Tending Your Story Garden

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This article originally appeared last year on Operation Awesome as a guest post by me. I thought it was a good time to repost as a reminder to my writer friends to grab those ideas that are floating around in your minds, plant them, and grow them into beautiful stories for children.

Tending Your Story Garden

Before you can harvest your vegetables, you must plant the seeds, water the seedlings, nourish the soil, and have patience. Without tending, your garden will wither and die. Stories are gardens grown from the seeds of ideas, watered with love, and nourished with knowledge. Just like a vegetable garden, your story garden must be tended so that, in time, it will fill up with a cornucopia of plump and tasty tales.

Every story starts with an idea seed that has formed in our minds. When we choose to take that idea and put it down on paper or computer screen, we’ve planted the seed that has the potential to bloom into a beautiful story.

Each story is a garden of its own that began as an idea seed, or more likely, multiple seeds from which tiny seedlings, or idea-lings, have sprung forth. Once the idea-lings have sprouted, it’s time to nurture them. If we don’t, our story will never come to fruition.

Water with love. If you don’t believe in your story, it will show in your writing, which will be flat and lifeless. Most likely, you will abandon it and it will wither away. Always begin with an idea that excites you, then you’ll shower your story with your heart and soul and it will flourish.

Nourish with knowledge. Just as gardeners use hoes, rakes, and fertilizer to tend their gardens, writers should arm themselves with the right tools. I don’t mean paper, pencils, and laptops. No matter what kind of story you write, or what audience you’re writing for, boost your writing skills through education, research, and practice. If you polish your skills, your story will shine.

Weed with purpose. In a garden, weeds can spread quickly. They take over and suffocate the crops. Stories can have weeds too. Too much description, unnecessary words, passive voice, poor pacing, bland dialogue, and a thin plot are weeds that overshadow and choke out your characters, action, and theme, all the things that give life to your story . Once you’ve completed your first draft, go back and edit it. Weed out everything that bogs your story down and keeps it from blossoming.

Self-doubt is the worst weed of all. It’s a force as destructive to your story as a hail storm is to a fragile flower garden. We all hear that negative voice coming from deep inside that tells us our writing is not good enough. Grab hold of it and yank it out by the roots. If you write about things that interest you, practice your writing skills, edit your work, and persevere, your stories will be better than just good enough; they’ll be dazzling, just like that prize-winning giant pumpkin at the county fair.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones Blog Tour: Schiffer Publishing

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Welcome to Day #7 of the “Sticks ‘N Stones” Blog Tour

To celebrate the release of Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones, written by Ted Enik and illustrated by G.F. Newland, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content about this humorous tall tale and giving away chances to win a copy of Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones.

Pete Schiffer, the publisher at Schiffer Publishing, and Tracee Groff, the head of Schiffer Kids, the children’s books division there, talked about how Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones strengthens the company’s fall lineup.

Q: Can you talk about Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones? How does this book fit into today’s market for children’s nonfiction and STEAM learning?

[Tracee] Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones is a spin on the infamous feud between fossil hunters Edward D. Cope and O. Charles Marsh. Author Ted Enik’s witty rhymes and G.F. Newland’s wonderfully crafted illustrations introduce children of all ages to the Bone Wars and the contributions these two men brought to the field of paleontology and their universities. Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones is a strong addition to our STEAM-inspired lineup this fall as Schiffer has a long history of publishing in the natural and historical sciences. Children love to discover dinosaurs, and they remain fascinated by them. Enik and Newland capture this love of discovery in the pages of Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones, presenting a rivalry that teaches while entertaining, making this book an ideal fit for today’s market.

Q: Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones was published in 2013 by Pixel Mouse House, a small New York City firm. Why did Schiffer decide to publish it again with Pixel Mouse House?

[Pete] Our partnership with Pixel Mouse House is based in building on the strengths of both organizations. Including Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones as one of the first titles in our new partnership is designed to re-launch an award-winning book into the global distribution network to connect with a broader audience. Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones is a wonderful book and the beginning of a series that we feel will be a fun way of teaching unique stories from our past.

Q: What other books are being co-published with this company? Why is Schiffer co-publishing with this New York company? Is this part of your new focus on children’s books at Schiffer? Tell us about this new focus on children’s books.

