July 24 – National Cousins Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate cousins—those family members who are close in age and in our hearts. Often getting together with family means getting to play with cousins who can become best friends. As we grow up and move on to other cities for school or jobs, it’s easy to lose touch. If you live far away from family, take the opportunity today to text, email, or call a special cousin and catch up. If you live close, why not plan a get together with your cousins or for your kids and their cousins?

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin

By Duncan Tonatiuh

 

Charlie runs through the house shouting with excitement. He’s gotten a letter from his cousin Carlitos who lives in Mexico. They’ve never met, but Charlie would like to. In his letter Carlitos tells Charlie that he lives on a farm where they grow maize. He has a burro, pollos, and a gallo that crows and crows. Charlie sits right down and writes a letter in return.

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

He tells Carlitos that he lives in a city. From his window he can see a bridge and skyscrapers. He writes: “Skyscrapers are buildings so tall they tickle the clouds. At night all the lights from the city look like stars from the sky.” To get to school, Carlitos says, he rides his bicicleta. Perros bark and run after him as he passes. Charlie goes to school on the subway that is like a “long metal snake” underground.

At recess Carlitos and his friends play fútbol. Charlie would call it soccer. Carlitos likes when another player passes him the ball and he kicks it into the net for a gol. Charlie likes scoring too. He plays basketball with his friends during recess. When he gets the ball he dunks it through the net for two points.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-recess

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

After school Carlitos helps his mama cook cheese quesadillas. Charlie grabs a slice of pizza on his way home from school. When Carlitos finishes his homework, he goes outside to play. He likes to shoot canicas and watch them roll, and he’s good at spinning the trompo. But his favorite thing to do is fly his papalote and watch its tail flutter as it soars into the sky. In the afternoon, Charlie says, he plays with his friends outside on the stoop. They jump rope and play hopscotch then they go inside to play video games. Sometimes it gets so hot that Carlitos and his friends go down to the río to go swimming. Charlie and his friends cool off in the spray of the fire hydrant when the firefighters open it for them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-cooling-off

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

Carlitos spends the weekends at the mercado selling the maize and prickly fruit, tunas, that his family grows on their farm. They also buy food they will need for the next week from other vendors. Weekends are market days for Charlie, too. He goes to the grocery store with his mom and checks off the items on their list as they put them in the cart.

Sometimes there are fiestas in town, Carlitos tells Charlie. The parties last for two or three days. “At night there are cohetas that light up the sky and mariachis who play and play.” Charlie replies that there are special celebrations in his city too where he watches parades with marching bands and people in costumes. Carlitos wishes Charlie could see the churros, cowboys who ride their caballos and twirl their reatas. Charlie thinks Carlitos would be amazed at the break-dancers in his neighborhood who can flip and spin on their heads.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-snack

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

In Mexico, Carlitos writes, there are so many traditions. On Dia de los Muertes families honor those who have passed away, and in December there are parties called Posados with piñatas full of sweets and fruit. Charlie writes that in America we have traditions too. Two of his favorites are Thanksgiving, when he gets to eat turkey, and Halloween, when he dresses up in a costume and goes trick-or-treating for candy.

He’d like to write more, Charlie says, but his mom is calling for him to brush his teeth and get ready for bed. It seems Carlitos ended his letter on the same note. And as each boy pulls up the covers, they have the same idea: “My primo should come visit me!”

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

Duncan Tonatiuh’s charming tribute to family and cultural similarities told through two letters written by cousins engages young readers on many levels. Filled with Spanish vocabulary, Carlitos’s letter introduces children to Spanish words for familiar things as well as to new ideas. Spanish-speaking readers find the same experience through Charlie’s letter to Carlitos. By juxtaposing similar daily and special events on each page or two-page spread, Tonatiuh emphasizes the fact that people are the same wherever they live.

Tonatiuh’s now well-known folk-art illustrations let kids travel to sites in Mexico and America as they get to know Charlie and Carlitos. Striking and vividly detailed images on each page invite kids to compare the lives of the two cousins and point out the similarities and differences.

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin is an engaging multicultural book for home and school libraries. The book is a perfect way to introduce Spanish words and Mexican culture to kids learning about their world.

Ages 5 – 8

Harry N. Abrams, 2010 | ISBN 978-0810938724

Discover more about Duncan Tonatiuh, his books, and his artwork on his website!

