January 25 – It’s Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

As the cold and snowy weather keeps kids inside more and more, what are they to do? Why not create?! Whether your kids like writing, drawing, cooking, building, music, gardening, dancing, or other pursuits, January’s celebration of creativity makes it the perfect time to begin a new project. And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, why not stock up on supplies and make some sweet treats – like in today’s book!

Thanks to Tara Knudson for sending me a copy of Valentine’s Day Treats for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Tara in a giveaway of a signed copy of her book. See details below.

Valentine’s Day Treats

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Mother Raccoon is gathering all the supplies her littles need to make Valentines. She helps them cut out red and pink hearts, then they add glue and paint and sparkly glitter, bows and butterflies, and lots more hearts. While the cards dry, Mama and her little ones head for the kitchen, where they get out bowls and pans to make a special cake.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

They measure out “Sugar, flour, / Oil in cup, / Milk and eggs, / Mix them up.” They pour the batter into two pans—one square and one round—put the pans in the oven and wait. “Brrrring, they’re done— / Perfect cakes!” When the cakes have cooled, Mama Raccoon slides the two cakes onto plates and cuts the circle in half.

The little raccoons put the shapes together just right to make a heart. They spread on frosting to make it whole and then comes the fun: “Sprinkles on, / Decorate. / Can’t eat yet! / Have to wait.” Finally, it’s time to walk down the street to their friends’ house for a Valentine’s Day feast, complete with heart-shaped cakes to share. Afterwards, the kids hand out their cards. They all laugh and smile as they read them. “Each a gift, / Fun designs, / Made with love— / Valentines.”

A recipe for the raccoon family’s special Valentine’s Day cake follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-treats-cake

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

When my son was very little, he LOVED Valentine’s Day. He couldn’t make enough Valentine’s cards and crafts, it seemed, to express all of his sweet feelings. Tara Knudson captures that joy and enthusiasm for the holiday in her warm rhymes that transport kids into the middle of exciting Valentine’s Day preparations. As the little raccoons cut and paste, color and paint, and add stickers and lots of glitter, kids will be eager to get out their own supplies to make homemade cards for those they love. And just one look at Knudson’s clever cake will have them running to the kitchen to make that too. But Valentines are to share and just as the young racoons in the story, readers will have to wait… a page turn… to who gets the special treats.

Pauline Siewert’s adorable raccoons craft and cook their way through Valentine’s Day to make special cards and snacks for their friends. Her vivid images are cheerful and lively and charmingly include the little spatters and splashes that are all part of the fun. Little ones will enjoy soaking up all the details in the craft room, the kitchen, and the friends’ house and pointing out the ones they know. When adults point out these details while reading, kids will find it easy to read along too, as Knudson uses them to make her bubbly rhymes and flowing rhythm. Kids will also like keeping their eye on the tiny house mouse who is also making itty-bitty Valentine’s Day treats. 

A sparkly and cuddly board book little ones will want to hear again and again for Valentine’s Day and throughout the year, Valentine’s Day Treats would make a sweet gift for grandchildren or other littles on your list as well as favorite addition to home, preschool, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310768395

Discover more about Tara Knudson and her books as well as Valentine’s Day Treats coloring pages and on her website.

Valentine’s Day Treats Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Tara Knudson in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) signed copy of Valentine’s Day Treats written by Tara Knudson | illustrated by Pauline Siewert

This giveaway is open from January 25 through January 31 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on February 1.

To Enter:

  • Follow @CelebratePicBks
  • Retweet
  • Bonus: Comment with your favorite Valentine’s Day tradition for an extra entry! Each comment gives you one more entry.

