November 30 – It’s Sleep Comfort Month

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing that refreshes quite as much as a good night’s sleep. That’s why, during Sleep Comfort Month, people are encouraged to take stock of the amount of sleep they get each night. If you lie awake late into the night (or even early morning) and feel sluggish the next day, you may want to consider changing your nightly routine. Limiting light and screen time before bed, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, and having a set pre-sleep activity like reading or journaling can help you fall asleep quickly and deeply. Children, especially, benefit from a nighttime routine.

The Way Home in the Night

By Akiko Miyakoshi

 

A mother rabbit carries her little bunny home down familiar lamp-lit streets. As they pass the bookshop and the restaurant, they see the workers closing up for the night. The streets are quiet and deserted, adorned with a golden patchwork of light from the windows along the way. Through the windows the bunny sees and hears the neighbors. A phone rings at Mr. Goat’s, the delicious aroma of a pie wafts from Ms. Sheep’s. “A light flickers” where perhaps “someone is watching TV,” and next door “it sounds like there is a big party.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-street-scene

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The bunny peers into one window just in time to see two mice saying goodbye. As they approach their own house, the little rabbit’s father joins them. Soon, the bunny knows, it will be time to be tucked into bed. At home Daddy Rabbit pulls up the blankets on his dozing child. Out the window, a crescent moon lights the sky. “Snug under my covers,” the bunny thinks “about the way home. Are the party guests saying goodnight? Is the person on the phone getting ready for bed?” The cook may be taking a long, hot bath, and the bookseller may be “reading on the couch.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-tucked-into-shop

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The bunny wonders if the pie is being shared and whether all the lighted windows are now dark. The last thing the bunny hears before drifting off to sleep are soft footsteps going by and imagines the mouse is walking to the station to take the train home. Throughout town the bright checkerboard windows keep watch as the long, illuminated trains speed past. “Some nights are ordinary, and other nights are special. But every night we all go home to bed.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-tucked-into-bed

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Akiko Miyakoshi sleepy, atmospheric bedtime story reflects all the comfort and mystery that nighttime inspires in little ones. The loving child/parent relationship is sweetly depicted in the beautiful, understated acts of the bunny’s being carried home through the softly lit streets and tucked into bed under warm covers. The glimpses into the neighbor’s windows provides a unifying sense of community as do the final pages that pan out to include the entire town and the idea of the wider world traversed by the bright trains coming and going from the station.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-carrying

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Miyakoshi’s black, gray, and sepia-toned pencil, charcoal, and gouache illustrations are set aglow with the welcoming light emanating from windows and streetlamps and accented with spots of color in clothing and homey touches. The windows frame cozy vignettes of family life, and young readers may like to imagine their own stories of what is happening in each. Gender neutral clothing and a lack of pronouns makes this a universal book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-home-in-the-night-on-the-phone

Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The Way Home in the Night is a cozy, quiet book that is just right for soothing little ones to sleep while giving them the happy assurance of love, commitment, and connection to their world. An exquisite addition to bedtime books, The Way Home in the Night would make a wonderful gift and a favorite choice on any child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 6

Kids Can Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1771386630

To learn more about Akiko Miyakoshi, her work, and her books, visit her website.

Sleep Comfort Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snuggle-buddy-craft

Snuggle Buddy Craft

 

It’s easy to make your own snuggle buddy with a few pieces of fleece, some fiber fill, and a needle and thread or fabric glue. The great thing about creating your own friend is you can personalize your pal anyway you want!

Supplies

  • 1 8-inch by 11-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the body (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project). A larger piece of fleece can be used to make a larger buddy
  • 1 5-inch by 8-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the hair (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project)
  • 1 small piece of fleece or other material for a pocket, clothes, or blanket
  • Small scraps of fleece or other material for the face
  • Fiber Fill
  • Thread and sewing needle OR fabric glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Fold the large piece of fleece in half lengthwise and sew along the open side and along the bottom. Alternatively, if using a larger size piece of fleece, fold upward and sew or glue the two sides closed.
  2. Turn the form inside out

To Make the Hair

  1. Cut a piece of fleece as wide as your buddy and about 7 – 8 inches long
  2. Fold the fleece lengthwise
  3. Insert both ends of the fleece into the opening at the top of the body
  4. Sew or glue the opening shut, securing the hair
  5. Cut strips about ¼-inch wide from the top of the hair to close to where the hair is sown into the body

To Make a Pocket or Clothes

  1. Cut a piece of fleece in the shape of a pocket, shirt, pants, diaper, or blanket
  2. Sew or glue the pocket or clothes to the buddy

To Make the Face

  1. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in whatever way you would like your buddy to look. 
  2. Sew or glue the face to the buddy
  3. Snuggle up!

