January 24 – It’s National Hobby Month

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About the Holiday

The idea of hobbies—something useful, purposeful, and fun done in one’s spare time—has been around at least since 1676 when Sir Matthew Hale wrote in Contemplations Moral and Divine that “Almost everyone hath some hobby horse or other wherein he prides himself.” Later, in the mid-1800s when work ceased to consume every hour of the day, and people had more time for leisure pursuits, hobbies became more popular. Today, it may be interesting to consider that many of our current hobbies—knitting, sewing, woodworking, candle making, etc.—were once the work of our ancestors. To celebrate this month’s holiday, try a new activity—it may turn into a favorite!

More-igami

Written by Dori Kleber | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

Joey was a little boy with a particular fascination. He was captivated by all things folded. At home he had a collection of “old road maps,” the bellows on an accordion made it his favorite instrument, and he even tucked himself into a foldaway bed at night. One day Joey witnessed the most amazing thing at school. Sarah Takimoto’s mother came to his class, and—right before the students’ eyes—folded, flipped, and pulled a plain white piece of paper “until it became…a crane.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Dori Kleber. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

“Joey’s eyes popped. His jaw dropped. Mrs. Takimoto called it origami.” Joey was smitten. “‘I want to make origami,’” Joey told Sarah’s mother. “‘Will you teach me?’” Mrs. Takimoto  answered that while she could teach him the right folds, it would take practice and patience to become an origami master. Joey raced home that afternoon and began folding. When he ran out of notebook paper and construction paper, he used his homework…the newspaper…his sister’s sheet music…gift wrap… even “Aunt Vivian’s pineapple surprise” recipe card. But when he folded up all thirty-eight dollars in his mom’s purse, she put her foot down.

“Joey drooped.” His cranes were still coming out wrinkled and crooked, and he’d never be able to become an origami master without practicing. To soothe his disappointment, he headed next door to Muy Mexicana for some fajitas. Right away Mr. Lopez noticed Joey’s disgruntlement. When Joey explained that everyone was losing patience with him, Mr. Lopez said, “‘Many artists are misunderstood, amigo.’ Especially when they are just learning.’” Mr. Lopez went into the kitchen, and when he came out with the sizzling fajitas, he was delighted to see a napkin pyramid sitting on the table.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Dori Kleber. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Joey apologized, but Mr. Lopez thought it made the table look fancy. In fact, he liked it so much that he had Joey fold every napkin on every table. After that, Joey went to Muy Mexicana each day following school and folded the napkins into decorative shapes. One day he made fans, the next candlesticks, and the day after that, crowns. He patiently worked until each one was perfect.

Finally, he felt ready to attempt his original challenge. “He took a crisp napkin. He folded. He flipped. He pulled.” When he was finished, a perfect crane sat in front of him. Just then a girl with a paper fan walked in. Her eyes widened as they zeroed in on Joey’s crane. Joey offered to show her how to make it, but warned, “‘It takes practice—and lots of patience!’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Dori Kleber. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Dori Kleber’s unique multicultural story of a little boy who finds the perfect creative outlet for his singular interest will captivate kids who are just beginning to try their own hands at favorite hobbies, schoolwork, or other pursuits. With humor and honest depictions of Joey’s frustration and persistence, Kleber shows readers that practice and patience really do pay off. As Joey meets another folding enthusiast, kids will see that there are always others with whom to share favorite pastimes.

Opening More-igami to the first page where Joey sits gazing lovingly at a taco with a folded napkin next to his plate, readers will know they are in for something special. As always, G. Brian Karas’s characters are enthusiastic, encouraging, and adorable. Readers will empathize with Joey as they watch him folding and folding, and giggle at the many, many practice cranes that litter his home, even perching atop his sister’s music stand and appearing in his mom’s purse.

