January 20 – Celebrating Inauguration Day 2021

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. The ceremony begins around 11:30 a.m. with the national anthem and invocation. In a historic moment, Kamala Harris will then be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor shortly before noon. At noon, Joe Biden will be sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts on the Capitol’s West Front, as is tradition. The day also includes a visit to Arlington National Cemetery by Biden, Harris and former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton as well as their spouses before traveling from 15th Street to the White House with a military escort. You can introduce your children to our country’s new President and Vice President, who offer hope and a new beginning, through these two excellent biographies. 

Joey: The Story of Joe Biden

Written by Dr. Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull | Illustrated by Amy June Bates

 

With a gift for storytelling and an ear for the kinds of details that will draw kids in, Jill Biden introduces young readers to her husband and soon-to-be President of the United States, Joe Biden, at the age of eight. Even at this young age, Joe—or Joey as he was then called—demonstrated a fun-loving competitive spirit, maturity, daring, and sense of responsibility that would take him far in life. How competitive? Despite being the smallest boy on any of his teams, “he was always ready for the ball.” How daring? Take your pick: the time he and his friends hopped “from rooftop to rooftop of the garages” in his neighborhood after seeing a Tarzan movie; the time he swung on a rope “over a construction site without a net;” or when he shimmied to the top of the slippery, swaying flag pole at the football field.”

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, text copyright Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, 2020. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Where did he learn these qualities? From his mom who always said, “‘Bravery resides in every heart, and yours is fierce and clear.’” And from his dad who encouraged Joey to “‘Get up! Get up!’” whenever he stumbled. To find work, Joey’s family moved, but Joey always had friends in his siblings, especially his younger sister, Valerie.

As he grew older Joey learned about world news and the rudiments of politics at the family dinner table, adding his opinions to those of the adults. At school, though bullies made fun of Joey’s stutter, that sometimes made talking difficult. Instead of taking it, Joey defended himself and others who were being bullied. He also devised ways to practice talking more smoothly. 

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, text copyright Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, 2020. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

When his dreams of attending the Catholic high school seemed out of reach financially, Joey applied for a work-study program that allowed him to attend in exchange for duties such as painting the fence, pulling weeds, and washing windows. High school was also where he grew a foot taller and became the star of the basketball and football teams. Here he exchanged Joey for Joe. His sense of fairness and equality led him to stand up for his African American football teammate when the owner of the local diner would not serve him, and in a nod to his future profession, he was elected class president “during his junior and senior years.”

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, text copyright Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, 2020. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

As the first in his family to go to college, Joe was “promptly elected president of his freshman class.” He learned about the struggles of blacks in America while working “as the only white lifeguard at a pool in an all-black neighborhood” during “the time of segregation and the struggle for civil rights.” Joe graduated with a law degree, and at the age of twenty-nine he “launched an unlikely quest to become a senator from Delaware”—even though the required age was thirty. “Against all the odds, Joe became one of the youngest people ever elected to the United States Senate.” Reelected five times, “he was powerful and respected.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-joey-basketball

Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, text copyright Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, 2020. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Then “after more than three decades of serving his country in the Senate, he was chosen by Barak Obama to run as his vice president. They won, energizing the nation,” and after eight years of serving together, President Obama called Joe, “‘the best vice president America’s ever had.’” In 2019, Joe announced his candidacy for president of the United States, calling the election a “‘battle for the soul of America.’—and Joe Biden was ready to fight it.”

Back matter includes family photographs, an extensive timeline of Joe Biden’s life and government service, inspirational “Bidenisms, sources for the quotations used in the text, and a bibliography.

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, text copyright Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, 2020. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

For parents, teachers, and other adults looking to introduce children to the next president of the United States with an in-depth look at his life, his influences, and his vast experience, Dr. Jill Biden’s Joey: The Story of Joe Biden shines with an intimate portrait of his astonishing life. With specific examples that will resonate with children, Biden portrays the qualities and experience that make him the right person to lead our country during these times and demonstrates his long history of concern for all Americans. Conversational and folksy, Biden’s storytelling makes this an uplifting read aloud that will captivate listeners. The book provides an excellent opportunity to spark further research into Joe Biden’ life and government service as well a conversation-starter for adults to discuss the importance of family, character, hard work, perseverance, and community.

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, text copyright Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, 2020. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Amy June Bates’ watercolor, gouache, and pencil illustrations are stunning, taking readers from Joey’s neighborhood in Scranton, Pennsylvania—where they can see some of the feats of daring Joey was famous for and how he interacted with friends and siblings—to Delaware, the state that informed his interest in politics and sense of community service. Through Bates’ realistic images, children swing on the rope over the construction site, sit among his siblings as they watch TV, and join in at the dinner table for influential family discussions. Bates also depicts Biden’s struggles with bullies and his stutter. Kids follow him up a ladder to wash windows and to the high school gridiron to watch Joe pull away from the opposing team to score the winning touchdown. As Biden runs for and takes on responsibilities in the Senate, readers are there too. In Biden’s face and stance, Bates clearly portrays his confidence, optimism, intelligence, and pride in a lifetime of serving the American people.

