July 29 – International Tiger Day

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About the Holiday

First observed in 2010 in response to the severely declining wild tiger population, International Tiger Day promotes awareness of these beautiful, distinctive animals. In the last century 97% of wild tigers have disappeared, with only 3,000 still in existence. Many factors have led to this devastating loss, including habitat destruction, climate change, and poaching. Environmental and other groups, such as the World Wildlife Federation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the Smithsonian Institution, have come together to protect and preserve wild tigers.

By Jakki Licare

A Tiger Like Me

Written by Michael Engler | Illustrated Joelle Tourloias | Translated by Laura Watkinson

 

A little boy dressed in a tiger costume wakes up for the day with a great big roar. “Because I am a tiger, a wide-awake tiger!” His mother tries to clean his beautiful fur, but tigers don’t like to be clean. He uses his tiger speed and reflexes to race out of the bathroom. With a grumbling stomach, the little boy sits at the table and gobbles up his breakfast. “I crunch and munch just like a tiger.” And now he is ready for the adventures of the day. 

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Image copyright Joëlle Tourlonias, 2020, text copyright Michael Engler, 2020, translation copyright Laura Watkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

He finds a sneaky hiding spot where he can surprise his mom, but then he gets stuck. Apparently, it isn’t a hideout, but a trap. Luckily, Mother Tiger hears her cub’s struggles and rescues him. The little boy heads outside to enjoy the snow on the ground. “Snow sprays out from under my quick tiger paws. Icicles rattle with my big tiger roars!” The little boy pounces around in the snow, enjoying every moment.

Hungry again the little boy returns to the kitchen where he is sure to find “…some tiger prey…” With his quick reflexes he pounces onto the chair and finds a delicious tiger cake. After painting his face like a tiger he sneaks up on his father. With a growl he leaps up on his father. His dad becomes a hunter who wants to capture him, but the little tiger is too quick. “Because I am tiger, a wild and wary tiger!”

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Image copyright Joëlle Tourlonias, 2020, text copyright Michael Engler, 2020, translation copyright Laura Watkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

The little boy is sent to his room. Using his furniture and sheets, he constructs a tiger den. It is the perfect place for a tiger to lay low. That night the family gather together to make tiger crafts with paint, crayons, watercolors, glue, and paper. Afterward, as the little boy is getting ready for bed, he absolutely refuses to brush his teeth. Even though the sun has set, the little boy is still not ready for bed. He waits until his parents come up and sneaks into their den. They snuggle together until the little boy falls asleep. He dreams about how he loves his life as a tiger.

End pages show a waking/sleeping boy in a tiger costume sleeping on his blankets with a blue-gray forest in the background. A small stanza compliments the artwork describing the waking/sleeping tiger-boy.

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Image copyright Joëlle Tourlonias, 2020, text copyright Michael Engler, 2020, translation copyright Laura Watkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

This sweet story will entrance young readers as they get to prowl through the day with this human-tiger protagonist. Michael Engler’s beautiful wording transforms the everyday tasks of brushing teeth to playing outside into exciting adventures. My son enjoyed pointing out how his own routine was similar to the protagonist’s. Engler does a great job of capturing the wide range of emotions that a child can experience in a single day. From hungry to scared to playful, the boy goes through the gamut of feelings. The repetition on every page makes it fun for young readers to chime in: “Because I am a tiger….” The sweet tone and calming end makes it a terrific book to read before nap time or bedtime. 

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Image copyright Joëlle Tourlonias, 2020, text copyright Michael Engler, 2020, translation copyright Laura Watkinson, 2020. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Joelle Tourloias’s illustrations really capture the imagination and action of our tiger-boy protagonist. The speckles and blotches splattering the page when the boy pounces on his father really exemplifies the chaos of that moment while, the soft, almost hidden jungles in the background help blur the line between imagination and reality. My son especially loved finding the stuffed animals that are hidden on every page. The expressions of the family are perfectly rendered and really show the flux of emotions from moment to moment. Tourloias also does a fantastic job of capturing special family moments, such as the smiles of the parents and their son as they paint together on the floor and  their peaceful looks as they cuddle together at the end.

With its emotionally rich storytelling, repetitive phrasing, and hidden pictures, A Tiger Like Me is the perfect book to add to your home, classroom, or library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2019 | ISBN-13 978-1542044561

Discover more about Michael Engler and his books on his website.

To learn more about Joelle Tourlonias, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Tiger Day Activity

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Celebrate Tigers Maze

 

Even tigers like to celebrate! Can you help this tiger through the maze so he can enjoy a slice of cake (or maybe the whole thing!)?

Celebrate Tigers Maze

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You can find A Tiger Like Me at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local, independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

July 20 – Global Hug Your Kids Day

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About the Holiday

The purpose of today’s holiday is simple: show your child or children that you love them by giving them a hug. And why stop at just one? Such closeness builds strong family bonds and also helps with a child’s brain development and social and emotional learning. Give hugs throughout the day, and tell your kids how much and why you love them! 

