April 12 – It’s National Humor Month

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About the Holiday

Perhaps these days we should consider making every month Humor Month, but until that happens, enjoy as many laughs as you can during April. No matter what you find funny or how you express your sense of humor, this month’s holiday allows you to indulge the more ridiculous aspects of life!

Meet the McKaws

By Ged Adamson

 

Captain Stan and Tiny McKaw, Stan’s parrot first mate, love everything about being pirates—“Sailing the seven seas, fighting battles, and searching for treasure! What could be better? Yes, life is pretty perfect for Stan and Tiny” until…Tiny’s parents come to visit. Mr. and Mrs. McKaw aren’t on board 5 minutes before the squawking begins. Mrs. McKaw takes exception to Stan: “‘He doesn’t’ look like much of a captain to me. He’s just a boy!’” And while Mr. McKaw is trying to apologize for his wife’s behavior, he lets out “a huge, disgusting BURP!”

Tiny’s mom is appalled at the state of the ship, calling it “a messy old wreck,” and Tiny’s dad starts in with a long, meandering story of his days as a pirate, complete with a treasure map, a deserted island, the Kraken, sword fights, canon fire, a treasure chest, and even a commendation. I think you get the picture. Problem is…Mr. McKaw never was a pirate.

Maybe a nice sit-down dinner will clear the air and get things started off on the right pegleg again. With a big grin the cook presents the special meal he has prepared in the McKaw’s honor, but after “just one mouthful, both the McKaws were violently sick. ‘Horrible! Horrible!’” cries Mrs. McKaw. The poor cook bursts into tears and runs back to the galley. Perhaps nighttime will bring a little relief. But no, Mr. McKaw snores and Mrs. McKaw nags in her sleep.

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Image copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of gedadamson.com

The next morning Captain Stan wakes up to the worst insult of all—guano dots his royal blue pirate coat. Even this offense, though, pales in comparison to what Stan sees next. Perched between his parents sits Tiny in a crisp white shirt and tie with his feathers slicked back. This is the last straw. “GET OFF MY SHIP!!” yells Captain Stan. Mr. and Mrs. McKaw waste no time in flying the coop, but there’s no respite for Captain Stan and Tiny for dead ahead is a colossal storm.

The ship is no match for the lightning, crashing waves, and fierce winds. The cook, the cabin boy, Captain Stan, and the remains of the broken brigand are washed into the roiling sea. “Just when all seems lost, however, Tiny gives a great SQUAWK! ‘It’s Mr. and Mrs. McKaw!’” cries Stan. “‘And my aunts, uncles, cousins…everyone!’” says Tiny. The parrots rescue everyone and fly them safely to nearby Blue Feather Island, which just happens to be Tiny’s home.

All the members of the parrot family help Stan build a new ship, and in the process he gains a new perspective on Mrs. and Mr. McKaw’s personalities. “Mrs. McKaw’s bossiness turned out to be very useful” as she delegates jobs, and Mr. McKaw keeps the crew entertained while they work “just by being Mr. McKaw.” The two are even hungry enough to eat up everything the cook prepares, much to his delight.

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Image copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of gedadamson.com

With a new ship finally complete, it’s time for the McKaws to take wing. Stan thanks them for all their help and apologizes for throwing them off his ship. On her part, Mrs. McKaw apologizes for being rude and thanks Stan for taking care of Tiny. And what about the new ship? It might be even better than the original with a bold parrot-emblazoned sail and a parrot figurehead pointing the way. As the crew sets sail, Captain Stan acknowledges, “‘You know, Tiny, I’m really glad I met the McKaws.’”

With the dash of a swashbuckler and the true aim of a compass, Ged Adamson depicts the high and low tides of family life in this high seas adventure. His humorous portrayals of personality traits that can drive family members crazy will resonate with kids and adults alike as they laugh through the travails Captain Stan and Tiny suffer during a visit by Tiny’s parents. In a sweet turn of events, though, Adamson reminds us that when storms come—in whatever form—the momentary squalls are forgotten, the anchor of family relationships is dropped, and everyone battens the hatches together.

Adamson’s vivid illustrations of Captain Stan in his sharp pirate garb, colorful (in more ways than one) Mr. and Mrs. McKaw, and the well-fitted wooden ship will delight pirate fans of all ages. Mr. McKaw’s imaginary stories are cleverly portrayed as chalk drawings on a black background, and the sea swirls with cool hues of blue and turquoise. Like Captain Stan, readers will be glad they have a chance to Meet the McKaws and will want them to visit again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

Sky Pony Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1629146188

Discover more of Ged Adamson’s work on his website!

Meet Ged Adamson and learn about his inspirations, his writing life, and his other books in this funny and insightful Q & A!

National Humor Month Activity

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Original Avast! Pirate Treasure Map Board Game design by Conor Carroll copyright 2016

Avast! Pirate Treasure Map Board Game

 

Playing board games together can lead to some pretty funny times. Enjoy this printable Avast! Pirate Treasure Board Game! It’s Arrgh-uably the best game on the seven seas!   