Picture Book Review

November 29 – It’s National Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

National Gratitude Month was established to encourage people to embrace gratitude every day. When we focus on the good influences in our lives, we’re happier, healthier and less stressed. While during this season our thoughts turn to giving to others and the fun of getting a little something too, it’s good to be mindful of and grateful for the things we already have. More is not always better—as today’s book humorously demonstrates.

Pig the Elf

By Aaron Blabey

 

Trevor wrote Santa Claus a very pleasant note asking for something nice for Christmas. He even ended it with a declaration of love. His note sits on the table propped against a glass of milk next to a plate of gingerbread cookies and another of carrots in the living room decorated for Christmas Eve. Everyone’s feeling festive—especially Pig who giggles “with glee— / ‘The presents! The presents! / For ME! ME! ME! ME!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-christmas-eve

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

His list stretches on like a long country road and contains items galore, like “a motorcycle, a rocket, a drum set, a pony, a skateboard, a cotton candy maker….” After all, “Santa takes orders,” right? Pig can’t wait for Santa’s arrival. He picks up poor Trevor and shouts “‘When will he get here? / Oh, WHEN? / TELL ME WHEN?!’” But when Trevor mentions sleeping, Pig isn’t having it. “‘I’m sitting up late! / I’ll be here when he comes! / I declare by the stockings / and gingerbread crumbs!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-pig's-list

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

So as Trevor climbs the stairs to go to bed, Pig hides behind the tall tree. Finally, at three thirty-three he hears a sound. Pig peeks around and sees Santa with a bag full of toys. He leaves Trevor and Pig presents in tidy little stacks and then turns his attention to his snack. But as he’s drinking his milk, Pig pops out, yelling “‘HEY!’” He complains about the few packages left on the floor, reminding Santa that he asked for much more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-pig-peeking

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

But Santa has other presents to deliver, so he heads back up the chimney. Just as Santa’s about to disappear, Pig takes a big bite of his pants and doesn’t let go even as Santa climbs out of the chimney and runs pell-mell over the roof to his sleigh. Pig begs, “‘Don’t be a cheapskate! / I want all my stuff! / The pile that you left me / Is just not enough!’”

Santa quickly jumps in, and the reindeer take off at top speed. Pig’s grasp is no match for the zooming sleigh, and he plunges through the night sky toward the center of town. In a miraculous turn of events, though, Pig “survived that big drop, / and was saved by a tree…with an angel on top.”

The back cover endpapers display part of Pig’s list with amusing asides and a changing number of desired skateboards.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pig-the-elf-santa-running

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Aaron Blabey knows that Pig the Pug just can’t resist the allure of presents and has written a funny, over-the-top story of what can happen when someone’s list is all get and no give. Blabey’s rollicking rhymes and free-wheeling dialog will make kids giggle at Pig’s insatiable appetite and unbridled impatience. Fairly popping out of his red hooded sleeper, Pig is a boisterous foil to the real Santa. As Pig hangs on to Santa for dear life, kids of a certain age will laugh out loud. When Pig falls directly atop the town Christmas tree, readers may be cheered to find that he can indeed be a little angel.

For fans of Pig the Pug, kids who like slapstick humor, and adult readers who enjoyed the antics of Alvin the Chipmunk, Pig the Elf is a fun holiday read.

Ages 3 – 5

Scholastic Press sent me a free copy of Pig the Elf to check out. All opinions are my own.

Scholastic Press, 2017 |ISBN 978-1338221220

Discover more about Aaron Blabey and his books on his website.

National Gratitude Month Activity

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Personalized Thank You Card

 

Often the best gift you can give someone is a “Thank You!” With this printable Thank You card, you can let someone know how much you appreciate them by drawing and writing a special message.

You can even get creative! Write a story, draw a picture, make a cartoon, or use a little glitter! You can also attach this to something you bake or make. Why not give the important people in your life a personalized thank you? It’s guaranteed to be appreciated!

