May 31 – National Speak in Complete Sentences Day

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About the Holiday

With all the abbreviations of social media, casual chatting among friends and coworkers, and even busy lifestyles that sometimes don’t allow for slowing down for long conversations or letters, the complete sentence with proper grammar and structure is often ignored. Quick messages may be fun and faster, but for children learning to speak, fragmented communication can impede their language development. Talking with children in full sentences about what they see and do in the moment and including kids in everyday activities is a natural way for them to develop their language skills.  Celebrate today’s holiday every day by discussing what you see on a walk, at the store or on the playground; by including your kids in chores around the house while explaining the steps; or by sharing today’s book! 

I’m thrilled to be giving away three signed copies of Rosa’s Very Big Job! See details below!

Rosa’s Very Big Job

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Sarah Vonthron-Laver

 

Rosa may be little, but she has big ideas about how to help. While Mama is out shopping for groceries for that night’s dinner, Rosa decides to surprise her by folding and putting away the laundry. The basket is piled high with fluffy dry clothes, sheets, and towels. Rosa watches her grandpa reading the newspaper. “‘Please help me, Grandpa!’” she says. She tugs on her grandpa’s hands, trying to pull him out of his chair. “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get up.”

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Grandpa seems to have a little trouble managing: “‘It’s difficult to carry these enormous piles,’” he sighs. But Rosa knows that smaller armloads work better. Grandpa’s clothes come unfolded as he puts them in the drawer. “‘Be neat. Like me,” Rosa says, showing him her tidy stack. Poor Grandpa! He has to keep hanging up the same jacket over and over. “‘It’s difficult to keep this jacket from sliding off the hanger,” he says. Rosa has the answer: “‘Zip it up,’” she explains. “‘Then it stays on.’”

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron Laver, 2016, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Grandpa sinks back into his chair. “‘You are terrific at doing laundry, Rosa. And I am exhausted,’” he says. But this is no time to quit—Rosa has big plans. As she steps into the now empty laundry basket, she exclaims, “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get in the boat. Help me sail back to there.’” Rosa points to the linen closet.

Suddenly, the floor swells with ocean waves teeming with fish. Grandpa channels his inner sailor as he holds aloft a sheet as a sail. As the wind billows and they come perilously close to the kitchen table, he says, “‘It’s difficult to sail around this enormous rock!’” Contemplating the rising sea, he exclaims, “‘It’s difficult to sail over this enormous wave!’”

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron Laver, 2016, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

There’s a dangerous storm ahead, warns Grandpa, “‘I can’t hold the sail in this strong wind.’” Rosa is there to help and grabs one side of the sheet. “‘Hold tight,’” she orders. “‘Use both hands.’” At last the seas die down and Grandpa is ready to steer the laundry basket back to port, but Rosa has a more entertaining thought. Spying a sock on the floor, Rosa wants to catch the “enormous fish.” Grandpa obliges and picks up a hangar for a fishing pole. He holds Rosa as she stretches out over the edge of the laundry basket to land her fish.

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron Laver, 2016, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Just as Rosa nabs the fish, Mama comes home with her bags of groceries. She’s surprised to see that the laundry is not in the basket. Rosa runs to her and proudly explains, “‘We put all the laundry away. It was a very big job. We carried enormous piles. Grandpa dropped things. And I picked them up. It was very difficult for Grandpa. He got exhausted. But not me. I am terrific at laundry!’” Mama agrees that Rosa is a terrific helper. Then Rosa leads her mother to see the most surprising thing of all—the fish she has caught for dinner!

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron Laver, 2016, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

In her series of Small Talk Books®, including Red Socks, A Fish to Feed, Cake Day, and Banana for Two, Ellen Mayer presents exciting stories for preschoolers full of imagination and rich language learning. Rosa’s Very Big Job introduces Rosa, a sweet girl bubbling with enthusiasm and the desire to help. Mayer’s joyful storytelling reflects the excitement kids feel while helping out and being “big kids.” Rosa’s vivacity and imagination are infectious and will make young readers and adults smile. The close relationships between Rosa, her mother, and her grandpa are endearing, and Grandpa’s willingness to share in Rosa’s imaginative play will delight little ones. His participation in the game models speech patterns and ways to introduce larger words in an organic manner through play and common chores. Humor, cheerful banter, and the easy camaraderie between Rosa and Grandpa, as well as Rosa’s pride in her accomplishments, invite young readers to join in the fun as they build confidence in their language learning.

