August 31 – It’s Happiness Happens Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Double Happiness by Nancy Tupper Ling Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Summer is coming to a close and school is starting again. It’s a great time to reflect on the fun you’ve had in the warmer weather and all the memories that are about to be made as another year of activities, education, new friendships, and excitement unfolds. Happiness really does happen if you let it!

Double Happiness

Written by Nancy Tupper Ling | Illustrated by Alina Chau

 

This quiet, thoughtful picture book tells the story of a family’s move from China to America in a series of unrhymed verses that reveal the experience honestly from alternating viewpoints of a brother, Jake, and his sister, Gracie. Each page is dedicated to one sibling or the other with the Jake’s poems written in blue and Gracie’s in purple. In several poems the children interact with each other, the blue and purple lines acting as dialog tags.

In the first poem, The Move, Gracie stands on her doorstep surrounded by boxes and suitcases and thinks, “I won’t go! / I won’t move / away / from our city house / by the trolley tracks….” But Jake is more adventurous and in the second poem, Train, is already imagining his new room. After considering different décor, he decides what he really wants is something familiar, something outside—“just one long train / that rocks and wobbles / my bed each night. / I can’t fall asleep until the train passes by.”

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Image copyright Alina Chau, courtesy of Chronicle Books

In Grandmother, the siblings are each given a happiness box by their Nai Nai, who wisely challenges her grandchildren to “Find four treasures each, / leading from this home / to your new.” Gracie takes this to heart, and readers see in Panda that even before leaving Nai Nai’s Gracie has added a favorite keepsake to her box: “Nai Nai’s panda sits / by the window / like always. / “I’ll miss you,” I say. / Nai Nai leans over me. / She places Panda / inside my box. / “He has a new home / now.”

Too soon moving day comes, and in Goodbye Gracie and Jake give hugs and kisses to beloved relatives. The search for items to fill Nai Nai’s boxes is taken up in the next three poems. In Treasure, Jake becomes a dragon keeping his “dragon eyes / wide open for stuff / along the way.” He is rewarded in Lucky, in which he discovers an old penny on the bus ride to the airport. In Leaf Gracie receives a surprising gift for her happiness box: “One stray leaf / flutters down / onto my box— / Eucalyptus! / If I had a koala I’d feed / her this minty meal all / day long— / the perfect treasure / to remind me of home.” 

In keeping with the long hours of travel from China to the United States, the next six poems chronicle the brother and sister’s experiences in the airport, waiting for their plane, and during the flight. Airport sees the children running, hopping, waiting, and navigating their way through the crowds of people to their gate. Dad is already tuckered out in Quiet, but Jake is wrangling to look for treasure: “’Huff puff. Puff huff.’” / Dragon blows fire. / Dragon stomps his feet. / “’Ssshhh, you’ll wake Daddy. / I giggle. / Gracie giggles. / “’Daddy can sleep / anywhere.’” Jake finally discovers gum in his backpack and creates a treasure. “I stretch it / and roll it / and ooze it / into one slinky snake / Sssssee, his penny pillow. / Sssssee, he’s kai xin— / so happy—in his brown box. / I’m tied with Gracie now— / two treasures each.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-double-happiness-discovering-the-woods

Image copyright Alina Chau, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Adventures at the airport continue in Cat and Wings, and as the plane takes off Gracie draws pictures of the day’s events in Picture. In Here the children wake up to see their new city far below them and wonder, “can I find our house / from the sky?” Marble and Sadness juxtapose Jake’s happiness at finding another treasure for his box with the apprehension of Gracie as the plane lands and the family makes its way into their new country.

At last in Home the family reaches their new house by taxi. Gracie seems only to see the “piles of snow,” but Jake likes the “windy roads, lots of trees, and the curvy driveway.” In Explore Gracie and Jake walk around the countryside, and while Gracie still determines that she won’t like it, Jake hears a train and is happy. My Room and Dinner see the kids settling in, with a photograph of the family they’ve left behind accompanying them on the table while they eat. In A Surprise, Gracie finds that her grandmother is still with her through a special scarf, and in Paints Jake and Gracie accept the move as they paint their happiness boxes: Jake decorates his with a dragon and a train, while Gracie depicts herself and her brother walking in the snow and “they look very, / very / happy.”

