December 5 – Get Ready for Christmas

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About the Holiday

It’s that time of year when kids across the country visit with Santa to tell him what they’d like for Christmas. Today’s book takes a look at the age-old question—who is the real Santa?

Santa’s Secret

Written by Denise Brennan-Nelson | Illustrated by Deborah Melmon

 

Singing carols all the way, a family drove to the city “all festive and bright” to watch the parade. The little girl climbed on her father’s shoulders to get a better view, especially of Santa in his sleigh. After the parade, the family walked through the city, looking at the beautiful decorations. But on the corner, the girl sees another Santa ringing a bell.

As she declared, “‘That’s not the same Santa!’” everyone turned toward her and stared. The girl’s mother told her that Santa needs helpers, but she wanted to know who the REAL Santa was. Grandma whispered, “‘It’s Santa’s secret, just as it should be.’” But the little girl was determined to learn the truth.

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Image copyright Deborah Melmon, 2019, text copyright Denise Brennan-Nelson, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

At Santa’s station, the girl waited in line to meet the jolly old elf, and when it was her turn, she asked him some pointed questions. She asked him his name, the names of the reindeer, and whether Rudolph had a favorite treat. Then the questions got tougher as she wanted to know “who helps you decide what presents to give,” whether he liked to fly and where he went, whether the elves lived with him, and more.

As Santa answered each question, the little girl wrote down his answers in her notebook. But she had one more question that she thought would catch him off guard. She asked him straight out if he was the real Santa. But his only answer was “a tug of his beard and a wink of his eye.” Then he asked her what presents were on her list.

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Image copyright Deborah Melmon, 2019, text copyright Denise Brennan-Nelson, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Over a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows, the girl considered her notes and wondered if she had enough information to solve her case. As she puzzled and pondered, she caught a glimpse of a man who had a full white beard munching a cookie and reading a book. His coat pocket held carrots and his black boots were topped with striped socks.

She approached with her notebook, but before she could ask, “He said, ‘Reindeer like barley and berries to eat.’ / ‘But carrots,’ he added, ‘are their favorite treat.’” Then in the moment when she turned to look at her mother, the man disappeared without a trace, except for his mug of hot chocolate. Back home, the girl didn’t know if she’d seen the real Santa that day, but she agreed with her grandma that that is “‘as it should be.’”

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Image copyright Deborah Melmon, 2019, text copyright Denise Brennan-Nelson, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Between trying to figure out which presents Santa will bring and wondering about the real Santa, most little ones become sleuths around the holidays. Denise Brennan-Nelson’s charming tale gives lyrical voice to that burning question about Santa’s identity while preserving the wonder of this childhood mystery. Brennan-Nelson’s jaunty rhymes and rhythm are a joy to read, as traditional Christmas sights and activities combine with the cozy warmth and community of a coffee shop to convey the homey feelings of Christmas. Her open-ended finale is sweet and just “‘as it should be,’” inviting young readers to wonder if they have seen the real Santa during their holiday jaunts.

Deborah Melmon’s cheery illustrations make sparkling use of “new” Christmas colors, brightening the pages with pinks, lime greens, teals, and purples along with the traditional red, green, and blue. Melmon’s diverse city backdrop provides a glowing setting for the little girl’s encounters with multiple Santas. The girl’s curiosity and inquisitiveness will resonate with kids, and they will cheer her on as she interviews Santa. Her questions provide Melmon with plenty of opportunities to show Santa and his reindeer in novel and kid-pleasing ways.

A delightfully original holiday read aloud that’s sure to generate spirited discussions, Santa’s Secret would make a fun addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110380

Discover more about Denise Brennan-Nelson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Deborah Melmon, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Get Ready for Christmas Activity

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Santa’s Sack Maze

 

Santa has one more present to put into his sack. Can you help him take the gift through the maze in this printable puzzle?

Santa’s Sack Full of Presents Puzzle | Santa’s Sack Full of Presents Solution

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You can find Santa’s Secret at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 21 – It’s National Aviation History Month

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About the Holiday

It seems that people have always been fascinated with flight. The first kite was invented in 1000 BCE in China; around 400 BCE Archytas of Tarentum developed a steam-powered pigeon; and most people are familiar with the designs of flying machines that Leonardo de Vinci created in the late 1400s. It wasn’t until 1680 that actual human flight was abandoned when an Italian mathematician determined that human muscles were incompatible with flight.

