June 12 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-cover

About the Holiday

Cats make wonderful pets! They can be cuddly or completely independent, but their playful personalities make for lots of laughs and love. If you own a cat, spend some extra time with your pet and ensure that all of your feline friend’s health needs are being met and are up-to-date. If you think you might like to adopt a cat into your family, visit your local animal shelter for cats and kittens who are looking for a forever home.

Lily’s Cat Mask

By Julie Fortenberry

 

Lily was starting school so her dad took her shopping. “Lily wasn’t sure she wanted to get new things for school, but her father said it would be fun.” After buying some clothes and meeting a woman they knew who gushed at how much Lily had grown, Lily was tired and wanted to go home. “But then she saw the cat mask.” It was the only one on the shelf, and Lily’s dad surprised her by buying it for her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-shopping-with-dad

Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Lily put it on immediately and wore it on the way home. She wore it to tea parties with her toys, to family parties “when she wanted to be invisible. And when she wanted to be noticed.” When she wore it to her doctor’s appointment, the doctor spoke in meows. One day she lost her mask. Her dad made her a rabbit costume, and while that was fun for a while, Lily was happy to finally find her cat mask.

Lily wore her cat mask for many occasions. She wore it when she didn’t want to talk—like when she met her new teacher. “She liked to hide her face when she felt mean and couldn’t get nice.” She even blew out her birthday candles and made a wish wearing the mask. When school started, Lily was only allowed to wear her mask on the playground, but once in a while she put it on, hoping no one would notice. Then it was sometimes put in the teacher’s desk drawer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-making-a-wish

Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

One day, the teacher made a very exciting announcement. The class was going to have a costume party, and everyone could wear a mask or dress up however they wanted. On the day of the party, there were characters, animals, and bugs of all kinds. But then Lily looked across the room and saw the best costume of all—another cat! During recess the new friends played on the swings and meowed happily together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-lily-at-school

Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Julie Fortenberry’s story of a quiet, hesitant child who discovers a unique way of interacting with the world around her offers openhearted acceptance and understanding for children who are observant and thoughtful integrators. The reaction of Lily’s father, teacher, doctor, and family members to her cat mask is uplifting and provides excellent modeling. The straightforward storytelling highlights Lily’s sweet personality as well as the empathetic responses her costume elicits.

Fotenberry’s illustrations of adorable Lily and her experiences at home, at school, at the doctor’s office, and at the mall are full of joy. The colors are fresh and vibrant, but also calm and peaceful, mirroring Lily’s feelings when wearing her cat mask. The images demonstrate and validate Lily’s preference to watch and participate in events from her own distance.

Lily’s Cat Mask provides the opportunity for much discussion with children, especially about meeting people, Lily’s birthday wish, where Lily sits and plays at parties and at school, and when Lily makes a friend. The book is highly recommended for classroom and school libraries and would make a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0425287996

Discover more about Julie Fortenberry and view a gallery of her books and artwork on her website!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-The-Cat's-Meow-Word-Search

The Cat’s Meow Word Search

 

There are so many beautiful types of cats! Can you find the names of twenty-one breeds in this printable The Cat’s Meow Word Search puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

April 3 – National Tweed Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-joseph-had-a-little-overcoat-cover

About the Holiday

Today is one of those holidays that is up to interpretation. While April 3, 1823 was the birthday of notoriously corrupt politician William M. (“Boss”) Tweed, it’s not clear why commemorating that date would be desirable—expect perhaps as a timely cautionary tale. Instead most like to celebrate the natty, multi-hewed fabric embraced by professors and other fashionable folk world-wide. Tweed originated as a hand-woven fabric in Scotland. The earthy tones mirrored the Scottish landscape, and, like tartans, could distinguish a particular estate or family based on the sheep providing the wool and the pattern.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

By Simms Taback

 

