September 26 – It’s Happy Cat Month

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About the Holiday

 Even though September is winding down, it’s never too late to make sure that your cat is happy. After all, a cat should be happy all the time, right? While this month offers opportunities to make sure that your cat is getting everything they need to be healthy, it’s also a good time to consider your cat’s social interactions. Do they have a stimulating environment to keep their minds sharp? Do they get to spend quality time with you? Do they have high perches and places to hide? Do they get enough exercise? All of these things engage the social needs of cats, who like to play and with and have the attention of their owners. To celebrate this month, think about your cat’s life from their perspective to ensure your cat is a happy cat.

Kitten and the Night Watchman

Written by John Sullivan | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

On his way out the door, the night watchman “hugs his wife and children…and drives to work” as the sun is setting. As the sky darkens, he patrols the construction site once an hour. There’s a lot to do. He makes sure every door is locked, that the workshop is clear, and that no one is disturbing the vehicles or equipment.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

He rests for a moment with a hot cup of coffee under the twinkling stars and “thinks of his boy and girl, safe and asleep at home.” But the night watchman is not alone. A little gray kitten peeks out from behind a truck’s tire. The kitten approaches the night watchman and follows him as he continues his rounds through the yard, where “an excavator bows like a strange giraffe.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitten-and-the-night-watchman-making-rounds

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The kitten knows the night watchman will share his dinner before they are off on their rounds again. They see insects hovering in the light of the lamppost and hear birds call to each other. But when the night watchman goes back to his office and waits for the kitten to follow him through the door, “the kitten isn’t there. She is nowhere to be seen.” The night watchman hears a dog bark, cars roar, and the rattle of the train passing and worries.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitten-and-the-night-watchman-checking

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A moth flits around the desk lamp, and the night watchman gently carries it outside. When he opens the door, the little kitten is waiting for him. He picks her up and gives her a cuddle. Then it’s time again for their rounds. While the sun breaks on the horizon, the night watchman packs up his things to go home. As he drives through the wakening city, “this time he is not alone.” He talks to the kitten and tells her, “‘I know a boy and girl who will want to give you a name.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitten-and-the-night-watchman-kitten

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Through his beautiful and emotionally resonant story, debut author John Sullivan lets kids follow along as a night watchman quietly makes his rounds during those midnight hours that are so mysterious and intriguing to young children. Sullivan’s lyrical phrasing, attention to nighttime creatures, and whimsical transformations of trucks, cranes, and backhoes create poetry and art from the concrete world of a construction site. The endearing relationship between the night watchman and the kitten makes the moment of suspense a tug at the heart, and its quick and loving resolution will charm young readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitten-and-the-night-watchman-driving-to-work

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2018, text copyright John Sullivan, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Taeeun Yoo’s soft, textured illustrations envelop readers in fiery sunrises and sunsets, the lovely purple’s and blues of early evening, and the shadowy indigo of midnight. The darkness is broken here and there by the night watchman’s flashlight that throws a grainy and fading beam across the construction site, the full moon and blinking stars, lamplight, and the cozy lit windows of the watchman’s office. Standing silently silhouetted against this backdrop are the buildings and machinery of the construction site.

When the little kitten peeks from behind a truck tire, her little presence is surprising and endearing. An unseen—but heard—dog, speeding car, and rumbling train interrupt the calm night and disquiets the night watchman. Again, the kitten makes a surprising and endearing entrance. The little gray ball of fluff is another bright spot in the night—a friend to keep loneliness at bay—and as the sun rises, the promise of a sunny morning for the watchman’s children will delight readers.

Kitten and the Night Watchman is a quiet, poignant story that would be an often-read choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon and Schuster, A Paula Wiseman Book, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481461917

Discover more about Taeeun Yoo, her books, and her art on her website.

