Summer Reading Lists

Memorial Day weekend is upon us. Summer is just around the corner! Keep your kids reading and growing this year. Looking for some titles for summer reading? The first place I recommend is your local public library. That’s not to say you shouldn’t support your local bookstores, but free is good and supporting a library keeps libraries in business which is good for everyone not just those who can afford to buy books.

Now, by all means, if you love, love, love a book and just have to own it… buy it! Books make great gifts. So whether it’s an end-of-the-year school gift, a birthday gift, or just thinking-about-you gift find one and share it with someone special this weekend.

Another idea for parents who are decluttering their lives and helping their children do the same is to weed out your bookshelves. While trimming down your closet, take a look at that overflowing bookcase. What books has your child outgrown? Donating books to local organizations helps put great books into the hands of children who may not have access to children’s literature and clears the shelves in your house for more appropriate books for your child.

Now, get yourself signed up for a summer reading program. Most libraries, and some bookstores, offer summer reading programs for children of all ages. If you can’t find something in your neighborhood, check out the All-Star Reading Program offered by my library, the Cincinnati Public Library, and the Summer Reading Challenge programmed by the New York Public Library. You can always modify and adapt a program to meet your needs at home.

And while you’re on the lookout for great new books, consult The Association for Library Service to Children, ALSC for their recommendations for the 2015 Summer Reading Lists by age categories or the 2015 list from Horn Book which is also categorized by reading levels.

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So what are you waiting for? Find the books that are just perfect for you and your child and read, read, read this summer!

Little Surprises

Sometimes you find lovely surprises under a pile of papers. Several months ago a friend gave me three paperbacks written by someone she knew and asked me if I could review them. Of course I took them with every intention of reading and reviewing them right away. But things got in the way and they got buried on my desk. Well, I found them today and just had to sit right down and finally read them. The books are part of a series of nautical stories inspired by wooden boats in the Great Lakes region. Each book tells the story of one of the wooden boats.

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Pegasus is a boat with painted wings. More than anything, Pegasus wants to fly like a bird. Then one day a storm blows through and Pegasus is freed from the dock. But instead of being excited about being alone in the water, Pegasus is lost and afraid. Finally, he makes friends with some herons who made a loud racket in the water drawing his owners to them. They tied a rope to him and pulled him back to the dock. Pegasus realized how lucky he was to have his friends and owners.

Larry is a small boat. His owners love the smooth ride he gives, but sometimes he wishes he were a faster, shinier, sportier, boat. One day while on the river, Larry hears the distress call from one of those sportier boats. His engine failed and he was floating aimlessly. To make matters worse, a huge barge was coming downriver and the sports boat was in the way. Larry hurried over to help. His owners threw a rope to the owner of the sporty boat and towed him safely into the marina.

Chris is an old wooden boat who finds himself in a boat shop talking to a mouse who is the captain of the shop and the other boats left there for repair. When a man in overalls comes to repair Chris, Captain Cuddy (the mouse) stays with him and keeps him calm. Chris learns that the man in the overalls only wanted him for small jobs. He thought Chris was a junker, not worth fixing. Finally, someone came to the dock who wanted to buy Chris and restore him to his original beauty. It turns out that someone was Donny, one of the children whose father owned Chris originally. Chris was so happy to be back home with someone who loved him.

Picture Book Art

Admit it, we’re drawn to the art of picture books. It’s okay, we’re supposed to be! The artwork sets the stage for the story. It reflects the mood of the story. It provides another layer to the story. Based on those three things alone, it’s okay to judge a book by its cover. And once you open the cover, you will be amazed that such art is within its pages.

Another lovely reason to love picture book covers, is the immediate recognition we have when we see a book we know and love. When I taught emergent readers many years ago, we began the school year with a bulletin board of words they could ‘read’ by picture/logo association. These included words from traffic signs, chain stores, restaurants, product trademarks, etc. Advertising people know the power of visual memory. As soon as they started bringing in cereal boxes and magazine ads for our bulletin board, I started showing them book covers. Yes, they could ‘read’ titles based on the artwork. Wow! What a revelation for them… they were readers! They could read caterpillar and moon long before they could read sight words like is, the, and a.

