October 12 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

When children hear, see, and live what’s in the news, they want to know more about the whos, whys, and hows—and they want to know what they can do. Through picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels young readers and adults find ways to understand, interpret, and discuss issues in the world today. Many books from picture books on up inspire readers to stand up for others, be a friend, use their talents to help those in need, and make a difference in their own unique way. This month gives readers a great opportunity to discover books that can answer questions, empower children, and make the world a better place for them to grow up in.

This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Daniel Roode

 

Like the best school career day ever, ten of history’s and today’s greatest scientists line up in front of the chalkboard to talk about their work. First they reveal that secret to their success—the scientific method: “Asking why. Then making a guess. Asking how. Then proving with tests.” First up is Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered gravity. Little ones will learn that he also found the color spectrum and “figured out three rules for how objects move.”

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Next to take center stage is Maria Sibylla Merian, a painter who through her art explained wonders of the insect world, including “how caterpillars turn into butterflies through a change called metamorphosis.”

Even the youngest readers may recognize Albert Einstein with his disheveled white hair. They’ll be amazed to learn that he devised a formula to explain how “energy and mass are the same thing in different forms.” He also found that nothing is faster than the speed of light.

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Katherine Johnson can look back on a stellar career as a mathematician who “solved hard math problems on paper” before computers were used “so that space heroes like John Glenn could safely orbit the Earth.” Kids who love animals will want to meet Jane Goodall who “studied chimpanzees / and made friends with them / among Africa’s trees.” And starry-eyed kids who look to the skies will want to hear about Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium who “helps us understand / how our universe works / and how it began.”

Four more scientists step up to tell their stories. To close out the book, little readers will find a double-spread portrait gallery of seventeen more, complete with one-sentence descriptions for their contribution. Readers will find that the final frame has been left open for… them?

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Joan Holub distills the scientific method and the biographies of ten influential scientists into short, clear nuggets of information that even the youngest readers can appreciate. A four-line rhyming verse introduces the scientist on the lefthand side while one or two facts on the right-hand side expand on their work. The engaging tone and variety of sciences and scientists represented will entice discoverers-in-the-making to learn more.

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Daniel Roode cartoon-inspired but readily recognizable portraits of each scientist will charm readers as each is portrayed working with the subject of their experiments or set on a backdrop of their specialty. Clothing and hairstyles give kids a sense of each scientist’s place in history. Roode’s vibrant colors and dynamic illustrations in addition to the bright smile each scientist wears celebrates the sciences while applauding the discoveries made by women and men dedicated to advancing knowledge and creating the future.

For little ones who are curious about the world around them and how it works, This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, part of the This Little series, which includes This Little Explorer, This Little President, and This Little Trailblazer, is a smart, innovative choice for home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Little Simon, Simon & Schuster, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534401082

Discover more about Joan Holub and her books on her website

The Gift of Story Time Giveaway

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-give-the-gift-of-story-time-giveaway-picture

Little Simon board books make the perfect gift for all of the young readers in your life! With cute and creative illustrations, accessible and engaging stories, and the perfect size and durability, these books are great for new parents and for reading aloud. These fun series teach important lessons and concepts through adorable characters, interesting stories, and hilarious creatures!

One (1) winner receives this collection of five sweet stories from Little Simon

  • The Itsy Bitsy School Bus, written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček
  • Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud, written by Ame Dyckman |illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
  • Día de los Muertos, written by Hannah Eliot | illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
  • This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Daniel Roode
  • Hello Knights!, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Chris Dickason

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

A winner will be chosen on October 15.

 Giveaway open to US addresses only | Prizing and samples provided by Little Simon.

National Book Month Activity

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Experiment!

We all know that cooler weather means shock season will soon be here. But you don’t have to wait until the fuzzy socks and fleecy blankets come out to have some fun with static electricity. Using a blown-up balloon can be a dramatic way to show kids what’s going on with the electrons that are at the center of this phenomenon.

Babies and young children should be supervised by an adult while playing with balloons.

How does it work? Static electricity is generated when there is an excess of electrons on one object giving it an electric charge. These electrons are attracted to an object with fewer electrons and will jump to it when placed close by.

How do you produce static electricity? Just rub the blown-up balloon on your shirt, on your hair, on a blanket or other surface. Then try these experiments!

CRAZY HAIR

Generate static electricity on a blown-up balloon then hold it near your hair and watch it go a little crazy!

HANG A BALLOON

Generate static electricity on a blown-up balloon and gently place it on the wall and watch it hang all by itself.

BEND WATER

This bit of balloon magic will amaze you! Generate static electricity on a blown-up balloon. Turn on a faucet to a thin stream of water. Hold the balloon near the stream of water and watch it bend toward the balloon. 