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Sarah Vonthron-Laver depicts Rosa’s afternoon with her Grandpa with the spirited energy young children bring to everything they do. Grandpa is happy to spend time with his granddaughter, following her lead with good humor and a dramatic flair. The transition from doing laundry to using the basket as a boat is as seamless as a child’s imagination, and the way Rosa and her grandpa use household items to create “sails,” “rocks,” “fish,” and “fishing poles” will give readers great ideas for post-reading play. Bright colors, an adorable kitten, and familiar surroundings welcome young children into the world of reading and expanded vocabulary.

Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development, provides tips for parents, grandparents, and caregivers in a note following the text.

Rosa’s Very Big Job would be a welcome addition to any home or classroom bookshelf, not only for its imaginative story that kids will want to hear again and again, but for its joyful way of introducing vocabulary and language building skills that kids will respond to.

Ages 2 – 6

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727497

Discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books as well as book-related activities and literacy initiatives she’s involved with on her website!

To read an interview with Ellen Mayer about her books and her work, click here!

Find Sarah Vonthron-Laver on Facebook!

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Rosa’s Very Big Job Giveaway!

I’m excited to be giving away:

  • Three (3) signed copies of Rosa’s Very Big Job
  • Winners will have the opportunity to have Ellen Mayer write a personal inscription to your child when she signs the book.

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, May 31 – June 6. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

Winners will be chosen on June 7.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Ellen Mayer

National Speak in Complete Sentences Day Activity

CPB - Rosa's Big Job dolls made (3)

Rosa’s Very Big Job Paper Dolls

 

After you read the story, you can continue the fun with these Rosa and family paper dolls! Rosa loves helping out at home. She’s terrific at doing laundry – folding and putting away the family’s clothes, socks, and linens. You are terrific at helping too! Can you help Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa get dressed and ready for the day with these printable paper dolls? You’ll even find a laundry basket, socks, and Rosa’s sweet kitty to play with! 

Supplies

Printable Paper Dolls, Clothes, and Extras

  • Card stock or heavy stock paper and/or poster board
  • Scissors
  • Glue

CPB - Rosa's Big Job cat and laundry basket and socks

Directions

  1. Print dolls on regular paper, card stock, or heavy stock paper. Dolls printed on card stock paper may stand on their own with the supplied Stand Cross Piece. For dolls printed on regular paper, you can cut the supplied Stand Templates from poster board or card stock and glue the dolls to the backing.
  2. Rosa’s kitty and the laundry basket can also be glued to heavy paper if desired
  3. Print clothes for each figure
  4. Blank clothes templates are also provided so kids can be creative 
  5. Cut out clothes and extra items
  6. Fit outfits onto dolls
  7. Make up your own stories about Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa!

Picture Book Review

May 30 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Get Caught Reading Month was established in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers to encourage people of all ages to read more. Authors, illustrators, celebrities, athletes, and others participate by sharing pictures of themselves reading an old favorite or new book on social media. Schools, libraries, bookstores, and community venues hold special programs throughout the month. For more information and to find resources, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

Albie Newton

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Ester Garay

 

Albie Newton was something of a prodigy. As a tyke, he retrofitted his stroller into a racecar, tried counting to infinity, and “learned to speak a language almost every week: / English, Spanish, Hindi, Klingon, Gibberish, then Greek.” When he moves to a new town and a new school, his classmates are excited to meet him. Albie is also revved up to start making friends, and he has a plan he thinks the other kids will love.

But as they all settle in to work, “the students noticed Albie was a whiz. / Albie wrote a sonnet while they took a spelling quiz.” During art class, the kids were likewise astounded (and a little dismayed) when, while they scribbled, drew swirls, and made handprints, Albie painted like Van Gogh. When free time rolled around, and some kids played dress up, Albie “sifted through the trash,” to build a science lab, leaving a mess for Arjun to clean up.

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Image copyright Ester Garay, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Then things began to disappear. “Hamilton the hamster tried to run but had no wheel. / Albie needed extra sprockets made of stainless steel.” While Sona and Shirley created paper masks, the glue went missing, and Albie “didn’t even ask.” The wings from Dave’s propeller plane were suddenly broken off, and reading time became impossible when “booming pandemonium descended on the school.” Albie, though, intent on his invention, didn’t notice the trouble he was causing or the crowd of angry kids rushing to complain.

Before they could reach Albie, though, Shirley stopped them, saying “‘maybe Albie didn’t know. Let’s look at what he made.’ Curious, the children headed straight to where he played.” When they say all the inventions Albie had made, they stopped and stared. Albie had made the class a gift—a spaceship, and with the push of a button, an amazing time machine!

