December 16 – It’s National Write a Friend Month

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About the Holiday

For kids who celebrate Christmas, there’s no friend they’d rather write to in December than Santa Claus. Their list of things they’d like for themselves and often for family and friends too can include the practical, the impossible, and the poignant. Today’s featured month-long holiday also encourages people to catch up with family and friends who may be far away by sending a card or letter. Hearing from a friend, a grandchild, a niece, nephew, or other young relative can warm up any winter day. 

The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold

Written by Maureen Fergus | Illustrated by Cale Atkinson

 

One snowy night close to Christmas, Mrs. Claus was doing the mending while Santa was moping. Even though Mrs. Claus asked Santa what was wrong, he couldn’t bring himself to tell her. Finally, he ventured, “‘Well, you know Harold?’” Mrs. Claus smiled and launched into a detailed description of the little boy, but Santa stopped her mid-sentence and choked out, “‘You don’t need to keep pretending on my account because…because…I don’t believe in Harold anymore.’” Mrs. Claus couldn’t believe her ears.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Santa explained that while he still liked “the idea of Harold”—after all he’d always been part of his Christmas—some things just didn’t make sense any more. For instance, Santa thought Harold’s mom wrote his letters, that his dad set out the snack, and that the Harold who’d sat on his lap last year didn’t look like the Harold from past years. For Santa, it all added up to a trick by Harold’s parents. Mrs. Claus thought her husband should accept Harold “as one of the best, most magical parts of Christmas.” But Santa just couldn’t do it.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Soon, the elves had heard that Santa didn’t believe in children. Not all children, Santa countered and then added that his friends didn’t believe in Harold either. The elves weren’t convinced. Santa decided to take his case to the reindeer. After he’d laid out the evidence, the reindeer told Santa he needed proof. “‘And we think we know just how you can get it,’” Donner said.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-santa-stopped-believing-in-harold-reindeer

Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

While all this was going on in the North Pole, down south Harold was “telling his parents and his friends and his turtle that he didn’t think Santa was real.” What Harold needed was proof, and he knew just how to get it. That night—Christmas Eve—Harold did all the usual things. But when his parents went to bed, he hid behind the armchair and, with a good view of the fireplace, settled in to wait. Soon, Santa landed on his very last roof—Harold’s house. Santa had a plan. He hid behind the sofa ready to see if Harold really did run downstairs in the morning.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Before Santa knew it, it was Christmas morning and Harold’s parents were standing by the tree. “‘Too bad we don’t know any little boys who’d like to open some presents from Santa,’” Harold’s mom said to tempt her son out from his spot behind the chair. Santa thought he had his proof. Then, just as Santa realized he’d never put out the presents, Harold stood up and said he didn’t care about the presents; he only wanted to know if Santa was real.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Hearing Harold’s voice, Santa jumped up and shouted “‘You’re real!’” Seeing Santa, Harold shouted “‘You’re real!’” They ran toward each other and hugged. Then they played with the toys Santa had brought until the reindeer reminded Santa it was time to go home. Santa and Harold said their happy goodbyes until next year, and in a moment, Santa was up the chimney and out of sight.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-santa-stopped-believing-in-harold-you're-real

Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maureen Fergus’s clever flip on believing in Santa proves that the magic of Christmas doesn’t lie in the presents we get but in that feeling of wonder that lives in hearts young and old. When Santa makes his confession to Mrs. Claus and justifies it to the elves and reindeer, there will be giggles all around as adults and older children appreciate the wry twist and younger “still believers” react to such ridiculous notions. Making inspired and humorous use of the waiting-up-to-see-Santa trope, Fergus creates suspense while setting up the climactic scene and the ingeniously worded line that one moment gives Santa his “proof” and the next dispels both Santa’s and Harold’s doubts. A relatable Santa, an elf with a twinkle of good-natured attitude,” skeptical reindeer, and a lovable child make this holiday reading at its best.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-santa-stopped-believing-in-harold-toys

Image copyright Cale Atkinson, 2016, text copyright Maureen Fergus, 2016. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Cale Atkinson’s Santa, as rotund as a Christmas Tree ornament is sympathetic and funny as he gnaws anxiously on a finger before blurting out his worries to Mrs. Claus, argues his points with waving arms, and sulks like a petulant child. These early views make Santa’s glee at the end all the more emotional. While Santa stews, a dubious Harold is shown reading “Santa Enquirer,” and his wall sports the results of his investigation. Retro touches, humorous details, and plenty of red and green add to the holiday fun, while the jolly ending fulfills all dreams.