Prizing provided by Tara Knudson

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Creativity Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-valentine's-day-card-closed

Peek-a-Boo Valentine

 

Kids can make a sweet, personalized valentine card that reveals how they feel about Mom, Dad, siblings, grandparents, friends, or anyone they love

Supplies

  • Red construction or scrapbooking paper 
  • Pink construction or scrapbooking paper
  • Glitter
  • Paper brad
  • Markers
  • Glue
  • Scissors

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Directions

To Make the Heart

  1. On the red paper, trace your child’s hand with their fingers closed, rounding around the back of the palm
  2. Draw in the lines between fingers
  3. Overlap the hands, matching the middle fingers to create the point of the heart
  4. Slide the tops of the hands apart a little to create the top of the heart
  5. Connect the two hearts with the brad

To Make the Card

  1. From the pink paper cut a square about 1 to 1/2 inches larger than the heart on all sides
  2. Using the same brad, attach the heart in the center of the square
  3. Slide the hands apart and let child write “Peek-a-Boo, I Love You” or their own message, close hands 
  4. Apply glue around the heart
  5. Apply glitter, let dry

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You can find Valentine’s Day Treats at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 19 – Celebrating the Fall Season

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fun-fair-day-coverAbout the Holiday

Fall is a time when the cooler weather and beautiful scenery entice people to get outside to enjoy farms, farmers markets, pumpkin picking and carving, scarecrow making, and lots of walks and biking. Inside, it’s time for pie and bread baking, cozy blankets, and snuggly story times. Today’s book is a perfect match for the season!

Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Juliana Motzko

The bright blue skies and warm sun of fall is here, and the little animals are at the fair having fun in this sweet touch-and-feel board book. Bear cub takes a pony ride while Raccoon and Bird visit the petting zoo. Kids can pet the baby goat, too, while he nibbles the oats Bird offers. At the craft table, Fox, Chicken, and Elephant are coloring, making banners, and decorating pumpkins.

Then it’s time for “harvest treats, lots to buy—donuts, bread, apple pie.” Feel those sugar sprinkled donuts! Yum! There’s nothing more fun than jumping in a pile of leaves, and the fair even has a play area where Duckling, Tiger, Lamb, and Bunny do just that! You can join them and “shuffle through, stomp the ground, crackle, crunch, hear the sound.” Scratch the leaf and feel how crisp it is! The afternoon is waning and the sky is streaked as orange and red as the autumn leaves. The air’s turned chilly, but there’s still time for a hayride through the pumpkin patch! Look at that big, deep orange pumpkin. Feel how smooth it is! It’s been a wonderful day at the fair!

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Tara Knudson’s playful rhymes will charm little ones as they join in on the fall fair excitement. Along the way, kids meet many different animals and engage with shapes and colors. Knudson’s lyrical verses perfectly reflect the fun and cozy atmosphere of fall. Sensory patches invite eager fingers to pet the horse and goat, touch grainy sugar, enjoy the woody texture of a fallen leaf, and feel the smoothness of a pumpkin shell.

Juliana Motzko’s fall fair enchants with adorable animals and the bright colors of the autumn season. Delighted smiles abound as the young fair-goers visit the petting zoo, craft table, baked goods display, play area, and pumpkin patch. Motzko’s textured illustrations of golden hay, rich soil, whole grain bread and apple pie as well as crunchy leaves and a straw-filled scarecrow blend well with the touch-and-feel patches and enhance the opportunity for adults and kids to talk about sensory awareness.

Fun Fall Day, a nicely sized board book—not too small or too big for little hands—is a story that’s a joy to read aloud and one that kids will want to hear again and again. It would make a much-appreciated gift for babies and toddlers and a favorite on home, preschool, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310770213

Discover more about Tara Knudson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Juliana Motzko, her books, and her art, visit her website

Celebrating Fall Activity

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Autumn Leaf Mobile

You can bring the beauty of autumn leaves into your home with this fun-to-make mobile. Use tissue paper, construction paper, or even real leaves to make this mobile, that makes a great pattern and counting activity to do with young children too. 

