February 28 – National Women Inventors Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate women inventors, both past and present, who have changed our lives and the world for the better through their intelligence, creativity, unique vision, and perseverance.

Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer

Written by Robert Burleigh | Illustrated by Raúl Colón       

 

Henrietta Leavitt loves the stars. Every night she sits on the front porch and asks herself what were—in the early 1900s—unanswerable questions. How high is the sky? How far away are the stars? She traces the form of the Big Dipper to the North Star and feels that the stars are trying to tell her something.

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, text copyright Robert Berleigh. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

As a young woman she takes an astronomy class—one of the few women to do so. She learns about light years, planets, and the vast distances that fascinate her. After graduation she takes a job at an observatory, and while it houses a large telescope to study the sky, Henrietta is not allowed to use it. She and the other woman who work at the observatory are only there to record, measure, and calculate data, not to have new ideas.

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

But in doing her job, Henrietta begins to notice a pattern in the brightness of certain stars. She discovers new “blinking” stars. Taking careful measurements, Henrietta finds that a star with a slower “blink” time—the time it takes for a star to go from dim to bright, or from off to on—contains more light power than stars with faster blink times. But what does this mean? After more study she realizes that the blink time can determine the true brightness of any blinking star, even those far, far away.

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Henrietta has made a breakthrough in astronomy! By knowing the true brightness of a star, astronomers can figure out the star’s distance from Earth. Henrietta publishes her star chart in a magazine, and it helps other astronomers measure first the Milky Way and then galaxies they didn’t even know existed! Henrietta is an astronomer–one who advances her beloved science! Even as she grows older Henrietta continues to look to the sky, to ask questions and dream.

More information about Henrietta Leavitt and her discoveries, Internet and print resources on astronomy and other women astronomers, a glossary, and more are provided on the final pages.

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Instead of first presenting Henrietta Leavitt as an adult already working as an astronomer, Robert Burleigh chooses to introduce her as a child, when all she had were questions and dreams about the sky and the stars. It’s a fitting emphasis for a picture book aimed at children who themselves are only just discovering the questions that will guide their lives.  Burleigh’s style is simple and straightforward, revealing pertinent facts about the working conditions of a woman scientist in the early 1900s, but emphasizing Henrietta’s internal contemplations that led to her important discoveries. It’s good for children to see that one does not always need to be the “astronaut” rocketing to the Space Station to contribute— the life of the mind is just as noble and needed a pursuit.

Raúl Colón’s watercolor and ink illustrations echo the theme of dreams and contemplation with soft muted colors and antique, sepia tones. Brightness on the pages comes from the points of light that fill the skies and Henrietta’s mind. As a child and young woman, Henrietta sits and stands in the glow of the stars and, one can imagine, her own thoughts.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, 2013 | ISBN 978-1416958192

Discover more about Robert Burleigh and his many, many books in the categories of science, art, poetry, adventure, sports, and more for children and adults on his website!

National Women Inventors Month Activity

CPB - Star Coloring Page

Be the Star You Want to Be Coloring Page

 

Everyone has “stars in their eyes”—dreams and hopes for what they will accomplish in life. Decorate this printable Be the Star You Want to Be coloring page to show what’s in your imagination and in your heart.

February 27 – International Polar Bear Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate polar bears, the largest member of the bear family and a critical part of the Arctic ecosystem. These beautiful creatures spend much of their time at the edge of ice packs, from which they hunt for food. Their excellent sense of smell allows them to sense food up to a mile (1.6 km) away. Increasingly polar bears are under threat from changes in climate which are shrinking their habitat and affecting their quality of life. In honor of today’s holiday take time to research polar bears and consider donating to a cause for their protection.

Little Polar Bear

By Hans de Beer

At last little Lars is old enough to go hunting with his father, and they head out into the white, frozen expanse to find the perfect fishing spot. While Lars watched from the edge of an ice pack, his dad disappeared underwater for so long that Lars began to worry. When he finally surfaced, however, he brought with him a large fish for dinner. After dinner it was time to sleep. Lars’ father showed him how to build a wall of snow to lie behind that would protect him from the wind.