Happy Kitten Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-bead-cat-craft

A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This happy little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitten-and-the-night-watchman-cover

You can find Kitten and the Night Watchman at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 22 – National Elephant Appreciation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-cover

About the Holiday

While today’s holiday was established in 1996 by Mission Media and its owner Wayne Hepburn because of Hepburn’s love for elephants, the day has garnered official recognition and deserves wide acknowledgement. These gentile, giant animals need our protection from environmental and human dangers. To celebrate today’s holiday visit a zoo or animal preserve, watch a documentary on elephants, or consider donating to their cause.

Strictly No Elephants

Written by Lisa Mantchev | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

A little boy, his adorable pet elephant by his side, kneels on his bed and gazes out the window at the brownstones across the street. There he sees other kids with their—more conventional—pets: a bird, a cat, a fish, and dogs. “The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in,” the boy reveals. Every day the boy takes his elephant for a walk, but even in this common pet-owner activity, the boy and the elephant show their special relationship. The elephant is thoughtful—protecting the boy with an umbrella on rainy days—and the boy is considerate—carrying his elephant over cracks in the sidewalk that frighten it. Why? Because “that’s what friends do: lift each other over the cracks.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-thoughtful-pet

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

On this particular day the boy winds a red scarf around his elephant’s neck and joins the parade of kids on their way to Number 17 where the Pet Club meets. The elephant is reluctant, but the boy is reassuring, even carrying his pet on his back the last few feet. “‘It’ll be fine,’” he says. But when they reach the apartment, there’s a sign on the door that reads “Strictly No Elephants.” There’s even a picture of a crossed out elephant on the sign.

The elephant understands all too well and leads the boy back onto the sidewalk, now ignoring the cracks. “‘That’s what friends do: brave the scary things for you,’” the boy says. The day has suddenly become rainy, and they are caught on the sidewalk without an umbrella. Taking shelter under an awning, the two find a little girl holding her pet skunk. “‘Did you try to go to the Pet Club meeting too?’” she asks. “‘Yes,’” the boy says, “‘But they don’t allow elephants.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-girl-with-skunk

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

While the sign may not explicitly forbid skunks, the little girl says that the other members didn’t want to play with her and her skunk either. Wisely, the boy tells her “‘They don’t know any better.’” The elephant reaches out its trunk toward the skunk with the girl’s reassurance that he doesn’t stink. The two new friends decide to start their own pet club and head down the sidewalk to find a venue. The boy makes sure that his elephant follows because friends “‘never leave anyone behind.’”

On the way the boy, girl, elephant, and skunk encounter a whole crowd of kids with unusual pets—a tiny giraffe, a mini narwhal, an armadillo, a bat, a hedgehog, and a penguin. They come to a park, complete with tree house, that is perfect for their club. The kids and pets eagerly adopt their new play space—swinging on the tire swing, waddling around the balcony, exploring the roof, playing tag, reading, and more. The boy quickly does the most important thing of all: he paints a new sign for the clubhouse door. “Strictly No Strangers, No Spoilsports ALL ARE WELCOME” it reads. And if you need directions to the club, the boy’s tiny elephant will give them to you “‘because that’s what friends do.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-new-friends

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Lisa Mantchev has written a story addressing the types of isolation and rejection that kids (and adults) can face—sometimes because of a single perceived difference—in an uplifting and productive way. With gentle honesty and thoughtfulness, Mantchev invites kids to consider their actions, attitudes, and responses to others. As Mantchev reveals, more inclusiveness leads to more understanding and better relationships. Her lyrical language and sweet reminders of “what friends do” elevate this tribute to camaraderie and companionship and make it a story kids will want to hear again and again.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-new-clubhouse

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Taeeun Yoo’s adorable illustrations of the boy, his tiny pet elephant, and the other animal-and-owner pairs are irresistible. Any reader would want a pet as cute and adaptable as these, which leads to a good opportunity for adults and children to discuss the ideas of and attitudes behind exclusion in this story and in real life. As the boy and his elephant are turned away from the Pet Club door, the day turns dark and stormy. The two-page spread is rendered in somber shades, except for the little boy with his yellow-striped shirt and red scarf, the elephant sporting a matching red scarf, and the soon-to-be-met brown-skinned girl who wears a red and yellow-striped dress, emphasizing the connections between these two children. The final pages in which the new friends meet and play together are joyful, inviting all readers to “join the club.”