Zip ahead about 100 years and the first hot-air balloon took flight, which led to more complex technology, resulting in Wilbur and Orville Wright’s flight in 1903. From there, it seemed, the sky was the limit. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a trans-Atlantic Ocean solo flight in 1932, and in 1947 Charles Yeager broke the sound barrier. Given this long history, it’s astounding to think that only 58 years span the time from that modest 12-second flight by the Wright Brothers to the first manned space mission by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin! To celebrate the month, visit a local museum or read up on some of the pioneers of early flight—like the courageous women in today’s book.

Aim for the Skies: Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith’s Race to Complete Amelia Earhart’s Quest

Written by Aimée Bissonette | Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

 

Jerrie Mock was only seven when her first airplane ride convinced her she wanted to be a pilot when she grew up. At first she only dreamed of flying across Ohio, but later, when she followed reports of Amelia Earhart’s daring flights, she decided she too wanted to see the whole world.

In 1952, Joan Merriam was fifteen years old when she took her first airplane ride and was invited by the pilots to see the cockpit. That’s all it took for Joan to know she wanted to be a pilot too. She began flying lessons and was in the air before she even got her drivers license. By 1963, Joan was working as a professional pilot and bought a plane of her own. One of Joan’s goals was to “circle the globe following the exact route” her idol Amelia Earhart had charted.

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

By the time Jerrie was thirty-seven, she had three children and ran a flight business with her husband, Russ. One night when she told Russ that she was bored, he joked, “‘Maybe you should get in your plane and fly around the world.’” Jerrie took him up on that. Both women spent months planning and charting their flights. Neither one knew that the other was getting ready for the same flight until their plans hit the media. Suddenly, what they had both thought was a solitary pursuit became a race to the finish.

Joan took off on March 17, 1964 from an airstrip in Oakland, California accompanied only by two stuffed bears. Two days later, surrounded by reporters asking if she thought she could beat Joan, Jerrie climbed into her tiny plane and took off too.

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Jerrie’s troubles began right away. First, her radio didn’t work then bad weather kept her grounded for six days. “Where was Joan?” she wondered. While Joan’s flight began smoothly, a gas leak brought her down to earth for a week while the tank was repaired. Back in the air, Jerrie seemed to suffer problems every day. “She battled dangerous ice buildup, burning radio wires, and bad weather. She flew into a sandstorm over the Arabian Desert and couldn’t see.” But she encouraged herself to stay calm and use her instruments. Joan was having it no easier. “Heavy rains pounded her pane. Her windshield leaked. Water puddled at her feet. When she finally made it to Brazil, she was delayed again. This time by a government revolution!”

Day by day both women battled the elements and equipment failures but kept flying. Everyone around the world seemed to be watching the race. Russ told Jerrie she had to fly faster—that Joan was winning. In Pakistan, people told Joan that Jerrie had landed there five days earlier. Finally, on April 17, twenty-nine days after she had left, Jerrie returned to Ohio to a hero’s welcome. Reporters and crowds pushed to see her. “Jerry’s heart pounded. She had done it. She had flown around the world. She had won the race.”

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Where was Joan? She “was in Lae, New Guinea—the last place Amelia Earhart was seen alive—when she heard the race was over.” Even though she knew she was behind Jerrie, “the news was still hard to take.” She sent Jerrie a congratulations telegram, and then left for Guam. There, she walked and “thought about her childhood dream. She thought about the race and she thought about losing.”  Then she thought about why she had undertaken the flight. She had done it to honor Amelia Earhart. Even though Jerrie had won the race, Joan thought that didn’t make her a loser. She “could still do what she set out to do.”

Joan landed back in Oakland, California on May 12, 1964. Her plane was in such bad shape that the Coast Guard had to dispatch a plane to guide her in. Joan was also welcomed by cheering crowds and reporters. Both Jerrie and Joan had accomplished incredible feats. Jerrie “became the first woman to fly around the world,” and Joan—”following Amelia’s exact route along the equator”—was the first “pilot—man or woman”—to fly that distance solo. And both women received thanks from Amelia’s sister, Muriel, for honoring Amelia—”a pilot who, like them, chose to follow her dreams.”