Karas makes full creative use of the origami theme in his clever page designs and illustrations, beginning with the square shape of the book itself and the origami paper-styled endpapers. Vivid, solid-color background pages are divided diagonally, vertically, or horizontally with subtle changes in hue or nearly invisible lines. In depictions of Joey’s school, home, and favorite restaurant, diagonals, angles, and sharp edges predominate: tables and floors create triangles on the page; windows, walls, and doors divide pages into shapes associated with the steps of origami’s folded creations; and floor tiles, the sidewalk, and even Joey’s shirt portray grid lines. The color schemes of each page, inspired by the patterns and shades of origami paper, are dazzling and unite the varied aspects of this special book.

For any child undertaking a new activity or venture, More-igami is a charming and encouraging companion on the way to proficiency—one that would make a wonderful home library addition.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763668198

To learn more about Dori Kleber and her writing, visit her website!

G. Brian Karas has a whole gallery of illustrations, books, information, and “what nots” on his website!

National Hobby Month Activity

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Origami Pets

 

Origami is a fun hobby that can grow in complexity as you gain skill. Here are two templates to get you started! All you need is a square piece of paper and—if you’d like to decorate your piece—some markers or colored pencils.

Puppy Template | Penguin Template

Picture Book Review

January 23 – National Pie Day

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About the Holiday

National Pie day is perfect for…well…pie! Whether you love fruity pies or meat pies, pies with lattice tops or crumble crusts this day is for you! There’s only one true way to celebrate—make or buy your favorite kind of pie and enjoy! 

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems

Written by J. Patrick Lewis | Illustrated by Michael Slack

 

There’s something about poetry with its iambic pentameters, feet, meter, sonnets, couplets, and more countable qualities that just seems to lend itself to math. J. Patrick Lewis must have thought so too because he penned a clever volume of poems inspired by well-known verses. First up is Edgar Allan Poe’s Apple Pie, which is inspired by “The Raven” and begins: “Once upon a midnight rotten, / Cold, and rainy, I’d forgotten / All about the apple pie / Still cooling from the hour before.” But now, even though there is a “knocking, knocking…” at the door, the narrator takes up a knife and slices the night with a cutting question, only to hear the stranger’s mysterious clue “‘Never four!’”

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Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

All the narrator of Emily Dickenson’s Telephone Book, inspired by “My Life Closed Twice Before its Close,” wants to do after napping is to find a certain phone number in her directory, but where is it? She knew where it was before she went to bed—in fact its “two opposing pages / that added up to 113— / Were smudged around the edges—” but now she’s so confused…. Can you help?

Those who think that “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” has no link to underwear possibly are not aware of Robert Frost’s Boxer Shorts, in which the lilt and the rhythm of the original are perfectly matched in a priceless, pricey puzzle that ends “My tightie whities look so sad. / My tightie whities look so sad.” How can you resist?

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Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

You may know about William Carlos Williams’s red wheelbarrow and where it stood, but what if that handy implement was replaced by a… “fifteen-inch square pizza” that is missing “nineteen and a half pieces”?! Well, there may not be any rainwater glaze, but it sure does make for a delicious arithmetic conundrum in William Carlos Williams’s Pizza.

You’re eating up these poems, aren’t you? Well, next come three poems in which termites, sharks, and a “hippo-po-tah-tum” do a bit of nibbling of their own. The fun multiplies in Ogden Nash’s Buggy Rugs, where 313 little wood chompers hide; in John Ciardi’s Shark Dentist, in which you’ll want to brace yourself for the ending; and in Shel Silverstein’s Hippo-po-tah-tum, which is fractionally frightening.

These seven poems are added to seven more, plus two pages full of “prose about the poets,” to equal one smart, tantalizing poetic brainteaser of a book!

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Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

Patrick Lewis, who served as the US Children’s Poet Lauriat from 2011 to 2013, has honored 16 of the world’s most beloved poets the way kids love best—with humor. Adapting the original poem’s rhythm, rhyme scheme, and length with a dash of the ridiculous and a dose of numerical heft, Lewis has created poems that will have kids giggling while they ponder the answers to the lyrical math problems the verses pose. While arithmetic aficionados will gobble these poems up, there’s plenty for language arts lovers to sink their teeth into too. Each witty poem just begs to be compared to the original, which would make for a fun afternoon at home or lesson in the classroom. Admit it—aren’t you just the tiniest bit curious what Edward Lear’s “There was an Old Man with a Beard” has to do with an 80-foot hotdog?

