December 4 – National Sock Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates togetherness—the togetherness of matched socks that always seem to find each other even after being tumbled around in the washer, separated in the drier, stuffed into different shoes, and tossed onto the floor. Mismatched socks are fun, but having a pair of matching socks goes a long way toward looking neat and put together. To  honor today’s holiday, you might want to spend a little time organizing your sock drawer or doing a little laundry. As winter approaches, your tootsies will thank you for having warming socks ready to go!

Red Socks

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

It’s laundry day and the clothes are all dried and soft and ready to wear. “‘Here is your blue shirt, with the goldfish on it,’” Mama says, pulling the top out of the basket and bending down to eye level to show it to her baby. Next, Mama describes the “yellow and white striped pants” she puts on her child. “‘Let’s see what else is in the laundry basket,’” she says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-red-socks-shirt

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Mama pulls a tiny red sock from the basket, but—“UH-OH!—where is the other red sock?’” Now it’s the baby’s turn to help. With a look down, the toddler shows Mama where the sock is. “‘You found the other red sock. Yay!’” she says, giving words to the baby’s action. She continues explaining while pointing to the sock poking out of the baby’s pocket: “‘It was hiding in your pants pocket!” Once the laundry is folded, Mama tells her child exactly what they will do next while she playfully slips the other red sock on the baby’s wiggling feet. “‘Let’s put that other sock on your foot. Then we can go play outside.’” As the baby flies in the swing outside, the red socks are brilliant dots against the blue sky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-red-socks-pants

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s simple and charming story of a particular moment in a mother and child’s day will immediately appeal to even the youngest reader. Familiar words coupled with clear, vivid illustrations will engage toddlers who are pre-talking and just learning language and concept development. The mother’s use of complete sentences as well as step-by-step descriptions of the activities the child sees and is involved in demonstrates how adults can converse with their babies and young children to encourage strong language and literacy skills. Free of gender-specific pronouns, Red Socks is a universal story.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations show a mother and child interacting on a typical day while they complete common chores and go outside to play. The mother and child portray a range of emotions and gestures, giving further depth to the understanding of the ideas and conversation presented. Kids will giggle at the adorable puppy who causes a bit of mischief on each page.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727060

To learn more about Ellen Mayer and her Small Talk Books® (including other titles: Cake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job) as well as to find activities to accompany each book, visit her website!

Discover more about Ying-Hwa Hu and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

About Small Talk Books®

Ellen Mayer’s Small Talk Books® feature young children and adults conversing (or adults speaking to children who are not talking yet) while they have fun, do chores, shop, and bake together. Their conversations demonstrate the kind of excitement and close relationships that encourage learning and language advancement. Each Small Talk Book® includes an accompanying note from Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development and the author of Talk to Me, Baby! How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development. The introduction discusses how children connect actions, words, and meaning as adults speak to them while doing particular jobs or actions.

Other titles in the Small Talk Books® series include Cake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job. Each book makes a wonderful gift for baby showers, new parents, or anyone with young children in the family. They would be a welcome addition to any young child’s bookshelf as well as libraries and preschool classrooms.

National Sock Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-tumble-matching-game

 

Sock Tumble Matching Game

 

These socks were separated in the laundry. Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Sock Tumble Matching Game.

 

Picture Book Review

June 24 – It’s Zoo and Aquarium Month

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About the Holiday

It’s fun to go to an aquarium to see sea creatures from all over the world and hear interesting presentations, but it’s also a great experience to have an aquarium—or even just a bowl at home! Having a pet, whether it is large or small, offers wonderful opportunities for children to establish bonds of friendship and to learn about the natural world around them. To celebrate this month’s holiday, consider getting a home aquarium!

A Fish to Feed

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

Dad plans a fun trip into town with his young child to buy a pet fish. He says, we will get “‘a fish to swim in our bowl. A fish we can look at and feed.’” The pair are excited to go together and have time to “‘walk…and talk.’” The two head out and soon pass a store. In the window the child sees a T-shirt with the picture of a fish on it and points. “‘Look—fish! Fish! Fish!’” Dad reinforces the observation—“‘Yes, I see the fish on the T-shirt too.’”—and further explains: “‘That’s a fish to wear, not a fish to swim in our bowl.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-fish-to-feed-t-shirt

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2015. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Going into the store, Dad and his youngster find another item with a fish on it. On a shelf is a backpack with a picture of a gold-and-yellow fish on the front pocket. This is a “‘fish to wear on your back,’” Dad says, before going in search of a “‘fish to feed.’” Next, the two come to a toy store. The child points to another fish—a fish on a mobile. “‘Look—fish! Fish! Fish!’” the toddler exclaims. Dad affirms his child’s remark and expands on it using complete sentences that model conversation and increase vocabulary. They linger in the shop, finding other examples of fish.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-fish-to-feed-mobile

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2015. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

“‘Now let’s go find a fish to feed,’ says Daddy.” They head out of the store and continue down the street. As they come to the Pet Shop, the little one shouts, “‘Look—fish! Fish swim!’” Daddy echoes the excitement while praising his child. “‘You found a fish that swims!’” They take the goldfish home, where it swims happily in their bowl—a pet they “‘can love and feed.’”