National Cousins Day Activity

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Cousins Connect! Maze

 

Can you help the cousins get together to play in this printable Cousins Connect! Maze? Then you can color the page! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

July 23 – Gorgeous Grandma Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re a grandma, today’s your day! Grandmas have a particular beauty inside and out as they care for the children in their lives. Kids benefit from the love and knowledge grandmothers have to give, and grandmas can learn a bit from their grandkids too! To celebrate plan a special day with your grandkids!

What Can Your Grandma Do?

Written by Anne Sawan | Illustrated by Sernur Isik

 

Jeremy’s class at school is going to hold a grandparents talent show to celebrate Grandparents Appreciation Week. All the kids are excited except for Jeremy. He “loved his grandma, but he wasn’t sure she had any special talent.” Stella thinks that her grandma, who’s a doctor, can demonstrate how to splint an arm. Jeremy remembers that his grandma put ice on his ankle when he twisted it playing basketball, but she’s not a doctor.

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Image copyright Sernur Isik, 2017, text copyright Anne Sawan, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

Theo’s abuelo is a great artist and can paint a picture for the class. Jeremy thinks about when the wall at home got nicked during an indoor game of basketball. His grandma repainted it all by herself, but she isn’t really an artist. How about cooking? Celeste is going to bring her Ye-ye, who’s a baker. “‘I am sure he could make us some chocolate cupcakes with sugar flowers on top,’” she says. Hmmm…Jeremy’s grandma makes great sandwiches, but she nearly burned down their apartment building when she left a roast in the oven while she and Jeremy went to play basketball. No, his grandma isn’t a chef.

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Image copyright Sernur Isik, 2017, text copyright Anne Sawan, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

It seems as if everyone’s grandma has some amazing talent. One dances ballet, and one can do the hula hoop. Another creates balloon animals, and yet another is great at dancing the salsa. “‘What is your grandmother going to do?’” Stella askes Jeremy. He just shrugs. That afternoon as Jeremy eats one of his grandma’s sandwiches, he tells her about the talent show. His grandma thinks it sounds like fun. Jeremy looks at his grandma. “‘Yes. Well…do you have any talents?’” he asks.

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Image copyright Sernur Isik, 2017, text copyright Anne Sawan, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

His grandma isn’t sure. She tries juggling, but the three oranges just bounce around the room and break a vase. She tries pulling a quarter out of Jeremy’s ear like a magician, but that just hurts. And they both know she can’t cook. They both feel a little sad as they try to come up with a talent, but Jeremy knows how to cheer his grandma up. He grabs his basketball and they head for the court.

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Image copyright Sernur Isik, 2017, text copyright Anne Sawan, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

“‘Have you been practicing what I taught you?’” Jeremy’s grandma asks. She takes off down the court, running fast. “She dribbled the ball, took two giant steps, leaped into the air, raised the ball towards the rim, and…Whoosh!” Jeremy smiles. The next week Jeremy’s class gathers in the gym for the talent show. After the kids learned how to splint arms, paint pictures, dance, and do other “wonderful things,” their teacher announces that Jeremy’s grandmother is going to demonstrate her special talent.

She goes to the center of the court and begins to run. “She ran fast! She dribbled the ball, took two giant steps, leaped into the air, raised the ball towards the rim and dunked it right through the net.” Everyone cheers. “‘Oh yeah, that’s right,’” Jeremy says, “‘my grandma can dunk!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-can-your-grandma-do-cheering

Image copyright Sernur Isik, 2017, text copyright Anne Sawan, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

Grandmas and grandkids alike will love the close relationship between Jeremy and his grandma in Anne Sawan’s funny and heartfelt story. Her dialogue always rings true, and the open give and take between Jeremy and his grandma is sweet and leads to greater understanding between the two. Sawan’s portrayal of today’s grandparents as active professionals, talented, and hip is realistic and welcome. As Jeremy thinks about the mishaps his grandma has had, readers may giggle but also see that relationships aren’t based on perfection but on shared experiences.

Sernur Isik’s crisp, detailed illustrations are as vibrant as the grandparents depicted in this uplifting story. As the kids in the class reveal their grandparents’ particular talents, readers can see their obvious pride in and love for their family. Jeremy’s dilemma leads to humorous images of his grandma and her accidents, but kids will cheer along with the class as Grandma dunks the basketball like a pro.