Joseph’s coat was old and worn with patches overlapping patches all along the bottom. It was time to do something about it, so Joseph, “made a jacket out of it and went to the fair.” Time went by and that sporty jacket also “got old and worn.” The hem was frayed, the cuffs were torn, and patches overlapped patches all up and down the sleeves, so Joseph “made a vest out of it and danced at his nephew’s wedding.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-joseph-had-a-little-overcoat-men's-chorus

Image and text copyright, Simms Tayback, courtesy of simmstaback.com

Years past, and that little vest suffered the same fate as the coat and the jacket. But Joseph was clever. The vest became a scarf that he wore to sing in the men’s chorus. Wicked weather took its toll, and eventually the scarf  had more holes than material. With careful cutting, the scarf made a jaunty tie to wear when visiting his sister.

You know how it goes with ties. The edges grew threadbare and stains marred the pattern. Joseph’s animals considered it a goner, but Joseph had another idea. He made a handkerchief to accessorize his favorite shirt and enjoyed a “glass of hot tea with lemon.” That same handkerchief also helped Joseph whenever he had a cold, and in time it “got old and worn.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-joseph-had-a-little-overcoat-handkerchief

Image and text copyright, Simms Tayback, courtesy of simmstaback.com

Joseph had one more idea. “He made a button out of it and used it to fasten his suspenders.” One day, Joseph lost his button, and even though he searched everywhere, he couldn’t find it. “Now he had nothing. So Joseph made a book about it. Which shows…you can always make something out of nothing.”

Classic tweed calls for a classic book, and Simms Taback’s tale of a master recycler will have kids in stitches. Not only is the story clever, but ingeniously hidden die-cut holes in the pages let readers guess—and then follow—each iteration as the original coat gets smaller and smaller. The bold, multimedia illustrations are full of humor, history, and tradition and give kids and adults lots to look at and talk about. Children will love helping Joseph look for his button under the watchful gaze of Sigmund Freud, whose wide-eyed portrait seems to be taking in all the action. The final “moral to the story” is inspired and inspiring.

Originally published in 1999, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat remains fresh and innovative for today’s young readers. The book was a favorite of my own kids, and would be a much-asked-for addition to home libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 1999 (hardcover) | ISBN 978-0670878550

Scholastic, 2003 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0439217316

National Tweed Day Activity

CPB - Button Coat

Pin the Button on the Coat Game

 

Pin the Button on the Coat is a fun game you can make yourself and play anytime! It’s great for a button-themed party or on any day that you’re holed up and wanting something to do! The game is played like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” and the object is to get the buttons lined up as close to the center of the coat as possible. Have fun!

Supplies

  • Fleece or felt inyour choice of colors, 2 pieces of 8 ½” x 11” to make the coat and smaller pieces or scraps to make buttons
  • Fabric glue
  • Scissors
  • Black marker
  • Clothes hanger
  • Clothes pins

CPB - Button Coat II

Directions

  1. Cut out the body of the coat, sleeves, and collar
  2. With the fabric glue, attach the sleeves to the edge of the coat, and the collar to the top of the coat.
  3. Let dry
  4. Cut circles for buttons from the other colors of fleece or felt, as many as you need
  5. With the marker make dots to represent holes in the buttons
  6. When the glue on the coat is dry, attach it to the clothes hanger with the clothespins

Picture Book Review

January 13 – It’s National Soup Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-voyage-to-the-bunny-planet-cover

About the Holiday

Winter weather is made for soup…or…is soup made for winter weather? Either way, soup offers the warm, comforting, stick-to-your ribs meal that just seems so right as the temperatures dip. Today, grab a can or cook up a batch of your favorite soup and add a hearty loaf of sourdough or artisanal bread and have a feast!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-tomato-cover

First Tomato: A Voyage to the Bunny Planet

By Rosemary Wells

 

