September 29 – National Ghost Hunting Day

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About the Holiday

The idea for National Ghost Hunting Day was scared up by the folks at Haunted Travels as a kick off to the season of mystery, thrills, chills, and autumn festivals that culminates in Halloween on October 31. On the last Saturday in September the whole spooky business gets going at The ScareFest in Lexington, Kentucky, as ghost-hunting teams in the United States and worldwide simultaneously investigate paranormal phenomenon in various venues. Participants will be collecting evidence supporting their spectral theories with EMF meters, digital thermometers, handheld and static digital video cameras, audio recorders and computers. To learn more about this holiday and how you can join the fun, visit the National Ghost Hunt website.

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Mother Ghost to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters

Written by Rachel Kolar | Illustrated by Roland Garrigue

Can you feel it? The giddy excitement for Halloween is already beginning—and if your kids haven’t started thinking about ghouls and goblins and costumes yet, they will soon! This collection of nursery rhymes with a spooky flair is just the thing to share as the days quickly run to that kid-favorite night. The first poem is the invitation kids are waiting for: “Boys and girls, come trick-or-treat; / The moon is bright, the candy’s sweet. … / … Howl and cackle and shout and cheer / Because Halloween is finally here!”

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Image copyright Roland Garrigue, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Kids all remember Mary and the wooly companion she took to school, but during this season she has a new friend. Can you guess who it is? See if you were you right: “Mary had a little ghost; / His face was white as cloud, / And everywhere that Mary went / He followed in his shroud….” How do Mary’s classmates react? How would you?

Back in the day, Miss Muffet may have been afraid of a spider, but not any longer. In fact: “Zombie Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, / Eating her worms and dirt, / When along came a spider who sat down beside her— / And so she ate him for dessert.”

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Image copyright Roland Garrigue, 2018, text copyright Rachel Kolar, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

If you ever wonder how Dr. Frankenstein accomplished his marvelous creation, this poem may answer your question: “Frankenstein had a marvelous mind, / And a marvelous mind had he;… / … His three new monsters all came to life / When they felt that electricity; / There’s none so fine as Frankenstein / And his marvelous monsters three!”

And how does all this happy haunting end? You’ll be glad to know that Wee Willie Werewolf will make sure that all little monsters make it home to bed.

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Image copyright Roland Garrigue, 2018, text copyright Rachel Kolar, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

These appropriately numbered thirteen verses are cleverly creepy takes on favorite nursery rhymes for little ghouls and booys. Grisly details, eerie backdrops, and plenty of skeletons, witches, spiders, bats, and monsters serve up super supernatural shivers and laughs for Halloween and beyond. A bit of literary fun can be had in comparing these poems to the original Mother Goose rhymes.

Deep purple skies shroud graveyards, gnarled trees, and haunted houses as wispy specters, sly skeletons, and toothy monsters run rampant through hill and dale. Each two-page illustration is a gloriously ghastly reimagining of Mother Goose with details that the zombie- and vampire-loving set will love to pore over.

Whether Rachel Kolar’s Mother Ghost is read in small bites or swallowed whole, kid’s will dig hearing these poems again and again. It’s a book that will resonate past Halloween, and would be a fun addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363926

Discover more about Rachel Kolar and her writing for children and adults on her website.

Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters Giveaway

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

  • One (1) copy of Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters written by Rachel Kolar | illustrated by Roland Garrigue

To be entered to win, just Follow Sleeping Bear Books on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, September 29 – October 5. Already a follower of Sleeping Bear? Then just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 6.

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

National Ghost Hunting Day Activity

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Ghostly Coloring Pages 

 

You don’t have to go far to enjoy a bit of ghostly fun. Here are two printable coloring pages for you to enjoy!

