February 15 – National Flag Day of Canada

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About the Holiday

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

Carson Crosses Canada

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Kass Reich

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101918838  

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

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

National Flag Day of Canada Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hand-print-moose-antlers-headband

 

Make Me a Moose! Headband

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

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You can find Carson Crosses Canada at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 16 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

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

Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation

Written by Ted Staunton | Illustrated by Mika Song

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770498273

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

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

Family Stories Month Activity

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

Snakes and Ladders Game

 

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

Supplies

Directions

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

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

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

Picture Book Review

September 27 – World Tourism Day

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About the Holiday

Sometimes don’t you just feel like getting in the car, hopping a plane, or boarding a ship and getting away? Today’s holiday encourages you to do just that! If there’s a place near—or far—that you’ve always wanted to visit, why not take some time to check it out. Or if you’re dreaming of a vacation that takes some planning, hit the Internet for travel information or explore the maps to plot your route. This year World Tourism Day, a United Nations-sponsored commemoration, is being celebrated with the theme “Sustainable Tourism—a Tool for Development,” and urges mindful attention to all sectors of the industry in order to make tourism a beneficial experience for all those involved.

The 50 States: Fun Facts

Written by Gabrielle Balkan | Illustrated by Sol Linero

 

America is one vast country made up of 50 states that are each unique and fascinating in their own way. The history, people, topography, and even weather of each region has resulted in an incredible diversity of animal life, cuisine, transportation, leisure activities, and celebrations across the nation. The 50 States: Fun Facts offers up a patchwork of engaging and enlightening information about each state that will entice kids to learn more about their own home as well as other areas.

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Image copyright Sol Linero, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan. Courtesy of Eyes Wide Editions, Aurum Press.

The large-format board book is divided into five two-page spreads, each dedicated to a particular topic. In 50 Animals readers discover that the first Seeing Eye dogs were trained in Nashville, Tennessee; that “the colors of Maryland’s state cat—the Calico Cat—match the state flag”; and that there are so many moose in Wyoming that there’s even a town named Moose! From state to state kids will also learn about the Chinook Dog of New Hampshire, meet white buffalo that roam North Dakota, and view the state insect of Connecticut—the praying mantis, which can turn its head 360 degrees—among many, many more.

Each state is also known for its own, particular mode of transportation. In Alaska the Tlingit Nation builds beautiful canoes, each of which, the people believe, are inhabited by its own spirit. If you’re interested in scanning the skies for alien lifeforms, you may want to head to the San Luis Valley of Colorado, which is considered to be prime UFO-spotting territory! If boats are more your thing, you might want to take a houseboat vacation in the lakes around Jamestown, Kentucky, or see a Navy Destroyer at the shipyard in Bath, Maine. Carousel lovers will want to take the road to Rhode Island, where they can catch the gold ring on the Flying Horse Carousel that has been going round and round for nearly 150 years! There are so many more Things That Go on these pages, including trains, trucks, trolleys, and a 16-story electric shovel!

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Image copyright Sol Linero, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan. Courtesy of Eyes Wide Editions, Aurum Press.

After all that activity, readers may be a bit hungry. All they need to do is flip the page to find 50 Things to Eat—specialties from around the nation. Whether you call them blackberries or brambleberries, these sweet nuggets—Kentucky’s state fruit—are great alone or in special treats. If you love pretzels, then the pretzel festival in Germantown, Ohio is for you! Spicy foods more your style? Then you’ll want to check out Hatch, New Mexico—the chili capital of the world! After having Delaware’s chicken specialty, catfish from Mississippi, or potatoes from Idaho, you may just want to try a banana split—first served in Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1904—or even nosh on a few roasted Joshua Tree flower buds that are said to taste like candy.

Ready to work off that meal? The next page provides 50 Ways to Get Moving, including archery in California, rafting in West Virginia, base jumping in Utah, snowshoeing in Minnesota, and snorkeling in Hawaii. 

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Image copyright Sol Linero, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan. Courtesy of Eyes Wide Editions, Aurum Press.

Celebrations have been part of America since the first Thanksgiving, and each state has a entertaining—often quirky—spectacular to highlight their history or specialty. In Nebraska the old Pony Express mail system is reenacted every June; The Heart of the Ozarks Bluegrass Festival brings musicians and fans to West Plains, Missouri each year; and Honobia, Oklahoma’s Bigfoot Festival makes believers of us all—well, almost.