I wish I could afford original kidlit artwork. But like any masterpiece, they are well outside my budget. What I have done, however, is the second best thing for me. I frame the paper covers of my books. I only wish I had thought of doing this earlier, because most of my covers are now tattered or discarded. This is an inexpensive way for me to surround myself with the masters. I have a few Caldecott Medal Winners and some classics. I started with the two or three which survived the many years of love and handling. Then I picked up a few more at Half Price Bookstore. Now, I’m raiding my grandchildren’s shelves. My collection is growing and I love how this is turning out. Can’t wait to pick up and frame more favorite friends.

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Having picture book covers on my wall is inspirational for me as a writer as well. I can imagine what my own words will look like to an illustrator, and how readers will be drawn to my stories. I can’t wait for the surprises that an illustrator will bring to my stories. And more than anything, I can’t wait for a child to identify my book by its cover!

My Two Cents Worth

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I write reviews and recommendations of picture books. I post my thoughts on my blog, Goodreads, and Pinterest. I sometime get asked why I do this, and sometimes when I’m overwhelmed I ask myself why I do this. I do this for one very simple reason… I LOVE PICTURE BOOKS!

When I was teaching, I had my favorites, my reliable go-to books for every occasion. I had my favorite back-to-school books, my favorite Johnny Appleseed books, my favorite after-recess-read-alouds, my favorite book on every topic in my curriculum… and then I realized my shelf of books was worn and tattered. Worn and tattered in a good way, because they were loved to pieces, but worn and tattered nonetheless. I ordered new books from the PTA Book Fairs. I ordered new books from the classroom book club order forms. I tried to keep abreast of the new market. But it seemed like every time I stepped into a bookstore there were hundreds of new titles. I just couldn’t keep up. I depended on the advice of other picture book lovers to steer me in the direction of the books which would suit my purposes.

Well, guess what? Now I’m the one who has the time to read and read and read. And I do. I have worn out my library card. Literally had a new one issued! Last year I made a commitment to find books to celebrate every day of the year. Wow! I’m glad that’s done! This year I’m reading books that have been recommended but focusing on the newest titles available. You can find the titles I’ve recommended so far this year under the tab BOOKS ALIVE! As a bonus, I pair some fun activities to extend the life of the book with each recommendation.

Because I know how many parents, teachers, and gift-givers don’t have time to search for just the right book, I’m leaving my two cents worth wherever I can.

I only leave positive comments. If there is something that is just not up my alley, I leave it for someone who absolutely loves it to do it justice. Every book deserves to be respected for it’s merits just as every child deserves books that they will truly enjoy reading and rereading.

I hope that this small service is worthwhile to someone in the market for just the right picture book for their young readers.

PS If you know someone who would like to find out more about the newest books on the market, please send them my way. I’m already doing the work, they might as well benefit from it! Remember, sharing is caring!

Journal

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FullSizeRenderThis is a very special journal. I got it several years ago while I was still teaching. The cover intrigued me with its melting clock, random numbers and elastic side fastener. I knew exactly how I would use the minute I picked it up. It was my retirement planning journal. I jotted notes, phone numbers, workshops, passwords, etc on its pages. I took it to every retirement meeting I attended whether it was in-district or at the state offices. I took it with me to my finical planner twice a year. Sometimes I would just take it out, turn the pages, and stare at it. I wondered if it was really possible. Was it realistic? Was this attainable? This melting clock was my reminder that there was a day and time somewhere in the future when I would meet my retirement goals. And guess what? I did. Almost two years ago.

For the first year of retirement, this trusty journal remained with my official paperwork. I never opened it again, but I kept it just in case… just in case the IRS called me, just in case the school district called me, just in case the state retirement board called me, just in case.

Last year, I took it out. It was time to put it to good use again. After all, it served its purpose so well I thought I could get one more ‘miracle’ out of it. I tore out the pages pertaining to retirement and filed those in a manilla folder. Now, with a clean slate, I use the melting clock to remind me that in time (no one knows how long) I would be a published author.

This is my Submissions Journal. On each page, I write the title of a manuscript I have sent out into the world. Under the manuscript title, I write where, when, and to whom I sent it out. I count the months since the last submissions. I decide to either resubmit to new names and places or revise yet one more time. I take it out now and then just to stare at all the titles. I envision my published books in libraries and bookstores everywhere. But like my retirement plans, these things take time.

