thinking about the new school year. The stores are stocked with clothes, supplies, and plenty of gear to make the new school year the best ever. But the stuff of going to school is just part of getting ready. Kids are looking forward—eagerly or maybe with a little trepidation—to meeting new friends, having new teachers, and exploring new subjects and ideas. Making the transition to a different grade easier and exciting is what National Back to School Month is all about.

Simon & Schuster sent me a copy of Idea Jar to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Simon & Schuster in a giveaway of a copy of Idea Jar. See details below.

Idea Jar

Written by Adam Lehrhaupt | Illustrated by Deb Pilutti

 

On the teacher’s desk sits an Idea Jar that holds her student’s story ideas. The teacher “says a story can be about anything” the kids want it to be. Like maybe “a space robot” or a “horseless cowgirl” or, yes, even that Viking who is trying to hoist himself over the edge of the jar to freedom. See, “there’s no such thing as a bad story idea,” and there are so many ways to tell your story.

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

You can even combine your own ideas or make up a story with a friend. And maybe even that Viking in the back of your mind would make a good character too. He certainly thinks so. His motto is “Everything is better with a Viking”—even a giant badger who has lost her pink dress.

There is one thing about the Idea Jar, though. “It’s important to create stories for your ideas, or else your ideas get rowdy.” Just look at that Viking, who’s poking…at…the…jar! “Oh no! The ideas!”  They’re all loose! Now the robot is shooting his laser eyes and the dragon is swishing its enormous tail and the ideas are running amok!

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

“These ideas need a story. Will you help?” Great! Should we? Should we start with the Viking? What if he gets into a battle with the space robot? Then gets rescued by the dragon? Who’s ridden by the horseless cowgirl! What? You’d like to change some ideas around? Go for it! This is your story, after all! “Wow! You were awesome!” You made all of those story ideas very, very happy. But it’s time that they went back in the jar to meet some other ideas for next time.

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

As the award-winning author of Warning: Do Not Open this Book, Please Open this Book, This is a Good Story, and many others, Adam Lehrhaupt knows a thing or two—or three—about corralling ideas into a story. By appealing directly to students and any story creator, the narrator of the madcap Idea Jar will excite kids to pay attention to the ideas rattling around and flashing through their minds and inspire them to write, draw, or tell their own stories. The persistent Viking, who gives story suggestions throughout the book and nudges the story along, will delight kids and can serve two purposes for teachers or other writing coaches.

With his infectious enthusiasm, the Viking is that great idea that knocks at your consciousness until it is used. His whispered recommendations may also remind writers and artists of that little self-editor who so often can keep great ideas from running free. Learning to manage both of these is what great storytelling is all about. As the Viking sails into the classroom portrayed in the book, kids will jump at the chance to turn on their imaginations and give him—and their own characters—a story full of suspense, humor, and unexpected twists and turns.

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Image copyright Deb Pilutti, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

As a space robot rockets from the Idea Jar, a horseless cowgirl lifts herself over the edge, and a big, scaly arm reaches from within to pull out the words “dragon” and “giant,” kids will be instantly invested in these characters without a story…yet. Deb Pilutti’s vibrant and dynamic illustrations show the creative process in action, whether a child’s talent lies in writing, drawing, or even reciting ideas aloud. The crafty Viking makes a frequent appearance—just like any good idea does—to prod the ideas in the jar (including the horseless cowgirl, the space robot, and the dragon as well as a pirate, a unicorn, a giraffe, a monster, and various animals) to unleash their inventive power. As the story comes together, the students and teacher cheer as they see their creation come to life. 

Kids will love answering the call to create a story and interacting with the ideas in Idea Jar. Idea Jar is infused with the natural spontaneity and inventiveness of children’s imaginations, making it a winner for jump-starting writing or art lessons in classrooms and inspiring creativity at home for kids and adults.

Ages 4 – 8 (and up)

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481451666

Discover more about Adam Lehrhaupt and his books on his website.