Supplies

Printable Avast! Game Board and Game Pieces

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Original artwork copyright Conor Carroll and Celebrate Picture Books, 2016

Directions

  1. Print the Avast! Board Game pages (Options: print on white paper, parchment-colored paper, or on card stock. To make white paper appear old – as in the picture – paint with a tea wash before taping together. See directions for tea wash below)
  2. Tape together the 4 pieces of the map. (Option: map pages printed on regular paper can be  glued to a piece of poster board to make the game board more sturdy.) 
  3. Print the Avast! Pirate Loot Tokens
  4. Cut out the Avast! Pirate Loot Tokens
  5. Print the Avast! Game Cards
  6. Cut out the Avast! Game Cards

To use a tea bag to make the map look old:

  1. Steep a black tea tea bag in 1/4 cup boiling water for 3 minutes
  2. Squeeze the tea bag dry over the cup and discard
  3. With the paint brush, paint the 4 pages of the map with the tea before taping them together
  4. Let dry or dry with a hair drier set on Low.

To Play the Game

  1. Each player chooses a Pirate Loot Token as their playing piece to move along the board
  2. Shuffle and stack the Game Cards
  3. Choose which player will go first
  4. Players choose the top card from the pile and follow the directions to move spaces on the game board.
  5. After moving, players should put their game card in a discard pile
  6. If Game Cards run out before the end of the game, flip over the discard pile and use the cards again
  7. The first player to arrive at the X on the map finds the treasure and is the winner!

Picture Book Review

February 25 – Clam Chowder Day

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About the Holiday

Today we laud that cozy concoction of clams, onion, and potatoes that creates a warm, satisfied feeling in the tummy and is the perfect antidote to winter’s chill. Whether you like New England style clam chowder with its rich, creamy base or the lighter tomato-based Manhattan version, this delicious soup is sure to hit the spot!

Blue Moon Soup: A Family Cookbook

Recipes by Gary Goss | Illustrated by Jane Dyer

 

“Beautiful Soup, so rich and green, / Waiting in a hot tureen! / Who for such dainties would not stoop? / Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!” With these words from Lewis Carroll, Blue Moon Soup introduces 33 delectable soup recipes plus some extras to go with them all wrapped up in the comfort and splendor of a picture book. The clever names of the soups will have kids giggling and eager to try such intriguing dishes as Twist & Shout, Polka Dot Soup, Bouncy, Bouncy Ball Soup, Squish-Squash Soup, and Funny Face Soup.

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Image copyright Jane Dyer, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

Categorized by seasons, these soups make use of familiar as well as more unusual ingredients while sprinkling in kid-inspired surprises like the ice cream in Believe It or Not! Soup, which is a yummy alternative to the usual frozen version of this favorite treat. Hey, Hey Soup, a “hot and jazzy sweet potato soup named after a great jazz club in Kansas City,” incorporates the flavors of curry while on top floats a chocolate garnish.

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Image copyright Jane Dyer, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

A few offerings from Winter are Ch-Ch-Chili; Brrroccoli Soup au Gratin; Hot Diggity Dog Soup, a tasty minestrone with a hot dog addition; and Sob Soup, an onion soup that will have you crying with joy. Spring brings (No) Duck Soup, a lentil pleaser; Soup of the Evening, a sophisticated feta cheese and spinach dish; Sweet Dreams Soup made from carrots; and Abracadabra, a soup with more than a little magic.

Summer’s active days are perfect for a quick lunch or dinner, and Best Buddy Soup of tomatoes and oranges is a fast goodie to cook—and share. Fruit makes another appearance in You Can’t Elope, made from—you guessed it—cantaloupe, and if you like to bask in the sun, you may love Bisque in the Sun, a creamy pool complete with a couple of shrimp. Before winter rolls around again, Fall drops with veggie-inspired soups made of potatoes, cabbage, pumpkins, squash, and peas.

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Image copyright Jane Dyer, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

And what about our honored soup of the day—clam chowder? That’s here too in Fish Soup, garnished with goldfish crackers.

An Extra, Extra, Eat All About It! final chapter provides recipes for banana bread, corn muffins, salad, guacamole, nachos, and other delicious sides that make a well-rounded meal. Front matter gives a list of supplies, rules for working in the kitchen, and directions for setting a table.

Gary Goss, former owner of the Soup Kitchen Restaurant in Northampton, Massachusetts knows about soup and kids and what they like. In his Letter from the Chef that opens Blue Moon Soup, Goss talks about the warm, cozy feelings and good memories “soup day” creates and offers tips for making the cooking experience with kids easy and fun. Most recipes call for ingredients usually found in kitchens or easily picked up at the market and have fewer than ten steps to prepare them—steps that kids will enjoy helping with.

