Brave Charlotte

by Anu Stohner
illustrated by Henrike Wilson

Brave Charlotte reminds, teaches and inspires readers to celebrate who you are and not worry about fitting in with the group. It's a spirited tale of one little sheep's adventuresome personality and how the rest of the flock are weary of her individuality until she proves her spunk is something to be celebrated and not scorned. This is a tough lesson for both kids and adults to remember as we navigate through friendships but Charlotte show us it is a lesson worth learning. 

You Might Also Enjoy: Brave Charlotte and the Wolves

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Millie Waits for the Mail

by Alexander Steffensmeier

Now that spring has officially arrived, a trip to the farm seems like the perfect way to brighten any day. Join us this week as we visit Millie the cow, her friends the chickens, the farmer, and their mailman for a hilarious adventure in the country. Be sure to spend lots of time exploring the pages as you will not want to miss any of the comical detail Alexander Steffensmieier includes on each and every page. They are guaranteed to have you and your young reader giggling out loud. Millie Waits for the Mail is tremendous fun with a great sense of humor and appeals to readers of all ages who still get excited to receive and surprise in the mail.

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The Story About Ping

By Marjorie Flack
illustrated by Kurt Wiese

Originally published in 1933, The Story About Ping is one of the most beloved picture books ever published. Written by Marjorie Flack and illustrated by Kurt Wiese, the two created an endearing book that has maintained its popularity for over 80 years and continues to be included on recommended lists of classic picture books and "best" picture books. Always intrigued by the history of how books came to be, the decision to feature Ping came after learning Flack became fascinated with Pekin ducks while doing research for her book Angus and The Ducks. The ducks really do originate from China, are highly intelligent, and were known to live on houseboats with their master.

While Flack had the inspiration to create Ping and his adventure, she had no knowledge of life in China and so formed the collaboration with Wiese who had lived in China for several years and was able to create vivid images to communicate the exotic feel of life in a strange land for its original young readers.

The Story About PIng tells the story of a plucky little duck who lives on a houseboat on the Yangtze River. Ping's adventures begin one evening when he doesn't make it on to the boat in time and has to strike out on his own without the security of his large family. Young readers will share the excitement and eventual relief with Ping as he navigates his way back to the security of his home and family.

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 You Might Also Enjoy: Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep and Make Way for Ducklings

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The Perfect Nest

by Catherine Friend
illustrated by John Manders

Where to start with what made us fall in love with The Perfect Nest? First of all, it is fun and silly, but never talks down to its readers it is filled with hijinks and plotting, but also caring and friendship. You will smile, you will laugh, and you will be touched by its final sweet message. The Perfect Nest is rolicking barnyard adventure that shows us what happens when an omelet-craving cat tries to outsmart a chicken, a duck, and a goose, and winds up with more than he bargained for. 

Bonus: Get a behind-the-scenes look at how illustrator John Manders created the pictures for the Perfect Nest. Then, check out his Etsy shop!


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My Heart is Like a Zoo

By Michael Hall

Filled with more than 300 hearts for young readers to spot and count, My Heart Is Like a Zoo (book's site) is a perfect read for Valentine's Day or for any other day of the year. Although filled with illustrations of animals made from hearts, according to Michael Hall's webstie the true inspiration for the book is how the heart holds every different feeling. 

Drawing upon his enormous talent as a graphic designer, Michael created an animal out of hearts to illustreate a myriad of feelings. This is a book to return to over and over again and quite possibly spot a new heart each and every time. 

Also from Michael Hall: Perfect Square

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Please Bring Balloons

by Lindsay Ward

Isn't there something enchanting about carousels? The moment the ride begins you are zooming through the air upon a magical beast, the lines between fantasy and reality immediately blurred. And these thrills are not limited to the days of childhood, for as soon as the ride is moving you can return to that state of mind.

Please Bring Balloons is the story of a girl named Emma who finds a mysterious note under the saddle of a carousel polar bear. With the help of some balloons, the pair travel through the starry sky on an adventure, charmingly depicted through colorful, fanciful cut-paper illustrations.

Perhaps the reason this book draws you in is author Lindsay Ward's special connection to carousels. If you read the back flap of the book jacket you will read that her parents met while painting carousel animals, so her deep connection to the magic of carousels is quickly felt by the reader!

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The Snail and the Whale

by Julia Donaldson

illustrated by Axel Scheffler

In The Snail and the Whale, join the snail as she travels the world with her friend the great big grey-blue humpback whale and discovers her own strength despite her tiny size!