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Image copyright Michael Slack Lewis, courtesty slackart.com

Michael Slack gets things off and running on the first spread, where a sharp-taloned blackbird stands over a knife that’s plunged into the center of a pie. While readers of Walt Whitman’s Web-Covered Shoe may wonder exactly how long the boot has been untouched, they’ll be more distracted by the number of eyes on two very fierce-looking spiders. And there may be nothing more diverting than the potbellied cowboy wearing only his tightie whities as he waits for his snowflake, flame, spaceship, and other uniquely decorated boxers to dry. Slack illustrates each poem with distinctive, vibrant images that ramp up the humor and give every page an individual look.

Answers to the math problems proposed are included with every poem, and brief biographies accompanied by tiny portraits, reveal information about the poets represented and their work.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie is a fantastic way to get kids interested in math and poetry. The brain ticklers, as well as the wonderful wordplay and illustrations, make this a book that should be on classroom shelves and would be welcome in home libraries too.

Ages 6 – 9

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2015 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0544456129

To learn more about J. Patrick Lewis, his books, and resources for kids and teachers, visit his website!

View a gallery of books, illustration, and other art by Michael Slack on his website!

National Pie Day Activity

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Mixed Up Cherry Pies Puzzle

 

Each winner of a poetry contest were supposed to get two identical pies, but they got mixed up! Can you find the matching pies in this printable Mixed Up Cherry Pies Puzzle and save the day?

Picture Book Review

January 22 – Celebration of Life Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to give parents, grandparents, and caregivers a nudge to step back and look at our children and grandchildren as the unique individuals they are. Each child has a special personality and innate talents that combine to make them who they are. Today, celebrate each child’s exceptional character! Ask your children what they want from life, what their opinions are, and what is important to them. Then incorporate some of those things into your daily life!

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 together.

“‘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?’” he asks. As Grandma pours the flour into the cup and a soft, powdery cloud envelops them, the delighted boy laughs, “‘Too much, Grandma!’” The two work happily side by side, with Grandma adding the eggs while her grandson pours in the milk.

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Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy Star Bright Books, 2016

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 says and stands wide-eyed as his grandma slides the deep pan into the oven. 

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Image copyright Estelle Corker, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of Star Bright Books, 2016

The little boy and his dog settle in front of the oven to watch the cake bake. With keen expectation 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!

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Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy Star Bright Books, 2016

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 lively 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.

Celebration of Life Day Activity

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Image copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016

Grandma’s Cake

 

Grandma and her grandson baked a delicious, special cake—and now you can too! Invite your child or children to help, and make a Celebration of Life cake decorated just the way they’d like! 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

January 21 – Hugging Day

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About the Holiday

This is one of those lovely, simple holidays that’s just what it seems. So go ahead and hug someone today.

Hug it Out!

By Louis Thomas

 

With rain pelting the windows, brother and sister Woody and Annie were playing inside. Woody was building an airport while Annie was creating a town from blocks. Everything was going great “until…they both reached for the car.” Then a tug-of-war began. Woody “wanted the car to pick up travelers from his airport” and Annie needed a little traffic in her town. They both yelled for Mom, who made them promise to be better sharers. Woody and Annie agreed with a pinky swear.

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Image and text copyright Louis Thomas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

But the sharing didn’t last long. Time with the car seemed unfair, and then there was the name-calling: Annie called Woody a “‘dumb-dumb,’” and Woody retaliated with “‘ding-dong,’” and they both called for “‘Mommm….’” Mom returned with coffee in hand and requested that Annie and Woody apologize to each other. A couple of mumbles later, Mom proclaimed it “‘Good enough’” until little feet started getting involved, and cries of “‘Ow!’” and “‘Quit it!’” filled the air. And…oh yeah… “‘Mommmm!’”

