July 31 – Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

Today is the day to be musically experimental. Intriguing, inventive instruments that make a wide variety of sounds exist in every corner of the world. From Russia comes the contrabass balalaika, a triangular stringed instrument. The cimbalom, a concert hammered dulcimer, originated in Hungary. And only the Welsh could give us an instrument with no vowels: the crwth. Glass, water, and lightning are also used to make beautiful sounds, and the Holophonor—a musical instrument and hologram projector all in one—is perfect for Elvis sightings wherever he is! So, play a different instrument or research one, and read the inspiring story in today’s book!

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Written by Susan Hood | Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

 

Ada Ríos is growing up in Cateura, a town built of trash as the main garbage dump for the capital city of Paraguay. Every morning the refuse trucks rumble into town to deposit their loads—1,500 tons of trash every day. The citizens of Cateura—gancheros or recyclers—go to work sifting through the mounds and tearing into bags looking for anything valuable enough to recycle or sell. Cardboard is worth 5 cents a pound, plastic 10 cents a pound.

Ada knows the landfill can hold surprises—“Her father, a ganchero, had found appliances, toys, perfumes, and antique watches.”—but she can never imagine what it holds for her. When Ada and her sister were little, their grandmother watched them while their parents worked. They loved to listen to music, to sing, and to learn stories of musicians and the sounds of different instruments. Ada fell in love with the violin.

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

As the girls grow older and go to school, they venture farther into town, but there is little to fill their time. Many kids join gangs or get into fights. When Ada is 11 her grandmother signs her and her sister up for music lessons being offered by a new man in town named Favio Chávez. “Ada’s heart sang out” when she hears the news. On the first day ten children show up to play the five instruments available. But a bigger problem looms: the three guitars and two violins cannot be taken home for practicing as they are magnets for thieves. In Cateura a violin is worth more than a house.

But Favio Chávez has an idea. With help from Nicolás Gómez, a ganchero and carpenter, they pull bits and pieces from the landfill. An old broken drum and an X-ray film become a workable drum, water pipes become flutes, packing crates become guitars and violins, and oil drums become cellos. “Ada chose a violin made from an old paint can, an aluminum baking tray, a fork, and pieces of wooden crates. Worthless to thieves, it was invaluable to her. It was a violin of her very own.”

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

The children practice tirelessly outside in 100-degree heat until the initial “screeches, twangs, and tweets hit all the right notes. Their class became ‘a small island’ where Chávez taught them to respect themselves and one another.” They become known as The Recycled Orchestra. Music now fills the air, adding a soundtrack of beauty to the grueling work. The orchestra is soon invited to play concerts in Cateura and the capital city of Asunción. When word spreads of their talent, they receive offers to play from other cities and even other countries.

When Ada is 16 The Recycled Orchestra is invited to tour with a world-famous rock band. As Ada takes the stage in front of 35,000 people in Bogotá, Colombia, she is afraid, but the audience cheers for them and sings along as they play. On that night the children discover a new life. “Buried in the trash was music. And buried in themselves was something to be proud of.”

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

An extensive author’s note plus a photograph of The Recycled Orchestra, websites, and videos follow the text, as well as a list of sources.

Ada’s Violin is also available in a Spanish edition—El violín de Ada: La Historia de la Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados del Paraguay.

Susan Hood has brought to light an incredible story of perseverance, hope, and the ability of music and other arts to provide opportunities and self-confidence that change lives. Told with unstinting honesty and sensitivity, Hood’s biography of Ada Ríos, Favio Chávez, and The Recycled Orchestra will inspire all who read it. The well-paced text offers revealing details on every page and flows with a lyrical quality that enhances the effect of the story and its impact. From the first sentence to the last, both children and adults will be riveted to The Recycled Orchestra.

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Sally Wern Comport’s paintings beautifully capture the human spirit that shines through and drives people to astonishing achievements even in the most adverse conditions. With intricately created collages of rich hues, Comport depicts the town of Cateura and the mountains of trash the citizens work and play on. Warm lighting illuminates faces full of dreams and love, and readers will linger over depictions of the instruments workshop and cheer along with the concert audience as the children receive recognition. The full-bleed, two-page spreads echo the expanded world music gave to the children in the orchestra and the adults who heard them as music score confetti flutters throughout.

Both school classrooms and home libraries will benefit from the stirring message of Ada’s Violin.

Ages 4 and up

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481430951 (English edition); 978-1481466578 (Spanish edition)

Discover more about Susan Hood and her books, plus fun activities for kids and information for teachers and parents on her website!

View a gallery of Sally Wern Comport’s artwork on her website!

Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day Activity

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Make Your Own Musical Instrument

 

Inspiration for sound can come from almost any object! Look around your house or classroom and discover the music in boxes, cans, blocks of wood, plastic egg cartons or deli containers, and more. Add string or wire for plucking, sticks for drumming, or beans for shaking. With a little glue, tape, or hardware and some creativity, you’ll be making your own rhythms in no time!