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Image copyright Ester Garay, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With his inimitable style, Josh Funk creates a rambunctious tale of invention and creativity, but one that also has a deeper message about the way some kids see the world and communicate with peers and others. In the first pages, readers are introduced to the precocious Albie, who from birth has demonstrated a talent for learning and doing. When he enters a new school, however, his single focus doesn’t translate into the kinds of social interactions his classmates are used to. Albie gathers materials for his present unaware of the mayhem he’s causing, just as the other kids are unaware of Albie’s real goal. Only Shirley is sensitive to the idea that Albie may not be causing havoc on purpose but for a purpose. Her calming defense of Albie allows the other kids to see Albie in a new light and appreciate his gift—and his gifts.

While Funk’s rhyming verses are focusing on Albie and his actions, Ester Garay’s bright illustrations depict the other kids’ reactions to his talents and also his disruptions. A first hint at how Albie fits in with his new class comes as the kids welcome him with cheer and smiles. Instead of facing them to accept the welcome, Albie is faced away from them, happily imagining the gift he will make for them.

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Image copyright Ester Garay, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Throughout the day, Shirley follows Albie, and as she watches and wonders, her facial expressions demonstrate dismay at some of Albie’s antics but also a growing understanding and acceptance. Garay captures the close camaraderie of a preschool or kindergarten classroom, and her close-up view of Albie toiling away on his invention will have readers eager to see the result. The reveal of Albie’s spaceship time machine and the final spread of the kids frolicking on a distant planet with the likes of Freda Kahlo, William Shakespeare, Amelia Earhart, and a helpful dino, are sure to produce some oohs and ahhhs.

Albie Newton is a doubly impactful story that would be a welcome addition to home and, most especially, classroom bookshelves. It can be read as a boisterous story of innovation for lively story times, but it also provides adults and children an opportunity to discuss the ideas of social interaction and various personalities. Most children know someone like Albie who as naturally quiet, on the spectrum, or singularly focused on one area or another, communicates and socializes differently than others. Reading Albie Newton can help kids better understand different behaviors and, like Shirley, become more sensitive to all their classmates and friends.

Ages 5 – 9

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922582

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books as well as find fun activities and lots of resources on his website.

To learn more about Ester Garay, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Check out the Albie Newton book trailer!

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Initial Bookends

 

You can keep your books neat and tidy on the shelf with this easy-to-make bookend that displays your talents and personality!

Supplies

  • Wooden letter block in the child’s first initial or both initials
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden letter with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. With the chalk, write words that your think best describe you on the letter
  3. Display your letter on your bookshelf!

May 29 – It’s National Inventors Month

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate all of those inventors who think creatively to devise new products, different ways of performing tasks, better methods of communication, and even innovative ways of viewing the world. Begun in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine, this month’s holiday encourages people to embrace their creativity and also to support those who work to make their own vision a reality for themselves and to make the world a better place.

Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe

Written by Katey Howes | Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti

 

Every Friday, Magnolia’s favorite adult—her uncle Jamie—visited and spent time inventing with her. He always encouraged Magnolia to think big. One day, Magnolia and her uncle Jamie created their “greatest invention—the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe,” which ran on Mudd Power. But after one experimental launching, Magnolia had to retrieve all the parts to build it again. When she called her uncle to help her repair it, he said she would have to wait. Instead, he was bringing Miss Emily over because they “had ‘something to talk about.’”

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Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Magnolia didn’t want her time with Uncle Jamie taken up by Miss Emily. As far as Magnolia was concerned Uncle Jamie and Miss Emily had nothing in common, so on Friday when they told her they were getting married, Magnolia was surprised. When Miss Emily asked Magnolia to be their flower girl and showed her the fancy dress she’d wear, Magnolia thought, “no way!” Later, Uncle Jamie said maybe they could find a different way for her to be involved in the wedding.

Magnolia researched all the different things she could do, and experimented with some of them. She read that in India women decorate their hands with henna tattoos. She devised a henna tattoo-painting machine, but it went a little haywire. In Sweden, she learned, guests scared off trolls by bringing bouquets of stink weed. Magnolia built a troll trap, but only caught herself. And in a German tradition, guests throw plates at the couple’s door for good luck, but when Magnolia retooled her “Fantastic Frisbee Flinger,” she only caused a mess of broken pottery.

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Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Magnolia resigned herself to being “doomed to ruffles and roses.” She was just wishing she could launch the rose petals instead of scattering them when she had an idea. She showed Miss Emily her brainstorm for a bouquet-launcher that worked on Mudd Power. Miss Emily loved it. Together they began to invent. On the day of the wedding, they revealed their “new-and-improved Dual-Directional Super-Jumptastic Flower Launcher Deluxe (with Confetti Blaster),” and as Magnolia and Miss Emily jumped on the launch pad together, Magnolia realized that with Aunt Emily in the family, there was “way more Mudd Power” for inventing.