Mom had had enough! This time she laid down the law, and Woody and Annie—eyes wide in and hands to their cheeks in horror—heard her say, “From now on, any time you argue, you’re going to have to…HUG IT OUT.’” Annie and Woody were flummoxed, confused, perplexed. Mom pushed them together cheek to cheek to demonstrate, and with frowny faces and stiff arms, they hugged.

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Image and text copyright Louis Thomas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Still, the chasing— “‘Hug it out!’” —the hair pulling— “‘Hug it out!’” —the squabbling— “‘Hug it out!’” —and the wrestling— “‘HUG IT OUT!’” (this time with stuck-out tongues) continued. Finally, Annie confessed that she couldn’t “‘take one more hug,’” and Woody agreed. The two went back to playing—apart. Woody flew his planes, and Annie took care of her town. “And they both found a way to play with the car.”

After a while they looked at each other with an unexpected realization. “‘Mommmm!’ Annie screamed. ‘Mommmm!’ Woody screamed louder.” And their mom answered “‘HUG IT OUT!’” And with big smiles, “they did.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-it-out-wrestling

Image and text copyright Louis Thomas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Louis Thomas is onto something in this timely, sibling-rivalry story. Kids—and adults—will recognize the realistic dialogue and circumstances that makes Hug It Out! a laugh-out-loud tug at the heart. Thomas’s positive “punishment” is a clever solution to those sister and brother squabbles and might inspire parents and caregivers to give it a try. Readers will love shouting out “Mommm!” and “Hug it Out!” in this perfect—and perfectly fun—read-along. Thomas’s bright-eyed, straw-haired siblings are adorable, and kids will giggle to see the two smooshed together in a forced hug that becomes closer and closer with every attempt to make up and later becomes a sought-out part of the day.

With it’s wry take on the daily travails of sister- and brotherhood, Hug It Out! would make an amusing addition to home bookshelves—one that might reached for with every “Mommm!” 

Ages 3 – 7

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374303143

To view galleries of illustration work by Louis Thomas, visit his blog and tumblr!

Hugging Day Activity

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Warm Hugs Neck Warmer or Pillow

Supplies

  • Knee sock or tall crew sock
  • 2 knit gloves
  • Fiber Fill (for pillow and mittens)
  • Uncooked rice (for neck warmer)
  • Thread
  • Needle

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Directions

For Pillow

  1. Fill knee sock or crew sock with fiber fill
  2. Sew open end of sock closed 
  3. Fill knit gloves with fiber fill
  4. Sew one mitten to each end of the sock 
  5. Curve sock pillow around neck and relax!

For Neck Warmer

  1. Fill knee sock with uncooked rice
  2. Sew open end of sock closed
  3. Fill knit mittens with fiber fill
  4. Sew one mitten to each end of the sock
  5. Heat in microwave for 1 minute and then in 30-second increments until desired warmth

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

January 20 – Penguin Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

Who can resist those little black-and-white waddlers from a frozen realm? Today’s holiday gives us a chance to enjoy and learn more about one of the world’s favorite animals. To celebrate, research penguins or visit an aquarium, and, of course, read a great penguin book!

Little Penguins

Written by Cynthia Rylant | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

A tiny penguin stands at the window star-struck by the snowflakes floating gently down. Four more penguins join her to see this marvelous sight. There are so “many snowflakes.” Gathered around the window in their igloo home, the penguins are excited that “Winter is coming!” They rush to collect their cold-weather supplies. Out of the basket they pull mittens—a pair for each, red, blue, green, yellow, sage—“and matching scarves.”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Cynthia Rylant. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

With abandon the penguins raid the bureau, scattering socks like colorful confetti. Warm, dry boots get to leave their cubbies after a looong nap. Bundled up, the penguins tumble out into the winter wonderland. They sled and slide on the deep snow. In places they find the snow is top-of-their-boots deeper, and then suddenly waist-high, “very deep.”

Uh-Oh! Suddenly the landscape is blank-page white! Four of the little penguins look in all directions. “Where’s Mama?” No need to fret—Mama’s coming, skimming down the hill on her belly with the fifth tiny penguin. But the sky is darkening and it’s time to head for home. “In the door and off, off, off, off, off!”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

On go the jammies then warm cookies and filled “sippies” satisfy the tummy. Finally, it’s time to snuggle tight under colored blankets and watch the flurries fly because “Winter is here.”

