October 19 – Celebrating the Fall Season

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fun-fair-day-coverAbout the Holiday

Fall is a time when the cooler weather and beautiful scenery entice people to get outside to enjoy farms, farmers markets, pumpkin picking and carving, scarecrow making, and lots of walks and biking. Inside, it’s time for pie and bread baking, cozy blankets, and snuggly story times. Today’s book is a perfect match for the season!

Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Juliana Motzko

The bright blue skies and warm sun of fall is here, and the little animals are at the fair having fun in this sweet touch-and-feel board book. Bear cub takes a pony ride while Raccoon and Bird visit the petting zoo. Kids can pet the baby goat, too, while he nibbles the oats Bird offers. At the craft table, Fox, Chicken, and Elephant are coloring, making banners, and decorating pumpkins.

Then it’s time for “harvest treats, lots to buy—donuts, bread, apple pie.” Feel those sugar sprinkled donuts! Yum! There’s nothing more fun than jumping in a pile of leaves, and the fair even has a play area where Duckling, Tiger, Lamb, and Bunny do just that! You can join them and “shuffle through, stomp the ground, crackle, crunch, hear the sound.” Scratch the leaf and feel how crisp it is! The afternoon is waning and the sky is streaked as orange and red as the autumn leaves. The air’s turned chilly, but there’s still time for a hayride through the pumpkin patch! Look at that big, deep orange pumpkin. Feel how smooth it is! It’s been a wonderful day at the fair!

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Tara Knudson’s playful rhymes will charm little ones as they join in on the fall fair excitement. Along the way, kids meet many different animals and engage with shapes and colors. Knudson’s lyrical verses perfectly reflect the fun and cozy atmosphere of fall. Sensory patches invite eager fingers to pet the horse and goat, touch grainy sugar, enjoy the woody texture of a fallen leaf, and feel the smoothness of a pumpkin shell.

Juliana Motzko’s fall fair enchants with adorable animals and the bright colors of the autumn season. Delighted smiles abound as the young fair-goers visit the petting zoo, craft table, baked goods display, play area, and pumpkin patch. Motzko’s textured illustrations of golden hay, rich soil, whole grain bread and apple pie as well as crunchy leaves and a straw-filled scarecrow blend well with the touch-and-feel patches and enhance the opportunity for adults and kids to talk about sensory awareness.

Fun Fall Day, a nicely sized board book—not too small or too big for little hands—is a story that’s a joy to read aloud and one that kids will want to hear again and again. It would make a much-appreciated gift for babies and toddlers and a favorite on home, preschool, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310770213

Discover more about Tara Knudson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Juliana Motzko, her books, and her art, visit her website

Celebrating Fall Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leaf-mobile-craft

Autumn Leaf Mobile

You can bring the beauty of autumn leaves into your home with this fun-to-make mobile. Use tissue paper, construction paper, or even real leaves to make this mobile, that makes a great pattern and counting activity to do with young children too. 

Supplies

  • Paper Plate
  • Scissors
  • Tissue Paper/Crepe Paper
  • Tape
  • String/ Yarn

Directions

  1. Cut out the center circle of the paper plate and use the outside ring as the top of your mobile
  2. Have children pick out colors. We did a fall theme, but you can really let the kids be creative here. 
  3. Cut out tissue paper or crepe paper into leaf shapes. Adults will have to cut out the bulk of leaves. My six year old was able to cut the leaf shapes out, but was tired after 5. I used about 60-70 leaves.
  4. Have children organize leaves into patterns.
  5. Tape leaves together so they overlap. 
  6. Tape chain to paper plate ring
  7. Tie String or yarn to the top of the mobile

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You can find Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 14 – National Children’s Craft Day

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About the Holiday

March is National Craft Month and today is set aside especially for children to engage in this fun and diverse activity. Crafting has many benefits for kids, including using their creativity, honing fine motor skills, following directions, and learning to work independently. Doing crafts is also a great way to spend time away from the computer or TV and often results in an item that kids can be proud of. Using recyclable materials makes crafting inexpensive and gives the recycled items new life.

I received a copy of Easter Egg Day from Tara Knudson for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Tara to offer a signed copy of the book. See details below.

Easter Egg Day

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

It’s Easter egg-dyeing day for the rabbit family. The little bunnies put on their smocks and gather the hard-boiled eggs and other supplies on the table. To make each egg special, the bunnies “use a crayon, / draw designs— / circles, shapes, / zigzag lines. / Rabbit, lamb, / butterflies, / ready, set— / time for dyes!”

Carefully, they dip them into the cups of blue, green, yellow, and red dye. These colors are fun, but then they get creative, mixing red and blue and double-dipping. The bunnies set their eggs out to dry, and just in time they’re ready for the big Easter egg hunt.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-easter-egg-day-smocks

Image copyright Pauline Stewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

“Neighbors, friends, / at the door. / Baskets held, / eggs galore!” The little bunnies, moles, and mice race out into the yard and hide their eyes as the adults hide the eggs in the tall grass, near trees, and under flowers. When all the eggs are hidden, the kids spread out, hoping to fill their empty baskets.

They find all of the eggs except seven—can you help the kids look around? Along with the real eggs, there are plastic eggs that pop open to reveal treats—”stickers, toys, / Easter sweets!” Then it’s time for games and races, smiles and cheers. Come and join the Easter fun!