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Deb Pilutti

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Today I’m excited to talk with author/illustrator Deb Pilutti about her new book Idea Jar with Adam Lehrhaupt, her branding work inspired by vintage signs, and the old Creepy Crawlies Thingmaker, a toy which I was surprised and delighted to discover we both loved as children.

Readers will love the way the characters interact with each other and with the kids writing and drawing stories in Idea Jar. Can you describe your journey from when you first received Adam Lehrhaupt’s manuscript for Idea Jar to the finished book?

I am a fan of Adam’s Warning: Do Not Open this Book! so I was quite excited when Paula Wiseman at Simon & Schuster asked me if I would like to illustrate IDEA JAR. Who wouldn’t want to illustrate a book with a Space Robot, a Viking, a cowgirl and a Dragon as the main characters? Adam left a lot of room for me to play. He did not specify what the other ideas in the jar would be, only the characters he had written into the text. It was fun to develop additional characters and their relationships and mini-side stories, like the developing friendship between the Yeti and the small dog, and the mouse driving a race car.

Kids’ imaginations are always so full of possibilities, and they can make such funny and amazing leaps of character and plot. What are some steps you’d give young writers and illustrators for capturing those snatches of imagination and developing an idea into their own story?

Keep a journal. I have several that I write or doodle in. If there is something I find interesting, like an idea or a character, I go back to it and try to work out a story. I start by asking questions of the character or situation. What would happen if… type of questions.

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Your branding work for Sea World, Warner Brothers, artists, food trucks, and more are infused with such a fun vintage vibe. Do you have a favorite decade to draw design ideas from, and why?

I absolutely love vintage signage and type from the 50s and 60s. Some of it is so campy while others can be evocative or elegant. The colors used were bold and saturated.

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Before you began illustrating and writing for children, you designed toys, and in your recent release The Secrets of Ninja School, the main character makes dragon stuffies for all of her classmates. Why do you think playing with traditional toys is so important for children? What was your favorite toy when you were a child?

Mostly because it’s fun. I also think it’s a way to navigate the world, but that isn’t something I thought about as a child. When I was young, I loved making Creepy Crawlers, which was an incredibly dangerous toy at that time. You pored possibly toxic goop into a metal mold and cooked it in a blisteringly hot ThingmakerTM oven, which resulted in many scorched fingers. But totally worth it, because once the plate cooled, you would have an army of colorful and stretchy bugs.

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My cousin is a graphic designer and whenever I visited her as a child I loved seeing her special corner of the house. It was so full of color and knick-knacks (inspiration, really, I guess) and works in progress, that I developed a fascination with artists’ studios. Do you mind describing your work space a little? What is your favorite thing in it?

My studio is in a small bedroom. I have a long table with a computer and extra monitor set up on it, and I sometimes sketch here as well. A painting easel is in the corner of the room. It’s a very messy place, with papers everywhere and knick-knacks and toys and bits of shiny things on every surface. I like all of my toys, but my favorite one is a realistic toy model of a T-rex with a moveable jaw.

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What’s the best part of being a children’s illustrator and author?

I have always loved books. To be involved with the art of bookmaking is a wondrous thing. My favorite part of the process is making the final illustrations.

Do you have any anecdotes from a reading or event that you’d like to share?

I was visiting a school last April and had a blast creating stories with the students using an Idea Jar. We made some pretty silly stories together. One student came up with a zombie tomato for a character, which was brilliant!

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently working on final illustrations for two books. The first is Old Rock (is not boring). A story about a rock sounds like it could be boring, right? At least Old Rock’s friends think so. Old Rock reveals her own surprising story, slowly and languidly, as rocks do. I’m also illustrating a sequel to Ten Rules of Being a Superhero. It’s called Ten Steps to Flying Like a Superhero. I had so much fun with the characters from the first book that they are back for another adventure. Lava Boy’s superhero toy, Captain Magma, wants to fly more than anything. They devise a plan, which does not go as anticipated.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Summer Solstice. I live in Michigan, which is quite lovely, but the cold and dark of winter can get a bit old. I miss the light. Our summer nights are very long. On Summer Solstice, I try to stay outside until the last vestiges of daylight disappear at around 9:45.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Yes, I illustrated The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan, illustrated by Susan Collins Thoms.