During the night as Lars and his father slept, the ice cracked between them, sending Lars floating away by himself. When Lars woke in the morning, he discovered that he was alone and that the warm sun was melting his ice floe little by little. Just as the ice threatened to disappear entirely, a barrel floated by and Lars crawled on top of it. “Then a storm began to rage. As Lars clung to his bobbing barrel he missed his father and his pile of snow more and more.”

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Image copyright Hans de Beer, courtesy of NorthSouth Books

By the time the storm subsided Lars was far from home. He found himself in a place with no snow or ice; instead “almost everything was green and the sun was very warm.” Lars left the barrel and padded onto the sandy beach. The hot sand burned Lars’ paws, and he ran to the nearby river to cool them. “But just as he was about to plunge in, a very big, tan animal sprung out of the water.” Frightened, Lars ran away, but the hippopotamus followed him and introduced himself. Henry had never seen a white bear, and Lars had never seen a tan animal.

Lars told Henry about his trip and how he wanted to find father. Henry didn’t know how to help, but he figured that Marcus the eagle would know what to do. With Lars on his back Henry started the long journey across the river, through the jungle, and over the mountains. On the way, Lars loved seeing all the different colors, creatures, and vegetation. He climbed trees, met a chameleon, and sniffed at a butterfly. When they came to the mountains, Henry had trouble climbing, but Lars scampered ahead and showed him where to step.

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Image copyright Hans de Beer, courtesy of NorthSouth Books

Finally, Henry couldn’t go any farther. He and Lars found a place to rest for the night. The view of the water made Lars homesick, but Henry reassured him. The next day, high on the mountain, Lars and Henry found Marcus. “The eagle looked at Lars and then said, ‘Well, well, a polar bear in the tropics! You’re a long way from home aren’t you, young man?’”

Marcus explained that he could indeed help Lars get home, but they would need the assistance of Samson. In the morning a gray whale swam near shore, and Lars climbed on his back. While Henry was happy that Lars could find his way home, he was also sad to see him go. He and Lars said goodbye to each other. As Henry looked on, Samson and Lars swam out into the open ocean with Marcus flying “along a bit to set them on their way.”

After Samson had swum a long distance, icy cliffs once again appeared on the horizon. As they drew closer, Lars spotted his father standing at the edge of the ice scanning the sea. Lars called out to him, and Lars’ father couldn’t believe his eyes. In thanks for bringing back his son, Lars’s father caught a big fish and gave it to Samson. Lars and his father started toward home, and as they walked “Lars talked about all of the amazing things he had seen.” His father was astonished. “‘You didn’t meet anyone who was white?’” he asked. “‘Nobody, except a chameleon,’ said Lars, ‘but that doesn’t count.’” Lars laughed, but his dad couldn’t understand the joke.

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Image copyright Hans de Beer, courtesy of NorthSouth Books

Hans de Beer’s sweet, adventurous little polar bear has been long beloved by young readers who have followed his journeys and escapades through many books. This favorite introduction to Lars, his father, and the North Pole was reissued in 2016 and is as timely now as when it was first published. De Beer’s straightforward story of a young bear suddenly taken away from home, surviving by instinct, and discovering new places, friends, and ideas, is at once exciting and comforting. As Lars finds himself in unfamiliar territory populated with animals and creatures he’s never seen before, he doesn’t shy away from the experience, but embraces the diversity of what he sees just as the tropical animals accept him. The kindness and camaraderie shared among the animals is a universal lesson for all.

Little ones love de Beer’s expressive animals and the caring interactions between them. Kids will laugh when Henry pops out of the river to say “boo!” and giggle to see Lars and the chameleon sticking out their tongues together. The soft pastel palette invites kids to linger over the pages and experience both the frozen tundra and lush jungle with the same awe as Lars. Readers will cheer when Lars is reunited with his father, but will also look forward to traveling with their new friend again in his other adventures.