Supplies for the instrument shown in the picture above

  • Tin can
  • Two small L brackets
  • Piece of wooden molding, 2 1/2 feet by 1 1/2 inches by 3/4 inches
  • Five small strips of wood to raise the wire off the neck of the instrument. I used long wooden fireplace matches cut into 1 1/2″ sections 
  • Thin wire
  • Small circular hook screw or regular screw
  • Two tacks
  • A nail, screw, or piece of wood that will fit horizontally in the mouth of the can
  • a small nail to make a hole in the can
  • Hammer
  • Strong Glue
  • Paint
  • Foam decorative dots

Directions

  1. Paint the wood and let dry
  2. Paint the small strips of wood and let dry
  3. Decorate the can with paint, sticker, duct tape, or paper
  4. With the hammer and small nail, make a hole in the center of the bottom of the can
  5. Wrap one end of the wire around the nail and glue so it is firmly in place
  6. Feed the other end of the wire through the hole in the bottom of the can
  7. Screw or glue two L brackets to one end of the wood molding so that the bottom of the L is flush with the bottom of the wood molding and there is space between the brackets. This makes the neck of the instrument
  8. Screw the circular or regular screw into the top, center of the wooden molding
  9. When the wooden strips are dry, glue three side by side 3 inches from the top of the molding. Glue two more matches, one on top of the other on the center strip.
  10. When the L brackets are dry, glue them (and the neck of the instrument) to the can, making sure the brackets are on either side of the hole in the can. Make sure the wire is out of the hole. 
  11. When the brackets are firmly attached to the can, pull the wire to the top of the neck. Settle it in the center of the small pieces of wood, so that the wire is not touching the neck.
  12. Wrap the wire around the screw at the top of the molding until it is firmly in place and the wire is taut. 
  13. Secure the wire to the neck with the tacks
  14. Mark the “frets” with the foam dots

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

July 30 – International Day of Friendship

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About the Holiday

First established in 2011 by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Day of Friendship asserts the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures, and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. The UN resolution places particular emphasis on involving young people in community activities that include different cultures and promote respect for individual diversity. On this day UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urges everyone, especially young people who will be our future leaders, “to resolve to cherish and cultivate as many warm relationships as possible, enriching our own lives and enhancing the future.”

The day is celebrated with special initiatives, events, and activities that promote dialogue, education, understanding, and cooperation.

Hector and Hummingbird

By Nicholas John Frith

 

Deep in the mountains of Peru Hector and Hummingbird have forged an unbreakable friendship. “Mostly.” Hummingbird has lots of energy and loves to hover around his best bear pal. Which is ok, except sometimes Hector would just like a little quiet time, and Hummingbird won’t stop talking: “Hey, Hector! Is that a custard apple? I love custard apples! I’m going to eat this one! Oh, no! I’m going to eat that one! Shall I eat your one! Hector? Hec-torrr!” Sometimes a simple alone-time scratch would be just perfect, but Hummingbird copies him on a tree nearby: “Hey, Hector! Are you scratching? I’m going to scratch too!…” And nap time? Forget it! Hummingbird always keeps Hector awake with some story. It’s enough to make Hector cross with Hummingbird!

One day Hector can’t take it anymore—“‘Arrgh!!’” he roars. “‘Leave me alone!’”—and he takes off into the forest to find some peace. Hector’s outburst comes as a surprise to Hummingbird. He needs to find out what’s wrong, so he follows Hector into the woods, his constant hum filling the air. “‘Stop following me!’” Hector says. And Hummingbird complies—mostly. From behind leaves and tree trunks Hummingbird spies on his friend.

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Image copyright Nicholas John Frith, courtesy of zoetucker.co.uk

As Hector delves deeper and deeper into the woods, he feels an unfamiliar excitement and also a bit of trepidation. Perhaps he’s just hungry, Hector thinks. He picks a custard apple to quell the gnawing in his stomach. The fruit tastes delicious, but Hector also feels funny eating alone. He imagines how much Hummingbird would enjoy the apple too.

The scratchiest tree Hector has ever seen beckons to him, and he settles in for a nice, quiet scratch. But again he experiences that twinge of loneliness. As the forest becomes dark, Hector finds a branch to snooze on. The night air is full of strange noises, and Hector is a little scared. “‘I wish Hummingbird were here,’” sniffs Hector. “‘He could tell me a story.’”

That’s all Hummingbird needs to hear. “A story? Yay! You should have said! I love telling stories! Once upon a time…” This time Hector doesn’t roar or run away. He exclaims, “‘Hummingbird! You’re here! I missed you!’” Hummingbird admits that he missed Hector too, and that he was there all the time. “Here all along?” says a surprised Hector. “I thought I told you not to follow me!”

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Image copyright Nicholas John Frith, courtesy of zoetucker.co.uk

“But why?” Hummingbird asks. This time Hector doesn’t keep his thoughts inside. “‘Because you never stop talking!’” he answers. “‘And you’re always copying me!” Hummingbird has ready reasons. He’s only being friendly, he explains. And he loves Hector’s ideas. “‘Oh,’” says Hector. “‘Really?’” Then Hector has a brain storm. He asks Hummingbird if he can copy his being really, really quiet. “Absolutely!” Hummingbird says. And he does—in his Hummingbird sort of way, which sounds like this: “Hey, Hector? This is fun, isn’t it? We’re being really, really quiet, aren’t we? I love being quiet, don’t you? Hector? Hec-torrr?”

Nicholas John Frith humorously exposes the niggling burrs of true friendship with his endearing and inspired pairing of a quiet bear and an energetic hummingbird. While best friends love to spend time together, have lots in common, and share a history, they also share moments of frustration, misunderstanding, and vexation. Through Hector and Hummingbird, Frith reveals what happens when communication breaks down and resentments build up. Readers will see that true friendship consists of both honest dialogue and accepting people for who they are.