Supplies

  • Paper Plate
  • Scissors
  • Tissue Paper/Crepe Paper
  • Tape
  • String/ Yarn

Directions

  1. Cut out the center circle of the paper plate and use the outside ring as the top of your mobile
  2. Have children pick out colors. We did a fall theme, but you can really let the kids be creative here. 
  3. Cut out tissue paper or crepe paper into leaf shapes. Adults will have to cut out the bulk of leaves. My six year old was able to cut the leaf shapes out, but was tired after 5. I used about 60-70 leaves.
  4. Have children organize leaves into patterns.
  5. Tape leaves together so they overlap. 
  6. Tape chain to paper plate ring
  7. Tie String or yarn to the top of the mobile

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You can find Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 14 – National Children’s Craft Day

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About the Holiday

March is National Craft Month and today is set aside especially for children to engage in this fun and diverse activity. Crafting has many benefits for kids, including using their creativity, honing fine motor skills, following directions, and learning to work independently. Doing crafts is also a great way to spend time away from the computer or TV and often results in an item that kids can be proud of. Using recyclable materials makes crafting inexpensive and gives the recycled items new life.

I received a copy of Easter Egg Day from Tara Knudson for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Tara to offer a signed copy of the book. See details below.

Easter Egg Day

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

It’s Easter egg-dyeing day for the rabbit family. The little bunnies put on their smocks and gather the hard-boiled eggs and other supplies on the table. To make each egg special, the bunnies “use a crayon, / draw designs— / circles, shapes, / zigzag lines. / Rabbit, lamb, / butterflies, / ready, set— / time for dyes!”

Carefully, they dip them into the cups of blue, green, yellow, and red dye. These colors are fun, but then they get creative, mixing red and blue and double-dipping. The bunnies set their eggs out to dry, and just in time they’re ready for the big Easter egg hunt.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-easter-egg-day-smocks

Image copyright Pauline Stewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

“Neighbors, friends, / at the door. / Baskets held, / eggs galore!” The little bunnies, moles, and mice race out into the yard and hide their eyes as the adults hide the eggs in the tall grass, near trees, and under flowers. When all the eggs are hidden, the kids spread out, hoping to fill their empty baskets.

They find all of the eggs except seven—can you help the kids look around? Along with the real eggs, there are plastic eggs that pop open to reveal treats—”stickers, toys, / Easter sweets!” Then it’s time for games and races, smiles and cheers. Come and join the Easter fun!

Easter egg decorating tips are included after the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-easter-egg-day-dying-eggs

Image copyright Pauline Stewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Little ones love the magic of dyeing Easter eggs, and Tara Knudson’s bright, bouncy rhymes perfectly convey the giggly excitement kids feel during this once-a-year tradition. Readers will eagerly anticipate each step and page turn along the way as the bunnies turn their carton of white eggs into a basket full of creative, colorful treasures. Of course, Easter eggs are made for hiding and finding, and Knudson invites kids to join the bunnies and little moles and mice as they scamper through the yard on this most joyful of all hunts.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-easter-egg-day-friends

Image copyright Pauline Stewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With sunny yellows, tender-grass greens, and vibrant oranges, purples, and reds, Pauline Siewert drops kids as gently as an egg into dye into spring and the enchantment of Easter egg fun. White eggs marked with creative crayon designs will give readers a few ideas for their own eggs while the sweet smiles and enthusiasm of the bunny siblings and their parents mirror their own feelings. As the bunnies and their friends dash off to find the eggs, little ones will be just as excited for their own Easter egg traditions.

Adorable and endearing, Easter Egg Day will be a favorite spring read for adults and kids to share before Easter and to remember family fun.

Ages 2 – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310767527

Discover more about Tara Knudson and her books on her website.

National Children’s Craft Day Activity

CPB - Chick single

Hatch a Chick! Craft

 

Chicks are so cute and fluffy—you just wish you could have one of your very own! Now you can! Hatch your own chick with this craft.

Supplies

  • Cotton balls, or use large pom-poms
  • Yellow chalk
  • Orange paper
  • Black paper
  • Egg shell
  • Paper grass
  • Cardboard or poster board
  • Cheese grater
  • Green paint, marker, or crayon
  • Glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To make the shell

  1. Crack an egg and save the two halves
  2. Soak the eggshells in soapy water or wash gently with soap
  3. Dry eggshell

To make the chick

  1. Use the cheese grater to grate the chalk into a bowl
  2. Roll the cotton balls in the chalk dust until they are covered
  3. Make the beak from the orange paper by folding the paper and cutting a small triangle
  4. Cut two small eyes from the black paper
  5. Glue the beak and eyes to one of the cotton balls
  6. Glue the head to the second cotton ball
  7. Set the chick into one of the eggshells, glue if desired

To make the stand

  1. Cut a 3-inch by 3-inch square from the cardboard or poster board
  2. If you wish, paint or color the square green
  3. Glue green paper grass to the square
  4. Glue the eggshell to the stand.