A fresh Christmas classic kids will ask for over and over, The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold is a must for adding to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1770498242 (Hardcover); ISBN 978-0735268708 (Paperback)

Discover more about Maureen Fergus and her books on her website.

To learn more about Cale Atkinson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Write a Friend Month Activity

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Friendly Letter Stationery

 

Kids will love coloring and using this printable stationery to jot a note to Santa or to write a letter to a friend or loved one! 

Friendly Letter Stationery

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-santa-stopped-believing-in-harold-cover

You can find The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

 Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 13 – National Cocoa Day

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About the Holiday

There’s no better drink to dispel the frostiness of winter than hot cocoa. Whether you make it from dark, rich cocoa powder or from an easy-open pack, drink it straight or add extra flavors like peppermint or cinnamon, enjoy it unadorned or topped with whipped cream or marshmallows, there’s no doubt that hot cocoa is a favorite for cozy snuggling. The history of cocoa being used as a drink goes back to the Aztec culture in 500 BCE (although archaeologists believe it predates that time). It took until 1828, however, for powdered chocolate to be developed (allowing for both chocolate bars and instant hot chocolate to be produced); and it wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s that Charles Sanna created Swiss Miss – the first hot cocoa able to be mixed in a cup. To celebrate this rich indulgence, mix up frothy mugs of hot cocoa and cuddle up with your kids and a great book –like today’s!

Tiny Reindeer

By Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

 

As the book opens, a little girl has made her way down the hill from her rural home to the mailbox, where she slips a special letter into the slot. In the distance, a town is nestled between the rolling hills. In another part of the world, a “very, very tiny” reindeer was wondering what he could do to help “Santa get ready for the most important night of the year.” Every year it was the same, Tiny tried to help but ended up getting “tangled in the reins and harnesses,” falling into the other reindeer’s water bowls, or completely covered in tape “when he tried to wrap the presents. 

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Copyright Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

This year on the day before Christmas Eve, Santa suggested that Tiny visit the Mail Room to help sort the last of the children’s letters. Santa had told him there was just a little pile of letters, but when Tiny got to the Mail Room, he found himself buried in an avalanche of paper. As he wriggled his way out, one letter caught his eye. There was a picture of a reindeer drawn in the corner, and the child was asking for just one gift for Christmas: a tiny reindeer to go with the tiny wooden sleigh her granddad had made for her.

He had planned on making a little reindeer to lead it, but had not been able to. She wrote, “I know reindeers are REALLY BIIIG but I only need a very very tiny one so that we can all fly together like you Santa and your Big Big reindeers.” Then she thanked Santa and sent lots of love before signing her name. After Tiny read the letter, “he came up with a plan.”

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Copyright Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

On Christmas Eve morning, when Santa and the other reindeer were distracted , Tiny leapt into the fully loaded sleigh. He felt like “a secret voyager on a special mission.” While Santa made his rounds, flying high in the sky, Tiny waited for a precise moment. When it came, he “leapt from the sleigh into the freezing air as Santa and his galloping herd disappeared into the darkness.” He floated toward a particular house, carried by the parachute he’d made from the little girl’s letter. Down the chimney and into the fireplace he fell. He made his way to the staircase leading upstairs only to find that he was too small to climb it. Discouraged and unsure if he’d even found the right house, Tiny began to cry.

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Copyright Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Just then he heard a crash in the room he’d just left and, then, footsteps. Tiny tried to hide in the shadow of the steps, but in a moment a huge figure stood over him. It was Santa! Santa carried Tiny upstairs and placed him on a pillow next to where a little girl lay sleeping. On her nightstand was “a beautiful, tiny wooden sleigh.” Santa whispered goodbye and promised to visit next year. Tiny wondered what tomorrow would bring as he yawned and went to sleep.

When the little girl woke on Christmas morning, her eyes lit up. “‘A tiny reindeer! My tiny reindeer!’ she cried out.” Then “Tiny…knew he had finally found where he belonged – and with the most beautiful sleigh he’d ever seen, handmade to fit him perfectly.” The little girl hitched him to the sleigh, and they raced outside to fly over the snowy hills in the frosty morning sky.

