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 earlies 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  

Christmas Cookie Day! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Tara Knudson in an Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Christmas Cookie Day! written by Tara Knudson | illustrated by Pauline Siewert

This giveaway is open from December 5 through December 9 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 10

It takes just these two steps to enter:

  • Like the Giveaway Post
  • Follow Tara Knudson @taraknudson and @celebratepicturebooks on Instagram
  • Bonus: Comment with your favorite kind of cookie! (Each comment gives you one more entry)

Prizing provided by Tara Knudson

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

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!”

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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

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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

 

 

 

August 20 – It’s Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

August is one of those transitional months—hot and humid, but with a touch of fall in the evening and early morning air. It’s also the month when most kids go back to school or are preparing for another year of learning. August is also a wonderful month to spend extra time with family. There are lots of things you can do with kids from planning special events at home to taking a family trip to a local or nearby park, zoo, or aquarium. This time spent together makes memories for a lifetime!

Zonderkidz sent me a copy of Fiona the Hippo to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Zonderkidz in a Fabulous Fiona! Giveaway that’s perfect for Family Fun Month! See details below.

Fiona the Hippo

By Richard Cowdrey

 

When a baby hippopotamus was born on a winter night at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, all the other animals were excited. They were surprised that she was part of their family so soon and were eager to see her. In fact, the whole world was excited to see her as word got out on news outlets and the Internet about Fiona—the baby hippo who had “arrived earlier than expected.” As she slept in a room just for her and was cared for by the zookeepers, the other animals peeked in. They thought she was cute and tiny, and Ostrich added, “kind of slimy!”

The zookeepers fed Fiona from a bottle and pretty soon she was big enough to learn how to walk. “And when she was ready, she let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said, ‘I’ve got this!’ And wobble-wobble-plop! She tried over and over, until she did.” Little Fiona grew quickly, and soon it was time for swimming lessons. With a little practice and a little help, Fiona became confident, until one day, she said “‘I’ve got this!’” and splashed right into the pool.

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Copyright Richard Cowdrey, 2018, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

While Fiona was growing and learning, she made the other animals proud. They couldn’t wait until she could “come out to play.” But Fiona was still busy growing and discovering new things. People who watched Fiona’s progress online sent fan mail. Soon, she had piles of letters and gifts congratulating her. They said “‘You are amazing! We love you, little baby hippo!’”

One day, Fiona looked out the window from her special enclosure and saw her mama and daddy swimming nearby. She wanted to be with them. The zookeepers agreed that Fiona was big enough and strong enough to be in the pool with her parents. As “she swam with her mama for the first time,” she “let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said, ‘I’ve got this!’”

She loved swimming with her mama and daddy, but she also wished for some friends to play with. The other zoo animals were thrilled to hear this. At last they would get their chance to have fun with Fiona too. Ostrich and turtle, elephant and otter, penguin and bear, and all the rest dove right in for “the biggest pool party the zoo had ever seen!” That night, Fiona snuggled with her mama and daddy and dreamed of all the adventures to come, telling herself, “‘I’ve got this!’”

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Copyright Richard Cowdrey, 2018, courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With enthusiasm and humor, Richard Cowdrey tells the story of Fiona, a hippo born prematurely who overcame the odds of survival to become a favorite of people everywhere. By following Fiona’s progress and telling the story from her point of view, Cowdrey reaches out and embraces young readers, reassuring them that, like Fiona, they’ve “got this!”—no matter what new skill, adventure, or activity they face. Readers will eagerly read along with Fiona’s signature expression. The attentiveness of the other zoo animals also reminds kids that they aren’t alone, but have family and friends who love them.

Children will be charmed by Cowdrey’s realistic illustrations of the adorable Fiona. Images of her swaddled in a blanket by the zookeepers, wiggling her ears and smiling confidently as she learns skill after skill, and reuniting with her parents and other zoo animals are enchanting. Humorous pictures of Fiona snugged into a life vest, swimming tube, and pool noodles will make kids giggle with recognition. Animal lovers will want to linger over each page to enjoy the beautiful depictions of a wide range of their favorites.