Goodnight, Sleepyville

Written by Blake Liliane Hellman | Illustrated by Steven Henry

 

“In Sleepyville, the sun is setting, and everyone’s done for the day.” They head home from work or school or running errands. At the Acorn Cafe, the owner is just finish up the cleaning. At the library the last book is being checked out. And as Mr. Bear leaves downtown, he scans the newspaper. Where is everyone going? “To simple homes, dome homes, teensy-weensy homes, …and very fancy homes.”

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2020, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

At home it’s time to wash up and enjoy a family supper – with milk and cookies for dessert. Once pajamas are on it’s time to “snuggle, wiggle, cuddle.” The moon rises and “though some are tucked in, snug as a bug…others need a lullaby. And maybe a bedtime story.” Then each animal drifts off to sleep in their own way as in the sky stars twinkle and fireflies blink. “Goodnight, Sleepyville. All the lights go out… except one.”

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2020, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

If you’re looking for a cozy, welcoming place to lay your head at the end of the day, there’s no place like home – or Sleepyville. In Blake Liliane Hellman’s tranquil town, where close-set cottages and tree-trunk homes reflect the close-knit community, evening  comes with comforting routines and the welcome of family. Hellman’s charming alliteration and gentle rhymes turn each sentence into a lullaby just perfect for bedtime reading. Her final line is sweetly clever, and will lead little ones to try and guess which light remains glowing and why. The answer on the next page is sure to spark requests for another read.

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Image copyright Steven Henry, 2020, text copyright Blake Liliane Hellman, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Steven Henry’s adorable seaside community enchants with quaint details and a relaxed, happy atmosphere rendered in delicate lines and soft, warm colors. Babies and adults welcome home family members with cheery enthusiasm (you don’t want to miss the two ladybugs rushing to embrace at their toadstool home’s front door or the sprawling Victorian treehouse). Images of the fox family having supper around the table and then doing the dishes together are homey, and kids will giggle at two sleepyheads wearing mixed-up pajamas. After the sun has set, a momma or papa wolf howls a lullaby to three cubs while the bunny clan listens to a story before being tucked in. With the crescent moon shining and the town in slumber, one little light still glimmers. Where does it come from? Turn the page and see!

Goodnight, Sleepyville is dreamy reading for bedtime that families will turn to again and again and would be a welcome addition to home and public library collections. Pair with the first book in this little series, Welcome to Morningtown to begin and end the day with favorite friends.

Ages Birth – 5

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1681198767

To learn more about Steven Henry, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Global Hug Your Kids Day Activity

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Free Hug Coupons

 

Everyone needs a hug now and then! With these printable Free Hug Coupons you can extend Global Hug Your Kid day to every day of the year and make sure that all of your favorite people get a sweet hug when they need it most.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Free Hug Coupons
  2. Color the coupons (optional)
  3. Hand out the coupons to your friends and family members and tell them that each coupon is good for one free hug from you.
  4. When someone hands in a ticket to you, give them your best biggest hug!

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You can find Goodnight, Sleepyville at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 20 – It’s Picture Book Month and Interview with Author/Illustrator Paul Schmid

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About the Holiday

Fall is giving way to winter and kids’ thoughts turn to snow days, sledding, snowmen, and all sorts of frosty things. There’s a book for that…and that…and all those things too! Kids love following the seasons through the books they read. There’s nothing better during the cold-weather months than snuggling indoors with a stack of books and a steamy mug of hot chocolate. During Picture Book Month and all through the year, introduce your children to the joys of reading!

Phaidon Press sent me a copy of Little Bear Dreams to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m delighted to be partnering with Phaidon in a giveaway of the book! See details below.

Little Bear Dreams

By Paul Schmid

 

A baby polar bear rides atop Mom’s back, catching snowflakes on a little pink tongue. As the snowflakes change to twinkling stars in the dark night sky, a question hangs in the air—“Of what do little bears dream?” Perhaps it’s the frothy sweetness of “hot chocolate” or the delicious spiciness of “cold pizza.”

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

As the day brightens once more, maybe the baby imagines all kinds of things that lie beyond those “straight horizons” or giggles at wearing tickly, “curly moustaches.” There are so many things to discover, both big and small, short and tall, and blue—lots of blue in the frozen north. But night has come around again and it’s time for sleep. So, curl up with “soft, snowy beds. Warm fur…and frosty nights” and drift off to sleep.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Paul Schmid’s snuggly story about an adorable polar bear pair rendered with soft curves, quiet blues, and sweet surprises is, simply, love in a book. The gentle text lulls little ones toward sleep while reminding them of the wonders of life. Images of opposites—hot and cold, straight and curly, big and small, and others—are full of charm and wit and give little readers lots to talk about or an invitation to fill in their own details.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Schmid’s beautiful use of line, shape, and color expresses the loving relationship between baby and adult as the little one peeks from behind Mom, hides underneath her during a game of hide-and-seek, and nuzzles noses in a little bear kiss. Marshmallow-plump bunnies wait silently to play, and pudgy little polar bear twists to try and spy a stubby tail. Gorgeous perspectives show the magnitude of the night sky and the mother bear’s protective power. The moving image of the pair curled into a ball for sleep underneath a full moon and then risen to replace it as a little one’s shining light is the perfect ending to this story so rich in cuddles, caring, and comfort.