Frith’s jungle environment, rendered in a palate of vintage aqua, pink, green, brown, and black on a white background gives the story a fresh, bold appeal while highlighting the emotional responses of the characters to maximum effect. As day turns to night, Hector—having gone off in a huff—realizes that he misses his friend and moreover misses the very things that annoyed him about Hummingbird. His expressions of sadness and loneliness, delight at seeing Hummingbird again, and then confusion as to why Hummingbird is there in the first place can lead kids into an understanding that even the best of friends have differences.

Hector and Hummingbird offers kids both amusing and teachable moments with two funny, charming characters to escort them on the journey. An animated storyteller will have kids asking for this book again and again. It’s a great addition to the family library.

Ages 4 – 8

Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic, 2015 | ISBN 978-0545857017

Have fun perusing Nicholas John Frith’s online portfolio of illustrations, projects, and products!

International Day of Friendship Activity

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Best Friends Coloring Pages

 

Friends like to play together and color together! Here are two printable pages for you to have fun with. Why not text a friend and color them together?

Coloring Page 1

Coloring Page 2

July 29 – International Tiger Day

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About the Holiday

First observed in 2010 in response to the severely declining wild tiger population, International Tiger Day promotes awareness of these beautiful, distinctive animals. In the last century 97% of wild tigers have disappeared, with only 3,000 still in existence. Many factors have led to this devastating loss, including habitat destruction, climate change, and poaching. Environmental and other groups, such as the World Wildlife Federation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the Smithsonian Institution, have come together to protect and preserve wild tigers.

A Tiger Tail (Or What Happened to Anya on Her First Day of School)

By Mike Boldt

 

Even before the story properly begins, Anya discovers something incredible and incredibly disturbing. Overnight she has grown a tiger tail—not a pony tail or pigtails, but an honest-to-goodness black-and-orange-striped tiger tail! All she wants is to stay in bed, but unfortunately that’s not possible because it’s Anya’s first day of school.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Anya wonders if “girls with tiger tails are even allowed to go to school” and what the other kids will say. Her mom thinks it’s wonderful. The tail goes so nicely with Anya’s red hair and brings out her “fun, wild side.” But Anya’s only worried about her back side! Her dad likens her predicament to when he got glasses and tells her she’s still “exactly the same wonderful Anya you’ve always been.”

Anya figures she’s on her own with her problem. She tries tugging on her tail, pulling on it, and squishing it, but it remains firmly attached. Perhaps the right outfit from her closet—or all of them together—could hide her tail, but that solution had its own problems. There was just one last thing to do—panic! “‘Calm down,’” says her mom. “‘You’ll make yourself sick.’” Ah-ha! There’s a good idea! Anya thinks as she goes back to bed with tissues and feeling for a fever.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Anya’s mom thinks her antics are so funny and that the kids will love her sense of humor, then she shoos her off so she doesn’t miss the bus. Ah-ha! There’s another good idea! Anya hides in the bushes, but her dad discovers her and considers it a “special treat” to drive her to school.

Walking up the sidewalk to the school’s front door, Anya realizes that she has only one option—running away to join the circus. How bad could that be? But as Anya daydreams about eating popcorn for dinner and swinging from a trapeze, she misses her chance to escape. The school bus pulls up to the door and all the kids pile out. “Anya was doomed.” But she watches all the kids race past her without a glance and doesn’t see the boy headed straight for her who also doesn’t see her. CRASH! Their impact sends them tumbling to the ground amid fluttering papers and flying books, shoes, and backpacks. Even the boy’s baseball cap pops off! Anya stares and then smiles. Standing straight up from the boy’s head are two long rabbit ears.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

“‘Hi, my name is Ben,’” the boy says as he holds out Anya’s shoe. “‘I’m Anya,’” Anya replies. Joe takes his hat from Anya and bounds up the steps. “‘Come on, Anya! We don’t want to be late on the first day.’” Anya follows, and when she sees her class she knows she’ll fit right in.

Mike Boldt whimsically captures the first-day jitters—of school or any new experience—that can result in an explosion of self-consciousness, doubt, and fear. Boldt’s little girl with a wild cloud of red hair is a loveable, plucky heroine as she takes matters into her own hands when the adults around her seem oblivious to her plight. Boldt’s vivacious illustrations burst with energy and emotion that kids will recognize and respond to. Boldt depicts children so honestly, from their crinkled nose abhorrence to their enthusiastic smiles, and the adults, with their clueless dialogue and quirky expressions, are rendered through a child’s eyes.

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Image copyright Mike Boldt, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Readers will laugh at Anya’s panicked face and her multi-layered getup designed to hide the tail that is still obvious through its ribbon wrapping. The crash meeting between Anya and Ben provides delightful surprise and insight, and the final spread of the classroom is inspired. Not only do most of the kids have unique traits, but the teacher also displays rabbit teeth as everyone poses for a class picture.

A Tiger Tail (Or What Happened to Anya on Her First Day of School) offers comfort and understanding as it reminds readers that everyone is an individual, and that one of humankind’s strongest and most common bonds is our diversity. A Tiger Tail should be embraced by every classroom and will make an often-asked-for addition to any child’s library.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481448857

Learn more about Mike Boldt and his books and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

Pounce on this awesome book trailer for A Tiger Tail!

International Tiger Day Activity

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Tricky Tigers Find the Differences and Coloring Page

 

These two picture of tigers in the jungle have some differences—just like Anya and her classmates. Can you find all eleven changes? Have fun searching and coloring this printable Tricky Tigers Page!

July 28 – It’s Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

The recipe—the step-by-step recitation of the ingredients and process for making any dish—is the heart of the culinary arts. Following along, improvising in just the right places, and inventing completely new tastes is its own special kind of literacy. Today we say goodbye to Culinary Arts Month, but hope that the joy of cooking delicious treats and reading fabulous books together remain common, fun activities with which to explore life and love—as shown with today’s book!