In Florida, you can learn how to wrestle an alligator with the Miccosukee tribe on American Indian Day; you can test your mettle on 98 flights of stairs during Washington’s Space Needle Base 2 Space Race for charity; and “you can cheer on bronc riders at the ‘Daddy of All Rodeos’” during Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming. Perhaps  the oddest celebration is Mike the Headless Chicken Festival held every May in Fruita, Colorado that commemorates “a rooster that lived for 18 months…with no head!”

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Image copyright Sol Linero, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan. Courtesy of Eyes Wide Editions, Aurum Press.

Each spread also offers a sidebar scavenger hunt of sorts as it asks readers to see if they can find four different categories of items among the rest. After kids have soaked up all the facts about the 50 states, they can test their knowledge of American geography by completing the included jigsaw puzzle map.

Gabrielle Balkan has collected tons of engaging facts about the United States that are sure to delight and amaze children. Each category would be a wonderful starting point for learning about any or all of the states and gives kids an idea of the variety found across America. Sol Linero’s striking category “quilts,” composed of colorful patches decorated with clear, engaging illustrations, draw readers in to discover the fascinating facts presented about each state.

Ages 4 – 10

Wide Eyes Editions, Aurum Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1847808691

Discover more about Gabrielle Balkan and her books on her website!

View a gallery of illustration work by Sol Linero on her website!

World Tourism Day Activity

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Make a Road Map Jigsaw Puzzle

 

It’s fun and easy to make your own jigsaw puzzle from a map of your local town or a place you’d like to visit!

Supplies

  • A paper map
  • Poster board
  • Glue or spray glue
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Smooth out the paper map
  2. Glue the map to the poster board
  3. Cut the poster board into interlocking or adjoining pieces (the number of pieces can depend on the child’s age)

Picture Book Review

August 30 – Toasted Marshmallow Day

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About the Holiday

Today is a day to celebrate the simple pleasures of toasting marshmallows. Whether you like your marshmallows just lightly browned or blackened to a crisp, these ooey-gooey delights are fun to make and fun to eat! Why not make a campfire, start up the fire pit or grill, or even set the oven to broil and toast up some marshmallows today?

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee

By Chris Van Dusen

 

As the sun came up Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee packed up their car and headed out on an adventure. They left their seaside home for the mountains, where they plan to camp for two nights or “possibly three.” Mr. Magee tells Dee that he’ll love camping. It’s quiet and peaceful and “aside from the wildlife, there’s no one around.” In a few hours they found the perfect spot to pitch their tent. “It was high on a hill with a beautiful view / of Mount Adams, Mount Lincoln, and Jefferson too.” But the prettiest sight of all was the stream that ended in a whooshing waterfall.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Mr. Magee gathered pinecones and sticks and made a fire where he cooked hotdogs for the dinner. Then “as the sun set behind far distant knolls, / they sat roasting marshmallows over the coals.” When darkness fell, Mr. Magee and his little dog fell asleep in their cozy camper. As they were dreaming of the next day, a bear bumbled by, led to the spot by the sweet smell of marshmallows.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The bear wanted those marshmallows, but he couldn’t quite reach with the car and the camper blocking his way. “But that didn’t stop the sneaky old snitch, / he simply tried squeezing right under the hitch.” But as he wriggled and wiggled he undid the lock, and the car rolled forward while the camper rolled back. On separate paths down the hillside, the two vehicles flew. The car bounced down the road, while the camper headed straight for the stream.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Mr. Magee and Dee woke in alarm when the camper splashed headlong into the roaring current. “They were caught in the rapids, but that wasn’t all. / They were headed smack dab through the big waterfall.” They were quaking with fear and the camper was swept away, but just as they were about to go over the falls, their camper was snagged by a rock on the edge.

They were worried and wondering what they could do, when the bear spied one more marshmallow to chew at the end of the camper. He jumped in the river, grabbed the hitch in his teeth, and dragged the camper back to the bank. When the bear tasted metal instead of sweetness, he moseyed away disappointed.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

When the bear let go, the camper bounded away and rolled down the rocks. It came to rest right next to the car. Mr. Magee and Dee hitched up once more and drove home. They weren’t ready to give up their camping quite yet, so “when they got home with the sky turning red, / they decided to camp in the backyard instead.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-camping-at-home

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Chris Van Dusen’s classic camping adventure featuring the loveable Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee is full of humor, suspense, and cozy moments. The sweet relationship between Mr. Magee and his faithful companion, will charm young readers and make them happy to be taken along for the ride. Van Dusen’s rolling rhythm and clever rhymes are catchy and fun to read aloud.

The vintage open-top rambler and tiny, rounded camper are just as endearing as the main characters as they roll and bump along the dirt road to the campsite and then go their separate ways to create a dramatic story. The blue seaside, mountain scenery, and fiery sunset are beautiful backdrops to the action, and the aerial view down the 50-foot waterfall will make readers cringe at Mr. Magee’s predicament.