[Tracee] Schiffer Publishing is partnering with Pixel Mouse House on three ventures this season. Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones is one and the other two are Unraveling Rose by Brian Wray with illustrations by Shiloh Penfield and Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum, written and illustrated by Carolyn Bracken. Pixel Mouse House brings to Schiffer Kids top writers and illustrators in the field of children’s literature. Our partnership was conceived from a mutual desire to grow and develop our newly expanded children’s book line.

Unraveling Rose is a beautifully illustrated story written to help children and families understand obsessive thoughts and behaviors, and how to stop them from getting in the way of enjoying everyday life. Brian Wray uses soft imagery allowing families to tackle tough issues in a way that relates to young children.

Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum teaches children about art and design. Bracken introduces us to Mr. Owliver, a night watchman for the Animaltown Art Museum, and his whimsical world of famous masterpieces like the “Mona Lizard” and Auguste Wrenoir’s “The Loge.” The story of how Mr. Owliver comes to find that all the characters have disappeared from their frames is an engaging glimpse into the world of art history. In addition, the book includes a glossary listing the origins and artists of the paintings in the book and an art history timeline perfect for any burgeoning art history major.

Q: Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones is the first in the Unhinged History book series. Will Schiffer publish more books from the series? Do you plan to publish more children’s books by Ted Enik or other children’s books illustrated by G.F. Newland?

[Tracee] Ted and G.F. are working on finalizing the next book in the Unhinged History book series featuring another infamous rivalry, this time racing to the bottom of the sea. Stay tuned for more details!

[Pete] We do plan to work with both Ted Enik and G.F. Newland on future projects and are discussing several new projects. There are many creative ideas that these two can bring to life to educate and inspire the next generation.

Q: Tell us about Schiffer Publishing, its history, and its mission?    

[Tracee] Our children’s book category has a long history rich in regional favorites like Chadwick the Crab and Lobsters on the Loose as well as the perennial classics The Future Architect’s Handbook, Change the World Before Bedtime, and The Angry Little Puffin. Our mission is to continue to produce timely and curated Chesapeake Bay regional titles while ramping up an expansion of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) learning. We are delighted to present our new mascot, Amelia. Amelia, like the Boston Terriers who came before her on the book farm, is a lively, smart, and affectionate girl who is enthusiastic to learn. She is leading the way at Schiffer Kids by announcing our new STEAM initiative in the 2017 children’s book catalog.

[Pete] Schiffer Publishing was founded in 1974 on our family farm with the aim to educate collectors about the things that they love. Over the years, we have focused on creating publications that serve readers’ passions and unique interests while providing new information and inspiration. This idea has lead us to develop a diverse publishing program where we focus on subjects that people care about deeply and develop their knowledge with over 6,000 titles in print. Our children’s books complement many of the areas we know well and are an extension of this philosophy to look for and serve people’s unique passions while educating them.

More About Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones:

This first book in Ted Enik and G.F Newland’s “Unhinged History” series is a ripping yarn – full of adventure and deceit – that brings to life the best-known public spat in all of paleontology: the bitter rivalry between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh that became known as “The Bone Wars.” Lively and witty rhymes plus beautifully demented illustrations by Newland reveal how the paleontologists’ infamous rivalry began and how their mutual obsession with outdoing and ruining one another spun out of control.

Sticks n stones blog tour authors

About the Author

Ted Enik has worked as an illustrator for most of the well-known New York publishing houses, applying his versatility to both original art as well as classic and current children’s book characters, including the Magic School Bus, the Eloise books, and the popular “Fancy Nancy I Can Read” series. This is the first picture book Ted has authored. It was first published in 2013 by Pixel Mouse House, New York, and honored as a Finalist in the American Book Fest’s 2014 Best Children’s Nonfiction and a Finalist in American Book Fest’s 2014 International Book Award for Best Children’s Nonfiction. Learn more about his books and his illustration at tedenik.com.

About the Illustrator

G.F. Newland is a part-time illustrator and the systems administrator at the School of Visual Arts, New York, NY. His doodles have found their way onto buttons, bags, posters, and T-shirts, and have been published by Scholastic, Hachette, and Pixel Mouse House. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and a pet fish named Enki. Visit his website at gfnewland.com.

Schedule of Blog Tour

November 6Can You Read Me a Story?

November 7A Fuse #8 Production

November 8: Books My Kids Read

November 9Rockin’ Book Reviews

November 10Kid Lit 411

November 11Shelf Employed

November 12Frog on a Blog

Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones Blog Tour

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I’m pleased to report that Frog on a Blog has been invited to take part in a blog tour for Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones. Here’s more information about the book and the tour:

To celebrate the release of Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones, written by Ted Enik and illustrated by G.F. Newland, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content about this humorous tall tale and giving away chances to win a copy of Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones.