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Image copyright Jane Dyer, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

Jane Dyer’s gorgeous illustrations populated with attentive fish waiters; lamb and lion best friends; a duck and ducklings fishing from the rim of a huge bowl; rabbits serving gazpacho; a cow, cat and, dog jazz trio; and more open each seasonal chapter and introduce some recipes. Each page is also peppered with adorable images of personified vegetables dancing, playing, cooking, and lounging that will charm little chefs as they help in the kitchen. Families may even find themselves making up stories about the characters in the book while the soup simmers.

Blue Moon Soup, a multi-award winning book, would make a delicious and often-consulted addition to anyone’s collection of cookbooks and a wonderful way to introduce kids to the art of cooking.

Ages 7 and up

Sky Pony Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-1620879900

Discover more about Jane Dyer and a gallery of her well-loved children’s books on her website!

Clam Chowder Day Activity

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Souper Word Search Puzzle

Find the names of 20 ingredients in this tasty printable Souper Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

December 10 – Gingerbread Decorating Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2007 by the Encouragement Foundation at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, today’s holiday entreats us to cheer on our friends, coworkers, and even those we don’t know as they attempt to reach goals or start new endeavors. A pat on the back, a simple “you can do it!,” or a reassuring “great job!” boosts people’s self-confidence and makes the world a happier place.

Tough Cookie

Written by Kate Louise | Illustrated by Grace Sandford

 

Although one gingerbread man in the bakery looks like all the others, there is one important difference. Yes, the batter had “eggs and cinnamon and flour and butter and sugar—but wait! The baker forgot to add the ginger!” Without this signature ingredient the gingerbread man just doesn’t feel like a gingerbread man at all. In fact his whole life has been turned upside down. He’s different from his friends, and what’s worse, he can’t be sold. Instead, he lives in the back of the bakery  and in his sadness makes all kinds of mischief.

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Image copyright Grace Sandford, text copyright Kate Louise, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

The gingerbread man chases the cat, splatters icing on other cookies, and squirts icing on the walls. “‘I need that for my cupcakes!’” the baker yells, but the gingerbread man just laughs. He moves on to the decorative candies, stuffing them in his mouth as fast as he can even though the baker needs them for his other treats and stands by tapping his foot. Next the gingerbread man scatters sprinkles all over the counter and slips and slides along on his belly—“‘woohoo!’” But the baker is not amused. “‘I need those for the donuts!’” he shouts.

 

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Image copyright Grace Sandford, text copyright Kate Louise, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

Finally, the baker has had enough. Not only is the gingerbread man upsetting the other gingerbread men and women, he is ruining the business. The baker orders the gingerbread man to leave the store. But this is one gingerbread man that does not want to run away. “‘I don’t want to leave!’” he cries. The baker relents. He takes the little cookie in hand and teaches him that even though he is missing an ingredient he can still be kind. The baker shows him by being nice he can become one of the group. 

Now, the little gingerbread man is happy. Instead of gobbling up all the candy, he helps create the other cookies. He no longer shoots icing on the walls or flings sprinkles around the kitchen. Rather, he helps the baker decorate the cupcakes and the donuts. He’s even learned how to sift flour and roll out dough, and he uses the cookie cutter to make new friends. And he never forgets to add the ginger!

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Image copyright Grace Sandford, text copyright Kate Louise, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

Grace Sandford’s bakery gleams with the golden hues of fresh-baked bread, the festive colors of sprinkles and icing, and the sparkle of sugar. Kids will love the vibrant pictures of cupcakes; lollypops; stacks of cakes, donuts, and candy; and decorated gingerbread houses surrounded by cookie forests. Her expressive gingerbread men and women register dismay at the wayward gingerbread man’s shenanigans and joy at his kindness. And the hero of the story? When he leaves behind his impish pranks he becomes a charming baker’s companion, sifting clouds of flour, running on the rolling pin to flatten dough, and passing out sugar-shiny gumdrop buttons to his new friends.

Young children will ask for this fun and funny read over and over. Tough Cookie makes an especially delicious accompaniment to an afternoon of baking or decorating gingerbread houses!

Ages 3 – 6

Sky Pony Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1634501972

Discover more of Kate Louise’s books for kids and young adults as well as Tough Cookie Coloring Pages on her website!

Read an interview with Kate Louise!

View the colorful world and signature style of Grace Sandford’s artwork on her website!

Read an interview with Grace Sandford!

Gobble up this Tough Cookie book Trailer!

Gingerbread Decorating Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-kids-craftGingerbread Kids Decorations 

 

Way back in the past when gingerbread was new it was creatively iced and used to decorate windows. You can make decorations for your home or room with this easy craft!