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Image copyright Alina Chau, courtesy of Chronicle Books

While Double Happiness tells the story of a family’s distant move, Nancy Tupper Ling’s gentle verses are appropriate for any situation involving change or uncertainty. She reminds children that happiness can be found wherever they are and all around them if they look for it. The poems flow as freely as thoughts, fears, and unguarded moments. As Gracie and Jake resolve their feeling, readers or listeners will also see that feelings of apprehension are common, and that happiness is waiting for them.

Alina Chau’s soft, lovely watercolor illustrations are beautiful representations of Gracie and Jake’s move from the familiar surroundings of their home in China to a new home in a snowy countryside.  The children’s emotions resonate as they alternate between sadness and happiness and between the concrete places of Nai Nai’s house, the airport, and their new city and their own imaginations of dragons, drawings, and dreams.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1452129181

Discover more books for children and adults by Nancy Tupper Ling on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Alina Chau and more on her website!

**Note: As I take some personal days in the next few weeks, I will rerun updated posts published earlier in the year, including new interior art and links.

Happiness Happens Activity

CPB - Happiness typography

Happiness Is…Game

 

Happiness is all around you! Grab one or more friends to play a game that reveals what things make you happy. Here are two ways to play:

  1. Like the “Geography” game: the first player names something that makes them happy, the next player must think of something that starts with the last letter of the word the previous player said. The game continues with each player continuing the pattern. Players drop out as they cannot think of a word. The last player left is
  2. Within a certain time limit (depending on age), players must think of something that makes them happy. Players drop out if they cannot think of a word within the time limit. The last player left is the winner.

Picture Book Review

August 30 – Frankenstein Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the birthday of Mary Shelley who was born on August 30, 1797. Shelley is well-known as the author of Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, one of the most read and most influential novels of all time. And she published it at the age of 22! The novel depicts the story of Victor Frankenstein, who creates a human-like creature from cadavers, only to be repulsed by it and reject it once he has brought it to life. The “monster” is much more than the sum of its parts, however, and begins a quest for education and understanding. While the “Creature” had a dual personality, its greatest wish was to be looked on not as a monster, but as a thinking, feeling person. The novel leads many to ask, “who is the real monster, anyway?”

Quit Calling Me a Monster!

Written by Jory John | Illustrated by Bob Shea

 

A purple, hairy guy with long stick legs and arms and long bent toes and fingers rides his bike along the street, catching a butterfly on his finger and carefully transporting a basketful of flowers. But all the kids on the school bus see as he passes is the purple, the legs, the arms, the fingers and the toes. And all the guy sees is the wide eyes and fearful expressions of the kids in the windows.

So he stands his ground, craggy hands on hips and says, “Quit calling me a monster! Just…stop it, right this minute!” He’s serious! In fact he throws a bit of a fit, rolling on the ground and spouting, “It really hurts my feelings. I’m no monster!” Just because he may have a few monster-ish qualities like horns and fangs and wild eyes and crazy hair. And yes, he knows he has “a huge toothy smile that glows in the dark.” And, yeah, ok, so he’s not exactly a wallflower and can “roar, holler, scream, whoop, and cackle,” and likes to hide where his discovery will frighten someone most…he still says, “It really bothers me when you call me a monster without even thinking about it.”

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image copyright Bob Shea, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

Kids are always yelling, “‘Mommy, save me from that monster!” when he’s just trying to shop or complaining that there’s a monster under the bed when he’s just trying to sleep. Can he help it that his claws reach upward or that he growls when he dreams? Does he ever call kids names? Does he ever taunt someone as a “meat snack?” No! And that’s because he’s “a monster with excellent manners!”

Umm…Well, I mean…he doesn’t “mean monster, exactly….” Oh, all right, if you’re going to get persnickety about it, he does have all those monster-ish traits and his parents are monsters, but he really doesn’t “like being called a monster one little bit.” If you want to call him, you can use his name, which is a very respectable Floyd Peterson. Now that that is settled, our purple friend is going to bed…in your closet. So if you hear him snoring in the middle of the night, you can rest assured that there is no monster in your closet, it’s just Floyd Peterson.

Jory John gives hilarious voice to the frustrations of being labeled as someone or something you’re not while also affirming that it’s okay to be who you really are. Snap judgements based on preconceived notions or stereotypes limits a person’s world view and the friends they can make. And what’s wrong with being a “monster” or “Floyd Peterson” or (insert word here) anyway? Kids and adults will laugh as Floyd lists page after page of his monster-ish qualities while also denying that he is, indeed, a monster. The ending is sweet and kid-like and puts to bed fear of the unknown.