Easter egg decorating tips are included after the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-easter-egg-day-dying-eggs

Image copyright Pauline Stewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Little ones love the magic of dyeing Easter eggs, and Tara Knudson’s bright, bouncy rhymes perfectly convey the giggly excitement kids feel during this once-a-year tradition. Readers will eagerly anticipate each step and page turn along the way as the bunnies turn their carton of white eggs into a basket full of creative, colorful treasures. Of course, Easter eggs are made for hiding and finding, and Knudson invites kids to join the bunnies and little moles and mice as they scamper through the yard on this most joyful of all hunts.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-easter-egg-day-friends

Image copyright Pauline Stewert, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With sunny yellows, tender-grass greens, and vibrant oranges, purples, and reds, Pauline Siewert drops kids as gently as an egg into dye into spring and the enchantment of Easter egg fun. White eggs marked with creative crayon designs will give readers a few ideas for their own eggs while the sweet smiles and enthusiasm of the bunny siblings and their parents mirror their own feelings. As the bunnies and their friends dash off to find the eggs, little ones will be just as excited for their own Easter egg traditions.

Adorable and endearing, Easter Egg Day will be a favorite spring read for adults and kids to share before Easter and to remember family fun.

Ages 2 – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310767527

Discover more about Tara Knudson and her books on her website.

National Children’s Craft Day Activity

CPB - Chick single

Hatch a Chick! Craft

 

Chicks are so cute and fluffy—you just wish you could have one of your very own! Now you can! Hatch your own chick with this craft.

Supplies

  • Cotton balls, or use large pom-poms
  • Yellow chalk
  • Orange paper
  • Black paper
  • Egg shell
  • Paper grass
  • Cardboard or poster board
  • Cheese grater
  • Green paint, marker, or crayon
  • Glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To make the shell

  1. Crack an egg and save the two halves
  2. Soak the eggshells in soapy water or wash gently with soap
  3. Dry eggshell

To make the chick

  1. Use the cheese grater to grate the chalk into a bowl
  2. Roll the cotton balls in the chalk dust until they are covered
  3. Make the beak from the orange paper by folding the paper and cutting a small triangle
  4. Cut two small eyes from the black paper
  5. Glue the beak and eyes to one of the cotton balls
  6. Glue the head to the second cotton ball
  7. Set the chick into one of the eggshells, glue if desired

To make the stand

  1. Cut a 3-inch by 3-inch square from the cardboard or poster board
  2. If you wish, paint or color the square green
  3. Glue green paper grass to the square
  4. Glue the eggshell to the stand.

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You can find Easter Egg Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 8 – National Grandparents Day

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About the Holiday

As a child in the 1920s, Marion McQuade accompanied her grandmother as she visited elderly neighbors, offering friendship and help when needed. This early experience sparked Marion’s lifelong concern for the elderly and especially for grandparents. In 1956, Marion helped institute a tribute to octogenarians. It was just the beginning of her work on behalf of the elderly and her hopes to create a special day commemorating the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared the first Sunday after Labor Day to be National Grandparents Day. As Marion envisioned it, the day gives grandparents and grandchildren an opportunity to show their love for one another and for older members of the family to pass down their stories and wisdom to younger generations. 

Love is Kind

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Lison Chaperon

 

Little Owl had been saving up his coins to buy something special for Grammy’s birthday. He even knew exactly what he wanted to give her—“a heart-shaped box of chocolates.” He took the coins out of his pocket to look at them, but just as he did he tripped over a tree root and his money went flying. One, two, three, they rolled down the hill “until wobble PING” they landed right by Beaver’s dam. Little Owl ran after them. Just as he got close, he heard little Beaver excitedly showing her mommy that the tooth fairy had come after all. Seeing the big smile on Beaver’s face, Little Owl just wished her a “tooth-errific day” and headed back home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-love-is-kind-coins

Image copyright Lison Chaperon, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

As luck would have it, though, Little Owl spied a dollar lying among the fallen autumn leaves. He was excited that now he could buy Grammy’s gift, but then he saw the “Missing $1.00” sign on Mrs. Mouse’s house. He picked up the money and rang Mrs. Mouse’s doorbell. Mrs. Mouse was thrilled to see her money again as she and Mr. Mouse needed it to fix up the nursery for the new babies they were expecting. “Little Owl smiled. ‘That’s wonderful news. Congratulations!’” he said.

Little Owl continued on and while cutting through the sunflower field, he ran into Rabbit, who had “THREE heart-shaped boxes of chocolates—” one for Ma, one for Pa, and one Rabbit was going to keep for herself. “Little Owl’s feathers stood on end. You have THREE! That’s not fai…’ Little Owl stopped. Getting angry wouldn’t get Grammy those chocolates.” Instead, he told Rabbit to enjoy her candy, and she hopped happily off. In a moment, though, she was back with a coupon for one free box of chocolates.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-love-is-kind-beaver

Image copyright Lison Chaperon, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Little Owl skipped all the way to Chipmunk’s Chocolate Shoppe. But when he got there, all of Chipmunk’s chocolates were gone and he was just closing the shop. Once again, Little Owl smiled, gave good wishes, and waved goodbye. Still, little Owl was disappointed. He had nothing to give Grammy.