Supplies

  • Printable Gingerbread Girl and Boy Template
  • 2 Brown foam sheets
  • White paint (or any color you like)
  • Glitter in two colors
  • Paint brush
  • 2 Small heart buttons (optional)
  • Mounting squares (for mounting)
  • Thread  and needle (for optional hanging)

Directions

  1. Cut out gingerbread girl and boy
  2. Trace gingerbread girl and boy on brown foam sheets
  3. Cut out gingerbread girl and boy
  4. Paint around the edge of the gingerbread boy and girl with the white paint
  5. Add trim to the edge of the gingerbread girl’s dress
  6. Add socks to the gingerbread boy
  7. Add buttons
  8. Add faces
  9. Paint the hands of each figure with the paint
  10. Sprinkle glitter on the hands to make mittens
  11. To use as decoration attach mountable squares or with a threaded needle make a hole in the top of the figures and tie the thread to create a hanger.
 Picture Book Review

October 28 – It’s Bat Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

Bats are popular during the Halloween month of October for many reasons—they fly out of caves and nooks and crannies at night, they look kind of spooky, and they have that cool association with Dracula and other vampires. With over 1,300 species of bats around the world, however, these small fliers play a vital role in the welfare of our planet. Some bats are important for insect control, while others are pollinators and still others disperse seed. Unfortunately, bats have been in the news in the past few years for their declining numbers due to habitat destruction, disease, and hunting. Today’s holiday promotes awareness of the value of bats and urges people to help protect them.

Elsie Clarke and the Vampire Hairdresser

By Ged Adamson

 

“Elsie Clarke was a brave little girl”…until she had to get her hair cut. Whenever her tresses reached a certain point and it was time for that appointment, “she would scream in her horriblest, loudest voice ‘Hairdressers are scary!’ I’m never going again! EVER!’” But Elsie’s dad thinks she might like his barber. Boris Lazzario, Hairdresser of Quality reads the business card he hands her.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy gedadamson.com

The card piques Elsie’s curiosity, so she heads down to 110 Turning Lane. She enters the door to find a very unusual looking boy rushing toward her. He has a comb in one hand and a scissor in the other, and his delighted smile reveals two sharp fangs. “‘A customer! Come in! Come in!’ he exclaims. “Boris Lazzario at your service!’” Before Elsie knows it, Boris has taken her hand and is showing her to his chair, while his cat, a ghostly Jasper, leads the way.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy gedadamson.com

Before Boris can look at Elsie’s hair, however, she tells him that she is afraid of haircuts. Boris has heard it before. He shows Elsie a portrait of his father, Count Lazzario. “‘Everyone’s terrified of him,’” Boris explains, but “‘he’s scared of haircuts, just like you.’” He plays an old movie for Elsie, revealing that his dad wanted him to be a “proper vampire.” To escape this life, Boris tells Elsie, he ran away and is sure his dad is glad that he did.

Just then the door flies open and the house rings with a “blood-curdling HOWL!” It’s Count Lazzario—not looking very glad at all. The Count chases Elsie and Boris upstairs and downstairs, all the while shouting “‘My son a hairdresser! Oh, the shame of it! You’re a disgrace to vampire kind!’” Finally, Elsie has had enough. She stops and pointedly tells the Count in her “horriblest, loudest voice that he should be proud of his son. “‘He’s not a monster like you,’” she shouts.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy gedadamson.com

The Count breaks down in tears. “‘I just wish Boris did something that wasn’t so scary,’” he wails. Suddenly Elsie sees how silly it is to be afraid of a haircut. She musters her courage, reassures the Count, and tells Boris he has two customers. Boris shampoos, rinses, and cuts. While Elsie and the Count sit under the hairdryer, they read magazines while enjoying tea and chocolate cookies.

When the two see their new ‘dos they can’t believe their eyes. The Count proclaims his a “triumph,” and Elsie thinks hers is “‘the coolest, most amazing hairstyle in the world!’” As Elsie turns to go, the Count thanks her. He realizes how ridiculous he’s been and even thinks he may “start a new career as a model.” Elsie gives a final wave before heading home to show her mom and dad not only her new haircut but how very brave she really is.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-elsie-and-the-vampire-hairdresser-saying-goodbye

Copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy gedadamson.com

There’s a wonderful free-range silliness to Ged Adamson’s books that brings a smile to your face as you read them. The great thing is that they are based on a kernel of truth, which anchors the story and gives it broader resonance. In the case of Elsie Clarke and the Vampire Hairdresser it’s a fear of haircuts—a scenario I know well from my own son who for a time received his cuts from a very understanding woman who sat with him on the salon’s play rug while she cut his hair. Adamson’s knack with humorous and believable dialogue paired with laugh-inducing action makes the story a page-turner with the kind of suspense that keeps kids giggling from the first page to the satisfying last.

Adamson’s lush illustrations, in a palette of purples, pinks, yellows, and greens, set on backgrounds of plaid tweed, herringbone, denim and other fabrics as well as ornate Victorian wallpapers, offer all the spooky details readers could want from a vampire’s hair salon. Kids will marvel at the old film projector, and the black-and-white home movie of Boris and his dad is a clever touch. Readers will root for cute Elsie and Boris, and have a change of heart when the tyrant Count tears up.