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Copyright Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Chris Naylor-Ballesteros’s sweet, warm, and breezy story is a Christmas and wintertime delight that will charm kids. Young readers eager to help with holiday preparations and to find their place among older siblings and/or adults will empathize with Tiny’s predicament. As this littlest of reindeer devises and carries out a clever and courageous plan to make a girl’s dream come true, readers will see that they too make a big difference just by being themselves. When it seems that all will be lost at the foot of the insurmountable stairs before a watchful and caring Santa appears with a helping hand, kids will feel that comforting assurance their own parents, caregivers, or teachers provide to help them achieve their goals and potential. 

Naylor-Ballesteros’s rustic illustrations glow with the magic of the season, and readers will fall in love with Tiny, who’s no bigger than one of the carrots in the other reindeer’s dinner bowl. Humorous snapshots of Tiny tangled in the reins, tape, and ribbon will make kids giggle. Kids may take note of Santa’s backward glance as Tiny leaps from the sleigh, but his appearance still comes as a happy surprise when Tiny is feeling low. For all children with big imaginations and that harbored desire to have a tiny pet or friend of their own, Naylor-Ballesteros’s uplifting ending will cheer their heart.

An enchanting Christmas tale that will become a family favorite, Tiny Reindeer would make a much-loved gift and a heartwarming addition to home bookshelves and school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-0735271180

Discover more about Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, his books, and his art on his website.

National Cocoa Day Activity

CPB - Hot Chocolate trio (2)

Friendship Hot Cocoa Jar 

 

There’s nothing better than sipping hot chocolate with a friend or family member during the cold months ahead! Here’s an easy way to make a special gift for someone you love!

Supplies

  • Mason jar, canning jar, or any recycled jar from home
  • Canister of your favorite hot chocolate mix
  • Bag of mini marshmallows
  • Bag of chocolate chips
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon
  • Piece of cloth
  • Shoelace, string, elastic, or ribbon
  • Paper or card stock to make a Friendship Tag
  • Hole punch
  • Scissor

CPB - Hot Chocolate from above with whisk

Directions for Filling the Jar

  1. Wash and completely dry the jar
  2. Drop a handful of mini marshmallows into the bottom of the jar. With the spoon push some of the marshmallows tight against the glass so they will show up when you add the hot chocolate mix.
  3. Measure 1/3 cup of hot chocolate mix and sprinkle it on top of the marshmallows. With the spoon gently spread the mix over the marshmallows.
  4. If you wish, add a layer of chocolate chips.
  5. Continue layering marshmallows and hot chocolate mix until you get to the top of the jar.
  6. At the top add another layer of chocolate chips and marshmallows.
  7. Put the lid on the jar and secure it tightly.

Directions for Decorating the Lid and Adding the Tag

  1. Cut a 6-inch circle from the cloth. To make the edges decorative, use a pinking sheers or other specialty scissor.
  2. Cover the lid of the jar with the cloth and secure with an elastic or rubber band.
  3. Tie the string, shoelace, or other tie around the rim of the lid.
  4. If using a Mason jar, place the cloth between the disk and the screw top
  5. Create a Friendship Tag and add your name and the name of your friend.
  6. Use a hole punch to make a hole in the Friendship Tag, slide it onto the tie, and knot it.

Directions for Making the Hot Chocolate

  1. With a spoon measure 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate, marshmallow, chocolate chip mix into a mug
  2. Fill the mug with boiling water, hot milk, or a combination of both
  3. Enjoy!

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You can find Tiny Reindeer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 20 – It’s World Beach Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate beaches and all of the beauty and recreation they offer. Whether you’re a beachcomber or a swimmer, a sandcastle builder or a sunbather, the beach provides endless ways to enjoy the environment. This month also raises awareness of the types of pollution that mar and endanger the beach as well as the ocean and all of its varied sea life. The world’s coastal areas are irreplaceable habitats and offer crucial resources. Learn what you can do to help our beaches and oceans remain healthy by visiting the Ocean Conservancy website. You can discover more ways to enjoy World Beach Month here.