When he got to Grammy’s house, he tearfully told her about his day. After he was finished, Grammy told him that the love he had shown to Beaver, Mrs. Mouse, Rabbit, and Chipmunk was “‘better than any heart-shaped box of chocolates.’” Little Owl was surprised. Just then he caught his reflection in the window. The white feathers of his face formed a perfect heart. “‘…I guess I gave you a heart-shaped gift after all!’” he said. “‘Me!’” And Grammy thought that was “‘the best gift of all.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-love-is-kind-coupon

Image copyright Lison Chaperon, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Laura Sassi’s tender intergenerational story delves gently and with an endearing main character into what it means to love. Not only does Sassi reveal the true meaning of love, but she shows young readers how to express it by what they do and say (or don’t say). Through each of Little Owl’s encounters, he demonstrates kindness and empathy as he puts the happiness of others ahead of his own desires. Sassi’s genuine storytelling doesn’t shy away from Little Owl’s honest emotions that touch on ownership, disappointment, anger, and sadness, but in each case Little Owl is guided by his strong internal moral code revealed organically through his thoughts and actions.

As Grammy comforts her young grandson, she reinforces the idea that the best gift someone can give an individual, their community, and the world at large is not stuff but a caring and compassionate heart. Little Owl and little readers need not rely only on the words of the story but come to understand this important lesson through Little Owl’s reflection in the window as well. Lines from the poem “Love is Kind,” found in 1 Corinthians 13, are sprinkled throughout the text: in the river that runs past Beaver’s dam, over Mrs. Mouse’s hearth, in the petals of a sunflower, and elsewhere, reminding readers that these ideals can be found everywhere and encouraging them to look for and contribute to universal kindness.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-love-is-kind-beaver

Image copyright Lison Chaperon, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With his soft tufts of autumn-hued feathers and cozy coat and scarf, Little Owl is an adorable friend to follow on a journey. Lison Chaperon’s woodland neighborhood glows with gold and russet leaves, providing a warm backdrop to the snug homes of Little Owl’s neighbors. Children will be enchanted by the Mouse’s tree trunk-and-toadstool house, where a swing set with walnut-shell swings wait in the yard for little mice to play. When Little Owl heads into the sunflower patch, kids will spy a snoozing caterpillar, a bee and a ladybug having a picnic, and a glimpse of the bunny he’s about to bump into.

In Little Owl’s encounters, readers can clearly see what the coins, the dollar bill, and the three boxes of chocolates mean to each respective family. In this way, children discover both sides of each story and can better understand how generosity affects both the giver and the receiver. As Little Owl loses hope of getting a gift for Grammy, the sunny sky turns gray and rainy to reflect his mood, but a rainbow appears when Rabbit pays her good fortune forward by giving Owl a coupon. It’s nighttime when Little Owl reaches Grammy’s, and he’s welcomed by shining lanterns and a starry sky. Inside, Grammy’s just finishing up a delectable cake to share while snuggling in Grammy’s rocking chair.

This lovely, multilayered story is delightful for any story time while also providing many opportunities for adults and children to talk about ideas of love, kindness, empathy, and how one person’s actions and words can make a difference in others’ lives. Love is Kind would be a favorite for grandparents and children to share. Reading it with little ones is also a wonderful way to bring closer grandparents who live far away. The book would make a sweet gift and addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310754893 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0310754848 (Board Book)

Discover more about Laura Sassi and her books on her website

Love is Kind Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Zonderkidz in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Love is Kind written by Laura Sassi | illustrated by Lison Chaperon

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from September 8 through September 14 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 15.

Prizing provided by Zonderkidz

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

National Grandparents Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-love-is-kind-cookies

Little Owl Cookies (and Grand ones too!)  

Made with Love by Laura and her daughter

 

My 14-year-old daughter loves spending time her grandparents and she thought these LOVE IS KIND owl-themed cookies would be a fun and tasty way to celebrate that special bond between child and grandparent. We hope you enjoy our activity—and after baking and decorating together, we hope you’ll be inspired to spread some love by sharing the cookies with neighbors or friends who perhaps live too far away to be with their grandchildren on Grandparents Day! Enjoy!

Supplies

  • A favorite sugar cookie recipe (or buy pre-mixed cookie dough from the market)
  • Two glasses with different sized rims for cookie cutters (so you can make little and big owls)
  • A bag of confectioners’ sugar, a few splashes of milk, food coloring
  • Several bowls to mix your icing along with a spoon and toothpick for each color
  • Candy eyes (found in baking section at market)

Directions

  1. Roll out the dough, then press circles—both big and small (to represent grandparents and grandchildren) using rims of two different sized glasses. 
  2. Place the dough circles on a cookie sheet. Then, taking little scraps of cookie dough, shape and press triangle-shaped owl tufts atop each circle, as shown.
  3. Bake according to recipe or package directions. Let cool.
  4. Using my sweet daughter’s samples as a model, or following your own owl vision, decide how many colors you will need to decorate your owls. 
  5. For each color, add a generous half cup of confectioners’ sugar and a splash of milk to a small bowl. Add a drop or two of food coloring, or mix two colors to create a new color. Stir gently using a spoon. (The amount of sugar, milk, and color drops you use will depend on how much icing you need.  Also, you will have to play with consistency until you get it just right – not too watery and not too thick.  My daughter apologizes for being so vague, but really mixing it up is part of the fun. Your grandkids will LOVE it!)
  6. To paint the owls, cover the cookie with your base glaze. Add the eyes while the glaze is still wet so they stick in place. Wait for the bottom coat to get a little crusty (so colors don’t bleed) before adding the final details such as beak and feathers.
  7. Finally, arrange a plate of big and little owl cookies for yourselves and another to share (in true LOVE IS KIND fashion)!  Have fun!

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You can find Love is Kind at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 17 – Month of the Young Child

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-very-first-easter-cover

About the Holiday

During the month of April, we celebrate families and their young children. The aim of the holiday is to raise awareness of all the ways people can support and advance children’s happiness and wellbeing. One way families do this is by celebrating meaningful holidays together and passing on beliefs,  history, and traditions. Easter, which falls on April 21 this year, celebrates the biblical resurrection of Jesus and the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation. The day is also one for fun family Easter egg hunts and a visit from the Easter Bunny, who brings candy and other treats. 