A photograph of the real Fiona on the back cover will make readers smile, and an Author’s Note on the back of the book jacket relates the facts of Fiona’s birth, growth, and well-deserved fame.

An inspiring tale of perseverance, self-confidence, and friendship, Fiona the Hippo is an aww-inspiring delight that will capture young readers’ hearts at home and would spark excitement for science and social learning in the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310766391 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0310766360 (Board Book)

Discover more about Richard Cowdrey, his books, and his art on his website.

Fabulous Fiona! Giveaway

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I’m thrilled to be partnering with Zonderkidz in this fabulous giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of Fiona the Hippo, by Richard Cowdrey
  • Plus a $50 Visa gift card to take your family out on the town.

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets during this week, August 20-26. 

A winner will be chosen on August 27.

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

About Fiona the Hippo

Fiona the Hippo, by New York Times bestselling artist Richard Cowdrey of Bad Dog, Marley fame, tells the story of Fiona, the adorable internet sensation from the Cincinnati Zoo who captured hearts around the world with her inspiring story and plucky personality.

Born prematurely, at only 29 pounds, Fiona was not expected to live. But her spunk and determination helped her thrive and become a happy, healthy hippopotamus. With every challenge she faced, Fiona let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said “I’ve got this.” And she did! Through this whimsical and inspiring tale of perseverance and friendship, inspired by the real adventure of this heroic hippo, kids join Fiona and her lovable animal friends at the zoo as she is introduced to the world.

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About the Author

Richard Cowdrey’s favorite things to draw and paint are the common things seen everywhere in nature. He especially enjoys capturing the expressions, eyes, and gestures of both humans and animals. Drawing and painting Fiona was challenging as the hippopotamus is a very unique yet beautiful creature! Richard’s bestselling children’s books include Legend of the Candy CaneBad DogMarley, and A Very Marley Christmas.

Family Fun Month Activity

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Playful Zoo Friends! Maze

 

These baby animals want to play together! Can you help the hippo round up his friends in this printable Zoo Friends Maze?

Playful Zoo Friends! Maze Puzzle | Playful Zoo Friends! Maze Solution

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You can find Fiona the Hippo at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 12 – It’s Spiritual Wellness Month

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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.

Zonderkidz sent me a copy of today’s book to check out. All opinions are my own. 

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story

Written by Jan and Mike Berenstain

 

On the way to Sunday school one spring morning, the warm sun was shining, daffodils were blooming, and birds were feeding their babies, but 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.

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

The stage was set with props of palm trees, rocks, and buildings from 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.’”

Because many people listened to Jesus and followed him, government officials and others were angry. They didn’t believe he was the Son of God and were afraid that Jesus wanted to become the king. One day Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey and crowds greeted him with shouts of “‘Hosanna!’” The leaders of Jerusalem believed Jesus was becoming too powerful.

One night while Jesus was praying in a garden, “‘soldiers were sent to arrest him. They took him away to prison.’” Later, he was questioned by a “‘wicked judge…who wanted to show everyone that Jesus was not a king.’” Then “‘he ordered for Jesus to be put to death by hanging on a wooden cross.’” On the day Jesus died, the skies became black and the wind howled. Everyone was afraid.

After Jesus died, he was taken by his friends and put in a tomb. A huge stone was rolled in front of the entrance. For two days Jesus lay in the tomb. “‘On the morning of the third day after Jesus died, some women who knew Jesus came to weep at his tomb.’” When they got there, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. Jesus was no longer in the tomb. “‘An angel told the women not to be afraid. He told them that Jesus was alive once more.’”

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

In the days and weeks after Jesus rose, he visited his friends. “‘They were amazed and fell down and worshiped him. 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!’ laughed Missus Ursula’” and confessed that she’d miss her jelly beans too. But she reminded the cubs that after they got their Easter baskets, they go to church to celebrate the real meaning of Easter. “‘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 and may inspire kids to put on a play of their own.

Since the early 1960s, the Berenstain Bears have been delighting readers with their shenanigans, wit, and always-close family relationships. In 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 straightforward telling of the Easter story through a Sunday school play is welcome for parents, caregivers, and other adults who are looking for a book to share and a way to talk about both the religious and the fun aspects of this holiday with children. The dialogue-rich structure also 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 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.