The day is new—only 7:00 a.m. —and already Claire is having a tough time.  At breakfast she “ate only three spoons of cornflakes” before the bowl was knocked to the floor. While walking to school, Claire’s feet were soaked by snow, and “by eleven in the morning, math had been going on for two hours.” The cafeteria was serving baloney sandwiches—blecchh!—and at recess “Claire was the only girl not able to do a cartwheel.” At the end of school, all Claire wanted to do was go home, but she was left waiting…and waiting…and waiting at the bus stop.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-voyage-to-the-bunny-planet-tomato-soup-baloney-sandwich

Image copyright Rosemary Wells, courtesy rosemarywells.com

After all the slights and disappointments, “Claire needs a visit to the Bunny Planet.” She closes her eyes and floats away…. “Far beyond the moon and stars, / Twenty light-years south of Mars, / Spins the gentle Bunny Planet / And the Bunny Queen is Janet.”

Janet ushers Claire into “the day that should have been.” Wafting on the warm winds Claire hears her mother’s voice: “pick me some runner beans and sugar snap peas. / Find a ripe tomato and bring it to me, please.” So early in the season, Claire finds only one red, ripe tomato on the vine. It “smells of rain and steamy earth and hot June sun” that tempts her to taste it, but she puts in her basket and gives it to her mother.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-voyage-to-the-bunny-planet-tomato-soup-baloney-shelling-peas

Image copyright Rosemary Wells, courtesy rosemarywells.com

As her mother cooks, Claire sits at the cozy kitchen table shelling the peas. Soon, Claire’s mother brings her a steamy bowl of soup, and as they gaze at each other in understanding, Clair hears her “mother calling when the summer winds blow, / ‘I’ve made you First Tomato soup because I love you so.’”

Finally the bus arrives to take Claire home. During the ride she spies the Bunny Planet “near the evening star” and realizes that it was there all the time.

Today I chose a favorite book from when my own kids were little. One of three Voyage to the Bunny Planet books, Rosemary Wells’ First Tomato never failed to bring a little lump to my throat as I read it to my son and daughter (and even reading it again for this review, I felt the same catch in my heart).

In the difficulties that Claire suffers during the school day, kids will recognize the predicaments they also experience, and as Claire visits the Bunny Planet they’ll understand that solace is always close by. Claire’s sweet face and vintage dress as well as the lush details of the settings make each square illustration a masterpiece of expression and emotion. Wells’ beautiful turns of phrase and lyrical lines soothe the disquiet of real life with the balm of a parent’s or caregiver’s love, making First Tomato a wonderful book to share again and again.

All three Voyage to the Bunny Planet books—including The Island Light and Moss Pillows, two more enchanting and touching quiet-time reads—are available in a single-volume gift edition.

Ages 3 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2008 | ISBN 978-0670011032

To discover more about Rosemary Wells and her books, plus videos, games, coloring pages, information for parents and educators, and more, visit her website!

National Soup Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-souper-maze

Souper Maze!

 

You can’t eat soup without a spoon! Can you help the spoon get through the maze to the bowl in this printable Souper Maze? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

September 1 – World Letter Writing Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-cover

About the Holiday

Remember the thrill of receiving a letter—a real letter full of exciting news, lovey-dovey stuff, photos, or a highly anticipated answer to some inquiry or application? The footsteps of the postal carrier on the stoop, the creak and small bang of the mailbox lid opening and closing, and the view of a long envelope sticking out the top could all set the heart racing. Or perhaps you were the letter writer, pouring your experiences, heart, and hopes onto a piece of paper that might have been colored or even scented. World Letter Writing Day celebrates those missives that allow for the development of higher vocabulary and story-telling skills and provided physical souvenirs of a life well lived.

Dear Dragon

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo

 

In a bit of cross-curriculum creativity, the teachers in two distinct school districts have combined the annual poetry units and pen pal projects. Not only do the kids get to make new friends, they must write their letters in rhyme. George Slair has been matched up with Blaise Dragomir. What George doesn’t know—but readers do—is that Blaise is a dragon; and what Blaise doesn’t know—but readers do—is that George is a boy.