Bob Shea’s monster, aka Floyd Peterson, is a frighteningly endearing character that kids will whole-heartedly embrace. Floyd’s coarse purple hair, scrawny legs and arms, and big grin along with his range of personas, from alarming to loveable, will make kids giggle. The bright solid backgrounds put the focus on Floyd and all of his roaring, flailing, and leaping—just as Floyd (and all little monsters) sometimes want and need.

Ages 3 – 7

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0385389907

Jory John has a whole gallery of books for you to discover on his website!

Discover Bob Shea‘s “Books for Really Smart Kids” on  his website!

Quit what you’re doing and watch this book trailer!

Frankenstein Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-merry-monsters-coloring-page

Merry Monsters Coloring Page 

 

These two cute monsters want to play, but first they need a little color! Get out your crayons, markers, or pencils and fix them up! Here’s your printable Merry Monsters Coloring Page! Now, it’s your turn – if you were a monster, what would you look like? Draw yourself as a Magnificent Monster!

Picture Book Review

August 29 – Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

Children of kindergarten age are looking forward to starting school like “the big kids,” and teachers all over the country are preparing to welcome their new students on the first day. All the desks or tables have the same supplies laid out, the same chairs pushed in, and the same promise of learning. Are all the kids the same? Yes…and no. Yes: They are all about the same age, wonder what the future holds, and want to make friends. No: they all come with different personalities, different histories, and different talents and abilities. And it is these differences that give each child their unique perspective on the world and will determine their unique contribution to it. Today celebrate each child’s distinct skills and gifts.

Be Quiet, Marina!

Written by Kirsten DeBear | Illustrated by Laura Dwight

 

Marina and Moira are four years old and in the same class at school. Marina was born with cerebral palsy; Moira has Down’s Syndrome. They like many of the same things. Both girls like to dance, play ball, dress up, and play with dolls. But when it comes to noises or rushing around, Marina and Moira are different. Marina likes loud noises. She often screams and shouts, and when she and Moira play together, Marina likes to tell Moira what to do.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-marina-girl's-similarities

Photography by Laura Dwight, courtesy of starbrightbooks.org

Moira, on the other hand, likes to sit quietly, and she can often be found taking a break in her cubby. She also likes to play alone with the little people figures. While both girls like to take walks outside, Moira stays with the teachers and the other students while Marina runs ahead. One of Moira and Marina’s favorite activities is when the teachers swing the kids in a big blanket. Then each student has to wait their turn. Moira can wait patiently, but for Marina waiting is hard; she gets angry and screams or cries. When Moira hears Marina scream, she feels scared. She covers her ears and leaves the room.

While Moira and Marina like to build towers and castles with blocks together, they have different feelings about cleaning up afterward. Marina doesn’t want to help and shows it by yelling. Moira runs from the room with her hands over her ears. “One day on the playground Moira was on the see-saw. Marina wanted to get on too, but she couldn’t…So she started to scream. She screamed so loudly that Moira covered her ears and walked away. Now Marina could get on the see-saw, but it was no fun alone.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-marina-playing-with-blocks

Photography by Laura Dwight, courtesy of starbrightbooks.org

Another day Marina started to get upset while the girls were playing with the telephone. This time Moira didn’t run away. Instead she looked at Marina and said, “Please don’t scream!” Marina listened. She became quiet and the two continued to play together. Later in the week when Marina asked Moira to play, Moira told her she would, but only if Marina didn’t scream. Marina said, “Okay, I won’t.”

The two girls came to an understanding. Instead of being afraid of Marina, Moira now knows she is trying to be friends, and Marina realizes that if she wants Moira to play with her, she can’t scream. And they both know that if they need help they can ask their teachers. Now Marina and Moira are best friends, which means they can have fun playing dolls and building with blocks, dancing and dressing up and even going up and down on the see-saw. And when Marina screams, “‘It’s fun!’” Moira makes a little noise herself and shouts “Be Quiet, Marina!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-marina-girl's-differences

Photography by Laura Dwight, courtesy of starbrightbooks.org

With simple, straightforward language, Kirsten DeBear reveals the story of how two little girls with what might be considered opposing personalities overcame their differences to become friends. While drawn to each other, these differently abled girls had trouble playing together. Through perseverance and communication, however, they came to understand each other. DeBear brings honesty and humor to this true story that applies to all children who need to accommodate other’s preferences while staying true to themselves when playing or working in a group. The happy resolution shows that there is room for all in our friendships and our hearts.