Cute Ghost Coloring Page | Haunted Mansion Coloring Page

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You can find Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 19 – National Talk Like a Pirate Day

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About the Holiday

Ahoy mateys! Welcome to what may arrrguably be the most fun holiday of the year. You might think that this most treasured of days got its start shipboard on the bounding main, but it actually began in the walled confines of a racquetball court, where a group of guys were doing…well what a group of guys do to encourage each other—toss around pirate phrases. They decided the idea was too good to keep on the court, so they designated September 19th as Talk Like a Pirate Day. They then alerted humorist Dave Barry, who spread word of this day far and wide. Now it’s a favorite of young and old alike. So get out there and do some talkin’ ye scalliwags!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Kindergarrrten Bus to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Kindergarrrten Bus

Written by Mike Ornstein | Illustrated by Kevin M. Barry

 

As the little tykes climb the plank into the kindergarten school bus, they’re met by a most unusual driver. He has a hook hand, a peg leg, a curly beard, a broad-brimmed hat with a parrot perched on the edge, and he greets the first little boy like this: “Ahoy, boy! What? It be ye first day of kindergarrrten? Well, don’t worry, laddie—it be me first day as a bus driverrr!” The pirate shows the kids to their seats and lays down the rules. Any infractions…. Well, Polly will tell ya: “Raaaaa, mutiny!”

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The kids don’t seem too sure of this turn of events. They miss their family, their pets, their toys, and it’s all a little scary. But the pirate will have no “blubberin’ on me bus” because pirates are “rrrough” and tough. “And we ain’t got time for that fluffy stuff!” So the bus takes off, and the driver sings a little ditty as they go.

But the route turns as bumpy as a churning sea with potholes that rattle Polly so much that she flies out the window…I mean “winderrr.” The pirate calls after his parrot, “Waaaa arrrgh waaaa arrrgh!” Then the bus comes to a screeching halt amid a pirate melt-down. “I can’t drive me bus without me sweet snuggly Polly! I can’t do it, I tells ya! I can’t! I can’t I can’t!”

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Everyone piles out, and the kids try to reassure the poor driver—and they kind of remind him of all the things he told them. Turns out that ol’ pirate “was only hornswogglin’” and that he considers himself “nothin’ but a scared, blubberin’ boob of a buccaneer.” The kids are empathetic and reassuring, and pretty soon the pirate is feeling better about things.

Back on the bus, the little ditty now has more than a note of encouragement to it. As they pull up at the X where “the treasure of all treasures” awaits the kids, the pirate gives one more lesson before letting all those little “scoundrels walk the plank—errr, I mean, exit the bus.” But why? one little boy wants to know. Why is a pirate driving a school bus? Well, that be somethin’ ye just have to see for yourself!

An afterword from the author discussing tips for talking with kids about fears and worries follows the story.

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Could Mike Ornstein actually be a pirate? I’m thinking yes! His ease with Pirate-ese makes this dialogue-rich story a comical treasure that will have kids “Harrr, harrr, harrr-ing” at every twist and turn in the book—and lucky for them, there’s a whole loot of those. Scrumptious words like “blubberin’, hornswogglin’, landlubbers,” and “blue-footed booby bird” as well as a liberal sprinkling of rrrrs make this book a joyful read- aloud that kids will clamor to participate in. Nuggets of reassurance about “rrrespect,” admitting fears and worries, and enjoying school are pure gold.

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Image copyright Kevin M. Barry, 2018, text copyright Mike Ornstein, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Kevin M. Barry’s wide-eyed, rakish kids and scallywag of a bus driver are the perfect companions on this hilarious journey to the first day of kindergarten. The school bus—a wooden jalopy with porthole windows, a ship’s wheel steering wheel, and a teddy bear jolly roger—comes to a tipping point when the pirate’s beloved Polly flies the coop. As the pirate dramatically looks to the skies and admits his false bravado, the kids—skeptical, astonished, and empathetic—look on. While one curly-haired little girl reassures the pirate, the other kids channel their own bravery and get ready to have a fun day at school. Readers will love the expressive faces, small details (a fish-skeleton belt buckle, a girl’s “I Got This” t-shirt), and, of course, ruffled Polly.

Kindergarrrten Bus is a rip-roarin’ yarn with a heart of gold that will get kids and grown-ups laughing and talking about feelings, fears, and the fact that everyone gets scared sometimes. A go-to book for fun story times and moments when a little more encouragement is needed, Kindergarrrten Bus would be a favorite on home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363988

To learn more about Kevin M. Barry, his books, and his art on his website.

