August 9 – Book Lovers Day

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About the Holiday

Simply stated this is a day when those who love to read can indulge their passion. With so many amazing books available—both new and old—no one could fault you if you call in sick and spend the day reading!

Ralph Tells a Story

By Abby Hanlon

 

“‘Stories are everywhere!’” Ralph’s teacher sang to her class, but Ralph wasn’t so sure. He didn’t see stories anywhere. It seemed the other kids could make up stories from everything that happened to them, and Ralph’s teacher loved these stories. But when it came time to write, Ralph just stared at his paper or at the ceiling; he could never think of anything. He tried distractions like going to the bathroom or the water fountain, but it didn’t work.

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Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of abbyhanlon.com.

One day Ralph asked his friend Daisy for help. She was surprised that Ralph couldn’t write a story because she had written a bunch about him. One was about the time she combed his hair and another was about when he painted his fingernails black with a marker. In fact she was just stapling all these stories together into a book. Ralph wanted to use the stapler too, but Daisy said he needed a story first.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ralph-tells-a-story-classroom

Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of Two Lions.

So Ralph “looked for stories out the window, in the aquarium, in [his] desk…and even on the floor.” Lying on the floor reminded Ralph of a time at the park when an inchworm crawled on his knee. Just then his teacher saw him and asked what his story was about. Ralph said the first thing he thought: “Um…um…I saw an inchworm.” His teacher thought that sounded marvelous. But really, Ralph thought, there was no story to tell.

And when Ralph sat down to write it, he immediately got stuck. He asked Daisy to help, but she was too busy writing her own story. Suddenly, the teacher called everyone up to the rug, and she picked Ralph to read his story first. Ralph got up and, clutching his paper to his chest, said, “‘I was at the park and an inchworm crawled on my knee.’” He looked out at the quiet faces gazing up at him.

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Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of abbyhanlon.com.

Ralph looked at Daisy. She said, “‘Wow! Really? Did it feel squishy, Ralphie? Did you take it home?’” Then everyone started asking questions, and Ralph remembered that something had happened with the inchworm. He began to tell about the day. He had picked up the inchworm and named him Nick. He had “built Nick a house but he just inched away.” Ralph followed Nick and never noticed the baby following him until the baby picked up Nick and put him in his diaper.

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Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Ralph asked the baby to give Nick back, but he didn’t. Then Ralph saw Nick escaping from the diaper by crawling up the baby’s belly. He grabbed Nick and ran, and they spent the day playing together. At the end “everybody clapped and cheered” and they wanted to see Ralph’s picture.

Now Ralph is a great writer. He’s written one hundred funny stories and has even drawn covers for some of his favorites. Do you need help writing? Take a few tips from Ralph! 

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Copyright Abby Hanlon, 2012. Courtesy of abbyhanlon.com.

Abby Hanlon’s story of a would-be storyteller with writer’s block is as cute as they come. Ralph’s angst at not finding the stories that his classmates seem to pop out so easily will be recognized by anyone who is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to their endeavors. With gentle humor, Hanlon shows readers that putting oneself out there often turns out okay. Ralph’s inchworm story will keep kids riveted to and giggling over Nick’s fate. Through Daisy, Hanlon also reveals how a good friend can help encourage the kinds of self-confidence that lead to success. Ralph’s writing tips are lighthearted and helpful in getting kids to relax, appreciate their own real-life stories, and open their imaginations.

Hanlon’s soft-hued illustrations of a group of adorable, rakish kids draw readers in to Ralph’s creative classroom. Once there, children will want to linger over all the details included. Comics-style dialog bubbles hold humorous asides as well as Ralph’s developing inchworm story. The titles of Ralph’s many stories many inspire kids to make up tales to go with them.

Ralph Tells a Story would be a fantastic classroom book to share during a story-writing unit and a fun addition to home bookshelves for anyone who needs a little encouragement or who loves a funny story.

Ages 5 – 8

Two Lions, 2012 | ISBN 978-0761461807

Book Lovers Day Activity

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Bookworm Bookmark

 

If you love books then you will love this printable Bookworm Bookmark! Just print it out and cut a slit at the mouth. This little worm will happily save your page for you.

Picture Book Review

July 10 – It’s National Grilling Month

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About the Holiday

With its long, warm days, summer is the perfect time to cook outdoors. Grilling up some delectable treats like burgers, hot dogs, steak, ribs, shrimp, and corn on the cob will satisfy a family or a crowd! And of course you can never go wrong by adding a few smoky spices to the recipe!