Cynthia Rylant captures the exhilaration kids feel upon the first snow of winter in her delightful concept book. The flurry of activity to dig out the accoutrements of winter provide little readers the perfect opportunity to learn or—in the case of a bit older kids—to show their knowledge of cold-weather apparel, colors, counting skills, and other ideas. Rylant’s gifted way with even the simplest words turns the question-and-answer format of Little Penguins into a lyrical frolic little ones will love.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

In Christian Robinson’s cozy igloo, the eager brightness of the little penguins is highlighted against the mottled textures of sage walls and reflected in the gleaming gray-blue floor. The little home with its fish weather vane and tall chimney sits at the edge of an icy peninsula, perfectly placed for winter play. The five penguins joyfully don their mittens, wave their scarves and toss socks to and fro in their hurry to get dressed and get outside and enjoy the fat, fluffy snowflakes.

Once there, the penguins become tiny dots on the vast, white hill as they sink waist deep, glide on their bellies, and welcome Mama, who’s joined the fun. As the penguins remove their snow gear back home, Robinson cleverly stripes the two-page spread in the favorite colors of the individual penguins, creating a striking counterbalance to the snug kitchen to come. An old-fashioned stove, retro accents, and fish, whale, and boat décor wrap up the comfy charm of this superb book for young readers.

With its sweet characters and beautiful illustrations, Little Penguins would be a happy and often-asked-for addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 2 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553507706

To learn more about Cynthia Rylant and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of illustration art by Christian Robinson on his website!

Penguin Awareness Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spice-bottle-penguin-craft

Copyright Celebrate Picture Books, 2017

Spicy Cool Penguins

Don’t throw away those empty spice bottles—instead make these cute penguins with their colorful hats who are just waiting to play!

Supplies

  • Empty glass or plastic spice bottle with cap
  • Black paint
  • White paint OR White fleece or felt
  • Black paper
  • Yellow foam or heavy paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Styrofoam ball (optional)
  • Glue
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Paint the inside of the glass or plastic bottle with the black paint, let dry
  2. From the white fleece, cut an oval for the penguin’s belly and glue it on. Alternatively, paint a white oval on the jar to make a belly. Fleece may be a better option for younger children, as the paint can scratch off glass and plastic surfaces.
  3. Glue googly eyes near the top of the jar, but below the cap
  4. Cut a triangle of yellow foam or paper for the beak and glue it on
  5. Cut two tear shapes for the wings from the black paper. Glue the top of the shape to the body of the penguin, overlapping the belly a little. Fold the tips up
  6. Give your penguins Styrofoam ball snowballs to play with!

Picture Book Review

January 19 – It’s Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

As the cold and snowy weather keeps us inside more and more, what are we to do? Why not create?! Whether you like writing, drawing, cooking, woodworking, gardening, photography, dance, or other pursuits, January is the perfect time to begin a new project. Stock up on supplies, get those ideas going, and create!

Painting Pepette

Written by Linda Ravin Lodding | Illustrated by Claire Fletcher

 

If you were to peek in the great room window of the grand yellow house at #9 Rue Laffette in Paris, you would most likely see Josette Bobette and her beloved stuffed rabbit Pepette cuddled together on the comfortable seat. It was their favorite place. Looking past them you would see that on the walls hung portraits of the family—Josette’s mother was there as well as grand-mère and grand-père, the three Bobette sisters, and even their schnoodle Frizette.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-painting-pepette-great-room

Image copyright Claire Fletcher, text copyright Linda Ravin Lodding. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

“One day Josette noticed something strange. There was no portrait of Pepette!” Josette at once determined to find an artist to paint a special portrait of her best friend. The pair head out to Montmartre, where all of the best artists set up their easels to paint and sell their work. It didn’t take long for a man in a striped shirt to stop them.