A superb biography of our next president and one that will inspire a new generation of activists and public servants, Joey: The Story of Joe Biden is a must for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, Paula Wiseman Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534480537

You can connect with Dr. Jill Biden on Twitter.

Discover more about Kathleen Krull and her books on her website.

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

You can find Joey: The Story of Joe Biden at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kamala-harris-rooted-in-justice-cover

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice

Written by Nikki Grimes | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

 

Eve, a black girl, comes home from school in Oakland, California upset because Calvin, a boy in her class, said that girls can’t be President. Her mother tells her that Calvin is wrong and shows her a newspaper article about Kamala Harris, who “lives right here in Oakland and hopes to be President one day.” Eve’s mom begins to tell her daughter Kamala’s story, which began with “a strong black-and-brown braid coiling from India, where her mother, Shyamala, was born; to Jamaica, where her father, Donald, was born;” to Berkely, California and finally to Oakland.

She goes on to reveal that even as a baby “Kamala was like clay her parents molded for action,” as they took her along on marches for civil rights and to speeches given by Martin Luther King Jr. Kamala listened and learned words like peace, justice, freedom. On a trip to Zambia to visit her grandparents, Kamala learned that “fighting for justice ran in the family.”

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Then when Kamala was seven her parents divorced, and Kamala, her younger sister Maya, and their mother moved to “‘the flatlands,’ the black working-class area in Berkeley.” From here, Kamala was bussed to Thousand Oaks Elementary in the “wealthy white part of town….,” where, she met “kids who were rich and poor, black and white; kids who celebrated holidays she’d never even heard of,” and learned to “count to ten in many different languages.” Here, Eve interrupts to excitedly tell her mother that their next door neighbor Guadalupe has taught her how to count in Spanish.

Kamala also learned from Mrs. Regina Shelton, a neighbor whom Kamala stayed with after school. Mrs. Shelton introduced her to Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman. She encouraged her pursuits and instilled confidence in her. Just as influential on young Kamala were the family’s weekly visits to the “Rainbow Sign, a cultural center celebrating black art, music, books, and film. James Baldwin spoke there, Maya Angelou read there, and Nina Simone sang there.” Nina’s song “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” particularly resonated with Kamala.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

On Sundays Kamala and Maya visited their father and went to the 23rd Avenue Church of God, where, along with singing in the children’s choir, Kamala learned from the Bible “that God asks us to speak up for those who can’t, to defend the rights of the poor and needy, like some lawyers do.” Maybe, Kamala thought, she would follow in her uncle Sherman’s footsteps and be that kind of lawyer too. Eve wonders if when she makes sandwiches for the homeless she’s helping out too. Her mom tells her yes.

When Kamala’s mother accepted a job in Montréal, Canada, Kamala’s life changed again. One thing that stayed the same, however, was Kamala’s sense of justice. For example when the apartment building manager wouldn’t allow the kids to play soccer on the lawn, she and Maya picketed until he changed his mind. 

Although Kamala adjusted to life in Canada, when it came time to go to college, she returned to the United States to attend Howard University like one of her heroes, Thurgood Marshall. Kamala felt at home at Howard. She won a seat in the student government, competed on the debate team, interned at the Federal Trade Commission, did research at the National Archives, and on weekends joined protests against apartheid in South Africa.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

As a sophomore, Kamala spent her summer as an intern for Senator Alan Cranston “learning from someone whose footsteps echoed in the halls of power every day.” She went on to study law at Hastings College of the Law, leading the Black Law Students Association as president and working to improve the chances that black graduates would be hired by the best companies in the country.

In order to practice law, Kamala had one more hurdle to overcome: the California Bar exam. Kamala failed in her first attempt, but it taught her an important lesson about digging deep and trying harder – a lesson that Eve understands. On her second try, she passed. Since then Kamala’s trajectory has been steadily upward. “First, Deputy District Attorney. Next, the first female District Attorney of San Francisco. Then, the first black woman Attorney General of California” and eventually the “second black woman voted into the US Senate.”

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

As Senator, Kamala has fought for workers, women’s rights, and immigrant children. Then in 2019, she announced her candidacy for President of the United States. But running a presidential campaign takes a lot of money. When she and her team realized that they would not be able to sustain a campaign, she decided to give up her quest for the 2020 presidential nomination while still looking “forward to all the good work she could still do as Senator Harris.”

While the biography ends before the election and with the question, “Will she ever get to call the White House home?” the next sentence: “Kamala Harris is still writing her American story” looks forward to a future we will all be following. And what about Eve? She knows the message of Kamala’s life and dreams: “‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’” That lesson and that Calvin is wrong about a girl’s ability to become the President.

