February 18 – It’s Boost Your Self-Esteem Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate self-esteem—that inner knowledge of and appreciation for all the things that make you unique! Having a good self-image is important for living a full and happy life. Taking time now and then to evaluate your feelings, your achievements, and your goals is a worthy exercise. When you believe in yourself you can accomplish more, and like the friends in today’s book you’ll feel like a superhero!

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt

By Ben Clanton

 

In A Super Start, Narwhal and Jelly are hanging out. Narwhal’s excited because after a swim and a waffle he’s “going to become a superhero!” Jelly is surprised that Narwhal thinks it would be so easy, after you need the “super outfits” (Narwhal’s got that covered with a snazzy yellow cape); the “super names” (“Super Narwhal” sounds pretty super to Narwhal): and the secret identities (let me introduce you to the dapper mustachioed and bespectacled Clark Parker Wayne, wealthy and eccentric trillionaire).

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Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Super Narwhal is also going to need a sidekick. Jelly kicks around a few names—Shark, Octopus, and Turtle—but Narwhal has someone else in mind. Jelly, of course! Jelly’s eyes widen with the possibilities. Sting or Blue Lightening might be cool monikers, but no!— “Jelly Jolt the Super Sidekick” has an electrifying ring to it. Suddenly, Jelly remembers they’ll need superpowers. Narwhal has trouble being invisible or strong, flying or breathing fire, but there’s something even more important than powers—lunch! Yum, yum! Jelly says, “I think waffles are my super weakness.”

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Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

In Narwhal, You’re a Superstar, Super Narwhal has come to the rescue of Star. While Star likes the ocean she thinks that maybe she belongs in the sky. “Maybe I am a real star, but I fell to earth and hit my head or something and now I don’t remember!” she says. Narwhal’s up for helping out, but without super strength he can only toss Star back into the sea. Even with Octopus’s cannon, Narwhal is no more successful. They think about building a rocket ship, but neither is exactly a rocket scientist. Then Narwhal has a super idea. Star wishes on…herself…and “Poof!” Star is back where she belongs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-eat-lunch

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Super Narwhal vs Blue Jelly a.k.a. the Super Superpower finds Clark Parker Wayne, wealthy and eccentric trillionaire discovering a very blue (as in sad) Jelly. In a jiff Super Narwhal appears to save the day! He asks Jelly “What’s wrong? Did someone steal your mustache?” But Jelly’s too blue to join in the repartee. Then Super Narwhal wonders if Jelly’s upset because he set his hair on fire. Jelly seems a bit perturbed at that suggestion—they are underwater, after all. But maybe Super Narwhal is onto something.

Maybe, just maybe, Jelly’s down because a bubble called him “a blue-footed booby,” or because a pirate pig poked him, or because he “got stuck in a tuba!” With a “hee” and a “heehee!” and a “heeheehee!” Jelly is beginning to smile. And when Super Narwhal puts them all together, Jelly can’t help but jiggle with a laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing is. But Super Narwhal is there to help—right? So he somberly asks “what is wrong?” By now, though, Jelly can’t remember.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-kapow

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Jelly gives his Super Friend a super hug. But then he does recall the problem. It seems crab was dissing his superhero outfit and calling him “Jelly Dolt.” “This is a job for Jelly Jolt and Super Narwhal!”, exclaims Narwhal. Jelly’s intrigued, but thinks they ought to leave crab alone. Guided by advice from his “great, great, great, great grandpa Nautilus,” which went something like “Do unto otters,” however, Narwhal reveals that they are off to make crab a superhero.

When they get their, though, Crab isn’t feeling it and lets off some steam, but Super Narwhal is undeterred. “Ahoy Crab! Prepare to be super-fied!” he announces. And with a KAPOW! Crab has become “The Claw! a.k.a. Super Snap!” At last, Super Narwhal has discovered his superpower—the ability to “bring out the super in others.” And with that, Super Narwhal, Jelly Jolt, and Super Snap swim off to Superfy the ocean.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-superfy

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Two more short and funny stories make an appearance between the continuing saga of Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt. Super Sea Creatures is loaded with facts on several types of ocean creatures, and Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick is a delectable comic written by Narwhal and Jelly that’s full danger, heroics, and puns.

Ben Clanton’s adorable Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt, the second in the Narwhal and Jelly series, is a sweet, laugh-inducing romp that is a marvelous take-off on the superhero genre and a perfect way to spend free time with two worthy ocean friends. Clanton fills his comics-style story with plenty of suspense, witty repartee, good advice, and even a bit of science to satisfy any young reader. Narwhal and Jelly, with their eager, inviting smiles, enthusiasm to tackle whatever obstacles get in their way and their ready inclusiveness, are truly superheroes to applauded

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt would make a sunny addition to summer reading and a splash on any child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 6 – 9

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101918296

Discover more about Ben Clanton, his books, and his artwork on his website!

Play along with Narwhal and Jelly on their own website!

Boost Your Self-Esteem Month Activity

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All about Me!

 

The more you know about yourself, the better you’ll be able to share your talents and friendship with others. Fill out one of these printable All about Me! sheets and hang it in your room or school locker to remind yourself how awesome you are!

All about Me! Robot Sheet | All about Me! Stars and Balloons Sheet

Picture Book Review

February 15 – National Flag Day of Canada

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About the Holiday

On February 15, 1965 the national flag of Canada was raised for the first time on Parliament Hill. National Flag Day of Canada was officially established in 1996. As Canadians celebrate the 53rd anniversary of their flag this year, they can take special pride as they watch their Olympic team strive for glory in Pyeongchang, South Korea under their distinctive maple-leaf flag. All across the country today, Canadians are cheering their athletes and their flag.

Carson Crosses Canada

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Kass Reich

 

Annie Magruder and her little dog, Carson, had a pretty great life living along the shore of the Pacific Ocean. One day a letter arrived for Annie from her sister Elsie. Elsie was sick and needed cheering up so Annie packed her bags, loaded up her camping gear, and “filled a cooler with baloney sandwiches.” For Carson she brought along dog food and of course Squeaky Chicken. They pulled away from their house and headed east.