Ages 4 – 7

Chronicle Books, 2003 | ISBN 978-0811836036

Discover more about Chris Van Dusen, his books and art on his website!

Toasted Marshmallow Day Activity

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Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes from allrecipes.com.

Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes

 

Toasted marshmallows aren’t just for S’mores anymore! With this delicious cupcake recipe from All Recipes, toasted marshmallows top off chocolate cupcakes in style! Visit All Recipes and get the recipe for Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes that makes any event as fun as a camping trip!

Picture Book Review

July 27 – Dog Days of Summer

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About the Holiday

So here we are in the hottest days of the summer – the dog days. Despite how it sounds, though, this period between July 3 and August 11 is not focused on those poor pooches panting on porches. Instead, it comes from the Romans and relates to the star Sirius—the dog star—which rises with the sun during midsummer. Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, and the Romans believed that the hot, humid days were caused by Sirius combining its heat with that of the sun. No matter what the meaning or circumstance, the Dog Days give us another holiday to celebrate!

And Then Comes Summer

Written by Tom Brenner | Illustrated by Jaime Kim

 

Summer days are like no other days during the year. Full of light and the kind of weather that entices you to stay outdoors, the months of June, July, and August hold promises of beauty and fun. Every day and every place welcome summer in their own way and invite new adventures. “When the days stretch out like a slow yawn, and leaves and grasses sparkle with dew, and the cheerful faces of Johnny-jump-ups jump up…THEN throw on flip-flops and breathe the sweet air.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-and-then-comes-summer-flip-flops

Copyright Jaime Kim, 2017, courtesy of jaimekim.com

In those flip-flops you’ll run past buzzing bumblebees, flying warblers, and Dad mowing the lawn to your bike. Pump up the tires, raise the seat, put on your helmet, and take off! When the sun stays up past bedtime “and crickets crick-crick in the evening air, and bugs as big as thumbs bang against windows…” then it’s time to play games until night falls.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-and-then-comes-summer-fireworks

Copyright Jaime Kim, 2017, courtesy of jaimekim.com

When every day is a play day and you’re out running and jumping or at the beach, and you hear that “familiar jingle,” you know the ice-cream truck is on its way. Then race your friends “to be the first in line” to choose your favorite icy-cold treat. “When the dog days of summer roll around, and it’s so hot you’re practically panting, and not even the sprinklers provide relief…THEN it’s time to head to the lake.” On the way, watch the world go by through your open window. Feel the breeze and enjoy the smells, sounds, and sights of the trip.

As you approach the familiar vacation spot where “the silver lake winks through the trees, and old friends run to greet you…” then it’s time for swimming and tents and roasted marshmallows while you tell stories and “plan tomorrow’s adventures.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-and-then-comes-summer-swimming

Image opyright Jaime Kim, 2017, text copyright Tom Brenner, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Tom Brenner’s tribute to the wonders of summer reflects that free and easy feeling that vacation months bring to kids. The little moments that become favorite memories are all here, recorded in Brenner’s lyrical and evocative pages. The rhythm and repetition play out like the best summer days—some, nuggets of individual joy and others, building to the excitement of eagerly anticipated vacations.

Jaime Kim transports kids to backyards, main streets, lemonade stands, and finally a shimmering lake in her sun-drenched illustrations of kids enjoying the freedom of summer. Readers can almost hear the shouts, sprinkler spray, running feet, fireworks, and crackling campfire as they turn the pages to join Kim’s enthusiastic kids in their summertime romps.

And Then Comes Summer is a joyous book to share with kids during summer or any time of the year.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763660710

Discover a portfolio of illustration work by Jaime Kim on her website!

Dog Days of Summer Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-flip-flop-craft

Flip-Flop Flower Pots

 

Have you outgrown your flip-flops from last year? You can turn them into fun plant holders with just a few buttons and mounting squares! Paint the pots with your own designs to make your hangings even more unique!

Supplies 

  • Small flip-flops with elastic heel backings
  • Decorative buttons
  • Glue or needle and thread
  • Small plastic flower pots
  • Paint for decorating the pot (optional)
  • Flower or plant
  • Dirt
  • Mounting Squares

Directions

  1. Plant the flower or plant in the flower pot 
  2. Decorate the straps of the flip-flops with the buttons. You can glue them on or sew them on with a needle and thread
  3. Place the flower pot into the flip-flop, letting it rest on the toe separator and securing it with the elastic backing
  4. Attach mounting squares to the back of the flip-flop to hang.

