January 31 – Inspire Your Heart with Art Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrating art is always a great thing! Today we champion that feeling you get inside when you create or experience art—no matter what kind is your favorite. Paintings, books, music, sculpture, quilts, photography, and other arts show you a bit of the world in a new way—a way, perhaps, you’ve never thought of before. Art can inspire, gladden,  sadden, anger, teach, and compel action. Today, let your heart be inspired by art by visiting a museum, bookstore, library, concert, or gallery. Or, if you’re creative, take some time to give your imagination full reign. And what if you’re friends with someone named Art? Well, that’s a lucky thing for today too—as today’s book shows!

Seen Art?

Written by Jon Scieszka | Illustrated by Lane Smith

 

A little boy has arranged to meet his friend Art at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-third Street in New York City. When he arrives, however, Art isn’t there. The boy asks a woman nearby, “‘Have you seen Art?’” The lady points him in the direction of a beautiful new building further down the street. When he gets there, the boy doesn’t see Art, but he does meet an official-looking gentleman. “‘You seen Art?’” the boy inquires.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

“‘MoMA?” the man asks. The boy remembers that the lady asked the same thing and, figuring it’s some kind of code word, answers, “‘Yes.’” Great news! The building is just opening, the man tells him. After giving a woman at a desk the code word, the boy is led upstairs. The woman stops in front of a painting with blue swirls, writhing trees, and a moon glowing over a quiet village. “‘Can’t you just feel the restlessness? The color? The emotion?’” The boy can feel it, but he’s more interested in finding Art.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

A little man standing nearby seems to know where to go, and he leads the boy through a room filled with more paintings and sculpture. The man stops in front of a painting. “‘Look at that red! Look at that open box of crayons inviting us in. The grandfather clock? It has no hands. Time is suspended.’” The boy sees all this too. But, really, what he wants to know is—“‘is Art here?’”

A little girl across the room knows what he means. She can show him art. She takes him past a fur-covered teacup and spoon to a painting of an eye. But this is no ordinary eye. Instead of blue, brown, or green, this eye is made of clouds. “‘Your dream can be what is real,’” she explains. They see another painting with a melting clock in which time is messed up too, but it’s still not Art.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Suddenly, a painter hugs the boy for his astute observation. He asks, is art “‘trying to capture dreams? Or is it making images everyone can recognize?’” He presents a painting covered in the letters of the alphabet—or “‘are they something more?’” The boy has to admit that “‘they could be both.’” Next, the boy meets a baby who points out a picture of a brown “‘moo moo’” cow. In fact, in every corner someone is expounding on a painting in front of them: “‘The pain! The mystery!….the constellation of shapes.’”  And there’s the composition, the color, and the atmosphere to consider too.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

But each time the boy answers, “‘Not exactly the Art I was looking for.’” Perhaps, he is interested in the Bell-47D1 helicopter hanging from the ceiling. Is it art? The boy strides past more pieces; they are puzzling, personal, playful, provocative, and powerful. Art is not just paintings, he is told. Finally! They seem to be getting it. He begins to ask one more time about his friend, but then he’s shown photographs, sculpture, objects, and films.

The boy decides he needs to find Art on his own. He discovers a majestic painting as long as two rooms, a slippy-slidey chair, images of soup cans that make him hungry and lead him to the café, and sculptures of a family and a goat. Soon it’s time to leave. Feeling dejected, the boy thinks he’ll never find his friend. “‘Hello, again,’” he hears. It’s the lady he met that morning. “‘Did you find art?’” she asks.

The boy is about to say no, but he remembers everything he has seen. “‘Yes,’” he answers as he walks out the door. And there, he finds Art waiting for him! What else is there do to but go through MoMA again?!

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Notes on each piece along with thumbnail images follow the text.

With clever word play, a humorous nod to the juxtaposed ideas “I know what I like/I like what I know,” and a wink at the world of art criticism, Jon Scieszka takes readers on a tour of the art collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The simple misunderstanding of the word Art in the story introduces children to the nature of interpretation and the variety of forms it can take. Through the many people the little boy meets, Scieszka presents a fabulous opportunity for adults and children to talk about opinions and how each person can have their own while accepting those of others. Scieszka’s rich language is as enticing as the art presented and gives kids and adults a vast vocabulary to use in talking about what art—and life—has to offer.

Lane Smith’s simple line-drawn and abstract figures are the perfect tour guides to the reproductions of famous paintings, sculpture, installations, and other art found at MoMA. Printed in full, vibrant color, the artwork dazzles, drawing readers in to stop and explore each image. An excellent survey of classic and modern pieces, Seen Art? will delight and fascinate kids and adults.

For art lovers and those just discovering the world of creativity, Seen Art? is an absorbing book that will entice both children and adults to learn more about art. The book would be a welcome addition to home libraries and a fun and engaging addition to school art programs or units.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2005 |ISBN 978-0670059867

Discover more about Jon Scieszka, and his books, as well as other fun stuff on his website.