What Can Your Grandma Do? Is a fun book for kids to share with grandparents. It would make a great gift and an enjoyable way to jump start a talk about hobbies and family history.

Ages 4 – 12

Clavis Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373324

Discover more about Anne Sawan, her books, and her blog on her website!

Learn more about Sernur Isik and view a portfolio and sketchbook of her artwork on her website!

Gorgeous Grandma Day Activity

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Floral“I Love You Because…” Page

 

You and your grandma have a special relationship! Tell her why you love her by writing a letter or drawing a picture on this printable Floral “I Love You Because…” Page.

Picture Book Review

July 22 – It’s National Zookeeper Week

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About the Holiday

Going to the zoo is a fun summertime event. This week we honor the zookeepers and aquarists who care for the nation’s zoo and aquarium animals and work to protect the species in the wild. Through research conducted at zoos and aquariums around the country, scientists learn more about how to protect animals and their environments from danger.

Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids

Written by Kristen Fischer | Illustrated by Susi Schaefer

 

“Lyla is ready / to try something new. / Can she learn yoga / from friends at the zoo?” In her room Lyla dresses in comfy clothes and rolls out her red yoga mat. She remembers the bear who “grabbed onto his feet” as she does the same while lifting her legs in the air. Two slithering cobras teach Lyla their moves, and from three eagles Lyla learns to stand as if ready to fly.

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Image copyright Susi Schaefer, 2017. Courtesy of Sounds True Publishing.

“Lions stalk and they prowl, / in this pride there are four. / Hands pressed to her knees, / Lyla bellows a roar.” Next come five camels who bend their knees back when they sit. Lyla kneels too and grabs onto her heels. She bends backwards while relaxing her neck and in no time “she’s got the knack.” But Lyla needs a bit of a rest. Six alligators lounging in the river show her it’s easy to relax on her tummy.

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Image copyright Susi Schaefer, 2017. Courtesy of Sounds True Publishing.

After her rest, Lyla’s ready for more. She gets an assist from seven dolphins passing by as she bends at her hips and lays her forearms flat on the mat. While they swim away, “eight gorillas screech. / Lyla folds in half, / clasps hands under feet, / and lets out a laugh.” Nine lizards gathered on a rock invite Lyla to be one of them. But what will she do for a tail? With one leg outstretched and one near her hand, she can look like a lizard sunning on land.

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Image copyright Susi Schaefer, 2017. Courtesy of Sounds True Publishing.

At the pond are ten frogs having high-jumping fun. With her legs stretched out wide and her arms as a prop, Lyla looks like those frogs as they get ready to hop. The flamingo stands steady on only one leg. It says, “Remember to breathe / use only your nose. / Inhale and exhale. / Stay calm in each pose.” With the thought to “always be present / right here and right now,” Lyla finishes her yoga with a thankful bow.

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Image copyright Susi Schaefer, 2017. Courtesy of Sounds True Publishing.

Kristen Fischer’s charming rhymes that describe the moves for each pose are sure to entice children to try yoga. Pairing the poses with familiar animals brings comfort and fun to this popular relaxation practice. With each page, the number of animals grows, making Zoo Zen a cute counting book as well. Kids will love learning ways that they can de-stress and clear their mind after or before a busy day.

Susi Schaefer’s adorable Lyla with a frothy updo of blue and black curls invites young readers to join her and some friendly zoo animals in fun yoga poses. Each move is depicted clearly in Schaefer’s colorful, textured illustrations. The animals not only demonstrate the poses but offer a little advice on placement of hands, feet, arms, and legs. The happy zoo animals and smiling Lyla are perfect friends to help introduce young readers to the benefits of yoga.

For children interested in learning yoga, Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids is sweet and gentle and would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves. Its engaging rhymes support multiple readings as kids learn the poses.

Ages 4 – 8

Sounds True, 2017 | ISBN 978-1622038916

Discover more about Kristen Fischer, her books, and her work as a freelance writer on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Susi Schaefer on her website!