Laura Dwight’s black and white photos take a storyteller’s approach to chronicling the evolving friendship between Marina and Moira as they participated in schoolroom activities. The smiling girls are shown dancing, dressing in fancy hats, playing with dolls and a ball, building with blocks, and doing other fun things together. The photographs also depict moments of friction between the girls when Maura becomes upset and screams and Moira covers her ears and runs away. At the end of the book Dwight’s lens captures the experiences that led to better understanding between the two girls and their strengthening friendship.

Readers may recognize themselves as a “Maura” who likes loud noise and exploring on her own ahead of the group, or a “Moira” who prefers quiet and staying close to the group. Through the story of these two very smart little girls, all kids may learn to understand and appreciate themselves and alternate viewpoints.

Ages 4 – 7

Star Bright Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-1595726650

Visit Star Bright Books for a vast array of inclusive titles for children that embrace diverse ethnicities and abilities, promote literacy, and are widely available in 24 languages.

View a gallery of photography work by Laura Dwight on her website!

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-threads-of-friendship-photo-holder

Threads of Friendship Photograph Holder

 

In the same way that thread holds clothes, blankets, and other material goods together, friendship holds people together. Make this easy Threads of Friendship Photograph Holder to keep pictures of your friends close by!

Supplies

  • Wooden Spool of twine, available at craft stores and some discount retailers
  • Thin-gauge wire, no heavier than 18 gauge
  • Small gauge nail
  • Hammer
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Pencil
  • Photographs

Directions

To make the photograph holders:

  1. Holding one end of a wire with the needle-nose pliers, wrap it around the pencil four or five times
  2. Remove the wire from the pencil
  3. Squeeze the coils of wire together with the needle-nose pliers
  4. Cut the wires to different lengths so the pictures stand at various heights

To make the stand:

  1. Make two or three holes in the center of the wooden spool of twine with the nail and hammer, holes should be about ½-inch deep to steady wire.
  2. Place the coiled wires in the holes
  3. Put photos in the coils

Note:

Even young children can help hammer the nail, place the wire in the holes, and choose photographs. Adults should coil the wire, cut the wire, and help with hammering.

Picture Book Review

August 28 – Pony Express Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday commemorates the intrepid souls who risked life and limb to bring our ancestors important letters in a timely manner. Towns across America hold special, fun events to remember the riders who took to heart the postal carrier’s motto: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Find a local festival or maybe reenactment and have a little Old West fun!

You Wouldn’t Want to be a Pony Express Rider! A Dusty, Thankless Job You’d Rather Not Do

Written by Tom Ratliff | Illustrated by Mark Bergin

 

So, you’re 16 years old and lookin’ for a job. There’s not much out there, and the pay stinks. Then you see a broadside advertising jobs with a newfangled technology. The description seems pretty good, exciting even—just up your alley. “WANTED: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” And here’s the kicker—you make $25 per week! Heck most people only make $25 a month!

You decide to apply for this Pony Express position, and your life takes off in a whole new direction—to California, to be exact! William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell own the company. It’s real name is the Central Overland California and Pike’s Peak Express Company, but that’s quite a mouthful, so the enterprise is fondly known as The Pony Express. It’s a rapid mail-delivery system that promises letters and packages will go from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California (2,000 miles/3,200 km) in only 10 days. Can you imagine?!

Planning begins in January of 1860 and is completed in less than four months. Hundreds of horses are bought and about just as many riders are trained (they have to learn how to change horses in two minutes or less). Along the route 157 relay stations are also constructed. All this is to supply communication for the many pioneers who are steering their Conestoga Wagons out West, battling floods, snow, disease, and those pesky obstacles called the Rocky Mountains to find a better life for themselves and their families. 

You’re young, enthusiastic, and want to be part of this new landscape. You strap on your company-given “two revolvers, rifle, and Bowie knife,” have your horse shod, and take the Rider’s Oath: “While in the employ of A. Majors, I agree not to use profane language, get drunk, gamble, treat animals cruelly, or do anything else that is incompatible with the conduct of a gentleman.” Well, Dang! (Oops!)

