The Lion and the Mouse

by Jerry Pinkney

Come along on a journey to eastern Africa, where elephants roam and zebras graze in the Serengeti. This is the breathtaking setting of Jerry Pinkney's wordless telling of The Lion & the Mouse, Aesop's tale that celebrates kindness and courage. 

Is your young reader rambunctious and confident like a lion, or more quiet and unassuming like a mouse?  The beauty of Aesop's classic tale The Lion & the Mouse is that neither of these personalities is more admirable than the other, for both are celebrated in their own way. 


Winner of the 2010 Caldecott Medal, The Lion & the Mouse is exquisitely illustrated in watercolors that enhance the underlying gentleness of the story.  The only words are the occasional onomatopoeia of wildlife sounds as well as the putt putt of the hunters' truck. This is a book to savor and linger over and cherish. Enjoy! 

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A Pair of Red Clogs

by Masako Matsuno
illustrated by Kazue Mizumura 

Originally published in 1960, A Pair of Red Clogs is the story of a young Japanese girl and her beautiful new red clogs. After the clogs crack in a game of the weather telling game, the girl is very sad. Can she think of a way to get a new pair of clogs?

This charming book is unique in that it is told in first-person, drawing the reading into the life and culture of Mako and her family. Although the cultures make be very different, young readers will easily make a personal connection based on the shared experiences and emotions of childhood.  And even though some of the illustrated scenes may seem unfamiliar at first, they will quickly recognize the parallels to their own lives and the daily routines of family life. After all, what is more universal than the happiness of a new pair of shoes?

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Hugo and Miles in I've Painted Everything

by Scott Magoon

What's an artist to do when he's painted everything? That's just the question Hugo the elephant artist asks himself when he discovers that he has run out of ideas. A suggestion from his friend Miles sends the pair on a trip to Paris, where Hugo will discover more than just the sights of the city but also a whole new way of looking at the world around him.  

Even the youngest artists can find themselves in a rut, and not just in their creativity. Hugo and Miles In I've Painted Everything shows young readers that, sometimes, one small change can spark a new burst of imagination and creativity. So, this week we are exploring how to look at the same old things in a whole new way!  

In addition to the inspiring story, Scott Magoon's cleverly detailed illustrations give readers lots to look at. This is one of those books where you will want to pull it off the shelf time and time again, just so you can find all the funny details (can you find the bird listening to audio guide in a museum?). 

We hope you enjoy traveling to Paris once again this week. How many sights does your young reader recognize in Hugo and Miles that they visited last week in Crêpes by Suzette?


This week's activities are a part of the 2015 Paint-a-thon. Check out for 101+ painting ideas for kids during the month of August!


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Crêpes by Suzette

Monica Wellington


Bonjour! Would you like take a trip with us to see the sights and hear the sounds of Paris? How would your young reader like to whirl on a carousel or sail a toy boat in the Luxembourg Gardens? With all that activity, you will surely need to stop for a goûter to keep you going!

Do all this and more (and before nap time too!) with Crêpes by Suzette, a picture book-turned-app by Monica Wellington. Travel around Paris with Suzette and her crêpe cart and meet her many customers, all of whom are inspired by subjects of famous works of art (such as a ballet dancer who looks very much like Degas's Little Dancer). 

While traditional picture books can never be replaced, the Crêpes by Suzette app is the perfect example of how a book can be enhanced by technology. Choose between reading the story yourself or having it read aloud, with each word highlighted as it is spoken. Or, read or hear the story in six different languages! As you dive into the story, you will hear the background sounds of Paris, the music, laugher, and bits of conversation that will immediately transport you to the City of Lights. As a bonus, on each page you will find features including photos and videos of Parisian scenes, a French vocabulary word with its translation into six languages, and the art history that inspired each of Suzette's customers.

And we can't forget the crepes! We are big fans of picture books that include a recipe at the end, such as Old Black Witch and The Apple Pie Tree. In the Crêpes by Suzette app, you will find a recipe and video so you can make crêpes at home, and ideas for both sweet and savory fillings (plus find one below). Bon apetit!

Crêpes by Suzette in iTunes

Crêpes by Suzette in Google Play

Crêpes By Suzette app on Amazon


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Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka

By Tomie dePaola

While our own Irish roots are still being researched by the family genealogist, that has not diminished our enthusiasm in the celebration of St. Patrick's Day. We fill the house with the lyrical sounds of Irish music, the smells of soda bread, colcannon, and a new favorite this year, Irish grilled cheese (made with soda bread, Kerrygold Irish butter, and the yummy Kerrygold Irish cheese). We also enjoy reading an abundance of Irish folktales, then to cap off our celebration we have an annual viewing of the The Quiet Man (while this would not appeal to kids, you can't beat John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara!). All in all, a very fine celebration indeed.

To help inspire your own day of Irish celebration, we are featuring Tomie dePaola's Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka. In a whimsical folktale, based on Irish lore, the work-challenged Jamie O'Rourke learns a lesson from the mysterious pooka about the merits of hard work. Adding to the charm and imaginative appeal is learning that a pooka does not have a certain definitive form but can be any animal spirit. What fun to let the fun and whimsy of St. Patrick's Day inspire young readers to create a pooka of their own after enjoying this amusing book. 

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Joseph Had A Little Overcoat

by Simms Taback

We have often commented on our propensity to save a really good box, an unusual jar, and our most recent save - some very interesting die cut corrugated cardboard shapes used for packing in a shipment of tea we received. While this is most likely a very common trait in kindergarten teachers as well as artistic types, what allows us to be classified as savers and not hoarders is our talent (or is it a curse?) is seeing the numerous possibilities for a second life for these recyclable treasures.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat exemplifies the message of recycle and reuse. Readers will delight to see how Joseph stared with an overcoat that became a jacket that became a vest that became... until it finally became a book. Using colorful collages and die cut pages, Simms Taback adapted the traditional Yiddish folk song he grew up loving into a spirited, classic picture book that shows readers you really can make something out of nothing.

You Might Also Enjoy: The Button Box

In this Issue

  • Textile Collage
  • Watch and Learn: I Had A Little Overcoat
  • Apple, Raisin, and Almond Kugel

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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.

In this Issue

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

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How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

by Marjorie Priceman

Take a fun filled romp around the world and see apple pie in a whole new way. When the market is closed, the young heroine go directly to the sources for the necessary ingredients, be it England, France, or Sri Lanka, and still makes it home in time to make her pie. Apple pie may be the typical American dessert, but this book shows us that it's flavors of the world that make it so delicious. This is the tastiest geography lesson we've ever come across!

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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!

In this Issue


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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by Eve Titus
illustrated by Paul Galdone

Anatole is an honorable little mouse with a great deal of character, so he is crushed when he discovers that the humans think he and all other mice are a disgrace to France. It troubles him to be thought of in such a negative manner, and he devises an ingenious plan to earn his crumbs and scraps and renew his sense of dignity.

Young readers will delight in this fun adventure story with a timeless message of self-reliance, working hard, and using your talents. The charming and classic illustrations by Paul Galdone showing the life of a French mouse are done in charcoal, pen, and ink. The mainly black and gray pages are highlighted with red and blue of the French flag and have a true 1950’s vintage feel! Originally published in 1956, this Caldecott Honor Book continues to be a favorite for readers just discovering its charm, and to those rediscovering it from an earlier time.

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