Today, I’m reviewing two Berenstain Bears Easter books. The first is a bit simpler for younger readers while the second contains more details of the biblical story and how secular traditions fit into the day. I received copies of both books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter

Written by Jan and Mike Berenstain

 

On the night before Easter, Papa Bear gathered Sister, Brother, and Honey together to read a bedtime story. Brother wants to hear one from their storybook Bible, and Papa finds one about the very first Easter. The story begins when Jesus and his disciples come to Jerusalem and are greeted with “Hosannas” and a crowd waving palm branches. “They believed Jesus was the new king of Israel.” The officials in Jerusalem thought Jesus was stirring up trouble. “They did not understand that the kingdom of Jesus was really the kingdom of heaven.”

The day was Passover, and Jesus and his disciples gathered for a special Passover dinner. During the supper, Jesus told his followers that he loved them. They ate bread and drank wine, which Jesus said were like his body and blood. He told them that he would be leaving them soon, but they did not understand what he meant.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-very-first-easter-hosanna

Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2019, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Later, Jesus went to a garden to pray. The followers that went along with him soon fell asleep. Another disciple, Judas, had “decided to help the angry city leaders put Jesus in prison.” He showed the soldiers where Jesus was praying. The leaders of Jerusalem brought Jesus to their Roman ruler, Pilate. He ordered that Jesus be put to death by hanging on a wooden cross.

On the day Jesus died, the sky turned black and a wind whipped across the land. People were afraid; some prayed and some hid. Jesus was buried in a tomb, and the opening was covered by a huge, heavy stone. Roman guards were placed in front of the tomb.

Three days after Jesus died, an angel appeared. The angel rolled away the stone and frightened the guards away. When three women came to visit the tomb, the angel told them that Jesus had risen. The women hurried away to tell all of Jesus’ friends. Later, Jesus visited his followers in the room where they had been fearfully staying together.

They were amazed to see him. “‘Peace be with you,’ Jesus said.” He then told them to “spread the good news about what had happened.” Forty days later, Jesus rose into heaven “to be with God, his father.” Jesus’ friends and followers “rejoiced and praised God.” As Papa closed the Bible, he saw that Brother, Sister, and Honey were asleep. “‘Good night,’ Papa whispers, ‘and God bless.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-very-first-easter-angry-leaders

Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2019, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Jan and Mike Berenstain’s The Very First Easter is a traditional telling of the biblical Easter story for young readers. Composed of the important events in the days surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection, the story reinforces the miracle of Jesus’ rising from the dead and his directive that his followers should spread the good news. Children will enjoy learning the Easter story along with Sister, Brother, and Honey as their own parent or caregiver joins Papa Bear in sharing this highlight of the church calendar. The book makes a good companion to personal discussions about the holiday and can grow with the child as they age and learn more details of the story.

An Easter word search puzzle is included on the inside back cover.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2019 | ISBN 978-0310762188

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About the Holiday

The definition of spiritual wellness is unique to each person. When you think deep down about what gives your life purpose, meaning, and happiness, what do you find? This month encourages people to discover if their beliefs, activities, work, family relationships and friendships are all in harmony. It’s also important to take care of you, by taking time to reflect each day and to plan fun and relaxing activities. Springtime and Easter are opportunities for renewal, making March a great time to consider your spiritual wellness.

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story

Written by Jan and Mike Berenstain

 

On the way to Sunday school one spring morning, all Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear could think about was Easter candy. As they entered their classroom, Brother said his favorite Easter candy was chocolate bunnies, Sister said hers was marshmallow chicks, and Honey Bear cried “‘Jelly beans!’” Then Missus Ursula revealed that her favorite was black jelly beans, but also that Easter is about more than candy.

Brother and Sister said they knew that. Easter was about “‘stuff in the Bible,’” Brother told Missus Ursula. “‘Yeah,’ agreed Sister. ‘Bible stuff.’” And Honey Bear added, “‘Stuff!’” Missus Ursula thought the cubs’ understanding could use a little more rounding out, so she took them into the next classroom, where the older bear cubs were putting on a play.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-berenstain-bears-and-the-easter-story-candy

Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2012, courtesy of Zondervan.

The stage was set with props of the Holy Land, and cubs were dressed in costumes. One of the performers began telling the Easter story. “‘Long ago, in the Holy Land, there was a man named Jesus. He traveled the countryside teaching about God and what God wanted for his people.’” The narrator went on to tell about Jesus’s miracles and how “‘he could do these wonderful things because he was the Son of God.’”

Government officials and others were angry. They were afraid that Jesus wanted to become the king. One day Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem and crowds greeted him with shouts of “‘Hosanna!’” The leaders believed Jesus was becoming too powerful. One night while Jesus was praying in a garden, “‘soldiers were sent to arrest him.’” He was questioned by a “‘wicked judge…who wanted to show everyone that Jesus was not a king. He ordered for Jesus to be put to death by hanging on a wooden cross.’” 

After Jesus died, he was put in a tomb. A huge stone was rolled in front of the entrance. “‘On the morning of the third day after Jesus died, some women who knew Jesus came to weep at his tomb.’” They saw that the stone had been rolled away. Jesus was no longer in the tomb. “‘An angel told the women…that Jesus was alive once more.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-berenstain-bears-and-the-easter-story-missus-ursula

Copyright Jan and Mike Berenstain, 2012, courtesy of Zondervan.