What do Michael Bublé, chocolate chip cookies, and The Snail and the Whale have in common? Through a family connection, we received tickets to Michael Bublé's concert in Cincinnati last night. With a friend, we left in plenty of time for the 90 minute drive, yet 4 hours later we were sitting in front of a gas station no more than 30 miles from our house. As disappointing as it was to miss the concert due to an unbelievable gridlock of traffic followed by an overheated car and a tow-truck that seemed like it would never show up, we found ourselves laughing over a box of homemade chocolate chip cookies as we sat on the curb and watched the traffic go by (We often say we would like to live in Mayberry and watch the traffic, but that was not exactly what we had in mind!). 

That being said, just like the tiny snail, there is power in the small things in life. Yes we missed our big evening with Michael Bublé, but the laughs and "adventure" with a friend we don't see often enough made for an evening we will not soon forget!

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Bats at the Ballgame

by Brian Lies

Hello everyone!

What could be more summer than baseball? Whether you are a baseball fan or not, Bats at the Ballgame is a fun adventure to share with your young reader. Join the bats as they swoop through the nine innings of joy and drama of a baseball game, bat-style. As in Bats at the Library, every reading will reveal new delightful details in the illustrations, from a bat-ified MLB logo to a reference to Lou Gherig. 

Although the All-Star Game marked the halfway point of this year's season, there is still plenty of time to enjoy America's favorite summer pastime. Bat-ter up!

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Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

by Barney Saltzberg

Ni Hao, friends!

Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep is not usually a book we would feature on Off the Shelf. You see, Chengdu is a 'sleepy-time' book, perfect for reading to young readers preparing to go to bed. This is one of a huge category of children's books which is not usually conducive to the art activities and recipes that we usually feature on Off the Shelf. But Barney Saltzberg has put a new twist on the classic going-to-sleep book by filling the pages of his book with action, both by Chengdu (who tosses and turns and climbs and more) and for the reader (with several fold-out pages). Does Chengdu ever fall asleep? Find out!

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Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Saltzberg's illustrations were the springboard for this exploration of lines and circles. This activity combines several elements, beginning with the experiment of painting with colored paint on black paper then using homemade stencils to layer circles over the painted lines. The resulting artwork is Chengdu-inspired but free enough to express your young reader's individuality. While you might want to make the stencils ahead of time, kids may want to help trace the circles.

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils


For stencils:

  • Cardboard from a cereal or similar box
  • Cans or lids to trace
  • Marker
  • Scissors or X-acto knife

For artwork:

  • Black paper
  • Green, black, and white paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Homemade stencils
  1. To make stencils (Parent step): Trace a circle on a deconstructed box. Leaving a border of a few inches, cut out a rectangle with the circle in the center.  Cut out circle with scissors or an X-acto knife. Repeat with various size circles. 
  2. Using green paint, paint lines on black paper. Let dry.
  3. Using stencils, paint black and white circles over green lines. 

P.S. Were circle stencils a big hit? Try making stencils of squares, triangles, or even tracing cookie cutter to make a stencil collection. 

Continue the fun of this activity by turning one or all of the white circles into pandas by using a marker to add a face and ears!

Chengdu Art with Cereal Box Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep


Learn About Pandas

This video features panda photos and facts for kids.


Bamboo Stir Fry

Bamboo Stencils - Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep - Off the Shelf

Because the bamboo grove plays such a big part in the book, we knew we had to include bamboo shoots in our recipe. Although bamboo shoots can be difficult to find fresh, they are very common canned in the international aisle of grocery stores. They are very mild and tend to take on the flavor of the other ingredients cooked with them, in this case carrots, sugar snap peas, and water chestnuts.

Like most stir fries, this recipe is easy to adapt to your family's tastes or what you have on hand: try adding cooked chicken, zucchini, broccoli, green onions, etc., and/or serving over cooked brown rice. 

Bamboo Stir Fry


  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (from one large carrot)
  • 1 8 oz. can bamboo shoots, drained
  • 1 8 oz. can water chestnuts, drained
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. 
  2. Add carrots, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts and stir for about one minute. Add water and cover, steaming for 2-3 minutes. Stir in soy sauce. 


More from Off the Shelf

More Barney Saltzberg: Beautiful Oops!

Two Years AgoThe Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood

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Harry the Dirty Dog

by Gene Zion

Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

 Hello everyone!

Don't you love picture books from the 1930s through 60s? We are particularly fond of these books on Off the Shelf, having featured books like MadelineAnatoleA Tree is Nice, and The Snowy Day. What is it that makes them so charming? Their perfectly imperfect illustrations? The stories themselves? Whatever it is, I'm glad that there are so many more to explore like Bread and Jam for Frances, Curious George, Millions of Cats, and this week's book, Harry the Dirty Dog

Join Harry as he avoids his bath by having adventures all over town while getting thoroughly dirty in the process. But does his family miss him? Will they even recognize him? Full of the unmistakable charm of mid-century books, Harry had been delighting readers for almost 60 years! Enjoy!


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