A Fish to Feed contains die-cut holes in the pages that kids will love peering through as they shop along on this adventure to find a special pet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-fish-to-feed-dad-and-child

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2015. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s story of a dad and his child out for an afternoon together as they look for a pet to love offers adults and children such a sweet way to spend time with one another. The story, set in the familiar environments of home and stores and revolving around a close parent-child relationship, will engage even the youngest readers. The back-and-forth conversation between Dad and his child as they shop models ways in which adults can follow a child’s lead while providing language and literacy development. The abscence of gender-specific pronouns makes this a universal story.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations are vibrant and joyful. When Dad bends down to be at eye-level with his toddler as they talk, the close bond between them is obvious in their smiling and laughing faces. The shops are full of colorful toys, clothes, backpacks, and other items that will capture kids’ attention. Spending time looking at each page allows adults and children to point at the various items, name them, and talk about them.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727077

To learn more about Ellen Mayer and her Small Talk Books® (including other titles: Red Socks, Cake Day, and Rosa’s Very Big Job) as well as to find activities to accompany each book, visit her website!

Discover more about Ying-Hwa Hu and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-small-talk-books-covers

About Small Talk Books®

Ellen Mayer’s Small Talk Books® feature young children and adults talking together while they have fun, do chores, shop, and bake together. The adults speak in full sentences as they share details of their adventures and respond to and reinforce their child’s words and actions. Their conversations model the kinds of excitement and close relationships that encourage learning and language advancement. Each Small Talk Book® includes a note from Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development and the author of Talk to Me, Baby! How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development. This inviting introduction for parents and caregivers discusses how little ones connect actions, words, and meaning as adults talk with them while doing particular jobs or actions.

Other titles in the Small Talk Books® series include Red SocksCake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job. Each book makes a wonderful gift for baby showers, new parents, or anyone with young children in the family. They would be a welcome addition to any young child’s bookshelf as well as to libraries and preschool classrooms.

Zoo and Aquarium Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-fish-craft

Swimmingly Sweet Sock Fish

A colorful sock can become a charming fish to decorate a child’s room with this easy craft.

Supplies

  • Child’s colored sock
  • Poly fiber fill
  • 2 googly eyes
  • Small buttons or foam dots (optional). Do not use small items with young children as they pose a choking hazard
  • Fabric Markers or fabric paint (optional)
  • Needle and thread 
  • Glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Stuff the child’s sock with fiber fill up to where the ankle cuff starts
  2. Tie a knot in the ankle, letting the cuff free as the tail
  3. Glue the googly eyes on the fish with the glue gun or strong glue
  4. Glue the buttons or foam dots on the fish with the glue gun
  5. To hang the fish, insert thread through the top of the fish and knot to make a hanger

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 23 – World Book and Copyright Day

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by UNESCO, World Book and Copyright Day encourages families and individuals to rediscover the joys of reading and promotes the availability of a wide range of books in all languages and for the disabled. It is also an opportunity to highlight the power of books to promote our vision of knowledge societies that are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, open and participatory for all citizens. Each year publishers, booksellers, and libraries choose a World Book Capitol for a one-year period. This year Conakry, Guinea was selected in part “on account of the quality and diversity of its program, in particular its focus on community involvement.”

You can get involved too! Why not start today? With so many amazing books to discover, reading daily is a luxury worth indulging. For kids, there may be no cozier or more comforting routine than snuggling up next to mom or dad or cuddling under the covers and getting lost in a wonderful story before falling asleep.

Good Night, Little Sea Otter

Written by Janet Halfmann | Illustrated by Wish Williams

 

As twilight paints the sky pink, purple, and gold, Little Sea Otter gets ready to sleep in her kelp forest bed. Mama Otter fluffs her baby’s fur and snuggles with her, but Little Otter is still wide awake. “‘I forgot to say goodnight to the harbor seals,’” she tells Mama. The baby waves her “soft, silky paw toward the rocky shore” and says goodnight. The harbor seals all along the craggy cliffs wish the little otter goodnight in return.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-night-little-sea-otter-mama-fluffing-pup's-fur

Image copyright Wish Williams, text copyright Janet Halfmann. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.org

Hearing the seals’ goodnight song, the sea lions join in, their loud barks echoing in the air. “‘Good night, father sea lions. Good night, mother sea lions and baby sea lions,’” Little Otter calls. Curious about all the commotion, a seagull swoops down and learns that it’s bedtime for Little Otter. The two say “Good night” to each other, and as the seagull flies away to find his own place to sleep, Mama Otter tries to tuck in her little pup.