View a gallery of book illustration and other artwork by Lane Smith on his website.

Inspire Your Heart with Art Day Activity

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Rainbow Crayon Art

 

With this cool project you can create an art piece that’s as colorful as a rainbow and as unique as you are! Adult help is needed for children.

Supplies

  • Box of 24 crayons
  • White foam board or thick poster board, 8 inches by 17 inches
  • A small piece of corrugated cardboard, about 5 inches by 5 inches (a piece of the foam board can also be used for this step)
  • A small piece of poster board, about 5 inches by 5 inches
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife (optional)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hair dryer
  • Old sheets or towels, newspapers, a large box, or a trifold display board

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Directions

  1. Remove the various red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet hued crayons from the box of crayons
  2. Strip the paper from the crayons by slicing the paper with the x-acto knife, or removing it by hand
  3. Line them up in order at the top of the white foam board
  4. With the hot glue gun, attach the crayons to the board with their tips facing down 
  5. Cut an umbrella or other shape of your choice from the poster board
  6. Trace the umbrella or other shape onto the corrugated cardboard or a piece of the foam board and cut out
  7. Glue the umbrella or other shape to the foam board, about 4 ½ inches below the crayons, let dry
  8. Set up a space where you can melt the crayons. The wax will fly, so protect the floor and walls by placing the art piece in a large box or by hanging newspapers, old sheets or towels on the walls and placing newspapers on the floor. A trifold display board and newspapers works well.
  9. Stand the art piece upright with the crayons at the top
  10. With the hot setting of the hair dryer, blow air at the crayons until they start to melt
  11. Move the hair dryer gently back and forth across the line of crayons from a distance of about 6 to 12 inches away. The closer you are to the crayons, the more they will splatter.
  12. The crayons will begin to melt and drip downward
  13. You can experiment with aiming the hair dryer straight on or at an angle to mix colors
  14. Wax that drips onto the umbrella or other shape can be chipped off after it dries or wiped off to create a “watercolor” effect on the shape
  15. Once the hair dryer is turned off, the wax cools and dries quickly
  16. Hang or display your art!

Picture Book Review

January 30 – It’s Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

Kids are born creative, that’s for sure! With their huge imaginations and love for pretending, almost anything goes! Parents trying to keep up with their little charges need to stay on their toes and be inventive too. Answering all the “what,” “why,” and “how” questions takes some ingenuity, managing sibling rivalry takes finesse, and introducing new foods, getting a room cleaned, or making sure homework’s done? Well, “innovative” doesn’t begin to describe the brainstorms that (sometimes) lead to success. But at the end of the day (literally and figuratively) adults are inspired by their kids and wouldn’t trade their role for a minute. Yes, it’s great being a mom, grandmother, grandfather, teacher, dad—as you’ll see in today’s book!

It’s Great Being a Dad

Written by Dan Bar-el | Illustrated by Gina Perry

 

A lovely pink unicorn with a sparkling rainbow horn clip-clops over a grassy hill, a golden castle and a candy forest in the background. The playful animal believes it’s “great being a unicorn. Who wouldn’t want to be a unicorn?” What makes them so special? Well…as she says, “We’re terrific at prancing and we’re very pretty and, best of all, we have an adorable horn just above our eyebrows.” It’s hard to argue with those reasons!

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But it seems there are some downsides to this whole unicorn thing. Grazing might be at the top of the list. That shiny horn just always seems to get in the way. There’s no way for teeth to touch the ground, and trying to grab a snack off a table just results in the table being stuck on the “adorable horn.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

How about Bigfoot? What’s it like for him? Let’s ask—here comes Bigfoot now! “It’s great being Bigfoot. I love being Bigfoot. Who wouldn’t want to be Bigfoot?” What’s so great about being…you know…? Well…he’s warm in his furry coat, he’s well camouflaged among the trees, and his super strength “can help unicorns get tables off their heads.” Sounds great! What could go wrong? Hmmm…. It seems those big feet get themselves into some sticky situations—like ending up with a tree trunk lodged around your leg.

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maybe being a Robot is better. Indeed! In fact, Robot says, “If I had feelings, I would love being a robot.” Pretty compelling stuff there. Robot is very flashy and has lots of memory and has an arm that can convert into a saw just in time to help “unicorns and Bigfoot with their wood problems.” So what’s not to like? Rain can really mess with the mo(tor)-jo.

Poor Loch Ness Monster! She’s not even going to try being positive. It kind of stinks being a monster—especially when you don’t feel like one. But maybe things aren’t all bad. Unicorn, Bigfoot, and Robot hitch a ride on Nessie’s back across the lake to the hospital. There they meet a “fairy queen ballerina doctor” who loves being a fairy queen ballerina doctor. Who wouldn’t?