Cake Day

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Estelle Corke

 

An adorable little boy runs to his grandma, excited that it’s “Cake Day!” “That’s right,” his grandma agrees, “Today we’re going to bake a cake!” The boy, hardly able to see over the counter, wants to be picked up and see what’s in the cabinet. His grandma happily obliges, and the pair carefully pick the ingredients for their cake.

“‘Hmmm…we need flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar to make a cake,’ says Grandma.” With all the ingredients set on the table, the two start measuring. The little chef is eager and curious: “Cake Day! How much, Grandma? As the flour pours into the cup, a soft, powdery cloud envelops them. “Too much, Grandma!” the delighted boy laughs. The two work side by side, Grandma adding the eggs while her grandson pours in the milk.

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Image copyright Estelle Corke, courtesy of Star Bright Books

As the ingredients start to mesh, Grandma exclaims, “‘Look! What’s happening to the batter?’” The little boy wants to help it along and takes up the wooden spoon. Round and round he stirs, creating swirls in the yellow batter until it’s ready for the oven. “‘Bake day! Your turn, Grandma!” the boy stands wide-eyed as his grandma slides the deep pan into the oven.

The little boy and his dog settle in front of the oven to watch the cake bake. With eagerness the boy asks, “‘Cake day! Ready, Grandma?” Grandma encourages her grandson’s inquisitiveness and explains the process: “‘We have to wait until the cake rises. The heat makes it rise. When you hear the timer go BEEP BEEP it will be ready.’” At last the cake comes out of the oven, but it’s not ready to be decorated yet. First, they must wait for it to cool.

In a short time the high, golden cake can be iced and decorated. The little boy vigorously shakes a jar of sprinkles over the top, scattering a rainbow of colors across the white frosting. The cake is beautiful and just the right complement to the little boy’s Cake Day, Bake Day, Shake Day—Birthday!

Ellen Mayer’s language-rich and playful story of a small child and his grandmother baking together is a wonderful introduction not only to reading but to the type of full-sentence conversational modeling that improves and increases literacy. The steps to baking the birthday cake flow organically and lyrically through the loving relationship between the little boy and his grandma, enticing young readers to learn more about the world around them and how it works. The repeated phrases “Cake day! Bake day!,” and “Ready, Grandma?” as well as the boy’s short statements offer opportunities for kids to read along and learn new vocabulary as they develop important language skills.

Estelle Corke’s cheery illustrations glow with enthusiasm and the close bond between grandmother and grandson. The grandmother lifts, steadies, and holds the boy while still allowing him to perform all the tasks he can. The little boy, in his green apron, delights in every aspect of the baking process, his eagerness expressed in his animated smile and keen participation. The homey kitchen is awash in inviting colors and objects that children will recognize. The clearly drawn boxes and jars of ingredients, kitchen tools, and furnishings offer readers a chance to practice their vocabulary and learn new words.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727466

To see more books by Ellen Mayer as well as language development and reading strategies for young children, visit her website!

Visit Estelle Corke’s website to view a gallery of her artwork!

Star Bright Books publishes fiction nonfiction, and bilingual “great books for great kids” and provides literacy resources for readers.

Culinary Arts Month Activity

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Image copyright Ellen Mayer

Grandma’s Cake

 

Grandma and her grandson baked a delicious, special cake—and now you can too! Here’s the full recipe that Grandma uses. Recipe courtesy of Ellen Mayer.

A Simple Sponge Cake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus a little to grease cake pan.
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • You will need: 3 mixing bowls:
  1. 1 to cream butter and sugar
  2. 1 to mix flour, baking powder and salt
  3. 1 in which to beat the eggs
  • A 7-inch diameter, deep cake pan

Directions

  1. Butter pan and dust with flour.
  2. Set the rack at the middle of the oven.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside.
  5. In large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In the third bowl, beat the eggs and add milk.
  6. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to butter mixture then alternate with the egg and milk mixture. Continue to alternate ending with flour mixture. Scrape bowl and beater often.
  7. Add vanilla and mix well.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula.
  9. Bake cake about 45 minutes. Insert knife or wooden skewer into the center. If it emerges clean, the cake is done. If not, bake for 5 more minutes.
  10. Remove cake from oven and allow to set for 5 minutes.
  11. Turn cake out onto a cake rack and leave to cool.

Grandma’s Favorite Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1⁄4 stick butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Blend all ingredients together with a mixer until smooth
  2. Spread on the top and sides of cake
  3. Decorate with sprinkles or your favorite topping

Picture Book Review

July 27 – Dog Days of Summer Q & A with Ged Adamson

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About the Author

Ged Adamson is a writer and illustrator living in London with his partner Helen and their son Rex. His most recent book Douglas, You Need Glasses! was published by Random House and released this past May. Two previous books—Elsie Clarke and the Vampire Hairdresser (2013) and Meet the McKaws (2015)—were published by Sky Pony Press. Ged has two books hitting shelves in the summer and fall of 2017—Shark Dog from HarperCollins and I Want to Grow from Boyds Mills Press. Ged’s cartoons have appeared in magazines, such as Punch and Prospect, as well as in books and on film. He has worked as a storyboard artist and a caricaturist and also works as a composer for TV and film.