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Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

“All morning they drove in the rattlebang car.” Were they there yet? Carson wanted to know. But they were on a loooong trip—all across Canada, Annie told him. She also said there’d be a surprise for him at the end. “Carson loved surprises. Squeaky Chicken had been a surprise. Every time Carson chewed, he got a brand-new noise. Skreeeee! Wheeeee! Iiiiiy!”

Twisty roads took them into the Rocky Mountains, where Annie pitched her tent for the night. Carson stood guard, watching for bears. The next day they rolled into dinosaur country. Carson could hardly control his excitement at seeing the enormous bones. Could this be his surprise? But Carson didn’t get to take a single bite—not even a little lick.

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Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

On day three they came to flat farmland, where “grain grew in carpets—yellow, blue, gold.” While Annie admired the wide-open sky during a picnic lunch, Carson chased after grasshoppers, finally snatching one for his dessert. On the next day, the sun was so hot that as Annie and Carson drove past Lake Winnipeg, they stopped to take a dip.

After that there were more days and even more days spent in the car passing forests of trees and boulders. Carson passed the time barking and wondering about his surprise. At night, when he and Annie camped, they listened to the loons calling, “Ooo-wooooo. Ooo-hoo-hoo.” When they reached Niagara Falls, they stopped to watch the thundering water and got soaked with its spray.

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Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

In Quebec City, Annie and Carson enjoyed French delights, including a pork pie called tourtière, which Carson gobbled up in two bites. Was this their destination? Oh, no—they still had a ways to go! Once, while Carson was napping, he heard Annie shout, “‘Look! The Atlantic Ocean!’” Carson was so thrilled to see an ocean once more that he ran to the edge and rolled in the mud until he was covered.

The next day brought “an island of red and green” as pretty as a postcard plus lobster rolls for two. Here, Annie told Carson, they were getting close. There was still one night’s stop, however. “In the campground that night, there was fiddle music—so friendly and fast, it made everyone dance. Annie clapped and jigged. Carson chased his tail.” With the promise of “‘tomorrow’” whispered in his ear, Carson fell asleep.

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Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

A ferry ride took them to Elsie’s. Her “house stood waiting beside the ocean. It was red like the house back home. Out came a woman who looked like Annie. Her steps were slow, but her smile was as wide as the sea.” Annie and her sister hugged for a long time until Carson yipped, looking for his surprise. Bounding toward him came a dog that looked “so much like Carson, it was like looking into a mirror.” It was his brother, Digby! They hadn’t seen each other since they were puppies. Spending time with Annie and Carson was just what Elsie needed. The four “loved the salt air. They loved the red house. And they loved their sweet time together.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-carson-crosses-canada-elsie's-house

Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

For young armchair travelers, Linda Bailey has crafted a wonderful story that combines the best of sightseeing with an emotional tug that is warm and uplifting. The love between Annie and Carson is evident from the first page and swells as they reunite with Elsie and Digby, taking readers along for the rewarding ride. Bailey’s lyrical and humorous view of Canada’s expansive beauty through the eyes of both Annie and Carson will delight kids and leave them wanting to learn more. The reaffirmation that family stays strong even across many miles will cheer children and adult readers alike.

Kass Reich’s gorgeous hand-painted gouache illustrations put children in the back seat of the little, well-packed “rattlebang” car with sweet Carson on a tour of Canada. They’ll view awesome redwood trees, majestic mountains, the bone yards of Dinosaur Provincial Park, Quebec City, fields, lakes, and clear nights. Reich’s vivid colors and rich details invite kids to linger over the pages and learn even more about Canada. Little ones will also like pointing out Squeaky Chicken, who is happily enjoying the trip as well.

The book’s endpapers provide a colorful map of Canada with Carson and Annie’s route clearly marked along with their sightseeing stops.

Carson Crosses Canada is a sweet, beautiful book that kids will want to read again and again. It would be a wonderful addition to home and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101918838  

Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website!

You can learn more about Kass Reich and her books as well as view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

National Flag Day of Canada Day Activity

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Make Me a Moose! Headband

 

Moose love calling Canada home! With this easy craft you can turn your hand prints into cute antlers to wear!

Supplies

  • Stiff brown paper
  • Brown hair band
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Tape

Directions

  1. Trace your hands with fingers spread on the brown paper. Leave a 1 – 2 inch tab on the end of the wrist for wrapping around the head band
  2. Cut out the hand prints
  3. Place one hand print on the right side of the headband with the thumb of the hand pointing up.
  4. Wrap the tab around the headband and secure with tape
  5. Place the second hand print on the left side of the headband with the thumb pointing up.
  6. Wrap the tab around the headband and secure with tape
  7. Enjoy being a Canadian Moose!

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You can find Carson Crosses Canada at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 30 – It’s Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

Kids are born creative, that’s for sure! With their huge imaginations and love for pretending, almost anything goes! Parents trying to keep up with their little charges need to stay on their toes and be inventive too. Answering all the “what,” “why,” and “how” questions takes some ingenuity, managing sibling rivalry takes finesse, and introducing new foods, getting a room cleaned, or making sure homework’s done? Well, “innovative” doesn’t begin to describe the brainstorms that (sometimes) lead to success. But at the end of the day (literally and figuratively) adults are inspired by their kids and wouldn’t trade their role for a minute. Yes, it’s great being a mom, grandmother, grandfather, teacher, dad—as you’ll see in today’s book!

It’s Great Being a Dad

Written by Dan Bar-el | Illustrated by Gina Perry

 

A lovely pink unicorn with a sparkling rainbow horn clip-clops over a grassy hill, a golden castle and a candy forest in the background. The playful animal believes it’s “great being a unicorn. Who wouldn’t want to be a unicorn?” What makes them so special? Well…as she says, “We’re terrific at prancing and we’re very pretty and, best of all, we have an adorable horn just above our eyebrows.” It’s hard to argue with those reasons!

