January 18 – It’s International Quality of Life Month

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About the Holiday

Enjoying a good quality of life means being happy where you live and in your relationships, your job, and your situation in general. Finding the right balance can be hard, but with perseverance and support from friends and family, you can discover and attain the best lifestyle for you.

Cowboy Car

Written by Jeanie Franz Ransom | Illustrated by Ovi Nedelcu

 

“Ever since he was knee-high to his daddy’s hubcaps, Little Car wanted to be a cowboy.” He watched cowboy movies on the TV in his city garage and loved everything about cowboy life. Little Car lived in the city, squeezed in between lanes and lanes of cars and unable to see the sky for the soaring skyscrapers. He dreamed of sleeping under the stars and roaming the wide open plains. But everyone told Little Car, “‘Cars Can’t Be Cowboys.’”

Little Car’s dad wanted him to be a city taxi, like him; his mom hoped he’d be “a family car and settle down in a garage close to home.” Neither of those futures, however, offered the excitement of “herding cattle by day” and the camaraderie of “circling up around the campfire at night,” so when Little Car grew up he headed out West. First, he needed to look the part, but where would he find a hat big enough? He pulled up at a cowboy supply depot, and there on the roof sat the perfect 50-gallon hat!

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Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

With the hat settled firmly on his roof, Little Car drove on to the Circle R. Ranch. There he met Dusty, who listened to Little Car’s dream of being a cowboy and gave him a bit of bad news: “‘Cars can’t be cowboys. They can’t ride horses!’” Little Car was disappointed, and so was Dusty—the ranch really needed extra help. Little Car wanted to prove his mettle, so Dusty agreed to let him try a few cowboy tests. The next morning, Little Car “zoomed around the barrels in no time. He was used to making quick turns around tight corners in the city.” He was also strong enough to carry heavy loads and move bales of hay. He could even round up li’l doggies in the dark in the beam of his headlights.

The next day Dusty promised to take Little Car to the rodeo. When they got there, though, Little Car was told he couldn’t participate because he didn’t ride a horse. Still, he was excited to watch Dusty ride Double Trouble, the biggest, meanest bull on the circuit. With Dusty hanging on tight, Double Trouble bucked and snorted and leaped. In a minute Dusty was thrown to the ground, and Double Trouble was headed straight toward him.

“With tires squealing, horn honking, and the radio blasting, Little Car got everyone’s attention—including the bulls.” He zipped right and left, “swerved, stopped, backed up, and drove around and around until the bull’s snorts turned into snores.” Afterward, a news reporter wanted to know if he was a cowboy at the Circle R. Ranch. “‘He sure is,’ Dusty said. ‘In fact, he’s my pardner!’”

Watching the report on the garage TV, Little Car’s mom and dad proudly exclaimed, “‘That’s our cowboy!’” And “Little Car drove off into the sunset, home on the range at last.”

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Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Li’l pardners enamored of the cowboy life will be charmed by Little Car and his dreams to leave the big city for the freedom of cowboy life. With clever turns of phrase and a sprinkling of puns, Jeanie Franz Ransom takes readers on an endearing ride through the ups and downs, disappointments and successes of navigating life on one’s own. When Little Car uses his city experience, smarts, and courage to save Dusty and earn a spot at the ranch, despite not being able to ride a horse, kids will see that they too can overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals.

Children will love adorable Little Car as he snuggles next to his mom and taxicab dad in the garage. With wide headlight eyes and a grill with an ever-present grin, Little Car makes his way out West, where kids will giggle at the 50-gallon hat atop an old general store, whoop as Little Car completes his cowboy tests, and cheer when he outwits Double Trouble to save the day. As Little Car drives off into the sunset, readers will know that he—and they—have a bright future ahead.

Car and cowboy or cowgirl enthusiasts, as well as kids new to school and other activities will find a friend in Little Car and ask to hear his story again and again. Cowboy Car would make a sweet addition to story time and bedtime reading.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1503950979

Discover more about Jeanie Franz Ransom and her books on her website!

You’ll find a portfolio of books and illustration work by Ovi Nedelcu on his website!

International Quality of Life Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-follow-the-open-road-mazeFollow the Open Road Maze

 

 

These four kids are ready to head out and enjoy the day! Match each child to the right car in this printable Follow the Open Road Maze to get them on their way!