Strictly No Elephants gives readers so much to see, think about, and discuss. The book is a must for school and classroom libraries and would be a very welcome addition to children’s home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, 2015 | ISBN 978-1481416474

Discover Lisa Mantchev’s books for children, young adults, and adults on her website.

See a gallery of books by Taeeun Yoo on her website!

Elephant Appreciation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Spool-Elephant-Craft

Spool Elephant and Baby

 

Who wouldn’t like a tiny elephant for a pet?! With this easy craft you can make your own little pal to keep you company.

Supplies

  • Printable Elephant Ears Template
  • 1¾-inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • ¾ -inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • Gray craft paint
  • Chunky gray yarn
  • Gray felt, 1 8 ½ x 11 piece
  • Paint brush
  • Black fine-tip marker
  • Hot glue gun or fabric glue

Directions

To Make the Ears

  1. Print the Elephant Ears Template
  2. Trace and cut out the large and small ears

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the spools with the gray paint, let dry
  2. Glue the tab on the ears to the body of the spool to secure, allowing the ears to stick out on either side of one flat end of the spools
  3. Wind the gray yarn back and forth around the spool, creating several layers of thickness
  4. When the body is as thick as you desire, cut the end and secure with glue

To Make the Trunk

  1. Cut a 2 x 4-inch piece of felt for the large elephant; 1/2 x 2-inch piece for small elephant
  2. Roll tightly and secure with glue
  3. Feed one end of the roll into the hole in the middle of the spool
  4. Cut to desired length

To Make the Tail

  1. Twist a small length of yarn and push it into the hole on the back of the spool
  2. With the marker draw eyes and a mouth on the face

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-cover

You can find Strictly No Elephants at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 22 – World Yoga Day

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About the Holiday

World Yoga Day was the idea of Samira Radsi, a yoga teacher from Berlin, Germany, who believed that harnessing the power of yogis worldwide could help the victims of human rights violations. With help from her friend, Bjoern Wyrich, a fellow yoga teacher, she contacted yoga schools across the globe and received positive responses from hundreds of schools. Now each year, yoga teachers, schools, students, and yogis around the world donate time, space, and money to human rights causes.

During the time of 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. local time, participating yoga schools hold a session during which everyone devotes all of their thoughts and energy to people who have suffered human rights violations in hope that they will help people feel stronger and more positive. The two-hour time period creates a twenty-four hour yoga marathon of positive energy to support those in need. Any funds raised go to charities that help the victims of injustice. To celebrate, why not seek out a local yoga school or group who is participating in today’s holiday and lend your support?

You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses

By Taeeun Yoo

 

When the bright, early sun begins to warm the garden, “children all gather / Namaste to the morning.” If you sit back on your heels with your hands on your knees and your tongue sticking out, what are you? “You are a…Lion / King of the jungle / Roaring so loud / Make the woods rumble.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-a-lion-and-other-fun-yoga-poses-dog

Copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2012, courtesy of Nancy Paulson Books.

Now, sit up straight and press the bottoms of your feet together while you hold your toes and flap your knees. What are you? “You are a… Butterfly” Feel the breeze as you stretch your wings and flit through the air. What would you be if you stood and bent to touch the ground in front of your feet? You’d be a dog… “Stretch in the sun / Bark at your friend / Ready for fun.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-a-lion-and-other-fun-yoga-poses-snake-girl

Copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2012, courtesy of Nancy Paulson Books.

Next try this! Lie on your stomach with your hands near your shoulders and push up. Do you feel like a…Snake? “In the cool grass / Slither and glide / Make a big hiss.” Ready for another one? Great! Crouch down with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on the ground in front of you and hop. You know what you are! A frog!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-a-lion-and-other-fun-yoga-poses-cat

Copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2012, courtesy of Nancy Paulson Books.