An Author’s Note describing the differences in Joan and Jerrie’s routes and aircraft as well as a bit more about their lives after the historic flight and a map outlining each woman’s flight pattern follow the text. Resources for further reading are also included.

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Aimée Bissonette’s thrilling biography of two woman, two flights, and one race will keep young readers on the edge of their seats. Riveting details reveal the staggering dangers the women faced as well as their astonishing courage, dedication, and persistence. Bissonette’s fast-paced, electric storytelling puts kids in the cockpit as Joan and Jerrie cross the globe. As Jerrie wins the race and Joan reevaluates her goal, Bissonette makes important and welcome points about the nature of competition, keeping one’s eyes and heart on an original goal without getting caught up in distracting hype, and having the self-confidence to believe in oneself and recognize one’s accomplishments.

In her realistic, richly colored watercolors, Doris Ettlinger follows Jerrie and Joan as they experience their first airplane rides that determine their futures, plot their flights around the world, and take off. The obstacles each woman dealt with are dramatically portrayed as winds whip trees, blinding rain and sand storms thwart progress, and mechanical failures keep the women grounded. Children get a look at landscapes from Bermuda, the Philippines, Africa, and Pakistan as Joan and Jerrie complete their flights. Expressive depictions of Jerrie’s and Joan’s emotions show readers the determination, pressures, and ultimate joy each woman felt during these historic months of 1964.

An exhilarating biography and adventure story rolled into one, Aim for the Skies is a book that will inspire young readers to keep their eyes on their goals despite obstacles and setbacks while reassuring them that winning is accomplished by being true to yourself. Children who love history, flight, biographies, and adventure will find this a compelling book to add to their home bookshelf. Classroom, school, and public libraries will want to include Aim for the Skies in their collections for story times and lessons.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363810

Discover more about Aimée Bissonette and her books on her website.

National Aviation History Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Flying-is-Fabulous-Maze

Flying is Fabulous! Maze

 

Can you pilot the airplane along its route to the airport in this printable Flying is Fabulous! Maze?

Flying is Fabulous! MazeFlying is Fabulous! Maze Solution

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You can find Aim for the Skies at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

October 1 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

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

Can U Save the Day?

Written by Shannon Stocker | Illustrated by Tom Disbury

 

The letter A was chatting with a frog, a duck, and a dog when the letter B ambled by with a boastful claim: “‘There are 5 vowels in your group / but 21 in our grand troop. / I’m a more important letter. / Consonants are so…much…better!’” As B continued to brag, A countered with “‘…You’ll regret / when all the vowels are gone, I bet!’” Then just like that A vanished, and the dog? He could only “‘brk.’” The duck said “‘quck,’” and the frog could only “‘crok.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The horse was not very sympathetic since his neigh didn’t need an A. But then the E decided to go, and the horse said “‘nigh’” the “birds sang ‘twt,’ and the sheep could only “‘blt,’” “‘blt,’” “‘blt.’” The consonants thought this was lots of laughs. “Insulted, young I spun her dot / and soared off like an astronaut.” The pig was stuck as was the horse, but the cow and bunny joined the laughter until O rolled away. Then the cow, the pigeons, and the rooster struggled too.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The consonants were laughing still when B and U saw the tractor plowing toward them in its sleep. B tried to scream and shout but could only burble. He bounced into the tractor’s seat and “pushed the horn! The horn went…hnk.” He tried to make U understand, but without the vowels his words made no sense. But clever U had watched it all and she knew just what to do. “She bent her arms above her head / and turned into an O instead.”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In that moment the tractor’s horn went Honk! The runaway tractor woke up and stopped just in the nick of time. Then off U went to bring back A, E, I, and O. When they returned, the animals resumed their talk, the consonants and vowels hugged it out, and B, who had started it all, now realized that “‘the alphabet’s a family.’” Then Y—that sometimes this and sometimes that letter—decided this was a good time to speak up and help them all “‘say goodbye.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Shannon Stocker gives kids just learning the alphabet, discovering how to read, and picking up some of the finer points of grammar a reason to celebrate in her funny story about the day the vowels flew the coop. Her peppy rhythm and brainy rhymes will keep readers riveted and laughing as one by one the animals’ talk turns into garbled goosh. When the sleeping tractor barrels toward the letters unaware because of his measly “hnk,” kids will be on the edge of their seats. When wily U uses her ingenuity and semi-circular shape to save the day, they’ll cheer. The sweet ending teaches gentle lessons about reconciliation, apologies, inclusion, and teamwork, and Y’s admission offers one more grammar-related giggle.