In the days and weeks after Jesus rose, he visited his friends. “‘Jesus told them they should spread the good news about what had happened.’” After visiting with his friends, “‘Jesus rose up to heaven to be with God, his Father.’” Following the play, the cubs understood that Easter is about more than candy. But “‘does this mean we shouldn’t eat any Easter candy?’” Brother asked.

“‘Certainly not!’ Missus Ursula laughed” and confessed that she’d miss her jelly beans too. But she reminded the cubs that they should go to church after they got their Easter baskets. “‘Hooray!’ the cubs said. ‘And Hosanna!’ added Missus Ursula. ‘He is risen!’”

A page of colorful stickers depicting images from the story are included, and discussion questions and fun activities related to the book follow the text. 

Since the early 1960s, the Berenstain Bears have been delighting readers with their shenanigans, wit, and always-close family relationships. In The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story, part of the Living Lights series, these beloved characters talk about and reveal to children the deeper meaning of Easter, with a focus on Jesus’s resurrection. The dialogue-rich structure lends a personal touch to any reading, letting the adult sound as if they are telling the story themselves.

The illustrations of Bear Country are bathed in the warm glow of spring as the sun rises over the Bear’s tidy treehouse home. Brother’s, Sister’s, and Honey Bear’s dreams of candy will enchant little ones as will the familiar scene of walking into church on Easter morning. Depictions of the play are vibrant and detailed but with a homey and childlike feeling to the props and acting.

For adults looking for a traditional, Bible-centered telling of the Easter story with engaging  characters that children will respond to, The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter and The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story is a superb choice for home and church libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Zonderkidz, 2012 | ISBN 978-0310720874

To learn more about Bear Country and all of The Berenstain Bears books as well as to find fun activities visit the Berenstain Bears’ website.

Month of the Young Child Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sweet-bunny-candy-jar

Sweet Bunny Candy Jar

 

A little bit of candy makes Easter or any spring day sweeter! With this Sweet Bunny Candy Jar, you can give a child, a friend, or even yourself a special treat that will make you hoppy!

Supplies

  • Printable Hat Rim and Bunny Ears Template
  • Baby food jar (I used a Beech-Nut Naturals jar)
  • White fleece, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches
  • 1 piece of purple foam (Or any color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Small piece of pink foam or felt for nose
  • Googly eyes (I used oval)
  • Medium pom-pom
  • Multi-surface paint, purple (or whatever color you’d like to make the hat)
  • Fabric glue (I used Fabric-Tac)
  • Black ultra-fine or fine tip permanent marker
  • Large nail or ice pick
  • Hammer
  • Scissors

IMG-2614

Directions

  1. Remove label from baby food jar
  2. Clean and dry jar and lid
  3. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam
  4. Cut out the rim of the hat and remove the center
  5. Trace the ears template onto the white fleece and cut out

To Make the Body and Face

  1. Cut a 2-inch wide by 7-inch long strip of white fleece
  2. Glue the strip of fleece to the jar under the lip and leaving about ½ inch of glass showing at the bottom
  3. Glue on the googly eyes
  4. Cut a little nose from the pink foam and glue to the face
  5. Make the mouth with the permanent marker on a little piece of fleece, cut out and glue under the nose

To Make the Hat

  1. Paint the lid with the purple paint. Let dry.
  2. With the nail or ice pick and hammer, make a hole on either side of the lid to insert the ears. You can make the hole a little bigger with a phillips head screwdriver
  3. Flip the lid over and hammer the edges of the hole flat
  4. Trace the hat rim template onto the purple foam

To Insert the Ears

  1. Pinch the end of one ear together and push it through one hole in the lid.
  2. Pull it through the hole a bit to form the ear
  3. Repeat with the other ear

Finish the Bunny

  1. Add the foam rim to the lid
  2. Glue the pom-pom to the back of the jar for the tail
  3. Add M&Ms, jelly beans, or other small candy

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You can find The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-very-first-easter-cover

You can find The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Easter at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

 

 

December 4 – National Cookie Day and Interview with Author Tara Knudson

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About the Holiday

Whether you call them cookies or biscuits, these yummy treats have been around for quite a long time. Originating in Persia in the 7th century, cookies conquered Europe by the 14th century and came to America with the earliest settlers. Of course, cookies are great any time of the year, but the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without the delicious snap or soft melt-in-your-mouth goodness of favorite cookies. Baking together is one of the joys of the season for adults and kids, and you can bet that with each batch, good memories are being created too.

Christmas Cookie Day!

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

Mama bear and her little bear get ready for one of the most fun days of the year. “Cooke day, / Time to bake. / Aprons on, / Lots to make!” The little one cracks an egg into the bowl while the butter, flour, and sugar wait their turn. Mom pours warm melted butter and lets her little bear stir it into dough.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With the dough rolled smooth, it’s time to use the cookie cutters to make…”Christmas tree, / Reindeer, bell. / Snowman, star, / Cookie smell.” The pair add angels, candy canes, and drummer boys before sliding the tray into the oven and watching them bake. At last the timer rings but they still must wait. Finally “ready, set… / Decorate!”

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

It’s so much fun spreading the frosting and shaking out sprinkles to create green trees, yellow stars, and red-and-white striped candy canes. Even the bakers can’t resist nibbling a few. But not too many, because these are special “cookie gifts. / Made with care. / Pack them up, / Cooke share!” It’s time to invite friends and family for a yearly treat—“Christmastime, / Spirits bright. / Family hugs, / Cookie night.”