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Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Katey Howes’ humorous and clever story is as dual-purpose as Magnolia’s super launcher deluxe. Young readers will love seeing Magnolia’s gizmos that fire rockets, squirt paint, capture trolls, fling plates, and toss the bouquet (maybe a little too far!) while learning about some wedding traditions around the world. The heart of Howe’s story, however, lies in the ideas of family, relationships, communication, and acceptance. Readers will understand that Magnolia’s initial dislike of Miss Emily has more to do with her fear of a changing relationship with Uncle Jamie than with Emily’s dangly earrings or preference for sushi over pizza.

When Magnolia balks at being a flower girl, the adults allow her to be herself and work with her to find a job that makes everyone happy. As Magnolia gets to know Emily better, she takes a chance in suggesting a bouquet launcher and is rewarded when Emily (literally) jumps in with both feet (the fact that Miss Emily works at an art gallery hints at her ability to think creatively too). The final image of Magnolia, Uncle Jamie, and Aunt Emily hard at work in their lab reminds kids of the adage, “the more (Mudd Power) the merrier.”

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Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Valerio Fabbretti’s bright, cartoon-style artwork is ideally suited to bring out the humor and emotions in Howes’ action-packed story. Magnolia’s and Uncle Jamie’s love of science is on display in both Jamie’s office and Magnolia’s room, where diagrams, chemical equations, test tubes and beakers, and retrofitted home appliances create an eclectic décor. Kids will laugh as Magnolia’s inventions go awry, and cheer when Magnolia and Miss Emily discover the perfect wedding job for Magnolia and complete it together. The interracial relationship of Uncle Jamie and Miss Emily is a welcome representation of family.

An entertaining and endearing story, Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe is an inventive book to launch fun story times as well as discussions on individuality, inclusion, change, and family.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454921745

Discover more about Katey Howes and her books on her website.

To learn more about Valerio Fabbretti, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Inventors Month Activity

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Sparkle Test Tubes

 

Kids love inventing and experimenting, and these sparkle test tubes give children a fun way to be creative while making a cool way to relax and on those hectic days.

Supplies

  • Plastic test tubes with tight-fitting screw cap, available at craft or science supply stores. Having two or three will allow for more experimentation
  • Glitter glue
  • Hot water
  • Fine glitter
  • Chunky glitter
  • Small glass beads (optional)
  • Neon food coloring (optional)
  • Test tube stand (optional)
  • Whisk
  • Mixing bowl
  • Teaspoon

Directions

  1. Fill a test tube 1/3 full of hot water and pour the water into the mixing bowl
  2. Add 1 – 2 teaspoons of glitter glue (the more glitter glue that is added the thicker the liquid will be and the more the objects will be suspended in the liquid. To allow the objects to flow more freely when the test tube is shaken, add less glue
  3. Whisk the water and glitter glue together
  4. Add chunky glitter, glass beads, or try other small objects
  5. Pour into test tube
  6. Add more water to within a ½ – 1 inch of the top to allow for shaking
  7. Experiment with amount of glitter glue, glitter, and colors

Picture book review

May 28 – Memorial Day

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eBook

About the Holiday

Memorial Day is observed each year on the last Monday of May to honor all members of the military who lost their lives in the service of their country, especially in battle. Begun after the Civil War, the holiday expanded after World War II to remember those who died in all American wars. Memorial Day was made a national holiday by an act of Congress in 1971. 

Anna & Natalie

Written by Barbara H. Cole | Illustrated by Ronald Himler

 

Every year Mrs. Randall’s third-grade class attends the Wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. What’s more every year four students are chosen from her class to carry the wreath. This year everyone wonders who those lucky four will be. Students who want to be in the running to be selected, Mrs. Randall, says, must write a letter telling her why they should be chosen. Hearing that Freddie and Tommy drop out immediately, while Nancy says her letter will be the best.

Anna dreams of being chosen too, but experience tells her she will not. She’s never chosen for the basketball or softball team, the cheerleading squad, or the lines of Red Rover. “Sure, someone always chose her for the spelling team, but the others—the fun ones—never.” But this time seems different. All day—even though Mrs. Randall’s eagle eyes catch it—Anna daydreams and makes plans. When the bus drops her and her sister off, they hurry home to start work.

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Image copyright Ronald Himler, text copyright Barbara H. Cole. Courtesy of Star Bright Books

There Anna makes a secret call to her grandpa and then she and Natalie go to the front porch, and while Nat naps on the swing Anna pulls out her computer and begins writing her letter to Mrs. Randall. The next day Mrs. Randall collects the letters with the promise to choose the team by tomorrow and a reminder for those who will not be picked: “‘Remember,’” she says, “‘it certainly is an honor to be on the team, but it is also an honor to visit the Tomb.’” Then “they talked about Washington and the monuments and the Capitol and the White House, but especially they talked about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Changing of the Guard.”