About the Holiday

Here we are in the Dog Days of Summer—that time from July 3 to late August—when the air is still, the sun is bright, and the beach beckons. Although the phrase “dog days” conjures up images of Fido panting and lethargic, the term actually refers to the dog star Sirius—the brightest star and, in Greek mythology, the hunter Orion’s dog. To the ancient Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred when Sirius rose and set with the sun, lending its warmth to the day.

Q & A with Ged Adamson

Today, Celebrate Picture Books is featuring another rising star—Ged Adamson. Ged took some time to talk about his work, his inspirations, and that stellar, spectacles-wearing canine Douglas of:

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What books did you enjoy most as a child?

 

I wasn’t a great reader of chapter books as a child and I don’t remember us having picture books in the house but we did Roald Dahl stories at school. James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were favourites.

My mum and dad were avid readers. My dad had some great books. As well as novels, he had a lot of factual books about artists and history. One that I loved was about The Illustrated London News and it was full of beautiful Victorian etchings of everyday life in London. There were always books of cartoons by people like Giles and Frank Dickens. And we had loads of Charles Schultz Peanuts paperbacks.

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My grandad was Scottish and we used to get a Scottish newspaper every weekend called The Sunday Post. There was a comic section for kids. The two main strips in it were The Broons and Oor Wullie. The characters inhabited a kind of 1950s world which I loved. We would get The Broons and Oor Wullie annuals every Christmas.

The first proper books I read of my own accord were collections of short horror stories that I borrowed from my older brothers. Reading them, I would be scared to death but I couldn’t stop. We did some great books in school that I really enjoyed like Animal Farm by George Orwell, A Kestral For A Knave by Barry Hines and Lord of the Flies by William Golding. And in the school library they had some decent novels for older kids and they had Tintin and Asterix the Gaul in French.

What influenced you to write Douglas, You Need Glasses!?

 

It was a little drawing I did of a dog in glasses smoking a pipe. Like most doodles, it was done without really thinking. But I was trying to come up with ideas for stories at the time so I wondered if I could do something with this character.

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Image copyright Ged Adamson

I wear glasses myself so I thought I could use some of my own experiences with short sightedness to develop Douglas’s story. It went through many stages though. In one early idea, Douglas’s newly perfect vision causes him to be too honest about people’s appearances. Another had him befriending a group of insects.

I’d just started to take my illustration style in a different direction, and I wanted to do something that would be visually strong. So from the way Nancy is dressed, the coloured see-through trees, the skate park, the eye chart, through to the big glasses at the end. I was trying to create images that the reader would remember. And most importantly I wanted the story to be funny!

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Image copyright Ged Adamson, coiurtesy of gedadamson.com

Can you describe your process when writing and illustrating a picture book?

 

It will start with an idea. Sometimes, as with Douglas, that will come from a doodle. The next stage is sketches and thinking a lot about the shape of the story. Who are the characters? How will the art look? What is the story saying—what’s its message? I’ll talk to people whose opinions I respect and see what they think—my Agent Isy being one.

The next step is putting together three or four spreads so you get a feel for the tone of the story and how it will look. All the time I’m throwing in bits of text but this changes constantly. I never have a manuscript separate from the images for this reason. To me, the words and pictures can’t exist apart from each other. That’s why I’m always uneasy supplying a manuscript with submissions!

All through this process of me working on a story—and then if I’m lucky, with the publisher—I’ll be chopping things out and adding stuff to solve problems. In my next book, Shark Dog, I’d put a cute little penguin in the final spread. I really liked that penguin! But he had to go because the scene changed from an Arctic sea to a tropical one. And that is a pretty minor change in the grand scheme of things. You have to be prepared for the editor asking to make major overhauls to your book before it goes to the printers.

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Image copyright Ged Adamson

Can you describe your work space a little?

 

It’s a small room, but it’s mine! I think, no matter how tiny it is, how you arrange the space where you work is important. I like to feel it’s my world and part of my personality. The centre of it is occupied by an old desk with an iMac on it. I replaced my chair recently and I love the new one. It’s like something from an ‘80s quiz show and super comfy. I sometimes record music in there so there are instruments as well as art stuff. There are things I’ve picked up from junk shops and our local market. There’s an old sofa against one wall which is so great when I want to have a break.

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Most furniture in our house is second hand. I have bits of paper stuck to the wall with lists of things I need to get done and new book ideas. I’ve got a few pictures up too. There’s one which is just a scene of a rough sea, nothing else—it’s an old framed print. There’s something weirdly relaxing about it. I like that I can look out the window and see the backs of the tall Georgian houses on the other side of the railway tracks. It’s a very London view. I’d like to have a bigger space to work in but I do love my little room.

What is the favorite object on your desk and why?

 

I want to say something like “Ah, that would be the skull of my great grandfather. He spent his life studying the speech patterns of elk”. But I think it has to be my computer. Though it keeps dropping out of connection which is driving me mad. What the hell, Apple? 

What is the best part about writing picture books?

 

I remember working on the art for my second picture book Meet The McKaws. I could see the snow coming down outside the window of my little room. I suddenly thought, “I’m really happy doing this”! I hadn’t had that same feeling doing anything else.

Actually, the best part of writing picture books is what I’m experiencing right now with Douglas. People are getting in touch and saying they love the book and the characters. The response from readers is what you look forward to and when you get so much positive feedback for something you spent a long time working on, it’s such a great thing.

But there are other aspects that I love too. Working with talented editors and art directors is a lot of fun and you learn valuable stuff from them too.

It’s also thrilling to see your book on the shelves in a book shop!

What are you working on next?