If you kneel down on all fours put your head down and arch your back, do you feel like a…Cat? “Frisky at night / Mew to the moon / Play till it’s light.” Then stand tall with your palms together and your arms stretched high over your head. You’re a mountain, “solid and mighty / Touching the sky.” Finally, lie down on the ground and slowly breathe as you listen to the silence. “Namaste to each other.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-a-lion-mountain

Copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2012, courtesy of Nancy Paulson Books.

Taeeun Yoo’s charming illustrations of a diverse group of children sitting, standing, lying, and crouching in simple yoga positions give way to lush imaginative scenes as the child assumes the personality and traits of the animals in each particular yoga pose. Accompanying these scenes are three-line verses of four syllables each that offer cheerful, spirited descriptions of each animal and make You Are a Lion! as much a picture poetry book as a yoga book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-a-lion-and-other-fun-yoga-poses-mountain-pose

Copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2012, courtesy of Nancy Paulson Books.

 A little girl relaxes in a gold and white field of daisies as the breeze ruffles her ponytails and butterflies flutter around her. A friendly puppy, nose to nose with a little boy, wags his tail, ready to run and leap. A long, coral-colored snake winds through the deep woods, showing a little girl how to demonstrate a regal presence, and a little boy stakes out his spot on a lily pad as frogs hop, leap, and swim among the reeds. As night falls, a girl follows a cat bounding along the strong branch of a tree under a full moon, and a mountain range of children stand tall, each one accompanied by their animal.

You Are a Lion! is a sweet way to introduce yoga to young children as a playful and healthy activity. For families or classrooms who want to entice young children to participate in this nurturing relaxation method, the book would be a welcome addition to their bookshelves.

Ages 3 and up

Nancy Paulson Books, Penguin, 2018 | Board book edition, ISBN 978-0525515128 | Hardcover, 2012 ISBN 978-0399256028

Discover more about Taeeun Yoo, her books, and her art on her website.

World Yoga Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-yoga-coloring-page-w-waterfall

Yoga Alphabet Coloring Pages

 

It’s fun to match yoga poses with letters of the alphabet! Grab your crayons and enjoy these yoga-inspired coloring pages then do the poses!

D is for Dog | K is for Kite | W is for Waterfall

Picture Book Review

June 1 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

The warmer weather begs to be enjoyed—whether you’re playing, working, or just lounging around. Established in 1998 as Great Outdoors Week, the holiday expanded to a month-long celebration in 2004. There’s so much to see and do outside as the wonders of nature are always changing and challenging you in new and surprising ways.

Round

Written by Joyce Sidman | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

A little girl spies an orange on the ground and bends to pick it up. She sees more—many more—of the brightly colored orbs hanging from a tree and reaches up to touch them. “I love round things,” she says. “I like to feel their smoothness. My hands want to reach around their curves.” The girl continues on her singular scavenger hunt for round things that grow.

She scatters some seeds in a hole and parts tall grasses to peek in on a turtle waiting for her eggs to hatch. On a hillside, a little patch of mushrooms “swell into roundness,” while tiny, plump blueberries beckon on a nearby bush and fill the family’s baskets. On the bike ride home, the girl and her crew pass fields of sunflowers with their dark, mysterious round centers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-round-orange

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

At the beach the little girl finds seashells in the sand near the tall craggy rocks which some day, whittled by water and wind, will become round when “all the edges wear off.” Back on dry land, the girl watches a dung beetle transport a ball, persistently moving it with its legs, and body motions. The girl stands by, fascinated. She loves “to watch round things move. They are so good at it! Rolling, spinning, bouncing.” She always wonders “where they’re headed.”