Thanks so much for chatting, Deb! I wish you all the best with Idea Jar and all of your books!

National Back to School Month Activities

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Make Your Own Idea Jar

If you have lots of ideas looking for a place to hang out, discover how to make your own Idea Jar and find some cool starter ideas from Adam Lehrhaupt! Make your own IDEA JAR!

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Dream up Story Ideas

Do your kids (or maybe you!) want to think up awesome story ideas? Check out Deb Pilutti’s 5 Methods of Generating Story Ideas

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You can find Idea Jar at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 26 – It’s World Oceans Month

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About the Holiday

The world’s oceans offer beauty, resources, and mystery. This month we celebrate these vast wonders while committing ourselves to their preservation. Pollution, climate change, and habitat destruction all threaten the fragile ecosystems that exist in and near the sea. We also remember the communities that rely on the oceans for economic stability as well as the men and women who work to protect the oceans and their unique creatures. 

Ocean Meets Sky

By the Fan Brothers

 

Finn gazed out his window at the sea. His grandfather, who would have celebrated his ninetieth birthday that day, would have told him it was a perfect day for sailing. They could have gone to the place his grandfather told him about where “ocean meets sky.” To honor his grandfather, “Finn build a boat. A boat fit for a long journey. One they had planned together.”

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Copyright the Fan Brothres, 2018, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

When Finn grew tired, he lied down for a nap. Upon waking, he felt the boat rocking and saw that the adventure had already begun. Magical clouds—a whale, a clipper ship, an anchor, and elephant, and an old captain’s pipe—floated above him. But Finn grew lonely as the boat sailed into the night. A “great, golden fish” noticed Finn and approached the boat.

“‘Do you know where ocean meets sky?’ Finn asked the fish.” The fish answered in the form of a riddle and offered to show Finn the way. They sailed to the Library Islands, where books were stacked like skyscrapers on which a hundred birds perched. Next they came to an island of enormous seashells. “And crossed a sea of moon jellies dancing.”

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Copyright the Fan Brothres, 2018, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

As the moon jellies soared into the sky to meet floating craft of all kinds, Finn wondered if he had found the place he had been looking for. Suddenly, his boat “began to lift from the water… or had the water fallen away?” His little boat joined the other fantastical ships, hot air balloons, and air ships that plied misty waves around a huge, floating whale. More and more ships, fish, kites, sea creatures, and even a castle joined the throng that soared past the full moon.

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Copyright the Fan Brothres, 2018, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

When the golden fish began swimming toward the moon, Finn followed. In the moon’s shining roundness, he saw the face of his grandfather, and “he wanted to say goodbye.” Although Finn had many questions for his grandfather, he turned when he heard his name called from far away. His grandfather sent Finn on his way home.

Finn’s mother nudged him gently, waking him for dinner—Grandpa’s dumplings. Before going inside, “Finn looked out across the sea to that magical place far away, where ocean meets sky” and thought “it had been a good day for sailing.”

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Copyright the Fan Brothres, 2018, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The Fan Brothers’ distinctive mastery with mystical storytelling, combined with stunning illustrations that awaken the imagination in children and a wistful yearning for bygone dreams in adults, transforms a story about a boy’s feelings for his departed grandfather into heartening reassurance that a loved one is always with us in memories of moments, teaching, promises, and activities shared. Readers will be enticed to linger over every page of Finn’s mysterious and enchanting dreamscape, and the tender ending anchors the story in a tangible way that Finn and his family honor his grandfather.

Ocean Meets Sky casts a spell that lasts long after the covers have been closed and will beckon to be read again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481470377

Discover more about Eric and Terry Fan, their books, and their art on their website.