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You can find This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 11 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

All this month people are reading and celebrating their favorite books—both old and new. It’s also a terrific time to honor independent bookstores that serve their community with carefully chosen titles for all ages of readers. Some indies focus on one genre or age of reader, offering a vast array of familiar and surprising books for customers to explore. Others are known for a particular ambience—mysterious, scholarly, fun! But all give readers a sense of community and a feeling of awe and wonder at all of the stories to discover. This month make a stop into your local bookstore a family event and pick up a new book (or several) for everyone!

This week I’m happy to be sharing five new board books from Little Simon and to be partnering with them in an amazing giveaway of all five books. Simon & Schuster sent me the books to check out. All opinions are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below. Watch every day this week for another terrific title!

Hello Knights! (A Hello Book)

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Chris Dickason

 

A knight checks out her shining reflection in the mirror before starting a day full of important jobs. In the castle, “knights run up. Knights run down. Take the queen her royal crown.” And what does the king need? Well! “Knights march here. Knights march there” all to “take the king his underwear.”

Besides these duties, knights have to protect the castle from dragons, but oh, no! Here they come! Purple, green, orange and pink, they’re flying in from every direction! The dragons are huge – much bigger than the knights. How can they defeat those fire-breathing beasts? The knights shout from the castle wall, warning the dragons to go away. But the dragons say they’re “coming in! “Will a battle now begin?”

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Image copyright Chris Dickason, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

On the turret the knights hold their swords, ready to fight. But one clever knight has a different solution. What’s that she says? “Wave the…underwear?” This flag is raised, and “all the dragons stop and stare.” What do they think? What do they do? In just a minute they’re “Huff-puff laughing dragon-style.” With belly laughs and music and dancing, a “party starts. Battle ends.” Now “knights and dragons” are “making friends.”

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Image copyright Chris Dickason, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Little royalty will giggle and gasp as colorful dragons menace the castle only to be stopped by a silly display of the king’s underwear. Joan Holub’s fast-paced, dialogue rich storytelling will keep the youngest readers riveted to her gently suspenseful story that ends in laughs and a big bash, where the knights and dragons show off their musical talents, while a dragon and horse dance, the queen meets a newly hatched dragon, and the king roasts marshmallows by dragon fire. Holub’s short sentences invite kids to read along on second, third, fourth… readings.

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Image copyright Chris Dickason, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Chris Dickason’s kingdom is as shiny as polished silver and as busy as a beehive, with knights running here and there to serve the king and queen and thwart the dragons. The queen with her smiling eyes and fluffy white kitten sits elegantly as the knights set her golden and jeweled crown atop her turquoise hair. The tattooed king readies himself to put his undies on as a knight looks away and a shocked dragon peers through the window. Little knights in the making will love the double-spread view of the dragons soaring through the clouds and the ensuing battle preparations. The showstopper is the double gatefold that reveals the castle courtyard complete with two die-cut walls that enclose a wild and royal jammin’ party with new friends.

Hello Knights is jousting good fun that little ones will want to hear again and again. The book is a treasure for gift-giving, home, library, and preschool classroom bookshelves.

Ages 1 – 4

Little Simon, Simon & Schuster, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534418684

Discover more about Joan Holub and her books on her website.

To learn more about Chris Dickason, his books, and his art on his website.

The Gift of Story Time Giveaway

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-give-the-gift-of-story-time-giveaway-picture

Little Simon board books make the perfect gift for all of the young readers in your life! With cute and creative illustrations, accessible and engaging stories, and the perfect size and durability, these books are great for new parents and for reading aloud. These fun series teach important lessons and concepts through adorable characters, interesting stories, and hilarious creatures!

One (1) winner receives this collection of five sweet stories from Little Simon

  • The Itsy Bitsy School Bus, written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček
  • Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud, written by Ame Dyckman |illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
  • Día de los Muertos, written by Hannah Eliot | illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
  • This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Daniel Roode
  • Hello Knights!, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Chris Dickason

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

A winner will be chosen on October 15.

 Giveaway open to US addresses only | Prizing and samples provided by Little Simon.

National Book Month Activity

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Knight’s Tunic

 

Being a knight is exciting and fun! It’s even better with a knights tunic to wear! With this easy-to-make tunic, a t-shirt can be recycled into some cool royal wear!

Supplies

  • Tee shirt with the sleeves cut off
  • Thin cardboard (a cereal or other food box works well)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Scissors
  • Permanent Markers 
  • Play jewels (optional)
  • Fabric glue
  • Rope, twine, or shoelace for a belt
  • Tape

Directions

  1. Cut the sleeves off of the T-shirt
  2. Use the cardboard to create a crest shape
  3. Cover the cardboard with aluminum foil
  4. Tape the aluminum foil in back if necessary
  5. Children may enjoy decorating the crest for their tunic with markers and/or play jewels by themselves or with a bit of adult help
  6. Attach the finished crest to the tunic with fabric glue
  7. Use rope, twine, or a shoelace for a belt

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You can find Hello Knights at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 10 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

During National Book Month readers give special thought to the authors and illustrators who share their creativity and insight in books for all ages. Children especially benefit from learning about all the wonders of their world, from familiar people, places, and events to those from different cultures. Being introduced to world languages, festivals, traditions, and more through books gives children a sense of belonging and community. There are so many voices to be heard! This month visit your local bookstore or library and discover some of the amazing new books on the shelves! 