Picture Book Review

November 28 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

Picture books are one of a child’s best gifts! As this month’s literary holiday draws to a close and the gift-giving season opens, consider giving books to the young children and even babies on your shopping list.  Head to your local bookstore to find plenty of exciting and inspiring titles for any child. Not quite sure what to get? Ask your bookseller for a recommendation!

My First Book of Patterns

Written by Bobby and June George | Illustrated by Boyoun Kim

 

Patterns are part of learning from day one. As babies begin navigating and becoming alert to their world, they see, hear, and react to visual and linguistic patterns that inform and form their perceptions of their surroundings and their language. Sharing and making shapes and patterns with children also help them develop an early awareness and understanding of math concepts which translates into future success in school.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-patterns-diamond-and-line

Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017, text copyright Bobby and Jane George, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

My First Book of Patterns introduces the youngest readers to nine types of shapes and patterns.. As the book progresses, the text follows its own pattern, allowing children to anticipate what words are coming and giving older listeners the opportunity to read along.

The eye-popping color and dynamic scenes will keep any child enthralled, whether you are sharing the book all at once or just dipping in for a page or two at a time. Speaking of which… let’s check it out! First up is that fundamental shape, the line! A single white line on a pink background is pretty neat, but “a lot of lines make… Stripes!” And stripes can be found all over the underwater landscape—on the turtle’s shell, marking the various rocks, decorating the jellyfish, and coloring the fish and coral.

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Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017, text copyright Bobby and June George, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

When that thin line is joined by a thick line and the pattern is repeated, they make plaid. And…Wow! A whole town made of plaid! Blue and purple plaid shirts; green, red, and yellow plaid skirts; plaid backpacks; plaid bags; plaid awnings; and even plaid buildings! This is one city that loooves plaid! Next, is a zig-zag. “A lot of zig-zags make…Chevron!” Look at all the toys decorated in chevron! Little cars, little trains, books, a jack-in-the-box, and blocks too! Hmmm…it seems there are also some lines in this toy shop. Do you think so, too?

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Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Ah, the square! “A lot of squares make…Checks!” Out on the ocean it’s a checkerboard extravaganza with sails, boats, and even the lighthouse all made out of checks. After the square comes the circle, and lots of circles are called polka dots. Polka dots make everything look cute—from placemats to bowls to vases to…fruit? You bet! Hey! Some of that fruit looks like an individual circle—pretty cool!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-patterns-ocean

Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Now the shapes are getting a little more complex. Repeating diamond shapes make harlequin; patterns of diamonds and lines make argyle; connected hexagons form honeycomb; and topsy-turvy teardrops become paisley. And what do you get with a field of flowers? Floral, of course—which makes everything look like springtime!

Ready to go through them again? Open the gate-fold pages and find an ice-cream shop full of your favorite pattern flavor ready to enjoy again!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-patterns-square

Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017, text copyright Bobby and Jane George, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Bobby and June George, Montessori educators, present a book that is both straightforward and creative—inviting all children to interact with it in whatever way most resonates with them. Boyoun Kim’s stylistic illustrations add vitality and enthusiasm to each shape and pattern as the introductory pages allow children to see the basic shape or pattern and then give way to a two-page spread where the pattern can be found on a variety of objects.

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Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017, text copyright Bobby and June George, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Like a scavenger hunt, these scenes also let little ones find the shapes, such as squares, circles, lines, rectangles, and triangles along the way or on repeated readings. There are also plenty of opportunities for adults to point out or allow their children to find other examples of patterns within the scenes.

My First Book of Patterns is a sturdy board book that makes it a great choice for babies and very young children and also for taking along on outdoor jaunts or for waiting times.

Ages 1 – 6

Phaidon, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714872490

To learn more about Bobby George and his work, visit his website.

Read more about June George and her Montessori school on the baan dek website.

Discover more about Boyoun Kim and view a gallery of her art work on her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Book Worm Bookmark

 

If you love books print and color this Book Worm Bookmark. This avid reader will help you keep your place in your favorite books!

Picture Book Review

November 27 – Pins and Needles Day

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About the Holiday

Originally established to celebrate the pro-labor Broadway play Pins and Needles that opened in 1937 on this date, today’s holiday has come to commemorate that pins-and-needles nervous or excited feeling that certain events cause. That electric anticipation is especially experienced at this time of year and is often the lead-in to momentous achievements—as today’s book shows!