World Oceans Month Activity

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Ocean Creatures Coloring Pages

 

The ocean is full of amazing creatures. Here are three printable coloring pages to dive into!

Sweet Sea Turtle | Cute  Octopus | Swimming Stingray

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You can find Ocean Meets Sky at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 6 – Global Running Day

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About the Holiday

Do you love to run, or do you find yourself thinking, “I really should take up running.” Then today is for you! Established to allow serious runners to recommit to their sport and to encourage those on the fence to jump down and join in, Global Running Day provides the inspiration to embrace this healthy lifestyle. Celebrated in 139 countries and with 184,583 people pledged to run (as of this writing), Global Running Day inspires people of all ages to take to the road, track, or trails and enjoy the exhilaration of running. To learn more about the day visit the Global Running Day website!  

The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon

By Meghan McCarthy

 

On August 30, 1904 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, the first United States Olympic Marathon took place even though torrential rainstorms had washed away the original route. On the morning of the race thirty-two racers faced an unfamiliar, more difficult route. Some of these racers were:

Fred Lorz, a Boston bricklayer; John Lorden, the winner of the 1903 Boston Marathon; Sam Mellor from New York and the winner of two major marathons; Felix Carvajal, a mailman from Cuba; Arthur Newton; Albert Corey;  Len Tau, a long-distance running messenger from South Africa; William Garcia, the “greatest long-distance runner on the Pacific Coast”; and Thomas Hicks, who had only trained on flat terrain and was not ready for hilly St. Louis. There were also racers from countries all over the world.

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Copyright Meghan McCarthy, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The racers waited in 90-degree heat at the starting line for the signal. When the pistol shot rang out, they took off. The early leader was Fred Lorz. As the racers took to the hills outside the stadium so did cars full of reporters, judges, and doctors. Some spectators rode along side them on bicycles. All these vehicles stirred up so much dust that the runners choked on it.

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Copyright Meghan McCarthy, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

At mile two, Sam Mellor and Fred Lorz were in the lead with Thomas Hicks only a little behind, but at mile 9 Lorz suffered terrible cramps and was driven away in a car. Now Albert Corey and William Garcia were neck and neck, and Hicks was catching up!

Felix Carvajal was also in the mix. He ran and ran—but he also stopped and stopped. He loved talking to the spectators that cheered him on. It gave him an opportunity to practice his English! Arthur Newton, Sam Mellor, and Thomas Hicks exchanged the lead several times. Everyone wondered which of them would come out on top. 

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Copyright Meghan McCarthy, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Meanwhile Len Tau was being chased by an angry dog that forced him a mile off course. Felix Carvajal also got distracted—not by a dog, but by an apple orchard! After running so far and talking to so many people, he settled down under a tree to satisfy his hunger. Soon, Mellor began suffering cramps and was suddenly out of the race.

Hicks, suffering unbearable thirst in the staggering heat, began begging his trainers for water. They refused, instead giving him a concoction of strychnine and egg whites. Meanwhile who should appear out of the dust but Fred Lorz! He ran through the tape at the finish line and was declared the winner! But was he really? When the officials discovered that Lorz had cheated, cheers turned to boos, and Lorz was banned from racing for life.

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Copyright Meghan McCarthy, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Hicks, sluggish and confused, somehow kept running, buoyed by the cheering crowds. He pushed himself to run harder and harder until he broke through the tape. He collapsed on the ground just as he was declared the winner. He was rushed to the hospital, but was well enough to accept his award an hour later.

What happened to the other runners? All except one crossed the finish line. These racers may have been very different, but each one accomplished an astounding feat: They competed side by side in the “killer marathon” of 1904 while upholding the Olympic spirit.

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Copyright Meghan McCarthy, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

With wit and suspense,Meghan McCarthy brings the story of the 1904 marathon to life for kids used to paved, well-marked routes, energizing sports drinks, supportive running shoes, and comfortable running clothes. Perhaps the only similarities to today’s races and yesteryear’s are the start and finish line and the cheering crowds! McCarthy’s inclusion of the humorous and the near-disastrous will keep readers’ hearts racing until the very end, when the topsy-turvy finish is revealed!