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

This Jill-of-all-trades can prescribe medicine for the sick, “perform a happy dance” for the sad, and wave her magic wand “if you have trouble with your saw arm…or your head horn or your big foot.” Sounds perfect…until a “sneaky flying alligator pirate” swoops in and swipes the magic wand just as the fairy queen ballerina doctor is about the save the day. “Dad!”

Ha! Ha! Here’s a little guy who’s super excited to be a sneaky flying alligator pirate. “I’m sneaky, so you never see me coming. I can fly, so you can never catch me. And… And…that’s enough reasons. So what’s not to like about being a sneaky flying alligator pirate?” Ooof! “Dads, that’s what!”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But how does Dad feel about being a dad? Let’s see: “It’s great being a dad. I love being a dad.” It does look pretty fun! Dad gets to remove pizza box “tables” from hobby horse unicorns; remove stepped-on drums from a brown-fuzzy-hoodied-and-hiking-booted Bigfoot; fix cardboard-saw arms; give medals to super swimmers; and “return magic wands to… to… ‘Fairy queen ballerina doctors. I told you a million times already.’ Right. What she said.” Plus Dad can help little brothers play nicely.

So you must be wondering… “what’s not to like about being a dad? Sudden makeovers, that’s what.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, 2017, text copyright Dan Bar-el, 2017. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Dan Bar-el’s laugh-out-loud romp through an afternoon of play hits the perfect tone to entertain kids and adults as well. Bar-el’s wry delivery and repetition of the appealing—and not-so—traits of each fantasy character will have readers giggling and eagerly anticipating the next page. The revelation that the characters are kids with big imaginations offers multiple payouts in creativity, personalities, friendship, and family.

Gina Perry’s vibrant, whimsical illustrations riff on all the fantasy clichés to ramp up the humor in this vivacious story. When happily-ever-after turns into happily-never-after for each character, Perry amusingly depicts their dismay, but the next page finds them cheerfully adjusted to their new circumstance and weaving it into a revised storyline. As the story wraps up, readers will enjoy pointing out aspects of the kids’ interests and the parts of the backyard that spurred their imagination in earlier pages. The diverse group of friends is welcome, and good-natured Dad doesn’t really seem to mind his impromptu makeover.

It’s Great Being a Dad is a fantastically fun read-aloud that would be an often-asked-for addition to home and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770496057

Discover more about Dan Bar-el and his books on his website!

You find a gallery of illustration work and books by Gina Perry on her website!

Creativity Month Activity

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Family Charades

 

Getting together to play charades is a fun way to spend family time with a little bit of thought, a little bit of action, and lots of laughs. You can find lots of charades cards, ideas, and rules at funstufftodo.com.

Picture Book Review

January 29 – It’s Book Blitz Month

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About the Holiday

Is your motto “So many books, so little time?” Is every shelf, nook, and cupboard in your house filled with books? Is your library card the first one on your ring? If so, you’ll love Book Blitz Month! During this month book lovers are given the green light to read, read, read as many books as possible! Or if there’s a tome you’ve always wanted to tackle, crack the cover and let yourself become immersed in someone else’s story. For kids, Book Blitz Month can be particularly exciting. Sit down with your child or students and make a stack of books they’d like to read. Find time every day to read one, two, or a few of the books in the pile. Seeing the stack shrink gives kids a sense of accomplishment, and they might even want to build it up again! Mix reading with fun activities to encourage a new generation of avid readers!

Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones

Written by Sara Levine | Written by T.S Spookytooth

 

You like dinosaurs, right? I mean, who doesn’t? Of course, I’m not talking about those folks with outdated ideas or that old clunker in the garage that you just can’t part with. I’m talking about the big, huge carnivores and herbivores that roamed the earth millions of years ago—parasaurolophus, diplodocus, apatosaurus, brontosaurus, t-rex, and all the rest that have fun-to-say names. You might think that having those guys and gals around now would be fun, but how would you feel if you, yourself, were a dinosaur?

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Image copyright T.S Spookytooth, 2018, text copyright Sara Levine, 2018. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Does that thought make you laugh or maybe shudder a little? Well, if you were a dinosaur “you might be pretty funny looking. Or even quite scary.” If you think it’s totally impossible that you could be a dinosaur, you might want to reconsider: Sure, “on the outside, people and dinosaurs look very, very different. But on the inside, we’re actually very similar.” Compare some dinosaur fossils and a human skeleton, and you’ll see!

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Image copyright T.S Spookytooth, 2018, text copyright Sara Levine, 2018. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Dinos have skulls, and—yep—you’ve got one too! Vertebrae and ribs? Dinosaur, check; you, check. How about scapula, humerus, ulna, radius, metacarpals, and phalanges? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes! And that’s just in our arms and in a dinosaur’s front legs! We both have “hip bones and leg bones and toe bones” too! So why aren’t we dinosaurs? And why aren’t dinosaurs people?