An excellent book for baby shower, birthday, and holiday gifts as well as an endearing addition to home libraries, Little Bear Dreams is a book you will find yourself reaching for again and again. It’s a sweet book for preschool classrooms and a must for public libraries.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877242

To learn more about Paul Schmid, his books, and his art, visit his website

Meet Paul Schmid

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I’m thrilled to be chatting with Paul Schmid today about his the inspirations of winter, following where ideas lead, and the role of that curly moustache in Little Bear Dreams.

Readers are always interested in the creative process that goes into a book. Can you talk us through how Little Bear Dreams came to be?

Little Bear Dreams started in a somewhat dreamlike way. I just began playing with the dramatic, graceful shapes of winter landscapes without knowing where I was going with it. I love winter, and since childhood have been fascinated by its stark simplicity and seeming contradiction of severity and softness.

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This was the start of it all. Roughly sketched musings on a bear in her environment.

As dreams will do, the book evolved as it progressed. It took hundreds of sketches to bring this book to life. At one early point it was called “Black and White and Blue.” The more I sketched my characters, though, the more they began to assert their personality. We all eventually settled into a gentle, loving mother bear and her rather impish and imaginative little bear.

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Sketches, sketches, sketches!

Ideas for stories can come from anywhere, but what for you makes an idea stick so that you develop it further?

DH Lawrence wrote: “If you try to nail anything down in the novel, either it kills the novel, or the novel gets up and walks away with the nail.”

I follow ideas perpetually. “Follow” being the operational word here. Many times I’ve tried to force an idea, and it generally ends up looking so. 

I follow until an idea becomes something or peters into nothing. Some ideas I’ve been following for years and haven’t arrived anywhere wonderful—yet. Some ideas drag me after them at a speed which shocks me. I guess the key is to always be receptive. Ideas will rudely wake me at 2 a.m., obliging me to creep into my studio and sketch or write.

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There are so many ways to convey an idea! I jokingly call the first few months of developing a book “The Period of Ten Thousand Decisions.” Here are explorations on just one spread from Little Bear Dreams: “Blue water.”

Little Bear Dreams began as an indulgence to play with simplicity in color and shape, visual and verbal rhythms and contrasts, but evolved also into a story of love and connection. Of gentleness and playfulness.

The idea is the boss. Not me. I just obey.

Your illustration style is very distinctive, and your adorable characters immediately inspire readers to feel empathy for them. Can you talk a little about the role of different shapes, line, white space, and even the use of small features in your illustrations?

I have a compulsion to express as much as possible in the simplest manner possible. It is a great pleasure to me to strip an illustration or sentence of all that gets in the way of advancing the story or mood or character of the book.

CPB - Paul Schmid Interview - more sketches for Little Bear Dreams

Although my illustrations seem simple, I’ve found simplicity a very complicated feat to achieve. With no busyness, what is there must be perfect. For me that requires a lot of drawing and redrawing.

But it must connect with a reader! Children live real, dramatic, joyous, painful, confused, confident, knowing, learning lives. I feel my job as a storyteller for children is to reflect and connect with the vitality of life they dwell in.

So when I draw a character in a situation or emotion I feel that emotion myself as I draw. The great illustrator Howard Pyle was quoted as saying: “Project your mind into your subject until you actually live in it.” 

In 2010 you were chosen as one of four illustrators to attend a fellowship with Maurice Sendak. What is the most memorable thing that he told you? What is your favorite memory from that experience?

Maurice was to me a shining example of emotional courage and depth and intelligence. I’ve never met anyone more brilliant and intuitive. He was unafraid of his feelings, of complexity, of embracing sadness and joy. 

For all he was a superstar, he was also amazingly generous and one of the most caring, attentive listeners I’ve ever known.

It is how he was as a person that has inspired me rather than any one thing he said.

My favorite memory of Maurice was a visit I paid to him about a year after the Fellowship. We took a walk and for hours discussed how elusive happiness is for an artist, the difficulty in waking our muses, the impossibility of not continuing to always create and express ourselves, the challenge and imperative of being truthful to kids, loss, death, life, beauty. The whole of our love for life and creating. 

As a speaker at  the 2015 Words, Writers, and West Seattle” series of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, you talked about several of your books, including Oliver and His Alligator, which involves a surprising turn of events, and mention that kids love being shocked. In Little Bear Dreams, the baby polar dreams of things she would naturally see in her environment juxtaposed with things like cold pizza and curly mustaches. Can you discuss the benefits for young children of unexpected moments that cause surprise or giggles?

Kids are still putting the puzzle pieces together on their perceptions of “What is this thing called life?” Incongruities help reinforce our understanding of reality. As a little girl my own daughter enjoyed pointing out when something was not right. It is a source of humor for children and adults.

