January 7 – Scooper and Dumper Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

For authors and illustrators, the launch of a new book is the culmination of what can be years of thinking, creating, and collaborating before finally enjoying the excitement of seeing their efforts on bookstore shelves. Celebrating this accomplishment is always a joy! Today, I’m excited to be a tour stop for Lindsay Ward’s latest picture book – a story about true friendship that kids will love to share this winter and all year around. 

Thanks to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Scooper and Dumper for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m also excited to be participating in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Scooper and Dumper

By Lindsay Ward

 

The town lies blanketed in snow and Scooper and Dumper are revving up. They are “the best of friends, / working together, / take care of their town / in any weather.” Scooper digs in with her teeth to pick up rock salt and pour it into Dumper’s deep bed even before the town awakes. Dumper heads out to clear and salt the roads, while Scooper—who’s too slow to be on the streets—stays in the salt yard ready for when Dumper needs a refill.

Then a call comes in from the big city: “We’re out of salt. / Cars and trucks / are at a halt,” Scooper alerts Dumper who answers “Dumper here— / let’s rock ‘n’ roll! / Big city’s callin’ for / some small-town soul.” As Scooper loads up Dumper they sing their song: “Clear the road. / Salt the street. / Work together, / can’t be beat!” Then Dumper is on his way to the city, where cars on their way to work and school follow in the path he makes. All finished, he calls back to Scooper that he’s on his way home, but because of the howling wind, she doesn’t hear the call.

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Image copyright Lindsay Ward, 2021, courtesy of Two Lions.

The snow has come down fast and thick, blocking the view and making the streets icy. Suddenly, Dumper comes upon a pileup and can’t stop in time. His wheels slip, he veers and tips over. He calls for Tow Truck, but he can’t get through either. Meanwhile Scooper is growing worried. But there’s no one else to help. It’s up to her to find her friend. Finally, she tells herself, “‘Come on, wheels! / I have to try / before this snow / piles up too high.’” She lowers her bucket and slowly steams ahead.

Stuck in a snowbank, Dumper shivers. Then he sees a glow and hears a familiar song “Clear the road. / Salt the street. / Work together, / can’t be beat!” Dumper perks up as Scooper digs Dumper out and rights him with her strong bucket. Back on his wheels, Dumper helps Scooper rescue the other cars and clear the road. “Cars and trucks now safe and sound. / Scooper ‘n’ Dumper / homeward bound.”

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Image copyright Lindsay Ward, 2021, courtesy of Two Lions.

For young truck and vehicle lovers or anyone with a caring best friend, there is much to love in Lindsay Ward’s Scooper and Dumper. Ward’s snowy-day setting establishes a perfect scenario for her story of cooperation, courage, and friendship. As both Scooper and Dumper display their individual strengths in bringing help to the town and city, readers see how their own talents when teamed with a friend or group can move mountains and pave a clear path for themselves and others to succeed. When Scooper realizes that it’s up to her to rescue Dumper, kids get a sweet and convincing lesson on overcoming self-doubt and fear to help a friend. Ward’s dynamic rhymes incorporate action, dialogue, and plenty of suspense to keep readers turning the pages, and the calls from vehicle to vehicle deepen the idea of teamwork so important to the story. Kids will also love to read along with Scooper and Dumper’s signature song.

Ward’s icy-blue-toned illustrations, frosted with fluffy snowflakes, will thrill kids who love nothing more than getting outside on a snowy day. Scooper and Dumper are endearing, with friendly and enthusiastic faces created from their headlights and grills. Her images of the multi-car pileup and Dumper’s accident are dramatic and will move kids to empathize with those in need of help while also showing the comfort friends bring in times of trouble.

Scooper and Dumper, an original story about friendship, bravery, and teamwork for exhilarating and thoughtful story times, is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542092685

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Lindsay Ward is the creator of the Dexter T. Rexter series, as well as Rosie: Stronger than Steel, This Book Is Gray, Brobarians, Rosco vs. the Baby, and The Importance of Being 3. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play. Lindsay lives with her family in Peninsula, Ohio, where vehicles such as Scooper and Dumper take care of the roads all year-round. You can connect with Lindsay on

Her website | Twitter | Instagram

Scooper and Dumper Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Two Lions and Blue Slip Press in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Scooper and Dumper by Lindsay Ward

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite winter activity for extra entry

This giveaway is open from January 7 to January 14 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on January 15. 