“‘Those ears!’” he cried. “‘Never have I seen such majestic ears. I must paint this rabbit’s portrait!’” Pepette blushed at such an effusive compliment, and Josette exclaimed, “‘Magnifique!’” It appeared that Josette had found just the artist to create Pepette’s portrait. The painter waved his brush with a flourish, “declared his painting a ‘masterpiece,’” and held it up for inspection. Josette gazed at a Pepette with two noses and three ears. Diplomatically, she proclaimed the picture “‘nice’” but not quite Pepette. Her best friend agreed.

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Image copyright Claire Fletcher, text copyright Linda Ravin Lodding. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Just then a man with a thin, curved handlebar mustache spied the pair. Admiring Pepette’s whiskers, the artist begged to capture “‘the very essence of her rabbitness!’” He immediately set to work, and in no time a most unusual portrait emerged. Pepette seemed to melt from atop a tall red wall. Josette considered it—and her reaction—carefully. “‘It’s imaginative,’” she said. “‘But you’ve painted Pepette quite, well, droopy.’” Pepette agreed.

As Josette and Pepette enjoyed a Parisian snack on the curb of Montmartre, a rakish young man happened along. He was arrested by Pepette’s nose, which he likened to “‘a faint star twinkling in a misty, velvet night.’” Josette had a good feeling about this artist and followed him across the square to his easel. Pepette posed on a red tufted stool as the artist painted a rabbit soaring through the clouds. He proclaimed the finished portrait “‘one of my best works’” as he displayed it to the crowd. Josette liked the clouds but told the painter that Pepette is afraid of heights and not fond of flying. Pepette agreed.

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Image copyright Claire Fletcher, text copyright Linda Ravin Lodding. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

By now Pepette was the most sought-after model in Paris, and another artist rushed up, captivated by her beauty. The balding man in a dapper suit and round spectacles peered at Pepette. “‘What a colorful lady—balloon blue, pansy pink, and radish red!’” Although a little suspicious of his vision, Josette allowed him to paint Pepette. “‘Ta da!’” the man exclaimed, revealing the magic of his brush. Josette studied the canvas with its vibrant dots, dashes, and splashes. While she admired the colors, she reminded the artist that Pepette isn’t pink.

“‘Ah, yes,’” nodded the painter. “‘But through art we can see the world any way we want.’”

With the sun setting low in the sky, Josette politely said thank-you and goodbye to the artists. She and Pepette had enjoyed their day, but it was time to go home. Curled up once more on the window seat, Josette sighed. She had so hoped to have the perfect portrait of Pepette—one that showed her velvety grey listening ears, her heart-shaped nose, and her soft arms that give tight hugs. Suddenly, Josette had an idea! After gathering all of her art supplies, she created the perfect likeness—one as special as Pepette herself!

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Image copyright Claire Fletcher, text copyright Linda Ravin Lodding. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

An author’s note on the last page describes the creative atmosphere of 1920s Paris, home to writers, artists, musicians, and fashion designers, that gives a frame to her story. The artists that Josette meets are inspired by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse.

In Painting Pepette Linda Ravin Lodding has written a multi-layered story of love, friendship, and unique vision. Through the sweet relationship between Josette and Pepette and with a sprinkling of humorous self-congratulation by the artists, Lodding nudges readers to appreciate that while art can reveal and obscure, reflect or transcend reality, ultimately the success of a piece—complex or simple—lies within the viewer’s heart. Children will also see that their creative endeavors, undertaken with love, are just as meaningful and appreciated as those of professional artists. Lodding’s lyrical language trips off the tongue and is a joy to read—as if readers are following Josette as she skips happily through Paris.

Claire Fletcher’s striking pen-and-ink illustrations pay delicate homage to cityscapes of a bygone Paris. Adorable Josette and her enchanting rabbit are the perfect tour guides through crowded Montmartre and this introduction to art history. Soft tones of yellow, rose, and green illuminate the apartments and cafes of the square, where colorful shoppers and artists mingle. Fletcher’s renderings of Pepette’s various portraits will not only make kids giggle, but entice them to learn more about each artistic style. The final endpapers reveal that the four fine-art portraits now hang in the Muse of Paris, while readers already know that Josette’s perfectly perfect portrait of her well-loved friend has taken its rightful place on the wall in the Bobette’s great room!