“But before she could say another word, Little Sea Otter dipped her furry face into the chilly water.” There she sees a whole ocean full of fish to greet. She says “Good night” to the yellow fish, the orange fish, and the purple fish. Of course she can’t forget the long fish or the short fish, the striped fish or the spotted fish either. All these fish are happy to wish the tiny pup sweet dreams too. Mama Otter points out other sea creatures getting ready for bed—different types of crabs, snails, sea stars, anemones, clams, and more. Little Otter says “Good night” to each in turn.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-night-little-sea-otter-harbor-seals

Image copyright Wish Williams, text copyright Janet Halfmann. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.org

From every part of the ocean sea turtles, lobsters, octopuses, rays, jelly fish, sea horses, eels, and others bubble a chorus of “Good night” to Little Otter. She listens and responds to each one and then asks Mama if she has forgotten anyone. “‘Yes, you did,’” Mama says, “scooping her up in her paws. ‘You missed ME!’” Little Otter giggles and says “Good night.” Mama Otter hugs her tight and rolls over and over in the kelp, wrapping them both “in ribbons of seaweed” that will keep them secure on the ocean currents as they sleep.

Little Otter gazes up into the night sky and says “Good night” to the moon and the stars. As Little Otter’s eyes finally close and she drifts into sleep, Mama kisses her gently on the head and the sea whispers, “‘rock-a-bye.’”

Little Otter’s repeated phrase of “Good night” gives children plenty of opportunities to read along. Kids and adults who enjoy the beach and marine environments will also be delighted in the scientific facts about sea otters organically sprinkled into the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-good-night-little-sea-otter-all-ocean-creatures

Image copyright Wish Williams, text copyright Janet Halfmann. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.org

Janet Halfmann’s gentle bedtime story is a sweet reminder for children of all the people in their life who love them and are thinking of them every day. As Little Sea Otter puts off sleep with just one more “Good night” and then another and another, Halfmann reveals with lyrical language the wide world of the sea and the creatures in it. Mama’s patient support of her pup’s curiosity and connections to her world provide tender moments between mother and child, as do their final bedtime rituals before drifting off to sleep. The readiness of the ocean creatures to respond with their own heartfelt wishes for the little pup suggest that this is a nightly and eagerly anticipated ending to each day by all.

Wish Williams’ beautiful, vivid illustrations are stunning and detailed, offering a magical realism that is perfect for this book’s wide-eyed audience. Little Otter and her sea creature friends are adorable, their smiling faces glowing with their happiness to see each other and finish the day together. While the fish and other sea creatures are colorful, the hues are true to their natural counterparts. The blue-green ocean swirls and foams along the rocky shore at twilight while whitecaps glitter in starlight when the sun goes down.

The lovely nature of the mother/child relationship, opportunities for child participation, and gorgeous art make Good Night, Little Sea Otter a welcome addition to home bookshelves for quiet story times and bedtime.

Ages 2 – 6

Star Bright Books, 2010 | ISBN 978-1595722546 (English Edition).

Star Bright Books offers Good Night, Little Sea Otter in bilingual editions in 8 other languages. To view them click here.

Learn more about Janet Halfmann and her other books on her website!

World Book and Copyright Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleep-sea-otters-coloring-page

Sleepy Sea Otters Coloring Page

 

Say “Good night” to these sweet sea otters before going to bed by coloring this printable Sleepy Sea Otters Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

March 9 – It’s Read Aloud Month

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About the Holiday

From the moment babies are born, they are learning. Talking and reading aloud to babies from the very beginning are crucial parts of helping their developing brain learn language and improves literacy in the years to come. Reading aloud to babies and older children for only 15 minutes a day makes a tremendous and beneficial difference to their future. Make reading time a special time with your kids, and with so many wonderful books available—like today’s book—you’ll have as much fun as they do!

Rosa’s Very Big Job

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Sarah Vonthron-Laver

 

Rosa may be little, but she has big ideas about how to help. While Mama is out shopping for groceries for that night’s dinner, Rosa decides to surprise her by folding and putting away the laundry. The basket is piled high with fluffy dry clothes, sheets, and towels. Rosa watches her grandpa reading the newspaper. “‘Please help me, Grandpa!’” she says. She tugs on her grandpa’s hands, trying to pull him out of his chair. “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get up.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-very-big-job-rosa-likes-to-help

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Grandpa seems to have a little trouble managing: “‘It’s difficult to carry these enormous piles,’” he sighs. But Rosa knows that smaller armloads work better. Grandpa’s clothes come unfolded as he puts them in the drawer. “‘Be neat. Like me,” Rosa says, showing him her tidy stack. Poor Grandpa! He has to keep hanging up the same jacket over and over. “‘It’s difficult to keep this jacket from sliding off the hanger,” he says. Rosa has the answer: “‘Zip it up,’” she explains. “‘Then it stays on.’”