Prizing provided by Two Lions and Blue Slip Media

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

Scooper and Dumper Book Tour Activity

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It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

 

If a snow day is your favorite kind of day, you’ll enjoy finding the pairs of identical snowflakes in this printable puzzle.

It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

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You can find Scooper and Dumper at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 21 – It’s the Winter Solstice

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About the Holiday

At exactly 5:02 a.m. today winter arrives in the Northern Hemisphere. This also means that today offers those living there the least amount of sunshine—only 9 hours, 15 minutes, and 6 seconds. While the earth’s tilt in relation to the sun at this time of year brings cold and snowy weather to the World’s northern half, the Southern Hemisphere is basking in longer days and warm temperatures. This year also brings a spectacular celestial event – the “great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn. Not since March 4, 1226 will Jupiter and Saturn have appeared so close in the nighttime sky. Tonight, the two planets will appear to be separated by only the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length, creating a bright show for stargazers. For those of us just beginning to enjoy another winter’s chill, the onset of snow brings special beauty, outdoor adventure, and the fun explored in today’s book!

Thanks go to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of The Snow Dancer for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with them in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

The Snow Dancer

Written by Addie Boswell | Illustrated by Mercè López

 

All night long while Sophia slept the snow drifted down, “frosting the rooftops, fluffing the sidewalks, laying fuzzy hats on the fire hydrants.” Sophia woke to that most wonderful of things—a snow day. She put on her coat, boots, and gloves and opened the door. The world was silent.

Sophia stepped out her door and slipped down the “hidden steps” with some graceful moves. “She hopscotched down the invisible sidewalk” and “skated across the frozen street” all the way to the park and the gleaming white, untouched soccer field. Sophia leaped in. “She twirled, made tracks and patterns and created a snow ballet across the silent white stage.

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Image copyright Mercè López, 2020, text copyright Addie Boswell, 2020 Courtesy of Two Lions.

But then the neighborhood children descended in a wild running, tumbling, shouting mass. One little girl with delicate wings attached to her coat thought Sophia was a snow fairy. Amid all of the kids, the little girl found Sophia and asked if she was indeed a snow fairy. “‘I’m not a fairy,’” Sophia told her. “‘I’m just a dancer.’” The little girl was intrigued and Sophia showed her what a Snow Dancer could do.

Sophia took her by the hand and they swirled and slid and leaped over, around, and in between the other kids until… Sophia was hit by a snowball. Everything stopped. Sophia and her new friend shared a “secret Snow Dancer smile” then it was on—a huge, crazy snowball fight. At last, exhausted, the children flopped into the snow and listened as the snow plows got working, traffic resumed, and their parents came looking for them to come home. After saying goodbye to her friend, Sophia headed home, retracing her ballet. At home, Sophia sipped a steaming mug of cocoa. It was a perfect snow day.

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Image copyright Mercè López, 2020, text copyright Addie Boswell, 2020 Courtesy of Two Lions.

Lyrical and infused with evocative verbs and fun-to-read-aloud slish slussss, crinch crunch, sploosh whoomph onomatopoeia, Addie Boswell’s story of a surprise snow day will delight children with its joyful spontaneity—both Sophia’s impromptu ballet enacted from her doorstep to the park and across the pristine soccer field and the other children’s freewheeling play that leads to a spirited snowball fight. Add in the littlest girl’s fanciful belief in fairies, and the story becomes an imaginative ode to unexpected friendships, sharing, and companionship as well.

Mercè López’s gorgeous illustrations capture the grace and freedom of Sophia’s ballet steps set against the pure white snow with the hazy, blue-shrouded city as her backdrop. Sleekly elegant as she stretches tall or twirls on tiptoe with her arms and hands reaching outward or towards the sky, Sophia makes a bright and willowy contrast to the other kids who stampede down the hill, bundled into puffy coats (one of which makes its wearer look like a cactus). When their wide grins and sly looks turn wary after Sophia is hit by the snowball, López’s page offers a momentary suspenseful break in the action before the snowball fight—in all it’s glorious mayhem—breaks out. In her final image of Sophia tucked into an oversized chair with a large mug of cocoa, López creates that homey, cozy feeling we all look forward to after a day in the snow.

Exhilarating, original storytelling and spectacular imagery make The Snow Dancer a book kids and adults will love sharing on snow days and whenever the wish for a snow day strikes. The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542093170

Discover more about Addie Boswell and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mercè López, her books, and her art, visit her website.