Painting Pepette is a beautiful addition to any child’s bookshelf and a lovely way for teachers to initiate a discussion of art history and get kids excited about artists and different art styles.

Ages 4 – 9

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499801361

Follow Josette through Paris as she searches for just the right artist to paint a portrait of her best friend Pepette and comes to a surprising discovery in this beautiful Painting Pepette book trailer:

Discover more books by author Linda Ravin Lodding on her website.

Illustrator Clair Fletcher invites you to find more of her artwork by visiting her online gallery.

Creativity Month Activities

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Painting Pepette Reading and Activity Guide

 

little bee books has created an interactive activity so you can continue to explore Josette’s world and your own artistic talent! Just click here—Painting Pepette Reading and Activity Guide—to start having fun!

Stuck on You Magnets or Picture Hanger

 

Creativity is meant to be shared! Here’s an easy craft that you can make to give to your friends whether they live close by or far away. These magnets can used by themselves or to hold a picture-hanging wire. Use inside jokes, favorite characters, or shared experiences to make these  crafts personal!

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For Magnets

Supplies

  • To get you started, here are two printable Best Friends Templates! Template 1 Template 2
  • Poster board
  • Large, 1 ½-inch clear glass stones (decorative fillers), available in craft stores
  • Markers or colored pencils OR find images online to print out
  • Medium to large flexible magnets, available in craft stores
  • Super glue
  • Toothpicks
  • Scissors

Directions

  • Place the glass stone on the poster board and trace around it
  • Draw your design in the circle on the poster board
  • Cut out the circle
  • With the toothpick, apply glue around the very edge of the design side of the circle
  • Attach the circle to the flat side of the stone, let dry
  • Trim the cardboard circle if needed
  • Attach the magnet to the back of the cardboard with glue

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For Map Picture Holder

Supplies

  • Use a mapping program to find a map of your town and your friend’s town
  • Poster board
  • Large, 1 ½-inch clear glass stones (decorative fillers), available in craft stores
  • Twine
  • Super Glue
  • Toothpicks
  • Scissors
  • Heavy duty mounting squares

Directions

  1. Find maps of your and your friend’s towns
  2. Zoom in so the name of your and your friend’s towns are displayed well. You will be using about a 1-inch area around the towns’ names.
  3. Take a screen shot of the maps
  4. Print the maps
  5. Place the glass stone on the map and trace around it
  6. Place the glass stone on the poster board and trace around it
  7. Cut out the circles on the map and poster board
  8. With the toothpick, glue the map to the poster board, let dry
  9. With the toothpick, apply glue around the very edge of the map side of the circle
  10. Attach the circle to the flat side of the glass stone, let dry
  11. Trim the cardboard circle if needed
  12. Repeat with the other map
  13. Attach a length of twine to the back of each glass stone
  14. Attach heavy duty mounting squares to the back of each glass stone
  15. Attach stones to the wall and hang pictures on the twine

Picture Book Review

January 18 – Thesaurus Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that most marvelous, stupendous, spectacular, cool, awe-inspiring, remarkableand—one from my early youth—groovy book, the thesaurus! Without its incredible cross-referenced lists of synonyms and antonyms, the world would be much more boring, dull, lackluster, monotonous place. Today, spice up your speech and writing with the perfect word to express all the nuances of life!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

While just a young child, Peter, along with his mother, his uncle, and his baby sister Annette, travel to their new home following the death of his father. It would not be his first move, and in the absence of long-time friends, Peter found companionship in books. When he was eight years old, he began writing his own book titled: Peter, Mark, Roget. His Book. But this was not a book of stories or even one story; it was a book of lists. The first list was divided in two. On one side were the Latin words he knew; on the other were their definitions.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Peter’s mother hovered and worried over her son, and he always told her he was “fine.” “Although, to be honest, Peter thought, fine wasn’t quite the right word.” As the years went by, Peter added lists to his book, prompting his mother to complain about his constant “scribbling.” But Peter looked at his lists differently. “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them in long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.”

