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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Fiona-the-Hippo_Fabulous-Fiona-Prize

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!

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