 

I’m just finishing work on two books that will be out next year. The first is Shark Dog. It’s about a strange but very friendly animal that stows away on an explorer’s boat. HarperCollins is doing that one. The second is called I Want To Grow, and it’s about a little dinosaur called Herb who gets frustrated that his human friend Muriel is getting taller and he’s not. This one’s with Boyds Mill Press.

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image copyright Ged Adamson

I’m also working on two new ideas. One of those is about a rainbow and it’s almost ready for submission, so I’m excited to see what publishers think.

I can’t properly call this a holiday themed blog without asking you a couple of questions about special dates, so here goes:

What is your favorite holiday?

 

Because I’ve always done stuff that doesn’t involve a nine to five working week, I feel slightly guilty that I don’t appreciate holidays. Even weekends. On Twitter and Instagram there’ll be loads of people going, “IT’S THE WEEKEND! HURRAY!!” and I’ll be like, “oh yes, yay!”

I do like Christmas though. My son is still quite little so it’s lovely to experience that kid version of Christmas again through him. I’m not the least bit religious, but I really like when people come to our road and sing carols. The TV’s good and there’s lots of drinking and eating. I mean, what’s not to like about that? 

Do you have an anecdote from any holiday you’d like to share?

 

I remember a school Summer trip where we all stayed for a week in an old country house in the middle of woodland. Rumours began circulating that the place was haunted. Everybody started to get nervous. This wasn’t helped by a drunken teacher one night on his way to bed telling everyone “Don’t worry, the ghosts won’t harm you”. We were now all terrified and a kind of hysteria took over. We started counting the minutes until we could be reunited with our families. Somebody said they saw a ‘misty figure’ as they made their way back from the disco hut. Panic ensued. Even on the coach home there was a sense of looming disaster. Back at school in September, it wasn’t talked about much. I think everyone was embarrassed that we’d allowed ourselves to get into such a state.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

 

In Shark Dog, the explorers and their new pet set off to the seaside in their Morris Minor. For me that is a very English holiday scene but obviously you don’t see many of those cars any more. My mum and dad didn’t drive so our holidays would involve hours on a coach to somewhere like Wales or Devon. In the new story I’m working on, there is a spread with a multitude of people getting off those kind of coaches. It definitely took me back to being a kid!

In Meet The McKaws, the story centres on a pirate’s parrot’s family members visiting for a few days. This is an aspect of holiday periods that is fraught with danger!

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Image copyright and courtesy of Ged Adamson

I’d like to thank Ged for his insightful and engaging answers to my questions that prove that the Dog Days of Summer are definitely the best (especially when that dog is Douglas)! 

 

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Ged is giving away a copy of Douglas, You Need Glasses! plus other goodies! Just click to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway

 

You Can Connect with Ged Adamson on

Twitter | Instagram | Ged’s Website

You Can Find Ged Adamson’s Books at

Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Ged Adamson’s blog tour continues! Don’t miss it!

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Review of Douglas, You Need Glasses!

By Ged Adamson

 

Something may be amiss with Douglas. When Nancy and her playful pooch went out to chase squirrels recently, Douglas ran after a falling leaf while the squirrel escaped up a tree. It’s not the first time something like this has happened. You see, Douglas is a bit nearsighted. Sometimes he mistakes the stair post for Nancy, and his difficulty gets in the way of things (well, mostly Douglas gets in the way of things). He misses important signs—like the one that would have prevented him from tracking wet cement all over the skate park, where there are NO DOGS allowed—and he’s always causing something of a ruckus. Sometimes he even enters the wrong house! But when a game of fetch buzzzzzed toward disaster, Nancy decided something had to be done.

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Image copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy gedadamson.com

She took Douglas to the eye doctor where he tried to read a most dog-friendly eye chart. His test revealed that he needed glasses. He found the shelves of Dog Glasses, which offered many options, and had fun trying some on. Each one made him feel different. In one pair he was a rock star; in another a scholar; and in yet another a hippy. He wore them all until he discovered the perfect pair!

On the way home he saw the world in a way he never had before. “‘Wow! Everything looks amazing!’” Douglas said. And it was!

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Image copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy gedadamson.com

Ged Adamson’s funny look at a nearsighted dog will make kids laugh from the first page to the last. Earnest Douglas, going about his doggy days under a bit of a skewed perspective, is so endearing that readers cannot help but love him even as they giggle at his exploits. Adamson’s vibrant multi-hued trees, colorfully clothed kids, and vivid backgrounds with stylish sketched-in details gives the book a fresh, jaunty appeal for a lively, fun story time. Kids facing the prospect of wearing glasses will find lots to give them reassurance and confidence in this book.

Douglas, You Need Glasses is a great addition to any child’s bookshelf!

Ages 3 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, Random House Kids, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553522433

Dog Days of Summer Activity

 

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Make a Stellar Spool Puppy

 

No matter where you go and whether you have a real dog or not, you can take this little guy along with you. And just as you would pick out your favorite from an animal shelter, you can make this puppy look any way you’d like!