Kindergarrrten Bus Giveaway

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

  • One (1) copy of Kindergarrrten Bus written by Mike Ornstein | illustrated by Kevin M. Barry

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, September 19 – 25. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on September 26.

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

Talk Like a Pirate Day Activity

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Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze

 

Join the crew of scallywags to pick up supplies on your way to finding a treasure chest full of gold in this printable maze.

Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze Puzzle | Sail for Pirate Treasure Maze Solution

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You can find Kindergarrrten Bus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 18 – World Bamboo Day COVER REVEAL: The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

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About the Holiday

World Bamboo Day was established in 2009 by the Thai Royal Forest Department during the 8th World Bamboo Congress held in Bangkok in order to raise awareness of bamboo around the world. The day is dedicated to educating people about this natural resource, to protect it and the environment, to ensure it sustainability, to promote new cultivation of bamboo for new industries in regions around the world, and to promote traditional uses for community economic development. This year’s theme is “Sustainability = Environment + Society + Economy. To learn more about World Bamboo Day and what you can do to help, visit the World Bamboo Organization’s website.

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng 

Written by Sophia Gholz | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

On Majuli Island in northeastern India, located in the Brahmaputra River, there is a mighty forest. The Molai Forest covers over 1,300 acres and contains thousands of different species of plants and trees. It is also home to many kinds of wildlife, including some endangered animals.

But the Molai Forest was not always there.

In 1979 young Jadav Payeng witnessed the devastating effects on Majuli Island from rising floodwaters, eroding land and killing wildlife. With an idea for saving his beloved island, Jadav began planting bamboo seedlings, which over time literally built a forest and an ecosystem from the ground up. In this true story, young readers will see that the mightiest of results really do begin with a small seed of an idea. 

When a book is this inspiring, you just can’t wait to see it! But before we get to the book’s stunning cover, let’s meet the author and illustrator who are bringing this incredible story to kids. 

Meet Sophia Gholz

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Sophia Gholz is a children’s author, tree-hugger, music lover, magic seeker, and avid reader. Sophia grew up in the swamps of Florida, went to art school in Southern California, met her husband in Manhattan, and now enjoys life by the beach with her family. As a child, Sophia spent most of her time at the farm riding horses, causing mischief with her brothers, or exploring the globe with her parents. The latter often included tents and large forests. For more, find Sophia online at: www.sophiagholz.com

Hi, Kathy! Thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be here and am so excited to reveal the cover of The Boy Who Grew a Forest!

What inspired you to write The Boy Who Grew a Forest?

I first learned about Jadav Payeng when I watched a short documentary film about him a few years ago. The instant the film began, I was completely fascinated with Jadav’s journey. Here is one single person who managed to plant an entire forest all by himself—what a feat! But more than that, Jadav’s mission wasn’t for fame or fortune—he had a vision and a passion to help the environment around him, and he worked tirelessly to do so.

To put it simply: I was in awe. I immediately began searching for interviews and updates on Jadav and the more I read, the more I knew I had to share this amazing story with others.

How did growing up in Florida influence your interest in environmental issues?

My youth in Florida was filled with forests. My father was a prominent forest ecologist and conservationist who, at the beginning of his career, worked with the University of Florida’s Forestry Department. My mother has two degrees: one in horticulture and one in science education and worked as both a science writer and freelance journalist. Our house was always filled with scientists from around the world, and we were constantly exposed to tales of the environment and faraway places. So, I was raised from day one with a deep love and appreciation for the environment (especially trees) and an interest in searching for wonderful stories to share.

I think what really struck me most about Jadav’s story was that his mission was one that everyone I knew while growing up fought for as well.

Can you tell me about your journey to publication with this book?