That’s because “dinosaurs had some extra bones in their bodies that made them different from us.” Would you like to try some of these on for size? Imagine having a bony ridge jutting out from the back of your head and two big horns and one littler one jutting out the front? “What kind of dinosaur would you look like then?” You got it! A triceratops! Nowadays all those enhancements would just make it hard to wear a hoodie, but back in the Cretaceous Period? “Scientists think this dinosaur used its horns for fighting.” The frill in the back “probably helped protect a triceratops’s neck and shoulders.”

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Image copyright T.S Spookytooth, 2018, text copyright Sara Levine, 2018. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

This is fun! Let’s try another one…How about if you had “rows of chunky triangle-shaped bones along your back and…an enormous ball of bone stuck onto the end of your vertebrae?” Well, you wouldn’t be a world-class runner and dunking a basketball would probably be out of the question. Why? Because you’d be an ankylosaurus, and the “bones on the end of this dinosaur’s tail weighed more than 60 pounds (27 kg).” You would be a pretty awesome competitor, though—even for the likes of T-rex!

What if those bones along your back ranged from small to huge and ran from your head to the end of your long tail, which, by the way, ended with a few knife-sharp spikes? Then, you’d be a stegosaurus! And what would you do with those plates on your back? Good question! Maybe they’d gather sun like solar panels and keep you warm, or maybe you’d just flash them around to impress your friends.

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Image copyright T.S Spookytooth, 2018, text copyright Sara Levine, 2018. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Is having more of something ever a bad thing? You might think so if you looked like our next dinosaur. “What if we added lots and lots of extra vertebrae in your neck? And what if your vertebrae didn’t stop at your rear end but kept going and going and going? What kind of dinosaur would you be then?” Here’s a hint: a picture of you wouldn’t even fit on a regular two-page spread in a book! That’s right—it takes four pages to fit you in because you would be a diplodocus! You’d be so long it would take three school buses to get you to class!

From large we move onto small—small arms that is and only two fingers on each hand instead of five. Any ideas? What if I added that “you’d also have dagger-like teeth lining your jaw?” Yeah, you know it! A tyrannosaurus rex! And what did t-rex use those small arms for? “Scientists think it might have used its puny front legs to help it get up after lying down for a rest.”

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Image copyright T.S Spookytooth, 2018, text copyright Sara Levine, 2018. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Okay, so those are just some of the dinosaurs that lived on land. But there were other ones in the sea and in the air. Imagine if your nostrils were on the top of your head, your skull was long and pointy, and your arms and legs were more like paddles. What would you be good at? Exactly! You’d be an excellent swimmer—which would make you an ichthyosaur!

Let’s do one more! What would you be able to do if your “pinky bones grew really, really long and a membrane of skin was attached to these bones?” Sure! You’d be able to fly, and as a pterosaur, you’d be the first animal with bones to accomplish that amazing feat.

Now, you may have seen dinosaur skeletons in a museum and felt a little sad that you’d never see these creatures in person, but did you know that “you may have even seen one already today? What kind of animal would you be if you were a dinosaur living on Earth right now?” You’ll want to look skyward for this answer. “Scientists now consider birds to be dinosaurs,” and that they “use their first three fingers” to fly. “So if you want to find a dinosaur…Go outside and look around. You’re very likely to see one!”

Backmatter includes a discussion on birds as dinosaurs, a list of dinosaur groups, a glossary, a pronunciation guide, and resources for further study.

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Image copyright T.S Spookytooth, 2018, text copyright Sara Levine, 2018. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Sara Levine draws on kids’ love of dinosaurs and their growing knowledge of human anatomy to create this mashup of science and laughs that teaches as much as it delights. By revealing on the first two pages that kid and dinosaur skeletons have many of the same kinds of bones, Levine immediately taps that “Wow!” factor that keeps children engaged in a topic.

Add on the funny “what if…” descriptions and illustrations of children sporting bony projections, long tails and necks, noses and fingers, and you’ve got a science book that readers can’t put down. Along the way, budding archaeologists and paleontologists learn facts about each dinosaur and the purpose of their particular anatomical feature or features. Levine’s conversational tone directly addresses her readers and makes learning as fun as going on a field trip with your best friend—how cool is that?

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Image copyright T.S Spookytooth, 2018, text copyright Sara Levine, 2018. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Readers needn’t worry if they can’t quite imagine having horns sticking out of their head, being eighty feet long, or having pinky fingers long enough to roast marshmallows on. T.S Spookytooth has it all covered. As the diverse group of kids visit a museum of natural history, they suddenly find themselves sporting prehistoric traits that confound, surprise, and—as it is with kids—amuse them. Each dinosaur’s skeleton (as well as a human skeleton) is drawn clearly and with realistically.