Constellation of the Deep

By Benjamin Flouw

 

Fox and his cousin, Wolf, spend summer mornings walking along the coast. One day as Fox explores the unusual plants along the path, a seagull lands on a nearby boulder and asks if they have ever heard of the constellation of the deep. The Seagull goes on to tell them that “‘it’s an amazing plant: it grows on the bottom of the ocean, but no one knows exactly where.’” Then he adds that he’s “‘heard that it glows in the dark.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-seagull

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Hearing this, Fox immediately determines to find the constellation of the deep. Wolf has all the diving equipment he’ll need. Outfitted with a wet suit, snorkel, mask, scuba tank, camera, and all the other equipment, Fox and Wolf return to the ocean. While Fox gets ready and dives into the sea, Wolf discovers a crabs, barnacles, periwinkles, scallops, sea anemones, and even a sea star living among the rocks along the shore.

Fox swims above an underwater meadow of posidonia, which he knows “are flowering plants, but they don’t glow in the dark. He leaves the scorpion fish, conger eels, and damselfish behind and dives more deeply. Here, Fox discovers a forest of algae. He recognizes the tall, slender leaves of macrocystis, the fan-shaped leaves of eisenia, the feather-shaped alaria, and many more. While exploring, Fox meets Otter, who’s hunting for sea urchins. Fox tells Otter about his quest, and Otter tells him about “‘a place full of strange plants’” that he encountered just the other day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-scuba-gear

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Exiting the forest, Fox finds “rocks covered with strange, multicolored sculptures. These aren’t plants, but corals.” Fox is so stunned by their beauty that he gets out his camera and takes some pictures. “He marvels at the different shapes of corals.” He sees “corals that look like brains, trees, tables . . . and curled paper.” Some of the corals are enormous and some are as small as mushrooms.

Still, Fox hasn’t found what he’s looking for. He begins to ask for help. No one has seen the constellation of the deep, but Grouper agrees to help in the search. They glide into the open ocean, where they come upon a mountain jutting up from the ocean floor. Grouper knows of a hole in the mountain. As they approach, Fox sees something glowing inside. He swims closer only to find “a tiny glowworm!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-scuba-gear

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Fox wants to take a photograph and reaches for his camera, “but oh no! His camera is gone!” Staring down into the depths of the ocean, Fox spots an unusual shape. He swims down to see what it is. It’s Whale, who has become tangled in a fishing net along with bottles, cans, trash, and even a boot. What else is snagged in the net but Fox’s camera! Whale gives Fox a ride back to the surface. Wolf waves at his friend riding on top of Whale’s back.

Even though Fox hasn’t found the glowing plant, “he has made some wonderful memories.” Back home, he hands his cousin his camera to show him his pictures. Wolf is particularly taken with one that is very beautiful. “‘Look at this one,’” he says to Fox. Fox can’t believe it. His camera had captured a picture of the constellation of the deep when it fell to the ocean floor. Happy, Fox relaxes with a glass of mushroom juice, knowing that the photo of the constellation of the deep will always remind him of “the fabulous beauty of the underwater world.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-rocks

Copyright Benjamin Flouw, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

In his follow up to The Golden Glow, in which plant-loving Fox and readers travel to the top of a mountain to discover a fascinating rare plant and a surprising decision, Benjamin Flouw plumbs the depths of the ocean to introduce kids to the wonders found there. Just as the sea itself, Flouw’s charming and straightforward storytelling is full of mystery and discovery. As Fox swims deeper and deeper through schools of fish, meadows and forests of sea plants, past coral reefs, and finally to an underwater mountain, readers learn about specific sea life found at each level. Interspersed with the story are several glossary-type pages with illustrations and names of scuba diving gear, tidal pool sea creatures, algae, and corals. Fox’s miraculous recovery of his camera and equally astonishing discovery among his photographs is the type of magical happenstance kids love best. Flouw’s understated environmental message is eloquent and effective.

Just as in The Golden Glow, Flouw’s stylized and textured illustrations, rendered in fresh and soothing tones, will get readers excited about discovering more about the environment. Here, the sea beckons with its colorful and varied creatures and plants. Two-page spreads of the algae forest and coral-encrusted rocks are stunning and the image of Whale wrapped in netting offer educators and kids a jumping off place to further research.

Mesmerizing, educational, and conveying a compelling message, Constellation of the Deep is sure to be a favorite. The book is highly recommended for all home, classroom, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-0735268968

You can find a Constellation of the Deep Activity Kit from Tundra Books here.

Discover more about Benjamin Flouw, his books, and his art on his website.