Jabari Jumps

By Gaia Cornwall

 

Today was the day! Jabari was going to jump off the diving board at the local swimming pool. Sure, the board “was high and maybe a little scary,” but Jabari had taken swimming lessons and passed his test, and he was ready. “‘I’m a great jumper,’ said Jabari, ‘so I’m not scared at all.’” As he and his dad approached the pool, Jabari watched other kids springing into the air from the diving board and plunging into the water below.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jabari-jumps-at-the-pool

Copyright Gaia Cornwall, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

“‘Looks easy,’ Jabari said. But when his dad squeezed his hand, Jabari squeezed back.” Jabari stopped at the base of the ladder and looked up, up, up. He let the other kids in line go ahead of him while he thought about “what kind of special jump” he was going to do. Pretty soon he was the only one left at the ladder.

Jabari climbed up rung after rung. Part way up, he realized just how tall the ladder really was. When his dad asked him if he was all right, Jabari told him he was a little tired. His dad suggested “a tiny rest.” Jabari backed down, and when he got to the ground, he decided he needed to stretch. After loosening up, he and his dad looked at the diving board again. “‘I think tomorrow might be a better day for jumping,’ Jabari said.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jabari-jumps-stretching

Copyright Gaia Cornwall, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jabari’s dad knelt down and told his son that he felt scared too sometimes. When that happened, he said, he would take a deep breath and tell himself he was ready. Sometimes he realized he actually was, and it felt “‘a little like a surprise.’” That sounded good to Jabari because he liked surprises. He breathed deeply and began his climb. At the top, he walked to the end of the diving board, grabbed the edge with his toes, and looked down. Then he looked out at the horizon. “He felt like he was ready. ‘I love surprises,’ he whispered.”

He bounced into the air and as the others below waited for him, he jumped. “Jabari hit the water with a SPLASH!” He floated down and then sprang back up. “‘You did it!’” his dad celebrated. “‘I did it!’ said Jabari. ‘I’m a great jumper!’” He ran to the ladder and climbed up for his next dive: a “surprise double backflip.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jabari-splash

Copyright Gaia Cornwall, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Often in life taking big leaps can be scary—for adults as well as kids. Gaia Cornwall’s jubilant story of a little boy working up the courage to try the unknown of the diving board offers both support and comfort. Knowing that his son has it in him to accomplish his goal, Jabari’s dad provides not only the gentle nudge he needs but also the permission to decide on his own when the time is right. Cornwall’s straightforward telling sprinkled with good advice will resonate with children and is applicable for many new experiences.

Cornwall’s watercolor, pencil, and collage illustrations abound in the excitement of a day out with Dad. The loving relationship of the family is evident in their smiles, the way the father squeezes Jabari’s hand and bends down to offer encouragement, and the joyful celebration of both Dad and Jabari’s younger sister after Jabari’s jump. The diverse group of swimmers at the pool play, laugh, and talk together, giving readers much to enjoy on each detailed page. Cornwall’s beautiful palette of blues and greens accented by structures rendered from printed pages of text, highlights the buoyancy of the story.

Jabari Jumps is a wonderful story to add to any child’s or classroom bookshelf for those times when a little more encouragement is needed.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763678388

Discover more about Gaia Cornwall and her work as well as activity sheets on her website

Jump into this Jabari Jumps book trailer!

Pins and Needles Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kinetic-sand-craft

Soothing Sand

 

When you feel nervous or on pins and needles, this easy-to-make kinetic sand can help you relax as the sand slips through your fingers.

Supplies

  • 1 cup of play sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • About ¾ cup of Water or as needed
  • Bin or larger bowl
  • Small bowl

Directions

  1. The amount of water you use will depend on the consistency of the sand
  2. In a bin or bowl, combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  3. In the small bowl combine the dish soap and water and stir until the water is bubbly
  4. Slowly pour some of the water/dish soap mixture into the sand/cornstarch mixture and mix well.
  5. Continue mixing, adding a little water at a time until the desired consistency is reached

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

November 26 – It’s Historic Bridge Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the bridges across the world who have stood the test of time as they connect roads, highways, and even walking paths over expanses of water or other gaps to convey travelers from one side to the other. Many old bridges are in danger of destruction through neglect or rebuilding. The founders of this month’s holiday ask that these structures be preserved for their beauty and history. There is another kind of bridge that also needs careful tending—as seen in today’s book! 