For those times when a fear needs to be overcome—or for any story time—Elsie Clark and the Vampire Hairdresser is monstrous fun and would be an amusing addition to home libraries that kids will really sink their teeth into.

Ages 4 – 8

Sky Pony Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-1620879832

Discover more about Ged Adamson and his books on his website!

This Elsie and the Vampire Hairdresser book trailer is shear fun!

Bat Appreciation Month Activity

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I Vant to Eat These Treats! Vampire Goodie Box

 

Would you like your gift of homemade or store-bought cookies, candy, or other treats to have a little bite to it? Deliver them in this vampire box you can make yourself!

Supplies

  • Recycled pasta box (or any box with a cellophane window in it)
  • Black Paint
  • Silver Paint
  • Black felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet or heavy stock paper
  • Red felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet or heavy stock paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Black paper, heavy stock or construction paper
  • Fabric glue
  • Regular glue or double stick tape
  • Hot glue gun (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vampire-treat-box-side-view (2)

Directions

  1. Paint the entire box silver, leaving the window unpainted, let dry
  2. With the black paint create the pointy hairstyle, with the point descending about 1 inch from the top of the box and the curves ending about 1 ½ – 1 ¾ inches from the side of the box (see picture).
  3. Paint around the sides and back of the box in line with the ends of the curves
  4. From the black paper make eyebrows—these can be pointy or rounded
  5. From the index card make the nose and teeth
  6. I painted the nose darker silver by combining silver and a little black paint
  7. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the eyebrows and nose to the box
  8. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the teeth to the window, fitting them slightly up into the rim of the window.
  9. Attach the googly eyes

To make the cape

  1. Holding the black felt or paper horizontally, cut a piece about 4/5 as tall as the box
  2. Holding the red felt or paper horizontally, cut a piece of red felt so that there will be a ½-inch border of black along the top and sides
  3. With the fabric glue attach the red felt to the black felt. Use craft glue on paper. Let dry
  4. With the hot glue gun, fabric glue, craft glue, or double stick tape, attach the felt or paper to the back of the box
  5. Fold the felt or paper around the sides of the box and attach along the bottom edge with tape or glue
  6. Fold the top of the felt or paper back to make the collar
  7. Attach the bottom portion of the collar to the box near the front edge with the tape or glue.

Fill with your favorite treat!

Picture Book Review

September 26 – Family Day

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About the Holiday

The purpose of today’s holiday is simple—to fully appreciate the family one has, whether it is small or large, with a whole crew of siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and others. The founders of Family Day, which is celebrated on different dates around the world, wanted people to relax their busy schedules and spend time with those they love in a meaningful and fun way. The great thing about family is they are always there for you when you need them most—as we see in today’s book!

Meet the McKaws

By Ged Adamson

 

Captain Stan and Tiny McKaw, Stan’s parrot first mate, love everything about being pirates—“Sailinng the seven seas, fighting battles, and searching for treasure! What could be better? Yes, life is pretty perfect for Stan and Tiny” until…Tiny’s parents come to visit. Mr. and Mrs. McKaw aren’t on board 5 minutes before the squawking begins. Mrs. McKaw takes exception to Stan: “‘He doesn’t’ look like much of a captain to me. He’s just a boy!’” And while Mr. McKaw is trying to apologize for his wife’s behavior, he lets out “a huge, disgusting BURP!”

Tiny’s mom is appalled at the state of the ship, calling it “a messy old wreck,” and Tiny’s dad starts in with a long, meandering story of his days as a pirate, complete with a treasure map, a deserted island, the Kraken, sword fights, canon fire, a treasure chest, and even a commendation. I think you get the picture. Problem is…Mr. McKaw never was a pirate.

Maybe a nice sit-down dinner will clear the air and get things started off on the right pegleg again. With a big grin the cook presents the special meal he has prepared in the McKaw’s honor, but after “just one mouthful, both the McKaws were violently sick. ‘Horrible! Horrible!’” cries Mrs. McKaw. The poor cook bursts into tears and runs back to the galley. Perhaps nighttime will bring a little relief. But no, Mr. McKaw snores and Mrs. McKaw nags in her sleep.

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Image copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of gedadamson.com

The next morning Captain Stan wakes up to the worst insult of all—guano dots his royal blue pirate coat. Even this offense, thought, pales in comparison to what Stan sees next. Perched between his parents sits Tiny in a crisp white shirt and tie with his feathers slicked back. This is the last straw. “GET OFF MY SHIP!!” yells Captain Stan. Mr. and Mrs. McKaw waste no time in flying the coop, but there’s no respite for Captain Stan and Tiny for dead ahead is a colossal storm.

The ship is no match for the lightning, crashing waves, and fierce winds. The cook, the cabin boy, Captain Stan, and the remains of the broken brigand are washed into the roiling sea. “Just when all seems lost, however, Tiny gives a great SQUAWK! ‘It’s Mr. and Mrs. McKaw!’” cries Stan. “‘And my aunts, uncles, cousins…everyone!’” says Tiny. The parrots rescue everyone and fly them safely to a nearby island—Blue Feather Island, which just happens to be Tiny’s home.