McCarthy illustrates The Wildest Race Ever with verve and comic flourishes that well-represent this extraordinary Olympics event. Kids will giggle and gasp when they learn what happens to the racers – and even a couple of spectators – during the race.

The Wildest Race Ever is a must-read for sports and history enthusiasts as well as for any child who loves a good story.  

Ages 4 – 9

Simon & Schuster, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481406390

Global Running Day Activity

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Sassy Shoe Laces

 

Did you know that having cool shoelaces makes you run faster? Well…that might not be exactly true, but you will definitely look good no matter what you’re doing if you make some unique laces for your shoes.

Supplies

  • Shoelaces in any color
  • Fabric paint or markers

Directions

  1. With the fabric paint or markers make dots, stripes, or any designs you like. You can even paint fish or flowers!
  2. Enjoy them on your run!

May 22 – National Maritime Day

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About the Holiday

In 1933 The United States Congress established National Maritime Day to honor the important contributions of the maritime industry. The date of May 22 was chosen to commemorate the 1819 voyage of the steamship Savannah from the United States to England, which marked the first successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by steam power. Special ceremonies and celebrations are held throughout the country to recognize the day and the people involved in our maritime industry. To learn more about the history and continuing service of America’s maritime industry, visit the Maritime Administration website.

Float

By Daniel Miyares

 

On a rainy day a little boy folds a paper sailboat and sets off outside to launch his boat. He’s sailing it over the waves of his picket fence, when the sky darkens and the rain pelts down fast and hard. The boy hides his boat in his yellow raincoat until the rain becomes a gentle drizzle. He finds a large puddle and floats his little boat across the surface. He jumps into the middle, splashing and flustering the birds.

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Copyright Daniel Miyares, 2015, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Next he sets his boat in the current rushing along the gutter, and the little paper boat zooms off with the boy running after it. Suddenly, the boat plunges through the grate into the darkness underneath the street. The boy reaches to catch it, but can’t quite capture it. He runs to the stone bridge and watches to see if the boat passes underneath. He moves to a hill and stares out to see his boat deposited from a drain pipe.

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Copyright Daniel Miyares, 2015, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The boat is soggy and unfolded. The boy retrieves it with a stick and trudges sadly home holding the wet newspaper in his hands. His dad opens the door and enfolds his son in a big hug. He helps him get dry, pours a cup of hot chocolate, and folds another page from the newspaper. Then he sends his little boy back outside to soar in the now sunny afternoon.

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Copyright Daniel Miyares, 2015, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Daniel Miyares’ exquisite wordless picture book takes readers on a moving journey through the emotions of life, including joy, exhilaration, disappointment, loss, love, and new beginnings. Rendered in gray tones with splashes of color, Miyares illustrations beautifully use various perspectives, the play of light and dark, motion, and readily recognizable facial expressions to tell his story. The mirrored images of the boy’s neighborhood in the puddle and the ready hug of his father reassure children that while life may not always be smooth sailing, home and love are never far away.  The suspenseful chain of events will keep young readers riveted to the story until the surprising and uplifting ending.

Float is a gorgeous book for quiet story times at home and in the classroom and would be an inspirational book while teaching reading skills and creative writing.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-1481415248

Discover more about Daniel Miyares, his books, and his art on his website.

National Maritime Day Activity

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Sunny Seas Steamer Ship Coloring Page

 

Celebrate all the ships at sea with this printable Sunny Seas Steamer Ship Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

 

April 1 – Reading is Funny Day

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About the Holiday

On April 1 there’s a lot of funny stuff going on, so why shouldn’t reading be funny too? With so many books that can make you laugh out loud and see the world in a new, positive, or even quirky way, there’s no time like the present to get reading! To celebrate today, buy a new funny book at your local bookstore or check some out from your library. Parents and grandparents may enjoy sharing the funny books that were their favorites too! 

