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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-grumpy-stevenson
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

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

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.

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

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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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!’”

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nobody-hugs-a-cactus-rosie

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nobody-hugs-a-cactus-jackrabbit

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.”

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

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.

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

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

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You can find Kitten and the Night Watchman at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 18 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Do you have friends you haven’t seen or talked to in a while? Is there someone new at work or school who could use a friend to show them the ropes or grab lunch with? If so, this month’s holiday gives you the opportunity to reach out and say hi. Instituted a decade ago by the Oddfellows organization in the UK, Friendship Month is a super time to show kindness to those you know and those you don’t—yet!  

Superbuns! Kindness Is Her Superpower

By Diane Kredensor

 

Superbuns had everything she needed to be super kind: “listening ears, big caring eyes, [a] warm happy smile,” and a “huge heart.” While other people appreciated her kindness, her big sister Blossom was dismissive. To her, her little sister was just “Buns.” She didn’t possess any “real” superpowers like super strength, super speed, or the ability to leap over tall buildings. Still, Superbuns went around the neighborhood putting out the trash cans for an elderly lady, helping a younger bunny fly his kite, and offering an umbrella to someone just in the nick of time.

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Copyright Diane Kredensor, 2019, courtesy of Aladdin.

Blossom was a self-proclaimed know-it-all. She knew lots of facts, which she was happy to spout while she and Buns walked over to Grammy’s house with a freshly baked carrot cobbler. On the way, Superbuns complimented a little bunny’s smile, fed a fish who was enjoying a little sun on a windowsill, and helped a busy rabbit flip pancakes through an open window. She even made balloon animals for two bunnies. “Blossom thought all this kindness was slowing them down” and she didn’t want to deliver a cold cobbler to Grammy.

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Copyright Diane Kredensor, 2019, courtesy of Aladdin.

But Superbuns just couldn’t help herself. When Blossom (and the cobbler) was about to be splashed by a biker riding through a puddle, and when she needed help opening the grocery store door (because everyone knows you can’t eat cobbler without cold milk), Superbuns was there. In fact, Miss Fox was also entering the store, and Superbuns held the door for her too. Seeing this, Blossom had a tizzy. She screamed, slipped, and lost control of the cobbler.

Flat on her back, Blossom shouted for Buns to run. She knew “all about foxes. First she’ll gobble up the cobbler. Then she’ll gobble up us,” she cried. Miss Fox gazed at the dish of cobbler that had fallen into her hands and then at Superbuns who was cheerfully waving at her. “Here you go,” Miss Fox said, handing the cobbler to Buns.

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Copyright Diane Kredensor, 2019, courtesy of Aladdin.

Turned out little Miss Fox wasn’t interested in gobbling up the cobbler or the bunnies. She just needed directions home because she was lost. Blossom couldn’t believe it. “Lost?” she asked. She grabbed Miss Fox by the hand and pulled her down the sidewalk with Superbuns and the cobbler in tow. Blossom, it seemed, knew “EVERYTHING about being lost.” She knew the most commonly lost items, where Bun’s lost homework had eventually been found, about the city of Atlantis and the colony of Roanoke, grammar and spelling facts about the word lost, and, of course, just how to get to Foxtrot Trail where Miss Fox lived.

When they finally stood outside Miss Fox’s house, Miss Fox gave Blossom a big hug and said, “Thanks for helping me not be lost, Superblossom.” Blossom smiled. “And just like that, Blossom learned she didn’t know everything about everything.” She even decided that kindness “was kind of… super.”

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Copyright Diane Kredensor, 2019, courtesy of Aladdin.

Diane Kredensor’s bouncy story of an irrepressible spirit will have readers convinced that kindness is indeed a superpower in a hop, skip, and a jump. As big sister Blossom leads the way through town nattering on about all the facts she knows and her opinion on kindness, Buns trails in her wake with her red cape fluttering and her eyes open for ways she can help. Kids will laugh at Blossom’s know-it-all persona and breathless recitations from her vast store of knowledge, but they’ll smile and “aww” as Superbuns springs into action all along their route. When they encounter Miss Fox, Blossom slips up in more ways than one and learns that you can’t always read a book by its cover or know everything about everything. As Blossom accepts a grateful hug from Miss Fox, kids will join Blossom in understanding that while knowing facts may be useful, knowing love is super.