A delectable Christmas Cookie Day Recipe follows the story for all little bakers to try.

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Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Tara Knudson’s jaunty rhyming story captures all the giddy anticipation and fun of a day baking Christmas cookies. Short, lively verses follow Mom and her cub step-by-step as they make and decorate special treats for their annual cookie party and invite little ones to join in on repeat readings. Knudson delights in the enjoyment Mom and her little one feel during their day of baking and goes on to celebrate the deeper meaning and joy of Christmas as the two wrap up their cookies and give them to family and friends.

With tender smiles for each other, Pauline Siewert’s Mama bear and her cub spend a snowy day baking cookies in their cozy kitchen accompanied by a helpful mouse. Siewert’s vibrant colors mirror the cheerful companionship mother and child share on this much-loved day, and her engaging details, like a dusting of flour on the cub’s nose, will charm children. A double-spread scattering of the cookies the two make give little ones a chance to show their knowledge of shapes and Christmastime figures. The heartwarming final scene of the cookie party might just inspire a party of your own. Little ones will also be enchanted by the sparkly cover that opens this adorable book.

The absence of personal pronouns and a red apron for the little cub make Christmas Cookie Day! gender neutral.

A sweet story to spark a fun family tradition and share the joy of giving, Christmas Cookie Day! makes an endearing addition to a child’s home library.

Ages 2 – 6

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310762898

Discover more about Tara Knudson, her books, and her other writing for children on her website.

To learn more about Pauline Siewert, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Tara Knudson

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I’m excited to be talking today with Tara Knudson about her sweet book, her favorite cookie, and how being a teacher inspires her work.

Christmas Cookie Day has such a joyous feeling. Do you have any special memories of baking with your family when you were a child?  What is your favorite kind of cookie?

I’m so glad that you think CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY has such a joyous feeling! The story evokes happy memories of baking Christmas cookies with my mom and sisters when I was a child. I remember gathering the cookie cutters from the cabinet, excited to get started! We all stood around the kitchen table and decorated our cookies with sprinkles, frosting, and candy pieces. It was so fun!

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While I do enjoy eating Christmas sugar cookies, my favorite kind of cookie is chocolate chip, especially ones with dark chocolate chips and a little salt. Yum!

As a regular contributor to children’s magazines like Highlights Hello, Highlights High Five, Baby Bug, and Ladybug, you write stories and poetry for the youngest readers, what do you like about writing for this age? What are a few of the most important ingredients in stories for little ones?

I love writing for little ones because they are so curious about everything in the world around them—sights, smells, sounds, tastes, new experiences, and people. They take it all in as they learn, develop, and grow. I like to be a part of that.

My poems and stories for this age group often include short and simple sentences with some fun words added that young readers may not be familiar with.

You’ve said that you loved to write even as a child. Can you describe your journey to becoming a published writer?

My journey as a writer has been a long one. I still have my creative writing stories from second grade. Reading them now makes me laugh! Growing up, the stories were always special to me, but I did not know yet that I wanted to be a writer.

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I started writing poetry when I was in high school. As I dealt with the problems and frustrations that adolescence can bring, I often wrote poems to express my feelings. After college, I became a Spanish teacher and I often used children’s picture books in the          classroom. I would spend hours at bookstores searching for favorite ones. It was during that time that I fell in love with picture books and decided that I wanted to write them.

In pursuit of my goal, I won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that allowed me to take a break from my teaching job and live in Barcelona, Spain for a year and experiment with writing for children. I wrote many poems and rhyming stories for children. I continued to write after my return to the U.S. As years passed, I sold articles and poems to children’s magazines and continued to work on my picture book manuscripts as I worked as a teacher and later took care of my two sons. Finally, I signed with an agent who helped me sell my first book.

Can you talk a little about your work as a teacher? How do your experiences influence your work?

My teaching background is unique because I have taught different subjects to students of many ages. I started my teaching career as a high school Spanish teacher. Then, while in Barcelona, I taught English to middle school students. Upon my return to the U.S., I taught Spanish to grades K-2 and then math to grades 1-4. 

Whichever subject I teach, and to whichever grade level, there is always something for me to gain as a writer when I work with students. Whether it be from something that happens in the classroom or something that a student says that sparks a writing idea, being around children gets my creative juices flowing! I hope to get back in the classroom soon.

What’s up next for you?

My next book, EASTER EGG DAY, will be released in February, 2020. Also, I’m happy to announce that a third book in my holiday board book series will follow. I will share details about that book soon. I have plenty of non-holiday projects as well that I hope will make their way into the world in the near future.

What’s your favorite holiday?

My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love the excitement that leads up to it, the beautiful decorations, the spirit of giving, and the true meaning of the season. It’s such a magical and joyous time for people of all ages filled with traditions and love. I’m so happy that CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY can be a part of it all!

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Thanks so much for chatting with me, Tara! I wish you a wonderful holiday and much success with all of your writing!

You can connect with Tara Knudson on

Her website | Instagram | Twitter  

National Cookie Day Activity

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Gingerbread Kids Ornaments

You can make gingerbread ornaments to decorate your tree or windows with this easy-to-make craft!