Ages 3 – 8

NorthSouth Books, 2016 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0735842649

International Polar Bear Day Activity

CPB - Polar Bear scarf

CPB - Polar Bear Banner

Polar Bear Scarf or Banner

Polar bears aren’t cold in the winter—and neither should you be! Here are directions and printable templates for making a cute scarf to keep you warm, or—if you’d rather—a banner to warm up your room.

Supplies

  • Printable Polar Bear and Igloo Template
  • 1 Strip of blue fleece 4 ½ feet long x 7 inches wide for the scarf
  • 1 Piece of blue scrapbooking paper for a banner
  • Pieces of white, black, blue, and purple fleece or scrapbooking paper to make the polar bear, igloo, snowflakes, and ice floes.
  • String or twine for banner
  • Scissors
  • Fabric or paper glue

Directions for Scarf

To make the fringe at each end of the scarf

  1. Make 7 cuts about 4 inches long
  2. Tie a knot at the top of each fringe section

To make the pieces for the scarf or banner

  1. Trace the polar bear and igloo sections from the Printable Template onto white fleece and cut out
  2. Trace the two ice floes onto blue fleece and cut out
  3. Trace the door of the igloo onto blue fleece and cut out
  4. Trace the polar bear’s scarf onto purple (or any color) fleece and cut out
  5. Cut out round snowflakes
  6. Cut out a small circle from black fleece for the Polar Bear’s nose

On one end of the scarf

  1. Glue the smaller ice floe on one end of the scarf
  2. Tie the bear’s scarf around its neck before gluing the bear to the scarf
  3. Glue the polar bear onto the scarf with its feet on the ice floe
  4. Glue on the polar bear’s nose
  5. Make a small dot for the polar bear’s eye with a marker
  6. Glue snowflakes above polar bear

On the other end of the scarf

  1. Glue the bigger ice floe to the scarf
  2. Glue the three pieces of the large igloo to the scarf, leaving a little space between sections
  3. Glue the small white door of the igloo on top of the last two igloo sections
  4. Glue the small blue door onto the white door
  5. Glue snowflakes above the igloo

Directions for Banner

  1. Cut a point at the bottom of your banner
  2. Follow the directions above to trace the pieces of the polar bear and igloo from the printable template onto scrapbooking paper
  3. Follow the directions above to glue the pieces of the polar bear and igloo to your banner
  4. Attach string or twine to back of banner to make a hanger

Picture Book Review

February 26 – Personal Chef Day

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About the Holiday

Today we honor those chefs who create delectable dinners for individual clients or for special occasions. With dedication and hard work, tasty ingredients and imagination, these artists make life better for foodies from coast to coast.

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service

Written by Annette Bay Pimentel | Illustrated by Rich Lo

 

Tie Sing, born in Virginia City, Nevada, grew up during a time when “America was a tough place to be Chinese.” Most worked in restaurants or laundries and were paid less than white employees. Tie Sing had big plans, though. “He got a job cooking for mapmakers as they tramped through the mountains, naming peaks. With sky for his ceiling and sequoias for his walls, he stirred silky sauces, broiled succulent steaks, and tossed crisp salads.” He quickly became known as the best trail cook in California.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

In 1915 Steven Mather was trying to convince politicians to create a national park system even though many business people were against it. Mather invited journalists, tycoons, congressmen, and others to go camping for ten days to show them the wonder of America. He knew that the trip had to be perfect, so he hired Tie Sing as his chef. Tie Sing planned gourmet menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that would satisfy the 30 campers. Each day he rose before dawn, cooked eggs and sizzling steaks, and packed box lunches.