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But it seems there are some downsides to this whole unicorn thing. Grazing might be at the top of the list. That shiny horn just always seems to get in the way. There’s no way for teeth to touch the ground, and trying to grab a snack off a table just results in the table being stuck on the “adorable horn.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

How about Bigfoot? What’s it like for him? Let’s ask—here comes Bigfoot now! “It’s great being Bigfoot. I love being Bigfoot. Who wouldn’t want to be Bigfoot?” What’s so great about being…you know…? Well…he’s warm in his furry coat, he’s well camouflaged among the trees, and his super strength “can help unicorns get tables off their heads.” Sounds great! What could go wrong? Hmmm…. It seems those big feet get themselves into some sticky situations—like ending up with a tree trunk lodged around your leg.

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maybe being a Robot is better. Indeed! In fact, Robot says, “If I had feelings, I would love being a robot.” Pretty compelling stuff there. Robot is very flashy and has lots of memory and has an arm that can convert into a saw just in time to help “unicorns and Bigfoot with their wood problems.” So what’s not to like? Rain can really mess with the mo(tor)-jo.

Poor Loch Ness Monster! She’s not even going to try being positive. It kind of stinks being a monster—especially when you don’t feel like one. But maybe things aren’t all bad. Unicorn, Bigfoot, and Robot hitch a ride on Nessie’s back across the lake to the hospital. There they meet a “fairy queen ballerina doctor” who loves being a fairy queen ballerina doctor. Who wouldn’t?

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

This Jill-of-all-trades can prescribe medicine for the sick, “perform a happy dance” for the sad, and wave her magic wand “if you have trouble with your saw arm…or your head horn or your big foot.” Sounds perfect…until a “sneaky flying alligator pirate” swoops in and swipes the magic wand just as the fairy queen ballerina doctor is about the save the day. “Dad!”

Ha! Ha! Here’s a little guy who’s super excited to be a sneaky flying alligator pirate. “I’m sneaky, so you never see me coming. I can fly, so you can never catch me. And… And…that’s enough reasons. So what’s not to like about being a sneaky flying alligator pirate?” Ooof! “Dads, that’s what!”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But how does Dad feel about being a dad? Let’s see: “It’s great being a dad. I love being a dad.” It does look pretty fun! Dad gets to remove pizza box “tables” from hobby horse unicorns; remove stepped-on drums from a brown-fuzzy-hoodied-and-hiking-booted Bigfoot; fix cardboard-saw arms; give medals to super swimmers; and “return magic wands to… to… ‘Fairy queen ballerina doctors. I told you a million times already.’ Right. What she said.” Plus Dad can help little brothers play nicely.

So you must be wondering… “what’s not to like about being a dad? Sudden makeovers, that’s what.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Dan Bar-el’s laugh-out-loud romp through an afternoon of play hits the perfect tone to entertain kids and adults as well. Bar-el’s wry delivery and repetition of the appealing—and not-so—traits of each fantasy character will have readers giggling and eagerly anticipating the next page. The revelation that the characters are kids with big imaginations offers multiple payouts in creativity, personalities, friendship, and family.

Gina Perry’s vibrant, whimsical illustrations riff on all the fantasy clichés to ramp up the humor in this vivacious story. When happily-ever-after turns into happily-never-after for each character, Perry amusingly depicts their dismay, but the next page finds them cheerfully adjusted to their new circumstance and weaving it into a revised storyline. As the story wraps up, readers will enjoy pointing out aspects of the kids’ interests and the parts of the backyard that spurred their imagination in earlier pages. The diverse group of friends is welcome, and good-natured Dad doesn’t really seem to mind his impromptu makeover.

It’s Great Being a Dad is a fantastically fun read-aloud that would be an often-asked-for addition to home and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770496057

Discover more about Dan Bar-el and his books on his website!

You find a gallery of illustration work and books by Gina Perry on her website!

Creativity Month Activity

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Family Charades

 

Getting together to play charades is a fun way to spend family time with a little bit of thought, a little bit of action, and lots of laughs. You can find lots of charades cards, ideas, and rules at funstufftodo.com.

Picture Book Review

November 16 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

All families have stories—some funny, some poignant—about family members, friends, and events from the past and even just last week or yesterday! Today’s holiday encourages people to gather together and share their stories, Oral storytelling has been part of people’s lives and culture since ancient times. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected to your own family heritage and build bonds that last forever. The stories your children will be telling start now in the everyday and special moments they share with others.

Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation

Written by Ted Staunton | Illustrated by Mika Song

 

Vacation began on Monday. So did the rain. Harry and Clare decided to go to Mars. After all it was only as far away as the family room and looked quite the same—“except for the volcanoes” that spouted lava all over the rug. Harry found traversing the alien landscape harder than Clare. He had to carry all the luggage while she carried the snacks; and while Clare ate the snacks, Harry was busy drowning in quicksand.

Tuesday dawned gray and rainy. Fortunately, Harry and Clare “could ride a Pasta Linguini racer around an indoor course in the supermarket.” The field was fierce, and Harry told Clare to turn left, but Clare didn’t listen. “‘I’m driving,’” she said. “Following a dizzying skid through the frozen food, Clare let Harry park them in the checkout line.” And while Harry was hanging on tight with both hands as Clare directed, she ate both of their granola bars.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-lava

Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

The downpour continued on Wednesday. The pool seemed the perfect respite, but just as Harry was about to transform into a dolphin doing spectacular dives, “he was captured by a pirate queen who made him walk the plank instead.” Harry’s fortunes only turned bleaker when later that day Teacher Clare caught Harry eating his snack during lessons and sent him to the principal’s office.

Unfortunately, the principal looked a lot like Clare, and she passed a stiff sentence: “‘People who eat during arithmetic are not allowed to eat at all.’” Suddenly, Harry had an idea, but the principal—who mumbled through a mouthful—told him not to speak. Harry was not to be so easily dismissed, however.