I Have a Balloon

Written by Ariel Bernstein | Illustrated by Scott Magoon

 

An owl warily hangs onto his balloon as a monkey swings into the picture pointing at the owl’s prized possession. “I have a balloon,” the owl states. “That is a big balloon,” says the monkey. The owl proudly concurs as he repeats the monkey’s praise. But the monkey is not finished with his compliments. “That is a shiny red balloon,” he says. Yes, the owl agrees.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Perhaps, though, the monkey’s compliments are not entirely gratuitous. He adds that the shiny, red balloon would look swell with his shiny, red bowtie and imagines walking into school with such a perfectly matched outfit. In fact, he says, “The only thing I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a shiny, big red balloon.” The monkey’s not without some sense of fairness, though, and offers to trade his teddy bear for the balloon. But the owl isn’t feeling it.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

If teddy bears aren’t the owl’s thing, what about a sunflower? The monkey has one of those too, and it’s enormous—even bigger than the balloon! Is the owl interested in trading? No. Would he like “a robot? No.” “A picture of ten balloons? No.” How about a bowling ball and pin? No and No. Finally, the monkey pulls out a sock. Hmmm…the owl seems a bit intrigued. He can see the merits of this sock: it “has a star on it” and “a perfectly shaped hole.” The monkey has to acknowledge these fine qualities.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Is the owl wavering? The balloon doesn’t do anything—but the sock? There are so many things to do with a sock like that. “You can wear a sock on your tail or your foot or your hand or your ear,” and it makes a perfect puppet. Feeling victory in his grasp, the monkey offers the sock in exchange for the balloon, and the owl agrees. The monkey is surprised. You mean the “sock with a star and a perfectly shaped hole?” That’s the one.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

But wait! The monkey now seems to have had a change of heart: “All I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a sock with a star and a perfectly shaped hole. It makes me SO HAPPY!” So, the owl and the monkey seem to be back to square one: “I have a sock. You have a balloon,” the monkey states. “I have a balloon,” the owl concurs. Phew! Well, that’s settled! Or is it…?

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ariel Bernstein’s quick-witted owl and monkey may not end up trading objects, but they sure trade banter—much to the benefit of little readers. In the dynamic dynamics between the capricious monkey and the astute owl, there is much for children to talk and think about. While the monkey lives in the moment, bouncing from one desire to another, the owl plays a longer game, considering each of his options.

When the monkey hits upon the sock after and the owl accepts, kids may well wonder if the owl is using a little reverse psychology to redirect the monkey away from his balloon or whether he really wants that sock. Children might also think about an object’s value when seen through another’s eyes. In the end, both the monkey and the owl seem happy with their objects, raising another talking point on being satisfied with what you have. Bernstein’s funny, mirrored dialog is a joy to read out loud and also allows for various interpretations in tone that could lead to multiple readings and meanings.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Ariel Bernstein, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Scott Magoon sets the stage and the characters’ personalities on the first page as the adorable, coconut-shaped monkey swings in on a vine much to the wariness of the tolerant, blue owl. Humorous touches will keep kids giggling (the monkey attends Monkey C. Do elementary school) and provide an arc for this clever story. Children will notice that the branch that breaks in the first pages is bandaged together with the very useful sock later on. Magoon deftly handles the change in fortunes with wry looks, imagination bubbles, and plenty of action.  A little foot that appears on the second-to-last spread provides a bit of foreshadowing to the story’s final laugh.

I Have a Balloon is a terrific read aloud and would be a much-asked-for addition to classroom or public libraries and for any child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481472500

You’ll discover more about Ariel Bernstein and her books as well as a Teacher’s Guide on her website!

Check out the gallery of illustration work by Scott Magoon on his website

Reading is Funny Day Activity

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Reading Is Funny Bookmarks

 

As you mark your place—or your favorite part—in your books, you’ll get a laugh out of these punny bookmarks!