This first book in Ted Enik and G.F Newland’s “Unhinged History” series is a ripping yarn – full of adventure and deceit – that brings to life the best-known public spat in all of paleontology: the bitter rivalry between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh that became known as “The Bone Wars.” Lively and witty rhymes plus beautifully demented illustrations by Newland reveal how the paleontologists’ infamous rivalry began and how their mutual obsession with outdoing and ruining one another spun out of control.

Schedule of Blog Tour

November 6: Can You Read Me a Story?

November 7: A Fuse #8 Production

November 8: Books My Kids Read

November 9: Rockin’ Book Reviews

November 10: Kid Lit 411

November 11: Shelf Employed

November 12: Frog on a Blog

Sticks n stones blog tour authors

About the Author

Ted Enik has worked as an illustrator for most of the well-known New York publishing houses, applying his versatility to both original art as well as classic and current children’s book characters, including the Magic School Bus, the Eloise books, and the popular “Fancy Nancy I Can Read” series. This is the first picture book Ted has authored. It was first published in 2013 by Pixel Mouse House, New York, and honored as a Finalist in the American Book Fest’s 2014 Best Children’s Nonfiction and a Finalist in American Book Fest’s 2014 International Book Award for Best Children’s Nonfiction. Learn more about his books and his illustration at tedenik.com.

About the Illustrator

G.F. Newland is a part-time illustrator and the systems administrator at the School of Visual Arts, New York, NY. His doodles have found their way onto buttons, bags, posters, and T-shirts, and have been published by Scholastic, Hachette, and Pixel Mouse House. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and a pet fish named Enki. Visit his website at gfnewland.com.


Stop back on November 12 to read an interview with Pete Schiffer, the publisher at Schiffer Publishing, and Tracee Groff, the head of Schiffer Kids. They’ll be discussing how Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones fits into their fall lineup.

And don’t forget to visit all of the blogs on the tour!

New Year=New Beginnings: October’s Winner (plus November’s prize)

Back in January, I posted about a year-long giveaway called New Year=New Beginnings that I’m offering here on Frog on a Blog–a new prize each month for folks who comment on blog posts. With so much negative energy floating around in the world, I wanted to do something positive to show my gratitude to my followers, fans, and friends for their support.

Yikes! It’s November! Where in the world did the year go? Time flies whether you’re having fun or not, it would seem (though I hope you’ve had some fun this year). And since we’re on the subject of time, how is it that a week seems to drag, but a month can zip by in the blink of an eye? It’s a time paradox that has always puzzled me. Oh well, back to the matter at hand. It’s TIME to recap January through October and announce the October prize winner. Then stick around to see November’s prize, which is one of my favorites of the year.

January’s prize was a copy of my book The Peddler’s Bed.

February’s prize was an adorable plushie Curious George.

March’s prize was a set of Pilot’s pens, a Night Writer 2-pack with LED lights, perfect for writing in the dark, and a must have for writers or travelers.

April’s prize was winner’s choice of either a picture book manuscript critique (for writers) or a Personal Library Kit (for book lovers).

May’s prize was a set of two darling bookmarks: A Hippo and a Crocodile.

June’s prize was a Maurice Sendak Nutshell Library box set that includes four tiny classics: Alligators All AroundChicken Soup With RiceOne Was Johnny, and Pierre.

July’s prize was a set of two music CDs by the amazing Emily Arrow: Storytime Singalong volumes 1 and 2!

August’s prize was a super cute, super fun novelty Writer’s Block Journal filled with 300 blank pages, ready and waiting for inspiration to hit!

September’s prize was a Dr. Seuss finger puppet set featuring three lovable characters from The Lorax (my favorite Dr. Seuss book)!

October’s prize was a stylish scarf designed to look like a library due date card.

Scarf

And the winner of October’s prize is…

Sandra M.

Congratulations Sandra! I will e-mail you for a mailing address. Enjoy the scarf!


If you haven’t won a prize yet, there are still two more chances to win this year!

And even if you can’t win because you’ve won already or because you’re not a US resident, I still welcome your comments and appreciate your support of Frog on a Blog.