World Beach Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kinetic-sand-craft

Kinetic Sand

 

You don’t have to live near the beach to enjoy playing in the sand! With this easy recipe you can create your own kinetic sand to form or let run through your fingers. It makes a great anti-stress reliever too!

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack. Or just let it drip and ooze through your fingers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-constellation-of-the-deep-cover

You can find Constellation of the Deep at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 17 – Get Ready for Preschool

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About the Holiday

Not only are kindergarteners and “seasoned” elementary-school kids getting ready to go to school—or already back in the classroom—the youngest students are beginning their school career with preschool. Some children eagerly look forward to this new adventure, while others are more hesitant about the transition from home to school. Books like today’s warm and funny story that shows how teachers welcome and care for their students and the fun that’s waiting with new friends in a new, exciting environment.

Thanks to Tundra Books for sharing a copy of What Does Little Crocodile Say? with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

What Does Little Crocodile Say?

By Eva Montanari

 

It’s that time! “The alarm clock goes Ring Ring.” Big Crocodile comes into Little Crocodile’s room and tickles their child awake. A quick splash in the tub, a zip of the overalls, and a messy breakfast later, the pair are out the door. Zipping along the street, “the car goes vroom vroom.” When they get where they’re going, Big Crocodile locks the car, rings the bell, and—at her little one’s urging—carries them up the stairs to where “the Elephant says Good Morning!”

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Copyright Eva Montanari, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Hugging Mom tight, the little crocodile looks around the room full of toys and other kids. The piglet, kitten, bird, frog, and wolf all say hello in their own way. “And what does little crocodile say” as Mom puts them down? “WWWWAAH WWWWAAH.” But Elephant is there to soothe the tears and read a story. The teacher helps Little Crocodile beat the drum. By the time the kids ting the triangle, Little Crocodile is feeling comfortable, and when they have a trumpet parade, the little crocodile is first in line.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-does-little-crocodile-say-classroom

Copyright Eva Montanari, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

At lunch time, “the food goes nom nom nom” and “the milk goes glug glug glug” and Little Crocodile is right at the table with the other kids. They nap, play with bubbles, and then… “the door goes knock knock. Big Crocodile says Peekaboo!” Little Crocodile is surprised. There are kisses and kisses “muah muah muah muah muah” for Big Crocodile and a wave and “See you tomorrow!” for the new friends.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-does-little-crocodile-say-crying

Copyright Eva Montanari, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Eva Montanari’s delightful step-by-step story envelops little ones in the experience of preschool through the sounds—from the morning ring of the alarm clock to the cheerful farewell at the end of the day—and the sights of home and preschool classrooms. In Montanari’s enchanting pencil and pastel illustrations, a messy bath and messy breakfast lead with gentle humor to the suspenseful page turn in which readers see that the handoff from Big Crocodile to Elephant is a bit messy too.

Little Crocodile’s meltdown, however, lets little ones who may also be unsure about this transition in their life see how their teacher will care for them and all the friends and fun activities that await. The correlating page spread in which Little Crocodile jumps back into Big Crocodile’s arms with kisses instead of tears is comfort at its best and is sure to inspire plenty of “Muahs” all around. Adults will love sharing this read aloud over and over and kids will have a giggly blast chiming in on all of the sounds. What will little ones say to this book? “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Captivating and interactive, What Does Little Crocodile Say? transends its concept book roots to reassure little ones just beginning their school journey and celebrate all the love and new friends they’ll find along the way. The book is a must for home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 5

Tundra Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-0735268135

Discover more about Eva Montanari and her books on her website.

Get Ready for Preschool Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crocodile-matching-puzzle

Crocodiles on the Loose! Matching Puzzle

 

These crocodiles have gotten separated from their twins. Can you help them find each other again in this printable puzzle?

Crocodiles on the Loose! Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-does-little-crocodile-say-cover

 

You can find What Does Little Crocodile Say? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

June 23 – It’s National Homeownership Month

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About the Holiday

Owning a home is a major goal for many people, and while home ownership provides security for individuals and families, it’s also good for cities and towns, offering stability, economic benefits, and community cohesion. To that end, today’s holiday was established as a week-long observance in 1995 by then-President Bill Clinton as a way to increase homeownership by helping people negotiate the sometimes confusing elements of finding and purchasing a home. In 2002, President George Bush extended the holiday to a full month. A home is so much more than just a building, and each person has their own idea about what makes a home—or a neighborhood—perfect. Sometimes you can’t really put your finger on it—it’s just a feeling. Today’s sweet book shows how one community welcomed its newest member.