I added a new page yesterday… a new manuscript, a new name, date, and address.

March Madness

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March has a bipolar reputation to say the least, with her “In like a lion, Out like a Lamb” famed celebrity status among the months of the year. Believe me, I for one am thrilled to finally see the Spring Lamb frolic in my neighborhood. Although I must admit, the last few hours of March have been hectic in their own way. With the deadlines for the SCBWI Work-In-Progress grants and the Rate Your Story Writing Contest today, I was furiously revising, editing, and submitting until well into the morning hours last night. So, yes… welcome little lamb!

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Then, of course there are the competitions to claim the coveted titles. Oh, did you think I meant basketball? No, I meant the coveted picture book titles! This month, in addition to updating my new BOOKS ALIVE! page with recently published picture books and follow-up activities for kids (See the tab at the top of the page to find some terrific 2015 titles.) I have also been working on a writing challenge to use picture books as mentor texts for my own writing. Carrie Charley Brown has organized the wonderful ReFoReMo, Read For Research Month challenge. She invited 30 wonderful writers and published authors to share a little piece of their insight to writing and recommendations for reading. As participants, our challenge was to read and respond to every daily post and to use the recommended reading list as a jumping off point for our own research. We discussed such topics as plot, pacing, point of view, rhyme, beginnings and endings, hooks, illustrations, humor, and diversity… just to name a few. 2015-03-31 11.08.52Here’s a pile of the books I haven’t even gotten to yet this month. (Thank you, Cincinnati Public Library.) See all the little orange tabs? Those indicate the new releases this month. If you check back with me in a few weeks, many of those should be posted under the BOOKS ALIVE! tab.  So, although I count myself as a winner, with the duly presented Winner’s Badge of Honor, you can see that my research is NOT over! I plan on reading and studying great picture books for a very long time. Join me, won’t you? 9437785

Facebook Writing Communities

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latteI was so excited to get feedback on my latest revision that I actually showed up at our meeting place a half hour early for my critique group meeting. I’m never early to anything! That’s okay, I’ll just have a nice latte and browse Facebook while I wait. th-4 Facebook is my newest addiction. But I must say it’s because I’ve met so many wonderful authors and illustrators in the writing communities. I belong to several organized groups and I enjoy each one. I’ve noticed there are many of the same people on the same sites I am. It seems we swim in the same schools. That’s okay too, as a matter of fact, that’s better than okay. I’ve gotten to know some of these people pretty well, and I know who’s judgement I can trust, who will challenge my thinking, and who I can go to with my questions. th-2In addition to the groups, I’ve found that writers share openly. No matter what time of the day or night, I know I can always find an interesting article or two to read on Facebook. I’ll learn of a new revising strategy, a plotting technique, an agent accepting submissions, an editor’s wish list, blogging recommendations, or a writing contest. th-3Undoubtedly, I’ll find another recommendation for my own reading. I usually keep my library site open on another tab and when I hear of another great must-read, I add it to my holds list. I know that when I get home today there will be an automated call on my phone from the library telling me that books I have on hold are ready to be picked up. I’ll probably just grin, delete the message, and sit down to read my new selections (because of course, I’ll have stopped on my way home).   So, really, an unscheduled half hour is just the warm-up I need for my critique group. Thanks writing pals!

In Like a Lion

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UnknownTrue to its reputation, March is coming in like a lion. But right around the corner, spring is ready to pounce. This weekend we will move forward one hour. Next week we are looking forward to warmer temperatures and melting snow. The following week we will look for four leaf clovers, leprechauns, and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. And before you know it, we’ll celebrate the official first day of spring with singing, dancing, and frolicking in the streets. Let’s look back just a few short months. What good has come out of this past winter? Has being homebound brought you closer to loved ones? Helped you organize your closet or deep clean at least one room? Given you the time to focus on your craft? Forced you to eat home-cooked meals? Provided solitude for meaningful meditation? Inspired you to learn something new? Offered a creative outlet? For myself, I’ve polished two manuscripts and sent them out to five industry professionals. I organized another critique group. I’ve started a number of new writing projects, one which is very promising. I’ve been invited to be one of the administrators on the Debut Picture Book Study group on Facebook. I completed last year’s picture book review challenge, Celebrate Every Day with a Picture Book.  And I embarked on this year’s challenge to keep up with new picture book publications, which includes reviewing picture books and offering some fun kid-friendly activities for each one on my new page, 2015 Books Alive!