As the group hiked across beautiful scenery to the next site, Tie Sing and his assistant washed the dishes, put out the fires, packed the mules, and started the dinner’s sourdough bread. By the time Tie Sing arrived at the new campsite, it was time to begin cooking dinner. “He assembled sardine hors d’oeuvres, sliced juicy cantaloupe, and squeezed lemons to make tart-sweet lemonade. He grilled steaks and venison, fried fish and chicken, and baked sourdough rolls” as good as any fine restaurant. One morning Tie Sing was able to pack the mule early before he served breakfast. When he went back to the mule, however, he discovered it had wandered away—taking all of the best food with it.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

Steven Mather shrugged it off as he left for the day’s hike, but Tie Sing was upset. All of his planning was ruined. That night the dinner wasn’t as fancy, but it was delicious and topped off with “all-American apple pie.” The campers, happily satisfied, talked late into the night about the possibilities of a national park service. The next day, Tie Sing carefully led the mules along a narrow ridge. As the stones crumbled underneath their feet, one mule strayed too close to the edge. He tumbled backward and down the cliff. Bags, boxes, and food went flying. The mule got up and shook itself off, but much of the food, utensils, and equipment was lost.

Hours later Tie Sing limped into camp with “the battered boxes and bent knives and bruised apples he’d salvaged.” The men were ravenous; Tie Sing had to think quickly. He knew just how to use those apples, and under the glow of paper lanterns, the crew enjoyed the most delicious applesauce they’d ever had. Tie Sing knew his job was to fill the party with delicious meals, but “Steven Mather wasn’t the only one who loved the mountains; Tie Sing had the Sierra singing in his blood. He too planned to fill the campers with memories.”

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Image copyright Rich Lo, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

As the pots bubbled on the camp stove, Tie Sing “bent over tiny slips of paper and wrote in English and Chinese.” Following dinner he handed out fortune cookies, each one holding a handwritten message: “Long may you search the mountains.” “Long may you build the paths through the mountains.” “Where but in the mountains would such a man become a spirit with the mountains?”

In the months following the trip, the members of the group “wrote magazine articles, published books, and made movies about America’s national parks.” Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s efforts worked. On August 25, 1916 Congress created the National Park Service. “Today, if you visit Yosemite National Park, you can hike to Sing Peak. It was named for Tie Sing, a mountain-loving American who knew how to plan.”

Three pages of back matter, complete with photographs of Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s actual 1915 trip, answer readers’ questions about Tie Sing, how he kept food fresh in the mountains, details of the trip, and short bios on the members of the mountain party.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

Annette Bay Pimentel’s fascinating and timely story of the establishment of the National Park Service highlights the contributions of a Chinese American dreamer who had big plans for himself and the country he loved. Her detailed storytelling enhanced by lyrical phrasing (a linen tablecloth is washed in an icy snowmelt stream and spread “brighter than white-water foam” over a table) reveals the marvel of Tie Sing’s art. Readers will be awed by the dedication and careful planning it took for the gourmet meals and elegant table settings to come together in such rough surroundings. As food and supplies are lost along the way, children will be held in suspense, wondering if Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s strategy worked.

Rich Lo’s beautiful detailed and realistic watercolors transport readers to the mountains and trails of early 1900s California. With vivid imagery Lo lets children see the day-to-day preparations that went into Sing’s meals as well as the dangerous conditions he faced. Lo captures the hazy purple majesty of the mountain peaks, the glow of the campfire in the dark of night, and the vastness of the California environment. Kids may well wonder how Sing managed to create a five-star restaurant atmosphere and menu in the wild, and Lo shows them how it was accomplished.

Mountain Chef gives a unique perspective on an important historical moment—one that still resonates today—and is a compelling book for any classroom as well as for kids interested in history, culinary arts, and the environment and for those who just love a good story.

Ages 6 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580897112

Discover more about Annette Bay Pimentel and her work as well as a Teacher’s Guide on her website!

Learn more about Rich Lo and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

Personal Chef Day Activity

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Cook Up Something Tasty Coloring Page

 

These kids are making a special treat! Enjoy this printable Cook Up Something Tasty Coloring Page while you have a little treat too!

Picture Book Review

February 25 – Clam Chowder Day

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About the Holiday

Today we laud that cozy concoction of clams, onion, and potatoes that creates a warm, satisfied feeling in the tummy and is the perfect antidote to winter’s chill. Whether you like New England style clam chowder with its rich, creamy base or the lighter tomato-based Manhattan version, this delicious soup is sure to hit the spot!