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You can find Easter Egg Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 4 – National Cookie Day and Interview with Author Tara Knudson

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About the Holiday

Whether you call them cookies or biscuits, these yummy treats have been around for quite a long time. Originating in Persia in the 7th century, cookies conquered Europe by the 14th century and came to America with the earliest settlers. Of course, cookies are great any time of the year, but the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without the delicious snap or soft melt-in-your-mouth goodness of favorite cookies. Baking together is one of the joys of the season for adults and kids, and you can bet that with each batch, good memories are being created too.

Christmas Cookie Day!

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

Mama bear and her little bear get ready for one of the most fun days of the year. “Cooke day, / Time to bake. / Aprons on, / Lots to make!” The little one cracks an egg into the bowl while the butter, flour, and sugar wait their turn. Mom pours warm melted butter and lets her little bear stir it into dough.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-stirring

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With the dough rolled smooth, it’s time to use the cookie cutters to make…”Christmas tree, / Reindeer, bell. / Snowman, star, / Cookie smell.” The pair add angels, candy canes, and drummer boys before sliding the tray into the oven and watching them bake. At last the timer rings but they still must wait. Finally “ready, set… / Decorate!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-cookie-shapes

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

It’s so much fun spreading the frosting and shaking out sprinkles to create green trees, yellow stars, and red-and-white striped candy canes. Even the bakers can’t resist nibbling a few. But not too many, because these are special “cookie gifts. / Made with care. / Pack them up, / Cooke share!” It’s time to invite friends and family for a yearly treat—“Christmastime, / Spirits bright. / Family hugs, / Cookie night.”

A delectable Christmas Cookie Day Recipe follows the story for all little bakers to try.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-into-oven

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Tara Knudson’s jaunty rhyming story captures all the giddy anticipation and fun of a day baking Christmas cookies. Short, lively verses follow Mom and her cub step-by-step as they make and decorate special treats for their annual cookie party and invite little ones to join in on repeat readings. Knudson delights in the enjoyment Mom and her little one feel during their day of baking and goes on to celebrate the deeper meaning and joy of Christmas as the two wrap up their cookies and give them to family and friends.

With tender smiles for each other, Pauline Siewert’s Mama bear and her cub spend a snowy day baking cookies in their cozy kitchen accompanied by a helpful mouse. Siewert’s vibrant colors mirror the cheerful companionship mother and child share on this much-loved day, and her engaging details, like a dusting of flour on the cub’s nose, will charm children. A double-spread scattering of the cookies the two make give little ones a chance to show their knowledge of shapes and Christmastime figures. The heartwarming final scene of the cookie party might just inspire a party of your own. Little ones will also be enchanted by the sparkly cover that opens this adorable book.

The absence of personal pronouns and a red apron for the little cub make Christmas Cookie Day! gender neutral.

A sweet story to spark a fun family tradition and share the joy of giving, Christmas Cookie Day! makes an endearing addition to a child’s home library.

Ages 2 – 6

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310762898

Discover more about Tara Knudson, her books, and her other writing for children on her website.

To learn more about Pauline Siewert, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Tara Knudson

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I’m excited to be talking today with Tara Knudson about her sweet book, her favorite cookie, and how being a teacher inspires her work.

Christmas Cookie Day has such a joyous feeling. Do you have any special memories of baking with your family when you were a child?  What is your favorite kind of cookie?

I’m so glad that you think CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY has such a joyous feeling! The story evokes happy memories of baking Christmas cookies with my mom and sisters when I was a child. I remember gathering the cookie cutters from the cabinet, excited to get started! We all stood around the kitchen table and decorated our cookies with sprinkles, frosting, and candy pieces. It was so fun!