Thanks to Tundra Books for sending me a copy of Mr. Mole Moves In for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Mr. Mole Moves In

By Lesley-Anne Green

 

Mr. Mole was new to Juniper Hollow and couldn’t wait to meet his neighbors. “Now, Juniper Hollow doesn’t get too many new residents, so when they do, boy oh boy, do these critters get excited!” In fact, Raccoon had been playing close to Mr. Mole’s house, just waiting for him to come outside. When he did, Raccoon ran over, introduced himself, and stuck out his paw. Mr. Mole was happy to meet Raccoon, but instead of shaking Raccoon’s hand, he grabbed a branch from the bush next to him and gave “it a good shake.” Although a bit confused, Raccoon took it in stride and figured that’s just how things were done in Mole Town.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-mole-moves-in-boxes

Copyright Lesley-Anne Green, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

While Raccoon was relating this story to the Rabbit family, Mr. Mole ran into a fence post and apologized to it. Rabbit was impressed with Mr. Mole’s manners and hurried after him to introduce herself and her bunnies. They caught up with him at the general store, where he was talking to Giraffe. “‘What a beautiful baby!’ Mr. Mole said, looking sweetly at the watermelon Giraffe was holding.” When Mr. Mole went inside the store, Giraffe and Rabbit discussed what had happened. They decided that watermelons must be very prized in Mole Town. Inside the store, Cat and Chicken were talking about Mr. Mole too.

Mr. Mole stocked up on cans of worms and approached the counter, where Rabbit introduced herself and her bunnies. He was so thrilled to meet them that he immediately reached for a jar on the counter. “‘Bear, I will also take three of these candies for the little ones,’” Mr. Mole said as he handed them around. The bunnies looked at the erasers in their paws and decided to keep them for later.

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Copyright Lesley-Anne Green, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Watching all of this, Cat and Chicken decided that they would plan some kind of special event to welcome their wonderful new neighbor to Juniper Hollow. Everyone wanted to help. The next day they all went to visit Mr. Mole, and called out that they wanted to welcome him to town. A little nervously, Mr. Mole went out onto his front porch. All the critters had made him a welcome basket of all his favorite things.

Then “the littlest bunny hopped over to Mr. Mole and handed him her extra pair of glasses.” Mr. Mole was surprised and thanked her profusely. He had lost his glassed while moving, he told them, and couldn’t “‘see a THING without them.’” After the get-together, Mr. Mole took his basket inside and found—along with a handknit sweater and a pie—branches, erasers, and watermelon. Hmmm… he thought. “‘I guess that’s just how they do things in Juniper Hollow.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mr-mole-moves-in-watermelon

Copyright Lesley-Anne Green, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Lesley-Anne Green’s story of friendship and acceptance charms with humor, clever misunderstandings, neighborliness, and one particularly sweet and empathetic bunny. Green’s enchanting storytelling immerses readers in the world of Juniper Hollow, a gentle, easy-going community that welcomes readers with the same warmth it extends to Mr. Mole. Kids will be especially pleased to see that the littlest bunny understands Mr. Mole’s plight and knows just how to help. Green’s adorable needle-felted critters, decked out in dapper outfits, shine with personality, conveying the critters’ confusion as well as their enthusiasm to embrace their newest resident and desire to make him feel at home. Her handmade backgrounds will also captivate readers with their rustic appeal, and readers will want to spend some time in the General Store exploring its well-stocked shelves.

The second book in Lesley-Anne Green’s Juniper Hollow series, Mr. Mole Moves In is a story with depth and charm and inspiring illustrations that will be asked for again and again. The book is a top choice for home, school, and public library bookshelves. You’ll also want to check out Fox and Raccoon, the first Juniper Hollow book.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra, 2021 | ISBN 978-1101918029

You can connect with Lesley-Anne Green on Instagram.

You can watch Lesley-Anne Green talk about her work and create an adorable critter on Tundra Illustrator Studio.

National Homeownership Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pop-up-houses-coloring-page

Pop Up Houses Play Set

 

You can own your own home with this printable Pop Up Play Set thanks to Education.com. It has a house for you and one for a friend! Give your houses some color, plant the trees and move in! Print on heavy paper to make the figures sturdier.