Blue Moon Soup: A Family Cookbook

Recipes by Gary Goss | Illustrated by Jane Dyer

 

“Beautiful Soup, so rich and green, / Waiting in a hot tureen! / Who for such dainties would not stoop? / Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!” With these words from Lewis Carroll, Blue Moon Soup introduces 33 delectable soup recipes plus some extras to go with them all wrapped up in the comfort and splendor of a picture book. The clever names of the soups will have kids giggling and eager to try such intriguing dishes as Twist & Shout, Polka Dot Soup, Bouncy, Bouncy Ball Soup, Squish-Squash Soup, and Funny Face Soup.

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Image copyright Jane Dyer, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

Categorized by seasons, these soups make use of familiar as well as more unusual ingredients while sprinkling in kid-inspired surprises like the ice cream in Believe It or Not! Soup, which is a yummy alternative to the usual frozen version of this favorite treat. Hey, Hey Soup, a “hot and jazzy sweet potato soup named after a great jazz club in Kansas City,” incorporates the flavors of curry while on top floats a chocolate garnish.

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Image copyright Jane Dyer, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

A few offerings from Winter are Ch-Ch-Chili; Brrroccoli Soup au Gratin; Hot Diggity Dog Soup, a tasty minestrone with a hot dog addition; and Sob Soup, an onion soup that will have you crying with joy. Spring brings (No) Duck Soup, a lentil pleaser; Soup of the Evening, a sophisticated feta cheese and spinach dish; Sweet Dreams Soup made from carrots; and Abracadabra, a soup with more than a little magic.

Summer’s active days are perfect for a quick lunch or dinner, and Best Buddy Soup of tomatoes and oranges is a fast goodie to cook—and share. Fruit makes another appearance in You Can’t Elope, made from—you guessed it—cantaloupe, and if you like to bask in the sun, you may love Bisque in the Sun, a creamy pool complete with a couple of shrimp. Before winter rolls around again, Fall drops with veggie-inspired soups made of potatoes, cabbage, pumpkins, squash, and peas.

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Image copyright Jane Dyer, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

And what about our honored soup of the day—clam chowder? That’s here too in Fish Soup, garnished with goldfish crackers.

An Extra, Extra, Eat All About It! final chapter provides recipes for banana bread, corn muffins, salad, guacamole, nachos, and other delicious sides that make a well-rounded meal. Front matter gives a list of supplies, rules for working in the kitchen, and directions for setting a table.

Gary Goss, former owner of the Soup Kitchen Restaurant in Northampton, Massachusetts knows about soup and kids and what they like. In his Letter from the Chef that opens Blue Moon Soup, Goss talks about the warm, cozy feelings and good memories “soup day” creates and offers tips for making the cooking experience with kids easy and fun. Most recipes call for ingredients usually found in kitchens or easily picked up at the market and have fewer than ten steps to prepare them—steps that kids will enjoy helping with.

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Image copyright Jane Dyer, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

Jane Dyer’s gorgeous illustrations populated with attentive fish waiters; lamb and lion best friends; a duck and ducklings fishing from the rim of a huge bowl; rabbits serving gazpacho; a cow, cat and, dog jazz trio; and more open each seasonal chapter and introduce some recipes. Each page is also peppered with adorable images of personified vegetables dancing, playing, cooking, and lounging that will charm little chefs as they help in the kitchen. Families may even find themselves making up stories about the characters in the book while the soup simmers.

Blue Moon Soup, a multi-award winning book, would make a delicious and often-consulted addition to anyone’s collection of cookbooks and a wonderful way to introduce kids to the art of cooking.

Ages 7 and up

Sky Pony Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-1620879900

Discover more about Jane Dyer and a gallery of her well-loved children’s books on her website!

Clam Chowder Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-soup-ingredients-word-search

Souper Word Search Puzzle

Find the names of 20 ingredients in this tasty printable Souper Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

February 24 – National Engineering Week

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About the Holiday

National Engineering Week was established to promote a better understanding of and appreciation for engineering and technical careers to ensure a diverse and well-educated workforce for the future. Several programs throughout the week highlight communication between engineers and the public, the work of young professional and student engineers, and a future-city contest for middle school students. Our future depends on our having talented engineers to solve problems and create new solutions.