Reading Is Funny Bookmarks

 

Picture Book Review

March 24 – It’s National Umbrella Month

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About the Holiday

The rainy season is coming—do you know where your umbrella is? March, with its unpredictable weather has been designated National Umbrella Month to commemorate those useful objects that keep us dry in the rain and shaded from the sun’s rays. Invented in China over 4,000 years ago, the umbrella underwent many changes before becoming the pocket-sized helper it is today. To celebrate this month, check on the condition of your umbrella or treat yourself to a new one!

The Big Umbrella

By Amy June Bates | Cowritten with Juniper Bates

 

A red umbrella sits at the front door, waiting…. “It is a big, friendly umbrella.” No matter if raindrops or sunshine or even autumn leaves are falling, the umbrella is ready to go to work. “It likes to spread its arms wide” and offer shelter to whomever needs it.

Under the umbrella there’s room for four—and more. The umbrella welcomes anyone, no matter what you look like or what you’re wearing or “how many legs you have.” And if it seems crowded, don’t worry—there’s always room for more. So come on under! You’ll be amazed at what you find!

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2018, text copyright Amy June and Juniper Bates, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

In Amy June and Juniper Bates’ sparing text, there’s a world of freedom and welcome. Amy June’s gorgeous watercolors of a rain-soaked day complete the story as a walk down a city street creates a microcosm of life under the umbrella.

The sweet, red umbrella smiles at every one who comes by  looking for shelter, always stretching to accommodate another. When a ballerina and a runner need protection from the pelting rain, they easily join two already under the umbrella with room to spare. The very tall webbed creature the four meet next doesn’t even fit on the page, but it does fit nicely under the umbrella. And the cute hairy guy who’s carrying a briefcase and is as tall as the bus stop sign? Sure! There’s plenty of room!

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2018, text copyright Amy June and Juniper Bates, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

As the group continues on its way, readers can see the legs of young and old, cowboys and roller skaters, dogs and chicks all walking together and protected by the ever widening umbrella. Children will like to predict what will happen when the umbrella passes a crowded crosswalk. In a double-page spread the sun begins to peek out from behind the clouds just in time for this diverse group to enjoy an afternoon at the park—all shaded by the red umbrella.

When readers turn from the mottled blue and green rainy-day pages where the faces of the fellow travelers are hidden onto Bates’ final light and bright two-page park scene, they can’t help but smile and feel their heart lift even more. As the individuals are revealed, the sense of inclusion is heartening and affirming. The park, dotted with daisies, bustles with kids and adults of all ethnicities, abilities, and personalities playing, talking, biking, painting, and gathering together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-big-umbrella-a-group

Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2018, text copyright Amy June and Juniper Bates, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The Big Umbrella is an uplifting and inspiring story that children of all ages will respond to. The book would be an excellent choice for classroom libraries to open discussions of inclusion and a sweet addition to home bookshelves for rainy day or sunny day story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534406582

To learn more about Amy June Bates and see portfolios of her art and books, visit her website.

National Umbrella Day Activity

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Find the Matching Umbrellas

 

These umbrellas and raincoats were mixed up in the wind! Can you find the matching pairs? Look carefully! How will you match them up?

Rainy Day Mix Up Umbrellas Matching Puzzle

Picture Book Review

March 15 – It’s National Craft Month

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About the Holiday

Does just walking through the door of Michael’s or A.C. Moore make your heart beat faster? Do your cabinets overflow with bottles of paint, glitter, ribbon, lace, and empty bottles and boxes? If so, then March is the month for you! This month we celebrate the creative energy and unique perspectives that result in beautiful, one-of-a-kind decor or clothing, fun group projects for kids and adults, and successful home-based businesses. Homemade love is also one of the best ways to show friends or family members how you feel—as you’ll see in today’s book. There are so  many reasons and ways to indulge your love of all things crafty this month—so what are you waiting for?!  

Sister Day!