The route West is fraught with danger, so forts and trading posts pop up along the way to protect and supply Pony Express riders. The pioneers also keep an eye out for you, so it’s handy to get to know them. While you ride you can be assured that you have the latest in mail-carrying gear. A special saddle modeled on those used by Spanish vaqueros (cowboys) is more comfortable for the long miles, and a mochila (a leather pouch that fits over the saddle) is stuffed full of the mail.

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Image copyright Mark Bergin, courtesy Scholastic

You were right about the job being exciting! Every day brings a new experience: dehydration, heat exhaustion, blizzards, frostbite, floods, 6-to-10-hour hard rides, plus you’re a target for outlaws and bandits. It’s worth it all, though, to bring a smile to someone’s face when they open a letter from their far-away sweetheart—and all for only $5.00 a letter (that’ll be about $120 in 2016). Just be thankful it’s not a business letter—that’ll set ya back $30, which is…uh…umm…well, a heck of a lot (oops!).

In 1844 some upstart named Samuel F. B. Morse invented the telegraph that uses a code of electrical signals to deliver messages. It only takes 5 years for all the major cities to be connected, and as more people move west, so do the poles and electrical wires.”In June 1860, congress authorizes construction of a telegraph line to California. If the telegraph ever reaches the West Coast, you will most likely be out of a job.” One thing about this Morse Code, though. Because “messages sent long distances have to be copied and recopied several times, mistakes are common.” Betcha in the future, though, there will be some kinda automatic correction system, and errors will be left back here in the past.

It’s 1860—a presidential election year—and the campaign has been ugly and hard fought. The country is divided, and fast delivery of the election results is crucial to keeping the United States together. You are part of saving the country, as the news of Abraham Lincoln’s victory reaches California from Washington in only 7 days and 17 hours—a cross-country delivery record! Within a year, the U.S. is at war and danger looms for the Pony Express riders. To protect the riders and the mail, the Overland Stage Company (soon to be known as Wells Fargo) and their enclosed stagecoaches take over.

And the Pony Express? Well, as you probably know, it’s losing money and limping along, what with the competition and the war and all. In October 1861 the transcontinental telegraph is completed and the Pony Express stables its horses. And you? You’ll be fine. With all the experience you’ve gained, you can easily find a job as a scout to guide folks over the trails to their new Western homes.

These “You Wouldn’t Want to Be…” series of books brings history to life by revealing the seamy side of events—and aren’t those really the most fascinating? Tom Ratliff corrals a heap o’ info on the Pony Express and the pivotal changes the United States experienced during the 1860s. While the text trots out fun sidebars, the short chapters are loaded with concrete facts about the development of the American West as it grappled with the need for faster and better communication.

Mark Bergin depicts the concepts presented with bold, vivid cartoon-inspired illustrations of the pioneers, riders, inventors, and townspeople who made up the Pony Express system. The people’s faces register well-earned skepticism, fright, and weariness, but also pride and excitement to be on the cutting edge of technology. Maps portray the 2,000-mile route from America’s middle to its western sea.

The Pony Express may be long gone, but as this book affirms, the more things change the more they stay the same. Teachers, researchers, and anyone interested in history will want to hoof it to add You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Pony Express Rider! to their collection.

Ages 7 – 10

Scholastic, Inc., 2012 | ISBN 978-0531209479

Pony Express Day Activity

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Pony Express Mail Carrier Coloring Page

 

Can you color this printable Pony Express Mail Carrier Coloring Page as quickly as a rider could deliver the post? You’ve got 10 days—so don’t rush!

Picture Book Review

August 27 – International Bat Night

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About the Holiday

From the time that darkness falls on August 27 until the sun rises on August 28, people in more than 30 countries organize walks, talks, and all kinds of educational and fun activities related to bats and their conservation. Why not find an event in your neck of the woods—or cave—and celebrate this most unusual and beneficial animal!

Bats in the Band

By Brian Lies

 

Huddled together a colony of bats sleeps through the winter, but as the icy weather warms they stretch their wings and take flight to find food. As they swoop through the air chasing the echoes they hear, these animals that live by echolocation sense “that something’s not right. / And then when a bugle blast shatters the night, / that one lonely note tells us just what is wrong: / We’re hungry for sound—we’ve been silent too long.”