 Check out some of these titles on my new page.

Book Love Blog Hop

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I’m participating in a blog hop to promote the books I love.

This isn’t a big stretch for me, is it? I’m always recommending great children’s literature on this site.

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Last year I challenged myself to find picture books to celebrate every day of the year. (Of course, I didn’t think of this until March so I’m still catching up a few last days of February to complete the year; but it’s almost done!) I’ll bet you knew that February 2nd is Groundhog’s Day, but did you know that May 13th is National Jumping Frog Day? Have you ever celebrated Rubber Duckie Day or World Smile Day or National Violin Day?  You can find my picture book recommendations for those and 360 other days under the heading CELEBRATE EVERY DAY WITH A PICTURE BOOK

So, to complete this blog hop challenge, I will/have:

1. Pick some books you love (any genre) that you think deserve more attention than they are getting. Here are pics of some of the 2015 books I have liked so far. You can find them on my page, at the BOOKS ALIVE! tab.

2. Post reviews for the books you chose on Amazon/social media. I also post on goodreads. You can follow me there as well. I would love to connect with you and find out what you’re reading also. Take a peek at my 2014 Bookshelf on goodreads.

3. Post the reviews on your own blog.

unnamedThis year, I’m focused on reviewing newly published picture books for 2015. This endeavor includes a review of wonderful new picture books and links or ideas to help parents, grandparents, teachers, babysitters, caregivers etc. with simple and fun ideas to do with children to extend their enjoyment of the books. I call it BOOKS ALIVE! And I hope you will join me there to see the new and exciting publications.

4. Display the BOOK LOVE badge.

So you love the badge? Cute little bunny in heart-shaped glasses reading a book. Oh yeah! Grab it for yourself. And take a minute to visit the creator of the badge, Dana Carey Up in the Attic Lately and on the Sub It Club.

5. Tag some friends.

I’m tagging all the members of the new writing Facebook page, Mothers Writing Picture Books. Moms, Grandmoms, Mommies-to-be, and Favorite Aunties, heck pretty much anyone who loves a kid in their lives knows what it’s like to find just the right picture book for their little ones. So if you know of an uncelebrated picture book all you MWPBs, jump right in and share the love.  Even if you’re not a member of Mothers Writing Picture Books, you can hop right in and join the fun. Just follow the five easy rules and VOILA! you’re it!

Thanks to Carrie for her brainchild blog hop. If you would like to learn more about it and possible join in, visit Carrie Finison at her Story Patch site at BOOK LOVE – A BLOG HOP

One Lovely Blog Award

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10898140_10204445602193978_626633667977284180_nLooks like I’ve been awarded the ONE LOVELY BLOG AWARD by my friend, critique partner, and fellow blogger Keila Dawson.

KCB-cov-front-ORIG-700Keila is a debut picture book author who’s first book THE KING CAKE BABY comes out this month.

This is a spin on the traditional gingerbread man, the King Cake Baby runs away in New Orleans during Mardi Gras to avoid being baked in the yummy confection.

Keila even gives the reader a copy of her own recipe for King Cake at the end of the book.

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The first part to accepting this award is that I must reveal

Seven Things You May Not Know About Me

1. All of my opera knowledge comes from Warner Brothers cartoons.

2. I grew up wanting to be Bewitched, not Elizabeth Montogmery but Samantha Stevens herself.

3. I randomly quote  The Princess BrideMonty Python and the Holy Grail, and Back to the Future (the complete franchise).

4. My first crush was Donny Osmond, no wait Davy Jones, no wait David Cassidy… hey they all have names that start with D.

5. Then I grew up and Rod Stewart stole my heart.

6. My husband and I have an agreement, if I ever meet Rod Stewart… well, you know.

7. I fib a little. At least one of these thing may not be completely true. :)

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The second part of accepting this award is to nominate up to seven other

Worthy Blogs

1. My first nomination goes to my friend and fellow writer Kathy Cannon Wiechman. Kathy’s first book, LIKE A RIVER: A CIVIL WAR NOVEL comes out in April, 2015 and has already recieved a Kirkus star. You can find Kathy’s blog at her website Swagger Writers.