Picture Book Review

January 1 – Commitment Day and Interview with Author/Illustrator Lindsay Ward

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About the Holiday

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to think about your relationships and let all of the special people in your life know how much they mean to you. It’s easy to let time go by without telling friends, coworkers, and family members that they are important to you and that you appreciate everything they do for you and with you. Little ones are  committed not only to family and friends but—often with the same fervor—to their favorite toys as well. And vice versa? Perhaps—as today’s book shows!

Don’t Forget Dexter!

By Lindsay Ward

 

In an empty pediatrician’s waiting room, a little dinosaur calls out “Hello? Is anyone there?” Then he sees you! Yes, you, and he needs your help. It seems Dexter (that’s the dino’s name) has lost his best friend, Jack. Jack was just there a minute ago coloring with Dexter, but now he’s gone. Dexter’s been waiting “a really long time. Like forever.” He thinks that “maybe you’ve seen him?” Oh, right! You don’t know what Jack looks like! Dexter draws a quick picture of a kid with curly hair, stick arms, stick legs, and a smile. Have you seen Jack?

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Maybe you and Dexter need a little more help. Suddenly, Dexter has an idea of who to ask. “Excuse me. Hello? Mr. Fish? Have you seen my best friend, Jack?” Or maybe the lady behind the window knows where Jack is. But she’s on the phone and doesn’t even seem to hear or see Dexter. Wait! Dexter knows what to do—he’ll sing his and Jack’s favorite song! “Dexter Dino, stomp through the swamp. Dexter Dino, Chomp, Chomp, Chomp!”

No Jack? Dexter sings louder, but still no Jack. Poor Dexter! He just doesn’t understand. Could it be…”Oh no! What if he left me here ON PURPOSE?” Dexter thinks, as his eyes with tears. But then denial kicks in. That can’t be…after all Dexter says, “I’m Dexter T. Rexter. The toughest, strongest, coolest dinosaur there has ever been. EVER!” And he’s pretty much right! He’s got a swishy tail, chompy teeth, pretty sharp claws, and feet that “make this really cool sound.”

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

But oh, dear…did you really just suggest the unthinkable? That maybe Jack “likes something more? Like another toy?” You know what kinds of great toys are out there—all sorts of cars, trucks, trains, and planes that have fancy moving parts, blinking lights, and swell sounds. “Wait, what did you say? You think dinosaurs ARE awesome?” Just that thought has given Dexter more oomph and confidence. So much, in fact, that he’s going to escape from this waiting room through the window and find Jack.

Dexter builds a pile of books to reach the supply closet handle, grabs some sturdy bandages to make a climbing rope, and—under the watchful gaze of the swimmy “unhelpful spectator,” swings into action and…into the fish tank! Oh no! As Dexter sinks to the bottom, he sees all of his favorite moments sinking with him. “No more playtime. No more bath time. No more bedtime snuggles. No more Jack.” Dexter’s tears mix with the aquarium water.

But what’s this? What is that sound? “DEXTEEERRR!” Dexter recognizes that voice. It’s Jack! See? “And you were so worried.”  But Dexter knew all along he’d never be forgotten. And now as Jack pushes him around the waiting room in a cool sports car, he and Jack even have a new song to sing!

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

What child can resist the roar of a dinosaur who needs help? The opportunity to be bigger, braver, and fiercer, than T-rex is irresistible, and in Lindsay Ward’s hilarious direct-address friendship story, it’s irresistible fun. As Dexter takes readers along on his roller coaster of emotions, asking readers for help and reassurance, kids will empathize with this lost toy who’s feeling small and alone. There will be plenty of giggles when Dexter draws his stick-figure portrait, rappels into the fish tank, and melts into a puddle of dinosaur tears. A spirited reading (and singing) will bring the story fully to life.