Tom Disbury’s cartoon characters will have kids in stitches as the animals gaze at each other with gritted teeth, furrowed brows, or tongues sticking out when their vowel-less utterances are less than robust. With their smiling eyes and winsome smiles, the colorful letters are oblivious to the mayhem that losing just four of their family members can cause. The shortened words sprinkled throughout the text as well as spreads of contented consonants will give readers plenty of opportunities to play word games and talk about letter combinations, letter sounds, and spelling.

A funny and entertaining way to talk about the alphabet and grammar, creative problem solving, and teamwork, as well as a fun story to share any time, Can U Save the Day? would be an entertaining addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364046

Discover more about Shannon Stocker and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tom Disbury, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Book Month Activity

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Reading is Super! Maze

 

This super reader wants to bring books to his friends so they can all read together. Can you help him get through this printable Reading is Super Maze to reach his friends?

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You can find Can U Save the Day? at these booksellers

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

September 10 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

There are so many perfect times to read a book and so many new books to fill those hours. Kids love reading or being read to in school or before going to sleep. And adults they try to snatch a few minutes here and there during lunch or a break or before turning out the light. 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, grab your favorite kind of book and start reading!  

Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank’s Diary

Written by Meeg Pincus | Illustrated by Jordi Solano

 

On August 4, 1944, Miep Gies hears the worst sound she’s ever heard: “footsteps on the secret back stairs.” The sound is “worse than the World War II bomber planes…. Worse than the queen’s quivering voice on the radio announcing the invading Nazi army.” The sound means that Nazi officers have come to arrest the Frank family who Miep has been hiding for two years. Miep hears the van carrying her friends roar away. She knows that soon Nazi movers will return to take away all of the Frank’s possessions. She knows too that she could be arrested for keeping anything belonging to her friends, but there is one item she must rescue. “It calls silently from the musty rooms above.”

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It takes many hours before Miep can bring herself to enter the secret annex. With her husband, Henk, and a coworker, Elli, they enter the rooms. In the bedroom, Miep finds what she is looking for: a red checkered diary that holds the thoughts and hopes of the Franks’ young daughter Anne. Miep “knows Anne dreams of publishing it as a book after the war.” Elli gathers up more of Anne’s writing that lies strewn across the floor, and Miep “grabs…Anne’s delicate combing shawl, strands of her dark hair clinging to its fabric like silky noodles.”

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Miep hides Anne’s diary and combing shawl in the drawer of her desk, never reading it. Nine months go by then one day Henk rushes into their apartment with news that the war is over and that the Nazis have surrendered. Miep and Hank wait for their “friends and neighbors to return from the camps,” wondering if the Franks will be among them. One day, Miep sees a familiar figure approaching her door. It’s Mr. Frank. He is alone, his wife having died in the camp. He has no knowledge about Anne and her sister as they were sent to another camp. While Mr. Frank regains his strength with the help of Miep, he sends letter after letter trying to locate his daughters.

At last a letter arrives, but it “contains the worst possible news: Anne and her sister did not survive the war. The air in the office hangs as still and shattered as the day of the capture.” With a broken heart, Miep opens her desk drawer and retrieves “Anne’s diary, papers, and shawl.” As she hands them to Mr. Frank, he gasps. He takes them to his office and reads Anne’s diary. “He savors her tales of growing up in hiding, her bright calls for hope when all seems lost.” He urges Miep to read it too, but she feels that she “will drown in sorrow” if she does.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

With the help of a war historian, Mr. Frank has Anne’s diary published. But, still, Miep cannot read it. Years go by before Miep opens the cover of Anne’s book. As she reads Anne’s words, she feels “as if Anne is standing right beside her, chattering away. Within the pages of her diary, Anne expressed her gratitude for the “gift…of writing, of expressing all that is in me” and her desire to “go on living even after my death!” After reading Anne’s words, Miep’s sadness lessens and she realizes that by saving her diary, “her beloved Anne will live on and on.”