Supplies

  • Printable ears and nose template
  • 2-inch round wooden spool, available at craft stores
  • 1 skein of yarn in the color you choose. Yardage needed will depend on the thickness of the yarn.
  • Felt
  • Craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Fabric or strong glue
  • Thin gauge wire
  • Dowel or pencil to wrap wire around to make glasses

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Directions

  1. Paint the dowel the color you want your dog to be, let dry
  2. Trace the ears on the felt and cut out (or draw your own ears)
  3. Trace the nose on the felt and cut out
  4. When the spool is dry glue the ears to the body of the spool, allowing the ears to stick up from the top of the spool
  5. Wind the yarn around the spool back and forth until the dog’s body is the size you’d like
  6. Glue the yarn in place with fabric or strong glue

To make the face

  1. Glue the nose over the hole on one end of the spool
  2. Draw the mouth and tongue under the nose with a marker
  3. You will draw the eyes on after the glasses are in place

To make the glasses

  1. Wind the wire around a ½-inch dowel, thick pencil, or rounded handle to make two circles.
  2. Leave about two inches on either side of the circles for the ear pieces of the glasses.
  3. Adjust the size of the circles to fit the spool as glasses.
  4. Put the glasses on the face of the spool, tucking the ear pieces into the yarn on each side
  5. Draw eyes in the center of the glasses

To make the tail

  1. Cut a small square of felt and stuff the edges into the hole on the other end of the spool
  2. You can make the tail as long as you like

Picture Book Review

July 26 – It’s Park and Recreation Month

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About the Holiday

This month we recognize all the parks—national, state, local, and more—that provide fun and recreation for those who love the great outdoors. There is perhaps no sport that combines the physical aspects of “park” with the spirit of “recreation” quite like baseball. The crack of the bat connecting with the ball for a home run, the thwack of an outfield catch, the collective cheers, and the aroma of ballpark snacks all mix to create a perfect outing—whether your team wins or not!

The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero

Written by Barb Rosenstock | Illustrated by Terry Widener

 

With a single hit to left field, Joe DiMaggio turned a pre-World War II summer into something that cheered and united all Americans. It was May 15, 1941 when the New York Yankees sent Joe to the plate. He hit a single—not much to help them overcome their 13 to 1 loss, but it was in the next game and the next and the next…that people started to take notice. In every game Joe made a hit. Some were home runs, some triples or doubles, and when “he hit in 20 straight games, the word ‘streak’ whispered from the bleachers to the press box—DiMaggio was on a hitting streak.”When Joe reached 30 straight games with a hit, the newspapers printed bold headlines and articles that temporarily pushed “back news of the war marching overseas.”

Joe DiMaggio wasn’t like other well-known players. He was the son of immigrants and grew up in San Francisco with eight brothers and sisters, working in the family fishing business and selling newspapers to make extra money. He was used to hard work, and this ethic served him well as a baseball player.

Everyone knew about Joe’s bat “Betsy Ann” and the care he gave her. He had treated her wood and sanded her handle, shaving off “fractions of an ounce until she fit his hands alone. Betsy Ann was his treasured ‘ball bat,’ used for games only.” When Joe faced the pitcher at the plate, he didn’t go through an elaborate routine. His wide-legged stance was well recognized by fans who knew he would get the job done. And that summer in 1941 he did.

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Image copyright Terry Widener, courtesy of terrywidenerart.com

He and Betsy Ann “whipped around, smashing fastballs, knuckleballs, screwballs, and curves. DiMaggio could hit off anyone, any pitch, anywhere.” Soon he was in sight of the record—41 games. Every pitcher wanted to be the one to end Joe’s streak, and with each game America was on the edge of its seat. Joe felt the responsibility. He didn’t show it on the field, but in his off time he hardly slept, his stomach hurt, and he couldn’t eat.

The streak continued—38…39…40. Tying the record at 41 and breaking it would come in a doubleheader against the Washington Senators. The bleachers were packed that hot 29th of June. In the first game Joe tied the record. The second game would test Joe’s mettle. When his turn at bat came, he reached for Betsy Ann. She wasn’t in the dugout. He saw right fielder Tommy Henrich taking practice swings and yelled to him that he had Betsy Ann. But he didn’t. All the Yankees players searched the dugout for Joe’s bat, but Betsy Ann was nowhere to be seen. Someone has stolen her.

Joe grabbed another bat, but with three times up and three times out, it looked as if Joe’s streak was over. Then Tommy held out his own bat with the reassurance that “there’s some hits in here.” Joe took Tommy’s bat and went to the mound. He took his wide-legged stance and went to work. On the second pitch “Joe whacked a line drive past the left fielder’s glove. Stomping screams shook the stands. No one could stop DiMaggio. No one.”

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Image copyright Terry Widener

Joe focused on the game, rounding first on his way to second base. But suddenly with the cheers of the fans ringing in his ears, his accomplishment settled in. “He tipped his cap, flickered a smile, and trotted weak-kneed back to first.” He got a pat on the back from the first base coach, a handshake from the Senators’ first baseman, and adoration from the kids and adults in the stands. With one hit—and 41 more—Joe was America’s hero.

A week later Betsy Ann was found in New Jersey and given back to Joe. His streak continued to 56 games, and he helped the Yankees win the 1941 World Series. When America became involved in World War II, people could remember “watching sureness and strength win against impossible odds. The country learned to pull together and celebrate together. It was ready to go to work” the way Joe DiMaggio had.

Barb Rosenstock sets this poignant biography of one of baseball’s greats firmly within the atmosphere that made Joe DiMaggio’s achievement about much more than baseball. With prose that echoes DiMaggio’s gentle strength, Rosenstock recreates the excitement, growing suspense, and mystery surrounding his phenomenal streak. With lovely, flowing description Rosenstock deftly sprinkles in DiMaggio’s working-class immigrant background, his emotions, and historical events, giving The Streak depth and resonance for today’s readers.