Tinyville Town Gets to Work!

By Brian Biggs

 

It seems there’s trouble in Tinyville Town! Every day the baker creates delicious treats, the trash collectors pick up trash, the bus driver takes riders to their various jobs, and everyone else goes to work and school or runs errands. But today the bus is late, and when Mayor Murphy tries to find out why, he also discovers that the trash collectors can’t haul the trash away and the bakery can’t open it’s doors. Why? Because there’s an enormous traffic jam on the Tinyville Town bridge.

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Image and text copyright Brian Biggs, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams

“‘We need a new bridge!’” the townspeople shout. “Mayor Murphy knows just what to do. He meets with Tinyville Town’s engineer and city planner.” The engineer tells the mayor that “‘the old bridge was built when Tinyville Town was much smaller.” Now they need “‘a bridge that is wider so that more cars, trucks, and buses can get across.’” The city planner agrees and adds that the bridge should be stronger.He also assures the mayor that they can also make it beautiful by adding large steel arches.

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Image and text copyright Brian Biggs, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams

Mayor Murphy announces the plan to the news media and invites the citizens to “get to work!” First the excavation crew digs deep holes near the banks of the river so a strong foundation can be laid for the piers. Then a crane operator lifts heavy stones so the stonemasons can put them into place on the piers. Next it’s time for the ironworkers to join in. They build the structure and the big steel arches that “look beautiful and make the bridge much stronger than the old one.” Finally, the road crew paves the road and paints lines to mark the lanes for the cars, trucks, and buses that will drive over it.

When the bridge is finished everyone in Tinyville Town comes out to watch Mayor Murphy cut the ribbon and open the bridge. “‘Hurray!’” they all cheer as they cross over their shiny new bridge.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tinyville-town-gets-to-work-finished-bridge

Image and text copyright Brian Biggs, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams

Little would-be engineers and builders as well as any town or city citizens will be captivated by Brian Biggs’ introduction to the inner workings of a town in need of a new bridge. With infrastructure and road work going on in most towns and cities throughout the year, Biggs’ accessible story is a perfect way to explain to youngest readers the whys and hows of the construction work they see as they travel from place to place. The diversity of workers provides welcome inclusiveness and role models for children. The upbeat philosophy of this little town is even reflected in the book’s title, in which the phrase “Gets to Work” can be read two ways.

Biggs’ friendly town on the banks of a river is homey and cute and immediately inviting to his young audience. With bright colors, crisp details, and smiling people, Tinyville Town is a place kids will want to visit again and again. Tinyville Town Gets to Work is one of three in this new series that also includes Tinyville Town: I’m a Veterinarian and Tinyville Town: I’m a Firefighter.

Ages 2 – 5

Harry N. Abrams, 2016 | ISBN 978-1419721335

You’ll find a world of books, drawings, comics, and more on Brian Biggs’ website!

Visit Tinyville Town with this Tinyville Town Gets to Work book trailer!

National Engineering Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spaghetti-box-bridge-craft

Build a Remarkable Recycled Bridge

 

You don’t need fancy blocks and construction materials to build a bridge! Little ones will be fascinated to put together a bridge made out of items you already have at home or that may even be slated for the recycle bin. Spaghetti boxes make great roadways, and cut-up egg cartons can be used as supports. Want to build a whole town? Cereal boxes and pasta boxes make skyscrapers, apartment buildings, fire stations, and more. Need a farm silo? Grab a peanut butter jar or aluminum can. You can use them as is or—if your kids are sticklers for a little more detail—add a little paint! So look around, use your imagination, and get creative!

Picture Book Review

February 23 – It’s National Hot Breakfast Month

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About the Holiday

Sitting down to a nice, hot breakfast is a luxury most of us may not indulge in very often. February, with its cooler temperatures, beckons to us, though, to take the time and enjoy the comfort and camaraderie of a leisurely morning meal of eggs and bacon, pancakes, French toast, or—as a certain woodpecker prefers—waffles. So pick a day and gather all the ingredients for a yummy hot breakfast or visit your favorite breakfast restaurant!