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Image copyright Ronald Himler, text copyright Barbara H. Cole. Courtesy of Star Bright Books

At school the next day, Mrs. Randall says that while she received four excellent letters, one stood out. She begins to read it to the class: “‘I want to be on the team, not for myself, but for many others who have not been honored or remembered….They worked long and hard and saved many lives….And sometimes they were heroes bigger than the strongest men around. Sometimes they carried medicine and food to dangerous places to save the wounded soldiers. My own great-great-grandfather was in this special service and saved lives. I would like to be on the team to say thank you to those forgotten heroes of World War II. Yours truly…’ Mrs. Randall’s voice cracked and choked, and then she read, ‘From Natalie (with help from Anna)’”

The class starts whooping and cheering, but Mrs. Randall interrupts their celebration to read one more line: “P.S.—Would you please let Anna walk with me so I will not be alone and she won’t be either?” The class begins chanting “Yeah, Anna! Yeah, Anna!,” and Anna can’t believe that her dream of being on the team has come true. When Anna gets home from school and tells her family, they proudly make plans to travel with their “two girls” to the ceremony.

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Image copyright Ronald Himler, text copyright Barbara H. Cole. Courtesy of Star Bright Books

Finally, the day of the Wreath-Laying Ceremony arrives. The students are dressed in their best clothes, and as the four team members prepare to accept the wreath, “Natalie led the procession down the long marble steps, her black coat glistening and her brass buttons shining like the sun. Anna walked beside her.” As the soldier hands the children the wreath fashioned from “dogwood flowers, magnolias, and decorative red birds,” he loudly announces, “The students of Willow Run School and Natalie, a seeing-eye dog, will lay this wreath to honor the men who served in World War II and the dogs who helped them. ATTENTION!”

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Image copyright Ronald Himler, text copyright Barbara H. Cole. Courtesy of Star Bright Books

The clear notes of Taps rang across Arlington National Cemetery as Anna and the three other children lay the wreath in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Afterward, Anna’s grandfather and parents took pictures of Anna and Natalie to remember “this shining moment of Anna, and of Natalie, who saw the world that Anna could not see.”

An Author’s Note revealing the use of dogs during wartime—from ancient history to today—follows the text.

Barbara H. Cole’s story of Anna and Natalie is compelling in many ways. First, it presents a look at what Veterans Day means to children from their point of view. Second, the story honors not only the brave soldiers who protect our country but also the canine corps which has served our military from our country’s earliest history. Third, in Anna, Cole has created a character who is part of a military family through her great-great-grandfather and also has a personal connection to service dogs through Natalie, her seeing-eye dog. The portrayal of Anna as a child with a disability is honest and inclusive, and while the fact of Anna’s blindness is contained in a surprise ending, this serves to present Anna as just another student in the class—a girl who is an excellent writer, enthusiastic about her dreams to be part of the team, and a good friend.

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Image copyright Ronald Himler, text copyright Barbara H. Cole. Courtesy of Star Bright Books

Cole’s straight narration of a school day and a special assignment—complete with asides from students—as well as Anna’s family life creates an environment that will be familiar to readers and carries the story in a natural arc.

Ronald Himler’s realistic illustrations of Anna’s Willow Run School, her home, and Arlington Cemetery beautifully represent this moving story. His pages are full of diverse, real kids, smiling, laughing, getting off the school bus, enjoying a family dinner, and solemnly performing their job at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A hint to Natalie’s true identity is subtly inserted into various scenes, making the final reveal a satisfying moment.

Anna & Natalie is a wonderful choice for all kids observing Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and other patriotic holidays.

Ages 5 – 10

Star Bright Books, 2010 | ISBN 978-1595722119

To learn more about Anna & Natalie and download a Curriculum Guide, visit Star Bright Books!

To view a gallery of artwork and picturebook illustration by Ronald Himler, visit his website!

Memorial Day Activity

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Memorial Day Trivia Page

 

Learn a little more about Memorial Day with this printable Memorial Day Trivia Page!

Picture Book Review

May 27 – It’s Mystery Month

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About the Holiday

The month of May is dedicated to mysteries! Established nine years ago by Booklist, part of the American Library Association, Mystery Month highlights all things mysterious and offers webinars, articles, awards, recommendations and more! For kids it’s a terrific time to discover this most exciting, chilling, and fun genre. So celebrate by reading all types of mysteries from gentle puzzlers for little ones to more complex fiction and biographies of great detectives – likes today’s book!

Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective

Written by Marissa Moss | Illustrated by April Chu

 

As Kate read the newspaper advertisement from the Pinkerton Agency for the third time, she knew that this was the job for her. It said: “Wanted: Detective. Must be observant, determined, fearless, and willing to travel.” But in 1856 no one would hire a single woman, so Kate decided to present herself as a widow.