Ward’s bright, bold illustrations set Dexter center stage as his emotions play out on his very sweet face. From page to page, Dexter’s expressive eyes register uncertainty, hope, worry, bravado, angst, bravery, despair, and finally joy. Orange Dexter is a cutie with his scattered polka dots and kindergarten-style, writing-paper belly. Kids will recognize the doctor’s office with its universal fish tank; the “better” toys Dexter compares himself to are appropriately menacing; and Dexter’s memories of fun times spent with Jack show readers just how strong the bond between these two friends is. As Jack, wearing a Dexter t-shirt and also with tears in his eyes, searches for Dexter, readers will see that the love between toy and child goes both ways. Children will cheer when Jack reunites with Dexter with a huge hug.

Don’t Forget Dexter! is a funny and heartfelt choice for dinosaur lovers and for introducing discussions of various emotions and the nature of love for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 |ISBN  978-1542047272

Two Lions sent me this book to check out. All opinions are my own.

Discover more about Lindsay Ward, her books, and her art on her website.

Commitment Day Activity

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I Love You Jar

 

You can show the people you love how much they mean to you by giving them your heart! Make this I Love You Jar so you always have a little love on hand to share!

Supplies

  • A decorative clear glass jar, mason jar, or other kind of jar
  • Red felt (or other desired color or colors)
  • Heart stencils or cookie cutter (optional)
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Cut 10 to 20 heart shapes from the red felt 
  2. Place the hearts in the jar for safe keeping
  3. When you want to tell someone that they are special to you, give them a heart!

Meet Lindsay Ward

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Today I’m excited to talk with Lindsay Ward about the text that inspired Dexter, the best part of meeting with students, and what makes Ohio home.

What inspired you to write Don’t Forget Dexter!?

My husband and I were pregnant with our first child and my husband was required to get a T-DAP booster shot prior to our son’s birth. He went to get the shot and while he was waiting to be seen he texted me a photo with of a toy dinosaur lying underneath a chair with the line “well, they left me here.” I laughed out loud when I read the text and immediately sat down to write Dexter’s story. To this day it’s still the fastest idea-to-story moments I’ve ever had. I ended up writing the first draft within an hour and the rest is history.

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When did you know you wanted to write books for children? Has becoming a mom changed the way you work or the themes of your work? If so, in what way?

I always knew I wanted to be an artist of some kind, but I never thought about writing. That actually happened by accident years later once I was already published as an illustrator. When I was 15 I got my first job working in a children’s book store. After meeting authors and illustrators who would come do signings at Hicklebee’s (where I worked), I realized I wanted to illustrate children’s books. I loved the idea of working from a narrative. After I graduated high school I went on to study illustration in college and began trying to get published.

My books have always been connected in some way or another to personal experiences. Now that I have two boys, I definitely get inspired by them. I’m also a lot more critical of books as a mom than I was before. Prior to having kids, I would really only care about the quality of the art when I purchased a book for my home library. Now I expect a book to have the full package— great writing and illustrations. Seeing first hand which books my kids respond to has been really interesting too.

When you’re working on a project, does the story come first or the art?

With the exception of Dont Forget Dexter! and Henry Finds His Word, the story has always come first. Those two titles are the only books where I had a character in my head before the story was written. Generally, I come up with a concept first and then I consider all the directions I can take the story in before I settle on one. Writing is a very instinctual experience for me, I trust my gut to tell me when I’m heading in the right direction.

You hold many readings and events at schools, libraries, and book festivals. Do you have an anecdote from any event you’d like to share?

I love meeting with students and visiting schools and libraries. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job. So often I’m in my own head working on an idea, so when I get the chance to meet my readers, it’s such a wonderful experience. I don’t necessarily have a particular anecdote, but I have experienced more than once going into a school where the students have never met an author or illustrator before. I love being able to show them that they can do something creative with their lives and nothing is impossible. I think that’s a very important lesson for kids to learn. I was lucky enough to have a mom that always supported my dreams, and I can’t imagine what it would have been like to pursue this career if she hadn’t been so supportive.

What’s the best part of writing and illustrating children’s books?

I think that moment where you know you’ve tapped into something great creatively and the idea begins to really come together— that’s a wonderful feeling. I love getting to meet my readers too, that’s the best!

Your book Please Bring Balloons, a mystical story about a little girl who rides a carousel polar bear into a magical arctic dreamscape, has been made into a play and had a recent run at the New York Children’s Theater. Can you talk a bit about that and how it came to be?