I wrote the initial manuscript a few years ago, and then set it aside for a while. This was one of those stories that was incredibly close to my heart and I feared I wouldn’t be able to capture it the right way. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About a year later, the Florida Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) put out a call for submissions to their annual Rising Kite Contest and, on a whim, I decided to submit The Boy Who Grew a Forest. You can imagine my surprise when my manuscript was awarded a Rising Kite in the nonfiction category! Winning that award was a turning point for me. I realized then that I couldn’t give up. My only hope was that this story would inspire others, like it did me.  

When I read Sarah Rockett’s response to my manuscript, I knew she and the team at Sleeping Bear Press shared my passion for this story. And I was thrilled when they brought Kayla on board—her artistic style is beautiful and fitting. Working with them both has been a dream!

I’ve also had the chance to talk with the director of Jadav’s short film and am happy to know he’s excited for this book as well.

How exciting was it for you to see the final cover for The Boy Who Grew a Forest?

This is my debut picture book, and the first time I’ve witnessed one of my stories brought to life. From viewing initial sketches to full-color layouts, the entire experience has been beyond anything that I could have imagined.

On top of that, this book is particularly personal for me, so it’s been quite emotional. I definitely cried the first time I saw the cover. Not only is my name on a book—a real book!—but also Kayla’s illustrations are breathtaking. I think she’s done a phenomenal job of portraying Jadav and capturing the spirit of this story. 

What can environmentally conscious children do to help protect nature?

There are so many ways we can all make positive changes on a daily basis. Simple things, like recycling and not using straws or plastic bags in order to lessen the amount of plastic in the world are great places to start. On a grander scale, reforestation efforts are vital to our future and the preservation of our planet. And, like Jadav has shown us, reforestation begins with planting. Children can start with seeds or seedlings for yard plants, house plants, gardens, or just spreading native seeds in the wild. Every little bit helps. We actually have a seed planting activity included in the book and will also share downloadable activities that kids can do in the classroom or at home.

What do you hope children will take away from The Boy Who Grew a Forest?

At its heart, this book is about a person who had a dream and refused to give up. I hope that after reading this, children are inspired to care for our planet. But most of all, I want children to know how important they are. Nothing is impossible, and it only takes one person to make a difference.

Meet Kayla Harren

Kayla Harren Headshot

Kayla Harren studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is the author and illustrator of  Mary Had a Little Lizard, as well as the illustrator of Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich and many other books and projects. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

To learn more about Kayla, visit http://www.kaylaharren.com/

 

What intrigued you the most about this project?

Jadav and his amazing love of nature.  His dedication to helping wildlife is truly inspiring.  I get overwhelmed thinking about all the problems I can’t solve on my own, but then here is a person who takes action and saves an entire island by himself.  It is an amazing story and a good reminder that making a difference really can start with just one person.

What kind of research did you do for creating the illustrations for The Boy Who Grew a Forest?

I watched the documentary Forest Man and knew instantly that I wanted to illustrate Jadav’s story.  I watched many more interview videos of Jadav, read articles about his accomplishments, and read through Sophia’s bibliography for the book.  I looked through images of Majuli, read about the flooding of the Brahmaputra River, and researched the various wildlife species in Jadav’s forest.

Can you describe the process in creating and choosing this gorgeous cover image?

I have Sleeping Bear Press designer Jennifer Bacheller to thank for the cover design.  She played a big role in deciding the layout and I just filled in the spaces with plants and animals.  I am a sucker for sunsets and warm light. Jadav’s story felt magical to me, so I wanted to hint at his extraordinary spirit with an orange glow around him and his forest.

The illustrations in your books, such as your recent Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich, are so beautifully and richly detailed. What methods did you use to create the lush natural landscape in this book?

Aw thanks! I love adding details.  One of my teachers in art school said that you can focus on any square inch of a great painting and it will be interesting. I try to keep that in mind when I am illustrating, I don’t want any part of the image to be wasted.

For this book I spent a lot of time in the sketch stage. I started studying a bunch of images of the forest, of Jadav, of each animal, of color palettes and lighting. I looked at reference photos to create rough sketches, but once I finished sketching I stopped looking at the references so I wouldn’t get too attached or copy the photos. 