Kate had been raised by her father, a printer. Books had always been her companions, and she knew how to make up a story—even the story of her life. “So Kate Carter became Kate Warne…exactly the kind of person you’d want to hire as a detective.” As soon as she walked through the door, Allan Pinkerton began writing down his impressions of Kate. He thought she was a client seeking help. From her manner and appearance, he knew he would take her case—whatever it was.

But when Kate told him she was applying for a job, he told her he “had no need for a washerwoman or cook.” Kate told him she was there to apply for the detective position. Pinkerton had reservations. The dangerous work was “not at all the sort of thing a woman could do,” he said. But Kate disagreed. She told him that she would be able to go into places his male detectives could not and could be the confidant of women witnesses. Pinkerton told her he would think it over.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Kate-Warne-pinkerton-detective-applying-for-job

Image copyright April Chu 2017, text copyright Marissa Moss, 2017. Courtesy of Creston Books.

The next day Kate was at the office as soon as it opened. “Today, you’ve made some history,” Pinkerton told her, “You’re now the first woman detective in the country.” He handed her a file marked The Adams Express Case. As she read the case, Kate felt a thrill of excitement. “The Adams Express Company transported money and valuables for businesses all over the South, by rail, steamboat, and stagecoach.” Valuables were well protected by locks that couldn’t be picked.

But $40,000 had disappeared. One suspect stood out from the rest—Nathan Maroney, the manager of the Montgomery office where the packages had come from. He had been the last person to lock up the carrying pouch before the messenger, Mr. Chase, transported it to Atlanta, where it was found to be empty. Maroney was arrested, but there was little hard evidence—only a slit in the pouch that had not been there before Maroney was accused.

Kate considered the problem then remembered the sleight of hand tricks huskers used to fool people. She figured out how Maroney had stolen the money, but they needed more evidence and a confession. While a male agent pretended to be a fellow thief named “John White” in the same jail cell as Maroney, Kate befriended Maroney’s wife, Belle, pretending to be Madame Imbert. While Belle didn’t confess to the theft, she did ask her new friend for advice on where to hide valuables. Kate told her she hid her valuables in the basement or buried them in the garden.

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Image copyright April Chu, 2017, text copyright Marissa Moss, 2017. Courtesy of Creston Books.

When Belle left town to visit her husband in jail, Kate took the opportunity to do some snooping at her house. Just as Kate found a freshly dug mound behind crates and barrels in the basement, she heard Belle returning home. She hurriedly put everything back in place and rushed upstairs. Belle was suspicious of the dust on Kate’s dress, and Kate knew she and the other agents had to act fast. She alerted another agent who crawled through the basement window while Belle slept. He tidied up the basement, and the next morning when Belle checked her hiding place, everything was in order. She could still trust her friend she thought.

The Pinkerton Agency plan was going like clockwork. Inside the jail cell, Maroney put his faith—and his money—in the detective’s hands. Maroney wrote to Belle, telling her that John White was going to help them. He instructed her to give John White all the money he had stolen. White was going to plant some of it on Mr. Chase, use some of it to bribe a judge to find Maroney not guilty at trial, and keep the rest for Maroney to collect later. At first, Belle didn’t trust John White, but one sentence from her friend “Madame Imbert” eased her mind and she went along with her husband’s plan.

As the ingenious plan was hatched and carried out, Kate made sure that all the money was secure. The money made its way to the Pinkerton agent “Mr. White” with Belle and Maroney none the wiser. As Maroney’s trial proceeded, and he heard Mr. White called as the first witness, Maroney suddenly changed his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty.” “The reputation of the Pinkerton agency was made. So was Kate Warne’s.”

Kate became one of the agency’s most valuable detectives. She was even put in charge of a women’s division and hired many more women who became “some of Pinkerton’s strongest agents.” But Kate Warne, the first woman detective in America, would always be considered the best.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Kate-Warne-pinkerton-detective-belle

Image copyright April Chu, 2017, text copyright Marissa Moss, 2017. Courtesy of Creston Books.

An Author’s Note explaining more about the Pinkerton Detective Agency and the first woman detective follow the text.

Children who love mysteries will be enthralled with this true tale of the first woman detective in America and her explosive first assignment. Marissa Moss’s suspenseful, compelling storytelling and excellent pacing reveal the facts of the case, Kate’s insightful reasoning, and the clever ruses the agents used in outsmarting and capturing the thief. Moss infuses the story with the feeling of the time period and a sense of pride in this little-known piece of women’s history.