An Author’s Note about how this book came to be written as well as more about the life of Miep Gies follows the text.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Reading Meeg Pincus’s compelling first page, readers can almost hear the stomp of Nazi footsteps on the stairs leading to the secret annex and feel the constriction of Miep Gies’s heart as the Franks are arrested and taken away. Miep’s courage amid her sadness reverberates throughout this true story, tinted with the secrecy of grocery runs, the hurried collection of Anne’s most precious possession, and her ongoing mission to protect her friends. Pincus’s excellent pacing and evocative storytelling, which includes actual quotes from Miep’s writings and is punctuated with emotion will have children holding their breath as they listen or read on their own. Heartbreaking facts are portrayed candidly and with respect for the target age, allowing Anne’s boundless hope to shine through.

Seeming to take inspiration in color and tone from photographs on the front endpaper of Anne and her father flanked by Miep Gies and other helpers, Jordi Solano washes his illustrations in somber grays and greens, preserving bright spots for Anne’s red diary and her grass-green skirt that connects her to the colorfully clothed children who, on the final page, have come to visit the Anne Frank Museum. Miep’s grief at the arrest of her friends is palpable, and the Nazi officer who threatens her with arrest is depicted with sharp angles and an unrelenting stare. Children see Miep hide Anne’s diary in the back of a drawer and the approaching figure of Mr. Frank coming home from the detention camp. Solano portrays the moment when Mr. Frank, reunited with Anne’s diary and papers, clasps his daughter’s things to his heart. It is a poignant glimpse into this most private experience. As Miep finally reads Anne’s diary, Anne, herself, appears as she was, full of curiosity, joy, and love.

A must to be included in lessons about World War II, the Holocaust, and Anne Frank, Miep and the Most Famous Diary is also a poignant reminder of the crucial role of personal courage as well as the everlasting endurance of hope. The book should be included in all school and public libraries and would make a powerful addition to home libraries as well.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110250

Discover more about Meeg Pincus and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jordi Solano, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Initials Bookends

 

You can display your personality along with your favorite books with this easy craft! This makes a great gift too!

Supplies

  • Sturdy wooden letter blocks in the child’s first and last initials. Or, if the child would like to try on a new name or nickname, the first letter of their new name.
  • Chalkboard or acrylic paint
  • Colored chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the letters, let dry
  2. With the chalk write words that describe you or names of your heroines and/or heroes
  3. Display your bookends

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You can find Miep and the Most Famous Diary at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 29 – It’s National Fishing Month

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About the Holiday

Is fishing your thing? Do you like nothing better than heading down to the lake or stream and spending a relaxing day with a fishing pole, some bait, and the possibility of reeling in a “big one?” Perhaps you like fly fishing better, challenging yourself to flick that hook in just the right place. Then again, maybe taking a boat out to deep water and pitting yourself against the truly big fish is more your style. However you like to fish, make some time to enjoy your hobby this month!

Back Roads, Country Toads

Written by Devin Scillian | Illustrated by Tim Bowers

 

Best toady friends, Hank and Buckaroo, were just hanging out in “their favorite drainpipe near Cooper’s General Store” sipping the last drops from a discarded bottle of strawberry soda when they overheard Mr. Cooper and his friends talking about going fly-fishing. Hank and Buckaroo thought FLY-fishing sounded awesome and wanted to go along. They spied the perfect place to catch a ride: the fishermen’s open lunch basket. With a KERPLOP! they jumped in.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Soon they were on their way to what Buckaroo said would be “‘the greatest day of their lives.’” “‘Toadally,’” agreed Hank. While they rode to the fishing stream, Hank and Buckaroo sang “When You Fish Upon a Star,” and as soon as the truck stopped they jumped out and hid in a nearby bush. But Emmitt the raccoon was already there. Hank and Buckaroo were reveling in the glory that was going to be that day’s “‘fly cafeteria’” and “‘down-home big-time fly barbecue’” when Emmitt gave them the bad news. Hank didn’t believe it. He thought “‘fishing WITH flies’” instead of “‘fishing FOR flies’” sounded ridiculous.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