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2. My second nomination goes to the following picture book bloggers.

Danielle at This Picture Book Life.

Tiffa at The Picture Book Review.

Eric at This Kid Reviews Books.

Goodnight Already!

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Goodnight Already! written by Jory John and illustrated by Benji Davies (2014)

Bear is ready for bed. Duck is not. Just as Bear closes his eyes, his neighbor, Duck knocks on the door. Duck has all kinds of ideas… play cards, watch a movie, make smoothies. No. No. No. Bear shows him to the door and goes back to bed.  Through the bedroom window, Duck shows up wanting to borrow ingredients to make cookies… sugar, butter, eggs. No. No. No. Finally, Bear gets to sleep when who should show up, right on top of his chest? Duck! He used his emergency spare key. A stubbed beak is not an emergency! Duck goes home complaining about Bear’s grouchy attitude. He picks up a book and… zzzzz. Duck falls asleep in his reading chair while Bear is wide awake making cookies!

Jory John tells a familiar tale in just about any toddler household, with outrageous requests and outcomes. The humorous plot and twist will have little ones roaring with laughter.

Benji Davies accentuates the differences of these two personalities expertly. Poor bear looks like he desperately needs to sleep (i.e. hibernate) for a good long time, while the lively Duck badgers him mercilessly to stay awake. The facial expressions, body language, and attention to detail are masterfully illustrated in bold shapes and bright colors.

Love this book! I believe it will become a bedtime classic. See for yourself.

Tying Up Loose Ends

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Tick-Tock 2014

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I’m down to the last two hours of 2014 and I need to extend the year by at least two months. I started a new feature on my blog in late March. And I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping up with it. But I need to more time to fill in the blanks. If you’ve been following Celebrate Every Day with a Picture Book (and I hope you have), you’ll know what I mean. I found a niche in this crazy blogsphere that I thought I could fill. I found some reason, whether big or small, to celebrate every single day of the year. And I paired the celebration with one or more picture books. I hoped that this would inspire teachers, parents, and caregivers to read to their charges every day. I did my best to have the daily pages posted at least a few days in advance so people would have time to pick up some of the books I was recommending for each day. Well, I did fairly well with that, but it took so much time that I didn’t have time to go back and fill in all the days prior to when I first undertook this endeavor. I got all of March filled in and have just started ordering books for days in January. I hope you’ll stick with me for a few more weeks while I find appropriate picture books for January and February.

Looking Forward

imagesAnd now, with 2015 upon us, I have another idea for this blog. It’s something I used to do with children to extend the life of a picture book beyond the published pages. Teachers used to have more time and freedom to foster creativity in children through literature. That time is seriously dwindling to a few precious minutes per year. Ironically, sites like Pinterest are exploding with creative ideas. So I’m going back to something I always enjoyed doing for my children and students, and hopefully give parents, grandparents, and others some simple and fun ideas to do with their little ones to make a favorite picture book come to life.

Beginning this month, I will be reading newly published picture books. I will choose a few each month to pair with a fun craft, game, or activity associated with one or more of the themes of the book to increase a child’s love of books and reading. Join me, won’t you?

Best of 2014

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This has been an awesome year for picture books!

I have been having a blast reading and writing about picture books this year. I’ve been blown away by the talented authors and illustrators published in the last twelve months. Like so many other sites, I wanted to create my own Top 10 list, but honestly there are so many superb picture books, I can’t limit my 2014 favorites to only 10 so I’ve chosen 25 instead. And even that was difficult!

Let me say right up front that there are many books on other ‘best books’ lists that I have not read, but these are my picks based on the ones I have read and featured on my blog this year. You can go back and look at what I thought about each one individually by following the title link back to my recommendations.

I seriously couldn’t put these in a hierarchy of ‘bestedness’, so I put them in alphabetical order by author’s last name like you would find on the shelves of your favorite bookstore or library.

So, without further ado…

Drumroll, please!