Picture Book Review

July 6 – It’s Vacation Rental Month

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About the Holiday

A great vacation starts with a great place to stay! Whether you like a cabin by the lake, a cottage by the shore, a tent or camper in the woods, or that good-ol’ staple the hotel, getting away from home can be an adventure in itself. This month is perfect for planning a vacation and finding just the right accommodations for maximum enjoyment!

Hotel Bruce

Written by Ryan T. Higgins

 

“Bruce was a bear who lived with four geese,” but he was not happy about it. Since he was their mom, however, it meant going south with them every winter even though he would rather have taken a loooong nap. Leaving home, taking public transport, and hanging out on crowded beaches took a toll on Bruce. So one spring when Bruce returned home to discover mice had turned his home into the Woodland Hotel, he went on a grouch-fueled rampage and swept the mice out into the night.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Satisfied, he climbed the stairs to bed only to find it overrun with a moose, a porcupine, a raccoon, and a rabbit with three turtles snoozing underneath. Let’s just say quarters were a bit snug. “The next morning Bruce woke to the sounds of birds chirping, and squirrels chattering, and possums having a pillow fight.” He found a frog in his toilet, got porcupine prickles in his posterior, was sprayed with skunk perfume right after showering…and a beaver gnawed the corner off his kitchen table. There was even a fox at the stove trying to convince the turtles to jump into a hot, veggie-filled “bath.” But when the mice tried to politely usher Bruce out of the Woodland Hotel, he’d had enough and asked to see the manager.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

While the mice argued over who was the manager, things in the kitchen were getting steamy. The fox’s turtle soup had “turned bad.” The kitchen looked as if a turtlenado had blown through—even Bruce’s best silverware was missing! “Bruce started to lose his cool.” Just then a vanload of elephants arrived for a vacation. “Finally, Bruce lost his temper. ‘THIS IS NOT A HOTEL! THIS IS MY HOUSE! EVERYBODY OUT RIGHT NOW!’”

Drooping with dejection, the “guests” tromped away. “Sheesh! I thought they’d never leave,” one mouse snarked. At that, Bruce tossed the interlopers out into the rain, where they sat sad and bedraggled. “Bruce’s house was a quiet, peaceful place once again.” At least until the geese honked sympathetic honks. Bruce sighed and opened the door….

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Ryan T. Higgins’ curmudgeonly bear is back with a fine, funny sequel that will have kids giggling at poor Bruce’s plight. Adults will appreciate the sly wink to the penchant of woodland animals to take up roost in any warm, unoccupied space and will perhaps feel more than a little sympathy with Bruce as he finally rousts his “guests” from his home. The wise-cracking mice add levity and a few well-placed honks from Bruce’s kids offer a tug of emotion.

Higgin’s madcap illustrations put readers in Bruce’s big, burly paws as he endures one predicament after another. While the woodland animals run wild, their slightly guilty faces reveal that even they know all is not on the up-and-up as they watch Bruce’s unibrow rise with surprise and furrow in anger. The geese, so eager to follow and fit in, look ridiculously cute in their bellhop uniforms, and Higgin’s detailed depictions of Bruce’s home will have kids lingering over each page.

Ages 5 – 8

Disney – Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1484743621

Connect with Ryan T. Higgins on his website and learn more about his books, school visits, and summer camp for kids.

Vacation Rental Month Activity

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Take-along Starter Kit

 

A vacation place is always nicer with a few favorite comforts from home. Here are some ideas for a Take-along Kit that would make spending time away so much better:

  • Cozy blanket
  • Soft pillow
  • Comfy jammies
  • Fluffy friend
  • Favorite book
  • Coloring book
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Playing cards
  • Good movie or TV show
  • Fun craft project
  • Hot chocolate
  • Tea
  • Popcorn

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You can find Hotel Bruce at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 10 – National Siblings Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-harry-and-clare's-amazing-staycation-coverAbout the Holiday

National Siblings Day gives people a chance to honor the special bond they have with their brothers and/or sisters. Whether you come from a big family or small, are the oldest, youngest, or somewhere in between, your siblings have had a big influence on your life. Today, take a little time to text or call if you live far apart or get together if the miles aren’t so many.

Harry and Clare’s Amazing Staycation

Written by Ted Staunton | Illustrated by Mika Song

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770498273

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

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

National Siblings Day Activity

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Snakes and Ladders Game

 

It can be fun to play a board game with your sibling! Here’s a printable Snakes and Ladders game for you to enjoy! Just watch out for that green snake!

Supplies

Directions

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

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

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

Picture Book Review