Supplies

  • Printable Gingerbread Girl and Boy Template
  • 2 Brown foam sheets
  • White paint (or any color you like)
  • Glitter in two colors
  • Paint brush
  • 2 Small heart buttons (optional)
  • Mounting squares (for mounting)
  • Thread  and needle (for optional hanging)

Directions

  1. Cut out gingerbread girl and boy
  2. Trace gingerbread girl and boy on brown foam sheets
  3. Cut out gingerbread girl and boy
  4. Paint around the edge of the gingerbread boy and girl with the white paint
  5. Add trim to the edge of the gingerbread girl’s dress
  6. Add socks to the gingerbread boy
  7. Add buttons
  8. Add faces
  9. Paint the hands of each figure with the paint
  10. Sprinkle glitter on the hands to make mittens
  11. To use as decoration attach mountable squares or with a threaded needle make a hole in the top of the figures and tie the thread to create a hanger.

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You can find Christmas Cookie Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 22 – Thanksgiving Day

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About the Holiday

While holidays exist all around the world to give thanks for our many blessings, today’s celebration commemorates the traditional American Thanksgiving Day. Its roots go back to 1621 when 50 Pilgrims gathered with 90 members of the Wampanoag tribe to celebrate the settlers’ surviving the first year in their adopted country. The fourth Thursday in November was not officially recognized as a national holiday until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln, convinced by the letters and appeals by Sarah Josepha Hale (writer of the song “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), signed the proclamation.

During the Great Depression, president Franklin Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday in the month, hoping to jump-start the gift-buying season and thus help the struggling economy. That idea never caught on, though, and the Thanksgiving was moved back to its original calendar spot. To lean more fascinating facts about Thanksgiving, visit allParenting.

Thankful

Written by Eileen Spinelli | Illustrated by Archie Preston

 

When Thanksgiving Day dawns we contemplate the things we are thankful for. Our thoughts often go to the large, all-encompassing ideas: we’re thankful for our families, our friends, our jobs. But Eileen Spinelli points out those smaller, concrete, more personal things that make us happy or make life better in immeasurable ways. To begin, “The waitress is thankful for comfortable shoes. The reporter is thankful for interesting news.”

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Image copyright Archie Preston, 2015, text copyright Eileen Spinelli, 2015. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Gardeners are happy when their crops begin to grow, and firemen are glad when the fire goes out. “The poet is thankful for words that rhyme. The children for morning story time.” Without color and light, the artist could not paint, doctors give thanks “when their patients get well,” and travelers are thankful when they find a nice place to stay. Dancers give thanks for music that inspires them, and tailors for their sewing machines.

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Image copyright Archie Preston, 2015, text copyright Eileen Spinelli, 2015. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Chefs are happy when diners clean their plates, the honey maker for the busy bees, and the sailor for his “sturdy boat.” “The birder is thankful to list a new bird. The pastor is thankful for God’s loving word.” Crafters? Well, they’re “thankful for glitter and glue.” And the reader, the listener? They’re “ever so thankful for you!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thankful-eileen-spinelli-chef-and-sewing-machine

Image copyright Archie Preston, 2015, text copyright Eileen Spinelli, 2015. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Eileen Spinelli’s endearing story of thanks for all of the objects, ideas, actions, and feelings that make every person unique and each situation just a little bit better is a heartfelt reminder of life’s joys for Thanksgiving Day and every day of the year. Her easy-flowing, rhyming verses depict a wide range of particular moments and broader experiences—each of which make the world a richer place. The final pages reveal what every little reader wants to hear and share—the mutual love between parent and child.

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Image copyright Archie Preston, 2015, text copyright Eileen Spinelli, 2015. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Archie Preston accompanies each couplet with a humorous illustration starring two adorable siblings playing out each scenario. Preston’s colorful, detailed line drawings show all the industrious, playful, and thoughtful togetherness that makes children and adult readers thankful for every day.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2015 |ISBN 978-0310000884 (Hardcover); 978-0310761402 (Board Book, 2017)

Discover more about Eileen Spinelli and her many books on her website.

Thanksgiving Day Activity

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Thanksgiving Tree Activity Page

 

There are so many things to be thankful for! Fill in the leaves on this printable Thanksgiving Tree Activity Page with the things you’re thankful for then color the page!

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You can find Thankful at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 19 – It’s National Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

When we think about our lives, we can be thankful for many things. At the top of the list for parents and other caregivers are the children in their lives. Gratitude and expressions of thanks are two of the earliest emotions passed down to children through gentle “what do you say?” prompts for any gift or compliment given to teaching kids to write thank-you notes to friends and family. During the holidays—and this week in particular—we are mindful of all of our blessings and of those less fortunate than we are.

Zonderkidz sent me copies of Nighty Night and Good Night and Let’s Get Ready for Bed to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Zonderkidz in a cozy giveaway! See details below.

Nighty Night and Good Night

Written by Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki | Illustrated by Tod Carter | Painted by Chuck Vollmer

 

Ben’s bedtime routine always included a simple prayer. “‘Dear God, Thank you for this day. Please help all of our family and friends sleep well tonight! Amen.’” Then he turned out the light and went to sleep. But sometimes—like tonight—Ben couldn’t fall asleep easily. He turned on his nightlight and that’s when his fluffy friends, Bear, Lamby, and Sleepy Puppy came to life to help.

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Lamby, of course, thought counting sheep would put Ben to sleep, but when Ben got to ten he had to stop. He didn’t know what came next, and he wasn’t sleepy yet. Bear suggested Ben fluff his pillow, so he tossed his pillow in the air until it was nice and soft, but he still wasn’t sleepy. Sleepy Puppy was sure that yawning would make Ben tired, so they all marched around the room yawning widely, but that didn’t do the trick either.