All the members of the parrot family help Stan build a new ship, and in the process he discovers a new perspective on Mrs. and Mr. McKaw’s personalities. “Mrs. McKaw’s bossiness turned out to be very useful” as she delegates jobs, and Mr. McKaw keeps the crew entertained while they work “just by being Mr. McKaw.” The two are even hungry enough to eat up everything the cook prepares, much to his delight.

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Image copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of gedadamson.com

With a new ship finally complete, it’s time for the McKaws to take wing. Stan thanks them for all their help and apologizes for throwing them off his ship. On her part, Mrs. McKaw apologizes for being rude and thanks Stan for taking care of Tiny. And what about the new ship? It might be even better than the original with a bold parrot-emblazoned sail and a parrot figurehead pointing the way. As the crew sets sail, Captain Stan acknowledges, “‘You know, Tiny, I’m really glad I met the McKaws.’”

With the dash of a swashbuckler and the true aim of a compass, Ged Adamson depicts the high and low tides of family life in this high seas adventure. His humorous portrayals of personality traits that can drive family members crazy will resonate with kids and adults alike as they laugh through the travails Captain Stan and Tiny suffer during a visit by Tiny’s parents. In a sweet turn of events, though, Adamson reminds us that when storms come—in whatever form—the momentary squalls are forgotten, the anchor of family relationships is dropped, and everyone battens the hatches together.

Adamson’s vivid illustrations of Captain Stan in his sharp pirate garb, colorful (in more ways than one) Mr. and Mrs. McKaw, and the well-fitted wooden ship will delight pirate fans of all ages. Mr. McKaw’s imaginary stories are cleverly portrayed as chalk drawings on a black background, and the sea swirls with cool hues of blue and turquoise. Like Captain Stan readers will be glad they have a chance to Meet the McKaws and will want them to visit again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

Sky Pony Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1629146188

Discover more of Ged Adamson’s work on his website!

Meet Ged Adamson and learn about his inspirations, his writing life, and his other books in this funny and insightful Q & A!

Family Day Activity

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Original Avast! Pirate Treasure Map Board Game design by Conor Carroll copyright 2016

Avast! Pirate Treasure Map Board Game

 

Gather your family around and set out to discover buried treasure and the treasure of spending time together! This printable, original board game has all the excitement of a pirate voyage across the bounding main, including shark attacks, mutiny, the Kraken, mermaids, mateys, and more!

Supplies

Printable Avast! Game Board and Game Pieces

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Original artwork copyright Conor Carroll and Celebrate Picture Books, 2016

Directions

  1. Print the Avast! Board Game pages (Options: print on white paper, parchment-colored paper, or on card stock. To make white paper appear old – as in the picture – paint with a tea wash before taping together. See directions for tea wash below)
  2. Tape together the 4 pieces of the map. (Option: map pages printed on regular paper can be  glued to a piece of poster board to make the game board more sturdy.) 
  3. Print the Avast! Pirate Loot Tokens
  4. Cut out the Avast! Pirate Loot Tokens
  5. Print the Avast! Game Cards
  6. Cut out the Avast! Game Cards

To use a tea bag to make the map look old:

  1. Steep a black tea tea bag in 1/4 cup boiling water for 3 minutes
  2. Squeeze the tea bag dry over the cup and discard
  3. With the paint brush, paint the 4 pages of the map with the tea before taping them together
  4. Let dry or dry with a hair drier set on Low.

To Play the Game

  1. Each player chooses a Pirate Loot Token as their playing piece to move along the board
  2. Shuffle and stack the Game Cards
  3. Choose which player will go first
  4. Players choose the top card from the pile and follow the directions to move spaces on the game board.
  5. After moving, players should put their game card in a discard pile
  6. If Game Cards run out before the end of the game, flip over the discard pile and use the cards again
  7. The first player to arrive at the X on the map finds the treasure and is the winner!

Picture Book Review

September 12 – National Day of Encouragement and Q&A with Author Kate Louise & Illustrator Grace Sandford

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2007 by the Encouragement Foundation at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, today’s holiday entreats us to cheer on our friends, coworkers, and even those we don’t know as they attempt to reach goals or start new endeavors. A pat on the back, a simple “you can do it!,” or a reassuring “great job!” boosts people’s self-confidence and makes the world a happier place.

Tough Cookie

Written by Kate Louise | Illustrated by Grace Sandford

 

Although one gingerbread man in the bakery looks like all the others, there is one important difference. Yes, the batter had “eggs and cinnamon and flour and butter and sugar—but wait! The baker forgot to add the ginger!” Without this signature ingredient the gingerbread man just doesn’t feel like a gingerbread man at all. In fact his whole life has been turned upside down. He’s different from his friends, and what’s worse, he can’t be sold. Instead, he lives in the back of the bakery  and in his sadness makes all kinds of mischief.