A Book of Bridges: Here to There and Me to You

Written by Cheryl Keely | Illustrated by Celia Krampien

 

“Bridges do more than connect one place to another. They bring the whole world together.” There are so many types of bridges—each just right for their place or function. Some of the most charming bridges are wooden-covered, like Canada’s Hartland-to-Somerville span in New Brunswick, which is the longest covered bridge in the world at 1282 feet (as long as 32 school buses end to end). Some are colorful like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, which is distinctively orange, a beautiful beacon against the blue sky and sea.

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Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In London the bridge isn’t really falling down even though that makes for a fun game! The London Bridge, which crosses the River Thames, was the first stone multi-arch bridge built in Britain.” Over the years the bridge has been renovated many times, and it’s now made of concrete and steel. Drawbridges might be the coolest kind of bridge! It’s fun to watch them split in the middle and rise up, up, up before coming back down after a ship passes. These bridges “date to medieval times when knights in armor—and dragons?!—fought for their castles.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-here-to-there-and-me-to-you-golden-gate-bridge

Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Sometimes bridges don’t have to be fancy to work. Some “bridges can be as simple as a few stones placed across a shallow stream” that give crossers a place to step all along the way. This is known as a clapper bridge. People aren’t the only ones who use bridges either. Places that are home to roaming wildlife—like Banff National Park in Canada—build bridges so animals “such as bears, wolves, moose, and lynx” can cross roads and highways safely.

Trains can also “use bridges to clickity-clack along, carrying people to people. Family together again.” But what if you want to travel from country to country? There are even bridges for that, and they make “a big world seem smaller.” While these types of bridges are strong and sturdy, there are other spans made only of rope and boards that are “rickety, ratchety, swinging and swaying their way to beautiful hid away places.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-here-to-there-and-me-to-you-covered-bridge

Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

People can become bridges too! Just try bending backward to touch the ground. Or if you don’t like feeling upside down, there is a simple way that “isn’t so grand. It connects me to you and you to me…through the simple holding of hands.”

Cheryl Keely’s enchanting tour of some of the world’s most beautiful and unusual bridges is sure to engage readers who love architecture, travel, and transportation—or who just have the wanderlust. Keely’s story, punctuated with facts and trivia about different types of bridges, is a lyrical frame for her theme of interconnectedness and friendship, making this a book that resonates on many levels and is a treat to dip into again and again.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-here-to-there-and-me-to-you-edge-of-golden-gate-bridge

Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Celia Krampien’s charming artwork takes readers to the towns and cities, the shores and cliffs that host the world’s bridges. Her realistic depictions show the grandeur of the majestic spans millions of people use every day as well as the rustic simplicity of rope and clapper bridges. Kids will love picking out details of the scenery surrounding each structure as well as recognizing familiar settings they have learned about or, perhaps, traveled to.

A Book of Bridges: Here to There and Me to You is a fresh, uplifting story that will appeal to fiction as well as nonfiction lovers. In addition to being a great addition to any story time, the book has many cross-curricular applications for classrooms and libraries, and would be a welcome find on any bookshelf.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369966

To learn more about Cheryl Keely and her work as well as to find a fun bridge game, visit her website!

Find a portfolio of illustration by Celia Krampien on her website!

Historic Bridge Awareness Month 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

November 25 – Shopping Reminder Day

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About the Holiday

Of course there are reminders everywhere we look that it’s time to do that kind of shopping. But today’s holiday encourages people to count the days until their gift-giving day or days and plan accordingly. Today is also Small Business Saturday, so if you’re out there doing some shopping, consider spending some of that holiday budget at your local shops. Festive events and parties are also often on the calendar during this month and are just perfect for the beautiful creations found in today’s book!

Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe

Written by Deborah Blumenthal | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

 

From the time that Ann Cole Lowe was old enough to thread a needle, she loved to sew. While her momma and grandma worked at their sewing machines, making dresses for the socialites of Alabama, Ann sat nearby turning “the wisps of cloth” that fell to the floor into “flowers as bright as roses in the garden.” Even at a young age Ann understood that “doing what you love could set your spirit soaring.”