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - decorating cookies

While I do enjoy eating Christmas sugar cookies, my favorite kind of cookie is chocolate chip, especially ones with dark chocolate chips and a little salt. Yum!

As a regular contributor to children’s magazines like Highlights Hello, Highlights High Five, Baby Bug, and Ladybug, you write stories and poetry for the youngest readers, what do you like about writing for this age? What are a few of the most important ingredients in stories for little ones?

I love writing for little ones because they are so curious about everything in the world around them—sights, smells, sounds, tastes, new experiences, and people. They take it all in as they learn, develop, and grow. I like to be a part of that.

My poems and stories for this age group often include short and simple sentences with some fun words added that young readers may not be familiar with.

You’ve said that you loved to write even as a child. Can you describe your journey to becoming a published writer?

My journey as a writer has been a long one. I still have my creative writing stories from second grade. Reading them now makes me laugh! Growing up, the stories were always special to me, but I did not know yet that I wanted to be a writer.

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - school writing folder

I started writing poetry when I was in high school. As I dealt with the problems and frustrations that adolescence can bring, I often wrote poems to express my feelings. After college, I became a Spanish teacher and I often used children’s picture books in the          classroom. I would spend hours at bookstores searching for favorite ones. It was during that time that I fell in love with picture books and decided that I wanted to write them.

In pursuit of my goal, I won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that allowed me to take a break from my teaching job and live in Barcelona, Spain for a year and experiment with writing for children. I wrote many poems and rhyming stories for children. I continued to write after my return to the U.S. As years passed, I sold articles and poems to children’s magazines and continued to work on my picture book manuscripts as I worked as a teacher and later took care of my two sons. Finally, I signed with an agent who helped me sell my first book.

Can you talk a little about your work as a teacher? How do your experiences influence your work?

My teaching background is unique because I have taught different subjects to students of many ages. I started my teaching career as a high school Spanish teacher. Then, while in Barcelona, I taught English to middle school students. Upon my return to the U.S., I taught Spanish to grades K-2 and then math to grades 1-4. 

Whichever subject I teach, and to whichever grade level, there is always something for me to gain as a writer when I work with students. Whether it be from something that happens in the classroom or something that a student says that sparks a writing idea, being around children gets my creative juices flowing! I hope to get back in the classroom soon.

What’s up next for you?

My next book, EASTER EGG DAY, will be released in February, 2020. Also, I’m happy to announce that a third book in my holiday board book series will follow. I will share details about that book soon. I have plenty of non-holiday projects as well that I hope will make their way into the world in the near future.

What’s your favorite holiday?

My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love the excitement that leads up to it, the beautiful decorations, the spirit of giving, and the true meaning of the season. It’s such a magical and joyous time for people of all ages filled with traditions and love. I’m so happy that CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY can be a part of it all!

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - making cookies

Thanks so much for chatting with me, Tara! I wish you a wonderful holiday and much success with all of your writing!

You can connect with Tara Knudson on

Her website | Instagram | Twitter  

National Cookie Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-kids-craft

Gingerbread Kids Ornaments

You can make gingerbread ornaments to decorate your tree or windows with this easy-to-make craft!

Supplies

  • Printable Gingerbread Girl and Boy Template
  • 2 Brown foam sheets
  • White paint (or any color you like)
  • Glitter in two colors
  • Paint brush
  • 2 Small heart buttons (optional)
  • Mounting squares (for mounting)
  • Thread  and needle (for optional hanging)

Directions

  1. Cut out gingerbread girl and boy
  2. Trace gingerbread girl and boy on brown foam sheets
  3. Cut out gingerbread girl and boy
  4. Paint around the edge of the gingerbread boy and girl with the white paint
  5. Add trim to the edge of the gingerbread girl’s dress
  6. Add socks to the gingerbread boy
  7. Add buttons
  8. Add faces
  9. Paint the hands of each figure with the paint
  10. Sprinkle glitter on the hands to make mittens
  11. To use as decoration attach mountable squares or with a threaded needle make a hole in the top of the figures and tie the thread to create a hanger.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-cover-2

You can find Christmas Cookie Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review