The bats swarm to a summertime theater now quiet and dark except for a small glow that invites  them inside. They enter the building—passing hawkers of T-shirts, posters, and hats—and set up the stage and the lights. Some bats have brought their own instruments while others improvise with the leftovers of last season’s concertgoers. “Behind the stage curtain, they’re getting in tune, / making up things out of straws, out of spoons.”

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Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

Finally, the conductor lifts his baton, and the concert begins. “We sing together as one voice. / It seems the very walls rejoice! / All together, rafters ringing… / it’s as though our souls are singing.”  Then the strings “change the mood to sweet and mellow” before a one-bat band takes over. “Next up, there’s a country song—/ some lonesome bat done someone wrong. / He’s  gone and broken someone’s heart. / Now everything has come apart.”

There’s even an entertainer for children far off in a corner where the pups can run and play. Now on stage a blues singer “cries of lonely days and empty skies” that make the bats cry. “It’s hard to figure—eyes get wetter, / …so how is it that we feel better?” There’s not much time for reflection though as a hard-rock band begins “blazing,” “pumping,” and “jumping.”

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Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

While everyone is dancing to the beat, the sun begins to rise signaling that it’s time for the bats to go. But in one last blast, all the musicians jam together. “The music soars. Finale’s here, the ending of the song. / It builds and builds—now here it comes! / It’s going…/ going…/ GONG!” With that last bang of the cymbal the bats, “worn out, wrung out, half asleep,” fly from the theater and out into the dawning day. In the air they discover the music in everything from “the roar of a car, or the bark of a pup—/ the sound of the rest of the world waking up.” As they fall into slumber up in their cozy rafters, the bats continue to sway unconsciously. “It’s not our intention, but you understand. / We’re dreaming of being the bats in the band.”

Brian Lies “Bat” books are well-known and well-loved. Bats in the Band continues the excellent storytelling and poetry of his other titles, this time to a rock-n’-roll beat. The idea of bats needing to hear sound after a long winter’s silence is brilliant, and these bats play almost as many different styles of music as there are species of bat. The rhyme scheme is true and musical, carrying the story well through its words and rhythm.

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Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

Lies’ illustrations remain as clever as ever. The two-page spread of the bats choosing and tuning up their instruments is a joy. Bats make a xylophone from keys hanging on a peg board and two nails for mallets. Instead of a harp, a bat plucks the tines of a plastic comb, and a bendy straw serves as a fine wind instrument. The string section plays while hanging upside down (of course!). The pups’ entertainer will bring a smile to readers’ faces, and the blues singer performs under cool blue lights.

Kids and adults will love lingering over the detailed pages, where allusions to actual concert atmospheres abound. Look for the bats holding aloft lightning bugs in a tribute to a long-held tradition.

Bats in the Band is a rockin’ addition to Brian Lies collection and will be welcome on any child’s shelf—whether they are completing the set or just starting it!

Ages 4 – 8

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014 | ISBN 978-0544105690

Visit Brian Lies‘ website to learn more about him, view his many books, and see a gallery of his artwork.

International Bat Night Activity

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Spiraling Bats Word Search

 

Find the bat related words in this printable Spiraling Bats Word Search that dips and soars like the flight of a bat! Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

August 26 – Women’s Equality Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday commemorates the day in 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, giving  women the right to vote. Over the years women all over the world have fought and are still striving to gain equal footing with men in areas such as employment, salary, and education and to be free from fears of violence and discrimination. Empowering women across the globe and ensuring their voices are heard is an issue for all people to be involved in.

For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story

Written by Rebecca Langston-George | Illustrated by Janna Bock

 

Malala Yousafzai lived in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, where her father, Ziauddin, ran a school in the town of Mingora. Malala loved school and even when she was tiny visited classes with her father often. Not all Pakistani children could go to school—some families couldn’t afford it and some believed girls should stay home to clean, cook, and keep house. But Malala’s father believed his daughter had the same right to an education as his sons. Malala thrived at school. She learned multiple languages and won many academic awards.

“But Taliban leaders who controlled the area were against letting girls go to school. They declared that females should be separated from males. They wanted to outlaw education for girls.” The Taliban leaders even tried to intimidate Malala’s father. “One ordered Ziauddin to close his school because girls and boys used the same entrance.” Ziauddin refused.