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

When Ann was only sixteen years old, her momma died. Not only did her mother’s death leave Ann bereft, it left her in charge of the business, and many women were waiting for gowns, most importantly the Alabama governor’s wife. “Ann thought about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.” She sat down and finished the dresses. “Then she stood up and ran the business.”

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

In 1916 a woman in Florida hired her to sew dresses. She also sent Ann to design school in New York. Because she was African American, however, Ann was required to study in a separate classroom by herself. Ann was not deterred. She continued to make unique gowns and dresses, and her client list grew. Finally, Ann had saved enough money to open a salon of her own in Manhattan. Sometimes she didn’t have enough money to pay all the bills, but she persisted. Her life was about “what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.”

One day Ann received an order for a wedding dress from a woman who was marrying a United States senator. The woman’s name was Jacqueline Bouvier and the man was John F. Kennedy, a future president of the U.S. Ann bought 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta and designed a beautiful dress with a bouffant skirt and pleated bands decorated with tiny wax flowers. She also made the dresses for Jacqueline’s attendants.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-wedding-dress

Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Then ten days before the wedding, Ann walked into her workroom and discovered that a water pipe had burst, flooding the dresses, material, everything. Ten of the sixteen gowns Ann had sewn were destroyed. “Ann though about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.” She ordered new fabric, hired more seamstresses, and went to work. On this job she lost money instead of making it, but none of that mattered. In eight days all of the dresses were ready.

When Ann delivered the gowns to the mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, the butler who answered the door told her workers needed to use the back entrance. Ann replied that “if she had to enter through the back door, the bride and bridesmaids wouldn’t be wearing her dresses for the wedding.” The front door swung open. On the day of the wedding—September 12, 1953—the whole world “Oohed” and “Aahed” over Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s gorgeous gown and her bridesmaids’ dresses, but not many people thought about or knew the name of the woman who had created them. “Why? Because Ann Cole Lowe was African American. And life wasn’t fair.”

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Ann continued to design and sew party dresses and evening gowns for the women of high society. She “didn’t make fine clothes to get rich or famous,” however, but, as she once said, “‘To prove that a Negro can become a major dress designer.’” In 1961 Ann finally gained public recognition for her work when she was named “Official Couturiere” in honor of the 33 ball gowns she created for an elegant ball in Omaha, Nebraska. She proudly accepted her award as the fashion world applauded.

An Author’s Note explaining more about Ann Cole Lowe’s life and work follows the text.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

With straightforward storytelling adorned with lyrical passages, Deborah Blumenthal reveals Ann Cole Lowe’s lifelong love of fashion design, her struggles, and her ultimate acclaim. Lowe’s natural talent, single focus, self-confidence, courage, and persistence come through as she overcomes obstacles and prejudice to become the first African American couture designer. Children interested in fashion and history will find much to spark their curiosity and desire to know more about the woman and her times. Blumenthal’s repetition of Lowe’s philosophy to think about what she could do instead of what she couldn’t change will inspire readers to push past difficulties and find solutions.

Laura Freeman’s full-bleed illustrations are as bold and vivacious as Ann Cole Lowe herself. Beginning with the endpapers, which are scattered with drawings of Lowe’s one-of-a-kind gowns, Freeman takes readers on a tour of the workrooms and salons stocked with the fabrics that gave form to Lowe’s creativity. While the backgrounds are typically brilliantly colored and patterned, twice Freeman places Lowe on a completely white page—after her mother has recently died and she is left alone to finish dresses and when she is segregated from the other students in design school. These pages make a moving and effective statement. Children fascinated by fashion will love seeing the beautifully depicted gowns, and may be stirred to create styles of their own.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1499802399

To learn more about Deborah Blumenthal and her books for children, young adults, and adults, visit her website!

Discover a gallery of illustration work by Laura Freeman on her website!

Shopping Reminder Day Activity

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Create Your Own Party Dress 

 

With this easy craft you can make a  fun sheath dress for playing dress-up. It’s also a great party activity! All you need is a plastic or paper party table cloth, Sharpies, and your imagination!