The double gate-fold illustration of the diplodocus is a show-stopper, and you can bet that children will want to count the vertebrae! Spookytooth’s color palette and imagery beautifully represents the interior of a museum and shows the dinosaurs off to best advantage. The final two-page spread of the children interacting with today’s dinosaurs is whimsical, will inspire kids to look at birds differently, and holds a question—is there an imposter among them?

Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Skeletons would be a favorite addition to home bookshelves as well as classroom, school, and public libraries to spur enthusiastic learning.

Ages 5 – 10

Millbrook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1467794893

Discover more about Sara Levine and her books on her website

Learn more about T.S Spookytooth and his illustration work on his website

Book Blitz Month Activity

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Hatch Your Own Dinosaur Eggs

Think there are no more dinosaur eggs? Think again! You can make your own with this easy craft that will have you hatching some t-rex-size fun! All you need are a few simple ingredients!

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Supplies

  • Old clothes or apron
  • Large box of baking soda (makes between 6 and 8 eggs)
  • Food coloring
  • Water
  • Plastic dinosaur toys
  • Bowl
  • Fork
  • Spoon
  • Wax paper
  • Baking sheet
  • Foil
  • Vinegar
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Plastic or metal spoon, stick, popsicle stick, or other implement to chisel with
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Spray the egg with vinegar to hatch your dinosaur

Directions

  1. Wear old clothes or an apron
  2. Cover work surface with wax paper, parchment paper, newspaper, or other protection. Food coloring can stain some surfaces
  3. Pour baking soda into the bowl
  4. Add drops of food coloring in whatever color you’d like your eggs to be. The eggs will darken when baked.
  5. Mix in the food coloring with the fork. You may want to use your hands, too
  6. When the baking soda is the color you want it, begin adding water a little at a time
  7. Add water until the baking soda holds together when you squeeze it in your hand
  8. When the baking soda is the right consistency, spoon some out into your hand or onto wax paper
  9. Push one plastic dinosaur into the middle
  10. Cover the dinosaur with more of the baking soda mixture
  11. Carefully form it into an egg shape
  12. Repeat with other dinosaurs
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Chisel the egg open to hatch your dinosaur

To Bake the Eggs

  1. Set the oven or toaster oven to 200 to 225 degrees
  2. Set the eggs on a baking sheet lined with foil
  3. Bake the eggs for 15 minutes, check
  4. Turn the eggs over and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes
  5. Remove from oven and let cool

To Hatch the Eggs

  1. Eggs can be hatched by chiseling them with a spoon, stick, or other implement
  2. Eggs can also be hatched by spraying or sprinkling them with vinegar

Picture Book Review

January 28 – International Have Fun at Work Day

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About the Holiday

Are you working today? Then have some fun! Listen to music, dress up or down or even a bit silly, enlist your coworkers for some games, share some jokes, or even throw a party—just don’t forget to include your boss!

Snowmen at Work

Written by Caraline Buehner | Written by Mark Buehner

 

One day, a little boy says, he woke up to find that “more snow had fallen soft and deep” overnight, but there was something odd: the sidewalk and the walkway were already shoveled. The snowman that he’d made the night before was standing in its spot, yet the boy wondered, “Was he the one who shoveled with a snowman shoveling crew? / Could it be that I don’t see that snowmen have jobs too?”

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Image copyright Mark Buehner, 2012, text copyright Caralyn Buehner, 2012. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The boy imagines other jobs that snowmen might do.  Maybe there are snowmen dentists who drill “bits of coal to fix a snowman’s smile” before sending him “home in style.” If your sled has “crooked runners” perhaps snowmen mechanics can make them straight again. And the grocer at the snowmen’s favorite store would stock shelves “with food snowmen love to eat: / Frozen peas and Frosty Flakes / And ice cream for a treat.”

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Image copyright Mark Buehner, 2012, text copyright Caralyn Buehner, 2012. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

How about snow kids? Just like real kids, they’d like having pets too! They’d love to go to the snow pet store to see the snow pups and the swimmers in the cold fish tank. The snow baker would be an artist creating frozen treats and frosted cake—“enough for everyone.” Of course snow children would go to snow school where they’d be taught “To count snowflakes one by one. / And how to spell Antarctica, / Refrigerate, and fun.”

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Image copyright Mark Buehner, 2012, text copyright Caralyn Buehner, 2012. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Snow magicians could do cool tricks, and when a snow cat got stuck in the branches of a tree, snow firefighters would get them down easy as can be. There could be snow librarians to read to little ones, and snow deliverymen to bring “frozen pizza to your door.” At the factory, snow workers would make toys for snow boys and girls, and snow truck drivers could haul “frozen goods to town.”

Yes, the little boy thinks as he goes back inside his home, “My snowman really might have / Shoveled, and I never knew / That all around us snowmen / Have a lot of work to do!”