Pop Up Houses Play Set

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You can find Mr. Mole Moves In at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 11 – Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snow-falls-cover

About the Holiday

There’s nothing better than spending the chilly days of winter snuggled up with new books. Kids love cuddling up and sharing laughs, poignant moments, fascinating facts, and the changes seasons bring through books. If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Read A New Book Month, check out the new titles at your favorite bookstore and buy one, two, or a whole stockingful to wrap up for the holidays. After all, a looong winter’s ahead!

Snow Falls

Written by Kate Gardner | Illustrated by Brandon James Scott

 

Through three seasons of the year when rain falls outside our windows, we keep on working, playing, watching TV, or using our computers or phones. But add colder temperatures and those raindrops turn to snowflakes that have us up and at the windows marveling at their beauty. Little ones become especially wide-eyed and excited to get outside as “snow softens” sturdy tree branches, angled rooftops, flat ground, and even the sounds in the air.

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Image copyright Brandon James Scott, 2020, text copyright Kate Gardner, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

The white-blanketed earth becomes an adventurer’s paradise as “snow tracks,” allowing wanderers to retrace their footsteps and find their way home. Of course, kids with sleds know that “snow slides,” turning every hill into a challenge that beckons and sometimes—at the bottom—becomes topsy-turvy fun where, maybe, “snow hides” a dislodged mitten, hat, or scarf.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snow-falls-tricks

Image copyright Brandon James Scott, 2020, text copyright Kate Gardner, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

There are days where “snow snows… and snows… and snows.” Then there’s enough white, fluffy, perfectly sticky fluff to make snowmen where “snow smiles” or soft balls so “snow flies.” But then there come the days where the sun is warm and the snow slowly slips away, revealing the world again until the next snowy day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snow-falls-blows

Image copyright Brandon James Scott, 2020, text copyright Kate Gardner, 2020. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

As wonder-filled and enticing as the first snow of the season, Kate Gardner’s lyrical ode to kids’ favorite winter playmate highlights the ways snow transforms the world, from the way it looks to the activities it allows even to the cozy moments it creates inside. Garner’s two-word sentences drift from page to page on alliteration, rhymes, consonance, and assonance as smoothly as a sled on a hill. Children will love reading along and talking about their own memories of snowy day fun.

Brandon James Scott’s soft, textured scenes, “painted digitally in the evenings of a snowy Canadian winter,” begin—as most snows do for kids—seen from just above the windowsill as the first flakes fall. Looking into a cozy house, readers see a little girl peeking out. On hooks hang a striped scarf, knitted hat, and dog sweater that will feature in the pages to come. As the little girl runs out into the winter wonderland, the white world is punctuated with a tiny red bird that kids will love searching for from page to page. 

Various perspectives give children different views of the snow-covered neighborhood. Scott also captures a glorious gold, pink, and violet sunset as well as the way snow swirls into the air, buffeted by icy gusts. When the girl lands head first into the snow at the bottom of the sledding hill, Scott begins a storyline for the scarf that kids will eagerly follow. Hot chocolate and cookies, a forest of snowmen, snowball fights, and the mercurial melting that forms islands, paths, and monster footprints are all chronicled too in Scott’s lovely pages, which are wrapped in a sparkling jacket that gives way to the girl and her dog making snow angels underneath.

A book adults and children will want to share again and again throughout the winter and when hot weather calls for relief, Snow Falls would make a wonderful gift and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1101919217

To learn more about Brandon James Scott, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mind-jar

Snowy Day Mindfulness Jar

 

You can capture the beauty of a glittering snowfall in this easy craft—that also makes a special gift for a friend!

Supplies

  • Small to medium mason jar or other decorative jar with a tight lid
  • White glitter glue,
  • Light blue glitter glue,
  • Fine white and/or blue glitter
  • Large white and/or blue glitter
  • Warm water

Directions

1.For every 1/2 cup of warm water add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue glitter glue
  • 2 teaspoons fine glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon large glitter

2. Close lid tightly

3. Shake

As glue dissolves, the liquid will become clearer and the glitter will remain suspended in it

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snow-falls-cover

You can find Snow Falls at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 31 – National Magic Day

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About the Holiday

Today, of course, is Halloween but October 31 is also National Magic Day! This holiday got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31 – the date of his death in 1926 – as National Magic Day. No matter how you celebrate Halloween or National Magic Day today, the shivery thrills of surprise and imagination are always a joy.