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Image copyright Grace Sandford, text copyright Kate Louise, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

The gingerbread man chases the cat, splatters icing on other cookies, and squirts icing on the walls. “‘I need that for my cupcakes!’” the baker yells, but the gingerbread man just laughs. He moves on to the decorative candies, stuffing them in his mouth as fast as he can even though the baker needs them for his other treats and stands by tapping his foot. Next the gingerbread man scatters sprinkles all over the counter and slips and slides along on his belly—“‘woohoo!’” But the baker is not amused. “‘I need those for the donuts!’” he shouts.

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Image copyright Grace Sandford, text copyright Kate Louise, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

Finally, the baker has had enough. Not only is the gingerbread man upsetting the other gingerbread men and women, he is ruining the business. The baker orders the gingerbread man to leave the store. But this is one gingerbread man that does not want to run away. “‘I don’t want to leave!’” he cries. The baker relents. He takes the little cookie in hand and teaches him that even though he is missing an ingredient he can still be kind. The baker shows him by being nice he can become one of the group. 

Now, the little gingerbread man is happy. Instead of gobbling up all the candy, he helps create the other cookies. He no longer shoots icing on the walls or flings sprinkles around the kitchen. Rather, he helps the baker decorate the cupcakes and the donuts. He’s even learned how to sift flour and roll out dough, and he uses the cookie cutter to make new friends. And he never forgets to add the ginger!

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Image copyright Grace Sandford, text copyright Kate Louise, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

In her sweet story, Kate Louise reminds readers that true happiness comes from within and that each person can decide for themselves how to perceive the world around them. While each of us is human, we all have different ingredients that make us unique. We can use those qualities to be kind and make positive changes in the world. Kids will recognize and giggle at the mischief the little gingerbread man makes with icing and sprinkles, but will also realize that friendships are built by using that same energy to help others. Sometimes tough cookies are actually softies at heart.

Grace Sandford’s bakery gleams with the golden hues of fresh-baked bread, the festive colors of sprinkles and icing, and the sparkle of sugar. Kids will love the vibrant pictures of cupcakes; lollypops; stacks of cakes, donuts, and candy; and decorated gingerbread houses surrounded by cookie forests. Her expressive gingerbread men and women register dismay at the wayward gingerbread man’s shenanigans and joy at his kindness. And the hero of the story? When he leaves behind his impish pranks he becomes a charming baker’s companion, sifting clouds of flour, running on the rolling pin to flatten dough, and passing out sugar-shiny gumdrop buttons to his new friends.

Young children will ask for this fun and funny read over and over. Tough Cookie makes an especially delicious accompaniment to an afternoon of baking or decorating gingerbread houses!

Ages 3 – 6

Sky Pony Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1634501972

Discover more of Kate Louise’s books for kids and young adults as well as Tough Cookie Coloring Pages on her website!

View the colorful world and signature style of Grace Sandford’s artwork on her website!

Gobble up this Tough Cookie book Trailer!

National Day of Encouragement Activity

CPB - Random Acts of Kindness cards

Kindness Cards

Encourage your friends – and even strangers with these printable Kindness Cards! You can hand them to people and tell them how much they mean to you or slip them into a lunch bag, locker, shelf, backpack or other place and let the person discover a secret day brightener!

Q&A with Author Kate Louise & Illustrator Grace Sandford

Today I am happy to include a double Q & A with both author Kate Louise and illustrator Grace Sandford in which they share their inspirations, their other work, and the joys of creating picture books as well as reveal a favorite place for tea and cake and a ghostly pastime!

Meet Kate Louise

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What were some of the books you most enjoyed as a child?

I loved Funny Bones and Winnie the Witch! And I was a big fan of Roald Dahl (especially Matlida) – I still am! 

What influenced you to write Tough Cookie?

I had the idea at Christmastime. I was measuring ingredients for a batch of gingerbread cookies and wondered what a cookie character without sugar would do because they’d be unable to fulfill their cookie purpose without an important ingredient! I later changed the missing sugar to missing ginger, which is the most important ingredient of all for a gingerbread man.

You write picture books as well as young adult novels. Which came first? What is the biggest challenge in writing each? What is the biggest joy?

When I started writing, I knew I wanted to write young-adult fiction. So that came first. Writing picture books kind of felt like starting over again. It was scary, but exciting, too. And I could learn a lot from both and apply new skills to different projects.

Both have their charms and their tough moments. Writing novels can be really hard going at times when I get the feeling that I’m never going to make it to the end, or if I get myself tangled up somewhere along the way. I don’t get that feeling quite as much with picture books, though I would say they’re harder to write! To tell a story with a much, much smaller word count and to get used to letting the illustrations tell it too.

The biggest joy for me is always seeing the finished work. After putting so much into each project, getting it back as something I can hold in my hands and feel proud of is a great feeling.