Jack and the Giant Barbecue

Written by Eric A. Kimmel | Illustrated by John Manders

 

“Once upon a time there was a boy named Jack who loved barbecue.” He loved it so much, in fact, that he would saddle up his pony and ride across the mountains of West Texas for spicy ribs or sausage. He couldn’t enjoy barbecue at home because his mother wept every time she smelled that distinctive smoky aroma. It reminded her of Jack’s daddy, and she said, “I can’t eat barbecue with my whole plate full of tears.”

Jack wanted to know the whole story, so his mother told him. Jack’s daddy had been the most famous barbecue chef in West Texas until a giant stole his cookbook and took all of his secret recipes with it. Jack’s daddy was so heartbroken that “he just keeled over and died.” After that, Jack’s mother could never eat barbecue again. At that moment, Jack promised to track down that giant and retrieve his daddy’s recipe book.

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Image copyright John Manders, 2012. Courtesy of johnmanders.com.

Taking his faithful pony, Jack rode out to Mount Pecos, which he knew could take him into the sky where the giants lived. He climbed up, up, up into the clouds. From there he walked until “he began smelling something smoky and sweet, with just the right hint of vinegar and spices. Barbecue!” Jack followed his nose to an old, broken-down shack as big as a football field and as tall as a ten-story building.” 

Inside, Jack found a greasy mess and a floor strewn with rib bones the size of skis. The place seemed deserted, except for the jukebox in the corner. The jukebox had grievances of her own against the giant, who had broken some pretty big promises. She told Jack just where he could find his daddy’s recipe book—hidden among her 45s “between Your Cheatin’ Heart and Pancho and Lefty.’’’ Jack climbed inside and was making his way to slot D-9 when he heard the giant come home.

The minute the giant stomped inside, he sniffed the air and bellowed, “Fee-fi-fo-fum! / A Texas boy this way has come. / I’ll dip him in salsa and pico de gallo, / and swallow him down for Cinco de Mayo.” The jukebox quickly covered for Jack, and the giant turned his attention to the “two sides of beef, ten racks of ribs, and fifty feet of sausage” in the smoker. After that little snack, he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Jack was having trouble reaching the book inside the enormous jukebox, and time was wasting. Jack should not still be there when the giant woke up, the jukebox warned. With the jukebox directing, Jack tipped her over onto some rib bones, and since the floor was slick with grease, it was no problem to simply slide her out the door. Just as they got outside, though, the giant awoke wanting more barbecue—which meant he needed his recipe book. He noticed the empty space where the jukebox had been and the tracks leading out. The giant jumped in his pickup truck and “went tearing across the clouds after Jack.”

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Jack was too quick for him, though. He slipped through the clouds, down Mount Pecos, and all the way home. The giant wasn’t quite as lucky. He was going too fast to stop and mowed down every mountain in his way. “Since then West Texas has been flat as a skillet all the way to New Mexico.” And what happened to Jack and his ma? Well, with the recipe book back where it belonged, Jack opened his own restaurant. The jukebox provides just the right atmosphere. Ma works there and so does the giant—after all, where else can he get the barbecue he loves?

Eric A. Kimmel’s spicy tall tale is a little bit country, a little bit rock n’ roll and whole lotta fun. Kids who love barbecue, a wild adventure, and the twang of western humor will gobble up this re-imagined Jack and the Beanstalk story. The jilted jukebox makes for a colorful sidekick, and Kimmel’s clever escape ploy will delight kids.

John Manders has conjured up one hairy scary giant with a taste for barbecue and a nose for interlopers, and his greasy spoon, with its wagon wheel lighting fixtures and bull’s horn décor, would feel right at home in Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible line-up. The antique jukebox is ingeniously conceived, with an expressive eye created by the row of vinyl 45s. Manders’ giant imagination ramps up the humor in this smokin’ hot story.

Ages 6 – 8

Two Lions, 2012 | ISBN 978-0761461289

If you’d like to learn more about Eric A. Kimmel and his books as well as hear him read some of his books aloud, visit his website!

You can step right inside John Manders’ studio and take a look around by visiting his website!

National Grilling Month Activity

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Backyard Cooking Fun Coloring Page

 

While you’re waiting for that tasty barbecue to grill up tangy and delicious, gather your pencils, crayons, or markers and enjoy this printable Backyard Cooking Fun Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

May 20 – Learn to Swim Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-splatypus-coverAbout the Holiday

Established by Swimways in 2012, today’s holiday is dedicated to educating parents, caregivers, and children about water safety and the importance of learning to swim. With summer officially beginning this weekend, kids will be soon be cooling off at beaches, lakes, rivers, and pools. Knowing how to swim and learning to recognize dangers and water hazards are crucial skills for swimmers of all ages. To learn more about education programs and fun ways to celebrate Learn to Swim Day, visit the Swimways website!