A detailed timeline of Kamala Harris’s life and a list of resources follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kamala-harris-rooted-in-justice-senator

Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Nikki Grimes’ compelling biography of Kamala Harris lyrically outlines the importance that ideas of justice, freedom, and inclusion play in both her personal and professional life. Children will be especially captivated by Grimes’ comprehensive and intimate look at Kamala’s childhood and the people, experiences, and places that influenced her education, character, long commitment to equality, and steady focus on achieving her dreams. Specific examples of the large and smaller issues Kamala has fought for throughout her life instill in young readers the knowledge that they too can make a difference. Framed by Eve’s disagreement with Calvin and her interjections about certain aspects of Kamala’s life, the story speaks directly to the reader, creating in them the kind of confidence and reassurance that has served Kamala well. The final lines offer encouragement and inspiration to tomorrow’s leaders.

Laura Freeman’s textured, realistic illustrations introduce Kamala Harris in the context of her family, the causes they put their hearts and voices into, and the communities that nurtured her. As a child, Kamala’s confidence and intelligence are evident as she learns about her family’s activism in Zambia, rides to school on the bus, listens to Mrs. Shelton and Nina Simone, and gets involved in activities at church, in college, and in law school. Images of Kamala as an adult depict her familiar smile, thoughtfulness, poise, and self-confidence. Freeman’s collage-style imagery of the people who have influenced Kamala are particularly powerful reminders of the legacy that parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors, and leaders in society imprint on people from childhood and throughout life.

A beautiful and inspiring biography, Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice is an exciting introduction to our next Vice President and is sure to encourage discussion, stir dreams of greatness, and motivate girls and children of color to follow in her footsteps. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534462670

Discover more about Nikki Grimes, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about Laura Freeman, her books, and her art, visit her website.

You can find Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support our local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 Picture Book Reviewcelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-joey-cover

October 5 – It’s Positive Attitude Month

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About the Holiday

With all that’s going on this year, it’s hard to always stay positive. But trying to stay relaxed during times like these can be beneficial in many ways. Being upbeat can improve your health, lower chances of depression, make you more motivated, and lead to better relationships with family and friends. Yoga and relaxation exercises can help. For kids, reading funny books together can lighten the mood and lead to some much-needed laughter. Today’s book is a perfect place to start!

Thanks to little bee books for sending me a copy of Mootilda’s Bad Mood for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Corey Rosen Schwartz in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Mootilda’s Bad Mood

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call | Illustrated by Claudia Ranucci

 

Mootilda woke up from her nap with hay in her hair, her pillow tossed to the side, and her favorite lovey lying on the floor. To make her feel better, her moomaw gave her an ice pop, but when “she grabbed the stick and took a lick, it landed at her feet.” Mootilda scowled. “‘I’m in a bad MOOD!’” she shouted. Her moomaw tried to put things right. “‘That’s terri-bull,’” she said. “She smoothed her cowlick, smooched her cheek, and said, ‘Go jump some rope.’”

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Image copyright Claudia Ranucci, 2020, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirstie Call, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Mootilda found some friends and started off just fine, but a trip-up sent them all in a heap. “‘I’m in a bad MOOOD!’” Mootilda bellowed.  Next, to soothe her exasperation, she tried swimming in the pond with the sheep. But while the lambs easily went “kerplop,” Mootilda did a painful “bovine belly flop.” The sheep agreed that Mootilda’s dive had been a “‘ca-lamb-ity,’” but suggested she take a bike ride. But her ride was not relaxing, and her game of H-O-R-S-E went astray. Mootilda stomped and yelled and thought she had been cursed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mootilda's-bad-mood-jump-rope

Image copyright Claudia Ranucci, 2020, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirstie Call, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

But then the chickens who’d been playing in the bushes nearby told Mootilda their story of woe: a basketball had crashed their block building, their balloon had flown away, and their art projects had all been ruined. Mootilda thought it was quite a “cow-incidence” that they were “in a bad mood too.” That was just the word for what they were feeling, and the chickens scratched and clucked and crowed along with Mootilda. “‘We’re in a bad MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!’” But then, like her moomaw, Mootilda offered each chicken an ice cream dessert. She was just about to take her first lick of hers when… a crow flying by “knocked hers in the dirt.” Mootilda stared at her dropped cone… “and then she laughed. / her laughs rang on and on. / then suddenly, to her surprise, / her gloomy mood was…gone!”

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Image copyright Claudia Ranucci, 2020, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirstie Call, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

No child will be able to stay unhappy long once they hear Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call’s hilarious moood-boosting story. Rosen Schwartz and Call really milk the farmyard puns for maximum fun while providing a rollicking read aloud with giggle-inducing rhymes and rhythm. Mootilda’s move to cheer up the chickens mirrors her moomaw’s comfort and will remind readers of their own parents’ or caregivers’ reassurances. Mootilda’s reaction to losing her ice cream cone is pitch perfect and the final funny scene brings the story full circle. Kids will love chiming in on the repeated “I’m in a bad mooood” phrases, and as Mootilda proclaims that she’s “over the moooooooon,” you can be sure they’ll ask to hear the story one moooooore time.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mootilda's-bad-mood-nap

Image copyright Claudia Ranucci, 2020, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirstie Call, 2020. Courtesy of little bee books.