Grandpa sinks back into his chair. “‘You are terrific at doing laundry, Rosa. And I am exhausted,’” he says. But this is no time to quit—Rosa has big plans. As she steps into the now empty laundry basket, she exclaims, “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get in the boat. Help me sail back to there.’” Rosa points to the linen closet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-very-big-job-rosa-uses-basket-as-boat

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Suddenly, the floor swells with ocean waves teeming with fish. Grandpa channels his inner sailor as he holds aloft a sheet as a sail. As the wind billows and they come perilously close to the kitchen table, he says, “‘It’s difficult to sail around this enormous rock!’” Contemplating the rising sea, he exclaims, “‘It’s difficult to sail over this enormous wave!’”

There’s a dangerous storm ahead, warns Grandpa, “‘I can’t hold the sail in this strong wind.’” Rosa is there to help and grabs one side of the sheet. “‘Hold tight,’” she orders. “‘Use both hands.’” At last the seas die down and Grandpa is ready to steer the laundry basket back to port, but Rosa has a more entertaining thought. Spying a sock on the floor, Rosa wants to catch the “enormous fish.” Grandpa obliges and picks up a hangar for a fishing pole. He holds Rosa as she stretches out over the edge of the laundry basket to land her fish.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-very-big-job-sailing-with-sheet

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Just as Rosa nabs the fish, Mama comes home with her bags of groceries. She’s surprised to see that the laundry is not in the basket. Rosa runs to her and proudly explains, “‘We put all the laundry away. It was a very big job. We carried enormous piles. Grandpa dropped things. And I picked them up. It was very difficult for Grandpa. He got exhausted. But not me. I am terrific at laundry!’” Mama agrees that Rosa is a terrific helper. Then Rosa leads her mother to see the most surprising thing of all—the fish she has caught for dinner!

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In her series of Small Talk Books® Ellen Mayer presents exciting stories for preschoolers full of imagination and rich language learning. Rosa’s Very Big Job introduces Rosa, a sweet girl bubbling with enthusiasm and the desire to help. The close relationships between Rosa, her mother, and her grandpa promote cooperation as well as effective modeling of speech patterns and a way to introduce larger words in an organic manner through play and common chores. Rosa’s inventive idea to turn the laundry basket into a boat is delightfully enhanced by her grandpa’s willingness to share in the story and expand on it. Humor, cheerful banter, and the easy camaraderie between Rosa and Grandpa invite young readers to join in the fun as they build confidence in their language learning.

Sarah Vonthron-Laver depicts Rosa’s afternoon with her Grandpa with joy and the spirited energy young children bring to everything they do. Grandpa is happy to spend time with his granddaughter, yet shows honest feelings of tiredness and frustration that spur on the plot. The transition from doing laundry to using the basket as a boat is as seamless as a child’s imagination, and the way Rosa and her grandpa use household items to create “sails,” “rocks,” “fish,” and “fishing poles” will give readers great ideas for post-reading play. Bright colors, an adorable kitten, and familiar surroundings welcome young children into the world of reading and expanded vocabulary.

Rosa’s Very Big Job would be a welcome addition to a young child’s bookshelf, not only for its fun story that kids will want to hear again and again, but for its leap into imagination that kids will want to replicate.

Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development, provides tips for parents, grandparents, and caregivers following the text.

Ages 2 – 6

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727497

Discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books as well as book-related activities and literacy initiatives she’s involved with on her website!

To read an interview with Ellen Mayer about her books and her work, click here!

Find Sarah Vonthron-Laver on Facebook!

Read Aloud Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-big-job-paper-dolls-made

Original illustrations by Saran Vonthron-Laver, Copyrights © 2016 Star Bright Books. Paper dolls created by AislingArt and Celebrate Picture Books, copyrights © 2016

Rosa’s Very Big Job Paper Dolls

 

After you read the story, you can continue the fun with these Rosa and family paper dolls! Rosa loves helping out at home. She’s terrific at doing laundry – folding and putting away the family’s clothes, socks, and linens. You are terrific at helping too! Can you help Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa get dressed and ready for the day with these printable paper dolls? You’ll even find a laundry basket, socks, and Rosa’s sweet kitty to play with! 

Supplies

Printable Paper Dolls, Clothes, and Extras

  • Card stock paper and/or poster board
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Print dolls on regular paper or card stock paper. Dolls printed on card stock paper may stand on their own with the supplied stand cross piece. For dolls printed on regular paper, you can cut the supplied stand templates from poster board or card stock and glue the dolls to the backing.
  2. Rosa’s kitty and the laundry basket can also be attached to the supplied template if needed
  3. Print clothes for each figure
  4. Color the blank clothes templates any way you’d like
  5. Cut out clothes and extra items
  6. Fit outfits onto dolls
  7. Make up your own stories about Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa!