Can you describe your writing space a little?

I can answer with a photo! Though, it depends when you catch me and how busy I am. Sometimes it can be piled up with books or notepads or pieces of paper and mugs of tea! My screen desktop (as you can see) can get pretty hectic sometimes too.

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Since Tough Cookie is set in a bakery, I’m wondering if you have a favorite bakery and if so what is special about it?

Oh, nice question! My fave place to visit for tea and cake is a little farm shop tea room, where the cake is made by my friend Bethany at Picture Frame Puds and is seriously delicious! It has a lovely vibe and I can take my dog!

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What are you working on next?

I’m working on The Pack, which is the sequel to my YA shape-shifter circus novel The Wanderers that came out last year.

Since this is a holiday-themed blog, I can’t let you get away without asking you a few holiday-related questions, so…

What is your favorite holiday?

It would have to be Christmas. But Halloween is a very close second.

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Do you have an anecdote from any holiday you’d like to share?

I like to make a big deal about Halloween with movies, decorating, pumpkin carving, and themed baking. We’ve just started going to a pumpkin farm to pick the pumpkins ourselves too. There’s a corn maze and little wheelbarrows and the field stretches on forever. It’s a new tradition and a fun extra activity for us at Halloween.

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Meet Grace Sandford

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What inspired you to become an illustrator and a picture book illustrator specifically?

Growing up, I loved drawing and creating characters from my imagination. I believe a lot of that stemmed from picture books and animated film and television. I love Disney and Pixar and as a teenager I was fascinated with the concept art from Pixar films. I always knew that I wanted a career in art of some form but it’s hard discovering what jobs are out there when you’re at school! I did some studying in Graphic Design and eventually went to university to study Illustration, which is where I got truly passionate about picture books. I always admired the art of picture books and they have been a huge part of my life but having a reason to dissect them and create your own really made me want to be a children’s illustrator.

What were some of the books and/or artists you liked most as a child?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, I am a Bunny illustrated by Richard Scarry and when I was 16 I stumbled across Catherine Rayner’s debut Augustus and his Smile. I think that book was a huge influence in wanting to be a children’s book illustrator, both the writing and illustrations are perfect! 

Can you describe your process when illustrating a picture book?

It usually begins with the editor sending you the story/text. Then I start to do lots of sketches of the main character, the secondary characters and the environment around them. Pinterest is a godsend during this bit as you can flick through and look at photos of certain animals or buildings for reference to make sure you’re creating characters that will look believable (even if it is a walking, talking gingerbread man!) 

Then I create roughs for each spread showing how the pages will look and which parts I have chosen to illustrate. This gives the editor a rough idea of how the final artwork is going to look and this is where most of the edits happen until it’s approved. Once all edits are approved I can create the final artwork which is my favourite part seeing all the hard work come together! 

Can you describe your work space a little?

I now have a studio where I live, but when I worked on Tough Cookie I lived in a one bed apartment with my boyfriend straight after university and I had to work on the kitchen table! I’m so glad I have my own room to work in now (and I’m sure my boyfriend is too!)

My work space now involves a desk, my iMac, an A3 scanner, a windowsill with lots of pens and paints (and most importantly plants!) and I have a space that alternates between a lightbox and a graphics tablet. I also have a bad habit of putting all projects I’m working on into separate piles around the room until they are done! 

You say in your bio that you like ghost hunting. How did you get involved in that? What is your favorite place to hunt ghosts?

Haha, this is the best question! I love Ghost Hunting although it’s been a while since I’ve been on a walk. It started off when I was a teenager living in a small village in England, being bored with friends and wandering around abandoned churches at night, hunting for things that go bump in the night, and it grew over time into a huge interest. When I went to University in Lincoln, a historical city, I got very interested in the social history of the place. Ghost stories are ultimately another fantastic way of storytelling. There are some very scary but interesting stories about Lincolnshire if you’re ever interested! Fun fact, Tom Hank’s bodyguard tripped over a phantom ghost head rolling down Steep Hill in Lincoln during a Professional Ghost Tour!

What are you working on next?

This year I’ve been working on a four book series based on Minecraft which has been a complete joy to be a part of! It’s been hard work as I knew very little about the franchise before this and knowing how loyal the fans are, I’ve wanted to draw everything right whilst staying faithful to my style! I just finished some more colouring books for a Spanish publisher and I have also been writing a picture book that I have a good feeling about (fingers crossed!)

What is your favorite holiday?

I personally love Christmas just because I get to spend time with my family and chill out but I love Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday too. It is such a vibrant and beautiful celebration of something that we all sadly experience in life. 

Do you have an anecdote from any holiday you’d like to share?

Every Christmas it’s become a tradition to be at home with my family playing Jigsaws, watching films and eating a little bit too much! 

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Thanks, Kate and Grace, for sharing about your work and your favorite places and pursuits! I wish you all the best with Tough Cookie and your other projects!

Tough Cookie can be found at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sky Pony Press