And just then a nice juicy fly sailed by. Hank leaped and released his long tongue, but Emmitt pulled him back just before he grabbed onto the fake fly. The three watched as the fishermen caught fish after fish with the imitation flies. Hank and Buckaroo couldn’t imagine what Mr. Cooper and the rest of the fishermen would want with “‘those smelly fish.’” Emmitt disagreed—he loved smelly fish. To prove his point, he ran up and snatched one from the fishermen’s bucket.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Seeing the fish, Hank had a brainstorm and asked to “‘borrow’” Emmitt’s fish. He placed it on a rock in the sun and went back to their hiding place in the bushes. Emmitt and Buckaroo were confused. But “before long, a swarm of flies hovered over the fish.” When there was a large cloud of flies, “Hank croaked, ‘Let’s go fishing!’” Their tongues snapped in the air, reeling in dozens of flies. When they were filled to the brim, they gave the fish back to Emmitt and happily made plans to go fly-fishing again the next Saturday.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2019, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Devin Scillian’s clever, pun-filled fish story has everything needed to hook young readers and deliver a funny story time. With the lure of all the flies they can eat, Hank and Buckaroo take action to have the best day of their lives and discover a new hobby. When they meet up with Emmitt the raccoon and learn that their initial idea was a bit off the mark, Hank shows persistence and innovative thinking to make their fishing dreams come true. Demonstrating acceptance of each other’s different tastes and some creative cooperation, the camaraderie among Hank, Buckaroo, and Emmitt serves as a good example for readers. The close bond between Hank and Buckaroo—and their hilarious dialog—will endear them to kids, leaving them wanting more from this “toadally” charming duo.

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Tim Bowers’ energetic toads, with their wide smiles, eager eyes, and spirited personalities are obvious best friends from the first page. Bowers’ vibrant, action-packed illustrations are laugh-out-loud funny as Buckaroo and Hank grow giddy at the thought of all those flies they’re going to catch, flick their loooong tongues, and hobble down the road with overstuffed bellies. Emmitt may chuckle at the toads’ misinterpretation of “fly-fishing,” but he’s a true and trusting friend to rescue Hank from a fisherman’s line and lend his filched treat to attract their lunch. In the background, images of the two fishermen and their young protégés casting their lines and reeling in bucket-loads of fish add depth, interest, and visual clues for readers.

A comical, well-developed tale that will captivate kids, Back Roads, Country Toads is a winner for group story times or one-on-one fun at home, in the classroom, or for public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-153411039

Discover more about Devin Scillian, his books, music, and journalism on his website.

To learn more about Tim Bowers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Fishing Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tackle-the-tackle-box-game

Tackle the Tackle Box Board Game

 

A good fisherman always needs a well-stocked tackle box. Play the Tackle the Tackle Box Game to earn lures, bobbers, hooks and more to fill your box. The first player to complete their set is the winner! For more fun, you can color the tackle box items any way you like. There are even three extra cards for you to draw your own tackle box items!

Supplies

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Directions

  1. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one Tackle the Tackle Box Game Board for every player
  2. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one set of Tackle the Tackle Box Game Cards for every player
  3. Each player can color their set of playing cards (optional)
  4. Three spaces are left blank for kids to design their own lures, bait, and flies too (optional)
  5. Cut the cards apart
  6. Gather all the cards and set in separate piles
  7. Roll the die to determine who goes first, highest roll goes first
  8. The first player rolls the die, and adds the item that corresponds to the number on the die. The list is below.
  9. Play continues with each player rolling the die and collecting cards
  10. If the player rolls a number for a card that he or she already has, the die passes to the next player
  11. The first player to fix their tackle box is the winner!

Each number of dots on the die corresponds to these cards:

1: FISH LURES

2: HOOKS

3: WORMS

4: FISHING LINE

5: FLIES

6: BOBBERS

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You can find Back Roads, Country Toads at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 26 – International Dog Day

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About the Holiday

International Dog Day was established in 2004 by Colleen Paige to raise awareness of all the dogs who need forever homes. The day also celebrates dogs of all breeds and honors the work of these faithful friends, whether they are family pets or specially trained as service dogs, police dogs, or search-and-rescue dogs. The month of August is also Inventor’s Month—a time when we celebrate those creative types who think differently and put their imagination to work to design new products and services we may not even know we need until we have them. The mashup of these two holidays brings us…well…today’s book!