April Chu’s detailed period drawings take kids to the mid-1800s to follow Kate Warne as she solves her first case. Depictions of Kate’s father’s printing press, the dirt roads traversed by horse-drawn wagons and carriages, the Adams Express locked pouches and secure rail car will excite history and mystery buffs. The full cast of characters are clearly portrayed, allowing young readers to become detectives themselves as they see the action through Kate’s eyes. The dramatic finale to the case will have children on the edge of their seats whether they are hearing the story aloud or reading it themselves.

Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective is a thrilling picture book introduction to both biographies and mysteries for children. It offers a unique look at the contributions of strong women in history and is an excellent selection for school, public, and home libraries.

Ages 5 – 13

Creston Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1939547330

Visit with Marissa Moss on her website to discover more about her, her books, and loads of fun activities!

View a gallery of artwork by April Chu on her website!

Mystery Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mysterious-mystery-word-search

Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle

 

Do a little sleuthing to find the twenty mystery-related words in this printable Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

May 26 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-boats-are-busy-cover

About the Holiday

Get Caught Reading Month was established in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers to encourage people of all ages to read more. Authors, illustrators, celebrities, athletes, and others participate by sharing pictures of themselves reading an old favorite or new book on social media. Schools, libraries, bookstores, and community venues hold special programs throughout the month. For more information and to find resources, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

Boats Are Busy

By Sara Gillingham

 

In Sara Gillingham’s beautiful collection of the various kinds of boats that sail our lakes and oceans, she introduces kids to ships, their purpose, and the meaning of maritime flags that captains use to communicate with each other. First up is the Tugboat that helps other ships when they cannot move on their own. Next is the Sailboat. “Sailboats are patient. They wait for the wind to blow their sails and move them in the right direction. If it’s a windy day, they’ll sail away!”

Cargo Ships are the strong movers of the sea that transport goods from place to place and country to country. The crews of Fishing Boats catch delicious food for us to eat. They have lots of equipment on board to bring fish in. The Aircraft Carrier’s so large, they are “like floating airports” where planes take off and land. Some boats even move underwater. These are Submarines. “Submarines are sneaky…. Shhhhh, they’re hiding!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-boats-are-busy-tug-cargo-ship

Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon.

A long time ago wooden Clipper Ships sailed the seas carrying goods and even pirates. Today, they are  as “floating classrooms.” These Research Vessels “are made for studying different parts of the ocean so that we can understand more about fish or plants or the bottom of the sea.” Many people like to spend their vacation on the water on a Cruise Ship. These enormous ships are like little cities, with bedrooms, restaurants, pools, games, and places to relax.”

Readers also learn about Car Carriers, Ferries, Oil Tankers, Police Boats, Rescue Boats, and Diving Boats. Each boat also flies a maritime flag so that children can learn which ones mean yes and no, signal left and right turns, warn of fishing nets or divers in the water, direct others to stop and listen, say Hello, warn of dangerous cargo, indicate the boat is not moving, signal reversing, tell other boats to stop, and tells that the boat will soon be leaving port.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-boats-are-busy-fishing-boatt

Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon.

Sara Gillingham’s welcoming and conversational descriptions will excite kids who love modes of transportation and/or the sea as they learn a few facts about each boat. Her engaging rhythm and well-chosen vocabulary will appeal to a wide range of readers. The text elevates her target audience, understanding toddlers’ and preschoolers’ thirst for learning. After reading Boats Are Busy, kids are sure to happily recognize different boats and be able to recount their new knowledge. Gillingham’s boldly colored pages spotlight each boat with realistic details that clearly show young readers its shape and purpose. Crew members and passengers working and enjoying each vessel also demonstrate the scale of the boats.

Docking Boats Are Busy on home or classroom bookshelves will delight little ones. This sturdy board book also makes a terrific take-along for the beach and other outings.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714876719

Discover more about Sara Gillingham, her books, and her art on her website.

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tugboat-matching-puzzle

Tugs to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle

 

The ships below need help. Match each tug to a ship in this printable Tugs to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle?

 

May 25 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

Let’s give a shout-out to our best friends! Who are they? Our pets, of course! Small (or large) and fury (or feathered or scaled or finned), our pets give us unconditional love and loads of happiness. Just watching them navigate their day is entertaining and educational. National Pet Month was established to celebrate these in-home pals and remind pet owners to ensure that their pets have everything they need to live a long and healthy life. This month take extra time to have fun with your pet!

Pirate’s Perfect Pet

Written by Beth Ferry | Illustrated by Matt Myers

 

In the vast ocean teeming with sharks, Captain Crave noticed a small bottle bobbing just off the port side of his ship. With a bound from the plank, he dove into the sea and retrieved it. As he balanced himself on the tip of a shark’s nose and the bottle on the tip of his hook, the captain’s crew cheered and held up scores of 8.6 to 10 for his performance.