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Image copyright Mark Buehner, 2012, text copyright Caralyn Buehner, 2012. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Caraline and Mark Buehner’s snowmen are favorites of little ones with their sunny smiles and busy secret lives. In Snowmen at Work, young readers will love getting a sneak peek at how their favorite winter creations might fill jobs around town that they’re familiar with. The idea of snow puppies and kittens, snow school, and a snowman to do their chores will delight kids. Frosted cakes, frozen pizza, and frosty flakes are clever twists on children’s best-loved treats and may have kids thinking up other cold meals and tidbits they might enjoy.

Mark Buehner’s riotously colorful illustrations offer maximum joyfulness as the snowmen go about their jobs with ever-present grins. Children will want to linger over the pages to catch all the details and jokes tucked here and there: A framed quote on the dentist’s wall reads “Be true to your teeth or they’ll be false to you,” and the snow magician’s lion has a mane made up of mittens, just to name two. And is that snowman outside the little boy’s home reaching for his shovel again just as he closes the door?

The perfect antidote to gray winter days and a cheerful addition to those brilliant blue ones, Snowmen at Work would be welcome on any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Dial Books, 2012 | ISBN 978-0803735798

Learn more about Caralyn and Mark Buehner and their books on their website.

International Have Fun at Work Day Activity

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Fun at Work! Word Search

 

When you love your job, work is fun! Find the names of thirty professions in this printable Fun at Work! Word Search Puzzle.

Fun at Work! Word Search Puzzle | Fun at Work! Word Search Puzzle Solution

Picture Book Review

January 27 – National Seed Swap Day

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About the Holiday

If you love to garden, you may want to get involved with National Seed Swap Day! The first Seed Swap Day was held in Washington DC in 2006. Since then it has grown to be a nation-wide event as gardeners get together to trade the seeds from their best plants. Not only does this improve the biodiversity in your local area, it’s a great way to make new friends! To learn more about what events are planned in your area, visit the official National Seed Swap blog.

The Bad Seed

Written by Jory John | Illustrated by Pete Oswald

 

A sunflower seed stares right off the page and admits it: “I’m a bad seed. A baaaaaaaad seed.” He knows that all the other seeds feel the same way. They point him out and mumble, “There goes a baaaad seed.” You might wonder just how bad a seed he can be. Pretty bad…he’ll tell you himself. Are you ready? Take a listen: “I never put things back where they belong. I’m late to everything. I tell long jokes with no punchlines.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Heard enough? Still think this seed may not be so bad? Well, what if you knew he was unhygienic, a little untruthful, and sometimes a lot inconsiderate. Why does he do this stuff? You know…he’s “a bad seed. A baaaad seed.” Was he always this way, you might wonder. The answer’s No. In fact, he “was born a humble seed on a simple sunflower in an unremarkable field.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He just hung out with his big family of seeds until the flower began to droop, the seeds scattered and then…there was this bag. The seed was almost eaten by a giant with a big, scary mouth but was “spit out at the last possible second.” He landed under the bleachers, and when he woke up he found his life changed forever. He had “become a different seed entirely.” He’d “become a bad seed.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He was in unknown territory, by himself. He’s happy to share the sad details: “I stopped smiling. I kept to myself. I drifted. I was friend to nobody and bad to everybody. I was lost on purpose. I lived inside a soda can. I didn’t care. And it suited me.” That is it did suit him until recently. This seed did some soul searching, and decided to be better.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

So now he still does some of that bad stuff (did you hear someone talking during a movie? That was probably him), but he does some good stuff too—like having good manners and smiling at people. Now, he says, “even though I still feel bad, sometimes, I also feel kind of good. It’s sort of a mix.” He’s just going to keep trying, and thinking, and readjusting his behavior and his view of himself. And now when he’s walking down the street, he still hears, “There goes that bad seed.” But he also hears, “Actually, he’s not all that bad anymore.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Jory John’s sly look at bad behavior is a sophisticated psychological thriller for the youngest set. John’s humorous take on the “bad seed” descriptor gives him full reign to explore some of the more serious life events that can cause sadness, loneliness, and even personality changes. As the once-happy seed loses his home, scatters from family, and ends up a bit bruised and battered, he sees his once sunny life turn dark.

With a hardened heart, he goes about his days, acting badly and letting the comments of others define him. To his credit, however, this seed has the presence of mind—and enough honesty—to recognize his bad behavior and also to know that only he can change it. The niceties that the seed foregoes will have kids and adults laughing out loud as his reputation seems a bit more roguish than the reality. And the authentic ending holds a reassuring kernel of truth—life is a bit of a mix, but happiness often wins out.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

It’s understandable if you don’t quite believe the sunflower seed when he says he’s a baaaad seed in Pete Oswald’s adorable illustrations. Sure, he scowls and furrows his brow, butts in line, and gets a bit stinky, but underneath that hard shell, really lies the heart of a softie. The other seeds in the neighborhood—pistachios, peanuts, almonds, chestnuts, cashews, and more—are fed up, though, registering fear, dismay, and even anger over the sunflower’s behavior. When the sunflower seed has a change of heart, however, others take note, and he gets another crack at life.