Claudia Ranucci’s Mootilda is having the worst day ever, but the deep pout on her pink snout is more endearing than angry. As Mootilda tries activity after activity to have some fun and improve her mood, only to see disaster strike again and again, alert readers will be drawn to the background of each spread, where the chickens are experiencing their own fiascoes, caused by Mootilda’s mishaps. Flapping wings, flying art supplies, a buried sandcastle, a wayward balloon, and an explosion of blocks will keep kids laughing. Bold typography invites kids to read along on the puns, and Ranucci’s vibrant color palette will always brighten readers’ day.

To make any bad day better and any good day exceptional, Mootilda’s Bad Mood would be a fast favorite on home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1499810868

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

To learn more about Kirstie Call and her books and to sing along with Mootilda’s Song, visit her website.

You can learn more about Claudia Ranucci and view a portfolio of her work on her website.

Mootilda’s Bad Mood Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Corey Rosen Schwartz in a giveaway of 

  • One (1) copy of Mootilda’s Bad Mood, written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirstie Call | illustrated by Claudia Ranucci

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite mood brightener for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from October 6 to October 12 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 13. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Positive Attitude Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craft

Mooood Brightening Cow Mug

 

It’s hard to be in a bad mood with a cup of hot cocoa served in this cute cow mug that you’ve made yourself! 

Supplies

  • White ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Black permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Pink permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Brown permanent marker or paint for ceramics

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Directions

  1. With the pink marker or paint, draw an oval shape for the nose near the bottom of the mug. Let dry.
  2. With the brown marker or paint, draw two angled nostrils inside the pink oval and color them in. Let dry.
  3. Color in the nose with the pink marker or paint.
  4. With the black marker, color the top tip of the handle where it meets the mug to make the tail.
  5. With the black marker or paint, draw two wavy lines on either side of the face starting at the top, angling toward the middle and returning to the bottom of the mug. Leave white space between the lines.
  6. Draw circles for eyes within the black lines. Add black pupils at the bottom of the eyes.
  7. Color inside the black lines and around the eyes to make the face markings.
  8. With the black marker or paint, make two or three splotches on the back of the mug.
  9. Let the mug dry and follow the directions for the markers or paint to set the color.
  10. Pour yourself a mug of milk and enjoy!

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You can find Mootilda’s Bad Day at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

May 27 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

Pets give us unconditional love, provide companionship, and add entertainment and fun to our lives. This month is set aside to focus on our pets. To celebrate spend extra time with your furry friend, make sure they have everything they need to stay healthy, and give them a little extra treat. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting a dog, cat, bird, or small animal from your local animal shelter. You’ll both benefit!

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read

Written by Curtis Manley | Illustrated by Kate Berube

 

One summer Nick, Verne, and Stevenson did everything together. Nick is a little boy and Verne and Stevenson are two very different cats. Nick and Verne loved to spend time near the water—Stevenson tolerated it. Nick and Verne slept happily in a tent under the stars—Stevenson barely shut his eyes. While Nick rode his bike Verne eagerly sat in the front basket—Stevenson hunkered down in a box on the back. But when Nick sat down to read, both cats had similar ideas of fun—like lying on top of the book—and Nick could hardly read a sentence.

“So Nick decided to teach them how to read. He made flash cards and started with easy words” like “ball,” but Verne and Stevenson just wanted to play with the ball. While the three had a picnic on the lawn, Nick brought out his flashcards and “pointed to the word food. The cats ignored him.” When the cats snoozed Nick woke them with a sign. “‘This is no time for an N-A-P!’” he said. Neither cat responded well, so Nick tried a new tactic. He made word-shaped flash cards. Verne took a nibble of “F-I-S-H,” but Stevenson hid under the bed.

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Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Nick began to see that Verne liked stories about cats and fish. “Verne loved fish. He followed along as Nick read, learning the sounds of the letters.” He even read by himself, discovering new stories, especially 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But Stevenson? When Nick spelled words for him, he merely ran under the porch, hissing. By this time Verne was reading so many books that he got his own library card and Nick needed help carrying all of his books home. Nick and Verne had fun acting out their favorite stories, but they missed Stevenson.

One day “Verne discovered a treasure under the bed—a great stack of Stevenson’s pirate drawings. “‘Wow!’” Nick whispered. “‘Stevenson drew a story.’” Nick and Verne put the pages together and began to write words to go with them. When the story was finished, Nick, Verne, and Stevenson “squeezed under the porch, gave Stevenson an eye patch, and read The Tale of One-Eyed Stevenson and the Pirate Gold. Stevenson listened and followed along. He didn’t run away. Or hiss. Not even once.”