As soon as the principal released him, he grabbed a snack and headed up High Staircase Mountain. When he heard the Abdominal Snowman close at his heels, he quickly hid the cookies in his pocket. At dinner, Harry was able to sneak more provisions into his pocket and keep them safe as he performed a high-wire trapeze trampoline act on the couch and jumped through hoops for Clare the Lion Tamer.

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Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

On Thursday the sun finally came out, and Harry and Clare took a jungle tour. The jungle “looked a lot like the park, except for the vines and wild animals.” As they ran through the thick vegetation, Clare and Harry avoided umpire bats and leaped over sandbox hippos on their search for a “‘sunken ship guarded by a monster octopus.’” All this time Harry held on to the idea he’d had.

Then, just as they were being threatened by elephant hummingbirds, Clare realized they’d forgotten to bring snacks and said they’d have to turn their dragons around and go back. Harry, however, simply climbed off his bike dragon and pulled a baby carrot from his pocket. Clare was nonplussed. “‘Where did you get that?’” she wanted to know, but Harry just took something else from his stash and continued munching.

“‘Is that a cookie?’ Clare asked. Harry swallowed. ‘Asteroid burger,’ he said….‘I have asteroid burgers and volcano sticks.’” Clare listened to her grumbling stomach and accepted some of both. She even accepted Harry’s idea that the treasure was in a cave under a mountain as long as an octopus monster still guarded it.

Harry and Clare played for hours. Harry discovered “prehistoric park-bench dinosaur skeletons,” and Clare dispersed a group of squirrel sharks. On the way home Harry and Clare split the “last of the volcano sticks and asteroid burgers. They made a nice combination.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-playground

Excerpted from Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation by Ted Staunton. Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Mika Song. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

In his imaginative tale of a rainy school staycation, Ted Staunton captures the sibling power structure with wit and wisdom. Readers will appreciate Harry and Clare’s daily—almost moment-to-moment—inventiveness that mirrors children’s supple imaginations. As a younger brother, Harry bears the brunt of Clare’s bossiness, but in the process begins to grasp where the real clout lies. By biding his time, he quietly advocates for himself and changes the dynamics to both of the children’s benefit. Staunton’s funny dialogue and situations ring true, as do the clever uses of everyday items and places to spur the siblings’ creativity. The final line offers a sweet future for this loveable brother and sister.

Mika Song ingeniously transcribes Harry and Clare’s imaginings into action-packed illustrations full of personality. The sibling relationship unfolds through humorous scenes and animated facial expressions. Harry sinks in bubbling lava while Clare eats snacks at a safe distance; Harry and Clare get caught behind an elderly “racecar” driver in the grocery store: Harry is pulled up short by his changing fortunes on the diving board; and Teacher Clare teeters in her mother’s shoes. Song’s fresh color palette lends an open, airy feeling to the story, and her adorable siblings make for exciting companions for readers any day.

Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation would be a cute addition to any child’s bookshelf for story times and to spur imaginative play. The book could also be a great jumping off point for discussions of empathy and understanding between siblings and/or friends.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770498273

Discover more about Ted Staunton and his books on his website!

You’ll find a portfolio of artwork, comics, and books by Mika Song on her website!

Family Stories Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-printable-snakes-and-ladders-game

Snakes and Ladders Game

 

Family game night is a great place to create memories that become future stories! Here’s a printable Snakes and Ladders game for you to enjoy! Just watch out for that green snake!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the board game template
  2. Determine which player goes first by rolling the die. The player with the highest roll goes first.
  3. The first player rolls the die and moves along the game board, starting at square 1, the number of spaces indicated on the die.
  4. Other players take turns rolling the die and moving along the board.
  5. The first player to reach square 100 is the winner

Ladders: When a player lands on a space with the bottom of a ladder in it, the player moves up to the space at the top of the ladder and continues to play from there.

Snakes: When a player lands on a space with the head of a snake in it, the player slides down to the space with the snake’s tail in it and continues to play from there.

Picture Book Review

November 10 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

November is all about picture books thanks to Picture Book Month founder author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and co-founders author/illustrators Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Wendy Matrin, and author Tara Lazar. This month-long international literacy initiative celebrates print picture books and all that they offer to young (and even older) readers. With gorgeous artwork and compelling stories, picture books open the world to children in surprising ways. They entertain, explain, excite, and help children learn empathy and understanding. If you want to learn more about the holiday and read engaging daily posts about why picture books are important by your favorite authors, illustrators, and others in the children’s publishing industry, visit picturebookmonth.com.

How to Make Friends with a Ghost

By Rebecca Green

 

Have you ever thought of ghosts and felt a shiver? Ever been glad you don’t know any ghosts? Well, the little girl narrating this ghostly guide says you should dispel those notions. Ghosts, she assures, “are sweet creatures who need friends too. And who better to befriend them than you?” She even goes on to show potential ghost pals everything they need to know.

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

First, you must learn to recognize a ghost when you see one. There are many false sightings, like kids in costumes, impressions made by a “dusty camera lens,” and “a towel on a doorknob.” But the leading expert on such matters, Dr. Phantoneous Spookel reveals that instead of searching for ghosts, it’s best to let them find you. To help you recognize them, the little girl provides an easy-to-follow classification guide that can help.

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

If you’ve been approached by a figure that has rosy cheeks, arms but no fingers, a glowing body, and a “wavy bottom for mobility,” you can be pretty sure you’ve seen a ghost. Here are some dos and don’ts for how to proceed. Your first instinct may be to flee, but “do not run! Ghosts are very sensitive creatures.” Just be friendly and “tell the ghost your name.” Invite the ghost into your home, but “never ever put you hand through a ghost. It can cause a serious tummy ache.”