The Bad Seed is a funny book that kids will love to hear again and again. It also provides many teachable moments for those times when life gets a little discouraging. The book would make a great addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062467768

Discover more about Jory John and his books on his website

Learn more about Pete Oswalk and view a portfolio of his artwork on his tumblr.

How good is this The Bad Seed book trailer? Take a look!

National Seed Swap Day Activity

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Seed Packet Coloring Pages

 

All of your favorite veggies come from seeds, of course!, and those seeds come in packets that are little bits of art. Grab your crayons or pencils and color these printable Seed Packet Coloring Pages.

Carrots Seed Packet | Peas Seed Packet | Broccoli Seed Packet | Corn Seed Packet

Picture Book Review

January 26 – It’s National Hobby Month

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About the Holiday

If you like to take a break from the routine or pressures of the work day and sew, garden, or read, play music, dance, or draw, or if you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill or develop a talent, then this month is for you! During National Hobby Month take some time to research a skill, art, or discipline that strikes your fancy and get started!

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love

Written by Michelle Edwards | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

One of the first gifts Sophia received when she was a baby was a knitted hat from her neighbor Mrs. Goldman. Now that Sophia is more grown up, she helps Mrs. Goldman make pom-poms for the hats she knits for other babies, friends, and neighbors. “‘Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,’ says Mrs. Goldman, kissing the top of Sophia’s head. ‘This is your keppie, and a mitzvah is a good deed.’”

One day in late autumn Sophia and Mrs. Goldman walk Mrs. Goldman’s dog Fifi. While Fifi is kept warm in a dinosaur sweater and Sophia is cozy in the fuzzy kitten hat and mittens that Mrs. Goldman made them, Mrs. Goldman’s head and ears are unprotected in the icy wind. When Sophia asks her friend why she doesn’t have a hat, Mrs. Goldman tells her “‘I gave it to Mrs. Chen.’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Michelle Edwards. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Sophia begins to worry about Mrs. Goldman. Who will knit a hat for her? “Not Mrs. Goldman. She’s too busy knitting for everyone else.’” Last year Mrs. Goldman had tried to teach Sophia to knit, but it was too hard and took too long, so she decided to stick with making pom-poms. But Sophia thinks maybe it’s time to try again. She goes to her knitting bag and pulls out the hat they had started together. “The stiches are straight and even. The soft wool smells like Mrs. Goldman’s chicken soup.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Holding the needles, Sophia thinks about what she was taught. Even though she drops stitches, she continues to knit. “She wants to make Mrs. Goldman the most special hat in the world.” The next day snow falls on Mrs. Goldman’s head as they walk Fifi. Sophia frets, and at home she begins knitting morning, noon, and night to finish her hat. Winter has set in and one day when the pair walk Fifi, “Mrs. Goldman wraps Mr. Goldman’s scarf around her head like she’s a mummy.” But the wind grabs it and rips it away. Sophia catches it, but shivers at the thought of how cold Mrs. Goldman must be.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Michelle Edwards. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

At home Sophia knits in a frenzy, adding row after row of stitches until the hat is finished. When Sophia looks at it, though, she finds holes where they shouldn’t be and lumpy and bumpy areas. She thinks what she has made looks more like a monster than a hat. Sophia takes out the box containing all the hats Mrs. Goldman has made for her, but they are much too small for Mrs. Goldman to wear. While Sophia’s mama and papa have hats made by Mrs. Goldman, she knows she can’t give those away.