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Image copyright Janna Bock, courtesy of Capstone Press

While her father was worried, Malala’s determination grew stronger. She studied harder at school, and during the school holidays while most Pakistani women covered their hands with henna flowers and vines, Malala painted science formulas on hers. The Taliban continued to exert a tight grip on the Swat Valley, and instituted new rules: men could not shave, women had to cover their faces, movies were banned. And the radio “crackled with the sound of the Taliban preaching: No education for girls! Girls who attend school bring shame to their families!”

The Taliban frightened many, and empty seats in school classrooms began to be more frequent. Ziauddan and Malala appeared on TV to express the importance of education. In response the Taliban threatened Ziauddan and his school. Despite the threats Malala and her father continued to speak and write, “demanding equal education for girls.” The Taliban began patrolling the streets, perpetrating violence and destruction on anyone who didn’t obey their rules.

In December 2008, the Taliban announced that all girls’ schools would close by January 15. “Even before the deadline, bombs started to rain down on nearby schools as warnings.” The British Broadcasting Corporation wanted to reveal to the world what was happening. They wanted a girl to write a blog about her experience and “how it felt to be denied an education. Malala volunteered.

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Image copyright Janna Bock, courtesy of Capstone Press

She took the pen name Gul Makai and related her blog by phone to a reporter who typed and published her words for two months. The first post appeared on January 3, 2009. On January 14 Malala wrote: “‘They can stop us from going to school, but they can’t stop us learning!’” Because activists were growing angry, the Taliban let girls ages 10 and younger go to school. Malala and her friends were 11. They began dressing to look younger and hid school books in their clothes. If they had been caught lying about their ages, they and their teachers could have been beaten or executed.

In May 2009 the Pakistani army began battling the Taliban and ordered everyone to evacuate. Malala and her family had to pack their belongings and leave. Malala wanted to take her books along, but there wasn’t room. She could only hope that they—and her home—would survive the fighting. Three months later, the people of Mingora were allowed to come home, but the town was not the same as they had left it. Shops and buildings were destroyed, burned frames of cars were strewn across the roads. The school’s walls were riddle with bullet holes. But the Taliban was gone. Ziauddin reopened his school for boys and girls.

While Malala returned to school, her life was not the same. Because of her blog, speeches, and interviews, she was internationally famous. Everyone wanted to hear what she had to say—everyone but the Taliban. “Talban leaders began to threaten her on the Internet. Saying she was working for the West, they announced Malala was on their hit list. The police warned the Yousafzai family to leave, but Malala refused to hide. She refused to be silenced.”

Because of the danger, Malala’s mother wanted her to ride the bus to school instead of walk. On October 9, 2012 as Malala and her classmates rode the bus home after school, the bus was stopped and a man boarded, demanding to know which girl was Malala. While no one spoke, the girls couldn’t stop their eyes from flashing quickly toward Malala. That was all the man needed. He “pointed a gun at Malala. Three shots shattered the silence.”

The bus driver rushed Malala and two of her friends to the hospital. Word spread quickly about the shooting through the town and around the world. Malala lay unconscious for days as the Taliban threatened her again should she live. As determinedly as Malala fought for equal education, she fought for survival. Finally, she was flown to a hospital in England for more surgery and to keep her safe. Gifts and wished poured in from all over the world. Malala stayed in the hospital for three months and underwent many procedures to correct the damage done by the Taliban’s bullets.

When she had recovered, Malala returned to her family and to her place on the world stage where she continues to speak out for the rights of all. On July 12, 2013 in a speech at the United Nations, Malala “declared, ‘One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.’” On December 10, 2014 Malala became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her “strength, power, and courage” to “lift her voice for children everywhere.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-for-the-right-to-learn-malala-yousafzai's-story-speaking-to-the-UN

Image copyright Janna Bock, courtesy of Capstone Press

Malala. Those three syllables have become synonymous with bravery, freedom, and education. Rebecca Langston-George tells Malala’s remarkable story with the same unstinting vision that fuels Malala’s mission. Told sensitively, but candidly, this compelling biography reveals the harrowing evolution of the Taliban’s reach that, far from intimidating young Malala, only served to make her more determined. Langston-George’s excellent command over her well-chosen details and gripping pacing enhances the power of this important true story. Readers should come away inspired—not only by Malala’s life, but the fact that they too can make a difference.