As a teenager Peter was shy, preferring to wander the London gardens alone, “making lists of all the plants and insects,” as in one of his favorite science books by Linnaeus. His “mother didn’t approve, and Peter told her not to worry—but “perhaps worry wasn’t quite the right word. What was the right word? Peter began a new list: Worry, fret, grieve, despair, intrude, badger, annoy, plague, provoke, harass. Enough to drive one mad. How wonderful it felt to find just the right word.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

An idea crept into Peter’s mind for a book where “all the ideas in the world could be found in one place,” and people could “find the best word, the one that really fit.” When Peter was 14 he entered medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon graduation at 19, his uncle told him that patients would be wary of a doctor so young. To gain a bit of experience and maturity, Peter became a tutor to two teenage boys.

At last Peter set up his medical practice in Manchester, England, where he took care of the factory workers, who “were poor and often sick.” At night Peter worked on his book of lists, and in 1805 he declared it finished. “It had about one hundred pages, one thousand ideas, and listed more than fifteen thousand words!” Eventually, Peter moved back to London where he joined science societies and attended lectures. “Before long, he was asked to give lectures too,” and once-shy Peter astonished his audiences with his knowledge of math, magnetism, and other scientific subjects. He even invented a portable chess set.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

When Peter was 45 years old, he married Mary Hobson, and they had two children, Kate and John. As he grew older, he visited fewer patients, but he continued to take walks and work on his lists. While some other writers had published their own word lists to help people “to speak and to write more politely,” Kate and John “thought their father’s book was much better. Peter agreed.” For three years he rewrote his book. “He made it larger, more organized, and easier to use. Long ago Peter had discovered the power of words. Now he believed that everyone should have this power—everyone should be able to find the right word whenever they needed it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-lecturing

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

“In 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus, a word that means ‘treasure house’ in Greek.” It was an instant best seller, and Peter became a popular author. But he never stopped making lists.

Following the text, a timeline of principal events in Peter’s life as well as world events allow readers to better understand the historical period in which Peter worked. Extensive Author’s and Illustrator’ Notes also expand on Roget’s biography, and resources for further reading and research are included.

Jen Bryant’s biography of a brilliant boy who grew up to give the world its most fascinating and comprehensive collection of word lists, is a spritely telling of Roget’s life and revelation into his personality, which was perfectly suited to his scientific and written accomplishments. Children will appreciate Roget’s reactions to his mother’s worries as well as the message in his well-rounded pursuit of science and writing. Through Bryant’s captivating and lyrical storytelling, children will be inspired by Roget’s journey from shy child to much-accomplished adult.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet beguiles readers with her mixed media, collage, and watercolor illustrations that are as jam-packed with ideas, images, portraits, and typography as Roget’s thesaurus is full of words. In the early pages describing Peter’s childhood, the pages contain simple framed pictures of Roget and his family. As he grows, however, his lists of words are transformed into vibrant artwork that jostles for position from corner to corner of the pages. In the midst of these, delicate watercolors portray Peter as he strolls through a garden, takes his young charges to Paris, treats his patients, lectures, marries, and finally publishes his thesaurus. A special mention must be made of the typography, which at times in the text runs down the center of the page in one- or two-word lines, mirroring Roget’s love of lists, and in the illustrations presents the myriad synonyms in a mixture of colorful block letters, fine print, and calligraphy.

For bibliophiles, wordsmiths, scientists, and history buffs, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is just the right book for home libraries.

Ages 6 – 18

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0802853851

Discover more about Jen Bryant and her books as well as news, contests, and events, visit her website!

Learn more about Melissa Sweet and her books and have fun with the downloadable activities you’ll find on her website!

Watch this The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus book trailer!

Thesaurus Day Activity

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Word Words Word Search Puzzle

 

When you’re looking for just the right word, where do you go? To the thesaurus of course! Can you find the 25 synonyms for “Word” in this printable Word Words Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review