The Snow Dancer Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Two Lions and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of The Snow Dancer written by Addie Boswell | illustrated by Mercè López

To enter:

This giveaway is open from December 21 to December 27 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 28. 

Prizing provided by Two Lions and Blue Slip Media

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

Winter Solstice Activity

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Here’s to Warm Ears! Maze

 

You can’t play in the snow without wearing something to keep your ears warm! While you’re dreaming of a snow day, enjoy this this printable earmuffs-shaped maze!

 Here’s to Warm Ears! Maze | Here’s to Warm Ears! Solution 

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You can find The Snow Dancer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 9 – National Book Lover’s 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

National 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, give it some color, and cut a slit at the mouth. This little worm will happily save your page for you!

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You can find Ralph Tells a Story at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 6 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

Starting Kindergarten is a major milestone in any child’s life and ushers in exciting growth in knowledge, friendships, and experiences. But children don’t all perceive and process the world in the same way. Being sensitive to individual differences and talking about issues as they arise are just two of the ways that kids can making navigating school or any new experience easier. Sharing picture books like today’s book can help too! 

Thanks go out to Blue Slip Media and Two Lions for sending me a copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten

Written by Laura Purdie Salas | Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

 

Clover Kitty had just the life she liked. She was able to sit quietly by herself “knitting mittens. Nibbling kibble. Catnapping on a warm floor.” Sometimes she thought about having a friend, “but mostly, life was purrrrrfect.” One day, though, her mother reminded her that it was the first day of kittygarten. Images of mayhem and messes popped into Clover Kitty’s mind. She was not ready for that.

Before she knew it, however, “Clover found herself cowering in Ms. Snappytail’s classroom” amid loud noises, blaring colors, and the glaring sun. Then she felt a tap on the shoulder. She flinched at the touch. A kitty introduced himself as Oliver and smiled at her. Just then Ms. Snappytail flicked the lights on and off and rang a bell to get the class’s attention. Clover closed her eyes and covered her ears. She cringed at having to sit in a crowded circle to hear a story.

“At recess, Oliver came over and asked softly, ‘Do. you want to seesaw with me?'” But before she could answer, Clover was swept up in a “squealing tornado” of kitties playing tag. Her “heart sank.” Lunchtime was just as chaotic, and when Oliver offered her a box of juice, she clawed at it until it sprang a leak. All Clover wanted was a nap.

When nap time came, though, she could only smell Ms. Snappytail’s perfume, and the scratchiness of her mat kept her awake. “School felt nine lives long. Maybe ten.” When the class had to line up and parade through the hallways with costumes on, Clover finally broke down in a tantrum and ran out the door. By the time she got home, she was soaked from a passing rain shower.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Her mother dried Clover off and snuggled with her on the sofa until she fell asleep. The next day, Clover felt sick and Mama let her stay home from school. In the afternoon, Oliver stopped by to say that the class missed her. Mama assured him that Clover would be back the next day, but on Wednesday Clover said she still felt sick. 

After school, Oliver visited again, but when Mama let him in to say hi to Clover, she was nowhere to be found. When Oliver left, Clover felt relieved, but “a hollow twinge twanged in her chest.” Thursday came and Clover was feeling better, but not well enough to go back to school. She sat on the seesaw in her back yard and thought that maybe it would be fun to play with a friend.

On Friday, Clover was ready to return to kittygarten. But today she brought along some “survival gear.” For the glaring lights, she wore sunglasses; to muffle the noise, she brought earmuffs; and to enjoy circle time and nap time, she had her own rug. During the day, she took turns between playing and having alone time. At lunch she concentrated on her meal, and at nap time she slept close – but not too close – to Oliver.

While the day “wasn’t purrrrrect,” Clover came home with stories for Mama. She went to school all the next week and found that kittygarten got easier every day, especially with the help of her new friend Oliver. Kittygarten can still be like riding the seesaw, but now there are definitely more ups than downs.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Linda Purdie Salas perfectly captures the emotions and fears of a sensory-sensitive child through Clover’s thoughts, actions, and experiences. Her descriptive language (that also includes kid-favorite puns) and direct vocabulary serve two important purposes. First, they allow children for whom light, sound, touch, and other sensory experiences are intensified to see themselves portrayed with understanding. Second, they give other kids a glimpse into how their sensory-sensitive friends and classmates perceive the world around them. Through Oliver, Salas models the gentle and caring behavior that makes a day easier and inclusive for sensory-sensitive kids. Salas’s depiction of Clover’s grabbing the juice box, crying during nap time, and tantrum that precipitates her flight from school provide readers with examples of the feeling of a loss of control that many sensory-sensitive or hesitant kids experience in certain situations. Clover’s return to kindergarten with gear that will help her navigate her day, gives all children an opportunity to discuss issues that may bother them as well as how they might help make their classroom or other area a welcoming and pleasant place where everyone can reap the benefits of friendship and learning.