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

At last, Bear pulled his guitar from behind his pillow, Lamby took to Ben’s little piano, and Sleepy Puppy began thrumming on the bass. It was time for a lullaby! Ben’s three friends began to sing: “‘Lay down, sweet child, and go to sleep. / The Lord be with you and give you His peace. / Lay down, sweet child, and go to sleep. / The Lord be with you tonight.’” Soon, Ben’s eyes began to close. Even Sleepy Puppy was feeling tired too. Lamby prayed one last prayer for Ben to sleep well and the three “drifted off to sleep.”

Ages 2 – 5

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310767015

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Let’s Get Ready for Bed

Written by Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki | Illustrated by Tod Carter | Painted by Chuck Vollmer

 

Eddy the bear was looking for his friend Sleepy Puppy. Lamby had just seen him going to get ready for bed. The two thought it would be fun to sneak a peek at Puppy’s nighttime routine. They snuck upstairs where they saw soap bubbles foaming under the bathroom door. Inside, Sleepy Puppy soaked in the clawfoot tub. “A warm bubble bath is what this pup needs / after a big day of mess-making deeds.”

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

All clean and dry, Puppy tugged on his favorite pajamas. “Fuzzy and soft, these pj’s are cozy. / They keep his toes warm and turn his cheeks rosy.” Then it’s time to brush his teeth and finally hit the hay. Puppy knew he had something special to do before he climbed under the covers. He knelt by his bed and prayed, “‘Thanks, God, for my family, for my mom and dad, / and for all the fun with my friends that I had.’” Then he asked God to keep them all safe and help them to sleep well.

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Looking at a book before closing his eyes was the next step in his routine. The stories were so funny that he laughed and laughed. He shut the book and snuggled in for a long night’s sleep. But he still felt wide awake. He wondered, “‘Did I leave something out? Or do something wrong? I know!’ he remembered. “‘I’m missing a song!’”

Lamby and Eddy were there on the spot. Eddy strummed the guitar and Lamby  played the piano, and their song went like this: “‘Rock-a-bye, Puppy, in the tree top, / When the wind blows the cradle will rock. / Forward and back, the cradle it swings / ‘till deep into sleep, Puppy it brings.’” They sang another verse and Puppy was soon snoozing. “Then Lamby and Bear both whispered good night. They tucked Puppy in and turned off the light.”

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Image copyright Tod Carter and Chuck Vollmer, 2018, text copyright Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Nighty Night and Good Night and Let’s Get Ready for Bed are the first two titles in a new series, Nurturing Steps™ launched by Grammy® Award winning artist Michael W. Smith for babies and toddlers. The series combines books and music to give parents, grandparents, and other caregivers a way to “enliven a young child’s journey with hope and faith through song and storytelling.” The stories are sweet and comforting for little ones as they echo the bedtime routine of many children. Bedtime prayers feature prominently in both stories. In Nighty Night and Good Night, Ben prays with his mother, while in Let’s Get Ready for Bed, Puppy performs all of his bedtime routines on his own.

The familiar dilemma of not being able to fall asleep is addressed in each book with fun suggestions that ultimately lead into the soothing heart of the story—a lullaby. The reassuring words and calming tunes of both songs will quiet children and help them drift off to sleep. As an added bonus, each book includes a link that allows readers to listen to Michael W. Smith sing the same lullaby.

Youngest readers will be charmed by Ben and his three stuffed animals who know just how to be good friends when you need them most. An accompanying album of sleepy songs is also available.

Ages 2 – 5

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310767480

You can learn more about Nurturing Steps by visiting the website.

Let’s Get Ready for Bed! Giveaway

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I’m partnering with Zonderkidz in this amazing bedtime giveaway in which one (1) winner receives:

  • Copies of both Nurturing Steps books,
  • Michael W. Smith’s accompanying Lullabyalbum,
  • plus sleepy slippers for your little reader!

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing and samples provided by Zonderkidz.

Gather around for the Let’s Get Ready for Bed book trailer!

Meet the Nurturing Steps Creators

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Michael W. Smith is a successful recording artist who has recorded more than 25 albums and had numerous hit radio songs in the Christian and General markets. He’s won numerous Grammy and Dove Awards and is the founder of Rocketown, an outreach to teenagers in a 38,000 square-foot facility in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. He is involved in mission work around the world. He has also written several best-selling books, including Old Enough to Know and Friends Are Friends Forever. He and his wife, Debbie, have five children and live in Nashville.

You can follow Michael W. Smith on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

 

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Mike Nawrocki, co-creator of VeggieTales and the voice of the beloved Larry The Cucumber, has been part of the pulse of the Veggie brand since its inception in 1993. Mike has created, written, and directed most of the popular “Silly Songs with Larry” segments, including fan favorites “His Cheeseburger” and “The Hairbrush Song.” He has also lent his screenwriting and directing talents to dozens of VeggieTales episodes such as “Madame Blueberry and The League of Incredible Vegetables,” as well as both of the properties’ theatrical release films, Jonah and The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. In addition, Mike has authored a number of VeggieTales books and CD projects as well as developing and writing for another of Big Idea’s hit animated properties, 3-2-1 Penguins.  Mike is currently focused on developing new children’s properties centered around fun characters, engaging storytelling, and wholesome values. Mike makes his home in Franklin, TN with his wife and two children.

Visit NurturingSteps.com | Follow Zonderkidz on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-nighty-night-and-good-night-cover

You can find Nighty Night and Good Night and Let’s Get Ready for Bed at these booksellers

Amazon: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed | Barnes & Noble: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed | Books-a-Million: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed | IndieBound: Nighty Night and Good Night; Let’s Get Ready for Bed

Picture Book Review