Picture Book Review

January 22 – Celebration of Life Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to give parents, grandparents, and caregivers a nudge to step back and look at our children and grandchildren as the unique individuals they are. Each child has a special personality and innate talents that combine to make them who they are. Today, celebrate each child’s exceptional character! Ask your children what they want from life, what their opinions are, and what is important to them. Then incorporate some of those things into your daily life!

Cake Day

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Estelle Corke

 

An adorable little boy runs to his grandma, excited that it’s “Cake Day!” “That’s right,” his grandma agrees, “Today we’re going to bake a cake!” The boy, hardly able to see over the counter, wants to be picked up and see what’s in the cabinet. His grandma happily obliges, and the pair carefully pick the ingredients for their cake together.

“‘Hmmm…we need flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar to make a cake,’ says Grandma.” With all the ingredients set on the table, the two start measuring. The little chef is eager and curious: “‘Cake Day! How much, Grandma?’” he asks. As Grandma pours the flour into the cup and a soft, powdery cloud envelops them, the delighted boy laughs, “‘Too much, Grandma!’” The two work happily side by side, with Grandma adding the eggs while her grandson pours in the milk.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-too-much-flour

Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy Star Bright Books, 2016

As the ingredients start to mesh, Grandma exclaims, “‘Look! What’s happening to the batter?’” The little boy wants to help it along and takes up the wooden spoon. Round and round he stirs, creating swirls in the yellow batter until it’s ready for the oven. “‘Bake day! Your turn, Grandma!” the boy says and stands wide-eyed as his grandma slides the deep pan into the oven. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-stirring-batter

Image copyright Estelle Corker, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of Star Bright Books, 2016

The little boy and his dog settle in front of the oven to watch the cake bake. With keen expectation the boy asks, “‘Cake day! Ready, Grandma?” Grandma encourages her grandson’s inquisitiveness and explains the process: “‘We have to wait until the cake rises. The heat makes it rise. When you hear the timer go BEEP BEEP it will be ready.’” At last the cake comes out of the oven, but it’s not ready to be decorated yet. First, they must wait for it to cool.

In a short time the high, golden cake can be iced and decorated. The little boy vigorously shakes a jar of sprinkles over the top, scattering a rainbow of colors across the white frosting. The cake is beautiful and just the right complement to the little boy’s Cake Day, Bake Day, Shake Day—Birthday!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-decorating-cake

Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy Star Bright Books, 2016

Ellen Mayer’s language-rich and playful story of a small child and his grandmother baking together is a wonderful introduction not only to reading but to the type of full-sentence conversational modeling that improves and increases literacy. The steps to baking the birthday cake flow organically and lyrically through the loving relationship between the little boy and his grandma, enticing young readers to learn more about the world around them and how it works. The repeated phrases “Cake day! Bake day!,” and “Ready, Grandma?” as well as the boy’s short statements offer opportunities for kids to read along and learn new vocabulary as they develop important language skills.

Estelle Corke’s cheery illustrations glow with enthusiasm and the close bond between grandmother and grandson. The grandmother lifts, steadies, and holds the boy while still allowing him to perform all the tasks he can. The little boy, in his green apron, delights in every aspect of the baking process, his eagerness expressed in his animated smile and lively participation. The homey kitchen is awash in inviting colors and objects that children will recognize. The clearly drawn boxes and jars of ingredients, kitchen tools, and furnishings offer readers a chance to practice their vocabulary and learn new words.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727466

To see more books by Ellen Mayer as well as language development and reading strategies for young children, visit her website!

Visit Estelle Corke’s website to view a gallery of her artwork!

Star Bright Books publishes fiction nonfiction, and bilingual “great books for great kids” and provides literacy resources for readers.

Celebration of Life Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-grandma's-cake

Image copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016

Grandma’s Cake

 

Grandma and her grandson baked a delicious, special cake—and now you can too! Invite your child or children to help, and make a Celebration of Life cake decorated just the way they’d like! Here’s the full recipe that Grandma uses. Recipe courtesy of Ellen Mayer.

A Simple Sponge Cake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus a little to grease cake pan.
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • You will need: 3 mixing bowls:
  1. 1 to cream butter and sugar
  2. 1 to mix flour, baking powder and salt
  3. 1 in which to beat the eggs
  • A 7-inch diameter, deep cake pan

Directions

  1. Butter pan and dust with flour.
  2. Set the rack at the middle of the oven.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside.
  5. In large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In the third bowl, beat the eggs and add milk.
  6. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to butter mixture then alternate with the egg and milk mixture. Continue to alternate ending with flour mixture. Scrape bowl and beater often.
  7. Add vanilla and mix well.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula.
  9. Bake cake about 45 minutes. Insert knife or wooden skewer into the center. If it emerges clean, the cake is done. If not, bake for 5 more minutes.
  10. Remove cake from oven and allow to set for 5 minutes.
  11. Turn cake out onto a cake rack and leave to cool.