My Top 25 Best Picture Books of 2014

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Best Clumsy Moose Book

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DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE! by Sudipta Bardham-Quallen and Noah Z. Jones

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Best Treasure Hunting Adventure

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SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

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 Best Naked Toddler Adventure18352657NAKED! by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi

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Best Light in the Dark Picture Book

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FLASHLIGHT by Lizi Boyd

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Best Misunderstood Teacher/Monster Book

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MY TEACHER IS A MONSTER, NO I AM NOT by Peter Brown

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Best Believe-in-Yourself and Touch the Moon Story

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IMANI’S MOON by JaNay Brown-Wood and Hazel Mitchell

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Best Elephant Friendship Story

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LITTLE ELLIOT, BIG CITY by Mike Curato

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Best Cave Boy Book

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THIS ORQ HE CAVE BOY by David Elliott and Lori Nichols

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Best Wordless Friendship Picture Book

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THE FARMER AND THE CLOWN by Marlee Frazee

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 Best Sharing Underwear Counting Book

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ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR by Laura Gehl and Tom Lichtenheld

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Best Interactive Color Concept Toddler Book

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IT’S AN ORANGE AARDVARK by Michael Hall

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Best Polar Bear Miracle Story

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SIMON AND THE BEAR by Eric A. Kimmel and Matthew Trueman

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Best Friendship Despite Size Difference Story

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PIG AND SMALL by Alex Latimer

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Best Sibling Relationship Book

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LOUISE LOVES ART by Kelly Light

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Best Bedtime Bear Book

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BEAR HUG by Katharine McEwen

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Best New Baby Storybook

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MAPLE by Lori Nichols

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Best Pictureless Picture Book

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THE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES by B.J. Novak

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Best Competition for Number One Friend

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NUMBER ONE SAM by Gred Pizzoli

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Best Imaginary Friend

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THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE THE UNIMAGINARY FRIEND by Dan Santat

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Best Penguin Farting and Forgiving Book

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NOT SO PERFECT PENGUIN by Steve Smallman

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Best Chicken with Arms Character

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HENNY by Elizabeth Rose Stanton

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Best Cat Disguised as Santa Story

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HERE COMES SANTA CAT by Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueba

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Best Hat Parade

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HOORAY FOR HAT by Brian Won

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Best Lost and Found and Loved Book

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FOUND by Salina Yoon

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Best PreSchool Sharing Book

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EARLY BIRD by Toni Yuly

Little Elliot, Big City

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Little Elliot, Big City written and illustrated by Mike Curato (2014)

Little Elliot was an elephant who was different from everybody else. He lived in a big city, where he had to be careful because he was so little. The one thing Elliot wanted more than anything, was a cupcake. But he was too small to reach over the top of the counter and so he was never even noticed. Then one day, Elliot found someone who was even smaller than he was, a mouse. And the mouse had even bigger problems than Elliot because of his size. Elliot was able to help the mouse by lifting him up. And the mouse was able to help Elliot when he was lifted up over the top of the counter at the bakery. Now Elliot finally got a cupcake… and something even better, a friend.

Mike Curato first picture book is treat for the eye and ear. His artwork has the perfect balance between vintage and modern. And his story has mass appeal for children and adults alike.

Little Elliot’s sweet innocence and sweet tooth will capture your heart. It has mine!

Pig and Small

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Pig and Small written and illustrated by Alex Latimer (2014)

Pig and Bug want to be friends but they don’t seem to hit if off. When they rode a bike, Pig did all the work. When Bug made a cake for Pig, he ate it in one bite without even noticing all the beautiful decorations. When they played chess, But couldn’t move the pieces. When Bug knit a sweater for Pig, he couldn’t get it over his head. It just wasn’t working, so they decided to part ways. Just then, Pig noticed an ad for an upcoming movie he thought Bug would enjoy. They bought one ticket, shared one box of popcorn, and talked about the great movie all the way home. As they were talking they thought of a few other things they could do together. So Pig and Bug went to an art gallery, aquarium, theater, restaurant, zoo, and beach. As a matter of fact they forgot that one of them was big and the other was small.

Alex Latimer wrote a great little story about friendship despite differences. The art work is friendly and engaging. And the story is universal.

I love that just as the characters are learning to appreciate each other for who they are and find common ground, a third character enters the scene… Elephant. Yes, size is relevant.

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