National Zookeeper Week Activity

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Strike a Yoga Pose Word Search

 

Many yoga poses for kids are named after animals you can see at the zoo. Find the names of twenty yoga poses in this printable Strike a Yoga Pose Word Search and then try some of them! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

July 21 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of July we honor those professional chefs who provide us with tantalizing dishes at our favorite restaurants. In addition to cooking old favorites, chefs also stay up on trends and create new recipes to make life deliciously fresh and surprising. To celebrate, visit your local restaurants and try something new! If you like to cook at home, gather some different ingredients and see what you can create! This month is also a great time to explore foods and cuisine from other countries!

Chow Mein and Potstickers

Written by Liselotte Schippers | Illustrated by Monique van den Hout

 

A little boy named Chan has just moved here from China and is hoping to make new friends. He tells a little about himself: “I moved to this country with my father, / my mother and my sister. / My mother is starting a new job here. / She’s an astronaut and someday she’ll go to the moon!” He reveals that his favorite food is potstickers and chow mein. He’s just about to go door-to-door to meet his neighbors. He wonders if kids here like to play and how “things work around here.”

Next door at Number 6, Chan meets Mila, who is from Bosnia. Chan thinks “she looks like a princess from a country far away.” Chan and Mila play soccer until they “get tired and hungry!” Then they eat Mila’s “favorite dish / Bosnian ćevapĉići—rolls of ground / meat.” At the end of the day, they say goodbye: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Doviđenja!’”

The next day Chan meets Rani, who was born in Indonesia. Even though Rani is younger, Chan says that “you can tell he is very wise. / Rani’s father is a famous musician. / He has to travel a lot, touring with his band. / His mother works at the hospital and helps people who are sick.” Rani shows Chan how to play marbles. Afterward, they enjoy Rani’s “favorite foods: satay and kroepoek. / That’s meat on a stick and shrimp crackers.” Later, they wave good-bye and say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Sampai jumpa!’”

Across the street lives a little girl named Jamila, who is originally from Afghanistan. “‘Salaam!’” she greets Chan. Jamila plays the guitar, and the two sing and dance along. Chan says: “After a while we get tired and hungry. / Jamila and I eat Afghan qabuli—rice and lamb. / That brings us to the end of our day. / As we wave good-bye, we say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Khodahafez!’”

Twins Kim and Coen live at Number 10. They are from Belgium. “Their father is a master chocolatier. That means he / makes fancy chocolates. When he is working, the house / smells wonderful. / Their mother sells the chocolates in a  / special shop. We get to try some. I’ve never tasted / anything so delicious!” After roller skating, they eat frietjes, which are like French fries served with mayonnaise. “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Tot ziens!’”

In the tall yellow house next to the church on Chan’s street, Chan meets Basu, who came here from South Africa. His mother is a minister and his father is a fireman. Chan thinks that maybe he’d like to be a fireman too when he grows up. “Basu loves to paint and draw.” He and Chan “get busy with brushes, paints and pens.” When their “masterpiece is finished,” Chan says, “We have paint splatters on our clothes and in our hair!” All that creating has made them “tired and hungry.” They “eat South African bobotie… / a dish made with seasoned ground meat.” Before Chan goes home, the boys say:  “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Totsiens!’”

Chan is excited to discover that his street is full of other children to play with. In other homes live Ania from Poland, Nuray from Turkey, Clifton from Suriname, Gracy from England, and Nino from Italy. On one special day, Chan invites all of his new friends to go to the playground with him, and Chan’s father brings chow mein and potstickers for everyone to enjoy. At the end of the day, the air rings with each child’s special way of saying “good-bye.”

Liselotte Schippers free verse poetry opens the door to a world of children for young readers. Each poem gives children the kind of information they want to know about kids from around the world. What do they like to do? What are their families like? What do they eat? Every poem includes the words “hello” and “good-bye” in the native language of the child as well as a favorite dish from each country. Little Chan makes a delightful and enthusiastic tour guide to his multicultural neighborhood, and shows young readers that even though people may come from different countries, their dreams, desires, games, and even jobs are the same. The country that Chan has moved to is never named, making “here” everywhere.

Monique van den Hout’s beautiful illustrations combine the ethereal with realistic portrayals of the happy, bright-eyed children that Chan meets in his neighborhood. Each poem is presented on a two-page spread in which Chan and his new friend are surrounded by colorful images of symbols from that child’s native country. Following each poem, a short dictionary defines and gives a pronunciation guide to the greetings and food introduced.