Thanks to Tundra Books for sending me a copy of The Magician’s Secret for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

The Magician’s Secret

Written by Zachary Hyman | Illustrated by Joe Bluhm

 

When Mom and Dad dropped Charlie off at his grandfather’s for an overnight visit, they pleaded with him to make sure his grandson went to bed early. “‘No more hocus-pocus!’” his daughter said. That wasn’t just some phrase she conjured up, because her father had once been a magician and was still “like a big kid who never grew up.” He loved to play games with Charlie and “also knew the most amazing tricks.” But he never told Charlie his secrets.

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Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

What Charlie loved best were Grandpa’s stories. Whenever Grandpa told a story, he and Charlie went up to the “most cobwebby corner of the attic” where a big green trunk full of special things from Grandpa’s adventures sat. Grandpa would pull out an item and begin to talk. This night he showed Charlie an hourglass filled with sand that Grandpa said came from the tomb of King Tut.

Another time, he pulled out a scarf that had belonged to the World War I Red Baron fighter pilot. Grandpa had plucked it from the Red Baron’s neck during a dogfight in which Grandpa left the Baron and his plane floating in a French sea. One summer evening the story revolved around a coconut shell that he found on a tropical beach. He had fallen asleep under a palm tree only to be awakened by a roaring T-Rex intent on eating him. Just in the nick of time, “dozens of rocks rained down through the air, scaring the nasty dinosaur away.” Who had saved him? Grandpa never told, saying that was for Charlie to figure out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-red-baron

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie loved Grandpa’s stories, but his father said that they were just “things Grandpa’s made up.” Charlie couldn’t believe it. He felt like he “had lived every one of those adventures with Grandpa. How could they not be true?” When Charlie asked his grandfather about it, Grandpa sighed. He said the problem with grown-ups was that they didn’t “have faith in make-believe” but that if you “use your imagination, you can turn a dream into something real.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-twilight

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie wasn’t so sure, but Grandpa assured him: “‘We’ve done it over and over again, with cameras and computers, automobiles and airplanes…. Magic is all around us, kiddo—in me and in you.’” Then Grandpa waved his hands in the air and produced a…rock. He said it was the philosopher’s stone that could do magical things, but the secret was that “‘You have to see it, you have to believe it.’” That night Charlie fell into a deep sleep with the rock under his pillow. When he woke up, he heard an earth-shattering roar. He looked and saw a T-Rex threatening his grandpa. He looked at the rock in his hand and knew what to do….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-in-bed

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Zachary Hyman makes magic with traditional storytelling combined with the wonder of imagination and the encouragement to make dreams come true. As Grandpa talks about his daring feats, Charlie believes him, but more importantly, Charlie believes that he could do such marvelous things too. Hyman’s reminder that all great discoveries and achievements began as someone’s seemingly impossible idea is well aimed at his young audience whose boundless imaginations may just be our next realities. Hyman’s evocative language and conversational tone  will keep children enthralled until the surprise ending.

Joe Bluhm lends a mysterious enchantment to Hyman’s story with his atmospheric depictions of the cobwebby attic, darkened, creature-infested tomb, and twilit skies. Turning from the setup to the heart of Grandpa’s stories, readers are immersed in vibrant colors and dazzling light, representative of that flash of ingenuity or creativity in each of us. In a nice cyclical set of images, Charlie is first seen watching TV and playing aviator, spaceman, explorer, artists, and magician with Grandpa in sepia-toned snapshots. Near the end of the book when Grandpa talks about the power of imagination, these same scenes are presented in full color with Charlie as a pilot, astronaut, movie director, mountain climber, race car driver, and explorer.

Like the best magic trick, The Magician’s Secret will captivate readers but will also tell them what they really want to know: the answer to how they can do wondrous things themselves. The book would make a terrific addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770498945

To learn more about Joe Bluhm, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no secret that you’ll love this The Magician’s Secret book trailer!

National Magic Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-magic-maze

It’s Magic! Maze

 

Help the spell flow to the top hat to make the magic work in this printable maze!

It’s Magic! Maze | It’s Magic! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-cover

You can find The Magician’s Secret at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound