February 22 – It’s International Boost Your Self-Esteem Month


About the Holiday

February, on the horizon of sunny spring, is a great time to reflect on your emotional health. A strong sense of self-esteem – what a person thinks of themselves inside – is important for leading a happy life. With all of the pressures of work, school, and other activities, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious. Finding the positive in every day as well as understanding and appreciating one’s strengths and weaknesses can lead to a more peaceful and fulfilling life. One way both kids and adults find acceptance and a boost in self-esteem is by playing with pets or spending time with therapy dogs, like the canine helpers in today’s book.

Toby and Tutter: Therapy Dogs

Written by Kirsten DeBear | Photographs by Laura Dwight


Ten years ago Toby, a mixed breed dog, was adopted from a shelter when he was only six months old and trained to be a therapy dog. He works with his mother, an occupational therapist, helping children learn and play. Like some of the kids themsselves, Toby has a little brother. His name is Tutter and he was adopted when he was four months old. Toby admits that it took awhile to get used to having Tutter around. Tutter is smaller and captures a lot of the children’s attention. He even wiggles in between Toby and the kids “stealing all the affection.”


Photography copyright Laura Dwight, text copyright Kirsten DeBears, courtesy of Toby and Tutter Publishing

Toby explains that when he was young, he “went to school…to study how to behave around children and how to follow directions.” He learned how to work with many different kids. Tutter wants to be a therapy dog too, but Toby is skeptical. He’s not sure that Tutter has the courage or patience it requires. Their mother, though, thinks that with enough training, he will be able to do it.


Photography copyright Laura Dwight, text copyright Kirsten DeBears, courtesy of Toby and Tutter Publishing

Tutter is an Italian greyhound, and while Toby may think he “looks goofy,” Tutter is proud that the kids call him “cute.” Tutter just wants to be like his big brother and help children even if he is small and often afraid. He follows Toby and tries to do what he does,but it’s hard  While Toby is good at lying down and letting the kids pet his fluffy fur, Tutter is just “learning to stay still. If the children sit quietly I will go to them and cuddle up on their laps. But if they’re wild I run away!” says Tutter. Toby likes to play ball with the kids. They throw it to him and Toby gives it back. Tutter doesn’t really like to share his toys. Toby likes to play on the equipment, such as the slide, balance beam, swing, and tunnel, but Tutter is afraid to use them. He prefers the hammock with its gentle motion.


Photography copyright Laura Dwight, text copyright Kirsten DeBears, courtesy of Toby and Tutter Publishing

While Tutter and Toby may seem very different, they are similar is some ways. Tutter likes to wear the necklaces the kids make, so he’s learning to sit still just like Toby while the children put them over his head. Tutter can also play peek-a-boo like Toby; and he tries to encourage the children by letting them know “that doing your best is all that you can do.”

Every day Tutter feels that he’s getting braver, and he knows that he has special talents that Toby doesn’t. Tutter is allowed in the ball pit with the kids, he can pretend to be in a greyhound race, and he can be carried in a bag. He’s also good at teaching the kids to be gentle and quiet and not to be afraid of dogs. Tutter is happy to be who he is and is proud of what he can do; Toby is proud of Tutter too for trying new things even if they are scary. Tutter and Toby are happy to be a team!


Photography copyright Laura Dwight, text copyright Kirsten DeBears, courtesy of Toby and Tutter Publishing

Children will love this story of two therapy dogs helping out at school. Kirsten DeBear’s engaging story of these brothers encompasses the emotions family members often feel, including the sibling rivalry and deep affection of brothers and sisters that readers will recognize. The alternating thoughts of the two dogs—one more mature and easy-going and for whom learning comes easily and the other younger and more hesitant who struggles with some tasks—echo the diversity of children found in any social situation. Toby and Tutter demonstrate that everyone can be proud of their abilities and accomplishments and have much to offer. DeBear’s honest and accessible language will resonate with kids who will be charmed by sweet Tutter and friendly Toby.

Laura Dwight captures the interactions of children playing and learning with Toby and Tutter in colorful photographs full of action and personality. Kids will love seeing how these two brothers perform their jobs by modeling actions, offering comfort, and being ready playmates. The obvious love the children show for their furry friends will make readers smile and wish they were part of the group.

Toby and Tutter: Therapy Dogs is a wonderful choice for opening discussions on empathy and social-emotional topics as well as the work of specially trained companion animals with children. 

Ages 4 – 8

Toby and Tutter Publishing, 2016; Paperback 978-0984781218 | Hardcover 978-0984781201 | Available on Amazon

To learn  more about Kirsten DeBear, her programs, and her work with disabled children and children with Down syndrome, visit her website.

Discover more about Laura Dwight and her photography for children’s books, textbooks, nonprofit agencies, and more on her website.

International Boost Self-Esteem Month Activity


I Love Dogs Word Search


Dogs of all types make great friends and companions and bring joy to life. Can you find the names of all the dogs in this printable I Love Dogs Word Search?

Picture Book Review

February 21 – It’s Love the Bus Month


About the Holiday

Love the Bus Month, sponsored  by the American School Bus Council, promotes awareness of and offers appreciation to the thousands of school bus drivers across the country who safely transport students every day to and from school, to field trips and to sporting events. To join the celebration, write a note to your bus driver and thank them for all they do for you!

Last Stop on Market Street

Written by Matt de la Peña | Illustrated by Christian Robinson


CJ, fresh from church, skips out into the sprinkling rain. He and his nana wait for the bus under her umbrella. From the bus stop CJ watches as his friend climbs into a warm, dry car and asks, “‘Nana, how come we don’t got a car?’” Nana was just telling CJ that they didn’t need a car when “the bus creaked to a stop in front of them. It sighed and sagged and the doors swung open.’”  As they stepped aboard, Mr. Dennis, the bus driver, pulled a quarter from behind CJ’s ear, making him giggle.


Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Matt de da Peña, 2015. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers.

CJ and Nana found seats up front across from a man with a guitar and an old woman with a jar of butterflies on her lap. Nana said hello to everyone and “made sure CJ did the same.” As the bus pulled away from the curb, Nana began to knit and CJ looked out the window feeling sorry that he couldn’t just go home after church like his friends. Nana said she felt “‘sorry for those boys….They’ll never get a chance to meet Bobo or the Sunglass Man.’”


Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Matt de da Peña, 2015. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers.

At the next stop a blind man and his dog got on. CJ gave him his seat, but asked Nana why he couldn’t see. “‘Some people watch the world with their ears.’” Nana told him. When the bus stopped again, two older boys stepped on. CJ wished he could listen to music on a phone like they were, but Nana pointed to the man with the guitar, who began to pluck the strings and sing. CJ closed his eyes and let the music transport him out of the city. In his mind he saw waves and colors, hawks and butterflies. “CJ’s chest grew full and he was lost in the sound and the sound gave him the feeling of magic.”


Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Matt de da Peña, 2015. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers.

When the man finished his song everyone clapped, and CJ dropped his quarter into the man’s hat. Finally, the bus came to the last stop on Market Street. CJ and his nana stepped off into a neighborhood of “crumbling sidewalks and broken-down doors, graffiti-tagged windows and boarded-up stores.” CJ wondered why it was always so dirty there, but Nana pointed to the beauty of the sky above them. CJ looked up and saw a rainbow arching over the soup kitchen. Then CJ saw familiar faces at the window and felt glad they had come. “‘Me too,’” Nana agreed as she and CJ took up their posts and began ladling soup into bowls.


Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Matt de da Peña, 2015. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers.

Matt de da Peña’s gentle nudging to look on the bright side and appreciate the beauty and wonder around you is made all the more poignant for readers by the story’s young protagonist. Through realistic dialogue and honestly expressed feelings, CJ and Nana engage in one of life’s most important lessons—connecting empathetically with others. CJ’s rich experiences on the bus and at the soup kitchen—microcosms of our larger world—broadens his view and enlivens his imagination. Last Stop on Market Street reminds readers that to truly enjoy a meaningful life they must be aware of and appreciate the diversity of people and events around them.

Christian Robinson’s acrylic and collage illustrations are smart, captivating snapshots of CJ’s day as he watches and interacts with a variety of people on the bus and at the soup kitchen. The visual camaraderie of the passengers—old and young, tattooed, talented, and disabled—as they talk together and smile at one another will cheer readers. The color scheme of bright and pastel colors shared from page to page enhances the book’s themes of interconnectedness and cohesion, and the clean, unadorned images reflect the idea that often the simple things in life really are the best.

Last Stop of Market Street, winner of the 2016 Newberry award and a Caldecott Honor book as well as the winner of many other awards, is a superb book to add to any child’s home library.

Ages 3 – 6

G. P. Putnam Suns Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0399257742

Learn more about Matt De La Peña, his books, and more on his website!

Discover more about Christian Robinson and view a gallery of his work on his website!

Get on board this Last Stop on Market Street book trailer!

Love the Bus Month Activity


Where Are You Going? Coloring Page


Do you love riding the bus? It’s a great way to sightsee while getting where you want to go. Grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and enjoy this Where Are You Going? Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

February 20 – National Love Your Pet Day

The Octopuppy by Martin McKenna Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

National Love Your Pet Day is a great day for pets and for pet owners! If you have a pet, spend extra time with them or give them an extra treat today.You know you’ll both enjoy it!

The Octopuppy

By Martin McKenna


Edgar wants a puppy for his birthday, but what he gets is so NOT a puppy. Out of the gift box pops Jarvis, a goggle-eyed octopus ready to party. Disappointing doesn’t even begin to describe Edgar’s feelings. Jarvis can’t do anything a dog could do. Sure, he might be clever—Jarvis buys Edgar an ice-cream cone instead of staying on his leash tied to the lamppost, for example—but Edgar wants a pet he can enter in the upcoming dog show.


Copyright Martin McKenna, courtesy of http://www.storycorner.scholastic.com

Perhaps with training Jarvis can learn to be more like a dog, Edgar thinks. But when Edgar tells him to lie down, Jarvis goes to sleep wearing PJs and socks, holding a teddy bear and surrounded with books. Edgar’s command to “play dead” elicits a surprise lunge from a wardrobe in a toilet-paper mummy costume. It’s just too much, and drives Edgar crazy! Finally, however, Jarvis learns to sit like a dog, and off they go to the dog show.


Copyright Martin McKenna, courtesy of http://www.storycorner.scholastic.com

At the dog show things go…well…Jarvis just can’t help being himself. He wears a tutu, plays the piano, does card tricks, and plays the drums—all at the same time. The other entrants are not amused, and Edgar is sooo embarrassed.


Copyright Martin McKenna, courtesy of http://www.storycorner.scholastic.com

Jarvis decides to run away, and after penning a note apologizing for being a bad dog, he slips down the toilet and out to sea. When Edgar discovers Jarvis is missing, he realizes he has been wrong. He remembers all the great things Jarvis did and thinks that Jarvis was the best Octopuppy in the world! Suddenly, he wants his pet back. He looks everywhere, but Jarvis is nowhere to be found.

As a last resort Edgar yells his apology into Jarvis’s escape route. His message is carried through the plumbing by various pipe and underground creatures until Jarvis hears it. Before Edgar can turn around, Jarvis is back! To celebrate his being home, Edgar’s family and friends throw Jarvis the kind of wild party he was looking for all along.


Copyright Martin McKenna, courtesy of http://www.storycorner.scholastic.com

This endearing story has just the right mix of craziness and sincerity to make it a favorite on any child’s bookshelf. Martin McKenna hits all the right notes in his tribute to friendship and the idea that true friends accept and appreciate each other the way they are. Jarvis is a sweetie as he does his very un-doglike things. He rescues a cat instead of chasing it, cooks sausages instead of stealing them, and performs surgery instead of biting the mailman. These vignettes make Edgar’s rejection of Jarvis all the more heartrending and his ultimate realization very satisfying. McKenna’s illustrations are loaded with silly and profound details that kids will want to linger over, and the two-page spread of Edgar leading Jarvis home after the dog show is an emotional marvel.

Ages 3 – 6

Scholastic Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-0545751407

Check out more about Martin McKenna and his books on theoctopuppy.com.

Unwrap The Octopuppy book trailer!

National Love Your Pet Day Activity

CPB - Dog Toy

Braided Pet Toy


Your pet will love playing with you and this easy-to-make toy that’s perfect for tug-of-war, fetch, or any kind of fun.


  • Fleece in two or three colors or patterns
  • Scissors

CPB - Dog Toy II


  1. Cut 3 strips of fleece 15 inches to 20 inches long. You can use just one color, two, or three!
  2. Holding all three strips of fleece together, make a knot by looping them at the top, feeding the ends through the loop, and pulling tight.
  3. Braid the 3 strands of fleece until there are 3” to 4” left at the end
  4. Holding all three strands together, knot them as before
  5. Your toy is ready to play with! 

Picture Book Review

February 19 – Plant the Seeds of Greatness Month

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors by Tanya Lee Stone and Marjorie Priceman picture book review

About the Holiday

Plant the Seeds of Greatness Month was established to help people remove barriers to their success and make changes to better their lives. Whether you want to learn a new skill, take care of your health, meet new people, or pursue a job or profession you’ve always dreamed of, this month is a perfect time to get started!


Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell

Written by Tanya Lee Stone | Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman


Once upon a time there were no women doctors. Women weren’t even allowed to be doctors. Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? But it was the truth. Then Elizabeth Blackwell, came along. Elizabeth was not like other girls of the 1830s. She loved to explore and take on challenges. She could lift her brother over her head, and to toughen herself up she slept on the hard wood floor. To get a better look at the world she once climbed to the roof of her house and leaned waaaaay out with a spyglass. What did she see? Maybe she saw her future. But it wasn’t what she imagined at the time. Blood made her queasy, dissection was disgusting, and being sick just made her want to hide from all the fussing.


Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of Henry Holt.

A comment by a sick friend, however, puts a bee in Elizabeth’s bonnet. Mary Donaldson tells Elizabeth that she would much rather have been examined by a woman than her male doctor, and then says, “You should be a doctor, Elizabeth.” What a crazy notion, right? Well… Elizabeth can’t stop thinking about it. She asks around. Some people think it’s a good idea, but impossible; others simply think it’s impossible. They believe women aren’t strong enough or smart enough and they laugh at her. By this time, though, Elizabeth is determined.


Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of Henry Holt.

She applies to 28 medical schools, and they all say, “No.” But one day a “Yes” arrives in the mail. Elizabeth packs her bags. As she nears the school, Elizabeth sees that the townspeople have all come out to see her. They aren’t there to welcome their new medical student, though; they just want to whisper and point and stare. Surely, Elizabeth thinks, her classmates will be happy to see her. 


Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of Henry Holt.

But she receives the same reception on the college campus. In fact, she learns that the only reason she was accepted was because the men voted to let her in as a joke! Elizabeth knows how to handle it. She studies hard and gives her opinions, and soon she wins the respect of her fellow students—even if the townspeople still don’t accept her.

On January 23, 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell graduates from medical school with the highest grades in the class. She has become the first woman doctor in America! Many people hope that she will be the last. But as we know…she was Not!


Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of Henry Holt.

Tanya Lee Stone magnificently imbues this short biography of Elizabeth Blackwell with enough mystery, conflict, and history for even the youngest readers to understand the type of girl and woman Elizabeth was as well as the challenges she faced. Stone has deftly included details of Blackwell’s life that  make her instantly recognizable and relatable to children. This biography is not only historical nonfiction, but a universal story for all generations. Blackwell may have started out as a reluctant dreamer, but once she dared to believe she accomplished more than she or anyone could have imagined. It is what we want for all our children.

Marjorie Priceman’s illustrations that swirl with words, are angled on the page, and float in white space are as topsy-turvy as the world Elizabeth Blackwell created with her courage and life’s work. Blackwell’s boldness is echoed in the rich colors and strong lines of Priceman’s gouache and India-ink paintings, and the emotions she stirred in others—from derision to horror to admiration—are cleverly and exceptionally drawn in a minimal style on the characters’ faces.

Ages 5 – 9

Henry Holt and Company, 2013 | ISBN 978-0805090482

Learn more about Tanya Lee Stone and her work—both fiction and nonfiction—for children and teens on her website!

You can connect with Marjorie Priceman on Facebook!

Plant the Seeds of Greatness Month Activity

CPB - Doctors Clothespins

Doctor Clothespin Figures


Elizabeth Blackwell believed in herself and became the doctor she wanted to be. With this craft you can make a doctor figure or color your own clothes to make your figure any profession you are dreaming of!


CPB - Doctors Clothespins on box


  1. Draw a face and hair on the clothespin
  2. Cut out the outfit you want your doctor to wear (color pants on your clothespin if you choose the lab coat)
  3. Wrap the coat or scrubs around the clothespin. The slit in the clothespin should be on the side.
  4. Tape the clothes together
  5. Wrap the cap around the head and tape it.
  6. If you’d like to display your clothespin doctor on a wire, string, or the edge of a box or other container, cut along the dotted lines of the clothes template.

Picture Book Review


February 18 – Pluto Day


About the Holiday

Whether you believe Pluto should be considered a planet or not, it’s hard not to love that little celestial body. Today’s holiday celebrates the discovery of Pluto in 1930 and our continued fascination with this outlying neighbor.

Pluto’s Secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery

Written by Margaret A. Weitekamp with David DeVorkin | Illustrated by Diane Kidd


From the beginning of the solar system, a little icy world circled the sun, far away from the other planets, and held “a secret—a clue about something that exists in the solar system and the universe.” It was a long time before science was able to see this little world, and so it’s secret remained…well…secret. That was okay with the celestial body because “it was busy dancing with its moons.” In the early 1900’s, though, Percival Lowell, thought that there must be another body pulling on the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. Astronomers used the Lowell Observatory that he had built in Arizona to search for a new planet.


Image copyright Diane Kidd, text copyright Margaret A. Weitekamp with David DeVorkin. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers

Lowell believed that scientists would find a giant planet disrupting the paths of the two planets. He decided to call it Planet X. But the icy world thought, “‘That’s not right. Wait until they see how lightly I dance with my moon Charon, the tiny tots Nix and Hydra, and the other little ones! Besides, I’m not bothering anyone!’” Astronomers looked and looked for Planet X. Even after Percival Lowell died in 1916, they kept on searching. Finally, in 1930 Clyde Tombaugh discovered what they had all been looking for with a powerful telescopic camera.


Image copyright Diane Kidd, text copyright Margaret A. Weitekamp with David DeVorkin. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers

People from all over the world offered names to replace Planet X. Someone thought Minerva would be good. Others came up with Cronus, Zeus, Atlas, even Lowell. “‘Yuck, thought the little world.’” Yuck, thought the astronomers. Finally, an 11-year-old girl from England suggested the planet be named Pluto after the Roman god of the dark underworld because it was so far away from the sun. Everyone liked that idea.

But right from the start, Pluto was different from the other planets. As more powerful telescopes were invented, scientists could see that Pluto had friends that were more like it than were the other 8 planets. What’s more, these icy-world friends occupied the same area, which came to be called the Kuiper belt. Many astronomers began to talk among themselves and even wondered if Pluto “should even be called a planet.”


Image copyright Diane Kidd, text copyright Margaret A. Weitekamp with David DeVorkin. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers

But what was a planet, really? “Amazingly, no one had ever set up rules about what a planet was—or was not.” The astronomers then decided on several criteria. Pluto met most of them—but it did not meet a very important one. Since Pluto did not fulfill all the requirements, the astronomers proclaimed that it was not a planet after all. Kids and people who had grown up thinking of Pluto as a planet were sad and protested this change. But Pluto didn’t mind. It thought, “‘I’m not a planet. I’m the first example of something new. I’m one of many icy worlds on the edge of the solar system.’”

Now that astronomers have gotten to know Pluto in a new way, they’ve found that other icy worlds exist around other stars. The discovery has opened up new possibilities for the future of space exploration.


Image copyright Diane Kidd, text copyright Margaret A. Weitekamp with David DeVorkin. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers

Extensive back matter includes a discussion of the people and telescopes behind the discovery of Pluto, a who’s who of planets and astronomers, a glossary of terms, suggested resources for readers, and a note from the Smithsonian Museum.

Pluto, it seems, is a very garrulous little planet, and Margaret A. Weitekamp and David DeVorkin are privy to its thoughts, much to the benefit of young readers. In this delightful, conversational history of Pluto, kids learn about the people, ideas, and facts surrounding the icy world in language they understand peppered with humor and suspense. Pluto’s reactions to what it “sees” going on down on Earth is sure to make little scientists giggle and pique their interest in future space discoveries.

Diane Kidd’s bright, cartoon-inspired illustrations immediately form a bond with the book’s young audience. Little Pluto, dancing with its moons, giving raspberries to names it doesn’t like, and playing along a different orbit, is just one of the kids—happy to hang out with its other icy worlds instead of being a full-grown planet. Lots of action, clear portrayals of scientific concepts, and accessible layouts and typography, make this a book kids will love to learn from.

Ages 6 – 10

Harry N. Abrams, 2013 | ISBN 978-1419704239

Learn more about Margaret A. Weitekamp, her work for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, and her books here!

Find out more about David DeVorkin and his work at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum here!

Discover more about Diane Kidd, her books, and her illustration work on her website!

Pluto Day Activity


Out of This World Spaceship Coloring Page


Zoom across this printable Out of This World Spaceship Coloring Page and create the colors of space as you imagine them.

Picture Book Review

February 17 – International Friendship Month


About the Holiday

Our love for friends near and far radiates across the month of February, bringing us closer. To celebrate International Friendship Month get together with old friends and reach out to others you’d like to get to know better. This month would also be a perfect time to find a penpal, write to a member of the military, or send a card to an old friend you haven’t seen lately. As today’s book shows, friendship is the world’s strongest bridge.

Here to There and Me to You

Written by Cheryl Keely | Illustrated by Celia Krampien

“Bridges do more than connect one place to another. They bring the whole world together.” There are so many types of bridges—each just right for their place or function. Some of the most charming bridges are wooden-covered, like Canada’s Hartland-to-Somerville span in New Brunswick, which is the longest covered bridge in the world at 1282 feet (as long as 32 school buses end to end). Some are colorful like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, which is distinctively orange, a beautiful beacon against the blue sky and sea.


Image copyright Celia Krampien, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In London the bridge isn’t really falling down even though that makes for a fun game! The London Bridge, which crosses the River Thames, was the first stone multi-arch bridge built in Britain.” Over the years the bridge has been renovated many times, and it’s now made of concrete and steel. Drawbridges might be the coolest kind of bridge! It’s fun to watch them split in the middle and rise up, up, up before coming back down after a ship passes. These bridges “date to medieval times when knights in armor—and dragons?!—fought for their castles.”


Image copyright Celia Krampien, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Sometimes bridges don’t have to be fancy to work. Some “bridges can be as simple as a few stones placed across a shallow stream” that give crossers a place to step all along the way. This is known as a clapper bridge. People aren’t the only ones who use bridges either. Places that are home to roaming wildlife—like Banff National Park in Canada—build bridges so animals “such as bears, wolves, moose, and lynx” can cross roads and highways safely.

Trains can also “use bridges to clickity-clack along, carrying people to people. Family together again.” But what if you want to travel from country to country? There are even bridges for that, and they make “a big world seem smaller.” While these types of bridges are strong and sturdy, there are other spans made only of rope and boards that are “rickety, ratchety, swinging and swaying their way to beautiful hid away places.”


Image copyright Celia Krampien, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

People can become bridges too! Just try bending backward to touch the ground. Or if you don’t like feeling upside down, there is a simple way that “isn’t so grand. It connects me to you and you to me…through the simple holding of hands.”

Cheryl Keely’s enchanting tour of some of the world’s most beautiful and unusual bridges is sure to engage readers who love architecture, travel, and transportation—or who just have the wanderlust. Keely’s story, punctuated with facts and trivia about different types of bridges, is a lyrical frame for her theme of interconnectedness and friendship, making this a book that resonates on many levels and is a treat to dip into again and again.


Image copyright Celia Krampien, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Celia Krampien’s charming artwork takes readers to the towns and cities, the shores and cliffs that host the world’s bridges. Her realistic depictions show the grandeur of the majestic spans millions of people use every day as well as the rustic simplicity of rope and clapper bridges. Kids will love picking out details of the scenery surrounding each structure as well as recognizing familiar settings they have learned about or, perhaps, traveled to.

Here to There and Me to You is a fresh, uplifting story that will appeal to fiction as well as nonfiction lovers. In addition to being a great addition to any story time, the book has many cross-curricular applications for classrooms and libraries, and would be a welcome find on any bookshelf.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369966

To learn more about Cheryl Keely and her work as well as to find a fun bridge game, visit her website!

Find a portfolio of illustration by Celia Krampien on her website!

International Friendship Month Activity


Holding Hands Interchangeable Puzzle

Reaching out to others is a wonderful way to bridge distances and make friends. In this printable puzzle,  all the animals are ready to connect with others—no matter how you put the pieces together! Here is a colored version of the puzzle and one you can color yourself!



  1. Print the puzzle
  2. Cut the pieces apart
  3. Reassemble the pieces in any order to have the animals make new friends

Picture Book Review

February 16 – International Month of Black Women in the Arts


About the Holiday

During this month we recognize the contributions of black women across the fields of literature, fine, performing, culinary, and healing arts. To celebrate, research black women artists and attend exhibits, readings, or other events that showcase these talented women.

Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe

Written by Deborah Blumenthal | Illustrated by Laura Freeman


From the time that Ann Cole Lowe was old enough to thread a needle, she loved to sew. While her momma and grandma worked at their sewing machines, making dresses for the socialites of Alabama, Ann sat nearby turning “the wisps of cloth” that fell to the floor into “flowers as bright as roses in the garden.” Even at a young age Ann understood that “doing what you love could set your spirit soaring.”


Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

When Ann was only sixteen years old, her momma died. Not only did her mother’s death leave Ann bereft, it left her in charge of the business, and many women were waiting for gowns, most importantly the Alabama governor’s wife. “Ann thought about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.” She sat down and finished the dresses. “Then she stood up and ran the business.”


Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

In 1916 a woman in Florida hired her to sew dresses. She also sent Ann to design school in New York. Because she was African American, however, Ann was required to study in a separate classroom by herself. Ann was not deterred. She continued to make unique gowns and dresses, and her client list grew. Finally, Ann had saved enough money to open a salon of her own in Manhattan. Sometimes she didn’t have enough money to pay all the bills, but she persisted. Her life was about “what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.”