Chow Mein and Potstickers is an enticing introduction to the global community for children. Each poem could be used to spark more discovery about the countries presented and their children. The book’s inclusion of languages and foods makes it a perfect addition to school, classroom, and homeschool libraries for social studies units as well as a fun book for personal bookshelves.

Ages 4 and up

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373287

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

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Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page

 

It’s fun for friends to create new recipes or just cook up some favorite treats! Have fun with this printable Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

July 20 – Space Exploration Day

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About the Holiday

On July 20, 1969, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the lunar module Eagle on the moon’s surface. With one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon. Today’s holiday dates back to that Apollo 11 spaceflight and honors the phenomenal achievement of leaving earth to explore the universe around us. We also celebrate Moon Day today in commemoration of the first lunar landing. There are many ways to remember this moment in history that captured the imagination of millions and still resonates today. Why not go moon and star gazing, set off model rockets, enjoy a sci-fi movie or book, or throw a moon-themed party?


Today, I’m happy to welcome a guest reviewer—Nick Alexander!

Hi there! I’m so glad I could participate in reviewing this book. I’m Nick, a space-obsessed environmental science and geology major from Connecticut College who adores anything related to exploring the universe! I developed my love of space at an early age, and it’s inspired me to always think scientifically about the world around me. I’m a big fan of sci-fi, and I love classic science fiction novels. I love to write, read, and create things as well as come up with new ideas to research. I still hold on to my childhood ambition of becoming an astronaut, and I hope to one day get out into space and explore the cosmos!


The Darkest Dark

Written by Chris Hadfield | Illustrated by the Fan Brothers (Terry and Eric Fan)

 

The Darkest Dark is a story of many lessons, trials, and triumphs. The book focuses on a little boy named Chris as he discovers the best way to deal with his fear of the dark, a phobia that many children experience. Chris is a boy who dreams of outer space and aviation and longs to one day touch the stars like his heroes. However, there is one problem; Chris is terrified of the “aliens” that lurk in the dark, especially in his bedroom after the lights are turned off. He is so afraid that he can’t sleep through the night in his own bed.

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Through a journey of trial and error, with the support of his parents, and by watching the 1969 moon landing (which just had its 48th anniversary on the publication of this review), he overcomes his fear and pursues his dreams of becoming an astronaut. This wonderfully charming book explores many a small child’s fear—the dark—and reveals that there is far more to the dark than may meet the eye.

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Chris Hadfield, ISS commander and renowned Canadian astronaut, was very particular in the way he wrote the story, as it explores elements of his own childhood and ties into his own life. The fear of the dark—achluophobia or nyctophobia—is an incredibly common fear that many children deal with at some point in their life. By exploring this phobia, Hadfield channeled his fear into something that he later dedicates his life to. He uses his story to empower the reader and make them feel that even with fears, one can still accomplish anything.

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Terry and Eric Fan use a great series of techniques to help the reader understand what Chris is scared of, which also helps the reader learn to not be afraid of what’s around them. In the beginning of the book, the illustrators create an environment that gets the reader more accustomed to the idea of darkness and shows how it actually contains many possibilities and endless new questions to be answered. In a way, this atmosphere almost changes the reader’s view of what darkness really means, as it’s presented differently throughout the progression of the book. The illustrations, from the perspective of a space geek, are also rather accurate as well, showing the footage of the Apollo 11 landing and shots of the International Space Station in orbit!

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

As a self-proclaimed space expert, I’m delighted to get the chance to review this wonderful book. Growing up, my fear of the dark often got in the way of being more confident about myself, and to see that people I admire went through something similar really means a lot. As someone who eventually wants to go to space and explore the unknown, maybe it means I’m on the right path. As we continue to move forward, we must keep our eyes turned skywards, and we must continue to come up with inspiring stories like this, to encourage the next generation.

A note about Chris Hadfield and his life and work follows the text.

For kids who love space exploration or who are struggling with overcoming fears, The Darkest Dark is an inspirational read that would be welcome on home bookshelves and a wonderful resource in school, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0316394727

You can learn more about Chris Hadfield and his events, music, and videos as well as view a gallery of aerial photographs on his official website!

Discover a portfolio of illustration work by Terry and Eric Fan on their website!