Grandma’s Favorite Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1⁄4 stick butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Blend all ingredients together with a mixer until smooth
  2. Spread on the top and sides of cake
  3. Decorate with sprinkles or your favorite topping

Picture Book Review

November 29 – It’s National Family Literacy Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s observance was established in 1994 to promote family and community involvement in teaching and supporting children to read more. Family members can make reading a priority at home by sitting down together every day with a wide range of books and other reading material. By taking trips to the library and bookstores, children will also naturally pick up a love of reading. But families can’t do it alone. Kids acquire a drive to read when they see connections between books and their wider world. Fun book-related activities at schools, libraries, science centers, museums, and other places capture children’s attention and make them curious about reading more. Whether children are attracted by fiction or nonfiction, picture books or chapter books, novels or graphic novels, they should be encouraged to read. Universal literacy is a goal that can be accomplished.

About Small Talk Books®

Ellen Mayer’s Small Talk Books® feature young children and adults conversing (or adults speaking to children who are not talking yet) while they have fun, do chores, shop, and bake together. Their conversations demonstrate the kind of excitement and close relationships that encourage learning and language advancement. Each Small Talk Book® includes an accompanying note from Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development and the author of Talk to Me, Baby! How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development. The introduction discusses how children connect actions, words, and meaning as adults speak to them while doing particular jobs or actions.

Other titles in the Small Talk Books® series include Cake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job. Each book makes a wonderful gift for baby showers, new parents, or anyone with young children in the family. They would be a welcome addition to any young child’s bookshelf as well as libraries and preschool classrooms.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-fish-to-feed-coverA Fish to Feed

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

Dad plans a fun trip into town with his young child to buy a pet fish. He says, we will get “a fish to swim in our bowl. A fish we can look at and feed.” The pair are excited to go together and have time to “walk…and talk.” The two head out and soon pass a store. In the window the child sees a T-shirt with the picture of a fish on it and points. “Look—fish! Fish! Fish!” Dad reinforces the observation—“Yes, I see the fish on the T-shirt too.”—and further explains: “That’s a fish to wear, not a fish to swim in our bowl.”

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Going into the store, Dad and his youngster find another item with a fish on it. On a shelf is a backpack with a picture of a gold-and-yellow fish on the front pocket. This is a “fish to wear on your back,” Dad says, before going in search of a “fish to feed.” Next, the two come to a toy store. The child points to another fish—a fish on a mobile. “Look—fish! Fish! Fish!” the toddler exclaims. Dad affirms his child’s remark and expands on it using complete sentences that model conversation and increase vocabulary. They linger in the shop, finding other examples of fish.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

“‘Now let’s go find a fish to feed,’ says Daddy.” They head out of the store and continue down the street. As they come to the Pet Shop, the little one shouts, “‘Look—fish! Fish swim!” Daddy echoes the excitement while praising his child. “‘You found a fish that swims!’” They take the goldfish home, where it swims happily in their bowl—a pet they “can love and feed.”

A Fish to Feed contains die-cut holes in the pages that kids will love peering through as they shop along on this adventure to find a special pet.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s story of a dad and his child out for an afternoon together as they look for a pet to love offers adults and children such a sweet way to spend time with one another. The story, set in the familiar environments of home and stores and revolving around a close parent-child relationship, will engage even the youngest readers. The back-and-forth conversation between Dad and his child as they shop models ways in which adults can follow a child’s lead while providing language and literacy development. The abscence of gender-specific pronouns makes this a universal story.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations are vibrant and joyful. When Dad bends down to be at eye-level with his toddler as they talk, the close bond between them is obvious in their smiling and laughing faces. The shops are full of colorful toys, clothes, backpacks, and other items that will capture kids’ attention. Spending time looking at each page allows adults and children to point at the various items, name them, and talk about them.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727077

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-red-socks-coverRed Socks

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

It’s laundry day and the clothes are all dried and soft and ready to wear. “‘Here is your blue shirt, with the goldfish on it,’” Mama says, pulling the top out of the basket and bending down to eye level to show it to her baby. Next, Mama describes the “yellow and white striped pants” she puts on her child. “‘Let’s see what else is in the laundry basket,’” she says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-red-socks-shirt