Woodpecker Wants a Waffle

By Steve Breen

 

One morning Benny the woodpecker wakes to a most “tummy-rumbling smell” so he follows the yummy aroma to Moe’s Diner. Through the window Benny takes in the delicious scene and decides that he too must have waffles. He taps on the door, but it must be a “no woodpeckers” kind of place because the waitress gives him an unceremonious boot. He tries to sneak in, but the waitress is ready for him with her broom. He even tries wearing different disguises to gain entry, but that only gets him tossed out like trash.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woodpecker-wants-a-waffle-flies-to-diner

Image and text copyright Steve Breen, courtesy of TurnRow Book Company

Back in the woods the animals laugh when they hear Benny is wishing for waffles, and one by one they offer an alliterative feast of reasons why Benny’s desire is so ridiculous. “Raccoons don’t eat ravioli,” Raccoon yells from the back of the crowd. “Turtles don’t eat turnovers,” Turtle explains. “Chipmunks don’t eat cheeseburgers,” Chipmunk adds to the chorus. “And woodpeckers don’t eat waffles!” Bunny exclaims.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-woodpecker-wants-a-waffle-sneaks-into-diner

Image and text copyright Steve Breen, courtesy of TurnRow Book Company

“‘Well, why not?’” Benny counters. The animals are stumped! They ponder and ruminate, ruminate and ponder until finally Bunny says, “‘Because I said so!’” Benny feels he’s just wasting time listening to all this nonsense—time that can be better used devising a new plan to get waffles. In no time he’s back with a sure-fire scheme that involves being shot from a canon, the moon walk, a comedy act, and fireworks along with a few other entertaining bits.

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Image copyright Steve Breen, courtesy of TurnRow Book Company

As the speechless animals turn away Benny hears snickering, but he sprightly invites them back the next morning to watch his spectacle. In the morning the animals gather in a field across from the diner, but where’s Benny? The animals wait patiently, while inside the diner the waitress and customers notice something too. They all go outside to look at the animals. And while the animals are staring at the people and the people are staring at the animals, Benny makes his move through that forbidden door. “‘Sweet’” says Benny.

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Image and text copyright Steve Breen, courtesy of TurnRow Book Company

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Breen’s tale of Benny, the unconventional woodpecker, follows in the best traditions of comic storytelling. Breen’s setup, from Benny’s first glimpse of his obsession to the development of his clever ruse to his ultimately outwitting his opponent, will keep kids rooting for Benny from page to page. Benny’s confidence in the face of the friendly needling of the forest animals demonstrates that if you stick up for yourself and keep plugging, you can achieve your desires. 

Benny’s high, spiky featherdo will endear him to kids as will his perseverance in the face of mistreatment at the hands and feet of the waitress. Breen’s softly colored illustrations are full of comical details, and kids will love Benny’s contraption-style master plan that spans two pages with arrows to point out the trajectory.

Woodpecker Wants a Waffle is a wonderful choice for fun, funny story times and, like the best jokes, will want to be heard again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2016 |ISBN 978-0062342577

National Hot Breakfast Month Activity

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Waffle Tic-Tac-Toe

 

The grid of a waffle makes a perfect tic-tac-toe board! With this special breakfast-inspired tic-tac-toe set you can cook up some sweet fun! With all the choices of squares in a waffle to fill, you can play 3-by-3, 4-by-4, 5-by-5, even 6-by-6 games! 

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Play 3-by-3 games as you always do
  2. For the other options each player tries to build rows of 4 pieces down, across, and diagonally
  3. The player with the most completed rows wins!

Picture Book Review

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

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About the Holiday

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

Toby and Tutter: Therapy Dogs

Written by Kirsten DeBear | Photographs by Laura Dwight

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

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

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

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

International Boost Self-Esteem Month Activity

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I Love Dogs Word Search

 

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

Picture Book Review