Sophia imagines all the hats she makes with her neighbor and how Mrs. Goldman always tells her that her pom-poms add beauty, and that “‘that’s a mitzvah too.’” Sophia’s heart swells. She finds red yarn—Mrs. Goldman’s favorite color—and her pom-pom making supplies and goes to work. When she is finished and the pom-poms are attached, “Mrs. Goldman’s hat is the most special hat in the world.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Sophia runs next door and surprises Mrs. Goldman with her gift. Mrs. Goldman hugs Sophia and tears come to her eyes. “‘Don’t you like it?’” Sophia asks, but she needn’t worry. “‘I more than like it, I love it,’ declares Mrs. Goldman. ‘Gorgeous. Like Mr. Goldman’s rosebushes. And you know how I love his roses.’” With a kiss for Sophia, Mrs. Goldman begins counting the twenty pom-poms on her hat—“each one made with love.” Mrs. Goldman slips the hat on her head. Now when she and Sophia take Fifi for a walk, Fifi wears her dinosaur sweater, Sophia wears her kitty hat and mittens, and “Mrs. Goldman wears her Sophia hat. Her keppie is toasty warm. And that’s a mitzvah.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Michelle Edwards’ heartwarming story of a little girl who sees that her friend is in need and determines to help draws on children’s natural generosity and shows readers that their efforts are recognized and appreciated. Edward’s gentle and well-paced storytelling allows readers to understand the events and thoughts that bring Sophia to once again attempt knitting. Sophia’s solution to use the pom-poms she knows she makes well (and with love) to cover the holes demonstrates not only the ingenious creativity of kids, but also the idea that love can fill the voids in life.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Brian Karas imbues the story of Sophia and Mrs. Goldman with a magical wonder that floats from page to page like the fluffy snowflakes that are the catalyst for Sophia’s mitzvah. A combination of full-page illustrations and snapshot images show days spent with Mrs. Goldman as well as the moments, hours, and days that adorable Sophia spends knitting her special hat. Sophia, tongue sticking out in determination, wields her knitting needs; she ponders her holey hat while imagining a frightened Fifi; and scraps of red yarn dot the floor and even sit atop Sophia’s head as she creates pom-pom after pom-pom. When Mrs. Goldman pulls the hat over her own head, kids will feel cheered, while adults may feel a small lump in their throat.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman is a gem. Its tender portrayal of kindness, love, and close personal relationships makes it an outstanding choice for any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497106

Discover more about Michelle Edwards and her books, plus activities, recipes, and information on knitting on her website!

Enter a gallery of books, sketches, blog essays, and more by G. Brian Karas on his website!

National Hobby Month Activity

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Winter Hat Match Puzzle

 

These kids have all lost their hats! Can you follow the paths in this printable Winter Hat Match Puzzle to reunite each child with the right hat?

Picture Book Review

January 25 – Opposite Day

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About the Holiday

It’s Opposite Day! If you hear that the sky’s blue, it’s probably gray, if you’re told dinner’s yucky, that’s a compliment, and if your boss says that report is due today—well, you better finish it because not everyone plays along. Kids are especially fond of today’s holiday, and why not? Challenging yourself to think differently is fun! Of course there’s one emotion that can make us act a little turned upside down and backwards every day—as you’ll see in today’s book!

When an Elephant Falls in Love

Written by Davide Cali | Illustrated by Alice Lotti

 

“When an elephant falls in love, he does many foolish things.” He takes unusual risks and hides when he sees the apple of his eye. Instead of sloughing off in the hygiene departmet, he “takes a bath every day, and even washes behind his ears.” Even though he knows it’s better to eat nutritious foods, there’s that yummy dessert in the fridge that calls to him.

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

While his appearance never seemed to concern him before, now “he dresses with care” even though deciding which tie to wear is difficult. Letters to his beloved get written and then crumpled up and tossed away. And his work is abandoned in favor of “staring at the clouds for hours and hours.”

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

When he gathers his courage, the elephant in love will get close to his loved one—well, close enough to leave flowers, but not so close that he stays after ringing the bell. Sometimes that happy, in-love feeling turns into sadness when the elephant thinks, “‘If only she knew I existed!’” There comes a day, however, when it all comes together—the natty dressing, the nice, clean scent, the words in the letters, and those flowers that are discovered before the elephant has fully disappeared. What happens then? “It’s love!”

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Copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Davide Cali’s sweetly honest look at what it’s like to fall in love—for the first time or any time—will charm young readers and resonate with adults. The story is enchanting in its unapologetic presentation of the “foolish” things the elephant does—all things that are just part of growing up. Readers will see that with a few steps forward (and a few steps back), they will achieve their heart’s desire.

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Image copyright Alice Lotti, 2014, text copyright, 2014. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Alice Lotti’s little boulder of an elephant is as adorable as they come. With a tiny dot of an eye and simple lines accenting his ears, toes, and trunk, the elephant expressively goes about his days with her on his mind. Lotti’s white background highlights the elephant as he walks a tightrope holding a tiny pink umbrella, showers himself while immersed in a claw-foot bathtub, and searches the mirror for the answer between the green and orange tie. Lotti’s color palette is fresh and vibrant, and her clean lines give the illustrations a sophisticated look. The elephant’s beautifully textured, mottled hide lends a soft vulnerability to her sensitive pachyderm. Readers will have fun spotting the little yellow bird that is the elephant’s constant companion, a special cloud floating into view, and the flowers that bring the two elephants together.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452147277

Learn more about Alice Lotti and view a portfolio of her artwork on her website.

Opposite Day Activity

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Fall in Love with Dot-to-Dots

 

Dot-to-Dot pictures offer a little bit for everyone—a little mystery, a little counting, a little bit to color, and a lot of fun! Since it’s Opposite Day, why not work from the last number to the first in this printable Fall in Love with Dot-to-Dots.

Picture Book Review