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Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Suddenly, Stevenson couldn’t get enough of books.  Even before Nick woke up, Stevenson could be found with his nose in Treasure Island or another adventure book, and whenever Nick and Verne played pirates, Stevenson joined in. He helped bring down “scurvy mutineers” and found buried treasure. Now the three readers do everything together. They “hunt for dinosaurs in the lost world behind the garden…race around the yard in eighty seconds…and journey to the center of the basement.” And while they all like to read on their own, they also like it when someone reads to them. “Hmmm…,” Nick thinks, maybe next he could teach his cats to talk. “‘Meow,’ says Stevenson.”

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Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Curtis Manley’s adorable tribute to reading and learning to read, using cats with very different personalities, is inspired. Just as some people respond more to the words while others are attracted by the pictures, Verne and Stevenson have their own relationships with books. The names of the cats and their preferred reading material are also reminders that books are personal, and disinterest in one type of story does not reflect disinterest in all stories. Manley’s text makes for a joyful read-aloud as his language and phrasing is evocative, lyrical, and imaginative.

In perfect accompaniment, Kate Berube brings this creative story to life, illustrating the tender relationship between Nick and his pets as well as emphasizing the humor and distinct personalities inherent in orange-striped Verne and smoky-gray Stevenson that influence their journeys to literacy. Depictions of the various books Verne and Stevenson are drawn to highlight the literary references in the trio’s further play. Readers will want to stop and peruse the page of library shelves, where such books as “Harry Picaroon and the Swashbuckler’s Stone”, “Harold and the Purple Canon”, “Millions of Rats”, and “Where the Wild Pirates Are” wait to be checked out in the Pirates section.

Kids will eagerly want to adopt The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, and it will snuggle in nicely on children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481435697

Discover “the facts, fictions, poems, and numbers” of Curtis Manley on his website!

View a gallery of Kate Berube‘s art on her website!

National Pet Month Activity

A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

You can find The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

April 23 – National Frog Month

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About the Holiday

As the weather gets warmer, rain falls, and swampy areas and wetlands swell with water, the peeps and throaty croaks of frogs begins to fill the nighttime air. April is the perfect time to learn more about frogs and their importance to the ecosystem. Frogs are vital to the food system, and they eat insects that are harmful to crops and carry disease. Because they don’t drink water but absorb it through their skin, frogs are particularly susceptible to pollution. This, in addition to habitat destruction, climate change, and an increase in invasive species, threaten the frog population, making the conservation of their environment of utmost importance. This month, visit an aquarium, nature preserve, or zoo where you can learn more about these fascinating creatures.

By Jakki Licare

Pokko and the Drum

By Matthew Forsythe

Pokko’s parents believe that giving Pokko a drum was the biggest mistake they have ever made. There had been other questionable gifts: Once, Pokko had tried to launch herself with the slingshot they had given her. The llama had been another poor choice since it liked to sit on Pokko’s parents. When Pokko’s parents had given her a balloon, it had carried Pokko away. “But the drum was the biggest mistake.” 

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Copyright Matthew Forsythe, 2019, courtesy of Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster.

Pokko’s father tries to complain to his wife about giving Pokko the drum, but she shouts back that she can’t hear him over the noise. In bed that night, Pokko continues to beat her drum. Her father continues to complain, but still no one can hear him. The next day, Pokko’s father suggests that Pokko take the drum outside. She can’t be too loud though, he explains, because they are a quiet family who likes to keep to themselves. Pokko agrees and takes the drum outside.

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Copyright Matthew Forsythe, 2019, courtesy of Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster.

“It had just rained, and the forest was sparkling like an emerald.” Pokko thinks the forest is a little too quiet. She narrows her eyes and decides it is definitely too quiet. She starts to gently hit her drum. Behind her something moves. A raccoon playing a banjo emerges from the forest and joins Pokko. Pokko plays her drum proudly. Then a rabbit playing a trumpet tags along while Pokko continues to tap her drum. Next, a wolf appears and happily joins the parade. Pokko leads the group, continuing to beat her drum.

Suddenly, the wolf eats the rabbit and they all stop. Pokko turns to the wolf and tells him he can’t be in the band if he eats band members. The wolf apologizes. They continue on and play their instruments. A huge crowd gathers with instruments and joins them. More animals emerge from the forest. “And they were all following Pokko.”

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Copyright Matthew Forsythe, 2019, courtesy of Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster.

Pokko’s father shouts to her that dinner is ready, but Pokko doesn’t respond. Far away her father can hear music playing. He stands in the kitchen and can hear the music getting louder… and louder. The animal crowd spills into the house, sweeps up Pokko’s parents, and carries them off into the forest. Her father notices that Pokko is leading all the animals and listens thoughtfully. He admits to Pokko’s mother that Pokko is a great drummer. The music is too loud and no one can hear him speaking, but if they had…. “they all would have agreed.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pokko-and-the-drum-crowd

Copyright Matthew Forsythe, 2019, courtesy of Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster.