November’s prize is one of my favorites of the year. It’s a new copy of an old classic: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

This beautiful picture book pairs poet Robert Frost’s lyrical text with illustrator Susan Jeffers’ exquisite art. Though not directly a Christmas book, it would fit in well with any holiday classic, or certainly any winter-themed picture book. Personally, I love it anytime of year. It’s gorgeous! I, of course, own a copy.

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Comment on this post or any post during the month of November for a chance to win. For more information on how to qualify for prizes, click HERE.

*Due to contest/sweepstakes regulations in other countries, this giveaway is available to U.S. residents only. I’m very sorry fans and followers from other nations. I still appreciate you! All winners are chosen at random.

My View Book Review: Where Is Robin? USA

Title: Where Is Robin? USA

Author: Robin Barone

Illustrator: Robyn Mitchell

Publisher/Year: Diplomat Books/2017

Special Features: Includes a fold-out map of the United States in the back of the book


An enthusiastic young robin packs her bags, says goodbye to her mom, and flies off to see as much of the country as she can. She begins her journey in Pennsylvania. From there she goes to Washington D.C., Tennessee, Florida, and Louisiana, before heading west to Texas, Arizona, California, and Washington. Then she swings around and visits Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, and finally, returns back home to New York.

Along the way, she sees fantastic sites: the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, the Grande Ole Opry in Nashville, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, and Hollywood, to name but a few. By the time Robin returns home, laden with souvenirs from every stop, she’s ready to set a date to see the world.

Where Is Robin? USA is a great first introduction to travel and the United States for kids. Every page includes information about the location, conveyed to the reader through simple rhyming text and colorful, engaging illustrations.

This island was home to the Brothers Wright.

Thanks to them in 1903, the first plane took flight.

Look for more books in the Where Is Robin? series.

Picture Books At The Library 126

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I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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While getting ready for a bath one evening, a little boy gets stuck in his clothes.

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A boy promises his friend, an elderly lady, that one day he will fix up her old house. Love the use of color in this one!

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Nokomis Josephine walks to raise awareness of our need to protect water for future generations.

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When Lola the armadillo accidentally knocks over a jug of juice, she panics and decides to run away.

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An adventure-loving boy dreams he is Robinson Crusoe.

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A prayer from mother to son that he will always be in safe hands.

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When three bear brothers are sent on an urgent quest, the middle bear discovers he’s just the perfect size to save the day.

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A little toy train has a big adventure in the great outdoors. Great illustrations and nice intro to different types of trains!

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When Moonlight Pond freezes over, the forest animals come out to take part in the annual talent contest, but Toad doesn’t have a talent like the others. Beautiful art!

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Inspired by a real hero dog named Vera who lived at the US Coast Guard base in the San Francisco Bay.

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A young frog is bored and has trouble finding something to do.

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Monkey tries to make a trade with owl for his red balloon. Clever!

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A lyrical celebration of multiculturalism as a parent shares with a child the value of their heritage.

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When a girl finds a mysterious book of martial-arts poses, she ignores the warning printed inside. Fun!

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Leon is confused about where they will put the new baby now that he’s home. Cute!

Picture Books At The Library 125

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I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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A celebration of the many tender, madcap ways we love one another.

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When the whole family and guests show up for the big dinner at Grandma’s house, it’s clear that the house is much too small to hold them all.

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Big Monster must find a way to outwit Little Monster when Little Monster says he’s not tired.

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Edmond Bigsnout sets off to catch a city bunny for his dinner, but is thwarted at every turn.

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When two fearful children are terrified of each other, their monsters try to help.

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When an antlered ship arrives in the harbor, an inquisitive fox joins the crew on a quest for adventure. Beautiful art!

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When a mountain separates Manjhi’s poor village from schools and hospitals, he uses a hammer and chisel, and twenty years of his life to create a road through the mountain.

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Once a year, Abuelo comes from Mexico to visit his family; he brings his guitar, his music, and his memories.

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Cap’n Rex must convince his crew that they can overcome a giant shark, a thick fog, and an erupting volcano to find the buried treasure.

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An excited dog see lots of fun things through the window.

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Little Elliot and Mouse take a trip to the country and make some new friends.

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A day in the life of a squirrel.

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Inspired by Little Kunoichi’s relationship with her pet ninja bunny, Chibi Samurai sets off to find a companion for himself.

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Three kids take a flashlight with them and go outside to play at night. Imaginative illustrations!

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A young boy tries to follow all of the rules in order to attend his friend’s party. Funny!