Supplies

  • 1 plastic party tablecloth (1 cloth will most likely make 4 dresses)
  • Sharpies or other permanent markers
  • Ribbon, scarf, crepe paper garland, or other material for a belt
  • Scissor
  • Newspaper, old sheeting or other material to protect the floor

Directions

  1. With the table cloth folded along one edge, cut a rectangle the appropriate size for the child
  2. In the middle of the folded edge cut a V-shaped or rounded opening for the child’s head. Begin with a small opening and enlarge it as needed
  3. Lay the dress on newspaper or other material to protect the floor
  4. Draw and color shapes, lines, figures, or other designs on the dress
  5. Slip on over a shirt and pants or leggings
  6.  Add a belt with a ribbon, scarf, piece of crepe paper garland, or other material

Picture Book Review

November 24 – National Day of Listening

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About the Holiday

The day after Thanksgiving was chosen by StoryCorps for family and friends to tell and record their unique and collective stories for themselves and future generations. The mission of StoryCorps is to “preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” StoryCorps even provides an online archive of individual and family stories that enrich our culture for anyone to listen to. Whether you share your stories with others or record them for your own family, remember that every story counts and should be heard. To learn more about StoryCorps, hear fascinating stories, or upload your own, visit StoryCorps.

Wee Sister Strange

Written by Holly Grant | Illustrated by K. G. Campbell

 

“They say there’s a girl / Who lives by the woods / In a crooked old house / With no garden but gloom.” Because she has no parents or even a name of her own, the townspeople “call her Wee Sister Strange.” During daylight she stays to herself, but as evening approaches she climbs out of the window and goes into the dangerous woods. She delights in the darkness, and “drinks up the moon / like a cat drinking cream.”

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She talks with the owls and rides a “fierce bear” through “groves golden-leafed.” But when the wild wolves catch her scent, she climbs into high branches as they “prowl down below.” From her high perch she scans the wide world and “peels back the clouds… / As through keyholes one peeks.”

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She’s searching for something she just cannot find, so she “dives into the bog. Here, way down below, she continues to look amid the odd creatures, and she checks “every snail / As a mermaid counts pearls.” But even here she does not see what she’s looking for. She climbs out on the bank into thorny, twisting vines and in the distance sees a bright light.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wee-sister-strange-listening

Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She tiptoes closer and finds a little stone house “with one window aglow.” She peeks in through the pane and sees “you in your bed / With this book ‘neath your nose.” She listens where the window is open a crack and hears a murmur: “‘They say there’s a girl / Who lives by the woods…’” The girl’s eyes light up bright; her search is now ended. She’s found what she sought: “A wee bedtime story!”

“Her ears gobble the rhymes! / They sop up the poem-crumbs!” Sister grows sleepy and next to the house, she blankets herself with golden leaves as her eyes close and she starts to dream.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wee-sister-strange-sleeping

Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Holly Grant’s Wee Sister Strange is a magical story of such mystery and beauty that it opens a world of unbounded imagination as the plot plays out. Combining just the right balance of realism and fantasy, Grant’s wonder-full tale allows each reader the freedom to interpret her poem in their own way.  When Sister at last finds the house and hears her own story echoed back to her, her restless yearning is satisfied, suggesting that our life stories are what make us knowable to ourselves and others. As the little girl of color and her mother share the bedtime story of the girl in the woods, Sister’s given name helps us understand that we are all sisters (or brothers) through our collective stories. Grant’s gorgeous language and original metaphors are further causes for celebrating this glowing, dreamy modern fable.

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

In K. G. Campbell’s luminescent watercolor-and-colored-pencil illustrations, Wee Sister Strange is as delicate and glowing as the autumn leaves, as buoyant as the bog creatures, and as human as the little girl in the house. On her nightly hunts, she traverses landscapes that are recognizable yet are also the terrain of dreams. Children will find much to discuss in the similarities and differences in the two girls’ homes as well as the identity of  Wee Sister Strange. Campbell’s paintings beautifully convey the cyclical nature of this tale that offers the comfort of knowing that our stories unite us while keeping the wolves at bay.

Embodying the mystical elements that children love best in a bedtime story, Wee Sister Strange is an inventive marvel that should find a home on any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2017 | ISBN 978-0553508796

To learn more about K. G. Campbell, his books, and his art, visit his website

National Day of Listening Activity

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Tell Your Story Page

 

Everyone has their own story to tell! Use this printable Tell Your Story Page to write an original story or a story from your life. Then tell your story at bedtime!

Picture Book Review