As I write I imagine a parent reading the book with their child and discussing it together. “Do polar bears eat pizza?” “No, that’s silly!” I endeavor to create those moments for a parent and child. My books such as A Pet for Petunia and Oliver and his Alligator are full of such opportunities. Surprise, along with the comfort of seeing true familiar things is the balance I sought for Little Bear Dreams.

Putting the child in the position of knowing something the book affects not to know is great fun for a young reader too.

As I watched the Word, Writers, and West Seattle event, I was thrilled to see you present The Story of Ferdinand as one of your childhood favorites. That book was also one of my favorites—the first one I remember truly loving. For me, as a quiet child, it was the story that was so validating, and for you, you said that even as a child you appreciated the perfection of the illustrations. Could you talk a bit about that relationship between a child and a book that is a beloved “first” in some way. Is that an idea you are aware of when creating a book?

One of the most gratifying results of creating books for kids is getting a note from a parent telling me it is their child’s favorite book; that they have to sleep with it under their pillow, or they’ve memorized the whole book. I love knowing I made something that touched a child so deeply.

I believe this profound connection is because a child reads so much more intensely than an adult. They seek in books information and affirmation of what they are feeling or thinking. They find adventure and discover possibility. Reading for kids is not just a distraction, it is an important part of their world.

Oh, and because of this I have a small personal conviction that the only reviewers of kid’s books should be kids. Ha!

What’s up next for you?

I am always working on new manuscripts! I’m having a great time this week with a particularly fun story I am sketching up. Not a bad way to spend my days.

A new endeavor I am also enjoying is designing images for greeting cards. One company, Great Arrow Graphics, has picked up about a dozen or so of my designs which are available in select stores or on line here: https://www.greatarrow.com/cards/cardlist/did/494

I have also set up a shop at society6, where you can buy quality prints of images from my books and some other fun stuff I’ve illustrated.

The shop lives here: https://society6.com/paulschmid

New designs are always on the way.

What’s your favorite holiday? Do you have an anecdote from any holiday that you’d like to share?

I find Winter Solstice particularly appealing, since for me it represents the paradox of life. Solstice marks the end of the shortening days, the return of light and warmth, of renewal. At the same time it also means the beginning of Winter, of coldness, hardship and patience. This is not a conflict to me but a lovely insight. Up cannot exist without down, it is its opposite that makes a thing itself be. 

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Paul hiking with Mount Rainier in the distance.

So at the moment of Winter Solstice we are able to feel simultaneously both joy and sadness, hope and fear. That is a concept I find strangely satisfying.

Wow! Thanks, Paul, for such an insightful talk! I wish you all the best with Little Bear Dreams and all of your books!

Little Bear Dreams Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Phaidon Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Little Bear Dreams by Paul Schmid

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, November 20 – November 26. Already a follower? Thanks! Just Retweet for a chance to win. 

A winner will be chosen on November 27.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Phaidon Press.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Opposites Sensory Tin

Little ones love touching and feeling different objects and trying to guess just what they are or how they’re the same or different than other things. Putting together a sensory tin is a quick and easy way to keep kids occupied with a fun activity while they also learn!

With a six-cup tin for youngest readers and a twelve-cup tin to try and stump older kids, you have plenty of space to add items that are soft and hard, cold and warm, crunchy and crumbly, spiky and smooth, and so many more!

To make the tin into a game, have kids close their eyes or blindfold them and let them feel the different items and guess what they are.

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You can find Little Bear Dreams at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 19 – It’s National Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

When we think about our lives, we can be thankful for many things. At the top of the list for parents and other caregivers are the children in their lives. Gratitude and expressions of thanks are two of the earliest emotions passed down to children through gentle “what do you say?” prompts for any gift or compliment given to teaching kids to write thank-you notes to friends and family. During the holidays—and this week in particular—we are mindful of all of our blessings and of those less fortunate than we are.

Zonderkidz sent me copies of Nighty Night and Good Night and Let’s Get Ready for Bed to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Zonderkidz in a cozy giveaway! See details below.

Nighty Night and Good Night

Written by Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki | Illustrated by Tod Carter | Painted by Chuck Vollmer

 

Ben’s bedtime routine always included a simple prayer. “‘Dear God, Thank you for this day. Please help all of our family and friends sleep well tonight! Amen.’” Then he turned out the light and went to sleep. But sometimes—like tonight—Ben couldn’t fall asleep easily. He turned on his nightlight and that’s when his fluffy friends, Bear, Lamby, and Sleepy Puppy came to life to help.

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Lamby, of course, thought counting sheep would put Ben to sleep, but when Ben got to ten he had to stop. He didn’t know what came next, and he wasn’t sleepy yet. Bear suggested Ben fluff his pillow, so he tossed his pillow in the air until it was nice and soft, but he still wasn’t sleepy. Sleepy Puppy was sure that yawning would make Ben tired, so they all marched around the room yawning widely, but that didn’t do the trick either.