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Image copyright Hiroe Nakata, 2020, text copyright Laura Purdie Salas, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Hiroe Nakata’s watercolor illustrations introduce readers to Clover’s world and how she perceives it through clear visual cues. Upon opening the cover, children are invited into Clover’s bedroom, which is rendered in pastel pinks, yellows, and blues. She is happy to be knitting with just a favorite toy for companionship. When Clover gets to her classroom, however, Nakata uses a brighter color palette and harsh tones of yellow to represent how Cover experiences sunlight and the typical colors found in elementary school classrooms. This first portrayal of Clover’s classroom also portrays tumbling blocks, a struggle between two kids over a toy, a messy art table, and even a bulletin board packed with topsy-turvy numbers. Clover sits in the center of the room, tightly curled, demonstrating her wish for calm and quiet. Subsequent pages give readers many opportunities to point out things that add to the chaos for someone who is sensory-sensitive. For example, the teacher wears a bell on her tail and kittens rush at her on the playground and in the lunch room, invading her personal space. In contrast, Clover’s room contains strings of pompoms or felt hangings instead of bells or chimes and her clothes are hung neatly in her closet. As Clover returns to school, kids will be interested to point out the glasses, mittens, and other items from home that help.

An important book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections, Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten promotes mindful consideration of the images, sounds, smells, and activities that can become overwhelming not only for sensory-sensitive people but for us all. With a charming protagonist and caring friend, the story will inspire better understanding and kindness that benefits children in the classroom and beyond.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542042468

Discover more about Laura Purdie Salas and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Hiroe Nakata and view a portfolio of her books on the MB Artists website.

Take a look at the Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten book trailer!

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten, written by Laura Purdie Salas | illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

To enter:

This giveaway is open from August 6 through August 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on August 14.

Prizing provided by Two Lions

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

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Activity Sheets

 

You can find six free printable Clover Kitty Activity Sheets that are fun ways to celebrate school, friendship, and learning on Laura Purdie Salas’s website here:

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten Activity Sheets

You can order a signed and personalized copy of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten from Red Balloon Bookshop!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clover-kitty-goes-to-kittygarten-cover

You can find Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

July 2 – Kat and Juju Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

Today I’m happy to be participating in the Kat and Juju book tour! The months of summer vacation often provide an opportunity for growth, change, and the kind of self-discovery that comes without the constraints of a regular schedule and school assignments. This can be especially true for hesitant children or those who prefer more studied steps into new experiences. Today’s book may spark discussion and ideas for integrating internal feelings and external opportunities when they come along.

Thanks to Two Lions Publishing and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sharing Kat and Juju with me for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Kat and Juju

By Kataneh Vahdani

 

Kat had her own special way of doing things. While other kids scribbled outside the lines, she preferred to stay inside them. “She found wonder in places no one else thought to look.” And her confidants were decidedly of the strong, silent, and leafy type. She was too timid to talk to the other kids, who always seemed to be laughing and talking and playing. She did feel lonely sometimes.

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Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Kat’s birthday was coming up, and she was looking forward to the moment when “her very best friend would arrive,” just as “had happened to all the other kids.” She wasn’t disappointed. At her door on her birthday was Juju—a huge, red, dapper bird who’d brought her a bouquet of flowers and a definitely different perspective on things. She loved him immediately. Juju was fearless and encouraged her to be brave. “Sometimes,” he said  as he hopped from foot to foot and spun on the floor, “you’ve just got to LET GO and do a HAPPY DANCE.” Kat thought it looked like fun, but she just couldn’t get herself to do it.

 

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Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

Then one day. Kat and Juju found a lost baby bird. Kat could relate to the fear in its eyes. With Juju’s help, she overcame her initial doubts about her ability to take care of it. She wrapped the birdie up, fed it, and, when it was stronger, took it on adventures—adventures that even took Kat out of her comfort zone. The birdie loved them, and pretty soon so did Kat.