An old, old tree, chopped down now, reveals its secret age as the little girl counts the rings in the trunk. She’s excited to discover hidden round things—like the tiny ladybugs and snails concealed beneath green leaves. As the rain splatters a pond, the little girl, safe in her yellow slicker, reveals, “I love how water can be round, gathered in beads of silver…or falling in wet splats leaving circles of ripples behind.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-round-orange-tree

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, text copyright Joyce Sidman. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The sun sets, turning the sky yellow and orange, while the girl blows transparent bubbles and watches them float toward the clouds. When the sun is gone and the sky is dark, she gazes through a telescope at the twinkling dots of light that “spin together slowly…and last billions of years” while she waits for that one constant celestial body that grows “rounder and rounder, until the whole sky holds its breath.”

The girl shares the beauty of roundness with her friends as they hold hands in a never-ending circle of friendship, and when she is alone she curls up into a cozy ball to read or feels arms around her in a loving hug.

An explanation of why so many things in nature are round—including the shape’s sturdiness, balance, and ability to spread and roll—follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-round-mushrooms

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Joyce Sidman’s lyrical story of discovery is a perfect introduction for little ones to the wonders of nature. Focusing on a shape that is familiar to children, Sidman takes them on a walk from grove to field to beach where they can find circles in common and surprising places. After coming home, kids discover an even more poignant idea—the circular beauty of love and friendship.

Taeeun Yoo’s delicate illustrations gorgeously depict examples of circles in nature. Bold sunflowers, tiny insects, snowball-white eggs, expanding ripples, and smooth boulders invite readers to notice the shapes and colors of the wild world around them. Children will be enticed to hunt for all the circles on each page as lily pads, fireflies, polka dots, balloons, the sun, and other objects create an exciting journey of exploration. The little girl’s pets—a dog (appropriately spotted) and a duck—add humor and companionship along the way.

Round would be an excellent take-along book for nature hikes, waiting times, or other outdoor activities and could spur at-home scavenger hunts for circles and other shapes. This original concept book is a wonderful introduction to shapes and nature for little ones.

Ages 3 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017 | ISBN 978-0544387614

Learn more about Joyce Sidman and her books on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Taeeun Yoo on her website!

Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Shapely Butterfly Coloring Page

 

This butterfly is made up of many different shapes. Grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and have fun coloring this printable Shapely Butterfly Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

March 26 – It’s Umbrella Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate umbrellas, those perky protective accessories that have been around since earliest times. Ancient civilizations used palmetto fronds for shade and during inclemet weather. The first waterproof umbrellas were created by the Chinese, who waxed or lacquered their paper parasols. Umbrellas were strictly women’s accessories until Jonas Hanway, a Persian travel writer, used one in public in England in the 1700s. English men then took up the practice, calling their version a “Hanway.” The first collapsible umbrella was designed in 1710, and in 1928 the folding pocket umbrella appeared. Since then, umbrellas have become fashionable and necessary accessories for all.

The Umbrella Queen

Written by Shirin Yim Bridges | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

The residents of a small village in Thailand are well known for the beautiful paper umbrellas they make and sell in the local shops. The umbrellas are colorful, but always decorated with flowers and butterflies. Every New Year’s Day the villagers hold an Umbrella Parade, and the woman who has painted the most beautiful umbrella is chosen as the Umbrella Queen.

Noot is a little girl who longs to paint her own umbrellas and partake in the parade. One day her mother gives her an umbrella to paint and shows her how to copy her design. Noot is a natural artist, and her finished umbrella is nearly indistinguishable from her mother’s. She is given her own painting spot in the garden and five umbrellas to decorate.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-umbrella-queen-village

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of taeeunyoo.com

Noot paints the familiar butterflies and is about to start on the flowers when she is inspired to draw elephants instead. She covers all five umbrellas with elephants doing handstands, playing and squirting water, walking trunk-to-tail, and just being silly. When her mother sees these umbrellas, she is unhappy. Flowers and butterflies sell in the local shops, not elephants. Noot understands the importance of the money made from the umbrellas to her family. For the next year she paints the large umbrellas with the traditional design. At night, however, using bits and pieces, she fashions tiny umbrellas. These she paints with elephants, and displays them on her windowsill.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-umbrella-queen-emperor-visits

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of taeeunyoo.com

As New Year approaches there is much excitement in the village. It is rumored that the king will be visiting and will choose the Umbrella Queen himself. One day the villagers receive the message that the king will indeed arrive. The villagers spruce up their town and each woman displays her umbrellas in front of her home.