One day Ann received an order for a wedding dress from a woman who was marrying a United States senator. The woman’s name was Jacqueline Bouvier and the man was John F. Kennedy, a future president of the U.S. Ann bought 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta and designed a beautiful dress with a bouffant skirt and pleated bands decorated with tiny wax flowers. She also made the dresses for Jacqueline’s attendants.


Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Then ten days before the wedding, Ann walked into her workroom and discovered that a water pipe had burst, flooding the dresses, material, everything. Ten of the sixteen gowns Ann had sewn were destroyed. “Ann though about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.” She ordered new fabric, hired more seamstresses, and went to work. On this job she lost money instead of making it, but none of that mattered. In eight days all of the dresses were ready.

When Ann delivered the gowns to the mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, the butler who answered the door told her workers needed to use the back entrance. Ann replied that “if she had to enter through the back door, the bride and bridesmaids wouldn’t be wearing her dresses for the wedding.” The front door swung open. On the day of the wedding—September 12, 1953—the whole world oohed and aahed over Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s gorgeous gown and her bridesmaids’ dresses, but not many people thought about or knew the name of the woman who had created them. “Why? Because Ann Cole Lowe was African American. And life wasn’t fair.”


Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Ann continued to design and sew party dresses and evening gowns for the women of high society. She “didn’t make fine clothes to get rich or famous,” however, but, as she once said, “‘To prove that a Negro can become a major dress designer.’” In 1961 Ann finally gained public recognition for her work when she was named “Official Couturiere” in honor of the 33 ball gowns she created for an elegant ball in Omaha, Nebraska. She proudly accepted her award as the fashion world applauded.

An Author’s Note explaining more about Ann Cole Lowe’s life and work follows the text.


Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

With straightforward storytelling adorned with lyrical passages, Deborah Blumenthal reveals Ann Cole Lowe’s lifelong love of fashion design, her struggles, and her ultimate acclaim. Lowe’s natural talent, single focus, self-confidence, courage, and persistence come through as she overcomes obstacles and prejudice to become the first African American couture designer. Children interested in fashion and history will find much to spark their curiosity and desire to know more about the woman and her times. Blumenthal’s repetition of Lowe’s philosophy to think about what she could do instead of what she couldn’t change will inspire readers to push past difficulties and find solutions.

Laura Freeman’s full-bleed illustrations are as bold and vivacious as Ann Cole Lowe herself. Beginning with the endpapers, which are scattered with drawings of Lowe’s one-of-a-kind gowns, Freeman takes readers on a tour of the workrooms and salons stocked with the fabrics that gave form to Lowe’s creativity. While the backgrounds are typically brilliantly colored and patterned, twice Freeman places Lowe on a completely white page—after her mother has recently died and she is left alone to finish dresses and when she is segregated from the other students in design school. These pages make a moving and effective statement. Children fascinated by fashion will love seeing the beautifully depicted gowns, and may be stirred to create styles of their own.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1499802399

To learn more about Deborah Blumenthal and her books for children, young adults, and adults, visit her website!

Discover a gallery of illustration work by Laura Freeman on her website!

International Month of Black Women in the Arts Activity



Create Your Own Party Dress 


With this easy craft you can make a  fun sheath dress for playing dress-up. It’s also a great party activity! All you need is a plastic or paper party table cloth, Sharpies, and your imagination!


  • 1 plastic party tablecloth (1 cloth will most likely make 4 dresses)
  • Sharpies or other permanent markers
  • Ribbon, scarf, crepe paper garland, or other material for a belt
  • Scissor
  • Newspaper, old sheeting or other material to protect the floor


  1. With the table cloth folded along one edge, cut a rectangle the appropriate size for the child
  2. In the middle of the folded edge cut a V-shaped or rounded opening for the child’s head. Begin with a small opening and enlarge it as needed
  3. Lay the dress on newspaper or other material to protect the floor
  4. Draw and color shapes, lines, figures, or other designs on the dress
  5. Slip on over a shirt and pants or leggings
  6.  Add a belt with a ribbon, scarf, piece of crepe paper garland, or other material

Picture Book Review