I drew on my computer so I could move elements around to get just the right composition. Once I was happy with a layout, I drew the lines with a pencil brush on my tablet.  Then I began coloring layer by layer in Photoshop. I started with flat color, then added textures, then a layer of shadows, and finally details.

What inspired you to become an illustrator for children’s books and publications?

I don’t remember a defining moment when I decided to pursue picture book illustration. I think I always knew that if I was going to try making art my career, it had to be in children’s books. I have always loved books and fondly remember being read to as a child.  I would fervently study the illustrations of each book as my mom read aloud. I learned to read pictures before I could read the words. Picture books are where my obsession with books began. My goal is to create illustrations that draw a child in and get them excited about learning to read the story the pictures are telling.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a children’s illustrator?

Definitely knowing that I play a role in helping children read and learn. I love when children notice small details I include in my illustrations that the parents pass right over. It is exciting to see children be observant and curious and inquisitive.

Thanks so much Sophia and Kayla! You’ve both put so much of yourselves and heart into The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng. I can’t wait to read the book when it comes out in March, and I’m sure readers are excited for it too!

To learn more about The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng, visit Sleeping Bear Press.

And now I’m thrilled to reveal…

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The Boy Who Grew a Forest, will be released in March, 2019 from Sleeping Bear Press. The book is available for preorder at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 22 – It’s American Artist Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

From the earliest days of the exploration and settlement of America, artists have been creating works that reveal the beauty, complexity, and meaning of this country and her people. Over the years American artists have developed innovative styles and delved into universal subjects in new ways. This month we celebrate these artists of the past and present who, through their work, make us see the world in fresh ways.

Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story

Written by Lindsey McDivitt | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

“Gwen followed her brothers and sisters everywhere, like a small fawn follows its herd.” Even though an illness in babyhood had left her hands and one foot weak and her speech slurred, Gwen grew up confident that she could do anything. Born in 1906, Gwen, as a child with disabilities, would normally have stayed home instead of attending school. But her mother had been a teacher, so she sent her to school and “pushed her to learn.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2018, text copyright Lindsey McDivitt, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The other kids giggled and whispered behind her back, and while she wanted to hide, she instead “gathered up knowledge like a bird builds a nest.” Her teachers thought she would never be able to write. To strengthen her hands, her mother encouraged her to draw, keeping a drawer full of supplies within reach. As Gwen sketched, her grip grew firmer.”

While making friends was difficult, Gwen found companionship in nature. She loved to spend time outdoors watching the unfurling ferns and frogs that “lapped up bugs with long, quick tongues.” From nature, Gwen learned, “‘all things are vital to the universe…all are equal…and at one…different.’”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2018, text copyright Lindsey McDivitt, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

A move to Detroit when she was twelve introduced Gwen to the buildings and people of a big city. In high school, Gwen, now stronger, took mechanical drawing and shop class. Later, in art school, Gwen was introduced to linoleum, in which she carved intricate images for printmaking. Gwen’s dream was to be an artist, but she also knew she needed to earn money to pay expenses.

She started a business making objects from hammered metal. Word of her art spread quickly. It was bought by leading Detroit families, and Gwen was invited to exhibit her art at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. When World War II broke out, Gwen went to work building bombers. She even designed tools for building the planes. Contributing to the war effort was important, but Gwen still “longed to create art.” She bought a printing press and opened “Presscraft Papers stationery company.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2018, text copyright Lindsey McDivitt, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Gwen began to miss the nature she loved so much, so she packed up and moved back to Michigan. There, “she walked deep into the wetlands” and began carving linoleum blocks, recreating nature as she saw it. “She wanted others to see nature as she did, to recognize the value of plants, trees, and animals.” She made prints from her linoleum blocks and created greeting cards on her press. Her beautiful artwork reminded people of nature’s bounty at a time when the environment was threatened with pollution. People came from all over to her shop in the Michigan woods to buy her art that spoke to them: “‘Love this earth, / Love it’s waters… / Care enough to keep it clear.’”

An Author’s Note reveals more about Gwen Frostic’s life and provides a sketching craft for readers.