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

At last, Bear pulled his guitar from behind his pillow, Lamby took to Ben’s little piano, and Sleepy Puppy began thrumming on the bass. It was time for a lullaby! Ben’s three friends began to sing: “‘Lay down, sweet child, and go to sleep. / The Lord be with you and give you His peace. / Lay down, sweet child, and go to sleep. / The Lord be with you tonight.’” Soon, Ben’s eyes began to close. Even Sleepy Puppy was feeling tired too. Lamby prayed one last prayer for Ben to sleep well and the three “drifted off to sleep.”

Ages 2 – 5

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310767015

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Let’s Get Ready for Bed

Written by Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki | Illustrated by Tod Carter | Painted by Chuck Vollmer

 

Eddy the bear was looking for his friend Sleepy Puppy. Lamby had just seen him going to get ready for bed. The two thought it would be fun to sneak a peek at Puppy’s nighttime routine. They snuck upstairs where they saw soap bubbles foaming under the bathroom door. Inside, Sleepy Puppy soaked in the clawfoot tub. “A warm bubble bath is what this pup needs / after a big day of mess-making deeds.”

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

All clean and dry, Puppy tugged on his favorite pajamas. “Fuzzy and soft, these pj’s are cozy. / They keep his toes warm and turn his cheeks rosy.” Then it’s time to brush his teeth and finally hit the hay. Puppy knew he had something special to do before he climbed under the covers. He knelt by his bed and prayed, “‘Thanks, God, for my family, for my mom and dad, / and for all the fun with my friends that I had.’” Then he asked God to keep them all safe and help them to sleep well.

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Looking at a book before closing his eyes was the next step in his routine. The stories were so funny that he laughed and laughed. He shut the book and snuggled in for a long night’s sleep. But he still felt wide awake. He wondered, “‘Did I leave something out? Or do something wrong? I know!’ he remembered. “‘I’m missing a song!’”

Lamby and Eddy were there on the spot. Eddy strummed the guitar and Lamby  played the piano, and their song went like this: “‘Rock-a-bye, Puppy, in the tree top, / When the wind blows the cradle will rock. / Forward and back, the cradle it swings / ‘till deep into sleep, Puppy it brings.’” They sang another verse and Puppy was soon snoozing. “Then Lamby and Bear both whispered good night. They tucked Puppy in and turned off the light.”

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Nighty Night and Good Night and Let’s Get Ready for Bed are the first two titles in a new series, Nurturing Steps™ launched by Grammy® Award winning artist Michael W. Smith for babies and toddlers. The series combines books and music to give parents, grandparents, and other caregivers a way to “enliven a young child’s journey with hope and faith through song and storytelling.” The stories are sweet and comforting for little ones as they echo the bedtime routine of many children. Bedtime prayers feature prominently in both stories. In Nighty Night and Good Night, Ben prays with his mother, while in Let’s Get Ready for Bed, Puppy performs all of his bedtime routines on his own.

The familiar dilemma of not being able to fall asleep is addressed in each book with fun suggestions that ultimately lead into the soothing heart of the story—a lullaby. The reassuring words and calming tunes of both songs will quiet children and help them drift off to sleep. As an added bonus, each book includes a link that allows readers to listen to Michael W. Smith sing the same lullaby.

Youngest readers will be charmed by Ben and his three stuffed animals who know just how to be good friends when you need them most. An accompanying album of sleepy songs is also available.

Ages 2 – 5

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310767480

You can learn more about Nurturing Steps by visiting the website.

Let’s Get Ready for Bed! Giveaway

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I’m partnering with Zonderkidz in this amazing bedtime giveaway in which one (1) winner receives:

  • Copies of both Nurturing Steps books,
  • Michael W. Smith’s accompanying Lullabyalbum,
  • plus sleepy slippers for your little reader!

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

Gather around for the Let’s Get Ready for Bed book trailer!

Meet the Nurturing Steps Creators

CPB - Michael W. Smith picture

Michael W. Smith is a successful recording artist who has recorded more than 25 albums and had numerous hit radio songs in the Christian and General markets. He’s won numerous Grammy and Dove Awards and is the founder of Rocketown, an outreach to teenagers in a 38,000 square-foot facility in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. He is involved in mission work around the world. He has also written several best-selling books, including Old Enough to Know and Friends Are Friends Forever. He and his wife, Debbie, have five children and live in Nashville.

You can follow Michael W. Smith on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

 

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Mike Nawrocki, co-creator of VeggieTales and the voice of the beloved Larry The Cucumber, has been part of the pulse of the Veggie brand since its inception in 1993. Mike has created, written, and directed most of the popular “Silly Songs with Larry” segments, including fan favorites “His Cheeseburger” and “The Hairbrush Song.” He has also lent his screenwriting and directing talents to dozens of VeggieTales episodes such as “Madame Blueberry and The League of Incredible Vegetables,” as well as both of the properties’ theatrical release films, Jonah and The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. In addition, Mike has authored a number of VeggieTales books and CD projects as well as developing and writing for another of Big Idea’s hit animated properties, 3-2-1 Penguins.  Mike is currently focused on developing new children’s properties centered around fun characters, engaging storytelling, and wholesome values. Mike makes his home in Franklin, TN with his wife and two children.