SPLATypus

Written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen | Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic

 

Platypus is feeling lonely as he walks along the shore looking for someone to play with. When a couple of kangaroos hop by, Platypus is happy to see them. “‘I’ll jump too!’” he shouts. He takes off on his blue, webbed feet “skipping, hopping, dipping, dropping.” But he loses control and falls flat on his bill—“Splatypus!” Platypus waves goodbye to the kangaroos, sure that he’ll soon find his place.

Next, two dingoes chase / and run with grace. / Platypus says, ‘I’ll go race!’” But where the dogs leap easily over a fallen log, Platypus struggles and strains to pull himself on top. Then—whoa!—he wobbles and teeters and tumbles and rolls—“Splatypus!” Although trying to be as agile as a dingo didn’t work out, Playpus isn’t giving up on finding where he belongs.

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Image copyright Jackie Urbanovic, text copyright Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Courtesy of Two Lions

Up in a tree, Platypus watches a group of possums playing in the branches. He scrambles to join them, but his hands and feet slip and slide on the smooth trunk and he lands bonk on his head. Suddenly, he sees “fruit bats fly / across the sky. / Platypus says, / ‘I’ll soar high!’” He runs up a cliff to launch himself into the air, but the rocky path trips him up. When he finally reaches the edge, he leaps, flapping his arms and legs. But instead of soaring he goes “Splatypus!”

Poor Platypus! “Nothing’s easy. / Tummy’s queasy. / So discouraged, / lost his courage.” He decides to give up on flying, climbing, and jumping. The day is almost over and still Platypus hasn’t found any friends. He goes to sleep in the shade of a palm tree. The next morning, still feeling dejected, Platypus worries that the day will be no fun. As he strolls near the edge of the bay, however, he spots some swans swimming by and then two “penguins cry / a soggy ‘Hi!’”

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Image copyright Jackie Urbanovic, text copyright Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Courtesy of Two Lions

They look as if they are having so much fun that Platypus decides to try one more time to join in. He wades into the water and dives in. With a “ker-sploosh, ker-splash!” Platypus finds that he’s a natural! Now, “water wiggling, all are giggling.” As he floats and paddles with the penguins, swans, fish, and turtles, he “looks around, / at last he’s found / the perfect place for Splatypus.”

Little ones will giggle from beginning to end of this funny story that shows that sometimes you have to try a lot of different things before you find your perfect niche. Platypus’s can-do attitude and perseverance are great lessons for children beginning to navigate school, activities, and friendships. Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s rollicking rhythm and easy-to-repeat rhymes will have kids reading—and most likely moving—along with the story.

Jackie Urbanovic takes kids to the coast of Australia to meet kangaroos, dingoes, possums, fruit bats, and even a sea dragon in her sunny illustrations. Little Platypus, with his blue feet, hands, and bill, is adorable as he tries activity after activity with little success. When he finally finds some swimming buddies, kids will cheer to see the satisfied smile on his face.  The large type face will invite beginning readers to try reading for themselves—and persistent Platypus is a good role model along the journey.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1503939202

Discover more about Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and her books as well as downloadable teacher’s guides on her website!

You’ll find books, a portfolio of art, coloring pages and more by Jackie Urbanovic on her website!

Learn to Swim Day Activity

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In the Swim! Maze

 

One little boy would like to join his friends in the pool. Can you help him by finding a path through this printable In the Swim maze? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

March 13 – National Napping Day

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About the Holiday

If there’s one day a year when you should be easy on yourself and take a nap when the feeling strikes, today is it! Held annually on the Monday after the spring time change, National Napping Day allows us to recapture that lost hour of sleep and reset our body clocks. So if you start feeling that can’t-keep-my-eyes-open  weariness, go ahead and kick off your shoes, get comfy, and….

Twenty Yawns

Written by Jane Smiley | Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

 

A little girl and her mom and dad are out for a day at the beach. Along the curving coastline they found the perfect spot to plant their umbrella and unfold their chairs. While Lucy dug a hole near the foaming waves, her mom and dad read in the shade of the umbrella. When the hole was big enough to hold her dad, Lucy “covered him up and they laughed and laughed.” Later, Lucy’s dad took her hand and swung “her into the sky” just as a wave crashed onto the shore.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Jane Smiley. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

In the afternoon Lucy, Mom, and Dad walked “all the way to the end of the beach,” stopping here and there to chase seagulls, fly a kite, and play. Coming back, Lucy rolled “down the soft warm dunes,” never wanting the day to end. Returning to their umbrella, the three built a sandcastle and headed for home only when the sun began to set. “Lucy yawned. Mom yawned. Dad yawned.” Everyone was ready to go to bed early.