In his first missive, George begins boldly and honestly: “Dear Blaise Dragomir, / We haven’t met each other, and I don’t know what to say. / I really don’t like writing, but I’ll do it anyway. / Yesterday my dad and I designed a giant fort. / I like playing catch and soccer. What’s your favorite sport? / Sincerely, George Slair”

As Blaise reads the letter he interprets George’s cardboard box, blanket, and umbrella fort as a medieval stone fortress with an iron gate and whittled-to-a-point log fencing. Blaise writes back: “Dear George Slair, / I also don’t like writing, but I’ll try it, I suppose. / A fort is like a castle, right? I love attacking those. / My favorite sport is skydiving. I jump near Falcor Peak. / Tomorrow is my birthday, but my party is next week. / Sincerely, Blaise Dragomir”

In his next letter, dated October 31, more earth-bound George tells Blaise that parachuting is awesome, that his dog destroyed his fort, and that he is trick-or-treating as a knight—a revelation to which Blaise has a visceral response. But what is scary to one pal is tame to the other. On November 14th Blaise relates: “Knights are super scary! I don’t like trick-or-treat. / Brushing teeth is such a pain, I rarely eat a sweet. / My pet’s a Bengal Kitten and tonight she needs a bath. / What’s your favorite class in school? I’m really into math!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-bengal-kitten

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, courtesy, Viking Books for Young Readers

Reading December’s letter Blaise learns that George likes art and imagines George’s table-top volcano science project as a roaring, lava-spewing mountain while in January George is impressed to learn that Blaise’s father is a fire-breather. He conjures up images of a dad in a fancy, caped costume creating fire out of nothing while the truth is a lot more explosive. February brings word that there is a pen pal picnic planned for June, and in March Blaise tells George about a special outing with his dad: “Soon he’s gonna take me flying, once it’s really spring. / It’s such a rush to ride the air that flows from wing to wing.”

Springtime also sees the two becoming better friends. The formal “Sincerely, George” or “Sincerely, Blaise” sign-off of the first letters has evolved into “Your friend”  as George expresses his wonder at Blaise’s parents: “Hi, Blaise! / Skydiving and flying? Wow, your parents rock! / I’m lucky if my father lets me bike around the block.” Then it appears that this project has been a success in all areas as George asks, “Once the school year’s over and this project is complete, / should we continue writing? ‘Cause it could be kind of neat….”

Blaise is all in. In his May letter, he writes, “Hey, George! / I’m psyched about the picnic and I can’t wait to attend. / Who’d have thought this pen pal thing would make me a new friend? / Writing more sounds awesome. I was gonna ask you, too! / I’ve never liked to write as much as when I write to you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-dragon-volcano

Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers

With a growing sense of anticipation, readers know that with a turn of the page June will come, and that June brings the long-awaited picnic. How will George and Blaise react when they see each other? As the kids approach the Pen Pal Picnic spot, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has his hands to his face. And as the dragons peek out from behind the trees, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has her hand to her face.

“‘Blaise?’” George ventures, as a slice of tomato drops from his hamburger. “‘George?’” Blaise presumes, although he wrings his tail. “‘My pen pal is a dragon?’”… “‘My pen pal is a human?’”

These two-page spreads say it all—or do they? Well, not quite…

Huge grins burst out as George and Blaise exchange high fives (and fours). The other kid- and-dragon pals are having a blast too! And the teachers? “‘Our plan was a success, my friend, or so it would appear!’ / ‘The Poetry and Pen Pal Project! Once again next year?’”

With his usual aplomb, Josh Funk charms with rhyme and reason in this clever tribute to friendship, diversity, and writing (on paper!). The letters between the two pen pals are endearingly kid-like, full of the subjects that are important in a child’s life, including pets, school, hobbies, and parents, and that can be brilliantly open to interpretation—or misinterpretation. Blaise Dagomir and George Slair’s names are similarly inspired, and may introduce kids to the ancient legends of Saint George and the Dragon and the poem by Alfred Noyes, St George and the Dragon. Kids will enjoy seeing how George and Blaise’s friendship grows over the school year, evidenced in the openings and closings of their letters. The letters are a joy to read aloud as the rhymes swoop and flow as easily as Blaise soars through the air.