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With her buck teeth, wide eyes, slightly goofy-but-always-ready grin, and superhero outfit, Superbuns is an endearing friend that kids will fall in love with. Kredensor, an Emmy award-winning director and producer of, creator of, and contributor to children’s programming across the network spectrum, fills her pages with all the charm of a favorite cartoon combined with the immersive details of animation. Her well-paced storytelling leading to the pratfall that changes Blossom’s perspective will keep readers rapt until the sweet ending.

Sure to be a hit during any story time, Superbuns! Kindness Is Her Superpower would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1481490689

To learn more about Diane Kredensor, her books, her animation work, and more, visit her website

Friendship Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-give-me-your-hand-puzzle-cutout-no-copyright

Give Me Your Hand! Interchangeable Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. The interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become friends with one another. 

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures

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You can find Superbuns! Kindness Is Her Superpower at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 9 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday was established to get families excited about reading. As the weather turns cooler and activities turn indoors, reading together is a wonderful way to spend time having fun and making memories. Small children love being read to—and so do older kids! Sharing board books, picture books and chapter books that can be read at one sitting is always fun. Taking the journey of a novel together with tweens and teens can provide inspiring, emotional, funny, and bonding moments that last a lifetime.

This week I’m excited to share 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!

Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud (Wee Beasties)

Written by Ame Dyckman | Illustrated by Alex G Griffiths

 

Roary is a little lion, who “LOVES to roar his big outside roar.” Like when he wants to “say hello to Daddy,” he sneaks up on him and “ROARRRR!” Then Daddy is so surprised he rips his newspaper, spills his coffee, and tips over the little table.

Roary also loves his Mommy and can’t wait to say thank you when she does something nice for him—like bringing him some lemonade. But his “ROARRRR!” is so loud it shakes Mommy right off her feet, and the pitcher of lemonade and the glasses go flying. “OOPS! You roared too loud, Roary.”

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Image copyright Alex G Griffiths, 2018, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Roary thinks the new baby is so sweet. He just wants to say good night. Is this a good time for a Roary “ROARRRR!?” No! Maybe you can show Roary what a quiet, inside voice sounds like. “You did it!” Roary thinks so too and whispers “Night-night. Sweet dreams” to the sleeping baby.  When the baby wakes up, what kind of voice does she use? Well, let’s just say she and her brother should get along roaringly well!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roary-the-lion-roars-too-loud-mommy

Image copyright Alex G Griffiths, 2018, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Ame Dyckman’s Wee Beasties series, including Huggy the Python Hugs Too Hard and upcomingTouchy the Octopus Touches EVERYTHING, introduces little ones to good manners and social skills that revolve around going out, meeting new people, and expressing their emotions. Several examples of “over doing” are followed by an opportunity for the young snake, lion, and octopus to do the right thing. They just need to learn how. Through a direct appeal for help from the narrator, kids can practice speaking quietly, hugging gently, and looking without touching. In Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud, Roary is a sweet cub who loves his Daddy, Mommy, and baby sister as well as a little bit of fun (and maybe a bit of mischief too). He doesn’t mean to be disruptive; he just needs to learn to use his quiet voice. Dyckman ends the story on just the right note. While Roary is proud of himself for using his indoor voice, his equally loud baby sister provides one more laugh to charm readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roary-the-lion-roars-too-loud-quiet-voice

Image copyright Alex G Griffiths, 2018, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Alex G Griffiths got the enviable job of creating mayhem from Roary’s loud ROARRRR! Tranquil scenes of Daddy quietly reading the newspaper and Mommy carrying a loaded tray of lemonade lead into slapstick panels of chaos, complete with toppled furniture, splashing drinks, lost eyeglasses, and slices of lemon that land everywhere, including on Roary’s head. Daddy and Mommy’s stern looks tell little readers that too loud is…well…too loud. Positive reinforcement for readers who “show” Roary how to use a quiet voice comes in the form of smiles, thumbs up, and confetti as well as an encouraging statement. When Roary whispers night-night, little ones will be happy to see Daddy giving him a big hug.  

A joyful way to teach toddlers and preschoolers important social skills, Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud and the rest of the Wee Beasties series would be an often-asked-for read for home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 5

Little Simon, Simon & Schuster, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534410787

Discover more about Ame Dyckman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Alex G Griffiths, his books, and his art, visit his website.

The Gift of Story Time Giveaway

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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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Match the Lions!

 

These lions love to play together, but they’ve gotten separated from their twin! Pair up the lions that look alike in this printable Match the Lions Puzzle.

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You can find Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review