Accompanying the text are Terry Widener’s dramatic paintings. Opening the pages is akin to strolling through an art gallery exhibition. The depictions of the players swing, twist, slide, and throw with realistic action. As an infielder fumbles DiMaggio’s hit in one foreground illustration, Joe can be seen in the background dropping Betsy Ann and taking off for first base. DiMaggio’s signature stance, the frantic search for Betsy Ann, DiMaggio’s weariness, and the press that followed his every swing are all gorgeously rendered in muted tones of green, gold, and brown. Sports fans will love the pictures of the baseball stadiums and the close-up view of Betsy Ann.

An extensive Author’s Note, DiMaggio’s career statistics, and resources follow the text.

The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero would be a welcome addition to any library.

Ages 6 and up

Calkins Creek Books, Boyds Mills Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1590789926

To see more books by Barb Rosenstock as well as extensive educational guides for The Streak and other books, visit her website!

Learn more about Terry Widener, his books, and his art on his website!

Take a look at the trailer for The Streak—it’s a home run!

Park and Recreation Day Activity

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Take Me Out to the Ballgame Word Search

 

Diamonds aren’t just for playing baseball—they make great word search puzzles too! Take a run at this printable Take Me Out to the Ball Game word search! 

July 25 – Culinarians Day

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About the Holiday

The world can’t celebrate Culinary Arts Month without having a special day to recognize and thank the many chefs, cooks, bakers, and other creators of delicious treats. Today is that day! With their special talents for taste, presentation, and innovation, culinarians make life better for everyone!

The Ugly Dumpling

Written by Stephani Campisi | Illustrated by Shahar Kober

 

“Once upon a time, perhaps last week, or even last night, at your local dim sum restaurant…there was an ugly dumpling.” Sure, you might think all dumplings are ugly, but we’re talking about one particular ugly dumpling. It tried all sorts of tricks to make itself more attractive, but it still remained lonely and uneaten. It sat dejected until a cockroach traversing the kitchen caught sight of it and immediately fell in love.

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Image copyright Shahar Kober

The cockroach “reached out an arm. (Or a leg.)” toward the dumpling and offered to show it the beauty of the world. Together they traveled to cities near and far, experiencing them through culinary lenses—stacked plate skyscrapers, piled dishes skylines, chopstick bridges that took them over flour mountains and folded napkin peaks. Then, in a certain restaurant, the dumpling saw something astonishing! Not only one, but two, three, four, and more dumplings just like itself!

Suddenly the ugly dumpling realized that it was not a dumpling at all, but a “steamed bun—a golden-hearted, smooth-skinned steamed bun, exactly like all the other steamed buns in the world.” The ugly dumpling puffed with meaning, importance, and…yeast! The restaurant patrons and staff and even the other steamed buns took notice. The cockroach by the ugly dumpling’s side cheered to see its friend receiving so much attention.

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image copyright Shahar Kober

The wide eyes and astonished expressions were not for the dumpling, however. Instead, they registered horror at the insect in their midst. The ugly dumpling was familiar with that look and did “something quite beautiful. It reached out an arm. (Or a leg.) And it led the cockroach out into the world, The beautiful, beautiful world.” And in that moment the ugly dumpling realized that it “was not like all the other steamed buns after all” and that “perhaps that was a good thing.”

Stephani Campisi’s The Ugly Dumpling is a fresh and delectable dish-up of the classic Ugly Duckling story for a new audience. Stuffed with charm and off-beat humor, this tale of friendship and diversity embraces all who feel at odds with their environment—with or without the recognition of why. Its sweet and insightful ending emphasizes the idea that finding your niche does not always mean finding your true self and that having the courage to strike out on your own path leads to beautiful relationships and happiness.

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Image copyright Shahar Kober

Shahar Kober’s dumpling is anything but “ugly.” His adorable puffed dough, lonely and ignored for not adhering to the mold, will melt readers’ hearts as he tries anything and everything—including green pleated pants—to fit in. Kobar’s stylish drawings are the perfect underscore to Stephani Campisi’s quick, dry wit—as in his rendition of three uglier-than-the-next dumplings—and if cockroaches were really as cute as Kober’s, we’d all set out a different kind of Roach Motel. A clever bit of typography transforms steam coming from a wok into the word HISS, and the restaurant scenes will make readers hungry for their favorite Asian eatery.

As readers turn to the last pages and watch the steamed bun and the cockroach leave the restaurant hand in hand (foot in foot?) under the shade of a paper umbrella, they will want to turn back to the beginning and start over again. The Ugly Dumpling is a must read and a must addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 9

Mighty Media, 2016 | ISBN 978-1938063671

Get to know more about Stephanie Campisi and her work on her website!

To view a gallery of art by Shahar Kober for books, magazines, animation, and more, visit his website!

Check out the Mighty Media Press website for more about The Ugly Dumpling and a-dough-able coloring pages!

Take a look at the trailer for The Ugly Dumpling!

Culinarians Day Activity

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Embrace Your Inner Dumpling Plush

 

We are all beautiful “dumplings” in one way or another! With this easy craft you can create a huggable friend and show others what you’re made of!

Supplies

  • Square piece of cloth in any fabric and color. Size of plush depends on size of cloth (the plushes shown are made from 18”-square cotton fabric)
  • Poly fill (the plushes shown use about 1 1/8 ounces of fill)
  • White cloth for eyes and mouth
  • Twine or string
  • Fabric glue

Directions

  1. Cut the corners from the square cloth to make a circular piece of cloth
  2. Fill the middle with poly fill
  3. Pull the edges of the cloth up and around the fill
  4. Tie the top closed with the twine or string
  5. To make the face, cut small circles and a mouth from the white cloth
  6. Smooth out a section of the dumpling body
  7. Glue the face to the body with fabric glue