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Ghosts require special care and enjoy snacks like “moldy toast, earwax truffles, pickled boogers, mud tarts, and cinnamon-dusted insects.” For a main course, “Floating Spaghetti and Mudballs hits the spot. Wonder how to keep your ghost friend happily occupied? A walk through the woods in search of “leaves, acorns, and worms” is always nice. Ghosts also love scary stories like the ones found in “Tales of the Living by Mort L. Bings.” And they like to laugh at funny jokes and dance to “creepy music.” Of course, a ghost friend fits right in on Halloween.

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of myblankpaper.com.

When a ghost gets tired, it’s a perfect time for a long soak in a warm caldron bath. Then off to the dankest corner of the attic for a little snooze and sweet nightmares on some soft moss. If your ghost has trouble falling to sleep, you can sing a lullaby of “eerie hums and wails.” Sometimes your ghost might like to hide when you have company, Good spots include the “tissue box…a sock drawer…or the refrigerator” next to the milk.

Even though ghosts are quick, their soft, white shapelessness can get them into trouble. “Do not let your ghost be used as a tissue!” Getting mixed up with the laundry can cause problems of the soggy or fluffy kind, and ghost should be especially careful in the kitchen, where they can be mistaken for “eggs, whipped cream, sour cream, and marshmallows.”

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Perhaps the best part about having a ghost as a friend is that they will be your buddy for life—and even beyond. As you grow up there are certain things you can do to maintain your friendship. When you leave home and find your own place, make sure it’s comfortable and isn’t haunted. “Ghosts do not like competition.” Make time every day to spend with your ghost, and if you start a family, you should know that “your ghost will love mini versions of you too.” When you grow old, your ghost will still be there to help out and make life better. Yes, “the best part about making friends with a ghost is that you’ll have the sweetest friend…forever.”

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of myblankpaper.com.

Rebecca Green’s spirited tribute to true friendship is sweet and funny and applicable to all pals—ghostly or not. Who wouldn’t like the kind of friendship that lasts forever? Through her ghostly guide, Green reveals that a new friend may be of an unexpected sort and might even be someone who has been invisible to you. Her tips show that embracing a new friend is as easy as saying hi and making them feel important with special treatment, understanding, and sharing favorite activities. Friendships can suffer when two people grow up and grow apart because of distance, work, or family, but Green suggests that with careful attention, a friendship can last forever.

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Copyright Rebecca Green, 2017, courtesy of myblankpaper.com.

Green’s adorable gouache and colored-pencil illustrations have a timeless feel rendered in soft beiges and grays punctuated with red accents. Green’s clever text is enhanced by images of the false ghost sightings, classification guide, ghost snacks, hiding places and hazards, and the expressive little ghost as it laughs, plays, sleeps, and smiles. As the girl grows older, the ghost takes the lead in activities the two enjoy, leaving readers with a satisfying and comforting feeling.

Readers will giggle and “aww” and fall in love with the little ghost and the idea of such a wonderful friendship. How to Make Friends with a Ghost is rich in charm and sage advice and would make a welcome presence on any child’s or classroom bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101919019

Learn more about Rebecca Green and find a gallery of her illustration work on her website.

Don’t be frightened! It’s just the adorable How to Make Friends with a Ghost book trailer!

Picture Book Month Activity

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Books to Love, Books to Read Book Bag

 

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

 

Supplies

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

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Directions

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

September 25 – World Dream Day and Interview with Author Michelle Cuevas

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About the Holiday

World Dream Day is a global participatory holiday that encourages individuals, schools, businesses, and families to focus on their dreams and make them reality. Discovering and acting on your dreams can transform not only your life, but the lives of others. Imagine how the world could change if everyone had the opportunity to live their dreams. Today, feel inspired and empowered to do or become whatever you’ve always dreamed of!

Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow

Written by Michelle Cuevas | Illustrated by Sydney Smith

 

Smoot the Shadow was bored. Bored. Bored. For seven and a half years, he’d been doing the same things over and over. Every day, he and his boy—to whom he was firmly connected—“brushed the same teeth, frowned the same frown, and drew the same pictures—always staying perfectly inside the lines.” Smoot’s boy never jumped, ran, or even laughed, so Smoot never did either.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

Excet at night. Then, while the boy slept, Smoot dreamed. He dreamed in a multitude of colors about singing, dancing, and having fun. One day, with an unexpected “pop” Smoot became free of his boy. He didn’t waste a moment, but packed a few things and headed out into the world. He jumped rope, rode a carousel and climbed a tree to say hello to a little bird. He even got to dance in a field of multicolored wildflowers just like in his dreams.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

Suddenly, other shadows took notice. As they watched Smoot play, they became braver too. “‘If he can follow his dreams, we can too,’” they reasoned. The first shadow to take the plunge was a dandelion. As it soared away into the sky, becoming an indistinct form, people tried to guess what it was. All this attention emboldened the shadows of a cricket and a grasshopper who had “formed a band, but were nervous about playing music in public.” Their shadows, however, picked up their instruments and played “like cool shade on a hot afternoon.”

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

A frog’s shadow discovered his inner prince, and a dragonfly’s shadow floated out over the city as a ferocious dragon. Even a lowly rock’s shadow had dreams of greatness, transforming into “a cathedral, and then a skyscraper, and finally a castle that reached the clouds.” Smoot began to grow afraid of the imagination he’d unleashed. What if the shadows of zoo animals escaped and roamed through town or if the sun was eclipsed by the shadow of an enormous whale? How would anyone catch them?

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

But Smoot had an idea. He made a castle from the ambitious rock and some others. The frog moved in to live like a prince, and the dragonfly guarded the gate. Then Smoot sang with the grasshopper and cricket to give them more courage, and he blew the dandelion seeds into the air. The shadows all saw that their dreams had come true, so they returned to their owners, who also felt different.

And Smoot’s boy? All the excitement had inspired him to be more like his shadow. After he and his shadow reconnected, they ran, tumbled, jumped in puddles, and played in “singing, ringing, flying, vibrant, dancing color.”