Janna Bock depicts the changing landscape of Malala’s hometown both physically and philosophically with illustrations that help readers clearly envision and understand Malala’s life and environment. The faces of the townspeople and the Yousefzai family register distress and fear, but also determination, courage, and optimism as schools close, Mingora comes under fire, and the citizens become refugees. Malala’s shooting, and recovery are portrayed with thoughtful consideration of the readers, and the ending takes children inside the United Nations to witness Malala’s ultimate triumph.

An Author’s Note detailing more about Malala’s story then and now as well as a glossary and index follow the text.

For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story is an important biography of current events and people shaping the world and our children’s future and is a must read for all.

Ages 8 – 12

Capstone Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1623704261

Discover more fascinating books by Rebecca Langston-George on her website!

View a gallery of art by Janna Bock on Tumblr!

Women’s Equality Day Activity

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Be a Star! Letter to Your Teacher

 

The school year is about to begin! Do you feel excited? Nervous? Ready to learn? Your teachers are looking forward to meeting you! With the printable Be a Star! Letter to Your Teacher Template, tell your teacher something funny about yourself, something serious, and something you’d like to learn about this year. Add a thank you for all their work and dedication and give it to your teacher on the first day of school! If you’ve already started school, give it to your teacher this week!

Picture Book Review

August 25 – Kiss and Make Up Day

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About the Holiday

Even the best friends and closest relatives get into spats once in a while. The important thing is trying to see the issue from the other person’s point of view and finding a way to patch things up. Today’s holiday is all about saying “I’m sorry” or explaining the situation that started the argument in the first place. On the other side, it’s all about listening and accepting the apology.

Best Frints in the Whole Universe

By Antoinette Portis

 

Yelfrid and Omek live on the planet Boborp. They have been best frints since they were little blobbies. Staying frints on Boborp can be hard because “teef are long and tempers are short.” Which makes Boborp a little different than Earth, right? Hmmm… But just like here on Earth having frints is a good thing. And as “Yelfred and Omek know, best frints are the best frints of all.”

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Image copyright Antoinette Portis, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Yelfred and Omek do everything together, like eating streeeetchy noodles for yunch and playing eye ball in the peedle pit. The peedle pit is full of dangerous spikes and sometimes the eye ball gets stuck in the middle of the pit. “‘Bad frow! You go get it!’” Yelfred says. To which Olmek answers “‘Bad kratch! You go get it!’” This can go on for hours—even until nighttime when Boborp’s two moons rise in the sky.

Of course there are blurfdays on Boborp and frints share their blurfday presents. Like if one frint got a spossip they’d let their best frint fly it, right? Hmmm…. But the spossip owner might say “‘No! You’ll schmackle it to bits’” while the other counters, “‘I’m the best driver on Boborp! Let me have a turp!’” But sometimes frints can’t take “No” for an answer, and they borrow the spossip anyway, and sure enough the spossip might get schmackled.

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Image copyright Antoinette Portis, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

That’s when the teef can come out easier than the words, and things get a bit messy. One frint might even lose their tail, and the words, when they do come out, may not be so polite: “‘YOU SMACKLED BY SPOSSIP, you double-dirt bleebo!’” Frintship can be pretty hard under those circumstances. But real frints find a way to make up. Tails can grow back (even better than before), and spossips can be fixed with a spewdriver, glume, a sturpler, twire, and lots of taypo.

And on planet Boburp, frintships can grow back too—just like on plant Earth!

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Image copyright Antoinette Portis, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

What kid won’t love hearing and saying the words “blobbies,” “yunch,” “peedle pit,” “spossip,” and all the others?! Antoinette Portis’s tribute to the diversities and commonalities of friendship will have kids rolling with laughter. Portis’s made-up vocabulary promotes literacy while introducing the concept of foreign language learning. Portraying arguments and positive resolutions shows kids that while differences occur even between the best friends, mutual cooperation and loyalty wins out.

The boldly colored alien landscape of BoBurp with its oddly familiar toys, celebrations, games, food, and other objects will captures kids’ imaginations, and all the spikey mountains, plants, noodles, and peedle pits give physical form to the theme that sometimes friendship is fraught with danger, but relationships can be smoothed out.

Ages 3 – 7

Roaring Brook Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1626721364

Follow the little bunny on Antoinette Portis‘s website to discover more of her books!

Kiss and Make Up Day Activity

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Otherworldly Friends Template

 

Imagine you and your friends lived on another planet. What would you look like there? What would you be called? Use this printable Otherworldly Friends Template to create this otherworldly world!

Picture Book Review