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2018, text copyright Lindsey McDivitt, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Lindsey McDivitt’s superb biography of Gwen Frostic—an artist, inspiration, and pioneer for career women and the disabled—introduces children to a woman who, through persistence and confidence, lived life on her own terms. McDivitt’s lyrical prose infuses the story with the poetry of nature that Gwen internalized and translated into the art that people continue to admire and seek out. McDivitt’s thorough storytelling and excellent pacing allow for a full understanding of Gwen Frostic’s achievements. Young readers will be fascinated by the life work of this talented and determined artist.

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Eileen Ryan Ewen captures Gwen Frostic’s strength of character, can-do attitude, and love of nature in her stunning artwork. Full-page illustrations follow Gwen from her beloved Michigan woodlands to Detroit to art school and through her life as an artist and business woman. Images of Gwen carving a linoleum block, sketching designs for new tools as she sits next to a fighter plane and the woman installing rivets, working an old printing press, and greeting visitors at her shop broaden readers’ understanding of the times and Gwen’s work.

An exceptional picture book that provides encouragement and inspiration, Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story is a must for classroom libraries and would make a positive impact on young readers as part of their home library.

Ages 6 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585364053

Discover more about Lindsey McDivitt and her books on her website.

To learn more about Eileen Ryan Ewen, her art, and her books, visit her website.

American Artist Appreciation Month

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Nature Coloring Pages

 

If you love nature like Gwen Frostic did, you’ll enjoy these printable Nature Coloring Pages.

Meadow Coloring PageOcean Coloring Page

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You can find Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 15 – National Relaxation Day

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About the Holiday

In 1985, when Sean Moeller was in fourth grade, he looked around and saw everyone rushing here and there, cooking, cleaning, toiling away, and, maybe, doing piles of homework and thought, enough is enough—at least for one day. As the founder of National Relaxation Day, Moeller encouraged people to slow down and take it easy. Taking time to relax is an important component in feeling healthy and happy. Our bodies and brains need downtime to deal with the stresses of everyday life and be rejuvenated. How will you spend the day? Taking a break for tea and treats with friends is a great way to celebrate—as today’s book shows!

The Princess and the Café on the Moat

Written by Margie Markarian | Illustrated by Chloe Douglass

 

There once was a little princess who lived in a very busy castle. Every morning knights brought news of “enemies defeated, dragons seized, and citizens rescued.” Upstairs, ladies-in-waiting were given their duties for “silks to sew, invitations to ink, and chandeliers to shine.” The princess wanted a special job too, but her voice was never heard above the din, so she went in search of something to occupy her time.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When she met the court jester, he told her he was too busy learning a routine for the evening’s guests to teach her how to juggle. The wandering minstrel who was playing his mandolin told her, “‘Your fingers are too delicate to pluck these wiry strings.’” And the wise wizard banished her from the tower because his potions were too dangerous. Even the royal baker thought her kitchen was no place for a princess. “The princess’s kind heart and eager spirit were not easily discouraged.” As she wandered past the front gate, she wondered if there were people beyond it who could use her help. Just then the drawbridge descended, and when the guard turned away for a moment, the princess crept by him and ran outside.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Right outside the castle, she met a “sad old man holding a scrolled parchment.” She approached him and asked why he was so sad. He told her that he had a letter from his far-away son, but because of his weak eyesight, he couldn’t read it. “‘I have time to read your letter and sit awhile,’ said the princess, happy to have found a task so quickly.” Next, she met a worried widow with five children coming down the path. The princess asked why they looked so tired.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The woman told her that she had no one to watch her children as she traveled the long way to the village market. The princess happily offered to watch the woman’s children. Soon, “a brave squire limped by the palace where the princess, the old man, and the widow’s children were telling stories and playing games.” When the princess asked the squire what pained him, he told her “‘I gashed by knee in a skirmish many miles ago but have not stopped to tend to it.’” The princess quickly cleaned and bandaged the squire’s knee so he could continue on to the castle.