Visit NurturingSteps.com | Follow Zonderkidz on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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You can find Nighty Night and Good Night and Let’s Get Ready for Bed at these booksellers

Amazon: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed | Barnes & Noble: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed | Books-a-Million: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed | IndieBound: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

November 6 – It’s Sleep Comfort Month

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing that refreshes quite as much as a good night’s sleep. That’s why, during Sleep Comfort Month, people are encouraged to take stock of the amount of sleep they get each night. If you lie awake late into the night (or even early morning) and feel sluggish the next day, you may want to consider changing your nightly routine. Limiting light and screen time before bed, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, and having a set pre-sleep activity like reading or journaling can help you fall asleep quickly and deeply. Children, especially, benefit from a nighttime routine.

The Way Home in the Night

By Akiko Miyakoshi

 

A mother rabbit carries her little bunny home down familiar lamp-lit streets. As they pass the bookshop and the restaurant, they see the workers closing up for the night. The streets are quiet and deserted, adorned with a golden patchwork of light from the windows along the way. Through the windows the bunny sees and hears the neighbors. A phone rings at Mr. Goat’s, the delicious aroma of a pie wafts from Ms. Sheep’s. “A light flickers” where perhaps “someone is watching TV,” and next door “it sounds like there is a big party.”

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Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The bunny peers into one window just in time to see two mice saying goodbye. As they approach their own house, the little rabbit’s father joins them. Soon, the bunny knows, it will be time to be tucked into bed. At home Daddy Rabbit pulls up the blankets on his dozing child. Out the window, a crescent moon lights the sky. “Snug under my covers,” the bunny thinks “about the way home. Are the party guests saying goodnight? Is the person on the phone getting ready for bed?” The cook may be taking a long, hot bath, and the bookseller may be “reading on the couch.”

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Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The bunny wonders if the pie is being shared and whether all the lighted windows are now dark. The last thing the bunny hears before drifting off to sleep are soft footsteps going by and imagines the mouse is walking to the station to take the train home. Throughout town the bright checkerboard windows keep watch as the long, illuminated trains speed past. “Some nights are ordinary, and other nights are special. But every night we all go home to bed.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-tucked-into-bed

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Akiko Miyakoshi sleepy, atmospheric bedtime story reflects all the comfort and mystery that nighttime inspires in little ones. The loving child/parent relationship is sweetly depicted in the beautiful, understated acts of the bunny’s being carried home through the softly lit streets and tucked into bed under warm covers. The glimpses into the neighbor’s windows provides a unifying sense of community as do the final pages that pan out to include the entire town and the idea of the wider world traversed by the bright trains coming and going from the station.

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Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Miyakoshi’s black, gray, and sepia-toned pencil, charcoal, and gouache illustrations are set aglow with the welcoming light emanating from windows and streetlamps and accented with spots of color in clothing and homey touches. The windows frame cozy vignettes of family life, and young readers may like to imagine their own stories of what is happening in each. Gender neutral clothing and a lack of pronouns makes this a universal book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-on-the-phone

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The Way Home in the Night is a cozy, quiet book that is just right for soothing little ones to sleep while giving them the happy assurance of love, commitment, and connection to their world. An exquisite addition to bedtime books, The Way Home in the Night would make a wonderful gift and a favorite choice on any child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 6

Kids Can Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1771386630

To learn more about Akiko Miyakoshi, her work, and her books, visit her website.

Sleep Comfort Month Activity

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Snuggle Buddy Craft

 

It’s easy to make your own snuggle buddy with a few pieces of fleece, some fiber fill, and a needle and thread or fabric glue. The great thing about creating your own friend is you can personalize your pal anyway you want!

Supplies

  • 1 8-inch by 11-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the body (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project). A larger piece of fleece can be used to make a larger buddy
  • 1 5-inch by 8-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the hair (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project)
  • 1 small piece of fleece or other material for a pocket, clothes, or blanket
  • Small scraps of fleece or other material for the face
  • Fiber Fill
  • Thread and sewing needle OR fabric glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Fold the large piece of fleece in half lengthwise and sew along the open side and along the bottom. Alternatively, if using a larger size piece of fleece, fold upward and sew or glue the two sides closed.
  2. Turn the form inside out

To Make the Hair

  1. Cut a piece of fleece as wide as your buddy and about 7 – 8 inches long
  2. Fold the fleece lengthwise
  3. Insert both ends of the fleece into the opening at the top of the body
  4. Sew or glue the opening shut, securing the hair
  5. Cut strips about ¼-inch wide from the top of the hair to close to where the hair is sown into the body

To Make a Pocket or Clothes

  1. Cut a piece of fleece in the shape of a pocket, shirt, pants, diaper, or blanket
  2. Sew or glue the pocket or clothes to the buddy

To Make the Face

  1. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in whatever way you would like your buddy to look. 
  2. Sew or glue the face to the buddy
  3. Snuggle up!