It didn’t take long for the birdie to feel “brave enough to fly on its own.” Kat was so excited for her little friend that she forgot all of her inhibitions and broke out into a happy dance. The other kids suddenly saw Kat in a whole new way. Now, Kat still does things her own special way, but she has friends to do them with.

A good conversation-starter on the value of trying new things while staying true to yourself, Kat and Juju makes a fun read on the journey and would be an inspiring choice for home, school, and public library collections.

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Copyright Kataneh Vahdani, 2020, courtesy of Two Lions.

In her thoughtful story, Kataneh Vahdani explores the emotions of a girl who has a hard time letting go of her fears and inhibitions to reach outside of her comfort zone. When Juju—a buoyant, larger-than-life bird—enters Kat’s life, he brings spontaneity and courage closer, but it’s not until the little birdie needs her that Kat participates in Juju’s silly fun and daring adventures. Over time, Kat discovers she likes these escapades too, and when the little bird is ready to fly, so is she. It’s a truism that we will often do things for a friend or our children that we might not do for ourselves.

Kat is a sweet companion for readers on their own road to discovering the bravery inside themselves, and Vahdani’s storytelling gives adults and children a starting point for discussion. She provides metaphorical examples—coloring inside the lines, a special birthday present that gives her a new start, learning to fly—as well as honestly depicted nagging internal doubts to help readers articulate and share their feelings. Vahdani also includes an important reminder that branching out doesn’t mean losing one’s unique qualities, instead it allows them to grow.

Kataneh Vahdani’s textured gray-scale and red and blue digital illustrations, punctuated with the little yellow fluff of a birdie, puts the focus on Kat and Juju, who sport red clothing and feathers. Kat’s wide-eyed, expressive face reflects her emotions clearly and Juju is a sweetie with smiling eyes who’s always ready with a hug or a bit of encouragement or reassurance.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542043281

Kataneh Vahdani is a children’s book author and illustrator. Kat and Juju is her first picture book series. She is currently directing her original feature animation movie. Kataneh has been a professor for over seventeen years and she also rescues fallen baby birds. Together with her students, they have raised more than thirteen fallen injured baby birds and set them free once they were ready to fly away. Sometimes in her classes, birds fly from the head of one student to the other.

Visit Kataneh on Instagram: @KatandJuju

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You can find Kat and Juju at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 4 – It Is (Not) Perfect Book Tour Launch

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About the Holiday

A new book in a favorite series is always something for readers to celebrate. Today, I’m thrilled to be launching the book tour for the fifth installment in Anna Kang’s and Christopher Weyant’s beloved You Are (Not) Small series, starring two fuzzy friends who take on life’s lessons with humor and friendship. We’re also beginning Get Caught Reading Month, which promotes the fun of reading for all ages and encourages people to set aside a special time each day to read. To join in the fun, you can take a picture of yourself reading and share it using #GetCaughtReading. Why not get started with today’s book?

I received a copy of It Is (Not) Perfect from Two Lions for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Blue Slip Media and Two Lions ina giveaway of the book. See details below.

It Is (Not) Perfect

Written by Anna Kang | Illustrated by Christopher Weyant

 

Two fuzzy friends are at the beach, building a sandcastle. It has two bucket-shaped turrets, a trio of shell decorations, and a low wall around it. The orange friend happily declares, “It is perfect!” But his purple companion looks at the castle askance and says, “It is not perfect.” If only it had flags then it would be perfect. But for the orange fuzzy creature, the flags only emphasize how short the castle is.

With a little extra sand patted into a cone on top of each turret, the castle is now perfect. Until…. Two beachgoers passing by think the castle could use some improvement. The blue fuzzy one gives it a good examination and decides the wall “is too small.” Orange fuzzy and purple fuzzy look on with disappointment and distress. They bring in more sand and dig furiously until the blue fuzzy judge finds it to be “perfect!”

But not so fast. Other beachcombers have more suggestions. Lots of suggestions. Purple fuzzy and orange fuzzy go to work. They dig, they sculp, they decorate. And when the flag is finally ploinked down on the tallest tower, everyone shouts in jubilation, “IT IS PERFECT!” Everyone gathers around the castle to take a picture just as… “SPLASH! CLICK!”… the castle is reduced to little more than a mound. But it’s nothing that a little patting, a couple of shells, a seaweed flag, and two delicious rainbow snow cones can’t make “Perfect. Truly.”