Experiment #256

By Marty Kelley

 

Ian is working on Experiment #256—a jet pack for his dog Wilbur. Ian’s room doubles as his lab, as the tools, supplies, and (especially) loose parts scattered all over attest to. Ian may be a bit messy, but with the methodical mind of any good inventor, he is taking detailed notes about his experiment in his Science Journal. While he has completed the jet pack, the entry on the fire-tinged journal page reveals: “I have quite a few parts left over.” Still, it’s time to try this marvel out.

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Copyright Marty Kelley, 2019, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ian straps it onto Wilbur, pushes the remote button, and… Wilbur is flying—straight for Lisa’s Studio, where a large “Keep Out!” sign greets visitors to her room. Ian jots down thoughts about the successful launch, but also a fear about those missing parts. As Wilbur bursts through the door, Ian’s sister and all of her sheet music go flying. Thanks to the turbo booster, Wilbur only stays a moment, but is still zooming… right into Grandma’s bubble bath. This turns out to be one of those good news (the jet pack works under water)/bad news (rubber duck and Grandma are not happy) situations, which Ian dutifully notes in his journal.

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Copyright Marty Kelley, 2019, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But Wilbur’s flight isn’t over yet. On his way out the window and into the backyard, he grazes Mom, who’s practicing yoga. Ian learns one important fact from this part of the experiment: “Yoga pants are surprisingly flammable.” As Wilbur crashes through the garden there’s more good news in that the broccoli has suffered irreparable losses and more bad news in that the peas have not. Wilbur’s trajectory next takes him into the neighbor’s yard, where he gets “tangled up in the undies that Mrs. Marino was hanging on the line,” and then skyward.

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Copyright Marty Kelley, 2019, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

By the time Ian catches up with him, Wilbur is only a speck at the top of a very high contrail. Ian is distressed. He documents in his journal that not only did he launch his “best friend into space,” Wilbur “doesn’t have a space helmet” and “he didn’t even bring a snack.” Meanwhile, back on earth, Mrs. Marino is still giving Ian a piece of her mind when he is suddenly cast in a saucer-shaped shadow. He looks up to find Wilbur parachuting home clinging to a pink-and-flowered pair of Mrs. Marino’s undies. Ian faithfully notes: “straps on jet pack not secure.”

Gazing into Wilbur’s goggled, angry eyes, Ian concludes that maybe Experiment #256 was not the best idea. But as any good inventor will tell you, a failed experiment is not a flop but merely an inspiration. So, while Lisa, Grandma, Mom, and Mrs. Marino may still be unhappy, Wilbur is thrilled with his new Snack Blaster. And Ian is hard at work on another, more securely strapped jet pack for….

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Copyright Marty Kelley, 2019, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Marty Kelley’s inventive story—told entirely through Ian’s science journal notes and hilarious illustrations—will keep readers giggling from the first page to the last. Before the story even gets going, kids are treated to a collage of laugh-out-loud photos showing thirteen of Ian’s previous experiments, providing a bit of foreshadowing about #256. Ian’s cryptic observations in his journal lead kids to follow defenseless Wilbur from room to room, yard to yard, and Earth to outer space and back while discovering the chaos wrought by Ian’s runaway jet pack. Flying objects, shocked faces, and, of course, those undies will have readers lingering over the pages to find all the comic details. Kelley’s vivid, textured, two-page spreads are full of action and give the story a retro feel while including timeless visual jokes and a kid-pleasing ending.

An imagination booster for story times when adults and kids want to share a laugh and a bit of science, Experiment #256 would be a funny addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110137

Discover more about Marty Kelley, his books, and his art, visit his website.

International Dog Day Activity

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I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle

 

If you love dogs, you’ll have fun discovering the names of eighteen dog breeds in this printable word search puzzle!