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Mama pulls a tiny red sock from the basket, but—“UH-OH!—where is the other red sock?’” Now it’s the baby’s turn to help. With a look down, the toddler shows Mama where the sock is. “‘You found the other red sock. Yay!’” she says, giving words to the baby’s action. She continues explaining while pointing to the sock poking out of the baby’s pocket: “‘It was hiding in your pants pocket!” Once the laundry is folded, Mama tells her child exactly what they will do next while she playfully slips the other red sock on the baby’s wiggling feet. “‘Let’s put that other sock on your foot. Then we can go play outside.’” As the baby flies in the swing outside, the red socks are brilliant dots against the blue sky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-red-socks-pants

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s simple and charming story of a particular moment in a mother and child’s day will immediately appeal to even the youngest reader. Familiar words coupled with clear, vivid illustrations will engage toddlers who are pre-talking and just learning language and concept development. The mother’s use of complete sentences as well as step-by-step descriptions of the activities the child sees and is involved in demonstrates how adults can converse with their babies and young children to encourage strong language and literacy skills. Free of gender-specific pronouns, Red Socks is a universal story.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations show a mother and child interacting on a typical day while they complete common chores and go outside to play. The mother and child portray a range of emotions and gestures, giving further depth to the understanding of the ideas and conversation presented. Kids will giggle at the adorable puppy who causes a bit of mischief on each page.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727060

To learn more about Ellen Mayer and her Small Talk Books® (including other titles: Cake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job) as well as to find activities to accompany each book, visit her website!

Discover more about Ying-Hwa Hu and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

Red Socks and Too Small to Fail

Red Socks was chosen by Too Small to Fail, an early literacy initiative of The Clinton Foundation to feature in their Wash Time is Talk Time project. Wash Time is Talk Time serves underserved communities and provides resources to turn time spent at the laundromat into an opportunity for families to talk together, read together, and learn together. Language-rich literacy resources will be delivered to more than 5,000 laundromats across the country.

Here’s a video from one fun afternoon with families,  Ellen Mayer, and Ying-Hwa Hu during wash time!

National Family Literacy Month Activity

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Child’s Sensory Board

 

Toys or objects that provide many opportunities for sensory experimentation and observation stimulate a baby and young child to learn while having fun. You can make a sensory board for your own child using household items and that have a variety of textures, sizes, shapes, and movement. When you create your own sensory board, you can personalize it for your child by adding their name, pictures of family members, and other special items. While you play with your child, take time to talk about all of the objects on the board, what they do, and how they work. Count the objects. If you include words or your child’s name, spell them outloud and say them. There are so many ways to use a sensory board. Even if children can’t yet talk, they are listening and soaking in the rich language learning you are providing!

**When making your board always ensure that you use items that are not a choking hazard or can catch tiny fingers. Make sure that items are firmly attached to the board. Never leave a baby unattended while playing.**

Supplies

  • A board large enough to hold the items you want to attach. Boards that can be used include: those found at hardware stores or craft stores; large cutting boards; shelves; old table tops; etc.

Sample items for your sensory board can be age appropriate and include:

  • Large swatches of various textured material. (I used fur, a scrubbing sheet, and a piece of carpeting)
  • Wooden or thick cardboard letters and numbers, painted in a variety of colors. Letters can be used to add a child’s name to the board.
  • Figures cut from sheets of foam or wooden figures found at craft stores in a variety of numbers that you can count with your child (I used sets of 1, 2, and 3 fish cut from foam to go along with the numbers 1, 2, and 3)
  • Mirror
  • Push button light
  • Chalk board to write on
  • Castor or other wheel
  • Door latches
  • Door knockers
  • Mop heads
  • Paint rollers
  • Cranks
  • Drawer handles
  • Hinges (I attached a tennis ball to a hinge that children can push back and forth)
  • Pulleys
  • Paint in various bright colors
  • Paint brushes
  • Scissors
  • Screws
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Velcro
  • Super glue

Directions

  1. Assemble your items
  2. Paint wooden or cardboard items
  3. Arrange item on the board so that your baby or child can easily reach or manipulate each one
  4. Attach items with screws, nuts and bolts, or super glue
  5. Push button lights or other objects that take batteries can be attached with strong Velcro. Ensure items attached with Velcro are large and not a choking hazard.
  6. Set up board where you and your baby or child can enjoy playing with it together

Picture Book Review

November 17 – Take a Hike Day

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About the Holiday

The American Hiking Society established today’s holiday to encourage families, friends, groups, and individuals to get outside and experience the fun and relaxation of discovering new paths and new places. Even if you’re only able to take a short walk during lunchtime or after work, getting out in nature gives you new perspectives and clears the mind—it’s great exercise too! So gather some friends or your family and head out the door for a short (or a long) hike today!