This week I’m happy to be sharing five new board books from Little Simon and to be partnering with them in an amazing giveaway of all five books. Simon & Schuster sent me the books to check out. All opinions are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below. Watch every day this week for another terrific title!

Día de los Muertos (Celebrate the World)

Written by Hannah Eliot | Illustrated. By Jorge Gutierrez

 

At the end of October, the holiday Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, takes place, the narrator tells readers. “Día de los Muertos is an ancient tradition celebrated in Mexico and other places around the world.” It’s a time to remember family and friends who have passed away and to celebrate their lives. Preparations for the holiday include baking delicious “sweet rolls called pan de muertos, or bread of the dead.” Atole, a hot sweet and spicy drink goes with it too.

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Flor de muertos, or the flower of the dead, is picked to add to decorations and to our altares. On the altars there are also pictures of loved ones, items that they liked, and candles. “The light of the candles and the smell of the flowers help guide the spirits back to us.” There are a lot of colorful skeletons too. Some are huge while others are tiny. They’re painted and even dressed up. Then they’re posed “doing silly things, like playing the guitar or dancing or even taking a bath!”

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Not only are the altars festive, but the whole town is decorated  with cut paper designs called papel picado and calaveras, or skulls, many of which are made of sugar and icing. “We do all this to celebrate the beauty of life and death rather than mourn it.” At the end of the holiday, people visit the cemetery to clean tombstones of family and friends, play music, and tell stories about their lives. At the end of the holiday all the decorations are put away, but our memories of loved ones “stay in our hearts forever.”

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Through Hannah Eliot’s engaging story, children learn the meaning and traditions of Día de los Muertos from a child narrator who is excited to share the holiday with readers. Eliot clearly explains the various parts of the celebrations, emphasizing the uplifting remembrance of loved ones who have passed away. Descriptions of the preparations, food, decorations, and skeletons will entice kids who don’t celebrate the holiday to learn more while also helping them to understand the significance of these holiday elements when they see them in their community, at stores, and elsewhere. For children looking forward to the holiday, Día de los Muertos is a magical and warm-hearted look at this spirit-filled tradition.

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Each of Jorge Gutierrez’s vibrant illustrations is a feast for little eyes as children eagerly collect decorations and make special dishes for the holiday. Calaveras and skeletons, sporting mustaches, hats, colorful painted designs, and wide, toothy smiles dot the pages. Portraits of loved ones who have passed away hang on walls while their spirits, smiling and rimmed in a blue glow, stand nearby. Similarly, spirits hover over children as they decorate skeletons, happy to check out the likenesses the kids are creating. The fun and poignancy of this holiday are especially demonstrated on double-page spreads of a candlelit altar and a festive town center, where the whole community has come to celebrate, as well as in images of families spending time in the cemetery and finally saying goodbye to the visiting spirits as they float upward and away for another year.

Día de los Muertos is a dazzling book for youngest and older readers. An informative and enchanting introduction to a popular holiday, the book would be an excellent addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 4 and up

Little Simon, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534415157

Discover more about Jorge Gutierrez, his art, and his animation on his website.

The Gift of Story Time Giveaway

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-give-the-gift-of-story-time-giveaway-picture

Little Simon board books make the perfect gift for all of the young readers in your life! With cute and creative illustrations, accessible and engaging stories, and the perfect size and durability, these books are great for new parents and for reading aloud. These fun series teach important lessons and concepts through adorable characters, interesting stories, and hilarious creatures!

One (1) winner receives this collection of five sweet stories from Little Simon

  • The Itsy Bitsy School Bus, written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček
  • Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud, written by Ame Dyckman |illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
  • Día de los Muertos, written by Hannah Eliot | illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
  • This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Daniel Roode
  • Hello Knights!, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Chris Dickason

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

A winner will be chosen on October 15.

 Giveaway open to US addresses only | Prizing and samples provided by Little Simon.

National Book Month Activity

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Día de los Muertos Coloring Pages

 

Día de los Muertos is vibrant and fun! Celebrate the holiday with these two coloring pages thanks to Topeka Día de los Muertos!

Día de los Muertos Coloring Page 1 | Día de los Muertos Coloring Page 2

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You can find Día de los Muertos at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ocean-meets-sky-clouds

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ocean-meets-sky-moon-jellies

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-wildest-race-ever-feeling-sick

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-float-daniel-miyares-dad

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