“The biggest mistake Pokko’s parents ever made was giving her a drum.” This beautiful beginning sentence sets the readers up for the witty adventures of Pokko. This book has the perfect combination of spirited characters, playful text, and illustrative humor. Pokko is a strong froglet who isn’t afraid of her individuality like her frog family is. She is warned not to attract attention to herself, but she can’t stand how quiet the forest is. She makes her beautiful music unashamed of the attention, and the forest animals can’t help but to follow her. 

Forsythe’s visual humor delivers  punchline after punchline, making young readers giggle throughout this book. He illustrates a balloon carrying Pokko away, the parent’s legs sticking out from under the llama’s body, and Pokko launching herself with a slingshot. But through all this humor there is a sweet message of female empowerment. Pokko is the leader of the band and she bravely admonishes the wolf for eating the rabbit. Forsythe also paints the father making dinner and wearing an apron through the whole story.  

Forsythe’s glowing watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations make for a magical world of cozy toadstool homes in the colorful forest. Forsythe uses close ups of his characters to show emotions and to add humor. The first close up  is when Pokko decides the forest is too quiet. Her narrow-eyed determination builds the reader’s anticipation for her to start drumming. The second zoom-in comes when Pokko’s father hears the music getting louder and closer. The father is wide-eyed and, once again, the reader cannot wait to see what will happen next. 

A fun read aloud that could be accompanied by a variety of instruments and/or hand clapping, Pokko and the Drum is a multi-award-winning book that will quickly become a favorite for home, school, and public library collections. 

Ages  4 – 8 years

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2019 | ISBN: 978-1481480390

To learn more about Matthew Forsythe, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Frog Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hopping-frog-craft

Hopping Frog

Ready to hop to the beat of your own drum? Follow the instructions below to make your own hopping frog.

Supplies

  • Paper Plate
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or paint

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hopping-frog-craft

Directions

  1. Fold plate in half

  2. Fold the bottom of the plate (folded side) 2 inches up.

  3. Now fold the same part back down a one inch. This creates a zig zag fold and will make the spring for the frog to hop.

  4. Copy the shape in this picture onto your plate. You can make your frog bigger or smaller just be sure the triangles are the same height.

  5. Cut out your frog

  6. Fold triangles down to make front legs

  7. Color your plate green and add color in eyes

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You can find Pokko and the Drum at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 7 – National Bubble Gum Day

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About the Holiday

In 2006, Ruth Spiro, a children’s author and mother, established National Bubble Gum Day as a way for children to raise funds for their school and the charities it supports while having a little fun in the process. For this one day a year, students can earn permission to chew gum in class by donating 50 cents to the cause. Another fun and educational way to celebrate the day is by reading today’s book that tells the story of Walter Diemer and how he came up with the formula for bubble gum.

POP! The Invention of Bubble Gum

By Meghan McCarthy

 

In the 1920s, the Fleer family of Philadelphia was known for their factory where candy and gum were made. In an office upstairs the company’s accountant, Walter Diemer worked on the books and balanced the budgets. “He knew lots about math but not much about gum.” As the company outgrew its laboratory space downstairs, a new, experimental laboratory was set up in a room next to Walter’s office. Walter watched with curiosity as beakers, tubes, pots, and other equipment were moved into the lab.

Soon he learned that “the company was trying to make a new kind of chewing gum.” Chewing gum had been around in various forms for centuries and used for fun and also for medicinal purposes. Gum, the Fleers thought had become kind of boring. “But what if gum chewers could blow bubbles?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Pop!-the-invention-of-bubble-gum-candy

Copyright Meghan McCarthy, 2010, courtesy of Simon and Schuster.

In the experimental laboratory, Walter watched as the scientists tinkered and tested. Not much progress was made. Then one day Walter’s boss asked him to watch one of the experimental batches. Walter became so intrigued that he began experimenting with it himself, adding this and that. Still nothing happened. Finally, Walter’s boss gave up.

Walter, however, kept trying. Months later he had a bubbling concoction. All it needed, Walter thought, was some flavor. He “added a bit of cinnamon, a dash of wintergreen, a drop of vanilla…” and wondered if this could be bubble gum at last. He “put a wad into his mouth and began to chew.” Then “he blew a magnificent bubble!” He gave some to his coworkers, and as Walter remembered it, “‘We were blowing bubbles and prancing all over the place!’”

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Copyright Meghan McCarthy, 2010, courtesy of Simon and Schuster.

But the next day when Walter came to work, his batch of bubble gum was as hard as a rock. Walter went back to work on his invention. Months—and some top-secret ingredients—later, Walter had just the consistency he wanted. The gum now needed some color. Pink was the only food coloring he had, so he poured it in.

On the day after Christmas, a batch of the bubble gum was cut into pieces and delivered to a small candy store. The people who came in were given a piece to chew and became “the first people in the world to try a bubble gum that worked.” Walter even “gave lessons on how to blow bubbles.” Soon, truckloads of Walter’s Double Bubble were being delivered to stores, big and small, all over.

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Copyright Meghan McCarthy, 2010, courtesy of Simon and Schuster.