The king walks the length of the street, considering each umbrella until he comes to Noot’s house. He is very impressed with the umbrellas painted by Noot’s mother, but his gaze wanders to Noot’s windowsill, and he asks who painted the “strange” umbrellas.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-umbrella-queen-emperor-judges-umbrellas

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of taeeunyoo.com

A bit embarrassed by the attention, Noot shyly answers the king’s questions about the size of the small umbrellas and the unusual designs. In trying to explain herself, she forgets to look at the ground when talking to the king, and when her eyes meet his she realizes that, instead of judging her, he is charmed. “I like elephants,” she tells him, and he laughs. The king then takes Noot’s hand and names her the Umbrella Queen because “she paints from her heart.”

Shirin Yim Bridges has written a unique story that effectively and engagingly presents the often conflicting dilemma of responsibility to others while staying true to yourself. Noot’s journey from an observer in her family’s business to a valued artist is told straightforwardly, and the familial love and support are clearly emphasized. The king’s recognition of Noot’s talent and heart will be highly satisfying for young readers or listeners.

Taeeun Yoo’s delicate illustrations in gold, red, black, and green set the story firmly in Thailand and perfectly demonstrate the close-knit village and relationships as well as the intricate beauty of the umbrellas and the pride the villagers take in them.

The Umbrella Queen is a wonderful story about family, discovering your talents, and self-expression that would find a welcome spot on any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, Harper Collins, New York, 2008 | ISBN 978-0060750404

Learn more about Taeeun Yoo, her books, and her art on her website!

Umbrella Month Activity

CPB - Umbrella Matching Game

Rainy Day Mix Up Matching Game

 

A sudden storm scattered all the umbrellas and raincoats! Can you put the pairs together again? Draw a line to connect the umbrella and the raincoat that have the same pattern. Print the Rainy Day Mix Up Game here!

Picture Book Review

September 22 – Elephant Appreciation Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-cover

About the Holiday

While today’s holiday was established in 1996 by Mission Media and its owner Wayne Hepburn because of Hepburn’s love for elephants, the day has garnered official recognition and deserves wide acknowledgement. These gentile, giant animals need our protection from environmental and human dangers. To celebrate today’s holiday visit a zoo or animal preserve, watch a documentary on elephants, or consider donating to their cause.

Strictly No Elephants

Written by Lisa Mantchev | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

A little boy, his adorable pet elephant by his side, kneels on his bed and gazes out the window at the brownstones across the street. There he sees other kids with their—more conventional—pets: a bird, a cat, a fish, and dogs. “The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in,” the boy reveals. Every day the boy takes his elephant for a walk, but even in this common pet-owner activity, the boy and the elephant show their special relationship. The elephant is thoughtful—protecting the boy with an umbrella on rainy days—and the boy is considerate—carrying his elephant over cracks in the sidewalk that frighten it. Why? Because “that’s what friends do: lift each other over the cracks.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-thoughtful-pet

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

On this particular day the boy winds a red scarf around his elephant’s neck and joins the parade of kids on their way to Number 17 where the Pet Club meets. The elephant is reluctant, but the boy is reassuring, even carrying his pet on his back the last few feet. “‘It’ll be fine,’” he says. But when they reach the apartment, there’s a sign on the door that reads “Strictly No Elephants.” There’s even a picture of a crossed out elephant on the sign.