When they reached home, “Lucy put on her pajamas inside out, climbed into bed, and yawned a big YAWN.” Lucy’s mom began to read her a story about a little boy named Fred. Lucy yawned and began to doze, but soon she no longer heard her mom’s voice. She peeked at her mom. “She was asleep!” Lucy stared out into her room. “The moon shone through the window, a silver veil that fell across the floor. Everything looked mysterious, even Lucy’s own hands on the bedspread.”

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Jane Smiley. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Suddenly, all the people in her pictures—Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Elizabeth, Mom, Dad, and even Fred in the book on the floor—seemed to be looking at her. Lucy wanted her teddy bear, Molasses. She crept out of her room, past her dad sleeping in a living room chair, and over to the bookcase, where Molasses hid under a pile of toys. As Lucy pulled at Molasses, Hornet the giraffe, Juno the horse, Mathilda the alligator, Frank the kangaroo, and his baby, Leonard all tumbled to the floor.

As Lucy started back to her room, she saw her toys watching her. They looked so lonely. One by one she carried them to her bed and “dropped them in a patch of moonlight.” She tucked them in and gave each a kiss. She thought they all “looked sleepy and happy.” Lucy cuddled up next to her toys and yawned. They in turn yawned too. So did Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Elizabeth, Mom, Dad, and even Fred. Lucy hugged Molasses tight, “gave one last YAWN…and fell asleep.”

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Jane Smiley. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Jane Smiley’s Twenty Yawns perfectly captures the deep-down happy tiredness after a day in the sun. While Mom and Dad surrender to sleep, Lucy’s awareness is heightened in the strangely quiet house and can only be alleviated by sharing her bedtime routine with her stuffed animal friends. Beautiful lyrical passages paint word pictures of the tropical setting and Lucy’s imagination, while Lucy’s tender care for her toys replicates the love her parents show her.

Lauren Castillo’s blue sea and golden beach glows with the warmth of the sun and a family’s togetherness. Lucy and her dad play in the surf, Lucy’s parents walk hand-in-hand as Lucy runs after seagulls on their walk, and they all help build a sandcastle. Back home in their cozy house, Lucy and her mom gaze out a window as their house is cast in shadow by the setting sun. Tall palm trees wave against a blue, purple, pink, peach, and yellow sky. Little Lucy is adorable as she plays in the dunes, creeps through her sleeping house, and kisses her toys goodnight. Young readers will contentedly join Lucy and her family in their fun day as well as their yawny snoozing. 

Little ones who wonder if there are indeed 20 yawns in the book will be rewarded by counting each sigh.

Twenty Yawns is a sweet, quiet book for naptimes, bedtimes, indoor days, and any time when a little relaxation is just what’s needed.

Ages 2 – 7

Two Lions, 2016 | ISBN 978-1477826355

You can connect with Jane Smiley on Facebook.

Learn more about Lauren Castillo, her books, and her art on her website.

Napping Day Activity

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Sleepy Buddy Craft

 

It’s easy to make a one-of-a-kind sleepy buddy for naptime or any time. With just a few materials and your own creativity, you’ll soon have a new friend to snuggle with!

Supplies

  • 1 8-inch by 11-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the body (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project). A larger piece of fleece can be used to make a larger buddy
  • 1 5-inch by 8-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the hair (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project)
  • 1 small piece of fleece or other material for a pocket, clothes, or blanket
  • Small scraps of fleece or other material for the face
  • Fiber Fill
  • Thread and sewing needle OR fabric glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Fold the large piece of fleece in half lengthwise and sew along the open side and along the bottom. Alternatively, if using a larger size piece of fleece, fold upward and sew or glue the two sides closed.
  2. Turn the form inside out

To Make the Hair

  1. Cut a piece of fleece as wide as your buddy and about 7 – 8 inches long
  2. Fold the fleece lengthwise
  3. Insert both ends of the fleece into the opening at the top of the body
  4. Sew or glue the opening shut, securing the hair
  5. Cut strips about ¼-inch wide from the top of the hair to close to where the hair is sown into the body

To Make a Pocket or Clothes

  1. Cut a piece of fleece in the shape of a pocket, shirt, pants, diaper, or blanket
  2. Sew or glue the pocket or clothes to the buddy

To Make the Face

  1. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in whatever way you would like your buddy to look. (My buddy is sleeping.)
  2. Sew or glue the face to the buddy
  3. Snuggle up!

Picture Book Review