Walter went on to become the vice president of the Fleer company. When he retired, Walter spent his time riding his giant tricycle and engaging the neighborhood kids in bubble gum blowing contests. Walter didn’t get rich from his invention, but knowing that he had made kids all over the world happy was enough reward for him.

Extensive back matter includes more information on Walter Diemer, facts about gum, and resources on the quotes found in the story.

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Copyright Meghan McCarthy, 2010, courtesy of Simon and Schuster.

Kids who love bubble gum and inventing will find lots of information to chew on as they follow Walter’s journey from accountant to inventor. His stick-to-itivness in the face of defeat and even after the scientists and his boss had given up offers inspiration and a good lesson that sometimes success takes longer than you think. The included bits of history may spur readers to learn more about how gum was used by our ancestors and other cultures, and chemists in the making may want to investigate and compare Walter’s flavor and color ingredients against today’s bubble gum.

Meghan McCarthy’s storytelling is delightfully conversational and sprinkled with quotes from Walter Diemer, creating a personal narrative that will resonate with kids.McCarthy’s cartoon-inspired illustrations match the light-hearted tone of her story, and the laboratory scenes froth and bubble mysteriously as Walter adds and stirs up the secret ingredients that finally succeeded in bringing the world this long-favorite treat.

A charming, quick-paced look at the creation of a best-loved treat, POP! The Invention of Bubble Gum will engage kids in history and inspire them to keep trying even when everyone else has given up. The book would also make an entertaining and accessible lead in to chemistry lessons in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon and Schuster, 2010 | ISBN 978-1416979708

To learn more about Meghan McCarthy, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Bubble Gum Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gumball-machine-coloring-page

Gumball Machine Coloring Page

 

Where’s a great place to get some bubble gum? A gumball machine, of course! Have fun adding all of your favorite colors to this printable Gumball Machine Coloring Page.

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You can find POP! The Invention of Bubble Gum at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 10 – Houseplant Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

Missing the green leaves and colorful flowers of spring and summer? Maybe it’s time to recreate the sights of warmer days inside with houseplants! Placed in a sunny window, some plants will continue blooming all winter long, making you feel happier. Houseplants also provide health benefits as they produce oxygen, release moisture into that dry winter air, and improve air quality. Add a few herb plants and even cooking will take on new life. Whether you add just one plant or create an indoor garden, today’s the perfect day to get started.

Nobody Hugs a Cactus

By Carter Goodrich

 

Hank, a little cactus, sat in his window and looked out with pleasure on the “empty…hot, dry, peaceful, and quiet” desert. Sometimes, though, visitors came by—like Rosie the Tumbleweed, who cheerfully greeted Hank and commented on the beautiful day. “Hank ignored her. He just wanted to be left alone.” Hank was happy when Rosie passed by without stopping.

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Copyright Carter Goodrich, 2019, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

But then a tortoise ambled by to say hello. Hank shouted for him to get off his property. As he was yelling a jackrabbit bounded by. “‘Hiya, Prickles,’ she shouted,” and Hank turned his fury on her. It wasn’t long before a coyote appeared. Hank shooed him away, but not before the coyote commented, “‘You are as prickly on the inside as you are on the outside.’”

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Copyright Carter Goodrich, 2019, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

When a passing cowboy was told to get off the grass, he countered that there was no grass and added that it seemed “‘somebody needed a hug. Too bad nobody hugs a cactus,’” he added. A lizard on the wall was quickly dispatched with a warning that Hank did not want a hug. That was just fine with the lizard, who didn’t want to give him one anyway.

By now, nighttime had fallen, and an owl landed on the roof of Hank’s house. Hank gazed at the owl, and the owl gazed back. Begrudgingly, Hank offered to give the owl a hug. But the owl flew off, and “for the first time, Hank began feeling a little lonely.” The next morning, Hank felt a little sad and had begun reconsidering that hug.

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Copyright Carter Goodrich, 2019, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Just then the wind picked up, and a Styrofoam cup flying by stuck to Hank’s face. Rosie tumbled by and knocked it off before rolling on. Hank thought about Rosie’s kindness and felt bad about all the times he’d been mean to her. He decided he wanted to make amends. Over several days he grew a beautiful flower, and when Rosie passed by again, he called out and offered it to her with a big smile. “Rosie was so surprised, she jumped up and gave Hank a big hug. It felt so nice Hank didn’t want to let go.” Which was a good thing, because they were stuck together. But they don’t mind; they like being stuck together better than being alone.

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Copyright Carter Goodrich, 2019, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Well-known for his talent for creating charming characters who steal your heart, Carter Goodrich takes on the cantankerous among us—or those cranky days—and shows that kindness does soften even the prickliest of shields. Carter’s diminutive grouch may be discourteous but he’s also adorable, hinting at the softie that lies below the prickles and turning those dissuasive phrases hurled at his neighbors into lines that will elicit giggles from kids and adults. Carter’s thin-limbed and elongated jackrabbit and cowboy are also stylishly humorous. The tortoise that sits in front of Hank’s house hiding in his shell throughout the story serves dual purposes, showing how rejection makes others feel while also demonstrating what it looks like to be truly isolated and alone. Hank’s slow change of heart rings true and the act of selflessness that brings him and Rosie together makes for another funny scene and a satisfying ending.