Following the alternating sequence of the letters, Rodolfo Montalvo depicts each pen pal’s perception of the message along with the reality in his illustrations that are—as George exclaims—“as awesome as it gets.” Both characters are sweet and earnest, and while surprised by what they think the other’s life is like, happily supportive. The full-bleed pages and vibrant colors dazzle with excitement and humor and ingenious details. Kids will love the juxtaposition of George’s idea of Blaise’s Bengal “kitten” and the reality of a nearly full-grown tiger. The two views of fire-breathing will also bring a laugh, and readers will enjoy picking out features of the two homes. The final spreads build suspense as to how George and Blaise will react to each other, and the resolution is a delight.

One striking aspect of both the text and the illustrations is the similarity between the two pen pals. While their activities and experiences may be on different scales, they are comparable and understandable to each child. Likewise, everywhere in the paintings, Montalvo uses complementary colors to unite George and Blaise. This cohesiveness beautifully represents the theme of inclusiveness.

Dear Dragon is released September 6 and is certain to be a book children treasure. The fun dual meaning rhymes and endearing illustrations make Dear Dragon a must for kids’ (and dragon’s) bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0451472304

From more books to activities for kids, there’s so much to see and do on Josh Funk’s website!

Discover the world of Rodolfo Montalvo’s books and artwork on his website!

Dear Reader, check out this blazing hot book trailer!

World Letter Writing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-front-eyes-down

Dependable Dragon Pencil Case

 

U-knight-ing all your pens, pencils, and other supplies in this Dependable Dragon Pencil Case will fire up your imagination! Have a blast making this fun craft!

Supplies      

  • Printable Dragon Pencil Case Template – Wings | Face
  • Sheets of felt, 8 ½-inch by 11-inch
  • 2 Dark green
  • 1 Light green
  • 1 white
  • 1 black
  • 1 yellow
  • 1 purple
  • Fabric Glue
  • Glitter glue or Fabric paint (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Velcro
  • Green Thread (optional if you would like to sew instead of glue your case)
  • Needle (optional, needed if sewing)

Directions

  1. Print the Dragon Templates
  2. Cut out alternating rows of scales from the dark and light green felt (7 each). For one row, cut a rounded top (instead of straight across) to make the top of the head (see picture). (One row of scales is longer so you can tile them. You will trim them later: see the double row of scales on the template for how the scales should look)
  3. Cut the eyes from the white felt, pupils and nostrils from the black felt, horns from the yellow felt, and wings from the purple felt. Set aside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-top-of-head

To make the head

  1. Fold one dark piece of felt in half lengthwise
  2. Cut a wavy line along the bottom of the felt to make lips (see picture)
  3. Glue a ½-inch-wide strip along open side and along bottom (or you can sew it)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-bottom-snout

To add the scales

  1. Starting at the bottom, lay on row of scales a little above the wavy bottom. Glue the top to the base.
  2. Overlap an alternating green row of scales on the first row, glue the top
  3. Continue alternating dark and light green scales until you reach 9 inches
  4. Use the rounded row of scales for the top of the head (see how to insert horns before attaching top of head)

To insert the horns

  1. On the rounded row of scales, mark where you want the horns to be
  2. Cut two small slices in the felt where the horns will go
  3. Insert the bottoms of the horns into the slits

To finish the head

  1. Glue the top of the head to the base
  2. Trim any longer rows of scales to meet the edges of the base
  3. Add the eyes and nostrils to the face

To make the closure for the case

  1. Cut the base following the line of the rounded row of scales
  2. Glue or sew strips of Velcro along the inside edges

To attach the wings

  1. Turn the dragon case to the back
  2. Glue or sew the wings to the center of the back, attaching them at the center edge
  3. Outline the wings in glitter glue (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dragon-pencil-case-back

Picture Book Review