Blast off to The Darkest Dark with this book trailer!

Space Exploration Day Activity

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Phases of the Moon Blackboard

 

If you have a little space lover in your family, they may like keeping track of the phases of the moon with their own chalkboard! This craft is easy and fun to do together and will make a cool wall decoration for any child’s room.

Supplies

  • Black tri-fold presentation board or thick poster board
  • Pencil
  • White chalk or glow-in-the-dark paint
  • Circular object to trace (or use a compass) to make the moon
  • Mountable squares for hanging

Directions

The chalkboard can be made any size that you prefer by adjusting the size of the board and sizes of the “moon”

  1. Cut your black tri-fold or poster board to the preferred dimensions. My board measures 4 feet long x 1 foot high
  2. To create nine moon phases, with the pencil trace nine circles at equal distances apart in the center of the board
  3. With the chalk or paint, fill in the center circle completely to make the full moon.

To make the moon phases to the right of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the right of the full moon, color in the left side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the right side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the left half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the right half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the left side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

To make the moon phases to the left of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the left of the full moon, color in the right side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the left side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the right half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the left half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the right side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

Hang the blackboard on the wall with mounting squares

You can follow the phases of the moon through each month by adding the dates that correspond to each phase and erasing and changing them as the weeks progress.

Picture Book Review

July 15 – It’s National Ice Cream Month

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About the Holiday

Ice cream has a long and elite history, dating back to Ancient Greece when a rudimentary version of the confection was made of snow, honey, and fruit. It wasn’t until the 16th century, when Catherine de’ Medici introduced the treat again, that a true ice cream was created. One hundred years later, Charles I of England used his royal clout to proclaim ice cream the prerogative of the crown. He paid to keep the recipe secret and forbid the common people from eating it. He and future royals must have known a thing or two about proprietary information as the first recipes for ice cream were not recorded until the 18th century.

This favorite dessert received its true recognition in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan established July as National Ice Cream Month. Today, indulge in your favorite flavor or sundae!

Ice Cream Summer

By Peter Sís

 

A little boy writes a letter to his grandpa telling him about his summer. “So far it’s been a delicious summer,” he says of his ice cream extravaganza. The boy reports that he’s very busy, but is also paying attention to school work every day. He knows how to read big words like tornado and explosion, and he is even creating his own book. He can solve math problems—even word problems—lickity split on his own or sometimes with his family’s help.

At day camp he and his friends are involved in all sorts of activities, such as sports, cartography, and field trips. The boy tells his grandpa that he’s poring over the encyclopedias his grandpa sent, learning about world history from Ancient China to Europe and America. In fact, he is discovering fabulous inventions and designing some of his own.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ice-cream-summer

Copyright Peter Sís, 2015, courtesy of scholastic.com

He assures his grandpa that he has “been working hard all summer (though I always take a break on sundaes)” and has earned the special trip his grandpa mentioned. When the two meet, it’s obvious that Grandpa understands his grandson very well. They both sport ice cream shaped backpacks, and the trip they are embarking on is a hike to the tip of Ice Cream Peak.

Peter Sís’s celebration of ice cream is a perfect mixture of text and art. While the boy’s letter is kid-like bare bones, the ice-cream hued illustrations humorously and cleverly portray the boy’s delicious obsession. His room, with its scoop-shaped window overlooking an ice cream factory, is filled with a bed, bookshelves, desk, and toys that are all familiarly conical. The boy builds his sandcastle, complete with cone turrets, at the edge of a shore washed by multi-colored scoop waves, and the family’s beach umbrella is a whipped sundae top.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ice-cream-summer

Copyright Peter Sís, 2015, courtesy of scholastic.com

At day camp all roads lead to flavorful sites where skyscrapers, attractions, and transportation are all seen through a sweet ice-cream cone lens. Even the Statue of Liberty holds aloft a vanilla soft serve cone. The boy’s travels through history reveal fascinating facts about the invention of ice cream, discuss how it spread across Europe and came to America, and depict innovations of and improvements to this favorite treat.

The final image of Ice Cream Peak, with its sprinkles-covered tip will delight ice cream aficionados of all ages. Kids and adults will want to linger over each page to scoop up all the visual pleasures.