A story that is sure to be embraced for crabby days and cheerful days, Nobody Hugs a Cactus would be a favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | ISBN 978-1534400900

To learn more about Carter Goodrich and his books, film work, and art, visit his website.

Houseplant Appreciation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flip-flop-craft

Flip-Flop Plant Holder

 

Flip-flops aren’t only for your feet—or for summer! With this easy craft you can make a whimsical way to hang succulents and other light plants on walls or even windows!

Supplies

  • Child’s flip-flops with elastic heel straps
  • Buttons or charms
  • Small plastic solid-bottom pot
  • Small plant
  • Dirt
  • Hot glue gun
  • Heavy duty mounting strips
  • Small shovel or spoon

Directions

  1. Place the flip-flop toe down on your work surface. With the hot glue gun, attach the buttons to the plastic toe straps of the flip-flops.
  2. Add dirt to the pot
  3. Add plant to the pot
  4. Slip the pot into the elastic strap and gently push down so it is also supported by the plastic toe straps
  5. To hang, use appropriate-weight mountable strips.
  6. To make an interesting and attractive arrangement, use various sizes of flip-flops

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

Picture Book Review

December 18 – It’s Cat Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

If you share a home with a cat, then you know how these furry friends can change your life. Whether you love them for their playful antics, for their companionship, or even for their independent spirit, your life just wouldn’t be the same without their daily presence. Cat Lovers Month is the perfect time to celebrate your cat or kitten with some extra attention and care. If you’re considering adopting a cat, visit your local animal shelter to give a cat a forever home.

Kitten and the Night Watchman

Written by John Sullivan | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

On his way out the door, the night watchman “hugs his wife and children…and drives to work” as the sun is setting. As the sky darkens, he patrols the construction site once an hour. There’s a lot to do. He makes sure every door is locked, that the workshop is clear, and that no one is disturbing the vehicles or equipment.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

He rests for a moment with a hot cup of coffee under the twinkling stars and “thinks of his boy and girl, safe and asleep at home.” But the night watchman is not alone. A little gray kitten peeks out from behind a truck’s tire. The kitten approaches the night watchman and follows him as he continues his rounds through the yard, where “an excavator bows like a strange giraffe.”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The kitten knows the night watchman will share his dinner before they are off on their rounds again. They see insects hovering in the light of the lamppost and hear birds call to each other. But when the night watchman goes back to his office and waits for the kitten to follow him through the door, “the kitten isn’t there. She is nowhere to be seen.” The night watchman hears a dog bark, cars roar, and the rattle of the train passing and worries.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A moth flits around the desk lamp, and the night watchman gently carries it outside. When he opens the door, the little kitten is waiting for him. He picks her up and gives her a cuddle. Then it’s time again for their rounds. While the sun breaks on the horizon, the night watchman packs up his things to go home. As he drives through the wakening city, “this time he is not alone.” He talks to the kitten and tells her, “‘I know a boy and girl who will want to give you a name.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitten-and-the-night-watchman-kitten

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Through his beautiful and emotionally resonant story, debut author John Sullivan lets kids follow along as a night watchman quietly makes his rounds during those midnight hours that are so mysterious and intriguing to young children. Sullivan’s lyrical phrasing, attention to nighttime creatures, and whimsical transformations of trucks, cranes, and backhoes create poetry and art from the concrete world of a construction site. The endearing relationship between the night watchman and the kitten makes the moment of suspense a tug at the heart, and its quick and loving resolution will charm young readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitten-and-the-night-watchman-driving-to-work

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Taeeun Yoo’s soft, textured illustrations envelop readers in fiery sunrises and sunsets, the lovely purple’s and blues of early evening, and the shadowy indigo of midnight. The darkness is broken here and there by the night watchman’s flashlight that throws a grainy and fading beam across the construction site, the full moon and blinking stars, lamplight, and the cozy lit windows of the watchman’s office. Standing silently silhouetted against this backdrop are the buildings and machinery of the construction site.

When the little kitten peeks from behind a truck tire, her little presence is surprising and endearing. An unseen—but heard—dog, speeding car, and rumbling train interrupt the calm night and disquiets the night watchman. Again, the kitten makes a surprising and endearing entrance. The little gray ball of fluff is another bright spot in the night—a friend to keep loneliness at bay—and as the sun rises, the promise of a sunny morning for the watchman’s children will delight readers.

Kitten and the Night Watchman is a quiet, poignant story that would be an often-read choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon and Schuster, A Paula Wiseman Book, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481461917

Discover more about Taeeun Yoo, her books, and her art on her website.

Cat Lovers Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-bead-cat-craft

A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This happy little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitten-and-the-night-watchman-cover

You can find Kitten and the Night Watchman at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review