You can follow the Berenstain Bears on:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Spiritual Wellness Month Activity

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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

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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

Picture Book Review

 

November 23 – 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, 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, 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!”

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Image copyright Archie Preston, 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, 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 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

May 28 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

You can never read too many books! This idea is definitely supported by the Get Caught Reading campaign that makes people aware of all the benefits of sitting down with a fantastic book—whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, drama, or poetry. To celebrate this holiday, get involved with a literacy program, a book drive, or thank a teacher or librarian for always supplying you with great reads!

Baby Wren and the Great Gift

Written by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Illustrated by Jen Corace

 

From a narrow crevice a little brown wren peeks out of her nest. Her vantage point gives her a view of all the wonderfulness around her. Monarchs flutter in the Milkweed, breezes whisper in the switch grass, and the glittering river flows along. Emboldened, the baby wren hops onto the canon ledge just as a kingfisher dives down to the river and captures a fish.

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Image copyright Jen Corace, text copyright Sally Lloyd Jones. Courtesy of Zonderkidz

“Oh! How wonderful!” the little wren exclaims. The kingfisher invites her to come along, but the wren tells the bigger bird that she can’t dive. As the kingfisher flies away, the wren wonders why she can’t fish too.

Next, two frisky ring-tailed cats cartwheel by. “Oh, how wonderful!” little wren says. The ring-tails want her to play with them, but the wren says that she doesn’t have a ring tail, so the cats cartwheel away leaving the baby wren wondering why she isn’t a ring-tail cat who can cartwheel.

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Image copyright Jen Corace, text copyright Sally Lloyd Jones. Courtesy of Zonderkidz

Just then some sunfish splash in the water nearby. The little wren also declines their invitation to play, saying that she can’t swim. As the sunfish hurry down the river, the wren wonders why she isn’t a sunfish who can swim. Overhead two eagles glide on the winds of a gusty storm. “Oh, how wonderful,” the wren says. “Come and see the thunderclouds,” the eagles tell her. But the baby is afraid of the big storm, and the eagles soar higher and higher and away. Watching them, the wren regrets that she isn’t brave and wonders what she can do that is wonderful.

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Image copyright Jen Corace, text copyright Sally Lloyd Jones. Courtesy of Zonderkidz

Suddenly, the sun paints the canyon pink. The baby wren looks and looks and looks. The beauty of the sky and the canyon “bumped into her heart, it dazzled in her eyes, it pushed on her throat until the tiny trembling bird with all her tiny might sang by herself a song.”  Her glorious carol echoes through the canyon, and the eagles soaring overhead call to her: “‘You are only little, but your song fills the whole canyon.’” And as the kingfisher, the ring-tailed cats, the sunfish, and the eagles listen, the little wren fills the air with singing.

Sally Lloyd-Jones’ inspirational story is perfect for this time of year when baby birds are just leaving the nest and children are moving on to new grades or new experiences. Jones’ lyrical and gentle tale offers comfort to those wondering just where they fit into the world. As baby wren discovered, everyone has innate talents that shine when the time is right.

Jen Corace’s vibrant illustrations of the baby wren’s canyon home employ bright yellows and vivid contrasting greens and blues to evoke the “wonderfulness” that so captivates the little wren. In each spread the baby bird is depicted as the tiny creature it is surrounded by vast mountains and other, larger animals, but as her song flows out of her in a soaring collage of all the colors and silhouettes of her new-found friends her stature grows. She is happy with her place in the world.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2016 | ISBN 978-0310733898

Discover more about Sally Lloyd-Jones and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of illustration work by Jen Corace on her website!

View the Baby Wren and the Great Gift book trailer!

 

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Baby Bird Coloring Page

 

Baby birds love the cozy safety of their nests as much as you like snuggling under the blankets with a good book. Print the Baby Bird Coloring Page and have fun with it—instead of just coloring it, how about making a collage? You can attach different colors of torn paper to decorate the bird and use grasses or twigs for the nest! Use your unique creative talents to make a one-of-a-kind picture!

Picture Book Review