Through her rambunctious shadows, Michelle Cuevas creatively externalizes that small (or loud) voice inside many people that is yearning to be heard and acted on. For many children and adults, giving free reign to their alter ego can feel uncomfortable or even frightening. In her lyrical and uplifting book, Cuevas reveals these dreams for greatness, recognition, or freedom and encourages readers to let go and chase them. She shines a light on how they can take that first step through play, teaming up, or using their imagination and talents to make their dreams come alive.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of sydneydraws.tumblr.com.

Sydney Smith’s striking images immediately orient readers to the monotone world the boy lives in. While outside the window colors abound, inside, the boy sits on a gray sofa with a black-and-white rug and his black-and-white dog nearby. The walls are white, the floor is dull, and even the plant—standing away from the light of the window—is browning. Perhaps, however, the painting above the boy offers hope and a little foreshadowing: Black images play on a white canvas, but a swipe of blue and a red dot add lively, colorful accents. Likewise, the red-covered book the boy reads is a bright spot in this otherwise dreary room.

The boy’s shadow, however, dreams in color. When Smoot pops free of his restraints and goes on a play-filled adventure, the illustrations are full of action and vibrancy. Smoot smiles and exults in his freedom. His joy is infectious, and his antics and clever ways of ensuring that each character gets to fulfill their aspirations will inspire children to uncover their own inner world.

Smoot: a Rebellious Shadow is a heartfelt and empowering book for hesitant and more adventurous children alike. It would make an ideal book for home libraries and classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN  978-0525429692

Discover more about Michelle Cuevas and her books for children and tweens on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Sydney Smith on Tumbler!

World Dream Day Activity

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Live Your Dream! Shadow Blackboard

 

Shadows are fun to create and play with! Making a black board from a shadow is a great way to show your imagination while making a useful decoration for your room. Put on your inventive thinking cap and devise a unique shadow by using toys or other objects from home. You can even make a shadow of yourself! Making the blackboard may require two people.

Supplies

  • Black thick poster board, 1 or 2 pieces or a tri-fold depending on how large your blackboard will be
  • Large sheet of white or light paper
  • Objects to create the shadow
  • Pencil
  • Scissors or x-acto knife
  • Mounting squares or tape
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. To Make a Shadow Blackboard from an object or objects
  2. Choose two or three objects, such as toys, musical instruments, shoes, knick-knacks, etc., that will make interesting shapes or ideas. Arrange the objects in a way to create the picture you want. (In the photo above, a cactus-shaped pillow and a ukulele were used to create the shadow)
  3. Either outside in a sunny spot or inside with a light, lay the white paper on the ground
  4. As one person holds the item or items above the paper, trace the shadow.
  5. Alternately, if the objects are large enough, you can arrange them and trace them on the white paper or directly on the black poster board.
  6. Cut the shadow out of the white paper
  7. Trace the shadow on the black poster board with the chalk
  8. Cut the image out of the black poster board
  9. Attach the shadow blackboard to your wall with the mounting squares or tape
  10. Use colored chalk to write or draw your dreams and doodles on your blackboard

To Make a Shadow Blackboard of Yourself

  1. Lie down on the white paper
  2. Strike a pose
  3. Have someone else trace you
  4. Cut out your figure
  5. Trace the figure onto the black poster board
  6. Cut out the figure from the black poster board
  7. Attach to the wall with the mounting squares

Meet Author Michelle Cuevas

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I’m excited to talk with Michelle Cuevas today about Smoot, her research adventures, and her very innovative Halloween costumes!

What draws you to write quiet picture books about introspective characters?

I actually think about this question a lot! I suppose it has to do with being a bit of a lone wolf as a kid – I loved making up song lyrics, building rock gardens, writing a newspaper about the lives of neighborhood animals. I was good at creating little worlds inside my own world, (I have three brothers, so I had company, but mostly the fighting-over-monopoly kind). I also think that in everyday life, it’s not always the big-bad-villain-monster that we’re up against. Often the things we face are inside – fear, loneliness, grief. I like characters who take on that kind of struggle, who make the everyday ‘okay this is hard but I’m going to keep trying’ feel extraordinary.

What was your inspiration for Smoot?

Smoot came to me when I had a couple candles lit and the shadows made me think I should do a book about shadow puppets… or a shadow puppeteer… something in that world. As I started writing, I realized that the most interesting character by far was the shadow. What were the shadow’s innermost dreams? Thoughts? Ideas? A lot of people ask about his name also. I think it’s a combination of “smudge” and “soot,” (though a child I met suggested it could also be “small” and “foot.” Definitely possible). I have such a great time naming characters in my books, I think I would thoroughly enjoy a career at Crayola in the color-naming department.

If you were a runaway shadow, where would you go or what would you do?

If I were a runaway shadow I might like to try being other things for a while – you could go be the shadow of a galloping horse, a skyscraper, a cloud across the surface of the ocean. The possibilities are pretty endless.

One of your activities is falconry, which conjures up such wonderful images. Could you tell how you became involved in falconry and a little bit about it?

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I like to do research for my books, so falconry started as research for my second novel about a boy who is half bird and hatched from an egg. I got very interested in it, even looking into getting my own Harris Hawk, but it takes many years and several days of hunting every week. Maybe someday!

I’ve also done research by riding elephants, bird banding with ornithologists, interviewing astrophysicists, spending time with butterflies, and more. It’s a really interesting part of my job!

Your research sounds fascinating and such fun! Is there anything you’d like to try that you haven’t yet?

I like to keep trying new things as a writer, and one new adventure I’m trying is artwork. I LOVED Shel Silverstein as a kid, so I’m pretty sure he’s my inspiration. I’ve been afraid to illustrate my own picture book, so far just sticking to little line drawings in my last two novels.

Perhaps I’ll take a cue from Smoot, be brave, and give picture books a try in the near future!