Back at the castle, though, everything was in an uproar as the king and queen and staff hunted everywhere for the princess. Through a window the king suddenly heard laughter and singing. When the king looked out, he saw that the sound was coming from the princess. Everyone in the castle paraded out through the drawbridge to join the princess and her friends.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The princess ran to her mother and father and told them about all the things she had done for the old man, the widow, and the squire. The king and queen “were proud to have such a kindhearted daughter.” The king suggested that they “all celebrate together with treats and refreshments.” From that day on in the afternoon, the drawbridge was dropped and tables and chairs set up. Then the “princess welcomed townspeople and travelers from far and wide to her café on the moat.”

Here, the court jester practiced his juggling, the minstrel shared his music, the wizard made drinks, and the baker created delicious treats. The old man and the widow with her children often came by to meet new friends and relax. And the brave squire enjoyed refreshments while he guarded the castle. The café on the moat welcomed everyone, and “indeed, they all lived happily and busily ever after.”

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

An Afterword about fairy tales and a kindness activity for children follow the story.

Margie Markarian’s sweet story is an enchanting fairy tale for today’s socially conscious and active kids. Instead of needing rescue, this princess looks for opportunities to help others. When she’s turned away inside the castle, she leaves the comfort of home and reaches out to her community, an idea that children will embrace. Through her cheerful storytelling, Markarian also shows readers that in their talents and kind hearts they already have what it takes to make a difference to others. As the princess opens her café on the moat, children will see that the adults also find ways to support her efforts. Markarian’s language is charmingly “medieval,” making the story fun to read aloud while inspiring listeners.

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Image copyright Chloe Douglass, 2018, text copyright Margie Markarian, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Chloe Douglass’s adorable princess is a terrific role model for young readers. Her eagerness to help and positive spirit are evident in her smiles and persistent requests for a job to do. When she ventures out of the castle, she displays obvious empathy for the people she meets, and children will recognize her joy at being able to brighten the townspeople’s day. Despite their busy days, the king and queen are happy and supportive of their daughter. Children will love the bright and detailed images of the castle and town, where the crest of love rules.

The Princess and the Café on the Moat is a charming flip on the traditional fairy tale—one that children will want to hear again and again. It would make a great spring gift and an enriching addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363971

To discover more about Margie Markarian and her picture book and to find fun activities, visit her website. 

Learn more about Chloe Douglass, her books, and her art on her website.

National Relaxation Day Activity

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The Princess and the Café on the Moat Activities

 

The Princess likes to help people relax and have fun together! You can help her too with these four activity pages!

The Princess and the Café Coloring Page |Castle Matching PageStory Sequencing Page Write a Fairy Tale Page

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You can find The Princess and the Café on the Moat at these booksellers

Amazon | An Unlikely Story | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

August 9 – 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!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also excited to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of one copy of the book. See details below.

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.

Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich Giveaway

I’m thrilled to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich written by Linda Vander Heyden | illustrated by Kayla Harren

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, August 9 – 17. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on August 18.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Sandwich Month Activity

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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

July 25 – It’s National Moth Week

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About the Holiday

Did you know that some moths are even more beautiful than butterflies? It’s true! Adorned in vibrant oranges, greens, blues, and reds and with patterns more intricate than the finest fabrics, moths are some of nature’s loveliest creatures. There are even moths that mimic hummingbirds—right down to the fast-beating wings and a looong proboscis that looks like a beak. During the summer, moths love visiting fragrant flower gardens. This month take a little time to really look at the moths in your yard and learn more about them and their habitats.

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth to check out. All opinions are my own. 

An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth

Written by Karlin Gray | Illustrated by Steliyana Doneva

 

As a grayish-brown moth flits among the leaves framed by the full moon, he says, “I’m an ordinary moth, / as you can plainly see. / A dusty, grayish, dull insect— / nothing-special me.”  He compares himself to the Luna Moth “who floats in graceful green” and to the Spider Moth who’s “so cool at Halloween!” He’s nothing like the Hummingbird Moth who mimics its namesake bird, and he can’t hide like the Wood Nymph Moth that looks like “birdy dung.” He’s much smaller than the Atlas Moth and not as pretty as a butterfly. While all of these are special—extraordinary even—this little guy thinks he is just “a dusty, grayish moth— / very ordinary.”