The elephant understands all too well and leads the boy back onto the sidewalk, now ignoring the cracks. “‘That’s what friends do: brave the scary things for you,’” the boy says. The day has suddenly become rainy, and they are caught on the sidewalk without an umbrella. Taking shelter under an awning, the two find a little girl holding her pet skunk. “‘Did you try to go to the Pet Club meeting too?’” she asks. “‘Yes,’” the boy says, “‘But they don’t allow elephants.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-strictly-no-elephants-girl-with-skunk

Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

While the sign may not explicitly forbid skunks, the little girl says that the other members didn’t want to play with her and her skunk either. Wisely, the boy tells her “‘They don’t know any better.’” The elephant reaches out its trunk toward the skunk with the girl’s reassurance that he doesn’t stink. The two new friends decide to start their own pet club and head down the sidewalk to find a venue. The boy makes sure that his elephant follows because friends “‘never leave anyone behind.’”

On the way the boy, girl, elephant, and skunk encounter a whole crowd of kids with unusual pets—a tiny giraffe, a mini narwhal, an armadillo, a bat, a hedgehog, and a penguin. They come to a park, complete with tree house, that is perfect for their club. The kids and pets eagerly adopt their new play space—swinging on the tire swing, waddling around the balcony, exploring the roof, playing tag, reading, and more. The boy quickly does the most important thing of all: he paints a new sign for the clubhouse door. “Strictly No Strangers, No Spoilsports ALL ARE WELCOME” it reads. And if you need directions to the club, the boy’s tiny elephant will give them to you “‘because that’s what friends do.’”

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Lisa Mantchev has written a story addressing the types of isolation and rejection that kids (and adults) can face sometimes because of a single perceived difference in an uplifting and productive way. With gentle honesty and thoughtfulness, Mantchev invites kids—on both sides of this “elephant in the room” issue to consider their actions, attitudes, and responses to others. As Mantchev reveals, more inclusiveness leads to more understanding and better relationships. Her lyrical language and sweet reminders of “what friends do” elevate this tribute to camaraderie and companionship and make it a story kids will want to hear again and again.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Taeeun Yoo’s adorable illustrations of the boy, his tiny pet elephant, and the other animal-and-owner pairs are irresistible. Any reader would want pets as cute and adaptable as these, which may lead to questions about why and how they could be excluded from the club. As the boy and his elephant are turned away from the Pet Club door, the day turns dark and stormy. The two-page spread is rendered in somber shades, except for the little boy with his yellow-striped shirt and red scarf, the elephant sporting a matching red scarf, and the soon-to-be-met African-American girl who wears a red and yellow-striped dress, emphasizing the connections between these two children. The final pages in which the new friends meet and play together are joyful, inviting all readers to “join the club.”

Strictly No Elephants gives readers so much to see, think about, and discuss. The book is a must for school and classroom libraries and would be a very welcome addition to children’s home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, 2015 | ISBN 978-1481416474

Discover Lisa Mantchev’s books for children, young adults, and adults on her website.

See a gallery of books by Taeeun Yoo on her website!

Elephant Appreciation Day Activity

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Image copyright Celebrate Picture Books, 2016

Spool Elephant

 

Who wouldn’t like a tiny elephant for a pet?! With this easy craft you can make your own little pal to keep you company.

Supplies

  • Printable Elephant Ears Template
  • 1¾-inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • ¾ -inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
  • Gray craft paint
  • Chunky gray yarn
  • Gray felt, 1 8 ½ x 11 piece
  • Paint brush
  • Black fine-tip marker
  • Hot glue gun or fabric glue

Directions

To Make the Ears

  1. Print the Elephant Ears Template
  2. Trace and cut out the large and small ears

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the spools with the gray paint, let dry
  2. Glue the tab on the ears to the body of the spool to secure, allowing the ears to stick out on either side of one flat end of the spools
  3. Wind the gray yarn back and forth around the spool, creating several layers of thickness
  4. When the body is as thick as you desire, cut the end and secure with glue

To Make the Trunk

  1. Cut a 2 x 4-inch piece of felt for the large elephant; 1/2 x 2-inch piece for small elephant
  2. Roll tightly and secure with glue
  3. Feed one end of the roll into the hole in the middle of the spool
  4. Cut to desired length

To Make the Tail

  1. Twist a small length of yarn and push it into the hole on the back of the spool
  2. With the marker draw eyes and a mouth on the face

Picture Book Review