In your beautiful The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, the main character collects and delivers messages sent through bottles tossed into the sea. If you were going to write such a note to your readers, what would you say?

My dedication for Uncorker read:

For the Ocean Bottle Senders and Ocean Bottle seekers:

Try. Want. Wish. Tell

Is everyone as intrigued by book dedications as I am? When I read a book, I love imagining who the people are in the dedications, why did the author choose them? I often think about themes of my books when I write a dedication to a specific person. Since Uncorker is about a man with no name, and since the messages sent in bottles are often to no one in particular, I decided my dedication should reflect both of these feelings too.

As an author of middle grade and picture books, what do you find is the best part of writing for children?

The best part of writing for children… well, from my perspective, the best part is the sense of fun. I started out during my fiction MFA writing stories for adults. I’d often turn in stories with talking plants or deer that broke into houses. These stories confused the other writers in my program. Who were they for? Not serious-thinking adults. My mom sent me care packages, often with books inside, mostly kids’ books I had loved when I was younger or new ones she thought looked cute. I read them and it was a light bulb-over-my-head moment. I started writing my first novel about a prolific painting elephant my last year of graduate school and suddenly, my writing felt like me. I was able to do all the wild, free, magical things I had wanted to do all along in my writing. I was finally having fun.

And I think the best part in the “interacting with the world” category is when a child (or adult) says they connected to a character, or that a character’s tale made them cry. We don’t know one another very well, but I know how it feels when a book makes me cry. It’s a remarkable connection, really blows me away every time.

What’s Up Next for You?

Up next for me are visiting schools to talk about my new books Smoot and The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole. In April 2018 I have a new picture book out with Catia Chien called Town of Turtle. It’s about a turtle who decides to do some renovations to his shell, which of course get wildly out of hand.

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I have to ask: what is your favorite holiday, and do you have any stories you’d like to share?

My favorite holiday… I’ve always loved making costumes and the idea of getting to be a character on Halloween. Even in the last few years I’ve been… a pro wrestler, a deer with branch antlers, Cindy Lou-Who, a falconer… the list goes on. Last year I was Lydia Deetz from the movie Beetlejuice. When I was Cindy Lou-Who I spent a couple days making a wire-rigged headpiece with some very architectural hair. Making the costume is half the fun. I have several glue gun burns to prove it.

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I also got my Bernese Mountain dog a backpack to hand out candy. I don’t usually let him wear clothing, but made an exception for lollipop duty.

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Thanks, Michelle, for the fun and inspiring interview—and all of the fantastic pics! I wish you all the best with Smoot and all of your other books!

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You can find Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow at these booksellers

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

You can connect with Michelle on: her website | Twitter

Picture Book Review

September 21 – It’s Self-Awareness Month and Interview with Author/Illustrator Cale Atkinson

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About the Holiday

Self-Awareness Month was established to encourage people to get to know themselves, not as others see them but as they really are. Only when a person really knows who they are, where they’ve come from, and what they want can they achieve happiness. While it can be hard not to compare oneself to others, each person’s value comes from their own spirit, talents, and thoughts. Once people accept themselves, they can find their place in the world and accomplish wonderful things. To celebrate this month’s holiday, take some time to reflect on your life and see if you are being true to yourself.

Where Oliver Fits

By Cale Atkinson

 

Opening the book, you might feel as if you’ve upended a jigsaw puzzle box. But as you look at all the pieces spilled across the page, you’ll realize that each one is so different—and they have legs and faces! So you look at the words: “Do you ever wonder where you fit?”, and you think, “yeah, I do.” Well, “Oliver wondered too.” Who’s Oliver? He’s the little roundish piece down in the corner. Yep, that’s him—the cute one (sure, they’re all cute in their own way, but you know what I mean).

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2017, courtesy of Cale Atkinson and Tundra Books.

Oliver was just getting started on this journey called life, and he “couldn’t wait to see where he fit. He wanted to be part of something exciting…Something wild…Something out of this world!.” Maybe he’d sail the seas as part of a pirate kraken, rock out as the central piece of a guitar-shredding monster, or zoom to the moon as the heart of an astronaut unicorn.

Oliver was excited to start looking around for his perfect place. He met a group of blue and red guys who had a roundish space waiting to be filled, but when he asked about joining, it seemed his colors weren’t a good match. On his second attempt at friendship, Oliver was told he wasn’t square enough. (Didn’t that used to be a good thing?) The third group Oliver approached had a bumpy, angled space to fill. They just laughed when they saw him coming.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2017, courtesy of Cale Atkinson and Tundra Books.

Oliver was getting frustrated and feeling down. He decided that he had to change. “Maybe I have to be more like them and less like me,” he thought. Remembering the first group—the one that wanted “more red,” Oliver took a red marker and colored himself in. At first, when they saw him, the group accepted him happily. When the marker began to run, though, he was booted out. Maybe changing his color didn’t work, but what if he altered his shape?

He covered himself with connecting blocks and went in search of the square guys, but when he found them, they told him he was now “too square!” Oliver tried disguise after disguise. Some made him “too tall”; some made him “too short,” and others were just wrong, wrong, wrong. Poor Oliver was at his wit’s end. “If someone else is what they want, someone else is what they’ll get!” he determined.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2017, courtesy of Cale Atkinson and Tundra Books.

He took some cardboard, glue, tape, and paint and fashioned himself the perfect bumpy, angled suit. Then he went back to the third group he’d met. Ohhh! They greeted him as an old friend. They loved his shape and his color and invited him to join them. At last Oliver had found a place to fit. In fact, “he fit so well that no one had a clue it was really him.” Oliver was happy—or was he? As he watched other pieces come and go, rejected for not being just right, Oliver began to wonder, “am I really still me?”