I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle | I Love Dogs! Word Search Solution

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You can find Experiment #256 at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 20 – It’s National Sandwich Month

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About the Holiday

Did you know there are regulations to determine just what is and is not a sandwich? I didn’t either! It seems that the US Department of Agriculture has determined that for a… thing… to be considered a sandwich, it must contain at least 35% cooked meat and no more than 50% bread. So what about peanut butter? Or grilled cheese? Have we been playing fast and loose with the word “sandwich?” Oh well…. This month is dedicated to those delicious meals between bread that kids and adults take to school and the office, to picnics, and for quick noshes any time. To celebrate, there’s only one thing to do: build yourself the perfect sandwich—just like the little girl in today’s book!

Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich

Written by Linda Vander Heyden | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

“When Hannah was hungry and wanted to munch, / She’d stop at McDougal’s to order some lunch. / Now Hannah was tiny (in fact, quite petite), / But don’t let that fool you. Oh boy—could she eat!” When McDougal saw Hannah come through the door and order an “A to Z sandwich,” he wondered. And then, as Hannah recited the ingredients for her sandwich, he started to chop, mince, peel, and grate.

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Image copyright Kalya Harren, 2018, text copyright Linda Vander Heyden, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The first six ingredients were prepared and laid on the bread, then Hannah inspected it closely. “‘Green peppers,’ said Hannah. ‘Sliced thin, if you please. / And drizzle on lots of sweet honey from bees. / “‘Add ice cream and jelly—then ketchup (two plops), / A freshly squeezed lemon—just ten tiny drops.’” The sandwich grew taller and wider as Hannah looked around McDougal’s for more ingredients. She wanted a dollop of this, and “lots of nuts, too,” but she wasn’t too hungry, so she told him “one olive will do.”

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Image copyright Kalya Harren, 2018, text copyright Linda Vander Heyden, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

She directed more layers be added on top that included “‘a ride red tomato picked fresh off the vine. / And ugli fruit chopped up especially fine.’” Poor McDougal was working up such a sweat that he ended up with food in his hair. Was it done? the chef wondered, but Hannah wanted more. Just three little more additions for X, Y, and Z. Could McDougal do it? Could he finish that treat and give Hannah a sandwich she’d love to sit down and eat? You’ll see!

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Image copyright Kalya Harren, 2018, text copyright Linda Vander Heyden, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Linda Vander Heyden’s hilarious tribute to the sandwich—and the alphabet—will delight kids who love to experiment with food, kids who will eat anything, and even kids who are a little more discriminating in their diet choices. Heyden’s bouncy rhyme is a joy to read aloud, and kids will giggle and laugh out loud as each of the 26 ingredients are added to the towering sandwich. The combination of ingredients will produce plenty of fun “ewwws” as well as cheers as favorite foods are mentioned. A few foods that fill out the alphabetic order and are perhaps unfamiliar to readers will have kids doing a little research. The surprise ending will have kids and adults laughing, and you can bet that post-reading activities will include building a unique sandwich of their own.

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Kayla Harren’s red-haired, freckled Hannah is a mischievous cutie who knows exactly what she likes. As Hannah points out ingredients on the chef’s well-stocked shelves or “helps out” in the kitchen, McDougal’s skills are put to the test as he chops, minces, and grates with intensity surrounded by flying ingredients. As he adds just the perfect dollops of condiments to his masterpiece or gingerly places one olive on the slippery slope the sandwich has become, his eyes grow wide. Taking center stage, of course, is Hannah’s sandwich—an abstract work of art of various colors and textures. Watching this most unusual order come together is a full house of diverse customers, including a girl in a wheelchair. Various perspectives, the use of motion, and the exaggerated-but-spot-on facial expressions add to the exuberant fun.

Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich will be happily devoured by young readers. The book makes a terrific addition to home and classroom bookshelves and would be a rib-tickling back-to-school gift for kids or teachers.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363827

Discover more about Linda Vander Heyden and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kayla Harren, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Sandwich Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sandwich-scramble-puzzle

Scrumptious Sandwiches Word Scramble 

 

Sandwiches are fun to build and delicious to eat! The only hard part is trying to figure out which kind to have. Maybe this list will help! Print this Scrumptious Sandwiches Puzzle and unscramble the names to pick your favorite. Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review