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You can find The Way Home in the Night at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review

 

September 20 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

It may be that the most perfect time to read a new book is at the end of the day when work is finished, the chores are done (or at least put off successfully), and you have a little time to relax and drift off into that imaginary world or learn something new about this one. Kids love reading or being read to before going to sleep, and this month-long holiday encourages just that! Whether you read a newly published book, a book that’s new at your local library or bookstore, or a book that’s just new to you, there’s plenty of fun awaiting—as you’ll see in today’s new book!

Sleepy, the Goodnight Buddy

Written by Drew Daywalt | Illustrated by Scott Campbell

 

Roderick was a master at stalling bedtime. He knew all the tricks, from asking for a second, third, or even fourth story to asking for more water. “Sometimes he would ask for a pony…just to hear all the reasons why he couldn’t have a pony.” His parents had many, like: “Ponies watch the TV too loud, Ponies never do dishes, and Ponies borrow books and never return them.” At last Roderick’s parents got him “a goodnight buddy to help him sleep.” His name was Sleepy.

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, 2018, text copyright, 2018. Courtesy of scottc.com.

That night as Roderick lay in bed, Sleepy stared at him with his big, unblinking eyes. Roderick tried moving him around his room, but he could always “FEEL Sleepy looking at him.” Finally, Roderick threw him in the closet, but Sleepy didn’t stay there. He peeked out and told Roderick that he was scared. That’s right Sleepy was alive and could talk. And that’s when things got a little freaky—as in Roderick wanted to know why Sleepy hadn’t talked earlier, and Sleepy said he was too afraid of the freaky way Roderick stared at him. “That’s because you freak me out! I was only staring at you all freaky looking because you were staring at me all freaky looking,” Roderick explained. Freaky, huh?

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, 2018, text copyright, 2018. Courtesy of scottc.com.

Well, it turned out that Sleepy didn’t realize he was supposed to help Roderick get to sleep, and now he needed a little help in the form of a glass of water, a trip to the bathroom (accompanied), another trip to the bathroom to brush his teeth (accompanied), a story, another story, a closet check for witches (of a very particular kind), a snack, another teeth brushing (accompanied), the light off, the light on, and reassurance that Roderick wasn’t mad about…well, about all of the above.

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, 2018, text copyright, 2018. Courtesy of scottc.com.

Through gritted teeth, Roderick said, “I’m not mad.” With wary eyes, Sleepy said, “You sound mad. That sounds like you’re mad.” And it went back and forth: “I’m not mad…just a little tired. Okay, I’m a little mad, but mostly I’m tired.” “Well, I can’t sleep even if you’re a little mad.”“THEN I’M NOT MAD!” “I dunno. That still sounds mad.” Ai! Ai! Ai!

Sleepy then needed a blankie, a softer pillow, and an existential conversation. That’s when poor, exhausted Roderick lost it. “SLEEPY!!! It’s time for bed! Now go to sleep!” He ranted and vented until… “Roderick? Hey, Roderick?” “Zzzzzzzzzzzz.” Sleepy smiled. “Good night, buddy.”

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, 2018, text copyright, 2018. Courtesy of scottc.com.

Drew Daywalt’s histerical turn-about-is-fair-play bedtime romp is the perfect antidote to all those delaying tactics adults know so well. As the story’s set up transitions into Roderick and Sleepy’s comical conversation, readers (both kids and adults) will howl as the stakes escalate from a simple glass of water to a flood of frustration. Along the way, readers are treated to an eerily familiar litany of requests and retorts that will make them eager to turn the page to see what’s coming next.

Scott Campbell’s Roderick is a happy camper as he lounges comfortably with a glass of water well past bedtime while his parents rain down reasons he can’t have a pony. But his satisfied smile turns to skepticism when Sleepy arrives. Campbell hilariously captures the slightly unnerving gaze of stuffed animals before Sleepy “comes alive” and the “who me?” innocence of children afterward. Sleepy’s cheery obliviousness is a perfect foil for Roderick’s vexed, knowing look. The yin and yang of Roderick’s growing weariness and Sleepy’s antics will delight children and adults, and it’s safe to say that a happier sleep for both will ensue.

For a laugh-out-loud bedtime or story time read, don’t delay—add Sleepy, the Goodnight Buddy to your bookshelf!

Ages 4 – 8 

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 |ISBN 978-1484789698

Discover more about Scott Campbell, his books, and his art on his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-buddy-craft

Sleep Buddy Blanket

 

Even little buddies need a blanket sometimes to feel cozy and warm! With this craft you can make a blanket for a stuffed animal or fleecy bed for a pet! Children from ages 5 or 6 and up will enjoy helping to tie the tabs. For younger children, using fabric glue to attach the two pieces of fleece or cutting just one piece of fleece allows them to join in the craft fun.