Written by Lisa Mantchev | Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

 

As Lizzie and her big sister, Jane, sit on a quilt watching the clouds, Lizzie tells how she loves that Jane has “the best imagination” and “can make up all kinds of things in her very own head.” Lizzie wants to play dress up, but Jane says, “not now.” How about telling a story? Jane can’t do that either because she’s going to her friend Emma’s house soon. “‘Maybe when you get home?’” Lizzie asks. “‘Maybe,’” says Jane.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Jane is gone all day. Night falls and still Jane isn’t home. Lizzie waits in the window seat and watches and watches. Finally, Jane is home! Lizzie shows her the fort she made using all the blankets. It will be perfect for telling stories under, but now Jane has to do her homework. “‘You’re always busy.’” Lizzie says. The next day the sisters look at the calendar. It’s almost full except for one Saturday. Suddenly, Lizzie has an idea for a wonderful surprise. She takes the pink crayon and “circles, circles, circles that Saturday.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

On Monday while Jane has soccer practice, Lizzie works on a dragon referee. On Tuesday instead of copying Jane’s jumps and twirls at ballet, Lizzie puts “tutus on sugarplum fairies.” On Wednesday during Jane’s piano lesson, Lizzie tunes up her imaginary orchestra. Thursday is karate day, and while Jane does her moves, Lizzie “sneaks, sneaks, sneaks to a quiet corner to finish up [her] surprise.” On Friday Jane goes to Emma’s again after school, and Lizzie gets help from Mom baking Jane’s favorite treat.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Early Saturday morning, Lizzie grabs her sketchbook, her scissors, and some tape. It takes an hour and the whole roll of tape to make the surprise. Then Lizzie goes to Jane’s room. She knocks on the door. When there’s no answer, Lizzie opens the door. Jane’s room is empty. Lizzie runs “downstairs, yelling, ‘Mom, have you seen Jane?’” When Lizzie enters the kitchen, she finds Jane “wearing a T-shirt covered in glittery glue.” She made them at Emma’s house, Jane says as she hands one to Lizzie. 

Lizzie puts it on and pulls Jane into the living room. Pictures and decorations cover the walls, and delicious cupcakes and drinks are on the table. “‘Surprise! I wrote you a story!’” Lizzie says. “‘Happy Sister Day!’” As Jane looks around, she tells Lizzie, “‘You didn’t just draw a story, Lizzie. You made a whole lot of magic.’” Lizzie hugs her big sister. “‘It runs in the family,’” she says.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Lisa Mantchev captures the happiness and disappointments of sibling relationships in her sweet story. In today’s busy family life, sisters—and brothers—don’t always get to spend as much time together as they might like. Mantchev reveals, however, that close bonds remain in the heart. Young readers will be enchanted by this loving sister duo and the surprise ending that shows a shared understanding and devotion between them. Sister Day! may inspire families to hold special sister and or brother days to let siblings connect and develop their unique relationship.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

In her beautiful, light illustrations, Sonia Sánchez replicates the positive, happy relationship between Lizzie and Jane. As each day brings a new activity for Jane, readers will recognize the reality of a younger sibling waiting for the older one to finish. As Lizzie uses this time to draw her story, children will see that even though Lizzie and Jane aren’t together, they are thinking of each other. Lizzie’s imagination is creatively shown through transparent fantasy creatures who keep Lizzie company during Jane’s absence. Sánchez’s lovely color palette and delicate, detailed drawings invite children to spend time with these best-friend sisters.

Sister Day! would make a wonderful gift and a charming addition to sisters’ home libraries

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481437950

Discover more about Lisa Mantchev and her books for children, young adults, and adults on her website!

National Craft Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-heart-jar

I Love You Jar

 

Show your friends or family members how much they mean to you with this jar full of love!

Supplies

  • Small to medium size decorative jar or a recycled jar
  • Red felt or heavy paper
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Cut enough small hearts from the red felt or paper to fill the jar one-half to three-fourths full
  2. Fill the jar with the hearts
  3. Give it to your friend, sister, brother, mom, dad—anyone you love—and watch them smile!

Picture Book Review