The fun of fitting in began to wear off, so he removed his disguise and left the group. While it was good to be himself again, he was back to square one with nowhere to go. Oliver felt dejected. All of his plans to be part of something wild and wonderful were falling apart. He was alone. Suddenly, Oliver saw two other pieces who had also changed to fit in. When they came near and took off their disguises, Oliver saw that he could join them in a—truly—perfect fit. Through his experiences, Oliver “discovered that you can’t rush or force your fit. All you can do is be yourself.” Then the exciting, wild, and out-of-this-world part will take care of itself, because the world isn’t complete without you—or Oliver.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2017, courtesy of Cale Atkinson and Tundra Books.

Kids will fall in love with little Oliver the moment they see him. Excited, earnest, and sweet, Oliver is navigating his way through the world, looking for the place he fits best—just the same as they are. Cale Atkinson understands the way children—and adults—try out various groups and even personas while forming friendships and even a sense of self. His conversational style will resonate with readers, many of whom have asked or will ask themselves the same questions as Oliver.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2017, courtesy of Cale Atkinson and Tundra Books.

Atkinson’s use of a puzzle piece as his main character is smart, sophisticated, and fun too. Young readers will giggle at some of Oliver’s disguises even while they recognize that each costume doesn’t “fit.” The image of Oliver encased in his bumpy, angled costume is particularly moving as he comes to the conclusion that hiding himself is not the answer. The final image of the completed puzzle is a delight that children will want to linger over. They’ll enjoy discovering little Oliver in the midst of the life he had imaginated as well as flipping back and forth through the pages to find how each group of pieces fits into the whole.

Where Oliver Fits is a fantastic book for classrooms and a child’s home library for fun story times and for those days when a little more encouragement is needed.

Ages 3 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101919071

Discover more about Cale Atkinson, his books, and his art as well as some pretty amazing animation on his website!

Self-Awareness Month Activity

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I Am… Jigsaw Puzzle

 

Everyone is made up of various talents, personality traits, and feelings that make them unique. With this I Am… Jigsaw Puzzle, you can celebrate the things that make you…you!

Supplies

  • Wooden jigsaw puzzle, available at craft stores
  • Child’s wallet-size photo
  • Paint in various colors
  • Markers
  • Magnetic squares or strips (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Paint the puzzle pieces in any colors or patterns you like, let dry
  2. Glue the picture of yourself to the center puzzle piece
  3. On the other pieces write words that describe you
  4. Attach magnetic squares or strips to the back of the pieces (optional for hanging on a refrigerator)
  5. Put the puzzle together or use the individual pieces as separate magnets to display all of your wonderful qualities!

Q & A with Cale Atkinson

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Today I’m happy to talk with Cale Atkinson about Where Oliver Fits, a major benefit of being a children’s author and illustrator, and his own early self-awareness.

What inspired you to write Where Oliver Fits?

As I was walking home one afternoon I watched everyone around me busily rushing around. Some were going this way, others that way, some in a group, some alone. It made me think how we are all running around, trying to find our fit in life and our fit in the world, much like a bunch of puzzle pieces.

How did you get involved in illustrating and writing picture books?

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Adorable characters inspire and keep Cale company while working.

Ever since I was young I was eager to tell my own stories, be it in the form of comics, cartoon strips, or picture books. I’ve been writing stories from an early age but only started to seriously attempt writing picture books years later, once I had been working as a professional artist and began to understand how to go about it.  I’m still amazed to see a book I’ve written sitting in a bookstore!   

You’ve said that you believe in tea more than sleep. As a fellow tea enthusiast, I’d love to know what your favorite tea is.

I’m actually a simple straight up Orange Pekoe guy! Give me a big box of that Tetley, and I’m happy. As my tea drinking friends dubbed it, I like my peasant tea!

In a letter you once wrote as a child, you show such self-confidence and self-awareness as an artist. Can you talk about that a little?

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Cale Atkinson’s studio – where the magic happens

I honestly don’t really know where that came from! I truly wasn’t a confident kid in most aspects, but for some reason I was always 100% confident that I would become an artist/storyteller in some form or another. I’ve always loved creating as well as sharing my latest story, drawing or idea. I was a shy child, but felt with art I could let the drawings do the talking for me.

If you were a puzzle piece would you rather be an edge piece or one in the center? Why?

I think I would be a corner piece, so I could still be near other pieces to hang out with, but also have my own space when I need it. Rather than being all crammed up on all sides somewhere in the middle!  I would also be able to glimpse the world beyond the puzzle’s edges, and let everyone know what’s out there!

What’s the best thing about writing and illustrating for kids?

Not having to pretend to be an adult.

Do you have an anecdote from a book signing or school visit you’d like to share?

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, courtesy of Cale Atkinson

I always love sharing examples of the various things I’ve worked on in my school visits. When I showed a slide of SpongeBob SquarePants from a game I helped work on, the entire group of kids broke out into singing the SpongeBob theme song!

What’s up next for you?

I’m happy to report I have two written/illustrated books coming in 2018!

The first is titled Off & Away, published through Disney Hyperion.  It’s a story of courage, overcoming fears, and larger than life adventures.

The second is titled Sir Simon – Super Scarer, published through Tundra Books.  Simon the ghost introduces us to the world of haunting, what it means to be a ghost, and how much he dreads doing his ghost chores.

What is your favorite holiday?

Halloween, hands down! I love the fun of it! Costumes! Pumpkins! Candy! Old scary movies! What’s not to love?!

Do you have an anecdote from a holiday you’d like to share?

My dad was always into Halloween just as much as my brother and I.  Every year we would add more and more decorations out onto the front lawn. One year we added dry ice, making everything all foggy! Another year my dad made a giant, fully functioning Guillotine, which could cut a full pumpkin in half! Not the safest, but we thought it was amazing (and happy to report none of us lost our heads).

Thanks, Cale, for stopping by today! I’ve really enjoyed our fun, funny, and insightful chat. I wish you all the best with Where Oliver Fits and all of your other books!

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You can find Where Oliver Fits at these Booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Mosaic Books (signed copies available for order)

You can connect with Cale Atkinson on his:

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Tumbler

Picture Book Review