I didn’t really have much to do with the process of Please Bring Balloons becoming a play. My agent called one day to let me know they were interested in adapting my book and next thing I know it was a production in New York. I remember my husband brought home a dozen roses for me the day we found out—it was incredibly sweet, saying “this is what they give actors on stage.” Months later, my husband and I had the opportunity to go to New York and see the play—which is one of the best moments of my career as a children’s book author/illustrator. I was so proud of what I had created, and so impressed with the writer, director, and actors who put it all together. Seeing my story come to life was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.

Can you describe your studio a little? What’s your favorite thing in it? Why?

Currently, my studio is in a small bedroom in my house. It’s very cozy and has a beautiful view of the woods and river behind my house. I’m very type-A so I like to keep it organized, the only time it’s usually messy is if I’m working in cut paper on a book—then it looks like a bomb has gone off.  My favorite thing in it is my blue scissors that I’ve used on every book I’ve ever published. I’m a bit superstitious about them.

You grew up in California, lived in New York and Boston, and now live Ohio. What would you say are the three biggest differences in the West Coast, East Coast, and Midwest?

I get this question a lot, mostly from Clevelanders, who are fascinated by the fact that I grew up in California but choose to live in Ohio (sometimes I don’t think they realize how good they have it here). For me, the West Coast is laid back and goes with the flow, the East Coast is always moving, and the Midwest feels like home. I think the reason I fell in love with Cleveland is because the odds are always against it, a lot of people make fun of it or look down on it, but it’s got a lot of heart. Midwesterners are warm and passionate people. I’ve had the opportunity to live in many places and they’ve all given me wonderful experiences and shaped me into who I am today.

What’s up next for you?

I just wrapped up the sequel to Dont Forget Dexter!, titled Its Show-and-Tell, Dexter!, which will come out July 17th, 2018. I’ll be working on a new picture book about the relationship of colors, as told by the color Gray, titled This Book Is Gray, with Two Lions starting in January. And I’m thrilled to be starting a new original board book series, I Go, with HarperCollins next year.

What is your favorite holiday?

Hands down, Thanksgiving! Cooking for my family on a day filled with turkey, pie, and football…it doesn’t get better than that!

Thanks, Lindsay! It’s been fun getting to know more about you and your work! I wish you all the best with Don’t Forget Dexter! and all of your books!

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You can find Don’t Forget Dexter! at these booksellers:

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

You can connect with Lindsay Ward on:

Her Website | Facebook | InstagramTwitter

Picture Book Review

September 22 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Such a terrific month—so many terrific new books! If you haven’t taken the opportunity of this month’s holiday to visit your local bookstore and buy any of the books you’ve seen here or elsewhere, you still have time! Adding new inspirational, educational, encouraging, and just plain funny books—like today’s—to a child’s home bookshelf lets them know that reading is important and a fantastic way to spend downtime each day.

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor

 

You know the drill—Once upon a time there was a poor boy named Jack…. One day this waif woke up to a moo-tivating kiss from his cow Bessie and… Wait, wait! Kids, cover your eyes! And, Jack, “put on some pants!” Phew! Disaster averted! Now where were we? Oh, right. So Jack (now well-dressed) was told that because Bessie had stopped making milk, he had to sell her. He protested, but the mysterious narrator protested right back: “I didn’t WRITE the story, Jack. I’m just telling it.”

Down at the market, Jack received five beans in exchange for Bessie. Of course, this is a fairy tale, and the beans are magic. Jack tried all the magical words he knew to get them to work, but they just sat in the bowl smiling up at him. Yeah, these beans have faces. Overcome by hunger, Jack determined to eat the beans, but there was that pesky narrator again ordering him to throw the beans out the window and then go to bed. As you can imagine—what with selling his best friend and hunger gnawing at his belly—Jack was a bit testy and complainy and countered, “Aww, but I’m not tired. This story keeps getting worse and worse.”

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Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

In the morning, Jack discovered that an enormous beanstalk had grown up overnight. It was so tall that Jack couldn’t even see the top. The narrator told him to start climbing. At first, Jack balked, then he tried to stall by offering to get his climbing gear, but the narrator had already determined that Jack “had no possessions.” Finally, Jack agreed to go, but only if the narrator changed the beanstalk’s size. In a classic “be careful what you wish for” maneuver, the beanstalk suddenly began to grow bigger. “Seriously?” Jack said.