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But then a little boy runs through the yard shouting “‘A moth! A moth!’” The moth freezes against a wall, afraid and unsure and hoping to hide. But when the moth sees the excitement in the boy’s eyes, he moves “toward his joyful light.” He lands in the boy’s hands, uncertain still if he’ll be shooed away. And sure enough, the boy’s sister screams, “‘Ew, a bug!’” When she knocks her brother’s hand away, the moth flies off.

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The moth hears the boy tell his sister, “‘Hey, it’s an insect—not a bug— / and my favorite kind!’” then he sees the boy trailing him “all through the yard. / with her two steps behind.” She thinks the moth is nothing special, but her brother disagrees. And as the moth alights on his finger, he shows her why. What looks like dust are really “‘scales that keep him warm at night. / And they flake off in a web so he escapes all right.’”

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The little girl’s a bit more interested but thinks his color is “kind of blah.” The boy explains that the moth is the color of tree bark and can camouflage himself during the day while he sleeps. Then at night he’s ready to fly, guided by moonlight and the scents he smells through his antennae. Now the little girl thinks the moth is pretty cool. She calls their mom to come and see, and when Mom wants to know what bug they found, “the girl says, ‘Mom—a moth’s an insect, / and out favorite kind!’”

Hearing that, the moth soars in the moonlight with a new self image—“So how ‘bout THAT?! / I’m someone’s FAVORITE! / Little grayish me— / proof of how / EXTRAORDINARY / ordinary can be.”

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ten Extraordinary Facts about Moths, as well as an activity for constructing a moth observation box follow the text.

Through her vivacious rhymes, Karlin Gray elevates the “ordinary” back-porch moth to star status with fascinating facts that will lure kids to discover more. The conversational verses echo a sweet sibling relationship while the moth, overhearing them, begins to appreciate himself. The bookending of the children’s story with the moth’s thoughts—first comparing himself to other moths and later realizing his own merits—will encourage readers to think about the nature of nature and about the importance of positive interactions with others. Told from the moth’s point of view, the story also has a deeper meaning, reminding readers that, like this moth, people also have special talents  that make them exceptional. Taking extra time to really learn about another’s unique qualities and to get to know them is exciting and has benefits for all.  

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Image copyright Steliyana Doneva, 2018, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Steliyana Doneva’s gorgeous illustrations of moths and butterflies will dazzle insect-loving kids and convert the more squeamish. Doneva captures each delicate marking and texture of the little grayish moth as it flits in the light and camouflages itself on the wall and tree. The moth is also well spotlighted against Doneva’s vibrant backyard oasis where the little boy and his sister discover him. Nighttime scenes sparkle with starlight, and the full moon brings out the rich blues of an evening sky. The boy’s enthusiasm for moths and nature is infectious and will captivate young readers, enticing them to look closer at the world around them.

An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth is a beautiful, eye-opening book that would spur further discovery for nature and science lovers at home and in science or STEM classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1-58536-372-8

Discover more about Karlin Gray and her books on her website.

View a portfolio of work by Steliyana Doneva and learn more about her on her website.

Download and have fun with these An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth Activity Sheets!

An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth Matching | An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth Fill in the Blank

National Moth Week Activity

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Beautiful Moths Game

 

Moths go through many stages of metamorphosis—from egg to caterpillar to cocoon— before they finally emerge as a moth. In this game, help six moths emerge from their cocoons to win!

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Print a Tree Branch Game Board and set of Moth Cards for each player
  2. Print one Moth Playing Die
  3. Choose a player to go first
  4. The first player rolls the die and places the matching moth card on one of the cocoons on the Tree Branch Game Board
  5. Play then moves to the player on the left
  6. Players continue to roll the die and place moths on each cocoon
  7. If a player rolls a moth that they already have placed on their game board, they pass the die to the next player and wait for their next turn.
  8. The player who fills their Tree Branch with moths first is the winner

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You can find An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth at these booksellers

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