Ages 4 – 8

Scholastic Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-0545731614

To view more books by Peter Sís and discover fun, title-related activities, visit his website!

National Ice Cream Month Activity

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Ice Cream is A-maze-ing! Puzzle

 

Sometimes you’d walk through any kind of obstacle to get your favorite flavor ice-cream cone. Have fun following the path through this printable Ice Cream is Amaze-ing Puzzle!

Picture Book Review

July 18 – It’s Park and Recreation Month

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About the Holiday

We’ve hit mid-summer, and maybe you’re looking for something to do. This month’s holiday encourages people to get out and enjoy some exercise and fun in parks, at home, at the gym, in the pool, on tennis courts, or wherever you like to play. Biking is another wonderful activity that adults and kids can share, whether you live in a small town or the city.

Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World

By Allan Drummond

 

If you were to visit the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, you’d be amazed at the number of bicyclists sharing the roads with cars and trucks. In fact, if you could count all of the bicycles going here, there, and everywhere, you’d see that “bikes rule the road.” It wasn’t always like this. Back in the 1970s cars were still king, making the roads unsafe for cyclists.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-bikes

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

But then “young moms like Maartje Rutten and her friends—and their children” decided to make a change. They called their friends, who called their friends, and word started to get around that roads should be shared by all. People in Amsterdam and all over the Netherlands started protesting. “At first the demonstrations were great fun. People even held parties in the middle of the road.” People sang songs, made human chains across streets, and talked to the media.

Then a tragedy made people look at the issue more seriously. A little girl riding her bike to school was killed by a car. Her father was a newspaper reporter, and he wrote a story revealing that just in that year alone five hundred children had been killed on the roads and “many of them were riding bikes.” This situation made people angry. More and more citizens joined the protests.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-protests

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

At the same time, gas prices were rising and fuel was becoming scarce. The government even banned cars from the roads on Sundays. “That gave Maartje an incredible idea.” She gathered her friends and told them her plan: they would ride their bikes through the new tunnel that was strictly for cars. Many people were wary but they came anyway, and on a quiet Sunday they pedaled through the darkness.

As they neared the mouth of the tunnel, they could see the police waiting for them. Some of the riders wanted to turn around and go back, but Maartje pushed on and they followed. When they reached the end, the cops told them they had broken the law. The cyclists were taken to the police station. There, they were given lemonade and cookies. Maartje even “noticed that the policemen were smiling just a little bit. Maybe all of this protesting is working, she thought.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-more-protests

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

She was right! After that Maartje and her friends thought of other ways cars and bikes could share the roads. “They proposed special bike lanes on busy routes, traffic bumps and curves in the roads to slow down vehicles, and new laws giving bikes the right-of-way over cars.” Finally, it all came together. Now Amsterdam is known as the bike capitol of the world. Their ideas, including bike lanes, bike sharing, and new laws, are used in countries all over the globe.

Biking offers so much more than just less-crowded streets. It provides exercise, a quiet form of transportation, and a pollution-free way to get around. And, of course, bikes don’t require fuel to go. If you visit Amsterdam, you might even see Maartje riding around town on her bike. “Now that’s pedal power!”

An Author’s Note about how Pedal Power came to be and about the past and future of city biking follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-Amsterdam-today

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Allan Drummond’s city bike-ography is an interesting look at the revolution and evolution of bike-friendly roads in Amsterdam and other large cities. By following the story of Maartje Rutten and how she transformed the mindset of both local drivers and government officials, Drummond allows young readers to see how one person can make lasting changes that benefit all.

Drummond’s colorful and clearly depicted illustrations take children into the heart of Amsterdam—and Amsterdam traffic—to understand the problem and join in the protests. As Maartje and her friends ride through the dark tunnel to face the police, readers will wait in suspense to learn how this peaceful demonstration played out.

Pedal Power would be a great addition to Social Studies units and an engaging read for kids interested in biking, history, and environmental issues.

Ages 4 – 8

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374305277

Discover more about Allan Drummond, his books, and his art on his website!

Park and Recreation Month Activity

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Everything on a Bicycle Coloring Page

 

Riding a bicycle is a fast, fun way to exercise, do shopping, and spend time with friends. This printable Everything on a Bicycle Coloring Page combines them all and then some! Grab your colored pencils, crayons, or markers and give it a go!

Picture Book Review