Supplies

  • 2 pieces of fleece, solid, patterned, or a mix of both
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Fluff or pillow (optional for pet bed)
  • Fabric glue (optional)

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Directions

  1. Lay out one piece of fleece and measure a size that will make a comfortable blanket for the stuffed animal or is large enough for your pet to lie on
  2. Add 3 inches to that measurement on each side for the tie tabs
  3. Cut the fleece
  4. Lay out the second piece of fleece and cut it to the same size as the first piece
  5. With both pieces of fleece together cut three-inch long by ½ – ¾ – inch wide tabs all along each side. (If using fabric glue omit this step.)
  6. At the corners, four tabs will be cut off on each side

To Make a Blanket

  • Tie the top and bottom tabs together on all sides

To Make a Pet Bed

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  1. Tie the tabs together on three sides
  2. Add the fluff or pillow insert
  3. Tie the tabs on the final side

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You can find Sleepy, the Goodnight Buddy at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 21 – It’s Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the culinary arts from entrees to desserts to everything in between. July is also a great time to honor the chefs, cooks, and bakers who continually develop new dishes, create exciting taste sensations, and make dining out an event to look forward to. Of course, during this month we also thank those home chefs who prepare healthy meals for their families every day. To celebrate the holiday, go out to your favorite restaurant or try a new place. At home, get the kids involved in making meals. Cooking together is a terrific way to spend time together. 

Kitchen Dance

By Maurie J. Manning

 

A little girl wakens to sounds coming from the kitchen—“Glasses clinking. Water swishing. Forks clattering.” Then more personal sounds—humming, laughing, and “hush!” The girl slips out of her blankets and climbs to the top bunk to wake her brother, Tito. Together they tiptoe downstairs and peek through the kitchen door. “A bright skirt flashes by! Four feet fly!”

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Copyright Maurie J. Manning, 2008, courtesy of Clarion Books.

With a wooden spoon microphone the kids’ father sings, “Cómo te quiero! Oh, how I love you. Umm, hmm.” Juggling stacked plates in one hand while using the other to dance hand-in-hand, the kids’ parents glide, slide, and twirl around the kitchen floor. Laughing, their mom closes cabinet doors with a bump of her hips as she spins into her husband’s arms “then out again, like a yo-yo on a string.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitchen-dance-interior-art-dancing

Copyright Maurie J. Manning, 2008, courtesy of Clarion Books.

Pots and pans find their storage space with a swirl and a dip while another is dried with the swish of a towel. Around the kitchen the couple dances, “feet tapping, water dripping, sponge wiping, towel snapping.” While singing, “they tango across the room with the leftover tamales.” As they turn toward the door, Mama glimpses her little ones. The kids squeal and start to run, but Papa swings open the door—“Hola!” He pulls Tito into his arms, while Mama catches her tiny daughter.

As the four whirl around the kitchen, Tito and his sister sing into wooden spoons, “Cómo te quiero! Oh, how I love you!” They “twirl around and around in a circle of family.” The dance slows to a gentle swaying as Tito and his sister grow sleepy. Mama and Papa carry their drowsing children upstairs and cover them once more under their cozy blankets. “Cómo te quiero,” Papa whispers. “Besitos, mi’ja,” Mama says “Sweet dreams.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitchen-dance-interior-art-kids-caught

Copyright Maurie J. Manning, 2008, courtesy of Clarion Books.

Maurie J. Manning’s sweet story of a private moment between parents that becomes a celebration of family love offers a fresh, fun, and lively glimpse of the small events that contribute to real connectedness. Telling the story from one of the children’s point of view adds a deeper level of understanding and recognition that of the strong bond between the parents. The repeated phrase, “Cómo te quiero! How I love you!” is reassuring and allows kids to read along with the book’s most important theme.

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Copyright Maurie J. Manning, 2008, courtesy of Clarion Books.

Manning’s vivacious and vibrant illustrations bring to life the swirling energy of the text. Tito and his sister creep downstairs in a house bathed in shadow only to open the door to flashing yellow, green, purple, and orange brilliance. The scenes of Mama and Papa dancing together, using a wooden spoon as a microphone and pot lids as cymbals as well as twirling hand in hand while balancing stacks of dishes are filled with happiness, and the  picture of the two tangoing with tamales will make kids giggle. Tito and his sister are adorable as they spy on their parents with astonished looks on their faces and then join the dance.

Kitchen Dance is a joy for story time or bedtime, and in these always busy days would be a welcome reminder that carefree moments carry their own special meaning.  Kitchen Dance is a great addition to a child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 8

Clarion Books, 2008 | ISBN 978-0618991105

To learn more about Maurie J. Manning, her books, and her art, check out her website!

Take a look at the Kitchen Dance book trailer!

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-spoon-microphone-craft

Wooden Spoon Microphone

 

With this easy craft you can turn a wooden cooking spoon into a fun microphone for playtime or in case you ever have to sing for your supper!

Supplies

  • Long-handled wooden spoon
  • Black craft paint
  • Silver craft paint
  • Black permanent marker

Directions

  1. Paint the handle of the spoon black, let dry
  2. Paint the head of the spoon silver, let dry
  3. After the paint is dry, make rows of small dots on the head of the spoon

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You can find Kitchen Dance at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review