The latest book in Anna Kang’s and Christopher Weyant’s best-selling series examines a difficult conundrum: when is a work of art perfect? As the orange and purple fuzzy friends put the finishing touches on their sandcastle, happy in its perfection, niggling doubts come to the fore, causing them to reconsider if their creation couldn’t be just a little more…perfect. When others begin chiming in with their suggestions to make the castle bigger and “better,” these two friends go to work to improve it. While the result is a sensational, award-worthy spectacle, when a wave wipes it out, the two friends are just as happy with their original effort. For kids who may struggle with their inner critic or yielding to others’ opinions, this story humorously encourages them to stay true to their vision.

Anna Kang’s sparse text, conveyed entirely through short sentences of realistic dialogue, is funny and relatable as the crowd grows bigger and each person has their own suggestion for improvement. Readers may want to jump in themselves and talk about how they would build their own sandcastle. Kang’s superb storytelling is paired with Christopher Weyant’s expressive characters to create a fast-paced and entertaining page-turner.

As each iteration of the sandcastle brings smiles and then furrowed brows of doubt to the two fuzzy characters, readers will recognize feelings they may have about things they create or do. Add in the beachgoers, and the issue gets even more muddied. One enormous voice in the crowd will have kids giggling and wanting to hear it again and again. Weyant’s images of the purple and orange fuzzy friends furiously digging and patting, planning and decorating under the watchful eye of the group ramps up the suspense for the final reveal.

The rogue wave is sure to bring cringes and cries of “Oh no!,” but the resulting photo will elicit laughs. As the people disperse after the castle is destroyed, kids will understand that their interest was only fleeting while the orange and purple fuzzy characters’ friendship is forever. The final pages provide a sweet sense of satisfaction. While the final castle was a thing of beauty, it’s momentary perfection is nothing compared to the perfect day the two fuzzy characters spend together.

A delightful book for emergent and beginning readers to enjoy on their own as well as for dramatic read-alouds, It Is (Not) Perfect is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7 

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542016629

Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small as well as series titles That’s (Not) Mine, I Am (Not) Scared, and We Are (Not) Friends. They also wrote and illustrated Eraser, Can I Tell You a Secret?, and Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? Christopher’s work can also be seen in The New Yorker, and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their rescue dog.

You can connect with Anna Kang on 

Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

You can connect with Christopher Weyant on

His website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

It Is (Not) Perfect Book Tour Activity

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Personalized Painted Pail

 

A trip to the beach isn’t complete without a pail to make a sandcastle with or to collect shells, seaweed, sea glass, or other things in. But why should all the cool stuff be on the inside? With this craft you can decorate your pail to show your unique personality!

Supplies

  • Plastic or metal pail
  • Craft paint in various colors
  • Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating, for multi-surface use
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint designs on the pail
  2. When paint is dry spray with acrylic coating to set paint
  3. Let dry

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You can find It Is (Not) Perfect at these booksellers. The book will be released on May 12. It is available for preorder.

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

Picture Book Review

March 11 – COVER REVEAL!

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From a New York Times bestselling author with over fifteen million books in print, the hilarious story of an injury-prone reindeer who saves Christmas:

Comet, the Unstoppable Reindeer

By Jim Benton

 

It’s the night before Christmas, and Comet is ready…until he’s injured in an unexpected elf incident and replaced by a rookie named Freddy.

Comet can’t believe his bad luck. Then he realizes something even worse—in all the confusion, Santa has left the toys behind and isn’t answering his phone. Injury and all, Comet sets out to deliver the presents, crisscrossing the globe from Japan and Egypt to France and Cleveland. After a run-in with a goose, a near miss with a minivan, and too many chimney crash landings to count, can Comet hobble his way into pulling off a Christmas miracle?

Ages 3 – 7 

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542043472

Comet, the Unstoppable Reindeer will be released on September 15. The book is now available to preorder.

About the Author

Jim Benton Photo

Photo by Laurie Tennent

Jim Benton is the award-winning creator of the New York Times bestselling series Dear Dumb Diary and Franny K. Stein as well as the popular It’s Happy Bunny brand. His books have sold more than fifteen million copies in twenty-five countries and have garnered numerous honors. Like Comet, Jim knows what it’s like to hobble around in a cast; however, he is still learning to fly. Find out more about him at www.jimbenton.com.

You can connect with Jim Benton on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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You can preorder Comet, the Unstoppable Reindeer on Amazon.