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Image copyright Matt Myers, 2017, courtesy of Myerspaints.com.

Back on deck, Captain Crave uncorked the bottle and unrolled the message. It was a letter from his mum. She had found a “lovely list” in Be Your Best Buccaneer magazine and was sending it on along with a doubloon for his treasure chest. He passed the list on to his first mate, who read aloud: “‘Think you’re the Perfect Pirate Captain? Use our handy checklist to be sure.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pirate's-perfect-pet-retrieving-bottle

Image copyright Matt Myers, 2017, courtesy of Myerspaints.com.

On the list was “Ship?” “‘Check,’ replied the captain.” He could also check off courage and daring, treasure, eye patch, and hook; he was still working on peg leg. But then the first mate got to “pet.” Captain Crave was surprised, but he wanted to be the best buccaneer he could. “‘Well, shuck me an oyster and set sail for land. We needs to find me a pet,’” he said.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pirate's-perfect-pet-first-mate

Image copyright Matt Myers, 2017, courtesy of Myerspaints.com.

When they landed on the beach, they were happy to see that “they caused quite a commotion, as good pirates should.” They immediately began searching for a pet. The crab was “‘too cranky,’” the octopus was “‘too clingy,’” and the clam was “‘too quiet.’” They left the beach and headed to a farm, where again they caused a commotion. They checked out a goat, a donkey, and  a goose, but none of them seemed perfect either.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pirate's-perfect-pet-beach

Image copyright Matt Myers, 2017, courtesy of Myerspaints.com.

When they entered the zoo, you can imagine the commotion they caused. Here, they tried out an elephant that was “‘too big,’” a koala that was “‘too cuddly,’” and a lion that was just “‘Yikes!’” But the trip wasn’t a total loss. By the end of it, Captain Crave was able to check “peg leg” off the Best Buccaneer list. The zookeeper had an idea on where the pirates could look and drove them straight to the Pet Emporium.

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Image copyright Matt Myers, 2017, courtesy of Myerspaints.com.

The pirates couldn’t believe how many pets there were to choose from. Captain Crave took a stroll around the shop and then heard a squawk. Just as he gazed upward, he was bombarded by a splat. “‘I’ve been poop-decked,’ he yelled.” His crew were incensed and chased the parrot around the store. They even wondered if they should eat it.

But Captain Crave took a good long look at the parrot, who had landed on his hook. He could see that the parrot was brave, he knew that it had “caused quite a commotion,” and when he asked the parrot, “‘Do ye happen to know—in land, sea, or sky—any pirate-worthy pets?’” The parrot had an answer. Giving up his mum’s shiny doubloon, Captain Crave left the Pet Emporium with the perfect pet on his shoulder.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pirate's-perfect-pet-pet-emporium

Image copyright Matt Myers, 2017, courtesy of Myerspaints.com.

Readers will love Beth Ferry’s raucous and riotously funny pirate adventure where the treasure sought isn’t gold or jewels but something more valuable—a beloved pet. Along the way, kids will adore Ferry’s dialogue-rich storytelling that includes plenty of clever “pirate speak” and a brilliant bit on how the Captain attains his desired peg leg. With a nod toward a bird’s talent for target shooting, Ferry taps into her audience’s sense of humor, and as the captain finds his perfect pet, kids will also giggle at the parrot’s puns.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pirate's-perfect-pet-zoo

Image copyright Matt Myers, 2017, text copyright, Beth Ferry, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Matt Myers’ pirate crew is one wild bunch of scallywags—or are they? With a love for mum, pink bunny slippers, and a treasure chest that includes candy and a teddy bear, this mob seems closer to their readers in personality than to historical swashbuckling swaggerers. Kids will laugh out loud as Captain Crave and his pirates run amok at the beach, farm and zoo; “try on” possible pets, and discover the perfect companion.

Amid the commotion, Myers’ vibrant and detailed illustrations ramp up (plank up?) the humor: the ship’s figure head joins in the judging of the captain’s daring-do, a goat nibbles the captain’s pants, exposing his polka-dotted boxers, the no-feeding warning above the lion’s cage includes a picture of a boot with a slash across it, and even the skull on Captain Crave’s hat demonstrates its opinion of the new crew member.

For pirate—and pet—lovers Pirate’s Perfect Pet is a treasure to be added to home, school, and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763672881

Discover more about Beth Ferry and her books—available now and upcoming—on her website.

Step into the galleries of Matt Myers to view an incredible array of artwork on his website.

National Pet Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pet-maze

Find the Pet Maze

 

Finding the perfect pet can take time! In this printable Find the Pet Maze, a young detective is on the case! Can you help? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review