Harriet Can Carry It

Written by Kirk Jay Mueller | Illustrated by Sarah Vonthron-Laver

 

Harriet Huff is a kangaroo who every day carries the mail in her pouch, delivering it all over town. Her job has left her “feeling quite frail,” She decides to take a day off and hike to the beach with her Joey where they can “relax and be free.” The next morning they wake up and prepare for a fun day. Harriet gathers their beach towels, Joey, and his favorite toy and tucks them gently into her pouch. She gets no further than the bottom of her porch, however, before she hears “someone yell, ‘HEY!’”

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Kirk Jay Mueller. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

“It was old Wanda Wombat, so nosey and grouchy, / Asking, ‘That a beach towel hanging out of your pouchy? / Can I come to the beach? Can I come with YOU? / Will you carry my beach chair? Can I please come too?’” Harriet stammers, “W-e-l-l…” as she considers her plans to relax, but before she can properly answer, Wanda invites herself along, telling Harriet that she has room in her pouch “for tons of stuff.” “‘YOU CAN CARRY IT, HARRIET, so I can come too.’”

They walk up a hill together, Harriet sweating a bit with the effort of carrying the beach chair that has replaced Joey in her pouch. Suddenly, they hear someone shout, “‘STOP!’” It’s Wallaby Wendy who is also on her way to the beach. She asks Harriet if she will carry her swim fins.  Harriet hesitates. “‘W-e-l-l, I’m not sure…’” she says. But Wanda is there with the answer. “‘She has lots of room. She has loads of space / For tones of stuff in her big pouchy place. She is an incredibly kind kangaroo. HARRIET CAN CARRY IT, so you can come too.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harriet-can-carry-it-kenny-koala

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Kirk Jay Mueller. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

They start up again all in a row and it isn’t too long before someone says “‘WHOA!’” It was Kenny Koala, who in his own surfer-dude way asks Harriet if she can carry his board so he can come with them too. Harriet takes a moment to think—but it’s a moment Wanda has no problem filling, and so Harriet acquires Kenny’s surfboard too. “AHOY!” beckons Marcie, a marsupial mouse, “Who’d made the mistake of leaving her house / With a huge heavy kayak strapped to her back. / Her long plastic paddle poked out of its sack.” Wanda assures her, too, that Harriet can carry it, and with the kayak stowed in front, the group takes off again.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harriet-can-carry-it-bill-bandicoot

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Kirk Jay Mueller. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Next they happen upon the Dingo twins who need help with their flying ring—an easy addition to Harriet’s pouch according to Wanda. A little farther down the path they encounter Bill Bandicoot who can no longer hold his beach umbrella. Wanda takes a look at Harriet and for the first time sees that she looks tired and that her pouch is nearly bursting. This time Wanda asks, “‘WILL YOU CARRY IT, HARRIET, so he can come too?”

The usual hesitant Harriet has had enough, and she answers “‘NO!’” In fact, she removes everyone’s equipment and tosses it on the sand. “‘I won’t carry your stuff,’” she says. “‘I just QUIT!’” Just then Paddy O’Possum comes along in his pickup truck and offers to take everyone and their gear to the beach. “Now Harriet felt cheerful, thankful, and calm, / And Joey was happy that she was his mom.” With her baby snuggled into her pouch, Harriet finds a perfect spot where they can unwind and “relax by the sea.”

Following the story are two pages of intriguing facts on the various Australian animals depicted in Harriet Can Carry It.

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Kirk Jay Mueller’s funny story of a too-nice kangaroo whose relaxing beach vacation is hijacked by a meddlesome neighbor will have kids laughing out loud as Harriet acquires more and bigger belongings on her hike to the shore. Mueller’s rhymed verses wonderfully escalate the plot just as Harriet’s pouch grows as the requests mushroom. As each beach-goer hails Harriet in a new way, kids will wonder what could possibly come next and will delight in the repeated phrases that invite participation on their part. The story can also lead to discussions on how to say “No” when needed and also how to resolve issues before they may cause hurt feelings.

Sarah Vonthron-Laver’s vibrant illustrations of Harriet’s neighborhood and the Australian landscape put the focus on kind-hearted Harriet and the animals she meets and enhances the story’s humor. Wanda the Wombat in her star-shaped sunglasses and flowery flip-flops marches ahead, pointing the way, oblivious to Harriet’s woes. The other animals—accurate cartoon representations of their real counterparts—are equally unaware as they hand Harriet their gear. Harriet’s pouch bulges with the beach items as Harriet finds clever ways to accommodate it all.

Harriet Can Carry It makes for a fun story time read and a perfect take-along book for beach outings or any hike.

Ages 4 – 7

Star Bright Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-1595726766

To learn more about Kirk Jay Mueller, his books, and his music—plus to listen to a song about Harriet—visit his website!

You can connect with Sarah Vonthron-Laver on Facebook!

Take a Hike Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-book-bag-craft

You Can Carry It! Book Bag

 

True booklovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. With this easy craft you can turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

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Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

Picture Book Review