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When Little i’s dot falls off and rolls away, he sets out on a journey to find it. Clever!

Picture Books At The Library 124

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I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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Napoleon the chameleon tries to make friends with the animals that live near him in the jungle, but has a hard time being seen.

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A young child realizes the connection between the natural world and himself and gives thanks.

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A skater leaves lines across the ice and the page. 

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Spending all of his time on social media making online friends, Nerdy Birdy neglects his live friend Vulture.

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Two dogs decide to follow their dads when they leave for yet another trip, but end up having an adventure of their own.

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When William stumbles upon a delivery of food destined for Fairy-tale Headquarters, he decides to spice things up.

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A young boy and his father awake early to go fishing on the shores of a small pond.

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A bossy girl named Maddie tries to tell Ally and her friends that they have to follow her rules.

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Two dinosaur friends go for a drive, but the driver can’t resist the urge to honk the horn.

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Maria and her family spend the day making applesauce.

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Pepper goes with her mother to the tailor to have a dress made just for her.

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Children excitedly discuss the details of their upcoming birthdays.

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Explore the mysteries of life and death–mourn those who have passed, but celebrate those who have been born.

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Lulu is sick and can’t go outside to climb trees, her favorite thing to do, so she finds another way to climb a tree.

A child walks an old dog very, very slowly.

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A ghost is too afraid to go into the scary dark woods.

My View Book Review: Lucky To Live In New York by Kate B. Jerome

Title: Lucky to Live in New York

Author: Kate B. Jerome

Illustrator: Roger Radtke

Publisher/Year: Arcadia Kids/2017

Series: Read Together/Do Together


New York is home–and I think quite a lot that I’m lucky to live in this wonderful spot. 

The first line sets the tone for the rest of the book. Lucky to Live in New York isn’t a traditional picture book. It’s a fun, rhyming memory book with bright, colorful, lively illustrations depicting a fox family, diverse children, animals, and more. The left-hand page sports the text that introduces a simple concept or idea about the state where the child reader lives. The right-hand page encourages interaction and creativity by offering an activity related to the concept. Children are prompted to draw, write, and color in the book.

For example, one page reads, In this state we make noise for our favorite home teams. Win or lose–all great plays deserve very loud screams. The accompanying page depicts a blank T-shirt that kids can color in with their team colors.

Another page reads, New York land provides homes for more critters than me. So it’s good to protect even what we can’t see. The accompanying page invites kids to list or draw some of their favorite animals.

The book even features a family tree to fill in, and directions to make a time capsule. Children will enjoy sharing the book with their family members, either once they’ve completed the activities or to work on the activities together.

Lucky to Live in New York is part of the Read Together/Do Together series, which currently offers a book for almost every state in the U.S. If you’re stuck for ideas this holiday season, these books would make great gifts.

Back Cover to LUCKY TO LIVE IN NEW YORK

Picture Books At The Library 123

PB at the library 2

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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A toddler enjoys the range of sounds he hears as his busy day comes to an end.

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Uni the unicorn brings a little girl to meet the other unicorns so that they’ll finally believe.

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When a mysterious shopkeeper tells Isaac about a legendary book that holds the answers to every question ever asked, he embarks on a lifelong search for the Book of Gold.

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A boy and his parents drive to the city of Havana, Cuba in their old family car.

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It’s time for Flynn to sleep in his first big boy bed, but there’s one rather large problem–a walrus!

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A twist on the classic fairy tale in which a queen places a pea under a young lady’s mattress to see if she truly is a princess.

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Goose is all packed up and ready to cross the street to the picnic spot. What could go wrong?

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After tossing and turning in his bed, a little boy embarks on a nighttime quest to find a cozy place to rest.

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Groovy Joe doesn’t get upset when his house fills up with dancing dogs. He keeps on rocking.

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Little Chengdu the panda tries to do as much as he can on his own, until he learns he could use some help.

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One night, both Bunny and Dog see a shooting star. Could this shared moment be the start of a friendship.

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A child on a trip with his mom, who only wants to play his video game, goes outside to explore.

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When all of the apples are missing from the tree, Fox sets off to solve the mystery.

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Robot has lost his arm. He searches everywhere, but cannot find it. Incredible cut paper art!

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Two sheep set out on an adventure and meet a third sheep who may actually be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Funny and clever!

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In this nearly wordless alphabet book, a little cat runs away and gets caught up in a wild chase that goes everywhere from A to Z. Also funny and clever!