Jack was actually enjoying his climb when he spied Cinderella’s castle with Cindy waving from her balcony. Her voice rang across the distance, inviting Jack to a ball that very night. The narrator was not happy with this delay and urged Jack on. Finally, he reached the top, where “he found himself in front of a humongous house.” Jack pegged it right away as a giant’s abode, but he went inside anyway. As he was looking around at all the mammoth furnishings, he heard the giant’s voice: “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman.”

Heck, Jack knew about poetry and recognized immediately that “that doesn’t even rhyme” and offered an alternative: “Fee-fi-fo-fum, I can see the giant’s bum.” This bit of wordplay just enraged the giant—that, plus his fear that Jack was trying to steal all his best stuff. The giant grabbed Jack and was about to…well, listen for yourself: “Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.” Pretty chilling stuff, but even though Jack was facing imminent danger, he was pretty positive about the giant’s new rhyme.

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Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

That made the giant happy, and Jack thought this moment of camaraderie was the perfect time to let slip to the giant that “there’s a good chance that you’re going to die at the end of this story.” The giant put on a frowny face, and his eyes began to tear up. It seemed the giant didn’t want to die, so he suddenly decided to become a vegan. Listening to this emotional roller coaster, the narrator started to get steamed because he was losing control of the story. “ENOUGH!!!” he shouted.

“GIANT!” he hollered and ordered him to chase Jack down the beanstalk. “JACK!” he yelled and told him to chop down the beanstalk. All this shouting only served to bond Jack and the Giant in an oversized friendship. They commiserated together and planned to make a taco salad from one of the giant’s recipes. After that they went to Cinderella’s party, where they told everyone about their adventure. And who’s complaining now? You got this—the narrator!

P.S. And, of course, they all lived happily ever after by splitting the giant’s fortune and opening a restaurant named Where Have You Bean? for a whole host of fairy tale customers!

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Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

In Josh Funk’s newest romp, Jack takes matters into his own hands as he revamps his famous story into one that turns out “happily ever after” for all the characters. Along the way readers will laugh at Jack’s feisty repartee with the unseen narrator as he’s swept up in a larger-than-life scenario and uses his wits—and wit—to finally tell his own story in his own way. Young readers will appreciate Jack’s independent spunk, and adults will respond to his sweet nature.

Edwardian Taylor’s noodle-limbed, big-eyed Jack knows how to tug at readers’ heartstrings. Soulfully saying good-bye to Bessie, gazing at his nearly empty plate in anguish, and warily approaching the giant’s castle, Jack will quickly have readers empathizing with his plight and cheering him on as he outwits the gigantic red-bearded giant and turns him into a friend and business partner. And while the giant may be big, kids will soon see that he’s really a softy. Children will love all the big and small details on every page, from the leafy beanstalk to cute Cindy-rella to the gold-coin laying goose. And if you’ve never seen a purple cow…here’s your chance. The final spread of a packed Where Have You Bean? restaurant gives kids an opportunity to show their knowledge of fairy-tale characters.

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk makes for a spirited and funny read aloud, and would be super performed by a group in classrooms or by clubs, or even by friends or siblings.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1542045650

Enter the world of Josh Funk and discover more about him and his books as well as plenty of book-related activities on his website!

Learn more about Edwardian Taylor and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

Read a New Book Month Activity

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This is Not a Yardstick! Yardstick Craft

 

Need to measure something—like the height of your garden, the amount of rain or snow that fell, or even the number of books you have? You can do it in style with your very own This is Not a Yardstick! yardstick craft.

Supplies

  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Small wooden leaves, 45 – 50, available at craft stores 

OR

  • Light green and dark green foam sheets 
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf’
  5. Write the number of the inch marked on each leaf, from 1 to 45 or higher with the black marker, alternating colors

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

Picture Book Review

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.

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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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bookworm-bookmark

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jack-and-the-giant-barbecue-cover

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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celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jack-and-the-giant-barbeque-climbing-mountain

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-swim-maze

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twenty-yawns-lucy-looking-at-toys

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twenty-yawns-lucy-kissing-toys-goodnight

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snuggle-buddy-craft

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